November 25, 2013


Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:13 am

You see as much marketing communication as I do. The difference is, you see it and I read it (but only because it comes with the job).  The reason you and 99.9% of the populous dismiss most of it out of hand is that you neither are attracted to it, nor is it by any stretch compelling in its content.

WARNING! Just as you don’t really read “theirs,” it must stand to reason that “they” may not actually be reading yours. The primary reasons for this in either case are the same:

  • There’s a great deal of marketing material out there (reportedly 60% more than when Bush 41 left office).
  • The consumers’ available reading time and attention span are severely limited.
  • Most marketing appeals have a boring sameness to them.

Nearly all professes to have “excellent service”, ”quality assurance”, “dependability”, “good people” .  .  . you get the idea. In many cases these claims are true. Sometimes they’re not. The problem is, how is one to tell the difference without a serious investment in due diligence? The reality is, they can’t and, furthermore, they won’t.


What are we to do? .  .  . Resign ourselves to the apparent futility of attempting to say something different, or say it in a better way, and, instead, simply fall in line with the flock, as, sadly – and obviously — most have? .  .  . Or, shall we merely release our hand from the marketing trigger entirely, only to forfeit any chance at real promotional success we otherwise might have had?  Neither, I say!

First and foremost, we must continue to make claims, for if we don’t seem to believe in ourselves, who, then, should believe in us?  However, we must make relevant claims, ones that go well beyond the overused and worn adjectives such as, bigger, better, faster, guaranteed to last. For, it is these shopworn gems that have driven the prospect to the point of distraction and inattention, if not total numbness.

Key point: The relevance of product and service claims, of course, must be based on products and services worthy of them. This is a given that must be dealt with at the product and service design stage. Recognizing what is a relevant claim normally comes about through the experiential process of winning – and, losing – business based on an ability – or inability – to back them up.


Assuming we are in it for the long haul; that we have decided to cast our lot among the communications glut, it is imperative to enter the marketing wars armed with more than the customary look-alike, sound-alike, feel-alike claims. We must seek that aforementioned breakthrough. Happily, I submit the answer can be found where we may least expect to find it, right beneath our collective noses.

The solution is in the way we not only choose to phrase or present our relevant claims, but in how we are able to support or verify them, right there, on the spot, in our initial marketing messages, whether these are through advertising, collateral or publicity releases. Simply stated, we must add that ring of truth to such claims by (key word follows) briefly saying how or why the claim is operative.

Don’t, for instance, merely say, “Our training produces results you can use immediately,” but, rather, add what I call the all-important “Because Clause.” As in “.  .  . because we give you a proprietary and individualized template to take with you, and against which you can track your progress from day one.” Such support statements tend to induce a follow-up by interested parties.


What this one key move does is to give prospects a reason to believe that our product or service actually is better than the others. They must, at least, believe our claims and believe in their worth enough to make it sufficiently attractive for them to respond with a phone call, visit or similar fact-finding action.

If we fail in this, we never will have an opportunity to fill the prospect in on the vital data that substantiates the relevance and value of our claims and, indeed, our prices. In other words, a prospect who is not from the get-go properly conditioned (by us) to buy is a prospect lost (perhaps forever) to some less worthy competitor.

We owe it to ourselves – and that prospect – to entice them from the outset to want to “see the light,” which usually and ultimately can only be shone on the basis of a more thorough exploration of the salient details, at a later time. To close the sale, you must, first, open their mind. 


November 18, 2013

The role of “architecture” in marketing

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:05 am


When people want to construct the best commercial or residential building for their specific needs, the intelligent approach is to design and build it with the help of an architect. To achieve the best results, it simply wouldn’t be reasonable to go forward without a set of plans, instead merely hiring one or more subcontractors independently.

 .  .  . The same should hold true for building a brand, in which case the architect/builder would be a qualified marketing specialist and the “sub-contractors” might include:

  • printers
  • graphic designers
  • PR people
  •  photographers/videographers
  •  website designers
  •  media buyers
  •  radio/TV stations
  •  on-air talent.

For best results, marketing initiatives should reflect an overall strategy; one developed with the help of a proven-qualified marketing expert, with specific client objectives and outcomes in mind. A common misconception is that this approach is more expensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. What truly are unaffordable are results that fall short of serving the best interests of the brand.

