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    With the recent announcements that Aol and Facebook are introducing a new look and new features, I’ve got email on the brain. It’s no surprise, then, that an invoice I received hit a nerve, and prompted today’s post on professional email addresses and your personal brand. In today’s economy, I know a number of PR professionals, marketers, and graphic designers are doing freelance work for bigger companies. Contractors have always been utilized in the business world, but never more than today, due to increased connectivity, better tools for a remote working arrangement, and cost effectiveness. That being said, one would think that freelancers would take more time and energy creating, presenting, and maintaining their professional brand.

    Make your email address professional. My mom gave my brother and sister nicknames when they were little, including “bubba” for my brother, and “chickie” for my sister. I started calling my sister “Tootsie” years ago, and the term of endearment has stuck with her all the way to her present college days. She also played soccer in high school, and thus, her email address throughout high school was soccertootsie@aol.com. Now, this may be fine for a few harmless emails from one 15 year old girl to another… but to use that to her current professors or potential employers? NO. Similarly, my brother would never want to be known as the guy with bubba@yahoo.com as his contact information on his resume. And yet, the invoice today had an almost equally ridiculous email address attached to it. In fact, I’ve received several emails from this freelancer from another silly email address. This person has not one, but TWO unprofessional email addresses from which to do business! If you’re going to work as a professional among other professionals, pick a professional email address. Choose something like firstname.lastname@address.com, or a first initial and last name. You want people to remember your brand with confidence, not snickers over the nickname your mom or sister gave you when you were a kid.

    Choose a professional provider. Ok, we all know Aol gave a lot of people their first email address. But let’s be honest, who actually uses Aol anymore? Out-of-touch people still use Aol, that’s who. Or, what about all the random providers that no one has ever heard of? I know some more remote locations use these providers, but most professional environments use a major provider. Even if your name looks professional, if the provider to the right of the @ sign looks unprofessional, you’ve canceled yourself out. You can get free email addresses from major providers, like Gmail or Hotmail, that garner much more respect for your tech savvy, hard-working, professional brand. But it’s not just the address that needs to be professional, it’s also the first connection. Which do you take more seriously, the invitation to “friend” a potential business partner on Facebook, or the invitation to “connect” with a potential business partner via LinkedIn? Do you really want your new bosses to see you in a bikini on your last vacation? Make it a policy to put your professional brand at the forefront by including a professional email address on a professional medium.

    Make your signature professional. Give yourself a title, even if it’s just “Independent Contractor”,  “PR Consultant”, or “Marketing Professional”. Include your professional email address, phone number, website URL, and possibly “on behalf of [company]” in the signature line, so that members of the organization know you’re a legitimate member of their team. When you just sign your emails with your name, people within an organization may question your credibility or right to have information, payment, and decision-making power on their project. Improve your professional image by being professional down to the last word of your electronic correspondence.

    Back it up with other electronic information. If you plan to freelance long-term, create a website and a business name. A well-maintained, informative website lends credibility to you and your work, and allows potential employers to vet you before paying good money for your services. Set up a LinkedIn profile, and post updates about projects you’ve done, with links to the information on your website. This ensures that companies receive a professional image, rather than a personal image, when they are looking to hire a contractor. Give your business a name, and set up payment options for the business. Nothing says “suspicious” like an invoice requiring payment to an individual… especially when that individual has not established credibility elsewhere on the web. Once you have a business name and website, you can then use the domain name in your newly created, professional email address.

    If you want to be taken seriously as an independent professional, you’ve got to present a professional image, starting with the address on your correspondence. Don’t be soccertoots@aol.com, be ashley@musingmarketing.com, Marketing Professional, with a proven track record of success!


    While reading a trade magazine, I came across an Epic Fail by the editor. You know those green and red squiggly lines that appear in Microsoft Word when you have a spelling or grammar error? Yeah, this published ad had the little red and green squiggly lines printed! They had intentionally used incorrect spelling by saying, “soooooo…………”, and the red squiggly appeared to indicate the spelling error. They had also put spaces between words and colons or semi-colons, which makes the green squiggly pop up to indicate the grammar/formatting error. Why, WHY would this be printed in a professional trade magazine?

