Thursday, November 30, 2006

Texting 1, 2, 3...

"What's a Soli?" Beth asked as we were leaving an outdoor concert on Tuesday.

"Is that S O L I ?" I clarified by spelling the word back to her.

"They said the last song featured a trumpet soli," she responded. "What's that?"

"A melody which is played in harmony by a section rhythmically together -- like a sax soli," I reported.

"Yeah. Right. How'd you know that off the top of your head?"

"I Googled it with my cell phone," I replied. "You just type in "d" followed by the word and they text you back the definition."

"There's another reason I hate your new cell phone," she said. "Do you always have to be wired to the world?"

"Actually, it's wireLESS..."


Now in my defense I just got it, so I'm still enthralled by the novelty of the new phone. And the technology is actually very old. It's not like a web browser, email, camera, coffeemaker phone. It's just a phone with SMS texting. A fairly old technology. I just find the untapped potential intriguing.

And SMS Google will also text you weather reports, sports scores, currency conversions, and even driving directions -- on demand. Just query GOOGL (46645). [See]

Fast forward to McDonald's last night.

"So did we win a new SUV?" I asked.

"I don't know. It's stupid. You have to go online to see," She said handing me the "Pirates" playing piece. "Who's really going to rush home and go online to see if they won?"

"We didn't win," I told her.

"How'd you know?"

"I texted the code on my phone," I replied. "We didn't win. But we can get free advertising from them if I just text by 'Y' to..."

Another glare. I put my phone away.

North Americans don't use SMS as much as those overseas. For instance, U.S. users send less than 50 texts a month verses over 200 a month in the Philippians. But experts predict the U.S. will catch-up quickly. Many wireless technologies have blazed trails first overseas before catching fire here.*

Can SMS be a marketing tool for you? Can you sponsor SMS content as a branding tool? Can you use SMS to build an opt-in customer cell phone list? If not SMS, what other novel technology can you use to connect with your target market?

*SOURCE: Business 2.0 | Aug 2006

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

TWO BITS......

The other day, I consulted with a service-marketing veteran to develop my knowledgebase.

Our discussion centered on best practices in profitable marketing and management of personal or professional service businesses.

I listened intently to her perspective, honed from years of analysis and practical experience. She carefully outlined two core techniques: a throughput focus and a retention focus.

She used a hair salon as her illustration.

Cost accounting says the more haircuts in a day, the more money in the register at the end of the night. So, the increased through-put approach emphasizes efficiency would set a strict limit on the amount of time a stylist spends per customer. Quality is second to speed. The downside of this approach is often lower customer service ratings and higher employee burnout.

Marketing says the more repeat business, the lower the cost of marketing and the bigger the bottom line at the end of the year. That’s why the customer retention strategy would stress carefully listening, asking questions, and taking extra time to build relationships with clients. The downside of this approach can be higher service costs.

In her final analysis, the best practice is a blended method that emphasizes long-term relationship-building and system efficiency over raw speed. In a price-sensitive niche, this approach keeps customers from buying on price alone. In a quality-sensitive niche, it produces a greater sense of service quality. In either case, by lowering customer attrition, the business reduces expensive new customer marketing costs. And by building relationships, the happy salesperson/stylist builds a steady stream of commissions and a solid client roster.

The consultant also explained how incremental add-on sales, in our example shampoo or styling gel, can impact the bottom line with little or no increase in service costs.

When my time was over, I thanked Tamara for her sage wisdom and paid her consulting fee on the spot. Her hourly rate was modest -- and I got a free haircut to boot.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I came home from work and sang out my usual "I'm home famileeee"

(Really. I do this. And as annoying as it sounds, Beth doesn't sock me.)

PJ came running out of his room with a big smile to greet me.

"Daddy!" he squealed.

"Hi PJ!"

"Sit down, dad," he said.

I sat.

He pulled out a catalog.

"Dad, what's this?" he asked.

"It's  a train," I told him.

"No. It's THOMAS, dad."

"Oh, Yeah, it's Thomas the Tank Engine," I said reading. "And this is Annie and Clarabelle."

"Do you like it dad?"

"Yeah it’s very nice,"I said, not quite tuned in to where this was headed, yet. "I like the track with the snow-covered tunnels."

"Can you help me get this dad?"

I was at once proud and trapped. I was proud of my little salesman asking for the sale. I was trapped by the fact that he never asked me to BUY it. He only asked me to help him get it. And I'd already said I liked it. What could I do?

