Friday, December 31, 2010

Want to Book More Business? Write a Book.

Wall Street Journal columnist Sarah Needleman suggests publishing may be the key to acquiring more customers.

She profiles a Richmond, VA-based dentist who's published five books recently, including This Won't Hurt a Bit.  

The books have brought the dentist 450 new patients, at an acquistion cost of only $90 each.

Most entrepreneurs-turned-authors seek not only to capture new customers, but to generate "invisible income," writes Needleman. 

The latter comes from consulting, media appearances and speeches

"The trend wouldn't have been possible without the emergence of print-on-demand publishers," she notes. 

Thanks to firms like and, authors can publish for little or no cost, in exchange for a percentage of sales.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paint Me a Picture

I've been researching a hot technology lately.  My efforts have included reading the Websites of 40 firms in the "space." 

In doing so, I've encountered statements like these on every, single site:

"We are committed to continually driving innovation within the industry."

"Innovation is the backbone to everything that we collaborate, develop and deliver."

"Our passion for developing innovative software solutions is surpassed only by our commitment to our clients‘ success."

"Our team ranks among the best in the industry."

"Our goal is to empower your organization with the revenue it needs to advance its mission."

Not persuasive.

You might advise the firms to ditch such drivel as, "Our team ranks among the best in the industry."  That would help a lot.

But what else could they do to improve their Websites?
  1. Tell me why the technology matters to me.  Who cares if the firm is "continually driving innovation within the industry?"  What's in it for me?
  2. Deep-six the fuzzy words.  Don't require me to think so hard.  Words like "collaborate" and "empower" are way too vague.
  3. Paint me a picture.  Use language the way it should be used.  "Show, don't tell."  And employ clear, colorful words.  As Winston Churchill (pictured above) once said, "Short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marketing is All

How do you define your business?

I hope your definition, whatever it is, features the word marketing.

As Regis McKenna once said, "Marketing is everything and everything is marketing."

On that note, editor extraordinaire Alan Webber offers a "Book Store Parable" on his blog this week.

Recounting a visit to San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, Webber writes:

"Once I walked into the book store it was clear to meobvious beyond any need to state it, actuallythat I was going to buy a book.  At least one. I didn't know which one.  But I kind of knew I'd buy at least one.  Which made the following proposition clear: The task of a book store isn't to sell books.  It's to get people to walk in the front door.  Selling books: easy.  Getting people to walk in the front door: hard."

In other words, your business is marketing; it's hard; and it's all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

B-to-B Buyers and Social Media

In August, producers of the incentive travel-industry show IMEX asked 1,000 B-to-B buyers to share their views on social media

The responses offer a good glimpse into buyers' current preferences.

LinkedIn is the networking site of choice.  It's used by 64% of B-to-B buyers.  Facebook is used by 60%; Twitter, by 27%; and YouTube, by 23%.

Blackberry is the smartphone of choice.  Blackberries are used by 57% of buyers; iPhones, by 31%.

Nearly half the respondents (46%) also said they've increased their use of social media for networking in the past six months.

How beefy is your LinkedIn profile?  How mobile-friendly is your Web site?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting Personal

Personas are the latest craze among B-to-B marketers.

For good reason.

Like the GPS in your car, personas guide you in your quest to find new customers.

Jeff Ogden, president and CMO of Find New Customers, offers these five tips for creating strong personas:

1. Start with the companies of your ideal customers.  Begin by developing profiles of your best buyers' companies.  Think about the problems you solve for these businesses.

2. Identify your customers' job titles.  Ask your salespeople who the decisionmakers are.

3. Ask 13 questions.  What’s the prospect's role in the buying decision?  What keeps her up at night?  What motivates her?  Is she acquainted with your organization?  Where does she get news?  How does she make decisions?  What associations does she belong to?  What events does she attend?  Does she seek advice from colleagues and peers?  How is she dealing with problems today?  What words does she use to describe the problems?  Does she prefer high-level or detailed information?  What prevents her from choosing you?

4. Leverage all contact points.  For answers to these questions, talk to all the people who deal with customers.  Ask both sales and customer support.  Pose questions on Linkedin and Twitter.  Use internal surveys.  Participate in blogs and online communities.

