This is a hopeful and expansive newsletter. Much longer than was intended but with good reason. I have covered a huge number of topics that I felt needed to be presented. Lots of good information is contained here but I don't expect anyone to read it at one sitting. The bar on your left lists all of the topics covered so you can pick and choose what it is you'd like to read. But I do encourage you to eventually read the whole thing, the whole ball of wax...cause...there's gonna be a test.
A HAPPY and HOPEFUL NEW YEAR
Tidings of things to come
Starting this year, we are embarking on our 25th year of continuous operation. That makes The Kid's Directory the most enduring and I would add, the most effective family publication in Houston. No small feat is that! So, from my vantage point as owner/publisher of the KD for these past 24 years...having survived for decades, the ups and downs of both the Texas and Houston economies...I see pretty much nothing but hope and prosperity on the horizon.
Not only is the national consumer confidence index at a 16 year high, but more importantly, the Texas economy and particularly the Houston economy is booming with no significant speed bumps ahead.
My newest read is 'Lone Star Nation: How Texas will transform America' by Richard Parker. It is full of hope, history, possibilities, factoids, and caution. Here are some of the factoids that I want to share with you:
- Texas is currently the 2nd most populous state in the union behind California and is slated to become the most populated state within the next generation.
- Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in America...that title does not belong to NYC or Los Angeles...it belongs right here at home in Houston. I find this an amazing factoid.
- The Tech industry in Texas, now second to that of Calif., is forecasted to surpass California within the next generation. This will leave California with movie stars, precious little water and outrageously expensive real estate.
- Houston's port, the 3rd largest in the country, is now the only U.S. port configured to support the new breed of super tankers traversing the globe. So, within the next generation, Houston is slated to become the nation's largest port...ahead of California and New York.
- Texas is leading and is expected to continue to lead the country in economic growth.
- Houston is accepting some 400 new people a day. That number is also expected to continue to increase.
- And...there is more...lots more.
The consequential obligations placed upon Texas and Houston by all these lovely factoids are equally massive. We have got to create huge infrastructures, an educational commitment and a politic that embraces all this growth so that Texas can fulfill its destiny as the nation's transformative state. But this is not a bad problem to have...is it?
A Couple of Stories from our Advertisers
Dr. Perri Segura of the University of Houston's Teach Houston Program called and spoke to Leslie in late spring of last year and subsequently ran an ad for their S.T.E.M. summer camp in the April edition. A bit of a late start. As their camp closed for the summer, she sent Leslie a nice email (you can view it in its entirety on our web site). In short, she spoke of the "wonderful advertising" we had provided and thanked us for our "work in enhancing and bettering our community through our children." She did allow that they are planning an earlier start this year (look for their ad in the February edition).
And then there is Art Studio on the Boulevard: A wonderful program that has been enchanting children and thrilling parents for over 20 years. Magical and affirming to all the kids who participate (so too for the errant adult who is lucky enough to find a slot in the Monday evening art class--that would be me). Naomi, who is the visionary artist behind the program, has long since eschewed all advertising except the KD. We have been enormously effective for her and in way of giving back, she runs an ad in the Kid's Directory every March which essentially says:
'Sorry, but all our summer classes are almost full. There are still a few openings but I want to suggest to all the other summer programs in Houston:'
Start your advertising early
And the Kid's Directory is all that you are ever going to need.
So What's Coming Down the Pike for Our Advertisers
There are a couple of special sections and a great variety of events that the KD will be sponsoring in the upcoming months. We are going back to the basics and revitalizing our distribution system, already the most extensive, targeted and elegant of any of our competition. Then too, we are working on a new reporting system so that our advertisers will get the metrics of how many customers are finding them through The Kid's Directory digital editions. A redesign of our website also now allows advertisers to complement their participation in the KD with an online digital ad on our website's homepage.
The Last Early Enrollment Guide (EEG) is the February edition
This section runs in January and February of each year and is the result of our school advertisers asking us to offer them a venue to market into their fall enrollment and their summer programs (one does beget the other...yes?). It's worked really well for our schools and all our advertisers looking to bump up their program's enrollment. Deadline for space reservations will be Jan. 16th.
Part and parcel to your print ad, all advertisers will also be featured digitally on our website and will be given the option of digitally promoting all of their open house schedules on our website as well.
And running right alongside but with longer legs,
THE SPRING & SUMMER ACTIVITY GUIDE (SSAG)
This is our longest running and most enduring special section in The KD. It has also blossomed into Houston's most respected and most widely used reference guide for families planning their spring and their summer activities, vacation and the like.
