Thursday, December 06, 2007

Elf Practice...

I'll keep it short today, since I know we're all very busy this time of year...

PJ, Beth and I watched the Rankin & Bass "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" special again this year -- as we do almost every year.

I like the stop-motion animation and the quirky characters. But more importantly I find it interesting how they created a meaningful, heart-warming story around a simple popular song. The theme of the Christmas Special is that no one is really a misfit -- they're just misunderstood. And everyone has a purpose. Even Rudolph with his obviously odd nose.

What's even more interesting is that PJ and I already know most of the dialog and catch phrases (like our favorite loud elf boss yelling "Herbie! Why weren't you at Elf Practice?!). But we never really tire of watching the same special every year.

In the same way, a good ad should be meaningful and memorable. And if well-done, your audience shouldn't soon tire of it.

Are your ads that effective?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Carpe Diem...

“I wanna do the tubes,” my son, PJ, decided as soon as we entered the water park.

The “tubes” are inner tubes in a lazy river. I liked his idea. Anything “lazy” sounded like great vacation activity to me. So Beth, PJ and I grabbed tubes and waded into the river.

The lazy river was a little stronger and faster than it looked. I held onto PJ’s tube as we snaked around curves and drifted under waterfalls. But soon he grew weary of me.

“Dad, let go,” he pleaded pushing me away. “I want to do it myself!”

Suddenly, it dawned on me: My window is closing. Dad may soon not be cool. PJ will become more independent. He’ll tune me out. My influence and impact will diminish.

It’s bittersweet. But there’s a lesson in it…

Parents: Seize every day. Time passes quickly.

Marketers: Seize every moment in a new product launch. Time waits for no one.

What’s new today will be old tomorrow. The novelty wears off. Your product will fade into the background. Prospects will begin tuning out your marketing messages. Editors will stop writing about your product and cover newer ones.

Planning your launch carefully is imperative. Make the most of your short window of opportunity. You can’t wing a new product rollout. Every bit of your plan needs to be in place well ahead of time. Things will move faster than you expect.

Make a plan. Work the plan. Track results.

“That was fun Dad,” PJ said reaching up for a hand out of the pool. “Can we do it again tomorrow?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Let’s squeeze in as much fun as we can. Vacation is way too short.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


More than five years ago, my mom had a stroke that partially paralyzed her lips and tongue. Now her speech is unintelligible, but she has kept her voice. Whether it's through handwritten notes or painstaking repetition of garbled phrases she continues to communicate. She keeps her sense of humor and refuses to let her disability become a handicap. I'm proud of her.

About five years ago, quite by accident, she taught me a marketing communications lesson.

She called me at work to share something. She kept repeating herself. But with her garbled speech I quickly became frustrated. So, she calmly hung up. About ten minutes later, my office manager Pat came into my office with a fax -- from my mom. Mom remembered an old fax machine I gave her. If she couldn't talk on the phone, she'd find another way to get her point across.

I laughed at her ingenuity.

Sometimes, as marketers our messages are garbled. If our target audience doesn't understand we blame them. "They just aren't listening to us." It's hard to see how we could be the problem. But perhaps we're using the wrong media. Or maybe we haven't made our message clear or relevant enough. What's important is not placing blame, but finding a way to get heard. It all boils down to doing whatever it takes to get our point across.

Last weekend, my brother and I threw a surprise 70th birthday party for mom. As she walked into the banquet room she was greeted with a booming "Surprise!!!" from family and friends.

For once, she was speechless.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Last Things First....

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

Every year while I’m away at Industry Week, I offer the same advice (sing along if you know the tune):

Returning from a tradeshow or special event? Use your first day back like it's your last day at the event.

It's easy to get swept away catching up and put off following up.

But what's more important? The day-to-day grind -- or reminding that hot prospect that you’re one of the hundreds of exhibitors they saw last week at that big tradeshow?

Take a moment to jot a quick note, send a catalog, or ship that sample you promised. Don’t let your follow-up get fouled up. Set your priority on contacting the hottest prospects first and working your way down the list.

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

(This means don’t be surprised if you call me Monday and can’t get me. I may be too busy following up. Please don't be offended. Be inspired.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Give & Take...

I’m out of town this week. So, here’s a Sasso Marketing Tip Re:mix…

A client was 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,” I said. “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 saying align yourself with a non-profit that’s important to your customers. We’d advertise that customers are helping support the “Kids and Puppies Charity” -- or whatever. Then we'd work with the non-profit to get the word out using all our channels -- and theirs."

More and more consumers are being swayed by cause-centered marketing.
Given the choice of two brands with similar price and quality, 76% of consumers would buy the one that supports a worthy cause, according to 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 cause they believe in.

The key is finding a non-profit that fits.

It needs to be relevant to your business and meaningful to your target market. Most importantly, the non-profit needs to be willing to work with you.

For example, a bookstore supporting a literacy program is obvious. But the literary program needs to be willing to lend their name and work with you.

Can’t find a cause to work with? Consider starting your own.

One of my clients started a scholarship fund in their field. Another became the sole sponsor of a non-profit event in return for exclusive sponsorship plugs.

How can giving give you upper hand? What do your customers care about? What group will work with you?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Washed Up Sales...

Beth and I recently bought a new washing machine.

Let me confess: I have to be one of the worst customers to sell. I can’t resist studying a salesperson’s technique. I love testing her product knowledge. And I like to challenge her selling skills.

I generally find appliance salespeople undertrained. This one didn’t disappoint me. But in defense of the store, I assume most appliance shoppers have an urgent need. When your refrigerator is broke and your frozens are melting, you don’t need to be sold. You just need prompt delivery. In my case, Beth was already tired of the Laundromat and our repair estimate was almost as much as a new washer.

“Can I help you,” the saleswoman asked.

“Yeah, my wife and I have some questions on these washers.” I said.

“How do I know how much it holds?” Beth asked.

“Doesn’t it say under the lid?” the saleswoman asked. First she lifted the lid and read, then she skimmed the manual reading a few sentences aloud to us. “Uh, it doesn’t say.”

We asked a few more questions which she answered fairly well.

Then there was a long silence.

I was surprised that the saleswoman wasn’t taking the lead. She was just waiting to take the order. By letting us ask all the questions she was putting us in control of the sale.

A better approach might have been for her to start asking questions so she could help us decide on a washer. How many loads do you do a week? Do you like the suds saver feature? Is this a replacement or our first? Would we want a matching dryer?

Instead she just stood there looking at us.

“How soon can we get it delivered?” I asked.

“Twenty-four to Forty-eight hours.”

“Sold,” I said.

Beth gave me a blank stare.

“Seriously,” I said to Beth. “It has all the features you want. It’s only a little more than I wanted to spend. You won’t have to spend another day at the Laundromat. And the store is closing in ten minutes. Let’s be done.”

The saleswoman wrote up our order and we were on our way. Did she earn the sale? No. But she didn’t lose it either. She could have pressured us out of buying something.

Does your sales technique rely on the customer to ask all the questions? How can you speed up the closing process without over pressuring the prospect by using questions?

The kicker of the washing machine sale? When it was delivered we found the drain hose was on the wrong side. The delivery guy, who offered to sell me a new water valve, didn’t have an extension for the hose. That might have been a good question for the saleswoman to ask!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Marketing I Hate....

I don't hate many things. I dislike liver. I have distaste for brussel sprouts. I avoid anchovies. But if push comes to shove, I'd take a few bites.

However I can't swallow AT&T's marketing. Not their ads, their marketing. I like the ads featuring laid-back representatives extolling the benefits of AT&T. They're well done.

What I hate is that their ad campaign has no grounding in reality.

I opened my AT&T bill this month and wanted to scream. It has more than doubled since February. And my package has free local and long distance calling.

It will probably take me hours to get everything sorted out and corrected. (This isn't my first problem with AT&T.)

That's because one person can't help me. I have to call separate billing departments for local, long distance, internet and to get the fraudulent charge off my bill. And none of the billing departments are open after five, when I usually do paperwork and accounting.

I signed up to "Come Back To AT&T" on Valentine's Day this year. And every month since, my "Flat Price" invoice has crept up.

I'm not saying AT&T's ads need to change to match the reality. No one is going to buy overpriced phone service with long on-hold time, bureaucratic red tape and billing issues.

I'm saying AT&T needs to make the reality match their ads. Maybe reorganize their business to be more customer-centered. Or have them call you so they can wait on hold.

Most grade schoolers start their day with a Pledge of Allegiance. Many Japanese companies start their day with the company song.

Maybe AT&T's business day should start with everyone watching an AT&T TV spot. Everyone's goal should be to make the company look like the ads.

I'm embarrassed that I believed the hype. I thought they'd changed. I believed AT&T would work harder than my former tiny regional phone company. I was wrong.

And I will tell everyone I know how I feel. So will your customers if they feel you have done them wrong.

Do your ads overpromise? Are you underdelivering? Are your ads being true to your product or service? Be careful not to set expectations too high.

Remember, most clients won't tell you they're unhappy with your product or service, but they will tell their friends.

Some will even post it on their blog for the world to see. Like me.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, September 21, 2007


Quick: Who is the sponsor and owner of the Wienermobile?

One day, after a long, sweaty bike ride, our family passed a local grocery store on our way home.

"Hey look!" said PJ. "It's a hot dog car!"

Beth and I knew instantly what it was.

"No, PJ that's not a hot dog car," Beth said. "That's the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile ("

(Did you guess Oscar Mayer? I'm bet you did. How could you not remember?)

