Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Shannon: Grant For Good.

In Be memorable, Create, Dancing, Marketing, Networking, Organization, Relationships, Tech on 10/23/2012 at 1:29 am

I met Shannon when we were both on a panel last year in Chicago. She’s the super smart, hard working, inspiring founder of Pivotal Productions. We discovered that we were both tap dancers in a past life (although she won national tap dance competitions and I never even entered them). Here’s a snapshot of us doing a triple time step before our panel:

So, one of the best things she brought up was how she joined forces with a bunch of other small businesses to provide an amazing grant (like, $100K+ in business services) to one non-profit applicant via Grant for Good. Why is this brilliant?

1 – Two heads (or seven companies, in this case) are better than one. Businesses can do more when joining forces than operating solo.

2 – Harnessing requests for donated product or services – which is every small business’ challenge – is much easier if it’s handled in an organized, official way. (Saying, “Apply for our Grant for Good” > reviewing a million scattered requests for donations.)

3 – This gets more press. Let’s face it: we donate “in exchange for free press” all the time, but what does that really get us? A tiny logo on a banner? A quarter page ad in a program that nobody reads anyhow? By collaborating and doing something truly impactful, it’s likely to get more buzz.

I’m excited to apply this concept – and to tap dance again with Shannon. Next time, on stage!

Dan: Everything Is Relative.

In Be logical, Business, Human behavior, Marketing, Strategy on 06/26/2012 at 6:06 pm

I met Dan Ariely at The Market Research Technology Event in Las Vegas. I spoke on the last day at the last possible time slot. Dan spoke on the best day at the best time slot. So basically, he is seriously legit. He’s also a behavioral economics professor at Duke and has a ton of fascinating studies on human behavior and consumer habits.

In part of his presentation, he discussed relative pricing.

Which subscription plan would you choose?

You (and 68% of people) would probably pick the $59 subscription, because it’s cheaper and gives you what you think you need. Right?

Okay. Now imagine that you had seen this offer instead of the first one:

With this scenario, you (and 84% of people) are probably thinking, “Oh, MAN. I could get Print + Web for $125, when print on its own is $125? What a deal! I’m totally going with the $125 option.”

And just like that, the Economist just doubled their revenue, just by throwing in a martyr price point.

From Dan’s book:

“Most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context . . . We don’t know what kind of speaker system we like – until we hear a set of speakers that sounds better than the previous one . . . Everything is relative, and that’s the point.”

Frickin’ brilliant.

Genevieve: Sales > Marketing.

In Business, Marketing, Take action on 03/29/2011 at 12:06 am

I spoke at an event called Entrepreneurs Unplugg’d a few weeks ago alongside power entrepreneurs like the founder of GrubHub, Crowdspring, and ConstantKarma. (I don’t know why I was invited to speak, but thanks Tim and Stella for thinking I could play with the big dogs.) Genevieve Thiers, founder of, also presented her start-up story.

Her presentation, in addition to being so super informative, high energy and fun (and operatic and theatrical), had one major key takeaway for me:

When starting a business . . . when you’re doing the stuff to get rolling . . . sales are key. Sales are more important than marketing. Because without sales, you can’t continue marketing.

Super easy concept. Super difficult for someone like me to keep in mind, since I think the marketing stuff is so fun (and the sales part is not as fun).

I’m so glad to have Genevieve as an example of someone to look up to. Thanks, lady, for inspiring me!

Gary: The Right Partnerships are Critical.

In Business, Marketing on 08/09/2010 at 9:02 am

Gary Cohen is the SVP of Marketing for Redbox. He was a guest lecturer in one of my marketing classes at U of C, and after his presentation, I invited him to lunch. He graciously accepted.

During our lunch conversation, Gary talked about Redbox’s STAGGERING growth over the past three years, including their projected $1bn in revenue for 2010 ($150m in 2007) with ZERO marketing spend. The reason for their drastic growth?

“It’s totally been about partnering with the right distribution channels. Strategic partners and cluster locations have been critical to this business model.”

Makes sense. I’m trying to find ways to apply this model to our business. Who can we partner with for optimal growth opportunities? How can we use the network effect to our advantage? What changes can we make to our business to make the scalability that much more feasible?

Art: Meet and Exceed Expectations.

In Business, Experience, Human behavior, Marketing on 08/06/2010 at 1:04 am

Professor Art Middlebrooks teaches Marketing of Services at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I love his teaching style. I love the way he relates traditional marketing principles to current pop culture. And I loved our discussion on the whole concept of “underpromise and overdeliver.”

He said that it’s actually been psychologically proven that underpromising and overdelivering makes a consumer actually think they’re not getting as high quality of a service. Their expectations are low, so they’ll possibly perceive you as shoddier than a competitor. Instead, he suggests to promise what you can actually follow through on, and then consistently deliver, over and over again.

I’ve always run with the “underpromise, overdeliver” mindset, but now I’m wondering if I need to adapt it a bit: “promise, and deliver over and over.”

What’s your customer service mantra? And how does it work for you?

Debbie: Power Hour

In Brainstorm, Business, Human behavior, Marketing, Org B, Organization, Shoes, Strategy, Take action on 01/26/2010 at 12:59 pm

If you’re like me, you get distracted by phone calls, emails, Facebook notifications, Tweetdeck chirping in the background, a 4 year old who wants yogurt or string cheese or candy or cupcakes, a buzzing dryer, online Sudoku, blogs, Google calendar, the need to shower, etc.

My former business coach Debbie taught me that each distraction actually takes 4 times as long to tend to, which is why she told me to start my Power Hour: focused, non-distracted work time to get through things that are critical for maintaining business. I go to my office and shut the door with a little post-it that says “Working” on it so everyone knows not to interrupt.

