Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Loco Location...

I got our family's bikes out of storage last weekend. Unfortunately, Beth's front tire needed repair. Our local shop was closed. Then I remembered a bike shop along the Prairie Path, a popular Chicago bike trail that we frequently ride. They were able to fix the flat while we waited. It took about 10 minutes. It didn't cost a lot. And we were able to jump right on the path without moving our car.

During the ride, I thought about it. What at first seemed an out-of-the-way location now made sense to me.

I also thought about how being in the right place at the right time is just as important for advertising as it is for retailing.

RIGHT PLACE. It surprises me how many advertisers waste their money on general advertising when niche advertising could be so much more cost-effective. For instance, say you sell bike trailers. You could advertise in a newspaper where 10% of the audience is a likely buyer. Or you could advertise in a local bicycling magazine where 40% of the audience is fit. Or perhaps you find a local parenting magazine has a 60% fit.

It may look like it costs a little more per person. But being in the right place to reach more of the right prospects is actually cheaper.

RIGHT TIME. In most cases, you can't tell when a customer is in the market for your product. So I suggest my clients focus on advertising continuity. That is rather than running one full page ad once, run three 1/3 page ads thrice. By doing this, you are more likely to hit them when they are beginning their buying process. With seasonal products, like bike trailers, you want to invest the lion's share of your budget during pre and early season and reduce it as season sales tend to decline.

Looks like I exercised a lot of gray matter on this ride. But, judging from the way I felt the next morning, that's not all I exercised!

- Phil Sasso

Monday, October 30, 2006

Over The Cliff...

When you think of effective salespeople, Cliff Clavin, the mailman from Cheers, probably doesn't top your list.

But in reality, he probably delivered more sales pitches in a day than any salesman. That's because direct mail is a top marketing tool. And growing. As the national Do-Not-Call Registry draws more dollars away from telemarketing, direct mail stands to gain. It is definitely a more cost-effective marketing technique than door-to-door! The DNCR hotline drew 17 million registrants east of the Mississippi in its first week of operation. Which causes Advertising Age to estimate that about $28 billion in telemarketing dollars will likely be re-routed into alternative direct-marketing methods like direct mail.

Looking for a good way to boost the response to your direct mailer as more competing messages fill mailboxes? Consider adding a promotional product. According to Baylor University researchers, adding an item can increase response by about 75 percent. That means you can dramatically increase the success of your direct mail campaign by including a pen, key chain, T-shirt -- or a mailable, attention-getting giveaway.

And as an aside, in most cases, you can still call your existing and recent customers. Just don't call me during dinner.

-- Phil Sasso

Friday, October 27, 2006

One Oar…..

A salesman approached me at a business luncheon I spoke at last
week to offer his unsolicited opinion on advertising and marketing.

"I don't need to advertise." he said. "I'm a good salesman. Good
salesmen don't need advertising."

I thanked him for his opinion.

"You're right. Good salesmen don't rely on advertising," I replied.

He smirked at his apparent victory.

"Great salesmen rely on advertising," I clarified. "That's what sets
them apart from the good ones."

Selling without marketing is a lot like trying to cross a lake in a
rowboatwith one oar. It's possible, but it's a lot harder than it needs
to be.

Sales and marketing work together like the two oars in a rowboat
propelling you forward. If you don't advertise, no one knows anything
about your brand or your unique products or services. If you don't
work at closing those sales by phone or in person, someone else will.

Think of advertising and sales as a kind of a one-two punch.

The ad generates interest. The salesperson closes the sale.

Take direct mail. You can generate a lot of leads with a good mailing
campaign. But you can increase your average transaction by taking
the time to personally talk to your prospect to up sell or cross sell

What's your weaker side? Sales or marketing? What can you do to
improve it?

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cramming Doesn't Work....

In college, a friend encouraged me to take Chemistry instead of Biology. Everything about my decision was wrong. The teacher was boring. I didn't get the content. The class started at 8 am well before I was awake. And the biggest problem: my friend wasn't in the class.

