Friday, November 05, 2010

Last Things First...

I've been at the AAEX / SEMA tradeshows this week. Attendance this year seemed strong. Hope if you exhibited that you had a great show.

After these shows every year I share the same basic tip. Hope it serves as a good reminder to not let all the hard work go to waste by leaving the job unfinished...

Returning from exhibiting at or attending a tradeshow or special event?

Use your first day back like it's your last day at the event.

Remember: 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?

CEIR studies show that the biggest mistake trade show exhibitors make is dropping the ball on follow-up.

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

How do you know who's hottest? You should use a lead sheet that asks questions that will help you, like: When do you plan to buy? How many do you plan to buy? What other brands are you considering? (If you didn't use one at this event, make a note to use on at your next event.)

But try to avoid calling anyone you met at the trade show today. After all, they'll probably be as swamped catching up today, as you'll be -- tomorrow.

(This means please don't be offended if I don't take call you today -- be inspired.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tech-No Two....

Last week I was pointing out the dependence today's sales & marketing has on technology and lamenting some technical issues I faced.

Almost as if a divine joke, this week it got worse.

On Monday, when I walked into the office I found that the server that houses a third of the websites we manage was hacked. On Wednesday our phone service went down. The week before was nothing compared to this week.

All the problems were out of my control, but things that very much control our business -- and our client's businesses.

We have two choices in business: allow outside influences to control us or do all we can with what we have to work with. Keeping your head in the sand isn't a choice.

Being reactive is good. Being proactive is better. Anticipating your competitor's next step can help you avoid being blind sided. Knowing what we ought to do and making the time to do it are two different things.

You could spend all your time fighting fires or you could set aside some time for preventing fires. Having a strong strategy is the best approach. As I like to say: "Strategic thinking is more productive than wishful thinking."

Today, I'm still dealing with the repercussions of this week's technology failures. But at least I feel I've got my head above water. You?

Takeaway: Who is in charge of your sales & marketing? You? Your customers? Your competition? Your technology? No one?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tech-No: Marketing Technology Failure Planning...

You may have heard about Chase's online banking system crash this week. It affected millions of customers.

Technology failure briefly hobbled Sasso Marketing this week, too -- twice...

Fortunately, we only experienced limited downtime. But it felt like an eternity. And it made me begin to beef-up our technology failure plan.

One Monday, I was out of town and our DSL modem failed. We now have a back up.  This morning, our email hosting failed, generating dozens of bounce backs. Now we have back-up email accounts.

Marketing today is innately dependent on technology from the old-fashioned telephone and fax to email and ecommerce. One hiccup and operations can grind to a halt. 

That's why it's important to have a marketing technology back-up plan. 

Up until this week. large chunks of our plan were in my head. Now, I plan to put it on paper so we're ready to implement it at a moments notice.

For instance, if our phone system fails, calls forward to my iPhone. If I can't use the landline or cell phone, we have a Skype account. (If the DSL fails again, I grab my laptop, run to Starbucks and rely on their wifi and latte to keep me going). I'm oversimplifying, but you get the point. Planning is key.

By the way, my email is working again, I think.

Takeaway: What will you do if you technology fails? Are you ready for every possibility short of nuclear disaster (phones, fax, email, Internet, DSL, website, printer, desktop, laptop...)?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Identity Crisis: Your Marketing Identity vs. Your Marketing Image

Last week, I mentioned how marketers need to be aware of buyer's expectations, like doctors wearing white lab coats.

An astute reader pointed out that there's a difference between projecting a successful image and overdoing it.  For example marble floors and walnut wainscoting may signal success to some and excess to others.


There is also a difference between your marketing image and your identity. Image is all fluff and appearances. It is all about the outward. Identity is a much deeper thing. It's what you are at your core.

The difference between image and identity in marketing is much like the difference between a well-groomed but dishonest salesman and a average-looking salesman with integrity. Which would you rather deal with? (In this case, if image is personality then identity is character.)

Identity is also about knowing who you are as a brand and being true to that. If you are a hip brand like Apple, you need to be sure everything you do is hip. If you are a more friendly, down-to earth brand like Lowes, you want to project that in all your marketing (which I think they do well in their new TV spots). 

Takeaway: Are you focused on image more than identity? What defines your brand or you as a salesperson? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lab Coats: Marketing's Dress For Success...

I'm just about over my double ear infection.

