Master Your Finances Kurt Baker with Jeff Barnhart – Marketing in COVID19

Written by on May 19, 2020

00:00 Kurt Baker: You’re listening to a podcast of Master Your Finances with me, Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM on That’s me. I am Kurt Baker, certified financial planner professional, located at Princeton, New Jersey. I can be reached on our website, which is, or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. This week, we’re very pleased to have back with us again, Jeff Barnhart, who is the CEO and founder at CMA, which… CMA is designed to help other companies grow and archive their goals through strategic marketing integrated communications. Jeff has led the agency through years of success by providing expert guidance to organizations of all sizes, and industry backgrounds across the globe. Since 1987, CMA has developed 211 websites, created 311 brands and won 371 industry awards.

01:01 Kurt Baker: Jeff has been recognized as the Small Business Person of the Year by the then Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Outstanding Small Business of the Year by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce. He was also appointed to the Small Business Council of the US Chamber of Commerce, and was a regional finalist for Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Before founding CMA, Jeff played a pivotal role in integration of marketing and sales through three company mergers at Philips lighting, and the launch of one of the first energy efficient, environmentally beneficial lighting products in the US market. He was instrumental introducing the EPA Green Lights Program, which was the precursor to the current Energy Star Program.

01:46 Kurt Baker: As a Rider University graduate, Jeff has been honored with the University’s Leadership Legacy Award, and the Alumni Achievement Award. He’s also been inducted into the Hopewell Valley Central High School Distinguished Graduates Hall of Fame. Jeff, thanks again for taking some time out of your day to help us out. I think a lot of people… I mean marketing is an interesting thing, because I think businesses whenever they go through stressors, I think the knee-jerk reaction is, they immediately pull in their marketing which, I think we had this conversation last time, that’s probably not the right thing to do. In fact, there was another, an insurance agent we were just talking about the other day, she was like last time in ’08, ’09 I stopped advertising for a little while to try to save money and she was getting calls from her clients saying, “Did you go out of business?”

02:33 Jeff Barnhart: Oh.

02:34 Kurt Baker: Because she had been so prolific with her advertising. So this time she realizes it and she’s like, “Wow, I just need to… I really need to stay out there.” But given the current situation, I think, as you’re probably gonna explain to us, marketing might change a little bit, right? You don’t wanna disappear but you might have to think about how you do this, right? So what have we learned so far now that we’re a few weeks into this, the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders for many of us, and kind of a different dynamic right now? What have you learned so far and what kind of recommendations do you have so far?

03:08 Jeff Barnhart: Well, it’s interesting, Kurt. And first of all, thanks for having me on the program. It’s a pleasure to be back on the program with you. I had a good time last time, and look forward to this session as well. But when you look at marketing, people typically look at marketing in two different ways. They look at it as an investment or they look at it as an expense. And those people that look at it as an investment look at, “How can I get a return on my investment?” People that look at it as a cost in times like today, times like what we’re facing with Covid-19, they’re looking to cut cost. And we always take the approach that marketing is like breathing. Sometimes you inhale, sometimes you exhale, but you never stop, you really can’t stop. Marketing is like the oxygen that keeps your business going. And one of the really interesting things, and I’ve been in marketing and strategy my entire life, but one of the greatest interesting changes that have taken place in marketing is how technology has driven the marketing world.

04:16 Jeff Barnhart: And however you wanna go back, we started dealing with websites 20 years ago, 15 years ago, whatever. But whatever you basically say, we shifted from an analog world where paper was king. We moved to a digital world. And what that did is it shifted power from the sellers to power to the buyers. You used to have to go out in the earlier days, and you used to have to identify your prospect, know what they wanted to do and then pitch to them. Now, the buyer has all the control, the buyer is looking for you, the buyer is identifying you. The buyer is the one that is doing the searches and they’re basically doing all the pre-qualifications for you. And so your prospects are one click away, but also your competitors are one click away and you have to figure out how to reach them by getting above all the noise that’s out there today.

05:17 Kurt Baker: Well, yeah, I have to agree with that. I know just in my industry and this is probably a little before my time, I mean people would just call and say, “Hey, here’s what you need to do, here’s what you need to do.” And now it’s more about education and helping people to understand what’s out there. So I know that… Fortunately I like it better this way.


05:35 Kurt Baker: It’s more of an educational and consulting business than it is some of the people early on in the years where, had really bad reputations, they were literally saying, “Hey, you need this or that,” which you may or may not have needed. Now it’s more about, What are your needs and your… And how do we satisfy this, and how do we meet your goals and objectives. So how are we seeing some of the different businesses out there and what adjustments are you seeing them making? Because let’s say, I’m a restaurant owner as an example, right now. I’m going from a full dining room type situation, where people wanna be coming in there once a week, once every other week, maybe a couple of times a week. And I’m seeing them all the time. And now my model is changing, so how do I make adjustments in marketing now that I’m not necessarily able to see them the way I could see them in the past?