Well established marketing firms – those with a track record for success – are, among other things, “good shoppers,” with well developed relationships among – and first-hand knowledge of – marketing product and services vendors (the “subcontractors”). Understanding of “the whole” and an ability to select vendors that are the right fit make using a strategic-marketing consultant cost effective.

The next time you have a campaign or project in mind, consider calling in someone who has “earned their chops” in marketing. Initial consultations usually are cost-free, and can at least lead to a proposal that will start things off in the right direction, with plenty of foresight.     







November 11, 2013

Making a marketing plan work

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:02 am

Making a marketing plan work

The main reason that marketing plans don’t work is that they are not allowed to. That is to say, most companies don’t have an actual marketing plan. Oh, yes, they “plan to sell things,” but, most often, in an amazingly haphazard way.

We have an opportunity to visit with several small-business CEOs during the course of an average month, and find that they are quite aware of what is going on in their marketplace; aware of its opportunities and challenges and aware, at least in general terms, of the movements and actions of their key competitors.

What seems to be lacking is a comprehensive, systematic plan to combat the negative factors while effectively harnessing the positive things it is in their power to bring to bear on the situation. Most seem to rate high in analysis and low in execution. In most cases, I detect the presence of that storied paralysis by analysis syndrome.

Where does one start?

As the sage said, “One starts at the beginning.” Ask yourself and key staff, if one is available to you, some basic questions, and don’t stop until you are satisfied with the answers. Topping the list should be seemingly obvious questions like, ”What is it we actually sell, and whom should we be focusing on as best prospects?

Next, questions like, “What do we do – and have – that is better than our competitors?” and, “What needs attention and improvement” should be posed. As for those positive points, you must conduct a thorough self-examination of just what it is you are – or should be – doing to exploit your advantages.

No such examination should be conducted or concluded without homing in on your marketing message. Is it clear and well presented, as well as suitably and attractively illustrated? Is your branding dominant and does it project an image to which your key prospects are likely to respond. Or (God forbid) is it kind of scattered and indistinct?

Facing your fears

Be prepared for various worst case scenarios (ref: Murphy’s Law), or as one of my cowgirl friends says, “S____ happens!” Those of us who have been in business for a long time, know that, sooner or later, disaster can – and will – strike. As the saying goes, it’s not a case of if – but when.

Your biggest client decides to go elsewhere; your star salesperson quits and takes two or three key accounts in the process; business slumps for an extended spell; expenses soar and – what do you know? — negative cash flow comes calling, along with some of your major creditors.

The important thing in your planning is to have a plan of action that can head off such a tragedy or, at the very least, kicks into gear in order to turn the tide in the event they do. The best remedies usually involve a combination of expense cutting and business promotion, but inasmuch as ineffective or slow-acting promotion is absolutely unaffordable at such a time, that alternative plan had better be ready to roll out – now!

10 keys to an effective plan

  1. Form a vision of what you plan to achieve.
  2. Develop a plan to make your vision a reality.
  3. Judge whether an opportunity is one to seize or let pass within the context of understanding whether or not it fits into your goals (you can’t act on every good idea).
  4. Make sure your plan gives you a framework for making decisions.
  5. Get accustomed to making choices.
  6. Understand that the “perfect solution” is never going to come along (looking for perfection is merely a way to avoid making choices).
  7. Get out of your comfort zone (change is always uncomfortable).
  8. Make a real commitment to progress.
  9. Get used to saying “yes,” get used to saying “no,” and do both with commitment and conviction.
  10. Recognize opportunities, and, then grab on (if you don’t “pull the trigger,” you can’t hit the target).











November 5, 2013

Plan your marketing . . . then “pull the trigger.”

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 1:45 pm

Plan your marketing . . . then “pull the trigger.”

One of my favorite sayings is:

 “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

The point would seem to be that before setting out on a journey to a new place, it obviously is prudent to have a road map.

A marketing campaign is, for many I have encountered, one such new place. It, therefore, follows that one should have a road map, and definitely a written one. Writing it in pencil would be ideal, because it should be a changing, growing thing – the mother of all “living wills.”

There are dozens of templates for marketing plans offered online, or you should be able to get one through your marketing consultant. Most of these – both, the customized and the canned — are proprietary, so you should expect to pay a fee. But if you are hazy on what comprises a good marketing plan, it is well worth the investment.

