Saturday, January 31, 2009

Radio Advertizing Can Work for the Right Markets

I recently did some test market radio advertising in Utah and Ohio. I was a bit new to the media and decided read a couple of books on it. My hope was to be a little wiser and I put together the story board, identified the best radio stations for our targeted audience, and as I worked with my radio station account rep.

Michael Corbett's book The Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising and the Mass Media Corporation's "Radio Advertising Does Not Work." Say Who?.

The books provided me with the information I was looking for. It provided me with the terminology and processes that I needed to get a better grasp around the issues and industry.
A key lesson I took from these books is that if radio seems to be a tool that will help you reach your target market(s), then it is something that should be consistent within your marketing budget. Running a campaign for a week or two and concluding you did not get the results you were looking for and then abandoning the program is impetuous.

Radio is not for everyone but it does work for some businesses in some targeted markets.

Social Media Marketing An Hour a Day

Dave Evans's 2008 book Social Media Marketing An Hour a Day provides a step by step approach for a novice social media marketer to learn about the Web 2.0 world and to figure out how to leverage some of the options out there to help enhance your firm's image and bottom line.

What is unique about this book is that he provides the read with a series of worksheets to record your thoughts and findings as he takes you through a series daily activities.

Following through on a small portion of his suggestions will open up a whole new world to the social media novice.

All of the social media marketing options are not for everyone; for example, it might not behoove you to set up your own MySpace, Facebook or Twitter profile but a blog or a forum for your customers might.

It is worth a read if Web 2.0 is brand new to you; might be a bit light for the person who is already immersed.

Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Web 2.0 is generally those Web tools used to facilitate communications between mutually interested parties -- blogs, forums, videos, audio podcasts, social web sites. Paul Gillin's new book Secrets of Social Media Marketing helps describe how "online conversations and customer communities" can help drive business your way, regardless of size or scope of the operations.

The key to any online business presence begins and ends with understanding your buyers. I have found it a fun and rewarding experience to spend the time evaluating our targeted customers. I often feel like a criminal profiler as I look at the number of potential buyers in the target, their location, age, render, race, family status, education, work environment, values, personality traits, attitudes, emotions, opinions, reference groups, environmental factors, lifestyle, media preferences, and media perception. Educated guesses but only after interviewing/talking to a number of them.

Paul's book does a good job highlighting the "secrets" of social media marketing. The secret is that marketing is still the same, it is only the vehicles used to reach your targeted markets have changed. With the tools available over the Web, your marketing efforts will become more exact at the same time cheaper.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meeerman Scott's The New Rules of Marketing and PR is an excellent book for just about anyone who is involved in promoting a business -- from the sole consultant, small ma & pa outfit, or start-up to the large multinational.

I still marvel that many firms have no web site or really poor web sites. Regardless of your industry or size, having a Web presence is critical to your customer relationship. The Yellow Pages may work for tires, HVAC, plumbing but for the bulk of us, we are found via the browser.

A business needs to be found in order for business to occur. People search or browse -- they want a site to tell them something they did not know. Authentic content helps establish credibility and to build the business' brand.

A web site needs to be more than information about your product and service and your contact information. A web site needs to spur some action by the visitor -- buy, scribe, apply, donate, request a quote, ask for more information.

Visitor arrive at a site at different stages in the buying process -- early/just looking, narrowing and ready to buy. The site needs to address all stages of this process.

A site that tells stories that the targeted market can relate to will engage the visitor, get them to stay longer, read more and think harder about buying from your business.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR goes into great detail about how blogs, podcasts, vodvasts, forums and discussion groups can help establish your credibility and become more attractive to the search engines.

A great web site is not going to hide a poor product but it will allow for a good product to be found by those in the market for your particular offering.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

$819B Stimulus Nothing More Than Political Payback

I cannot recall in my life a day I felt lower as a tax-paying and freedom-loving American than I did yesterday. I have always known how corrupt politicians are but yesterday's vote to spend over $800B (I'll be $900B after the Senate gets through) was the most blatant.