06:20 Jeff Barnhart: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think with every industry there’s different answers to that question and sometimes it ties into what your current situation is and what you’re allowed to do. But from a marketing perspective, we look at it, we say, “People buy your story before they buy your stuff.” Okay, and what is the new selling? Well, helping is the new selling. People are out there searching, for people that can help them solve whatever problem they have, solve whatever challenge they have, and so you have to be able to be found with those five little words that you type into Google, that identify your business and what it is that you’re doing. And involvement means commitment. Having involvement with these people is how you get them committed to what you’re doing. So today, you need to be more engaging, you need to be more helpful, you need to be more meaningful, be less salesy. It’s kind of difficult for those sometimes like us that are out there selling, we have to scale it back a little bit and be less salesy, and be little less pushy, a little less salesy. But let your tone be a little more delicate and what you’re doing with the idea that people are looking for solutions to their challenges. We just have to be able to present to them that we are a solution to their challenge.

07:47 Jeff Barnhart: And again, a lot of it is how you communicate to those people and since we are going into a digital world, you know, restaurants or, to use your example, are very adept at or are getting more adept at how they communicate with people via the social media, be it Facebook, being able to be responsive to them, and what they’re doing. I was reading an article today that down at the Jersey Shore where one of the establishments down there that went from being a full restaurant establishment, because they can’t have open seating to being a takeout restaurant. Alright, sounds good, work good except the fact that they didn’t realize is now they were gonna be flooded with phone calls. And their phone system wasn’t ready to handle all that, and they were getting a lot of busy signals and they were getting a lot of people upset, that they couldn’t reach them. So very fortunately, they reached out on social media and say, “Hey, we apologize for all this. This is new to us. We’re adapting to a changing time right now.” And so, sometimes it’s just taking ownership of that situation and saying, “We’re doing the best we can, we realized we can do better, we are working and looking at how we can do things better, but this is the reality of the situation right now.” And choose to be part of the solution, and that looks different for every company. Leaders, now is the time to step forward.

09:10 Jeff Barnhart: Sometimes it means more of a dollar investment, but mostly it’s more of a time investment on your behalf and what you’re doing and being able to sort out what you need to do differently to not only survive but thrive, in a changing world, whereas yourself, in the industry that you’re in, we’ve come through various crisises that we’ve all been through such as the dot-com verbal and bubble and bust, the 9/11, the financial situation. I think the difference now, from my perspective is, back then you had more control of what you’re doing. Now you have less control, because you have a government situation where they’re mandating what you can and can’t do. And that’s putting a bit of restrictive covenants on some businesses and it’s making them a lot tougher. And those that I think will survive in this environment are those that are finding ways of how to be creative and how to keep themselves relevant during this particular time frame, and how to communicate with people. I mean, imagine if this were 10, 15 years ago and we didn’t have the technologies that we have today, the type of video conferencing that you and I are on, the type of social media that’s out there today. Having to work from home for the past two months without being able to communicate with everybody.

10:32 Jeff Barnhart: Just think how different that would be. At least we have the technologies today where, again, we’re being forced trained into using them differently and better, but we do have those technologies to be able to make sure we can utilize them today and be able to communicate with people better, because of those scenarios.

10:49 Kurt Baker: No, I think you bring up some great examples. And right after the break, I think we’re gonna maybe wanna get into some ideas that you’re seeing out there. I know that I’ve noticed that a lot of the local businesses frankly, seemed to be having a little bit of an advantage, ’cause now the owners are really talking directly to people and they’re listening, ’cause they’re actually on these different medium. So I’m just curious about how, what you’re seeing in the market out there and how people are actually taking advantage of this ’cause anytime things change, there’s always places you can come in as a marketing expert and take advantage of the situation and really grow your business as opposed to contract. And I’d be curious about to hear about your suggestions on that when we come back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances.

11:32 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, here with Jeff Barnhart, the CEO and founder of CMA, and we’ve been talking about some of the challenges that companies are going through with essentially the shut down due to the pandemic and how companies are having to make adjustments and how marketing fits into that. ‘Cause we know through past history whenever there’s been a down turn in the market, you really don’t wanna stop getting the word out about your business, because then it takes a lot longer when things pick back up to recover.

12:05 Kurt Baker: In fact, this is the time where you should just make adjustments and find ways to do it, and because you need to keep the word out there. As I mentioned, I had a friend of mine that… She had stopped marketing during the ’08, ’09 and customers are calling up, say, “Hey, did you go out of business?” Because she’d done so much marketing, all of a sudden she just stopped. And so, I think business need to recognize that people wanna hear from us and they wanna hear from us in a way that’s constructive to their needs, so…

12:34 Kurt Baker: What are you seeing Jeff, out there right now and how people… I’m seeing two scenarios, honestly. I’m seeing companies that really aren’t affected significantly from this financially and can kinda do whatever they need to do. That’s kind of option one. So how do I adjust my marketing to meet that even though my budget really doesn’t have to change much. But then you have others like a restaurant that might be shut down, and they’re gonna have to make some adjustments because they’re concerned about paying their rent, paying their employees and really just trying to make sure they’re gonna be able to open their doors up in a few weeks. So what are your thoughts about those scenarios and how people can take advantage of what’s going on right now?