5. Keep revising the personas.  "Personas are an endless quest for perfection," says Ogden.  So set bimonthly meetings to review them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Highest Possible Praise

During a recent phone call, a client said to me, "Your blog post today was better than Seth." 

What I heard was, "better than sex."

I paused for maybe 10 seconds, at a loss for words.

"Seth Godin," he added, feeling the need to clarify.

High praise nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Building Blocks

Here's a fundamental law:

The majority of B-to-B buyers engage with a supplier only when they're ready to buy.

That's why all the "pushing" in the world won't budge them.

But you need to stay on buyers' radar screens, so when the "moment of truth" arises they seek you out.

So instead of pushing, try pulling.  Use these five building blocks:

     A. Social networks (especially LinkedIn)
     B. Blogs
     C. Public relations
     D. E-newsletters
     E. Paid search

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two Fail-Safe Words of Advice

"Ask customers."

They're committed to your brand, too.

But, unlike insiders, customers will provide the Emperor-has-no-clothes appraisal you need when an idea lacks merit.

I'm ceaselessly puzzled by organizations that don't seek an outside reality check before investing in some initiative.

They're everywhere.

On the other hand, be careful to ask the right customers the right questions.  

Because a lot of them (most) have puny imaginations.

Henry Ford famously said, "If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse."

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Report from Live Events

While most live-event producers encourage participants to push out content, software giant SAP goes one better.

In advance, SAP maps out the social media coverage of its annual sales meeting. 

SAP identifies a dozen newsworthy topics, then deputizes skilled "reporters” to cover them at the event.

The employees SAP co-opts as reporters must meet a couple requirements.  One, they must be proficient in social media.  Two, they must have online followers. 

They're provided tools and training by the company, so their reportage is even.

During the meeting, the reporters get legal permission to publish interviews and testimonials by asking interviewees to sign index cards with simple "release" language.

The reporters also carry special-purpose business cards with Web addresses printed on them.  They hand these to interviewees, who predictably ask, "Where will this appear?”

You can learn more about SAP's efforts by visiting Andy's Answers at SmartBlog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Content Rules

Marketing gurus Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman have authored the new book Content Rules.

In a word, it rocks.

Although the authors would hope "to discredit the notion that creating content is complicated and difficult," Content Rules makes one thing crystal clear: it pays to tackle social media marketing with care and know-how.

If you're at all shy in the latter department (who isn't?), Content Rules will help.

Part One provides 11 do's and don'ts, the "rules" touted in the title.  It's packed with advice about writing, curating, co-creating, repurposing, sharing and other activities essential to good content marketing.

Part Two delves into how-to's.  

The authors, like most social media marketing experts, insist a blog forms the "hub" of any sound content marketing strategy.  There's a strong chapter on blogging with 12 more rules on that activity alone.

Fanning from the blog are Webinars, white papers, case studies, FAQ sheets, videos, podcasts and photos.  Part Two includes hundreds of pointers for perfecting these.

Part Three offers 10 case studies. 

Profiled are content marketing grand slams by big and little players, including Boeing, HubSpot and Kodak. 

Included with each case study are "Ideas You Can Steal."  These alone justify the price of the 250-page book.

While co-author Chapman, a "thought leader" in the space, is no slouch, Ms Handley is chief content officer of the much-lauded Website MarketingProfs.

So you can guess the advice in Content Rules is fairly sound.

After all, 365,000 followers can't all be wrong.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bye, Bye, Beefheart

I can't allow the moment to pass without noting the death last week of Don Van Vliet, who performed in the 1960s and '70s as Captain Beefheart.

Many an hour of my youth was spent (some would say misspent) grooving to Beefheart.

We toss the word around lighty, but Van Vliet was an artist.

He was the only big-name rocker I ever saw walk off the stage at the beginning of a performance, because the audience wouldn't accept his latest work. 

"You don't deserve this, [expurgated*]," he announced mid-song, and stormed off.

The concert was held in 1972 in George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.  It lasted about 12 minutes, as I recall.

*Rhymes with suckers

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dear Santa

My mom and dad said, if I write you a letter, you'd bring me all the things I want this Christmas.

So here goes.

