Posted by: Christine Adams | October 10, 2009

Dr. Bret Simmons: Professor, Mentor and Social Media Guru


I intend to write an entire blog post on mentoring, but before I do I would like to share some thoughts on my most important mentor, Dr. Bret L. Simmons. Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of listening to Bret speak at the Sparks Chamber of Commerce Business Forum. You can see a clip from his speech at my colleague, Alicia Gardner’s blog site. This was by far, the most valuable break-out session of the day. We, as his MBA students were inundated with questions and comments from the audience. They wanted to know more about Bret and what he does, so I thought I could offer a little perspective.

From a Marketing point of view Bret is worthy of mention for several reasons, a few of which I will share with you here:

1. Mentoring – It takes a unique individual to become a true mentor. While Bret is a Professor of Management at the University of Nevada, it is my opinion that his true joy comes from engaging with his students. In my entire college career, I have never come across another professor that cares so much about the future of his students. The time that he puts into helping us succeed has no real benefit to him other than personal gratification, yet I see him time and time again have a profound influence in the lives of many in our student body.

Mentoring provides a reflection of your perspective to another person who can use guidance. Those that engage in this behavior most often have a vested interest in the individual they are teaching or they find fulfillment in helping others. On the flipside, I have noticed that mentoring also creates raving fans that are grateful and speak very highly of the mentor that has helped them develop a new set of skills.

2. Academic – Of course we know that Bret is an academic, he is a professor. When I tell you that he is a true academic, I mean to say that he steps outside of the box and he continues to learn applications that are relevant. He engages in behaviors that will continue to help him succeed and propel him into the future as a leader, not a follower.

It is important for us as human beings to continue to expand our minds. We will never know everything and in a lifetime we will only learn a fraction of the information that is available to benefit our lives. There is nothing more important than the gift of knowledge. Whether you pursue a formal education, or you attend workshops and seminars, or just love to read, my best advice is to continue to learn! “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.” ~Ghandi

3. Social Media Guru – You will never get a clearer perspective on social media than that of Dr. Simmons’s. About 6 months ago Bret decided that he was interested in the platform so he “jumped in and started swimming” as he likes to say. In the beginning, as most of us experience, it seemed like nobody was listening. Bret was diligent and kept trying new and improved methods. He believes in providing value added content and his presence relies solely on helping others not interrupting his audience. Today if you type Bret Simmons into Google, his blog site is the first entry on the list. If you are at all interested in how to be successful with social media, Bret’s blog is full of content that will help you succeed.

The most important things I have learned from Bret regarding social media: 1. Don’t give up. 2. Always add value. 3. Do not try to advertise your products or services. 4. Engage people in meaningful discussion to form relationships. 5. Do not get your feelings hurt when people don’t respond. 6. Always reply back and comment in a positive manner. 7. Stay focused. 8. Make sure you are always present at the right time. 9. Always be contemplating what value you will offer next. 10. Have fun!

Dr. Bret Simmons has by far been my favorite, most influential mentor. After watching him speak at the Business Forum and watching the reaction of others, I now understand that spark that he inspires inside of me is a spark that he ignites in many. He truly has a unique and motivating character. I encourage you to follow his blog which you will find on my blogroll next to this post. You can also find him on Twitter at I promise you will not be disappointed in listening to what he has to say!

“A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” ~Unknown Thank you Bret!

Posted by: Christine Adams | October 5, 2009

Say Thank You…We Appreciate Your Business: Part 2

Two months ago I wrote a blog about writing thank you cards to say you appreciate your client’s business. This post has had more hits than any other I have written. All of the traffic is coming from search engines. During this economic climate it is important to find ways to express to your clients that their business really is important to you. So I have decided to write another post with more creative ways than sending a simple card….which I always suggest as your first step.

1. Business to Business – When I was in radio sales, I used to take a treat to the offices I conducted business with after (not before) the sale was complete to thank them for their business. I would bring donuts and muffins in the morning, Starbucks in the afternoon or Keva Juice during the middle of the day. I rewarded not only the decision maker but the staff as well. This was always a nice touch to say thank you and create raving fans.

thankyou32. Business to Customer – Give them something for free even if it’s not your product. The best example I can think of was when I went through a long custody battle. When the case was complete, to my surprise my attorney sent me a gift certificate to a local, scrumptious restaurant. Not only did it show her good taste, it made me feel like she valued me as a client.