The SSAG answers that most critical question this time of year: 'Where do we look to find programs and activities for our kids and the family this upcoming spring and summer?' And it has become a godsend to businesses in search of kids and families. See the stories above and know that we have lots more to share. Feel free to give our advertisers a call as well.
Upcoming Events...THE BIG BANG FOR YOUR BUCK...Time of Year!!
We are now just beginning to overprint the Kid's Directories...Like Crazy to accommodate the demand for the books at a host of upcoming events. For the advertiser, it simply means that your advertisement is distributed far more widely than normal and there is no additional cost...i.e. more bang for your buck. Here is a listing of what we are looking at now (This list will continue to expand).
What is important to note is that ALL OUR ADVERTISERS ARE WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY OF THE EVENTS THAT WE ATTEND. This is a rare opportunity for advertisers to interact with hundreds and thousands of their prospective customer base. These events are great opportunities!
The Northwest Private School Preview:
(January 25th) at the McWilliams YMCA on SH 249
This event is sponsored by The Kid's Directory amongst others and was created as an open house for families interested in exploring various schools and school programs for their kids entering or transferring from another school. Around 30 schools typically participate and some 600 or so parents etc. attend. The KD will be there handing out our 'goodie bags.'
The Campbell Elementary Fun Run and Carnival:
(February 25th) at their campus in Sugar Land
This is a fun family event open to everybody and attended by some 3000 folks. If you or someone in your family feels like a run then you can register online at campbellpto.org. If not, just know that the KD will be their along with all their advertisers as the event holders hand out 'goodie bags.'
The Big Kahuna...THE CHILDREN'S FESTIVAL:
March 28th and 29th in Downtown Houston
This is the largest and most well-known family event in the United States. It is also amongst the oldest tracing it lineage back to about the time that The KD was started: say around 1990. So many accolades have been laid on this event: It is a fund raiser for Child Advocates (a local, now national highly respected charity), it enjoys a broad breadth of corporate sponsorship that is the envy of all festivals and events and finally, the number of people that this event draws is huge. Last year, attendance exceeded 75,000 people from all over the greater Houston area.
The KD has been a lead sponsor of this event almost since its inception. The event coordinators set aside an area for The Kid's Directory to build a stage with seating that accommodates sizable crowds. They also provide areas for field interactive games and castles that kids can crawl into and decorate with paint and crayons. We have a large booth that promotes interactive arts and activities. The KD staff with the assistance of lots of volunteers will be handing out thousands of our books along with our advertiser's promotional materials in our 'goodie bags.'
Most of all, this event is one heck of a lot of fun! It also offers a wonderful platform for our advertisers to pass out their materials and interact with thousands of potential customers. We are now accepting volunteers to join us at our booth. We will have 2 shifts on Saturday (3/28) and 2 shifts on Sunday (3/29). The sign up is up on our website (www.kids-houston.com). Come on down and join the party...it'll be a blast!
Don't forget that we are also looking for performances and acts to get up on our stage and entertain the hordes of folks seated in front. In past years, we've had singing groups, a variety of dance programs (ballet, folk, belly, break...and others), karate, gymnastics, fencing and cheerleading demonstrations, magicians, robotics, bubble machines...and more. So if any of our advertisers are looking to entertain or demonstrate their expertise to thousands of potential customers, then go to our website and sign up.
And there are more...lots more. Here's a partial list. More details to follow:
- The Grand Kids Festival: April 11th in Galveston on the Strand. Attendance around 5000.
- The San Jacinto Festival: April 18th at the San Jacinto Monument. Attendance is about 3000.
- Houston Kid's Triathlon: We don't have a date yet, but last year the event was in April and had a draw of over 7500 people. It will be held at the University of Houston Campus.
- Pasadena ISD Heath Fair: April 28th at the South Shaver Elementary School. Some 500 people are expected to attend.
- Pasadena Strawberry Festival: May 15th -17th. Held at the Pasadena Fair Grounds. In excess of 65,000 people typically attend.
There will be more. Check our website (www.kids-houston.com) for updates. But what is important to note here is that in addition to the 100,000 publications we deliver each month, it is anticipated that we will distribute well over 15,000 additional books in the next few months. And remember, none of all this costs our advertisers one extra penny.
What is a 'goodie bag':
It's a white plastic bag with The KD logo and 9 other advertiser's logos on both sides of the bag. We use them to hand out the publications and the additional materials that our advertisers bring to all of these events. Once every 2 years or so, we print a bunch of these so that we have them on hand. Of the 9 openings for logos, I think that we now have about 6 slots available. They are sold on a first come first serve basis for $285 each. They typically go rapidly so if you are interested give your sales representative a call. Remember, having your logo on the bag will mean that your company will be represented at a large number of events that The KD sponsors over the next 2 year period.
