Weekend Reading List

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant


The news you need to know from the past week. Enjoy!

Feel free to re-tweet using the popular #FridayReads hash tag. Have a great weekend … Gail.


How to Tell if Someone Really Is a Social Media Marketing Expert

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

Don’t you love people who try to sell their social media marketing skills based on their number of followers? A lot of people have even taken their allegedly huge list of followers and used it to become product influencers and ambassadors. Before you fall for some of these claims, here is how you find out the truth.

social media marketing

Use Taylor Swift as an Example

Take our girl, Taylor Swift. Taylor has 51,500,000 Twitter followers and I seriously doubt she had to buy any of them (trust me, many people do). When she sends out a tweet, it will show right in the Twitter box that it got typically 10,000 to 60,000 retweets, and around 10,000 to 100,000 favorites. So about .1% to .2% of her audience responds on average.

What Are Their Shares, Favorites and Retweets?

I was on a Twitter account the other day of someone who proclaimed to be a social media expert with 330,000 followers. The funny thing was none of their tweets had any retweets or favorites. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? According to the .1% calculation, their tweets should have had at least 330 retweets and favorites. Makes me wonder, is anyone really out there? Same with their Facebook page, no comments on their posts and low shares and likes of just 1 or 2. With a Facebook following of over 90,000 fans, doesn’t that seem fishy to you?

Now go over to Pinterest where some of the heavy hitters over there have millions of followers. I follow quite a few of them and I was looking at one pinner who has 12 million+ followers, and their pins, on average, have 50 to 150 likes and anywhere from 50 to 1,500 repins. Now the repins will bring the pin an even wider audience so the coverage is good, but the numbers still don’t quite add up to the response of what we are being led to believe is 12 million+ followers.

So, What Is Their Real Audience?

So don’t get caught up in someone’s social media following because these numbers are typically inflated for three reasons: A lot of businesses buy followers, or have fake profiles set up just to be look like a follower; people fall off social media but are still listed as a follower even though they haven’t looked at their Twitter or Facebook account in months: a lot of social media content has only a very short life to be seen (unless it goes viral) because followers just are not on their social media feeds 24×7.

Also remember, traffic is not a guarantee of sales. Again, on average only 1% to 5% of un-targeted traffic will convert into sales.

‘Til next time. Thanks for reading … Gail

My February Marketing Calendars are Available for Download Now!Ecommerce Feb Cover




Marketing Dos and Don’ts from Last Night’s Celebrity Apprentice

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

There were two marketing challenges last night on the Celebrity Apprentice – one was adding entertainment to a one-hour New York City boat tour and the other was creating a visual showcase exhibit for Trump’s new golf resort in Miami. So here is my take on what marketing ideas you can use for your small business, based on last night’s tasks.

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How to Keep Customers Entertained During a One-Hour Boat Tour 

The goal of this marketing task was not to change the type of tour being offered (a by-pass of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty), it was simply to make it more entertaining for the guests. The celebrities’ first mistake was not understanding the type of people who would be taking the tour, which was mostly couples of all ages. So hiring Hooter’s waitresses was not necessarily a great idea. These are visitors to New York, so I would have given them the best of the city, such as:

  • Handing out free food samples from popular local restaurants, especially ones located near the entrance to the boat docking
  • Having a photographer perched at the top of the Statue of Liberty to take zoom-in photos of guests as they pose at the bow of the boat
  • Having a quick performance of a NYC dance troupe at the start of the tour as people are getting settled, to again, up sell shows around town

This is alliance marketing at its best, working with other non-competitive businesses that service the same target market.

How to Create an Enticing Exhibit 

If you participate in any trade shows, exhibits or fairs, you realize the importance of creating an exciting visual display to lure people in. I actually liked what the winning team did, so here are things to consider at your next event:

  • Appeal to all five senses to lure people in, from sight to sound to smell to taste to touch. Trust me, people will follow a good smell to see where it is coming from.
  • Have an activity to bring people in. Back when I was a Marketing Director, I had a putting contest in my company’s trade show booth and it really got people to stop and visit. Plus, it was a great way to collect their business cards (we drew cards to win an expensive putter).
  • Giving out swag is important. Visitors expect it, and it serves you long after they have left the booth if you make it relevant to what you are selling. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. I had a children’s clothier hand out a “New Baby Checklist” to expecting moms at a show (make sure your logo and url are on it) and it was much more effective than handing out a business card.

