Friday, September 29, 2006

Aristotle understood marketing…

My Italian great grandfather told me one day, "Sometimes I think stupid old people understood the world better than smart young people today." I thought he was just a kooky old man.

Then I grew up. Now, I must be a kooky old man, too, because I agree.

Aristotle once said: "Character is the most effective means of persuasion."

That was thousands of years ago. And after nearly 20 years in advertising, I can’t think of a more succinct truism.

Aristotle taught that there were three elements of persuasion: logos, pathos and ethos. In essence, logos is an appeal to logic, pathos is an appeal to emotion and ethos is overall credibility.

At Sasso Marketing, we work with various graphic and website design programs. Many people think those are the tools of my trade. They’re not. My tools are logos, pathos and ethos. I can use copywriting and design to create the first two, but only a strong client can provide me with the last one.

As Aristotle would ask: Do you agree? How can you build character for your brand? How can you apply this concept, today? (Wait a minute. Sorry, I think that’s the Socratic teaching method.)

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cost-Effective Promotion....

At one of my seminars an attendee asked me The Big Question: "What's the most cost-effective method of marketing?"

I felt like the cross-legged guru on the mountaintop asked the meaning of life.

"This is the great marketing question," I said trying to sound wise. "In my two decades studying this discipline I've discovered one definitive answer. I've reduced it to two words…"

All eyes were on me, pens poised.

"It depends."

The audience groaned.

"Seriously." I said. "If there were one overwhelming choice, everyone would do it. Then it would cease to be the most cost-effective."

If you've never formally studied marketing, consider my next few tips a primer. If you have, consider them an offbeat overview of promotion.

Let's start with a brief definition of terms.

There are 4 P's in marketing: product, place, price and promotion. I won't get into the first three. My focus is promotion (and any aspect of product, place and price that affects promotion).

Promotion is all the activities designed to communicate an image or message to your clients and prospects. There are four tactics within promotions that I call APPS. Advertising, Public Relations, Promotions and Selling.

Helping clients orchestrate each of these promotional elements to create a focused, consistent and successful Marketing Program is my firm's mission.

In future tips I'll try to cover each tactic, the tools they rely on and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Meantime, meditate on the meaning of "Cost-effective." Is your overriding objective to reduce costs or increase effectiveness?

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How Often....

Yesterday, PJ and I played "Alpha Bug Soup". It's a funny, offbeat
educational game that teaches pre-reading skills. He's already
mastered it. So, this time I used two dice to create a challenge
and drill him on addition.

As I watched him play, I realized good advertising is a lot like
this children's game: it's creative, engaging, -- and most
importantly educational. There is a lot of educational theory
used in advertising. But today, I'll just focus on the simplest
aspect: repetition.

Most basic knowledge is learned by rote: from the elementary
ABC's and times tables to the the more sophisticated periodic
table of elements and MBA formulas. These things need to be
repeated often to be committed to memory. PJ has played "Alpha
Bug Soup" dozens of times to learn the skills.

Repetition is just as important in advertising.

We want prospects and customers to commit our brand and USM
to memory. That's why frequency and continuity are the counter-
balance to reach in a sound advertising media plan.

Last tip, I noted that reach is the unduplicated number of targets
who are exposed to a media vehicle.

However, focusing on reach alone is dangerous. You could reach
millions of people with an ad once -- like during the Super Bowl.
But, if you never repeat your message again, it's wasted money.
(Just ask any of the dozen dot coms who advertised once in the
2002 or 2003 Super Bowl and are no longer in business.)

Frequency and continuity are different, yet related concepts.
Frequency is the average number of times your target audience
could see or hear your ad. Continuity is the pattern of repetition
planned in your ad schedule.

Let me risk oversimplifying to clarify. One of my clients is doing a
radio blitz this quarter on stations with 3 distinctive formats: news,
talk, and music. Frequency is basically the number of times he runs
the spots -- be it at 3 a.m., noon or 5 p.m. Continuity is the planned
scheduling of the spots so that the same people hear them repeated.

