Monday, December 13, 2010

MB Homecoming Lives Up To Tagline

I don't know if it was the billboard in Neepawa or the mad deals on nips at Sals, but according to Travel Manitoba President and CEO Hubert Mesman, MB Homecoming was a success...possibly...well, maybe...could've helped tourism or something...

I mean, we all should know by now that all these programs set out by the Economic Developments and Chambers of Winnipeg have no real accountable measures in place, so why would we expect any details on the success of this $2.5 million taxpayer expenditure? That would mean the organizers running these programs may actually lose their firm grip on the handouts from Selinger, and have to go out and find a real job like the rest of us. At least Yes Winnipeg! were able to raise the appropriate dollars from the private sector to pay themselves a salary for the next few years - a much tastier and more respectful nipple to suckle from.

Yes, when asked about the project's success in hitting the targets of 50,000 additional visitors & 100,000 additional hotel-room nights this year in Manitoba, Executive Director Kevin Walters proudly exclaimed "it's impossible to tell."

Wow! This tourism initiative really lived up to its tagline "You ain't seen nothing yet!" No we haven't, nor will we ever truly know if this brilliance in tourism marketing did anything more than to keep a bunch of government funded cliques with enough money to pay their bills through the 2010 season.

When will the madness stop?! When will we quit allowing for these programs to exist without any accountability to results? Shouldn't part of the plan to award the funding be to outline how results will be measured? Isn't this key to any investment of taxpayer dollars? Did no one at the MB Hotel Association think that if family members were inviting other family members to come back to MB for a visit that they may very well stay with the relative that invited them?

Thanks MB Homecoming 2010, you truly brought "Spirited Energy" back to Manitoba.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blue Bombers Build Elliot High Enough to Fall

All week the hype in the media was building our curiosity of Joey Elliot. His confidence, almost cocky attitude. His chance to shine in the spotlight as the Bombers look ahead to the next season. The Tom Brady-like potential of a kid who got a shot due to unforeseen circumstances who...just maybe...could be the future of the Blue's most critical position.

And what do they do?... Rip the opporunity from him at the end of the game.

Anyone who managed to stay awake the whole game against Edmonton witnessed the public castration of Elliot's leadership potential. With less than a minute on the clock left in the game, after choosing to pull 3-points off the board by accepting a penalty, one would think the Bombers were going for the win. Why wouldn't they? They only have spoiler to play and nothing but further fan support to lose. The latter was all they accomplished.

Why run the ball on 2nd and 3? Elliot was showing true flashes of leadership and poise when the game was on the line. All year the issue has been the Bombers inability to finish, and here you have a kid who's making throws, looking confident and driving the ball. A true test of his ability. A real moment of excitement for die-hard fans looking to cling to something. Nope...we're gonna run the ball and kick and field goal. What?!

Watching this play out was the epitomy of the Bomber season. A bunch of potential wasted. Let Elliot finish the drive! Let him answer the question of "can I finish?"

I can't imagine one Bomber fan who doesn't feel like the last breath of hope about the future was exhaled with the decision to run.

When you've had the season like the Blue have had, all you can do is hope to find meaning in meaningless games like these last two. After sucking the potential from Elliot like the coaches did; I'd be surprised if anyone shows up to the Stadium to witness the final disappointment of the 2010 Bomber season.

You have the right to come up with a new slogan next year and hope "the Blue Revolution" all forget.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winnipeg Kick Heard Round the World

Thank you Mayor Sam Katz for kicking Winnipeg into the global spotlight, courtesy of one child's face.

Over the last week, there has been more press and internet activity centred on Winnipeg than any efforts ever made by the very lame "Winnipeg Incredibly Cool" website by Destination Winnipeg who are now Economic Development Winnipeg; the "Selling Winnipeg to the World" initiative which is now "Yes Winnipeg" and the "Winnipeg Inland Port" project which is now "CentrePort Canada".