Transformers.  Bring me as many of these as you can, Santa.  Sometimes I run out of ways to transform dull first drafts into inspiring copy.

Stinky the Garbage Truck.  I can use this to haul off the ideas I come up with that my clients reject.

Spy Net Video Watch.  I can use this super-special watch to keep tabs on competitors.  But, more importantly, I can use it to show up on time for appointments.

High School Musical 3 Game.  I want to relive high school this way.  My actual high school was more like the Revenge of the Nerds 3 Game.

Speedster Fire Truck. I need this to rescue the numerous clients I have who are too busy to notice their hair is on fire.

Thank you, Santa. 

If you bring me all these things, I promise, promise, promise to be good.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby Steps

Today’s customers demand simplicity, even in complex matters.

Seth Godin reminds us in a recent blog post"You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple."

You can't persuade "masses of semi-interested people to embrace complicated answers," Godin says.

So don't try. 

Instead, he urges, break down the complex.  Communicate baby steps.  "Teach complexity over time, simply."

And don't aim for masses.  Aim for the few.  "Teach a few people, the committed, to embrace the idea of complexity."

Find more tips in my special report, Path of Persuasion.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

While paying lip service to "social" in the virtual world, far too many organizations remain decidedly anti-social in the real one.

Whenever I'm the victim of such an outfit, I recall the motto of W.C. Fields, "Never give a sucker an even break."

Truth be told, the anti-social organization holds this motto dearly.  No matter what it spouts on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

"The customers are just suckers.  Let's never, ever give 'em a break."

On Social Media Today, guest columnist Alexis Karlin takes anti-social organizations, deservedly, to task.

She's a tad more generous in attitude than I.

Forget what the social media gurus advise, Karlin writes.  "Organizations need to start by indoctrinating every employee with a customer support mentality before they even begin to think about social anything."

She offers her own example of anti-social corporate behavior.

Recently, Karlin cancelled a license for software she'd been using. 

Two months later, she received an email from the vendor.  It claimed Karlin was four payments in arrears.

Karlin shot back an email.  Why hadn't she been notified earlier?

The vendor's reply: "someone else" in her firm had been notified.  

But Karlin's was the only name ever given to the vendor.  She then asked to see copies of the late-payment notices.

There has been no response.

Karlin feels anger over the incident.  "Even though we spend all this time talking about engaging, energizing, supporting, and embracing," she writes, "I strongly feel that companies are forgetting to do this in the day-to-day dealings through email, over the phone and face to face. 

"My guess is that this vendor has a great social strategy and plan in place, but didn’t bother to instill the prerequisite customer service mentality."

My guess is slightly different.

Yes, this vendor has a great social strategy and plan in place.  But it doesn't have a lot of scruples.

Engage.  Energize.  Embrace.  And never give a sucker an even break.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Potentiate is a boss word that people outside the medical sciences rarely use any more.

It means to strengthen something; to enhance its power or effect.

I just wrapped up a week at the annual meeting of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

More than 2,000 people were present.

All 2,000 didn't share the same agenda. 

Some came to study; some, to sell; some, to job search; and some, to schmooze.

But all shared one purpose in common.

All were there to potentiate their personal brands

Maybe that's the ultimate reason we convocate in large groups.

It's an awesome thing to behold.

What are you doing to potentiate your brand?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Old is New Again

The fellas in MetLife's marketing department wouldn't have known "Brand Journalism" from a Bronx Cheer.

But that didn't stop them from issuing nifty booklets, free to customers throughout the 1920s and '30s.

The Metropolitan Cook Book opened:

"It is sometimes difficult to feed the family nourishing food and at the same time give it the variety which quickens the appetite. 

"This book has been prepared to help the housewife in her ever-lasting question, 'What shall I have for dinner tonight?'

"We hope that you will find it useful and helpful."

Brand journalism, as the boys at MetLife instinctively knew, gives customers value and spares them the product pitch.

In 2010, smart marketers are still using booklets like The Metropolitan Cook Book to provide customers value. 

But they're also using blog posts, Tweets, ebooks and mobile apps to accomplish the same end.

Imagine if the MetLife boys had Facebook.

And while we're on the subject, what shall we have for dinner tonight?

