Stupid Bowl Commercials

Have you been watching TV commercials lately? How about Super Bowl commercials? They’re right around the corner. I used to enjoy watching these but as of the last few years even they are a letdown. Think back to last year’s commercials:

  1. Pepsi Twist and Diet Pepsi Twist featured Ozzy Osbourne in a nightmare. Can you say, “overdone?” Well you can’t argue with success. That Pepsi Twist really took the country by Storm this year, huh? Not!
  2. Reebok featured linebacker Terry Tate helping managers of a fictional company improve their performance by tackling them and yelling like a drill sergeant. Oh yea it’s really funny seeing office workers getting tackled. Duh? Can anybody tell me what that has to do with Reebok?
  3. Quiznos spotlighted one of their employees who only think about making the best sub sandwich, leaving his bird to die in a cage and making a sandwich without his pants on. Now do you really want a sandwich from a guy that forgot to put his pants on? He probably forgot to wash his hands too. Yuck!

Remember, these are supposedly the best of the best in advertising today. These beauties cost a cool mil or more to air! Is this really the finest Madison Avenue has to offer? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my 12 year old nephew put together my next batch of ads than these “hotshot” creative geniuses.
The Problem with Marketing Materials
Let’s face it, most marketing or advertising, even professionally prepared ads, are poorly done. The message is rarely clear, concise, compelling, credible, relevant, interesting or unique. In addition, it miserably fails in four other key areas:

  1. Wrong Orientation – focused on what we do rather thanwhat they get
  2. Weak Content – Not enough information to persuade, contains poor or no evidence
  3. Tasteless Layout or Design – creates the wrong image and difficult to read
  4. Typos and Grammatical Errors – damages credibility
Creating Headlines
The first step is creating the headline. We establish our position with headlines in our marketing. Most marketing or advertising communications have a headline. The headline is typically designed to “get attention.” In some cases, a compelling visual is used to get attention and the headline draws the reader into the copy text. 


  • Problem – Focuses on the problem that the prospect is facing thereby increasing their pain.
  • Solution – Focuses on the solutions or benefits that the company, product or service provides.
  • Motive – Focuses on not so much what the customer wants but why they want it.
  • Analogies – A clever or creative way of explaining the problem, solution, or motive which the marketing device is attempting to communicate.
  • Combination – These headlines use a combination of strategies such as a problem/solution ad or an analogy that explains the problem or a motive that uses an analogy.

ApplicationLet’s put aside the big budget wacko Super Bowl ads and focus on a typical ad for a small business. Say, a yellow page ad. The best way for me to demonstrate what works versus what doesn’t is to actually show you two versions of the same ad. This one is for a day care center. It is a very compelling example of a yellow page ad that works as compared to one that is rather ineffective. 
This ad adheres to none of the rules we’ve discussed. The focus of the ad is “Established in 1970.” Who cares? It says day care center but I already know that since that’s the section in which the ad appears.

This ad clearly focuses on the solution to the biggest problem: “Will I be comfortable with my baby there?” It is targeted, compelling, obvious, concise and uses a striking visual that hits an emotional chord. What is most powerful about this re-design is that it certainly boosted response and it didn’t cost one more penny to run!
I hope this demonstrates the principles of effective marketing in a practical way for you. In my “Attract More Business” program I tear apart dozens of ads, brochures, commercials and other marketing and advertising. I show you how to critique them and re-assemble them in a powerful and compelling way. To read more about it, go to

Have a great week!
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email 

Mark Deo

Something For Nothing

From time to time I will allow accomplished marketing or management experts to contribute an article that has value. This article was particularly beneficial to me and I hope it is for you as well. It was authored by David Frey, the senior editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter, a free weekly newsletter featuring small business marketing techniques. If you feel you may have an article that is educational for small business owners and entrepreneurs please let me know.

