Archive for marketing communications

What’s Wrong with Marketing to the Vulnerable?

So I’m standing there rinsing my hair in the shower after a long afternoon of holiday food and drink binging.  I’m relaxed.  I’m not at work.  In fact, I’m not even thinking about work. Instead, I’m casually reading the back of shampoo bottles and oversized containers of body wash. There are some rather entertaining dialogues between the reader and the product bottle these days. What the hell, I have a few minutes, I’m already here…let’s read all the bottles.

It then occurs to me that this is an opportune time to sell me something I’m NOT already using. 

Can you picture it? Starbucks teaming up with Pantene to write me a message about how fulfilling my post-shower ritual will be when followed by a steaming hot, flavorful cup of my favorite coffee.  Mmmmm…

What better time to communicate than during an already captive moment? Marketing communications are all about establishing a dialogue and motivating the recipient.  Consequently, when you’ve succeeded in snagging the audience’s attention (as with the bottles of shampoo and conditioner that have already been purchased), a creative communicator takes the opportunity to motivate that audience toward another layer. How is it that Sunkist doesn’t currently rent product placement space from the Crest folks? They’ve got at least 2-8 solid minutes of my full attention while I’m brushing, flossing and mouth-washing with nothing else to do but read what lies within my line of sight – and think about what I’m going to do next. Every single day.  They’ve already sold me on the toothpaste, take the ball and run with other products.

I know, I know…product placement is nothing new.  We’re sold suggestively at every turn.  But I’m talking about the communication partnership that occurs when someone else does the selling for you, like with a good networking partner (See point #6 Promoting Partners of The Six Commandments of Sock-Charming). After all, what comes around goes around.

Ultimately, partnership communications have become prime-time for the selling frontier.  It just makes marketing sense.

What small business promotion partnerships can you create by swapping communication space and letting someone else sell your stuff?


8 Ways to Write a Better Email Message

Whether you want to increase your email’s open rate, are seeking more positive feedback from your messages or your employee evaluation just came back needing improvement, you can raise the bar on your professionalism by following these simple rules for better emailing.

8 Ways to Write a Better Email Message:

  1. Announce your purpose.  A subject line exists in every email platform or program, use it. Don’t be vague or mislead the reader as to what they’ll find upon opening. Being simple is more likely to get your message opened.
  2. Keep the message simple.  Avoid discussing more than a maximum of 3 topics in one correspondence; any more than that will risk losing the reader’s interest.
  3. Use bullet points or numerals to keep your content brief. Short attention style reading is the preferred format for any email. Be respectful of the reader’s busy day and get right to message.
  4. Stick to the facts. Leave emotion out of your emails – never write or respond while angry, sad, reactionary or in haste. Once you press send it’s out of your hands. Far too often, you might have written it differently if you’d taken more time to think about it.
  5. State a clear and defined call-to-action.  Tell the reader what you want from them. If you need a response by a certain time or date, share that too. No need to be demanding, but be sure to communicate any realistic expectations, willingness for flexibility and thankfulness.
  6. Let the reader know where to find you. Close every email with a variety of ways to contact you. List phone number and website or blog address at the least. If you’re old-school you can even add an address and a fax number. But if you have them, the most valuable things you can promote are your social media platform links (Twitter handle, LinkedIn Profile or Facebook page). Use your emails to grow your audience.
  7. Keep attachments in condensed format. Sending files that are too large can clog up either or both servers, making it an inconvenience to the reader.  Files with too many graphics or video will take longer to download and use more space to save. Additionally, be sure to label each attachment clearly; never use a series of numbers as a file name or omit the date of the latest version.
  8. Copy or Blind Copy only those who need to see it.  Refrain from the urge to Reply All when there has not been a specific request to copy everyone. In cases of a response to a question or an RSVP, it’s more appropriate to reply directly to the sender. Always be cognizant and respectful of the reader’s time.

Ultimately, these 8 simple rules will keep you organized, effective and courteous.

Other related links on this and similar topics:

Got any other ideas? Send them over in a comment! 

4 Ways to Self-Promote Without Promoting Yourself: Part II

Last week I began the conversation about ways to get others to sing your accolades for you, instead of having to do it yourself. Our lengthy discussion with awards and nominations was labeled “Way #1”. It’s up to you, after all, to find creative ways to inform and educate your clients & prospects about how great you are….without it sounding like self-promotion.