Silly Beats Serious

The rise of social media marketing has prompted Advertising Age to suggest it's time to redefine "relevance."

"Relevance has long been a central tenet of effective advertising, but the rise of Facebook and Twitter are forcing a redefinition of the term," writes reporter Matthew Creamer.

"There's increasing evidence that the most-effective kinds of marketing communications on these websites are simple, random, even banal statements or questions driven by the calendar or the whim of a writer that may not have anything to do with the brand in question."

"Conversational posts" in fact produce 8 to 12 times the response of "brand-oriented" ones, according to Creamer.

As an example, he cites a Facebook post by Blackberry in November.  The com
pany posted a simple Happy Veteran's Day message that received 8,000 likes and 500 comments.  The response far outran reactions to other recent posts concerned with Blackberry products and product tips.

Monday, December 6, 2010

5 Best Books of 2010

Here are my nominations for the year's top five marketing books.

Chris Brogran's Social Media 101. Tons of primers like this have appeared in 2010.  But Brogan's towers above the rest for depth and clarity.

Ardath Albee's eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. You won't find a better guide to B-to-B marketing success in the age of social media.

David Meerman Scott's Real-Time Marketing and PR. I cannot say enough praiseworthy things about Scott's 200-page treatise.  It's mandatory.

Mitch Myerson's Success Secrets of the Social Media Marketing Superstars. Everything you ever wanted to know about social media marketing (but were afraid to ask).

David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan's Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. Informative, inspiring and a delight to read.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Marketing Lessons from the Walking Dead

Some marketing tactics never wear out. 

Others survive long past their prime.

Here are five that should be put out of their misery.


Greenwashed product names. Branding consultants, please advise your clients: the mere act of inserting "Eco" in front of a product name doesn't reduce that product's carbon footprint or make it healthy to consume.

Blatant self-promotion masquerading as e-newsletters.  No one likes these travesties.  That's why they're wearing out.  I just received one that announced it will no longer include fresh material, due to "author fatique."  Instead, the newsletter will consist of old blog posts.  Now I'm fatigued.

Those annoying three-word headlines.  You know the sort I mean: 

Define. Design. Deploy.
Entice. Excite. Engage.
Originate. Optimize. Outsource.

Yes, yes, yes, alliteration is powerful.  But enough, enough, enough.

Gated white papers that don't even download.  These add insult to injury.  I provide you my contact info, budget, buying authority, age, gender, eye color and last known whereabouts.  You provide me nothing.  Except phone calls from India.

Unwanted inbound telemarketing calls.  Securities salespeople, when will you finally get it?  No, thank you, I don't wish to review my investment portfolio at this particular moment.  I already feel lousy enough talking to you.

Your turn.  Nominate a zombie you wish to put out of its misery.

NOTE: Apologies to David Meerman Scott for corrupting the title of his wonderful book.  I urge you to read it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Kill Sales

Seth Godin offered a crucial reminder in his blog yesterday.

Marketers make overkill a habit.

Desparate to generate incremental sales, they add, add, add.  

More special offers.  More rewards.  More messages.  More links. More banner ads. More, more, more.

But, he warns, "Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention."

"More" doesn't spur sales.  It kills them.

That's especially the case when it comes to copy.

Overkill kills.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The End of Digital Correctness

In a recent conversation with Blogworld founder Rick Calvert, I mentioned the tribe of critics who insist that access to live events like his should be free.  

Rick responded, "Yeah, the 'hippies.'"

Free access to content, a founding principle of the Web's early developers, is soon to go the way of Flower Power.  (You can learn why from two terrific articles on the topic, one in Atlantic Monthly, the other in Wired.)

Since babyhood, the Web has been captive to this principle.  It was "digitally correct" to provide content free; boorish to ask dough for it.

But with the ascent of mobile apps, the model is about to flip. 

We're soon to see most Web content become subscription-based.  And the subscriptions will be pricey, to boot.

Capitalist pigs, one.  Hippies, nothing.

It was nice while it lasted.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here's a news flash. 

The Mighty Copywriter has become the nation’s first independent copywriting firm to provide clients ReadSmart®.

ReadSmart® blends IT with neuroscience and applies its formula to marketing.

The technology is a copywriter’s dream come true.