For instance, I usually listen to news radio on my way in to work and
music on my way home. If he ran his spots five times a week in the
am on news radio, I'd probably recall it, However if he ran them
morning, afternoon and overnight, I might never hear them or at
least not remember it. The same is true in print media. That's why
some advertisers pay a premium for guaranteed placement, like
running opposite a specific column.

Advertising is not a one shot deal. In fact, There's a century-old
explanation that reads, in part: "The first time a man looks at an
advertisement, he does not see it... The fifth time, he reads it...
The fourteenth time he remembers he has wanted such a thing
for a long time... The twentieth time he sees [the ad], he buys."
For the entire quotation and source, go to

Running too infrequently is inadequate. Running ads too often is
overkill. What's optimum? That answer, my friend, requires that
you contract my services.

I've got to run. PJ wants to play UNO this morning. My bigger
challenge is he wants to learn chess. Guess I'd better brush up
before I'm beat by a kindergartner! (Now that would be an interesting
illustration for a marketing tip!)

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


If you call me today, I apologize if I shout at you. I took my brother
to a U2 concert for his birthday this week. Everything still seems a
little muffled.

Other than finding I'm getting a little too old for rock concerts, I
also found some savvy marketing.

At one point, Bono asked the audience to turn on their cell phones.
He commented on how the United Center, it's 20,000 seating capacity
almost at maximum, looked like the Milky Way. Then a message on
the large screen asked us to text message our names to a number in
support of the anti-poverty campaign. Later in the concert a
message appeared on the screen "Thank you for supporting"
and began scrolling the text messaged names while Bono sang "One".

What had Bono done?

He had etched the website and message into our minds. He
had got thousands of people to commit by text messaging their
names. Then he cemented a commitment to be a part of
by underscoring the names with his emotional unity song. I also i
magine he collected contacts that ONE will follow-up with.

All this by using very few words and a lot of emotion.

In this case, good marketing is simple. Focused. Memorable.

It rings true. It's not overly pushy or brassy. It builds a brand by
being straightforward and sincere.

And above all, I think Bono would say, it's not schmaltzy. How
does your marketing measure up?

Excuse me, I've got to run. The phone's ringing. Or is that my ears?

- Phil Sasso

Monday, September 25, 2006

Searching 4U...

What search engine do you use?

Most people only use a few search engines. About 44% of all online Americans use only one and 48% use 2 or 3, according to Pew Internet ( Only 7% use more than three search engines. More than 84% of US Internet users have done an online search (that's about 108 million people) and on any given day, about 56% of us use a search engine to find something (55% admit half is trivial and half is important to them), says Pew. So it makes sense to make search engine marketing part of your web strategy. There's two kinds: paid and organic.

What's that mean?

Paid search means signing up to put your ad at the top or side of the search results. You can look into Google (, Overture ( or any of a dozen others. But those two are at the top of the heap. The cost is generally a performance-based, pay-per-click model. Google, for instance, asks for from $.05 to $100 USD per click thru -- whatever you're comfortable spending. The amount you pay obviously influences the number of times you appear. To avoid going overboard, you can cap your budget at a certain dollar amount per day. (Which I strongly suggest!)

Searching for the best search engine to advertise on? I suggest you put your name on the top of the top search engine: Google. The interface is simple and the price is right. But, more important, you'd reach more potential prospects than any other. In fact, the brand has become part of the American vernacular: "Google it!"

- Phil Sasso

Friday, September 22, 2006


Let me state the obvious: Fuel prices are too darned high.

Part of the overpricing here in Chicago is a special, legislated "Green Blend" gas.

An automotive client explained the technical details to me. The blend is called E10. Basically, it's 10% ethyl alcohol. Because ethanol burns slightly cleaner than gas, the blend reduces harmful emissions slightly. That's good.