Prior to the vote, President Obama's colors were clearly on display when he said only government can get us out of this mess. No, the mess has just been made worse with the worst spending bill in our nation's relatively short history.

As was stated in yesterday's WSJ main editorial (page A14), "this is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years."

When the line items are examined, only about 12 percent of the total can be reasonably labeled as stimulus. A majority of the money is pinned to programs not suffering during this economic downturn: government workers, education and health care.

Billions are tagged for Medicaid, refundable tax credits, food stamps, COBRA insurance extensions, unemployment insurance, additional Social Security payments, welfare cash payments, nutrition programs, Amtrak, National Endowment for the Arts, global warming research, carbon capture demonstration projects, child care subsidies, the Smithsonian, federal building modernization, income transfer payments (paying people to do nothing), $66 billion for education (more than the entire 1999 Dept of Education's total budget).

Pelosi and her cronies are fully behind the notion that "they won the election; [they] wrote the bill." Republicans, for once, did the right thing and let the Democrats take full ownership.

The vote tally for HR1 was 244 YEAS, 188 NEYS, 1 no-vote. No Republican voted for the bill; 11 Democrats voted against it.

This vote was nothing more than political payback for the billions of campaign donations and political favors built up over the past few year. Congress ought to be ashamed of calling this a stimulus package. It will stimulate a few special interests at best.

This debt will never be repaid. America has taken another left turn down the road to mediocrity -- European like socialism where the middle class is quickly waning. We are moving toward a greater economically divided society with an increase in the poor masses (Democrat tokens of the state).

We ally witness how government fails to be responsible with its monetary and fiscal policies, be it borrow and spend or tax and spend. Government is too big -- spending is too great. Taxes are too high for individuals, families, home owners, investors, business owners and corporations. Policies are continuing to discourage economic risk, hard work and productivity.

Government, and specifically this bill, has failed every American, whether they recognize it or not. This will not stand.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Palestinian Peace Self-Determined, Not Outsiders

I have had the good fortune of spending time in Israel and most recently Lebanon, an Arab nation of mixed religions and agendas in a wealth of history. My mind reflects often on the Arabs living in Israel including the West Bank and Gaza.

The land has been ruled by many including Persians, Greeks (Hellenistic), Romans, Byzantium, Arabs, Christians (Crusades), Mamluk, Ottomans and British. In 1948, Israel was proclaimed a state by the nations of the world.
In 1948, Israel had to secure its sovereignty by fending off five invading armies while under an international arms embargo. It then had to absorb a million refugees from Arab countries and Holocaust survivors from Europe with no financial assistance from anyone other than US Jews. Israel developed into an open democracy. Gaza became one of the largest terror bases in the world.

Months after Israel handed over Gaza - and Northern Samaria - the Palestinians turned their backs on statehood altogether when they elected Hamas — an explicitly anti-nationalist, pan-Islamic movement that rejects Palestinians statehood — to lead them. Hamas's electoral victory, its subsequent ouster of Fatah forces from Gaza and its recent war with Israel tells us another fundamental truth about the sources of the repeated failure of the US's bid for Palestinian statehood. Quite simply, there is no real Palestinian constituency for it.
There is no doubt in my mind that the bulk of Arabs, regardless of country, despise Israelis. For the three generations alive today, Arabs with ties to Palestine have only experienced heartache, poverty and conflict.

I recently watched a documentary on Al Gazeera that detailed young Palestinian living in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. They went on a trip to visit the ruins of their grandparents homes in Palestine. For their entire lives they have been told how they have been the hand of Israelis -- the Jews that inhabit Palestine.

It is very difficult for an outsider to assume that a peace settlement between the Arabs living in Palestine and the traditional Jewish Israelis living in Palestine. The Israelis will not respond, nor should they, in kind to random missiles attacks, be they from Hamas in the south or Hezbollah in the north.

