Tag Archives: marketing companies

If You Want to Raise Prices, Tell a Better Story!

There is a very good article in the Harvard Business Review titled If You Want to Raise Prices, Tell a Better Story. It is written by Ty Montague.

Click Here to Read…

NLT Helps Launch NBDA

NextLevel Thinking
is a proud sponsor and logo developer of
The National Business Development Association
(NBDA), which was launched today in Houston, Texas by Founder and President Christine Spray. Christine recognized, in her business development and board experience, the need for a national trade association to provide best practices to those individuals whose primary responsibility is developing business for their organization.

Spray strongly believes that in order to be a great developer of business, you must focus on others and their needs before focusing on yourself. It’s about building relationships and trust before building your business.

The well attended event featured a panel of business development experts who fielded a range of growth oriented questions from Houston’s own Emmy Award-winning journalist Linda Lorelle. The panelists were Bill Arend, a regional manager for Redwood City, Calif.-based software manufacturer Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL); Jeff Henningsen, executive vice president for Kansas City, Mo.-based insurance broker Lockton Inc.; and Jim Langsdale, director of business development at Chicago-based accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP.

The next meeting is scheduled for May 8th from 7:30 am to 9:00 am at The Junior League of Houston.

NLT Launches Growth Advocates

NextLevel Thinking, a marketing strategy firm headquartered in Houston, Texas, has launched a networking group made up primarily of trusted advisers such as accountants, lawyers, money managers, etc.

The groups name is Growth Advocates and they meet on the first and third Wednesday of each month at The Tasting Room – Uptown Park.

“I visited a bunch of networking groups trying to find a good fit for my business and just couldn’t find one with the quality of individuals that I was looking for, so I started my own!”, says Eric Poerschke, Managing Partner of NextLevel Thinking.

Founding Members Include:

Diana Greenwood, Aspire Executive Coaching
Daren Dahmer, Merrill Lynch
Ted Leitch, Expense Reduction Analysts
David Martin, Choice Exploration

Only one person from each professional classification is permitted to join the group. The group, which officially started at the beginning of 2013, had a set number of classifications and has already grown to 19 members.

The responsibility of each member is to understand each other’s business in such a way that they can successfully advocate for each other. The meetings are run in such a way that this will happen over time. Ultimately, this will allow members to pass qualified leads to each other.

For more information, contact Eric Poerschke ([email protected]) or Daren Dahmer ([email protected]).

Your Own Resolution to Succeed

Happy New Year from NextLevel Thinking!!! “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – {Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States}

Is Your Image Making or Breaking You?

“You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products and companies, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.” – {David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather}

April 2012 Thoughts

The April 2012 Thoughts That Count from NextLevel Thinking: Primary Sources of Creativity “The things we fear most in organizations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances – are the primary sources of creativity.” {Margaret J. Wheatley}

NLT Partners with Voice of San Diego

San Diego Nonprofit News Organization Partners with NextLevel Thinking to Develop Self-Sustaining Business Strategy

Voice of San Diego, a San Diego based nonprofit news organization, is enlisting the help of NextLevel Thinking, a Houston based strategic marketing firm, to raise awareness and diversify its revenue streams. As one of the first nonprofit news organizations to bridge the gaps in hyperlocal reporting on government, education, economy and other critical quality of life issues, VOSD has been an award-winning trailblazer in the industry. Its status as a nonprofit means the organization depends on a blend of funding from national and local foundations, philanthropists, content syndication and individual donors.

While it has a loyal, cult-like following in San Diego, the organization has struggled to reach a wider audience and, as a result, has yet to produce a self-sustaining member base. Several other nonprofit news organizations have sprung up in other parts of the U.S. and are facing the same struggles.

“NextLevel Thinking has a long history of successfully helping nonprofits institute programs and strategies that increase their public awareness and their membership,” said Mary Walter-Brown, VOSD’s new vice president of advancement and engagement who was hired to spearhead these marketing efforts. “I had the first-hand experience of working with NLT while I was the marketing manager at another San Diego nonprofit. We were able to develop a strategy that helped us attract new donors, raise awareness and increase revenue.”

