The Atlanta Braves: The Game Goes On: The Next Franchise Leader after Chipper Jones

I remember sitting in the stands in Philadelphia with my wife, waiting to see that number 10 jersey come into the batting cage. It was a very hot summer afternoon prior to a Sunday matinee between my beloved Braves and the division rival Phillies.


Then, I saw him emerge from the group of players near the on deck circle, Chipper Jones, a mainstay at third base for the Braves and my favorite baseball player. He was wearing the blue batting practice jersey and took some great swings in the cage, sending several balls over the outfield wall.


I remember saying to my wife, “There will be a day when he will not be able to play anymore, and that will be a sad day.”  Well, at the end of the 2012 season in that horrible; gut wrenching loss in the new NL wild card “play-in” game, that day became reality: Chipper Jones finished his storied baseball career.


Chipper Jones was commonly referred to as the “face of the franchise”.  Now, the Braves have to find a new player to fill that role within their clubhouse.  I will present a few players that could potentially fill this role for the Braves in the future, and also present my choice for who I believe can most adequately fill this important void.

Replacing a Legend


I have been a fan of the Braves for many years, and I have seen many great players wear their uniform and do outstanding work both on and off the field of play. Of course, like many Braves fans, I am a big supporter of Dale Murphy. He was a great player and an even better man.


Murphy led by example, and was always looking to do more in the Atlanta community.  I went on a tour of Turner Field before a game and he had been to the facility the week before for an event. All of the staff I interacted with really respected Dale Murphy, and that speaks volumes to his character.


When I was younger, my favorite player was Terry Pendleton, who was the predecessor to Chipper Jones at third base. He was a veteran when he got to Atlanta and he was the leader of the team. I loved the way he played and approached every at bat like it was a battle with the pitcher.


Following Pendleton’s tenure with the team, Chipper Jones, burst onto the scene as the next star and future leader of the franchise. Jones set the tone for the team, and his offensive production in the middle of the lineup was critical for their success. It is going to be hard to replace one of the great players in the history of the Braves franchise, but that is what they are going to have to do in the near future.


The Current Candidates to be the “new face”

The current roster makeup of the Braves offers a few possibilities for the next “face of the franchise”.  The most likely candidates are: Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, Brian McCann, and Andrelton Simmons.


However, I believe that while Simmons is a dynamic player, he needs more experience before he could command that type of role in the clubhouse. The case against Medlen is similar. He is still very young and also it is difficult to have a starting pitcher in that leadership role for the franchise because they play every fifth day.


Brian McCann, now that Chipper has retired, has the most tenure of any player in the clubhouse. He is dealing with rehabbing a major injury and also has the impending free agency looming. The Braves may take a different direction at catcher. So that brings a “lame duck” type of feeling surrounding McCann and his role with the team.


The Final Two and my choice for the role

So, that leaves Heyward and Freeman as the most logical remaining candidates to build the franchise around moving forward. Both players are the same age, 23, and have major league experience. In this case, they are both “home grown” Braves players which helps their cause. The Braves and their fan base like the players that come up through their system versus the paths of outside acquisition.


Jason Heyward came up to the big league club with much fan fare, and a moniker: “The J-Hey Kid” modeled after the nickname held by Willie Mays “The Say Hey Kid”. The comparison to an all-time great such as Mays usually foretells some future issues for the young player, in this case, Heyward. He did slump in his second season, commonly referred to as the “sophomore jinx”, but he rebounded to post great numbers in 2012.


In my opinion, the issue with Heyward is that while he has a big upside and potential to be a star player, he has some flaws in his game. He also plays right field which is an easier position to replace than first base on the major league level.


It is for those reasons, that I believe that the Braves next “face of the franchise” will be Freddie Freeman. I think he is going to have the breakout year in 2013 that the Braves are hoping for, and that he will get the big contract extension deserving of a future star in this league.


Freeman plays a premier position at first base and has inherited Chipper Jones’ old lineup spot, batting in the cleanup spot in the order. He has the potential to be a 30 home run guy and is a good defensive first baseman as well.

In the end, it is not easy to replace a legend like Chipper Jones. The Braves have seen many other great players come and go, and they have continued to win. I think they are well positioned with their current roster to move forward into the future with confidence that they will continue their winning tradition.


Various Forms of the Sonnet: Advice to Young Writers

When I started Frank’s Forum, one of the “super themes” designated at the time was the theme of poetry. I was thinking over the weekend about the best way to kick off the poetry portion of this blog site. I decided to focus on the Sonnet format of poetry as a “jumping off point” for the poetry theme because it is a very important and traditional format for the exploration of any number of topics.