The only way peace can be achieved is if the bulk of the Arabs in and around Palestine accept Israel, forget it exists and get on with their lives. They need to focus on their people and their own success, not on living a vendetta.

It was clear while talking with a number of Lebanese, the population was sick and tired of years of civil war. That's no life for the average human. People are people: most want to have an opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their children, to work, to socialize, to travel, to love, to worship or not. The Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank have to be reaching a similar tipping point.

Every one in Gaza, Judea and Sameria would would improve their live 100 percent if they get on with living and not hating.

This pattern is demonstrated by Lamanites in the Book of Mormon. For centuries their lives were defined in part by a hatred of the Nephites. Thinking, erroneously, they had been wronged when the younger brother Nephi was given a leadership role over his two older brothers Laman and Lamuel.

Palestinians lives will continue to based on sorrow and wishes (not hope) until they focus inward. They must solve their own problems, not wait for the pity of the world.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lebanon - Some Interesting Travel Observations

I spent this past week in Beirut, Lebanon on a work-related assignment. We needed to work Monday-Thursday, having little time outside of doing the work we went there for. We did get Friday to play tourist for a day.

We hired a driver (Allo Taxi) for 10 hours ($175 -- split between a colleague and I) and went north out of Beirut to Jeita Grotto, Jounieh / Harissa, Jbeil / Byblos and spent a couple of hours in and around Beirut. The Jeita grotto is indeed a wonder of the world and Byblos is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet (7000 years).

After a week in Beirut and in area to the north, I have the following observations:

-- The people love their country and history; though they are not proud of their recent civil war which has set them back a few decades; a senseless war for the most part.
-- The country is every bit as safe as any American or European city or state; there may be areas involving refugee camps that might not be to fond of Americans.
-- Building is taking place on a massive scale; however there are still plenty of bombed out buildings right next to inhabited ones; bullet holes can be found on many occupied buildings.
-- They really don't like Israelis.
-- Soda cans still have pull-off tops; Pepsi dominates Coke.
-- There are no traffic control measures -- no lanes, lights, stop sign, yield signs; drivers are honking constantly -- for no apparent reason (other than taxi drivers hoping for fare even if you are moving in opposite directions).
-- Islamic call to prayer begins early -- at 5am in my neighborhood. It happens 5x each day but the morning prayer call is the most noticeable in the city. (It is one of the sounds that certainly lets you know you are far from home; I liked it).
-- Dress/clothing is more formal -- more dressy. No shorts and few t-shirts. Girls/young women wear high boots; women dress modestly. Over half of the population is Muslim so formal Muslim dress is widespread.
-- Spending time on one of the university campuses, students are about the same everywhere, though more formal in their appearance and seemingly less impetuous.
-- A very family-oriented culture.
-- The food is wonderful, in my opinion -- traditional Mediterranean delights. Mankoushé and Ka'ek are ubiquitous. They have American fast food; they even have Hardees. Bread is flat bread, almost like a Mexican flour tortilla but bigger, and is eaten at every meal. Thyme is a dominant food item (never ate some much thyme in my life).
-- Hubbly Bubbly (flavored tobacco smoked through tall water pipes with long hoses) is the social drug of choice. One waiter told us: "it is not addictive; it is just a habit."
-- There are plenty of shops; e.g., Hammra Street, that sell high end luxury items from furs, watches and jewelry.
-- Power is good generally but it does go out for a minute or two each day as they shift generators (they get supplies from bothy public and private sources)
-- Internet speed stinks and wifi is costly for the most part (few places offering free wifi)

I would recommend that if you are interested in a Middle East experience, Lebanon is a good place to go. English, although the third language after Arabic and French, is widely understood. Prices are similar to America. And there are plenty of things to do from the beaches to the mountains.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Services in Beirut

On Sunday, a colleague and I attended the Beirut (Lebanon) Branch. I did not know the Church existed in this part of the world. They are part of the Amman Jordan District that includes Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

The Branch had about 30 attendees (out of about 45 members in the area we were told). Services were in English for the most part with some Arabic on occasion. They did all of the block meetings in 2 hours -- one Sacrament speaker.