13:11 Jeff Barnhart: One of the greatest things about today’s environment, Kurt, is marketing doesn’t really need to be expensive to be effective. There’s a lot of things you can do, and I think you hit the nail on the head. You can talk to your client. You can talk to your customer directly today better than you ever could. And one of the examples and one of the people that we work with from a client perspective is Sourland Mountain Spirits right here and right outside of Princeton that makes vodka, gin, bourbon, whatever. And based on certain parameters, they were closed down, shut down, were kind of looking at how they could furlough people, whatever they needed to do. And with the demand for increased sanitizers and things of that nature, all of a sudden, [chuckle] the distilleries got involved in making sanitizer. And so…

14:06 Kurt Baker: I actually saw that. He was promoting that. They switched over, and they’ve actually made almost like a PR campaign out of it.

14:11 Jeff Barnhart: Well, they did make a PR campaign out of it, and that was… Again, they came to us, and we were talking with them. And they said, “Hey, we do a great job with the vodka, gin, whatever, but how do we get the word out? What do we do here?” So yeah, we put together what we call a virtual news bureau operation. We put together what they were doing, why they were doing it, some of the successes that we were working on and got that all out to the various press out there to help promote the story, put it out there on social media, did a media relations campaign to let everybody know that what they were basically doing, that they were turning a craft distillery into a sanitation [chuckle] business and they were also giving it and making it available to PEN Health, Robert Wood Johnson, Capital Health that garnered a lot of visibility in the local press. So doing some of those types of activities gives you the necessary visibility to then tell people, “Okay, you can now buy this at our facility, and obviously taking all the precautions. You can buy the sanitizer.” And what they found was that people that were stopping by to by sanitizer were also buying spirits.

15:29 Jeff Barnhart: So it worked out well to basically keep that in front of them. But that’s an example where a very quick, aggressive, almost a crisis-management, public relations outreach was able to get the word out as far as how they pivoted from what they were currently doing to what they needed to do to survive, but also to help the local environment out, helping out our friends at the health care facilities that were in a needed situation. So that’s one example where somebody in that business kind of pivoted and then got the word out for them on what they were doing. Another one that’s kind of interesting and I know you know him as well is Patrick Ryan from First Bank. Pat is a very good friend of mine. I got a great relationship with Pat. I got a great relationship with their bank. And here’s an example where somebody that as a bank, they weren’t asking for this. They weren’t asking to do any of this. But all of a sudden, the federal government says, “Hey, by the way, we’re gonna introduce this PPP program, and you can get it through your local bank.” And all of a sudden banks were flooded with all this. “How do I do it? How do I do it? Why do I do it? How can you do it? Can you help me? What do I have to do?”

16:46 Jeff Barnhart: So all of a sudden, they were flooded with this information of who, what, when, where, why and how. And again, nobody was really asking the right questions of what was going on. So again, we put together a virtual news bureau operation for First Bank that we do a lot of advertising and PR work with. And we basically put it out there to the press from the New York Times to the Washington Post, to CBS News, CNBC whatever that Pat Ryan was available for interviews. So all of a sudden we positioned First Bank to take advantage of an unfortunate situation, but from a thought leadership perspective, being able to provide direction out there from a thought leadership perspective as to, “Here’s the situation. Here’s what we’ve been dictated to do. Here’s how you can respond to it. Here’s what we need from a banking institution.” And all of a sudden we’ve created tremendous visibility for First Bank beyond what they were seeking originally, but great visibility for them to help them grow as as they move forward. So a couple examples there of organizations that have kind of pivoted to take advantage of what they were doing to garner additional visibility or in the case of Sourland Mountain, increased sales.

18:10 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I think both are good examples. I actually know both of those owners, which is fantastic ’cause I understand that they’re very different businesses. And actually Pat was just on the show a few weeks ago, and he had to literally re-train 12 of his employees to take on this entire project. So one, he noticed the change, right? So as a good entrepreneurial spirit, he stepped up and filled the gap. And what he ended up learning, which I thought was really kind of… Which was great is people were… And they could get to the community bank faster than trying to use some of these heavily automated systems out there. ‘Cause they had real people taking these applications and screening them before they were sent off to SBA. So they were getting a very high approval rating because they we’re actually putting people in there to make sure it was all done correctly.

