What’s your Big Purple Cup?

Published by admin on January 13th, 2014

big purple cup

Around the office, everyone knows me for my big purple cup.   It’s the cup out of which I drink my 100 oz.  water every day.   Not something I did intentionally and the cup has zero sentimental value.  I just that I started drinking from this big purple cup I brought from home and after several months of using it everyday, I became known for it.

So, in your business, what’s your big purple cup?  Ask yourself what you are known for outside of the stated  “brand position” you‘ve created for yourself. I’m talking about blind spots…something you may not know you’re known for at all.  It’s a good exercise in branding, because branding is not just what you put out there through your slick marketing efforts.  Branding is the sum total of all thoughts and feelings that someone associates with your business.

Research can help.  From time to time we commission market-wide field research studies for clients to answer that question on a broader scale and we are ALWAYS surprise to see something we did not anticipate.   There are usually two or three things that consistently show up in verbatim responses of which we were unaware.  Without effective research, you’re limited to questions within your own purview.    I find that clients only ask questions to which they want to know the answers, but the unasked questions often reveal the most insightful answers.   So ask yourself…what’s your big purple cup?  And lemme know if you need help finding yours.

Duality and the fallacy of inbound marketing

Published by admin on March 12th, 2013

                                                          Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blood, Sweat, and Tears sang it like this: “What goes up, must come down”.

Sir Issac Newton framed it like this: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 The absolute truth of duality:

At least on this planet, we are governed both physically and metaphysically by the absolute law of duality. For something to be static, there must be motion.  For there to be passive, there must be intrusive.  For there to be a response, there must be a stimulus.

Many inbound marketing hounds forget this very important nugget.   I understand the “shift” from push-market strategy to pull-market strategy, but that’s just it… For there to be pull, there must be push.  Inbound marketing efforts are a response to a stimulus.

Inbound marketing strategy is about one side of the coin, conversion; the scratch to meet the itch.  But in order to search for an answer, there must be a question.  Google now has a near monopoly on the answer part, but before Google we used yellow pages, or newspaper, books, directories, articles, etc.  There has always been stimulus and response, connections and conversions. For all the new age ‘lead-gen’ inbound strategists out there, many forget that coins have two sides.

Duality: The paradox of Connection vs. Conversion

Advertising strategy isn’t about “online” or “offline”.  Advertising strategy is about connection or conversion.  As duality would have it, without push there can be no pull, yet if I’m pulling I cannot be pushing.  Similarly, a solid advertising plan will have paradoxical strategies and languages for connecting with your customers and converting your customers.  You cannot have one without the other, yet they are mutually exclusive.

Connection advertising (Outbound) is about stimulus; priming  thoughts and inserting yourself into the conversation. Connections are about just that: connecting with people emotionally. It is not about lead generation or tracking. Connections are about the stories that leave people touched, moved, and inspired.  You want your connection ad strategy to leave people wanting to hear more from you.

Conversion advertising (Inbound) is about facts; about being there when your customer gets there and providing the answer they’re looking for you. Conversion is about completing with people intellectually.  Conversion is about tracking and lead generation because that’s what it’s designed to do.  You want your conversion ad strategy to leave people fulfilled on the promise that you’ve made by delivering on the details necessary to complete the sale.

Media Tools for Connection and Conversion:

One can make an argument here, but for my money Intrusive media like broadcast media (Radio/TV) are excellent at the former, less so the latter.  Passive media like Google is excellent at the latter, less so the former.

Messaging: The language of Connection vs. Conversion

Consider these paradoxes when writing for connection or conversion

        Connection                                       Conversion

  • Stories—————————————Facts
  • Ideas—————————————–Execution
  • Heart     ————————————–Mind                                  
  • Intrusive————————————Passive
  • Emotion————————————-Logic
  • Instinct————————————–Analysis            
  • Faith——————————————Science
  • Perception———————————-Reality
  • Priming Conversation——————Generating Leads

How much should I spend on my advertising?

Published by admin on November 7th, 2012

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“How much should I spend on advertising to get results?” This is one of the top 3 questions I get from prospective advertisers.  It’s a worthy question.  It’s a moment of truth for any business owner.   Advertising can be a scary proposition.  Business owners know they need to do it.  They’ve seen or heard the results of others in their industry or tangential industries who’ve had wild success with it.  But they’ve also heard the horror stories, that it can be expensive and that it’s difficult to measure its effectiveness or connect it directly to the impact on their business.

So how much should you spend? Many advertising reps will spat off the tired line about “the small business administration recommends that you should spend 5-6% of gross revenue on advertising.”  Who came up with this?