After being irritable and sleepless for several days, I decided to have pity on my family. I stopped at a local quick care clinic. The process was faster and cheaper than a doctor's visit.

And the Nurse Practitioner wore a white lab coat, so I felt well cared for.

Last year the AMA considered a proposal recommending that physicians no long wear lab coats. However, I think it might affect doctor trust.

An old study says that patients trust doctors in lab coats more than doctors without them -- especially doctors in white lab coats with stethoscopes. It's what they expect.

Trust isn't always based on skill or quality. Often it's based on perception. What's your white lab coat?

Takeaway: What do your customers expect of your salesforce? Your product? Your packaging? Are you building trust or not?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ya Know: Knowing Too Much Makes For Bad Marketing...

One of PJ's friend's dads called me the other day for advice on buying an
Apple computer.

Since I own an iPhone, a couple iPods and half a dozen Macs, you'd think
I'd be a wise person to call. My problem: I knew too much. I had to stop and refocus my thinking. It was harder than I expected to get back to basics.

In their book "Made To Stick" the Heath brothers call this problem "the
curse of knowledge".

Here's a fun experiment they give: think of a familiar song. Now drum out the tune with your figures for someone and ask them to guess it. They likely can't. Ask them to do the same with a different song. When the tune is ringing in your head, it seems impossible that the other person can't guess it. But if you lack the vital information to guess the song, it will make sense.

When you know something well, it's hard to remember what it's like not to know it. Overcoming that is what separates a good teacher from a bad one. And a good marketer from a bad one.

Many marketers make the mistake of assuming their customers and prospects know more about their product or the category than they really do. I can't tell you the number of times I advise a client to include a basic piece of information in their advertising.

"Everyone knows about the guarantee," for instance one client told me.

"Really?" I replied. "I've worked with you for a year. I didn't know about
the guarantee."

That's what gives a firm like mine an edge. I know the market. I know my business. But I'm just far enough away to get into the average prospect's head.

Now if I could just use that approach in my marriage...

Takeaway: If you're too close, find an outsider to help you bring your marketing in focus. Better yet, ask your customers and prospect what they think. It may surprise you.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Goal of Branding....

A masters degree in "luxury retail management" will be launched this fall at the International University of Monaco, says the BBC News website. The program will have 35 seats and be taught in English.

The postgraduate program will cover topics from trends and competitive
dynamics to "codes, symbols and rituals" in luxury retail. The goal of the
course is to teach how to provide an "exceptional and inimitable shopping experience in which consumers develop long-lasting and emotional ties with the brand".

All snide comments aside, there's a lesson here even if your product or
service isn't Rolex or Rolls-Royce. The goal of branding is to build
long-lasting emotional ties to your products or services.

The stronger your brand, the less price becomes an issue.

Allstate insurance, for instance is fighting back against price-focused
Geico's Gecko, and Progressive's Flo. Allstate's Speed Dating commercial is intended to draw you back to a face-to-face relationship to your insurance agent. They beg the question: Do you know who to call when you need to file a claim? Not the phone number. The name of the person.

As I see it, whether you're selling luxury goods or more practical goods
and services, it all boils down to building a relationship.

Takeaway: What makes your brand worth it? Are you promoting that? What more can you build into your brand to create a stronger bond with your customers?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tangled Web: Designing Your Website With Purpose...

Did you ever go to a website and find it impossible to find what you're looking for?

It happened to me last week. To make matters worse, I had to jump from one company website to another to find what I was looking for.

One of the biggest problems I encounter with new client websites (and marketing campaigns) is that they lack a clearly defined objective. If you don't know where you're going, it's hard to get there.

In a Direct Marketing Association survey, when asked the goal for their website 71% of marketers said brand and image building. Only 45% said to deliver product information and 43% said to collect customer and prospect information. I think that shows a lot of websites are missing the boat. Branding is great. But a web site's primary goal should be to disseminate and collect information.

It's the ability to measure effectiveness that makes the web so powerful. Being able to count how many people visit a page on your website can tell you what customers think is important. That's why studying usability is important. You want to be sure an outsider can navigate your website easily.

Having a visitor give you an email address or other information gives you a chance to keep in touch with them, and shows your site has built a certain level of trust. Selling requires several touches (six touches according to some). So if you want to make the most of an opportunity, you want to do all you can to keep in touch with customers and prospects.

