Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

The Marketing Secret Of How To Sell A $19 Shirt for $89

Picture this. You’re thumbing through the pages of a slim, elegant, catalog that arrived via mail earlier in the day.

The pages feel crisp to the touch, and you notice how vibrant the illustrations are. Captivating even. You glance over and something catches your eye.

A European-styled, heirloom leather satchel. Its mellow leather beckons to you. Brass fittings glinting in the sun harkening back to a by-gone era. It’s the kind of satchel that would have been casually tossed into the back of your father’s 1932 Auburn V-12 Boattail Speedster; perhaps an unread Hemingway novel inside.

“Hmmm, possibly…” you murmur quietly to yourself.

You thumb slowly to the next page.

Your eyes transfix upon a gently sketched blue shirt, its sleeves half rolled up, the hemline gently blowing in the cool spring air.

You read the description:

A Montana Shirt

He rode to Great Falls in the autumn of 1880, another rich kid from the big city. The locals harrumphed, “Montana ain’t St Louis. Once the shine wears off, he’ll be gone quick as a duck on a Junebug.”

The “shine” wore off.

He stayed.

He tried raising sheep; lost every sheep in the herd. Tried hunting; similar success. He lived a while with the Blood Indians. Taught himself how to paint.

He didn’t wrestle with the existential questions; didn’t know there were any. He painted what was around him. Grizzlies, buffalo, rustlers. life.

In his own words: “I am an illustrator. There are lots better ones, but some worse. Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I am that.”

Men like him don’t travel in herds. You find them one at a time.

A Montana Shirt (No. 3682). “I made it with yarn dyed pure linen, and upon close observation, a very small checked pattern, because it was a feeling I had. Buttons are Trocas shell. Flat felled seams. Two-button adjustable mitered cuffs with top stitching. Shirttail hem with gussets at side.“

Men’s sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL Colors: Open Range Blue Price $89

And that, Dear Reader, is how you sell a shirt that would ordinarily sell for a mere fraction of the price, at top dollar. Sight unseen. Gladly paid.

The strength of your sales copy is everything.

Sexy Chairs on Street Corners - Small Business Marketing

Pop quiz: one of these chairs is $6,700. Can you guess which one?

 chairs

chairs

Last week while in Toronto I stumbled across perhaps the sexiest piece of furniture I’ve ever laid eyes on.

There I was, minding my own business and making tracks to a meeting at my client’s office when it practically jumped out at me. Ok, jumped might be a slight exaggeration. It’s probably hard to imagine a 200 pound leather chair leaping off the pavement and bowling me to the ground. But there it appeared before me – a chair about 6 feet tall made of the finest cherry red leather– the “vintage” kind you might find in a weathered 1960’s Corvette belting out Beach Boy tunes on a hot summer’s day. This chair was far too magnificent to be hidden inside a design store. The clever owner had planted it smack bang on the corner of one of Toronto’s busiest intersections. Sure that thing would be a pain to lug in and out of the store every day, and I’m not quite sure what they did when it rained (perhaps its own raincoat?) but I’m very sure that one simple act of marketing was responsible for making that little design store stand out in an overcrowded city.

So really, what enables someone to charge almost $7000 for a leather chair, when just a minute’s drive away you can get a perfectly cool looking leather chair from Ikea for $600?

Is it the leather? Is it the craftsmanship of the chair? Is it the customer shopping experience (if you’ve ever shopped at Ikea you’ll know there’s really no worse shopping experience). Yes, to some extent – all these factors justify a higher price tag for my cherry red leather chair–but not $6,000 worth.

So what’s the secret sauce then? How can they charge so much? I’ll tell you how:

They’ve very carefully picked their target market. They know the market’s needs, and they’ve found a way to service those needs. If you’re buying this kind of chair – chances are it’s not so you can have a Saturday siesta on it. You bought it as a talking point in your living room, an objet d’art.

Ownership signifies something.

Here’s the real marketing lesson in all of this. WHO you choose to sell to, is far more important than WHAT you sell.

Just let that statement sink in for a sec.

If you’re selling the equivalent of a $7,000 chair but you’re marketing to the Ikea crowd – forgettaboutit.

Same if you’re selling a commodity like Ikea and trying to target the ultra hip and affluent. It’s not gonna happen.

Both markets buy for very different reasons. If your marketing doesn’t specifically speak to those reasons, or you’re selling the wrong product to the wrong market, you’re whistling in the wind. Always make sure your marketing message is perfectly aligned with your target market.

As for me, I haven’t yet bought the chair… but you can tell I’m thinking about it!

PS: The $6,700 chair is the one in the middle – did you guess right?  I did kind of give it away with the color!

A Great Marketing Lesson from Chanel

chanel_experience.jpg

Last week, I was close to running out of foundation and knew there was no way I’d be able to get to Nordstrom’s before it was gone.  As an avid online shopper, I have no idea why I insist on going to a department store to buy my makeup, but it’s just something I’ve always done. I Googled the exact color and name of my foundation (which is made by Chanel) to see which online stores might be offering the best deals. After a 30-second turbo search I gave up trying to read through all the fine print and just placed an order on Chanel’s main website. At checkout, a surprise gift was offered — what a nice touch! “Which of our samples would you like to try?”  I placed the order and then promptly forgot all about my purchase. That is, until two days later when a chic-looking white box appeared at my doorstep bearing the iconic Chanel logo. They had upgraded my ground shipping at no extra charge. Things just got better from there. Inside the white box was another box — the kind that might contain a $1500 pair of sunglasses or a  $10,000 watch. For an instant I thought someone had sent me a gift — surely Chanel wouldn’t go to this much trouble for a $60 foundation? Oh yes, they would. Inside the box, my foundation was beautifully gift-wrapped. A black silk-like drawstring purse held my three complimentary samples (they certainly weren’t tossed into the box as an afterthought). And my receipt was neatly and tastefully tucked inside a black cardstock envelope, carefully placed underneath the gift box. Chanel had indeed succeeded at creating an extraordinary experience for me, the client. Even for something as insignificant as a purchase of foundation. And that’s what makes them Chanel — one of the most premier and highly sought-after luxury brands in the world. Do you consider your business a “luxury” experience? If you want to command higher prices and attract the most affluent patients in your business, then creating an extraordinary experience for your clients is critical. While I see many business owners who have worked hard to deliver their clients a wonderful experience (eg the Porsche dealership who picks up your car for service and drops it back afterwards) nowadays you have to go the extra mile. It's expected. Just what constitutes the extra mile? Every year the bar gets raised higher as consumers demand more (if you want a great resource on this read the Middle Class Millionaire - it is excellent.) For example we used to be impressed with cars that had GPS's in them. Now that's all but standard. How about the grocery store who offers to have your groceries carried out, or even delivered, (eyes roll). So yesterday.

