Wednesday, December 17, 2014


At IDP Muskoka the focus is simple. 'Always deliver client success.' It is the goal we care about most.

With results being the only true measure of success, we pride ourselves on reaching a client’s consumer base by increasing their brand’s appeal and visibility, no matter what the medium of communication.

At IDP Muskoka, it’s more than just advertising. It’s about strategically reinforcing all creative content that can touch the consumer, and promote the brand.

We are personally committed to meeting our client’s needs every day, using five simple principles that guide our work: Accountability, Collaboration, Creativity, Enthusiasm and Strategy.

Friday, September 20, 2013


The very first step to successful business branding is making sure WHAT YOU SAY & BELIEVE YOU ARE as a business is truthful. (Not only how the business is being run on a day to day basis, but how it is perceived within your market.) Accurately portraying your brand image in your marketplace is critical.

At a macro level, this may seem obvious, but research show that most companies don’t develop brand strategies honestly. In fact, the majority of businesses conclude why the consumer buys from them and when tracked, their overall ranking drops. (In a nut shell, other more relevant things emerge from the consumer in quantifying their reasoning as to 'why' they purchased goods and/or services from you.)

Remember that the brand promise you project should be the brand promise your customers want most. Otherwise, your investment in branding is more expensive than need be. Ask the question! (..and ensure your sales and marketing efforts have optimal synergies to increase results.)

Do your business a favour. Don't ever attempt to answer this question yourself! (Ask anyone and everyone except yourself.) Ask your customers. Ask your prospects. Ask your colleagues and never assume that you know best.

You know what happens when we assume!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I am a firm believer that when you are devising a marketing approach, a solid competitor analysis should always be included. This very important exercise should not only highlight the strengths & weaknesses of your competitor but should give you important insight into any current market shifts or advantages.

When it comes to understanding competition - think puzzle solving; the more pieces you have the easier it will be to solve. Always start by breaking the analyses into three initial categories and go from there. (I've attached brief samples to illustrate approach:)

1. Historical Data:
a. Did anything change within their financial/ business environment?

b. Any milestones and/or setbacks – and how did they affect?

c. Market perception – did it remain favourable or decline? Why?

2. Observable Data:

a. Did their pricing structure change?

b. Did they bring any new/additional products to market?

c. Have they changed their market focus? If so, how?

3. Opportune Data:
a. Any ex-employee recruitment opportunities?
b. Shared suppliers/distributors opinions about the state of the market.
c. Maintain social contacts within the entire industry.

Remember, no matter what the size of your business, annually exercising in competitor profiling will prove to be time well spent. If done properly, it should feed nicely into your overall business strategy.

Rhondi Rule #23: Always LEAD your business...MAKE your competitors follow.

A good competitor analysis only proves that the ‘Lion’s Share’ of the market is planted exactly where it needs to be: FIRMLY with you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It is proven that the best qualified leads don’t come from cold calling but from having a strong referral system and up-to-date customer database. Increasing (or sometimes even maintaining) certain sales targets can be very time consuming, and if not managed properly, can be painfully expensive.

The standard equation of; “You have to have 100 conversations, to generate the interest of ten and the sale of one” can easily increase from ten to sixty and one to six if the leads are from a database of solid clients with a first-rate referral system in place.

A great customer base is built. Some may weigh in that it can be bought but buying any list takes capital dollars to purchase as well as time and money to “work it”. Remember you have to scrub any new list to determine the status of every single contact.

What’s my advice? Build it yourself! Have a plan, set targets, then track & measure results. When offering incentives, never make your clients feel like they are a part of a mass marketing cog and always provide great service and a memorable experience. Never forget that follow-up with all customers in a timely fashion is critical. Happy (not hesitant) customers will gladly refer their friends.

These tips may seem simple but with the right strategy and marketing plan your business revenues will grow. Never lose sight that growing any business is really hard work.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


History has proven that companies that cut their advertising and marketing budgets during an economic down turn suffer. Don't do it!

No matter what the surrounding economic condition, marketing should be considered an investment and not a cost. Mismanage your investment in a down economy and it’s going to hurt your overall bottom line.

If cuts are unavoidable, one way to keep in front of your audience is to renegotiate your current ad rates. (ie: Demand 90 days to pay, demand 12x’s rate for three insertions etc.) It’s a buyers marketing and media outlets that are also feeling the pinch are more likely to deal rather than lose your business.

Even if you have made a conscious decision to increase your spending in a down turn it is still critical that you take a look at how wisely you're spending those dollars. Make sure you have a solid message. If unsure, invest in market research if haven’t done so already. All businesses have the ability to collect data. Surround yourself with someone that has the knowledge and systems to get you started in the right direction.

