How to magically destroy your marketing efforts

August 6, 2012

Magician's hatMarketing is all about leading your customers and prospects down a clear path that leads to their purchasing your product or engaging your services. There is little room for ambiguity in marketing since you have people’s attention for such a brief moment in time. Your marketing messages—PowerPoint presentations, websites, social media, or any other marketing vehicle—should always clearly state what you want people to do and the benefits to them of doing it.

I recently saw an egregious example of mixed messages that made me doubt whether the person involved was really interested in his continued employment!

I was having breakfast at a diner in my town when another patron overheard me talking about the local newspaper. He introduced himself as a sales rep from that paper and talked to me a little bit about my business. He then handed me his business card, a typical black-on-white number with raised printing.

As I was reading the card, I could feel printing on the reverse so I turned it over. I expected to see more details about his job or his employer. Instead, it was a completely different business being advertised. You see, our man is also a part-time magician, so he thought he’d combine his moonlighting gig with his day job on a single business card.

“Your boss must have been impressed,” I quipped and he replied that the publisher was really angry but had let it slide. He then chuckled and told me about a magic show he’d just performed at a day camp. After the performance, who should he see stroll by but the publisher! She saw him in his magician’s outfit and knew that he wasn’t out selling ad space for her paper.

There are several lessons we can learn from this:

  • You should have one consistent marketing message. To use a PowerPoint example, think of how confused your audience would be if after your closing slide you showed one last slide that advertised your side business. How much respect would you lose in that moment?
  • Always reinforce your brand. It’s crazy that the publisher didn’t make this guy throw away the two-sided cards and pay for a reprint with just the newspaper job information. One card, one business. Period. Here’s the PowerPoint tie in: you decide that your corporate template is too boring so you change the colors around. Now your deck doesn’t look like your other marketing materials, and that inconsistency can be jarring to your audience.
  • Concentrate on your core competencies. We all know that a jack of all trades is a master of none. To build trust that we know what we’re doing, we need to focus on what we do best. A newspaper advertising sales rep who promotes his own business during his sales calls obviously doesn’t have my best interests in mind. In a presentation, you must tailor your message to your audience. If your company does five different things but the audience is only interested in one of them, concentrate on that one thing. Mention your other abilities in passing, but focus on what’s important to your audience.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you are invited to present for one reason (“Please tell us the results of advertising in your newspaper.”) then use that time to promote a different business entirely (Magician for hire! Parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, you name it!), you won’t make a good impression because nobody likes a bait-and-switch.

It’s incredible to me that anybody would have the gall to hand out business cards like this. I suspect that this fellow’s job could “vanish right before his very eyes” if he doesn’t straighten out quickly.


You Can’t Taste PowerPoint

May 24, 2011

scrambled eggs in a panSome people are so hung up on PowerPoint for giving presentations that they forget that in the olden days before thumb drives, projectors, and laptops there was such a thing as an engaging public speaker. I often reference the PowerPoint Gettysburg Address as a shining example of how PowerPoint can often bring down even the most brilliant speech. PowerPoint is meant to be a tool that helps to elevate a presentation; it should never be used as the entire presentation.

Mike Consol is a California-based coach who specializes in helping professionals to become better communicators. His recent blog post, Adding the “Touch Factor” to Your PowerPoint Presentation, addresses moving away from strictly PowerPoint-based presentations and engaging the senses. For example, for a presentation about a durable and comfortable new fabric that is going to enhance the clothing industry, the presenter should put a swatch of the material in audience members’ hands so that they can feel it for themselves.

The head of sales at The Country Hen, a Central Massachusetts egg farm, takes a similar approach on sales calls to potential distributors. Rather than rely on a PowerPoint deck that extolls the virtues of his organically farmed, Omega 3-rich eggs, he lets the product sell itself. During the meeting, he takes out a portable cookstove, frying pan, and a case of eggs and starts cooking. He hands a plate of scrambled eggs to each person in the meeting so that everyone can see, smell, touch, and (most importantly) taste the eggs. After everyone has eaten, he closes the sale.

