I never expected to end up working at race track, let alone manage one.
I just wanted to be a radio announcer. And I was. Early in my radio career, I somehow got involved in hosting a radio show about auto racing. Next thing I knew, I had been hired as an announcer at one of the tracks we covered on that show, a place called Delaware Speedway. And only a few short years after that, I found myself leaving my chosen profession and role as morning show radio host at CHOK Radio in Sarnia to become the Sales & Marketing Director at the race track.
Just over three years after that, I was General Manager of the place. It was a role I never aspired to and still have mixed feelings about. But I can tell you this: our team worked our asses off during that time and did the absolute best we could. We won some, lost some and learned and experienced more within a couple years than I think I could have in a decade at any school.
Jay Doerr was just starting out his Delaware Speedway racing career right around the time I began as an announcer. As the years went on, my career progressed and so did Jay’s racing efforts. We gradually got to know each other, just as I also became more familiar with dozens and dozens of other drivers and teams. So when I got put into the General Manager’s role, I suppose I had already formed some strong friendships with many of the race crews, and I felt a tremendous responsibility in not wanting to let them down.
I have deliberately not thought or talked much about Delaware Speedway over the last many years. But that’s starting to change, and having the chance to enjoy this discussion with Jay, a 3-time series champion and long-time top Ontario competitor, was a real treat for me. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think it would be safe to say that Jay and I always have had mutual respect for each other and I think that comes across in our conversation.
I hope some of the many people I got to know in that time enjoy hearing some of these stories. I’ve no doubt there are many, many more to come.
In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.
But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.
I recently asked, in an online poll on my website (www.kevinbulmer.com) and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).
The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.
However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):
Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.
And be careful.
If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:
Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:
From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.
But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.
Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.
In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.
I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.
In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?
When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).
Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.
Here’s what I did:
I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.
I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.
And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).
I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.
Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.
Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:
– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)
By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!
It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.
Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.
I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.
Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.
In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.
Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.
Here’s a True Story …
In my days as Sales and Marketing Director at Delaware Speedway (a half-mile stock car racing track near London, Ontario, Canada), we were always looking for ways to expand our fan base and broaden our demographic.
And we wanted to appeal to kids. Future customers.
At one point, we came upon the notion that, perhaps, the track would benefit from the presence of a “mascot;” you know, like the San Diego Chicken, to whom the kids would relate. Armed with the knowledge that Charlotte Motor Speedway had such a mascot, named “Lugnut,” we decided to embark upon our own characterized adventure. After some deliberation, we settled upon the name “Dipstick,” for three main reasons:
- A dipstick was part of any vehicle’s engine. It’s how you checked the oil!
- “Dipstick” was what Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane often called Deputy Enos in the TV Show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”
- We wanted to poke a little bit of fun at ourselves
After agreeing on the name, I can well remember the discussions of character design: should he have a “T”-shaped head, or a “loop?”
We began examining the dipsticks of any nearby vehicle we could find and, in time, decided that a “T”-shaped head would make for a better character.
We also embarked upon the task of finding a company that could actually design and construct the costume for us (We eventually found a business based out of Edmonton, Alberta. The name escapes me, but they were the ones that made the costume).
In the preliminary drawings, Dipstick actually looked pretty cool, and somewhat agile.
In reality, he was shipped to us in a giant crate. And the costume inside ended up being one big, rigid, giant, heavy box that afforded the person inside almost no mobility, limited visibility and nothing for reach but the equivalent of little T-Rex arms.
In short, a lot of money later, Dipstick was a disaster.
Undaunted, we decided to unveil our new creation to the “world” (or, about 1500 people) at the race track’s annual appearance a London Knights Ontario Hockey League game (note: this was back in the day when the Knights played in a rinky-dink arena and few people followed them with much passion. Nowadays, the Knights pack around 9,000 people into almost every home game. This event pre-dated that trend).
Between periods, our new mascot was to take to the ice to wave to the fans and thereby represent the race track proudly and convert all in attendance at that hockey game into instant stock car racing fans. The plan was foolproof!
When the time came, the players left for their dressing rooms and the zamboni set about its duty, flooding one clean patch of ice down the middle of the rink to begin the task of cleaning the playing surface.
Dipstick stepped out in front of the fans and took a few tentative steps on the frozen stage. Gaining confidence with each step, he shuffled further into the center of the rink, only to come across the freshly flooded center spot where the Zamboni had just recently been.
As soon as Dipstick hit that flooded patch of ice, his feet went out from under him.
The box-like behemoth of a mascot landed with a resounding thud, and it quickly became apparent that the dimensions of the costume were going to make it a challenge for the person inside to get up and resume entertaining the crowd.