‘Til next time. Thanks for reading … Gail


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Today’s Home Office Inspiration

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

A creative workspace always helps, and I love this one below, that first appeared on Country Living Magazine as part of their 2012 Home of the Year. Be sure to follow my Pinterest board, Home Office Ideas, for more inspiration!

home office ideas


From the rustic slap, built-in desk to the plexiglass chairs to the white washed floors and all of the other vintage, farmhouse type accessories, I could definitely work here!

Check back tomorrow for my post on tonight’s Celebrity Apprentice. ‘Til then, Gail. 

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Weekend Reading List

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant


Below is a list of informative business blog posts and news articles from the week that make for great weekend reading. Enjoy!

Screen shot 2015-01-24 at 10.38.15 AMCongratulations! A few of my clients have had some great press coverage lately: Fantasy Floor Plans was in Inhabitat’s Holiday Gift Guide as well as in February’s Canadian Living MagazineYellow Leaf Hammocks was in the December issue of Vanity Fair (Holiday Gift Guide), and Formulary55 was in the December issue of Real Simple Magazine (Holiday Gift Guide).


Hot Business Idea: Instead of Just Selling Your Products, Allow Customers to Rent

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

There has been a growing movement towards consumers renting and not buying certain types of merchandise. Renting houses and cars has long been a common occurrence, but new types of products are now making an impact in the rental market.

The success of the online shop, Rent the Runway has encouraged the renting of pricey, trendy clothing that tends to go out of style faster than people can afford. It makes sense that with technology and styles constantly changing, and or limited space to house items, consumers may not want to invest in items that don’t have a long life.

Screen shot 2015-01-22 at 3.49.21 PM

Wedding, Kids & Tech Items All Have Rental Potential

Men have long rented tuxedos for weddings, so it would only make sense that a bride could rent her wedding dress. For most women, it means getting the couture dress of their dreams, for a fraction of the price (you really do only wear it once).

Think of all the money that goes in purchasing items for a new baby, from a crib to a high chair to a stroller, these are all fairly high ticket items that only have a life span of a few years (depending how many kids you have).

What about the cost of cell phones? How often have you paid $800 for the latest phone only to find out a new version will be out within the year. If the average life span of a cell phone for an early adopter (the person who always has to have the latest and greatest the second it comes out) is only a year, even if you rented your cell phone for $50 a month, you would still be saving money ($600 for a year rental versus an $800 flat fee).

Ideal Rental Products 

  • Apartment furniture
  • Dorm/college furniture
  • Wedding jewelry
  • Wedding dresses
  • Flower girl dresses
  • Prom dresses
  • Kids bikes
  • Baby/kids clothing
  • Baby equipment
  • Boats/snow mobiles / ATVs
  • Lawn tractors/snow blowers
  • Big screen TVs / gaming systems
  • Laptops / tablets
  • Smart phones
  • Trampolines

So think of what you sell and if there is any way it can lend itself to the rental market, providing that it is still profitable for you. It does haven’t to be your main business, but a side aspect to the business for those who want it.

My Quick Tip of the Week: Do you sell products online that are well suited for a couple’s wedding registry? Zola.com is the leading online wedding registry (projecting sales of $40 million for 2015) and they allow couples to add products to their Zola wedding registry from any online site.  So, you can encourage customers to add your products to their Zola wedding registry, simply by using the “Add to Zola” button available at their website.  You can also apply to sell on Zola, just email vendors@zola.com.

GB OliverNeed marketing help with your small business? Get my One-on-One Marketing Consultation. And don’t forget, my Marketing Calendars for February are available for download.


Marketing Dos & Don’ts From Last Night’s Celebrity Apprentice

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

Last night’s Celebrity Apprentice involved two interesting marketing tasks. One was to create a mobile display for Ikanka Trump’s shoe line at Nordstrom. The other was to create a viral video for a coffee company that is launching their new single serving packages.

Here is my marketing take on each task and what you should do if considering one of these marketing vehicles.

