Turn a Minus into a Positive

It took a pandemic to slow me down enough to unpack from a 6 month sabbatical in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic probably changed your life a lot, too.

This is a great time to stop, look around, take inventory, and do some maintenance or upgrades on your sales, marketing, and business development activities.

It reminds me of an event that happened four years ago….

My mother-in-law’s sister, “Jane”, came to visit. She came over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, while my family was off visiting other people. Jane used our house as a free AirBnB while she spent her days at the assisted living facility. When Jane left, she accidentally left the refrigerator door ajar. For two weeks, the refrigerator was trying to cool down the inside, while the open-door-light was pumping in new heat. Eventually, the refrigerator stopped working. I came home to a lot of rotten and about to explode food.

First, I was, frustrated with Jane. I brought the 65-gallon trash can from the garage to the fridge and emptied it all out. I washed down the entire fridge: all that stuff that seems to collect around the milk jugs, the weird thing that leaked from 2008 on a back shelf, the red wine stain from 2005…

As I threw out food, jams that had crystallized, spreads I didn’t like the taste of, sauces dating back decades, I could see that what was in the fridge was NOT what I needed IN the fridge.

Your marketing and sales activities may be as dated or inappropriate as my refrigerator contents. Now is a great time to take inventory and pitch the stuff that does not work, is too 2003, or is not suitable for your current customer-base or product offering.

Where to start?

  1. Take Inventory
    • What are you doing?
    • Are your new products included?
    • Do you have old products you should stop promoting?
  2. Evaluate effectiveness
    • Do your marketing assets still work the way they should?
    • Are you spending the majority of your time on the pieces that do work and little time on the ancillary items?
    • Or is the equation flipped and you are spending 80% of your time on 20% of your sales?
    • Can you imagine an improved workflow?
    • Does it work if in-person meetings, conferences, or tradeshows are virtual?
  3. Delete the non-essential
    • Simplify, simplify, simplify
  4. Plan the new and improved path forward
    • Improve the workflow now that the non-essential is gone
    • Add new content or new outlets as appropriate
    • Schedule a re-review
    • Put someone in charge of the maintenance

Fast Track 4

Whether you’re selling a product, yourself, or your company, you have to do four things:

  1. Make what the customer wants
    • There’s what you do.
    • Then there’s what the customer wants. 70% of companies fail 2 years into the game because they didn’t make what the customer wanted or needed. Be in the 30% who succeed.
  2. Price it accordingly
    • Be good fast or cheap. Pick 2.
    • Price is what the market will bear.
    • It really comes down to the two most important specifications and how you position the product in the market place for customer need.
  3. Get your village to support you
    • OK, really you need to create the village you and your company need to succeed.
    • What are your strengths?
    • What do you need someone else to do (you can’t do everything)?
    • Who can be a partner, a mentor, a trusted advisor?
    • It is about who you know.
  4. Make a plan
    • A business plan is really a hypothesis which combines all of your assumptions about the market, the pricing, your ability to make and ship the product, and costs.
    • Then you test the plan in the real world.
    • Finally, you validate or invalidate your hypotheses.
    • Without a plan you won’t really know where you were correct and incorrect.
    • As they say in the Navy: “Fail to plan; plan to fail.”

Pick a Time

As the Navy likes to say, “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.”

Plan Your Marketing Communications

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing dollars and time, then you have to plan. Period. Maybe I’m type A and like things to be orderly — but I do not think so.

Plan the course

Without a plan, you cannot easily tell what is and what is not working. I like to think of Marketing Plans and Business Strategy Plans as a an intended course the ship needs to sail. The only way to know if we are on course or not is to refer to where we are against where we said we were going to be.

How do your customers seek and find information?

I like to take a spreadsheet and create a matrix: what information and in what channel and for whom?

[table id=1 /]

What is it that you hope to achieve in each channel and how will you know you have succeeded?

  • Target number of opens or click-thrus
  • Targeted leads and/or companies (number, quality, and specific names)
  • Target number of quotes, orders, and sales

The matrix can be however you like to think of your “To-Do’s”. Another way to do the matrix is by calendar year.

[table id=2 /]


International Moment of Laughter Day

April 14

Find that inner giggle and let it loose. Laugh like a 10 year old. Now figure out how your brand can do that!

Humor in advertising

You have heard this before, but I will repeat it:

People buy from people. 

It is your job for your brand to be human and real for your customers. One great way is to use humor.

This Psychology for Marketers post has a few examples of videos which have worked well for their brands. Of course, the most in-your-face humorous clips are British. While it works on that side of the pond, on this side of the pond it is likely to get you in hot water. Be mindful of your demographics!