The focus for VOSD in 2012 will center around building a dynamic membership program that encourages San Diegans to take ownership of their local news. In addition, the organization will expand its corporate, community and media partnership programs to further diversify its revenue sources.

“Voice of San Diego is a pioneer in a dramatically shifting journalism environment where local investigative reporting often falls through the cracks,” said Eric Poerschke, NextLevel Thinking’s Managing Partner. “The public service they, and other models like them around the country, provide is integral to a healthy democracy. We are very excited to help them develop a business strategy that allows them to grow and flourish.”

November 2011 Thoughts

The November 2011 Thoughts That Count from NextLevel Thinking: The Definition of Authentic Marketing “Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make.” {Philip Kotler, Marketing Author}

A Day in the Life of NextLevel Thinking

A large organization in the technology sector needed help developing a strategy to move more product through their existing distribution channel. Our client sold through a very competitive reseller channel, who in turn sold to the end customer. We developed a comprehensive approach to investigate their opportunity and potential. They expected us to take an exhaustive look at the market. What they didn’t expect was our interest in their supply chain and their internal organization.

INVESTIGATION (Click Here)

Most projects usually start with a half day to a full day session designed to make sure that all team members clearly understand project scope, project goals, and their role on the project team. This organization was truly a virtual organization that presented quite a logistical challenge. They had key players on both coasts and were headquartered in the Midwest. We facilitated this meeting using video conference and teleconference technology. We accomplished our meeting goals as if we were all in the same room.

The next step was to kick off an exhaustive study of their external marketplace, in addition to conducting a thorough analysis of their internal organization. In this case, our definition of the external marketplace consisted of key suppliers to the organization, the existing and potential reseller channel, and customers of our client’s resellers. In the beginning, our client had some difficulty understanding why we needed information from key suppliers and end customers when all they wanted to focus on was optimizing the reseller channel. However, when they were able to sit behind the glass at focus group facilities and view triad focus groups in action they were amazed. Their suppliers had great insight. Not only would their just-in-time inventory ideas save our client several hundred thousand dollars a year, but the improved delivery time to the reseller channel would be dramatic. Now some of this was starting to make sense. Conversations with a few hundred existing and potential resellers also proved to be helpful. Existing resellers enabled us to understand the areas where our client was doing well and areas where improvements could be made. Potential resellers helped us paint the picture of a world class supplier in our client’s category. The final piece to the external puzzle was a comprehensive examination of their reseller’s customers using secondary research. Understanding the drivers behind this group’s buying behavior would prove to be critical to our client.

The internal organization turned out to be just as interesting. We conducted personal interviews with twenty key executives and managers, distributed a questionnaire to all three hundred and fifty full time employees, and conducted focus groups with a representative sample of the part time employees. The organization had set up all sorts of processes and procedures to make sure that internal controls were met and management was happy. We realized very quickly that the measurements in place were not necessarily measurements of success factors that were valued in our client’s market place.

VISUALIZATION (Click Here)

Believe it or not, with enough lead-time, this project team managed to get together for three days at a golf course destination in the desert to discuss all of the new and exciting possibilities for their company. Prior to the meetings, our team spent a week boiling down all of the information gathered during the Investigation phase. In order to facilitate a productive brainstorming session, our team divided the data into eight relevant discussion sections. A different discussion technique was used for each section. These techniques allowed the project team to visualize opportunities in a variety of contexts.

The walls of the meeting room quickly filled with exciting possibilities. Our client’s suppliers identified interesting ways to work together to reduce inventory. It became very clear to our client that the reseller channel was not properly equipped with the knowledge or tools to successfully sell their product. This was especially important given the multiple competing lines that most of the resellers carry. They also felt like our client could do a much better job of communicating their uniqueness in the marketplace. The secondary research provided some great understanding of what drove the buying decisions of our client’s customers.