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A Mobile Display Unit

A mobile display unit involves taking something that resembles a food truck, embellishing the exterior with your branding, park it in a heavy traffic area, and then find a way to lure people inside it to see a display of your products and/or services. The teams tried tactics like setting up a cafe outside the truck and luring people in with free coffee, using visual displays to show more shoes, creating cute names for certain types of shoes – all good ideas, but here is what works when using a mobile display:

  • People can only browse, not buy, so encourage them to use their phone and take photos of items they like
  • Alternatively, print off small photos of the individual products with their item number and price on the back
  • Give a coupon for 15% or Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) for customers to redeem at store or online (only if they come inside the unit)
  • Have a strolling street violinist to attract customers’ attention and lead them into the display unit
  • Have signage or some sort of visual (if allowed) on top of the truck so people can see from far away

A Viral Promotional Video

The teams were asked to make a video that would go viral, were encouraged to use GoPro cameras, and promote a single serving coffee product. Not really a fit. GoPro is about capturing action, and there is not much action in making coffee. One team made sort of a flash mob video, while the other relied on a more provocative approach. I don’t think either worked. If you want a video to go viral, here are some tips:

  • Videos that are funny, clever, relatable or provoke emotions work
  • Cute pets and cute kids in videos are always popular
  • Parodies, if done well, get shared
  • Incredible action shots are always fun to watch (this is where a GoPro comes in)
  • Showing the product being used in an unusual way (like the Blendtec viral video showing their blenders can chop up anything, even iPhones) 

I probably would have shot a video with a GoPro on the head of various types of people (so you see it from their perspective) as they make a single serving cup of coffee at different hours of the day, whether it is the exhausted mother, the student cramming for exams  or the executive relaxing after a long day of work OR dress someone up in a single serving costume, attach a GoPro to their head, jump off an NYC office tower and land beside the coffee truck on the street. Not sure if it would go viral, but we’re talking coffee here.

The Celebrity Apprentice wraps up in a few weeks, but I’ll be back later this week with a hot new small business trend. Thanks for reading… Gail

Learn How to Market Your Business for Success in 2015!600SmallBusinessConsult

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Weekend Reading List

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant


Here is your reading list of some of the best small business articles I found this week (besides mine :) )

  1. The New Online Store You Need to Know (refinery29.com)
  2. How Social Media Drove Ecommerce in 2014 (business2community.com)
  3. 7 Things People Hate About Your Website (mashable.com)
  4. Facebook Users Prefer Pets and Photographers to Banks and Tech (marketingpilgrim.com)
  5. 1stDibs New Manhattan Office is My Dream Office (songofstyle.com)
  6. The Surprising Facts About Who Shops Online and Who Shops on Mobile (businessinsider.com)
  7. Amazon Secretly Working on New Platform for Inventors (recode.net)
  8. How a Food Photographer Used Her Instagram Skills to Launch a Startup (businessinsider.com)

All of my ebooks also make great weekend reading! You can visit my Ebook Shop here.


Did Your Small Business Take Advantage of a New Year, Fresh Start Campaign?

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

Every year people tend to make the same new year’s resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Get fit
  • Save money
  • Eat better
  • Get out of debt
  • Get organized
  • Look better

The start of a new year means a fresh start for many people, and it is something your small business can take advantage of.

Marketing a “New Year, Fresh Start” Product or Service

For example, I saw this “Fresh Start” box from subscription box company Birchbox mentioned in a variety of print magazines that had this type of “New Year, New You” editorial:

Fresh Start for the New Year

Now, I don’t know how many of these products actually suit the theme, but it doesn’t really matter. They have packaged it for a specific marketing purpose that is important at this time of year, so I bet it will be successful for them.

I like how the stores, CWonder and Urban Outfitters capitalize on the new year to get you to update your home décor, another fresh start:

small business marketing ideas

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 8.35.13 AM

Again, it gets buyers thinking that maybe updating their decor will give them the new start they need, lift their spirits, make them feel like they are making positive changes, and so forth. It works on the psychology of why sometimes people buy (to make themselves feel better). 

A “New Year, Fresh Start” Marketing Pitch Can Apply to Any Business

  • A financial planner can capitalize on people’s need to save money, get out of debt, plan for their future, and organize their finances with a special, “Get our Financial Fit Plan for 2015”.
  • An orthodontist office can convince people to finally get their teeth straightened with a “New Year, New Smile” campaign.
  • dietician can gain lots of new customers with a “Eat Right in 2015” marketing push.
  • A clothing company can hope women will invest in a new wardrobe with a “Ready to Revamp Your Look for 2015?” tactic.