I immediately turned the car around and headed back.

How could I not? How often does one see the icon of event marketing? It was word-of-mouth advertising before there was a formal name and association to promote it. And there it was -- the image of my youth. All new, but as retro as ever. I have to admit, it made me smile.

The newest publicity stunt? "Sing the Jingle" ( You can either enter the contest or just sing for fun. You choose of one of two Oscar Mayer jingles: "My Bologna Has a First Name" or "I Wish I Was An Oscar Mayer Wiener." Your performance is videotaped and posted on the Oscar Mayer contest website. (New technology, clever new "viral marketing" technique, but just as true to the original publicity tactics dating back to the first Weinermobile in 1936!).

Pj wasn't up for the challenge of jingle singing.

But Beth and I were. So, with me off-key but upbeat, we sang the "Name" song. It was fun. And we got a Weinermobile whistle!

They gave us the secret location of our video and we left smiling. Here's the link: Our secret code is...

Sorry. Beth and I both agreed we're too sweaty and sour sounding to share the video. So we're keeping the secret code, secret. Sorry.

How can you use new technology and old tactics to create buzz about your product? What tool can you use: forums? online video? blogs? email marketing? mascots? celebrities? contests? user generated content?

Look had how one encounter got me creating a buzz for Oscar Mayer! Your opportunities are only as limited as your imagination.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Eye Candy...

Recently, someone gave me a referral, telling me the prospect needed more colorful, flashier ads.

I appreciate the referral. But disagree with the prognosis. I believe the ads needed more substance, not more eye candy. Forgive me if I rant for a moment: Advertising is not about showmanship. It's about salesmanship. It's not about fine art. It's about using art and words to persuade prospects to buy your product or service.

In the mid-90's I did an informal study of automotive aftermarket advertising. My goal was to determine what made an ad motivate readers. A trade journal shared their advertiser Reader Service Card (RSC) summaries with me. I made the assumption that the more RSCs an ad got, the more motivating the ad was. I Cross-referenced the RSC summary to each ad I studied over a series of months. I learned that "flashiness" is rarely a determining factor in an ad generating leads. Bigger ads did draw slightly more leads. More frequent advertisers generated far more leads than infrequent. But being "flashy" (bright colors, trendy design, cute women) didn't seem to make a difference.

I noticed five common traits in the biggest lead-generating ads. One of the most interesting was that "benefit ads" generated more RSCs. Black and white "benefit ads" pulled better than color "non-benefit ads" ads in the same category.

A few years later I did a smaller study using a different trade journal. Same methodology. Same industry. Same basic result.

In 1997, a third aftermarket publisher did their own study. Different methodology. Parallel results. (In their study, ads with technical copy scored 14% higher than ads without technical copy. Something I never studied.)

I believe if you did the same research today you'd get the same findings -- in almost any industry. (But, in the Internet-age, you might need to modify your methodology slightly.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not against trendy design or bright colors. I often use them in our work. I'm against using flash as a substitute for substance.

When did you ever buy an item because the ad was flashy? You bought it because of a complex series of decisions related to various competing marketing messages. The higher the price, the longer and more complex the decisions. The flashiness of an ad is likely the least influencing factor.

For instance, I like the TV spots for Gatorade with athletes sweating in bright, Gatorade colors. But that doesn't make me want to run out and buy Gatorade. You?

Are your ads more about sizzle or substance? Do you have a USM (Unique Selling Message) that differentiates your offerings from the competition? Do your prospects and clients know why you're the best choice for them? Are all your marketing materials communicating that same message?

Do you think this tip would be better if I used no words and just lots of eye candy?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Small Town Marketing…

It’s another busy week here. But I’m never too busy to keep in touch. Here’s a Sasso Marketing Tip REMIX:

I walked into a small town hardware store when on vacation a few years back.

"Can I help you?" asked the owner. (I assume few customers just browse in a hardware store.)

"Sure. I need some batteries and a bike lock," I said.

"The bike locks are over here," he said leading me across the store. "But it looks like you have a lock in your hand. Are you looking for a cable or chain?"

"Uh, yeah. I guess your right. I need a cable."

"This one is real popular. It's plastic coated to resist rust and avoid scratching your bike."

"Thanks," I said, appreciating the personal service.

A bell rang and someone walked in the front door.

"Hey Bob. I'll be right with you," the owner said. "The batteries are here. Let me know if you need anything else."

As I looked at the batteries I overheard the owner talking to his customer.

"How's the new generator I sold you working?"

They talked for a while, the owner knowing more about the customer and his needs than I could have imagined. That's because he had a relationship with him.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been all the buzz in marketing for years. It's all about using databases and technology to do exactly what that good small town merchant does. Get to know the customer and build a relationship.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, founders of the "One to One Marketing" CRM franchise, say there are 4 basic steps to a CRM initiative:

1.) Identify your customers.
2.) Differentiate your customers.
3.) Interact with your customers.
4.) Customize your behavior toward your customer.

The days of cold, generic mass marketing are over. Mass customization is the future. Today, using a database you can create a custom mailer for a customer that matches his profile. Have a prospect interested in a red Corvette? Send them a personal follow-up postcard with a red Corvette on it while you send another prospect a postcard with a blue Malibu. This isn't science fiction. It's happening right now. In fact, I can do that right now.

As the internet expands the envelope with personalized emails and customized websites be aware that all that complicated technology is hoping to do one simple thing: connect with customers.

Just think, with all these modern technological advancements, the goal is to be more personal. Seems kind of old-fashioned, eh?

By the way, if I can ever be of service, feel free to drop me an email (, or give me a call (847.451.2246)

I’m here to serve.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marketing Point Made...

Yesterday, I got feedback on my August 3 marketing tip. My tip was about outdoor freezer ads for TBS’s My Boys the cable sitcom about a female sports writer, her girlfriend and her pack of male pals.

I’ve never seen the show because I’m one of the rare 23% in the US without cable or satellite TV (Leichtman Research Group). And I’m probably a statistical oddity since I do have HDTV, satellite radio and DSL!

Perhaps I was wrong to assume the show was targeted to women. I spoke without a lot of due diligence. I met at least one male viewer yesterday.

So, let me clarify, my tip wasn’t a bash against the show.

I was challenging the effectiveness of advertising on the ice freezers at gas stations. And apparently a blog reader, Beth, (not MY Beth) is challenging me. That’s fair.

Since the freezer ads are a form of outdoor advertising, let me defer to the experts: The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). “At least seven out of ten outdoor ads promote local businesses. The proportion of local advertising is even greater in non-urban areas”, according to the OAAA website.

Why? Perhaps because outdoor advertising is most effective for local businesses. And, back to my original point, it’s more measurable. If I call a real estate agent, chances are he’ll ask how I’ve heard of him and he can track results.

But to Beth’s defense, as I rethink it, I do find the idea of using non-traditional media an interesting idea. I like measurable media. But not every media can be measurable. And by not using the same media that all other TV sitcoms use, they are more likely to get noticed.

As Beth points out through her husband, I DID notice the ad and REMEMBER it.

Touché, Beth.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Customer Retention Marketing Splash...

Imagine it’s the hottest day of August. Sweltering, muggy and humid. You stop by a friend’s house and he offers you a dip in his cool, refreshing, new pool. The only hitch: first you have to help him fill it – one bucket at a time. You’d rather run out and buy garden hose, but you agree to use a bucket.

Fifteen minutes later, after a lot of sweaty, back-breaking work you realize you’re not making much progress. Then you spot a hole in the pool and tell your friend.

“Yeah I know,” he says. “I guess we just need to fill it faster.”

You stare at him.

“You realize no matter how much water we put in, it’s only going to come back out, right?” you reply. He just cocks his head and looks confused.

Sound absurd? Not as absurd as you might think.

Many people call my marketing firm for help filling their “sales pool” but don’t have system in place to keep customers in the “pool”. Often I ask: “If we develop a marketing communications campaign to bring you new customers do you have a system in place to keep them buying from you or to get their referrals?” Usually they just cock their head and look confused.

Smart marketers know that it costs a lot more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. So, before they invest in a new customer marketing plan, they make sure they have an existing customer retention plan.

Increasing your customer retention by as little as 5 percent can boost profits by 25 to 80 percent, according to a classic article in Harvard Business Review.

So, it’s important to develop your Customer Retention Plan before you even launch your new Advertising Campaign.

What are you doing to increase repeat purchases, cross-sell, build brand loyalty or even gain referral business?

Be sure you plug all the holes in your pool.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Iced Advertising...

Yesterday at Citgo I saw an ad for TBS' My Boys ( on the ice freezer.

I've never seen the cable sitcom about a young, female sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times.

And I don't expect to.

First, it seems targeted to women. Second, I don't have cable. (I don't watch much TV,)

And finally, I wouldn't have remembered the ad -- except for my marketing tip.

Who decided that advertising a TV show on an ice freezer was a good use of ad dollars?

How do you measure how many people see an ad on a freezer, much less how many RESPOND to it?

How do you know that the people who buy gas -- or bags of ice match the show's demographic?

There seems to be a large contingent of advertisers who think getting an ad in front of a lot of eyeballs is the goal. It's not. The goal of advertising is, and always has been, getting in front of the RIGHT eyeballs. If this show is targeted to young women, why isn't the ad somewhere that's more focused on that demographic? What about tying into a brand of soda or snack that young women favor. How about advertising on that packaging?

