Author Archives: Sherri May

Sherri May

About Sherri May

A native Arizonan, Sherri May creatively parlayed her 33 years of experience in the corporate world and more than a decade of success managing and developing into Sherri May & Co. As founder and president, May expanded her business using innovative technology and customized products to effectively reach her clients’ target market and convey their message. Sherri May & Co. is a full-service creative firm headquartered in Phoenix and founded in 1997. For more information on the company and its team of creative thinkers, visit

Marketing mistakes

Beware of Blunders: Common Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

The economic downturn has left many companies struggling to retain existing business, scrambling for ways to attract new business and seeking opportunities to cut costs. Decreasing marketing budgets seems to be a common solution — just look how many publications, creative agencies and printers have gone out of business due to a lack of revenue.

While cutting costs may be a necessity, halting your marketing efforts when business slows can make things worse. Be smart. Think smart. Market smart. Send an email instead of a letter; create and send a postcard instead of a catalog; change your marketing mix, and stay in front of your customers if you wish to maintain and grow your business.

Once business picks up, time may be at a premium; but once again, that’s no excuse for allowing marketing efforts to slip. Keeping a constant presence in the marketplace will ultimately even out your sales swings.

To use your time and marketing dollars wisely, and steer your business toward growth, take note of six common marketing mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: Marketing without a plan

It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but a “road map” of how to market your business is nothing short of essential.

Mistake #2: Muting the agency

Even if you pride yourself on your marketing prowess, don’t override your agency’s recommendations. This can, and often will, lead to disaster. Listen to the hired experts providing recommendations based on sound research and experience.

Mistake #3: Multitasking collateral

Don’t expect one marketing piece to meet too many objectives. Doing so can muddle your message and lose or confuse your prospect or customer.

Mistake #4: Cluttered collateral

Filling every inch of a marketing piece with words or pictures is a turn-off. White space rests the eye, is more inviting and entices your audience to read, making key messages easy to find and digest.

Mistake #5: Focusing on features before benefits

Features define your product, but benefits sell. Focusing on the benefits defines your unique selling proposition, sets you apart from the competition and helps you to sell a product or service.

Mistake #6 Keeping your team in the dark

The fastest way to waste hard-earned marketing dollars is forgetting to inform your staff on how to communicate marketing offers and information to customers and prospects. Consider the sales clerk who doesn’t know about a current promotion to help sell additional products to existing customers. Or the courier in the supply room who might have a friend interested in the current offer or coupon. Always include the entire team in your marketing plan by engaging them in how to use each tactic to increase business.

Finally, don’t find yourself falling into the trap of W4TP2R marketing. Give up? This stands for the marketing approach known as Waiting for the Phone to Ring. Just because you send out letters, emails and press releases, place ads, or launch a new website doesn’t mean that merchandise will fly off the shelves right away. Effective marketing takes diligence, persistence, repetition, follow-up, follow-through and time to bake.

Give your programs a chance, stay consistent and work it. Eventually, you will see results and reap the rewards.

On April 10 the marketing community and the world suffered a great loss when Sherri May’s life was taken abruptly. Her marketing know how, spirit, and words of wisdom live on and inspire through her team at Sherri May & Co.

Branding Defined: More than the Perception of a Product or Company

Branding Defined: It’s More Than The Perception Of A Product Or Company

If you asked five people what branding means to them, you’re likely to get five different answers. When discussing branding, the answers will range from needing new letterhead or a logo, to an in-depth strategy, and everything in between.

Quite simply, “brand” is who you are. It is how your customers, competitors and suppliers perceive you and how you perceive yourself. Brand is the image you want to project.

While your logo is certainly part of your brand, branding is much more than that. It is your mission, your look, logo, tag line, colors and font; it is all that encompasses how you communicate your message, what you actually say, how you approach your sales process and how you do business. Brand boils down to the tangible and intangible characteristics that work in concert to become the face of your business to customers, the community and competitors.

Why Branding is Important

We know that branding defines your business in the hearts and minds of employees, shareholders and most importantly, customers and prospects. It also influences consumer choice. People choose to do business with, or purchase products from, those they trust. A well-developed and established brand builds recognition and establishes trust. Businesses that are well branded stand out.

Apple Logo, Flickr: zolierdosWe look to balance sheets and financial statements to assess companies, but branding has tangible value. One of the strongest and most recognizable brands today is Apple. When consumers think of Apple they think modern innovation — a company that is user friendly, service oriented, makes life easier and more entertaining. On Sept. 25, 2010, Apple’s balance sheet boasted $741 million under “goodwill.” In accounting, goodwill represents the value beyond a company’s assets — it’s reputation. Apple is an excellent example of the added value branding brings to the table.