“Something for Nothing” or “How to Get Free Publicity for Your Small Business”
By David FreyThe other day I picked up the newspaper and read the headline, “Ex-High School Teacher Helps Struggling Students Improve Their Grades.” The headline immediately caught my eye because I recently developed a system for high school and college students to improve their academic performance.In the article it talked about a Houston woman who retired from high school teaching and now holds study skills workshops around town for high school students that need academic help. It included her contact information and website address.It was a quarter page article in the Houston Chronicle with over one million circulation. When I saw the article I wondered to myself how much that same article would have cost her if she had paid for it.LOTS!The Power of the Humble News ArticleThere are only two ways to land the name of your business in the local newspaper, by paying for an advertisement or by having a newsworthy event that is covered by the local press. Both can be very effective but the all-mighty news release can provide the level of credibility and respect that can spark on-the-spot sales for your business.Advertisements contain information that people know are biased. Surveys have shown that the vast majority of people believe that all advertisements contain false or misleading information.News articles, on the other hand, are written by third-party news organizations that have nothing to gain by endorsing your business. Hence, their believability is high. That’s exactly why your print ads should use an editorial style format. People read editorial style (news article format) seven times more than an advertisement!Why Are Some News Releases Chosen and Other Not?Knowing how the press chooses one news release over another will give you an advantage in getting the coverage you’re looking for. Most large pressrooms get hundreds of news releases a day. When yours comes in, it competes with all the others that come in with it.Typically, an “Assignment Editor” is the person who has the responsibility to determine what is “news” and what isn’t. This person is in charge of reviewing the incoming releases and either assigning them to editors or trashing them. Typically, an Assignment Editor will sift through press releases like you go through your mail…over a wastebasket.If a news release doesn’t catch their eye they immediately trash it. The first item on the press release that is read is the headline. If you don’t have a catchy headline that grabs the editor’s attention then it won’t stand much of a chance making it to the next step, which is the first paragraph.Your first paragraph should tell what your news is, whom it’s about, where it will be, why it’s important, and when it will be held. The opening paragraph needs to get to the point fast with no fluff. If it’s as compelling as the headline, you have a good chance of having the entire release read.What News Stories Get Covered?To give your business the best chance of being covered by the local news media give them what they are looking for. Generally speaking, each of the different media is looking for specific types of news events.Newspapers want information that is interesting and informative. Newspapers like to educate their readers with timely news and articles that people will find interesting and educational.Radio is a bit more loose and has an “anything goes” type of style. Radio stations like information that is controversial, funny, or weird. One of the most popular five minutes of a local radio station here in Houston is the “Birthday Scam,” in which the DJ’s call up an unsuspecting person (on their birthday) and proceed to create a combative and hostile conversation full of accusations and lies. The sparks start to fly and so do the ratings.Television gets excited about anything that can provide great visuals. Sponsoring a local high school reading contest in which the principal gets dunked in a tub of kool aid will get the T.V. station’s attention.All media love human-interest stories. They know that people like to know about other people. In fact, the number one topic of talk radio is relationships. If you have a good human-interest story that others would find interesting you’re on your way to getting lots of free publicity.Lastly, the biggest mistake that most PR novices make is to pitch an advertisement for their business. The media publishes news…they are not your personal marketing department! You must be newsworthy!How Muhammad Ali Landed In Life Magazine (I love this story!)Getting free publicity is more about making yourself newsworthy than being newsworthy. As George MacKenzie, a publicity expert, once told me, “There is no boring stories, just boring approaches to interesting stories.” With creativity and a little effort you can make almost any situation newsworthy. The following story is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s a story about how Muhammad Ali received massive amounts of free press in Life magazine, the biggest magazine in the country in those days.After Muhammad Ali turned pro, Sports Illustrated did an editorial piece on him. During the photo shoot with the Sports Illustrated photographer, Ali asked whom else the photographer did work for. He replied, Life magazine. But quickly told Muhammad that he didn’t have a chance of being covered in the popular magazine.Muhammad knew that if he made himself stand out somehow, that the magazine might write him up. After a few minutes of consideration Ali asked the photographer what other kinds of photos he took? The photographer responded, “All kinds, but my specialty is underwater photography.”So the quick-thinking Muhammad Ali said, “Did you know that I’m the only fighter in the world who trains underwater?” The photographer immediately got interested. Ali then told him that he’d do an exclusive if Life wanted to do a story about him.Before you knew it, Ali was in a pool up to his neck in water dancing and throwing punches with the photographer reeling off pictures. It wasn’t long after that Life did a huge spread on Muhammad Ali. He gave the photographer and Life magazine what they wanted, and in turn, received massive free publicity.20 Ways to Make Your Small Business NewsworthyAs I previously mentioned, the key to getting publicity for your business is to make yourself newsworthy. The Muhammad Ali story is a good example of how one man made his own publicity opportunity by being creative and interesting.To get your creative juices flowing let me suggest 20 ways you can make your business newsworthy.

  1. Do a customer survey and include controversial questions. Write articles about the results of the survey. The media loves survey results.
  2. Create a top ten list about something in your business. If you’re a beautician, write an article titled, “Top Ten Most Popular Hairstyles for Women.” Top ten lists are very popular, just ask David Letterman.
  3. Develop an annual award that you give out to someone in the community or a business in your industry. For instance, give an award to a local outstanding teacher that has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Or if you’re a supplier you can give an award to the “Best” business (customer) in the industry your service.
  4. Offer surprising facts about your industry or business. For instance, if you’re a recruitment firm write an article titled, “The Average Starting Salary of An MBA Graduate is 40% Higher Than Their Pre-MBA Earnings.”
  5. Piggyback off a national story. For example, when the rumors of a recession hit one business wrote a story about how their business actually improved as a result of the recession (It was a utility expense auditing firm).
  6. Tie your business in with holidays or special days. For example, tell the media how your massage therapy business helps to reduce stress during the Christmas season and provides gift certificates for welcome relief.
  7. Give a rags-to-riches story about yourself as a high school nobody that starts her own business and becomes successful. Remember, the media loves human-interest stories.
  8. Tie your business into something that took place in the past. Go to your local library and find articles from 50 years ago that may somehow tie into the product or services you provide.
  9. Be first. Be the first to offer a 200% double your money back guarantee. Be the first to offer an on-site car wash with every sale. Be the first to give your employees ownership in your business. Think of something at which you can claim to be the first.
  10. Host a “Kids are the Boss Day!” Hand your business over to your 14-year-old kid or one of your employee’s young children for the day.
  11. Run a “silliest thing” or “dumb mistakes” contest with your customers. For instance, if you’re a shoe repair shop, ask your customers for the silliest things they’ve ever done with their shoes. If you’re a sport goods retailer ask your customers for the dumbest mistakes they’ve made while camping. These are great human-interest stories that the press will love.
  12. Sponsor a local community service project. For example, if you’re a dry cleaner, clean the clothes for all the visitors of the local food shelter. If you’re a fast food retailer, hold a free lunch day for disabled children. If you’re a car repair shop, offer oil and lubes to the parents of boy scouts and donate all the proceeds to the Boy Scouts of America.
  13. Throw a one-of-a-kind customer appreciation theme party such as a luau with Polynesian cultural dancers or a magical theme party in which customers can bring their children to watch a magician do incredible tricks.
  14. Do you have a customer that uses your products in an unusual way or uses your product to become a high achiever? If you run a gym is one of your customers a bodybuilding champion? If you own a bike shop is one of your customers a champion trial racer? If you manage an electronics store do you have a customer who has invented a whiz-bang contraption?
  15. Take on the sacred cows of your industry and challenge them. If you’re a human resource consultant, give employee-of-the-month programs a severe drubbing. If you’re a Taco Bell manager, tell consumers how “real” Mexican food actually tastes bland and boring. If you’re a home-based businessperson, write about how corporate America is suffocating good people.
  16. Close down your business for one day a year and have your entire staff do a day of charity work. Headlines would read, “Local Print Shop Closes Doors to Help the Needy!”
  17. Recently I had a client whose business burnt down last year. He built it back up and is doing more business than ever. Has your business survived a tragic incident (like the recession) and made is through with flying colors?
  18. Write a general interest story about the problem that your product or service solves. If you’re a car detailer you could write about how oxidation and rust destroys the integrity of your car and makes it unsafe to drive. If you sell website services write about hosting problems or the effects of poor website design and how to solve it.
  19. Why did you start your business? If you started your business because you were dissatisfied with the provider you were using (or the employer you worked for), let the press know. For instance, you went into the Italian restaurant business because the Italian food in the local area wasn’t authentic. Maybe you started pool-cleaning service because of the lousy job service providers were doing on your own pool.
  20. Prove a myth or stereotype in your industry wrong. For instance, if you’re a hot tub dealer, show a man who sits in his hot tub every night and has 12 children (meaning the hot water really doesn’t kill your sperm!).