We can take a lesson from PJ.

He didn't ask me to buy anything at first. He re-established our relationship and involved me in a dialog. He got me to commit to liking it -- then he asked for the sale. He didn't even present the price. I had to ask how much.

Too often, our selling process starts with the price, then asks for a commitment.

A more effective approach, especially for big ticket items -- like a pricey Thomas the Train Set -- is to involve our customers in a dialog and get them to buy in on the idea before you ask them to consider spending one penny. But you have to be careful not to be too mysterious or gimmicky or you could come off like an Amway salesman.

I've helped several clients develop a systematic approach that goes from ads to literature to closing (I call it the PJ principle.)

Will PJ get his train set this Christmas?

If you get a phone call from a very young salesman asking you about your advertising, you'll know how I "helped him" get the train set. (Not really. But maybe next year.)

- Phil Sasso

Monday, November 27, 2006

Flash or Substance.....

I attended 3 trade shows in 3 days this month.

Two shows were straight-laced. The third was like a 70's flashback. It featured performance car parts. Scantily-clad women with no product knowledge. And a lot of male buyers. I watched in confusion. I thought this tactic had gone the way of the leisure suit.

Using pin-up models to sell hood scoops is called "borrowed interest". Men may stop. But they're ogling the presenter, not the product. I'm not convinced building traffic like this is building sales. It isn't even a case of selling the sizzle vs. selling the steak. The model isn't WEARING the hood scoop. She's not an expert. She's not a customer. She's just there to draw attention.

Avoid borrowed interest. It's a waste of time and money. Instead, use your marketing to pre-qualify prospects and pre-sell them by demonstrating benefits. A classic study of ads shows that ads with headlines that relate to a problem or product are more effective than provocative, but unrelated headlines.

Now I have nothing against hiring attractive women or men to work a show. They just need some background, product training -- and a little more clothing.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


It's kind of a Thanksgiving tradition.

Over pumpkin pie, someone from Beth's family will ask me if I'll be standing in line again tomorrow at 6 a.m. for the early bird sale at Walmart. Then everyone laughs.

And I always roll my eyes and say "Not this year".

But the next day I always find myself in the frigid Wisconsin cold waiting in line for "Wally World" to open. Usually I'm there to get a gift for someone that laughed at me the night before!

What kind of weird control does this Walmart sale have over me?

First, it's about a mile from my in-laws so I can roll out of bed, throw on my sweats and baseball cap and be there in 5 minutes.

Second, they usually have a great deal on some perfect electronic gizmo for someone I love -- even if they do laugh at me.

Walmart holds this way-too-early sale to preempt the competition. Retailers call it "Black Friday". The buzz this year is websites leaking stolen BF ads online. But Walmart decide to even pre-empt the competition at this, running their own BF sales ads online at

You may hate Walmart. You may love them. But you can't deny they're smart marketers.

And you can learn from them. Even if you're not in retail.

Preempting can mean being first to have a feature -- or being the first to promote it.

For instance, when Splenda launched, they first approached Royal Crown Cola about using their low-calorie sweeter. They knew RC was in the market for something to differentiate their cola. RC invested heavily invested in promoting the Splenda brand -- building sales for both. Meanwhile plenda used these ingredient branding relationships to go head-to-head with artificial sweeteners -- and sugar itself. In just a few years, Splenda has more marketshare than Sweet-n-Low and Nutrasweet -- combined, according to a recent issue of Business 2.0.

They did that not by being first artificial sweetener on the market, but by preempting the competition with selected brands.

Will I get up for at the crack of dawn again this Friday? I can't say--family may be reading this.

But I can tell you, I'll do a great job of preempting some blue-haired old lady to the last box of what I'm shopping for. (Just kidding!)

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


My family just got back from a weeklong vacation in the middle of

Actually, our cottage was in the middle of alot of things, but was
surrounded by thousands of acres of nothing -- the Kickapoo
Wilderness Reserve in Southwestern Wisconsin.

I'm now well-rested and a little more educated for my adventure.

