Let’s Watch a Movie

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When someone says, “Let’s watch a movie,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you immediately think of a group outing to go watch the latest flick? Perhaps your preferred viewing venue is the more cozy environment of your living room couch. Could it be that watching a movie is a solitary experience for you, one that is enjoyed parked in front of your laptop computer Whatever it may be, there are a multitude of options for watching a movie – and a diverse list of business enterprises that support those variations. Consider the following options for watching a movie:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is not likely where you would start your list, but, yes, drive-in movie theaters still exist – and there is resurgence of interest. According to drive-ins.com, there are 520 drive-ins operating in the United States today.
  • Single-Screen Theaters: The traditional theater with a solitary screen is also waning in popularity and in numbers, but it is not a thing of the past either. Close to where I live is a one-screen theater that has been making a go of it – and attendance is increasing.
  • Multiplex Theaters: The multiscreen theater is the premier venue for the off-site (that is, away from home) movie-viewing experience. These theaters offer multiple titles and varied viewing times. For major openings, they can show films simultaneously on multiple screens and with staggered starting times.
  • Network TV: This is the least costly option for those willing to wait to watch a particular movie. With an antenna, viewing is essentially free, sans the electricity to operate the TV. If you have cable or satellite, the effective cost goes up, but still there is no incremental per movie charge.
  • Movie Channels: Some movie channels are included as part of a cable/satellite subscriber package, whereas others require a monthly subscription. These are great ways to watch current and classic movies – and everything in between – providing you are willing to scrutinize the programming schedule for desired titles.
  • Pay-per-View: This is generally available on cable/satellite systems, allowing for the viewing of movies (limited to what is offered and when it is showing); there is a charge for each viewing. Essentially this model combines the scheduling and admission elements of a theater with the comfort of home viewing.
  • Video-on-Demand: On-demand is pay-per-view without the schedule. Start a movie at any time, on any day.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Video rental stores function like a library for movies – except that there is a cost for each rental. Most stores are fairly limited in their titles and may stock few copies.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix (90,000 titles) led the way with this option, with Blockbuster (80,000 titles) and others following. This service allows customers to order a movie online and have it mailed to their home, often by the next day. Watch the movie and mail it back – with free mailing. Although advance planning is required, it is less hassle than driving to a video rental – twice – and there are many more titles and copies available.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This is much like the video-on-demand option, but it utilizes the Internet for distribution (think YouTube, with high quality, for movies). Currently Netflix and Movielink (acquired by Blockbuster) each have 6,000 titles available for download.

What does all this mean? Plenty – and it can apply to any industry or business.

The movie distribution business is highly fragmented with many competing variations. Each of the options listed has a threatened existence. Some of them are arguably obsolete, requiring innovation and determination to remain viable. Many are feeling competitive pressures that endanger their existence. For those on the leading edge, technological advances could render them obsolete in an incredibly short time.

Let’s revisit the list again, with these issues in mind:

  • Drive-in Movie Theaters: This is an obsolete option. Those that have survived have adjusted their business model and reinvented themselves to make it work. Over 500 have done just that.
  • Single-Screen Theater: This option is one step removed from the drive-in. Those that have stayed open have figured out how to market themselves and fit into a desirable, sustainable niche.
  • Multiplex Theater: The leader among off-site movie viewing, and the conventional business model, the multiplex is facing increased and intense pressure from the remaining options on the list (except for network TV).
  • Network TV: This is the last distribution node to obtain a movie after its release; therefore, it is typically the last option we consider. How would you like to be least preferred option and garnering decreased interest? Enough said.
  • Movie Channels: An option for many, but increasingly viewed as limited in comparison to the next five options.
  • Pay-per-View: You get to see movies closer to their release date then the preceding options, but the titles are quite limited in selection and somewhat restricted by schedule.
  • Video-on-Demand: This solves the scheduling restriction of pay-per-view, but still suffers from limited titles.
  • Local Video Rental Store: Who wants the hassle of going to a video store to rent a movie, especially without knowing if your title will be available? Succinctly put, this model is rapidly approaching obsolesce. This is precisely why Blockbuster ventured into rental via mail.
  • Mail Rental: Netflix changed how we rent movies, but this model will quickly fade. Downloading movies will soon make this option passé.
  • Download Rental and Streaming Video: This remaining option seemingly has no immediate threats, but it is a technology-based solution and technology changes rapidly. As such, a pervasive threat to this business model could erupt at any moment and with little or no warning.