And why isn’t the advertiser using a more measurable media? Isn't their audience online? Advertising online offers pinpoint accuracy and detailed measurement. Doesn't the target demographic read magazines? Buy placing an ad in targeted magazines each with a unique website would allow the advertiser to measure ad-generated traffic.

Is your advertising working? Can you measure the results of every ad you've placed? What's pulling its weight? What isn't?

Don't misunderstand. I realize the power of broad branding. But I think that's best used for brands with big budgets and a broad appeal.

Now you may think I sound jealous. Yes, I did once meet the owner of Crystal Clear Ice. Yes, I do wish selling ads on ice freezers was my idea.

But I would have done a better job of matching advertiser with the medium. Really.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Unspun Website…

Last week's tip on Web 2.0 ( mentioned Amazon's new beta project Unspun is a consensus list-ranking site. It allows users to create lists (like favorite books) and have them ranked by the community.

My question: how will Amazon profit from this?

Here is my "homespun" list of potential benefits of the site:

1. Traffic - By creating a gee whiz interactive technology like this; Amazon could draw traffic to this site by creating a type of Infotainment.

2. Branding - Theory is the more people think about Amazon, the more they will think of Amazon when they're making a purchase. ("I didn't know Amazon sold OBDII Scanners. I thought they just sold books!")

3. Research - By studying results, Amazon can analyze trends and preferences and use these findings to select and promote merchandise on their ecommerce site. (The top-voted 80's album.)

4. Publicity - A press release about top Christmas gifts or best books can get noticed by the media and turn into free ink for Amazon. ("Amazon's top Teacher Movies for teacher appreciation day.")

5. Direct Sales - Look at a list like top books. The image links directly to the item at Amazon's store -- ready for you to buy. ("Wow! I can just click and buy the top ranked book.")

I'm sure there are other uses I haven't thought of. But my point isn't to build an exhaustive list of benefits; it is to point out that Web 2.0 isn't about new technology. It's about new ways to use technology.

So how can you use your website -- or a separate one to get users to interact with you and/or each other?

Think outside the spin.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bold Marketing Moves...

Often bold moves pay dividends.

This week at the Aftemarket eForum in Chicago, I took the bold move of passing all the empty seats in back to take the one unoccupied seat near the front.

Internet marketing experts spoke on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), PFP (Pay For Performance) and Web 2.0.

Amazon V.P. Steve Frazier spoke about how his company is integrating Web 2.0 thinking.

Web 2.0 doesn’t refer to any group of new technologies, but rather the new ways existing technologies are being used in new ways. As I see it Web 2.0 is about user-centered technology – most importantly USG (User Generated Content) like blogs, podcasts, wikis, tagging, and various types of social networking.

Frazier, who oversees Amazon’s automotive aftermarket division, showed the bold moves Amazon is taking pioneering new concepts and technologies.

But the most interesting thing Frazier said was “Don’t expect your customers to tell you what they want.” Then he sat down. In front of me. So, when the session was over I took the bold move of asking him to elaborate.

“I think it’s our job to innovate,” he said. “We ask our customers what they like, but often they don’t know what they want. Or they don’t realize we already have what they want.”

We continued discussing the concept for a few minutes. I asked if he thought it was hard for them to articulate what they wanted. He said more often they can’t even conceptualize what they want.

For instance, people like best and worst lists. What if they could be part of creating one? So Amazon took the bold move and recently launched It creates user generated lists, allows you to vote and creates consensus rankings. (Take a look, it’s kind of fun.) How does Amazon profit from

You tell me. (Call it User Generated Content)

Reply or Comment with your thoughts.

Next week, I’ll tell you what others say -- and what I think.

I may even ask Steve Frazier for his insights.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, July 13, 2007

Building Loyal Fans...

Q - What do Mike Ditka, John Elway and Jon Bon Jovi have in common?

A - They all have ownership in Arena Football League teams.

I mention this because Saturday at 3 pm, CT (on ESPN) Ditka's Chicago Rush is in the final game of the playoffs for ArenaBowl XXI. (Elway & Bon Jovi's teams are out of the running.)

My family is big Chicago Rush fans. I'm talking t-shirts-wearing, sign-carrying, noise-maker-toting, season-ticket-holding fans.

We have Rush hats, baseball cards (are they called baseball cards for football?), replica Arena Bowl rings, bandanas, clappers, thunder sticks, autographed posters -- the whole nine yards. And every item we have was given to us at a game - most by Rush corporate sponsors.

Just three years ago I couldn't tell you what Arena Football was. One factor that drew my attention to the team was Ditka's promotional campaign that touted "This Is My Team!" The team played 5 miles from my home for years before that. But it never caught my full attention until "Da Coach" began to push the team.

Then my uncle invited me to a Rush open house two years ago. PJ, Beth and I went to see what all the hoopla was about. And we were hooked.

I used to think there were two ways to build a brand: build it from scratch or buy one. Both are very expensive.

Now I see one more way: have another brand help you build your brand.

Ditka, Elway and Bon Jovi are all celebs -- and each a brand in his own right. By riding on the notoriety of the owners, each team has built a strong following and done a good job of filling arenas for a relatively unknown football league.

And the cost is lower than you may think.

Ditka, coach of the 1985 Chicago Bear Superbowl team, only owns a small percentage of the Rush team. I don't know the numbers, but my guess is he gets shares in the team in exchange for his endorsement. But even a 1% ownership is ownership. And everyone wins in this scenario: Ditka, the Rush, and the fans.

In fact, the AFL recently used a variation of this ownership technique. They sold shares in the AFL to ESPN. Now it's in ESPN's best interest to promote Arena Football. Creating ownership is a strong marketing tool.

How can you use endorsements or celebrity to build your brand? How can you put ownership to work for you -- without selling any shares in the business? What logo'd items can you give your customers to turn them into "fans" and remind them of your brand?

Now if you'll excuse me I need to finish a sign before Saturday's game. So what if I'm only listening to the game at home. I'm a fan!

- Phil Sasso

Friday, July 06, 2007

Marketing Mystery...

If you're ever in the San Jose, CA area, I suggest you take a tour of the Winchester Mystery House.

The 160-room mansion, built by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, is renowned for it's sheer size -- and lack of a master building plan. It was under construction continuously for 38 years from 1884 until Sarah's death in 1922. It has intricate inlaid parquet floors and Tiffany art glass windows as well as doors that open into nowhere, windows that look out onto brick walls and staircases that lead into the ceiling. I toured the house decades ago, yet I still remember it vividly.

Although an interesting oddity, it is also a visual reminder of what marketing without a master plan looks like.

Managers of the most valuable brands in the world know one thing: have a master plan and follow it consistently. They avoid being drawn off track by anything that doesn't line up with their master plan. Their messages all line-up with the brand's central message and purpose. They rarely jump ship in the middle of a program or campaign -- not because everything they do always works, but because they have a well thought out, long-term plan in place. And when they do suddenly change direction it usually has to do with unforeseen competitive maneuvers or to capitalize on external changes in the marketplace and not sheerly on impulse.

Do you have a master plan? Are your marketing messages consistent? Or is your brand a mystery to prospects?

For more about the Mystery House, go to:

- Phil Sasso

Friday, June 29, 2007

Unappreciated Promotion...

We got a packet in the mail yesterday from an education program where my son, PJ has taken classes for years.

The packet included an application, a brochure and a coupon good for 10% off tuition.

"Isn't that nice of them to give us 10% off PJ's class?" Beth said over dinner.

"Read it again," I said. "The coupon says 'new students only' in the fine print."

"WHAT?" she exclaimed grabbing the coupon from my hand.

"Can you please pass the sweet and sour sauce?" I asked, hoping to distract her.

"What a rotten thing to send us! He's taken classes with them loyally for 3 years. And this is their thank you?"

"Ouch!" I said fanning my tongue. "Those egg rolls are searing hot."

"Don't you think that's a dumb thing to do? Don't you think that says they don't really appreciate their most loyal students?"

"Can I get some water?" I asked holding out my glass.

Beth glared at me.

"O.K. You're right," I conceded. "It is a stupid marketing move."

"Doesn't this go against everything you tell people?" she asked tempting me with the water pitcher.

"Yes. Offering new students a better deal than existing students is dumb. Sending the offer directly to parents of existing students is dumber. Smart marketers invest a good percentage of their marketing budget in retention marketing programs to reward loyalty and reduce attrition. If the school wanted our help drawing in new students, they should have given us a coupon offering us 10% for referring a friend. And they should have included a personal note or letter to build our relationship."

I paused for effect.

"Now, can I have more water?"

Often we value new customers more than long-term ones. Somehow we think growth is built strictly on new customers. That is rarely the case.

In many cases, existing customers can be more profitable. They tend to be cheaper to service, since they need less educating. And loyal, satisfied customers are easier to cross-sell your other products and services. Every percent that you reduce attrition is a percent fewer new customers you need to make your overall sales goals. Most importantly, loyal customers are the most persuasive salespeople you can have. The enthusiasm for your products or services is genuine and often contagious. Their referrals tend to be pre-sold.

How are you treating your most loyal customers? Are you showering them with appreciation, or showing them the door? Don't take loyalty for granted.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, June 22, 2007

¡Hola! Hispanic Marketing...

If I wasn't born into an Italian family, I wish I was born into a Hispanic family. But that may just be because I love Mexican food.

Maybe that's why my agency does more and more work in Spanish every year. But I think there is another reason for the shift in business.