3. Just About Anyone – Add value to your client’s experience. Don’t offer, just give them an upgrade to their service. There are plenty of creative ways each and every business can think of to produce product beyond the customer’s expectations. This goes a long way in the consumer’s mind in the sense that not only did they receive something for free but you actually took the time to thoroughly think through their needs and you came up with an inventive idea to enhance their finished product.

I will refer back to my original post and tell you that the best thing you can do is use those two simple words sincerely. Look them straight in the eye and without being phony or exaggerated, tell them thank you like you mean it! As we struggle through these times, no one means more to our businesses than the fans that support us. However you choose to show it, do not miss one opportunity to say thank you, we appreciate your business!

Posted by: Christine Adams | October 5, 2009

Small Business of the Week: Mammoth Brewing Company


Mammoth Brewing Company is the highest altitude brewer on the West Coast. Started as an add-on Brew-pub to the Whiskey Creek Restaurant in 1995 it was purchased by Sean and Joyce Turner in 2006 as a standalone micro-brewery. Since this time, they have made a few changes including: adding Organic ingredients to the recipes, increasing their distribution footprint to the rest of the Sierras and packing of two of the nine famous brews in aluminum cans. Their brews have some of the most unique tastes one can ever experience! Once you have tasted their beer you can see why they won 11 medals, including 4 Golds and 1 best of show for the 11 brews they entered at the California State Fair.

Each year this exceptional brewery puts on two large events in Mammoth Lakes, California. One of the events is called Bluesapalooza, which showcases 70 of the top micro-breweries from around the country and extraordinary blues performers making this Mammoth’s signature event! In 2009, its 14th year, Bluesapalooza sold out with over 5,000 attendees. This year they also started Big Sky Music Festival which focuses on an environmental theme. They plan to continue to host and encourage this project.

The reason that I chose to highlight Mammoth Brewing Company as my Small Business of the Week is because of Sean Turner’s dedication. All entrepreneurs could learn a valuable lesson from his commitment to growth, exceeding customer’s expectations and his loyalty to his partners in the field. He tirelessly promotes his products at local events and seeks ways to get involved in any program that may enrich his brand. They are also involved with many community projects and donate as much funding to worthy causes as possible.

This last summer I had the pleasure of working with Sean on a road trip from Reno to the Bluesapalooza festival in Mammoth Lakes. Together we came up with a grand plan that involved a charter “party” bus, an overnight stay and festival tickets, all at a very low price to the consumer. We were so confident that this was an incredible idea that we booked a 56 passenger bus and hoped to fill 2 buses total. As time went on and the festival drew near we were no-where near filling the bus. Sean and I reevaluated the entire trip and at that point he made an executive decision to commit to the program because he did not want to disappoint the people that had already booked and he felt a strong obligation to our partnership. Despite every bit of promotion we could possibly think of, in the end we had to reduced the size of the bus and only had a handful of people that actually participated.

What happened next was the truly amazing part of the story. When the handful of people we sent up to Mammoth arrived they were pleasantly surprised that Sean had upgraded their accommodations to the nicest hotel in Mammoth. He ensured that each one of them had VIP passes (which was not part of the deal). He personally went and met with them in the midst of his largest event coordination efforts of the year. When they returned they were the happiest raving fans I have ever come across. I received emails and letters including photographs, all thanking our establishment and Mammoth Brewing Company. None of that would have happened without Sean going the extra mile for a program that would have turned most owners sour. He is a delight to work with, he is an excellent example of a true leader in the industry and he knows what it takes to be an extremely successful entrepreneur!

“He was a wise man who invented beer.” ~Plato

I urge you to try some of Mammoth Brewery’s inventions today! If you enjoy a unique and refreshing brew, you will never come across a better taste. Also remember to support businesses that do excellent things for the community and set outstanding examples.

Posted by: Christine Adams | September 27, 2009

Conducting a Focus Group – Inexpensive Market Research

Conducting a focus group can provide valuable information from existing or potential customers. It allows you to gain insight and feedback which helps you understand attitudes toward your product, service, concept or advertising strategies. The outcome will allow you to adjust your current approach and enhance the options you provide that will ultimately increase sales by providing consumers what they want or need. They can also be used to test a product or concept you are considering launching.