The point is this. If like Chanel, you can deliver an extraordinary experience at all price points in your business (and not just the premium ones), your clients will never go anywhere else. It';s time to get thinking about what would make an extraordinary experience in your business!  

 

5 Easy Ways To Get Your Prospects Off The Fence

“I like to think of sales as the ability to gracefully persuade, not manipulate, a person or persons into a win-win situation.”-Bo Bennett (author, businessman and motivational speaker)

Umm let me have a think about that and I’ll get back to you,”

How many times has someone told you that? (Of course you never hear back from them again.)

If you’re getting push back from your prospects about your prices, or stalling tactics – then this article is for you. The good news is that it likely has nothing to do with your prices or your abilities but it has everything to do about your actual sales process and how you market your business. It’s likely you either don’t have a good one, or you have gaping holes in the one you’ve got that are making people clamor to safety.

The simple truth is that most people tell you “they’ll think about it” for 2 basic reasons:

1) You haven’t given them enough information to enable them to make an informed decision

2) You haven’t given them a compelling reason to jump off the fence now (as opposed to next week or next month)

Here are 5 easy ways to strength your sales process,improve how you market your business, increase your conversion rate and help more people make better decisions about using your services:

1) Prior to any sales appointment or big in person meeting, send them a “Shock n Awe” kit. This kit contains valuable information about your services, your clients and your accomplishments. In every way it should surprise and delight the prospect – think of including an expert audio CD, a special white paper you’ve written on a topic of interest, a copy of your book. Get creative and make this a fun package for people to receive.

2) Script your sales process. Forget “winging” the call. Every top salesperson in America uses sales scripts (usually memorized). Its because they work. Most people don’t even prep before an important sales call, let alone use a script. If this is you then its time to tighten up your process, get some sales scripts crafted and watch what a difference it makes to your conversion rates.

3) Follow up after the call. Just because they say "no" on the phone, doesn’t actually mean no. It just means "not now."Once someone has raised their hand, keep marketing to them again and again. Use a combination of email marketing (better than nothing) and creative “drip” direct mail campaigns (the most persuasive).

4) Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Give them a reason to jump off the fence today. Otherwise expect them to “stay put” until they feel they’re ready (by which time you might be old and toothless).

5) Take away the fear for them. Everyone is petrified of making a wrong decision, especially in business. No one wants to waste their money on a lemon and sadly because so many businesses are mediocre at best – most people buy expecting to be disappointed. In my copywriting and consulting business, practically every client we work with has horror stories of working with other marketing companies. Big promises, poor delivery. Impotent sales copy that completely missed the mark. Missed deadlines, bad quality, horrid graphic design – the list of battle scars is long in our industry. So we flip this on its head, and instead of expecting our clients to take all the risk by using our services – we take on the risk by guaranteeing our services. Either they love working with us and are thrilled with the results or we’ll refund their money. That’s unheard of in our industry. But you can see how it immediately takes the fear away for a prospect. If you truly believe in the value of what you do then why wouldn’t you offer a bold guarantee?

A Clinical Marketing Lesson From a Smoking Doctor and Maya Angelou

 Smoking Doctors

Smoking Doctors

Take a look at this great old vintage ad I found on the internet. My how times have changed — and advertising along with it!

But some things haven’t changed in advertising, namely, the same basic human desires need to be fulfilled today just as much as they did 50 or even 150 years ago: better health, improved appearance, praise from others, social advancement…

The great late writer Maya Angelou, who passed away this week, had this great quote to say which applies to your business marketing as much as it does to our lives:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Really effective marketing evokes feeling. It’s not just about getting your name out there, but getting your prospective clients or customers to feel something that then propels them to take action — a desire to look better for their daughter’s wedding, a desire NOT to look like their mother did when she was their age.

Would this cigarette ad have evoked feeling back in the 50s when it ran? Absolutely. Actually it was one of Camel’s most successful ad campaigns. It’s a statement about class, about sophistication. It speaks to that innermost desire we all have to win other people’s approval. It evokes feeling.

The worst way to market your business is to use marketing that doesn’t evoke feeling, that’s simply fact-based. People don’t buy based on facts. We buy based on feelings and then justify with facts (if you don’t believe me then just look at all the luxury cars on the road — cars get us from A to B — if we all bought based on facts we’d likely all be driving inexpensive Hondas). People won’t choose your business necessarily because your qualifications are superior to your colleagues. They’ll certainly use your qualifications as a justification once they’ve made a decision, but they’re far more likely to decide based on the softer stuff — how you come across on your website and whether you seem like a nice person who genuinely cares.

The worst kind of marketing you can use in your business is the kind that makes a person feel nothing. It’s boring. It’s dry. It’s…well, easy to ignore.

On your drive home tonight and over the weekend, start paying attention to the ads you see, and think about what kind of emotion they evoke. But most especially, pay attention to the things that you buy and ask yourself, “What really made me buy it?” You might be surprised at the answer.

How to Create Viral Videos Worth Sharing

Not so long ago, a friend shared a link with me on Facebook.

The video recording quality was grainy. The audio was out of sync with the video. The props were cheap. The film set was non-existent. The result?

A viral video that was viewed almost 40 million times, and shared 23 million times, in 12 months. When I shared this video to my wall, I immediately got two responses — one that said, “Wow, I wish I was their client.