To look at it a different way, substitute the word exercise for advertising.  If someone were to ask you, “How much (effort/time/money) should I spend on exercising to get results?”, what would you say?  A natural response might be, “what do you mean by ‘results’?” Some people consider dropping a few pounds as “results”.  Others consider “results” to be able to do a triathlon or a marathon.  It’s the same with advertising. It’s up to you to quantify what you consider results.

There is no such thing as “low risk / high reward”

In 20+ years of seeing hundreds of different business models, I have come to realize that it comes down risk tolerance, efficiency of operation, and customer experience. The more aggressive you get, the higher the risk and the higher the return.  One of our local clients in the home services category spends 22% of revenue on advertising. He runs an efficient operation and his customer’s experience is phenomenal, (his referral rate is 55%), which means that each new customer earned is like 1 ½ new customers, and those referred customers refer others and so on. His risk tolerance is higher and he fundamentally believes in advertising …aggressively.  One of my real estate clients spends 25% of revenue on advertising.  Nationally, experts estimate that Red Bull spends as much as 40% of revenue in marketing.  Advertising that is well planned and executed is a 100% tax deductible investment in growth.  And if you don’t invest in your brand and tell your story, how do you expect your customers to invest in your company and tell your story?

Instead of asking “How much should I spend on advertising to get results”, do what any good investment advisor would do: assess your risk tolerance.  Ask yourself these questions instead: “What is my risk tolerance”, How committed am I to growing this business? How aggressive can I afford to be?”  Once you’ve done that, do the following:

  • Calculate an annual advertising budget based on 12-months.
  • Create a plan to invest that money.
  • Determine the media that will give the highest and best use of your money
  • Book that media
  • Say NO to all other advertising for the next 12-months

Social Media and The Rule of 150

Published by admin on October 18th, 2012

Original Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social Media and The Rule of 150.

Google uses social media engagement as a key metric in giving relevance scores to websites, so, the more “likes” on your Facebook page the better, right?  10,000 is 100x better than 100 and a million is 100x better than that, right?  It’s important to remember that metrics don’t buy your products or services, human beings do, and while social media has changed our habits, our motivations and the size and sphere of our social groups haven’t changed since prehistoric times. Turns out the number you as a business owner need to be focused on is 150.

Social media has changed the conversational medium by which human beings communicate; it just hasn’t changed human beings.  The typical social group size for humans hasn’t changed.  It is and has always been about 150 people.  With the explosion in population, travel and access, and now the internet, social media, etc. one would think our social sphere of influence would have expanded, but it hasn’t.  Dr. Michael Gazzaniga is well researched in this field, and articulates this in his book Who’s In Charge: Free Will And The Science Of The Brain

Dr. Gazzaniga sites the work of Robin Dunbar, head of Oxford University Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology:

“150-200 people are the number of people that can be controlled without an organizational hierarchy. It is the number of people one can keep track of, maintain a stable social relationship with, and would be willing to help with a favor.”

But why? What are the limiting factors that keep us at a social group of around 150? Turns out it has to do with the size of the neocortex in our brains.  He goes on to explain:

“To have social relationships, you call on five cognitive abilities:  (1) you must interpret visual information to recognize others, then (2)be able to remember both faces and (3) who has a relationship with whom; (4) you must process emotional information, and then (5) manipulate information about a set of relationships.”

Managing human relationships requires an immense amount of processing power and for whatever evolutionary reason our brains’ cognitive capacity caps out at around 150 people.  Yeah, but you (or someone you know) have 784 Facebook friends, right?  More from Dr. Gazzaniga:

Today’s social networking sites appear no different.  In an ongoing study, Dunbar has so far found that even people with hundreds of “friends” interact with a limited number of them.  “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world.”

Still think getting that lady who has 950 Facebook friends to like your page is super influential? Sure she is, but no more than that introverted customer who slips in and out of your business without much engagement or feedback at all.  They both have about the same size social group.  Every customer interaction, from your advertising, your Facebook page, your website, to your phone calls, your trucks and store fronts, is an opportunity to delight each person as if they have direct influence with 150 people, because statistically speaking, they do.

Write great ads, just don’t tug on Superman’s cape

Published by admin on July 18th, 2012

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape

You don’t spit into the wind

You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger

and you don’t mess around with Jim.

-Jim Croce: song-writer, marketing professor

You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, released in April 1972.  Lay the first line of the chorus on anyone over 40 (maybe younger) and they can recite the entire refrain.  I heard it again today over the house system while dining with a client and I stopped to relive that fantastic story.  The evocative descriptions and the magnificent choice of verbs told a feature length film story in three minutes start to finish.