Although many interesting opportunities were identified during the brainstorming session, boiling all of that down into one concept that would uniquely separate our client from their competition was quite a challenge. As we moved through the Separation Statement development process, the notion of versatility continued to appear at the top of the list. The exciting thing about versatility is that our client delivered this concept better than the competition. However, several competitors were already pretending to own the idea. We were able to craft a Separation Statement that would potentially capitalize on our client’s unique version of versatility.

Using the Separation Statement as a guide, the project team developed a framework to illustrate their desired positioning in the market. In order to reach this destination, strategy was written to fill in the gaps between their as-is model and the settled upon to-be model. For every project designed to communicate a strategic message to the market, there was an internal project intended to enable our client to deliver on that promise. The finished product was a document that provided the framework and the tactical implementation projects that would enable our client to reach their desired market potential.

REALIZATION (Click Here)

Once the strategy was written, our client needed something to keep them focused on turning the implementation projects into reality. Some projects were our responsibility, and other projects were handled internally by the client. Our team guided this process through weekly status meetings to make sure that progress was being made on each project, as well as making sure that the entire effort was properly coordinated.

As projects reached completion and deliverables were produced, our team was there to make sure that they were properly rolled out to either an internal audience or an external audience.

As deliverables were rolled out, our team developed metrics that were used to measure progress toward client goals. Some metrics were simple and others were somewhat involved. We began reporting results at the weekly status meetings. Many of the results were positive and the momentum this created for our client was exciting. Just as important as the positive momentum was our ability to identify negative trends before they caused a problem. As with any strategy, the ability to monitor and adjust along the way gave our client the confidence to continue toward their goal of not only being able to communicate versatility to their market, but to actually be able to deliver on that promise time and time again.

About the Author

Eric J. Poerschke is a partner at Next Level Thinking, a strategic marketing firm that blends emotion, education, and execution into a brand building approach and framework for their clients.

Eric has more than 20 years of experience at successfully crafting and executing marketing strategies. He has worked with companies in many industry sectors and vertical markets which have given him a very broad perspective of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to marketing strategy.

NLT’s Unveils New Website

NextLevel Thinking has tweaked its website. Click Here to check out the exciting new look and approach!!!

The original concept for the NLT web site was to show the Houston based marketing firm through the eyes of their clients. The tweak to the new site still does this quite nicely. The primary reason for the site update is:
To make it more search engine friendly,
To add a few new sections (Our Services, Marketing Leadership, Newsroom),
To add a new background,
And to update Our Clients section.

The Tee Shirt Works

So the local blood center decided to print some new tee shirts for the next big drive of the month. The employees are getting excited because they get a chance to take a look at the new designs that have been created by Number One Tee Shirt Company of Florida.

“I think we should do a big blood drop with a smiley face”, says Carol, a twenty-year employee at the local center. “Everybody loves the smiley blood drop”.

That fact is, not everyone loves the smiley blood drop. Your donors are happy to get the shirt…they smile and say thank you, but as soon as they get home it goes in a drawer that has been set aside for shirts to be used for washing the car or sleeping in. It is time to take another step back and re-evaluate the reason for the tee shirt in the first place.

For the first year that we were in the blood business, we fought to have blood centers stop handing out tee shirts to every donor. We would do seminars on how handing a donor a gift for a single donation was rewarding them for behavior that we do not want them to do. One donation equals a tee shirt…what motivation do they have to come back if they already have the prize?

One of our speaking engagements was very interesting in that we discussed the fact that tee shirts are not the best way to go. We presented our case and shared our point of view of rewards for the second or third donation but not the first. Everyone in the room was nodding in agreement and taking notes. We thought we were really making headway.

So we decided to take a short break. My partner left the room to take a phone call and I stayed behind and…well I eaves dropped! I began listen to the attendees during the break.

The first conversation was a woman talking on the phone to her donor center in another state. She was telling them that the lecture was really informative and that she was learning a great deal on changing how we view donors…and this is where I had to bite my tongue.