So, when finals came I found myself cramming. I'd never really crammed before. My roommate's girlfriend, a Chemistry major, offered to help me.

"Where did you start having problems?" she asked.

"Something about moles," I said.

"Moles?" she said looking in both my eyes.

"Yeah. Not the animal, the..."

"I know what you mean," she said. "Phil, that's the first chapter!"

Needless to say, I didn't ace Chemistry.

However the experience gave me a lot of sympathy for those who think cramming works in advertising. You can't learn chemistry overnight. And you can't expect advertising to work overnight. People rarely buy an unknown brand from an unknown merchant. Building trust and awareness takes time. It's a process -- much like the learning process. Prospects need to learn about you a bit at a time, with knowledge building on knowledge.

And the more complicated or expensive your product, the longer it takes for the prospect to "get" your sales message and understand it's relevance to him or her.

I never put off studying for an exam until the last minute ever again. Nor should a wise marketer put off advertising until the last minute.

By the way, I still don't understand moles.

-Phil Sasso

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Spam on Spam.....

I've gotten several SPAM emails promising to help me get rid of SPAM forever. Ironic, eh? Kind of like a telemarketer selling Telezappers...

The message just seems a little off-the-mark to me. But there's a lot of much more off-target marketing. And it's costing us all a lot of money.

Case in point: Accenture, the consulting arm of former Arthur Andersen spent a reported $175 million several years ago to announce their new name with expensive TV commercials and consumer print ads. You may not even remember the spots. I don't remember them, either. That's because the ads weren't very creative.

I have just one question: Why?

Isn't their core market is a few executives at big businesses who make the decisions to hire consultants? Wouldn't it be more effective to focus on business publications, direct mail and personal selling (maybe even telemarketing!)?

How is this costing us all money? That $175 million came from clients. Clients like Sara Lee, Bristol-Meyers, Best Buy -- even Jelly Belly Candies. And where do the clients get the money? People like us who pay a little more so the consultants can do wasteful advertising.

O.K. maybe I'm being a little melodramatic. Perhaps the wasteful advertising isn't the end of the world. Not when you have $175 million to burn. But smaller businesses, like yours, can't afford to be off target.

Are you hitting your target? Are you using the right media? Is your message getting results?

-- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


If you're ever in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, drive by The Fireside Dinner Theatre.

My family stayed in a hotel next door one night when on vacation. I was amazed. It is not just a little rural theater. It's as big as a small college campus. In size, it dwarfs many of the live theaters here in Chicago. And with tickets as high as $60 a seat, the prices rival some non-equity Windy City venues.

How can a town with a population of 17,352 support a thriving year-round, five-day-a-week, 435 seat theater?

It's not the big name performers. Most are relatively unknown local actors.

The secret is they think outside the box. The Fireside isn't just a night out like most urban theaters -- it's a destination. People are willing to travel to see a production. My wife's aunt, for instance has been a season ticket holder for years. She travels about 80 miles, one way, four or five times a year. And she's one of the closer ones. Many travel so far, they'll stay overnight at the hotel next door.

Fireside caters mostly retirees who have time on their hands. Their theatre productions therefore tend to be more mainstream, like "Damn Yankees" or "West Side Story". You may not like their artistic choices, but their marketing savvy is indisputable. They have found an audience and serve it very well.

How can you achieve this level of loyalty?

1.) Be worth it. Give more than your customers expect. I've never seen a production, but I've heard mostly glowing reviews from Aunt Pat.

2.) Focus on a narrow market. Don't overreach. In this case, by focusing on traditional musicals, Fireside excludes many with avant-garde tastes. But, in return, draw from a larger geographic area. This is how they've built a die-hard following. By performing more cutting-edge productions they'd probably lose more customers than they'd gain.

