Guitar, Lessons, and Branding

Learning guitar lessons on the internetEvery year the music products industry puts on a huge product convention to display all of the new gear and instruments that are coming out during that year. The show is called the NAMM show and consists of nearly 2,000 companies and attracts over 100,000 attendees. Needless to say, it’s a pretty big deal.

Well, we have been fortunate enough to start working with SJM guitar pedals on their new branding and marketing campaign that was unveiled at the NAMM show this year. The company makes high-end effect pedals that range anywhere from $150-$200 each. If you know anything about pedals, this is a lot of money for a single pedal since the average market price is only $75.

We were brought in to establish their brand as a vintage and high-end company that would appeal to more experienced players and studio musicians. In this highly competitive market, pretty much the only thing that sets one company apart from another is the branding and identity that people perceive.

That is why we started our rebranding with a new company identity that sparked images and memories of classic and vintage rockers. The target audience for SJM is in their 50s and 60s, so they would have been learning guitar when bands like Led Zepplin and the Beatles were big. Unlike today’s guitars who take online guitar lessons for free, these people had to go down to their local music shop and sign up for lessons.

It was a trip and an adventure to go to the record store or the guitar shop. That is exactly what we were aiming for. Customers have to be reminded of the good old days as soon as they see the pedals and then hear those days come to live when they plug it in. This is often referred to as the golden age of guitar before metal bands started tuning their guitars in drop c tuning.

Since our effects began almost a year ago, the company has seen a huge response from its customers. The show alone brought in more new customers and dealers than they had seen in the last year and a half. I think this is a great success for both the company and us.

Next up is a complete redesign and remarketing of their entire website. Unfortunately, they really haven’t been current with modern site designs and trends. More importantly, an online market place is going to be set up.

All in all, our trip to Anaheim for the NAMM show was nothing short of amazing. The sushi place we stopped at in Laguna Beach was really good and the drive up the PCH was a nice change of pace. Not to mention, I got a couple of nice effect pedals to try out when I get back home and instructions on how to build a guitar pedal. I can’t wait to go back again next year and show the customers all the amazing stuff we have been able to accomplish with this brand. Stay tuned.

Financing Our Next Big Campaign

Using gross margin and debt-equity ratios to account for projectsWorking as a graphic artist, videographer, and photographer, I am always looking to push the boundaries of what my clients want and expect to see in the final product. A prime example of this is when I attempted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Climbing any mountain this high can be a stretch for anyone because of the climate and elevation. It’s a pretty crazy feeling.

Obviously, any type of campaign like this can’t happen unless there is some type of financial backing to get it off the ground and moving. Some of my creative ideas seem crazy to my clients, but I have found the most freedom, fulfillment, and best results when clients let me come up with things beyond the borders of traditional marketing and create something truly inspiring for their audience. I find when I can make my clients understand this concept, not only is my work more pleasurable for me, it turns into larger opportunities for them in ways of connecting with people and developing new branding identities.

For my next big campaign, I would like to take a hang gliding client’s products to the extreme by gliding through the Grand Canyon. At first I didn’t think this seemed to unreal until I started to add up the actual accounting costs of production. We would have to rent a helicopter, a few gliders to hold equipment, and hire a few expert fliers. The end result of this project is going to be amazing because I would like to climb a pike and hang glide to a smaller plateau. At this point the helicopter will circle the glider and the credits and product info will role.

This is only one example of many extreme products that we have had to find financing for. I have found that the best way to get clients to view the project on the same level is to explain it to them in a business sense. I like to start with explaining a financial ratio percentage like gross margin. This will show the client that the project will not only pay for itself, but it will also attract a great following and branding identity all its own. This can create paybacks of greater than ten times the original investment.

Like I said before, the main way that I have found to truly create amazing work is to allow my clients to share in my vision. If they are on board with what I am hoping to do with a specific project, it will always turn out better than a few divided goals and expectations. The main way to do this is by conveying the dream and vision and getting the financial objectives out of the way early. After I discuss the margin on the project, I typically like to talk about average debt to equity ratio formula in the industry and how this project will compare to it. This shows that although my ideas of climbing mountains and hang gliding over the Grand Canyon may be crazy, but they make fiscal sense.

It’s easy to get a client on board with a vision when they are not struggling trying to think about the accounting during the process. This is the only way I have found to create breathe taking works the really help my clients’ businesses and allow me to be free in the process.

Writing for an International Audience

writing-for-international-audience

There are few considerations that we should give higher credence to when talking about international business marketing than writing for an international audience.

Writing is one of the most fundamental forms of communication and needs to be given extreme thought when drafting marketing campaigns through various forms of e-communication. Your writing can make or break a marketing campaign.

A technology company in America should always take into consideration the market that they are trying to enter when crafting their message. For instance, should the company use English or not?  What is the predominately-spoken language? Is English even widely used? If so, what dialect are they using?

I have worked on both sides of these questions. When working in Germany, I did both English and Germany promotional videos and campaigns. It is just all relative to what suits the company’s message.