Unfortunately, there was no chance of that happening (since the video maker was a dental practice in London, South Carolina and my wishful friend lived in northern Michigan). But the video maker had achieved the holy grail — a viral video that doesn’t just entertain, but ATTRACTS NEW CLIENTS.

So, what was so magical about a video for a dental practice? I mean, seriously. Is there a less sexy business? Few businesses create such a uniform groan from their patients when it’s time for your appointment. Big companies spend hundreds of millions creating videos that they hope will have a tenth of the social engagement that this video had. So how did they do it?

1. Use lots of humor. Self-deprecating is always good (as long as it is in good taste), but other good uses of humor include showing familiar things in a humorous light.  Remember the e-Trade baby? That set of hilarious viral videos was first launched eight years ago, and still remains the most effective ad campaign in its history.

viral_video_marketing.png

2. Keep the videos short. And entertaining. There’s a reason Instagram limits its videos to 60 seconds or less. Effective viral videos need to be fast and furious. The second they lose their humor, or momentum, the audience is lost.

3. Be as human as possible. The days of slick corporate ads are long gone. People want to feel real connections with the business they buy from and the products they use. My dental video example couldn’t be less polished and less “unprofessional”.  Yet it’s wildly successful. Why? Because the dentist is being “real”. If you are familiar with my Client Stampede marketing, then you will know that creating personality-infused marketing is at the heart of every uber-successful ad campaign.

So to recap on the formula for viral video success. You don’t need expensive camera equipment.  Or professional lighting. Or fancy video editing. Or special costumes, in order to make a viral video, viral.  As with any marketing for your business, it’s all about the message. What are you saying, in a funny, entertaining way, that resonates deeply with the audience?

 

(Oh and the dental video I’ve been referring to? You can view it here:

 

 

How a Painted Moose Can Help Your Marketing (Seriously)

Last week I was consulting with a client in Salt Lake City. I love the mountains, and I especially love mountain towns (I spent a lot of time in Squaw Valley, CA, as a student). I’ve never been to Park City, so after the consult day with my client was wrapped up, I grabbed my rental car and took a sunset drive through the winding canyon toward Kimball Junction and Park City. The area of Park City is deceptively big – big enough to have a Wal-Mart, all the major fast food stores and its own shopping mall. But it’s old town Park City that has all the charm (and hosts the Sundance Film Festival every year). Right before I got to Main Street I saw on my right hand side something that absolutely demanded my attention. It refused to be ignored.

Here’s what it was: a statue of a moose. OK, nothing remarkable about that, especially in these parts.

But here’s what made it stand out – it was painted GOLD and had an assortment of hand-painted dogs on it – some wearing bandanas, some not. Right next to a red fire hydrant. Outside a busy store.

Huh? As a dog lover, an art lover and a marketing nut I had to pull over to take a closer look. The store the moose belonged to had won. In an extremely colorful, frenetically busy mountain town with eye candy everywhere, this moose stuck out like a sore thumb. And now, almost a week later I’m writing about it to you in this blog post.

 How a Painted Mooose can Help Your Marketing

How a Painted Mooose can Help Your Marketing

Your marketing has to be just like this moose. Different. Eye-catching. Innovative. It’s about taking something familiar and breathing new life into it.

Let’s say you’re a physician who specializes in aesthetic medicine and you’re doing a promotion for non-invasive body contouring, like Venus Freeze or Cool Sculpting. You don’t have to look very far in your own market to see that your competition is running practically the exact same ads as you are. The ones, most likely that the company who invented the technology provided you with. Sure, those stock ads are better than nothing, but the problem is that people have seen them all before. It’s just a plain looking moose sculpture, and it makes you blend perfectly into your surroundings.

Your marketing has to stand out. Don’t look to your competition to copy their ads. Look outside your profession at completely different industries for examples of great marketing. Great marketing is...great marketing, no matter where you see it. What stopped you in your tracks? Who have you bought from recently? How can you use these ideas to market your business?

What an African Lion & Restoration Hardware Can Teach You About How NOT To Run Your Business

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new desk chair from a Restoration Hardware catalog. Here’s the sales copy that sold me:

1950s French Metal Wire 26" - 32" Stool

Dating to the mid-20th-century, our French metal chair hails from the offices of a Paris museum – a work of modern art in its own right. With a nod to iconic design forms, it has a scooped seat and curved back made from heavy gauge wire grids padded with optional leather-clad cushions, sold separately. Adjustable seat height and lumbar support adapt to each individual. Six ball casters make it as agile as it is comfortable.

Sounds pretty cool right? I thought so – so much so that I even ordered the 1940s French Factory Work Table (writing desk) to go with it. And that’s when the problems started.

Now I happen to love Restoration Hardware – I think the quality of its furniture and sense of design is pretty hard to beat. But its customer experience sure leaves a LOT to be desired.

Here’s what happened next. After placing my order I received a cryptic response email that made me have to pick up the phone and speak to a warm body to make sure my order went through. It apparently had but, unfortunately, both the chair and the leather cushion I had ordered were no longer available (even though their website said they were).

I then got passed around like a hot potato from one rep to the next.

After 45 minutes on the phone I was ready to abandon ship, cancel my order and forget I ever laid eyes on the furniture. I was not a happy camper. However at the last minute my order went through and I was relieved to have survived the ordering ordeal.

That was until the scheduled delivery time for my order. Neither my desk nor my chair showed up. Exasperated I called back. “Sorry but those items should have been delivered. We have a record of them leaving our warehouse.” Well, fat lot of good that does me. Some truck driver somewhere is writing his award winning screen play, likely with his muffin top spilling over his tight blue jeans, plonked on my wire chair.

I was told, “Sorry Ma’am we don’t have any more in stock. They’re on back order and should arrive in about sixty to ninety days.” Sixty to ninety days? Really? I’m guessing someone had to walk back to China or India or wherever the chairs are made for that kind of delay.

I received barely an apology and no offer of free anything – no “Here’s a gift certificate for your troubles,” or “We’ll refund your shipping fee.” None of that.