As if that were the only problem.
With Dipstick flat on his back, in front of the crowd during intermission of a hockey game at the old London Ice House, I walked over to him, along with young Stephen Richmond, a Delaware Speedway Junior Racing League competitor at the time. When we arrived at our fallen mascot, we both figured that we’d be able to take his hand and lift him back to his feet.
But that didn’t work.
We tried to raise him off the ice.
We tried again.
He didn’t budge.
It was then that I realized, with our newly minted mascot lying flat-out on our local hockey team’s playing surface, that we had a bigger problem on our hands.
Dipstick had frozen to the ice.
The “flood” left by the zamboni mixed with the fabric of Dipstick’s costume and, by the time he’d fallen, the water had frozen, taking Dipstick’s upper body with it.
He was stuck.
I can well remember it. People in the stands were howling. Tyler Anderson, who was inside the costume, was flat on his back and staring straight up at the ceiling. He commented that all he could see were, “bright lights.”
We eventually got him up and off the ice surface, and the game continued. I can’t recall who won.
But I can tell you this:
Next time you come up with the “next great idea,” take a few extra days and think it through. Once you’ve examined every angle, you may find it’ll work out fine.
Then again, you may end up with your Dipstick stuck to the ice.
We’ve almost put January astern and I can scarcely recall any of it. Seems a blur to me. And as I stand at the doorstep of the first weekend in many weeks that does not include work, big events or the like, I hardly know what to do with it. Though I know what I’d like to do:
For a long time.
It’s been over a month since KG and I last recorded anything. But the heart of the project is still beating (much like the “Heart of Rock ‘n Roll”) and I can sense an upcoming return that will bring renewed vigour and momentum to see it through to completion. Right now I’d be happy just to get back out to see Kev again and hash out some songs, as it’s difficult to fall victim to life’s perceived burdens when you’re singing.
Still, whenever I’ve been able to steal a few minutes, I have been playing guitar and creating concepts in my mind over the last few weeks. But when I grab a guitar, it’s been the electric 6-string (rather than the acoustic), and I’ve been dusting off some rock material that I’m excited to work on. Burying myself once again under a mountain of my own expectations, I’ve already told KG that the minute we’re done recording the acoustic album, we’ll get to work on the rock project! Haha.
I’m my own worst enemy. I know it.
At this point, what I need is some rest. We’ve been through a time of very high intensity with my company, CPT Entertainment, and we’ve come through it with some success, more knowledge and more firepower. Of course, as you grow, it all becomes more to manage; an art in itself.
There has been no rest in the radio work either. Hosting a weeknight show, regardless of the fact that it’s pre-recorded, tethers you to a regular routine whether you like it or not. Even though your body and mind cry out for a rest on a Monday after working a trade show all weekend, you still need to find the energy to prepare and perform on the air even if you’d really rather tell people to go listen to something else for a day or two.
I am not complaining. The great news is that all this work was expected. And I am lucky to have the opportunity to do it. Embarrassingly fortunate, really. And on top of that, there is much to look forward to.
This coming week, I’ll be escaping for a few days to do nothing but be with my wonderful wife and two great sons. We are headed to the Sunshine State, hoping it saves for us some of what the state was named for. But if not, that’s okay too. We’re just excited to be together without all the day-to-day distractions life requires. And we know that after a few days away, we’ll be aching to get back home, which is part of the fun of going away.
I’m excited that the Daytona 500 is coming up. I’m excited that the golf season is getting into full swing (with or without you-know-who). I can see that spring is not far off, and that’s a nice thought too.
I’m pumped up about where CPT Entertainment is headed. We have worked tirelessly and in a constant state of change for about three years. We are finally starting to see the roadmap of the future coming into focus. That’s exciting and empowering.
I’m very excited about where Kevin Bulmer Enterprises is going, and you can expect that I’ll be putting more of my time and effort into that in the coming months and years, especially after the “No Schedule Man” CD is ready. Songwriting, performing, speaking and writing: those are my passions. I have promised myself I will make those things a part of each day in some way, even if it’s only a few moments’ thought.
Off the top of my head, some other things that are happy thoughts:
David Francey told me the other day that he was working on a new CD with Keiran Kane. That is very good news!
Extreme fans are impatiently awaiting the upcoming live CD/DVD and, possibly, a chance to see the band live again this year. That’d be really exciting.
Will Kimbrough’s new CD, “Wings” is due in the latter half of February
Jimmy Buffett has announced that a new Margaritaville restaurant will open in Niagara Falls, Ontario, by this summer!