The U.S. population is shifting in ways you might not be aware of.

Depending on where you live, you may notice a larger Hispanic population. But you may think that the growth is only in certain areas: Los Angeles, Miami, New York, etc. What may surprise you is that Denver is the 15th largest Hispanic city in America. About 20 percent of the population in Denver is Hispanic. It recently pushed Albuquerque, New Mexico off the top 20 list. And other non-traditionally Hispanic markets are shifting as well.

For instance, the state with the fastest-growing Hispanic market as a percentage of population is North Carolina. That's no typo. It's North Carolina. There was a 394% increase in Hispanics living in the state between the 1990 and 2000 census.

America is the 3rd largest Hispanic country in the United States. More Hispanics live in the U.S. than there are Canadians living in Canada.

Currently 78% of Hispanic adults are immigrants. That means that their first language is Spanish. They are a Spanish-only or Spanish-dominate language group.

And projections say the Hispanic population in the United States will increase 77 percent between 2000 and 2020.

So as a direct result of all this research, my recommendation to my clients is not to do any literature in Spanish. It's a big waste of money.

Instead, I encourage them to consider investing in bilingual literature. This way, you don't need to double you marketing budget to adapt to the changing marketplace.

We've built many bilingual websites for our B-to-B customers to help them communicate with their potential customers. We even work with a translator that's an expert in automotive technology to be sure all the technical jargon is correct. He's an excellent translator and in high-demand. In fact, I don't think he's taking any new clients.

Depending on who and where your market is, you may find you need to communicate in Polish or some other language or risk losing out. But let me assure you if you don't keep an eye on the shifting population, your sales will suffer. Because if you aren't talking their language let me assure you, someone else will.

So when you talk to you customers, are you talking their language? And beyond that do you recognize what makes their culture different?

Now if you excuse me, I've got a lunch appointment with Taco Bell.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, June 15, 2007

Buyer's Remorse...

"Did you notice the inside tailgate light is missing?", my uncle pointed out as I showed him my family's new minivan.

"You mean the light's burned out?" I asked.

"No it's missing. Looks like the factory forgot to put it in," he said pointing to a gapping hole in the inside tailgate.

A few days ago we bought a new minivan. Actually, it's new for us, but it's a "certified used car" from a "haggle-free" dealer (There's another marketing tip...)

So, I emailed my salesman about the problem. No response.

I called. He wasn't in. I left a message for him to call me back. No response.

Here's where I began to experience what marketers call Buyer's Remorse.

Wikipedia describes Buyer's Remorse as "an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items such as property, cars, computers, jewelry, etc. The common condition is brought on by an internal sense of doubt that the correct decision has been made. With high-value items such as a property, this is exacerbated by the fear that one may have acted without full and complete information, for example, the property was not fully surveyed..."

I've studied Buyer's Remorse before. In a clinical setting it's easy to feel empathy for the buyer and to dismiss it as cognitive dissonance.

That is, until you are the person experiencing the remorse. Then there's no dismissing the reality of the overwhelming fear that you may made a bad decision.

My mind began to spin: What else could be wrong. What else had I failed to check? How many jokes was this salesman telling about me being a patsy?

Then I remembered, my contract had a 7-day return policy. I called the sales manager and explained my situation and that the salesman was unresponsive.

"Oh, he's been out for the last few days," the manager replied calmingly. "Actually on that model there's only one light. The other side is just a cover."

"Well my cover is missing!" I replied trying not to let my remorse show.

"I can order one and ship it right to your home," he responded. "Would that be acceptable?"

"Uh, sure," I responded relieved I didn't have to put up a fight.

"Is everything else working well?" he asked.

"Yeah it is," I replied.

"And remember if you have any other problems, you have a free powertrain warranty and roadside assistance for the next year," he said, soothing me.

I hung up the phone and wondered if I was overreacting. Maybe I really had got a good deal and these no-haggle salesmen were good guys.

What can you do to be sure your customers post-sales fears are calmed? What program can you put into place to build confidence and possibly get referral customers?

A few days after my call, an overnight package arrived at my door with the replacement cover. Free.

Of course, I knew I'd made the right decision all along.

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Brand Aware...

"Look there's another one the same color," Beth said. "Are more people driving the same van? Or is it just me?"

"There aren't really more of them," I replied. "You're just more aware of them. That's because we just got one."

"I never noticed another van this color before," said Beth. "But the more I see other ones, the more it feels like we chose the right one."

"Yeah," I replied a little snarkily. "After all, color is the most important reason to choose a vehicle."

Our new van reminded me of a psychological phenomenon called "Heighten Awareness." It's a sense of greater awareness to something, usually an object or word, because of multiple emotional exposure to it. The marketing angle on this is used in branding. Multiple exposures to a brand message over time will make you more likely to have a heightened awareness of that brand.

The point is the more often prospects see your brand name, the more likely they are to be predisposed to consider your brand when they make a buying decision, I oversimplify, but think about how you are subtly influenced by brand exposure. Actually, you might not be aware of it since the process is mostly subconscious!

Stay tuned for next week's tip about our new van: buyer's remorse...

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, May 31, 2007

REMIX: Telemarketing Calls...

Here’s a remix of a vintage marketing tip from my strategic cellar...

"Hi!” the too-friendly voice greeted me on the phone. “Is this Phil?”

"Uh. Yes…" I said, wondering what this guy was selling.

"Jim and Julie Moore gave me your name," he said. "They wanted you and Beth to have a complimentary carpet cleaning."

"Really?!" I replied in false excitement. "But my whole house is hardwood floors."

He didn't even stumble.

"Well our system can also clean upholstery and drapes" he said without missing a beat.

System? I suddenly realized this wasn't a gift. Our "friends" had given up our name to a vacuum cleaner salesman.

Beth and I got dozens of calls like this when we were newly-weds. It could have been Kirby or Rainbow vacuums. Or someone selling timeshares. All I know is each time I felt awkward -- and a little betrayed.

But referral programs are one of the most effective ways to increase sales. What better advertising is there than a recommendation from a satisfied customer?

One of my client’s added 8% to their customer database with an inexpensive referral program. They didn't just ask for referrals. They paid for them.

The mechanics were simple: We created mailings and POS brochures asking existing customers to refer a friend to my client. The new customer got a deep discount and the existing customer got a check.

We avoided the mistake other referral plans make. We didn't ask our customer to give US their friend's name. They gave our coupon to their friend.

The difference? A referral from a friend is more sincere and convincing than a call from you. And no one feels betrayed.

May I ask you for a referral?

Enjoy my tips? Find them helpful? Tell a friend. If they email I'll send them my tips, too. If they mention your email, I'll send you a free copy of my “Top 22 Tips” ebook.

(The email must come directly from the friend. You can’t sign up someone else.)

I won’t betray your trust by pestering your friend. Promise.

And thanks for the referral!

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brand Loyalty...

Wait'll next year...

I'm a Cubs fan. I'm not a diehard follower of every game. I don't get to watch much baseball. But of the two teams here in town, I've always favored the Cubbies. And we've chanted every year the same phrase: "Wait'll next year!" and remain loyal despite a non-World Series record older than I am.


I don't know. I don't think most Cub fans know. The team always chokes in the end. Their ballpark is ancient. They don't have a parking lot. And their mascot is a not-very-threatening baby bear.

Ask any brand loyalist and few can articulate why they prefer Colgate to Crest or Coke to Pepsi. In fact, most answers you get are more tied to emotion than reason: "My mom always bought Tide." "You know Ford stands for Fix Or Repair Daily." "I've eaten Wheaties since I was a kid." "Head & Shoulders works for me, why risk trying something new?"

So how do you fight brand loyalty. It's very, very hard.

One thing you don't want to do is directly bash the favored brand. That can force loyalists to dig in their heels. It's like saying something bad about America. I can do it. But let an outsider say a word and I'd be all over them.

There are two common approaches to help sway brand preference: Get to prospects before they form a brand allegiance and/or be as different from the favored brand as possible.

Brand allegiances can be strong. That's why banks offer children of depositors free savings accounts. And that's why I suggest my tool & equipment clients get their products into as many vo-tech schools as possible. Students who learn on a product tend to favor that brand.

And strong brand differentiation helps. Rather than being a horse of a different color, you need to be an entirely different animal. More like a camel. The novelty or uniqueness of your approach can't be subtle. It should be so different it draws prospects in to try it. For instance, Starbucks doesn't sell coffee -- they sell an experience.

I’m still a fan of my Cubs, and wait'll next year!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Branding's Dirty Little Secret...

know this is not the appropriate place to air my dirty laundry, but I can't hold it in any longer: Beth has been disloyal.

She probably didn't think I'd notice the signs. I probably ignored them hoping they would just go away.

But last night I couldn't ignore it any longer. This morning, I confronted her:

"I can't hold it in any more," I said. "Why? Why did you change from Tide to Era?"

"What brought this on?" Beth asked.

"Yesterday I helped you carry that Era container in, and I tossed the old one out. How long has this been going on?"

"I've been buying Era for a year, maybe two," she said without emotion. "If it's a big deal to you, I'll stop."

"I just want to understand," I replied. "What made you change your loyalties?"

"Era is half the price of Tide," Beth replied. "If it bothers you, I'll switch back. PJ gets dirtier in summer. Tide might work better."

"Now wait a minute! Half price? Really? I don't see why being brand loyal to Tide is such a big deal. It's only soap..."