How you make your business newsworthy is only limited by your creativity and ingenuity. Remember, there are no boring stories, just boring approaches to interesting stories.Money can’t buy what the press can give you.# # #David Frey is a collaborating member of the Small Business Advisory Network and is the President of Marketing Best Practices Inc., a Houston-based small business marketing consulting firm. David is the senior editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter featuring small business marketing best practices. Contact him at: or

Small Business Advertisements

Nobody can guarantee a winning ad. The only way to know for sure is to test it. But there are several elements that you can incorporate into your ad or sales letter to give it a better chance of being a winner. Use these elements as your own personal “winning ad checklist.”

Element #1 – Smart Ad Placement 
The first step in positioning your ad for success is increasing its chance of being seen by your target market. Running the world’s best radio ad for your retirement planning services on a local hip-hop station wouldn’t be a good idea. Find out what your target market watches (i.e. sports, cooking, business), where they watch it (i.e. car, home, airport), and how they watch it (i.e. newspaper, magazine, radio). Until you know this information, you cannot make smart choices about ad placement and you’ll likely end up wasting a lot of your hard-earned dollars on an ad that didn’t even get seen by your target market.Element #2 – Focus on Your Objective 
You’ll never get what you want if you don’t know what you want. This is true in your personal goals and also your advertising efforts. You must have a specific objective for your ad if you want people to act. Is it to call your office, come to your store, or go to your website? Whatever your objective is, gear all the elements of your ad to persuade consumers to fulfill your objective. Suppose you want readers to call your toll-free telephone number, then your call-to-action should be, “call our toll-free number now!” If you include a testimonial, have your endorser say something like, “when I made a call to your toll-free number…” or you might include copy that says, “one toll-free phone call can change your life forever.” Multiple objectives will confuse your prospect and when people get confused, they usually do nothing.Element #3 – Irresistible Offer 
If you have ever seen the ginsu knife infomercial you have witnessed the anatomy of an irresistible offer. Not only do you get the set of ginsu knives, but also you get the “magic shredder”, the “never-dull chopper”, and the “easy egg slicer.” BUT that’s not all – you also get the “2-in-1 blade sharpener” and if you order in the next 10 minutes you’ll also receive a second set of ginsu knives! Now that’s an irresistible offer. Who could resist all these bonuses for the price of one set of ginsu knives? The secret to constructing an irresistible offer is to add valuable bonuses and extend risk-free, easy-to-pay terms. Continue heaping valuable bonuses on your customer until they throw up their hands and say, “Okay, I give!” One last thought about your irresistible offer. Sometimes you can make your offer so irresistible that it appears to good to be true. Always tell the reason why you can make such a great offer. This will add credibility to an incredulous ad. For example, you might be having a sale that advertises 70% off retail price. When people see “70% off” many will think that all you have done is boost your price 50% just so that you can advertise a 70% off price. But if you tell them you can offer 70% off because the recent hailstorm caused some very slight damage to your product and you need to liquidate. People can now reconcile you great offer in their minds so that it makes sense and is believable. 