It’s easy to slip into bad habits, communicating your entire message with a PowerPoint slide deck. But if you want your presentations to have more impact, a little extra effort can yield memorable results.

Some Social Media Tips

May 4, 2011

Social Media collageSocial Media. This is the latest in a series of sure-fire marketing tools that every business person Has To Do. Social media’s great, because a lot of it doesn’t cost a thing or is dirt cheap, so it seems like a wonderful way to market one’s business. On the other hand, it can be a huge time sink that can eat up large chunks of your day. How do you maximize your efforts?

Here are a few tips that I’ve used over the past year or so that help me to streamline my marketing and to use social media to my best advantage:

  • Set aside 15 minutes a day for browsing social media. If you are constantly checking Facebook and Twitter to see what kind of sandwiches your friends had for lunch, you’re obviously wasting time. But if you follow an interesting business-related link that leads to an interesting diagram that leads to a great quote from a thought leader that leads to… You can see how it can get out of hand. Allocate a set amount of time to participate in the online conversation, then get to work!
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. A person’s LinkedIn profile is a golden marketing opportunity that is often overlooked. Rather than having a “I’m an expert in this and I have 10 years experience in that,” why not treat it as marketing copy? Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
    Natalia Botero
    Stephen Hadley
    Laura Foley (Hey, what kind of marketing pro would I be without including my own profile?) 
  • Join your target markets’ LinkedIn groups. This one was so obvious that I literally smacked my forehead. When you join the conversation, offer advice and insight, and learn your clients’ and prospects’ concerns, you position yourself as an expert. Be careful, though, because this can backfire wildly if you lead with, “My name is Joe Blow, and I sell the most amazing widgets you ever saw in your life!” People will see that you are just there to troll for clients and will shut you out or flag your posts as being inappropriate.
  • Search for specific topics in Twitter. Need to find out if anybody’s talking about you, your product or service, or something of interest? Twitter Search allows you to do keyword searches, whether or not they use hashtags. And you can set up TweetDeck so that each flagged keyword ends up in its own column, which makes it easier to review all the information. Even better, once you’ve found some interesting Tweets, you can respond. Think of how powerful a marketing tool that is. You could reply to a Tweet such as, “I’ve just about had it with this #BrandXYZ #Coffeemaker. I’m returning it!” with “Hey, this is Bob Smith from #BrandXYZ. What’s the problem, and how can I make it right?”
  • Keep a blog journal. Just about any business transaction can become a good blog post if you think someone could learn from it. Or if you have some kind of an “Aha!” moment with a problem you’ve had, that can be good, too. Keep a list of these big ideas so that you can blog about them during your scheduled blogging time or just when things are a little slow. It’s much better than staring at a blank computer screen at a loss for ideas.

Cute Kids Not So Cute During a Presentation

April 21, 2011

Gross screensaver on laptop#LFMF I recently spoke about Cheating Death by PowerPoint to a group of businesspeople. I came in early, connected my laptop to the projector, opened up the title slide to my presentation, then proceeded to work the room. After chatting with folks for about twenty minutes, I glanced at the projection screen…and saw photographs of my sons drifting in and out of view. I had been away from the laptop for so long that my screensaver had activated, treating the audience to a slideshow of all of the pictures in iPhoto. Whoops. Luckily, I caught it before any embarrassing snapshots from my collection came up.

It turns out that I’m not the only one to have made this mistake. In fact, there are software solutions to help presenters to avoid this problem.

Mac Solution

It’s easy to disable the screen saver in System Preferences (choose Apple menu/System Preferences and click Desktop & Screen Saver) Set the timer to “Never.” You can also set up a “hot corner” to quickly disable your screen saver. A hot corner is activated when you move the cursor to one of the four corners of your monitor or laptop screen. To set up hot corners, choose Apple menu/System Preferences and click Desktop & Screen Saver, then click the Hot Corners button. Choose an action (Start Screen Saver or Disable Screen Saver) from the pop-up menu for a corner you want to use.