One of the things I discovered about the smaller towns and cities
around us was that they do marketing a little differently. I'll call it

For instance, we visited Wilton, Wisconsin, the heart of the famous
Elroy-Sparta trail, the first rails to trails path in the U.S. It was
"Wood Tick Days" in town, so we stopped at a shop called Almosta

The shop was having a "My Wife's Away Sale". The shop owner
encouraged us to grab anything we like and he'd give us a deal on
it -- as long as his wife didn't get back first. Then he just chatted
with us. He didn't try to sell us anything. He even had a table with
free stuff on it he was giving away. Without the typical hype and
pressure, shopping was more fun. We didn't feel we needed to keep
our defenses up.

His wife appeared after a few moments, but he promised to honor
any prices he had given us. We picked up a Father-Son set of
"BITE ME - Wilton Wood Tick Days" T-Shirts and left smiling.

I don't often feel the same way shopping here in Chicago.

Why? We trained salespeople to ask for the sale. In fact we've taught
them to almost pester the customer demanding the sale. It puts a
customer's defenses up and increases resistance.

The same is true for the advertising techniques that scream at us
with loud colors, busy designs and "act now" offers.

Good advertising doesn't push you, it nudges you. Sometimes it
just moves you with a laugh or a tear. It's as real and sincere as
your best salesman.

So the next time you're in Wilton, Wisconsin (pop. 574) stop in the
Almosta Store for a lesson in marketing and walk across the street
to Gina's Pies Are Square for some good food and a lesson in
merchandising. But I'll cover that another time

-Phil Sasso

Monday, November 20, 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

Friday, November 17, 2006


A client and good friend of mine, Don Russell, recently picked up a couple of hitchhikers.

Imagine how I felt when he called me from the middle of Indiana to tell me what had happened.

He'll be fine. But he learned a lesson from his experience. In fact, I think we can all learn a lesson from what happened to him.

Let me clarify a few things: First, he didn't pick up random hitchhikers on the highway -- he found out about them on the Internet. And second he wasn't harmed. The lesson he learned was one in viral marketing.

Don gave these two guys a ride from Indianapolis to Chicago to help them with their project he'd read about on

The hitchhikers, Fiddy and Scotty, are a couple of recent business school grads who have a goal of hitching free rides to see all 50 US capitols in 50 days. It's not just a high-tech joy ride -- it's an in-depth experiment in viral marketing. They're testing and documenting how viral marketing works. In fact, the same concept they're using allowed one man to trade up from one red paper clip to a house.

Their story and the website detailing their travels, has been picked up by various radio, TV, print and internet news organizations including CNN, NPR and USA Today. Their marketing budget - $0.

Don says when their adventure is over, they have several ideas of how to "monetize" their efforts. Interesting.

So how can you apply this concept to real-world marketing? It's only limited by your imagination, the hard work you put in -- and a lot of luck. You need a compelling storyline and a way to get your message to the media and/or the community you want to reach. Or you need to build your own community around your story.

While marketers are trying to use "social media" like blogs and social networking sites 69% of users are skeptical says JupiterResearch. My guess is most corporate programs are too corporate to work. They are either too plain vanilla or too obviously commercial.

I can't give you any quick answers in this tip. But if you go to my blog ( I'll be glad to give you a link to a couple of interesting articles on viral marketing on the Inc. and Fast Company magazine websites.

Or give me a call and we can discuss how I might be able to help you hitch a ride on the viral marketing train.

- Phil Sasso
Link to Inc. Magazine
Link to Fast Company Magazine

Thursday, November 16, 2006


"Phil, would you look at an ad for me," an old friend asked. "I'd really appreciate your honest critique."

"Uh ... sure," I responded hesitantly. I looked at his ad. It was terrible. "Did you ... uh ... design this ad?"


"Do you ... um .. like it?"


I breathed a sigh of relief.

Let me be honest: when I look at most amateur ads it hurts. I wouldn't attempt to practice law or medicine on my own behalf. Yet, because the most talented people in our field make it look easy, a lot of people feel they can design a successful ad. They can't. No more than they could do their own appendectomy. But, since ad design isn't lethal -- except to profits, they'll try it. Or ask their cousin's son to do it.

Being asked for my opinion on a friend's ad is even more painful. It's a lot like being shown a picture of an ugly baby. You can't tell your friend the baby is ugly. But if you say she's cute you'd be lying. I usually say something like: "Wow, he's really big" or "She's got a lot of hair". (If I've ever said that about your baby, I apologize. I'm sure your child was really cute, too!) Everyone thinks their own baby is cute. Just like everyone thinks their own ad is witty or attractive.