At the end of the day your business is worth it.

Don’t put all your hard work in harms way.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What is ESSENTIAL to an effective ad campaign?

NEVER forget that your advertising/promotional material is how the market perceives your business and (is a direct link to) your image. It doesn’t matter if your sales are in the thousands or the millions, market perception and a strong image are essential to an effective campaign.

Let's take the NMI Carpet Cleaning sample I've attached as an example. (

The artwork you are looking at was a mailer. A post card with a very effective hook. The look of poor ‘Emma the dog’ & her dilemma - makes you want to turn the card over - which offers the consumer $25 off of NMI services (and had a validity date). This mail merge was a single facet to a fully reinforced campaign for 2009.

If there is one thing that I pontificate more than strategy - it's that “it doesn’t have to be expensive”. That's right, it doesn't have to be expensive but always make sure it looks like it does!

All campaigns can be easily, and should be, fully costed (with a measureable response level) before they kick off. Always use your businesses personal economy of scale to make solid financial decisions. Make sure you understand the results.

What do you think? Let me know… leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


When you see a company with any type of longevity (in any market) re-brand, it’s a strong indication to the general public (and their existing client base) that there has been a shift in overall business strategy.
Re-branding may be driven by any number of variables so I'll list the the top three that come to mind:
  1. Stimulate Consumer Expectations: Not because the current brand is losing its relevance but more because the buying public love things that are new and fresh. Design, technology and advertising mediums are always changing. A re-brand under these circumstances has an overall objective of generating a buzz within your buying community letting everyone know you are going strong and here to stay.
  2. Change in Ownership: When partnerships end or large capital dollars are used to acquire a current business, re-branding will usually ensue. (This may be more in small/medium sized business in that the partner that retains ownership wants his buying public to know that a significant change has occurred.)
  3. Change to the Business Environment (where the overall brand exists): Most often this is a strategic change in competitor dynamics which dictates a re-brand. (Such as, low end to high end, wholesale to retail.) I think of it was opening a new business with in a business or the directional change is so definite a name change is also a factor.

Yes, re-branding is an exciting process but it’s critical that the entire business be trained to focus on the new brand. Be sure to establishing an ongoing program for measuring employees’ consistent and complete use of your new strategic position. Everything from sales messaging to letterhead must be taken into the equation.
No matter what the change in business strategy – the most common mistake made by companies when they make the critical decision to re-brand is they assume that the exercise is a one day affair. This is a gigantic mistake! That will cost your bottom line dearly.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Wondering why your web hits have dropped drastically?

Well, after you've created a website, you need to have a plan in place to keep it updated, it’s vital. Why?... Because your website is static rather than dynamic and keeping it fresh is the easiest way to retain the public appeal businesses so desperately strive for.

Now let me quantify what I mean about updated. ‘Updating’ your website encapsulates so much more than just brushing up the content and though I am first to stand on my soapbox and pontificate that good clean writing is critical - there are definitely other factors equally/more important:

1. Optimization is the key. Mass visitors are directed to websites with a high page ranking and this is achieved by tactical page linking. This is critical for success and should be regularly monitored.
2. Test all of your site feeds regularly. Ensure all site feeds run smoothly ensuring a steady stream of sales traffic. (Any keyword bidding should also be monitored and analyzed to ensure monies are not being wasted.)
3. Keep all of your synergies current. Don’t just post your promotional vignette on YouTube. Stream is through your website, Facebook and My Space account. All four will band together to increase your overall traffic. Remember, you have an obligation to your business to always understand any new technology offerings.
4. Keep your calendar of events and all photos fresh. All web-users are looking for interaction they will not continue to return if it looks like you aren’t paying attention to their ongoing needs.
5. BLOG! Don’t let it weigh you down – just have a plan and do it. It works. (Make sure it's properly embedded for success.)
6. Never... EVER... let your website look tired. In today’s questionable economy utilize the resources you have in place to save overall dollars but don’t expect a tired mule to perform like a stallion!

Rhondi’s Rule #49: More isn’t necessarily better – it’s just more. Don’t confuse your visitors with too much FLASH and manage the GLITZ. It looks like you are trying too hard.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WHAT TO DO? Addressing Slow & Off Season Sales

The ‘off season’ affects every business; and it affects every business differently.

Some businesses see their incomes soar during the Christmas season and most tourism based businesses may see their incomes soar during the summer.