I have been writing sonnets for about 17 years now, and I am still learning and refining this part of my creative writing craft. The sonnet form of poetry is fourteen lines, but depending on the type of sonnet, the lines are arranged differently to allow for variations of the rhyming scale.


This article will focus on a few different types of sonnets and I will provide advice to young writers or those who are new to the art of writing poetry. I will share my experience with creatively writing sonnets over many years, and provide tips to avoiding certain pitfalls when writing this particular form of poetry.


The Shakespearean Form

One of my personal literary favorites, William Shakespeare, is renowned internationally for his collection of sonnets. Some of his sonnets are among my favorite poems to read. The Shakespearean format for the sonnet is one of the two most common types, and I first learned this format in high school.


The Shakespearean format is as follows: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

The end of the format is a rhyming couplet, meaning the last two lines rhyme together. I enjoy writing in this format, and I found in my experience that it lent itself well to practice as I learned to hone my “voice” in poetry.


However, for the young writers out there, be careful about what words you choose to end the line in this format because it needs to have a rhythmic verse. The rhyming couplet also has to be well thought out before you set out to write in this form of sonnet in order to avoid that pitfall at the end of the piece.


The young or new poets or writers out there should go out and get a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or purchase it for your tablet reader. I suggest getting a version with the Old English translations on the same page and not indexed in the back of the book or e-book.


Your respective writing will be greatly enhanced with some knowledge of Shakespeare and his works.


The Petrarchan or “Italian” Sonnet Form

The other most common type of sonnet is the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet form. I have written numerous times in this format, but it was only after feeling comfortable writing in the Shakespearean format that I decided to tackle the Petrarchan format.


The Petrarchan format is as follows: ABBAABBA CDECDE

The space between the last “A” and the “C” is known as the “volta” or “the turn”. In the Petrarchan format , the sonnet takes a turn, it changes in tone or provides a resolution.


The first eight lines are called the “octave”, and it is here that the scene is set, or the primary subject or conflict is introduced. Then, after the “volta”, the last six lines in this form are called the “sestet”.


In the “sestet” it is incumbent upon the writer to change the tone of the sonnet, or provide a resolution to the conflict introduced in the “octave”.  This type of structure can be difficult for younger writers or new writers attempting to write poetry.  This format does not contain a rhyming couplet. The sestet must add a new component or take the poem to an unanticipated place.


In my experience, I have found that this form of sonnet requires an outline to sketch out a plan for your piece before you begin. In contrast, I can sit down and just write other types of sonnets, the Petrarchan took some extra steps for me for a long time. Now, I can sit down and write in this form as easily as I can any other type of sonnet, but it took a great deal of practice and patience.


The Reverse Form – the Rupert Brooke method

Rupert Brooke was an accomplished and famous poet who loved a challenge. So, he decided to flip the sonnet on its’ head and he reversed the order to start the sonnet with the rhyming couplet.


The Reverse Form or the Rupert Brooke method is as follows: GG FEFEDCDBABA

The common mistake with this form of sonnet is to not have the right rhyme scheme to develop a rhyming couplet followed by twelve straight lines of content. Anyone attempting this form has also shared with me, and I have felt this myself, that it can be hard to train your mind to adjust to a sonnet in reverse.


That being stated, a great poem by Brooke is “Sonnet of Brotherhood” it is an incredible literary work and displays the sonnet form wonderfully.


Most writers have a distinct method when they sit down to create poetry, and your default mode in your mind is for one of the other two more common sonnet forms I mentioned previously in this post.


However, I have used this form often and I think it provides a good change of pace from the other sonnet types. Once you can get adjusted to the format changes I have found it to be a fun format to experiment within.


The Spenserian Sonnet Form

Spenser also decided to experiment with a hybrid form of a sonnet, which became known as the Spenserian form. This sonnet form is one in which I have the least amount of experience with in my writing career.

The rhyme scheme for a Spenserian sonnet is: abab bcbc cdcd ee

This form has a rhyming couplet and 3 quatrains, similar to the Shakespearean form, which may make it easier for young or new writers to utilize successfully.


The Pushkin Hybrid Sonnet form – or “shape shifter” sonnet form

The last sonnet form which I have included in this article is also one of my favorite formats to use for writing sonnets. It is the Pushkin hybrid sonnet form created by famed Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin.


Pushkin mastered the format that bears his name while writing his masterpiece “Eugene Onegin” , which is a novel in verse, a collection of 365 sonnets that read like a novel. It was first published in 1833, and is a classic work of poetic genius.