When I look at an ad, I'm not just looking for clever catch phrases and great artwork. I'm looking for a strong strategy, an engaging sales message and an inspiring take-away. I've seen a lot of ugly ads over the years. But what are worse are the one's that look good but have no meaningful impact. Advertising is more than pretty pictures or funny dialog. That's "advertainment". Advertising is salesmanship in print. Successful advertising is about impact. It's about making the right impression to the right people to make sales. You need to touch a "responsive chord" to do that.

Let me ask you a simple question: What was the last ad you responded to? Not the last ad that made you laugh or cry. Not one that you told a friend about but didn't remember the brand. What was the last ad you saw that made you pull our your checkbook and buy?

Off hand, most people can't think of one. That, despite the fact that we're bombarded by thousands of advertising messages a day. Interesting, huh?

So is advertising's influence all subliminal? Yes. And no. Advertising's influence is cumulative. That means in very few cases do you see an ad once and pick-up the phone. In fact, in most cases, you won't even remember seeing or hearing an ad the first few times -- unless it's highly creative. And if the product doesn't fulfill a real or perceived need, you still won't react -- even if you've seen an ad 100 times.

My simplified advertising equation is: the right message reaching the right audience repeated with optimal frequency equals results.

There I go making it look easy again!

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Buying Customers....

I found a coupon on my night stand last weekend for a special:
Buy One Starbuck's, Get One Free.

It didn't take much thinking to figure out the source.

"Just thought you might need some ideas," Beth said.

About 77% of American consumers use coupons, according to the
Promotional Marketing Association. Coupons save Americans more
than $3 billion a year -- the most dedicated coupon clippers are
men and women that earn $50 - 75,000 a year as reported in the
Chicago Tribune. Interesting statistics.

Ever since C.W. Post issued the first coupon for a penny off a box of
Grape Nuts cereal back in 1895, couponing has been successfully
used to buy customers. Yes,I said "buy customers". In reality, that's
what advertising and promotion are all about: Buying customers. Good
advertising, like good purchasing, seeks to buy the best quality at the
best price.

How do you assess that? A good customer is one that is either highly
loyal, a heavy user of your product or both. Beth, for instance is
pretty loyal to Starbucks -- she doesn't drink Caribou or Gloria
Jean's. But she isn't a heavy-user. She may buy a cup a month. A good
price means they cost less than your per customer profit on the sale.
For instance if you do a $1,000 promotional ad and get 100 customers,
you know each customer cost you $10. If you make $10 or less profit
on each sale, then you're better off doing nothing than running that ad
or promotion. I belief a promotion needs to measurably pay for itself.

The best thing about couponing is that you can code coupons and track
the results. If coupon profitability for one media vehicle exceed the
other, perhaps it is wiser to focus more budget on the most productive

And don't think couponing is just for consumer marketing.
Business-to-business marketers have found that couponing can be
effective for them as well. I just got an offer in the mail for a
discount on cable internet for my office. Although there's no dashed
line to cut along, the code I need to use to get the discount is
basically a coupon. The same goes for the Internet couponing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to make up for a coupon I didn't use
last weekend. (Sorry, hon!)

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A while ago, I visited the Mall of America in Minneapolis for the first time. What's the biggest mall in America like? Disorientating.

"Do you know where we're going?" asked Beth.

"I'm not even sure I could retrace my steps to get back to the van," I said. "Are you leaving a trail of popcorn or something?"

"Seriously, do you know how to get to the Rain Forest?"

"I'm lost. Really, I have no idea where we are," I replied. "Did you see the sign in the garage? It said 'Remember: You're Parked in Arizona'? This place is too big."

"Here's a directory. Let's see what it says."

I tried to let my eyes adjust to the overwhelming amount of information.

"Uh, I can't even find the "You Are Here" sticker," I announced. "Look, here's a phone. I'm going to call for help."

Anything that makes a man ask for directions must be built for women. I've driven for hours to avoid asking for help. Five minutes in MOA and I'm begging for directions.

"Thank you for calling Mall of America," the message began. "All of our operators are busy. Someone will be with you shortly..."

"Tell them we're across from Macy's," Beth said studying my face. "Are you on hold?"

I imagined some man who had circumnavigated the globe without a map standing at another kiosk in the MOA on the verge of tears asking how to get to the Lake Woebegone store.

"Mall of America," said the voice over my lifeline.