Now one thing you need to know about Restoration Hardware is how it positions itself in the marketplace.

Here’s the sales copy taken straight from the website: “We operate as a curator of the finest historical design the world has to offer. Our collections of timeless, updated classics and reproductions are presented consistently across our sales channels in sophisticated and unique lifestyle settings that we believe are on par with world-class interior designers.”

It’s no doubt a luxury brand but frankly I’ve had better customer service from a grumpy pre-menopausal counter clerk at the Post Office.

Restoration Hardware has great marketing, and uses powerfully persuasive copywriting coupled with gorgeous imagery. It offers top quality products.

But that’s about where the wheels start coming off. It couldn’t have made it more difficult for me to give them my money. And their customer service stinks.

This business reminds me precisely of the “Situational Awareness” photo from my cousin.

It’s so eager to find the next big opportunity in its business, it has lost sight of the thing that could take the company down: lousy customer experience.

Restoration Hardware isn’t the only business that does this. Most do to varying degrees.

The lesson is this: always looking for bigger, better opportunities to grow your business is great, but never lose sight of what made your business great in the first place.

How Not to Send an Email to Prospective Clients

The story that I’m about to share with you is highly embarrassing because it’s the worst example I’ve ever seen for how NOT to send an email and it comes from my home country, New Zealand. The story has made the rounds through many world media outlets including Yahoo, AP, Reuters, BBC, and many blogs (including this one) who continue to retell this story even though it happened a few years back. Here’s what happened: A New Zealand attorney named Paula Brosnahan, age 33, and her fiance Steve Hausman, 36 were looking at wedding venues. After visiting many different options they finally decided on having a cliff top wedding in the small town of Whangaparaoa (it is a breathtaking spot just north of Auckland.) In doing their research, the couple requested a quote to rent a marquee from a company called The Great Marquee Company. They had viewed the company’s website, seen the photos and had made an appointment to inspect the marquee in Auckland where they lived.

After inspecting the marquee, they decided it wasn’t what they were looking for. So they emailed a polite response to the company saying they would continue their search for the right marquee.

Here’s what it said: "Paula and I went and viewed your marquee setup at Devonport ... unfortunately we did not like it ... thanks for your assistance and we are sorry that it turned out this way."

The response that came back from the company’s office manager Katrina Jorgensen was shocking "Your wedding sounded cheap, nasty and tacky anyway, so we only ever considered you time wasters. Our marquees are for upper class clients which unfortunately you are not. Why don't you stay within your class levels and buy something from Payless Plastics instead."

Ouch.

That single email response from the office manager had no doubt been sent when she was having a bad day. It has now been circulated throughout the world and read by hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. The next day the owner fired the office manager (who happened to be his wife) and virtually overnight his company was out put of business.

What’s the lesson? Thanks to technology, any and every communication you have with a client or prospective client can quickly go viral. It's not just email. Calls can be recorded, letters can be scanned.

What was supposed to be a "private" email has now been spread worldwide, and has destroyed a business, all because an employee got a little snappy with a customer and put it in an email.

Just imagine if this was your employee and your business.

If you say "My office staff would never do that." Reread the above example, and remember...the office manager was THE OWNERS WIFE!

Take Action: If you don't have office rules of engagement for writing communications to clients, do it now. ANY employee you have has the immediate power to create a problem just like the above one. I advise my clients to keep a folder of sample communications for office staff to follow.

Also, realize that email is solid documentation, if you aren't willing to have it broadcast to the world, don't put it in an email. That [forward] button is too close to the send button to risk putting anything out there that could compromise your business.

Even though there is no standard set for email and it is still considered "informal," make sure you and your staff communicate in a professional manner at all times through email, or otherwise, because you never know who is going to see, read, or hear your message.

The Disaster Beauty Spa Experience – 3 Things To NEVER Do In Your Business

 bad fashion disaster retro cartoon bubble nightmare black and white

bad fashion disaster retro cartoon bubble nightmare black and white

One chilly October evening, I headed out of town for a bit of pampering (or so I thought). A client had generously sent me a gift certificate to the spa of my choice and after doing a bit of online homework, I settled on a “top medical spa” that was a 30 mile drive from my house and boasted anti-aging treatments with a “celebrity following.” I was skeptical, but the before and after pictures on their website were the best on the web (note the power of proof) and with all the late nights I’ve been working, I could do with a miracle fix for my skin. The problems with this place started even before I hopped in my car. There were a couple of not too favorable reviews which I had not paid that much attention to (I was hooked by their photos) and when I called to book my appointment I was advised by the curt receptionist that all appointments require a mandatory initial consult of $200.

Huh? Nothing on their website mentioned anything about having to first book a consult before a treatment. “The fee is halved if you book your treatment immediately after - the owner is the best skin guru in the state” she reassured me.

Ok, fair enough, but then make sure your website carries a consistent message. Not feeling warm and fuzzy about this place so far, I still went ahead and booked the appointment.

When I arrived, the spa was in a surprising location – not quite the high end location they made out to be on their website. The spa itself felt cramped and over cluttered to me. Another red flag.

I was ushered into a shoebox sized room surrounded by glaring lights and mirrors (make no mistake you could see every mark, line and blemish on my skin.)

In less than 10 seconds (a record for me), one of the hardest and most manipulative upsells I’ve ever witnessed began.

It went something like this:

“Gosh, you have some lines in your forehead, you should really be getting Botox there.”

Huh? I’d never noticed them before but I sure did now.

She then proceeded to put my skin under an even harsher lamp and a magnifier pointing out, inch my inch, everywhere I had issues. The list was so long that by the time the ordeal was over I felt like the only proper thing to do was wear a paper bag over my head anytime I’m in public.

Then, she came in for the kill.

They could custom tailor a specific program to address my clearing lacking skin for a series of weekly treatments that would cost me a mere $10,000.

I excused myself and couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. I don’t care if they are miracle workers, the way they conduct their business is entirely unethical in my view.