Pushkin and his hybrid or “shape shifter” form has the following rhyme scheme: ababccddeffegg


Now, you will notice that there are no quatrains or “volta” or break in the form, it is 14 lines of straight rhythmic poetry. I like it for this reason: simplicity yet the genius in the simplicity because it compares to both the Italian or the Spenserian or English forms.


The other component I admire about this form is the consecutive rhyming lines within the body of the sonnet at “c”, “d”, and “f”. These format lines bring a soft alliteration and great flow to the sonnet.


I find in my experience writing in this format, it allows for great latitude and creativity. It is easier to pick up and practice your sonnet writing skills compared to other types of sonnet forms.


In conclusion, I hope this article will help those aspiring young or new writers out there to understand more about the sonnet form of poetry. The sonnet really is the perfect form because it is long enough to make a compelling statement, yet short enough that it is not overwhelming to produce. I wish all of you the best as you move forward writing poetry.



Trade Shows: Attendee or Exhibitor? A Guide for your small business

The role of the trade show has been in decline over recent years because of the rise of the internet and social media into the way we do business. However, the trade show is still maintaining an important role in the way we do business as the vehicle for personal interaction and networking.


This article will serve a guide to trade show attendance for small businesses, who are trying to decide how to spend their limited resources in order to effectively market a product and their company. The trade show could be a viable pathway for a small business, but the level of involvement in the event is tied to a certain level of cost to your small business.


I will draw upon my experience working in a variety of industries, representing each company at trade shows or conferences. I also will utilize my experience handling all aspects of the logistics for trade shows for a medium sized company which attended about 14 trade shows per year.


Costs of involvement

A small business always has to be aware of the costs surrounding the traditional methods of marketing their respective company.  The decision on whether or not to attend a trade show is a big decision for many small businesses that I have worked with in the past.


The cost factors of a trade show to your business are multi-layered. Some of the typical questions that must be considered are:

Where is the trade show? How will the location impact travel costs?

How much man power is needed to attend the trade show? Can we spare the time?

What is the value of new business potential by attending? What is the total cost of attending?


The location and cost of travel to that location is a key component to whether or not your company will attend a trade show. The man power or personnel question is also an important one. The time you would need from the employees sent to attend the show has a set value. The decision has to be made on how many people should attend based on the value of the new business potential.


In my past experience, the contacts made at a trade show were all logged into an Excel sheet. Then I coordinated with the sales team to tag the projects that came in which were a direct result of the trade show. We would track those projects into converted sales and mark that on the Excel sheet as well.


The following year when we were meeting to determine the level of involvement we would have in the various trade shows, I would pull up the Excel sheet for each trade show, and show the total new business amounts for each one. This exercise provided us with a benchmark for the potential cost – benefit analysis of attending the particular trade show.


Decision to attend: large booth, tabletop, or attendee?

Once the decision has been made to attend the trade show, then your company must decide the level of involvement it will commit to the respective event. It is the age old central question for trade show attendance: do we go with a large booth, a tabletop, or just as an attendee?

In my experience, depending on your budget, you should avoid using a large booth unless the show is a very big event with broad exposure and measurable new business potential. A small booth could be leased for the event if you do not want to own the booth and have to deal with storing it when not in use.


The tabletop space is a very effective way to attend larger shows, which may have higher exhibitor fees associated with them. In this regard the tabletop provides your company with a presence at the show, and the ability to have one or two people staff the booth while your other employees explore the trade show floor.


Some trade shows are more difficult to discern the potential for new business opportunity. In those cases, my advice would be to go only as attendees. You could spend a lot less money on attendee badges for a few employees to effectively do a scouting trip on a particular show versus renting a tabletop or booth space, only to find out that the show was a waste of time and money.


The trip to a trade show as an attendee, in my experience, is a very different one. You have a lot less pressure on your time without having to deal with all of the logistics of setting up and managing a booth. The trip as an attendee allows you to focus more on the networking and socializing aspects of the show, which could definitely help drive future business development.


Nevertheless, there are certain trade shows where the only way it makes sense to go is as an exhibitor.  For instance, one company I worked with attended two different trade shows that were each held once every two or three years. The decision was made that it only made sense to attend these shows if we exhibited with a large booth space.


Exhibitor challenges at a trade show

In the event that your small business decides to make the trip to a trade show as an exhibitor, many decisions have to be well thought out and executed for a successful presence at the event.

First, you have to decide whether you are going to lease or purchase a trade show booth, as I stated earlier in the article, both options have positive and negative attributes.

Next, you have to determine the staffing of the booth: How many people go early to set up the booth the day before the show?

How many people will be needed to staff the booth at a given time?