"I'm, uh, in the Mall." I began, my voice cracking. "I'm lost..."

"It's O.K.," came back a warm, reassuring voice. "You're near Macy's. Where do you want to go?"

After a moment I was armed with directions.

The marketing lesson? How easy do you make it for customers to buy from you? Do they need to navigate an overwhelming amount of product variations and options? Or do you give them a road map--or better yet a friendly voice to guide them?

If you have a lot of options, a comparison chart can help customers pick the best product for their needs. If your product is complicated, an online demo voice can give a benefit-by-benefit sales presentation. Or a friendly customer service person can answer pre-sales questions in-store, on the phone, or online.

Back at the MOA, we finally got from Arizona to the Rain Forest. Once seated at the restaurant, my self-confidence came back. Until I was handed the 20-page menu...

- Phil Sasso

Monday, November 13, 2006

As I stood in the pouring rain at 3:10 am on a Saturday morning in my bathrobe, I wondered just what I had got myself into.

Flash back several months to Beth reading the newspaper in bed.

"Hey this sounds fun," she said. "The American Kennel Club has their big Chicago Show next weekend."

"Why would you want to go to a dog show?"

"Don't you think it would be fun to see the dogs?" she asked.

"I've seen dogs," I replied. "I don't need to go to a show to see dogs."

"I think PJ would love it. Seeing all the different kinds of dogs. He loves animals."

Flash forward several months to Beth reading a book in bed.

"Hey it says here that retrievers are the most popular dogs in America," Beth said.


"Yeah. You know, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. Which do you like best?"

"I like sleeping dogs..." I said pretending to drift off before I got an elbow in the ribs."

"Come on didn't you have a dog when you were a boy?"

"Yeah. Yeah." I respond rubbing my side.

"Wouldn't it be great if PJ had a dog? What was your dogs name?"

"Tippy," I said remembering playing fetch with my best friend.

"Do you have fond memories of him?"

"I remember teaching him to shake hands," I said remembering the rewarding feeling of sucess. I recalled wrestling with my dog and just the fun of petting him. Then I pictured my parents with a pooper scooper and I realized I was now a parent.

Flash Forward several more months...

I looked on my pillow and find a printout from the internet of a little black puppy at a rescue shelter. I tried to put it aside and get into bed before I got roped into something.

"Isn't he cute?"


Another elbow to the rib.

"Hey wake up I'm talking to you. Isn't he cute?"

"Who?" I say faking grogginess.

"Who?! Bear."

"Bear?" I said in mock surprise, "You want to buy a bear?" I look in her eyes and realize my joke isn't going to break the sales pitch.

"His NAME is bear. The fee for him includes all his shots, a microchip and spaying or neutering -- whatever they do to a boy. Isn't that a good deal?"

"Listen if we get a dog, I'll feed him, brush him and exercise him, whatever. But the poop stuff, that's your job."

"O.K.," Beth said. "I'll house train him. Come on. Wouldn't it be fun? And wouldn't it be rewarding to know you're rescuing a puppy? Let's just go see it."

"Alright. But we'll only see it. No commitments."

"I'll call and set up an interview tomorrow."


"You can't just pick up a dog. You have to be approved to adopt it." Beth replied.

Adoption? Things had sure changed since I was a kid.

Fast forward several days. Beth and I are in bed. It's 3 a.m...

"Phil? Phil wake up. I think the puppy needs to go out."

"Can't you get him his own key or something."

"If he has a accident it's your fault." Beth replied. "And you're cleaning it up."

So that's how I ended up standing in the rain at 3:10 trying to coax a dog to do his business.

As I stood there, I contemplate the process of making what we call in marketing a "considered decision." I realize that products with long selling cycles tend to have very high costs. Sometimes it's the cost of the purchase. Other times, it's a big learning curve or the cost of maintenance. But once the customer has made the initial purchase it takes an ongoing relationship to circumvent buyer's remorse. Fortunately for pets, they build their own relationship and don't require a salesperson.

Long selling cycles can be frustrating for salespeople. But when you stand back and realize the commitment your customer is making, you'll realize why it takes so long. Try to think of it from the customers perspective to understand why it may be taking him so long to make a commit. It will help you be more patient and help you seal more deals than trying to pressure a customer into a purchase before he's quite ready.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Aslan and I have some business to take care of...

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Your Attention Please.....

The other day, I found a unique PR product on the web. I wasn't sure how I stumbled on it.