Bringing branding to life

While we all aspire to have a strong brand, how do we get there? When establishing your company’s brand, or going through a rebranding, start with internal and external research. Begin by assembling key employees and ask yourselves a series of questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How does what you do benefit customers?
  • Describe your target audience (who are they, what do they look like, what do they respond to)?

Then consider the intangible characteristics. These questions can put the perception of your company in a whole new light, revealing your company’s “real” personality. This exercise can help you better craft (or change) your message and more effectively reach your customers:

  • What kind of car would your company drive?
  • What music best reflects your company?
  • How would you introduce your company to friends at a party?

These questions will take you well beyond the color and typeface of your logo. The answers can help you discover ways to use your company’s personality to connect emotionally with your audience. This process lays the groundwork for presenting your company to the world.Starbucks logo, Flickr: lewisha1990

With the tangibles and intangibles defined, you can now move on to select brand elements that align specifically with your company’s personality. This includes company colors, logo, tagline, overall message and voice. You should also establish standards that guide the consistent use of your brand elements and be sure all employees are on board. Nothing kills a brand faster than inconsistent use and application of the brand.

The good, the bad and the mediocre

Starbucks took coffee to a whole new level. They not only created one of the most recognizable brands in its market segment, they made drinking coffee a lifestyle. From the signage on the storefronts, the graphics on the cups, product packaging on the shelves, store interiors, colors, drink names and sizes, the company brand permeates every aspect.Coca Cola Branding, Flickr: DeusXFlorida

Now consider Coca Cola and Pepsi. Both are established long running brands that are extremely recognizable, but over the years they have both come to a point where they are no longer that differentiated. Both have also tried redesigning their brand, only to be met with little response or complete disaster. Remember when Coca Cola, one of the most recognizable brands in the world decided to rebrand itself and introduce a new formula? Within weeks it was clear that the launch was a disaster and, millions of dollars later, the new product was pulled from the shelves and Coke Classic was introduced.

Observe what others are doing. Learn from their successes and failures. Realize that branding is much more than a logo. When it’s done right, it can directly impact your bottomline.

Creating a marketing plan

Why Creating A Marketing Plan Matters

A lot has been said about the importance of creating a marketing plan, but the task at hand often appears so daunting that many business owners and executives never get down to the business of tackling this challenge. Instead, they choose to simply approach things on a day-to-day basis, functioning in reactive mode rather than proactive mode. While this may seem to work for awhile, ultimately operating without a plan can hurt the bottom line — one way or another.

Start with a budget

Before putting pen to paper to create a marketing plan, business owners and managers need to set aside a budget for marketing.  The general rule of thumb is anywhere between 3 and 10 percent of gross revenues. For a new business, the budget should be closer to 10 percent (or more), as in the early stages of business you will need to invest more money to establish your brand and attract customers or clients. As you become more established, you can actually consider cutting back, as word-of-mouth will hopefully kick in. Once you know how much you will have to work with, you can determine how to best allocate both your time and your money.

Setting goals

The planning process need not be overwhelming or enormously time-consuming, but it does require some thought about what the company’s goals are. What is it you want to do? What are the top three to five things you would like to achieve this year? Goal setting should actually occur all year; and everyone in the organization should know what the goals are and their role in contributing to the company’s success.

Where to invest

Next, identify what marketing and/or communication efforts will directly support your goals, what they will cost and who will implement them.

Technology has opened the door to many new tools in our marketing mix. Choosing what to include should begin with who you are trying to reach. Where do your customers get their information and what do they like to do? Marketing action items can include print, radio or TV ads, direct mail, e-mail and newsletters, trade shows, sponsorships, employee contests, customer-referral programs, giveaways, events, website, social media and SEO.

You can keep things simple by putting together a spreadsheet showing the months of the year at the top and the marketing activities you wish to do in the far left column. Then, mapping out the activities of the year and the investment required allows you to quickly see what needs to be done and how much you will need to do it.

Adjustments required

Before making any changes to your plan, keep in mind that it takes time to build momentum. That said, throughout the course of the year, it is important to review and evaluate the results in order to determine if any adjustments are necessary. You may also want to consider adding something to your marketing mix to enhance something else you may be doing — like a seasonal event.

A clearly outlined marketing plan gives you the planning power to integrate what might have been individual communication tools into a complementary plan where activities work together, helping you increase overall effectiveness and truly get the biggest bang for your marketing dollars.

Spending money without a marketing plan can make the difference between seeing your business flourish or closing your doors.