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In this issue of Small Business News from The Stevie Awards:
An Epic Story of Re-branding
How to Overcome a Sales Dip
Podcast Interview: Michael Kempner of MWW Group
Small Business Blogs & Sites of Note
Calendar of Events for Small Business
AN EPIC STORY OF RE-BRANDING

Epic Advertising's Web Marketing Team in New York won the Stevie Award for Marketing Team of the Year in the 2009 American Business Awards. Here’s how they did it.

Epic AdvertisingEpic Advertising’s Web Marketing team is a small, focused team. But don’t let the size fool you: This team was responsible for helping boost revenues that were already well into the nine figures entering 2008.

In winning the Stevie Award in June, Michael Sprouse, Chief Marketing Officer, said: “We are incredibly proud and honored to have received this recognition. As a first-time entrant to the American Business Awards in 2008, we are very humbled indeed to have received such a distinction.” Sprouse added, “We take great pride in being a very small yet powerful team that is able to accomplish a great deal without depleting too many resources, either human or fiscal.”

Epic’s team is comprised of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), responsible for strategy, vision, and tactics; the Creative Director; the Senior Marketing Manager; the Senior Manager of Distribution & Marketing, and a team of Web designers and managers. Some of the group’s main responsibilities include PR and communications, trade shows, corporate and trade marketing, creative services, company-hosted events, sales and distribution support, and philanthropy.

New Year’s Resolution 
Entering 2008, the company was faced with stagnant revenue; low support for Marketing; little marketing direction, strategy, or identity; and little industry or trade “voice”—all of which negatively impacted its ability to attract advertisers and publishers looking for the services the company offered.

The first changes came in January 2008 with the naming of a new CEO, and an entirely new marketing strategy spearheaded by a new CMO. The challenge for the new management team was to boost the company’s revenues, but with a much smaller marketing budget than in previous years.

By April 1, 2008, however, the Web Marketing team had successfully rebranded the company at a cost of less than $10,000. All aspects of the rebranding—new corporate site, printed materials, and communications—were done in-house and created in less than eight weeks.

In recognition of this, the team was named a 2009 REBRAND 100® winner, awarded to the most successful rebranding efforts in the world, and chosen from companies in all industries and sectors.

Creating a Buzz
The Web Marketing team continued to raise Epic’s visibility throughout 2008 at trade shows, and in trade, B2B, and business publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Paid Content, and Adotas. This resulted in a brand buzz and industry recognition never before seen in the company’s nine-year history.

At the same time, the team managed to completely overhaul the company’s
sales materials. They also redesigned the corporate Web site into an award-winning one, and planned a 500-person promotional event at the industry’s largest trade show—Ad:Tech New York—which generated tens of thousands of dollars of incremental advertising business.

And all this on a minimal budget.

International Expansion
Continuing the company’s success story, Epic Advertising opened a London office in late 2008, and­—while still confined by the restrictive budget—managed to support PR for an entire office renovation, including the creation of a new international business division, while seamlessly supporting all other company functions including Sales, Distribution, Product, Operations, Legal/Compliance, and Finance.

Finally, the Web Marketing team instituted the company’s first-ever philanthropic program as well as a “Green” initiative in 2008, and both these programs have continued to grow and expand through 2009.

Epic’s marketing team has been responsible for the company garnering other industry awards, including Creative Services and Design recognition from the IAC, and “emerging company” recognition from the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies in America and AlwaysOn.

The internal company goodwill resulting from Epic Advertising’s successful turnaround cannot be measured or quantified, but it certainly made a difference in the working environment and, equally importantly, the company’s successful growth.

About Michael Sprouse
As the Chief Marketing Officer for Epic Advertising, Michael Sprouse oversees all marketing strategy for the company, direct marketing programs, public relations strategy and management, events, creative services, trade marketing, internal communications, and corporate brand development. Sprouse has moved the company into a highly recognizable position in the online marketing industry.  He has increased the company’s public visibility in the areas of emerging technology, marketing integrity, and performance marketing, resulting in financial growth and industry-wide recognition. His opinion and expert industry analysis have been cited in several international industry publications such as Marketing Sherpa, BNet, Advertising Age, Paidcontent.org, Mobile Marketer, DM News, iMedia Connection, Feedfront, Mediapost, BtoB Magazine, and several other prominent industry blogs and periodicals. He has also been an editorial contributor to respected business publications Adotas and Mobile Marketer, and has been featured on the back page of Marketing News.

Prior to joining Epic Advertising, Sprouse served as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Playboy Enterprises, Inc. In his five years at Playboy, Sprouse helped to oversee a business transformation in their digital and e-commerce business unit as the youngest senior executive in the company’s 56-year history. Before Playboy, Sprouse spent five years at MBI, Inc. (The Danbury Mint), which manufactures and markets fine collectibles direct to consumers. During his tenure there, he was the developer and first-ever manager of the company’s Web business and led the company into a form of its current e-commerce business. Earlier, Sprouse was a world-ranked ATP men’s tennis player, participating in world-class professional tournaments all around the world. He has also competed in seven marathons, including New York, Boston, and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

Sprouse graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame, and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting. He currently serves on the Advisory Board for Think ECO-logical and is a member of The CMO Council and the American Marketing Association.

