Yes, and…


If you have ever seen or participated in improv, you probably know the “Yes and…” routine. Each person in the chain makes a statement or asks a question to the next person, and they reply, “Yes, and…” then makes another statement or asks another question to the next person. The word “but”, because its implied negativity is a buzz kill, is not allowed. I recently found out just how powerful replacing “but” with “and” is in my own self-talk.

In my last phone conversation with my coach I was listing some of the things I had accomplished in the last few weeks. At the end of the recitation, she stopped me cold by asking me “why did you sometimes say ‘but’ when you were going through some of these accomplishments?”

I thought about that for a second, and replied that it was a qualifier to some of the things I had done, indicating that I hadn’t quite achieved what I had set out to do (even though what I had done was pretty darn cool.)

In response, she repeated some of the things I had said, using “and” instead of “but”. The result was amazing. What was once a denigration of an accomplishment became an affirmation of the deed, and an opportunity to improve on what I felt had made it not quite as special.

If you have followed me for a while or have spent some time with me, you know that I am not into what is best called “woo-woo.” I believe in the power of words (hey I write pretty much every week right?), but generally do not subscribe almost supernatural powers to them. I am much more into action.

However, intellectually I can understand the power of self-talk to either be a motivator or a de-motivator. In this case, replacing, “but” with “and” not only sounds different to your ear, but physically feels different when you say it. It also forces you to change what comes after the “and”: “I did this, but this part of it didn’t work” becomes “I did this, and while this part didn’t work, I still got a great reaction.” Changing what comes after “and” is pretty much required otherwise the sentence sounds incomplete – and we all know that we want things to be complete! (see “I thought you said…”)

We can all find good and bad in almost everything we do. Some of us are even programmed to temper our accomplishments with a “but” so we don’t sound boastful. The simple act of changing “but” to “and” can dramatically change how you feel about yourself and how others perceive your accomplishments when you are telling stories or informing someone what you have been up to. Try it. I think you will find it a fascinating and enjoyable change in your self-talk. I do.

I thought you said…

Why???I received an email from one of the many Internet Marketers I follow the other day. In the email he said he was releasing a post from a private Facebook group that gave all this awesome information. He just thought it was so good it should be shared with everyone, not just his members. Cool!

When I clicked on the link, I was more than a bit surprised to find several sections of the post blurred out and overlaid with a message that this section was reserved for members only, and of course a link to join his group. Wait a minute. I thought he said he was sharing the post, not selected pieces of it!

Once I reviewed the original email I saw what he was doing. Pieces of what was promised in the email were unblurred in the post, just not everything, which was supposed to build desire on your part (human nature to complete a thought – if you are only given three steps of a four step process, your mind desperately wants to complete it by seeing the fourth step.) I am sure that he will get a bunch of sign-ups as well.

That said, I felt that was more than a tad dishonest. I was promised a post with great information. I was given a partial post with some great information. Was the information blurred the real meat of the post, or just some filler? I’ll never know. I do know that I felt a bit cheated.

Do I really believe a Facebook post would contain the key to my success, and that I could merrily go make millions of dollars thumbing my nose at all of the coaches and products that promise to help me reach that goal? Hardly. So why should he? Why not expose the whole post?

I suspect that he felt the basic human need to get that missing information would garner more sales than complaints, and hey, he did let some real good information come out from the post. Still…

What do you think? Was this a great piece of marketing that gave value and still left out enough to make you go crazy with desire to join these other marketers in the group, or a slightly manipulative piece of trickery? I’m not sure I would release something like that, would you? I’d like to get your opinion. Leave a comment here at the blog.

It Worked Before

Change Vs. SameWe’ve all done it. We do something that works really well once, so we figure we can pull it off again and again. We start to think the gravy train will never end.

One company I know thought it would be a great idea to send out a post card to their existing clients announcing signing on a new client. They felt it would reinforce their credibility and let their clients know they weren’t the only ones who had made the smart choice to work with them.