Element #4 – Unique Competitive Advantage 
Why should your prospect do business with you over any of your competitors. Even those that have lower prices! Do you have a “wider selection than anybody in the tri-county area” or do you “deliver within eight hours after the purchase”? Often your unique competitive advantage is the biggest benefit you can offer your prospects so consider including it in your headline, bulleted copy, or your guarantee. If by chance, you don’t have a unique competitive advantage(s) then you better get one fast. Not having a unique competitive advantage with which to show value, results in competing solely on price – – and that’s a losing proposition (unless you have a significant cost advantage).Element #5 – Advertorial Style 
Studies have shown that consumers read new articles seven times more than they do advertisements. It is said that the average consumer is presented with over 3,500 ad impressions per day. We have become jaded to promotions and commercials. Cloaking your ad in a news style editorial format will not only pull more attention, but also instill credibility, which is one of the major roadblocks to consumer response. “Advertorial” (advertisement – editorial) type ads include compelling headlines, lots of informative, interesting text, quotes, and a judicious use of graphics. The reason advertorial ads are so compelling is that people are tired of in-your-face sales ads and would prefer the silent, soft sell of an authoritative news article.Element #6 – Compelling Headline 
Your headline is the most important part of all the technical aspects of your ad. 80% of the success of the headline can be attributed to its headline. A powerful headline is either, (1) benefit driven, (2) news oriented, (3) curiosity driven, or (4) how-to oriented. The following is an example of each: Benefit Driven Example: “You Too Can Have a Slimmer Figure Without Dieting” News Oriented Example: “Amazing New Formula Cures Arthritis Pain” Curiosity Driven: “Are You Making These Deadly Hair Care Mistakes?” How-to Oriented: “How to Flood Your Business with New Customers for Under $50” It’s a good practice to develop a minimum of 30 variations of your headline before you select the one you’ll use. Readers satisfy their interests by scanning headlines. If your headline doesn’t grab attention your ad will never be read, let alone noticed.Element #7 – Sell the Benefits 
Your prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about your awards, the name of your business, how much you sell, or how good you think you are. They only care about how you, and what you offer, can benefit them. So leave out all of “me” copy and sell the benefits. Ultimately people only want two things, to (1) gain pleasure, or to (2) avoid pain. Tell people how your offering will help them either gain pleasure or avoid pain by expressing them in the form of benefits. Don’t confuse this with listing the features of your product or service. People aren’t concerned as much with features as they are with what the features will do for them personally. To do this, list each of the features of your product and then determine the benefits, both the potential of gain or the avoidance of pain, your prospects will receive as a result of each feature. Hint: Studies have shown people respond better to the fear of loss (pain) then they do to the promise of gain.Element #8 – Make it Risk-Free 
Consumers are naturally skeptical. With all the scams, rip-offs, and untruthful ads consumers have experienced, who knows what to believe anymore? You must make your ad credible and risk-free. The good news is that it’s easy to do. Using a combination of these three strategies will provide a powerful risk-free offer.1 – Use Testimonials 
Testimonials from real people are powerful. People don’t like to be guinea pigs. If they’ve seen that someone else has received the promised benefits, it provides instant credibility. Hint: Including pictures of the endorser will double the effectiveness of your testimonial. 
 2 – Offer a Strong Guarantee 
Provide as strong a guaranteed as absolutely possible. If you can’t provide a strong guarantee for your product, perhaps you shouldn’t be selling it. Unfortunately, too many small business people fear that customers will take them up on it. Let me ask you, when was the last time your took somebody up on their guarantee? Seldom do guarantees get exercised. Use a powerful guarantee.3 – Include Facts and Statistics 
Use facts and statistics from reliable sources to bolster your claims. People find comfort in positive, scientific proof. Each of these strategies will build credibility and reduce the risk prospects naturally feel when contemplating an offer. Above all, be truthful and honest!Element #9 – Call to Action 
When someone tells you that they don’t like being told what to do – – don’t believe it. People do want to be told what to do. In fact, people need to be told what to do and when to do it. Phrases such as, “call now”, “come in today”, “sign up right now” trigger emotional response mechanisms that get your prospect to take action on an offer that secretly you want to take advantage of anyway. Make your call-to-action explicit and clear, so your prospect knows exactly what to do.Element #10 – Urgency 
Admit it, the vast majority of people are naturally lazy and like to procrastinate. Without a real or perceived sense of urgency your prospects will drag their feet. To compel your prospect to act immediately you must inject a feeling of “scarcity.” Scarcity is felt when the supply of either time or product quantity is limited. For instance, placing a deadline on your offer makes your prospect feel as though they have to take advantage of your offer before they lose the opportunity. An example of this tactic could be rescinding a discount offer or a special additional bonus within a specified period of time. Another tactic is to limit the quantity available so that people will feel the need to take advantage of your offer before your product runs out. It’s not unusual to see offers stating, “while supplies last”, or “only 50 available, first come, first serve.” If you use scarcity tactics (and you should), make sure that you hold true and keep your word by rescinding the offer when you say you will. If not, you will lose credibility and the tactic will backfire on you.Element #11 – Simple to Respond 
Most people buy on impulse rather than logic. If your prospect finds it difficult to take advantage of your offer during their moment of impulse, you will lose the sale. Make it easy to do business with you. Many people communicate in different ways. Some like to call on the phone, others like to go to the Internet, and yet others will only fax you their order. It’s important to offer multiple ways to be contacted such as telephone, fax, website, cell phone, pager, or any other communication method. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people take advantage of impulse buying using the telephone more than any other method. The same studies show that when you offer a toll-free number, response rates increase. Finally, if you offer a recorded message with a toll-free number in which people can hear a message and leave their contact information, response rates increase even more.Element #12 – Graphics 
Using a graphic is the first step in a three-step system for getting your audience to read your ad. The first step is to attract your reader’s attention with an exciting graphic, step two is to pull them into your ad with a gripping headline, and the third step is to persuade them to take action with your copy. A good graphic can attract the attention of your prospect and draw them in to your message. However, a common mistake advertisers make is to add graphics that overpower the copy, leaving little space to tell their story. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, it can also be interpreted a thousand different ways, sometimes causing confusion. Graphics should draw attention and add to your message. Exciting graphics showing action are always an eye pleaser. Including someone in your graphic from the target market you’re trying to reach, actively using your product or service, is also a good choice that will add to your message.Element #13 – Accountability 
Small businesses don’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising and; therefore, must hold their advertising dollars accountable. Without knowing what ads are pulling better than others, you could be wasting a lot of money. To avoid this, you need to track the response rates of your ads. Instead of asking your customers where they heard about you, get definitive proof by implementing a process by which you can track your ads. For instance, using a separate phone line or extension number for specific ads can help you determine the source of the inquiry. Another tactic may be to use a unique landing page on your website for different promotions. If you’re using lead generation by direct mail, tell the recipient that they need to bring the mailer in to take advantage of your offer. If you are using radio or television as your primary medium, offer the audience a special report whether it is a paper report, audiocassette, or a video. This not only helps you track your response rate but give your prospect a good reason to respond.Conclusion 
As you track your ads, keep the best pulling ads as your “control” piece. Vary the different elements of the ad to determine if your new ad pulls better than your control ad. If it does, make that ad your new control ad. Although, none of these elements alone can guarantee a successful ad, the combination of these elements will increase the potential for your ad to be a solid winner.Our thanks to David Frey for contributing this article. David is the senior editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter, a free weekly newsletter featuring small business marketing best practices. Check out his stuff at

Mystery Mailer

I recently received a mailer that was quite impressive. It contained 2 DVDs, 4 packages of material sealed in plastic with an “Evidence” tag on each of them and a brochure. It was obviously hand assembled. Great care went into putting all of these items into each of the plastic bags. Everything was beautifully designed with 4 color graphics. It was packed in a sturdy 9×12, padded shipping envelope. I also noticed that it had first class postage. The stamp showed that the sender had paid over $2.00 for the postage. Wow! I was impressed. This must be important. Strangely, it had an “evidence” tag affixed to the corner. I opened the package thinking this would be a great mailer and perhaps it would inspire us to do something creative for one of our clients.

I opened it and spread the contents out on my desk as I examined each item and read every word of the copy. My face screwed-up in confusion as I realized that it was very professionally prepared but there was only one problem. I had no idea of the purpose of the mailer. What were they trying to sell me? What was the meaning of this message? This was a great mystery. I examined each item carefully and read every word again. I had “no idea” what they were trying to communicate. Maybe it was just me. 