Building a website that looks great is good. Building a website that works great is better. And having clear objectives allows you to measure if you're achieving your goals.

Takeaway: What's the purpose for your next sales or marketing action? Is it to inform? Educate? Gather information? Will it bring you one step closer to a sale, or is it just about image?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mileage: Maximixing Your Profits...

Beth celebrated a milestone birthday on Wednesday.

As a surprise, I took her and PJ to Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless' [] restaurant here in Chicago.

It was an exciting treat for Beth, a big Bayless fan, to actually see Rick, get an autographed copy of his new book and to meet his daughter Lanie (a frequent guest on his PBS cooking-travelogue.)

It was also an exciting treat for me to see how this Entrepreneur has made the most of his brand. Bayless doesn't own one restaurant, he has three, all in a row, ranging from white tablecloth to high-end fast food, one containing a full service bar. (We had lunch at one, strolled around town, took a boat tour, watched a movie filming, and had dinner at another Bayless spot.) He also sells books, DVDs. and bottles of his various branded Mexican sauces.

Doing this, he's able to serve a broad range of patrons no matter how deep their pockets. And the place was buzzing like I'd never imagine for a Wednesday.

Takeaway: Are you missing any profit centers? What do fans want from your brand? Advice? Training? Accessories?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Weeds: Asking For Help...

My lawn was overrun with weeds this spring.

We used to have lawn service. But the lawn looked great, so I figured
I could save a buck and maintain it myself.

That didn't work. By end of last fall it started to show signs of
neglect. By spring there were more weeds than grass.

I told myself I'd get around to it. Then came days and days of full
schedules and out-of-town weekends. Barely time to mow the lawn
much less buy and apply weed-n-feed.

Finally, I gave in. I asked Beth to call back in the lawn service.

Within a week there was a noticeable improvement. Within two weeks,
it looked lush and the army of weeds were receding. Now, it just seems
I need to mow it more often.

The same is true in marketing. There are probably several projects
you've been meaning to get around to -- when you have the time. You
just never seem to have the time. And your marketing is starting to
become a little neglected.

Asking someone like a marketing services agency to help may be a
wise choice.

Takeaway: What are the weeds in your marketing lawn?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trash 2 Treasure: Creative Pricing Strategies For Profitability

Most people pay for recycling pick-up. My local printer gets paid for it. He has a large dumpster behind his shop where he tosses all his scrap. The recycling company pays him by the pound and takes it away for him free.

Once upon a time, auto repair shops paid companies to take away their used motor oil. Today, several companies sell waste oil heaters so the shop can cut their heating bills and eliminate their disposal costs.

Some restaurants pay a company to take their used cooking oil. One IT company out West pays local restaurants for the oil in computer maintenance services. Then uses the cooking oil to run their biodiesel fleet.

In his book The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow, Rafi Mohammed tells a story about fly ash. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal-burning power plants. Usually it ends up in landfills, but one smart company found that adding 15 - 20% fly ash to cement can produce stronger concrete -- at a significant savings over the cost of a traditional cement mix.

The problem was that many contractors didn't what to pay a fair price for the fly ash. Until one executive decided to mount a strong education campaign pointing out the savings, the strength, and the ecological impact. The result? Over a two-and-a half year period, the company's operating profits have doubled.

Takeaway: What hidden profit-center are you overlooking?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Down Field: Balancing Your Sales Tactics With Sales Objectives

I started my career in sales & marketing as a teenager.

In fact, I put myself through college, in part, by doing telemarketing -- in the days before call screening and the Do Not Call Registry.

It was a great, though painful, learning experience.

One lesson it taught me was that what sounds great in the executive suite doesn't always work in the field. That's echoed in my work even today.

I worked for several of the largest telemarketing operations in the US. And at each, there was a terrible tension between HOW they wanted me to do my job and WHAT they wanted me to achieve.

At one job, I was told to stick to the script and make sales.

I wouldn't have minded sticking to the script, if it worked. But the script was worthless. It was written by some guy who had never made a telemarketing call in his life. It was stiff, lacked cadence, and was unpersuasive.

So I improvised. And I got called into the office.

"Stick to the script," I was told.

"Do you want me to make sales or stay on script?" I asked.

"Both," my boss retorted. "We're testing scripts."

"So if I don't make any sales, I'll keep my job?" I asked innocently wondering why I got chose as a guinea pig.