This week I want to give you three more areas to focus on, Letters to the Editor, Speaking and Article Marketing. Each of these areas offers creative opportunities for accomplishing far more with your promotion efforts than you can muster alone.

Way #2. Letters to the Editor

In each of your local publications will be a section where the paper wants to hear intelligent and thought-provoking content from its readership.  The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, has an email listed on their online edition that clearly solicits engagement in sending material to the publication. Take advantage of these areas where you can find them.  Editors enjoy hearing from their readership for a variety of reasons.

What’s your Angle?

  • Take a stance on something the paper ran in its last issue. Make sure you research the topic, know your facts and write an intelligent and relevant response.
  • Point out an error or challenge an opinion…but do it respectfully from an engaging and knowledgeable place. Ranting doesn’t get printed – nor does it help your reputation.
  • Pitch a story idea (called a query in publishing terms) that will complement and benefit the content in their publication. Be sure to research submission guidelines, as some prefer contact via email and others by snail mail.
  • Talk to the readership. Come from a place of support for the paper.

In magazines you can look for this information somewhere within the first few pages. You’ll find a listing of editors, staff, contributing writers and often, some instruction for those wishing to submit material to the paper.

What can they do for you?

Write back = Recognition

Run your piece/list your name = Visibility

Consider you a resource if they like your stuff = Credibility

Ultimately you need to be respectful, interesting and informative. You’re doing this to build your relationship with the paper as a professional resource and a supportive member of community. In time, they may come straight to you when they need knowledge or contribution from an expert in your field. There’s your shot.

Way #3: Event Promotion/Public Speaking

It’s a well known marketing tactic that public speaking is an excellent way to increase visibility and become more well-known within your field.  Many community entities need and welcome your expertise for the betterment of both their organizations and their constituents. The long list of these entities includes your local library, Rotary Club, Networking Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Association Memberships and many more. But how does that fit into our topic of discussion here?

What’s the Point?

Newspapers often promote Community Events via their online editions like the Courier Post Online or the Burlington County Times. The guideline here is to make sure your events are of interest to the public rather than an ad for a Clearance Blow-Out or a Sale, Sale, Sale!  Business, networking and educational events have the most chance of being accepted for posting. Check the instructions upon finding the link, as on the BizJournals site.

Way #4: Article Marketing

Wikipeadia says:Article marketing is a type of advertising in which businesses write short articles related to their respective industry. These articles are made available for distribution and publication in the marketplace. Each article contains a bio box and byline (collectively known as the resource box) that include references and contact information for the author’s business. Well-written content articles released for free distribution have the potential of increasing the authoring business’ credibility within its market as well as attracting new clients. These articles are often syndicated by other websites, and published on multiple websites.”

Where Do You Post Your Stuff?

  1. Use your Association memberships to insert your content in their member newsletters, websites and online blog editions.
  2. Blogs of friends or alliances – Seek guest posting opportunities. Check out
  3. Article Marketing sites like
  4. Information Curation Sites in your own city like

Follow Through –Getting others to promote you is a stealth form of communication . Combining the efforts of accolades, article marketing and public speaking achieves the kind of visibility that comes from wearing red blinking glasses in a darkened room.  Your prospects can’t help but see you.

Help get the word out via your website/blog, your collateral materials and your social media profiles. And don’t forget the almighty press release! Don’t know where to start?  Let me give you a hand.

4 Ways to Self-Promote Without Promoting Yourself: Part I – Awards & Accolades

It’s a commonly known phenomenon – when your name/company name appears in print and is being promoted by the press, its level of visibility and credibility rises exponentially. You already know that your product, services and/or knowledge are superior. The challenge is in getting others to claim your superiority.  Here’s where “being humble” gets in the way.

Most folks tend to get hung-up on the difference between self-promotion and promoting oneself.  I like to think of it as standing in a dark room with a bunch of your competitors…if you don’t turn on a lapel-light or some blinking goggles, how will your prospects be able to see you?

While not everyone feels comfortable wearing blinking goggles, it’s still up to you, as a professional, to find a way to inform and educate their clients & prospects about how great you are…without it sounding like self-promotion.

There are 4 activities that will aide in getting the press and the community to do the promoting for you;

1.      Awards & Accolades

2.      Letters to the Editor

3.      Event Promotion/Public Speaking

4.      Article Marketing

Each of these areas offers creative opportunities for accomplishing far more with your promotion efforts than you can muster alone, so I’d like to provide you food for thought…one step at a time. Let’s start with Awards and Accolades.