As an advertising copywriter, I am well aware of the power that lies in marketing and how the right words can compel someone to take action, or not. Understanding these psychological triggers and what compels people to buy is how I make my living. It’s also the reason why I refuse to accept a private client whose products and services I don’t 100% believe in and know people would be much better off by having. I have said no to casinos, tobacco companies and financial advisors who didn’t dare invest their own money in the funds they bought for their clients.

I choose to use my marketing powers for good.

This company chose to use its powers for bad: by employing sales techniques that were blatantly manipulative and highly pressured.

While outwardly this company seems to be successful, it’s only a matter of time before this will catch up with them, regardless of how good the before and after photos on their website are.

Here is the key point from this experience to apply to any business or practice:

Be consistent: Build a Relationship First My entire experience with this medical spa was reminiscent of the early 2000’s -when hard sales pitches were still tolerated. I guess no one had told them that the rules of marketing have changed. It’s about building a relationship FIRST, which this business was colossally terrible at. Now, granted not many businesses really understand how to do this properly, but if you know nothing, the one thing there is no excuse for is to not care. In this economy, the company who can build the strongest relationship with their clients or patients, is the business that wins. They have the most loyal following, the fullest practices, and can charge the highest prices and enjoy the best reputation among their peers.

In your business or practice, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that the real equity in your business is your relationship with the people you serve – which is most effectively built through the marketing you use, and the experience you deliver.

Marketing to Create Raving Fans Out of Your Customers

Here’s an insightful poem about advertising called Why Is It? (author unknown): A man wakes up after sleeping under an advertised blanket, on an advertised mattress, pulls off advertised pajamas, bathes in an advertised shower, shaves with an advertised razor, brushes his teeth with advertised toothpaste, washes with advertised soap, puts on advertised clothes, drinks a cup of advertised coffee, drives to work in an advertised car, and then, refuses to advertise, believing it doesn’t pay. Later when business is poor, he advertises it for sale. Why is it?

The need to advertise your business is clearly a no-brainer. But what kind of advertising, and how on earth do you break through the noise and clutter of everyone else and actually get noticed by the people who matter the most?

While a great multi-media, multi-step ad campaign will do it for you, or a cleverly written viral video – or any other form of meticulously crafted advertising – one of the most powerful ways to achieve this can be summarized in 5 simple words:

Create an extraordinary customer experience.

The good news is that this isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds – mainly because the bar is set so low by your competitors. People have been let down so many times, they’ve come to expect it.  So when one enlightened business goes out of their way to really get the customer experience right – word travels like wildfire.

Here are a couple of great examples of businesses who have hit it out of the park:

CEO, Chris Hurn and his young family were holidaying at the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island in Florida.  His son’s beloved stuffed giraffe “Joshie” accidentally didn’t make it into their suitcase for the trip home and got left behind. The young boy was completely distraught and Hurn, attempting to reassure him, told him that Joshie was just taking an “extra long vacation.”

When the Ritz-Carlton called him later to let them know that they’d found Joshie, Hurn asked if they could possibly take a photo of the stuffed giraffe on a lounge chair by the pool to substantiate the story.

The hotel complied – and then some.

 Joshie-the-Giraffe

Joshie-the-Giraffe

Not only did they return Joshie along with the photo requested, they sent along a photo album complete with photos of Joshie getting a massage at the spa, taking a ride in the golf cart and making friends with other fellow stuffed animals at the resort. They even made him an honorary staff member and issued Joshie his own Ritz-Carlton staff ID badge!

Next, one of my private clients owns a small wealth management firm in Chicago. In reviewing some of their client demographics we noticed that a significant number of their clients were widows in their 60s and 70s. Each of these ladies now receive a large bunch of flowers every valentine’s day from the firm and a small but thoughtful birthday gift. You would think that some of them had just won the lottery! Such a simple gesture can mean so much.

The bottom line is that any business can make someone’s day better by doing something extraordinary. Extraordinary doesn’t have to mean big (although it can if you’re a go-getter and you’re ready to have your entire customer experience re-choreographed from start to finish.) Small acts of unexpected kindness can amount to the extraordinary.

It's all about making your patients, customers and clients feel important.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Is Detroit In The Toilet Or The Biggest Opportunity Of The Decade?

The first time I ventured into the “bowels of Detroit” as some people call it was just a couple of years ago. I had been summoned to appear in the Supreme Court (no, not in that way – but to get sworn in as a US citizen alongside the melting pot of new immigrants who mostly didn’t speak English.) When I drove my car in downtown Detroit it felt like I had left America altogether and was instead in some burnt out husk of an impoverished African nation.

A homeless couple barreled up to my car at the lights, knocking on the window and demanding money.

Vacant buildings outnumbered occupied ones, broken windows and “no trespassing” signs peppered the landscape and there was trash everywhere.

There was no doubt this was a city of “pure grit” as I had once heard it called – it had birthed the hugely talented and controversial rapper Eminem, Cadillac cars, Kellogg’s cornflakes and Carhartt pants to name a few. Clearly the burnt out husk of a city I was experiencing was a far cry from the glory days of the past.”

To make matters worse that same day, Michigan headlined in all the national papers. People were fleeing Detroit and Michigan in a biblical sized mass exodus.

Eek. Not exactly what I wanted to hear as a business owner who had just relocated my marketing agency here from Los Angeles.

But here’s where my experience of Michigan and Detroit varies widely from all the media. I have lived in several countries around the world, traveled extensively in the USA and called 4 different states home.

I can honestly say I have never been to any place where there has been such a massive pool of exceptional entrepreneurial talent.

No its not what you hear in the media, but its certainly been my experience.

These are the people who ignore the headlines, pay no attention to the news and quietly go about their work building highly successful multi-million and multi-billion dollar businesses (some of whom I am privileged to call my clients). Companies like Moosejaw and Domino's Pizza, La-Z-Boy and Herman Miller, Two Men and a Truck Moving Company and Quicken Loans, Jiffy, Whirlpool, and Gerber Baby Food, to name just a few.

Now the City of Detroit is reeling from having filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in history.

“Have you been busy packing?” my colleagues across the border ask me gleefully.

