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Charisma and Marketing: The O(bama) Factor February 20, 2008

I don’t intend to get all political on you but considering a large part of politics is marketing- I think this post is appropriate.

Nightline did a segment last night on the impact Obama’s charisma has on people or, the “O Factor”, as I’ll call it. They panned the audiences at his rallies, where adoring fans cheered, cried and yes, even fainted. When was the last time you finished a sales presentation and looked up to see your potential clients’ pumping their fists in the air with excitement? If you answered never, you’re not alone.

Part of the reason Obama elicits such a remarkable outpour of emotions is because he is speaking about changing the world for the better. Chances are, your product or service addresses issues and benefits on a smaller, less engaging scale. But, the other part of the O Factor is a result of the confidence and passion Obama conveys that leads people to believe he can deliver on his promises. Sales and marketing success is highly dependent on the way that you present yourself and your company to prospects. If you truly believe in what you say your charisma will open up doors. Political views aside, if John McCain and Obama did sales presentations at your office on parallel products, who would you buy from? Thought so. There’s no fainting at McCain rallies for a reason.


There’s Nothing Pretty About Bad Service February 6, 2008

I was reminded of the value of compassion and genuine customer service this weekend after an accident put my boyfriend and I in a vulnerable position.

Anyone who lives in GA knows that it was beautiful weather on Sat- 60 degrees with blue skies and a cloudless sky above. People swarmed outside, ready to soak up the sun after months of hibernating. My boyfriend, Matt, and I decided to take advantage of the spring-like temps and packed the car up with our bikes and our dog, Sadie. With Sadie on a leash running along next to him and me following behind, we enjoyed a bike ride around the quaint little neighborhood of Oakhurst. About a block away from the car, the pleasant Saturday afternoon ride went wrong. In the blink of an eye, Sadie jerked back to check and see where I was, Matt let go of her leash and it looped around his handlebars and took the bike down, slamming him elbow-first into the concrete.

His pain was moderate at first, but after a night of trying to home remedy with ace bandages and a CVS sling, we realized that it was too intense for him to wait to see the Dr. on Monday. To further complicate the situation, Matt’s insurance at his new job doesn’t kick in until mid-month, so from a financial standpoint things were looking ominous. We opted to take him to an urgent care clinic in hopes of avoiding the imminent wallet draining that accompanies a visit to the ER.

The urgent care clinic left something to be desired aesthetically. It was small and a little rough around the edges, but I can’t say enough about the service that we received there. A Physicians Assistant was on duty, but after observing the extent of pain that Matt was in, she called the Dr. at home and asked him to come in to take a look at him. Keep in mind- this was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and not just any Sunday- SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. If the Dr. was unhappy about having to make an unexpected trip to the clinic, he sure disguised it well. He immediately set Matt at ease by telling him he had been in his shoes years ago after suffering the exact same type of injury to his arm in an accident. He gave Matt the pain meds that he needed to curb his suffering a little, but more importantly he empathized with him by telling him he understood what he was going through. He knew Matt was dreading the movement required to take x-rays, so he proactively engaged him in conversation about his line of work to distract him long enough to get the x-rays done. He took the time to listen to our worries about the financial impact of going to the ER without insurance. Then, he cared enough to reach out to his associates who were orthopedic doctors and asked them to meet us at the clinic to take a look at Matt’s injury. Despite his tireless efforts, he could not coax anyone into making a last-minute trip for a consultation on Super Bowl Sunday. But the point is- he did everything he possibly could to help us. And he even made Matt, who was in excruciating pain, smile a few times in the process. Now, that’s understanding your customer.

We did end up having to go to the ER that night, where Matt was given stronger pain control meds and a sturdy brace, and we were told we would have to go see a specialist in the morning. Oh, joy! Three doctor visits and no insurance in sight. Just as a point of contrast, I’ll tell you quickly about our visit to the orthopedist the next day. Aesthetically speaking, the orthopedist office was the Ritz Carlton and the urgent care clinic was a Super 8 Motel. Glossy hardwoods, Starbucks-style, blown glass lighting fixtures and high-dollar paintings greeted us as we walked in the waiting room. Easy to see how they purchase all the fancy trimmings when the snippy girl at the front desk told us $500 was due up-front for the appointment and any further service charges would be due before we leave. Um, is the Dr. going to follow us home and cook us dinner and do our laundry for the next month? Because, if not, that seems a little steep. Already baffled and agitated at the money spilling down the drain, we sat back down and waited for Matt’s name to be called. I know it’s typical for doctors to take their sweet time, but considering the situation our frustrations mounted as we waited and waited and waited some more. Finally, we were put in a fancy little room with another high-dollar painting where, just for good measure, we waited even longer. At long last, the orthopedist came breezing in and, without eye contact, snottily asked, “What happened?”. He then spent about 30 seconds eyeballing the x-rays that we brought in with us and belted out the profound comment of, “Yep, it’s fractured and it’s gonna take a while to heal. We’ll wrap you back up in the brace and sling you came in and book you for another appointment for more x-rays in a month.” Excuse me? If nothing else, I expected him to sit down and feign interest in the injury and pretend to care for at least 5 minutes. Matt asked him how long it would take and he responded, “for what?”. For world peace to be achieved, ya idiot-how long until he will heal, of course! As he walked out the door, he told us over his shoulder that it would be 6-8 weeks before Matt’s arm was back to full functionality. Thanks, Doc. Guess we don’t have any more questions.