"So, doesn't that say you want sales over script?" I asked quietly. "I'm over quota when I'm off-script."

"OK. Just try to stick a little closer to the script," my boss replied throwing up his hands.

I felt for him. He was stuck in the middle trying to appease both his supervisor and make his sales targets. But my paycheck depended on closing sales not running experiments. As is should be.

Takeaway: When you set a goal, don't tie your sales force's hands. And never, ever, ever, lose touch with the field.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Go Hawks!!!

Go Hawks: Teamwork works in sports -- and sales...

By the time you get this, I hope to be in the Midst of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Victory Parade with PJ. It's been a long wait. The Hawks haven't won the Cup since 1961!

It's trite but true: teamwork is as important in business as it is in sports.

Just as the unsung goalie deflects shots with little or no fanfair, the marketing team quietly generates leads and referrals.

Just as the MVP draws attention by his strategies and actions, the sales star earns respect by using strategies and actions to close sales.

Separately, they're good.  But when they're united ... great things are possible.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Timing is Everything...

I just stumbled on an email with an expired Memorial Day coupon. I didn't read the email in time to use the discount. I assume I'm not alone. It's of small consequence to me, but a potentially big loss for the advertiser.

If "location, location, location" is paramount in retail marketing, then "timing, timing timing" is the key to successful email marketing.

A recent survey by email marketing service SilverPop found that "both B2C and B2B marketers said sending emails at the right time was the top tactic they employed last year. Recognizing the importance of messages arriving in inboxes when recipients are most likely to have the time and inclination to respond..."

So, what's the best day to email? Historic studies say Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. ConstantContact says Monday is the new favorite. But I believe the best approach is to test your list. Every market is different. What works for selling socks, won't necessarily work for selling socketwrenches.

Test your timing. Send emails on different days each week and review your open rate, click-thru and other response rates. The people on your email list will tell you by their responsiveness what day works best for them.

Takeaway: How can you know the best day to email? Testing, testing, testing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fishin' 2

"Ouch! I think he bit me," I exclaimed pulling my finger from the fish's mouth and examining it.

"I don't think Blue Gill have teeth," Beth consoled me.

"Then he just gummed me," I shot back. "Maybe it was the barb from the hook. Anyway, it hurt."

Last tip, I compared my first fishing expedition with PJ to a salesperson without a follow-up plan. I hadn't read far enough into the DNR beginner fishing guide to know what to do once I caught a fish.

"Are you going to throw it back?" Beth asked.

"Throw it back?" I parroted in surprise. "It's our first catch--ever.
How can I throw back our first catch?"

There was no minimum size on Blue Gill on this lake. So we could keep all six inches.

"It's only three inches." Beth challenged me.

"I'm sure it's just where you're standing," I said. "What do I do to keep him?"

"Ice him or put him on a stringer," Beth instructed from a healthy distance.

"Do you see any ice?" I retorted. "I think we just need to pack up and go to the fish cleaning station."

That was a fiasco. The station was closed. And I had no tools to work with. I scaled the fish with a teaspoon and fillet him with a butter knife. Soon, Beth was breading our catch in Ritz crackers and frying him in a makeshift skillet.

We ended up with less than a tablespoon of fish each.

Sometimes, it's better to throw back the small fish. Just like in sales and marketing. Once in while, as a friend reminded me at lunch yesterday, a small customer can become a big one. (Thanks, Joel!) But you need a fine tuned instinct to pick out the ones that will grow. More often than not, small sales take more time than they're worth.

If you're selling long-term customers or long buying cycle products, it takes some good qualifying questions to decide if you should keep the prospect or throw him back.

I failed the test. Lulled by the excitement of my first catch, I stopped fishing and went home for the day. Had I thrown back my catch and gone back to fishing, I might have caught a bigger one. Or I might have gone home empty handed. But taking the risk can often return a big reward. A lesson I hope I've learned, both as a fisherman and a businessman.

Takeaway: Small sales take as long to process as big ones.
Qualify prospects wisely.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fishin' 1

Miss me last week?

I was on a relaxing vacation with my family at a lakeside cottage .

On a whim, I decided to get a license and take PJ fishing. I'd never been fishing in my life. So I skimmed the DNR's "Fishing for Beginners" booklet and set out.

Armed with our new poles and tackle we decided to drop our lines in at the boat dock near our cabin. None of the seasoned fishers were catching anything anywhere else.