    The entire magazine encompasses strong editorial writing, high-res photos, and glossy, high-quality paper, so I can’t imagine that an ad would intentionally include the squiggly error indicators. And, if for some reason someone (well-meaning but clueless Marketing person, perhaps?) thought it would be a good idea to include the error indicators, it’s still an Epic Fail on the part of the editor! It looks completely unprofessional and sloppy, and makes your company look like you don’t have a detail-oriented employee on staff. It’s one thing to intentionally go a little overboard with text like, “sooooo……” and multiple exclamation points at the end of a sentence, but including the squiggly error indicators? I just can’t seem to get on board with that, no matter how many ways I try to twist my thinking into believing it was intentional.  Bold, obviously intentional mistakes can make an ad different, as in the case of the Chic-Fil-A campaign with slogans like, “Eat Mor Chikin”. Here, everyone can plainly see that “more” and “chicken” are intentionally misspelled to create interest and humor. Yoda, from the Star Wars movies, always speaks with poor grammar or unusual sentence structure, but it’s clear that this is a unique character trait. But, if your audience has to wonder whether you deliberately misspelled a word or wrote with poor grammar, you’ve missed the mark.

    My plea to Marketers: don’t include ambiguous mistakes just to make a statement! My plea to editors: if your Marketing person tries to include ambiguous mistakes to make a statement, just say NO. This ad shows one example where someone really should have put their foot down to avoid an Epic Fail.


    I came across an interesting blurb in one magazine’s rate sheet for advertisers: computer printing makes the 4-color process only slightly more expensive than a black and white print-job. And, if the rest of the magazine is printed using a 4-color process, there’s really no reason to charge for the “labor” portion of the 4-color fee. Sure, it takes a little more ink to create a 4-color ad, but the huge “labor” fee that used to be charged is irrelevant in the digital age. What’s more, this particular magazine is using this as a cost-advantage in their value proposition! They will let you run a 4-color ad for the same price as a black and white ad.

    This is pretty much non-existent in the other magazine rates I’ve viewed, so it definitely piqued my interest. It further piqued my interest regarding negotiations for rates with other magazines… if there’s really very little cost for them to create a 4-color ad for my company, they should be able to negotiate the price with more freedom. I know it’s probably one of those industry secrets that you’re not supposed to know, but one magazine chose to out the truth, giving them a leg up on pricing and trustworthiness. I think it’s a pretty smart play on their part, and I will certainly take a closer look at their stats when creating my budget for next year.


    I arrived back at the office with my brain bursting with ideas after attending NBAA 2010 in Atlanta, GA. The National Business Aviation Association hosted over 900 exhibitors at this year’s annual convention, and I picked up some great marketing ideas for next year!

    I saw some brilliant freebies at many of the booths, perfect for the trade show atmosphere. First, one company handed out pedometers with their logos. This is genius, as everyone is trekking around the exhibit hall all day, mentioning how they’ve walked “a ton” during the show. Now, they can prove just how many steps they walked! Second, stain remover pens. PERFECT at a place where people are running around without access to a quick change of clothes, scarfing down food as they walk, and generally being in a situation where they might spill something on themselves. Lastly, I didn’t actually see this one, but it’s been brought up: hand sanitizer with the logo. Again, it makes perfect sense when you’ve got thousands of people shaking hands, grabbing escalator handrails, and handing out marketing pieces. I’m not one to pick up tons of freebies that I can’t use, but these three stood out as useful and intelligent for a trade show.

    I was once again struck by how well products display vs. services. Many of the interior manufacturers, engine manufacturers, and airframe manufacturers had full-size plane fuselage, mini-bars, seating, functioning engine models, and parts displayed for attendees to tour and touch. It’s hard to put a tangible item with a service, but I think the ability to engage the sense of touch is key in a trade show situation. These tangible items allow customers to really understand what your company produces, and engages one more sense to make your message stick in their memories. I’m working on ways to improve our ability to engage the sense of touch for our services.