Many of my clients fear narrowing their target too much because they fear losing sales. As this one brief case-study shows, serving one market well can create unforeseen demand. In some cases having two or three parallel marketing efforts can help you grow several niches at once. But it's easy to lose focus, too.

I'll put Fireside on my list of things to do when I retire. That's about three decades off. But I'm confident, if they keep their focus, The Fireside will still be around.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, October 23, 2006

Celling More...

I stopped at an electronics store the size of Wisconsin last weekend for
a couple small items. Just before leaving, I remembered I needed an
extra charger for my cell phone...

"Is this your department?" I asked a clerk who was busy doing nothing.


"I need a charger," I said, pointing to my phone.

"Over there," he replied motioning to a Berlin Wall of adapters.

"Do you carry Motorola?"

"Just those," he said, turning to walk away.

"Don't they put model numbers on packages anymore?" I asked,
holding a package in each hand and scanning the back panels.

"Nah," he said.

"This one MIGHT fit. Can I open it and check?"

"Got to buy it first," he said.



I opened the package at the checkout. It didn't fit, so I didn't
buy it.

A smart retailer might allow clerks to open packages for customers.

A smart manufacturer might design a package with the adapter
exposed so a customer could plug it into their phone without
opening the package.

Both the retailer and manufacturer lost a sale that day.

Sometimes marketers make it so hard for a customer to buy from
them, you'd think their goal was to LOSE sales. Bad policies. Poor
packaging. Lack of training. No merchandising. Terrible customer
service. The list goes on and on...

How hard is it for a customer to buy from you? Can you make it

- Phil Sasso

Friday, October 20, 2006

Trash Talk...

I have a confession to make. I just rummaged through
Pat's wastebasket to see what direct mail offers didn't
make it to my desk.

(Sometimes you've got to be willing to get your hands
dirty in the name of on-going education. You'd be
surprised what you can learn in the strangest places.)

Part of understanding what works is understanding what
fails and why. It's more cost-effective and less stressful
to learn from someone else's mistakes!

In Pat's circular file, I found many things -- but the most
interesting was an expensive mailer from a well-known
cell phone provider. I appreciate Pat's gate keeping role.
She helps me avoid a lot of time wasters.

In fact, this package was never opened. It's a slick
envelope with two customized die-cut windows and a
special custom side opening tab.

I just opened it and spent a full minute trying to remove
the brochure. It was glued in the envelope. Yes glued.

The brochure is a full-color, tabbed, 5 page booklet. I'd
love to have brokered the printing on this job. This
brochure probably cost twice as much to print as a standard
EIGHT-page brochure. The die cut and the special binding
technique used to create a book with an odd number of
pages is extraordinarily expensive. The last page has a
personalized, variable data map to the dealer nearest me.
More expensive.

I just threw the piece in my wastebasket, again.

It was slick. Expensive. Dramatic. Well-Designed. And
didn't have anything meaningful to say to make me want
to read it, much less respond.

It's not just a failure. It's an expensive failure.

The company spent tons of money on fancy design and
printing and didn't seem to spend any time identifying a
need, developing a strategy and creating a compelling offer.
In fact, I just pulled the brochure back out of my wastebasket
to see what the call to action was ... still looking ... just a
minute ... oh here it is: "Take this card to your local store now.
Get 2 months of unlimited service free..." There is no card! (
By the way, it's not two months of free cell phone service, it's
just two free months of text messaging -- or something like
that. I don't really care to read it all to understand.)

Back to the trash.

Apparently I'm suppose to carry this big brochure with me
everywhere until I get time to go to the store. Or someone
forgot to print the card.

My point? An extra few hours spend developing a solid strategy
could have redeemed this piece from being sent to a recycling
center. The core of a successful direct mail campaign is
developing a strong strategic offer. That's more productive
than buying a new yacht for the printer.

