Monthly Archives: December 2006

Negative Wording Hurts Business

I went to lunch today at a place I had not been to in nearly a year.  It is basically a giant soup and salad bar.  Good for lunch, quick and healthy food.  I remembered it to be a nice place with a nice atmosphere.  That’s not the impression I got today.


When I entered the restaurant, I saw signs “Do Not Enter This Door.”  Then inside at the salad bar “Do Not Waste Food,” and then over at the drink station “Do Not Spill Your Drink.”  This was further evident in the menu which had a little jab at meat eaters, “don’t eat meat, save the planet.” 


So many signs about what I shouldn’t be doing while in there, it really took away from the atmosphere, sort of like eating in a strict school cafeteria, rather than a restaurant in a trendy part of town.  One guy in my group couldn’t wait to get out of there; he actually got up and left early.  He said he just didn’t like the feel of the place. 


The way in which we phrase things, is very important, negative phrases typically are not ideal because they invoke negative reactions.  They could have put up signs like “Please Use Other Door,” or “Thank You for Helping the Planet and Eating All the Food on Your Plate.”  Something more positive and up lifting, rather than don’t do this or that.  After all, you don’t want a down and pushy tone directed at you while eating or paying for something. 


When you use negative wording, you are actually encouraging people to be on the look out and have an eye for being picky about little things they will deem not to like.  So it actually is in your interest to focus on positive wording of phrases. 


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Marketers Need Playbooks

Every marketer needs a playbook, this is not to be confused with a portfolio that the ad guys have.  Portfolios are for public display to demonstrate skill and creative talent.  A playbook is just like that of a sports coach’s playbook, it is where your best tools and moves are placed in.  And just like that of a sports playbook, you don’t show that off.  Ask the coach of the Chicago Bears to hand over his playbook, don’t hold your breath waiting for it!  Playbooks have many standard plays but also many surprise plays that are just not for public viewing until it is time for that play to be used.


Playbooks are not that popular in marketing, but they are actually a really good tool for every marketer.  I have one, actually my hard copy is several binders now, I have a lot of ideas!  This is where my customized metrics and measuring tools are, what if scenarios, promo ideas, pricing strategies, tips and tricks for various tools, marketing plans, product development ideas, etc… It’s good to keep this because after a few years, you just can’t keep all that in your head and keep it clear.  Also, it is a great tool to go back and look at because I have run into situations that were similar to past experiences and could go back and pull out several tools that made the company very happy with the results.  Also, to be honest, I don’t always remember every metric off the top of my head instantly.


For anyone thinking, “hey, when interviewing I could just require a marketer to hand over their playbook and get their ideas for free!”  Good luck, anyone who has one, probably had individualized it so much that it is impossible to copy it with the expectation of getting good results.  I had a company I worked for that changed my job requirement to actually leave them a portion of my playbook.  Ok, I did, we had 25% growth and rapid market share expansion of 33%.  I left and watched, they were not able to duplicate the results, even though market conditions had actually improved.  Why?  For starters, they had finance use the metrics, not marketing, the way we look at numbers is different.  Second, the very obvious things like, focus on the client more than the numbers, were not done; to me it was so obvious, I never wrote it down.  I figured anyone would know this, apparently not.  Add to that, how someone interacts with their own playbook is individualized, how I write things down is unique to me, they found it difficult to understand where my thinking was coming from once I left.  For me, I understood and just translated it to the situation, they could not do this step.  Also, a lot of marketing metrics is still pulling from fuzzy areas, how do you measure a clients true feelings, you can’t really do that in a calculation, it comes from experience and the individual marketer brings that and you still need them to be there to do the calculation and bridge the fuzzy nature of some human feelings and bottom line accountability.  There is still a lot of art in the science of marketing metrics.