Very friendly Saints. They love the gospel. Some of their conversion stories are worthy of books or short stories.

It was interesting to hear them discuss in Sunday School the need for a free land with a divinely-inspired constitution to facilitate the restoration of the gospel.

There were a few ex-pats present including a young gal from Washington and another from Alaska -- living the Middle Eastern experience.

Friday, January 16, 2009

MTC - A Wonderful Experience for Parents

This week, we dropped our second child, this time a daughter, off at the MTC. It was our experience that taking a daughter is much different than taking a son.

Sons often go more out of duty, not to say they don't want to go, but they know it is something they need to do at age 19 for two years. Daughters are not asked to go, but are given the opportunity if they want to go anytime after age 21.

Our daughter had spent 1.5 years away at college and six months in England as a nanny / au pair. She learned to engage the Church more so than if she were nearer home. The decision to go was heartfelt. I think it helped that her mother and many of her aunts have served full-time missions.

The MTC experience is warm. Parents and siblings know they are turning over their sons or daughters to those that have a great love for them. For the next 18 months, she is in good hands.

It is a stark experience to arrive, drop-off their luggage, take a few pictures, gather in a welcoming meeting with the MTC presidency, say your goodbyes, and they go out one door and everyone else goes out a different door. It is an experience all LDS parents will always cherish.

Her mother and I are so proud of her. We admire her and her love of the gospel and her desire to serve. She'll be a great missionary.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Democrat Cabinet Nominee Hearings Are A Joke

We clearly see a double standard with respect the Congressional hearings for some of Obama's cabinet nominees. Swap the party and neither Senator Clinton or NY Fed President Timothy Geithner would stand a chance of getting confirmed.

Mrs. Clinton defines conflict of interest. Her partner in crime's foundation have collected nearly $500m in donations over the past decade from a Star Wars / Hellboy II collection of characters. Not all of them are just well-wishers, hoping nothing in return. The list of shading givings are are long as a dirty shirt sleeve, from African and Middle Eastern nations to European and Latin America.

They (the foundation) can receive donations while she serves as the Secretary of State and they are not required to make them public, unless they are new or larger than previous donations. This is a great system for the country's principle negotiator.

Geithner is nothing more than a criminal, committing crimes associated with the role of Treasurer he will be sworn to uphold. He is a tax dodger and an immigration law violator. He only paid his taxes when he got wind of this appointment. There is no way this man should be confirmed to any cabinet post. He should be removed from his job as one of the Fed presidents as well.

Every one of those that supported Obama for president should question his decision-making. Even before he is sworn in, his bad decisions are becoming lengthy. It is obvious he has surrounded himself with some read dolts, as he makes most of these appointments after consulting with his advisers. He already needs a shake-up of his core advisers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Petrodictators and Foreign Instability

The world's primary petrodictators are found in Russia, Iran and Venezuela -- P.M. Putin, Iranian ayatollahs and their President Ahmadinejad, and Hugo Chavez. They are only able to push their xenophobic, nationalistic agendas when they are able fund their reigns. Fifty dollars per barrel of oil is not going to do it; they need +$100 per barrel.

It is their personal, cronyism goals to promote instability in economic markets. Whether it is supplying Hamas and Hezbollah with rockets, Iran with construction and technology for nuclear programs or not standing in the way of terrorism outside of their countries, they benefit if the rest of the world struggles with shortages and fear.

As long as the petrodollars keep coming in, they are able to perpetuate their grip on power. They will avoid the revolutions that have so often defined their countries. They will continue to live the lives of kings, while committing the most heinous of crimes.

Their goals include changing this low oil price. If they don't their futures (at least in this life) will not arrive at a happy ending.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

We'll Spend Our Way Out of This

President-elect Barack Obama said today that "at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe."