Some businesses may burst at the seams when the school year starts while others may burst only at the seams if the temperature falls below freezing. Every business has peaks and valleys.

When is your busy season? When is your off season? How do you survive the slowdown in business?

Let’s look at five specific ways you can deal with the slow season and use it to help build your business and position yourself for growth:

1. Follow up with old customers: During the busy season, you probably don’t have the ability to spend a lot of time following up with customers. Now that you have the time, get into the habit of following up with customers. (It doesn’t matter that it’s been six months or a year, give them a call or drop them an email to let them know you are still able to serve their needs.)

2. Create a special. Consider your profit margin carefully and create a seasonal sale. ‘Sales’ can be a great way to build business but be careful that they don't become expected. Doing that may shift your busy season into your slow season because your customer base will wait for your product to go on sale – as it does - the same time each year.

3. Try repackaging your products. Find your way out of an off season by changing your niche or your customer's idea of your product. If you sell gardening tools and your off season is fall and winter, consider packaging those gardening tools together with soap, gloves, and seeds in a gift-wrapped basket and promote your repackaged product as the perfect Christmas gift for grandma. Do you currently offer gift certificates?

4. Test a new product: If you've been toying with an idea to add to your product line, now might be a good time to do it. Don’t initially expect strong sales but launching in the off season will give you time to test consumer reaction, potential defects, and marketing angles. Most importantly, you have the time and won’t have to stick a large amount of investment into inventory.

5. Schedule future business NOW: Get around your off season by offering customers a discount if they pre-paid for service they would receive later. (Lawn care companies are well known for doing this.) Remember that you will end up doing the work later during your busy time so make sure you have your staffing levels ready for it.

There are so many approaches to successful offseason marketing. It just takes work and a solid commitment. How does your business market and sell in the offseason?

Saturday, September 8, 2012


A strong testimonial is right up there with your business card as the most affordable form advertising and promotion. For those of you that may be new to business, a testimonial is like a ‘sales pitch’ from a satisfied customer that sings the praises of your product or service or both.

When asking for a testimonial, be sure to be specific in your request and try to keep the customer (giving their opinion) focused. Best practice is to ask for a testimonial as soon as the sale/service is complete.

Where should testimonials appear? Your website is a good starting point. (If you are going to introduce them into your marketing material be sure to understand your audience and make sure you present the feedback in an organized fashion.) Remember - It is always best to ask for permission before publishing a consumer endorsement.

Do testimonials work? In my personal experience they do but I've always used a very structured approach. Feel free to send me an email if you’d like some examples of good testimonials.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Managing an Effective Newsletter

Truth be known, most newsletters (print or online) do not get the proper return on investment they should or could. Why?

For some unexplained reason the publisher doesn’t have a long term goal for its success. Never lose sight that a newsletter has one purpose; increase sales and/or prospect traffic. Period!

My first rule of thumb is ‘”don’t tell everyone where you’ve been” but “where you are going” and “how you are going to get their.... together.” The example I have attached is produced bi-annually for the purpose of fundraising. It is well thought out and always an enjoyable and informative read.

Make sure the subjects you promote have relevance and fit into your overall marketing plan. For example if you want to increase your sale of widgets, don’t include multiple recipes in your publication.

Never leave your readers asking “why am I wasting my time reading this?” All of your readers are busy so always be respectful of the time you are asking them to spend. Be realistic about the amount of content you can consistently produce and remember how the newsletter reads is just as important as how it looks.

Point blank - a newsletter must be sustainable. If you're doing an electronic version of your newsletter, 'clean and simple' spells 'effective'. Plain text publication with less graphic enhancements will help keep file sizes manageable for the mail servers.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


E-mail & electronic newsletter campaigns are a proven way to not only stay in touch with existing clients, but an excellent way to recruit new ones.

One word of warning; just because they can be inexpensive (in comparison to some other options) DO NOT ignore your basic direct marketing guidelines.

Your first impression in this medium is an important one, so be sure you plan your approach properly and always test your message before sending it to your contact lists.

Ensure you have a controlled message that isn't too overwhelming (keep your eye on file size) and remember more isn’t always better… it’s generally just more. Also, for the best results, it is critical that you make sure your sales team does the proper follow up!

The electronic medium is really no different than any other advertising medium you might spend money in. Always track any/all results and trends that may appear to ensure your money will be very well spent.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


It may surprise you, but truth be known, the W5’s (as I like to think of them) create the best synergistic starting point for any advertising approach. This basic principle may mean the difference between money spent & money well spent.