Do you have a schedule of hours each employee will be responsible for certain shifts at the booth?

Are you going to have product samples at the booth? If so, what are they?

Will you have promotional materials to give away? If so, what are they?


I find that the schedule of people to staff the booth works the best. I also find that if you order promotional materials in huge bulk at the start of the full run of trade shows you plan to attend, your savings will be much better than if you made three or four small orders per year. The flip side is that the one large order is a big payout to make at one time, however you could work with the vendor to break it up into smaller installments if the vendor is willing to do so.


An out of the box solution for new or start up businesses

If you are a new or start up business and you want to attend a trade show but are having trouble with the cost factors associated with attendance, I have a solution for you. The solution: share the cost of the booth or tabletop with another company.


I was working with a small company that shared the cost of a tabletop with a company that provided a service for them. This way, both companies got exposure and they spent half the amount of money.


Another way your small or start up business can accomplish this, is to go to the website for the trade show and pull up the attendee lists and exhibitor lists from a prior year. Then research the companies by visiting their web sites. Once you have identified a list of companies you feel have a synergy or a potential for a relationship with your new business venture: call them and propose to share the cost of the space at the upcoming trade show.


In conclusion, the trade show circuit can be a valuable method for networking and building lasting new business relationships. It must be done in a prudent and cost effective way to maximize the potential for your small business. I hope that this article will help you in the process as you identify and plan your level of involvement in the trade shows for your respective business.




The Knicks West Coast Road Trip: A Debacle in the Making

The New York Knicks are now three games into a pivotal five game West Coast road trip, and they have lost all three games. The bigger issue is that they have been blown out in these games: starting in Golden State, continuing in Denver, and most recently last night in Portland. I will examine this road trip from the perspective of a concerned fan, and offer my opinion on their prognosis moving forward.


Now, one can argue that the Knicks are a really banged up team at this point with Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler all out of the lineup last night. But injuries are a part of the game, and if you watched the press conference on the post game show last night, none of these guys are conceding that injuries are an excuse for the lackluster play we have seen in recent days.


Injuries – are they to blame?


While I think it plays a role in what is going on with this team right now, I still feel like they should have been able to get a win against Portland, which is a team that has really struggled most of this season. The Knicks showed little to no effort in the game against Golden State, and after a decent start to the Denver game, it was all Denver from the second quarter through the closing seconds.


This road trip has gone just about the absolute worst way it could possibly go between having Carmelo walk off the court in Denver, to the Chandler injury later that same night. The Knicks front line is decimated by injuries, and it is time for some other guys to step up.


I have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Kenyon Martin, who has certainly demonstrated that he can still play, and has given the Knicks some solid minutes. He can still jump, he can score the ball, and he plays pretty good defense as well.


The other reserve guys have to give the Knicks something on the front line: Copeland, Camby, and Kurt Thomas.  One or more of this group of guys has to give you something productive while the team is dealing with all of these injuries to key players.  Of course, the hope is that Chandler can play on Sunday against the Clippers, which is going to be a tough spot for the Knicks on national television.


Go Small – the 3 guard set


The other option that Woodson has is to go with a small lineup in the next two games. He could play three guards with J.R. Smith, Kidd, and Felton. He can use Novak and Prigioni off the bench in that scenario, or any combination of those five players in a three guard rotation.


The Knicks have to adapt and use the personnel they have healthy and in uniform to win these games. They have to replace the scoring lost with the absence of Carmelo Anthony from the lineup. This is obvious, but is also easier said than done.


They need to get more scoring out of Felton on the rest of this road trip, he had a rough night in Portland, and hopefully he can bounce back against the Clippers and the Utah Jazz. The Knicks also should implement the sets for J.R. Smith more often in these next two games, if they can get him the basketball in the position to get a clean look at the hoop that will remedy some of the scoring issues.


A 0-5 Trip…Time for Panic?


Prior to the start of this important road trip, I had the Knicks going 2-3 in the five games. I thought they would win in Golden State and in Portland.  I knew that the Denver game was going to be tough, and I knew that the Utah Jazz will be looking to get revenge on the Knicks for the bruising the Jazz took at MSG.


Now with the Knicks losing these first three games, it is likely they could go winless on this road trip. A week ago, I would have felt that this was a disaster. At this point, I understand that the losses were compiled by injuries and bad circumstances. I actually think it is not a time for me or my fellow Knicks fans to panic.


At this point, the panic button should be hit in one of both of the following scenarios:  1. If Carmelo Anthony misses an extended period of time with the knee injury and 2. If the Knicks come home and lose the Orlando game and the games with Toronto then the team and the fan base will have legitimate cause for panic.