    Finally, it was once again impressed upon me that nothing beats being there, face-to-face. You can Skype, Tweet, connect on LinkedIn, FedEx overnight, and have conference calls until you’re blue in the face, but nothing beats a good ‘ole handshake while looking someone directly in the eye. While technology significantly enhances our ability to do business, there’s something to be said for meeting in person, at least once. I know our company was able to make some deals happen in a more timely manner, and we were able to make some connections that we haven’t been able to attain via email.

    I’m still processing everything that I saw, heard, and touched at the show, but these three broad ideas really stood out. I’m excited to distill all of my NBAA experiences into a comprehensive strategy to improve our display at next year’s NBAA!


    I’ve hit somewhat of a dilemma in my research for a website overhaul… what are the bounce rates telling me? As a Marketer, I’m not only interested in the numbers, but I’m also very interested in the behavior BEHIND the numbers. Currently, I don’t have much data about the “why” of the behavior. I see people are landing on our site and then bouncing in under 30 seconds, which could be a sign of either finding the information they need quickly, meaning we’ve done our job, or realizing immediately that they don’t want to work with us, meaning we’ve failed at our job on the website. I’m also trying to find ways to get more information about how and why people are using our website. Is it just to find a phone number? If so, the high bounce rate and minimal time on the site means that we’ve successfully provided them with the information they need, and we’re receiving phone calls and business from them. However, if could also be a sign of a poorly designed site that tells the customer that further exploration is not required, as we’re clearly not going to offer helpful information. I’m looking for ways to mitigate the bounce-rate blues, but I’m finding it difficult, as I still can’t explain WHY people are bouncing.

    This short little blurb to say that I am a huge proponent of research and digging into the customer’s head to figure out the best way to move forward. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, so it’s always best to start asking about the people behind the numbers.


    I received marketing collateral for an International trade show, held in Shanghai, China. The show appears to be hosted by a professional company with experience coordinating International events. However, a few humorous translation issues caught my eye…

    Rich People. There are several mentions of Rich People in the brochure, as if they are a specific business or class of people. For example, one sentence reads, “China now hosts some of the world’s best companies and Rich People”. Another reads, “We propose China’s Richest People to experience the show.” I don’t mind grammatical errors from non-native speakers as much as I mind obvious translation errors. You can’t credibly market yourself and your show as an International event if you don’t fully understand the overall culture of the international business community. The brochure also breaks down the types of show attendees, with an official category titled “Business Tycoons”, described as “wealthy people who buy the product”. While you may be trying to attract “rich people” and “business tycoons”, you generally don’t want to put those explicit words on your official marketing material. Some developed countries try to reduce the appearance of “rich people”, so making them an official class at your event sends the wrong message.

    Pricing in the CNY. Does anyone actually know what a CNY is, and how much it’s worth? The event is billed as an International show, and the marketing pieces are in English, yet the organizers include all the pricing information in the Chinese national currency. Why not use a more universal currency, such as the USD or Euro? You could even get away with using the British pound or the Japanese yen, but not the Chinese national currency. These prices come out to be over CNY 750,000… but how much is it really going to cost? You don’t want to make your busy “Business Tycoons” waste time trying to convert your currency into a more understandable format. This pricing scheme implies a lack of understanding of the business community that you’re trying to reach, a huge no-no in Marketing 101. Again, you gotta know your customers!

    Vague descriptions. In an attempt to be clever by matching categories to the theme, the show organizers created categories to describe different levels of advertising available to exhibitors and sponsors. Similar to a “Lords and Ladies, Princes and Princesses, Kings and Queens” hierarchy, the advertising is more expensive and includes more features at each level. However, I was confused by the two upper levels titled, “Unreachable” and “Unreachable 2″. Wait… there are TWO Unreachable levels of advertising? That doesn’t make much sense. Why would you name the highest level the “mostest” of the “most” level directly below? Further, the added benefit of the highest “Unreachable” category is “a Giant Advertisement”. Umm… ok, how big is “giant”? And why is that “Giant Advertisement” better than whatever other vaguely-sized advertisements are available at the other levels? How do I know that this “Giant Advertisement” is proportionately larger in size for the money I’m paying? Again, if you’re targeting wealthy “Business Tycoons”, it’s likely that these people are very busy getting wealthy. They don’t have time to try to figure out if the “Giant Advertisement” is worth the money. They need short, clear information that tells them the bottom line on the value you provide.