Millions of Winnipeggers' tax dollars continue to poor into these efforts to put Winnipeg on the map, driving interest for businesses and people to relocate to our city, without any reportable results. Meanwhile, our Mayor kicks one kid in the face - at no cost other than a few scared parents and a bag of ice to slow the swelling - and suddenly all eyes are on the 'Peg.

What's my point? My point is results. The viral nature of information flow provides the ability to capture an audience - though often brief - it gives you those rare moments to educate and excite people about something. I'm not suggesting we have Sam randomly kick kids in the face each week and post it on YouTube, what I'm suggesting is that there are ways these entities that are responsible for marketing Winnipeg to the world can use the viral flow of information to keep eyes on Winnipeg.

Now, I'm not saying I have the answer to what this may be. I do know it needs to be consistent, and it needs to have a target audience in mind. Its not putting up a video called "Does Winnipeg Really Exist?" and cutting and pasting a bunch of movie and tv mentions of Winnipeg to show that this some how makes us relevant. I still shake my head at that one.

A perfect example of the lack of vision this city has in how we market ourselves is in a recent conversation I had with the women now responsible for social media at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. She openly admitted to me she's never really used any social media platforms, and out of the blue one day, was given this role for the Chamber. This is the same group that started "Selling Winnipeg To The World" - an initiative that, when it started, didn't even have an internet strategy. Now, they hand over the job of social media to a person that seemed more scared than excited about it.

If it wasn't for Sam's misguided foot and a couple of lap dancing teachers, I don't think Winnipeg would have made news beyond Brandon over this last year. That's right...let's just keep pouring millions into giving people jobs to market the city without any consequence for failure. I'm sure there's plenty more Government nipples to go around.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Widening Inkster & Widening Costs

Okay...I'm all for the development of Winnipeg's inland port. I feel our geographic location is a fit; our successful Manitoba manufacturing and aerospace companies will benefit; and the potential for new business development and job creation is immense. What I'm not sure of is what has truly been accomplished to this point other than a tremendous level of spending of taxpayers money?

A trip to Mexico and tour of the Southern U.S. resulted in squat. I mean what impact are Diane Gray and her team making on these trips if, when reported on, they can't even spell her name right? click here Didn't she leave a business card?

Have they secured the land in Rosser yet? No. Without this, how will they secure tenants? Maybe they should spend less money touring the world, and more time working out relations with the rest of Manitoba.

Does anyone in Winnipeg even know anything about this project? No. I know this for a fact as I'm out meeting with companies all the time. Majority of people just think this whole project is the airport expansion. I'm sure that's why Michael Rodyniuk left. He probably got tired of explaining that the two projects are completely separate from one another.

Now I see that all the talk is around being Canada's first foreign trade zone. I'd say this is a pretty big deal. Why isn't the CentrePort Canada team shouting this to the heavens? They make a small mention on their website and that's it!

My point is there needs to be more education and marketing locally in order for Winnipeggers & Manitobans to talk less about noise pollution and tax spending and more about the potential for provincial prosperity.

With the millions of dollars already spent, when will we see some real business deals closed and the potential for return on investment? Yes Winnipeg! I sure hope so...

Friday, April 23, 2010

CentrePort Canada A Little Late on a Business Plan

I just read that CentrePort Canada, Winnipeg's Inland Port, is going to be releasing their first official business plan.

Is it just me or does this seem a little late?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winnipeg Slips as Desired Place to Move

Well I thought we were selling Winnipeg to the world, but according to U-Haul, we should be focusing on Canadians first.

U-Haul International, Inc. just released the results of their annual 2009 U-Haul National Migration Trend Report titled "The 2009 Top 25 Canadian Destination Cities." According to moving data reflective of nationwide statistics for calendar year 2009, Winnipeg fell from 11th in 2008 to 14th in 2009 for destinations in Canada where Canadians want to move.