The Outlook

In the end, I am not ready to write off the Knicks and their chances at winning the division compared to other reporters, analysts, and some fans.

I think this team, granted it has Carmelo on the floor for the majority of their remaining games, can still win the division and finish with a strong push towards the playoffs.

In the interim, these games will be interesting, and I will be watching on Sunday on ABC with the rest of the Knick fans hoping they can turn this road trip, and their season around.



Email Marketing Campaigns: Necessity or Hindrance to your Small Business? PART 2

In this second part of the series on email marketing campaigns I will focus on the new way to approach this marketing tool based on my experience working on several of these types of campaigns.


The approach to email marketing campaigns has changed over the past few years. I think back to some campaigns that I worked on in 2009, and I would have a much different approach today.


Most of the change in this form of marketing is driven by the radical increase in social media use, even in just the past four years. In my opinion, I think that the rise in social media activity has caused people to be on information overload. This creates even greater emphasis on the need for a clear and focused marketing message in order to stand out in a very crowded business landscape.


SEO and the risk of too many keywords


The importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is being talked about within business circles both at large and small companies. It is becoming more crucial to follow SEO guidelines in order to get your message out to the masses effectively. The message has to be tailored and polished to have any chance of getting noticed in the sea of activity on the internet today.


Conversely, you have to remember, whether you work for a large company or a small business, you cannot degrade the integrity of your message by packing it with SEO keywords. The “spiders” and “web crawlers” software has become so advanced and intuitive, that it will actually hurt your SEO efforts if you stack an email, website or other online promotional format with unnecessary keywords.


Instead, when I format these types of campaigns I focus on the product or service and what it can do, what value can it bring for my customer. I have found that this approach works to put together the initial message, and then I punch it up with a few keywords for SEO, but I use those sparingly. I also only use them if they make sense within the context of the email marketing campaign piece.


Call ahead – You never know what you will get


I also find that in the fast paced environment today, it is usually better to call the contacts on your email marketing campaign list. In my experience, I find that this is a good idea for two reasons: it provides a reason to stay in front of your customer, and it allows for a more effective email marketing campaign because with spam filters today the call ahead insures that your contacts will add the email address you are sending it out from. This insures that the message will at least reach the desired contact people, and not wind up in a spam folder.


I actually remembered a personal account when I was preparing to write this blog post where I had been working on a big email marketing campaign, and I started calling the contacts on the list. I learned that a couple of people had recently left their jobs within that week I was working on the campaign, so I was able to speak with their colleagues about the new contact person as well as get their contact information. Then, on one of the calls, I ended up getting information on a project and sending a product sample to them for future business. So you never know.


The importance of Subject Lines


The other very important aspect of an email marketing campaign is the subject line of your email.  The subject line is similar to a headline in an article. I have written my share of news stories and articles, and rule #1 is that the headline has to be catchy and grab the interest of the reader.


The same concept rings true in my experience with email marketing campaigns. You have to present a polished and focused message with one or two main points. However, if the email is not opened because the subject line is ambiguous, then you have just wasted your time organizing the email campaign.


Furthermore, in a small business, time is your most precious resource because you have limited manpower. This creates further urgency to get the subject line right for your audience. In my experience, I always liked to use the name of the company in the subject line so that the source of the email was clear to the recipient. Some other marketing professionals do not use the company name in the subject line and instead focus on grabbing the recipient with other “buzz words”.


I either case, it is important that the recipient knows what the intent of the email is through the subject line. I always believe in pitching the message creatively in an email marketing campaign. In each business a creative way to pitch a product or service exists, so get creative.

Before You Hit the Send Button


Now that you have put all of these components together in the development of your email marketing campaign, make sure you edit and proofread the message before sending
it out.


I remember one position I was in, where I did receive promotional emails from vendors looking for our business, and their email marketing piece had spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. It was a big turn off for me, and I felt if they were that lazy about sending it out, how would they handle the business I had initially intended to send their way?  I gave the business to another vendor.


The other feature to make sure you include in your email marketing campaign is a unsubscribe link. This link must be prominently featured on your email in order to allow your recipient to be able to end the communications whenever they want to do so.


In conclusion, the email marketing campaign has a great upside as a marketing tool. However, it also can be ineffective if the right steps are not taken to maximize the delivery and value of this communication to your customers. I hope that this article will help you in your process of developing or refining the email marketing campaign for your business.




Email Marketing Campaigns: Necessity or Hindrance to your Small Business? PART 1

In the small business world, where the landscape is crowded with competitors and marketing budgets can be very tight, the email marketing campaign provides a potentially viable method of promoting your company.


