Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Soledad O'Brien and MC Hammer To Speak At 2009 ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference

ANA's successful multicultural conference has been expanded in 2009 and renamed the Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. This event recognizes the intersection of multicultural marketing and diversity management in driving strong business growth.

This year's event will be held October 4-6 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. Honored guests include Soledad O'Brien - a journalist and reporter for CNN; and MC Hammer - a legendary entertainer and webpreneur.

ANA conferences are unique as the client-side perspective is front and center. The Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference features senior-level marketers from companies including Farmer's Insurance, Ford Motor Co., Hewlett-Packard, JCPenney, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, MetLife, Nationwide, Procter & Gamble, The Walt Disney Company, Verizon, Walmart, and Western Union.

The conference will also feature:

- The ADCOLOR® Awards, celebrating the accomplishments of outstanding diverse advertising, marketing, and media professionals.

- The ANA Multicultural Excellence Awards, honoring the year's best multicultural advertising campaigns.

For more details, visit:

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Circle of Life

Everyday about 150,000 people die worldwide, and about 200,000 babies are born.

This means that everyday about 200,000 people turn 18, officially becoming actual consumers to market to - especially for cigarette companies, credit card companies, and higher education institutions.

It also means that everyday about 200,000 people turn 21, becoming even better consumers to market to - especially for alcoholic beverage companies, casinos, and adult magazines.

Even more, everyday about 200,000 people turn 65, officially becoming senior citizen consumers to market to - especially for nursing homes, reverse mortgage companies, and funeral planning services.

The point is this: Everyday a new consumer is born. This planet is constantly being refreshed with new life, and people are constantly aging.

As a business owner, you should understand that there is an endless supply of potential customers. As one goes away, another one comes into place. This is why companies like Coca-Cola who have been around for over a hundreds years, still spend millions each year in branding and advertising. They understand the circle of life.

And so should you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is Ebony Magazine For Sale?

Newsweek is reporting that the world's oldest publication for African Americans may be shopping for a buyer. Apparently, they have approached Time Inc. (which already owns Essence Magazine), Viacom (which already owns BET), and other private investors and buyout firms.

Ebony Magazine was created in 1945 by the late John Johnson, who later formed Johnson Publishing which also owns Jet Magazine. His goal was to create publications that enticed African American readers, but also allowed advertisers to market to a consumer group that had long been ignored. Ebony grew, to at one point, having hundreds of millions in annual revenue, and a circulation of nearly two million readers.

As of late though, things have changed. Ad sales for the magazine have dived almost 35 percent, dragging revenues down almost 32 percent. In addition, this year's Ebony Fashion Fair - a glamorous traveling fashion show that has been put on for the past 55 years - was canceled due to lack of corporate sponsorship.

One publishing executive was quoted as saying: The company is "in big, big trouble."

For more details, visit:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

5 Reasons Why Your Marketing Ideas Don't Work

1) Your Promo Materials and/or Web Site Are Poorly Designed.
If you are not a graphic designer or a web site developer, it may be in your best interest to hire someone. Having poorly designed brochures, flyers, postcards, business cards, etc. is a great way to turn a potential customer away. Having a bad-looking web site is even worse.

Your materials and web site don't have to look perfect, but they should look professional and modern.

2) Your Promo Materials and/or Web Site Are Too Wordy.
I've seen this a million times, and it urks me every time. Be conservative with the words. People do not want to read an essay when they get your brochure or visit your web site.

Keep it simple, and keep it short. Try to use an outline style of writing, and remember that people don't read - they scan.

3) You Don't Spend Enough Money On Marketing.
I've found that most new entrepreneurs who complain that marketing doesn't work will only spend about $25 a month or less on promoting their products or services. Some don't spend anything at all.

Of all your business expenses, marketing is the most important. No matter how good your product is, people will never buy it if they are unaware it exists. So, learn to allocate more funds to that area.

4) You Don't Brainstorm Enough About Marketing.
When most people think of marketing, they think of passing out flyers and sending an email to all their friends. Marketing goes far beyond this.

It involves brainstorming and experimenting to see what works, and what doesn't. Essentially, there are no rules - you just have to be creative, think of new concepts, and give them a shot. If one idea doesn't work, move onto another.

5) You Don't Know What Marketing Is.
Many people have only a general understanding of what marketing is. They fail to realize what the differences are between advertising and public relations. They don't fully understand buzz marketing, guerilla marketing, referral marketing, or even online marketing.