The first couple of cards were relatively well received – multiple customers called in to congratulate the company, so they figured they would keep doing it for each new client they got. Unfortunately by about the 5th or 6th card, the company started receiving multiple complaints – especially from the customers who were getting multiple cards (the mailing list had duplicates, and no one cleaned it.) Yet, they sent out several more cards, before finally bowing to pressure from several key customers, and protests from employees fielding the complaints. Instead of customers seeing the company as a smart choice, customers saw them as annoying and unprofessional. Pretty much the opposite of the impression they had hoped to make. Imagine the reaction today if that had been email!  The unsubscribes would have shot up, and probably a few spam complaints just for good measure.

This example may sound extreme, but look at what is ending up in your inbox or mailbox every day. How many of the same-old, same-old messages do you just automatically trash without opening? How many of your messages might be meeting the same fate?

“It worked before” is a cousin to “We’ve always done it that way.” It is lazy marketing. Rather than trying to be creative and change things up regularly, we will sometimes look for the easy out. The thing that worked before that won’t require any thought, and especially won’t require any risk. At least no risk until it blows up in our face, or simply stops working. The truly interesting thing is how so many businesses when confronted with the reality that what they are doing has stopped working, blame it on outside forces – some new player with lower prices, or the economy sucks. It couldn’t possibly be what they are doing, after all, it worked before!

Take a look at your marketing. Are you doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that the old magic will suddenly reappear? Maybe it is time to say, “Well it worked before, but it is time to try something new.” Change can be scary, but it can also be incredibly profitable.


When Technology Fails

woman-with-laptop-laughingAs I entered I was astounded to see The Effective Detective quietly laughing. I could not allow this rare occurrence to go without some comment.

“Sir, are you feeling alright?” I asked

“Eh? Watson, what would cause you to ask such a question?” The Detective replied to my question with another question.

“I rarely see you in such a jovial mood. I deduced there must be something strange afoot,” I answered his question directly, albeit with a slight smile on my face.

“I see Watson. You are mocking me. No matter. Watson, are you familiar with the concept of personalization in email?” The Detective, still smiling, shot back.

“Of course sir. It is similar to using the mail merge function of Microsoft Word to include contact information in the subject and or content of the email. For example first name. It is designed to make the email more personal and friendly. However, I fail to see anything humorous in that choice of email tactics,” I replied, now feeling a bit puzzled.

“Correct Watson, there is nothing inherently humorous in the use of personalization. Where the humor enters is when the technology used to implement it occasionally goes south,” answered The Detective, who actually seemed to be stifling a laugh.

“Sorry, sir. I am still not following.”

“Observe Watson,” The Detective said as he repositioned his laptop so I could see the screen. “Check out the salutation on the first message.”

“‘Hey blank field’,” I read. “What the blazes?”

“And this one Watson?” The Detective opened another message.

“#FName# you need to check this out!” Now I began laughing.

“Precisely Watson, technology is often hailed as a panacea to all of a business’s marketing woes, but sometimes, the technology fails, and at least in these cases, hilarity ensues,” The Detective, still smiling began his explanation. “There is of course a dark side to this too. A member of your list could assume your technology’s failure is yours as well and abandon you as a potential vendor. However I feel that most would react as I did, with laughter and a shared sense of the risks of completely relying on technology,” The Detective took his customary pause to allow me to interject my thoughts.

“Shouldn’t they report it as a bug to the software manufacturer sir?” I asked, unsure of my mentor’s lackadaisical attitude to the problem.

“Rubbish, Watson. You have no idea if this was truly the software’s error. The data might have been coded incorrectly, who knows? Why would you waste your time and the vendor’s time on chasing down a ghost. Of course there will be some literal-minded jerks out there who believes that even such a minor issue that could have happened for multiple reasons, is a reflection on the  competence of the creator. If we all reacted like that, we would never get anything out the door, we would be obsessing over the table alignment on a page until the wee hours of the morn, and never launching. No thank you,” The Detective looked at me expectantly to deliver the closing observation.

“So you are saying it is OK to laugh, but not OK to judge, criticise or obsess over it. Just let it go, and understand that the best of us or even machines cannot avoid all mistakes. Who knows, it might even make you seem more human,” I replied after a few seconds of contemplation.