    Visually, the marketing piece for the Shanghai show is right on the mark. Contextually, the piece falls short. The show organizers need to more closely align the content to their target market, with fewer indications of the culture of the host country. To do business in the international arena, you have to play by the international rules by making your content, products, and procedures accessible to the world community. A few minor tweaks and this piece would garner respect and interest from its’ target market of “Rich People” and “Business Tycoons.”


    My dad was telling me about this awesome deal that Lexus has made with the AT&T Performing Arts Center and Cowboys Stadium: all patrons who drive their Lexus to the event receive free, prime-location parking! Let’s talk for a minute about the genius Marketing person over at Lexus, shall we?

    First, this is a multi-win situation for the event venue, Lexus, and patrons, which always means that a Marketing person has done their job. The event venue receives guaranteed revenue in the form of paid advertising and profits from the partnership contract. Lexus receives an added bonus for their potential customers by offering a unique package to offer those who might be on the fence between luxury brands. They also receive a captive audience for their advertising message.  Patrons receive the tangible perks of less walking and less “nickel-and-diming”, and the intangible perks of the prestige associated with driving a Lexus and parking in VIP.

    Second, this unique advertising keeps Lexus “top of mind” for potential customers. Event tickets can be a pricey purchase, and those with season tickets should fall right into the Lexus target market. Each time they attend an event, they not only see the Lexus signage, but also the perks of driving a Lexus to the event. The next time they go to purchase a car, they’ll think of the cars they see being driven by their peers. Especially if these people are attending multiple events per week, Lexus has created a captive audience for their message.

    Third, the word-of-mouth buzz is great! Can you imagine all the other people sitting in the box seats talking about their VIP parking because they drive a Lexus? Or the patrons insisting they take the Lexus to the event because of the parking benefits? It stands to reason that Lexus owners would be happy to spread the word about this perk to their peers, or daughters, in my case. It also gives the Lexus sales team another angle to pitch to potential customers, again separating them from other manufacturers.

    When my dad told me about this “promotion”, I knew I had to post about it. I think this is a genius move on the part of Lexus and the event venues, and it’s a Marketing strategy that creates more value for the customer.


    I attended a night out on the town in downtown Ft. Worth this past weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised at the atmosphere. My perception of Ft. Worth has always been stockyards and rodeos, and I would never consider hosting a night out in downtown Ft. Worth. I think Ft. Worth needs to get the message out to the public: we’re hip, we’re clean, we’re safe, we’ve got variety! I NEVER knew Ft. Worth had such a nice selection of nightlife and hotels, and without the prodding of my friends, I never would have checked out the scene. It seems that the city has gone to a lot of trouble to give themselves a new image, so it’s a little unfortunate that they haven’t gone to the trouble to tell people of their new image. Unless I’m just out of the loop, they haven’t done any advertising to showcase the new possibilities downtown. I mentioned the awesome experience to a friend who is planning a bachelorette party, and she also seemed surprised that I had such a great time. I told her to enjoy a date night with her husband to check out the area, in hopes of having the bachelorette party downtown. I’m also considering spending some date nights with my husband in downtown Ft. Worth. They’ve invested the money to make it a fun place for a night on the town… now they just need to invest the money to get the message out!

    The lesson is that if you’re going to give yourself a new image, you have to be prepared to inform people. If you’ve had the same image for years, you’re going to have to spend some money on a campaign to champion your new look and feel.


    Dear LinkedIn User,

    Why, WHY would you mark your profile as “private”? This is equivalent to spending the time and money to put an ad on a billboard, and then throwing a large opaque sheet over to whole thing! Further, why, WHY would you take the time and effort to register as a user, and then leave out any information about your company, position, work experience,  specialties and other pertinent information? Again, you wouldn’t spend the time and money to create a billboard ad and then leave off the company name, logo, website and phone number.