  • Your group should be between 8-12 people. I usually invite about 15, knowing that some people who commit will not show up.
  • Choose an appropriate demographic. Invite current customers, friends of the business and people in close proximity to your business who may not utilize your services. By inviting a broad spectrum of people you are likely to engage in a more meaningful discussion.


  • Consider hiring a moderator outside of your business to conduct the session. This may cost you some money but it will ensure that there is a non-biased party leading the discussion.
  • If you feel you can conduct the focus group yourself in an impartial manner, feel free to proceed but be careful not to sway the conversation.


  • Prepare your list of questions ahead of time. Carefully formulate open ended discussions that require more than a yes or no answer. The idea will be to engage the crowd in thoughtful conversation. Ask specific questions that you would like to clarify in more detail.
  • Construct a written list of questions for your participants to answer anonymously. (Specifically ask them not to place their name on the questionnaire.) Some people may feel more comfortable giving candid answers if they feel like they are not being judged by the group or the moderator.


  • Stay on topic! Often times the group will get off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the question that was posed. It is important to draw them back in to the discussion in a polite manner to keep your focus group on track. Be respectful of your participants’ time and do not allow the session to run too long. (I usually keep my sessions to 2 hours.)
  • Be mindful of your audience. When I conduct a focus group, our owners like to sit in t he back and listen to the responses. They are engaged entrepreneurs which is commendable but at times I wonder if the participants are completely honest knowing that the owners are listening.

Helpful Hints:

  • Provide some sort of incentive to encourage people to participate when you invite them. Some companies offer cash or gifts. Since I work in a restaurant, we offer food and beverage. They are typically scheduled at the end of the work day so we supply dinner and dessert for our group. It is also nice, at the end of the session, to add a thank you gift that the participants did not expect. This will encourage them to return for your next round of focus groups.
  • Take immediate action! It is important to react to suggestions right away! When the participants see their ideas put into action they will take ownership in your business and begin talking to people about their experience. This creates positive word of mouth. Repeat the sessions about 6 months after you have created change. Invite participants back along with new people to ask how they like the changes and find out if they see new opportunities that exist.

Focus groups are an inexpensive way of receiving true feedback about your business. If you would like more information on coordinating focus groups or the types of questions to ask, please feel free to comment here or email me at so I can tailor my suggestions to specific situations. I hope you have found this post interesting enough to start planning your focus group today. 

atomic stone

I recently collaborated with a company who decided to hold a raffle at our Chamber Mixer. During these difficult economic times this company was willing to donate a $14,000 granite kitchen remodel. 100% of the proceeds from raffle tickets sold were donated to Food for Thought, a caring non-profit group who provides food to our community’s hungry, homeless children. The company is called Atomic Stone, they are based out of Carson City, NV and they are very worthy of mention as my Small Business of the Week.

Here are some notable qualities about the company:

  • Environment: They believe wastefulness of their precious materials should not be tolerated.
  • Tradition: They believe that mindful craftsmanship will last for many generations.
  • Personal Service: The amount of time they spend with a client varies by their needs, not the size of the job. They also invite you into their home to view the work they have done for themselves.

A bit about the marketing opportunity they chose to pursue:

  • They partnered with complementary businesses to provide a complete kitchen makeover. This increased the value of the raffle prize and encouraged more tickets to be sold.
  • They got involved with a worthy cause which not only made them feel good about themselves and their company but it also gave Atomic Stone a considerable amount of press on their promotion.
  • They showcased their talents at a local event. It was no mistake that they choose our Chamber Mixer to give away the grand prize. We consistently have a large draw in a relaxed and fun environment.

In the end they raised over $8,000 for Food for Thought with raffle tickets selling for $20 each. (That is quite the accomplishment in my opinion.) The winner of the prize donated an additional $1,000 for a grand total of over $9,000 to help our homeless children. What an incredible gesture for all of the companies that were involved. It was very well received by the public, by the press and by the non-profit beneficiary. I am sure there are many grateful children that would like to thank them.