If this describes you, there are tons of books written on these topics. Visit your local library or book store, and find the book that best addresses your company's goals.

Again, this is the most important component to running a business - and it is well worth the investment of time, energy, and money.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An African American Video Game - Can It Work?

The video gaming industry generates billions of dollars in revenue every single year. One company, Nerjyzed Entertainment, Inc. (pronounced "Energized"), is trying something new and making history at the same time. They're releasing the first ever major African American video game for the Xbox 360.

The game is called Black College Football Experience (BCFx): The Doug Williams Edition, and it celebrates the excitement of the black college football experience.

Named after Grambling great and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, the game features competitive football game play, real-time interactive halftime shows and head to head drumline competition. It also includes a Legacy museum to educate and salute the incredible history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their great football legends.

Do I think this will work? Absolutely.

I can easily see this video game selling a million units or more. It was smart for Nerjyzed Entertainment to develop this game, and it was even smarter for Microsoft to publish it through their Xbox console.

Think of all the people who are attending HBCUs. Think of all the people who graduated from HBCUs. Think of all the people who work at HBCUs. Think of all the celebrities who support HBCUs. That's a huge audience of potential buyers and endorsers.


For more details about the game, visit:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where Do I Start? Start Where You Are

That's what Chris Gardner says in his newest book entitled Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

Gardner, for those who don't remember, is the guy whose life story inspired the hit movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith.

Since then, he's been inundated with two questions: “How Did You Do It?” and “How Can I Do it Too?” His power-packed, transformational reply is the basis of this long-anticipated book.

As a departure from standard self-help tomes that promise overnight riches and exclusive secrets for success, Gardner avoids any tilt toward magical thinking by staying with real issues and solutions impacting individuals in all walks of life.

If you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you or simply can’t find the motivation to pursue new challenges, Start Where You Are abounds with life lessons that offer hope and provide a road map for starting anew. This is also the book for anyone ready to launch a personal, professional undertaking, or break generational cycles that hem in their potential.

I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you have trouble seeing yourself where you want to be.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doing Business In Africa

The 7th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit will be held September 29th - October 1st in Washington, DC at the Washington Convention Center.

Small business owners are invited to join The Corporate Council on Africa’s (CCA) and more than 1,500 of the private and public sector's top leaders to find out about business and investment opportunities in Africa.

Below is a recent Q&A interview conducted by USA Today with Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of CCA:

For most small business owners, the cultural and distance barriers involved in doing business with Africa seem insurmountable. Why is it worth their while to investigate the possibilities?

There's a great deal of negative publicity surrounding Africa, and that tends to be all that people hear. But in reality there are 53 countries on the continent and in many of them, there are an enormous amount of positive things happening. There are extraordinarily promising possibilities in agribusiness, infrastructure, and tourism.

A lot of that negative publicity that you mentioned involves war, natural disaster, and governments steeped in corruption. Those don't seem like ideal business conditions.

Well, the charge of corruption is valid in some countries. But you have to remember that there are disasters and corruption all over the world, including in South America and North America. That doesn't preclude us doing business there.

Which African countries offer the most promise for business exchanges?

The best possibilities are in the southern half of the continent, countries like Mozambique, South Africa, Mauritius, and Namibia. Ghana has enormous potential in its ports, fisheries, and tourism, as does Botswana.

Nigeria is also a booming market where a lot of new things are happening, but it's a tough place to do business and you really have to know your partners.

Another area doing surprisingly well, by the way, are the Sub-Saharan countries of Burkina Faso and Mali. They get high marks for business development, but they are French-speaking so often the trade there gravitates to France.

What's on the agenda at your summit specifically for smaller companies?

The Africa Trade Office has [received] a $400,000 developmental grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to run a matchmaking program for small- and mid-sized businesses. They will be given the opportunity to easily identify prospective business partners and sign up electronically for brief introductory meetings before and during the summit.

The summit also offers 50 industry-specific workshops based on the knowledge of how to do things in African business, new ideas in the field, and so forth.

For more details about the summit, interested ones should visit:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How To Make Your Bank Account Look Like Tyler Perry's

I'm not a huge fan of Tyler Perry, but I do go to see all his movies. I thought his most recent one, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, was actually a pretty good film. It always fascinates me to watch his fans get excited; It's no question that he has a very successful formula, and that his audience is extremely loyal.