I use the word “potentially” because, like everything else, there are effective ways to conduct email marketing campaigns and very ineffective ways as well. This article will compare and contrast both ways, drawing upon my experience in marketing across several industries.


The email marketing campaign has evolved and become more sophisticated as the role of technology has evolved in the business environment.  The many forms of email marketing include the following: newsletter, E-Blast, Response to Inquiry, Targeted Blast (contacts from event or trade show), and Guerilla campaigns.


The Newsletter Format – Benefits vs. Risks


The newsletter format has some definite beneficial aspects. Most of these types of email marketing campaigns are targeted to a specific audience or customer list based on prior interactions with your business. Therefore, it is safe to assume that these campaigns target “warm” leads.


However, in order for the newsletter campaign to be successful I have always felt that your communication has to add value for the customer. The value is diminished if you are sending a newsletter with information that is already not fresh because it took a week to get through the internal approval process. In the same way, if you are sending a newsletter which is full of great information, but it is in a format which is hard to scan or read quickly, then you could be doing your business a disservice by sending it out.


The “E-blast” Format


The “E-blast” format has some benefits to your business and some downside as well. The main benefit to this type of campaign is the exposure it provides to a wide group of potential customers.


In my experience, I have worked with companies which gained interested customers for a product or product line directly from the “e-blast” format. In those cases we got business from areas which we had never previously gained access.

However, I worked with a company that ended up alienating customers and potential customers with this “e-blast” practice. The customers did not want to get these e-mails from us and complained to the sales force about the whole email marketing campaign.

Then, to make matters worse, the company ended up forgetting to place a few accounts on the “no further email list” and continued to send the “e-blast” to those accounts. The company I was consulting in this case lost that business from those accounts.


“Guerilla” email marketing campaigns


I have worked with clients that love the “guerilla” email marketing approach; it is one that I feel is not very effective. The main issue I see with this approach is that if the contact person at Company X does not know who you are, or who your company is, then they are going to delete the email before opening it.


These days we are all bombarded with emails and messaging of all types: texts, tweets, and posts on social media “walls” – the list goes on and on. If I feel like I am overwhelmed by it some days, can you imagine how a procurement officer or a purchasing manager feels?


A large component of successful marketing and social media marketing is simple: know your audience.


I feel that this form of marketing: where you try to surprise a new customer with a marketing message, essentially an emailed “cold call”, is not a very effective use of your marketing toolbox.


Response to Inquiry


This is pretty self-explanatory, if your small business receives inquiries for information in the standard “contact us” section of your website, then this is the type of email that would be sent in response to that request.


A response to inquiry email is something that may seem obvious to have readily available, but I have worked with companies that had not thought about this component of their marketing at all.


Your small business must have a response to inquiry email template done and ready to be sent out when you pull together the information inquiries from your website.


However, where it can get tricky is if you have several inquiries for vastly different purposes. One could be an inquiry for a product sample, while the other could be an inquiry for promotional materials.


I have seen two different approaches to this situation. One approach is to have a “boiler plate” response to every inquiry which reads something along these lines:

“Thank you for visiting our website and for taking the time to contact us on this matter. We will have the appropriate person respond to your inquiry within 48 hours…”

The other approach is to have a custom response to each inquiry done by the department head for each type of inquiry. This approach can produce issues if the email response to the inquiry is not done in a timely fashion.


You could also do a mass email to all of the contacts that made an inquiry to your site twice a year or quarterly depending on your business, and update them on industry news, or new products you may be promoting. I have seen some companies have success with that approach as well.


Targeted Blast (contacts from events or trade shows)


The final format for email marketing is a targeted blast. This is one approach that, in my experience, is very successful. The reason why it is successful is that your company or small business have met these contacts at an industry event, conference, convention, or trade show.  The audience knows who you are, and they also know what services or products you can provide to them.


The challenge with a targeted blast is that in order to do it correctly it must be done as a specific, tailored response to the nature of the context in which you initially made the contact. This type of custom response takes time, and many companies handle this by dividing the work load between several people familiar with the specific accounts.


An example would be that the initial contact was made at a conference for marine equipment and supplies, so you would not send an email marketing your railroad or trucking equipment supply products to the marine customer.


The positive attribute to this campaign is it converts to sales more than the other approaches to email marketing because of the nature of the way the initial contact was made. The convention or trade show is a very personal and fun vibe versus meeting in another setting. I think that translates well to the effectiveness of this campaign.