    LinkedIn is a tool for professionals to promote and discuss professional endeavors. It’s not a place for pictures of kids or parties, discussions about religion or politics, or any other unprofessional topics. Because you’re discussing professional endeavors, it would stand to reason that you would want your customers and colleagues to be able to find you and join the discussion. Unless you’re a high-profile CEO on the level of Bill Gates or the President of the United States, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be receiving such a high volume of inquiries and connection requests that you won’t want to accept them. Further, if you know a professional and regard them with esteem, why wouldn’t you accept their request to connect? It’s said that you are often known by the company you keep. With the internet making the world a smaller place, wouldn’t you want to show that you keep company with intelligent, hard-working people? Making more connections on LinkedIn allows you to keep a finger on the pulse of your peers and industry leaders, helps you find qualified, job-seeking professionals, allows you to expand your opportunities for business and professional growth.

    There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a colleague online, only to discover that they’ve made it nearly impossible to connect. A sparse profile with extreme privacy settings is useless, so take the time to fill out the information and find some people to connect with. We’re beyond the Yellow Pages, but the concept is the same: don’t place an ad where people can’t see it, won’t see it, or don’t care to see it… you’ll never improve your standing!

    Thank You,

    A Fellow LinkedIn User


    I dropped into QuakeCon 2010 last week, and was amazed at the marketing genius displayed by the gaming industry. My husband used to attend the mega-LAN party annually in high school and college, and I would visit and take in the vendor booths and case modifications. However, those past years had nothing on what I saw this past weekend! The conference took over several ballrooms, with one entirely dedicated to industry booths that housed game consoles, advertised a new gamer-friendly mouse, show-cased cars, and had platforms with announcers tossing free swag into the air every 5 minutes. In the adjacent room, thousands of computers and gamers occupied a darkened BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer). So why the Marketing genius? Let’s take a look:

    In the middle of their target market. If you could bring thousands of your target market together and give them the opportunity to try your latest products, wouldn’t you? These conferences are sponsored by big names in the gaming industry, providing a free experience to thousands of their customers. They use their booths outfitted with the latest game consoles and software to whet their customers’ appetites for the next best thing. Better still, they give customers the opportunity to order new products on the spot with a conference discount included.  They have achieved the illusive “opt-in” from their customers, allowing them to bombard their target market with welcomed ads and messaging. How often do you get customers EXCITED to see your sales pitch? It’s a marketer’s dream!

    Reaching tomorrow’s market. QuakeCon has moved beyond just hard-core gamers, attracting the mainstream population with the promise of freebies, cool graphics, and interesting computers. I saw lots of families walking around the conference, with parents toting their 2 year old kids around the booths. Talk about fostering relationships with your next generation of customers! These kids are seeing your product and company message with parent approval from a young age, prompting them to start wanting your product much earlier. We didn’t get into video games until well into elementary school, but the digital age has brought toddlers into the market. While the toddlers may be a little young for your product right now, you can bet that the early exposure will turn them into buyers in the near future.

    Group Think Rules. When you amass 3,000 members of your target market, give them the latest industry toys, and tell them to have fun for the next 3 days, group think abounds. Members see the best graphics, the coolest cases, the sharpest monitors… and they want more! These sponsors have brought in some of the best gamers in the world to demo their latest products, and their target audience shifts focus as a whole unit. When they see their idols using sponsors’ products in person, the excitement for the sponsor grows. Couple this excitement with the ease of communication via Twitter, Facebook and gaming forums, and you’ve got droves of customers thinking that you’ve got the best product out there. How often can you get a substantial portion of your target market to agree that you’re awesome? How often can you get them to run to all their friends and tell them to come NOW to buy your product? Again, a marketer’s dream!

    While I’m not a gamer, I can appreciate the QuakeCon experience. Moreover, I can commend the organizers on a well-executed event that continues to offer companies a prime outlet to connect with their customers.

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