Friday, April 25, 2008


I hate politics.

But I love political campaigns…

Sometimes political tactics challenge my marketing perspective. Take the current Primary race. Why do the candidates keep changing their messages? That doesn’t sound wise to me. I’d never advise you do that. “Stay on-message,” is my advice.

So, what are they thinking?

They’re trying to find a message that resonates with voters. (I won’t touch the ethical/moral issues behind that. Remember, I don’t like politics.) But the marketing implication is big.

Instead of “creating” a USM (unique selling message) for your product or service, what if you let your customers tell you what it is. Often marketing fails not because the product isn’t good, but because their sales message doesn’t resonate with customers.

I once helped a client reposition their automotive equipment. They thought they were selling “fast.” But in my conversations with paying customers, I found they were buying “cheap”. So, the message went from “The fastest way…” to “The most affordable way to quickly…” Customers who once thought fast meant a premium price started buying.

I respect surveys and focus groups. But I don’t think they can always tell what will resonate with your target market. I prefer studying ad campaign results. If one ad draws more leads than another, chances are that message is the winner. And there’s only one way to spin that: it works.

Your customers are voting for you with their pocketbooks.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Yesterday, I read the following on a package:

57% recycled materials. 100% recyclable.

I laughed.

Sometimes we get too close to our product or service and lose perspective. But, in this case, the marketers turned around the typical green concept and added another dimension. Rather than just promote what the product is made of like everyone else does, they promoted the recyclability of the product. I hadn’t seen that together before.

Green marketing isn’t new. It’s been used for years. But since “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar last year, it’s become trendy. The idea of looking at green from two different angles takes the product a step beyond the others in the pack. It even implies the competitor’s product isn’t recyclable!

Marketers follow trends. Good marketers build on those trends. Great marketers create the trends.

What are you promoting in your product. What aren’t you?

Recycle this marketing tip. Forward it to a friend.

-- Phil Sasso

Friday, April 11, 2008

Suggestive Selling

"Suggestive Selling." It's a lot more innocent than it sounds. It's about making suggestions -- not being suggestive.

You can really increase your profits with a little suggestive selling. It’s the same technique the magenta-haired cashier at the fast-food joint uses when she asks if you want fries and a drink with your buffalo burger.

Only in your business, it's probably much more sophisticated and requires more in-depth product knowledge.

Perhaps a better analogy is the black-tie waiter at a white tablecloth restaurant suggesting a red wine to go with your meal.

One way to do this is to ask meaningful questions to determine your customers’ needs.

I once had a client that direct-marketed rebuilt cylinder heads. It was basically a mail order operation. His telephone reps took orders and shipped crated cylinder heads across the nation. What made my client especially successful is how he trained his phone reps to diligently ask if the customer needed a head gasket or head bolts or other add-ons. If I remember right he actually made a higher margin on these add-ons than he made on the initial sale.

And add-on sales don't just just add a few more dollars of profit to each sale; they make for more satisfied customers. That translates to more repeat business and referrals. No one wants to be in the middle of an engine overhaul and find they don't have the right gasket in stock or that the old head bolt is stripped or broken.

So, do yourself and your customers a favor and be sure you finish the job. Ask them for the add-on sale. Don't just ask"will there be anything else?" That question begs a "no." Be specific. They may not be thinking of the whole process and your questions are probably more helpful than you realize.

Remember, you’re an expert in what you sell. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge by making meaningful suggestions.