Archive | January, 2013

Money Is Like Honey. It Attracts Every Bear.

30 Jan

If you’re trying to seed the market for sales reps.  If you’re trying to introduce big potential customers to your brand by setting up product trials and reviews.  Then incentivize those people with money.

Money is like honey; it’ll lure the big bears to climb your tree. 


But if learning is what you’re after.  If you’re really interested in feedback that will improve your product.  Then find customers who will try your product or attend your focus group for free.  Seek out those consumers that care enough about what you do that they’re willing to give up their time at no cost to make your product better.

The best feedback comes from those that don’t need to be paid to give it. 

If making a big sale is all you’re after, attract the big bears with lots of honey.  But if knowledge is your goal, often times the most important incentive is no incentive at all.


The e on my wrist

26 Jan

I get a tattoo before every presentation.  It’s a self-scribbled e on the back of my hand.  I ink myself when I first start generating ideas and only wash it off after I deliver the presentation. It’s temporary, but the imprint sears into my mind what’s most important.  It stands for two things that I must remember throughout the presentation process:

  • Everyone else—The only thing that matters during my presentations is my audience.  Is everyone else in the room getting what they need out of my talk?  Am I assuming knowledge my audience doesn’t yet have?  How do I simplify my message?  The e is a reminder that it’s everyone else that matters, not the person standing in the front of the room.
  • Ego—I want so badly to be a star presenter.  I want to be a comedian, a preacher, a TED talker who makes his audience gasp with insight.  No wonder we’re nervous when we put so much pressure on ourselves.  The e reminds me to leave my ego out of the presentation.  I don’t have to be a stand-up comedian.  Or change the world in my twenty minute talk (although that’s something to aspire to!).  I just need to help my audience, because what they’ll remember is what they got out of the presentation, not me.


Write an e on your hand when you start planning your presentations and don’t wash if off until the presentation is over.  Your thinking will be clearer.  You won’t be as nervous.  And you’ll remember what matters: not your ego, but everyone else.

I Never Won The Fifth Grade Science Fair

24 Jan

But I run experiments now.

When I think about my first year in marketing, I remember the headaches.  The pressure that built in my temples as I obsessed over tough decisions.  Which product feature should I tell our sales reps to highlight with customers?  Is this a headline that will get customers to look at my marketing materials?

I was a perfectionist trying to make just the right decision.  But without enough information to do so. 

I was new.  I didn’t know my customers well enough—didn’t have the knowledge I needed to guarantee a confident, correct decision. 

I’d obsess, hesitantly make a choice, doubt it afterwards, and then wait for the results.  Flipping a coin might have led to more success, and definitely would have saved me stress. 

Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup changed my perspective on decision making.  It’s one of the holy bibles of startup culture, but it’s applicable to everything we do.  There are lots of lessons in the book, but the most important one (for me) is this one:

  • Do not stress over decisions in which you have incomplete information.  Your goal is not to make the right decision (or build the right product) under possibly false assumptions.  Your goal is to learn before you act by testing your assumptions.  Worry about learning and the right decision will follow.

One way to learn is through devising an experiment.  Which isn’t that hard to do—I sure as hell never won the fifth grade science fair.  An example from my work:

Instead of obsessing over which chapters and pages in my textbooks our sales reps should show to customers, I’ve created an experiment where I intersperse “highlights” picked by our authors with random passages from the book.  I ask a group of customers to rank these passages and explain their evaluations.  If the rankings are consistent (if customers pick the same highlights and have similar reasons for doing so), I can confidently present tested passages to our sales reps.

Fewer headaches.  Better, more confident decisions.  The Lean Startup is worth the read.

The Lean Startup

When Content Isn’t King

22 Jan

Telling someone content isn’t king is like telling a mom that you think her baby is ugly.  It always leads to a shocked look, and sometimes a slap.

Which is why I’m hesitant to tell you this.  When it comes to achieving higher click-through rate (CTR) in marketing emails, the content of the email is DEFINITELY not king.

In my first year as a marketer, I wrote prose worthy of publication, copy that extolled the virtue of our beautiful wares (textbooks…).  But I still had average to below average CTR.  I spent significantly more time than my colleagues worrying about the body copy of my emails, but that extra time didn’t lead to more customers clicking on links in my emails.

Which led me to examine more closely my marketing emails.  Which led to the conclusion that if I were a potential customer, I would have NEVER clicked on the links in my own emails.