“Excellent Watson! Lets move on to less humorous work, shall we?” exclaimed The Detective, ending the conversation.

Funneling Your Leads Down The Drain

sales_funnelI was still treading lightly after the bombshell dropped during our previous discussion, so I started out rather timidly, merely inquiring as to the manner of the this week’s inquiry. “Sir, are we looking to tear down another mainstay this week, or something perhaps a bit lighter?” Well, maybe not that timidly.

“Eh, what Watson? Are you still smarting from our last discussion? Stiff upper lip man, we need to be moving on. As for this week, we are merely correcting a grievous mistake some many in our field make when looking at the concept of sales funnels,” The Effective Detective replied with just a hint of annoyance at my tone.

“Sales funnels, sir? What possible mistake could there be in examining the concept of sales funnels?” I asked, a tad incredulous, but still on guard – The Detective had sprung more than a few surprises on me when it came to settled subjects before.

“Yes, Watson. Since you seemed so certain, perhaps you could illuminate me on the subject as you see it,” The Detective asked, obviously leading me down a path I was not sure I was interested in going, but as they say, in for a penny, in for a pound.

“Of course sir. The sales funnel illustrates the process by which a prospect becomes a customer – or not. It begins above the funnel itself with the market for your product or service. You entice prospects into the top of the funnel with your initial marketing efforts. Once they enter the funnel, they are moved along the sales cycle, with some dropping out and reentering the market, and other continuing down to the final close, at which point some will emerge from the funnel as clients.”

“Excellent Watson! Succinct and clear. And unfortunately, misguided,” The Detective replied to my explanation.

“I’m confused sir. I am correct, but I am wrong?” I was now totally confused.

“Not wrong Watson, your explanation is merely misguided. Your only endgame is making a sale or losing it. That is misguided. You need to start looking at all of the directions your funnel can take you. For example, why not have your funnel direct your prospects to a complimentary call with you? If you are selling a service that requires a lot of trust like consulting, you want your prospects to see your abilities and develop confidence that you can solve their problems. The point is Watson, funnels can be an amazing sales tool. However they don’t need to be the only way to get to the close,” The Detective finished with his customary half-smile.

“So a funnel could lead to another part of the sales cycle – even another funnel!” I exclaimed, suddenly getting the point.

“Now you see it Watson, shall we get back to work now?” The Detective answered, ending  today’s discussion.

Sometimes You Just Have to Say Goodbye

ADIOS Rubber Stamp over a white background.“Are you all right sir?” I asked The Effective Detective, alarmed not only by the lack of the smell of coffee permeating the area, but also by the smell that had replaced it: lemon and honey.

“Right as rain Watson,” responded The Detective, just before a spasm of coughs overwhelmed him. “That is if rain occasionally feels simply awful. No matter, the show must go on and all that rot.”

“Quite right sir, just what is the show that is going on today?” I responded not wishing the conversation get bogged down in various disease symptoms.

“End of the year work, Watson, in particular cleaning up lists,” the Detective answered.

“What is the nature of said cleaning sir?” knowing the answer to the question might be somewhat obvious, but the type of lead in the Detective enjoyed.

“Simply put Watson, realizing the reality that we in some way failed to engage a portion of the people who were at one time interested in what we had to say, and removing them from our various lists.  However, rather than just removing them, I have chosen a slightly less aggressive tactic. We will give them one or two chances to restate their interest, but if they choose to ignore these missives as well, then come the first of the year we will follow what seems .”

“What if our messages have just been going to their SPAM folders sir? Won’t this one follow?” I asked intrigued yet worried there would be one more task to do just at the end of an already busy holiday session.

“Ah Watson I am so pleased that your deductions are becoming are and more astute,” answered  the Detective almost challenging me to respond with some sarcasm in return, but I chose to hold my tongue. “We will send our message as plain text rather than HTML. Plain text is hardly perfect but spammers use it less, because they cannot hide their insidious links behind an innocuous hyperlink label so SPAM filters are more likely to pass us through. Of course if they had marked our correspondence as SPAM at some point, well, nothing can be done about that.”

“So what will the content of this message be?” I asked, my fear of more work overcome by my curiosity.