Toronto, at no surprise except to everyone in the Prairies, was ranked No. 1 for the eighth year in a row, while Calgary came in at second for the sixth year in a row. Montreal took third and moved up from No. 4, with Edmonton dropping to fourth place from No. 3. Ottawa, Vancouver, London, Hamilton, Surrey and Mississauga rounded out the top 10.

I supposed the people at the Wpg Chamber of Commerce will need to read the economic development plans for London, Hamilton and Missassuaga as the information they "borrowed" from Halifax doesn't seem to be working.

Nobobdy blames people for moving away from Winnipeg, but the nice thing about us Winnipeggers is we're always happy to welcome their return, as many do. Now just to attract those that aren't ex-Pats?...

I wonder if Missassauga just has more Spirited Energy?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Winnipeg Education - From the strap to meds

My wife is a teacher, and a lot of our friends are teachers or in education. Many of my evenings are spent hearing about our education system. Its not all bad, but there is definite concern. From the lack of accountability to the growing population of children entering the system who have either grown up in broken homes or foster care, what I often hear is that the system is moving more toward day care than it is teaching.

One topic that comes up constantly is the number of children being prescribed medication for behavioural issues. ADD to autism, violence to lethargy; all seem to be remedied by one quick trip to the doctor's office. It was only recently that I realized how much of my wife's day is spent just issuing meds to the kids.

In my Dad's day, if you acted up or if you weren't doing what you were supposed to, the principal gave you the strap. There are countless stories my Dad told me of him or his siblings or his friends getting a lashing from administration.

Am I saying we should go back to the strap? No. Am I saying that meds don't work? No. Am I saying I have the answer? No. What I am saying or asking is, how many of you know just how many meds are being prescribed to children these days? Do you know the process? Is it your kids? What is the long-term implication?

I have no answers, but I have questions. If you have questions, make sure you ask them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Winnipeg Jets Rumour Update

So the propaganda continues. Was Bettman really in the city and spotted at a Moose game? We all know how bad Chipman wants the Jets under his roof. We don't know how much Dave Thomson wants it...but if he does, we know he's got the cash.

Here's what I heard as of 11pm last night:

The Atlanta Thrashers will be relocated and we have our Jets back. The Moose will be moving to Saskatoon as they've been battling for a professional hockey team for years. The Winnipeg Jets will hit the ice in September of this year.

Did you hear it here first? I guess we'll find out soon...or will we?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yellow Pages' Continues To Move Away From Print

It was just recently announced that Yellow Pages Group have purchased two online properties to expand their online advertising products; Clear Sky Media Inc., owner of, and Scarlett Lounge and; acquired an ownership interest in 411 Local Search Corp. This is further proof that management at YPG are preparing for the eventual demise of their printed directory.

The Yellow Pages Group have been scrambling over the last year to battle against the plummeting advertising sales traditionally captured in their printed directories. Realizing the book is more a door stop than a reference guide, they've had no choice but to quickly develop an online strategy to remain relevant in the age of new media.

The actions of YPG are clearly reactive based on the shift in dollars from print to online. Business owners must move with caution in trusting the expertise of YPG when it comes to selling services online. In fact, they may be out and out lying to companies in their recent approach.

I've spoke with quite a number of businesses over the last two months, identifying a major confusion in the marketplace when it comes to the relationship between the Yellow Pages Group and Google. These business owners are being told by YPG sales reps that they have a "partnership" with Google. This is far from the truth.

YPG have made a "strategic agreement" with Google to resell their AdWords program. This is not a partnership, and should not be communicated as such. Any person can open their own AdWords account and manage this auction for keywords. Yellow Pages, because they have always focused on local markets, have chosen to take on this management for their clients as part of a package when selling ads in their printed directories. In my mind, this is just smoke & mirrors for YPG to come across as providing more than they are. I know for a fact that in my local market, it was only this year that the sales reps for YPG were trained on how to manage AdWords programs to add it to their selling mix. A 2-day course doesn't produce experts in the field of online marketing.

What happens in the future with YPG is still up in the air. They are very new to online marketing. My message to business owners is invest your money elsewhere in other media this year. Allow YPG some time to get their direction clear and some experience under their belt.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Have Your Read the Business Plan for Destination Winnipeg?