Looming on the horizon: the Masters, the US Open, the British Open and the Ryder Cup; four events that are about the only things that will keep me in front of a TV for more than an hour anymore
NASCAR’s season and the inevitable (and enjoyable) chatter among friends that goes with it
Spring training is around the corner. Tigers baseball will be on the air again soon.
The A-Team movie is due to hit theatres in June. I love it when a plan comes together.
Above all else, my wife and kids are healthy and happy. I’d trade all of the above and anything else in order to be able to continue saying that. After all, what else is there?
As for the whole reason for this journal – our recording project – well, we’ll be back on the “No Schedule” schedule soon enough. And when it gets closer, I’ll put my nose to the grindstone and make lots of noise about it.
But not today.
Gotta have some things to look forward to.
PS – Just “cooked” myself a couple of corn dogs (Pogos) for lunch. Now my office smells like a fall fair! See you at the Tilt-a-Whirl.
We’re getting there. We’ve hit a few speed bumps this last week-to-ten days, but we’re still moving forward, and suddenly something that has seemed so far away for so long is feeling very real.
Kevin Gorman (KG) and I started working on our CD way back in June. A few hours each week was all we could really afford to put toward it on a regular basis. The pace has been, at times, maddeningly slow. But looking back, I will acknowledge that both the time and the process have been entirely necessary. Now that we’ve reached the point we’re at currently, everything seems to be accelerating, almost like it’s going too fast. Suddenly, after all these months of pushing so hard, I find myself willing to try and slow it down.
Over the summer months, with the songs already written, we chipped away at arrangements and instrumentation. In some cases, we would spend an entire session debating what amounted to only a few bars of a single song. In fact, it took us several weeks to settle into the process, which resulted in us going back to the beginning and tearing apart the initial work we did. However once we found a bit of a rhythm, the individual songs and the performances started to take shape within a context of the whole, and we began to get a better feel for what our “sound” was going to be.
Low and behold, after a few months, we found ourselves with the infrastructure of 11 very solid songs built and ready to withstand the inevitable layering that would come next. In fact, we were humming along so well that we were even able to write, record and release a song out of left field (“Song for Sean”) even though each of us were working through illness. The idea that we were able to fast-track that tune seems to fly in the face of all I’ve just said about the overall process. However, I think it was only because of that process that we were ready to “find” that song so quickly.
The other thing that “Song for Sean” did for me (aside from bringing me closer to a lot of wonderful people who appreciated the tune) was give me a lot more confidence than I had before. That, in turn, led to a surge of momentum that KG and I rode as best we could.
Throughout the month of November, we made incredible progress. With the foundations of the songs built and our confidence up, I threw on some new strings and we set to work capturing guitar performances. It started with a song called “Everything’s Just Fine,” a number that actually has three guitar parts layered one on top of the other. That took about a session and a half.
Then we hit overdrive.
In one particular three-hour session, we managed to record the guitar parts of five separate songs, surprising each of us with both the productivity and the performance. Sensing a wave of positive momentum, we pushed a little harder than perhaps we should have.
Keep in mind that while all this was happening, I’m working full-time for my company, CPT Entertainment; working part-time (Monday to Friday) on the air on BX 93; and also guarding my time with my kids and my wife Tracey very closely (I don’t go to the studio in the evening until after my boys are headed to bed). All the while, I started making other behind-the-scenes plans, like CD artwork and layout concepts, development of a logo for Kevin Bulmer Enterprises, quotes on printing, shrink-wrapping, disc duplication, UPC codes and a whole pile of other things.
When things pick up in that manner, it is fun and exhilarating. But it also takes its toll.
Finally, the air went out of the balloon.
A week ago Sunday, in between buying groceries and doing my laundry, I remember checking in with my son Eddie, who was happily playing his Nintendo DS in our family room. He asked me if we could go outside and play hockey on the driveway. I said, “Sure buddy, but I’m just going to go upstairs and rest for a few minutes while you finish your game. You come up and get me and we’ll go play, okay?”
He told me, “Sure.” So, wanting to be anywhere but in my home office, I went up my bedroom and put the NASCAR race on the TV. Kevin Harvick (my favourite) was even leading. But next thing I knew, Eddie was standing beside me, shaking me. Forty-five minutes had passed. He was saying, “Daddy, daddy – you said we could go outside!”
Yeah. I had said that. And not wanting to disappoint my son, I rolled out of bed and we went outside and had a blast. But I knew my momentum was gone. Or at least, it was on its way out.
The next night, I was supposed to be at Kevin’s for another session. I made it there by about 8:45 pm, but we never got past the front lobby. I was just too tired. We agreed to try it again another day.