I could continue to rant and rave, but by now I am sure you get the moral of the story. Your company can have all of the fancy trimmings; i.e. pretty website, glossy packaging and modern, high-tech offices, but if you fail to connect with your customers and empathize with them on a genuine level, they won’t stick around for long. After all, relationships are built between people; not expensive furnishings.


Position Yourself as an Expert; Part 2: Build Trust by Becoming a Resource January 21, 2008

More often than not, I surf the net to explore, research and learn about a variety of topics rather than to make an immediate purchase. Whether it’s “how to make dog stop digging in yard” or “tax filing tips for small businesses”, I am always impressed when I search for answers and inadvertently land on an applicable article within a related company’s website.  When my pup Sadie was turning our backyard into Swiss cheese with her persistent digging I did a search that led me to a jackpot of doggy obedience articles. After learning that she was committing her crime due to boredom and inability to release pent up energy, I clicked around the site to find their line of innovative toys that are designed to keep dogs engaged for hours. Ridden with guilt over my inefficient puppy parenting skills, I was soft putty in their hands as I clicked the “Purchase Busy Bones” button.

This example clearly demonstrates that providing free information can lead to an immediate, unplanned sale. Keep in mind- the dog toys did not require a large investment, so it was easier for me to make the quick decision to purchase after reading the obedience articles. Those selling higher dollar items or services will have to be more patient. Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. But, if you make a point to provide NON-SALESY, meaty online content that people actually want to read, the amount of visitors to your site will climb. Not only will you get more site views, but something will happen to these visitors’ perception of your company as they read the valuable information that you provide. You will become a resource. Someone that they look to for real advice. And, eventually, someone that they can trust. Your sales numbers will prove that credibility is the closer.


Position Yourself as an Expert; Part 1: Be Everything to Someone, or You’ll Be Nothing to Everyone January 3, 2008

Since I started freelancing I have noticed something time and time again. Companies all over the nation seem to be suffering from an identity crisis similar to what a teenager goes through in those first painful years of highschool (sans the acne). They silently wonder;

  • Who am I?
  • What makes me special?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What if I fail because people don’t like what I have to offer? 

These are valid questions for both a teen and a business, but it seems that many companies are failing to answer them. I’ve seen web design companies that sell self-help books and IT consulting companies that offer-gasp-landscaping services. It’s like walking into a diner and the hostess asking if you would like your car washed and your teeth cleaned while you wait for your patty melt. It seems businesses are afraid to focus on their strengths and provide specialized services because they think it will limit their market. But, who said a limited market is bad? The sooner you realize that you can’t be everything to everyone- the better off your company will be.

Let’s take that hormonal and confused teen into consideration again- we’ll call her Suzie. On top of school, Mom wants Suzie to play soccer, Dad wants her to be on the debate team, her friends want her to sing in their rock band and she wants to take art classes. Worried Suzie may disappoint her friends and family, she decides to do all of the above. With too much on her plate, it’s not long before she is missing soccer practice, failing Algebra, forgetting the words to her songs and struggling to keep her eyes open through art class. Suzie spread herself too thin by trying to please everyone and, in doing so, she inhibited herself from excelling at anything.

If you want to avoid going down the same path that poor, misguided Suzie did, now is the time to take a long, hard look at what your company has to offer and who you want your market to be. Focus on offering the services and products that your company delivers best and position yourself as the expert in that particular segment. Answer the questions that Suzie did not and you have a MUCH greater chance at surviving in this giant high-school that is the business world. Plus, you’ll have someone to sit with at lunch.   


Holiday Inspiration December 18, 2007

Dad: Born-again Pilot, InspirationDad flies a Zodiac

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is common to lose sight of what’s important. As you elbow your way towards the last Wii on the shelf or shed a tear over your checkbook thanks to all of the holiday cheer you’ve purchased, take a moment and think about the real meaning of the season. As for my family, this Christmas we are finding inspiration and joy in focusing on the positive. And, each day we are learning to realign our priorities by watching my Dad, Max Borner, who is pictured above before take-off on his first flight as a pilot since his early twenties.

