Thursday, December 17, 2009

REMIX: Brats up!

My workload is over-the-top this week -- but I don't want you to miss me. So, here's a REMIX of a 2006 marketing tip...

"Have you had lunch yet?" Beth called to ask me from her cell phone.

"No. Why?" I responded.

"You've got to see this," she said. "Johnsonville has their 'World's
Largest Grill' parked in Tony's parking lot. It's a whole semi-truck
with grills from end to end."

"Sounds nice, but I'm a little busy," I retorted, not sure I really needed
to see the World's Largest Grill.

"They're selling a brat or Italian sausage, chips and a drink for two
dollars," she continued.

So, purely in the name of research, I took my stomach to the nearby
independent grocer to study event marketing (also known as experiential
marketing) first hand.

It was a fun, well-planned event. The boldly branded trailer-turned-
grill was visibly parked near the busiest street. Proceeds benefited a
local church whose volunteers staffed the event. Full-color handouts
offered grilling tips and a $1 off coupon. And everyone was having fun.

It definitely created a memorable brand experience for me -- much
more memorable than the blue-haired sample lady in aisle 8. At a much
higher cost, too.

But Johnsonville's Grill transcends event marketing. Much like the
iconic Oscar Meyer Weinermobile or Goodyear Blimp of my youth,
it's non-traditional marketing at it's best.

As traditional advertising spending continues a slow decline,
non-traditional methods, like event marketing, is growing -- up 12%
from 2005 to 2006 according to a study by BlackFriar Communications
reported in August 2006 Entrepreneur magazine. [Note: In 2009 all ad
spending nosedived, but budgets are still shifting towards non-traditional advertising.)

And good event marketing stimulates a buzz beyond the event. Like
inspiring Beth to call me. Or me to write this tip.

Takeaway: Are you exploring experiential marketing and non-traditional
advertising? Or are you still doing what you've always done and expecting
different results? Make it a point to try something new in 2010. The
results may surprise you.

Friday, December 04, 2009


A long time ago my dad did something I'll never forget.

He felt the owner of a small auto repair shop had ripped him off by charging him hundreds of dollars for unneeded parts. My dad took the shop owner to small claims court, and won.

Dad invited me to the payoff in a restaurant parking lot. The owner wrote the check and handed it to my dad.

"I don't want your check," my dad said.

"Huh?" the owner responded. "I'm not paying you one red cent more!"

"I don't want your check," my dad repeated, "I want your apology."

After some hemming and hawing the owner apologized. And my dad tore up the check.

"I never want to hear you've done that to anyone else," my dad said handing him the pieces. The owner was dumbstruck.

That shop is no longer in business.

News reports abound lately about the lack of business and personal integrity. It's sad.

Mistakes happen. People fail. But it's how a person takes responsibility that defines them, not the failures.

Takeaway: What's your business policy on apologies? Sometimes taking responsibility and saying your sorry can go a long way to maintaining a business relationship. And your integrity.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What's at Steak...

For some reason a lot of my marketing analogies have to do with food. (Maybe that says something!)

Recently, I went to an Outback steakhouse when I was out of town. I asked my waiter for a recommendation. He said I might like the 20 oz. porterhouse. If I was really hungry they had something like a 32 oz. So I ordered the 20 oz. It was good. I was stuffed and satisfied until he brought me the check. I looked at the table next to me and watched their waiter bring them this luscious dessert.

I didn't think of dessert. I really didn't want any. But I felt jilted by the waiter for not bringing me the dessert menu or even asking me if I was interested. And I wasn't going to make a stir about dessert. I just paid my check and left.

That waiter did both himself and me a disservice. I lost out on a great dessert. The waiter lost out on a bigger tip on a bigger tab. And I left feeling strangely dissatisfied.

This is rare in the restaurant business since offering dessert is usually an integral part of wait staff training. But it happens a lot in other selling situations where a salesperson fails to ask all the right questions to complete the sale.

Takeaway: Are you asking every question and closing every sale completely? Or are you leaving out the extras that will be more satisfying to both you and your customer? How much of upselling and cross-selling do you cover in sales training?

Friday, November 13, 2009

System Fault

I don't try to be controversial. Sometimes I just can't help it.

I'll get to the point: The current sales management system in most
companies stinks.

Here's how it usually works:

You are hired for a sales job because you're a good talker. But the most
successful salespeople are good listeners.

You get a lot of training on your product but little training on sales.
(Most sales people know their product. The best are good listeners and persuasive.)

Despite everything working against you, you succeed at sales and are promoted to sales manager. But being a good salesperson doesn't mean you necessarily know how to manage or motivate people.

And my personal pet peeve...

You're so good at sales management you are promoted to VP of Sales & Marketing or a similar position. But you don't feel you know enough about advertising, public relations or promotions. You really just want to sell. So you outsource your ad, PR and promo work to a company like Sasso Marketing.

Basically, you are overwhelmed, overworked and overstressed.

Instead, what if we rewarded good salespeople with bigger bonuses and let them keep selling; hired good managers to manage sales; and hired marketers to manage marketing?

Takeaway: Sales, Marketing and Management are different disciplines. Some people are good at all three. Most of us are not.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ask Why....