I decided to show it to our top designer. Surely, he would understand the purpose of this very expensive and professional mailer. Perhaps I was too “thick!” I showed it to Max. Now remember Max has 20 plus years of commercial design experience. He has written and designed thousands of advertisements and mailers during his career. Alas even Max could not decipher the mystery mailer. He did however agree that the package cost well over $15 each to assemble, print and mail even at a very high quantity! Too bad we couldn’t understand the message. It must be important! Clearly, someone spent a great deal of time and money on its development.

We decided to send it around the office to several of our designers, production and marketing staff members. Surely, someone would be able to solve this mystery. Yet not one person could figure out the meaning of this mailer! Now remember we are all “professional” advertising, design and marketing people! What was wrong with this picture? Suddenly, I had a brainstorm. Let’s contact the people that sent this to us and ask them to explain the meaning of the mailer! “Great idea,” Max said! We scoured the copy for more information. Maybe we could find a phone number or an address. No luck!

We got out our magnifying glass and finally discovered a web site written in 8-point type and buried in some obscure copy on the back of the brochure. We went to the site that looked very similar to the mailer and took several seconds to load. We read the home page to no avail. Just about ready to give-up we scrolled through the various pages and finally there it was – the meaning of the mystery! That’s it! That’s what this mailer is all about? What a disappointment!

Not only did we waste our time, but the marketer was wasting their money. Can you discover the meaning of the mailer? Check out the image below and e-mail me what you think it’s all about. If you’re right, I’ll send you our CD set on how to develop “killer direct mail campaigns!”
The lesson for all of us?
Create your marketing material so that a 7-year-old can understand it. In addition, make sure people know what you want them to do. I have seen some great marketing messages that leave the customer hanging not knowing where or how to purchase the product or service but this one really wins the prize. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. 

Have a great week!

More is NOT Better

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, especially when it comes to advertising. Let’s face it- most people just don’t pay attention to ads. I guess that’s because we are inundated with advertising. Wherever we go we encounter ads – complicated ads, tasteless ads, self-centered ads, ads that yammer on. So why should we pay attention? 

This just proves that most marketing materials, even professionally prepared materials, are very poorly done. The message is rarely clear, concise, compelling, credible, relevant, unique or even SIMPLE. Saying MORE in our ads and marketing does not make the message better. In fact the more information an ad tries to communicate the less effective it is. Most ads try so hard to state their competitive claims that they push more people away then they attract. 

Most ads fail miserably in four key areas:

  1. Wrong Orientation – focused on what we do (the logical side) rather than what they get (the emotional side).
  2. Weak Content – not enough relevant information to persuade and they contain poor or no evidence.
  3. Tasteless Layout or Design – creates the wrong image, difficult to read and too cluttered to be effective.
  4. Overstating or Overcomplicating the Message – damages credibility and impedes comprehension.

Here is a great example that demonstrates before and after yellow page ads for a veterinary hospital. The first ad focuses on all the LOGICAL reasons to buy and the second ad focuses on the EMOTIONAL reasons. Which do you think is more powerful?
This is a typical ad that demonstrates why MORE is NOT better. It communicates almost No benefits, yet it does not use negative space at all. And is that supposed to be an ark? Compare this with the ad below and it’s obvious why it doesn’t work. Additionally, this ad cost a fortune because it has 6 “spot” colors which are used very poorly. It’s only saving grace is the fact that the phone number is very apparent. Yet it does not give us a reason to dial it.

The “after ad” is simple and hits the motive of taking care of your pet on the nose. (No pun intended). The headline is so true because having a pet and talking care of it all about love. Even the images for this ad provoke a positive emotional response. The ad communicates a great deal of information and it makes great use of negative space to gain interest. They put the phone in red, but I think I’d make it bigger and more apparent, especially for the yellow pages. However they wisely designed this ad using 4 color-process which makes it more visually appealing and less costly than the 6 “spot” colors used in the first ad above. How Can You Apply this to your Business?
Look at your marketing material and hold it side-by-side with your competitors. How different is it? Could you just change the name and logo and the message would be the same? If so, then you may want to spend some time revamping your ads and marketing communication material.

In our NEW “Generating Ad Response” learning program we show you dozens of ads for all types of businesses – professionals, retailers, distributors, manufacturers, financial institutions, service businesses, and more. We teach you a powerful method of creating headlines and subheadings using five different strategies (problem, solution, motive, analogy, and combination headlines). We demonstrate how to design ads that “get attention” with information on how and when to use testimonials, leverage endorsements, lended credibility and powerful call to action closings. We present the 12 rules of creating compelling visuals and look at how to use illustrations and royalty-free photos effectively. We also establish guidelines for color and layout and talk about a 5 step formula for writing benefit-oriented ad copy. We include a primer on layout and demonstrate with specific examples how to effectively use negative space. Finally we discuss how to make this work in all types of marketing materials like brochures, flyers, ads, web sites, and more by showing you dozens of samples and tearing them apart. There’s even a test at the end to ensure you fully understand the principles.

The “Generating Ad Response” program contains a 30 page manual, 2 audio CDs, interactive forms and email coaching for only $111.  E-mail Matt Walker for more information about this new program, and look for it to be available for sale on our website soon. Attract More Business One Day Workshops 
By popular demand, we are now offering the Attract More Business one day workshop. This full day workshop incorporates content from our “Attract More Business” learning program and 8 week class. The workshop will be held from 9am to 5pm on June 11, 2005 in Long Beach, CAand August 25, 2005 in Pasadena, CA. Attendees of the workshop are eligible for 2 follow up 30 minute coaching sessions. As a special bonus when you attend the Attract More Business one day workshop, you will receive our audio CD on “Branding in the 21st Century.”Sign-up at: Attract More Business One Day Workshop.

Market Sexmentation

Have you seen the recent Carl’s Junior ad featuring the schoolteacher who does a dirty dance for the class?