Baby Boomers are infamously brand disloyal. It doesn't matter if they're B2C customers or B2B. And as they age, their allegiance to brand wavers even more. Their parents' generation became more loyal with age, but many Boomers become more discontent. The reasons vary. Some switch for what's new or trendy. Some switch for lower price. Some switch for higher quality. The key to keeping their loyalty is to follow their changing buying patterns and produce different products, services and "buying experiences" to meet their changing, fickle taste. Or I should say OUR changing, fickle taste.

What are you doing to keep your customers' loyalty? How has your product improved? How are you selling differently?

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Selling: Over-The-Top Soil...

Only in America do people pay good money to buy dirt. I'm not talking about sleazy tabloids dishing out big bucks for juicy celebrity gossip -- I'm talking about plain old dirt.

And I'm humbled to say, I am now one of those Americans.

As I sit here staring out my window at a 4 foot-tall pile of screened black dirt, I'm a little embarrassed. First, because I 'm writing a tip about dirt. And second, because it's really not all I expected. Seriously. I expected MORE, both in quantity and quality.

Somehow, I thought 10 cubic yards was physically a lot more. In fact, Beth and I both initially wondered if we were cheated and got less than we paid for.

I also thought screened dirt would be SCREENED. I guess I expected the dirt to be, uh, cleaner. I didn't think there'd be any twigs or roots. Apparently, what I was expecting was what's known in the dirt business as "pulverized topsoil". But being unschooled in the fine art of dirt, I was a very uneducated customer.

I think part of the problem is that the salesperson was just an order-taker. She really didn't explain how tall or wide the pile would be or how much area it would cover. She didn't educate me on the different kinds of dirt or try to upsell me to topsoil. She didn't even try to cross-sell me on mulch or anything.

Perhaps on the phone I sound more dirt-savvy than I really am.

Maybe this company usually deals with landscapers who know exactly what they want. But, the moment I told her I wanted a truckload of dirt delivered to my house she should have began explaining my options and probing to determine my depth of knowledge.

Don't get me wrong, she was friendly and thorough. She just wasn't very well trained. This company could increase sales significantly by training the telephone representative to take an extra minute or two to explain the fine points of dirt when taking orders from homeowners. I guess you could say I was undersold because I was uneducated.

What am I going to do with all that dirt? I'm sure that will come up in a future tip…

- Phil Sasso

Friday, May 18, 2007

COA: Email Marketing...

I'm moving this week.

There's no boxes to pack. No truck to rent. No utilities to cancel. I'm not changing homes or offices. I'm changing my email address. I know what you're thinking: yawn.

It may not sound like a big deal to you, but I've had the same email address since 1996. That's longer than I've been in my home OR my office.

And to be honest, it's a little more stressful than I expected. If I was moving, I'd notify the post office of a COA and they would forward my mail to me for about six months. They'd even put my new address in the NCOA file so all the direct mail marketing could update my file.

But, in most cases, you don't have that luxury when you change your email address. And I get a lot more emails than physical mail these days. I'm not even sure who everyone is that has my email address. Up until now, I've used the same email for business and personal communications. Now, I have a chance to reform my process and create four new addresses. You might consider doing the same: one for family & friends, one for personal business, one for work and one for junk mail. It will help me sort through the average 316 emails I get in a day.

What’s the marketing lesson for you? According to database marketing service provider Epsilon, 14% of customers will change their email address in the next 12 months. That means if you market to consumers about 1/6 of your email database will go dead over the next year. And unlike with the post office, no one will tell you where they've moved.

But there is a B2B marketing concept here too. What if when I cancel my email service provider they offered to forward me emails for 6 months for a $25 fee. How much could they make? And would this positive approach generate good will? You may think it would cause more customers to jump ship. I don't think so. Look at phone number portability. I think it has meant more business for many providers. Especially the smaller or newer providers.

So consider how you can keep your database up-to-date. And while you're thinking of it, change my email address to in your contact management application!

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Internet Marketing: E-nuff...

Looking back on my Internet marketing tips the last few weeks reads like alphabet soup: SEO, SEM, PPC, PPS...

Let me toss in one more acronym: PBE. That's Permission-Based Email. It's basically what you're reading right now. You've given me permission to email you my marketing tips every week. In return, I hope that by getting to know me and my thinking, you'll choose to work with my firm. (Or keep working with us!)

As the "Prime Minister of Permission Marketing", Seth Godin, explains PBE: Consumers today are bombarded by "interruption advertising" in home and out. To grab a prospect's attention, you need to get their permission. The best way to do that is to offer them something of value -- either tangible or intangible. Once they've "opted-in", you can begin establishing a relationship. "By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message," says Godin. "It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange."

Godin knows what he's talking about. He was a VP at Yahoo! in the late 90's, where he successfully developed and implemented his theory and wrote the book "Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers".

Speaking of friends -- thank you for reading my weekly tips.

More on email marketing next tip...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Branding: Yee Ha!

Young & Rubicam, developers of the Brand Asset Valuator(R), see four phases of branding: differentiation, relevance, esteem, and knowledge. Y&R generally work for consumer mega brands like AT&T, Sony, Colgate and Ford. However, the same principles apply to small and b-to-b brands.

Branding may seem costly. But, big spending isn't needed to build a brand -- consistency is. You're building a name. It takes time. The first thing you need to do is be different and stand apart. You also should be relevant -- ask, "Is this important to my prospect?" Then, according to Y&R you need to build respect. I agree. When you're building a brand, you're also building trust. And finally, you reach the knowledge phase. You're a recognized expert in your market.

Often clients come to me for help building an ad. My real job, however is to build sales. And the best way to do that is to brand your product. I guess I'm a little like a cowboy. My job is to drive your cattle home -- not the other guy's. So I brand it to separate yours from the others.

Sorry. Gotta run, pardner. There's a doggie goin' astray. Yee Ha!

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Brand Positioning: Boxed-In

"Look, you can design your own tissue box at," Beth announced last night while she read her email.

I just stared at her.

"Isn't that cool?"

"I never really said to myself 'Gee, I want a box of tissue with PJ's face on it"." I retorted.

"Wouldn't it make a fun gift?"

I thought of the toilet paper dolls with crochet skirts my wacky aunt used to make as gifts in the 70s.

"I guess it does sound like a funny idea," I said. "But look, they're oval shaped."

"So you can only use Kleenex oval boxes," Beth explained. "They're the only ones with oval boxes."

"And they cost more, right?"

"A lot more. How'd you know?" Beth asked.

"Because it's a premium pricing strategy," I explained. "Once I invest in a box holder with your face on it, I can't really throw it out. So to use it, I need to buy more pricey oval-shaped Kleenex boxes."

"But they're so cute," Beth replied.

"Would you be willing to pay more if they were ugly?"

The final catch? The custom boxes cost $4.99 each -- plus $6.00 shipping. And they appear to be an actual box of Kleenex tissue, not a box holder as I first thought. So, when you're done, you toss it. A big price to pay to stare at a picture of a loved one while you battle hay fever.

However, I give Kimberly-Clark credit. They've found a clever way to solicit a hefty fee for a product most think of as a commodity.

Make a special edition of your product and people will pay a premium for it. I've seen everything from a gold-plated collector's edition Snap-On torque wrench to U2 iPods with engraved signatures. It's all based on the same strategy: Create a custom or limited edition product to make your customer feel special and they will pay for the privilege. I think the gold-plated torque wrench was more than twice the price of an unadorned version. And would you really use it to seat spark plugs on a greasy engine? But technicians snapped them up -- no pun intended.

How can you create a special edition, custom or premium version of your product or service? Don't think it's possible? Drop me a line, I'll give you my thoughts. Be the first to stump me and I may even send you a customized Kleenex box -- adorned with my smiling mug!

-- Phil Sasso

GOT A MINUTE? Listen to my new 60-second audiocast at or search "Phil Sasso" in at Apple's iTunes Store.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sampling Home Run...

We went to a minor league baseball game and came home with a loaf of Sara Lee's new White Wheat bread.

I found bread a funny thing to give away at ball game. But I guess most people eat bread. And it was a great way to get people to try their new product.

Look at the math: let's say the bread costs them 25 cents a loaf to make, not counting marketing and distribution costs or the cost of waste.

And let's assume the company paid the ballpark a dime each to hand out the samples.

That puts a full loaf in each prospect's hand for less than the cost of a first class stamp.

Perhaps they could have got more exposure for that 35 cents each in TV or Radio commercials or Newspaper or Magazine ads.

But they would not have been able to make the same impact.

I'm sure I saw ads or read PR about the new bread. I may have even made a mental note that I wanted to try it.

But with all of life's distractions, It never really made it to our grocery list.

Here was someone handing me a loaf of bread to try at my convenience. How could I forget that?

If I liked the bread I would be sure to remember to put it on my shopping list. And even if I didn't like it they got my full attention. Unlike an ad which I can skip over. If I liked the product, the marketing worked and I'd buy more. If I didn't like the product, no amount of persuasive marketing could get me to buy it.

How can you get your prospects to sample your product? If it's inexpensive and consumable, think about events where you could give away samples. If it's an expensive product, how can you demonstrate your product to more customers? Just getting a prospect to see your product does not guarantee a sale. (You can't always bat .1000). But when you connect with the right customers, if can help you hit one right out of the park.

And it didn't hurt Sara Lee that everyone was feeling good that the home team won.

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Advertising Puffery...