This HubSpot post has more “American” brands with more “American” humor examples. Notice that many of the brands featured in the post are boring insurance companies. We have certainly noticed in our house that the insurance company ads have been spectacular, witty, and funny enough to watch several times (to see what you missed the first 10 times).

Humor builds brands

Data show that humor will not necessarily sell more product from the outset. The data show that humor makes your brand more memorable. If your brand is more memorable (for good things) then eventually you should sell more products — if you have done your product marketing correctly!

What wacky, crazy things happen if people don’t use your product?

If you can find the humor, be it witty, dry, or (gasp) cute, then you may be on to something more memorable than what you have been doing.

How to do humor

Humor can go awry, so be careful. Start small and get bigger as you get better.

  1. Rule of three. People remember three things:
    “I came. I saw. I conquered.” — Julius Ceasar
    “I can promise you Blood, Sweat, (Toil) and Tears” — Winston Churchill
    “Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” — William Shakespeare
  2. Big, big, little or Little, little, big.
    Use the rule of three, with a twist. The first item establishes the pattern. The second item reinforces the pattern. The third item provides the twist or humor.
  3. “Let me tell you where you are wrong.” Famous words from Winfred Denk.
    Practice. Practice. Practice.  Show your ad, your copy, and your images to your team, your family, and people who do not know what you are trying to do or accomplish. I always like to use people who are my “naysayers” or “most critical commentators” to tell me where I am wrong. If you can get a smirk from your favorite nitpicker, you probably have something.

Now do it

There is a time and a place to use humor. Figure out when and where. To have the most effectiveness, it should be planned. Both the channel and the timing.

Here are some thoughts about both. 

Warning labels on humor

  1. Humor must be within brand
  2. It must not be offensive
  3. It must be refreshed


Alexander Graham Bell Day

It is March 7, Alexander Graham Bell Day. Pick up that telephone and call someone.

It is that simple and yet it is still hard.

Three ideas to get you going and lower your energy barriers:

Check in on how the last order, service call, or project was received by their customer. I had a consultant in a previous life who was really good at this. About every six months, if I had not called her, she would call me and ask “how is it going?” Not only did she get feedback, I usually had another project to give her and get off of my desk.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, derives from the data presented in a 1953 psychology paper that our short-term working memory is limited. People forget to reach out, even when they need to. Save them the time, energy, and embarrassment. Call them first!

The “Did you know we also do?” call. Just this weekend I was speaking with a general practitioner friend, and he was telling me a story about a patient who needed a doctor to see her kids. She had never thought her GP could be their GP until it was mentioned during a routine visit. He had never asked her if she was happy with her kids’ doctor. We often forget that the people with whom we do business add services, do more than one thing, or already have the solution to a problem we have.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, re-iterates that when you do not need the information, you let it go out of your easily accessed memory. This is especially true for customers who associate you and your company with a particular solution or product. If they had no need of other products or services when you mentioned it, they immediately lost the ability to recall that.

“Did you know” will place a new memory in their brains — especially if they need it now!

Calls trump email. Follow up with a quote, a trade show call, or a inquiry.  You never know if the email got lost in the ether or they forgot it was in their inbox.

In the rule of remembering, 7 ± 2, your customer has probably already forgotten your email. That email got forgotten about the time she suddenly remembered to pick up milk on the way home the other day.

“It’s been xxx days/weeks since we last spoke and I was wondering if this project was still under way.” Who knows what you will learn.

It’s called “dialing for dollars” and it works. What are you waiting for? You can always start with “Happy Alexander Graham Bell Day”!

Opposite Day

¡ January 25 is Opposite Day !

Sounds like an episode from Jerry Seinfeld. The one where George decides if he does everything opposite from how he normally does things, life gets better.

A different perspective

You have done this before. You drive the opposite way home or to the office and the road looks different (e.g., when driving south, I nearly always miss the turn into my neighborhood because it looks so different). You sit in the passenger seat and see businesses you had not noticed before.

What could you do to get a different perspective on your marketing strategy? your customer segments? your partners in your target market?

The “Tiny House” movement is an Opposite Strategy to home ownership.
The “Cut the Cord” movement is an Opposite Tactic for reducing entertainment costs.
“Minimalism” is an Opposite Way of Life for reducing clutter, right-sizing costs, and improving quality of life.

If you buy, sell. If you sell, buy.
Work on the floor.
Run a focus group with past customers.
Do something that is different to see your world, your business, and your strategies from an entirely different perspective.

Change it up. Examine the “we always do”

In a Netflix movie on Queen Victoria, Prince Albert walks into a room to see the staff setting the table to serve a meal for a king who had been dead for 20 years. Because “that’s how we always do it.” No orders to stop setting the table, so the table kept getting set for 365 days for over 20 years. That’s 7300 uneaten meals.

You may think your organization is not quite as silly. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

I am sure there are things you do that should be re-examined, questioned, and either improved or stopped.