Many industries are likewise fragmented. Some businesses are stuck in the past. These companies, mired in obsolescence, are still in business because they have done what the drive-ins and single screen theaters have done: somehow they reinvented themselves, found a niche, and marketed effectively.

Then there are organizations that are trapped in their business plan, traveling down a narrowing road. Perhaps their distinctive advantage is their staff, but they can’t hire enough qualified employees. Maybe they have staked their future on an uncertain and questionable strategy. Others are loaded with technology, but the next competitive technological innovation could render all that they have as something that no one wants.

This analysis is not unique to movie distribution. It exists in every business, in every industry, and in every economy. Some will survive and some won’t. The key is taking what you have and using it to your advantage, perhaps in a way that no one else has thought of. It could be your location, your staff, your technology, your niche, your management team, your leadership, or something else. If you have none of these options, then perhaps it’s time to morph into another line of business, be it within or apart from the industry in which you are currently a part of. Regardless of your situation, with determination and innovation there’s always the opportunity to reinvent your business. The one solution that won’t work is to do nothing at all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

How to Make a Book Cover Design that Flies Off the Shelf!

By Karen Saunders

Karen Saunders-BOOK COVER DESIGN

According to “The Wall Street Journal”, “The average bookstore browser who picks up a book spends eight seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds reading the back.” You can’t tell—but you can sell—a book by its cover.” Here are a few powerful book cover design techniques that professional book designers use:

The essential elements for your front cover

The front cover presents your book title, subtitle, and your name. Golden opportunities often overlooked are including endorsements and short testimonials from VIPs.

Think of your cover like a billboard. The best designs communicate the book’s message at a glance, with simple, uncluttered design. Unique, distinctive, bold, colorful graphics work well. But keep the graphic style consistent with the content and personality of the book. Make sure there is a central focal point to your design. Book cover design is a form of packaging—and good packaging attracts buyers to products. Click To Tweet

I recommend using bold, contrasting lettering on the front cover. When choosing colors, consider how these colors will look when converted to black and white so your cover will reproduce well in black and white ads, catalogs, and flyers. Also make sure the font you use for the title is legible from a distance and appropriate for the book’s subject.

Covers that scream “amateur” and have a “made-at-home look” make it difficult to sell your book at all. If you lack talent in this area, seek the services of an experienced book cover designer. A professional designer has the creativity, skills, software, access to stock photography, and printing knowledge that will make your cover stand out above others in the marketplace.

What should you put on your spine

Your name, book title, and publishing company logo show up on the spine. Make sure the information on the spine is clean, uncluttered, and legible. I recommend using bold, contrasting lettering on the spine as well.

Critical items you should include on your back cover

Place the category name in the upper left-hand corner to help bookstores shelve your book properly. Write a headline that clearly addresses who should buy the book. It should be followed by sales copy explaining what the book is about. Then provide a short bulleted list of benefits to readers.

I recommend including no more than three testimonials and endorsements, as well as your bio and photograph. Close to the bottom, put “sales-closer” copy in bold print. Position the price in the lower left corner of the back cover. Also include the 13-digit ISBN number for cataloging and the bar code in the lower right corner (below ISBN number), which stores use for scanning information and price.

Don’t forget to include credits for your book cover’s illustrator, photographer, and/or designer.

What goes on the inside flaps (If Applicable)

  • Sales copy
  • Short “teaser” description of the book
  • Your bio and photo

You now have a good idea of what makes a strong book cover design. Remember, book cover design is a form of packaging—and good packaging attracts buyers to products. That’s why successful organizations spend millions researching and developing the best product packaging possible.

Karen Saunders is the author of the e-book, “Turn Eye Appeal into Buy Appeal: How to easily transform your marketing pieces into dazzling, persuasive sales tools!” Karen has produced thousands of successful marketing projects and has designed the covers of 18 books that have become best-sellers or won awards, including a “Writer’s Digest” Grand Prize winner for the best self-published book in America. Contact her at 888-796-7300.