From a marketing perspective it was probably the best thing they could have done for their business in this economic climate. It drew a lot of attention to a business that consumers may have never recognized. It probably prompted many households to consider a kitchen remodel and now they will have a preference on who they will hire when they choose to utilize the service. It also gave them extensive positive publicity, which any company can use at any point in time. Kudos to Atomic Stone for a job well done!

Posted by: Christine Adams | September 13, 2009

Small Business of the Week: Moms Like Me


Moms Like Me is an online community where moms can gather to discuss topics of interest to them. There are website listings for 40 of our 50 states and many of the states have several city listings. This is site is a forum where moms can feel comfortable asking for advice, sharing stories and posting pictures.

What I find to be so spectacular about this site is that it draws a specific community of people together that may otherwise feel somewhat secluded. They are able to engage in conversation with each other, set play dates and find local activities for their children to participate in. They also have discussion boards and a market place where moms can purchase products from each other.

Our local chapter in Reno has been involved in community service projects such as clean up efforts. They go on monthly hikes together and set-up Momslikeme activities that everyone can partake in. All activities sponsored by Momslikeme must be free to participants. Local businesses donate products or services to provide a safe environment for these activities, which in turn exposes their businesses to a new group of consumers.

This program fosters community involvement, partnerships, and it brings people with common interests together who may have never known each other under and other circumstances. This is an excellent example of a business model that exists for the greater good. If there are any moms reading this post, or businesses that could use more exposure I encourage you to check into your local chapter.

Posted by: Christine Adams | September 11, 2009

The Truth About Advertising

goodbad message

Advertising can be a tricky and expensive venture. There are several mistakes small businesses make when entering this confusing world of ambiguity. Hopefully I can clear up some of the mysteries, offer a few suggestions and help you through your next marketing campaign.

1. Please do not try to track your advertising. I am sure this statement makes some marketers and CEOs cringe. Many people would disagree with that statement.  You are spending a large amount of money; of course you want to know if it is working. Some businesses use coupons or incentives to help accomplish this task. The problem is that you are requiring the customer to do your legwork. You will not get a true feel for how effective your campaign is by asking someone to do something for you. They are coming to you to make a purchase, not to track your campaign.

2. Do NOT stop advertising too soon! I used to sell radio advertising for a living and the single most common mistake that small businesses make is cancelling their advertising before it has had a chance to gain momentum. When placing an advertising buy, do not “try it out” and see if you get results. Stay the course! At minimum you should sign a 6 month contract, but a year would be more beneficial. You will not get the desired results out of a month long campaign. It will only frustrate you and cause you to believe that advertising does not work.

3. Understand that branding your business will prompt people to purchase when they are in need of your product or service. The more times a potential customer hears or sees your name, the more likely they are to react when they are ready to purchase. For some products or services, that does not mean they will be banging at your door today or tomorrow. When they are in need of your business they will choose you and they may not even know why. That is the psychology of repeat impressions.


1. Thoughtful ads that evoke emotion. The standard statistic given is that the average American is exposed to 3,000 advertising messages each day. If this statistic is even remotely accurate, we need to find a way to set ourselves apart. You have two options: 1. don’t advertise and let your competitors be in front of your potential customers all of the time or 2. Use thoughtful ads that evoke emotion. You must find a way for your message to pull at heart strings, hit the hot button, or create a dire need for your product or service. The same old bland message will simply be a needle in a haystack if not carefully delivered.

2. Purchase a good mix of mediums. Split up your budget and use several different forms of advertising. If you are currently on the radio, add print to the mix. Utilize local informational publications. Purchase television ads if you can afford it. (If you purchase cable television because it is cheaper, beware that you pay for what you get! Ask your sales rep to help you choose specific stations and day parts so your message has some frequency with the intended viewers.) The point is to get your message out through as many different avenues as your budget will allow. Remember, the more times a potential customer hears or sees your ad, the more likely they are to react when they need your product or service.   

3. Place ads where your customers will see or hear them. The two key words in that sentence are, “your customer,” that does not mean your preferences are their preferences. When I sold radio, one of my station’s formats was country music. If I would have had a dollar for every person who told me they wouldn’t buy my station because they did not like country, I would be rich! Does that mean country listeners don’t have money to spend? Do they not have consumer needs? The ironic part of this example is that our demographic was primarily “soccer moms” who make the majority of the consumer decisions in the household. Do not judge a form of advertising by what you would personally like or dislike.