Blue ocean strategy

A good read, “Blue Ocean Strategy“, gets its title from a strategy of sailing into “clean” air. When you sail as part of a pack,  only the lead boat gets good wind. Everyone else gets what is called “dirty air”.

Dirty air is slower.
Dirty air comes from a less preferential angle, influenced by the sails it hits before yours.
Dirty air is more turbulent.

The lead boat gets good wind. To get out of “dirty air” one must sail away from the pack.

Are you doing what everyone else is doing?

Is it time to sail away from the pack?

An excellent tool to examine how you might find new opportunities and sail away from the pack is to use Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas to examine your model versus what your customers may want.

Change up a revenue source (rent versus sell, pay per use, subscriptions)?
Change up a distribution system?
Change a partner or supply chain?

National Bean Day

I confess

I missed getting holiday cards out. Then I missed sending out Happy New Year’s cards out. Apparently I sent client-thank-you-presents out, but forgot to say who they were from…

I could throw in the towel and give up or I could drop back a few yards, punt, and try again.

I decided to follow my own advice:  don’t give up; don’t allow myself the luxury of pain; and do my best even if I think no one is looking.

Find another day, way, touch point

As marketers, we are always looking for the excuse to reach out to our customers. To say “Hey, we are still here. Buy from us. Talk to us.”

A client, Ed, pointed out that I had a unique way of finding humor. Also, he said people don’t notice you sometimes until you are gone (he was amazed at how many people came to his store only after he put the “going out of business” sign up).

Another client introduced me as “someone who used to write.” Oops, is my “out of business” sign up?

It occurred to me that every day is a “national holiday” of some sort or another. I had found my excuse. Now I needed to find my humor and a little Mo & Jo.

What’s your excuse?

Looking for a calendar of “days”?

National Bean Day

According to several websites, January 6 is National Bean Day.

The Huffington Post supposed it was to honor “Gregor Mendel, who famously used bean and pea plants to test his theories on inheritance. Mendel died on this day in 1884.”

For those trying to lose weight or improve their diet as part of their New Year’s resolutions, they may wish/want/desire a little push to increase the healthy in their diet. From the National Day website:

Today, just as throughout the Old and New World history, beans are an important source of protein. A very healthy choice for any meal or snack, they are also an excellent source of fiber, are low in fat and are high in complex carbohydrates, folate and iron.

If you are a fan of Michael Pollan and his book or documentary “In Defense of Food”, you can have beans and feel satisfied that you have eaten food, mostly plants (and hopefully), not too much!

There you go — January 6, National Bean Day.

PS. I think you can also have Jelly Beans for dessert!


How Technology Companies can use YouTube

How Manufacturers and B-to-B will use Social Media is bound to change and mature over the next few years, an outlet I’ve found tremendously helpful is YouTube.

  1. Product demos, especially of large systems
  2. How-to-fix videos, of especially complex steps in the field
  3. Training videos for staff
  4. How customers use the products
  5. The types of OEM products that customers sell
  6. How product can be damaged and how to test/look for that type of damage
  7. How the product is made as a sales tool for building credibility with customers
  8. Commentary captured per Youtube video can be used to improve future videos

As in all things, the more professional the video, the more professional the impression that will be made.

  1. Watch videos you like and don’t like and take notes:
  2. How long should you make it?
  3. Break into smaller segments as appropriate (think in terms of chapters) and to enable better streaming
  4. Break into chapters where steps 1 and 4 go quickly but 2 & 3 may need to be reviewed a few times. By breaking into smaller sections the user can more easily re-review the trickier steps
  5. Title sections so it is obvious if one section is missing in the search results
  6. Scripting of the voice-over. How the voice-over talks
  7. Camera work. Put it on a tripod and keep the zooms to a minimum
  8. When interviewing people, put their names and titles at the bottom
  9. Where and when to put the company name on the video
  10. Don’t forget a call to action
    a. Call us
    b. Go to our website
    c. Depending on the content, it may be appropriate to make the video available to download officially – once they’ve registered on your website
  11. Title appropriately
  12. Measure results. If the videos aren’t getting the financial results you need, re-evaluate why

You need a website, and now!

What are you missing by not having a website?

Close your eyes for a moment and picture your target customer.

  • How does that person or the decision maker seek and find information to find the solutions to their problems?
  • How do they reduce risk in choosing a vendor or type of solution?
  • What if they sort-of remember that you exist? and your business card is in a pile of 1000 in the back of their desk drawer or thrown out in the latest round of cleaning off their desk?Websites build credibility that you are a solid, trustworthy, credible business.

They enable people who want to contact you to find your preferred contact information.

Just as importantly, they help non-customers learn this quickly and efficiently. And that’s just as important for them as it is for you.