About Epic Advertising
Epic Advertising is a global online performance marketing company that provides advertisers and agencies with measurable Internet advertising impact. Leveraging proprietary and patent-pending technologies, and well over 45,000 publishers, Epic provides its advertising partners with performance- and direct- response marketing services, search engine marketing, media planning, branded marketing campaigns, and a targeted worldwide online reach.

A pioneer in both the online performance marketing industry and in Internet advertising integrity assurance and compliance, Epic Advertising has an intense focus on achieving the highest ROI yield for its advertising partners via transparent display and search consumer Web traffic. Epic scales its solutions through enormous Internet reach, proprietary and patent-pending technology, and unparalleled industry expertise.

Epic Advertising is headquartered in New York, with offices in San Francisco, Toronto, and London. For more information, visit www.EpicAdvertising.com.

HOW TO OVERCOME A SALES DIP

By Darrell Zahorsky, About.com Guide

Darrell Zahorsky, the Small Business Information Editor at About.com, is a member of the Board of Distinguished Judges & Advisors of the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Tire KickerNo business is immune to a sales slump. Changing market conditions, sagging consumer confidence, unmotivated staff, and new competitive threats can all quickly send stellar sales performance into a fast downward spiral. Small business owners and their sales teams today are facing intense competition for accounts, while experiencing eroding margins and longer sales cycles.

What's a small business owner to do when sales start to take a dip?  Here are five key sales strategies for small business experiencing a sales dip:

Focus on Fundamentals:
As any sports team knows during a slump, the best approach is to go back to basics. Look at each stage of your sales process: Do your lead-generating activities bring quality, interested clients or mere "tire-kickers"? Does your team really understand your customers with in-depth needs assessments? Are features and benefits tied to specific problems facing customers today? Can you and your team close sales effectively in a smooth, well-timed manner?

Fire Your Customers:
Closely examine all of your accounts. There might be high-maintenance clients who are using up your time and resources with little or zero profit. Focus on the customers that appreciate your business and are profitable.

Trim the Dead Wood:
In flourishing times, sales come easily, so your top performer may have really been an order taker. The current market requires professional sales personnel. Evaluate your under-performers: support and coach them. If they can't learn the necessary skills or are unmotivated, it's time to part ways.

Have Huddles:
Hold regular monthly meetings for your staff. Spend this time to role play skills, share best practices, have fun, and give a motivational boost.

Reexamine Pricing Models:
Blindly cutting prices to increasing competitive pressure is a sure way to shorten your business’s lifespan. Carefully look where to change prices, and find ways to tie pricing to a long-term relationship. For example, a three-year $599 contract is better for you and your client than a yearly $249 contract. Build a long-term relationship with your market.

During a sales dip, the small business that prospers and survives is the one that adjusts its sales approach to meet the current conditions.

Don't wait for an automatic turn around … the time is now for a closer look at your sales tactics.

About The About Group
The About Group comprises the Web sites About.com, ConsumerSearch.com, UCompareHealthCare.com, and Caloriecount.about.com.

• About.com is one of the Web's leading producers of original content. The site's expert Guides provide users with accurate and unbiased information to help them live happier, healthier, and more successful lives.

• ConsumerSearch.com analyzes expert and user-generated consumer product reviews and recommends the best products to purchase based on their findings.

• UCompareHealthCare.com provides dynamic interactive tools that enable users to measure the quality of healthcare services.

• Caloriecount.about.com offers weight-management tools, social support, and nutritional information to help users achieve their diet goals.

The About Group is part of The New York Times Company, a leading media company with 2008 revenues of $2.9 billion, which includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, fifteen other daily newspapers, and more than fifty Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com, and About.com. The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting, and distributing high-quality news, information, and entertainment.

This article is reproduced with the permission of The New York Times News Service & Syndicate.

PODCAST INTERVIEW: MICHAEL KEMPNER OF MWW GROUP

Michael KempnerMWW Group is a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm known for its results-driven
approach to public relations and "Aim High. Deliver." philosophy. MWW Group won the Stevie Award for Public Relations Agency of the Year in The 2008 American Business Awards.

We recently spoke with Michael Kempner, President and CEO of the agency, about how the firm began, how it's grown, and how the PR business is changing.

Michael himself was honored with the Stevie Award for Communications Executive of the Year in The 2009 International Business Awards.

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SMALL BUSINESS BLOGS & SITES OF NOTE

Blogs, or web logs, are all the rage these days. Each month in this space we'll point you to several blogs that we think might be of interest to you.

She Takes on the World: A Finalist in the 2009 Stevie Awards for Women in Business for Best Blog, this site offers articles on subjects related to entrepreneurship, interviews with women entrepreneurs, business resources, and a free directory for women-owned businesses.
FoldSchool: Downloadable patterns and instructions for making simple cardboard furniture for kids, from Swiss designer Nicola Enrico Staubli.
Sight Unseen: A new design blog that takes readers inside the worlds of design, art, fashion, food, photography, and other creative disciplines and uncovers the stories of people who love to make things.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR SMALL BUSINESS
Calendar of Upcoming Events for Small Business Owners and Managers
November 20 : First early-bird entry deadline for 8th annual American Business Awards
December 11 : Final entry deadline for 4th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service
December 18 : Second early-bird entry deadline for 8th annual American Business Awards