ReadSmart® makes thousands of minor adjustments to copy that result in more memorable messages.  It can be applied to direct mail, collateral, books and other documents to boost comprehension, retention and response. 

ReadSmart® increases reading comprehension by 24 percent; reading speed by 23 percent; reading enjoyment by 38 percent; and—best of all—persuasiveness by 39 percent.

You still need me to write the copy, however.  So I'm not worried about being replaced by a computer.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Ready, Fire, Aim

Ubiquitous marketing guru David Meerman Scott, author of 2007's instant classic, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, has hit it out of the ballpark again with his smart new book, Real-Time Marketing and PR.

I cannot say enough praiseworthy things about Scott's 200-page treatise.

In it, he makes an iron-clad case for why today's marketersif they want a fighting chance of staying competitivehave to go real-time.

"Scale and media buying power are no longer a decisive advantage," he writes in the opening chapter.  "What counts today is speed and agility."  (If we were taking things a tad slower and checking grammar, that last sentence would read, "What count today are speed and agility."  But I nitpick.)

Readers will find much more in Real-Time Marketing and PR than clever arguments favoring the wider use of social media. 

Between the covers are important lessons in how to:
  • Profit from the public's curiousity
  • Grab more mainstream media attention
  • Interact with customers the way they want you to
  • Engage friends and enemiesand win the hearts of both
  • Analyze your online reputation
  • Tap the "wisdom of crowds"
  • Come out ahead after a "PR crisis"
  • Transform your organization, so it can begin marketing in real-time
Much of the advice in Scott's book is anathema to die-hard fans of strategic planning, risk management, and command and control. 

That doesn't make the advice wrong-headed.  In fact, the many examples of real-time marketing successesand blundersScott offers should convince you he's onto something.

We mustn't let overplanning, caution and bureaucracy stand in the way of connecting.  "We need to unlearn what we've learned in the last half century about communication,' Scott writes.

Pick up Real-Time Marketing and PR.  Let the unlearning begin.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's Up with That, Eh?

Twice in a two-week span, I've witnessed a conference producer slight Canadians in the course of introducing the keynote speaker.

First incident.  The conference producer said, "Our keynote speaker has a strange last name.  But, then, he's Canadian."

Second incident.  The conference producer said, "I want to thank a first-time sponsor.  They come from Montreal.  Their participation today proves even Canadians can be innovative."

Do both these guys share the same public-speaking coach?  What does the coach have against Canadians?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Are You Authentic?

"We tend to think of effectiveness as something we 'do' to people.  But in  fact it is who we 'are,' not what we do, that changes the world and the people around us." 
                                                                       —Lance Secretan

"Authentic" is derived from the Greek word for "original."

Pretending to be "authentic" by looking edgy or sounding sincere doesn’t mean your brand will be trusted.

You could be an original jerk.

By the standards of Q4 2010, being authentic means you stand for more than just profits. 

Do you?

The truth of the matter: customers are more authentic—and more intelligent—than 99 percent of the marketers who target them. 

So lying about your organization's values in your marketing messages doesn't help.  It only worsens things. 

You're not only a profiteer, you're a phoney profiteer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giveback 2010

Today I'm announcing Giveback 2010.

Under Giveback 2010, I’ll donate $2,010 in marketing services to any registered nonprofit devoted to increasing literacy, anywhere in the United States.

To claim the donation, an official of the nonprofit need only contact me and explain the nature of the project or projects wanted.

I can be reached at 202.537.1169 or

Only one organization will receive the in-kind donation.

Giveback 2010 is my way of "giving back" and aiding the important cause of increased literacy in our nation.

The donation is restricted to the marketing services that I provide, which are described on my Website.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Are You Marketing Like It's 1977?

The mainstream media has surrendered all claims to serious journalism, as I noted in a recent post(Coincidentally, that's the theme of a new movie, Morning Glory, which I highly recommend.)

Today's mainstream media news programs are entertainment vehicles.

Thirty years ago, the story was different.  One example makes that clear.

