All posts by Mike Cerra

Marketing Essentials Every Small Business Must Utilize

A Portable Joanna!
National Library of Ireland on The Commons /


There are dozens of businesses in your city or town, but what are most of them not doing? Marketing and Advertising. There is the occasional ad in the local yellow pages, but it’s the 21st century, not many people look to the phone book when they’re looking for someone or some business. Marketing on the internet, email, and social media should be a must for all businesses, but there are a number of companies that don’t have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or email subscriptions to attract and interact with regular and new customers. So let’s take a more in depth look at all aspects of social media and how they can be used to help your business prosper.

Starting with email subscriptions; this is a great way to personally send information about products, sales and discounts, or any news that could be important to your customers. We all get emails from bigger companies, whether a clothing store, magazine subscription, or any other place you have shopped in the past. But why aren’t small businesses doing the same? To attract customers and give reasons to return for regular customers, you must draw them back, and even if you have a sale or a discount, they’ll never know unless you’re informing them that the product is on sale via email. Websites are a great place to show your products and what is in your inventory, but there is a chance customers won’t go to the site, you must go to them, and that’s where the use of email comes in.

Social media is the future of marketing and advertising. Twitter and Facebook are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential technology can have on your business. A Facebook page can be used to draw customers in, and if your fans share your page, there’s a likelihood that their friends will also look into what your business does. It’s a way to interact with customers if they have any questions, and if your business has a product you can post pictures and or videos  to help visualize that specific product to the fans and customers. People want to see themselves using or wearing the product before purchasing it. If you can give them a clear picture of what they’re buying, that’s half the battle, especially if you don’t have a brick and mortar store.

Twitter pages have been proven to be successful for businesses. A small clothing store in Massachusetts is drawing in more customers through Twitter than their main website, and as a result, all the marketing and news about their clothes are being posted in tweets only. However, with this form of social media, continuously tweeting and using hashtags that are relevant to what you sell and your customers buy is vital to the success you’ll have on Twitter. Always post pictures if your business has a product, respond to your followers, and make it interactive. In most cases, the twitter accounts who have many followers is a result of them interacting and having conversations, showing that they’re friendly and open.

To effectively market what you sell or do, you must go to the customer first. The internet is the best way to get news and information out to the public, and it must be utilized. There are many businesses still operating as if it’s still the 20th century. To stand out from your competition you must reach out to who you’re trying to sell to and gain consumers. After all these years of it’s existence, social media isn’t being used correctly. Be the first to take advantage of what these websites have to offer, and separate yourselves from the pack. It could be the difference between a somewhat successful business and a complete success.

No Matter What Profession, Being Truthful and Honest Goes A Long Way

The_Warfield / / CC BY-NC-ND


In my time as editor and writer for basketball and sports; rumors, half-truths, and being the first to report a news story dominated the social media world and still does, especially on Twitter. Whether it’s the big news corporations, or the smaller blogs and websites that have a solid following, news stories will break, either true or based off of a rumor that either way attracts viewers and followers. However, in most cases there is no legitimate source reporting these rumors, creating a boy who cried wolf scenario that can be detrimental to the smaller news outlets and blogs. Why is this important and how does it effect you?

Whether you’re a passionate blogger for your favorite sports team, or a small business owner, what you tweet, post, or advertise cannot be half-truths or complete lies to attract followers or customers. Knowing this, I always frowned upon writing articles just to get viewership, in which money can be made based off the traffic these posts attracted. Sure it’s a great way to make a few extra bucks, but the loyal readers, the ones who could potentially tell their friends and co-workers that this site is good and honest, will leave and find another website or blog to follow that won’t waste their time posting bogus news stories.

The same can be said for the business world. Whatever you’re selling: a product, your skills in a certain profession that requires physical or mental labor, or the information that you’re reporting as a journalist, has to be 100% honest or sooner or later the person who bought into you will leave once they learn the truth. A good reputation is what builds up a strong core of followers or customers, and that starts with being open and honest about your product. In the sports journalism world there are some writers who are respected much higher than others, and that’s due to the connections they have, but also the accuracy of the rumors or stories they are reporting.