Then my client made me think. He explained the alcohol is made by distilling corn mash. In most cases, they distill it by burning a petroleum product -- gas, oil -- or worse coal. The end result? In many cases the total output of harmful emissions over the entire PROCESS is equal to-- or in many cases more -- than running our cars on straight gasoline. That's bad.

Not debating the validity of my client's claim, there's a marketing lesson here.

Often when we look at the effectiveness of advertising, we tend to measure one metric rather than look at the entire process.

For example, an ad in one publication generates more leads than another so we put more money in that ad or publication. We rarely analyze how many leads actually buy anything. Or if these leads take more of a salesperson's time to close. Or how much they spend.

Remember: not all the influence of advertising can be directly measured. But by measuring what we can, we avoid wasting a lot of money trying to do what seems good only to find it is actually not doing all that it promises to.

What's your advertising really costing you?

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Picture is Worth.....

A picture is worth 1,000 words. No where is this more true than in PR.

Editors are more likely to use a news release if it has a good photo. So, to get more placements just include a photo, right?


The key phrase here is a GOOD photo. Editors tell me they get a LOT of photos – blurry ones, ugly ones, self-serving ones. Most editors prefer professional photos -- or better yet hi-res. digital images. Our allows editors to download the text of entire news releases and high resolution images in seconds. It makes their job easier and streamlines the production process.

Another benefit of photos is, when published, they get more readership which translates into a greater response rate.

Why? Photos attract people’s attention more than words alone. Notice what you find yourself drawn to the next time you're reading a newspaper or magazine. Chances are the photo or graphic grabbed you.

Wow! I said all that in just 155 words!

-Phil Sasso

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"The proof is in the pudding"

Where does a phrase like that come from? It first appeared as "The proof of pudding is in the eating" in Cervantes 1615 comic novel Don Quixote. Today, our version means "what counts are the results".

Nowhere is that more true than in advertising. In advertising, it's what drives sales that counts.

Years ago, a trade journal publisher lent me his confidential Reader Service Card (RSC) log to study successful ads. My goal was to find the best "pudding recipe" to increase ad effectiveness.

My premise: the best real-world measure of an ad's results is inquiries. The more leads, the more effective the ad. You may believe sales is a better measure, but closing leads is not an ad's job.

So, I studied the top ads -- the ones that generated the most RSCs. At first, there was no obvious pattern. Size didn't matter. Color's influence was slight. The page placement was insignificant. I was stumped.

Then I closely looked at each ad itself. The biggest difference was in the smallest details. It was in the headline, the message, the offer, and the call-to-action. The best ads communicated focused and meaningful unique selling message. The design made the message clearer. The design drew attention without being distracting. The writing and creativity made the brand and selling point memorable.

Today I still use the techniques I learned to design results-driven ads. Want my secret recipe?

Come on. What smart chef would give you his secret, prize-winning pudding recipe. If you want to sample the results, you'll have to come to my restaurant. Try my services. Measure the results. Judge for yourself.

After all the proof is in the pudding.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Channel Surfing...

When in my 20's I remember bringing my car back to a Goodyear dealer because a portion of steelbelting was protruding from the sidewall. They swapped my spare and told me to come back that evening. When I returned, my wheel -- and a bill -- were waiting for me...

"That'll be $43.50," the counterman said.

"Huh? There's only a few thousand miles on these. What about the warranty?"

"Not covered by the warranty. It's bad driving practices," he said.

"Bad driving? I haven't been driving on the sides of my tires!" I responded.

The dealer obviously wanted to avoid getting stuck with a warranty job.

Today, Goodyear is in a bad slump. The once over-achieving tire reseller network of the 70's and 80's is faltering according to December's Business 2.0. The reason? The article says: Distribution Conflict or what I call Channel Cannibalism.