  • On August 16, 1977the day Elvis Presley diedCBS Evening News opened with a seven-minute story about the Panama Canal, followed by a one-minute story about the King of Rock 'n Roll's death.
  • On June 25, 2009the day Michael Jackson diedCBS Evening News opened with an eight-minute story about the King of Pop's death.  And for the next 13 days, CBS Evening News devoted more than two minutes of each broadcast to Jackson's demise.
The question for marketers: are you providing customers an entertainment vehicle?

Or are you marketing like it's 1977?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lincoln Would Have Loved Twitter

One-time association executive and part-time historian Tom Wheeler wrote a cool book a few years ago titled Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

It attributes the North's victory over the South to Lincoln's embrace of the telegraph, the "killer app" of the 1860s.

Lincoln, as history shows, was a super-skilled telegraph user, while his Rebel foes were, well, late adopters.  (They were also late adopters of civil rights, but that's another story.) 

Lincoln, Wheeler contends, took advantage of the real-time nature of the telegraph to direct the Yankees on the battlefield, enabling them to run circles around the Johnnies.

When Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails first hit the shelves, Twitter was only three months old, with hardly any users.  But, had he foreseen its surge in popularity, I'm sure Wheeler would have agreed: Lincoln would have loved Twitter.

Of course, Lincoln couldn't have Tweeted top secret orders to his generals.  But he could have used Twitter to rouse the troops who followed them.

It's easy to imagine some of the momentous microbursts that might have come from our most articulate president:

During the massive Union rout at First Bull Run.  "Stop running!  The Marine Corps Marathon is next week, you morons."  

After the Union triumph at Gettysburg.  "Rebs in full retreat.  Stay tuned.  Speech to follow."

After Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox.  "Mission accomplished.  Ulysses, you're doing a heck of a job!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kiwi Outs Mainstream Media

New Zealand-based writer and publicist Peter Heath has a compelling opinion piece in the new edition of IABC Communication World. 

Heath argues that "serious-issue journalism" within the British Commonwealth's mainstream media has all but surrendered to "populism."  TV news programs focus exclusively on trivia, while London’s The Times now resembles The Daily Mail.

What happened?  Heath lays the blames on two doorsteps.

The rise of alternate news sources.  "Serious-issue journalism (or at least detailed analysis and interpretation of the issues) is increasingly becoming the preserve of specialist outlets, driving mainstream media (print and broadcast) down the populist route."

The rise of "corporatespeak."  In recent years, there's been "too little real and meaningful (for this, read “two-way”) engagement between organizations and the people important to them," according to Heath.

"We as communication practitioners need to be on top of these developments, not surprised by them," Heath warns.  In fact, these two trends "should inform and shape the integrated communication programs we should be developing and managing for our employers and clients."

From a practical standpoint, what does Heath's advice mean for most marketers?  I think it means:

  • Forget the mainstream media.  Unless you're promoting a luxury, a celebrity, a movie, an amusement ride or a sporting event, you won't earn coverage.  Target your messages at the "specialists."
  • Quit letting lawyers craft your messages.  Unless you do, you'll never be "authentic."  So you'll never be heard.  Much less believed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

To Be or Not

The masterful Brian Clark of Copyblogger has launched a nifty Podcast series called Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio.

In last week's episode, Brian stressed the importance of knowing who you're striving to be in the eyes of your social media audience. 

Brian, for example, hopes to be seen by his followers as a "likeable teacher."

The Podcast spurred me to think about who I'd like to be perceived as. 

Unfortunately, I can't decide at the moment, because of my dual personality.

On the one hand, I'd like to be perceived as social media marketing's David Ogilvy

On the other, social media marketing's Lewis Black comes to mind.

How about you?  Who do you want to be?


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Live is Often Dead

Seth Godin's blog post today suggests "Why we prefer live."
  • It's magical to be surrounded by "fellow travelers."
  • The chance something could go wrong in a live performance adds excitement.
  • The chance something could go amazingly right adds even more excitement.
Regrettably, most people in the "'live' business" (such as restaurateurs, hoteliers and speakers) "work hard to avoid getting anywhere near any of the three," Godin writes.

Why do most producers of tradeshows and professional meetings work so hard to avoid these preferences?