Walk down a main street in your city or town, there is most likely a town diner or a family owned restaurant that is famous in your neighborhood. They rarely if ever advertise, but how did they gain their popularity and customers? The first patrons who stepped foot into that restaurant were satisfied with the food they ordered, and in turn told their friends and relatives about that specific place and how they must go there.

The best way to grow your clientele is to have a product that is so good they immediately share their experience at your store, restaurant, or your services such as plumbing, computer repair, etc. Your first customers are your advertising, whether they enjoyed the time and money they spent, or didn’t. The customer’s satisfaction builds up your reputation, and being truthful further enhances what you’re selling.

We can all learn something from sports, but take a look at the sports journalism aspect of the industry. Lessons can be taken away just from one article or Twitter account in which lies, false rumors, and lack of credibility become exposed. This also happens in business on a daily basis.

Do you want a loyal following and fan base (yes companies and businesses have fan bases too)? Marketing and advertising that is true and honest that reinforces the product you’re selling will attract new customers, and the ones who have already bought into what you’re selling will return. If you’re a writer or blogger, the same applies to you as well. Reporting rumors isn’t wrong, but check the facts and sources releasing these news stories before posting. Followers on Twitter want information, and if you’re not reporting news that’s worth their time, they’ll find another outlet to follow.

Honesty and being truthful cannot be stressed enough. If you apply those two qualities in anything you do, you’ll be successful with many loyal and real customers and followers.


Marketing: Where One Industry Got It Wrong

Wind farm and greenhouse gas farm, together
kevin dooley / / CC BY


Previously I had discussed the industry that got marketing and advertisement right, briefly analyzing Apple and Microsoft’s ad campaigns for their laptops and tablets. Now it’s time to take a look at the automotive world and see some flaws in how some car manufactures are marketing their vehicles and why possible buyers might not be influenced by the ads shown on television. This wasn’t always the case as car companies a few decades ago clearly stated what their product could do and it’s benefits. Technology and vehicles are at the top of the food chain when it comes necessity, and the importance of drawing in customers should be a number one priority, especially for those companies and manufactures who aren’t leading in sales.

One example, Dodge recently had an ad for the new 2014 Charger, in which it’s doing donuts off-road in dirt. Whether an owner of a Charger would actually do that to their car or not, it’s the comment the narrator makes that neither contributes any information or sense.


“We’re willing to bet, no kid ever grew up with a poster of a Passat on his bedroom wall.”

They’re correct, it’s not likely a kid had a Passat on his bedroom wall, but what does that have to do with the Charger, a car that isn’t in the same class as the Volkswagen Passat? For a potential buyer, all the person gets out of the commercial is that the Charger has 300 horsepower, 31 MPG, and that the car he or she owns will be on a poster in some kids room. The Charger has traditionally been categorized as a muscle car, but since it’s reappearance to the market in 2006, it’s now a sedan, adding a whole new dimension to what an American sports car is. With the Chevrolet Camaro also coming back a few years ago, the Ford Mustang getting a new look, and Dodge’s own Challenger, why should a potential buyer choose the Charger over any other muscle car?

In short, some benefits need to be explained in a thirty second commercial. The Charger is a sedan, meaning more seating capacity. It still gets the horsepower of a sports car, and it’s not your average luxury car, if it can even be called that. A person who wants a Passat is not likely to buy a Charger and vice-versa. This isn’t just confined to cars or big business sectors either and can reach the local business level. Everyone has certain preferences and tastes. If you know who you’re marketing to, continue advertising to people who you know will buy into your product, not the person who would prefer the Passat.

Taking a look at an older car commercial from 1996, this ad was an award recipient for BMW. There is a similar amount of words spoken, same time constraint, but a different element the car is driving in.

“Why float through life, when you can drive?”

Unlike in the Dodge Charger commercial, that quote fits the ad, and is relevant in the time that it was aired. During the mid 90’s, bigger luxury cars were referred to as “boats” because they were square-shaped similar to boxes. It was around this time in which BMW and Mercedes Benz  ushered in a new era of mid-sized luxury sedans, and 18 years later, we can look back and see what was being envisioned through this commercial.