I break down my daily Power Hour into four 15-minute segments. (I do 15 because I’m so ADD to begin with; anything longer would require way too much brainpower. :))

1. Reply to e-mails. DO NOT OPEN TWEETDECK, FACEBOOK, OTHER BROWSERS. (SO super challenging.)
2. Make outreach business building, focused phone calls. I hate making phone calls, so often I’ll bribe myself with shoes. (For every 100 phone calls I make, I get to buy a new pair of shoes. :))
3. Strategize. I’ll focus on different areas daily, such as operations, marketing or networking. A 15 minute timeframe makes me think critically and acutely.
4. Learn. I’ll read an article, a chapter out of a business book, blog post, etc.

What are the four areas in your life you need to maintain daily? And what would happen if you could do them without being interrupted?

Debbie, I love you for making me create my own power hour. My life is infinitely more productive, serene, and less cluttered by distractions. LOVE YOU FOR IT.

Ryan: Get linked.

In Business, Marketing, Strategy, Web on 11/24/2009 at 7:55 pm

Ryan Evans (@ryanevans) is the owner of Rand Media Group, an online marketing firm. Ryan ordered three dozen cupcakes; I delivered them so we could have a nice chat on his doorstep.

Fast forward 36 hours and we both ended up at the same coffee shop in Lincoln Park. And because both of us had work we wanted to procrastinate work for ourselves, we started talking business. Well, I let him do most of the talking, because I had all of the learning to do.

He ran through some of the basics of SEO and search engine ad placement. And although what he was sharing with me was really basic to anyone who has ever owned a web-based business, it was brand new to me. The stickiest?

“Get as many links to your site as possible.”

Links to your website boost its credibility among the algorithms Google uses to determine which sites are good and which sites are crap.  Good sites with high rankings get higher placement and more visits. Which, duh, lead to more sales.

I can’t wait to figure out how we’ll implement this strategy in 2010. It’ll be interesting to track and measure our efforts.

Thanks, Ryan, for sharing all two hours worth of conversation and information with me. I really do owe you more than just cupcakes.

Tom: Relationships + numbers = fun.

In Be memorable, Business, Dancing, Experience, Human behavior, Just plain fun, Marketing, Strategy, Take action on 11/08/2009 at 11:58 am

Tom Krieglstein (@tomkrieglstein) is one of my new favorite people. Among the many things on his list of accomplishments, he owns and operates SwiftKick – providing the training and tools to student leaders to engage others in their college experiences.


He invited me and Nate to his presentation on Dance Floor Theory at UIC. While his speaking style was engaging and his content captivating, one thing that stood out as absolutely brilliant was this:

“Anything is fun with relationships and numbers.”

It doesn’t matter how well-planned your event is. If it a) is not attended by enough people and b) doesn’t allow people to bond based on their common interests, chances are it won’t be fun. And fun is memorable.

I need to remember this, not only among my company’s internal staff relationships, but also among customers. I’m positive people across Chicagoland could really connect via their love for cupcakes, and with numbers, they could do something amazing for the community. I’m not quite sure what this could be, but I’m definitely open to just about anything right now. As long as it’s fun. And legal. 🙂

Does anyone have any ideas? (And thank you, thank you Tom! You’re so FAB!)

Marc: Do you know what your market size is?

In Brainstorm, Business, Marketing, Strategy on 10/28/2009 at 8:16 pm

Marc is the Director of Marketing for a Chicago-based coffee joint. He’s a Berkeley MBA grad. But strip away the fancy titles and degrees and he’s still as smart as ever. And although I’ve only met up with him twice, I’m pretty sure that he’s my business soul mate.

We met for lunch yesterday along with his cousin who introduced us. The three of us had the most riveting conversation about business, strategy, operations, and marketing. Luckily, my business and our current growth challenges were the focus of their analysis. In trying to better understand the big picture, Marc asked one very simple, relevant, poignant, totally necessary question which stumped me:

Mari, do you know what your market size is?”


Ugh. Not in 2009, recent, tangible, hard numbers. Not like I should. Ugh. (Lame.)

That comment alone prompted me to revamp the old, dated, original market analysis and start to update it with current information to reevaluate the size (and our share) of the market – and brainstorm new ways to grow that market – so we can better strategize our next move.

Business soul mate, I’m telling you. And lucky me, the three of us have agreed to lunch on a regular basis and talk shop.


John: Do you want to be Wal-Mart or Tiffany’s?

In Be memorable, Business, Marketing, Strategy on 10/22/2009 at 10:47 am

I hired John as my business coach several years ago to help me grow my last business. My ongoing dilemma at the time: rebranding from “totally-willing-to-bottom-dollar” to “top-quality-and-service, so-you-better-pay-up.” It was an uphill battle, and one in which I was barely profitable.

I fought him on a few things. “If I change to service-oriented, I’ll lose customers. If I charge double for certain items, I’ll lose customers. If I start charging what my time is actually worth, I’ll definitely lose customers.”

Frustrated, John fought back:

“Mari, do you want to be Wal-Mart or Tiffany’s? Both are huge. Both are industry leaders. Neither is bad. But which do you want for you? Remember what your time is worth. You’re in this to make a profit. Don’t lose money just to chase customers who don’t value what you offer.”


Ouch. And he was so right.

I’ve kept this with me in the back of my mind with every decision I’ve made with respect to branding, partnerships, and marketing strategy. It’s amazing how nine words can completely change the way you shape a business.

John, those truly life (and business)-altering words of wisdom have made more of an impact in my life than you’ll probably ever know. So thank you, thank you so very much.