“Merely that we have noticed that they had not opened any messages for at least  6 months, and that if they wish to stay on our list to click the provided link, and if they do not, just do nothing, they will be removed at the beginning of the new year,”  The Detective replied succinctly, then laid back in his chair, my signal to come up with some rejoinder or issue.

“Sir, won’t we be cutting out list size down unnecessarily? Won’t we be decreasing our chances of some positive action to a future offer?” I offered.

“Bah, Watson. If they haven’t been reading anything we have sent for the past 6 months, do you actually believe their eyes will burst open and they will see the light suddenly because of some amazing offer we are sending out? Highly unlikely. More likely, they will tire of seeing our emails at some point, and rather than reading and taking positive action, they will mark as SPAM. Removing them seems to be a far better option.”

“So actually sir, we will have smaller more responsive lists, rather than larger lists that may appeal to our egos but with no real benefit, and possible bad effects vis-a-vis SPAM reports and such!” I exclaimed.

“Quite so Watson, now back to work, or perhaps back to bed for me.”

There are ALWAYS options

future“Sir, I have a concern,” I stated, kicking off yet another Monday morning conversation with The Effective Detective.

“And this is news, Watson?” The Detective asked, turning lazily to look at me.

“Perhaps not, but that does not change the fact that I have the concern,” I replied, then continuing so as not to be interrupted or lose the thought, ” It seems that for most small businesses and almost certainly for solo-preneurs, email marketing is the only economically viable alternative, which tends to longer ramp up times.”

The Detective looked at me speculatively for a moment, before responding. “What a marvelous observation, Watson. It is of course for the most part incorrect, but still you are to be congratulated for picking up on a common concern.”

Irritation flared, but when I looked again The Detective was out-and-out grinning, and I avoided reacting to the deliberate chain pulling, realizing that was simply a cost  of being his assistant.

“Ah, then perhaps you could enlighten my poor ignorant soul, sir,” I shot back with an equally large grin.

His grin stayed for a moment, then faded as The Detective turned serious, and started his explanation.

“You see Watson, we small business marketers as a group have a tendency to try and model organizations far larger than ourselves. The result of course is frustration, and sometimes foolish investments in marketing vehicles that have no hope of generating enough revenue to cover the costs. For the sake of brevity, let us examine one in particular: direct mail.

“Research shows that the typical direct mail campaign has response rates between one half of a percent to perhaps 1 or 2 percent. Due to these response rates, the volume that must be sent out tends to be fairly large; in the thousands or tens of thousands. With printing costs and postage, one can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars in expense. Something the average small business, two or three-man shop, or solo-preneur can ill afford.

“However there are ways to radically increase the response rates. Using 3D mailers or “lumpy mail”, as it is called, boosts the response rate by several points. Who can resist opening something that rattles when you shake it, a garbage can or a message in a bottle?

“The single best way to increase response rates though is to follow-up with a phone call. This of course is dependant on two things. First, you have someone willing to pick up the phone and make the calls, whether it is you, one or more of your people, or a firm you contract the task out to. Second, you have a definite goal in mind for the result of the call; an appointment, a sale, a follow-up call to further develop interest.

“By increasing response rates to far more acceptable rates by using either or both of these techniques, you can send out far fewer pieces, thus reducing the overall cost, even at a fairly high per unit cost,” The Detective paused characteristically to give me time to respond.

“So a small business could actually send out just a few hundred direct mail pieces, and turn a decent return on their investment,” I ventured.

“I believe I just said that Watson. The return on the investment is totally dependent on the price of the service or item being sold. If you are selling cheap buck and half sunglasses, this might not be the best idea. I would be hesitant to use this method to simply build a list, but like anything else, one must weigh the payback against the costs. Shall we move on to another of your observations Watson?” The Detective answered before turning back to his computer.

“Next week will be fine, sir.” I answered.

Doing the Right Thing, Wrong

oops“Watson, I have a wonderful example of doing the right thing wrong,” The Detective began with an uncharacteristically indirect and confusing statement for our weekly discussion.

“Sir?” I asked, not sure how else to respond.