Remember, people love the idea of “new” and making crucial changes to their lives, so figure out how your small business can capitalize on this time of year. Also, start planning an idea for 2016 now, so you can pitch to the print media in September/October with hopes of being included in their January editorial.

Learn How to Market Your Business for Success in 2015!600SmallBusinessConsult

My one-on-one marketing consultation will teach you exactly what you need to do to successfully market and promote your small business this year. Click here for more information.



Marketing Dos and Don’ts from Celebrity Apprentice Episodes 4 & 5

by Gail Oliver, Marketing Consultant

Last night’s Celebrity Apprentice was a little marketing-thin for my liking, but hopefully I can pull out a few things that may help your small business. There were two back-to-back episodes again, with two different “marketing” challenges.

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A 10-Day Fitness Article for Cosmopolitan Magazine

The first challenge was to create a 4-page editorial for Cosmopolitan magazine on a 10-day fitness challenge. The goal of the piece was to get people to download Cosmo’s fitness app, but none of the teams seem to mention it in their article.

What I Would Have Done: If the goal was to get readers to download the app, I would have started the article that way i.e. Day 1: Before you begin, download our fitness app. For each of the 10 day segments, I would have also given one tip that the fitness app would provide.

The men’s team had a pretty good idea to do a #selfie-type article encouraging readers to take a selfie of themselves doing the exercises as well as in provocative poses with their significant other as motivation to get in shape.

What I Would Have Done: I would have encouraged readers to take a selfie at the start of the 10-day workout, and then one at the end to show the results. I would have asked readers to tag all the photos with #cosmo10dayfitnesschallenge (it is so important to create your own hashtag). I would have also encouraged readers to get their friends and family to take the challenge, to circulate the article further.

The other team was all over the place just showing photos of the celebs doing exercises (boring). Both teams were too focused on making the article sexy because they felt that was Cosmo’s angle, but the truth is not everything Cosmo writes about is sexy.

What I Would Have Done: I would have focused on a workout for a different body part for each of the 10-days, with a matching diet tip, such as “Today, no sugar or white flour”. I would also have had each celeb contribute their best piece of dieting or fitness advice they ever received. There is value in that as many of these celebs are top athletes or likely have personal trainers.

A Pop-up Wedding Gown Boutique

This marketing task was part fund-raising challenge, part selling wedding dresses. For the fund-raising part it was simply the celebs calling up their rich friends, trying to get donations.

What I Would Have Done: I don’t have rich friends, but one thing I would have done is contact all the top wedding magazines (who I believe are situated in NYC) and ask for them to make a donation in exchange for putting their signage throughout the boutique.

As for the selling of the dresses themselves, viewers weren’t given a lot of details on how the celebrities attempted to get people to buy dresses, other than some of them trying to convince non-engaged women to buy one for charity (good luck with that).

What I Would Have Done: Again, I would have contacted some of the top wedding blogs and asked them to tweet out the sale to their followers in exchange for being mentioned on the show.

The celebs simply opened up their wedding dress shop, used balloons outside the store to get noticed (a little old school) and just displayed racks and racks of dresses, all clumped together.

What I Would Have Done: If you are trying to sell a lot of dresses in one day, you have to display them in a way that makes it easy for the customer to find the dress they want. So I would have organized the dresses (with signage) based on top searches, such as, “Dresses Under $200”, Short Wedding Dresses”, “Lace Wedding Dresses”, “Plus Size Wedding Dresses”, you get the idea. I would have also created eye-catching window displays (maybe live models), sandwich board signs on the street, and an awning over the door with a red carpet leading customers in.

As for drawing passersby attention to the shop, one team used Chippendale models to hand out flyers to drivers (not bad) and two of the celebs stood outside dressed as a bride and groom, but did little to interact with people on the street.

What I Would Have Done: I would have done something similar such as putting a celeb in a wedding gown, but I would have positioned them at the corner of a busy intersection holding a sign shaped like an arrow that says, “Wedding Dress Sale” (the arrow pointing in the direction of the shop).

What did you think of last night’s episodes? ‘Til next time, Gail. 

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