What makes that story work is what makes great relational advertising work.  A memorable story with a hooks that are easily recalled, written in an economy of words. Unusual descriptions, funky verbs, knowing what to leave out.

Set the scene:  Uptown got its’ hustlers, the bowry got its’ bums and 42nd street got a big Jim Walker, he a pool-shootin’ son of gun.  I know that place.  Bet you do too.  Jim didn’t have a convertible, he drivin’ a drop-top Cadillac.  When a rival named Slim comes calling, Jim didn’t walk into the pool hall, Jimmy come boppin’ in off the street.  But when the cuttin’ was done the only part that wasn’t bloody, was the soles of the big man’s feet.   Man I loved that song as a kid.  The story hooked me every time the radio cast it.   And hell, even though I was a south Alabama country boy just like Slim,  I kinda felt sorry for ol’ Jim by the end.

Why do we spend time boring listeners with business blah blah when we could be telling fantastic stories like this??  If radio or TV advertising spun stories like this, you think they’d be memorable and sell product?   Maybe we should ask another bad ass character with a great storyThe most interesting man in the world.


The Conventional Wisdom Trap

Published by admin on June 22nd, 2012

  “In this economy, people are just looking for a deal” – Customer of mine who shall remain nameless

Conventional economic wisdom says that the reactions to price fluctuations should be inversely proportional (assuming there is adequate demand for a product or service).  Drop the price, consumers buy more.  Raise the price, consumers buy less.  But there’s a quirky thing about manipulating price and using price offers…

Prices have meaning beyond “the price”: Because we make decisions emotionally, consumers are irrational beings.  We imbue variables like price fluctuations with feeling or meaning.  The short-term reward from a discounted price offer is disproportionate to the fear of loss over a price increase. Manipulating prices to attract business in the short-term is a slippery slope and it is very difficult to recover from for three scientific reasons:

1)       Loss Aversion- Loss aversion is a conditioned response that refers to a person’s tendency to avoid loss over acquiring a gain. It is an emotion rooted in fear and it is innate in all of us.  The less the emotional connection there is, the more important price becomes as a factor. With no “emotional tie-breaker”, your customer is more likely to revert to the emotion of fear in the form of loss aversion and think in terms of potential losses vs. potential gains, and pay the lower price.

2)       Value Attribution- Consumers attribute value based on their initial perception. Particularly when attempting to attract new customers, the lifeblood of any growing business, “first impression” is difficult to overcome. If you use price tactics to attract customers, you can expect to lose them to a competitor on price as well.  Moreover, price tactics alone make building repeat and referral business a challenge. Asking a customer to pay $20 for a lunch that she paid $10 for the first time she patronized the business is a tricky proposition.

3)       Confirmation Bias- Similar to value attribution, confirmation bias is our natural inclination to favor information that confirms our initial impression.  What we believe is our reality, and we reject evidence that contradicts our beliefs.  Confirmation bias is a key-critical element in long term planning of your advertising.  There can only be one price-leader in any given category, and chances are you are not it. In the long run, raising the anticipated value and creating the confirmation bias of an excellent customer experience is always the more profitable move.



Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Advertising for 3 Phases of Consumer Behavior

Published by admin on February 24th, 2012


Everything I know about Relational and Transactional customers, I learned from Roy H. Williams, founder of the Wizard Academy  and the those terms should be properly credited to him.   My friend and former co-worker Josh Yudin, president of The Marketing Academy, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, assigned a new meaning to those terms as different modes of consumer behavior in general.   It has occurred to me, however, that there is a 3rd phase, Transitional, that incorporates both the general ethos of Relational or Transactional buyers, and buyer behavior through the sales cycle of any give product or service.  That said…

There are three phases of buyer behavior:

Relational, Transitional,  and Transactional

Relational: The phase customers are in before the need arises for your product. 95-98% of your target. The longer the sales cycle (HVAC, jewelry, cars once every few years, vs. say a restaurant, grocery store, gasoline, etc.), the longer a customer is in Relational phase

Transitional: After an event occurs to move them into the sales funnel (anything from the everyday mundane events like “I’m hungry” to paradigm shifting life events like “my mother broke her hip and now she can’t live alone”). The length of time a customer stays in Transitional mode depends on a number of factors like personality types,  immediacy of solution needed, amount of expense, resources available, etc.

Transactional: After the consumer has had what my friend calls the “Popeye moment” (as in, “I can’t stands no more!”). They’ve done any necessary research and they are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.The immediate sales funnel. That 2-5% of your target customer that is ready to buy today.

  •  Each phase requires different advertising strategy.  One could argue for exceptions, but generally speaking, it works something like this.