Personally, I think that advertising is overrated and far too expensive. I consider grassroots marketing much more effective and I believe that thoughtful campaigns involving community and good deeds go much further than any amount of money spent in the media. The unfortunate part is that if you don’t advertise, your competitors will be in front of the customers that you are not reaching through your viral campaigns.

I could go on for days about the tricks of the trade, what to do, what not to do, but my blog would be far too long. If you have any specific questions on advertising, please feel free to ask. As I said, it is a tricky world, but the more knowledge you possess the more likely you are to come out ahead!

“Kodak sells film, but they don’t advertise film. They advertise memories.” –Theodore Parker

Posted by: Christine Adams | September 6, 2009

Socially Responsible Marketing

There is something fundamentally wrong with a great deal of the marketing and advertising these days. As a Director of Marketing, I understand the logic that goes through the minds of business people when they are trying to maximize revenue. The unfortunate part is that more and more often it comes at the expense of the consumer. We need to be conscience of the impact we, as businesses, are making on society and we need to be concerned about the message that we send. Here are some examples of businesses who have bypassed ethical or moral standards in the pursuit of increased sales:

Anheuser Bush – “Fan Cans” is the new marketing campaign for Bud Light that has 27 color combinations to coincide with colleges and university’s athletic teams. The campaign kicked off with the start of college football this year. This targeted marketing is directed specifically at fans of college football which would include the majority of the beercansstudent population.

In recent years, universities nationwide have come together in a collaborative effort to stop underage drinking and binge drinking by young adults. When you consider the demographic of college students, roughly 50% of students are under the age of 21. This campaign seems to undermine the efforts put forth by the university presidents.

Anheuser Bush has agreed to remove the cans from markets that specifically ask them to do so. Considering that dozens of communities across the nation have asked that the cans be removed from their markets, wouldn’t that suggest that there is something inappropriate with the message? Why do they need to be asked to remove a campaign that could potentially be damaging to our youth? This is a surprising move by an industry leader who just recently agreed to quit pre-packaging energy drinks and alcohol in response to a massive movement by our Attorney State Generals.

Tires Plus – “Free alignment check” does not mean free! I had a recent experience with Tires Plus that was dissatisfying to say the least. First, they said it would be 1 hour and it actually took 3.5 hours, second they put my new tires on the wrong end of the car, and third they didn’t even bother to wipe of my rims after spending $400 on 2 tires. tireBut let’s get to the heart of the advertising debacle.

When I arrived I expected to pay roughly $325 for 2 tires on my Mini Cooper. The gentleman at the front desk asked me if I would like the FREE alignment check. Well, of course, why wouldn’t I? When they finally called 2 and a half hours late he told me that my car needed an alignment and that would be an additional $75. “Would you like us to take care of that for you?” he asked. So I said, “Well I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?” Hearing the irritation in my voice, he then decided to offer me a $10 off coupon…Wow lucky me!

In these economic times you should be completely upfront with your customers. They knew, the moment I agreed to purchase new tires, that I would likely need an alignment. I would have felt much better about the situation if they had simply said, “We will do a free alignment check but it is likely that you will need an alignment and that charge is going to be an extra $75.” To add insult to injury, I was only offered a discount when he understood that I was angry. If the coupon was available, why wouldn’t they offer it to me from the beginning? Sure everything is negotiable, but the customer should not have to fight for the best possible price. Despite my free tire rotations, I will never step foot back in Tires Plus.

Leapfrog – Leap Frog games are great educational tools for children. A beloved game in my household lost some of it luster with tactic I found to be extremely intrusive. I had just purchased my son, who was 4 at the time, a new Batman math game for his Leapster. As I was making dinner, he was sitting in the kitchen with me playing his new game. All of the sudden in the middle of his game, I hear “Congratulations you have won! Have your parents log on to to claim your prize!” My little guy’s eyes lit up as he looked at me and said, “Mommy, mommy, I’m a winner!” After careful explanation of marketing tactics I was finally able to calm him down enough not to have to log onto the website.