Ever retrace your conversation and laugh at how it got from topic A to topic B? Like how did discussing the funny new VW commercial turn into a debate on world peace? My Internet experience was a lot like that.

My history showed I landed on the PR site by clicking an ad on I got to from an ad in an e-newsletter. I don't know how or when I signed up for the e-newsletter.

Two clicks on affiliate ads and I was on to a different topic.

Affiliate advertising is a pay-for-performance online marketing. Unlike SEO (Search Engine Marketing) and paid SEM (Search Engine Marketing) customers from affiliate sites may not set out looking for your product. They may not have even known it existed. Some just had a problem or a need and an online or email ad led them to your solution. Some affiliate sites are copyrighted content, some are public forums, some are just a list of ads. There many different payment models. The most common are PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and PPS (Pay-Per-Sale). I favor the later. It avoids click fraud issues (see my last tip).

Is affiliate marketing a good choice for you? It is for many Fortune 500 brands. In fact, for some companies affiliate marketing manager a full-time position. So, I think it's at least worth considering.

A good place to start your homework are two of the leaders in affiliate marketing networks: LinkShare
( and CommissionJunction ( Using a respected 3rd party monitor like these helps you find reputable affiliates and minimizes fraud. They can also advise you on the best practices and pitfalls. Google also has an affiliate network called AdSense. I've not studied it, but I've heard good things.

Doesn't matter if you market B-to-B or B-to-C, there are options that can fit your needs.

I like how affiliate marketing combines branding with measurable results. I don't like how it influences easily distracted people.

I'm sorry. Where was I?

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Today is the Illinois primaries. Here in Chicago, the city where even the dead vote, politics are pretty tough. More like bare knuckle boxing than campaigning. 

As the big day approaches I'm always amused by the political advertising. I find the mudslinging, phony endorsements and misleading statements laughable.

But, in many ways, the same tricks are used in commercial advertising -- we just call them techniques. (Kidding. Just kidding!)

Here are a few random reports from the field that you may find informative -- or at least interesting:

POSTCARD FROM THE EDGE: Beth left a postcard by my dinner plate. On one side was a controversial issue both Beth and I are against. On the flip side I expected the candidate to be against it too. He wasn't. Why send this postcard to us? Did he even think about his list? I don't know where he stands on anything else, (he doesn't cover that) he's only focused on one controversial issue. We could be in 100% agreement on everything else. But most voters won't  think that hard. They just won't vote for him. And he's the incumbent! Marketing Mistake.

OVER ENDORSED: I heard a radio spot this morning with a former president singing the praises of a local politician. A former president! And the way he pretended he was good friends with the local guy made me laugh. He said: "If I lived in your area I'd vote for him." Come on. This is a PRIMARY. Do we need a former president's endorsement for a local contest? How much overkill is that? Made me wonder how close the other candidate was. And why the incumbent would be so worried. Maybe the other guy has something worth looking into... Marketing Mistake.

GET PAID TO VOTE: On the non-partisan side, the League Of Women Voters in one suburb is turning your voting receipt into a coupon with a list of local merchants (Thanks for the info, Pat Davis). Bring in your stub and get a free cup of coffee or a 10% discount or something nice. Creative idea. It may not double turnout at the polls. But, with historically low primary turn out, it may get a few more voters out. (Not necessarily well-informed voters. But you can always read your political mail to get informed!) Marketing Mastermind.

The marketing lessons? Be sure you know who is on your mailing list. Don't focus on only one selling point. Don't use an endorsement that doesn't fit. Most importantly be creative in your thinking.

And remember, as we say in Chicago: Vote early. Vote often.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, November 06, 2006


Beth agreed to pick me up at the airport last week.

I didn't think anything of it.

But the guy I rode to the airport with and our cabby both were surprised.

"Newlyweds?" asked the driver.

"Last week we celebrated 9 years," I replied. "In fact, our honeymoon
was here in Vegas -- to go to the same tradeshow."

"Really! She went for that?" my rideshare said.

"Yeah. I'm a hopeless romantic I guess," I joked.

"She must really love you to pick you up at the airport," said the cabby.

"I never thought of it before," I replied.

To me, it seemed like something any wife would do for her husband.

Needless to say, I gave Beth a big kiss and bought her dinner that

Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the good things we've got.