The very next sentence out of her mouth was placing an order for…that’s right; you guessed it, the smiley face blood drop tee shirt. Not just a small order, she was purchasing 2,000 shirts! That’s a bunch of blood drops!

People let me be clear; I am not against tee shirts. As a matter of fact that is pretty much all I wear…well pants too. I felt I had to clarify. The point is, if you are going to use a tee shirt as a reward, first make sure that the donor is doing exactly what you want them to do before they get the shirt. And second, make sure that they wear it!

Take a trip to the local mall and scope out the tee shirts that are being sold. Do you see any smiley blood drops? I think not. What you will see are some very cutting edge shirts that are being sold at a premium. Some of the designs are going for as much as $100 per shirt. $100…who pays that? Believe it or not, the shirts fly off the shelf. These new graphic tees are so popular that you can now get knock offs at the neighborhood department store.

The designs do not have to be blood related. Make them say what you want but in a fresh way. Tattoo graphics, Fleur-De-Lis images, artistic typefaces…get creative.

What we are getting at is give the people what they want. Go online and get examples of what you think is a good design and show it to your tee shirt printer or your in-house artist. Have them come up with some ideas that are similar.

We work with a blood center in Texas. This center was doing what every other center was doing when it came to tee shirts…smiley blood drops. We were asked to come up with a few new designs for their tee shirts. At first they were a little uncomfortable with the idea of doing something outside of the box. After all, they have been doing it the same way for 30 years.

The first tee shirt was for a radio station. The promotion lady at the blood center got the call almost instantly. They were so pleased with the design that they wanted us to repeat the look for the station’s own promotions. Since then they never looked back.

It used to be that I would see a blood center tee shirt every couple of months when I was out and about. Now I see three or four at the gym, a couple in the grocery store, some on the golf course. My son says he sees them in school as well.

So after 10 years in this business I am happy to report that the tee shirt does actually work…as long as someone is wearing it.

Remember…when it comes to giving shirts, get out of your head and into the donor’s. A gift worth getting is worth doing something for!!!

How San Diego Blood Bank Made a Difference in Life

As the Marketing Manager for the San Diego Blood Bank I struggled with many of the same challenges that marketing professionals around the world grapple with – how do you create a compelling enough message to motivate the public to do something that could be out of their comfort zone. In this case, we weren’t asking people to purchase a product or service; we needed them to donate blood. Unlike Apple’s iPod or Sony’s PlayStation, there would be no fancy gadget to provide hours of entertainment – only the knowledge that a blood donor’s efforts may have saved someone’s life. On top of that, marketing to people in Southern California proved to have its unique challenges because there are so many options distracting the consumer. Donating blood was taking a backseat to surfing, sailing and shopping!

Before our journey began with NextLevel Thinking, the San Diego Blood Bank was constantly struggling to maintain an adequate blood supply for the hospitals it serves in and around San Diego County. Supplies dropped so low in the summer and around the holidays that the organization often resorted to issuing emergency pleas for blood through the media. These appeals caused momentary spikes in collections but never produced the sustained donating trends that we desperately needed to establish.

Organizationally, we determined that something had to change in order for the San Diego Blood Bank to be able to fulfill its mission in the community. The previous strategies hadn’t delivered the results we were looking for – to collect and maintain a consistent supply of blood for area hospitals. To do this, we needed to recruit new blood donors and increase the number of donations our existing donors were giving each year.

The decision to bring NextLevel Thinking in to help us craft a new strategy came from seeing the impressive results the firm produced at Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. During my initial conversation with Eric Poerschke, NextLevel’s managing partner, he asked me if the San Diego Blood Bank was ready to do what was necessary to change the culture at our organization and ultimately pave the uphill road to success. He cautioned me that it wouldn’t work unless we were completely committed to executing every aspect of the program that we would design together. Our CEO was convinced that we needed to make a change, so we took the plunge.