Politics and Outsourcing

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It seems that “outsourcing” has been politicized. Once a word becomes politicized, as outsourcing was in the 2004 United States presidential campaign, all reasonable thinking stops and logic becomes, well, illogical.

Rhetoric steps in and common sense is relegated to lesser important things. Think of any major societal issue and it has likely been politicized by a one word rallying cry. Regardless of what the word is, or it’s original and true intent, proponents hold it up high as a emblem of virtue and all that is good, while opponents decry it as indicative of evil, being characteristic of what is wrong in the world today.

Twenty years ago, the word telemarketing was coined to put an apt and descriptive label on a nascent and promising industry; one that used the telephone to cost-effectively promote products, better service customers, and provide companies with a competitive advantage. But then that simple and benign word became politicized and now few people use it.

Those who still do telemarketing, have long since adopted a less emotionally-laden label for fear of verbal retaliation or psychological retribution. While those who vehemently object to telemarketing’s practice, wield that word as an offensive slur to convey their frustration against all they find unacceptable in businesses. In short, it is no longer politically correct to engage in telemarketing. A word is a powerful thing.

So, emotion and rhetoric aside, what is outsourcing? In it’s broadest, most general sense, outsourcing is having another company to do work for you that you could do yourself. This occurs at both the business level and a personal level – and more frequently then you might think.

Some common business outsourcing examples include: payroll, bookkeeping, human resources, building maintenance, cleaning services, telecommunications management, public relations, executive search, tax accounting, information technology, and, call processing. On the personal level, we outsource as well.

Consider the dry cleaners, car washes, tax accountants, lawn services, car mechanics, maid services, pizza delivery, catering, and so forth. In fact, anyone who provides a service is actually an outsourcer and we are all, in one way or another, consumers of outsourcing services.

Does this imply that outsourcing is a manifestation of laziness? Although that may be the case in some limited instances, the far more common and general reasoning is that outsourcing can reduce costs, save time, or result in higher quality. Sometimes outsourcers can provide two of these results or maybe even all three.

Another oft-stated justification for outsourcing is that it allows organizations to offload nonessential tasks, thereby permitting them to focus limited resources (which is a reality for every organization limited resources) on their core competencies. Some organizations have found it beneficial to even outsource their core competencies. Why not if it can be done cheaper, better, or faster by a specialist?

Therefore, we can correctly conclude that the entire service sector provides outsourcing services, that we all use these outsourcing services, and that there are many wise and beneficial business reasons to do so. So why all the flap over something that is so common and so pervasive?

Although the word “outsourcing” is the moniker that has been villainized, this is a grossly unfair and ignorant generalization. What the focus and outcry is truly about is offshore call center outsourcing that is done badly. Offshoring is not outsourcing, but rather a small subset of it.

In fact, the majority of call center outsourcing today is reportedly intra-country, that is, it is companies located within the United States, outsourcing call processing work to call centers located within the United States. Yes, there is an increasing trend towards offshore call center outsourcing, and it may one day represent the majority, but for the near future it embodies a minority of call center outsourcing, where it is projected to remain for the next several years.

This is in no way to imply that I am against offshore call center outsourcing per se. I am, in fact, a hard-core, free-market, laissez-faire idealist. At least until my phone call is answered by someone who I can’t understand, be it due to a heavy accent or words that are used in a way that simply doesn’t make sense. While such a result may be indicative (but not necessarily so) that a call center is located outside the country, it is critical to point out that the converse should not be assumed either. That is, every agent who speaks with clear and comprehensible English, is not automatically US-based.

Just as lucid communication can occur with agents in other countries, severe communication hurdles can exist with agents located within our borders. The original and true frustration was not with the location of the agent, but quite simply with their ability to effective communicate in understandable and conversational English.

Politicians saw this frustration as a safe and universally acceptable cause on which to campaign. They made the false assumption that it was a location issue, put a wrong label on it (outsourcing versus offshoring), vilified it, and promoted themselves as the ones who could solve the problem they defined. That’s politics!

The next step was to feed the fire by adding fuel to their argument. National security issues were brought into play, as was personal privacy concerns, since information was leaving the country to reside in a foreign-located database. The exporting of jobs was denounced, as was the harm that this was causing to the U.S. economy.

