Archive for the ‘Local Business Advertising’ Category

Duality and the fallacy of inbound marketing

Published by admin on March 12th, 2013

                                                          Photo courtesy of

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

“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

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.

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.

Are You Arguing for Exceptions?

Published by admin on August 7th, 2011

The Quick Skinny:

  • Arguing for exceptions is rooted in pride, one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Local Business Advertising
  • Build your advertising strategy based on the rules that govern the masses: consumer behavior
  • Exceptions to the rule make great stories, but poor strategy

We love exceptions to any rule. Business owners particularly. Chalk it up to iconoclastic entrepreneurial spirit, I suppose.  Exceptions provide the opportunity for them to prove a point…the pride of needing to “be right”…Especially when it comes to advertising.

While discussing ideal local trade area with a business owner (a small law practice) last week, he proudly pointed out clients who had come from far and wide to seek his services, citing two obtuse examples of  clients who had driven from two states away.  “So your strategy is to target people in Mississippi, then?”

Recently, one of my best clients  finally (and reluctantly) acquiesced at my continued suggestion that he remove the phone number from his radio ads (plumbing).  “What if someone needs a plumber right when the commercial airs?” People don’t write phone numbers down and they certainly don’t remember them.  They don’t have to.  When they need his services Google has it, and they know it.  Sure, calling when an ad fires happens sometimes, but it is by far the exception, not the rule.  (Ask yourself how many ads you’ve heard and picked up the phone to call at that moment.)  So why did he insist on wasting the precious 7 seconds it takes to articulate a phone number when we only have 30 seconds to tell his story, his value proposition, and the “why” of his business?  Because he was arguing for the exception.

Are there legitimate exceptions? Absolutely.  Certain economic conditions, like the current job market coupled with the real estate value free fall, have created  a flood of opportunities for real estate companies, attorneys, etc.  who deal in foreclosures and short-sales.    Other examples might be a fit of hail storms creating short-term opportunities for roofers and cosmetic auto repair shops.  A radio ad with a phone number in these cases might produce a flood of phone calls on the spot. But these conditions are the exception and are impossible to plan for long term.

Are you arguing for exceptions?  Most retail businesses (that I deal with anyway) are in the business of selling to the masses. When building strategy, rather than argue for their exceptions, it is wise to follow the rules that govern the masses: Consumer behavior.   Customers fall into the market when they fall into the market.  And when they do, they are going to search the internet, they are not going to wait for a radio or TV ad to air.  More on this strategy at the bottom of this page.  Exceptions make great stories, but they are no way to build long term advertising strategy.

The Era of Big Brains is upon us

Published by admin on July 28th, 2011

Or “Why I no longer put phone numbers, addresses, hours of operation, or any other facts in radio and TV ads.”

The Quick Skinny:

  • Eliminate details like phone numbers, from your radio & TV ads. People don’t remember them. Tell an emotionally compelling story and they’ll find you.
  • Leave the facts for your search ads, website, and other passive media when people search for you and seek to know them.

After reading Bill Keller’s article in the NY Times called The Twitter Trap, I was reminded of a pretty major Kurt Vonnegut phase I went through back in college.  In his book Gallapagos, Vonnegut talks about “the era of big brains”, a time before society created so many creature comforts for ourselves that we began to devolve into stupidity.  Now a study from Columbia University published in Science and distributed through several newspapers documents “The Google Effect”, our brain’s innate sense that when it knows where to find something, it no longer has to remember it.   Put that in your advertising pipe and smoke it!

The more readily we need information the more likely we are to commit it to memory, however information that is not readily employed to operate in our daily lives gets “outsourced”.  Our brains intuitively know that information not needed to operate, to “survive” in effect, Google’s got it.   One of the articles published states that “people are better at remembering where to find facts, rather than the facts themselves. The students, they found, recalled the names of files where information was stored, rather than the information itself.” Still expect people to remember your phone number in your ads?

So does this mean we’re devolving into stupidity?  No, but despite many of my clients insisting on still putting phone numbers and web urls in their radio and TV ads, the “fact” is, we no longer have to remember facts like this, so…we don’t!  We either remember information we use to operate, or we remember information with emotional attachment. Everything else gets washed away on your pillow while you’re looking at the back of your eyelids.