In March of this year, Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. Since that day, my mother, 3 siblings and I, along with countless friends and family members as far away as Switzerland, have all climbed aboard with Dad to take on the insightful journey that is cancer. Our weeks have been filled with fear, anxiety, disappointment and all of the other yucky emotions that you would expect to feel when dealing with a disease of this magnitude.  What we did not realize we would feel in such enormity is the endless hope and pride that pours into our lives each day that we open our eyes.

You see, Dad has redefined fighting cancer. The imagery I associate with that phrase involves him in a boxing ring with a cancerous tumor, throwing all of his energy into knocking that sucker out and focusing on little else until the referree lifts his arms and declares victory. Dad’s reality is a bit different. Sure, he is undergoing the chemo treatments and popping the laundry list of medications prescribed by his team of doctors to beat the disease, but he is combining that regimen with the best self-prescribed treatment available–he is living with cancer. Although Pops has a perfectly valid excuse to lay down and resign to moaning and groaning, he has chosen instead to get out there and do the things that inevitably bring a smile to his face, some of which include; cheering on the grandkids at gymnastics meets and soccer matches, working 40 hour weeks, taking long walks with his dogs, stringing up Christmas lights and giving my Mom a good run for her money as always.

As if he’s not active enough, most recently, Dad decided it was time to renew his pilot’s license. Back in the 60’s, Dad was a pilot with the Swiss Air Force (you know, that intimidating, neutral one) until he made the big leap across the pond to marry my mom. He held fast to his love for planes but time for flying was scarce after he and my mom had the four of us. Years without flying turned into decades and the free feeling of taking flight became a distant memory.  It was a surprise to us all when Dad recently announced that the time had come for him to take to the sky once again. He has flown with an instructor twice over the last month and has said that the years without flying seemed to melt away as soon as he climbed into the cockpit. Each time he describes flying, you can feel the positive effect that it has on him and the hope that it brings him. Dad’s happiness is inspiring and infectious and it spreads throughout my family and beyond, reminding all of us what this crazy journey is about.

So, when the holiday blues threaten to put a damper on your outlook, take a moment to remember what’s important and get out there and do the things that make you happy. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire someone else to do the same.


Grammar schmammar December 17, 2007

Filed under: Effective Marketing Tips — papercutstar @ 5:42 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I was surfing around WordPress looking at other folks’ blogs on writing/marketing. I came across this one post that illustrated the main point of my last blog entry beautifully.

What was that silly bank with the “Expect more easy” slogan thinking? I can tell you what they weren’t thinking,”Would my highschool grammar teacher give this slogan the thumbs up?”. Chances of their prospective clients being grammar buffs or past or present English teachers who care are slim to none. That “stupid” bank was trying to get the attention of potential clients who were flying by the billboard at 60 mph while sipping a latte, putting on eyeliner and wondering if their last paycheck was deposited yet. Think they’re concerned with the structure of a sentence on a billboard? I think not. “Easy” probably has a nice ring to it as they spill their latte and smear their eyeliner after learning that their bank account is overdrawn once again.

I am assuming that the comment my fellow blogger left in response to the post was sarcastic. But, if not, it’s an instant classic.


When Your Writer Can Spot a Dangling Participle Blindfolded but Doesn’t Know What SEO is- You Have a Problem December 7, 2007

Every company knows that they must keep an eye on the competition. Before starting my business, I surfed around a good bit to check out some established freelancers’ websites. Upon visiting my competitors’ sites, I was shocked at what I saw and I came to one surprising (yet delightful, since it sets me apart) conclusion- most writers don’t know a damn thing about marketing.

I gasped at home pages that read like endless sales letters, filled with 8 syllable words only their geeky, grammar-obsessed friends would find engaging. One page I visited literally required 2 minutes of scrolling to reach the bottom. Who has the time for that? No one. And that’s the key issue I noticed with many writers’ approach. They get lost in a literary fever, eager to dazzle with their impressive vocabulary, but they forget about the reader’s need for quick, informative copy that points toward a clear solution and, thus, they lose the sale.

If they somehow manage to maintain your attention through 2 minutes of scrolling and you decide to give them a shot, expect more of the same when they write copy for your company. After all, if they don’t even know how to market themselves efficiently, how are they going to market your business?

It doesn’t matter how many books they have published or how many awards they have won for creativity from their local writer’s circle- if a writer doesn’t understand how to get into the heads of your target market and speak to them in a way that encourages them to act, they will not be able to help you grow your business. Plain and simple. (Yes, fellow writers, I know that was a sentence fragment but it helped illustrate my point. Now go back to conjugating verbs.)