By the time the politicians were done, “outsourcing” (or more correctly, offshore call center outsourcing) was portrayed as a threat to all that is American. It was the enemy and it had to be stopped. Rhetoric is persuasive and as such, a word becomes a powerful thing.

The results of all this are sad, but predictable. First, people learned that is was okay to be intolerant of agents who spoke with an accent or hadn’t yet fully mastered the English vernacular. Unfortunately, some people went beyond intolerance, with their attitudes spilling over into hatred, bigotry, and abhorrence. Second, we were taught that any form of call center outsourcing – in fact, all outsourcing – is an increasingly unpatriotic and unacceptable act.

Lastly, and most dangerously for the industry, is a spate of bills that were introduced on the national, state, and local level to control, limit, or restrict the inbound call center industry. Although the intent of these bills are ostensibly focused against the offshore call center, their broad and inclusive language is all-encompassing, covering all call center outsourcers (remember that U.S.-based call centers handle the majority of US outsourcing work) and has widespread ramifications for the in-house call center as well.

Less anyone misunderstand what I am saying or the way in which I communicated it:

  • Outsourcing is not synonymous with offshoring.
  • I support outsourcing as good, beneficial, and necessary and I am passionate about the importance and value it.
  • Offshore outsourcing is here, it is real, and the marketplace should decide its position in the global economy.
  • The real enemy is legislation, which if left unchecked will forever and detrimentally change the entire call center industry, be it outbound or inbound, outsource, or in-house, as well as offshore.
  • I love the USA – it’s the politicians that drive me crazy!

Don’t let the politicians skew your understanding of outsourcing.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Why Area Codes Change

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As telephone numbers are assigned, the availability of numbers within an area code diminishes. In order to make sure that there are always numbers available, usage is analyzed, number exhaustion dates are projected, and steps are taken to provide for more numbers.

Although short-term steps can be taken to deal with and respond to this, the long-term solution is either an area code split or an area code overlay. Both methods accomplish the same goal of making more numbers available; however, each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

An area code split means that the geographic region of the area code is divided in two. One part will keep the same area code, while the other section must switch to a new area code (but everyone will retain their seven-digit number). There is a transition period for this, called permissive dialing, in which either the old or new area code can be dialed for the effected section. After a time, mandatory dialing goes into effect. At this point, any call to the new region using the old area code will not go through. These numbers eventually become available for reuse. Splits are not popular with businesses, as it requires printing new stationary, changing all advertising, and many other changes, including reprogramming phone systems. (In rapidly growing areas, to avoid the need to repeat this process in a few years, sometimes a three-way split is made at the same time. This divides an area into three sections, one retaining the original area code and the other two each getting their own new area code.)

An area code overlay means that a new area code is assigned to the same geographic region as the existing code(s), which is running out of numbers. With an overlay, no one needs to change area codes. However, if it is not already implemented, ten-digit dialing becomes required for all calls, even local numbers. All new number assignments are in the new area code. As such, ordering a second line could result in a number with a different area code. Overlays are not popular with most consumers, as they do not want to dial ten digits on every call, nor remember different area codes for friends and neighbors.

If you are in area that is running out of phone numbers, you can expect your local phone company to provide ample notification in the form of letters or bill inserts, giving you time to make the needed plans and adjustments. However, do not expect to be notified of changes outside of your area code. Therefore, if your area code changes, it is up to you to notify those who call you from outside your area. Likewise, others will need to notify you should their area code change.

Dealing with new or changing area codes is not easy or enjoyable, but it is necessary to ensure that there is an adequate supply of numbers for future growth.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

The Impending “Do Not Market” Threat

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Have you heard about the onslaught of Do Not Market laws proposed at the local, state, and federal level? You haven’t? Well, there is good reason that this pending legislation has caught you unawares. The fact is that it doesn’t exist – per se.

However, in reality there is a plethora of existing laws and proposed legislation that serve to significantly restrict how we all market our products and services. In total, these well-intended but overreaching and imprudent bills combine to effectively amount to one massive Do Not Market law. What is at stake is our ability to promote our businesses and make sales. Once these restrictions are placed on every business, the future of the U.S. economy and its viability as a nation will be in jeopardy.