"When you go on a date, you dress up and say nice lies so the other person likes you."
– anonymous 8-year-old boy (paraphrase)

In advertising, we’d call that Puffery. Puffery is exaggerating your selling claims to make your product or service look it’s best. For example saying "World’s Best Apples."

The FTC defines Puffery as "exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined." And the FTC says it’s acceptable and expected marketing behavior.

Calling your product safest or cheapest is not puffery. You have to substantiate those kinds of claims. But saying your product is "greatest," "best" or "tastiest" is all a matter of opinion. That is acceptable as "Puffery."

But just because Puffery is legal, doesn’t mean it’s effective.

Unlike in dating, most consumers are not easily lulled into believing every claim. In fact, a classic study showed that realistic product claims are more effective than extreme puffery (Journal of Marketing Research, 1987).

Sorry, I can’t cite any scholarly research about dating claims!

So, although, polishing your apples before putting them on display can be a good idea, you might want to stop short of claiming they’re the world’s best. It may be legit, but you might sell more if you call them "sweet and juicy" or "tart and crunchy".

Sometimes honesty is the best marketing.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Buyer's Backache...

I woke up this morning aching. Actually, I've woke up aching every day this week. Which you might say is a sign it's time to get a new mattress. The problem is I just got a new mattress last week.

Beth and I got one of these giant mattresses you almost need a ladder to get on. I think my mattress is as high as my kitchen counters. Really. I can sit on my bed and my legs don't touch the floor. This morning, as I sat with my legs dangling, I started to experience buyer's remorse, You know that niggling feeling you sometimes get after you make a big purchase decision and feel you may have made a bad choice: Was it the right one? Did I pay too much? Did I pay too little? Could I have done without it? Is it the right color?

The AMS marketing dictionary defines buyer's remorse as: "The insecurity that a buyer feels about the appropriateness of the purchase decision after the decision has been made. It also is called 'post purchase dissonance'."

It's a common form of what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance". It's quite natural. You get outside messages that conflict with your decision leaving you feeling you may have made a bad decision. It happens most to people buying big-ticket items like a house or a car. The more you pay, the more likely you are to second-guess yourself. In fact, when I Googled "buyer's remorse" it listed about 71,400 citations -- 62,400 included the word "home".

How does a marketer deal with buyer's remorse? Marketing follow-thru.

First assure the customer he made the right decision. Do it right away. The salesperson saying "good choice" and the literature congratulating you on your purchase does more than you'd think. If your product is in a package the package should keep them sold by answering post-purchase questions, like about your warranty. Show other happy customers in your literature.

Second, follow-up. Be sure everything is working. Fix any problems quickly. Our mattress salesman called the other day. Beth told him I was not making a good adjustment. He assured her most people need a couple of weeks to feel comfortable on a new mattress. And If I'm still uncomfortable in a couple weeks, we can exchange it for a softer one anytime within 30 days.

Third, keep advertising to them. Every time I get a new car, I am amazed at how often I see others in the same make or model. And when I select a new brand, I have a heightened awareness of ads for that brand. It's part of the natural way we deal with change and uncertainty by looking for affirmation.

Finally, welcome your customer to your community. Get them to join online forums, clubs, classes, or wear branded "logowear". Overcome their remorse with a reassuring sense of clubiness or community. This technique has worked wonders for Apple Computer, Harley-Davidson and Borders -- not just to deal with remorse, but to build die-hard, loyal followings. Obviously, not every option fits every product. (I don't think I'd join the Sealy mattress club or wear a Sealy T-shirt!) But think outside the box.

Remember buyer's remorse is an emotion. As long as your product is performing as expected, just a little reassurance can help overcome it.

If, however your product is giving your customer a backache... I'll let you know.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, April 20, 2007

Marketing vs. Sales...

"Marketing spreads out the corn, by the lake, to attract the ducks. Then, Sales shoots the ducks."

-- Eli Goldratt (paraphrased)

When sales are down, marketing blames sales and sales blames marketing. There's a natural tension there.

But, all things being equal, it's both their fault.

If marketing isn't priming the pump for sales, there aren't enough leads or inquires to close. If sales isn't doing their job, the leads won't turn into sales.

But it's much more complicated than that. For instance, if marketing isn't using techniques to pre-sell and pre-qualify leads, it's wasting sales time and lowering the lead-to-close ratio. If sales isn't following up on leads fast enough, they're wasting marketing's efforts.

I think the duck hunter analogy is great. If they work together, they get the job done.

A problem I see often is sales expecting marketing to close sales for them so all they have to do is write-up the order. Good advertising can prime the pump by creating demand. A good marketing system can manage leads to qualify the best. But most sales-driven companies need a good salesperson to close the sale and manage the account.

Unfortunately both good duck hunters and people willing stand in the line of fire tossing out corn are hard to find. Getting them to work together is sometimes even harder.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Marketing Strategy: Bad Will...

Most people toss junk mail. I study it.

This week, I got two subscription offers from the same magazine for the "guaranteed low rate." When I compared them, one price was higher. I thought the guarantee promised me the lowest price. It didn't. Read carefully: I'm guaranteed a low rate -- not the lowest. It's a clever copywriter's gimmick. And, to me, it's misleading.

My verdict might not hold up in a court of law. But in the court of customer opinion, misleading ads can lose sales and generate bad will in the process. Yesterday, Beth quizzed me in the grocery store: "How many grams of fiber do you think are in 7-grain bread?"

"Less than the 12-grain bread." I said picking up a nearby loaf.

They were the same -- 1 gram of fiber. The whole wheat, on the other hand, had 3 times more. Maybe I'm a fool to think choking down 12-grain bread will put more fiber in my diet. But there's no deception here, just misperception.

Avoid trying to fool your customers. Honesty will earn you more than just brownie points. Remember: "Fool me once and I will never buy from you twice."

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ad Strategy: When less is more…

Advertising in fewer publications can cost-effectively improve your ad results. Five different studies by McGraw-Hill since 1950 came to the same conclusion: one or two trade journals will reach most of the readers covered by up to five publications – at a fraction of the cost.

A recent McGraw-Hill study of eight publications in four markets showed that, on average, the two leading publications reached 81% of the total market. Cahners reached the same conclusion in a study of 27 industries. In their findings, the first publication reached 86%, the second brought the total to 92%.

In our experience, repeat advertising in fewer publications improves ad impact. When the same people see the same brand name in the same publication, the results are multiplied. It will also earn you frequency discounts and value-added services from the publisher – like publicity and merchandising opportunities. So, don't spread your advertising too thin.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Direct Mail Goldmining...

There's gold in them thar databases.

About 47% of all U.S. companies lease out their lists on a regular basis according to a survey by the U.S. Postal Service.

Next time you do a mailing, consider getting a list from a related business. The information is likely more on-target and better updated than other lists. Renting lists from trade journals also can be a good choice.

And, think of your customer/prospect list as a potential profit center. Use leads generated by your ads to build a database. Then consider what companies offer products or services that complement yours. Either offer to sell them your list or trade lists in a name-for-name exchange.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ad Repetition...

Haven’t I seen you before?

Frequency is important. Aftermarket advertisers with an ad in every issue of a trade journal for a year scored 65% better than advertisers that ran only 1 or 2 times a year in recall tests by Babcox Publications. And running an ad in every issue scored 30% better results than running in half the issues.

So, generally, it’s better to regularly run fractional ads than to run a big two-page spread one time. Why? Repetition aids in recall. And part of branding is repeating your name until becomes synonymous with your product. I prefer Colgate toothpaste because I've used it all my life. There's no other option in my mind.

Also, in our experience, the more often an ad runs the more leads it generates. Of course, there's a saturation point. So, track your results. When direct leads drop, revise your ad. But keep those ads running.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, April 09, 2007

Direct Mail Results...

Direct mail produces quick results. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get 25% of your total responses to a mailing after the first week, 50% within two weeks, and 75% by the end of the first month, according studies by the U.S. Postal Service. The final responses trickle in over the next month.

In our experience, a postcard promo series can be great end-of-year profit booster. Four or more mailers sent out fourth quarter can boost sales by reminding buyers of end of year purchasing decisions during the busy holiday season.

Generally, we suggest you send this mailing to prospects who responded to your ads but haven't yet made a purchase. This list group has identified a need, knows your brand name and has considered a purchase. They are self-qualified and generally more open to your offer. We’ve seen this type of direct mailer program boost end-of-year sales by 5 – 15%.

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Improve Your Direct Mail ROI...

Small changes can make a big dent in your mailing budget. In a survey by Target Marketing magazine, marketers say they're reducing direct mail costs by: switching vendors (26%), not mailing low response areas (22%), reducing weight (22%), merging/purging lists (15%),

The biggest cost of direct mail is postage. So reduce it -- either by cutting per piece postage or eliminating non-productive names. If you keep your own database, running it through NCOA (National Change of Address) and doing a merge/purge annually can pay for itself ten times over. And often, a new vendor can help you find other new ways to cut costs.

In my experience, if your database hasn't been updated in 18 months, you're wasting about 20% of your budget -- based on address changes alone. For instance, I got a telemarketing call last week for my dead grandmother. Really. I bought my grandparent’s home years ago -- and changed their number to my name. That database must be at least 7 years old! What a waste of money!

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Internet Traffic

Why are end-users visiting your website? According to Forrester Research: Product Info (79%), Where To Buy (49%), Accessories (42%), New Products (37%), Tech Support (31%).