Its really no different to my experiences of backpacking through Columbia or South Africa. The media makes these places out to be the worst on earth, but my experience is that reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Michigan has soul and Detroit sure has heart.

The people from here are fighting to bring this city back tooth and nail. I met one Detroit native who ditched her high paying corporate job with Microsoft to take up a position in corporate philanthropy at one of the leading children’s charities “I was sick of people ragging on my city” she told me, “I’m here to make a difference.”

Seems she’s not only one. Just take a look at this ad that was run front page on across all the national newspapers a few days ago.

 Julie Guest TV

Julie Guest TV

Some of the greatest businesses have been forged out of the toughest times – Thomas Edison founded GE in the middle of the panic of 1873 – a 6 year long recession. Hewlett Packard was founded in the middle of the Great depression. Bill Gates started Microsoft in his parent’s garage during the recession of 1973-1975. Revlon, one of the best-known cosmetic companies in the world, was founded in 1932 during the Great Depression. Brothers Charles and Joseph Revlon introduced their opaque nail enamel to the world, which sparked a business that became a multi-million-dollar enterprise in only six years.

I could go on.

Bottom line – one person’s adversity is another’s big opportunity… Whenever the media reports doom and gloom news, there’s a dedicated entrepreneur or group of individuals quietly working away and achieving success anyway.

It all depends on which end of the binoculars you choose to look through.

The Big Mac Belly Flop: Has McDonald's Committed The Cardinal Marketing Sin?

Usually, when I write about McDonald's, it's to uphold them as a shiny example of how a business should be run – systems based, very little is left to chance and everything is scheduled and automated as much as possible (especially the marketing.) But not this time.

Trying to shed its “Super Size” me image of a decade ago, McDonald's shrunk its elephant sized portions and rolled out oatmeal, smoothies, salads and added an apple to all its Happy Meals.

From March to July of this this year McDonald's also added Premium McWraps, Egg White Delight McMuffins, Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothies and new Quarter Pounders to its menu. The result? According to an independent survey McDonald's clocked its slowest average drive through time in its 15 year history at 189.49 seconds.

My take on it?

McDonald's have committed the cardinal marketing mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Seriously, who says “Wow! I feel like a nice healthy salad – let’s go eat at McDonald's." No one! They say, “I’m hungry, I’m hung over, I’m tired - I want a triple quarter pounder with cheese and an extra large fries double quick.”

McDonald's target market is and always has been people who want fast food: with the emphasis on fast.

McDonald's is still king of the restaurant business but its growth has lacked luster and its stock has under-performed in the last year. Unlike their competition, they haven’t had a blockbuster new product since 2003 (McGriddles) and they’ve strayed so far from their core menu that it's barely recognizable and it's slowing operations – from snack wraps for the millennials to raisin oatmeal for health conscious moms.

Here’s some free marketing advice for you McDonald's: you are never ever going to be perceived as healthy. Anyone who is truly health conscious holds their breath even when they drive past. Get back to your core market of die hard fast foodies and find better, faster ways to serve their needs (maybe with a little less fat but don’t tell them that). You serve 69 million people each year – forget trying to add new customers and just focus on getting the ones you already have to come back more often. That will equate to some serious double or triple digit growth.

You’re welcome!

The Best Lesson In Transforming A PR Disaster Into An Absolute Triumph You’ll Ever Read

Maybe you’re already well versed with who Elon Musk is – a South African born entrepreneur, father of five and one of the world’s youngest and most influential billionaires. His passion lies in technology – specifically taking well-established structures and throwing them on their head by achieving what others can barely even conceive of. He was the brains and co-founder behind PayPal, he’s the visionary behind Space X (a space exploration company revolutionizing rockets and outer space travel), and he also happens to be the CEO and CTO of Tesla Motors – who designs, manufactures and sells electric cars. Just about a week ago disaster struck at Tesla as one of their cars, while traveling down the highway struck a metal object and caught on fire – with the driver still inside. Below is a copy of the letter Elon wrote explaining the incident, as well as copies of the letter Tesla sent to the driver after the incident, and the driver’s response. They are the best example of turning a PR nightmare into a major triumph that you’re likely to ever come across. I have highlighted the parts of the letters in bold that are particularly insightful.

Tesla also released their correspondence with the Tesla owner who had the accident (released with the owner’s permission):

The market seems to like Tesla’s explanations with Tesla shares up an average of 4.4%!

The Pink Paint Story and The Home Depot

Pink Paint and Home Depot
Pink Paint and Home Depot

A couple of weekends ago I drove to my local Home Depot store in search of the perfect paint color for my 3 year old’s room (she wants pink!).  Now maybe you’ve never had to shop for pink paint before but let me tell you that the selection of different shades is enough to make your head spin.  There’s everything from a sickly looking Pepto‑Bismol shade all the way to an electric neon shade which surely someone was suffering from a nasty hangover when they gave it the rubber stamp of approval.  In all, there were over 40 different shades of pink to choose from.  But the decision‑making process was just getting started.  Once you pick your shade then you have to decide what quality of paint you want – primer, non‑primer, brand, non‑brand. The guy behind the counter wasn’t exactly helpful (he was going on break in 5 minutes and was counting down the seconds) and then I happened to spy the marketing materials  – a big fold‑out brochure which I grabbed.

What The Home Depot has done with their marketing is a kind of genius.  In less than 5 seconds their marketing told me which paint was the paint for me – using just 3 simple words:

“Good.” “Better.” “Best.”

Incredulous, I looked over at the rows and rows of paint brushes, rollers, paint trays. They had conveniently labeled everything in just the same way (and helpfully in Spanish).

“Good (bueno).” “Better (muy bueno).” “Best (mejor).”

Aside from the label given, there was no other explanation as to why this paint brush was labeled “best” versus the one to the right of it that was a few bucks cheaper and only listed as “good”.

Could such a simple marketing strategy work?

Are people really that trusting or that naive to spend more on a product just because of the “label” it’s assigned.