The flip side of the coin, I got a package from Chris Stockwell
with Distinct Advantage. I think his mailing will be much more
productive. He sent a large blue envelope addressed to me with
just his name and return address in the upper left hand corner
and a live first class stamp in the upper right. There was no
teaser copy on the outside. It looked very personal. Pat had to
open it. Inside was a letter with a $1,000,000 bill attached and
another mysterious envelope. Pat couldn't help but open the next
envelope. It was a sample of his new performance automotive card
deck. The package made it to my reading folder. He even included
a call to action, and incentive to act now, and gave the prospect
the option of calling, faxing or emailing a response.

I'm sure the Distinct Advantage mailing wasn't cheap. But it was
much more strategic. The letter was well written. And it looked
like it was prepared personally for me.

Chris told me his response rate. It's more than I'd expect for a
new product to a new list of suspects.

Now, this package is on file as an example of good direct mail.
And next time I have a client that's a fit for his card deck, I can't
help but think of him. And he gets the added exposure of me
mentioning him here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to do more market
research and rummage through the dumpster out back. (Kidding.
Just kidding!)

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On the Mark...

I don't remember what I got in the mail yesterday. Do you?

What recent marketing effort HAS impacted you, recently? Chances are if it has had an impact on you, it has had to break through the clutter of advertising that we are surrounded with everyday. A decade old Ad Age/Roper Study says we're assailed by 4,000 ads a day. That was then. The numbers have surely gone up in the last 10 years. I see more ads in more different places.

Case in point: a new ad medium called WizMark. It's touted as the "first and only interactive urinal communicator" --the product can "talk, sing or flash a string of lights around" your promotional message to any man using a public restroom. That's definitely breakthrough. Obnoxious, but breakthrough.

But aside from the truly outrageous, direct marketing response rates are relatively low.

In a newly released Direct Marketing Association study, the two most effective direct marketing methods were telemarketing with 5.8% response and dimensional mail with a 2.3% response. That means for every 100 prospects you contact, about one out of 17 will respond to a phone call and one out of 43 a dimensional mailer.

Telemarketing is expensive and, to many, offensive. Dimensional mail offers a more novel approach. You send prospects a package -- often with a promotional product and message inside. The box is more likely to get opened than an envelope because it piques curiosity. It's also more memorable. The cost is much higher than mailing a simple envelope -- but that's off-set by higher response rate.

So if you are looking for a way to get more impact for your ad dollar, consider a dimensional mailing -- or a WhizMark. But please, not both!

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


"Beth, this is garbage," I said looking at the yogurt container she had given me.

"Sorry. Throw it out and get another out of the fridge," she responded

"No. It's not spoiled. It's recycled trash," I explained.

"Then maybe you want to write and tell the company what you think."

"I mean it's brilliant," I said. "These Oreo crumbs they package with it. They are selling broken cookies Oreo would normally toss out. They are quite smart."

"Oh. I think I'm going to be reading this conversation in a Marketing Tip, soon."

I see ideas where others see snack food. Sometimes I must be kind of hard to live with.

There are lots of companies that make money turning trash into treasure. Kingsford Charcoal was founded to use scrap wood from the Ford Motor plant in Kingsford, Michigan. Coors sells the solids resulting from the beer making process to make animal feed. I once worked for a client that charged landscapers to dump their logs and hardwood. Then they shredded the hardwood and sold it back to landscapers as mulch. Now that's a great business model!

Perhaps turning waste into widgets doesn't seem to fit you. Maybe you are in a service business. Think harder. What about wasted time?

Do you have downtime you could use to add a new profit center? Or perhaps you can volunteer a portion of that time or talent to a charitable or community cause. Can you donate inventory that's collecting dust to a school or non-profit and take the tax write-off? The resulting goodwill and publicity could create a great return on your investment.

Just recently, I opened the online help for one of my programs and realized it does things I never realized! I've owned the software but have not been using it to it's full potential.

Look around your company. Are you making the most of your firm's time, talents and tools?

What potential are you losing?

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's New?....

If you know me, you know I'm a huge fan of Apple Computer.