It never hurts to ask.

Toyota uses a "5 Whys" problem solving process. In a nutshell, it works
like this: to isolate a production problem, managers are taught to ask
"why" at least five times. In the end, by digging deeper, a better
resolution can usually be uncovered.

The same thing works in sales. Here's an example:

Prospect: We can't afford to advertise this year.

Salesperson: Why?

Prospect: We don't have the money.

Salesperson: Why?

Prospect: Sales are down.

Salesperson: Why?

Prospect: The economy is down.

Salesperson: Why?

Prospect: Nobody is buying anything.

Salesperson: Why?

Prospect: I don't know -- because nobody is advertising?

O.K. I'm being a little simplistic and self-serving here. (You don't need
to drill your prospect with “whys" like a robot.) But by asking several
clarifying questions, you might just get to the root of the real
objection, or the real problem.

Just be aware the purpose of this as a question-centered sales process is
not to be tricky or to "lead" your customer. It's to clearly ask questions
that help you and/or the prospect see the underlying issue.

Toyota is a leading company, in part, due to this simple yet powerful
questioning technique.

Takeaway: What can you gain from this process? What else? Why? Why? Why?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sole Sponsor...

Bud Light's new Golden Wheat beer was the sole sponsor of last week's Saturday Night Live. I know that because SNL made a special point of announcing that near the beginning of the program

Although there were local spots, Bud Light Golden Wheat was the only national advertiser.

Sole Sponsorship can be a benefit to both the advertiser and the media outlet.

The advertiser gains the unique position of being the only brand recognized across a publication, website or TV/Radio broadcast.

Not only does that mean you get more mentions, there are no other brand names to clutter the audience's mind. Look at me for example. I recalled the sponsor's product immediately.

That's not to say it makes more sense to buy a two-page ad in one issue of a magazine verses half page ads over four months.

It makes sense only if you are the sole sponsor.

The media benefits not only by only having to sell one advertiser, but being able to focus on that advertiser and give them customized service.

And sometimes it's easier to sell one big ad package than a bunch of small ads.

A few years back, I suggested sole sponsorship for a newsletter for a chamber of commerce I was on the board of.

Most people at the meeting didn't get it. They couldn't sell $50 business card ads, who would buy a $500 sponsorship.

Someone who wanted to get a lot of attention, that's who. And it worked. We had a sponsor signed up for the first issue within a few days and another one right behind them.

Takeaway: Standing out often requires a bold move. Being a sole sponsor can get your brand recognized and remembered in a way no other opportunity can.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Small Advantage...

I find it interesting how much bad service we'll let big companies get away with. Here's just a few good and bad examples from this week:

• Yesterday, I called my local phone company about a DSL issue. After sucking up my time running me thru a phone labyrinth, they put me in touch with PAID tech support. I hung up and tried again. I got disconnected this time. I finally found someone who helped.

* Earlier this week, Beth approached me with a $50 VISA gift card that PJ got for a birthday. The front said "good thru 8/10" but when I checked the balance, the issuing bank had already begun deducting $2.50 a month for non-use -- the card is now worth $35 (That in addition to the $4.95 it indicates that the giver paid to buy the card!) Daily calls to the issuing bank have gone unreturned.

* Calling my website hosting company this week, they told me my request was unsupported. But they helped me anyway. They're a small division of a huge company. And they care.

It seems big companies are making money on PAID tech support for and by robbing 10-year-old kids. And small companies are doing more than they need to. Sad.

In my mind, that means small and mid-size companies have a "small advantage" -- the big advantage of being small. Every customer matters.

Takeaway: In your sales and marketing, make a big deal about being small. Tell your customers why you care about their business. Make a fuss over them. People like to know you care.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Blast It...

I got an annoying political call the other night.

"Hi. I'm Dan Proft the conservative choice for Illinois governor..."

"Dan?" I interrupted "I'm in the middle dinner right now, can you call back."

"In the face of recent Illinois corruption..."

I tried to stop him several times but he just kept rambling -- then I realized it was a robocall, an outgoing pre-recorded message.

I hate robocalls. Usually. But I don't mind thank you or reminder robocalls, like one I got a year or so back:

"Hi. This is Suzie from the Chicago Tribune. I just wanted to thank you for your renewal subscription and remind you that you can subscribe to free email news alerts at".

Robocalls can be a good way to provide better customer service -- but avoid doing anything that sounds like you're selling. Effective September 1, you could get slapped with a $16,000 fine by the FTC if you send a sales robocall to someone who did not give your written approval.

But use robocalls with discretion. Just remember, it may be legal, but it could be annoying to many customers, so ask before you even consider adding their number to your robocall list.

Takeaway: Robcalls can be a cost-effective customer service tool. But don't use them to sell. Not only can they be irritating, they're now illegal.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Social Media is all the rage. It's part of what we marketers brand with the hip moniker "Web 2.0"

But let me be honest: From a business-to-business marketing point of view, usually it just doesn't work.

When is the last time you looked up the Facebook page for your printer manufacturer?

Do you follow the local carpet cleaning business on Twitter?

Would you read a blog from your mechanic?