Suddenly, I felt a bite.

"I've got one! PJ, I've got a fish!" I said. (I don't know who was more excited, me or PJ.)

"Great!" said PJ.

"What do I do now?" I asked no one in particular.

"Did you set the hook?" Beth asked from somewhere behind me.


"Did you set the hook?" Beth repeated. "Gently jerk the line once. Then start reeling him in."

Within seconds I pulled a Blue Gill out of the water.

"PJ bring the net here," I said. together we netted the fish.

"Now what?" I said to Beth. "The book's back at the cottage."

Beth rolled her eyes.

"Pull out the hook and get him back in the water before he dies," she instructed. Cleverly, Beth chose not to get a license. So she could only teach, not touch.

"That book should be laminated," I quipped. "Ow! I think he just bit me..."

Now, I  understand how a lot of rookie marketers feel when they get a lead. "Now what?"

Unfortunately, few "set the hook" before they try reeling in a prospect. They rush to close and the sale often gets away. And they're fine with that. Plenty more fish in the sea.

A seasoned salesperson knows what to do. If the prospect isn't ready to bite now, they work hard to keep the sale alive.

Today, using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology a salesperson can keep the sale alive until the prospect is ready without spending a lot of time at it.

Using software like SugarCRM or Constant Contact, a smart marketer can keep in touch with prospects and measure responses by using an ongoing series of emails and mailings.

The problem is, you can't wait until you have a nibble to know the next step. You need to have your process set-up well in advance. The longer the selling cycle (the time it takes the average customer to make a buying decision) the longer and more structured your follow thru should be. A good marketing agency (like mine) can help you choose good CRM software and develop a comprehensive follow-thru campaign to fit your unique situation.

Back at the lake, I decided PJ and I would keep our first catch and have it for supper.

More on that fiasco, next time...

Friday, March 05, 2010


I'm sad that the Olympics are over. I enjoy watching them.

Most of what happened last week is forgotten. Names and faces are fading from memory. Only the exceptional are memorable.

The same is true for advertising. Out of sight, out of mind.

The key to successful advertising is break thru creativity and on-going repetition. The more prospects hear your brand, the more likely they are to think of you -- and buy from you.

Just this week PJ pulled up the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish commercial on YouTube. He thinks it's a riot. It's quirky and memorable. In fact, the "Give me back my Filet-O-Fish" jingle is an earworm. One of those tunes you just can't get out of your head.

In fact. suddenly, I have the urge for a Filet-O-Fish. (I don't even like Filet-O-Fish!) That's break thu creative.

If you're advertising isn't memorable and frequent, you're forgotten.

Takeaway: What are you doing to be remembered? Creative ads alone won't do it. Repetition alone won't do it. It takes the one-two punch to pull in more customers.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ninety-Four One Hundreds of a Second...

That's all that separated Gold from Silver in the Ladies Super Combined Ski in the Vancouver Olympics.

Less than a second made the difference between being first and second. I'm sure some Olympic contests were even tighter this year. Like the .34 of a second that separated bronze from fourth place in the same race.

The Olympics are a great analogy for marketing. You win or you lose. And the difference between the two is sometimes incredibly narrow.

What makes one business more successful than the competition? It's often a series of small differences that adds up to one big one.

A successful athlete knows his or her competitive advantage and makes the most of it. They practice what they need to grow and push the limits where they excel.

To paraphrase one of the athletes I saw interviewed: "That's sports. Outside influences can work against you. You just need to do everything in your power to win."

Takeaway: What's your competitive advantage? What are you doing to promote it? Is it in your ads? Your literature? Your press releases? Your on-hold message? What more can you do? Make every second count.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marketing Leap

As I watched the Winter Olympics last night I found a common thread between the skaters and snowboarders: the more time they spent airborne the more they scored.

The more time an athlete spends in air means more landings -- and the more chances to fall. It's a big risk with a big reward.

The same is true for Marketing. Some marketing strategies require that you take a big leap. The bigger the risk, the greater the potential reward.

It may be the cash investment in a new ad campaign. Or the time investment to oversee a website overhaul. Or the risk of changing your marketing message.

But doing what everyone else is doing won't get your noticed in business anymore than it will in the Olympics.  No pain, no gain as they say.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Takeaway:  What do you need to do to get to the next level in your business? Are you willing to take the leap?