The answer is emphatically ‘yes’ backed up by some pretty impressive financial results for the company – last month they outpaced published forecasts nearly across the board,  its per-share earnings climbing more than 22% with U.S. store sales surging 11.4% from this time last year.  Now clearly it takes more than a clever marketing strategy in one area of business to post those kinds of results.

But The Home Depot is far more connected to the needs of its customers than any of its competition.

In a world where people are suffering from time crunch, information overload and huge amounts of stress, the company that can simplify the decision‑making process, wins.

So how can you do this in your business?

It’s simple:

1)     Build trust in everything that you do.

2)     Take away the complexity. While your competitors are thinking they look like the experts by overwhelming customers with pages and pages of unhelpful information, using complex and confusing language - you can be the hero by cutting through the clutter using simple, crisp language by showing customers a clear path in which to take action.

As Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~

A Marketing Secret From Warren Buffet

The Oracle of Omaha has become famous for many things – he’s worth $39 billion dollars but chooses to live in a humble bungalow in Omaha where his property tax bill is just $13,859. In an industry filled with false promises and hot air, Buffet’s no nonsense approach to living simply has equally been applied to his approach in investing. In studying the businesses that Buffet buys, one of the biggest commonalities shared by over 80% of his investments is the way these businesses have approached their marketing. Given that Buffet is one of the world’s most successful investors, its amazing that more people haven’t delved into the marketing secrets of his investment choices. I have and here’s what I discovered:

Warren Buffet loves investing in companies that involve a high component of trust – either in the way they’ve built their brand, or by building a personal relationship with their customers (as Buffet has with his Berkshire Hathaway stock holders), taking a personality driven approach to their marketing.

In other words, Buffet loves investing in companies that really take care of their customers. He buys trusted companies. Not the kind that just churn and burn through customers – ignoring the ones they have in pursuit of new targets.

Here’s a powerful question for you to ponder in your business: what would your relationship have to look like for your customers to choose to stay with you, for life?

Inevitably a big part of that answer is going to be trust. Its all in how you approach your marketing. Trust is the overlay that has to govern every decision you make in your business, never compromised or sacrificed for any other objective. While such an important topic is worthy of far more than just a brief article – here are 3 top strategies to incorporate trust into your marketing:

1) Keep your promises. Sounds ridiculously obvious but its alarming how few businesses do what they say they will. If you do, your business will stand out immediately. 2) Be prolific with your marketing. Familiarity and regularity builds trust. Create a marketing plan that breaks down your marketing activities into weekly, monthly and quarterly events. Just like clockwork. Don’t take a shotgun approach to your marketing (ie; frantic periods of activity followed by …silence). 3) Use high trust media, not low trust media. It takes absolutely no effort to hit send on an email broadcast that’s sent to thousands. It takes a great deal more effort, thought and commitment to send a direct mail piece that makes the recipient feel like they’re “the only girl in the room.” Traditional media like direct mail STILL out pulls digital advertising for ROI. Don’t abandon it and run the risk of making your business look and sound just the same as everyone else.

The Ultimate Marketing Secret

fisherman
fisherman

I once heard this great story about a little commercial fisherman who fishes off a well known peninsula in New York.  This man has become legendary in fishing circles and I even heard it rumored that he was the guy who captured the great white shark which inspired the movie Jaws. Every morning Captain Jack heads out bright and early to go fishing. But that’s pretty much where the similarity between him and every other commercial fisherman ends.  Instead of hiring a big crew to help get his Catch, Captain Jack just has one lone deck hand.

And they don’t use nets to catch their fish.  Call him old school but he still prefers to use just fishing poles and lines.

But here’s the thing.

Every day, for the past 20 years, without exception, Captain Jack catches not hundreds of fish, but thousands of fish.

In fact he out fishes every single commercial fishing operation in the area, usually by multiple times.

It doesn’t matter what the tides are doing, what time of year it is, or even if the fish are “running.” Captain Jack seems to have the “midas touch.”

Over the years he has been interviewed many, many times about the secret of his success.

His “fishing secret” also happens to be the single most powerful marketing secret I have ever heard.

And its surprisingly simple.

Here’s the secret to Captain Jack’s success.  Think like the fish, NOT the fisherman.” And that is precisely the reason why so much money is wasted on ineffective marketing.

Its not tightly tailored to your target audience.  It doesn’t resonate with the way they think. It’s written with the way YOU think.

Don’t ever make the mistake that you are your customer or your patient.  You’re not.  You have far more knowledge, more experience about your product or service than the people you serve. You’ve forgotten what its like to be in their shoes – how nerve wracking it is to visit a specialist physician or to sign a listing agreement!

That’s why before I begin ANY marketing project, I invest at least 50% of my time researching my client’s target market before I ever start putting pen to paper to craft the right message.  Here are some examples of how I go about researching: Who are they?  Where do they live?  How much money do they earn?  Who do they work for? Do they go to church?  How old are their kids?  What publications do they read?  What TV shows do they watch? Where do they like to vacation? What’s the burning issue that keeps them awake at 2 a.m. in the morning?  Who else are they buying from? How do they like to buy? Who are they mad at?

I don’t even dare pick up a pen until I have a very firm grasp of who I’m writing for and how they think.  You write copy very differently for business owners versus employees.  You speak to a 30 year old man very differently than you’d speak to a 40 year old man.  Married women very differently than single women.  Moms very differently from “empty nesters."  Knowing and understanding these nuances makes all the difference to how effective your marketing is.

I recently took an ad campaign one of my private clients had been running consistently for the last 12 months.  As a prominent plastic surgeon he works in a fiercely competitive and price driven market.  This one particular campaign had worked ok for him, but he had noticed a steady decline in response rate.  I rewrote the campaign to specifically target boomer age women looking to refresh their image.  We changed the message, and the media he advertised in but most importantly I rewrote the ad in language that would specifically appeal to boomer age women.  Even I was surprised at the results. His overall campaign spend decreased by 30% but his ROI tripled.

Little hinges open big doors!

Think like the fish, not the fisherman.