Even if these businesses could create a compelling story for these social media it laughable to think that the average person would waste their time looking at it.

Social media is about people: connecting with old friends, communicating with business associates, and/or networking. It's not about selling boring everyday products

And the business that invests in maintaining all this stuff faces one more problem: timesuck. That's what author Scott Fox calls the hours and hours that can be wasted keeping all this business social media current. Mostly with no measurable return on all that time invested.

Takeaway: Don't get caught up in the Business Social Media fad. It has no real value to most businesses. Even if you have practical advice to disseminate, it's like whispering into the wind if you can’t garner a following. So, unless you're Ashton Kutcher, don't think Tweeting is going to make a difference. It won't sell more technical components, tools or equipment. And it could suck a lot of your time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nothing Up My Sleeve....

Print advertising reminds me of a card trick.

I'm not saying marketing is magic. Or that advertising is about trickery. Far from it.

In fact, I think advertising is one of the few professions that's virtually transparent.

If you're a keen observer (think Sherlock Holmes), you can study successful advertising as your textbook. That's because there are few advertising secrets. (Don't get me wrong. I don't mean it's easy. Or there aren't "tricks" of the trade. Or that anyone can become a writer or designer. But the basics are just -- obvious.)

How can I say that? Look at any successful ad. Nothing's hidden. You don't have to reverse engineer it to figure out how it works. It's all there for the world to see.

Every successful ad stands on the shoulders of every successful ad before it. But not every ad is successful. And I guess that's what makes the learning curve so steep. Just because a company is wildly successful doesn't mean all their advertising is.

So, first you need to know what ads work. Then, you need to figure out why. Look closely. How do the images, headline, copy and layout work together? What's the message? What makes it memorable? Why does a prospect want to take the next step?

And, like a card trick, sometimes it's not what you see but what you don't see. More on that in another marketing tip...

Takeaway: What can you learn from your biggest competition's ads? From ads for a similar product? From ads in a totally unrelated industry?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

U2, Andy

You may have missed my marketing tip the last two weeks. You may have not.

But I know Andy Kopp missed me. That's because he emailed to tell me.

I'm fortunate. Someone noticed. In a 2007 tip I touched on the importance of advertising continuity to keep your brand on top of a prospect's mind. The same goes for personal selling.

Most customers and prospects won't take the time to tell you they missed your ads or your sales calls They'll just forget you.

In this age of technology, there is no excuse for being out of touch. You can automate calling, faxing, texting, or emailing your contacts.

In fact, with a service like Constant Contact you can email all your contacts and measure the results for a nominal cost. (Click on the ad on the right for a free 30-day trial of Constant Contact.)

But the technology doesn't work by itself. Someone still needs to generate the contact.

I suggest you keep an electronic file of information you'd like to share with contacts. Then, on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) email your contact list a personal note. Tell them about a sale, a new product, or give them a link you think they'll find of interest. With Constant Contact, you can personalize each email and you'll get a report telling you how many people opened your email, who they are, and what links in your email they clicked.

You can even schedule your emails weeks in advance. In case you're on vacation or too busy, like I was the last week and the week before.

Sorry. I'll try better to keep in touch.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


It's easy to overlook typos & misspellings. Here's why:

"Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe." - source unknown

Snopes is "undetermined" on if the research exists. But the paragraph proves it's point.

Our brain can gloss over mistakes.

Takeaway: Proof all your marketing materials. Then ask someone else to double check it for you.

Here's the next postcard in our promotional series:
(Don't tell me if there's a typo. It's too late!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

R E S P E C T....

More than 400 Chicago city workers lost their jobs last week. This is because two unions out of more than 20 chose not to make concessions.

Chicago's Mayor Daley is the ugly face of the layoffs. Politics aside, I respect him. He is willing to take the heat for the layoff decision -- even if it was a staff member's recommendation.

But, I have no idea who the union leaders are. I didn't see them standing in the spotlight taking responsibility. I guess it's human nature. But human nature often runs counter to character.

More marketers need to be responsible. They need the character Daley exhibited.

We like to buy from people we like. But we must trust and respect them.

As a salesperson or marketer, are you willing to take the heat? What do you do when a product or service fails? Do you take responsibility -- or do you pass the buck?

Nobody is perfect. Problems arise. It's how we deal with those problems that makes the difference.

Takeaway: Character counts. If you take responsibility, respect will follow. Sales are just the side effect.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I've worn glasses since I was three.

I rarely even realize I'm wearing them.

Until recently.

I'm getting to be "that age". Now, when reading, I find myself looking around my glasses.

It's time to consider either separate reading glasses -- or (gasp) bifocals.

It's not the learning curve of bifocals. It's pride. I want to hold out on getting "old".

With today's technology, no one would ever know. But I would.

The same thing sometimes happens in marketing.

We'd rather not see changes, so we resist admitting to them.

But things change. Customers. Products. Marketing. Media.

Just as I am being foolish looking under my glasses than getting a working pair, marketers can be equally foolish by not changing with the times.

Takeaway: Times change. Are you?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

What Was It...?

I'm swamped this week.

So, instead of an object lesson, I have a history lesson.

Here's a famous 1958 McGraw-Hill ad...