That was humbling.  But also helpful.  I realized that the reason that I wouldn’t have clicked on my own links had nothing to do with the copy I wrote.  It had to do with what I now know are the two critical components of CTR:

  • The subject line
  • The link we ask customers to click on

For you to achieve high click-through, customers 1) have to open your email and 2) click on the link you provide them.  It doesn’t matter how good your copy is (and mine was good, damnt).  If your subject line is spammy or doesn’t convey that there will be clear value within the email, customers will just delete it without opening.  And if they open it, the description of the link you want them to click better be specific (“Learn more here” just doesn’t cut it) or they won’t click on it.

I now spend all of my time worrying about subject lines and my links…and my click-through rate is the best in my marketing team.  When I write the actual body copy of my emails, my goal is not to pen magic that will allure customers.  It’s only to keep the content short so customers make it to my link.

The content isn’t king.  It’s so intuitive to me now when it comes to CTR, it’s shocking I didn’t realize it sooner. 

Change your perspective on CTR.  Focus on the subject line and the link, not the copy.  And enjoy more success.

Introverts and Sales

21 Jan

I’m quiet.  I sneak off to avoid saying goodbyes.  I relish the lonely dinner.  Which is why I liked Grant Cardone’s short article on introverts and sales so much: .

Why should you read it?  Because he makes a point that dismantles the often-held notion that sales careers are not for introverts:

  • The label introvert is imperfect because it’s situation sensitive. Our level of introversion depends on the social situation.

I’m an introvert, but I know the exact feeling Cardone alludes to, of being able to “turn it on” in a sales call or in a presentation.  Listening is the introvert’s greatest sales skill (of course it is, we’re introverts).  But Cardone makes a great point about introverts and talking about our products: if we’re passionate about something, if we know it inside and out (as introverts often know things), we can and will persuasively talk about it.


Many friends and colleagues of mine have career goals.  To make those dreams come true, they’ll have to go into the field and gain sales experience.  Yet they prolong taking a sales position because as introverts, they don’t see themselves as sales people.  They “could never do sales” because they can’t imagine talking to strangers or selling something.

They’re fooled by the stereotypes that sales is all about “the pitch” and that as introverts, they’re just too quiet for it.   They let these incorrect labels determine what they can and can’t do.  They avoid the uncomfortable at all costs, when if they embraced sales, I don’t think they’d find it uncomfortable at all.


Tag Teaming Your Audience

20 Jan

How long will an audience tolerate you talking at them before they zone you out?  Five minutes?  Fifteen minutes?  Fifty minutes?

From my experience, it’s about three.  

I’m not talking about an audience full of kindergarteners, either.  I’m talking about colleagues and potential customers—I’ve lost the attention of both after just three minutes.

This problem of attention span is irrespective of our skill as orators.  Everyone gets zoned out  eventually.  The soothing baritone of James Earl Jones or the wit of Jim Carrey doesn’t save them.  If you simply talk at people, they will stop paying attention…it’s just a matter of when.

Given the three minute attention span of our audience, we as presenters can:

1)      Just not show up. 

2)      Ignore the problem and continue to orate for as long as feel we need.

3)     Make changes to our presenting style that lead to better engagement.

If you chose #3, you’re like me.  One of the biggest changes I made was a very simple one.  When I present with a team, I construct my presentation script so no one talks for longer than three minutes in a row. 

A change in presenters jolts the audiences, reinforcing the focus of those that are still listening and stirring those that we’ve lost back to attention. 

When we present, we’re battling technology, social media, and even sleep for our audience’s attention.  Use well-timed jolts, like switching presenters, in your quest to engage listeners.

What’s Intimidating About The Greats

17 Jan

What’s intimidating about the greats, the business and thought leaders of our society, is that we pick up their story at the end.  We’re given chronicles of their accomplishments: their meteoric rise to the head of their companies, their brilliant inventions, the millions of lives their creations have impacted.  How can we ever rival what they have done?

What if we picked up their story at the beginning?  Or in the middle?  When these great people faced enormous hurdles.  When they were filled with self-doubt.  When their success was far from guaranteed.

What if, instead of comparing ourselves to the end result, we placed ourselves side by side to the greats when they were just like us?  Working, struggling, striving towards a goal not yet seen on the horizon.

When you think about your career or a goal you’ve set for yourself, shift the point of comparison.  If you want to be great, don’t set yourself side by side to someone who has already achieved greatness.  Instead, imagine that person when they were at a similar point in their career.  When calluses were all they had to show for their toil.  When they had to find solutions to the challenges they faced.

When you do that, you’ll find that these great figures no longer are daunting and untouchable, but very reachable.  You’ll focus not on their enormous success, but the process they took to get there.  You’ll be motivated to find solutions, because they once had too as well—and did so.

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