Stupid Hot Air Balloons and Why Marketing Is NOT Art

About 10 years ago, I remember sitting in the room of a huge ad agency listening in on a “pitch” meeting. This ad agency was a big one. Their offices were sprinkled with crazy hairstyles, wild tattoos and uber-hip means of self expression everywhere you looked.

They charged top dollar to their clients and prided themselves on recruiting some of the “most creative minds in the business”.

I could hardly wait to hear what their genius minds had cooked up to promote my client – a huge company in the insurance industry, who had a new executive team in place looking to shake their market up.

My client had invited me to attend because there was a great deal of money at stake, and they were worried that their big agency wasn’t “getting them.”

Turns out they were right to be worried.

The ideas that were put forward were absolutely ridiculous. For example “Let’s float 100 hot air balloons with your brand on them above the city and have people dressed like spies (like Mission Impossible) belay down ropes into the city and give away free vouchers.”

Seriously?

You have a very generous 7 figure budget to work with and this is the best your team have come up with?

“It’ll be fantastic” gushed the account manager, his platinum cufflinks gleaming in the halogen lights. “The Media will go nuts over it, and we’ve never ever done anything like this before...”

Whoa Bessie. Back up the bus.

First of all “free press coverage” does not necessarily mean sales. You hope it leads to sales, but there are a lot of “if’s” in there –”IF it gets picked up by the press, IF it gets the right media coverage, IF the segment gets in front of the right target audience, and IF that target audience then decides to pick up the phone and call. Hope is not a marketing strategy.

Sure the concept was a cool, novel idea that no one had done before, but as Tom Cruise said in the movie Jerry McGuire “Show me the money!”

Despite what the vast majority of marketers and advertising agencies would like you to believe, marketing is not art. It’s not about being cool and creative. It’s not about winning awards.

It’s about getting you sales, immediately, today, and putting money in your pocket. Period.

I can’t even tell you how many private clients have come to us with a superb looking websites which didn’t actually sell.

While it looked great, there was no marketing message that socked you between the eyeballs within the first nano second, the copy was fluffy and vague, there was no sales funnel set up, no enticing opt in magnet, no personality infused ad copy and possibly worst of all – it looked practically identical to all of their competition.

None of this was their fault. The vast majority of web designers are just that – web designers. They know how to design a great looking website, but they know nothing about selling.

The entire premise for advertising can be summed up by the cranky but profoundly talented advertising mogul David Ogilvy, who said:

“If it doesn’t sell, its not creative.”

9 Super Effective Ways To Get More Leads

Confused about what marketing to invest in? I don’t blame you. The marketing options out there are enough to make your head spin. Here’s a straight forward, plain speak list of some of my most proven marketing strategies that have got the biggest results for our private clients:

  • Send a direct mail campaign to targeted homes or businesses that fit your ideal client profile. Make it a multi-step campaign (to improve your response rate). Make a low barrier, irresistible offer with a deadline to respond by.
  • Create an animated sales and promotional video about your business and write to your best clients asking if you can feature them in it (of course they will say yes and you’ll be able to get glowing testimonials from them). Then hand them a done-for-them campaign to make the video viral so they can send to their own clients, friends, and centers of influence. The viral campaign to their people makesthem lookterrific.
  • Buy ads on Facebook, use some powerful, emotional laden copy that really connects with them and point them to a fan page with an irresistible offer in exchange for their email address.
  • Invest in some ad space in a magazine read prolifically by your target market. Run an “advertorial” (which is an ad that looks, smells and reads exactly like an article, except that it’s your dream article written about your company.” Order plenty of additional copies and send it to your high value prospects as part of a multi-media ad campaign. This is one of our most successful ad strategies used for our private clients.
  • Network with other local business owners, or those who might not be your geographic market but who also service your target prospects. Create a strategic alliance and promote each others’ businesses. I’ve written extensively about this over the years and call it “piggy back marketing.” It’s one of the best and fastest ways to generate high quality leads for your business.
  • Create 4-6 minute “how to videos” and broadcast them virally with a list of all your keywords and add a link to your landing page in the description.
  • Buy traffic from Google (using AdWords), carefully select your keywords and write your persuasive ad copy, then point them to your landing page or website (hint: before you go spend thousands on your AdWords campaign make sure you’ve done enough testing to make sure that the pages convert well. Doing this one step has saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Are you using all these strategies to generate leads for your business? If not what are you waiting for!

Don’t Bother With This Kind Of Marketing

There’s a famous advertising quote that goes something like this “half the money I spend on my advertising is wasted.  The problem is I don’t know which half!” But that’s only part of the problem.  With all the marketing hokem out there, its harder than ever to discern what kind of marketing you should be doing and where to invest your money for the biggest marketing bang.

It’s time for some plain talk marketing.

’m not going to presume I know your business and tell you exactly what you should do.  I can’t.  There’s no such thing as a one size fits all marketing plan.  Every business is unique and requires a very specific marketing prescription to tap into new markets and connect with new customers.

But I can tell you what kinds of marketing you should not be doing.  These are universal, applicable to each and every business because they’re either hopelessly outdated, or were never effective in the first place.

Here’s a quick Marketing black list to avoid at all costs:

1.)     Avoid broadcast marketing messages that are “pushed” out to everyone and anyone.  Generic marketing is well and truly dead.  Welcome to the age of specialized marketing – using tightly targeted messages to reach specific audiences.

2.)     Avoid any marketing that isn’t trackable and measurable.  You need to know to the penny what the effectiveness of your advertising is.  If you don’t know, then you’re going to need to sharpen your psychic powers, because how else will you know if it’s actually working?

3.)     Avoid plain old brand ads.  The world is cluttered enough.  Truly, no one cares about how cool your logo looks, or what your tagline says.  Every ad has to answer the old question for your customer “what’s in it for me?”.

4.)     Avoid any kind of marketing that even remotely looks like what your competitors are doing.  If you can remove your brand from an ad or your website and insert your competitor’s, and no one could tell the difference – that’s a giant fail.  How are your customers supposed to choose you above everyone else if you look the same?  Make it easy for them by making your marketing different.  Truly distinctive.