It reads:

“I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now — what was it you wanted to sell me?”

MORAL: Sales start BEFORE your salesman calls.

Takeaway: As true today as it was in 1958 -- advertising pays.

[By the way, see the next ad in my direct mail series...]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ground Crew...

My marketing tip last week hit a raw nerve.

My point was: putting your advertising in a holding pattern because of the recession is dangerous -- if a plane circles too long it will run out of gas.

Let's look at that more this week...

One reader pointed out the impact on others: "Take too long to land and the ground crew may go home. And who wants to land at an abandoned airport?"

Another angle was: The media people can only spend what they have: "Buy from us, so we can buy from them so they can buy from you."

Another: Why does a retailer that doesn't advertise always advertise their going out of business sale? (How about a "Going Out FOR Business" sale?)

And finally: Advertising is on sale today. Stock up.

Takeaway: The longer you wait to resume ad spending, the greater the potential long term damages.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Holding Pattern...

My office is a few miles from O'Hare Airport.

PJ loves it. I do, too. It’s fun driving past the airport watching the long line of planes queued up in the sky waiting to land. (It looks like a huge connect-the-dot puzzle.) When landing planes come so close you almost want to duck.

Exciting to watch things happening from the ground. Not so exciting if you're on a plane in a holding pattern.

And that seems to describe advertising today: in a holding pattern.

Jeff from New Equipment Digest used that plane analogy a while back. Then he took it a step further...

"If you stay in a holding pattern too long, eventually you run out of gas," he said.


Many marketers have slashed ad spending -- waiting for the recession to end. But the less they advertise, the less they sell. So, is less spending the solution? Or is it perpetuating the length and depth of this recession?

In fact, I'm so convinced advertising can change things that I'm launching an aggressive, targeted direct mail campaign for Sasso Marketing. [Here’s the first mailer in the series…)

Why not join me? Maybe if we all spend a little more on advertising we can make the economic recovery really take off.

Look around you: great ad deals are everywhere. Take advantage of one.

Takeaway: Advertising fuels sales. So, what happens when you run out of fuel?

Monday, June 15, 2009


One day a prospect called to ask for my help.

He launched into a long-winded spiel about owning two companies, the evolution of his businesses, and everything short of his life story.

I listened. And listened. And listened.

The more he talked, the more I realized he felt he needed to sell me on working for him. Red Flag One.

He told me what great work I did. He kept trying to flatter me. Red Flag Two.

He told me his product was so great he hardly needed to do any marketing. Red Flag Three.

He took a breath. I broke in.

"Thanks for thinking of me, but I can't help you."


Suddenly, he was speechless.

"I don't see a fit," I said.


"I don't think I can help you.' I explained. "I won't take a client if I don't think we'll both profit from the relationship."

He was stunned. Apparently no one had ever turned him down before.

Why would I turn away a customer?

Two reasons: One, I really didn't think I could help. Two, the more he talked, the more he unsold me. I realized if he felt he had to sell me on working for him. something was wrong: he was hard to work for, he had no money, or his product was flawed. Maybe nothing was wrong. but I didn't want to take the risk.

Not that he was dishonest. He sounded very honest and sincere. He just talked too much and said too little.

Takeaway: More words sometimes creates more doubts.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


When we were newlyweds, Beth made Thanksgiving dinner for my family.

To accommodate our Italian heritage, she made a side of pesto.

Hoping to surprise my father, she handed him the plate of pesto and penne.

My dad just stared at the green sauce on his pasta.

"What's this?"

"It's pesto," Beth replied.

"What nationality is that?" he asked.

"Uh, it's Italian, Dominic," she said.

"That's nothing Italian I've ever seen before," he replied.

Beth was heartbroken.

She assumed Italian was Italian. But my family is from Naples. Pesto is from Genoa. The difference is about 400 miles --and that's a world apart epicureanly.

We often make the same mistake in marketing. We tend to clump together like demographic groups assuming they're the same. That can lead to cultural insensitivity when dealing with ethnic groups, gender groups, geographic groups, age groups, and the like.

In fact, it even happens with occupations. You might assume "mechanics" work on cars. That's the wrong word. Mechanics work on heavy-duty trucks. Technicians work on cars. Some technicians find being called a mechanic insulting.

And not all technicians are the same. Some are driveability experts. Others work on brakes and suspension. Still others specialize in performance and racing. Each is very different. In fact, even the jargon they use is different.

Knowing the subtle differences can help you better connect to a culture or subculture. It can also help you identify under served niches and tailor your product and marketing to their special needs.

It’s kind of like knowing Neapolitans eat red sauce. And that they call it "gravy".

Takeaway: Cultural sensitivity can make or break a sale.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hoop Dreams...

My son, PJ, bought an indoor basketball hoop a few weeks back.

The promotional copy on the package proclaimed "Assembles in minutes."

"You'll have to put it together," Beth said. "I can't figure it out"

That should have been my first clue.

I snapped the hoop in place and screwed on the door-hanging brackets. "Halfway there," I thought. Wrong.

"Can we play with it dad?" asked PJ impatiently.

"In a minute," I said. "I just need to put on the net."

The instructions stopped short of attaching the net. Not a word. Not a picture.

