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Respect the process

Although strategic marketing requires a high level of creativity, it also requires a certain level of discipline. It is easy to jump out of your seat and start slapping people on the back when a good idea bursts onto the scene, bringing fresh energy and endless possibilities along with it.

One thing I’ve learned is that you need to let ideas run around a little, stretching their legs and shaking their sillies out. You need to play with them and acknowledge their greatness.

At this point, many people gather up the good idea in a giant bear hug of excitement and run around telling everybody what they’re going to do with it. In effect, they’re racing to the altar without getting to know the bride.

I agree that good ideas need a period of basking in their own pure energy. You have to let them bounce off the walls and trip over a few things. And then you need to help them settle down. You need to lead them to a quiet place and examine them from all sides.

You need to think before you act.

And this is where we learn to respect the power of processes. Methods and processes may seem like the devil to some creative types. But the right processes, proven with time and applied consistently, are the foundation of good marketing. Rather than inhibit a project, they support its growth. Strong processes guide creativity through the steps and considerations that promote its success.

Grandma was right. Haste makes waste. Make sure your marketing firm has the energy and creativity to bring a spark to your business. Then make sure they use methods and processes that will neither snuff the creative spark nor let it burn out of control.

Your Personal Balance Sheet

Once a contract is signed and it’s time to get down to business with a new client, I ask a whole bunch of questions.  We have a meeting that I call “The Biggie.”  Sometimes it goes quickly. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours. We explore, we discover, we review, we plan.

We make it pleasant. There are snacks and beverages, good music and fresh air. Some clients come in with a tidy binder with a business plan. Some come in with sketches. All come in with dreams.

We discuss past, present and future activities. We review goals, methods, competition, past successes and failures. We explore all kinds of things. Asking a lot of questions helps me form a mental picture of the brand. It also helps me identify the strengths and challenges of the business and its key players.

One thing I always inventory is personal assets. No, I don’t mean finances. I mean special talents, knowledge and experience.

If I went six months without knowing my client is an exceptional public speaker, I’d be missing opportunities.  If my client spent 20 years in another industry, there could be a tie-in. If my client has won an award, yodels or races stock cars, I’d like to know.

Likewise, I’d like to know about any liabilities that exist right up front. If a client had difficulties in a past business, I’d like those difficulties identified. If there was a public relations crisis due to product liability, customer service or employee issues, I need to know.

My job isn’t just about making ads and brochures. It takes much more than writing copy and making things pretty to get results.  My job is to understand my client’s business, understand my client’s market, and identify assets and opportunities. Then we get to do the fun, pretty, exciting creative stuff. And we rock it pretty hard.

Strong marketing requires strong strategy built on information, experience and inspiration.

In case you’re wondering…

When people meet us, the second question they usually ask is, “What kind of businesses do you work with?” (The first question, of course, is about the ears.)

We work with all kinds of businesses. Local, national, corporate and grass-roots. Big business, small business. Big budget, small budget.

A quick peek at our client list would reveal:

  • Other advertising and marketing agencies
  • Government agencies
  • Artists
  • Manufacturers
  • Web-based service providers
  • Technology companies
  • Non-profits
  • Real estate  and housing professionals
  • Food and beverage/hospitality/tourism clients
  • Senior services companies
  • Builders/Contractors
  • Various professional service providers and consultants

The work we do at Big Ears Strategic Marketing isn’t limited to a few industries because our methods can be applied effectively to so many.

We don’t take every offer that comes our way, though. All of our clients have a few things in common.

  • We think they’re ready for what we offer.
  • They have a good feel for where they’re headed, what their goals are and who their clients are.
  • They take their businesses as seriously as we do.
  • They are willing to commit to deadlines.
  • We think they will truly benefit from what we do.

If  you have a business (or know of a business) that hasn’t quite hit its stride or is ready to kick things up a notch, we’d love to share our experience with you.

Give us a call and we’ll lend you our ears.


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in marketing?