Knowing who’s visiting and why can help you improve customer service -- and sales. For instance, if they want accessories, make it as quick as possible to jump to accessories.

We encourage clients to put user manuals online free of charge. The marketing value of this is immeasurable. Users of this service have said they’re more inclined to buy this brand again because of it.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PR: One Thousand Words...

One Photo is Worth 1,000 Words.

Trade journal editors are about 10 times more likely to use a news release if it has a good photo, according to a recent survey of trade journal editors.

So, to get more placements just include a photo, right?

Wrong. The key phrase here is a GOOD photo. Editors have told me they get a LOT of awful photos – blurry, dark snapshots taken by an amateur and processed at Wal-Mart. In my experience, most editors prefer publication-quality digital images on disk – or better yet, the Web. It makes their work quicker and gives them a better result. In fact, we’ve developed an entire web site to provide editors with news releases and photos (

When published, product mentions with photos also tend to draw more sales leads. Why? Photos attract people’s attention more than words alone. Think about photos next time you’re paging through a trade journal -- and the next time you’re sending out a new release.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, April 02, 2007

Marketing QC...


Always double check. When you’re proofreading, get a second set of eyes to help you. Our brain tends to miss – or even correct details when we’ve looked at something too often.

A mistake that costs $50 to change at the design stage could cost $500 at pre-press and might cost $5,000 to change on press, according to the US Postal Service’s "Guide to Direct Marketing." A big enough mistake could even cost you your job!

Did you ever notice that most mistakes happen when you’re especially busy or rushing a project? The best solution is to plan ahead to give yourself ample time for quality control. And always make the time to double check.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 30, 2007

Brand Value...

Young & Rubicam, developers of the Brand Asset Valuator(R), see four phases of branding: differentiation, relevance, esteem, and knowledge. Y&R generally works for consumer megabrands like AT&T, Sony, Colgate and Ford. However, the same principals apply to small and b-to-b brands.

Branding may seem costly. But, big spending isn't needed to build a brand -- consistency is. You're building a name. It takes time. The first thing you need to do is be different and stand apart. You also should be relevant -- ask, "Is this important to my prospect?" Then, according to Y&R you need to build respect. I agree. When you're building a brand, you're also building trust. And finally, you reach the knowledge phase. You're a recognized expert in your market.

Often clients come to me for help building an ad. My real job, however is to build sales. And the best way to do that is to brand your product. I guess I'm a little like a cowboy. My job is to drive your cattle home -- not the other guy's. So I brand it to separate yours from the others.

Sorry. Gotta run, pardner. There's a doggie goin' astray. Yee Ha!

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Marketing in a Recession...

Q: What begins with recess but isn't any fun? A: Recession.

Fear of a recession is in the air. I'm not an economist, so I'm not sure if it's warranted. But I can tell you the best marketing investment if an economic downturn happens: Advertising. Research indicates it's best to maintain or increase your ad spending. Really.

McGraw-Hill studied 1980-85 advertising by 600 companies in 16 SIC codes. The results? B-to-B firms that maintain or increased advertising in the '81-82 recession averaged higher sales growth both during and after the recession than those who reduced or eliminated advertising. By 1985, sales of recession advertisers jumped 256% over those that didn't keep up advertising. Since 1949, aggressive advertising in a recession has increased both sales and profits says a study by Meldrum & Fewsmith. And a Coopers & Lybrand study of the 1990-91 recession shows better performing businesses seeking new customers, exploring new markets and running more ads.

Strategically advertising during an downturn can help you capture customers your non-advertising competition will lose. And it will allow you to maintain profits while others are forced to rely on price-cuts. As the old adage goes: "In good times, you should advertise. In bad times, you MUST advertise."

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Color in Advertising...

Call it the color of money.

Color gets results. Color ads scored 23.7% better than black-and-white
ads in a study by Babcox publications. Both two-color and four-color
ads pulled about the same return.

Color is a powerful tool. It grabs attention, emphasizes key points and
aids in recall. In our experience, certain colors actually increase

Different hues also send different messages. Cool colors tend to say
stability, whereas warm colors convey energy.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Innovate or Stagnate

Less than half of small businesses have a website. And only 5% complete transactions online, according to Small Business Banker magazine. Perhaps they’re overly cautious. Over 70% have Internet access (up from 57% in 1999) and almost 40% have a website. But more than half say the web has not impacted their business, according to D&B.

SO? So, why are big businesses establishing entire Internet divisions? Because they see the trend. ($100 billion in online sales in 2003, according to Forrester.) If you don’t have a website, get one. But even more important, you need to get your distributors to get web-enabled. Because if they aren’t, a distributor in their area will be and they will get the sales. Your sales.

A good way to nudge your distributors onto the Internet is to help them. Give them web content they can customize. Link from your site to theirs. Offer to co-op hosting costs. Do whatever you can to get them online. Because their sales are your sales.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 26, 2007

Marketing Pruning...

Prune branches, not roots

In outdoor gardening, you prune branches to encourage growth. In Bonsai gardening, you prune roots to stunt growth. The same works in business.

Dot-coms profited more by cutting operating costs vs. marketing costs, says a recent study by turnaround consulting firm Getzler & Company Inc. Of 190 firms studied, 46 cut marketing and 25 cut operating costs.

"While sales growth among the two groups remained approximately the same, there was a dramatic difference in profitability," said Brian Mittman, V.P. at Getzler. From second to third quarter, losses more than doubled at firms that cut marketing.

In my experience, the same is true in the traditional marketplace. Clients who cut marketing have been forced to lower their prices -- and profits, to keep sales. But clients who trimmed operating costs maintained or increased sales while staying profitable. It seems marketing is a lot like a plant’s root.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 23, 2007

Act Now...

Setting limits can make people want more. Shoppers grabbed 3 or 4 cans of soup when it was advertised on sale with no limit, in a study by the University of Illinois. When the the ad read "limit 9" people bought twice as many -- an average of 7 cans each!

The same technique that works in consumer marketing, works in business-to-business marketing. Setting limits or deadlines creates a sense of urgency. We are all motivated by urgency at some time or another. It could be urgency of a broken furnace on a cold January night. Or the urge to buy a Coke on impulse.

I used this technique in a direct mail letter for an entrepreneur program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "For the best learning environment, class size is limited. So, contact us immediately..." reads the postscript. The response? We're almost at our goal. So call today!

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Web Saavy...

Guess the average age of a Web Designer: 20? 25? 30? 35? If you guessed 30, you're right. And, according to TrendWatch, about eight out of ten have a 4-year degree -- in fact, over half were hired right out of college. This young, educated group is also known for being highly free-spirited and one of the best paid for their age.

A 2001 salary survey co-sponsored by * says Internet marketing professionals, who averaged $66,030/year plus bonuses, overall felt well paid -- and weren't seeking a new job.

My point? Despite the burst bubble of Dot Coms, the Internet is still an integral part of 21st Century marketing -- a part that companies are willing to pay top dollar for. Now, don't confuse Dot Coms with using the Internet as a marketing tool. Dot Coms had no bricks and mortar or distribution networks, were trying to build brands overnight, and most had no revenue stream.

Instead, I encourage clients to use the Internet as a cost-effective marketing and customer-service tool. Their customers can download lost manuals, learn about new products, and even give useful feedback all at a fraction of the cost of more labor-intensive traditional methods. This frees your sales and customer service people for more important and rewarding work. Which, in turn, will improve their productivity, overall morale -- and the bottom line.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Profit begins with PR...

In news releases, less is sometimes more. The average trade journal editor I've talked to gets 300 or more news releases a month! Really. The more work editing your release an editor has to do, the less likely they are to use it. Keep it short and focused. But be sure you tell all the facts. And try to be objective. A lot of new releases go unused because they read more like an ad than a news story.

Also, don’t flood editors with too many news releases. If your news releases start coming too often, the editor will be biased against you before she opens the envelope. I suggest sending one, single-page, double-spaced news release every one or two months. And be sure to include a photo whenever possible. Or better yet, put the hi res. files online like we do with

Many editors I've spoke with tell me they like our news service because it makes their jobs easier. We either email or mail them news releases (based on their preference) and they can download the text and photo in seconds -- on their own schedule. They also appreciate the fact that our releases are already in professional journalistic style -- saving them a lot of editing time.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Free Publicity...

There's no such thing as free publicity. Successful PR requires an investment.

For example, public relations is the second biggest marketing line item for the average tech start-up (15.9%) -- just behind print advertising (21.1%), says a report by Launch PAD and Silicon Valley Bank.

Media relations, perhaps the most visible part of PR, requires building relationships with key editors and reporters. That takes time -- and money. A good way to shorten the cycle and reduce costs is to hire a PR firm. An outside firm brings a lot to the table: they have established contacts, they know journalism, and they're an objective third party.

Most PR firms are experts in an industry. Editors often call PR firms for insights on industry trends, expert interviews, or even photos for a story. Smart PR pros, usually former journalists themselves, can help you refine your news releases to get more placements. And the good ones will even tell you when a release isn't worth releasing.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 19, 2007

Do Gooder...

"More than 80% of the money raised by charities in this country comes from individuals," says The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance ( It seems sad that business giving is so little. But, being a good corporate citizen can have big marketing potential.

Most charities are happy to work with you to raise support. And the media is more than willing to give free publicity to honest charitable efforts. Years ago I worked with Chicago's Olive Branch Mission, the oldest homeless shelter in the US. My client, the John Hancock Observatory, held a personal care item drive. We got tons of publicity before, during, and after the event. Ticket revenues increased. And, most importantly, the homeless benefited.