10 key actions that make marketing plans work

Of course, after planning, the other – equally important – step is execution.  Following is a list of 10 guiding principles that if followed will maximize your chances for marketing success:

1. Form a vision of what you plan to achieve.

2. Develop a plan to make your vision a reality

3. Judge whether an opportunity is one to seize or let pass within the context of understanding whether or not it fits into your goals (you can’t act on every good idea).

4. Make sure your plan gives you a framework for making decisions

5. Get accustomed to making choices.

6. Understand that the “perfect solution” is never going to come along (looking for perfection is merely a way to avoid making choices).

7. Get out of your comfort zone (change is always uncomfortable).

8. Make a real commitment to progress.

9.Get used to saying “yes,” get used to saying “no,” and do both with commitment and conviction.

10. Recognize opportunities, and move forward (if you don’t “pull the trigger,” you can’t hit the target).



November 4, 2013

Is creativity an endangered “species?”

Filed under: Marketing Quick-Tip — admin @ 9:25 am


When I was a “boy” advertising/pr photographer in the Sixties, it seemed every upstart ad agency used the self-descriptive term “creative” as an implied synonym for “effective.” Of course, it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. But – I was recently thinking – nobody seems to even use that word anymore, let alone claim it as a credential. And, surprised as I am to think this, I believe that’s a shame.

While many of the hotshot agencies claiming to be creative in those days actually were one-dimensional twerps playing to the other ad agencies by being cute with clients’ money, at least they were giving their peers a definition – artificial though it often was  – for which to shoot. And some that answered the challenge actually were effective on occasion at helping a client move goods and services.

But, today’s braggadocios success–rhetoric coming from agencies and advertisers is more along the lines of things like “record-busting sales, market saturation, top of mind awareness-building and, even, that most ubiquitous of platitudes, “thinking outside the box.” Almost nobody seems, even, to be laying claim to creating truly fresh and new marketing or advertising concepts anymore, let alone delivering them. Geico Insurance’s Gecko and the Aflac Duck may be two exceptions that prove the rule, but even those cute little characters are little more than name awareness gimmicks that speak not to the usefulness or uniqueness of the products they represent.


What ever happened to advertising campaign lines that made the prospect think about the product, like that Stan Freeburg classic for Zee paper towels, ”Zee is nice enough to keep, but cheap enough to throw away!”  .  .  . or Wendy’s, “Where’s the beef?” .  .  . or Alka Seltzer’s, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”  Today, image for the sake of image seems to be king, at least in our more popular consumer categories.

I agree with you if you’re thinking these taglines fell short of rocket-science status, but they, at least, were lines that made one tend to connect the product-to-benefit dots. And, their very simplicity helped them to make a point, and, then, quickly get out of the way so the substance of the message could be delivered. In a word, and in that important sense, they were functionally creative.

Of course, today we have lines like, ”When the moment is right, will you be ready?” (Cialis or Levitra?) At that, who can relate to this question, when so many would-be  devotees are probably going to fall asleep, anyway, after a three-hour  concert, steak, baked potato with sour cream and chives, and at least two stiff drinks (perhaps an unfortunate choice of words).


According to an article produced by Christine Staudinger in Woman’s Day (with thanks to Marketing Monthly subscriber and well-known PR pro Arlynn Satz), here’s how others have described that long lost phenomenon, creativity. (Even if we don’t agree with all of them, they, at least give food for thought):

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

-Eric Fromm

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts.”

-Rita Mae Brown

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

-E.L. Doctorow

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.”

-John Updike

“The chief enemy of creativity is good taste.”

-Pablo Picasso

“True creativity often starts where language ends.”

-Arthur Koestler

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”

Mary Lou Cook


Reread Mary Lou Cook’s definition (above).   If you buy her definition even a little (as I do, a lot), then, ask yourself – do your marketing moves pass this creativity litmus test? Or, like so many, has the siren call of the “safe way home” somewhat blunted your creative edge?

I must hasten to insert at this point, you don’t have to be a self-proclaimed marketing wizard to need to subject yourself to ms. Cook’s definitive test. You merely have to be someone seeking to clarify your selling message in an overcrowded marketplace. And, unless I miss my guess, that’s all of us .  .  . is it not?

My personal definition of creativity goes something like this: “Achieving a desired result by breaking the boundaries of convention while leaving the safe harbor of conventional wisdom.” On those occasions when we’ve done so effectively, I must say, it’s served us and our clients quite well. How about you?