18:55 Kurt Baker: And so, through really problem-solving and then promoting his problem-solving in this situation, he’s now actually getting more customers ’cause some of those people were not customers at first bank at the time, they could just get the loan. And so there’s a high probability that can be very appreciative of that I know I would be if I, if I couldn’t get this loan any other way. I’ll be like, “Wow, these guys did a great job, when I really needed some help. Now that I’m back up and running, I think maybe I’ll expand my base, banking relationship maybe I’ll start using them.” or maybe not my friends was a huge marketing capability for them to do that and the same thing with the, you know, Ray Disch over at Sourland. He’s pretty smart guy and he moves pretty fast, which is great. And, as you pointed out, maybe they didn’t… Maybe they’ve never tried his spirits before but they needed some hand sanitizer and they go, “Wow, I think that’s really great.” When they go out and buy some of that sanitizer, you try some of the spirits, now all of a sudden, he’s got a new customer, right? So, I knew people who’ve tried it, they love it. So all I have to do is try it once. [chuckle]

19:53 Jeff Barnhart: Well, that’s exactly right and in Pat’s situation it’s interesting, like I said, I think this whole you know government situation is going to be a tremendous boon for community banks because what happens, small business and anyway you wanted to find small business. Some people say it’s a million, some people five million, some people under 100 million but, whichever way you define it, it’s nice to have a bank that knows who you are, what you do, works and then lives in the same community that you live in, where you can pick up the phone to talk to these people. Some of these big banks, they’re so big, they’re so structured, they don’t know who their small clients are. You’ve heard a lot of horror stories on TV or on the news where small banks… Small companies that were using big banks were kind of left by the wayside and I think Pat was in his organization was able to capitalize on the fact that we’re here, we’re in your community.

20:45 Jeff Barnhart: We are personal, we’re talking to an actual person here, not some website that you have to put information on, that’s overloaded rejecting information in that regard. So I think it’s, it’s how you look at it. And one of my favorite stories is, we work with the New Jersey State Nurses Association and when this whole thing came about, Governor Murphy’s office charged the New Jersey State Nurses Association, which is a nonprofit organization, represents approximately 110 registered nurses in the state. But how can you recruit more nurses to assist or in the COVID-19 pandemic. And, since they do a lot of work with us they came to us and said, “How do we… How do we do this? What do we do?”

21:29 Jeff Barnhart: And we put together a crisis communication campaign that compelled active nurses, retired nurses and nursing students to join the front lines and we ended up, through various mediums, social media, any publication that we produced and public relations, media relations, they were able to recruit 1900 nurses that were either retired or not working at the point, at this point in time to basically, come to the frontline and help out in this situation. So, there’s an example where a nonprofit organization of registered nurses was able to come forward and take advantage of the credibility and trust and faith that people have in them as an organization that they developed over time to go out there with a message and say, “Hey, we need your help now.” And we’re able to garner that on behalf of the State Community of New Jersey to get more nurses to the frontline where we needed them at that point in time.

22:30 Kurt Baker: That’s absolutely amazing and I think a lot of this is coming down to how people brand themselves and what they become known about and I think when we get back in the next segment, maybe we can talk a little bit about the importance of establishing your brand and then promoting like who you are as an organization and what you actually represent. You’re listening to Master your finances. We’ll be right back.

22:49 S3: Okay.

22:51 Kurt Baker: Alright.

22:51 S3: Two more.

22:52 Kurt Baker: Yeah.

22:52 S3: Two more minutes.


22:55 S3: One.

22:58 Kurt Baker: Welcome back you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I am Kurt Baker, here with Jeff Barnhart, the president and CEO and founder of CMA, and we’ve been talking about how businesses are adjusting their marketing to essentially take advantage of the differences in how we’re working right now due to the pandemic and the fact that some companies are really being forced to work remotely, and being locked down. And some are kind of in survival mode, but you really have to work your way through this and find ways to adjust. And I think a lot of companies are really kind of showing their brand so to speak. So you know branding is really important. You wanna explain to us a little bit about what branding is? The basics and why that’s so critical and how people can expand and promote their brand and in a period like this that we’re having right now.

23:48 Jeff Barnhart: Sure, absolutely Kurt. In a very simplified way, your brand is what people think of you, when it conjures up, when you say a name, when you say a company name. It tells a story. And that story can be positive, that story can be negative, that story can be neutral. And you want that story to be as positive as it can be based on whatever criteria you want to evaluate it from. I know at CMA, we’ve been in business for 33 years, starting the company 33 years ago and we’ve been very fortunate throughout the course of our 33 years that we developed a program as CMA called CMA cares, and it’s about how we can help our communities, how we can get involved and we’ve done various things where we’ve helped the West Windsor police department with pet friendly items, we’ve helped out the Trenton area soup kitchen, the Jersey Cares Coat Drive, Homefront New Jersey, a lot of those activities, charity organizations.

24:55 Jeff Barnhart: When I first started the company, I was involved with the American Diabetes Association Central, New Jersey chapter as their president for two turns and I got involved because my parents are diabetics and I wanted to do something to be able to give something back. And in CMA, our CMA cares program has adapted to the current COVID-19 climate and we’ve launched a video series just this week that goes in depth with local businesses and organizations that have shifted their business strategy and we touch base on a few of them with Sourland Mountain. We help them by creating a video to help promote that out. We did one recently that’s being released with the Hamilton Jewelers, Hank Siegel, that put together the Princeton community auction, where we also donated an auction item but he put together an auction to raise money for businesses that need help in the area.