“Come, come Watson, we all know that we should, as part of any well-managed and useable list, have included our customers or clients, however you choose to refer to them. We also know that one of the reasons we segment a list is to ensure that appropriate information is sent out,” The Detective paused, waiting for me to confirm that I understood. I obliged.

“Yes, sir, of course.”

“So I have a wonderful example of a business doing the right thing: labeling me as a customer and engaging me, but doing it wrong by sending me an offer that I cannot use. Worse, it was actually quite an interesting offer,” The Detective said almost wistfully.

“Can you provide me with details sir?” I asked, now that my curiosity had been piqued.

“What? Oh, of course Watson. I have purchased several cars from a local dealership in the last two years. I am very satisfied with the purchases. Now, what do you think would be an appropriate communication from the dealership Watson?”

“Ah, perhaps an offer for some maintenance sir?”

“Precisely! An offer that I would appreciate, that I can choose not to avail myself of, but definitely something I could use if I was so inclined. That, however is not the offer I received. Received three times in fact. No, what I received was an offer for a discount on activation of a feature that is not available on either of the cars I have purchased from this dealership. Worse, it wasn’t until I had clicked through several pages before I realized there was no way I could use this offer. Not only was I frustrated that I couldn’t use the offer, I was irritated that I had wasted my time clicking through multiple pages before I learned this was something I could not take advantage of.

“So, what do you think the lesson learned here is, Watson?”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep?” I asked, feeling a bit mischievous, and seeing if I could provoke a reaction.

“Bah! Watson, you are playing! The lesson is to ensure that your segmentation includes critical information. There is a delicate balance between over-segmentation and not segmenting enough. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish and who you are dealing with.  The dealership knew what models and years I had purchased from them. They also knew that the option they were promoting was not available on either of those cars. Any one of those pieces of information included in their list could have allowed appropriate segmentation,” The Detective responded, with an irritated tone – exactly the reaction I had hoped to elicit.

“Simply put Watson, the missing key here was not utilizing information readily available to target a message only to those who would be interested; in this case those who could take advantage of it,” The Detective finished succinctly.

“Simple, but not always easy, sir.”

“That is why it works Watson, that is why it works.”

Too Much Of a Good Thing

pie_chart“Do you know how to destroy the usefulness of a technique, Watson?” This time it was The Effective Detective who began our weekly discussion.

“By misusing it, sir?” I replied.

“Close, Watson. You are still, on occasion, quite vague. There are many ways to ‘misuse’ a technique. I am looking for one way in particular,” The Detective’s response came back with a barely disguised tone of irritation.

“Over use perhaps?” I ventured.

“Perfect Watson! Even if it was a guess,” The Detective shot me a sideways glance. “It is possible to fall into the trap of thinking that if a little of something gives me great results, than a lot of it will give me fantastic results,” The Detective paused briefly.

“Was there a particular technique you were thinking of sir?” I encouraged.

“Yes, Watson, thank you for asking. There is one technique that is often used to a point where the data it provides becomes meaningless. That one technique is segmentation,” The Detective paused uncharacteristically here; usually expounding a bit more on the subject before giving me an opening.  However, even with the limited amount of exposition from him, I had formed a question or perhaps a challenge.

“But sir, isn’t it important, in fact, critical, to have as much information as possible?” I asked.

“An excellent point Watson. That said, there are two dangers in overuse of segmentation.

“The first should be rather obvious. It is possible to segment your audience to such a point that the segments shrink down to a size that renders them unusable. Unless you have a high ticket item that you are marketing to a group that you intend to try to reach at a premium price, who you have a high confidence level of engaging with,  segmenting down to less than fifteen or twenty individuals is most likely not going to produce results equal to or greater than the labor and cost  involved in producing those results.

“The second, and perhaps less obvious, but still deadly, danger is segmenting into sections that will have no effect on your message. If the appropriate age for use if your product or service is anyone older than sixteen years old, dividing your audience into a standard set of age segments like 18-24, 25-34, 35-54, 55-64, 65+ will largely be a waste of time in terms of getting that information, and a colossal waste of time and energy in crafting multiple messages for the different groups,” The Detective took his more characteristic pause here, and my mind raced to come up with an observation or question.