That's when a manufacturer pits one distribution channel against another. Like selling direct. In this case, the problem is the pricing structure. Until recently, Business 2.0 says, some smaller Goodyear dealers could actually pay more for tires wholesale than Sears charged retail. And dealer fill rate is as low as 50%. Yet, dealers were expected to honor warranties and recalls.

Goodyear's story is a good example of bad channel management. But, to be fair, it's a tough balancing act for any manufacturer: courting the big guys while keeping the little ones happy.

One solution for a manufacturer is to provide more advertising and training support to smaller specialty or exclusive dealers. This allows the smaller shops to compete with more focused marketing and better customer service.

If you're a small retailer, you need to push for co-op ad dollars, signage, manufacturer training and/or exclusive lines.

How did I resolve my problem with Goodyear? I called corporate and got the dealer to waive the cost. (I was young, not stupid.)

- Phil Sasso

Monday, September 18, 2006

Think Small...

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

"Can I help?" asked the owner. (I assume few customers just browse in his 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) is still all the buzz in marketing these days. It's all about using technology and databases to do exactly what that good small town merchant does. Get to know the customer.

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 ending. 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 'Vette 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, one of my suppliers specializes in it.

And the internet expands the envelope with personalized emails and websites.

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

By the way, let me know if you need anything.

-Phil Sasso

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pack Age...

Last week, when vacationing in Southwest Wisconsin, we followed
simple, hand-painted signs around a long, curving country road to
an Amish farm to buy maple syrup.

I find the Amish intriguing. The simple lifestyle challenges me to
consider what life was like a hundred years ago. In my case, it makes
me wonder what marketing looked like. I imagine my life would have
been a lot different...

"Hello Phillip. I need a sign to advertise eggs," my client would say
stomping dust from his boots as he entered my workshop.

"O.K. Jacob. What kind of eggs?' I'd reply.

"Chicken eggs," he'd retort looking at me sideways. "What'cha
expect? Cow eggs?"

"What makes them different? What grade are they? What size are
they? Are they brown or white? Do they have double yolks? Are they
organic? Can I design new packaging for them? " I'd say becoming
passionate. "How can we differentiate them and help you gain
market share?"

"They're not all that," Jacob might say. "Eggs is eggs. And they already
got a package. It's called a shell. Phillip. are you feelin' O.K?"

At this point I imagine Jacob going for the doctor.

We've come a long way. Actually, although the art and science of
marketing has come a long way, some marketers are still nearly as
primitive. They fail to understand the need to really analyze each
aspect of the product and promotion to produce the best marketing

Back at the Amish home, Emma brings Beth a big jug of all-natural
organic Maple Syrup. I expect a glass jug maybe with a cork stopper.
Instead she hands Beth a cheap plastic bottle with FDA-approved
Nutritional Labeling and a tiny address label stuck on it.

The address label was a nice touch. Otherwise, I was disillusioned.

I guess sometimes things look much more romantic in your imagination.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hoop Dreams....

PJ challenged me to a game of hoops one day this weekend. He reminded me that focus usually wins over raw energy in athletics -- and in marketing.

Actually, before you think I fancy myself an athlete, the game was a tiny plastic "finger free throw" toy. The object of the game is to get as many baskets in 30 seconds as possible.

PJ is fast. He can flick almost 30 attempts in that half minute. When it was my turn. I tried to beat his speed, but could get nowhere near as fast. Then, I realized he made fewer than half his attempts. If I could just increase my precision, I could win. And I did… eventually.

I invested more in each shot and got better results. The same is true in marketing. Some marketers think that by throwing a bunch of disjointed ideas at a marketing problem something will stick. Others think shear force can increase market share and grow sales. Sometimes it can. Often it can't.

Like in basketball, nothing beats focus: an on-target message and clear-cut strategy.

For instance, Apple's iPod is an unqualified success. They own about 70% of the MP3 player market. It's not because Apple is an audio company. They historically are a computer technology company. It's not because they invented MP3 players. The now defunct Rio was on the market in 1998, long before the iPod. It's not because of a huge ad budget. Sony can afford a lot more spending on personal audio.