I like their business model. I like their products. And most of all, I like their marketing.

And it's not just about elegant product design, flashy iPod commercials or minimalistic ads and packaging. It's about strategy.

Recently Apple unveiled the newest iPod -- the video iPod. Before that it was the Nano. Before that the Shuffle. Before that the iPod Mini. Before that the special edition U2 iPod. Each perfectly timed to pre-empt the competition. And that doesn't even touch on Apple's computer and software.

Steve Jobs and his crew know a thing or two about product innovation and roll-out.

And any marketer who wants to maintain market share, much less grow it, knows the modern-day sales growth mantra: "Innovate or perish." R&D is an integral part of marketing.

Gone are the good old days where you could depend on the good old boy network.

Maybe you need to add more to your product line. More versions. More features. More power. Maybe you need to add less. Wireless. Cordless. Simpler products.

No matter what it takes, your sales force needs to answer one question to get more meetings with key buyers: "What's new?"

What innovation are you working on?

- Phil Sasso

Monday, October 16, 2006


I had run to the post office for a couple rolls of stamps.

"That's $78," the clerk said. I handed her my credit card. "Oh. Uh would you like anything else? A calendar? A teddy bear?"

"A teddy bear?" I laughed. "No just the stamps."

"They make us do that. Sell other stuff," the clerk explained, embarrassed.

"I know," I said. "I work in marketing. I understand."

I felt bad for the clerk. Selling teddy bears was not a natural extension of her relationship with the customer. It was just an add-on sale and it felt awkward for her and for me. The problem is the post office's self-serving perspective on marketing. And they're not alone.

Marketing, as we define it today, is all about selling stuff.

Unfortunately, if you study marketing, at its deepest level, it's suppose to be customer centered. And although quick-selling gimmicks will help boost sales temporarily, in the end they can erode the brand's relationship with the customer.

I believe good marketing is, to coin a phrase, "nonmarketing". The focus needs to be more about customer-serving products than self-serving profits. It's about service more than selling.

In the post office's case, the problem is unfocused brand extension. Who goes to the post office to buy a plush toy? Can you imagine what Beth would say if I gave her a USPS teddy bear for our anniversary? (Don't think I haven't done worse!)

Wouldn't the post office build more long-term sales by developing services that compete more effectively with FedEx, UPS or DHL? And barring that, what if they more aggressively promoted philately (stamp collections). That's more of a natural brand extension and an exclusive product line only they can market.

By the way, let me know if you'd like to buy "PromOs", the new Sasso Marketing breakfast cereal. (Slogan: "Eat your competition for breakfast".)

- Phil Sasso

Friday, October 13, 2006

WIN more sales...

My mechanic won my business with a very simple, very inexpensive technique: He gave me a key chain. I know, you think I'm nuts to be swayed by a cheap gift. Actually the gift didn't win me over. What did, is how easy it makes calling him when I need him. I don't have to look him up in my address or phone book. I just take out my car keys and there's everything I need to know.

There's a lot of ways to WIN by giving ad premiums. Here's three:

Won Premiums - Have a contest or sweepstakes to give away imprinted gifts. It's a good way to build a mailing list. Ask anyone who comes to your store to enter the drawing for free shirts, caps, mugs, and other stuff with your logo on it. Ask anyone who buys your product to return the product registration card to be entered in your sweepstakes for free stuff from you. No better way to reward customers than with something that promotes your brand.

Incentive Premiums - Set a sales goal and give away imprinted premiums to customers who reach the goal. Penzoil offered me a free branded cooler for buying a case of their premium oil. You can do the same by getting customers to buy a specific dollar amount or a certain product.

New Customer Premiums - It can be expensive to give away a gift with every purchase. Limiting giveaways to new customers can save you money while growing your customer base. Every time you add a new customer to your database, either at POP or via product registration, give them a gift. It makes their first experience with you even more positive.