With a little creativity you can develop a program that works for you. It's usually best if the charity somehow ties in with your business -- like MADD for an auto bodyshop, Illiteracy Volunteers for a bookstore, or Humane Society for a pet shop. Depending on how and to whom you donate, there may even be tax advantages. (Ask your tax consultant beforehand.)

Don't get me wrong. Doing good is it's own reward. But if that's not enough incentive for Corporate America to give more, then let me appeal to self-interest. Whatever it takes, let's get that business giving number up!

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 16, 2007

Real World Promotion...

Yesteday, McDonald's began to roll out packaging featuring pictures of customers. Not models. Real people. Twenty-four real people to be exact, picked from an "open casting call" of 13,000 entries from around the world, according to Reuters.

"It's about real people connecting with our brand," said McDonald's CMO Mary Dillon. "People are really interested in reality."

Reminds me of the early 80's TV shows "Real People" and "That's Incredible!". But where those shows featured real people doing unusual things, today's trend is about ordinary folks often doing ordinary things. I think we like seeing other's people's flaws because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

As I often told Beth when we were newlyweds, "I love you warts and all."

She didn't like the warts part. So, I stopped saying it. But in reality, I think what makes people different often makes them interesting. Warts and all.

That's why there is such a push for "user generated content" like blogs and You Tube. Not because the average person is necessarily more interesting. But because sometimes they just say it in a much more interesting way. A way that's real. A way that's authentic. I think it touches on what author Tony Schwartz (, calls "The Responsive Chord."

Is your advertising contrived or authentic? Does it feel real or is it too flashy and plastic? How can you make your ads feel more real?

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Internet: e-nough!

"The average worker spends nearly an hour each day on e-mail," says an article in the Chicago Tribune. An hour! That's 12.5% of the working day. How much is work? How much is waste? And, given the growing use of email marketing, how much is trashed?

As our email boxes become more stuffed, the danger is we'll build up an immunity. As marketers, we may see email as low-cost advertising. There's no design. No printing. No postage. But, with continued overuse, there will also be no effectiveness. And that costs us all a lot.

I just deleted more than 20 emails this morning -- unread. In fact, I filter out most of my junk mail so I don't have to waste time reading subject lines any more. And I have two email accounts: one public, one private. The private one I give only to clients and friends. I always read that one.

My suggestion: don't use bulk email as a ploy. Only put people on your email list if they "opt-in." And only use email to give meaningful information, introduce new products or provide valuable offers. You'll get better results -- and reduce the cost of unsolicited email for all of us.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Internet: Ahh-Choo

Here's a virus worth catching. It's called "viral marketing." And although it sounds destructive, it's quite innocent. According to Target Marketing, it works like this: a clever or informative message is emailed to an "opt-in" list. People who find it funny or interesting then forward it to one or more friends or associates. Then each member of the group forwards it to more people. And so on. And so on. And so on... That's how it spreads -- a lot like the flu does in my home every winter.

According to 24/7 Media, an online direct marketing firm: 80% of online companies use viral marketing, 81% of recipients forward these emails, 49% forward to 2 or more people, 5 - 15% click a website or email link in the message. Corporate giants like Pepsi and are using this technique, adding "rich media" (like streaming audio/video or Flash animation) and getting great results.

Viral marketing works offline, too. Anytime you can create a buzz with your advertising, news releases, direct mail or faxes you're creating a kind of "marketing virus." However, to be really successful, be sure you're sharing meaningful information -- not just a self-serving sales pitch.

In fact, why don't you pass this tip along and watch what happens?

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ads: More Bang For Your Buck!

Good News: Ad spending is flat according to Competitive Media Reporting ( While advertising grew by double-digits early last year, it grew by only 6 percent in 4th quarter.

That good?! Sure. While recession-phobics are slashing ad budgets, smart marketers are gaining market share by sustaining -- even increasing ad spending. Sound crazy? Here's why it's smart: If your competitors advertise less it gives your ads more impact. You'll be the first brand a buyer thinks of because he sees your name more. Competitor's sales reps will have to work harder generating leads and closing sales. (I document this in my January 19th tip.) One client told me when they stopped advertising once for a few months, someone started rumors that they'd gone under!

By way of example, let me tell you the story of my adman idol: Leo Burnett. Leo started his ad agency on August 5, 1935 -- in the depths of the great depression. People called him crazy. But, he retorted "There's nowhere I can go but up!" Actually, ad agencies boomed during the depression. Why? Advertising reduced sales costs. Companies that advertised stayed alive --and many prospered in the midst of economic turmoil. Today, Leo Burnett Advertising is one of the most successful agencies in the world.

I'm not worried about another great depression. In fact, an accountant friend tells me the average US recession lasts about 11 months. So, I advise clients to jump on this short window of opportunity to turbo-charge their advertising and branding. But, do it now, before the pendulum swings back.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ad Strategy: Love/Hate Inserts

They kind of annoy me when I'm trying to read a magazine, But, love 'em or hate 'em, inserts work. Advertising inserts scored better than full-page ads according to research by aftermarket divisions of both Babcox Publications and Adams Business Media.

Sometimes, inserts cost less than a full-page ad (check with your ad sales rep), yet they can give you two pages -- or more of space to tell your sales message. And because inserts are usually printed on a different stock than the rest of the publication they naturally jump out. (That's the part that annoys me!)

Another great thing about inserts is you can have a response device built in (Business Reply Card or Fax Back Form) to help you generate more leads and track the results.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ad Strategy: Hey, you in front...

I learned something new, today. I used to think ads in the first half of a magazine got much better results than ads in the last half. But in reviewing a report from Adams Business Media's Automotive Group, I saw the error of my ways.

According to the report, ads in the front half of the magazine scored only incrementally better than ads in the back. The difference was less than 10%. And adjusting for differences in size, color, brand, and product the results may be even closer.

I still believe, if you’re not paying for a preferred placement (like one of the covers or opposite the table of contents), it’s best to ask the publication to rotate your ads from front to back. This takes advantage of different reading habits. Some people read magazines front to back, others back to front, and still others (like me) just jump around almost randomly. Hope you learned something new today, too.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, March 05, 2007

Web Strategy: When Life hands you lemons...

The best marketing is proactive. Usually. Sometimes, however, a quick reaction can save the day. For example, a few months ago a prominent trade journal ran a short article about one of my clients. They even mentioned the client's website. The problem? They misspelled the website. Since the publication was already in the mail we had great publicity -- but the wrong contact information. The solution? We bought the misspelled web site name!

That little story generated thousands of hits to the web site that would have been lost if not for our quick response. Often a quick, creative solution can turn lemons into lemonade.

In our experience, it's usually a good idea to buy multiple domain names and point them all to your site. For instance buying a common typo or misspelling is a good idea. (Misspell as and you'll get someone else's search engine.) Also, buying the .net and .org extension for your domain can save mistaken identity. (For instance, and both point back to

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dig Deeper...

In my Tip Remix last week, I said that using opinion polls as behavior research is fraught with problems. By asking a prospect what they MIGHT do you can't always assess what they WILL do. We don't always know what we'd do until we are in the actual situation.

For example I was the perfect parent. That is before I had a child. Somehow what I thought I'd do isn't exactly what I do. Turns out I'm a little less patient in reality than I was in my imagination.

The other side of opinion polls as behavior research is even if you ask what people DO, they are not honest. Not that they're lying to you. The real problem is often we aren't honest with ourselves.

For instance, if my dentist asked how often I flossed, I'd say a couple times a week. But the year-old spool of dental floss in my medicine chest might tell you differently. (Maybe it just FELT like I flossed a couple times a week!)

A better way to get the answer in a survey might be to ask me how often I buy dental floss. You could check that against a question about my flossing habits. If the answers don't jibe, you need to dig a little deeper. (Perhaps asking Beth how often she thinks I floss might be more accurate!)

Another option is to track my dental floss purchases on my grocery store rewards account. The problem? Aside from privacy issues, you don't know if I buy floss at another store or if I share the container with six others in my home.

Moral: True research isn't always easy. And easy research isn't always true.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Paying The Way...

Some leads cost more than others. Here are costs per sales lead: Trade Shows ($200), Print Ads ($20), and Web Sites ($10), according to the Delhaye Group. So a smart marketer will pour money into the company website, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

On the other hand, trade show leads close better and therefore cost less, according to CEIR. Closing a trade show lead cost only $625 and took 1.3 follow-up calls compared to $1,117 and 3.7 calls for other leads. So it's wiser to spend more on tradeshows? Maybe. Maybe not.

CEIR is the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. And as far as I can tell, the Delhaye Group are Internet consultants. In both cases, the research findings seem a little slanted in the favor of their marketing niche. My point? When looking at marketing research findings, it's a good idea to look at who's paying the bill. It may tell you why the results seem slightly biased.

In my experience, the value of various marketing tools is very individual. I've had clients in the same industry -- some in the same product category that found success in two different vehicles. Why? Marketing is much more complicated than a cookbook recipe. Marketing success is very dependent on a mix of your product, place, price and promotion. No one element stands alone. You need to study your own marketing results and make judgements based on your individual findings.

My advice? Get unbiased advice from an objective expert who does everything: tradeshows, ads, PR and websites. Look for someone who knows your industry and has been around for a while. And most importantly, be sure it's someone you can trust. Someone like, well, uh, someone like me. ; )

- Phil Sasso