I spoke last evening about this very topic with event designer Bob Hughes. We concluded:

  • Most producers don't really understand their audiences.
  • Most don't design their events from end to end; they merely "organize" them.
  • Most don't report to executives who care whether the audiences have a satifactory experience.  (The execs merely want to extract money from the audiences.)
Sound right to you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Mother of All Marketers

I was a mere seven when Psycho was first released in movie theaters.

Fifty years later, the film's marketing campaign is still as vivid to me as it was in 1960.

As the grownups lined up in front of our local movie house, Alfred Hitchcock's voice played through a crackly outdoor speaker, advising them to keep the end of Psycho a secret. 

Just inside the glass doors loomed a life-size cardboard cutout of the director with a sign that said, "The manager of this theater has been instructed not to admit to the theatre any persons after the picture starts."

Both warnings were echoed on the marquee and the outdoor posters wrapped around the building.

Before the release of Psycho, a lot of people thought it was okay to stroll into a theater at any point in the showing of a film.

Not after 1960.  Hitchcock changed the way people went to movies.  Theaters playing Psycho actually had to close the box office once the picture started.

Word-of-mouth turned Hitchcock's $800,000 production into a $15 million blockbuster.

What lessons can "the master of suspense" teach?

  • Are you offering customers a new experience?
  • Are you asking customers to talk about you?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with a bit of mystery?
  • Are you insisting on time limits?

Monday, November 8, 2010

See Spot Stay

Harrah's is making big news by pioneering PetStay, a program that allows dogs in three of its properties in Las Vegas. 

Canine guests will enjoy many in-room amenities, including a sleeping mat, food and water dishes, and treats. 

At check-in, dogs will receive welcome packets that include directions to essential services providers, including groomers, walkers and veterinarians.

Dog owners will be furnished disposable waste bags.

This may be the only time a visitor ever cleans up in Las Vegas.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Funnel Vision

It's time to take a fresh look at your sales "funnel."

Only executivescomfortably behind the lines in the daily battle for market sharestill believe customers are gullible.

Direct-accountability salespeople know they're anything but.

Today's customers are self-educated.  And then some.

That's why Joseph Jaffe, in his recent book Flip the Funnel, insists the traditional metaphor of a sales funnel is passe.

Today's customers are "indefatigable researchers," Jaffe writes, who "will do what they can to make informed decisions that disintermediate marketing misdirection, hyperbole, overpromise and hype."

If customers are smarter than ever, what should marketers do?

In a 2009 article, "The Consumer Decision Journey," consultants at McKinsey & Company recommend marketers "look beyond funnel-inspired push marketing" and begin to cultivate customers while they're conducting their research.

"The epicenter of consumer-driven marketing is the Internet, crucial during the active-evaluation phase as consumers seek information, reviews, and recommendations," the authors state.

Wooing customers during the "decision journey" demands that marketers forego old-fashioned media advertising, according to the authors.

They must focus instead on building content-rich Websites and word-of-mouth advertising.

If you want your customer base to grow, Seth Godin famously says, you should turn the funnel sideways

Let customers use your funnel like a megaphone.  They'll broadcast their satisfaction to others.

That would take care of your word-of-mouth advertising.  

But what about your content?

That's where you need to turn the funnel upside down. 

You need to flip your funnel and fill it with tons of great content.  And make the content free and accessible.

So when customers on the decision journey find you, they'll find not a hypester, but a helpful, trusted advisor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tone Deaf

In her recent article for International Association of Business Communicators, Natalie Canavor laments the fact that Millenials' business writing is "tone deaf."

"Beyond having trouble with basic content and writing mechanics," Canavor says, "many younger people appear to be tone deaf: They may get their point across concisely, but with an abruptness that can offend older folks. And since many clients, board members, major donors and other influentials tend to be older folks, this is risky business indeed."

The disappearance of courtesy in business writing stems from four sources, according to Canavor.

First, busy Millenials have no time for tact, she says. According to a recent survey, they lack all patience for "small talk." For Millenials, communication is about passing along facts.

Second, Millenials are wedded to texting, "which more or less demands an absence of niceties and builds a telegraphic habit."

Third, Millenials are the victims of poor schooling. Canavor cites a conversation with Chicago adman Bob Killian, who blames college deans. The professors spot students' writing errors but are forced to let them stand, Killian claims. "They say the students complain and then the dean tells them that it’s not their job to correct grammar and punctuation—and those students are future donors!”