25:52 Jeff Barnhart: So, part of when people think of a brand, we want people to think of CMA is not only a marketing organization but an organization that is very involved and active in the community and what we do. And, no matter what your brand, no matter who you are, again, it helps to be able to tell that story out there of who you are and how you do it, because people are going to conjure up a thought of you one way or the other. And you certainly want that to be a positive thought because let’s face it, who do people wanna do business with? People wanna do business with people that help them. Who do people do business with? They wanna do business with people that they trust, and so, your brand has to be able to conjure up, kind of, a thought process of, “This is a company that I can help me. And this is a company that I can trust, and this is a company that that cares.”

26:43 Jeff Barnhart: And you can look at a lot of brands out there, if you just mention a name. Say, Johnson and Johnson, what comes to mind? Caring, personal care, it’s the thought of what that brand conjured up in somebody’s mind. A company like Apple, if you say Apple, what comes to mind? Technology, forefront of technology. So, you want your brand to be able to separate you from others out there in the marketplace and part of what we do it as CMA is we have a brand promise like we encourage other of our clients to do, and our brand promises expect results. And that is when you’re working with a marketing organization, you should be able to get results from what your marketing is or as we touched base on it earlier, don’t do it. If you look at it as an expense, don’t do it. Just stop doing it because you’re it’s never gonna work for you. But if look at marketing as an investment and you can track that investment and look at how you get a return on that investment, you should be able to look at it and say, “If I invest X amount of dollars and I give this kind of return.” You can look at that kind of a linear equation and say, “Well, if I’m getting success if I put more marketing dollars into it and I invest more marketing dollars, can I get increased success?”

27:58 Jeff Barnhart: And the answer is usually an unequivocal yes, and with today’s digital environment, you can really measure down to where you’re getting, who is seeing your message who is clicking through on your message, who is going to your website, and are they engaging with you or are they connecting with you afterwards. And again, as we said before it’s not about selling what you do, it’s about being able to be found. And how people can find you when they clicked in those four, five little words that Google algorithms take in those into place, how can they find you and that’s what ties into your brand. Those should be the five words that when somebody types in your brand shows up because that should be all about you and what you’re doing.

28:48 Kurt Baker: Well, I think, that’s all great advice. I love the get results so I’m going to take, let’s say, we have a small business out there right now, that is struggling a little bit as like, “Hey, maybe I need to start doing some of this stuff.” So, the things that are going to come to the mind is like, “Okay, what are kind of the steps I take? I like the get results thing. What are the assurances that I’m going to get some type of return on it?” Right? Because they’re gonna be nervous about putting any money out right now. They put a little money out, they want to test the waters, they get started. And how do I track it and where do I start the process, right? What should be in my head as far as how do I get this started, so that I can start making some progress and start to see some results. ‘Cause everybody wants results right now, regardless, who you are, right? Everybody wants results.

29:33 Jeff Barnhart: Everybody wants results absolutely. And it’s not necessarily a direct science. You’re gonna do X, you’re gonna get y in return, but what we’re able to do right now with the various products and services that are there available to us is look at a continuous improvement program with digital marketing today and with social media, you can evaluate you know where you’re getting the response from. There’s tools out there from a social media perspective is, what is the best time for you to post in social media for your particular industry, for your particular market, or if you’re already doing it, what’s the best time, where are you getting the most engagements for your particular business. So, this is the way when we put together our marketing campaign how we look at it as a continuous improvement program, which means we don’t believe in failure, it’s just continuous improvement of how you hone what it is you’re doing.

30:27 Jeff Barnhart: We believe in feedback and looking at what the customer is dictating to us. Is the client buying what we’re selling? And we’re humble enough to let the data guide us, which produces better results for our clients. And that’s why there’s various tools to evaluate your website, where are people coming into your website and are they staying on your website, or they leaving your website very closely, how attractive is your website to engage people. So, there’s a lot of tools that we that we use along the way to continuously improve the process that we take place. One of the things that I think people make a mistake on is marketing is not sales, sales is rather the implementation of marketing. So, if you really are expecting to start a marketing program today and say, “Well, my sales are going to go up 30 days from now, because I started to do marketing.” I think you’re entering into it with a gross misconception.

31:29 Jeff Barnhart: Marketing is the leading driver for sales but sales is the implementation of marketing and by that I mean, and we have this discussion all the time with our clients where we put together marketing programs, we’re driving people to their people to do whatever they do to close the sales. And sometimes people say, “Well, we’re not closing the sales.” It’s like, “Well, I’m driving people to your door, they’re knocking on your door. Your people are opening the door. [chuckle] At that point in time, I’m not a sales organization. I can’t do that for him.” So, some of it you know has to go back to the client themselves. They gotta be able to have competent people that when people do say, “Hey, I want to hear more from you.” They have to be competent to be able to showcase what it is the services are and how they, basically, can actually close the sale, because that’s where marketing and sales kind of becomes very intertwined right now. There used to be a finite separation between that, but now as we talked about the 180 degrees, where now it’s about being found.