If that’s too much “programming” for you, you can download Caffeine, a free app that enables you to disable your screen saver by clicking on an icon on the Menu Bar.

Windows Solution

You can disable the screen saver by clicking Start/Settings/Control Panel. Double-click on the display icon, click on the screen saver tab, and select “None” as the screen saver choice.

There’s also a free utility called FlipSS that will enable you to toggle the screen saver on and off with one click. And this post from tells you how to create a desktop shortcut for the utility.

Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Animation

April 7, 2011

Click here to view video

How do you communicate?

February 9, 2011

Communication imageAbout a month ago, I submitted a proposal for a fairly small job to a new potential client. A couple of weeks went by, then he emailed me requesting a meeting. Believing that I had outlined my role in the project very specifically in the proposal, I wasn’t keen on attending a second, unpaid project meeting. So I replied to his email, asking if his question was something we could discuss on the phone. A couple of days later he responded, again requesting a meeting but this time letting me know that a colleague of his would also be there. Again, I asked if this was something that could be handled in a phone call, and once again a couple of days went by before he sent another email asking for a meeting. Well, I was getting pretty annoyed, so I asked him if there was a time in the evening I could call (ordinarily I don’t like making business calls at night, but I figured it was the best time to get ahold of him). He agreed on a time, and we finally spoke the next day.

It turns out that he had some useful information for the project. After we spoke about it, we agreed that I really wasn’t needed at the meeting and could just be told the details afterwards.

When I hung up, I realized that each person has a communication style he is most comfortable with. For me, an email’s as good as gold. But for some people, a conversation is the best way to conduct business. Although he could’ve emailed me all of the new details about the project, the client was much more comfortable (and comforted) by a phone call.

It reminded me of something that happened with another client for whom I’ve been doing essentially the same annual project for the past six years. Last year some new people were involved, and they really wanted to meet me face-to-face. It wasn’t important to them that their company and mine had a years-long relationship. So in the middle of a snowstorm I drove 50 miles to see them. After the initial round of handshakes with the new people who were involved with the project, I was left to sit at the corner of the conference table while they continued their conversation. After about an hour, I was told I could leave. Then it was 50 miles back in the snow. Later, the woman I’d been working with for the past six years told me that the new people thought the meeting went very well and they were satisfied that I could help them with the project.

In this day and age where we are increasingly using electronic forms of communication —texting, Facebook, Twitter, and email — as our primary way of keeping in touch, it’s easy to forget that some business is still done with a handshake and that often the best way to cut through the clutter is to actually talk with someone.

Oh, Everybody Knows This Already!

January 18, 2011

The woman who sold my husband his car in 2006 keeps in touch regularly, sending letters and occasionally calling. She is doing a great job reminding us that she’s still around, waiting to sell us our next vehicle. But even though she constantly updates him on things like trade-in deals, discounted vehicles and the like, she dropped the ball on a huge piece of news about the dealership that we really should know: the fact that they’re moving to another town.

Now, it’s not like we’re strangers to the dealership. I bring my own vehicle there for all major maintenance, so I’m there at least twice a year. You’d think that something this major would’ve merited its own marketing initiative. Instead, the first sentence of her most recent letter went something like, “Now, I know you know all about our move, so let’s talk about our latest shipment of 2011 cars!” In fact, it was the first we’d heard about it. When I last took my vehicle in for service, I confirmed with the receptionist that they would be moving sometime in February.

This is not an “across the street” kind of move. They are moving the whole dealership to a different town entirely. And their new location is right off the highway, making it much more convenient to visit than their old location. Boom! I’ve just given them two new ideas to use in their marketing.

It just goes to show that you should never assume that your clients know all about your business. What may seem obvious to you may come as news to your clients when you finally remember to tell them. Keep ’em in the loop so that they don’t show up to your old location and find that you’re gone. How would that be for cementing a years-old customer relationship?

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