Less you think this is hyperbole, consider what would happen if you were effectively prohibited from any and all marketing activities. You would be forced to rely on a “build it and they will come” approach to sales. In effect, this would reduce your sales and marketing departments to the mode of reactive order-taker. What would happen to your sales numbers? Most likely business would decline, maybe even going into a free fall. You would stop hiring and begin laying off staff; capital investments would be put on hold; expansion plans would be terminated. This would ripple through the economy, and a recession would follow.

Okay, I admit, this is a tad bit reactionary. But if we truly couldn’t do any marketing, this becomes a dreadfully real and inevitable scenario. Surely, you say, our elected officials wouldn’t go so far as to legislate our economy into disarray by prohibiting all forms of marketing – would they? Let’s review:

  • For several years, we have been prohibited from sending unsolicited faxes. What was once viewed as an efficient and cost-effective alternative to direct mail was summarily made illegal. Nix the fax.
  • The bellwether bill was the national Do Not Call law and its numerous state counterparts. This devastated calling consumers. Given its immense public support and self-serving political expediency, we should also expect similar future limitations placed on contacting businesses via phone.
  • The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (yes, it was four years ago) put onerous restrictions on email marketing messages and solicitations. Since enforcement of this act is both challenging and cumbersome, it has yet to make a dent in spam, its intended target, which continues to grow unrelentingly. It has, however, given conscientious businesses pause in what content they include in email messages and to whom they send them. The honest have been dissuaded, while the crooks continue unabated. Plus, with the implementation of spam filters at numerous junctures along the path of an email message, there is serious doubt as to how often our carefully crafted and legally compliant messages actually get through to the intended recipient. To make things even more cumbersome on the law-abiding, there are proposed Do Not Email bills floating about.
  • Consider direct mail. The postal rate hike was discouraging enough, but many Do Not Mail bills are in the works as well. So, even if we can afford it, mailing promotional items may become moot.
  • Many other forms of marketing are facing restrictions on a local or regional basis, including billboards, the use of spotlights and PA systems, door-to-door selling, handing out flyers, the size and placement of signage, and so forth. Used wrongly, these can be deemed a nuisance by the buying public, but why should everyone be penalized for a few overzealous marketers?

What is left? Certainly broadcast marketing (radio and TV) is one option. With broadcast media, there are already many balanced, appropriate, and accepted laws on the books that govern ad content. Nothing more is in the works at this time. Unfortunately, radio and TV are not effective media for many businesses and out of the question for many marketing budgets. Besides, with the proliferation of DVRs (digital video recorders), how many viewers are zipping past those television commercials anyway? Concerning radio, be aware that more and more listeners are finding their music online, effectively bypassing commercial radio.

Perhaps the most viable remaining category is print media (newspapers, magazines, and newsletters). Like broadcast advertising, print media enjoys time-tested legislation that regulates what can and cannot be included in ads. Print media can be distributed according to a subscription-based model (readers pay to receive it) or an advertiser-based model (companies pay for it to be sent to qualified individuals).

There are two challenges with print advertising. The first is finding the right publication that addresses your target audience. The second is designing an effective ad. Herein is the painful reality of print advertising: a great ad makes things happen; a bad ad does nothing. Interestingly, the only threat to print advertising is not legal, but rather environmental, since no-longer-needed copies end up in the landfill. (This could be the impetus for future legislation.) To address the issue of paper waste, many publications offer electronic alternatives. Over 10 percent of Connections Magazine subscribers currently receive their copies this way; Byte magazine has been 100 percent online for over ten years. This is definitely a trend of the future.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Internet. In the World Wide Web there resides all sorts of interesting and intriguing promotional opportunities. Website sponsorships and banner ads are two prominent options. Search engine advertising is growing at a phenomenal rate. Certainly, having a company website is a requirement. Trying to market in today’s economy without a website is a foolish and shortsighted endeavor, filled with frustration and wasted resources. Increasingly, companies that lack websites are immediately dismissed by prospective customers, who view them as second rate or, worse yet, not even viable. For the progressive, future-focused promoter, consider how SecondLife, MySpace, and FaceBook fit into your marketing mix.

So faxing, calling, emailing, mailing, and broadcasting are increasingly limited marketing options (even when there is an “existing business relationship”). The remaining opportunities exist in the worlds of print media and Internet marketing, which may well become the final frontier of advertising and emerge as the only effective and successful marketing medium in the future.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

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