I. Awards & Accolades

When it comes to nominations, whether self or otherwise, this is the single most effective way for getting recognized for achievements in your profession, your industry, your community or your non-profit & volunteer efforts.

Don’t want to put on the blinking glasses?  Then have a friend or colleague do it for you.  Write the nomination content and give it to them to submit using their own name as “Nominator”. Assure them that it’s not like being a God-parent; their responsibility ends after submission.

So where do you find places to submit yourself? Each large press publication in your region has recognition contests for individual professionals, company accolade and for non-profit organizations. In my region our big ones are NJBIZ and the Philadelphia Business Journal.  Additionally, many Chamber of Commerce associations promote their members by recognizing them with award & dinner programs (see example: Burlington County Chamber of Commerce’s Voice of Business Awards ). Check out your local association listings and begin collecting your submission data research, including criteria and deadlines.

Got growth? Here are a few National opportunities you’ll want to look into:

What’s the catch? You have to win the award in order to get the recognition.  Check out your competition first – most award programs post past recipients on their websites. Google search winner backgrounds and make sure your own background and community efforts are comparably noteworthy, recent…and not just about incoming revenue.

Follow Through – You’re not finished if you win it. Don’t rely on the paper to promote it alone.  Help get the word out via your website/blog, your collateral materials and your social media profiles. And don’t forget the almighty press release! Don’t know where to start?  Let  me give you a hand.

Stay tuned for next week’s creative self-promotion method, Letters to the Editor.


The Six Commandments of Sock-Charming

I spoke at a seminar this week about Networking…in fact it was called, “Marketing Through Networking” and frankly, I was amazed at how many folks truly felt that this is one topic you just can’t learn enough about.  One of my attendees (in fact, the SPONSOR of the event….thank you Howard of said…’this really ought to be the topic of your next blog post’. So here it is;

My take on Networking is simple.  You are marketing yourself at every single moment. And while you can’t necessarily control what people are going to think of you, or how they’ll react to any given statement that you make, you CAN control how YOU make them feel while THEY are talking.

I call these the “Sock-Charming Tactics”.  That simply means – little things you can do to make sure someone feels appreciated and listened to while they are speaking to you.  In other words, there are ways of charming people’s socks off…even when they’re the ones doing the talking.

As we discuss these sock-charming tactics, remember…this discussion is not about you. It’s about how you’re making others feel while they converse with you.


  1. The Eyebrow Flash – The gem of ‘Interested  Conversation’. Ever speak to someone who does nothing but stare with non-descript expression?  Be sure that YOU’RE not “that guy”. Give people an indication, even if simply with minor eyebrow fluctuation, that you are A) listening and B) interested. You don’t have to be a master at moving those brows…just raise them from time to time if someone says something that warrants a change of expression.  Often times, people give their best networking-shot by telling stories that may or may not be as funny to you as they are intended to be. You don’t have to feign being at a comedy show – No Insincerity Please –  just acknowledge the attempt and raise those brows with a smile. You can make someone feel like a RockStar if you just wear “surprise face” in the right place.
  2. The Affirmation Nod – Along with acknowledging someone’s train of thought, comes the ever popular nod.  This simply CANNOT be overused. People love to know that “I’m right there with you”. Sprinkle in an “MmHmm” and an “Oh yea” every now & again and you have yourself a dual conversation, even if they’re the ones in the spotlight for the moment. The give and take from an effective affirmation nod can make the difference between feel spoken to and feeling embraced by the conversation.
  3. Open Arm Gestures – We’ve all heard about the open-arms versus closed-arms approach at a boardroom table or a seminar.  Have you given much thought to what your arms are doing at a networking function?  Closed hands and folded arms are a typical body language faux pas, as they are said to indicate a “closed” personality or mood. Realistically however, at networking functions we are often strapped with a glass or a small plate of hors d’oeuvres, indeed – but this is not an excuse for presenting yourself in a closed manner. Consider keeping your right hand open (at all times) for shaking and keep them in front of yourself, in full view of your conversation partner.  No fists, no hand on the hip, no hand behind the back.  Hands in the pocket can be a great way to appear casual and approachable, but be sure to take them out BEFORE a hand is extending in friendly greeting.  You’ll seem more inviting that way.
  4. No Baggage Onboard – OMG can you remember to leave it at home already?! There’s nothing worse in a networking setting than asking a simple “how are things going?” and getting a reply that sounds like a dissertation in Negative Nuances. If the dog peed on the rug and it made you SO late that you were pulled over for speeding and spilled your coffee on your lap while merging into the shoulder, either make it funny or keep it to yourself.  Nothing kills a conversation more than someone that has only negative things to say.  We all have baggage – choose when and with whom to bring it up.
  5. Avoiding the Mirror Technique – Contrary to popular belief, mirroring the voice level or mannerisms of the person you’re conversing with can backfire.  If you’re speaking with a quiet type and you mirror their docile speaking pattern, they may be temporarily placated by your similar softness.  But if you take the same approach and next mirror someone who is boisterous and energetic, you’d better be sure that never the two shall meet.  Pick a personality and stick with it.  Be yourself.
  6. Promoting Partners – Nothing makes you look better than promoting those around you.  The best way I’ve found to make a good impression on others is to avoid talking about myself altogether. When introducing someone else, sing their praises (but only if you really mean it – authenticity is key). Comment on their business, their successes or their unfaltering habit of {…insert humorous compliment here…}. Making someone else look good serves to take the focus off of you, allows you to appear humble and creates an atmosphere of interaction.  Not to mention that most folks will genuinely want to return the favor, leaving you to focus on learning about each other rather than talking about yourself. Wallah!