Before designing an ad, website or printed brochure, always ask yourself the following simple questions:

1. Who is your audience?
2. What are you advertising? What service or product are you offering?
3. When is the time to advertise? Why now?
4. Where is your market? (Geographically, financially, emotionally?)
5. Why should your market call? (Why should they hire you? Why should they choose you and not your competitor(s)?)

A message with a solid focus will ultimately generate the best response. Always make sure you encourage your audience to take the next step (ie: call, visit, and/or spend) and make sure you are specific as a call to action is critical. Remember my #1 rule... and make sure your strategic goals are always present in your message.

Best advice? Keep it as simple and as specific as possible. Make the copy catchy (or edgy if applicable) and remember that a picture is worth 1000 words . Always avoid the clutter of excess copy!
In the end, no one knows your own product as well as you do. If you are struggling with messaging, call on a professional to help bring your ideas to life. Never think of a professional approach as an expense, think of it as an opportunity to increase sales.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do Trade Shows Work?

From a marketing perspective, trade shows offer the best boost of 'consumer impressions' in the shortest period of time. Exhibiting at a trade show offers your business the ability to directly pitch your target market.

Great trade shows (with paid attendance of over 10,000) offer the opportunity for a business to show off products & describe services in an exclusive setting. Well respected shows also create that very critical first impression....

How do you ensure success? You need to have specific and measurable goals that directly feed into your marketing plan. Be strategic. You need to carefully select the show(s) you want to participate in and focus exactly on what you wish to achieve. Budget should always play a definite role in deciding what promotional activity is possible.

Once established - ensure you have a fool proof tactical plan that addresses your desired result. More importantly, before you attend make sure your team understands the promotional approach to pre-show, at-show, and post-show deliverables.

Without a good approach, trade shows are just a very expensive excuse to get out of the office for a few days. Be prepared!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Advertise?

One of the most common questions I get is why do I have to advertise? Talk about a loaded question. In a nut shell, if executed properly, its purpose is to stimulate either economic and/or social growth – simple but true.

Funny Story – The ad driving you to this blog is the very first I have ever designed to market myself. (Prior to the campaign you’ll see throughout 2008, I relied on several memberships, networking & referrals, which to date have converted nicely.) So why implement a campaign now?

As business systems and supply chains became more efficient, the overall business successfully became (as expected) more productive. So -- How do you reach new customers? Remind happy clients about the business? Maintain morale of the team? …Advertise!

Advertising is a very important facet of any business but remember that it’s never as simple as paying for space. You should always have a strategy. A strong reinforcement to the statistical data your business has produced.

Understanding your market and understanding your research is critical. Remember that any strategy should compliment extensive analysis.

Have a question? Go ahead and ask.....

Friday, January 27, 2012

What is a blog? Is it different than a website?

It goes back to my last post referring to strategy and knowing what works best for your particular business. High road in view, I refuse to weigh in on one being better than the other (blog vs. website) because one is dynamic and the other is static.

Please don’t misunderstand. Though embarrassed to admit, I have paid for several domain names ( for the last few years but have always struggled to find the best approach. Once I began understanding blogging I realized it was the perfect fit for IDP.

Where websites gear to the viewer - blogs gear to the reader. Blogs are about conversation (and in business any strategic approach begins in conversation) which makes it the perfect fit! Clients can leave comments or ask questions and blogs are as simple as emailing. Anyone can weigh in – real time - think instant messaging.

Like anything 'this vs. that' it's always a double-edge sword. Either way, it is proven statistically, that only one thing makes people return to any site – blog or web – and that’s great content. In the end I am writing for my readers. Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What is Good Public Relations?

Good public relations (or PR), is about more than just writing and sending out press releases, it’s about making a connection on an emotional level that creates a sure image.

PR is a perception that creates a buzz around your business – and if done properly, generates positive feedback about what you do, what you say, and what others say about you.

A stellar business reputation is not earned overnight. As a business owner you should never execute a public relations approach as a band-aid but embrace it as an ongoing strategic approach that will enhance and protect your brand/image long-term

A good PR approach takes time and effort to plan and even more energy to maintain. Your chosen representative should be packed with knowledge about your business because it will be their responsibility to manage the buzz.
Their general purpose will be to influence opinions (and possibly behaviors) within your overall market; so make sure they have a firm understanding of your business and offer you an absolute approach and unconditional support. Never lose sight that your business image and credibility must be carefully managed. Respect is earned, and may be quickly lost if your consumer base discovers words and actions they observe are misleading and/or false.