Media Strategy for Each:

Relational Strategy: The “Why”.   Persuade with emotions. Authentically enroll people with the “why” of your company. Details and facts are irrelevant in relational mode because they are not yet in the market for your product.   While emotions can be conveyed in any medium, the human brain is uniquely wired for processing the human voice, thus making intrusive, sound-based media like Radio and TV a prudent choice for not only arresting the attention of an audience, but also telling the “why” story of your company in an emotionally compelling way.

Transitional Strategy:  The “How”.  An event has occurred in the customers life and they are looking for possible options to solve their problem. Articles and blog entries on your site found through a solid SEO strategy.   Social Media conversations on  Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest, etc.  Behavioral Retargeting is becoming more and more effective advertising tool in transitional phase. 

Transactional Strategy: The “Who, What, Where”.    They are ready to buy and they are looking for the details necessary to complete the transaction.  SEM (Pay Per Click) used correctly is a very effective tool in the Transactional phase.  Feedback sites like  Yelp, Angie’s List, Kudzu etc. are also becoming more and more important.  In certain cases print media can allow  a more comprehensive format to fill in the details and facts necessary to complete the transaction.  Search has a distinct advantage in that tools like Google Analytics allow advertisers to track metrics and provide reams of data that print media cannot (save tools like QR codes).

Trying to connect emotionally when consumers are in Transactional mode is too late.  Filling ads with details in Relational mode is too premature.

For more information, email me.

6 Quick Steps to Less Sucky Radio Ads (or any ads)

Published by admin on February 23rd, 2012

People don’t “hate advertising”.  Quite the contrary.  How many times have you forwarded a funny commercial or mentioned a clever ad to someone.  Multiple times.  No, we don’t hate advertising…we hate advertising that sucks.  Flacid, boring blah blah blah, and frankly most local radio ad copy sucks.  Heck, most local copy sucks, period.  Hate to be crude, but…it’s true.   However, ask those local advertisers who’ve built an empire on radio, those who you hear year after year? They’d tell you a different story.  So what’s the difference between sucky radio copy and not sucky radio copy?



Follow these 6 simple rules:

1) Arrest the attention: I had a well respected agency tell me once that she needed to “set the stage” before saying something significant.  The hell you do.  You don’t have time. You have 3 seconds for the brain to assess your message and either be intrigued enough to listen further, or kick it to the curb.  3 seconds. Between texting, talking, glancing at a GPS or whatever it’s a wonder anyone ever hears your ad.  Arrest their attention first. Not screaming like a car dealer, but by saying something out of left field for effect, then tie it back to the point you are trying to get across.    Email me, and I can show you several examples or even take your ad and do it for you if you are interested.

2) Ditch the details:  Tell an authentic, interesting story instead. There was a time when details may have mattered in radio ads.  That time dies with this thing called Google. We don’t have to remember details…about anything.  Google’s got it. Details are only important to those who are already in the market for a product, and 98% of those who hear it are not yet in the market. Your short :30 or :60 is too precious to spat details that are not important right now.  Let the details, (the who, what, when, and where,) be the domain of your website, blog, and search strategy, because when they do fall into the cue, they will search.  Tell of the story of the impact your product or service had on someone.  Make it interesting, and make it real.  To paraphrase Simon Sinek, “people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it”.  Give them the why.  Tell them your story.

3) Crush the cliche’ catchphrase:  Seems so obvious, but there are scores of ads running right now, in my top 10 market touting “There’s never been a better time to buy a _________”, or “Everything must go!”, or “Family owned and operated since19__”.  If you’ve hear it before, your brain has too…and your brain knows better.  Broca’s area swats irrelevant cliches like mosquitoes.   Listeners never hear it.  Ever.   There are so many fun, persuasive, and effective ways to say what you are trying to get across without resorting to this.  It just takes a little imagination.  Email me and I’ll show you some great examples.

4) Abandon the obvious:  Heard this one the other day…”Hey Atlanta, it’s about to be springtime! Time to take off those unwanted pounds”  Really?? I hadn’t noticed.  And who’s this “Atlanta” character, anyway.   Just by looking through a different prism we can come up with many different, more interesting angles.   Once again, Broca’s area of the brain anticipates the predictable and banishes it to the scrap heap of irrelevancy.  Take a unique angle.  If you need inspiration, look no further than the fabulous “2o Something Betters” scene from the 1987 classic “Roxanne”.