We all want to do business with people we like. Ultimately we need to be ourselves while leaving a lasting impression. Give something for people to remember you by…even if you’ve left them without their socks on!

What is Stealth Communication?

Effective communication should be unencumbered by bullshit or games or difficult temperaments, as so many personality types have a tendency to exercise. It should be a clean, crisp and direct message that cuts right to the point.  Wasting time and effort on “fluff” may make for a great English Lit assignment submission, but it’s not going to serve toward getting your intended message to the receiver in today’s world of Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers, whether you’re writing it or speaking it.

Where, then, do I get the correlation between “communication” and “stealth”?

By Wiki’s definition, the word stealth is a noun meaning;

  1. the attribute or characteristic of acting in secrecy

“Stealth-like” communication, much like an arrow would cut right through the air in one straight path to its directive, is the practice of getting directly to the point with your message.  In fact, the word stealth itself eludes to a sense of “no-nonsense” as if it creeps up on you and before you realize it. You want the person you’re speaking with to get your message without seeing it coming, without anticipating what they THINK you’re going to say, and without formulating a response in their mind before your sentence is out of your mouth. In other words, without all the crap that gets in the way of them understanding what you really meant to say.

Stealth also means;

2. in such a way that the actions are unnoticed or difficult to detect by others

They say that in order to achieve any great change or improvement, practice is the best strategy to making something become a habit.  As with any learned or improved skill, getting better at communication involves the practicing of new techniques.  Using power-phrasing, diffusing difficult people and finding new ways of painting a verbal picture all help people to understand you better… but the extra effort you put into turning these skills into habits should not be what people notice.  The only thing people should notice is that they “get you”, right away, every time.

Additionally,  […and here’s my favorite concept about communication…]  The word “stealth” itself  is such a juxtaposition of terminology in the sense that it’s a word typically used to describe very aggressive or testosterone-driven endeavors.  I think the idea of using it to describe a woman who is unafraid of being strong and powerful is just delicious….equaling the concept of using “assertive” (female) communication techniques rather than aggressive (male) ones.

What does “Stealth Communication” mean to you?

Communication Breakdown

The Theory of Communication states that the cycle of expressing and understanding a message occurs at four intervals;

  1. Encoding occurs when the sender determines how to send a message.
  2. The sender then conveys the message either verbally or nonverbally.
  3. Decoding occurs when the receiver interprets and determines its meaning.
  4. The response in which the receiver reacts to the sender happens last.

Social psychologists estimate that there is usually a 40-60% loss of message meaning between sender and receiver. Can you imagine? That means that about half the time we think we’re being clear with our messaging, someone else doesn’t agree. According to the steps above, there are four different places within the communication process where a misstep or a ‘break’ occurs. It’s a wonder any of us are able to converse at all!

How many times have you screamed in frustration because someone JUST DIDN’T GET what you were saying?