E*Trade’s Baby Creates the Most Online Buzz (New York Times)

The key promotional method used by many consumer products companies, especially those targeting the mass market, is the television advertisement.  Even though television viewing has declined over the last 10 to 20 years, the amount spent on TV ads remains large, with one estimate suggesting that 2011 spending will exceed $60 billion.

While television advertising continues to be a critical part of promotion strategy, many marketers have also figured out that TV ads are not just for television.  They understand the expense in producing a television commercial can be spread over many other media, including viewing ads on computer screens and mobile devices.  In fact, for some products the real value of TV advertising comes with the viewing that takes place outside of the consumers’ living room.

McDonald's Will Charge For Happy Meal Toys in SF (San Francisco Chronicle)

Fast Food PromotionIn November 2010, we made note of a decision by the city of San Francisco to ban fast food establishments from offering free toys with the purchase of meals targeted to children.  The most famous promotion tied to meals is the McDonald’s Happy Meal, which is purchased thousands of times per day throughout the U.S.  The leaders of the City by the Bay, instituted the ban because they believe the offer of free product encourages poor eating habits and helps contribute to an increase in childhood obesity.  (This issue is also being raised by the Federal Trade Commission, which has proposed changes to how food is marketed to children.)

Walmart Moves Black Friday to Thanksgiving Night (Reuters)

Black Friday PromotionsEven though it is early November, the Christmas selling season is already well underway.  If you visit stores or watch television, you are quickly exposed to holiday product displays and advertisements.  But, as most shoppers are aware, the real deals do not start until the Friday after Thanksgiving or, as more commonly called, Black Friday.

Black Friday has an interesting history dating back to the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it REALLY became an important selling day.  Thanks, to aggressive competitors, Black Friday is now a battleground for retailers, who are not only looking to attract customers but are also seeking publicity.

To attract customers, retailers significantly expand store hours and offer fantastically low prices on select products.  Despite the fact that quantities of these bargains are limited, it does not seem to deter customers who line up hours before doors open.  Of course, leading retailers love this as it not only produces a long line of customers, it also attracts the attention of local television news stations, who seem to enjoy filming customers as they dash through the store seeking the best deals.

This year, the competition for customers and publicity has taken an even more extreme turn.  As discussed in this story, major retailers are fighting to be the first to open their doors for Black Friday shopping.  In fact, Wal-Mart has decided that Black Friday now starts the day before as they plan to open their stores at 10 pm on Thanksgiving night.

While Thanksgiving has long been considered a day of rest for most U.S. retailers, it seems only a matter time before all retailers just view this as another business day.

While the holiday shopping season traditionally kicks off on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, the push to sell Christmas presents and other items has been moving earlier and earlier in recent years.

How much has the evolution of open-all-the-time online purchasing impacted store-based retailers’ decision to expand their store hours?

Image by Hotcouponworld.com

Tools for Sales LeadsContinually finding new sales leads is the lifeblood of most sales organizations.  While this task is often a painful struggle, a number of technologies have emerged in recent years to help lessen the burden.

In particular, those involved in selling may find the following Internet-based technology solutions can improve lead generation and help create a more targeted and rewarding selling effort.

News Alerts
In many industries, the company is the primary source for providing sales leads to its sales force.  These leads emerge from numerous sources such as contacts purchased from commercial databases, call centers inquiries, and website requests.  However, depending on company policy, most salespeople should not limit leads to only company provided information.  Instead, salespeople should seek additional information sources including news sources found on the Internet.  For starters, salespeople may want to look at the Google Alerts service.  The service delivers a notice to an email account when a news item contains keywords selected by the user.  For instance, entering the name of a company may provide a large number of news items related to that firm.  But users are not limited to entering just the company name.  Any information that could suggest a potential customer could yield a news item.

Virtual Trade Shows
A highly successful form of lead generation is trade show selling.  Trade shows offer numerous advantages over individual selling efforts including the ability to reach a large number of targeted buyers in one location.  Unfortunately, trade shows are expensive to manage and attendance by potential buyers has declined sharply as corporations tighten travel budgets.  Yet, the value trade shows possess for generating leads has persuaded many companies to explore other meeting options including online or virtual trade shows.  Virtual trade shows employ web technologies, such as video conferencing, chat rooms and avatars, to satisfy buyer’s demand for information.  While the virtual trade show has yet to be widely adopted, major firms including IBM have found create value using this method and expect it to become even more useful as more buyers become comfortable with the technology.

Internet Social Networks
One of the most effective technologies for generating sales leads is through Internet social networks.  The premise of Internet social networks is to build friendship circles based on relationships with others within the network.  These circles are often built when one person invites another to join the network.  In this way, theoretically speaking, everyone has some connection to everyone else in the network.  For salespeople and marketers, the network can be a source of highly qualified business leads.  The main social network site to explore for business contacts is Linkedin.  While setting up an account is easy, it may take time to build a personal contact list.  While waiting for this list to build, it may prove useful to join groups that are in the field in which one sells.  A simple search using the right search terms should yield plenty of options.

Build a Website
For more technically adventurous salespeople, a productive method for generating leads via the Internet is to build their own website.  In fact, recent research suggests that more leads are generated from websites than from social network sites.  However, building a website can be frustrating.  In most cases, this job should be delegated to others who have done this before.  No matter how the site is built, it should have two key components: 1) provides a complete description of what products and services are offered and 2) offers easy to locate contact information.  In terms of the site’s content, it is essential to keep in mind the key factors that affect how search engines, such as Google, list sites in response to a search request.  Following basic search engine optimization (SEO) practices may improve the chances of customers finding the salesperson’s website.  For contact information, include phone number, email and possibly an online contact form.

Online Ads
Lastly, salespeople may want to use Internet advertising to build sales leads.  Creating basic ads, such as those found when using a search engine, are extremely easy.  The key is to select the right keywords that when entered by a searcher will then trigger the ads.  Better yet, newer methods where ads are linked to phone calls, called click-to-call advertising, are also showing promise for lead generation.

Recommerce (Trendwatching)

Marketers Using Trade-in PromotionsAs we discuss in our Planning with the Product Life Cycle tutorial, marketers face a highly active market in the Growth stage of the PLC.  During this phase many companies are introducing new products and the promotional "noise" occurring is extremely intense.

With so much promotional activity taking place marketers often must look beyond advertising and find other promotions that will capture customers' attention.  One key way of doing this is to utilize sales promotions, such as coupons and "on-sale" promotional pricing.

Another type of sales promotion that is available, but tends to be underutilized, is the trade-in.  This promotion, where customers exchange a current product they own for a price reduction on a new product, is seeing more usage across many industries.