A New Approach for a New World


In conclusion, email marketing campaigns have many forms, each with varied degrees of success. The positive attribute for a small business is that email is free and so for cost conscious start-ups and other small operations, it is a potentially great way to spread the word on who you are and what you do.


We live in a new world of increasing technology and social media advancements. The internet is a sea of businesses and so you have to be prepared to utilize a message which differentiates you from the pack.


I will detail that in my next article – Part 2 of this series on email marketing. I hope this article is valuable to your small business in developing an email marketing campaign.






The New Jersey Devils and their Veteran Goaltending

To anyone that knows me it is not a secret that I am a huge New Jersey Devils hockey fan. My following of the team goes back to the beginning here in 1982. I have been a fan through the bad years and the great Championship years, and everything in between.


This lockout shortened NHL season has been a strange one for the Devils, who started out strong, then recently have hit a rough patch where they were struggling to win a game. They broke that losing string with a win in a shootout over Buffalo last night at The Rock.


The coincidence is that their struggles began when Martin Brodeur, their legendary goaltender went down with a back injury. My observation as a fan going into this season was that the Devils goaltending would hold the key to the season. Brodeur and his backup Johan Hedburg are one of the oldest tandems in the league.


Hedburg is a very good veteran goaltender, but he has been used a lot in a short period of time in a compressed lockout shortened schedule of games. He has played very well and been a tough luck losing goalie in some recent games.


Myself and my fellow Devils fans have always asked the question of “what happens when Brodeur retires? What is the plan for the position in the short term?” The team has not committed to an answer to that, and they also don’t seem too confident that the guy to fill Brodeur’s place is in their system either.

They brought up rookie Keith Kincaide who played well in a short relief stint against Tampa Bay, and then they sent him down to Albany the next day.


Now, Jeff Frazee is up from Albany to backup Hedburg and will probably get a look in game action here in the next week or so. But, the Devils goaltending age looks like it could really hurt their playoff chances this year.


The hope is that Brodeur will come back soon and return to the excellent form he exhibited earlier this season. Until then the Devils defense will have to play tighter and their offense has to improve on the power play. They have to shoot more on the power play instead of over rotating the puck, they need to become a volume shooting team on the power play.


My hope is that Brodeur and Hedburg can find the magic they had last year and the Devils can have a sustained playoff run. Only time will tell.



A Knicks Victory without Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks victory last night in Cleveland was big for many reasons. First, they erased a huge point deficit on the road. Secondly, they won in a place where they had a double digit losing streak over the past several years. Next, the Knicks got the victory without their star player, Carmelo Anthony, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Finally, they got contributions from their role players, which they will need in order to be successful down the stretch.


The Comeback

First, the comeback to win in adverse circumstances on the road was a big step at a critical point in time for this team. However, I am a bit concerned as a big fan of the team that they needed that much effort to beat Cleveland, which is not a playoff caliber team, on the road. This Knicks team has big playoff aspirations and it is going to be very tough for them to win in the postseason on the road if they are struggling to win in a place like Cleveland now.


A Knicks Win in the City by the Lake

While I mention Cleveland, it brings me to my second point about winning in the city by the lake. The Knicks have struggled there in recent years, and it can be a loud arena, they were tough to beat when LeBron was there. Now,  the Cavs and their fan base seem rejuvenated by the infusion of young talent like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.

I jumped out of my chair last night when Tyson Chandler blocked Kyrie Irving’s desperation 3 point attempt in the closing seconds of that game. The Knicks got a hard fought win, as I transition to my next point: without Carmelo Anthony.

Missing Carmelo and Taking Care of Business


Carmelo Anthony is the best player on the Knicks, no real dispute exists there, but some people would argue that he is not an elite NBA player. I disagree with that view point; I think that Carmelo Anthony is an elite NBA player with top tier skills particularly scoring the basketball. His defense this year has also been very good at points as well.

When he left this game in the first half with a knee injury, I like many Knicks fans felt that they might lose this game. I was surprised to be proven wrong by this team last night in the comeback and sealing the win with some gritty play and hustle in the closing minutes.

Amare Stoudemire really was terrific in this game, scoring 22 points in a little over 30 minutes of floor time. When used in the pick and roll, like he was in the Miami game on Sunday, he is tough to stop. It was a performance that made a lot of fans recall the days before Carmelo Anthony got to this team and Amare (aka “Stat”) was the main star of this team.


The Role Players Contributions

The role players really contributed to this win as well, with Novak hitting a couple of shots and Prigioni making contributions. They will need to get something out of Camby or Kenyon Martin down the stretch especially if Wallace is out for the rest of the season.