"How hard can it be?" I thought.

Hard. Really hard.

I looped the net. It fell off. I squinted at the photo. Then tried to thread it, but some holes were not fully formed. I created a makeshift needle. It was a slow, tedious process and I quickly became impatient.

"Listen PJ," I said. "Let's just play with the hoop and I'll put on the net later."

When he was sleeping, I worked on it. The net was too small. I snapped off a couple eyes. After thirty minutes of easy-to-assemble this is all I had:

The ball didn't even fit through the net.

Frustrated, I emailed the company complaining that I expected more from an NBA-licensed product from a division of Russell. Three days later: No response. A week later. Nothing.

After 10 business days, I decided to call the 800# and complain.

My voice was tense. I was ready for a fight.

But I didn't need to be. The customer service rep patiently listened and offered to send me another kit. No questions asked. But they were out of stock so it could take about two or three weeks before I'd get the replacement. No problem. As long as it was on order.

Less than a week later, I got the replacement. It was much easier to assemble. And PJ was delighted. He even beat me in a couple games of one-on-one.

So, now I'm considering an outdoor hoop so I can show PJ some real moves. And I'll gladly consider a Huffy or Russell product.

Take Away: 1.) If you publish a corporate email address, check it faithfully and respond immediately.

2.) If a product doesn't "Assemble in minutes", don't pretend it does.

3.) When a customer calls to complain, your response could win or lose a customer for life. The more responsive you are, the better chance of keeping a customer's loyalty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


You've heard it before. Persistence pays. Sometimes.

Other times, you just become an annoyance. Or a noodge -- "One who persistently pesters, annoys, or complains."

According to some mysterious source I found cited all over the Internet:

2% of sales are made on the first contact

3% of sales are made on the second contact

5% of sales are made on the third contact

10% of sales are made on the fourth contact

80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

I don't know the source. And I haven't been able to validate it. But it rings true. Some of my best clients took close to a dozen contacts to turn into one sale. Once I made that first sale, the rest was easy.

So, if you want to close more sales, don't push harder. And don't sit back and hope they'll call you. Just keep in touch.

Takeaway: Never ever ever give up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Permission Slip: Seth Godin & The Permission Revolution...

Seth Godin's manifesto Permission Marketing was first published 10 years ago this week.

The book's premise is simple: traditional ads interrupt our lives. Permission Marketing asks your customers to opt-in to your ads. By getting their permission, you get their attention -- and that's more effective. (He tends to emphasize Internet marketing.)

Seth's work tends to be polarizing. This, his first book, was no exception.

If you subscribe to his premise, then traditional advertising is a waste.

I get him. But I don't buy into his argument. Sometimes we still need to be sold:

Example 1: I want to try KFC's new grilled chicken. I didn't opt-in. I just saw it on TV and started salivating.

Example 2: I get too much email from Eddie Bauer. I opted in to their list -- but it's still annoying.

Example 3: I skimmed my political mail before the April election. Most people didn't even know there was an election.

Example 4: I have life insurance because someone interrupted me to sell it. (Otherwise, I might still be uninsured.)

So, although I agree Permission Marketing is a powerful tool, without traditional sales and marketing, it falls far short of the mark.

Takeaway: Build opt-in databases. Use them. Just don't expect that to take the place of traditional branding.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Authenticity: Be Real And More Customers Will Listen

There's something about an authentic person that draws us to him or her.

I used to think the best salespeople were poised and polished.

They aren't. They're informed, confident and professional. But they're also real.

There's nothing fake about them. They're comfortable in their own skin.

One of the most authentic salespeople I've ever known was "Ralph".

Ralph was the real deal. He wasn't one person with customers and another with everyone else.

You might like him. You might hate him. But you respected him. He wasn't fake. He wasn't putting on a personality.

I don't even think he had a telephone voice. He just was who he was -- 24/7.

Ralph had a lot negative personality traits. He could be gruff, bullheaded and vocal. No one is perfect.

But you'd never accuse him of being inauthentic. You didn't feel he was trying to buddy up to you just to make a sale.

It's hard to trust inauthentic people. There's something disingenuous about them that makes us put up our guard.

We respect real people and prefer to buy from them.

Takeaway: Be real. Be genuine. Be yourself. And the sales will follow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Remember Me? Turn Old Customers Into New Ones...

Over the past week, I've gotten emails from a former boss, an old college classmate, a long lost acquaintance, and an extended family member. None of which I had heard from in years.

It was fun to hear from them -- mostly.

Most of them found me through LinkedIn [] (kind of Facebook for business).

Two of the four were job hunting.

Today, to get work, many people are relying on networking -- social networking online -- to find leads. Sometimes that means digging back. Way back.

In the same way, your customer database can help you dig deep.

You may not think of contacting old customers, or even recent customers. You may assume old customers have become disloyal or that recent customers already have your product and don't need to hear from you. But think again.

Old customers may be waiting for a welcome back and be glad to hear from you. (I would jump if my old phone company contacted me.) Recent customers may be a great source for referrals. Or maybe they're ready to step-up to your next level product or service. Or maybe they dropped and broke your tool and need another. Or maybe they want to buy one as a gift/ Who knows what they're thinking?