WINning premium and promotion programs can help you win more sales. Research shows, each time someone buys from you, the more likely they are to continue to buy from you. Make ad premiums part of your customer retention strategy.

-Phil Sasso

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Count on It...

I was researching media for a client recently. The cost-per-thousand (CPM) was a little high, but I could negotiate that. However, something didn't fit - I just didn't know what. My instinct told me to probe. I kept asking questions trying to ferret out what I was missing. Finally I hit on the right question: "Does anyone else in the same product category advertise with you."

"No," the rep replied. "But that could be a good thing. There's no competition."

"Or there's no buyers in your readership," I countered.

"Or that," she conceded.

I'm a big proponent of doing due diligence before you invest in new or untested media. Ask every question. Add up every number. Do the math. But even if all the numbers add up, it could be a bad buy. On the other hand, sometimes when all the numbers DON'T add up, it could be a great undiscovered opportunity.

I read a powerful quote that covers a lot more than media planning, but life in general: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." It was attributed to Einstein.

In this case, it fits perfectly. I've run analysis where the best publication isn't the most effective. And I've stared at ads with results that were like humming birds. Scientifically, they shouldn't fly -- but they do.

I wish I could measure things like reader loyalty: Do they read every issue? How much do they read? Do they trust the publication? Do they look at the ads? But you can't always count those things.

Instead, I rely on my experience and count on my track record.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Premium Mail......

Most people toss junk mail unopened. I study it.

I’m a student of marketing. To keep up with this ever-changing art, you can never stop learning. We live in a huge marketing laboratory, so almost every ad that I touch is a lesson.

Last year, we got an interesting mailing from our local Ronald McDonald House (we often support their work). The mailing was an invite to a "do it yourself tea party." It included a McDonald’s teabag, instructions, and a donation envelope. The unspoken message was, rather than holding an expensive event, let’s put as much money to use to help the families of these sick children. Point well made.

The tea bag gave us all a chuckle and is still remembered more than a year later.

According to research by Target Marketing Group, while the total number of direct mail "packages" has declined by 13.3% since 2001 (14,240 in 2001 down to 12,344 in 2003) the number of mailings with a premium has increased by about 38%. About one eighth of all mailing packages now include some kind of premium.

The use of premiums in mailing is on the rise, because it is an effective technique. People will open a bulky envelope to see what’s inside. And if you provide a valuable or funny premium, chances are it will get remembered.

What can you send out as a mailing to your customers to make your product of service more memorable and get the envelope opened?

-Phil Sasso

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Beth was playing jazz vocalist Diana Krall's new CD.

I felt horribly unhip.

I like her work. I just felt unhip because it wasn't an iTune download. It was from a music service -- a modern version of the old "record and tape club".

I looked at the invoice.

"Hey, Beth. You won a certificate for a $5.99 CD." I said excitedly.

"They always do that," she said. "You still have to pay shipping. And this month's deal is better -- unlimited $1.99 CDs."

My wife is so hip.

The $5.99 CD is called a bounce-back. A special offer included with an order to get your next order. Often, you'll get a bounce back with a premium -- like the toys we got as kids that came with coupons for more sugary cereal.

Almost anyone can use a bounce-back. The theory is customers are most likely to buy from you while they're still excited about your brand.

This bounce-back was clever because it looked like something I'd earned or won. Another technique is to make it a thank you with a coupon. And you don't even need to use discounting. A simple announcement of a new product or helpful accessory will do.

I guess I may be unhip to technology, but I am hip to marketing.

(Now that I think about it, even the word hip sounds sadly … unhip.)

-Phil Sasso

Monday, October 09, 2006

Everything is marketing.....

"Go Fly a Kite!" my assistant, Pat, said briskly walking into my office.

"Pardon me?" I replied, startled by her comment.

"You just got a package from "Go Fly a Kite," she clarified.

"Open it," I said feeling a surge of excitement.

In the package were two kites to replace the ones Beth and I carefully
worked to place in trees in a nearby park.