Children are inundated with advertising messages every day. We do not have television in our house for that exact reason. This demographic has no choice but to hear the messages and most likely they will react in the form of begging their parents to purchase the products they are targeted with. What made me so angry about the Leapster example is that I had already paid $40 to purchase one of their products but the company could not seem to leave well enough alone. While I was likely to purchase more of their games for my son’s system, now it is more likely that I will never purchase another one of their products again.

Lesson – The important message to take away is that you should always be considerate about your marketing messages. The examples I have given are only a few in a world of intrusive and irresponsible advertising. I intentionally chose drastically different product markets to allow you to see that the need for socially responsible advertising and promotion can take on many forms. Think about how your message may be perceived by its audience before you put it out for everyone to see. Do not support unethical tactics in search of a better bottom line.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.  ~John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Posted by: Christine Adams | September 5, 2009

Small Business of the Week: Uncommon Goods

uncommon goods 2

This week I would like to draw attention to a website/catalog that sells truly unique gifts. Personally, I am a huge fan of finding things for my friends and relatives that no one else can find which is why I love this collection of gifts. There are several things about this company that I find outstanding!

Uncommon Goods was founded by David Bolotsky in 1999 and is headquartered in New York City. They strive to bring “creatively designed, high-quality merchandise to consumers at affordable prices.” Their business model hinges on the following format: featured artists and handmade goods, service guarantees, sustainability and donations.

Featured Artists and Handmade Goods: Many of the products that you will find in this collection are handmade mailboxby talented artists from all over the country. I wrote about Graham Bergh in one of my earlier posts, he is just one of many that are now selling their art on a national level. Uncommon Goods features household items, garden accessories and jewelry just to name a few.

Service Guarantees: This company offers same day shipping, customer service availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as well as gift packaging. They have also been awarded several Circle of Excellence Awards from BizRate, the Internet’s leading authority in customer satisfaction.

recycleSustainability: It seems they truly care about the impact their business has on the world and our environment. All of their products are made without harm to animals, and they offer many organic and recycled products. Even the catalog that I receive in the mail is printed on recycled paper and it encourages you to please recycle it when you are finished using it.

Donations: When you order from Uncommon Goods you have a choice of charities you may ask them to donate to. The following non-profits receive $1 per purchase when chosen by consumers: AmeriCares – provides humanitarian relief to victims of disasters worldwide, Craft Emergency Relief Fund – provides support to artisans suffering career-threatening emergencies, Defenders of Wildlife – helps save the planet and animals in their natural habitat for future generations moneyand Comprehensive Development – assists underserved high school students in New York City. In 2007, Uncommon Goods donated approximately $100,000 through their Better to Give program.

This is an excellent example of a company who offers outstanding customer service, they give back to the community and they care about the footprint that they leave behind. We should all support businesses such as this, to help make our world a better place.  As the holiday season approaches, I urge you to please take a look at their website: for an extremely unique shopping experience!

Posted by: Christine Adams | August 29, 2009

Get Involved with a Worthy Cause


Today we had a group discussion about the state of affairs in the world and an interesting point was made. “People are sitting back waiting for someone else to take responsibility for change.” Changing the world may seem like an enormous feat, but in my opinion we, as individuals, have the ability to change our corner of the world. Small efforts by numerous people have the ability to make a difference!

Everyone is passionate about something. I have heard a lot of people say that they have little time in their schedule to volunteer or join a worthy cause. This presumption is incorrect. Non-profit organizations do not require hours of dedication. What they are looking for caring individuals who take a genuine interest in their cause and give small amounts of their time or their thoughts to bring awareness to their organization.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs are the elite of our society. Our businesses prove how many resources we have at our disposal. We have the largest networks, we are used to coming up with unique, out of the box ideas, and we are capable of putting together a project from start to finish. These qualities are exactly what non-profit agencies need.

Getting involved in a cause you are passionate about strikes a positive inner chord and creates a feeling of fulfillment. It challenges you learn about others’ needs and it brings awareness to issues you may not have known existed. It will also help your business. People like to support businesses that support their community and truly do nice things to help people in need. Get involved! It will be a remarkable experience.

The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers.  ~Everett Mámor

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