I guarantee she would never pass for MY homeroom teacher. Apparently this is the burger chain’s latest promotion for their new Patty Melt (a patty with two flat buns) featuring the rap song “I Like Flat Buns.” This isn’t the first racy exposure from Carl’s. Remember Paris Hilton? If getting attention is the goal of this campaign, I’d have to give them a passing grade. The Tennessee Education Association demanded that they pull the ads and they have raised the ire of many in the advertising community.Let’s be honest, alienating the people outside of your target audience is a byproduct of controversial ads Often times campaigns such as these are aimed at highly profitable market segments such as teens. We may not realize it but teens spent $139 billion on consumer products just last year. So in essence this is just an ad campaign that is highly targeted to a very affluent, albeit young, audience. Carl’s is just practicing well crafted market segmentation. Or is that market sexmentation?Wikipedia defines “market segmentation” as the process in marketing of dividing a market into distinct subsets (segments) that behave in the same way or have similar needs. Because each segment is fairly homogeneous in their needs and attitudes, they are likely to respond similarly to a given marketing strategy. That is, they are likely to have similar feelings and ideas about a marketing mix comprised of a given product or service, sold at a given price, distributed in a certain way and promoted in a certain way.Oh yes, these teens have similar feelings alright!So what do you think? Did Carl’s go too far with this ad? Should teachers be offended? Or is it just a funny commercial?Take a look at the video here and give us your comments.

Listen to our LIVE radio show this Friday at 4 pm PST at: Call in to speak with us at (323) 443-6878 code: 226287Have a great week!-Mark Deo

Making Direct Mail Work

If you’re like most small businesses or entrepreneurs you may have already learned that typical marketing, particularly direct response advertising is a waste of time.   

You spend lots of time and money creating a marketing piece. Maybe you hire a designer to create the right message with creative photos, illustration, copy and layout. Or perhaps you do this yourself, investing many hours or even several days in developing the materials. Then you pay a fortune to deliver the message to your prospective clients. This could be through the mail, email, web site, print ad, signage or other media.   
You have high hopes for a great response. You are sure this will take your industry by storm. The phone is going to ring off the hook. Then, NOTHING . Not a peep. Suddenly a few calls trickle in. In short your campaign has, at best, ended in a break-even proposition. You say, “never again,” only to find in a few months you rationalize and change a few things around, use a new media and give it a try again. Sadly this cycle repeats itself.  
Sound familiar?  
Or maybe you are doing great with your marketing efforts. You are getting double digit response. You have learned how to ATTRACT business rather than simply chasing it down. In either case there are some very specific things that we can do to significantly increase or chances of attracting business. I would like to cover these today with a special emphasis on direct mail.  
I think that many have become fed-up with direct mail and have abandoned it as a viable form of marketing. I can say by experience that nowhere are the rules of attraction more effective than they are in the direct mail arena. I know there are many that have tried using postcards via direct mail. It is a fact that 99% of these campaigns end in disgust and disillusionment. But I’d like to introduce three simple steps that will all but guarantee double digit response by properly using postcards. They are as follows:  
1. People hate to read so use design and color to SPEAK your message. 
2. Leverage emotions to focus on the problem rather than the solution. 
3. Create a simple, clear, no risk, compelling call to action.  
STEP 1: People hate to read so use design, imagery and color to SPEAK your message.  
If you have read this far you are in the minority. Less than 22% of all readers finish the article that they set out to read. Most say they “speed read” or “skim through” the article which basically translates to laziness. In addition we should note that 16% of the adult population has dyslexia which inhibits them from reading with complete comprehension. In any case most will say they just don’t have time to read. So why not learn to speak with design and color. Let me practice what I preach and SHOW you what I mean. Check out post card at the right. It has one image and a four word headline. Not much to think about, yet the message is obvious. This one has a little humor also. Another note: don’t take yourself too seriously. Also notice the use of negative space at the top left. This is a visual strategy to force the reader to actually read the headline. This image and headline also prompts the reader to do a “double take” and re-process the ad in order to ensure they understand the intent. This also is a tactic to ensure readership. 
STEP 2: Leverage emotions to focus on the problem rather than the solution.  
As I’ve said before, we have to raise the customer’s level of curiosity and increase their attraction by aligning ourselves with their problems. Most marketing messages say the SAME thing. They talk about what the marketer does, the services they provide, and the products they sell. Most customers are interested in the question: “What’s in it for ME?” Make sure your headline clearly addresses what’s in it for them. I would in fact encourage you to tell them what pain or discomfort they will avoid by participating in your solution. You will note that is what both of these postcards do. Certainly you don’t want to end up like an uninsured dear (road-kill). Nor do you want your children to be injured in an accident due to faulty brakes. In addition we need to create a way for customers to “try out” your solution. This lessens their risk and makes them more familiar with your solution. It also allows them some time to make the purchase decision. In this Internet age more people are spending time researching various options in order to make the smartest buying decision. In the postcard at the right I might change the call to action to read: “Call now for your FREE brake check-up.”  
STEP 3: Create a simple, clear, no risk, compelling call to action.  
Make sure people know what you want them to do. I have seen some great marketing messages that leave the customer hanging not knowing where or how to purchase the product or service. This is a pretty simple one but it is effective. They want you to come in to their store. I might change the call to action to read something like: “Come in and get our FREE color test.” Also make sure that you reverse their risk in some way. No one likes to be trapped. Often times customers fail to try alternative solutions or change suppliers because they thing that the “grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” I always recommend that we allow people to TRY our solution. This is why in marketing our Attract More Business Program we offer a FREE 5 day self study where customers can experience what the Attract More Business Program is all about. In addition we offer an unconditional money back guarantee with every program sold. By the way, we have NEVER had anyone ask for a refund. If you are confident in the value of your product or service don’t be afraid to offer some type of risk-free guarantee.  
Here are some other postcards showing the rules of attraction in action:
These postcards are both aimed at soliciting home improvement but the one on the top focuses on the actual service and the other keys into the motive. Obviously more room for a “newcomer” to the family. You may be wondering if this same three step strategy can be applied to your business. The answer is absolutely, YES! In our Attract More Business Program I take you step-by-step through how to develop your own marketing strategy and advertising campaign. This includes a branding strategy, concept, copy, developing headlines, selecting media and much more. If any of this makes sense to you please enroll in our FREE Attract More Business Self Study program. Simply go to   
For more information on direct marketing check out this article that I wrote a few years ago:   
By the way thanks to Zairmail for letting me use their postcards as examples. Check them out. These guys have some great postcards. I’ve used them before. They are reliable, affordable and friendly. Call them at: 1-877-239-1253 or Have a great week! 
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email  
Mark Deo