5) Be Real:  We live in a jaded, over-sold world.  Our bullsh*t trigger fires at the slightest inkling of “being sold”.  Don’t use a polished “voice talent” from a station. In this age of authenticity, nothing is more hokey than a staged radio voice.  Be real with your ads.  Use real voices.  Speak in broken sentences.  Shed the sheen of a smooth sounding ad.  Your listeners are going to relate much more to an interesting story told in an authentic way than some slick talking DJ voice spatting the same old tired manure.

6) Give up the quest for magic beans:  So many advertisers want to hear that we have the magic beans….that we’re the station that “gets results”.  Unfortunately too many sales reps have told them about “their station” as if a mass media audience has some magical predilection to buy the advertisers product that other audiences don’t have.  While  some stations are more credible than others in the marketplace to be sure, at the end of the day Radio (or TV, or any other mass medium) aggregates people.  That’s it.  That’s all they do.  What you say and how frequently you say it separates success from failure, period.  There are no magic beans. Focus on interesting, story-based copy.   I can help you do that.

Beware the Danger of Data

Published by admin on February 16th, 2012

I love data.  Analyzing more efficient ways to get more customers to my clients’ websites and businesses by any and every metric there is is an obsession.  Monitoring CRM sales data, site traffic, search metrics and social media can enhance and improve your marketing efforts….that is, until it doesn’t. The truth is, as much as I lean on it, the dark side of data is that it can lead you to conclusions that are counter to your intuition, particularly when you’re dealing with human beings. 

“When dealing with people, let us remember, we are not dealing with creatures of logic.  We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie

We are emotional creatures ultimately motivated by avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. Moreover,  anticipated pain or pleasure is often as powerful a motivator as the experience itself. Logic is only used to justify what our emotions have already deciced. 

With few exceptions, we move in and out of a given sales cycles by events that happen in our lives, not by your website or your offer or by how many facebook fans “like” you.  A new baby, a blown tire, a change in jobs, an aging mother-in-law who breaks her hip.  These things happen and we search for a solution.   When you start talking about anything else, or get hyped about social media metrics because the “data shows” this or that, beware.  It’s why, while 59% of Facebookers  have “liked” a brand or company in the last 6 months, yet only 1% have engage with the brands on the site.  1%!  Social media has changed the platform on which we interact to be sure, but it hasn’t changed the motivations behind those interactions.  For all the snake oil being sold to get people to ”like” you on Facebook, or follow you on Twitter or Pinterest, your customers will go where anxiety is low. Helping them avoid pain or gain pleasure through great customer experience always wins the day.  

 Hey, I think I’ll tweet that…



Think your customers make rational decisions?

Published by admin on October 26th, 2011

The Quick Skinny:

  • There are no rational decisions
  • There is an emotion behind every single decision we make, no matter how trivial.
  • Help your customers imagine experiences…for our brains scarcely knows the difference

Ever have someone say “you need to take the emotion out of it so you can make a rational decision”?  Sorry, it is not possible. It is impossible for your customers to make a decision to do business with you based purely on logic.   In fact,  it’s not possible for your customers (or any human) to decide anything by reason alone.  It is simply not possible to suspend emotion in favor of intellect.  Not only do our emotions NOT keep us from making rational decisions, but it is impossible to decide without them.  Blame evolution.  Jonah Lehrer, in his book How We Decide, makes two excellent points:

“The orbitofrontal cortex…is responsible for integrating visceral emotions into the decision making process.  It connects the feelings generated by the ‘primitive’ brain – areas like the brain stem and the amygdala…to the stream of conscious thought. When a person is [confronted with a choice]…[the OFC] has already assessed the alternatives-this analysis takes place outside of conscious awareness- and converted that assessment into a positive emotion….”If it weren’t for our emotions, reason wouldn’t exist at all.”

What’s even crazier is to consider whether or not we consciously make decisions at all.  Consider the following passage from Steven Pinker, author of  The Stuff of Thought and professor of evolutionary psychology at Harvard:

“Another startling conclusion from the science of consciousness is that the intuitive feeling we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the muscles, is an illusion.  Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain.  These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome after the fact and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along.”

Those competing interests emanate from our pre-evolutionary limbic brain, and all decisions, no matter how trivial, are filtered through the grid of our lifetime of emotional experiences. The only real “choice” we have in taking control of our own lives is to be ever mindful of the intent we channel in the moment.  When we are not mindful and vigilant, we fall victim to whatever emotion “outshouts the others” which is where most people operate, and frankly, where all of us operate most of the time with a few exceptions. 

Without arguing for exceptions, understanding  this  is how people rise to power and how those who are in power stay in power.  It’s also how great brands are built and how they fall.  It works for big business and small.  And it’s also how I’m going to help you win customers and grow your business.  Contact me and Let’s talk.