He warned of dire and long-lasting consequences if Congress doesn't pump unprecedented dollars into the national economy.

The almighty one, the anointed one, the king of hope is reading from a broken script.

Since when did Keynesian economics solve any one's problems?

Obama, as would have been McCain, and has been Bush, is so unable to deal with these issues.

I guess people believe the government will solve our problems. Remember Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia and how Sarbanes-Oxley would solve all our corporate financial problems?

The man with hope is now doom and gloom, but holding on to government stimulus programs, pumping currency into the market, and hoping to trump Bush in creating yet bigger government, more bailouts, greater spending and a debt that will never be serviceable.

Yea, there's so much to hope for in this economic half-wit. There's not a Republican to be found to counter his plans with logic and economic reality.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ponzi Schme Extraordinaire: Social Security

The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has dominated the financial pages for a few weeks now. I find it ironic that the federal government is outraged at the crime and the damage it has caused. While at the same time, the federal government continues to allow the largest Ponzi scheme the world has ever know to perpetuate.

With next year's federal budget deficit eying $1.2 trillion, even without the new stimulus spending, is there any hope that the Social Security Ponzi scheme will continue beyond the next few years?

Obama claims that his administration is
"committed to changing the way our government in Washington does business so that we're no longer squandering billions of tax dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or an interest group,"
Time will tell. But the premise behind the SS program is that the young pay for the old. With fewer young and more elderly, the premise does not work.

$1 Trillion Economic Stimulus Plan

President-elect Barack Obama has confirmed plans to spend between $800 billion to $1.3 trillion as part of an economic stimulus program.

Debt and spending money we don't have is what got us in this mess. The whole mortgage debacle was nothing but an empty suit:

-- "buy now, nothing down; the value of the property can only go up."
-- "refinance at unheard of rate; spend that money on new furniture, a new car, a boat, snowmobiles, a vacation for the family."
-- "spend, spend, spend; consume, consume, consume; for tomorrow we die."

There is absolutely no proof that government economic stimulus programs ever work. they have never worked in America -- Roosevelt's efforts failed. They have never worked in other countries. Japan is the one of the best case studies out there for failed monetary and economic policies.

Obama is saying things like we will spend a trillion new dollars "wisely, with oversight and transparency." The spending is nothing more than pork. Nancy Pelosi said the same thing when she took the reigns of the House. Obama is talking about 3 million new jobs with 600,000 coming from the federal government. Yea, that's what we need...more people working for the government (20 percent is not enough).

Clinton, Bush, Hassert, Gingrich, Pelosi, Dole, Lott, Daschle and Reid and every Representative and Senator over the past ten to twenty years have presided over the greatest expansion of government ever; I surmise in the history of the world. Obama will attempt to trump this. There's not reason to think he will not. That's who he is.

Printing more money and implementing traditional monetarism is what's occuring now. Couple that with Keynesian stimulus programs and you have a sure-firm recipe for disaster. They don't work; never have; never will.

Obama has aspirations of Roosevelt-like taxation on high earners. Like Roosevelt, I think he'd like to put a 90-100 percent tax rate on all high earners. Although he may not seek a quick repeal of President Bush's tax cuts for people making over $250,000, he plans on letting them expire in 2010.

Everything the federal government is doing now with it economic policy is wrong, be it economic stimulus, increasing the money supply, or bailing out various industries. They never mention cutting expenses. The modus operandi is try to do more with more people and more programs.

The bottom line is that the bubble will bust...even more than it already has. The result will be enormous tax increases. Who will pay? Those with money -- the few. Who will want them to pay? Those without the money -- the many.

The government's monetary policy will encourage a decrease in wealthy and middle class, and an increase in poor. The poor vote for those that promise them relief. It is a self-fulfilling model made popular by Roosevelt, Chavez and Putin.