“So one only needs to segment down to the level where the message will resonate most strongly!” I exclaimed in a sudden moment of clarity.

“Precisely, Watson! Well done.  A more specific age example would be  if your product or service is aimed at adults aged 35-64, then you shouldn’t care if they are 35-54 or, 55-64, that breakdown isn’t needed. A tad simplistic I admit, and age is certainly not the only demographic you could over-think,  but you see the point.”

“Indeed I do, sir. So the trick then is finding that balance between too little segmentation, and too much.” I responded.

“Quite, so. That however, is a discussion for another day.”

Spending versus Investigating

test“Watson, I have been pondering something that seems to come up quite frequently with small businesses in relation to their marketing,” The Detective began.

“And that would be?” I interjected.

“Patience Watson, patience,” The Detective smiled. “What I have been pondering is the seeming reluctance of many small businesses to engage in active marketing,” The Detective paused only briefly here, seeing the puzzled look on my face. “Active marketing or interruption marketing as Seth Godin calls it, advertising, direct response mail, and lets throw pay-per-click in there. Instead too often, we go after what can be perceived as easy: passive marketing – Social Media, referrals, blogging, you know the variety of ways that you can, shall we say, ‘get the word out’.

“The issue is not that passive marketing is bad, but that it typically relies on you already having a tribe. What good is a blog in the short-term if you only have a few readers? Of course you hope they pass you on to others, but only a small percentage will do so, and if  the tribe is small, we are talking a small pass along as well,” The Detective stopped here for his characteristic pause for effect.

“An astute observation sir, but isn’t there a distinct disadvantage to active marketing?” I inserted into the pause, knowing mild praise and a question will always get The Detective moving again.

“Of course, Watson,” he said with a smile, accepting the praise and warming to the question. “Active marketing can carry a relatively hefty price tag and that is where I believe we will find the root of the average small business person’s hesitation.

“What we all fear is that we will spend vast amounts of money without results, and thus, that money will have been ‘wasted’.  Yet we believe we must cast a ‘wide net’. Our hope is that by reaching thousands we will find the proverbial needle in the haystack – our prospect. Sometimes, if the product and the market are appropriate, it can work. However, this requires a leap of faith; one not always justified and of course an outlay of cash, which we fear to waste, and a circle of doubt begins.

“Yet, there is another way, one which leads us to doubt conventional wisdom about ‘wide nets’.

“The answer of course is to test; but we must review the information from the test carefully. I myself ran such a test just in the past week. I ran a pay-per-click ad to a very narrow audience for a very niched product. I received a small number of views, and a very small number of clicks. So I expanded the audience ten-fold, received a phenomenal number of views, and a decent supply of clicks – which of course resulted in a further investment on my part, albeit a small one. Now what would be your initial reaction to this Watson?” The Detective asked at the end of his story.

“Why that the broader market was the better one, sir,” I quickly replied.

“Now what if I told you that I received nothing from any of those clicks? Even with copy that had resulted in positive results before,” The Detective smiled, springing his trademark “trap”.

“I’m not sure, sir,” I answered truthfully.

“Let me give you another clue, Watson. Analytics showed me that the people who clicked on the ad spent virtually no time on the page the click led to, even though the copy was directly related to the ad,” The Detective teased.

“I would have to say they were the wrong people sir, they had no real need, maybe they were curious, or even clicked accidentally,” I hesitantly ventured.

“Precisely Watson! Rather than supposing that pay-per-click is a useless marketing vehicle; which may yet be the conclusion – at least the pay-per-click sources being tested, instead, we can arrive at another conclusion – that the ad itself was faulty. Perhaps a bad headline, or imprecise text, which resulted in fewer clicks from our true audience.  Theories arrived at with minimal cost, and which can be tested with minimal additional cost,” The Detective summed up.

“And then if more positive results appear, we can decide to invest more money in the ad. I must say I like the sound of that sir!” I exclaimed.

“Elementary, my dear Watson, it is all in the data,” The Detective replied, turning back to his work.