The key to great PR is three pronged; the foundation of your message, the strategic delivery of it and lastly the ‘spin doctor’ that represents it. PR is a discipline that needs management and should feed strategically into your overall marketing approach.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

SMILE - Your business needs you.....

When running a small business, never forget that YOU are YOUR business.

No matter where you go or what you do – use it as an opportunity to promote yourself - remembering that both reflect directly upon your business. Both your personal and professional images are extremely intertwined and you should always be conscious of that.

As a business owner, you want to ensure that everyone who meets you forms a positive first impression. The old saying ‘you never get a second chance at a first impression’ is steadfastly true. Although we've all been socially advised not to judge people on first impressions, everyone does it.

Try concentrating on skills that establishes and maintains the kind of business image that creates a memorable first impression, positive word-of-mouth, and builds solid credibility. Consumers always see through insincerity and lack of interest - therefore getting into the habit of engaging in eye contact can be helpful and sends a positive first impression.

People enjoy meeting and interacting with someone that is well groomed, cordial and has a solid knowledge base that can effectively answer their questions. Offer of a smile to everyone you meet. I guarantee it will present the business image of a winner.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Million Dollar Question:
What is the easiest approach to ensure results when marketing? (Truth be told - it is a combination of things.)

1. Research and testing are critical.
Research and testing remove any guessing and leads your business directly to what your customer/client want. Always make sure to do the due diligence when it comes to testing different offers, prices and packages & always work toward getting your target markets input before spending big dollars on any advertising campaign.

2. FOCUS is next in line.
Statistics show most businesses today rarely interact with their customer/client base to try and understand their needs. Most business owners confidently claim they know what their customers really want but when I ask for specifics - they admit they have 'never really asked them?’ My suggestion is to take a quarterly survey. Find the need and fill it – then watch your sales climb.

3. Theory - follow your stats.
Failing to re-engage your current customer base, over time, will be detrimental to your profitability. Did you know that 80% of your business comes from existing customers and 20% comes from new customers? Did you know it could cost you 5 times the expense to sell to a new customer than to sell to an existing customer? Make sure you take the time to ensure you remain your customers habit... constantly up-sell internal services and always keep your client base well informed of any/all opportunities.

What's the best way to guarantee results? Make sure you always have happy customers willing to spend money with you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A press release is an effective (and affordable) way for you to get important business milestones noticed. They allow any business to create its own news stories and circulate them to the public through all different types of media.

A great press release has a crystal clear message & a strong headline. When well-written, a press release can be mass distributed, getting your message the solid reinforcement it will need to generate a good buzz of credibility.

A couple of things to remember:
1. Cover the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ - so you don’t leave potential readers guessing about the purpose of your press release.
2. When it comes to style, I favour a ‘one pager’ (one page in length, 4–7 paragraphs, and no more than 3 sentences per paragraph).
3. Include good quotes and/or any statistical data pertaining to your message as backup.
4. Be sure to include all your contact information (using letterhead is a good practice).
5. Always have a concise ending (tying up any loose ends).
6. Always label your message “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” to generate a sense of urgency.

Though not standard practice, I tend to follow-up with someone in the editorial department to ensure they have received my release. It also gives me a chance to personally pump up my plight for press.

Have a question for me? Go Ahead and Ask!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Like any advertising, a billboard should be strategically designed to maximize your market reach. A traveler has approximately 3 seconds to read a billboard so your message needs to be extremely targeted.

The post-it note you see in my example, is twelve feet square, with a strong back-shadow for effect. The message is clear.
( (
The concept appeared in all print advertising and the catch phrase was the lead for all radio advertising as well. It was a very well researched marketing approach.

Remember - the purpose of a billboard is to reinforce other material you have distributed within your market. General rule of thumb? A good billboard can generate 3-5% of your leads so the expense should never exceed that in your plan. Rent is set using a metric called “impressions” so understand your location and expected travel before you sign a contract.

In the world of billboards – never lose sight that - Less is Always MORE!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


FACT: Your business card should work as hard as you do.

Did you know that over 80% of all business cards end up in the waste basket? With such a strong statistic working against you, remember to always produce a card that - not only leaves a good impression - but also effectively promotes your business.

Let’s talk design. The look of the card is important but great business cards are also used as dynamic marketing tools.

1. Considered including a map, an appropriate diagram, or list of services offered by your business on the reverse side.
2. Bi-folded or tri-folded cards (or folding your card into a unique shape) are another option.
3. My favorite is to make the shape of your card stand out. A die cut card, with a stellar message, always produces that WOW factor and increases retention value.

Remember, think distinctive and memorable, and make sure it feeds into your overall marketing strategy.