32:31 Jeff Barnhart: Okay, now there’s a blend between marketing and sales, but an organization, A. Needs a strong marketing program, and by strong I don’t mean necessarily expensive, it just has to be effective. And as we talked, there’s very effective ways to build a nice website today, to do social media, do search engine optimization, to do a very small pay per click campaign that tie into keywords that people are looking for looking for your business. These are all key things that you can do very cost effectively, but then you have to be prepared at your organization, whether it’s the phone ringing or somebody sending you an email, you got to be prepared to communicate with these people. And that’s why the communication on the client side is so critical as well because there are opportunities. People are thirsting for information they’re coming to you for help. You have to be able to offer that effect as well from your perspective to be able to close the loop on those sales.

33:27 Jeff Barnhart: But from our perspective it’s all about website. It’s all about the content that people are searching for to drive people to your website. It’s all about search engine optimization, pay per click strategy, and then recently we’re doing a lot of retargeting ads where people go on your website and then we’re retargeting those people that have been on your website and the phenomenon behind that is, I’m sure everybody’s experienced, that you go on Amazon and you’re looking for luggage and tomorrow you’re on another website and all of a sudden that luggage you were looking at pops up. And that’s all the retargeting that, basically, technology allows you to do today and on one side it’s very creative, on the other side it spooks a lot of people. It’s a great tool to take advantage of to refresh those people and say, “You were looking at this and we’re just kind of joggling your mind a little bit.” And say, “This, we’re refreshing you. Are you still interested?” So, there’s a lot of economical ways for people today to take advantage of it.

34:25 Jeff Barnhart: Again, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, you just have to have a good goal in mind, a realistic goal, a realistic goal. And some people don’t have realistic goals, they only have unrealistic timeframes. You can’t go from zero to 60 in two seconds but maybe you can go to zero to 60 in three minutes, you know whatever that timeframe is. So it’s all about realistic goals, a good strategy to achieve those goals, good tactics to get your message out there and then a measurement of how you’re going to measure success of those particular programs, whether it’s sales you get through your website, sales you get through your various campaigns, but there’s measurement tools in place that you can evaluate the success of your marketing dollars that are being spent. And again, those that don’t measure it, are the ones that just say it’s not working. It’s an expense and quite honestly, unfortunately, like you said with your friend they stopped doing it and again, it’s like breathing. Sometimes we breathe a little harder, sometimes we breathe a little lighter, but we never stop. We have to continue marketing because that’s the breathing of our organizations to keep them successful and keep them relevant.

35:36 Kurt Baker: I absolutely agree, and this time around she’s not stopping her marketing. [chuckle] She’s finally said that. So she learned her lesson last time. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, I will be right back.


35:50 Jeff Barnhart: Okay.

35:51 S3: Yeah.

35:51 Kurt Baker: She learned from last time. She’s like, “I’m not doing that again.” [chuckle]

35:53 Kurt Baker: Welcome back you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, here with Jeff Barnhart, the CEO and founder at CMA, and we’ve been talking about marketing through the pandemic and how to really make adjustments, make sure that you emphasize your brand. And I think one of the keys now that wasn’t true, like maybe 15-20 years ago is much of this marketing can really be tracked. So, you can see, what’s happening and how… What seems to be effective and you can make adjustments. And that retargeting, you mentioned right before the break, that… Yeah, that’s kind of scares me every once in a while. [chuckle] I’m clicking on something and like a day or two later I’m like somewhere else, like, “How the heck did they know I was looking at that thing?” Right?

36:37 Jeff Barnhart: Sure.

36:37 Kurt Baker: Yeah, some of it can be a little surreal when you see it but it just goes to show you the power of the data that’s out there. And that’s something that can be used in a very effective, positive way. And I know that some people and I’ve… And one of the things I’ve seen happening right now is… And we’re doing this ourselves. We’re buying gift certificates from restaurants, hairdressers and other professionals who aren’t able to serve us right this minute, so that’s just a way that we’ve been able to… I know a lot of our friends are doing the exact same thing is they’re trying to keep the businesses afloat literally by buying their services, ahead of time through gift certificates and things like that.

37:17 Kurt Baker: I think one of the things is how do people really go through and decide a marketing budget, because I think that’s one of the things that businesses often struggle with. “How much do I allocate to spending on my marketing, understanding that I’m not necessarily going to see a return tomorrow or next week. It may be a little bit of time.” But on the long haul, as we all know, brands are the most valuable things that exist. Right? Apple, Coke, all these things, they’re brands. They have the highest value of anything out there. And we, as smaller business, could do the exact same thing in our local level to create that brand. And yet the only way to do that is through some type of marketing campaign and an ongoing one at that. So what are your thoughts about how we set up these budgets and how we monitor them?