Let me remind you it is infinitely more cost-effective to keep in touch with new and old customers than to convert a prospect into a new customer.

An email or simple postcard mailing can go a long way to turning a business database into business.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some catching up to do...

Takeaway: Much in the same way it's easier to renew old friendships that to start new ones, it's easier to win business from existing and former customers.

Friday, April 17, 2009


My family vacationed in Galena, Illinois for a few days in the beginning of April.

Galena, a town of 3200 near the Iowa and Wisconsin borders, was Ulysses S. Grant's home. It’s full of history that predates Chicago (which is about150 miles east).

It's also a tourist trap.

Downtown Galena is row after row of folksy, historic storefronts carrying stuff I never knew I needed or wanted to overpay for.

It was off-season, so it was quiet. Sales were slow. That's when merchants need to be salespeople.

I was surprised by the lack of approachability of many shopkeepers. Oh everyone was nice -- most even friendly. But few were approachable.

One looked up from her book long enough to say “hi”. Another talked to a salesman the entire time we were there. One never greeted me at all.

But two impressed me with their approachability...

At a stationery store, Beth asked for a folding bone (a tool to manually score and fold cardstock). The owner spent several minutes looking, and then apologized sincerely for not finding one. You could sense her sadness.

At a popcorn store the owner greeted us with a handful of fresh caramel corn. He offered us samples of any flavor we wanted to try. He put aside his work to talk to us. We left with four bags of flavored popcorn and an ice cream cone for PJ.

As we loaded up the van to leave town, the stationery storeowner came running out to Beth.

"I found it!" she said with an excitement that was contagious.

She had two styles. We bought them both.

Takeaway: People like to buy from people they like. Being easy to talk to isn't a gimmick. It's about being real, sincere and making the customer the most important thing for that moment in time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Early + Often

About a decade ago, a local attorney with political aspirations asked me to create an ad campaign for his law practice.

We developed a series of ads that have run in the local paper and other ad outlets nearly every week since.

On Tuesday, that attorney was elected local Village President. (Congrats, Barrett!)

I don't do political work, so I had nothing to do with the strategy or messaging of his "Mayoral Campaign".

But I believe part of his success was the name recognition that he developed over years of non-political advertising.

People prefer a name they know. That's the same whether it's in a store aisle or a polling place. Branding is branding.

Takeaway: Every time a prospect sees your brand name, you're building name recognition. Are you using all the media you can: ads, mailers, packaging, PR, etc.? Are you branding "early and often"? Frequency counts. Remind prospects. Then, remind them you've reminded them.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


All good things must come to an end. And this is the end.

It's not the economy. Not because of ethical breeches or bad judgments. I just feel it's time.

I've been writing my marketing tips for so long I don't remember when I started. It's been at least eight years.

My first tips were a paragraph or two of marketing statistics. That evolved into this longer, more personal format with a practical angle and a takeaway. It began as an email, added a blog, spurred a series of articles, a regular column in Professional Distributor and even a brief podcast on iTunes.

But, today is the last weekly Sasso Marketing Tip.

Don't feel sad. Don't think of it an end. Think of it as April Fool's prank.

Sorry. Just wanted to get your attention. But seriously, beginning next week, I plan to change the frequency of my Marketing Tip to fortnightly (that's every two weeks to you and me).
Why? Because my readership has changed over the years. So to serve everyone better, I'm creating an alternating set of tips on Selling.

Up until now I've integrated marketing and selling together. But I now have two distinct groups of readers: marketers and salespeople. So to serve them both better I've decided to create a targeted set of tips for each.

If you're on my list now you'll continue to get both. But beginning in a week or two, subscribers will be able to choose to get one tip or the other -- or both.

(Hope this April Fool's announcement gets a better reception than when Beth and I put "For Sale" on the church marquee when we were dating.)

Takeaway: Times change. Products Change. Markets change. Is your marketing changing to keep up?

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Air can destroy pottery -- and sales (see 03/19/09).

Air can also destroy an ad.

There are two extremes: I'll call them "Cool Air" and "Hot Air".

"Cool Air" is trying too hard to be cool. It's oversimplification. Most effective ads are simple, not simplistic.

A few years back, dozens of amateur ads were based on the "Got Milk" ads. For example:

Headline: "Got high density-polyethylene pipe?" Graphic: Image of pipe Tag: Logo and phone number.

Funny? Maybe. But it doesn't sell anything. Everyone knows what milk is. Not everyone knows your product.

On the other hand, "Hot Air" is too many words.

The key to a good ad isn't saying more. It's saying more with fewer words.

Good ad copy reads like good poetry. Big punch. Short sentences.

Enough said?

-Takeaway: Good advertising looks easy. It isn't. It takes great skill to balance all the elements.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


PJ and I attended his friend's 10th birthday party at a pottery studio last weekend. He sculpted a rhino with a bowl of macaroni & cheese...

When the kids were done with their project, the pottery teacher began poking a few small, discreet holes in each piece with a toothpick.

"Why are you doing that?" I asked.

"So they don't explode," she replied.

"Explode?" I said.

"Trapped air can make the piece explode when it's fired," she explained. “That could destroy everything in the kiln."