I have a friend that works over at Destination Winnipeg. We got to talking about the mandate of the organization, and its relation to many of the development projects going on in Winnipeg. I was unclear on whether Destination Winnipeg is focused more on economic and business development or tourism. Therefore I thought I'd go through the website to get a better understanding.

It was clear to me after reading through areas of their website that they are in fact responsible for both. Quite a task for an organization that receives very little funding support from both levels of government in Manitoba. Naturally, I was curious how they would plan to execute two very different mandates? So...I went to read their business plan from 2007 - 2009. What did I find?

What I found was exactly the same information that I found on the website. There was no measurable plan of action. Simply regurgitation of who they are, what they do, what they don't do, and who they work with and won't work with. There is no execution strategy anywhere in the document. Allow me to share some examples:

In the "Strategies & Actions" section, they list the following:

- Increase “earned media” to help increase awareness of the city in external
markets through publicity on positive developments and city attractions

How will they do this? Its mentioned no where. Is it PR's? I sure hope its not through their promotional videos. Though very well produced, most of them have barely cracked the century mark in viewers.

- Attract group travel to Winnipeg through targeted packages to our primary
regional market. New focus is on youth and women group markets that offer
growth opportunities.

What are the primary regional markets? What is a targeted package? How will you communicate/advertise to these markets? What media will be used? How will you know if its successful?

The list goes on.

I challenge anyone reading this blog to go to Destination Winnipeg's website; read the business plan, and then please respond to let me know if I'm just going crazy and can't comprehend what I'm reading, or if in fact the business plan is simply stating what they do as opposed to how they will actually do it.

On a side note, you can now book your hotel rooms through their website. I'm sure the hotels - who Destination Winnipeg is supposed to be helping fill vacancies for - are quite happy to now have to pay them a percentage if a room is booked through the DW site. Hmmm...let's help the hotels by cutting their margins. Brilliant.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winnipeg Free Press Has It In For Katz

Call me naive Winnipeg, but isn't a newspaper supposed to provide an unbiased opinion to its readers on what's happening in both their local communities and to global events? If this is believed as truth, than how is it that every headline, picture and story that includes Mayor Sam Katz is either questioning his integrity, showing him to look conniving or leaning the reader to vote against him?

Today's front page of the Winnipeg Free Press was a prime example to the hate on they have for our Mayor. "Katz vulnerable?" is the headline, showing a picture of Sam that looks like it was taken after giving blood...tired and weak.

For anyone who's had the pleasure of actually talking with Sam one to one, as opposed to forming opinions based on his portrayal in the Free Press, you'll know the passion he has for this City and for Winnipeggers. For anyone who reads the Winnipeg Free Press on a regular basis, you'll know that they'll publish whatever sells advertising as they continue to diminish in content and revenue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CentrePort Team Return to Winnipeg

The team of 30 delegates representing the proposed CentrePort Canada project have returned to Winnipeg from their five-day tour of inland ports in Mexico and the U.S. The big question on the minds of many Winnipeg business people, "So what?"

I don't mean to be cynical, but I just can't help myself. When asked about the purpose of the trip, Diane Gray was reported as saying, "We have a large network of stakeholders that all want to see CentrePort succeed. There is no better way to impress on them what we can be in the future than for all of them to see first-hand what success stories look like." Hmmm.... Is it just me, or would you not hope that the team heading the development of Winnipeg's inland port would already have visited an inland port some time in the past? Maybe even conducted some business with these ports once before? Minus Barry Rempel, CEO of the WAA, my guess is the other 29 have not.

Before leaving, Chris Lorenc was quoted as saying, "the trip signals to the rest of the world that CentrePort is open for business," but is it? Do Mexico and the U.S. represent the world? My guess is that beyond the hands they shook during this inland port vacation, that no one else really knows about it. Even right here in Winnipeg, you ask the average person what CentrePort Canada is and most confuse it with the Airport expansion. The CentrePort team better hurry up and paint a bus to run up and down Portage Ave. to educate the market. We all know this seems to be the lead marketing initiative for most major events happening in the 'Peg.