While watching this last movie, it dawned on me how I can make my bank account look like his. Here are the steps:

1) Produce a movie with a mostly Black cast, and have the setting in Atlanta, Georgia.

2) Find one or two familiar Black actors and/or singers, and have them star in the movie.

3) Have at least two scenes that will make people say "Oh no he didn't!"

4) Have a couple of scenes that will make people cry.

5) Have a couple of scenes that will make people laugh.

6) Include about three inspirational gospel-sounding songs into the soundtrack.

7) Include a life lesson to be learned.

8) Have a corny fairytale ending.

9) During the credits, show funny bloopers (even if they're not that funny).

If you follow those steps closely, on opening weekend - you'll have at least $25 million dollars in your bank account. Trust me, I know this will work! It's been proven.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Local Businesses Vs. National Businesses

I haven't done any research on this, but it appears that local businesses and national businesses both have the same amount of advantages and disadvantages to consider. I would say that both types are worth pursuing, once you determine which is best for you.

For clarification:

Local Business = a business that serves customers and clients within the city or state that the company operates in. For instance, a company that offers the following services would likely be a local business: carpet cleaning, plumbing, auto detailing, tax preparation, hair care, etc.

National Business = a business that serves customers and clients across the country, and may even have offices in several states. For instance, a company that offers the following services would likely be a national business: advertising, public relations, consulting, merchandise distribution, book publishing, etc.

Concerning both, here are a couple of things to consider:

1) Many believe that a national business is best to pursue because there are more people and thus more potential clients nationally, opposed to locally. This may be true, but it's much easier and cheaper for a local business to recruit clients. Recruiting clients nationally is much harder and more costly to do.

2) Many believe that a local business is best to pursue because it will keep your company smaller, and thus more stable to weather an economic storm. This may be true, but if the economic challenges are specific to your local area - you will wish you had clients elsewhere.

3) Many believe that a national business is better because you can grow into an empire, and one day expand globally. This may be true, but sometimes keeping it simple and small is smart - plus less stressful.

4) Many believe that a local business is better because it's easier to establish a word-of-mouth marketing campaign. This may be true, but if a customer has a bad experience with your company - this too will circulate very fast.

So, local or national - one is not necessarily better than the other. Consider the advantages and disadvantages, and decide which is best for you. Many entrepreneurs have decided to do both. Nothing wrong with that either!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Swine Flu Guide Released For Small Businesses

Federal officials are now saying that small business owners should be prepared to operate with fewer employees this fall as swine flu spreads across the country.

A guidebook released by the Department of Homeland Security recommends small businesses identify their essential operations and have plans for operating with reduced staffing. The government also says businesses should consider letting employees work from home if they get sick.

The agency is reporting that small businesses could be particularly vulnerable to a pandemic because they often "have fewer resources, they work with leaner staffs and absenteeism can be a particular issue."

The announcement is the latest in a series of recommendations as the federal government braces for a potentially virulent outbreak this fall, which could hurt businesses by keeping workers at home.

Dr. Daniel Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control said small businesses may need to change their leave policies to allow employees stay home longer if they become sick. He recommended workers stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever has subsided.

To download the booklet, visit www.sba.gov/flu

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Business of Being In Business

Many have the misconception that being successful in business means that you are a millionaire who lays around on the beach all day, doing nothing and collecting checks. The reality is that less than 1% of all business owners have this luxury.

The average business owner reports to work every weekday to keep their business afloat, and small business owners in the United States average only about $70,000 in annual revenue. Does this mean that they are not successful? Not at all.

Being successful in business is not based on how much money you make and how less you have to work. It's based on whether or not your business is even a business. In other words, if you're actually making money - you're successful.

Most people who start businesses never actually get to the point where they are generating a cash flow - let alone a profit. Their companies flop before they are even launched.

If you have a business that only makes $30,000 a year, don't feel bad. You're successful by far. At least you are able to create some type of revenue - whether it supplements your income a little or a lot.

Even a company that only generates just $1,000 a year in annual revenue is technically a successful company. There are millions of businesses that have come and gone that have never generated a penny.

Don't ever be mislead into believing that your business is not successful because you have to work hard, and don't own a yacht.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SBA Launches YouTube Channel

First, President Obama was on Twitter. Then, he was on Facebook. Then, YouTube. Suddenly, it all began: The federal government started using technology like never before. Since then we've seen a total relaunch of WhiteHouse.gov and the launch of new online properties such as Recovery.gov.