Do politicians ever consider economic history?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Dollar Crisis

Recently, one of my brother-in-law's gave me The Dollar Crisis by Richard Duncan to read. Although published in 2003, he nailed the current global economic we now find ourselves in.

He spends time discussing Bretton Woods and the departure from the gold standard, the balance or rather imbalance of payments, the dependence of much of the world on US imports, the credit unworthiness of the US, and deflation at the consumer price level.

He gives great examples of Asian and South American economic disasters, Japan being a key one.

With the US going deeper and deeper into debt to the rest of the world, the US consumer cannot continue to spend with credit and borrow to buy or refinance ever-bigger houses indefinitely. The bubble will eventually burst. Other countries will have over-capacities with no buyers for their products. As nations build products with cheap labor, the international monetary system generates deflation.

With mortgage providers pushing new loan packages and Fannie and Freddie buying them, property prices will continue to rise, and the house of cards will come down. A Ponzi scheme on a bigger scale than Bernie Madoff, second only to the Social Security Ponzi scheme being carried out by the federal government.

"The dollar standard lacks adjustment mechanisms to prevent persistent trade imbalances." It cannot tolerate "rampant credit creation." "Every bubble ends the same way."
When bubble economies deflate, there are generally tow types of costs that a government must bear in order to prevent the subsequent recession from spiraling into crisis. The first is the direct cost of bailing out the depositors of the failed banking system. The second is the cost of the annual fiscal deficits that come about as a combination of lower, post-bubble tax revenues and higher expenditures on stimulus programs and social safety nets.
He predicted the crisis -- in the insurance industry [AIG], in the government sponsored enterprises [Fannie and Freddie], in the banking sector, the investment houses [Lehman] -- and that the costs of the bailout[s] will come on top of record financial deficits.

We have had an explosion of global credit resulting in an imbalance of payments. There is a disequilibrium in the global economy that is unsustainable that will result in the collapse of the US dollar. A recession in the US will reduce our account deficit and cause a global economic slump.

He has a couple of solutions, although they are part Keynesian and part monetarist. First, he proposes a global minimum wage, targeted at exporting nations and specific industries. He is suggesting a $1 per day increase per worker over a ten year period. Second, he proposes control over the global money supply (MG) using the IMF as the global central bank.

A great read. I am sold on his analysis; I am not sold on his solutions. I really do not like putting the US in the hands of global bureaucrats. It punts on national sovereignty; always a risky proposition. But in a global economy, new thinking is required.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Political Corruption...the American Way

When most Americans think of political corruption, we think of Latin America and African dictators. Rarely do we think of our own democracy. But corruption has been a part of the American way for ever. The difference is that many people tend to benefit from the corruptible behavior, not just the politician or his immediate family.

Earmarks are 100 percent corruption. Politician wanting for their districts things that matter little to those outside of the district -- using other people money for a politician's selfish needs. Result: more contributions and re-election.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich who is charged with attempted to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama is just normal behavior in Chicago politics. I see no reason not to allow Roland Burris to take that Senate seat after being appointed by a sitting governor, although tainted. Innocent until proven guilty...right?

Al Franken is declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race unseating Norm Coleman with his 42% of the vote. The whole state-ran votes to count / votes not to count process is very shaky. A great editorial in today's WSJ clearly shows how corrupt the oversight process has been.

Votes are bought and sold. Donations are made and political payback is expected. That's just the way it is. If you decide to make a career out of politics, you make a conscious effort to lie, cheat and steal. They all start off justifying it but before long, they are as corrupt as the next guy.

Political party does not matter. Professional and education backgrounds do not matter. Religious affiliation does not matter. The Mormon politicians are every bit as corrupt as the Baptist, Evangelical, Jew, Catholic or agnostic.

It is really hard to image how any long-serving politician will make it through the pearly gates, unless of course, the gatekeeper is one of his cronies. Cronyism is certainly a part of all churches and religious organization, including the Mormon church.