Take your product or service for instance. You probably have marketed
it long enough that you may not see it the way customers see it
anymore. Maybe you're too close. You may be taking certain things for
granted. Or maybe you think everyone expects a set of features or
benefits that many are not even aware of.

Perhaps it's time to get a fresh perspective.

I'd say hiring a marketing communications agency to help you find new
angles and new avenues to communicate your message could help you
re-ignite your sales.

(But then again, I own a marketing communications agency. Maybe I'm
too close.)

- Phil Sasso

Friday, November 03, 2006

Last Day....

I'm at the APEX/SEMA/NACE trade shows in Las Vegas this week.

Every year this week, I offer the same advice: Use the first day back from a tradeshow like it's your last day at the show.

It's easy to get swept away catching up on things and put off following up on leads. But what's more important? The day-to-day grind -- or reminding that hot prospect that you're one of the 1,000 exhibitors they met last week at that big tradeshow?

So, take the time to jot them a quick note, send them a catalog, or ship them that sample you promised them.

But don't call them right away. Afterall, they'll probably be as swamped catching up today as you'll be -- tomorrow.

(That means if you try to call me on Monday, I may be too busy following up to get to you. Please don't be offended!)

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ad Glut…

Chicago’s PACE suburban transit service now broadcasts entertainment videos on their buses, says the Chicago Tribune. The commercials generate $500,000 for PACE. Looking up, I see a PACE bus out my window wrapped in a funny ad for Citibank.

The upside? All this ad revenue stretches PACE’s budget and subsidizes the cost of public transportation for patrons. It also helps advertisers reach a captive audience.

The downside? As every square inch of America gets covered with ads, each ad’s impact is reduced. I call it ad glut. Others call it ad clutter. Whatever you call it, it means it takes more ads to get the same response. What once generated 100 leads now generates 60.

To be more successful you need to do one of two things: buy more ads or be more creative.

Obviously, buying more ads is a numbers game: more ads means it’s more likely people will see them.

Breakthrough creativity uses novel or daring approaches to get noticed. For instance, when French Connection United Kingdom started using the company’s initials to get people’s attention, North American sales jumped from $35M to $84M! Definitely breakthrough – but a little too edgy for my sensibilities.

You could do both and hedge your risk, but it’s obviously much more expensive.

Stretching the envelope can help you stretch your ad budget. How can you breakthrough the ad clutter in your market? What can you do to get more noticed and more remembered? How can creativity make your ad jump OFF the page—without OFFending?

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I grilled out last week. Burgers were the main menu item. As I
took a bite I applauded the great taste and my grilling skill. I also
noticed a greatcondiment.

"Great pickles, Beth," I said. "What are they?"

"Claussen," she replied.

"They're amazing!" I said. "Very crisp. And just the right balance of

Then it hit me. Nothing is so good without a cost.

"How much were they?" I asked.

Beth took a big bite of her burger.

"Mrftoandraft dollars," she replied with her mouth full.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to talk with your mouth full?"
I retorted.

Then I realized it wasn't because her mouth was full, that I couldn't
understand her. She was mumbling on purpose.

"How much can a jar of pickles cost?" I asked.

"They are kept in the refrigerated section," she informed me.

"I know. I remember the commercials from when I was a kid," I said.
"How much could a jar of pickles cost?"

"Seven dollars."

"Seven dollars?! What are they gold plated? Seven dollars for
cucumbers in vinegar?" The cheapskate in me sprouted up. I started
counting pickles. "What is that like a quarter a pickle?"

"That's regular price. I buy them when they're on sale two for one."

"What's the store brand? Like $1.79?" I put down my burger. "People
actually pay $7.00 for a jar of pickles?"

"They're not just pickles," she reminded me. "They're Claussen"

The next day, we were biking past a French Market. We parked to
look around. We stopped at "The Pickle Guy" a merchant who
specialized in just pickles and peppers.

"Want to try a sample?" The Pickle Guy asked.


He handed us a slice of pickle to share.

"Isn't that the best pickle you ever had?" he asked.

It certainly rivaled Claussen. I picked up the container and read the
price. Suffice to say, it made Beth look frugal.

My marketing point? Price is relative. People will pay whatever they
perceive as the value of your product. It depends on what they are
willing to pay for what's important to them. Good promotion builds
the value of your product. How are you promoting your value? Are you
maximizing your profit? How can you differentiate your product to
build perceived value?

-Phil Sasso