I've had the pleasure of talking with a lot of Winnipeg business leaders regarding Winnipeg's inland port. The confidence in this project from most I speak with is equal to an impotent man starring in his first porno movie. Semi at best.

I do agree with what Dave Angus said upon his return, regarding the importance of creating a greater awareness to the project. I'm really curious what the strategy will be to accomplish this.

I want nothing more than this to succeed and to wipe the memory of Winnport clean from the minds of all whom it disappointed, both locally and abroad. It's our turn Winnipeg! Let's get this right... we have to. This city and its people deserve it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Is SEO the fastest growing market in Winnipeg?

Search engine optimization or SEO is quickly becoming common speak among business owners in Winnipeg when looking at where to allocate their precious dollars for marketing. For those who've heard the term, but still do not fully understand the process, here is a simple explanation.

SEO is the process of placing a company's website top of the search engines such as Google or Yahoo, for keywords that a consumer would type in when looking for a product or service. In the past, the Yellow Pages provided consumers a quick reference point when locating a business categorized by their industry/service. Now, over 85% of people just Google what they need and normally choose among the top few websites that first appear on the search page to fill their need.

Since its the job of an SEO company to position their clients in a place of high visibility, you'd naturally assume that an SEO company that is any good would accomplish the same for their own website. Therefore, I typed in "seo Winnipeg" to see who came up as the leader. I found Fresh Traffic Group and decided to call them to talk with someone there about this growing industry in Winnipeg's business community.

President Jerry Booth was gracious enough to take time out of his day to answer a few questions.

Me: "Can you give me a sense of the competition in your industry?"

Booth: "When I chose to open shop in Canada, I chose Winnipeg based on a business partner I had worked with for the past 5 years that lives just outside the city. When we launched there were about 3 other companies that offered SEO services... today there are over 190."

Me: "Wow! How has this effected your business?"

Booth: "Its created a serious watered-down effect. The market in Winnipeg are quite confused as a whole on what true SEO work looks like. Its not just a matter of putting a few titles and tags in the code of your website or writing blogs and tweeting. Most the companies in this city have limited experience performing true SEO, and are simply capitalizing on the knowledge gap of the average business owner. In fact, a major ad agency in the city openly admitted to me they don't know what they are doing, and when I asked why they offer the service, they said they're in it for the money."

Me: "That seems a little scary."

Booth: "It is. In fact, I've sat down with almost every major ad agency in this city offering our assistance in SEO. We are not a traditional marketing company, so often we will partner with agencies to manage the SEO portion of their client's marketing mix. There was tremendous interest in each meeting I attended; however, all that's materialized since is a new tab on these agencies websites now offering SEO to their clients. Whether they can deliver is another matter."

Me: "Is the growth in this industry a threat to your success?"

Booth: "Yes and no. The growth in the market has created a lot more awareness to the Winnipeg business owner on the importance of investing in the visibility of their brand online. The threat is that many that are offering the service are under-delivering and leaving a bad taste in the mouth of Winnipeggers. And, typical of Winnipeg, are trying to compete by offering the lowest price to get the sale. Most will find out you get what you pay for. We are top of search for our services in Winnipeg, and we'll remain there proving we can deliver. In time, as the business owner better understands our service, they'll realize that the SEO company at the top of Google is the one to use...why? Because we've proven our ability in our own position.

It was interesting to learn more about this industry. I've been in advertising sales and marketing my entire career, but feel even while still young, I sometimes feel the whole internet thing is quickly passing me by. I know enough to know that I am best to put more time into understanding the power of branding based on a strong internet marketing mix vs. the traditional forms of media that seem to be falling to near extinction.

The internet is here to stay. What is your strategy to remain relevant in how you market your business and services as we enter 2010?