Irresistible Direct Mail

Who says direct mail has to be boring? Who says direct mail has to produce 1 or 2% response at best? Who says direct mail is a medium of the past? I’ll tell you who – those who are doing the same old, same old direct mail. We’ve all heard Ben Franklin’s quote on the definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over again, yet expect a different result. Let’s face it, if you are doing the same kind of mailings that you did 3, 5 or even 10 years ago you can expect not just the same response but a significantly lower response. What can you do to make direct mail interesting? Direct mail is often viewed as a type of “push” marketing. Yet if it is performed creatively, direct mail can become a powerful “pull” marketing strategy. We can use direct mail to create “attraction” rather than as a means of “chasing” business. All this can be done without in your face, pushy tactics if we are willing to take a step back and focus on the customer’s challenges rather than become embroiled in our solution. Direct mail is no different than any other marketing medium. If we can focus our communication efforts on not just what the customer wants but rather why they want it, we can align ourselves to the customer and thereby attract them to our solution.
Take the direct mall piece shown below. When it arrived on my doorstep, I had no idea what it was but the 8 x 10 inch envelope with the eye staring at me and the headline: “Ready for a SHOCK? Then open this” did have me wondering. I usually trash this kind of stuff but something about this had me curious. I guess the headlines were right up my alley:
“Jack Welch was wrong. Dead WRONG.” “Next recession in 2011. BE READY.”
“America’s 3rd great MIGRATION has started: $1 trillion dollar opportunity.”
That got me to open the envelope. When I did, I found this was an offer for Peter Drucker Institutes new on-line E report, “TRENDS.” Also in the package was a CD and several inserts. One was a letter customized to me (host at CBS Radio). Also enclosed was a very well done interactive CD, a brochure discussing the problems I face as a radio show host finding accurate time information about business trends, a response card (pre-filled out!), and a discount coupon.

We talk a lot about the rules of attraction and how valuable they are in direct marketing. This mailer included several. Let me list them so that you can build them into your own campaign:

  1. Become a big fish in a smaller pond. It was aimed at business journalists and included information only valuable to them.
  2. The problem is more important than the solution. It focused on numerous problems that we will be facing in the coming decade. Many of the same things I talk about on my radio show and in my weekly articles.
  3. Give information away without selling. It included a FREE subscription for 1 month and the CD which was crammed with 20 excellent articles.
  4. Reverse people;s risk in changing. It had a discount coupon for $100 off.
  5. Don’t be a better option, become the ONLY solution. I don’t know of any organization offering this type of information.
  6. No one has time to read so let design and color speak. As you can see it included compelling graphics, a tasteful layout and colorful design.
  7. Traditional advertising is a HOPE business. This was not your typical mailer. I suspect it cost 2 or 3 times more in production costs than a typical mailer, but was sent to far fewer people, all of whom have a higher interest level in this kind of information.
  8. Learn the discipline of testing. It had a pre-numbered savings code so they could track the response to determine which offer was most successful. I assume they tested numerous solutions.

This is a great example of a powerful, well-conceived marketing device. One particularly good thing about the piece was that it carried much of the message on the envelope itself, motivating me to open it.

Think about ways that you can implement these strategies in your own direct marketing program. If you get stuck, give me a call or send an email and I will do my best to help. Also check out our new program, “Attract More Business” at for a step-by-sep approach on how to do this. The program includes dozens of examples, a 150 page manual and 9 CDs that you can listen to in your car, making it a practical learning tool.

Have a great week! I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or 

Mark Deo Print this article.

Giant Brand, Guerilla Tactics

Recognize that movie poster? It won critical acclaim from the design world for the Oscar winner “Walk the Line” last year. Designed by artist Shepard Fairey, it never would have happened were it not for the wrestler Andre the Giant. 

You’ve probably seen Shepard Fairey’s “art”. If you’re under 35, you’re likely very familiar with it, and if over, you’ve probably seen and ignored it all. Shepard Fairey began a remarkable branding campaign in 1989 in Rhode Island as a joke. As a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, he created a silhouette of the famed wrestler Andre the Giant to show a friend how silhouettes could be made of virtually any photo. As a joke, he decided to place the image on a sticker, with the text “7’4″, 520 LB., Andre the Giant has a Posse”. Intended to mock underground skateboarding culture, these stickers were placed all over Providence, Rhode Island- on the back of street signs, streetlights, traffic signals, buildings, etc.

Getting lots of feedback from friends in the skating community, Shepard took out an ad in a skateboarding magazine featuring the image and a P.O. Box, with a note urging people to send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope for more information. He would send back a few stickers, a template to use for printing more, and a note urging the recipient to spread the message. 

I can recall personally seeing these stickers in Pittsburgh, PA in 1992, as well as in Los Angeles in the early 90s. Shepard Fairey then transitioned into a more stylized image, and created other silhouette styled images that were incorporated into posters that mock government propaganda with the word “Obey” featured prominently. 

The end result? His work has been seen in numerous films (including Batman Forever, 8 MM, and others), is now designing CD covers, movie posters, and t-shirts, and has built a visual brand among persons who were young adults from the late 80s until now.

What is most interesting is that Shepard Fairey created a brand without a product! When he started, he had nothing to sell. He’s created a legion of fans who spread his message for him, and that has led to mainstream success. Whether you like or dislike his tactics (many view it as simple vandalism), the result cannot be denied- mainstream commercial success.

What can you do that will generate interest among your target audience? How can you encourage persons in your network to spread your message for you? What can you do to brand your company, products, or self to spread your message?

I’ll get this started for the SBA Network. Please take this article (or any of ours) and share it with a friend. 5’9″, 170 pounds. Mark Deo has a posse.