I never thought of hot air as dangerous before.

But it is in sales and marketing. Too much hot air can destroy a sale.

You've been there before. A salesperson spends too much time talking and too little time listening. All that hot air creates doubt. The customer becomes worried. He thinks: "That's a pretty hard sell. Maybe it's not as good as it seems if he has to push it that hard."

Pottery explodes if the air trapped inside expands with nowhere to vent to. The salesperson has the same effect by trying to create an airtight argument for his or her product. Don't be afraid of the customer poking a few holes in your presentation. It will let you know what his concerns are. Listen. Let him "vent" his concerns. Then answer his questions -- and no more. Saying too much can be far worse than saying too little.

Next time, I'll cover how to let the hot air out of your advertising without deflating its effectiveness.

Takeaway: Let the trapped air out of your sales pitches and you could sell far more. A few discreet words can sometimes say it all.

Friday, March 13, 2009


My family vacationed near LaCrosse, Wisconsin a few years back.

When we were there, we stopped to visit the LaCrosse Clock Company and bought a Satellite clock that hangs in our kitchen.

It's one of those clocks that is automatically updated. Except the clock never knows it's daylight savings time.

And last night the clock set itself back 15 minutes. (I tried to reset it, but the satellite keeps setting it 15 minutes off.)

We use that clock a lot. So, everything we did last night and this morning has been late.

In much the same way, good marketers follow a marketing clock.

If we are keeping a tight pulse on our business using analytics, we know how our advertising, PR and promotion are working. And we use that information to adjust our sales and marketing actions.

If we don't keep an eye on that marketing clock, or if the data is old or out-of-sync, we are out of step.

Is your marketing clock working properly? Or do you need someone to fix your clock?

Takeaway: Measuring things like leads generation, sales to lead ratios, open and click-thru rates in emails, and other marketing analytics can help you adjust your marketing efforts and timing to the market response. Old information can be worse than no information. Without up-to-date details, everything we do in our marketing plan will be too late.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moan 2...

"FedEx dropped a package on the front porch," Beth said. "Do you think it's from Moen?"

"So soon? I doubt it," I said.

Last week, I shared how I emailed Moen to get a replacement for the broken sprayer on my kitchen sink.

The problem: I didn't keep the receipt. But I did email a photo of the faucet. Anyone familiar with their product line would know the age of the model.

And apparently someone did. This week, Moen came through. I got my replacement sprayer. They also threw in a couple of new faucet handles. Nice touch.

I'm impressed. They've endeared themselves to me by their responsiveness.

A few ways Moen could have improved the experience:

1.) Email me acknowledgement. I didn't know they got my email with my mailing address or that they were working on my request.

2.) Include a note. It would have been nice if they included a personalized Thank You note in the package. But this may not have been practical since it shipped from a warehouse that might not have been near the customer service center.

Don't get me wrong. These are minor tweaks. Moen had already exceeded my expectations. (But there's always room for improvement. And good communications is good marketing.)

Next time I need a faucet, I may look at Kohler or Price Pfister. But I think I will be drawn to Moen by my positive experience.

I only begrudge Moen for one thing: ruining my Saturday. I'll likely be on my back contorted into some odd position pretending I'm handy while struggling to replace the old sprayer. Then I'll likely have an ache in my shoulder or back from the project and not sleep well that night. ;)

(Maybe they should have thrown in a bottle of Aleve!)

Takeaway: Customer service is as much a part of branding as advertising, public relations, or packaging. No publicity stunt can build customer loyalty as much as good customer service can. Although I hate to admit it, often "actions speak louder than ads".

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"Come here," Beth said standing over the kitchen sink. "I need your help."

When I walked up, she sprayed the front of my shirt.

"Hey!" I yelled. "That's not funny."

"I wasn't trying to be funny," she replied. "I can't turn the sprayer off."

Sure enough, the sprayer was stuck on. I squeezed the button a dozen times and it wouldn't shut off.

"Just turn the water off," I said. "And leave it there."

"And it will spray all over whoever uses the sink next!"

"Oh," I replied. "I didn't think of that. It would be a fun prank, though."


Or rather Moen -- that's who made the faucet.

I emailed Moen's website with a snapshot of the sprayer working without anyone touching it.

They emailed me back asking for another tighter photo and my mailing address so they could replace it.

I usually don't name names. But that's because I'm usually pointing out failure.

Moen has not failed. They have made good. In fact, they have made good even though I told them I don't have any documentation. (Who really keeps every receipt and warranty card?)

Whose faucets am I going to consider first when I remodel my bathroom?

I'll let you know if they come through as promised in the end. But so far, so good.

Takeaway: How do you handle warranty issues? Is customer service more about policing against abuse or "serving and protecting" your customer? Remember: for every customer that complains to you first, three will complain to others.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Honest Abe...

My family visited Springfield, IL in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday yesterday.

The Lincoln Library and Museum are amazing. I learned there are over 16,000 books just in English about our 16th president.

Why is Lincoln's legacy so big? There are many reasons. But to me, one of the most interesting is that Abe was as honest as his reputation.

I heard that repeated again and again as I toured his home, past his office, visited his bank. and toured the Lincoln Museum.