I'd emailed the kite maker's customer service department last week
asking them to take pity on me and give me some replacement kites
at a discount. I never expected to get two free kites in return!

Think the company was foolish? Think again.

As a new hobbyist, what kite brand will I buy from now on?

Because I took the time to write them, it was obvious that I was a
serious kite hobbyist and wanted to stay loyal to their brand. Lest
you think I'm a little over-the-top, let me take a moment to explain
how kites have changed since we were kids. A "pro-sumer" kite can
cost anywhere from $20 to $250 a pop! (My kindergartener won't be
flying any $250 kites anytime soon, grant you!)

In college, my marketing prof gave us extra credit for participating in
an experiment. We wrote a letter to a company about a product
costing $10 or less that had failed. His findings? Most companies
responded by sending two replacement products or coupons good for
two replacements. The reason? By overcompensating, they were more
likely to turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

And don't forget, customer service's main objective is to support your
marketing, to diffuse problems and to smooth over ruffled feathers.
Customer service isn't about the one product at hand but about
protecting the lifetime value of that customer's loyalty.

What's your customer service policy? How do customers respond to it?
What improvements can you make?

-- Phil Sasso

Friday, October 06, 2006

About your...

I just got an email titled: "about your message..." I didn't recognize the sender, but since it wasn't from a name like "Trixie" I thought it might be legit. Nope. Spam. Not just spam, but an obnoxious spam that took forever to load and was full of typos.

What was this spammer thinking?

Did he think he created rapport by tricking me into reading his email? Did he expect me to say "Wow! I DO need to refinance! Is this the kind of sneaky, inattentive shyster I want to trust with my hard earned money and my largest single asset"?!

In marketing, we call using an unrelated subject to get someone's attention "borrowed interest". It's like using a swimsuit model in an ad to promote power tools. (She's obviously not dressed to rebuild an engine! Her job is to stop someone, not to lend credibility to the product.)

Borrowed interest hardly ever works. Think about it: When's the last time YOU were persuaded by an ad that tricked you into reading it?

How many unqualified leads do you want? You obviously want to weed out non-prospects immediately. Using smart marketing methods in your advertising can get prospects to pre-qualify themselves.

-- Phil Sasso

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Just Enough...

The Today Show interviewed Dr. Laura Nash about "Faith in the
Workplace". Nash is an expert on business ethics with Harvard
Business School. I heard her speak at a business ethics
conference, recently. At the reception, I asked why the business
world seems so off-balance. She said we lack "complex decision
making" skills. We don't know how to choose between
non-comparable goals. So we try to get it all -- losing much
along the way.

I just got Nash's new book "Just Enough - Tools for Creating
Success In Your Work And Life". I haven't read it, yet. But the basic
premise is that many high achievers are dissatisfied. They're frustrated
because something is missing. Often they believe they don't have
enough. Perhaps this is why we're witnessing so many corporate

My marketing point? Good marketing ethics is essentially good
marketing. The more honesty and integrity you build into your
marketing efforts, the more successful they'll be -- both in terms of
finances and fulfillment. Forsaking long-term return for short-term
profits is a bad approach. Abandoning goodwill for greed will
eventually poison sales. Perhaps the answer is bringing our Weekend
Faith with us to the Workplace.

Want more thoughts on marketing ethics? Visit this link on the
American Marketing Association website:

Otherwise, I hope I've said just enough.

-- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Who are you?

When I was trying to IM an associate recently I got a funny away message that went something like this:

"Sorry. I'm away trying to find myself. If you see me, would you tell me I'm looking for myself? Or call me and tell me where I am, so I can find out where myself went. And if you find me by myself you know I've found myself and I don't need your help to find myself anymore."

I don't know if it's original, but it made me laugh out loud.

I can relate. In my life, I spent my 20's trying to find myself and my 30's trying to let other know who I was.