While benefits of the car aren’t mentioned, the camera angles, the car weaving through the boats as to say it can maneuver through traffic, and the comment, “Why float through life, when you can drive?” insinuating that the BMW drives differently than it’s competitors, shows advantages to owning the vehicle. Even though BMW chose the approach of not specifically stating what its product could do, the visuals alone painted an image in the consumers mind. This car looks nice from a pedestrians point of view, it drives better than the other luxury sedans on the market, and the vehicle is smaller than it’s competitors.

Lastly, you can find many car commercials from the late 80’s through the 90’s in which the benefits, safety features, and price are clearly presented in the ad. This Nissan Altima commercial from 1993 features all three points from the list above, stating that their car has dual front air bags, front and rear crumple zones, starts under $14,000 and is a car “that could possibly save your life”.


Looking at all three ads from different car manufacturers, the same rules can be applied outside the car industry for marketing and advertising. You want to inform your customers about your product, but you also want to capture their attention through visuals. The real question is when looking at making a basic ad, do you go with the completely nonsensical approach like Dodge, find a happy medium similar to the BMW commercial, or lay the facts out about your product right in front of your customers. Combining any of the marketing strategies works too, but remember, who is most likely going to buy your product? The Charger is a beautiful car, but there is no reason to mention a non-related competitor in a completely different class.

Marketing: Where One Industry Got In Right


Flickr addiction
Giovanni ‘jjjohn’ Orlando / / CC BY-NC-ND

As a consumer, nothing attracts my attention more than a well-done commercial or ad. However many businesses, especially on television, choose the cute or lack of information approach replacing facts with flash, but in the wrong way. Some companies have brilliantly mastered advertising; informing, persuading, and adding humor together that makes sense, and markets to a defined audience. Two major industries, technology and automotive, spend time and money marketing to potential consumers, yet only one industry fully understands how to use the power of advertisement.

There are a variety of laptops, smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles on the market today, and it will continue to expand in the future. Technology is a necessity, without it many business couldn’t run day-to-day operations, staying in contact with friends and family would be more difficult, and students working on a term paper for college would be confined to the library reading books instead of doing research on their laptops. The product is already a guaranteed sell, but which company excels over the other and how? This is where marketing and advertising comes in. One popular technology company went over and above, defined who their audience was, explained the differences between them and the competition, and each commercial brought humor that was backed up by facts. Apple.

The Mac versus PC ad campaign that Apple ran is the perfect example and should be a blueprint for all companies, any size and in any sector. The short commercials said a mouthful in a very condensed timeframe, both visually and contextually. The actor portraying Mac is young, dresses in more comfortable clothes, and is clearly in his 20’s, while the older, more professional, and traditional guy portrays the PC. In each ad, something Mac has that Microsoft PC’s don’t is brought up, such as apps, capabilities exclusive to Mac’s, and the fact that Apple’s don’t get viruses like PC’s.

Apples will always appeal to the younger generations for many reasons other than the fact that PC’s are known to be used by companies and businesses. The ads contributed to the already popular belief that PC’s were for the highly intelligent, hard working business professional, which is why the actor playing Mac is the typical twenty to thirty year old adult. However, Apple didn’t overstep their bounds by offending PC users, but inserted facts about their product that the competition doesn’t offer. As both a Mac and PC user, I understand the differences between the two, and how Apple offers more appealing applications than Windows operated desktops and laptops.

A few years later, Microsoft released a few of their own ads showing what their tablet can do that the iPad couldn’t. USB ports and an attachable keyboard were exclusive to Microsoft tablets, once again displaying a company who knew who their target audience was. Most iPad users are less likely to do business on their tablet, while the keyboard and USB port would come in handy for a business traveler, which fits the criteria for Microsoft users.


The technology industry has figured it out. To successfully attract potential buyers; informing, persuading, showing what your product has that the competition doesn’t, and why I, as a consumer should buy your product, should be the basis of your advertisement. For Apple and Microsoft they only have one competitor, and that’s themselves, which is why they need to specifically state the differences in their laptops and tablets. Companies in bigger business sectors fail to see the opportunity and blueprint that those two technology giants laid down for other industries when it comes to marketing and advertising. Separate yourselves from the pack, be creative, do what your competition isn’t, and most importantly, know who you’re marketing to.