38:02 Jeff Barnhart: Yeah, it’s a great question, Kurt, and we’re asked that question a lot by prospects that come to us and clients that come to us says, “What should I allocate for marketing?” And there’s guidelines that are established for certain industries. Some say 2%, 4%, some say 8% for service industries. But to me, I look at those as guidelines or benchmarks. I look at it and I like to sit with the people and say, “What are you trying to achieve?” Because there’s no wrong budget, it’s just there’s only, as we said before, wrong goals and wrong timelines. So, what are you trying to achieve a year from now? And what does that look like in your mind from a success perspective? So if you’re a restaurant, if you’re hair dryer, a hair dresser, or certainly, larger accounts that are selling projects, or products, we have a major lighting manufacturer that we do business with, we sit down with them and say, “Here’s where your sales are today, what do you want that sales to be a year from now? Three years from now?” And then, we back into that, “Okay, what does that sales mean to you?”

39:08 Jeff Barnhart: So, if your expectation is to increase your sales, let’s use round numbers, 10%, what does that look like in sales? Let’s look at what that looks like from a margin perspective and then let’s back into and say, how much dollars, or what type of budget do we need to establish to achieve your sales goal that you’re establishing forward. So, it all ties into how aggressively you wanna grow. It’s like an airplane, an airplane taking off, you use a lot more gas taking off, because you’re trying to get airborne as opposed to once you’re up there, you’re at 30,000 feet, you have lift. You can cut back a little bit ’cause now you’re just maintaining. And so, companies have to look at their marketing the same way. Are you looking to grow? Are you looking to grow exponentially? Are you looking to maintain? And by maintain, I mean not status quo because if you’re not changing, if you’re not growing a little bit, you’re actually going backwards.

40:03 Jeff Barnhart: But what does maintenance look like from a marketing perspective to keep your name out there, to keep your brand out there. ‘Cause somebody new is gonna come along, somewhere, somehow. And if you’re not keeping your name out there, pretty soon they’re gonna be chomping at the bit and they’re gonna be eating your lunch by promoting in your market, in your territory. So to me, there’s no wrong budget, there’s only wrong expectations of what you want that budget to achieve and tie it back to how much you’re looking to grow. What does that look like to you? And if you achieve that, what would that equate to what you’re willing to invest as a percentage to get there?

40:40 Jeff Barnhart: So we look at the end and we back into what our clients are looking to achieve to establish an appropriate marketing budget for them. And again, marketing as we said it should be an investment, and if you’re getting the return on that investment, and in today’s day and age you can measure it very well. Whatever the number, take multiples of $1,000, $10,000, if you’re investing $1,000 and you’re getting $2,000 in return, okay, then your marketing is doing very well. You might wanna consider investing more ’cause you’re being very, very successful. So there’s a lot of ways to evaluate. But now the tools are in place to evaluate the success of those programs.

41:21 Jeff Barnhart: And also, as I said previously, to modify those programs, to modify the messaging, to modify the creative, because now you can do a lot of that testing and identify what’s working better than others. A lot of times we’re running AB campaigns, where we’re running an alpha test versus a beta test with message A versus message B. And what is resonating better with the prospect, message A or message B? And it’s message B, okay. So we focus more to message B, then we come out with a message C. Is it message B or is it message C? So we’re constantly tweaking what we’re doing to hone in on exactly what the right messaging should be. ‘Cause marketing is all about messaging, the right message to the right prospect.

42:09 Jeff Barnhart: And the first key area is identifying who that audience is. You gotta be targeting to the audience that can buy your particular product, ’cause if you’re not, then you’re wasting your marketing dollars. You gotta be talking to the right prospect that can utilize your product or service, and then you have to have the right message to them. And then, work backwards, start at the end, look at what you’re trying to achieve, how aggressive always your timeframe to achieve that. And that’s gonna help formulate a marketing and budget strategy for you. And then quite honestly, Kurt, it does come down to affordability.

42:40 Jeff Barnhart: That’s where it’s great to have relationships with financial institutions that can help you finance the success of those types of programs because let’s face it, a lot of businesses can’t finance their growth from existing cash flow. They need help from financial institutions like community banks for them to help take off and grow, and that’s where those relationships come in to play. But that’s also where it’s important to be able to go to your bank and say, “Hey, here’s my marketing plan. Here’s what I’m looking to achieve. Here’s where I’m looking to borrow to achieve that.” And they feel a lot more comfortable ’cause you have a plan in place instead of coming to the bank and say, “Hey, I need a $100,000 for marketing, for next year.” And they’re gonna say, “For what?”