I am a bit concerned about the bench being able to provide enough scoring if this team is going to sustain a playoff run, that will be interesting to see who steps up.

I am also concerned as a fan with the way Woodson handles the rotations. I was in a waiting room last week for an appointment, it was a cold morning and I had my Knicks hat on, so a fellow fan approached me. We started talking about the team and some of the issues and he asked me if I liked the way Woodson does the rotation. I said no, and he agreed, and added “but I didn’t like the way D’Antoni handled the rotation either”.

It was nice to talk to a fellow fan who knew the team and the game very well. We both also could not help but dream that: maybe this was the year the Knicks would get all the way to a championship.

It was a great thought, we will see what happens.


Challenges to Marketing “Green” Products

I started this blog, Frank’s Forum, and one of its “super themes” is green products and environmental or “green” issues. I decided to draw upon my own personal experience with marketing “green” products as a good starting point for future posts on this subject.


The challenges to marketing green products in the current stagnant economic climate are multi-faceted and can be difficult to overcome. This article will focus on the most common challenges to the “green” product movement, and I will offer some advice on how to handle some of these situations.


The first, and most important, challenge you will face either as a distributor of a line of green products or as a company that is solely committed to development and sales of green products is: price.


The price of your green product is critical to your success in penetrating the market regardless of what the product does or what industry it serves.  The issue with pricing of green products is that they are usually more expensive than the standard “non-green friendly” products available to do the same function. In a recessionary or largely stagnant economic time, such as the one we have been trapped in for the past few years, price is a huge consideration.


Now, in my experience in the green products field, I have learned that the price can be driven by several factors. My experience with a green products sales and marketing company taught me the value of a good distribution agreement. In this case, the product performed really well, better than the standard products used to solve the same issues. However, the company I was working with had a distribution agreement with unfavorable pricing. The feedback we would receive from customers on the performance of the product would be very good. The big concern for the customer, especially a municipal government client, was the price of our product would wreck their budget for chemical purchases for the rest of the year!

Furthermore, for those involved currently in green products distribution you may or may not be aware of this, there are ways to deal with objections based on price. The most obvious solution is to cut your MSRP to the customer and take a lower profit margin on the product. Another way around this obstacle to a potential sale is to see if your supplier would provide your company with a better price based on a volumetric commitment for sales to a specific end user.

I was involved with a company as a consultant, and they were able to go another route entirely: they found a supplier of a comparable product (the efficacy was a little weaker than their original product) and they were able to forge a better distribution deal with more favorable pricing. When the sales of the product hit a certain threshold ,they were able to then move up a tier in the distribution system with the manufacturer of the product and get even more favorable distribution terms.

The next challenge with selling green products in the current recessionary climate is: evidence and testing data. Any green product is going to be viewed with a certain degree of skepticism. The “microscope” will be even more intrusive by whoever the end user is because it is usually a more expensive product or method.

The value of any product testimonial data that you have, or that you as the distributor could get from the manufacturer of the product, you need to get it and utilize it in your marketing of the product. Any white papers or commissioned studies by an independent lab or other source need to be utilized as well.

In the event that you do not have a white paper or any other type of independent study done on the performance of the product:  you need to get at least one done. If you are a small business that distributes green products, and you cannot afford to get one of these studies or papers or accreditations done on your own, then ask the manufacturer/supplier of the product to share the cost of getting the independent lab analysis or study done. You will find that usually they are quite willing to share in the cost because the manufacturer/supplier could use the data to promote the product as well.

In sales and marketing, it is very valuable to be able to have someone else verify that your product works effectively. It is also valuable to be able to offer free samples of the product or product lines that you are promoting with a green benefit to the end user. They will be much more willing to try the product if they can get a free sample to do their own testing and evaluation. So, you will need a budget to be able to purchase samples from your supplier/manufacturer to provide on a complimentary basis to your customers.

The other challenge in green products marketing to be aware of is the versatility of the product versus the standard product which does not have an eco-friendly benefit.

If the standard product or industry standard method has versatility and is easy to use, then your green product solution or method had better be versatile and easy to use as well. For example, if your green product can only work on land and cannot be used in water, and the standard product can be used anywhere; then you have a problem and a roadblock to selling the green product.

In the end, my hope is that green products will continue to grow and be more acceptable alternatives to the traditional ways we have always functioned. In my experience I have seen some great and innovative products with an environmentally friendly benefit come into the marketplace in recent years. It is important for the health of our eco-systems that harmful chemicals be removed from our standard business operations. I hope that this article will help all of the small businesses in the green products segment to overcome some of the challenges that exist in our current economic climate. I advise you to stay the course because your products can benefit future generations.