They’re the leaders because of their tight strategy. They didn't just make a player. They created a whole concept. A fashion statement. An intuitive interface. And a seamless experience including iTunes store -- a place to legally download everything from music to audio books to podcasts, and now movies.

But they didn't just sit back and enjoy their success. They've rolled out a carefully timed series of engineering innovations like the new razor-thin, color screen Nano. They even opened the engineering doors for 3rd parties to share their spoils by creating add-ons.

And there's no sign of the iPod's lead slowing.

So, while I towel off, ask yourself: "How can I better refine my marketing focus?"

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Six Touches...

You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating: It takes at least six touches to turn a prospect into a customer.

That means a prospect needs to be "touched" by you half a dozen times before they will even consider buying your product or service.

Why is it that "Six Sticks"?

First, it's not some magic number. (In fact, I think its more about rhyme than reason.) No matter if it's five, six or seven, the number is an average. Some prospects will need 20 contacts, some only one. And it depends on your product, industry and the customer's brand knowledge. You could contact some prospects 60 times and not find a fit.

Where does this idea come from? The most interesting research credited with the statistic is a series of studies by a small Christian denomination: The Church of the Nazarene.

Their studies showed a visitor needed to be touched by church members seven times to feel welcomed and accepted.

In marketing, we're not talking about hugs and handshakes. We're talking about making an emotional or intellectual connection.

But the principal is the same. It takes contact to build a relationship. And in the marketing relationship it can be an ad, an article, a fax, an email, a letter or a phone call. What matters is that you keep in contact. No salesman should stop calling on a prospect after just one no. No ad should stop running if it doesn't work the first time.
So, keep in touch!

- Phil Sasso

Monday, September 11, 2006

Over Reaching....

At a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon, I reached across the table to get something for the person on my right. Unfortunately, I spilled the person on my left's drink all over the table (sorry Joel). Needless to say I was embarrassed.

I quickly jumped up to get extra napkins and a refill for my friend to fix the situation. However, it would have been better if I had not made the miscalculation in the first place.

I laughed it off.

But I've seen a lot of marketers who over reach with overly ambitious goals for their budget or timeline.

This is a lot harder to laugh off.

Marketing "over reach" can be running a bunch of ads over a short period and expecting instant results . Or worse, expecting huge results for a meager budget. It takes a lot of patience to wait for the results of an ad campaign.

Successful marketing takes a well thought-out balance of time and budget. An overnight success takes many long days to achieve. Having realistic objectives is key. Developing a solid strategy and committing to stick with that strategy is imperative. Being willing to commit the budget for the long run is what makes it all happen.

And just like I should have asked for help instead of overreaching, sometimes we need to look to someone else to help us get perspective and help us avoid over reaching.

When is the last time you saw an ad for a brand you never heard of and ran out and bought it? Trust is built over time.

Next time I'm at a table, I know I'll be more careful to judge if I'm over reaching. In fact, I'll probably ask the person next to me for help. It will help me save face -- and extra dry cleaning bills.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, September 08, 2006

On Sale...

"I ordered a new shirt for you today" Beth announced over dinner. "I think you'll like it. It'll look great with that new jacket I got you last Spring."

"Hmm..." was all I could say, My mouth full.

"Eddie Bauer had this great end of season sale. Everything online was 40% off outlet prices. Isn't that great?, I got you a new summer weight sports shirt, too. Like that green one you wear all the time"

Now I know Beth pretty well. She's very generous. But most likely, she's telling me about what she got me to soften the blow before she tells me what she bought herself.

I smiled, took a drink and tried to avoid sounding sarcastic.

"I hope you got something for yourself, too."

She smiled and nodded.

"And that was?"

"Just a pair of shoes," she smiled. She's so good at disarming me.

