According to Paul Schindel, founder of Three Bears LLC at 20 Nassau Street, marketing was a lot simpler for merchants when they could run an ad in the newspaper or on the radio, or send a message via the mail, and everyone would know the business and what it offered. “Now we have this overwhelming and seemingly oppressive range of choices,” he says. “Sifting through those and understanding them is mindboggling for many people.”

The explosion of choice in marketing options raises many questions for businesses. “Many options are seemingly very attractive from a cost standpoint because you can set up a Facebook page or a Twitter presence for free,” says Schindel. “But what do you do with that? And are you setting it up in the most advantageous ways? How do you build your Facebook audience or your Twitter followers? Should you be spending money in the Yellow Pages? These are all the questions that marketers need to address with budgets that are always limited.”

As part of the Princeton Merchant Association Educational Workshop Series, Schindel will present a talk “Creating the Right Marketing Mix for Your Small Business” on Tuesday, May 18, at 6:15 p.m. at the Nassau Cost: $50. Visit www.princetonmerchants.org.

“The plan for the workshop is to examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the channels,” Schindel says. “Help people decide what the right media mix is for their particular business. It varies by industry, by geography, by demographics, even by your past history and experience in marketing your business.”

Facebook is not as free as it seems. Such outlets as Facebook are too hastily labeled free, according to Schindel. The amount of time required to build a good Facebook presence is considerable. “It’s not simply a matter of saying, be a fan of Three Bears on Facebook,” he says. “It’s a matter of building a community and conducting a conversation over a period of time that ultimately you want to turn into a commitment by your company to its customers. And from your customers to your company.”

Schindel says companies should strive to build a bond that makes customers think of their company when they need a product or service. It is a matter of earning a customer’s trust over a period of time by being smart and by putting out good messages that make sense to the customer. “In effect,” he says, “the sale is made before the customer walks in the door.”

The Yellow Pages are still useful — for some. Schindel says the Yellow Pages are still a great place to be for certain businesses, but not all. “If you’re in the banking business, for example, you probably need to have some presence in the Yellow Pages,” he says. “But competing there is not necessarily a worthwhile thing. People still go very regularly to the Yellow Pages to find attorneys, but if you are the local grocery store, the Yellow Pages aren’t really going to do you very much good. There is no one size fits all answer to what a business do.”

People still read newspapers. In a similar vein, Schindel believes locally focused newspapers are excellent vehicles for certain businesses, but not worthwhile for others. “Three Bears has clients who advertise in the papers, but we also have clients for whom it’s simply not right and not worth the dollar investment to put money into XYZ newspaper because your audience isn’t there or isn’t turning to that medium for that information,” he says.

Local businesses do best by marketing in local newspapers. “Professional practices, physicians, dentists, attorneys, and accountants can score a lot of points by building a reputation and building their brands through frequency in local papers,” he says. “The same goes for a lot of retail businesses, essentially storefronts up and down Nassau Street or any other business district.

Another thing that can do very well in local papers is events because there is a timely quality and virtue to newspapers that you don’t necessarily get through web channels, Schindel says.

“On the web the news is instant but it’s gone in an instant. If you need to put out more information or have a bigger visual impact than a line of text on a screen or a posting in Facebook, then an ad in a newspaper is often a good way to go, especially for things like events.”

A happy mix. Schindel emphasizes the importance of mixed marketing. “You wouldn’t want to do just one thing,” he says. “Balancing the time and dollars with the reach and impact is the holy grail of marketing.”

Pay attention to the information your clients are looking for. With increased means of reaching potential clients, some businesses now have to take care to not cross the line of annoying the people they are trying to attract. It’s by the instant nature of the digital media that you run into trouble,” he says.

“If you are seeing a post from some business, generally speaking more than once a day, it’s probably too much.”

He cited the Princeton Record Exchange as an example of a business that handles its social media well.

“When they had their anniversary they did a promotion with a record sale day,” he says. “On that day they posted several times. They were having an event and their fans knew that this was a here-and-now, get-it-while-you-can kind of moment. They managed that accordingly. If they were to post more than once a day every day, people would just shut them out. It’s too much.”

E-mail is another method of marketing that offers excellent, low-cost outreach, but where businesses need to tread carefully. “Too much of a good thing is not a good thing,” he says. “Your unsubscribe rate will go through the roof if you hit a threshold where people are saying, ‘I don’t have time, enough of this.’”

Schindel described how he unsubscribed from a bicycle products company that he purchased from once or twice a year over a period of several years. “I was getting E-mails from them, sometimes more than once a week, with today’s special, tomorrow’s special, and the next day’s special. They were not sensitive to my buying patterns in a way that made it suitable for me — knowing, for example, that I would buy winter clothing in the fall and I would buy a new seat in the spring. They kept bombarding me with things that were not of interest.”

He suggests that marketers set up their E-mail structures with better choices for subscribers. “So that you can say ‘I’d like to know only about sales’ or ‘I’d like to know about this particular topic or that,’ but don’t send me every message you send to every customer,” he says. He also suggests setting up E-mail marketing through a service such as Constant Contact, iContact, or AWeber. These E-mail management services provide data to help businesses understand how many of their E-mails are being marked as spam, how many are opened, how many generate clicks, and which links generate clicks to specific pages.

Schindel grew up in Maplewood. His mother was a nurse and his father worked as a toy store owner, a real estate agent, and a state government employee. Schindel’s involvement with his high school newspaper served as his introduction to writing, design, and production. He graduated from Boston University in 1977, where he focused on writing and became increasingly interested in advertising.

He worked for Keyes Martin and Company advertising agency in Springfield, where he was involved with the New Jersey tourism account and the New Jersey Lottery Account, as well as campaigns for real estate and banking. Three years later he moved to another firm, where he started as a copywriter and moved up to creative director. There he worked on the Shop Rite Can-Can sale, the Bergen Record advertising account, and came up with the number 1-800-OK-CABLE, which is still used today by the cable TV consortium.

He spent a couple of years with a family multimedia and video publishing company, then returned to the advertising industry, first as creative director of Princeton Partners, then as vice president of creative and strategic planning for QLM. He started Three Bears out of his home in 1991 and moved to Nassau Street in 1997.

The company has three employees and uses a team of alliance partners to extend its capabilities. The name comes from “doing what it takes to get the client’s work just right,” says Schindel.

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