43:24 Jeff Barnhart: And so, it’s like a game plan, it’s like the football team that takes the field. They just don’t take the field, they work all week on a game plan of how they’re gonna attack that particular competitor that they’re dealing with this particular week and they have a game plan. And at half-time, they go into the locker room, they say, “Is it working or do we need to adjust it?” And that’s pretty much how marketing works. That’s how I firmly believe is you have to have a game plan. But you have to be able to modify that game plan as the game dictates, or in today’s world as market conditions dictate. You have to be able to adapt and be flexible to them.

44:03 Kurt Baker: Yeah, that was interesting. I mean, I think you pointed out some value in my opinion, to local vendors and local community banks. If you’re a local vendor yourself, and you’re putting together a marketing plan, and you’re talking about goals and objectives and you can go in and actually talk to the bankers themselves. I think that’s huge, over just trying to do something online ’cause they’re not gonna really get a sense of what you’re trying to do, and you’ll even know who the vendors are who are gonna try to help you to implement the plan, right? So there’s not just having a plan, you have to actually execute on the plan as well. So if I’m lending money for a marketing plan, I’d feel much more comfortable if I knew the track record of those who were involved in actually rolling out the plan, not just the business, but the ones who were actually strategic partners in helping to make that all happen. Is that a correct analysis?

44:48 Jeff Barnhart: And I think, it all comes together and where there’s a lot of working relationships between ourselves as a marketing company and community banks, and various accounting firms and legal organizations that have a lot of trust built into the community because they’d been around for a long period of time. It’s tried and true. The expertise is their people. So, “Oh, okay, you’re working with so and so, then I have a certain confidence factor.” Quick story, you talk about big banks. I’m not gonna mention the name of the bank ’cause it’s not fair to them, but at CMA we had used a… It was a smaller bank that then got acquired, acquired, acquired, by bigger banks. And finally the relationship manager came in to me again, we were looking for a loan to do some things with, and he says, “Okay, what do you guys do again?” And at that point in time I say, “Wow, is that where we’re at?”

45:43 Kurt Baker: Oh no.


45:43 Jeff Barnhart: Yeah, exactly. And again, you have to be able to have a plan and you have to be able to have good relationships. And that’s why I think today, especially today, it’s good to have those local relationships in your backyard where you have that expertise and you’re able to share that expertise amongst a larger group of people, and a referral network, referring things back and forth between banks, and attorneys, and accounting firms, and marketing firms, that you respect and you work well with. And I think that’s all part of the scenario that we’re finding those that have those relationships in place in today’s world that have gotten much farther than those that didn’t think they needed ’em for whatever reason.

46:33 Jeff Barnhart: And it’s kind of pre-planning, it’s like the insurance business. You don’t buy an insurance policy expecting to use it, but if you have that plan in place, when things like COVID-19 come up, you’re better positioned for whatever you have to deal with rather than starting from ground zero when you need something. Because when you need it you’re never gonna be able to put it together in time to be able to achieve what you wanted to achieve.

47:02 Kurt Baker: I’ll have to agree that 100% planning is key and that’s one of the reasons I think that my clients have been relatively happy because we actually plan for things like this that could happen, not this exact scenario, but being ready in case something happens where there’s an interruption of cash flow. And knowing your local people… I know I pointed that out before, but things like local bankers and vendors that we have the CEO, or the person running the organization right there, ’cause they’re actually part of the problem-solving team. And it’s really nice when you have that expertise right there within reach that can help you out. So, any last thoughts before we wrap up, as far as what people should be doing, as far as the pandemic goes? And when we come back online and how they should continue their marketing through these next few weeks, maybe even months at this point?

47:45 Jeff Barnhart: Well, what we’re suggesting to our clients today is, they have a lot of time to evaluate what’s going on. You might have some extra time sitting at home too, that you can think about your business and look at it from the inside out, look at it as to what you’re doing, look at it about your current clients and prospects and how they’re looking for you. Maybe search for your business the way you feel a prospect would search for your business, and see if you’re garnering the results that a prospect would get viewing your business the way you want your business to be viewed.

48:22 Jeff Barnhart: And that’s critical, because marketing used to be about how you sold your product. And today it’s not about how you sell what you do, it’s about how people buy what you do. And although some people say, “Well this is not the same thing.” No, it’s 180 degrees. Because how you might sell what you do when you’re in front of somebody is not how somebody is gonna look for you on the internet. And it’s very important that you look at what we call in today’s world, the buyer persona. What is that buyer persona of who’s looking to do business with you? What does that look like? And when they come to your website, is that what they see? And the ways that they need to come to your website is through content marketing, via blogs, public relations activities, social media, all these drivers. Paper click retargeting ads, all these drivers to target these people to your website. And when they get there, is the information there concise, simple, for them to say, “Wow, that looks like somebody I wanna talk with, somebody that I might wanna do business with.”

49:27 Kurt Baker: Well, thank you, Jeff, I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to come in and help us out, great advice. You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances, you can reach us by going to, and listen to this podcast and all the podcasts. And remember, together we can master your finances, you can enjoy financial peace of mind.

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