"Another pair of shoes?!" I blurted out. "I mean, oh that's nice another pair of shoes. Who was that leader in the Phillipines with all the shoes in the 80's. Marcos?

"Phil, calm down, they were 40% off outlet,' she said filling my glass for me.

Needless to say, I couldn't make my wife walk around barefoot while I parade around in a new shirt, could I?

Since I make a living in marketing, it's hard for me to begrudge a good marketer for doing their job well.

This particular technique is the "BIG SALE.' Whatever creative "Blow-Out, End-of-Season, Extravaganza" name you call it by, it's purpose is to bump up sales during a historically slow period.

Want to pre-empt your competition during off-peak periods? Hold a "BIG SALE".

It can help you boost sales during a certain day part (Red Eye Specials), day of the week (Wacky Wednesday), or time of year (March Madness). However you package it, an off-peak sale can capture dollars customers otherwise wouldn't spend with you. Doesn't matter if you sell stilettos or industrial drill bits -- off-peak discounting can help you level out slow periods.

So reward your customers for helping you manage cash flow. Like with a new shirt or something.

-Phil Sasso

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turning Yellow...

This weekend, PJ and I watched Veggie Tales together. I love Veggie
Tales -- if you haven't seen one, it's a 3D cartoon series starring a
cast of vegetables. The art is excellent. The writing is hilarious. And
the messages are solid. The lesson of our video: "You don't have to be
afraid to do what's right." A lesson I had to live out just yesterday.

I told my client not to advertise.

It was a waste of her money. (Ironic coming from an ad agency, huh?)
And it took a little convincing to get her not to advertise. But, in
good conscious, I couldn't watch her waste her money.

The fee for my recommendation: nothing. Zero. Nada.

Let me clarify before you jump to conclusions...

She had called me about the design of her yellow page ad. She'd
moved to a new location last year. When I thought about the huge
competing ads and the much larger ad cost in her new market, I
realized she had two choices: buy a much bigger ad, or not advertise
at all. By my calculations, for the bigger ad to pay for itself, it would
need to generate an unrealistic number of new customers. I
recommended she just get the free listing. She could use her Yellow
Page budget for something else.

Then I got to thinking about Yellow Page ads. I don't think they work
for most business-to-business professional services, either. My
rationale? Of the approximately 773 Ad Agencies and 255 Public
Relations firms listed in the Chicago Business-to-Business phone book
there are only two display ads. One for an ad agency and one for a PR
firm. So, if the professionals who make their living on marketing
communications don't advertise in The Book, what's that tell you about
it's effectiveness? Don't get me wrong some professionals MUST be in
the yellow pages: attorneys, doctors, electricians, plumbers and the
like. But there's no reason to do it just because everyone else is. My
point is: don't let yourself be bullied into doing something that isn't
right for you.

By the way, I just found out I'm not listed in the Yellow Pages at all
-- I didn't even get my free listing. (I am on and if you
Google "Phil Sasso" I'm at the top of the list.)

So, if you need to get in touch with me, you can reach me at 874.451.2246

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I stood in the store aisle overwhelmed with snack decisions. Did I want
candy? Chips? Nuts? I'd skipped lunch. I was pretty hungry. What would
hold me over? I studied labels.

I could get an ounce more Whatchamacallit for the same price as a
Snickers bar.

But I'd never had a Whatchamacallit. What if it wasn't any GOOD? It
could just be more empty calories and I'd still be hungry.

I chose the Snickers. The package promised: "It's so satisfying."

But this tip isn't about packaging. It's about comparing options.
Media options.

In advertising, most ad agencies compare print media by studying
CPM (Cost Per Thousand). I think it's a bean-counter's measurement.
It shows what you're paying to reach a thousand pair of eyeballs.
Eyeballs that may never even look at your ad. Or may not care what
you're selling.