Finally, Millenials are "skeptical of authority." So courtesy just doesn't come naturally.

Ironically, that makes their writing sound (to me, anyway) pretty darn authoritarian.

Monday, November 1, 2010


The New York Times reports that major retailers, spooked by the soft economy, launched their Christmas shopping season ad campaigns a week before Halloween.

"Some retailers and marketers, worried that uncertainty among shoppers might increase as the weeks go by, hope to pull demand forward by moving up the start of their pitches," according to reporter Stuart Elliott.

Retailers who jumped the Yuletide gate are taking a big chance, however.

"The profusion of Christmas campaigns runs the risk of wearing out shoppers who may at some point tire of all the Santas and candy canes," Elliott notes.

I'm feeling worn out already.  How about you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Hypesters and Other Liars

Seth Godin's recent rant, Won't Get Fooled Again, hits close to home.

"The reason that people don't believe you isn't that you're a liar," Godin writes.  "The reason we don't believe you is that the guy before you (and the woman before him) were unduly optimistic hypesters and we got burned."

I'm still in recovery afer promoting high-end antiques shows during the past three years.  (Three of the hardest to hit the trade since Roosevelt defeated Hoover.)

The whole time I was a promoter, I wrestled with incredulous exhibitors.  Not because I habitually overpromised (I didn't).  But because nearly all the other promoters were "unduly optimistic hypesters."

"If you catch yourself making a promise that's been made before, stop," Godin warns.  "Make different promises, or even better, do, don't say."

Sage advice.  You'll find more advice along these lines in my free report, Path of Persuasion: Winning Customers in the Age of Suspicion

It's hype free. 


Friday, October 29, 2010

Selling at Tradeshows - Part 2

Share, Don't Stare

Tradeshows are an ideal opportunity for "storytelling," as my previous post emphasized.

But most exhibitors waste that opportunity.

Rather than engaging attendees in their why, they lurk about their booths, eyeing attendees like predators... waiting for some display of vulnerability. 

The moment they detect a sign of weakness, they pounce, hoping to subdue victims with a deadly shower of product features.

Tradeshow marketing guru Steve Miller likens this behavior to "hunting."

He advises exhibitors to quit hunting and, through friendly words and gestures, create a "safe zone" where attendees won't feel threatened.

Miller also recommends that exhibitors avoid these unfriendly behaviors:
  • Sitting
  • Reading
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking on the phone and texting
  • Standing in the aisle like the "border guard"
  • Clustering with other booth staffers (like some "street gang")
  • Ignoring attendees
  • Sizing up attendees instantly
  • Handing out stuff freely

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Selling at Tradeshows

NOTE: This is the first in a series of two posts.  Without shame, I confess to pirating the ideas of Bob Hughes, president of The Hughes Group. But in the words of poet T.S. Eliot, "Good writers borrow.  Great writers steal."

Tell, Don't Sell

A tradeshow can be an ideal medium for "storytelling" (in Seth Godin's sense).  

Think of the attendees as scouts gathered round your campfire, except their badges aren't for merit.

Unfortunately, most companies don't maximize the medium.  That's because they define selling not as storytelling, but as revenue generation.

Desperate to generate revenue, most companies that exhibit at tradeshows try to engage attendees by "pitching" product features.  

But this definition of selling is passe.  Worse yet, allowing this definition of selling to drive exhibiting produces nothing but the real-world equivalent of spam.  And everyone hates spam.

Tradeshow exhibiting—when handled effectively—generates relationships.

And relationships are built on stories, stories that "start with why" (in Simon Sinek's sense).  Why are you in business?  Why should anyone care?  Why do customers spend money with you?

As an exhibitor, you have two compelling reasons to quit selling and start telling:
  • Most attendees have done their homework (product research) before the show.  They know what the players in your field do.  The one thing they may not know is why.
  • With all your competition—all the me-too products vying for attendees' attention—you can't afford to waste the chance to engage them with your why by focusing on features.
What's the lesson here? 

Revenue generation is imperative.  But storytelling precedes it.

Scout's honor. 

Next installment: Share, Don't Stare
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