For marketers, I think many are selling the discipline short by not having a playbook or being too greedy with their playbook.  I’ve come up with some really great ideas, only to find out there are two or three others who have very similar ideas.  I even went and talked to them and we shared our views on the ideas and came up with better ideas, taking our different approaches and smoothing it out and coming up with something more refined.  There is room enough for many people to share ideas in marketing.  Yes the potential of someone stealing an idea is there but like any idea, people can only copy so much, they can rarely duplicate it, and if they can, go study them!


From my perspective, I want as many ideas as possible and since I have so many and I doubt I am ever going to run out, I don’t mind sharing a few if I can get something out of it to add to my playbook.  There are always ideas out there that I’m working on, such as this one on moral and client satisfaction, I can’t get it to work 20% of the time, the calculations are off, so there are missing variables.  I’d be happy to talk to people about that and have.  In talking to them, I have found they have the same problems I do with their calculations.  There seems to be something we can’t measure that is missing.  This is very cool!  Why, because we are much closer to understanding the situation and coming to a conclusion.  If we are all having the same problem, that means the answer is not so clear obvious and more out of the box thinking is needed, now we have a course to follow.


There are ideas I had 10 years ago in my playbook that I had sit in there for years, only to have them come up and be ideal for a situation.  Frankly if I had not had that playbook, I would not have been able to recall all the details I had written down, some are rather detailed.  I would recommend both a hard copy and digital.  Some things are just easier to handle in hard copy, although digital is of course a lot easier to move around.  No matter what you do, get a playbook, start putting all your ideas in there.  It may be years before you see the benefits but the benefits of a playbook go way beyond the time you invest in creating one.  I started mine back in college, I spent some of my free time studying ideas that were not part of my course work and it paid off years down the road.  If you have any questions on how to do a playbook, feel free to email me.

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Learning From Your Mistakes

I had an interesting experience with a team I was working with.  Turns out things didn’t go so well because someone forgot to do their part and didn’t actually label the schedule properly.  So nobody knew certain a event was scheduled because this one person screwed up.  I got a call the Saturday before the event from this person and the event was on Tuesday.  So we scrambled to get things going and get it off.  We were able to do it, not perfect but 85-90% of it went smoothly.  This was a record, usually it takes 10 days of constant planning and prep work.


However, the team saw nothing but gloom and doom at the end, how the board was going to have heads roll, how the top boss was going to yell at them and it just kept going on and on.  I didn’t see a problem really and I went on to cheer them up.  The way I saw it, sure, we had problems, we needed focus on the fixes and ensured it wouldn’t happen again, we also learned how to streamline certain areas to operate faster and more efficient.  So it was actually a very positive outcome because we found new ways of doing things which saved time resulting in reduced costs and made them more competitive as well.


I learned the culture had been very focused on the negative.  When things went bad, they wallowed in that for days or weeks and bringing it up again when a similar situation came about.  Comments like “remember when we did something like that, remember what happened” were very common comments.  I found this was a reason for their poor performance, not the only reason.  But a culture that focuses on the negative and views mistakes as something only to be punished, is going to create a work environment that is less than optimal.


I prefer to focus on the positive and what we can learn.  When things hit the fan, rarely is it one person who is the reason for it, this was a case where it was, but often it is a team issue.  I felt it was a good learning experience and way to shift the corporate culture from gloom and doom, to one that is more proactive.  I do this because it allows for problems to get fixed faster and for solutions to be drawn out faster.  If my competitors are off wallowing in their mistakes or getting yelled at by the boss, and my team is moving to solutions, I’m going to get the sale or keep the client.


The results of the situation were, the team quickly refocused and got out of the self pity mode and started to think up ways to fix the issues that came up so they don’t happen again and saw how they could go to the board and say “yes, there was a problem, we found the solution, we fixed any issues caused by it with the client and we found ways to save money and be more competitive in the process.”  That’s called learning from your mistakes.  It works, I’ve done it with some deep seated cultures, so I’m sure you can do it with your culture if you need to.  It’s great to see your team get motivated, this will get them going and believe me, done right, you’ll see a real positive difference that impacts your business in a positive way as well.

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