The heart of the KD has always been its distribution. Currently, there are over 5500 different points of distribution that we service each month. Among those spots are schools, medical offices and facilities, retail outlets, enrichment programs of all kinds and an increasing amount corporations, relocation entities and larger distribution centers. Recently we have added:
- Pasadena I.S.D. They have requested enough books to hand out to all their elementary school kids.
- Exxon's new facility in Spring has asked for enough books so that they can send them out to all the new Exxon employees that they are relocating to the greater north Houston area.
If any readers of this newsletters would like to be included in this renewed distribution program, please give our office a call and ask for our distribution department.
The Internet: A Perspective
As of late we have been hearing comments like this..."We're just not getting as many calls from our ad in The Kid's Directory as we used to."
And our response should be something like: "Well, of course you're not...you ninny!" Putting that comment into perspective, it's sort of like saying: "The telegraph just isn't humming like it used to" or "We haven't received as many saddle bags of mail from the Pony Express as we did last spring."
Today, Moms and Dads, but mainly Moms, reach out to vendors through the internet usually on some Wi-Fi device. They do so on their laptops, their tablets, their desktops or their smartphones. They may hear of a school from a friend, see an ad or drive by the campus. But they research the school and similar programs online. And if there's an interest in getting more information, they may email, text questions or call. But from both sides of these equations, virtually all the commerce is being done thru the internet.
Here's the secret. The KD has understood all this for years. So when you advertise with us, the information about your company is featured in the 100,000 or so printed books we distribute throughout the Houston area each month. Remember too, that your ad also includes your website (or it certainly should). Your ad is also featured on our website (where each publication is available digitally online) with a link directly to your website which, in turn, can be viewed on a laptop, a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone. So...your ad in The KD enables our readers to contact you, the advertiser, directly from any of these sources...without the use of a telephone...or a telegraph or even a pony.
And there's even a more circuitous route. Because of the nature of algorithms (complicated mathematical equations) employed by Google, Yahoo and the like, The KD website, by its design, happens to direct lots of searches posted to Google and the like to our own website. So a Mom searching for summer programs for kids in Houston on Google or Yahoo might find that her search has landed her on kids-houston.com (our website). From there, it's a relatively quick hop (through our table of contents or by just flipping through the pages one by one online) to those advertisers who do offer up the dozens of summer camps and activities that that Mom can now choose from. And when the Mom reaches out to the camp that she has just found, she will likely fire off an email. She just may bypass the phone all together and fill out an application on the advertiser's website. Again, no phones, telegraphs, or ponies involved.
So the lucky summer program mentioned above, should wonder...where did that mom come from? The likely answer would be the internet...of course...or was it...really? Well no, not really. The Mom may have come from the printed KD, from the digitally publications that we have on our website, from a Google search that landed her on The KD website or maybe even from another Mom who told her to 'google' the business. But without specifically asking that Mom carefully how it was that she came to this summer program, the owners of that business would never really know.
The mantra for all small businesses should be: Ask every person who calls, emails or texts for information about your program or school or whatever: "How did you come to find us" and then ask again..."And how else have you heard about our camp...and again...are there any other sources where you have heard of us." This is the only way you are ever going to know where your business is coming from. And remember too, that the phone is becoming a bit of an archaic piece of hardware that will soon go by the way of the telegraph. If you don't believe me, ask your kids. They all communicate through texting.
We can help you design and set up a tracking program so that you too will really know where your business is coming from. There is a discipline involved but it is so so worth it. You only need ask us and we will jump right in.
Finally, We Come To The Freebies
Lots of good activities are available for families in the upcoming months. Now remember that these tickets and passes are intended for our advertisers and their friends and family members and they are given out on a first come first serve basis. Here's the list:
- Harlem Globetrotters: January 23rd or 24th. Must exchange vouchers
- Monster Jam: January 17th
- Marvel Universe Live: February 10th, 11th & 12th
- Sesame Street Live: February 12-15. Must exchange vouchers
- Schlitterbahn: Reopens on weekends beginning in March
- Improv Family Magic and Comedy: Every other Saturday performances
I want to thank all of you for you perseverance and your patience in putting up with my long windedness. I just felt that there was so much that I needed to cover. Hopefully the new index system has vastly simplified your read.
And as always, thank you for your continued patronage. Twenty-five years is a long time!