When NextLevel came on board we began an investigation and analysis exercise to help us review our existing marketing and PR practices. We discovered many interesting things about our organization during that process that would begin to shape the restructuring of our strategy. I believe the most dramatic realization was that we weren’t cultivating a relationship with our donors, mainly because we were missing opportunities to communicate with them. Through more analysis (yes, it often felt like group therapy) we realized that we hadn’t been confident enough about ourselves, and our cause, to create that meaningful relationship with our donors. We also found that our organization wasn’t visible enough in the community and that the public didn’t realize the importance of donating blood and the impact it could have on someone’s life.

NextLevel helped us realize that our organization had something special to offer; something many other non-profits lacked. We could provide people the chance to make a difference in someone’s life by donating blood. From that discovery, the Difference in Life program was born.

In order to achieve our goal of recruiting new blood donors and increasing the number of donations by our existing donors, we created a multi-platform recruitment and retention strategy incorporating email, mail, telemarketing, website development, radio/television advertising and internal customer service outreach. Every communication touch point was integrated with each other so the messages were all consistent. By utilizing these various communication mediums we found that we were able to start “connecting” with our donors using one or more of the methods that were most convenient to them. We were sensitive to the fact that we needed to cultivate a respectful relationship with our constituents so we decided to limit our contacts on a monthly basis.

We used email, mail, telemarketing and customer service outreach to communicate with existing donors and made a significant investment in radio/television advertising to appeal to new donors. We created a simple story and some easy steps that would explain how people could “make a difference in life.” All we asked is that they donate “one more time each year.” For new donors, that meant one donation. For an existing donor, it was one additional visit. To put a face to our cause, we began sharing the stories of real blood recipients and blood donors in San Diego whose lives had been impacted by the act of donating blood.

It was also important that the program offer opportunities for everyone to make a difference in life – so we created programs for individual blood donors, for businesses/organizations who host blood drives, for those who choose to volunteer their time and those who opt to make a financial contribution. Like our touch point communications, each of these sub-programs were integrated with one another to maximize the effectiveness of the overall program goal.

In order for this program to be successful, it had to become a part of the culture at the San Diego Blood Bank – an organization that opened in 1950. Change didn’t come quickly for many of the employees who’d spent their careers building the framework of the previous strategy. But, with the support of our CEO and other directors, the employees began to believe in the Difference in Life program. We instituted a customer service training program for the nursing staff to get them excited about the many new benefits they would be offering donors. In addition, we hosted new commercial viewing parties for the employees and offered updates about the program in every employee newsletter. We invited staff members to participate in various Difference in Life teams so they could offer input and help craft the strategy. Every department was given the opportunity to contribute.

Within one year of launching the Difference in Life program, the San Diego Blood Bank increased collections by 10%. In addition, donor satisfaction surveys improved dramatically and our number of first time donors increased. We stopped issuing emergency pleas for donors and began maintaining a consistent supply of blood.

Within three years, we’d increased collections by 26% and began tackling other challenges like managing an ever-growing inventory of blood products. During those three years, we experimented with many different tactics for improving our results but we never deviated from the core strategy. Although the program is far more complex than when it started, it still relies on the integrity of the multi-platform messaging that was created at its inception.

In conclusion, if I could advise other marketing professionals who would like to see these kinds of results, I would encourage them to jump in with both feet and truly commit to executing the strategy you develop. Don’t cut corners or try to save a few pennies in the short-term. Your long-term results will pay dividends. I can say with complete certainty that we would not have experienced the success we quickly realized if we would have sacrificed one component of the program. Although the multi-platform communication model can be cumbersome to manage, it is the most effective way to ensure your message is received. And, ultimately, that’s what makes a difference.

About the Author

Mary Walter-Brown was the marketing manager for the San Diego Blood Bank and is now the owner of Brown Ideas, a strategic marketing firm located in San Diego, California specializing in multi-media marketing solutions. Mary has a diverse background with more than 17 years of experience in television news, corporate video production, public relations and marketing.