Perhaps that says it all.

Takeaway: What do people remember about your brand -- and you? Do people think "integrity" or do they think something less? Want to improve you image? Improve your actions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Got Your #.....

In good times, one way to grow your business is to buy the competition. There can be a lot to gain by acquiring their assets, staff, and distribution network.

In bad times, you might just buy your competition's phone number. Seriously.

Think about it. A competitor may be going out (Circuit City) or just cutting back locations (Starbucks). Their brand may be dead. Their inventory may be worthless. But their phone number and/or website domain name may be valuable.

This weekend, I wanted to try a new restaurant. My first choice was out of business: their number was disconnected. My next choice was a chain that closed the location near me: the phone just rang and rang.

If the numbers had been forwarded, I might have become a new customer.

The same is true for domain names. Search engines may continue to point to a website for months or even years after the business is closed.

Takeaway: Acquiring a phone or fax number, domain name or email address can be a cost-effective way of buying a new sales channel. Databases and email lists might also be worth considering.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brush Up....

"Dad, what was that foamy thing the dentist stuck in my mouth?" PJ asked me the other night at bedtime.

"Fluoride treatment," I responded. "It's keeps your teeth strong and prevents cavities."

"It tasted like soap," he retorted. "I thought I was going to throw up!"

I laughed.

"Brush your teeth," I said. "Let's keep you cavity-free."

I thought about the dentist a moment. We'd both had visits that day.

He's a good dentist, but he's not big on explanations. That can be a big problem both in dentistry and in sales.

"Looks like you might need a root canal," he told me.

"Whab dobya mead MIEMPT?" I said, trying to talk with his hands in my mouth.

"You have a cavity here between your molars," he explained poking me with his probe.

"OUTHCH!"I yelled as he hit a nerve. "Ith dere a mudder opthun?"

"See? The dark area is the cavity," he said pointing to my x-ray. "The other dark area is the nerve. See how close together they are?"

I'd already felt that.

Then, he silently continued to clean my teeth.

He may have been silent to give me time to think. But my problem with his silence is he seemed to be avoiding my question about other options. He didn't ask me if I had any other questions.

If he were in sales (which he is whether he acknowledges it or not) I'd tell him he needs to brush up on his closing technique. He should have explained the procedure, calmed my fears, and tried to close the deal. Instead he just probed at my gums until they bled and quietly made notes on his chart. I'm not sure if he was trying to intimidate me with fear or if he really didn't know what to say next.

I didn't make another appointment as I left the dentists office. I don't want to wait until it's an emergency, but I want to consider my options.

His silence wasn't very convincing.

Takeaway: Sometimes as a salesperson you can talk too much. But other times you can talk too little. Closing a deal often requires you to ask for questions, explain alternatives and ask the customer to take the next step. Are you fully answering both spoken and unspoken questions? How can you "drill down" to get to the "root" of the customers hesitancy? (Sorry, bad pun. But I couldn't resist!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gain Heft...

In lean economic times gaining marketing heft seems counterintuitive. It seems like time for belt tightening and budget trimming.

Not for Jenny Craig. She's getting fat.

In the Jan./Feb. issue of Inc. Magazine, Craig said while her competitors are hunkering down, she is spending a bit more on ads and finding it a huge competitive advantage.

For more on this see my March 2007 blog on marketing in a recession.

Takeaway: Are you trimming fat -- or your marketing muscle? How can you beat your competition head-on?

Phil Sasso

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Good marketers all want to find the perfect marketing message that sticks.

My wife drew my attention to a different kind of "sticky" ad, recently.

"I want to show you a clever ad that got my attention," Beth said paging through her magazine.

"If it was REALLY a clever ad it would come with it's own bookmark so you could find it again," I teased.

"Seriously. It was very clever," She said slightly irritated. "I know it's here somewhere. Yes. Here it is..."

The ad was for some kind of pod coffee machine. Nothing memorable or remarkable about the product to me.

But what did catch my eye was a Post-it Note printed on the page with a personalized note to Beth on it.

"You mother showed me the same ad when we were there for Christmas," I said handing the magazine back to her.

"She did not!"

"She did." I said. "It's interesting how you both noticed it and pointed it out to me."

"Isn't that great marketing?"

"It would be great marketing if you both ended up buying one," I joked. "But I'd say it was definitely good advertising."

In his book "YES! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways Be Persuasive," Robert Cialdini writes about the power of the personalized Post It Note in a 2005 study.

Three versions of a survey packet were mailed with differing results:

- A printed letter alone generated a 36% response to the survey request.

- A printed letter with a handwritten message on it got a 48% response.

- A printed letter with a handwritten message on a Post-it Note generated a 75% response.

Why did the Post-it Note turbo-boost the response rates? Researchers claim it's "reciprocity".
In essence because of the effort taken to write a personalized note, recipients felt an obligation to reciprocate.

Or maybe people just like Post-it Notes. (Kidding. Just kidding.)

Take Away: As we enter 2009, many of us have smaller budgets that need to do more work.
How can you use personalization and/or reciprocity to your advantage? What do you do to
connect with your prospects and customers? How much more can you do?