Follow this link for an inside peek at the marketing world. File under “nothing is sacred.”

The Business of Sharing Joy

Sometimes being in business isn’t about money. Enjoy this inspiration from Grandma Pearl.

The Shoemaker’s Child Checks In

Yes, it’s true, the shoemaker’s child does go barefoot. This blog is evidence. No updates in oh-so-long as we work to keep the blogs and marketing plans of others in top shape.

And for what does the child return? Fun, of course! In the form of a silly, salty, GMO-laden snack. But not just a snack. Bugles, the snack that’s also a game!

Thanks, AdWeek, for putting all this tasty goodness in one handy place.

Putting our money where our ears are.

Whenever clients ask us to help them evaluate an opportunity, we walk them through a list of considerations. We talk about exposure, opportunity costs, potential benefits, competition and all kinds of important things.

But sometimes, we sense a client’s passion in something and we set our questions aside and advise them to do something they feel good about.

We like to take our own advice. We donate time to non-profits.  (Hint: follow us on facebook to learn more about organizations we support.) Current recipients include the Central Coast Bioneers Conference and Central Coast Funds for Children.

We are proud to be the San Luis Obispo County Bike Coalition‘s newest Silver Level Bike Friendly Business. We believe in the work they do and would like to tell you a little about them.

Their bicycle education programs teach traffic psychology and techniques that empower and protect cyclists of all ages.

Their advocacy raises awareness and participation.

They provide a great place for cyclists to touch base and keep their machines in top shape.

And, of course, they offer the Bike Valet service at local events. Seriously, what’s not to love?

We encourage you to support the SLO County Bike Coalition by becoming a member. There are various levels for both personal and business membership.

Also, be sure to tell us you’re a member when we do business together. Big Ears Strategic Marketing offers a discount to those who support the SLO County Bike Coalition.

We love supporting local organizations, but we’re not doing it alone. Many of our favorite businesses are pitching in, too. And, of course, our loyal clients and the referrals we receive allow our business to remain strong enough to support these local organizations.

Thank you for your role in making San Luis Obispo County a great place to live.

More proof…

I always say, “Customer service IS marketing.” And I sometimes get uncertain looks in response. There will always be the client who wants to buy a billboard or a whole bunch of airtime, but is unwilling to step back with me and take a look at the BIG PICTURE and see the things I see.

This story from Peter Shankman illustrates how a (not so) simple act of extraordinary customer service can become a (better than money can buy) marketing opportunity. Enjoy!


An overlooked marketing secret.

Today started bright and early with a 7am meeting. A client wanted me to meet one of her clients because she thought he’d benefit from our help. It was a great meeting.

I did walk away with a new client, but that’s not what made it so great. The best part was seeing the relationship between our existing client and our new client. It was obvious that they really respected  and cared about each other. They wanted to help each other. They openly shared their praise and appreciation.

I didn’t walk into that meeting to make a sale. I went because someone I like working with wanted to help someone else. She didn’t want to help him because he is her client. She wanted to help him because he is a good guy and she is nice.

I’d heard her talk about him enough to know that meeting him would be a good experience for me. Not because he might hire me, but because I believe that connecting with honest, genuine business owners is always valuable. We hit it off and are looking forward to working together.

Being invited to see and become a part of their relationship is a great honor. It tells me my existing client trusts me and believes in what I do. It tells me that she sees the value of the services I provide. And seeing the way my clients work together reinforces one of the most overlooked marketing secrets of all: Good business starts with good people.

Take a vacation (from your car!)

Our client, San Luis Obispo Car Free, got the attention of a reporter from Discovery’s Planet Green.  Read about the great time she had visiting the area and learn about the joys of (nearly) car free vacationing.

How did a reporter from a large media network get the idea to try a car free vacation in San Luis Obispo county? The same way the folks at the Sydney Morning Herald found out about the program before naming it #12 on their list of “North America’s top 20 experiences.”

(It’s been suggested that we change our name to Big Mouth Strategic Marketing.)


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