To be fair, CPM can analyze a readership demographic against your
target market. So, if your target market is auto repair shop owners,
it can tell you how much you're paying to reach them verses
technicians. So it's not like comparing candy bars with chips.

But CPM can't measure intangibles -- like is it any GOOD? Does it
get READ? How LOYAL are readers? How RESPONSIVE are readers?

That's the kind of insight you get from a specialized ad agency. As
experts in a field, we understand the marketplace. We know the
publications -- not just the formulas. We actually READ these
publications. We talk to their readers. And we know what works.
And what doesn't.

Is your ad agency looking beyond the numbers? Perhaps it's time
tolook for something more "satisfying". If so, you know how to
reach me.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

High Tech "Hi" Touch...

Got an interesting call at home yesterday. It went something like this:

"Hi This is Christy from the Chicago Tribune. I'd like to thank you for your new subscription. "

"You're welcome," I said.

"If you ever have any problems with your subscription, please call us at 1-800-TRIBUNE."

"Thanks," I replied.

"And I'd also like to urge you to sign up for the Tribune's Subscriber Advantage by going to"

"I think my wife already signed up" I said

"Subsriber Advantage is free. And it offers you specials and discounts at a variety of..."

"Can I interrupt you a moment?" I asked.

"area merchants..."



"Christy?! Hello!!!"

"and events."

She was a recorded message. I hate broadcast messages. Except this one. He voice was real and genuine, not too polished and not too scripted. And because her only purpose was to thank me and promote a free service, I wasn't offended. In fact, I was relieved that it wasn't a sales call and that I didn't have to reject her. She sounded very nice.

I think it was ad pioneer Claude Hopkins that said: "Advertising is salesmanship in print." Today that would probably best be stated as "Advertising uses technology as a salesperson."

Anyone in personal selling knows the importance of follow-up. In this case it would be outrageously expensive to pay someone to thank every new subscriber. This solution was even cheaper than mailing a generic postcard -- and felt much more personal.

Using a "hi-tech" method to create a "hi-touch" experience was very clever. Automating the process made sure everyone would be thanked in a uniform way. And the script and the voiceover talent was perfect. So perfect I didn't even realize it was a recording. If I had I may have hung up in the first few seconds and missed the point.

How can you use technology to cost-effectively automate part of your selling process? Could it help you more effectively pre-qualify, take orders or follow-up? And how can you make your use of technology seem more personal and less mechanical?

By the way, thanks for reading my tips. If I can ever be of service, please email

- Phil Sasso

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Education In Value...

Beth will probably kill me for telling this story, but here goes:

We were at a friends' home for brunch over the weekend. Their daughter's placemat is a laminated "photo gallery" of US Presidents. Beth noticed it first:

"That's cute," Beth said. "PJ has a place mat of the United States. He loves it. And I just got one exactly like yours. I tease Phil that it's for him."

"Yeah, Elizabeth really likes it," Debbie responded. "And it was only 69 cents at Walmart."

"How much did you pay?" I interjected looking at Beth.

"I think it was 69 cents, wasn't it Mark?" Debbie replied looking at her husband.

"Beth just bought the exact same placemat for $3.50 at a high-end educational toy store." I glanced at the manufacturers name and laughted. Beth didn't.

I won't get into all the teasing that went on the rest of the night.

The marketing point is that Beth BOUGHT the placemat for five times more than Debbie. And Beth thought she got a good deal -- at the time. That's probably because of the impression the toy store created. It made the placemat seem more educational than functional.

Now, I'm not suggesting you quintuple your prices. I'm not even suggesting you double them. But I do encourage you to ask if you are maximizing your profitability.

Many of my clients feel their product is exactly the same as the competition. In some cases, it really is. So, what can you do to provide your customers with greater value -- without a big cost increase to you? A complimentary consultation? A more comfortable shopping environment? Educational literature? A small gift? A coupon book? A lifetime warranty?

Stretch your imagination -- and your profits.

- Phil Sasso