The following Friday, I came back, with only three songs left that needed guitar tracks. We tried to do “Bagley Avenue” (one of my all-time favourites) first.
I couldn’t play it.
I tried. Then I tried some more. Then I got so frustrated that I actually told KG that maybe we should leave it off the CD. Thank goodness for KG, as he told me that wasn’t an option, because he liked the song too much.
So I went back to the studio the next day and once again had no luck with that tune. Somehow, I did manage to capture the guitar track for “Sunny Day in November” but “Bagley” continued to elude me.
Somehow, between this past Monday and Tuesday night, I was feeling better and we managed to get enough passable guitar material to get us through that song. Now, only the song “Hope Over Hurt” remains. I anticipate that it will open the album, so I want to take a step or two away and come back to it later, once I’ve got my confidence and enthusiasm up again.
See there? Now that I’m so close, I’m finally willing to wait.
Earlier today, KG and I spent a couple hours together, though I spent more time making and receiving calls and sending out emails for my CPT Entertainment duties (which always come first) while he mixed and edited. We discussed each song and were surprised at how far along we were. Other than “Hope Over Hurt,” we very literally only need to add the vocals and then mix and master the darn thing.
As for “Hope Over Hurt,” I’m okay with leaving it until last. The song is a rousing, up-beat song that has a sing-along chorus and it strikes me as the kind of number that we should use to wrap this whole thing up and celebrate our efforts. Perhaps you’ll understand what I mean when you finally here it.
Things will be a little slower over the next week, simply because I won’t be here to do much about it. I, along with my CPT Entertainment partners, will be headed to the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando on Wednesday. But when I’m back, we’ll start on the vocals.
It’s almost time to start planning for a CD release gig in the late winter/early spring.
As I’ve proven to myself, it’ll be here before I know it.
This was another decent week as far as progress on our music project goes. Monday night, we tore “Orlando” down to nothing and built it back up again. I had never been sold on the sounds we’d put into it out of the starting gates and, after leaving it some weeks and putting it in context with the other songs, KG agreed. So we scrapped it. The good news is that we like what we did following that, and I feel good about where it’s going.
Following that, we sat and listened through all the songs and were quite pleased with what we heard. The songs are there; it’s just up to us to get a decent performance down for the record. I’m sure we will.
The second session of the week was split mostly between working on “Bagley Avenue” and some general discussion. From here, it’s likely that we’ll just play through the songs together a number of times and then, when we feel comfortable, we’ll roll tape and capture ‘em for all time. What we have now are basically reference tracks (in cinema, they’d call them “animatics”). In other words, we will re-record everything we’ve done so far. But at least we’re happy with the tempos, keys, arrangements and tone of each of the songs, and that’s half the battle.
I am growing more excited about this project by the day. I can even see some of the cover art in my mind’s eye, and it’s likely that I’ll start to work on that in the weeks to come. I’m looking forward to it.
Meantime, there won’t be any progress this coming week. My company, CPT Entertainment, is hosting our first-ever London International Travel Show in less than a week. My efforts will be devoted almost completely to that event. And I’m quite excited about it too. We’ve worked hard for a long time and I’m proud of my team. I hope we get the results that will make my guys proud. They deserve it considering the work they’ve done.
As for other news, my two sons are both in the middle of a “Star Wars” kick. One of them is even going to be a Clone Trooper for Hallowe’en (he put on the outfit today and it was a hoot). I confess I love it. I’m even watching the animated Clone Wars show because my three-year-old will sit and watch it with me. When your three-year-old tugs on your leg and says, “Let’s watch Star Wars Daddy!” what are you supposed to say? I tell you what: you say, “Sure!”
It’s fun. I was three years old when the first Star Wars film was released. Who’d have guessed that my kids – 32 years later – would be interested in the same stuff. Fun.
Another fun thing that came earlier in the week was the Detroit Tigers’ one-game playoff against Minnesota. Though the Tigers ultimately lost the game, it proved to be one of the best baseball matches (maybe the best) I’ve ever seen. It was made better by the constant email exchange between me and my good pals Jimmy and Bubba. It amounted to a live chat through the entire game, and was an example of the good things about this online world in which we live. I was sorry when it ended.
At the moment, I am “watching” golf’s President Cup, which I recorded earlier on my PVR (those from the USA would call it a “DVR”). So please don’t tell me what happens!
Oh: one more thing. I saw the end of the race today. Good for Jimmie Johnson. But … NASCAR, please! Enough with that track in California! One race a year is more than enough. Snooooooooooooze. See you when they get back to Martinsville.
Sorry – second more thing. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian brothers and sisters. And peace and happiness to everyone else.