One important thing to keep in mind when and if you decide to bridge the language difference is to hire a fluent translator and be sure you’re not making any basic grammar mistakes. The infamous John F. Kennedy “I am a jelly doughnut” speech in Berlin is not exactly something your company would like to be remembered by.

Similarly, American audiences have basic grammar taboos that can quickly turn viral if someone catches your mistake. One of the most common mistakes in English grammar is confusing effect and affect in your writing. Even though many native speakers misuse these two words, you’re going to want to either avoid them or be sure you’re using them correctly. If not, brace yourself for public ridicule.

Another thing you must take into consideration when speaking to an international audience is their own slang. Even in English speaking countries, dialects and slangs vary widely and drastically change the meanings of your message. Consider American, England, and Australia. All of these countries speak English, but they all have very distinct ways of speaking.

Once you employ all of these into your campaign, your message will really start to resonate with people. No one wants to listen to an outsider talk to him or her about how they should run their own community. People want to know that you are one of them; that you know their problems; that you know the difficulties their community is facing specifically; and that you can help them.

To sum up, once you decide the language (or languages) that you will be using in your marketing campaign be sure to familiarize yourself with some popular turns of phrase, idioms, and slang terminology. Hire a translator to make sure you aren’t saying anything embarrassing and that your grammar is in working order. We don’t need to recreate the jelly doughnut incident, so be you know the grammar of Complement & Compliment or other popularly misused words in whichever language you pick.

Doing this will help you yield a great campaign, whether it be through e-communications or digital advertising or traditional print and radio media. Immersing yourself in the culture will benefit all of your future marketing campaigns.

 

Speak Outside Your Medical or Dental Market

dental-implant-repair-affordabilitySpeaking Outside Your Market Base

There is a certain challenge that arises when you are speaking to people or companies that are outside of your own market base. I work primarily with technology companies that are looking to expand both inside and outside of the United States. We work primarily with software companies, social media companies, and other technology companies. On a recent project, however, I found myself working with a few hospitals and dental practices that was a new challenge for that I wasn’t used to.

Like I said, I work primarily with tech companies, and there are a number of things that you take for granted when you are dealing with people inside of your own field. Many of the doctors and dentists that we were dealing with had very limited knowledge of the technology we use, so communicating with them was a unique challenge.

First a little background information. I went to a few two dental practices to show them how some of our new tools can assist them in the surgery process. One of the practices specializes in performing dental implant surgeries in Pontiac Michigan. In this type of surgery a number of highly technical tools are required and we have developed some new versions that greatly expedite the process and assist doctors in their procedures.

The second practice that I went also performs dental implant surgeries, but some dentists in Auburn Hills Michigan providing affordable dental implants have had different types of reviews. This practice already had some of our technologies for their surgeries, but was interested in our client tracking software that is specially designed to help dental practices keep track of their clients’ appointments and their payments.

As I said earlier, it was a little difficult communicating with people who knew very little about the products that we were explaining to them, but I came away with a few important takeaways from the experience.

Number one, listen more than you talk. After you give your explanation or presentation, ask if there are any questions. Usually with new products there will be a host of new questions so be sure to actually listen to each of their questions and address their concerns as specifically as you can. If possibly ask them a few questions to find out what their concern is related to. Sometimes if you ask a few follow up or prior questions before answering this can help your answer be the best possible.

Number two, be patient. Don’t get frustrated with these people. They aren’t out to cause you trouble; they’re just trying to understand what it is that you’re setting into place because soon they’re going to have to use it every day.

Last but not least, make sure to give them contact information. Not only is this a great maxillofacial public relations for dentists move to offer yourself for future questions, but it allows people to ask you questions that they might not have thought of while you were giving your presentation.

So next time you find yourself talking to people outside of your own field of expertise, don’t fret; just implement these three rules and you should be more than fine—and they’ll love you!

Tax competition among countries

Tax competition among countries

taxes

There are a few different considerations that businesses consider before expanding into outside countries.

The first of course is, what does that country’s marketplace look like for their given product or similar products? If there is no current market for this product, could there be one or is there a reason no market exists? Maybe this culture has no use for the widget your company is looking to export. If there is a market, what does the competition look like? How many existing firms are in the area? What do their products look like? What are the barriers to entry for new businesses?

One of the primary barriers to entry for businesses looking to expand to outside countries is any given country’s tax code.

Tax codes can be extremely uncompetitive or extremely competitive and they can be a major influencer for whether or not a business will expand in your territory. For example, let’s take the case of Germany because that is where I first started my marketing ventures. If a business is looking to expand into the Germany marketplace but Germany’s taxing and business climate is very unfriendly towards new businesses, the firm may opt to build their new research center in Austria instead. They have similar enough clientele and it would be much easier to get into the German marketplace from Austria than it would be from the United States. So, in effect, Germany will now have access to the all of the good that will be produced by the company looking to expand but none of the jobs relating to those goods.

This problem becomes especially evident in countries like the United States that are broken into 50 state territories that are all sovereign political entities under the umbrella of one federal government. States must enforce federal laws, but they can choose to go further in the case of taxation. What you now find in America is a massive migration of both the populace and businesses into the states with lower tax rates. States like California are losing residents to states like Texas that are quickly becoming the giant technology leaders.