In branding, you face the same challenge: finding yourself and letting prospects know who you are. Finding yourself requires that you understand what makes your brand unique. Sometimes an outsider can give you perspective on that. But that alone won't increase sales. You need to connect with prospects and let them know who you are.

One of my favorite old ads is from the 50's for McGraw Hill's trade journal publishing arm. It features a picture of a dour, foreboding-looking corporate buyer seated back in his chair, arms across his chest.

The ad reads: " I don’t know who you are…I don’t know your company…I don’t know your company’s product…I don’t know what your company stands for…I don’t know your company’s customers…I don’t know your company’s record…I don’t know your company’s reputation. Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?"

As a brand, getting to know yourself is good. Making sure others know who you are is best.

-- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I was looking at my old high school yearbook a while back and laughing.

You may laugh at a photo of me in a leisure suit. And although I find
the fashion funny, too, today I'm laughing at the autographs -- the
corny sentimentality of youth.

"2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten" reads one from someone I didn't like much.

Another is signed Kit.

I stare at it. I don't remember any guys named Kit. I think I'd
remember a girl named Kitty. Then it dawns on me, it's K.I.T. --
Keep In Touch. I look at the name and feel sad that I don't remember

Makes me ponder how many clients I've lost touch with. And wonder
how many customers and prospects my clients have lost touch with.
Without a lot of dedication, it's easy to lose contact.

Current marketing theory teaches that turning a prospect into a
customer requires a series of "touches": ads, mailings, phone calls,
visits, etc. The number of touches differs according to your brand,
your product, your price point and the prospect. I believe you need
to K.I.T. to maintain current customer relationships and resurrect
old ones, too.

Every Christmas, I send cards to people I don't talk to all year long.
But that's not really K.I.T., and it doesn't work in business, either.

To keep in touch you need a systematic approach. A dedication
to make regular contact -- like once a month or once a week.

One client I spoke to this week says it can take up to 8 years to turn
his prospects into clients. Eight years! Imagine how easy it would be
to give up on them. Would more frequent contact shorten the selling
cycle? Maybe. I know that I think more about people that I hear from
more often.

And as long as the customer's around, it's never too late to resurrect
an old customer relationship.

I'm not really sure if the Laura that signed my yearbook was the one
with Farrah Faucet hair or the one with a cowl-neck sweater in her
yearbook photo. Wish Beth and I had gone to my class reunion, now!

-- Phil Sasso

Monday, October 02, 2006

Give & Take...

I was counseling a client about discounting. They were tempted to fight an aggressive competitor with huge price discounts.

"What if they lower their prices?" I asked. "Are you ready for a price war? You won't build loyalty. Customers could lose sight of value and buy on price alone. It may even cast doubt about the quality of your services. And what if the competitor can sell below your cost? They could put you out of business!"

"And you suggest I do nothing?" he responded.

"No. I suggest you use giving as your marketing advantage'" I said.

"So don't discount my services -- just give them away?" he looked in my eyes to see if I was kidding. "Are you nuts?"

"Not giving away your services," I clarified. "I'm suggesting you align yourself with a non-profit that connects with your customers and give donations to them. We could advertise that customer purchases are helping support the Children and Puppies Charity -- or whatever. Then we'll work with the non-profit to get the word out."

Most consumers are swayed by cause-centered marketing. Given the choice between two brands of competitive price and quality, 76% of consumers would buy the one that supports a worthy cause, says a study by Cone Communications and Roper Starch Worldwide. The study also found 76% would switch brand loyalty for a cause -- and 54% would pay more to support a meaningful cause.

The key is finding an organization that fits your business, is meaningful to your target market and will work with you. A book store supporting a literacy program seems an obvious fit. But the program needs to be willing to lend their name or work with you.

If you can't find a cause to work with, consider starting your own. One of my clients started a scholarship program. Another sponsored a non-profit event in return for a plug in the promotional materials and the program.

Consider how giving can help you take the upper hand in a tough competitive market.

-Phil Sasso