Now, the SBA (Small Business Administration) has begun posting informational videos on their very own YouTube channel. The videos explain their message of entrepreneurship, the importance of small business to the nation's economy, and information on the agency's programs and services.

Future topics will cover how small businesses can take advantage of the Recovery Act loan programs, government contracting opportunities, exporting to increase market share, counseling and training on how to start and grow a small business, and small business success stories.

The channel is available at www.youtube.com/sba

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Is Your Financial Situation Situated?

Starting a business is hard enough to do. Having credit and banking issues before you get started can make it even more difficult.

Thus, the question: Is your financial situation situated?

For instance, many decide to start a business but may have bad personal credit. It would be wise and extremely helpful to clean this up beforehand. Having bad personal credit makes it nearly impossible to establish business credit, and this can be a downfall for your company.

Pull your credit report, and come up with a plan to repair all of your financial woes. If you owe money to a creditor and they are pursuing you via a collection agency, pay it off - even if you have to do so at at a rate of just $50 a month. Never give up on improving your credit score. It's well worth it, even if it takes 10 years to do so.

Also, if you have banking history issues with agencies such as Chex Systems - you'll want to clear that up as well. Establishing a business bank account will be troublesome if you are identified as a person who has previously wrote bad checks or abandoned bank accounts with negative balances.

Whatever has happened in your financial lifetime, you will want to make it look squeaky clean. The world of finances can be very forgiving if you take consistent actions to fix your errors.

You don't have to be wealthy to start and build a business, but you do need a reputation that says you're responsible and trustworthy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Weddings Vs. Family Businesses

On more than one occasion, I've seen family members come together to financially contribute to a wedding. $3,000 for flowers. $1,000 for a chocolate fountain. $5,000 for a wedding dress. No exaggeration: I've seen low-income families come together and raise thousands of dollars for a wedding that lasted a few hours, and a marriage that lasted a few years.

This same energy and passion should be used to come together to invest in a business that can make everyone wealthy, can last a lifetime, and can be passed down to future generations.

If a family got together and raised just a couple thousand dollars, they can open a store front, buy a franchise, and/or even expand an existing business.

Why not organize your family to invest in something that will yield a return and produce results that can financially empower everyone?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ford Comes Up With An Impressive Idea

In an attempt to increase car sales and save the American economy, Ford came up with what I think is a very, very good idea. They decided to create and implement a new technology for all their new vehicles called MyKey that allows parents to control their teen drivers' behaviors.

For instance, a parent can limit the top speed of the vehicle to just 80MPH or less. They can also set it so that the audio system won't turn on, unless the driver is wearing a seat belt. They can also max out the audio at half volume (which is still plenty loud), keep track of the young driver's mileage, and provide earlier low-fuel warnings than standard.

Being that millions of teenagers turn 16 every year and start driving, I think this idea is pretty brilliant. Many concerned parents will strongly consider buying a Ford to better protect their children and to mold them into responsible drivers.

If I had a child old enough to drive, this would definitely catch my attention - especially since I know that thousands of teen drivers are killed every year.

Marketing wise, this will do wonders for Ford and it will certainly create a huge PR buzz. Ford vehicles may even start to be called "the safest cars for teens".

Imagine how many sales that will bring in!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Are $1 Coupons Enough?

I was at the post office the other day, and this guy was passing out $1 off coupons for a local barbershop. I'm thinking to myself: "What the heck are you doing?"

"Why would I (or anybody else) visit your barbershop to take advantage of a measly $1 discount?"

"Nearly everyone who gets haircuts already belongs to a barbershop of some sort. And your game plan to get them to switch to yours, is to save them a $1?"

Don't get me wrong. A $1 coupon is worthwhile using if I'm going to the grocery store to buy some $2 waffles. That's a 50% discount. Even if I were at the mall buying some $3 sunglasses, a $1 off is a 33% discount.

But $1 off a haircut is an insult. Haircuts these days cost at least $15, but sometimes up to $20. So handing me a $1 off coupon is only offering me a savings of about 5% or less. That's not enough to motivate anyone to take action.

If you're going to use coupons or discounts in your marketing strategy, make sure to make people feel that they are actually getting a deal. Ideally, the savings should be at least 15% - but never below 10%. The more savings, the better response you will get.

If done correctly, you will always make any loss revenue back through the increase of new customers.