The best thing that countries and states can do to avoid this type of mass migration exodus is to make their tax rates competitive with their neighbors. If you keep your tax rate competitive and do not allow yourself to have artificially high tax rates relative to the country’s surrounding you, you will be able to attract more businesses looking to expand. One option that shouldn’t be pursued, however, is cutting special deals with select businesses. This discourages other businesses from entering the marketplace because they are unable to get these same deals. It also adds to the level of uncertainty in the marketplace where businesses cannot be certain if tax rates on their company or industry will remain steady. Businesses generally look for predictability in a business climate because it allows them to develop strategies for their own expansion.

So the important take away from this is to remember when looking to expand your business into foreign markets, take a look at the business climate in those countries. Even if you want to get into marketplace “A,” opting to set up operations in marketplace “B” is sometimes the better alternative.

My Background in Communications

My Background in Communications

communications

I use this blog to talk a lot about topics relating to business marketing and viral business marketing, specifically for those businesses looking to expand into international markets. But today I thought I would go into a little more depth about my own experience in communications and marketing, aside from what is said in the about section of the blog.

I studied business and business marketing at the University of Amsterdam, graduating in 2007. Shortly after graduating I got a job in the marketing and public affairs department of a medium sized Amsterdam business looking to expand their operations in Germany and England. Since this was my first job out of college, I gained a lot of experience on how to craft messages relating to specific target audiences. It also helped me experience marketing to foreign clients. English and German cultures are different than we have in Amsterdam, so all of these differences need to be taken into account when setting up a marketing campaign.

During my time at this company, I produced a number of short YouTube promotional videos that were marketed online and aired on certain English and German television networks. Narrated adaptations were aired on the radio also, but the primary venue for all of my projects were in the digital realm. From my experiences working with these online projects for this company, I was able to hone my abilities in digital marketing with exacting precision.

I worked at this company for four years until a new opportunity arose where I could expand my international expertise into U.S. markets for international technology companies looking to expand their presence in Europe.

When I started with the company I current work for I was able to offer them a service that no other person in my field could offer. I had the experience of working for four full years with a company in Amsterdam whose purpose was to expand in England and Germany. This means that I had extensive knowledge of Amsterdam, German, and English markets, all key areas for technological innovations. In other words, I was a no brainer for this company. This new job was a great opportunity for me because it gave me a whole new exposure to the biggest market in the world, the United States market, which has really helped me develop some sound connections.

Now I work with many of the same types of projects as I did at my old job with a new focus. I also moved stateside to the state of California, the hub of technological innovation in America.

My advice for all of those who are looking to go into business and business marketing: make the most out of every job opportunity that you are given. Never underestimate the skills and connections you will be able to make at a given location. Through my first job I was able to capitalize on my Amsterdam background and expand it to surround European countries. If I hadn’t gotten all that I could from this experience, I might not have gotten my current job, which has paid off in leaps and bounds as far as developing my skill set goes.

The Need for an International Appeal

The Need for an International Appeal

appeal

Companies all across the globe are looking for ways to broaden their appeal and becoming internationally recognized. In this post we’ll go over a brief history of why companies are choosing now to go international and a few of the challenges that they face along the way.

Ever since the 1980s and 1990s countries across the globe have discovered that free and open trade is beneficial for their economies, both in the importation and exportation of goods, so companies now have most of the historical boundaries that separated neighboring countries from trading with one another removed.

In years past, companies shipping goods from the United States to Mexico faced stiff tariffs, but with the North American Free Trade Agreement this is no longer the case. Companies are much more free to set up and sell goods in other countries than they were in years prior. U.S. car companies for example are much more free to set up factories in Mexico, providing the Mexican economy with less expensive cars. This has opened up new markets for business around the world and they are looking for ways to expand.

The Internet has also played a vital role in the importance of international business. Now people log onto the Internet every day from all across the globe and can access and buy your products with the simple click of a button. In years past, they might have to send a letter, call overseas, or even fly to your country in person to get a product ordered, but today it is incredibly simple. Lifting many of these trade restrictions along with the success of the Internet have served to make the world a much smaller place.

Unfortunately, many localized companies lack the knowledge, ability, and resources to set up a successful international campaign or a new branch of their business. There is a lot of unique, cultural specific knowledge that must go on while trying to enter foreign markets with your products. Think about how long it took your business to grow locally and nationally. Why would you assume it should be so easy to appeal to an international audience then?

This is precisely what I do at my job. I help companies that are looking to develop their localized or nationalized brand into a worldwide, international brand. For some companies this is easier than for others by the nature of their product, but companies across the board are now looking to do this.

It is also important while seeking to develop an international identity that you maintain your national one. Think about it this way, your company is trying to break into foreign markets, correct? Well it would be only natural to assume that foreign companies are trying to do the same thing. This means that outside companies are actively seeking out the best ways possible to compete with your business. This is why it is so vitally important that you maintain your localized brand while you do your international outreach because losing your customer base is simply not an option.