SBA Network Sales Technology Specialist Matt Walker wrote this article. To reach him, send him a note at a great week!-Mark Deo

Direct Marketing

Why is it that some people make BIG money with direct mail and others lose their shirts?

Is it the packaging, the postage, the copy content, the design or layout, the offer, the promise, the guarantee, the response device, the cost, the list, the database management or the timing?It is all of these things and sometimes none of these things. Big help so far, huh?Overview 
Like all types of marketing, your efforts are only as good as the weakest link. Remember there is no guaranteed formula for success with anything. Every situation demands a different approach. You wouldn’t go about selling computers through the mail the same way you would toothpicks. Nor would you sell suntan lotion in Alaska the same way you sell parkas in Hawaii. The most important thing about a direct marketing program is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.You may be saying to yourself, “Thanks Deo (that’s me),I already know that.” But you would be amazed at how many times I have seen “wishful thinking” replace logic in such situations. We must be willing to remove ourselves from the process when planning a marketing campaign, and truly take on the role of the prospect. This is why the perspective from an unbiased professional can be so valuable.With this in mind let us begin to look at some of the variables that contribute to success or failure of a direct marketing program.Packaging 
The direct mail packaging typically consists of an envelope. Although some direct mail packages utilize boxes, bags, tubes, and an assortment of odd packages, these may be great for getting attention but they are costly. In the proper circumstances, however they can be very effective. I can show you some very unique direct mail packages that have generated 5 to 10% response. Remember that the front of the envelope or package is your first opportunity to get the prospects attention. It is also an opportunity to target your prospect.For example making a statement such as “FREE Seminar Information Enclosed” or if you are mailing to buyers of fishing equipment, making a statement on the envelope such as, “Great Deals on Fishing Gear and Tackle,” would be appropriate. It is statistically proven by the Direct Marketing Association that personalized envelopes generates 20 to 30% better response than non-personalized envelopes. This also helps with tracking response and cleaning the list.Content 
The direct marketing package should be prepared in such a way so as to engage the customer. By this we mean that it first demands attention, gets them interested and then gets them involved. It should include some type of compelling imagery (photo or illustration), as well as a powerful headline. The best headlines are no more than five to six words. The best words to use are simple, easy to understand preferably one, two or three syllable words. Write your copy or headline so that it could be understood by your average 10-year-old.The content of the direct marketing package should clearly describe the product or service. It should also outline the benefits the prospect will receive once purchasing the product or service. Since people buy emotionally rather than logically, the best copy powerfully shows how the prospects life would change as a result of having the product or service. It satisfies the question of; WHY the prospect should own the product or subscribe to the service. Evidence is critical here.Testimonies, endorsements, examples of success are all great ways to build credibility in the direct mail device. Many direct marketing experts claim that a long letter and more material included in the package produces a higher response. Certainly this costs more, both in postage as well as development. It seems that many people believe that more is better. However I have seen very successful direct marketing packages that include merely a one-page letter, one page product benefit sheet, and a response device addressing the critical information. If you follow the above checklist, you should do well, even if you don’t mail a ton of material.Response Device 
The response device is a form that makes it simple for the customer purchased product or service. A good response device should include the space for information such as name, shipping and billing address, phone number, email, fax number, quantity purchased, unit cost and total cost. It should also include payment options. A good response device can be completed in less than 3 minutes and provides ALL the information necessary to ship the product or provide the service. It should also include a carrier (as it is known in the direct mail world). This is a return envelope so the customer can send in payment. It should be pre-addressed and postage pre-paid. I also suggest including a fax #, email address, and toll free number for order placement.Product or Service Being Offered 
Products or services priced at more than $100 each typically are more difficult to sell via direct mail. They require a more sophisticated approach. This means building greater credibility, incorporating testimonies or endorsements, showing several photos of the product, and including compelling evidence that the product is worth the price.Direct Mail and Telemarketing 
In many of these cases I recommend that my clients utilize a mail-call-mail type of direct marketing program. This mail-call-mail program involves placing a telephone call (See Telemarketing White Paper) following the initial mailing. This call should be placed seven to ten days following the mail drop, assuming that the mail is sent third class or Bulk mail.Bulk mail typically requires three to five days to reach its destination however in some cases it can take as long as seven days. The telephone call following the mail piece allows the customer to be reminded of the offer. It also allows the customer the opportunity of getting their questions answered, and motivates them by communicating the benefits in an interactive way. This telephone call can add as much as 50 to 250% to the response.Typical response rates for direct mail alone range from 0.5% to 2.5%. Response rates for direct mail WITH telemarketing typically range from 7% to 30%. The final mail piece allows the telemarketing salesperson to follow-up with the customer in writing. This, in itself builds credibility and permits the customer to receive any additional information that might culminate in the sale. This also helps to strengthen the accuracy of the database. And, in a mail-call-mail program it is critical to maintain an accurate database of prospects (See Database Management White Paper). This can be done with one of several inexpensive, off the shelf, contact management programs such as ACT!, Goldmine, Microsoft Outlook, or others.The Purchasing Process 
I’m constantly amazed at how many people have attempted a direct marketing program without doing the slightest bit of research. How are your competitors selling your product or service? Is it typically purchased at a retail location? Does the customer typically negotiate price? How many stores do customers typically visit before purchasing the product or service? Answers to these questions are absolutely crucial in determining whether you’re going to make money or lose money on your direct marketing program.Results 
Evaluation of your direct marketing program should not be based on the number of sales or even the percentage response. It should be based on your return on investment. Return on investment is simply calculated by taking the total cost of the project (which should include cost of design, layout, printing the mail piece, postage, letter shop, any costs incurred by the mail house, telemarketing costs, even your time) and dividing this by the total profit generated as a result of the direct marketing efforts.For example, if the total cost for direct marketing program is $5000 and profit is $1000, your return on investment would be 20% (1000 divided by 5000). Often times it will take two or three mail drops or telemarketing campaigns in order to generate profit from a particular list or geographic market segment. Typically the first drop and the first telemarketing campaign will generate zero return on investment, perhaps even a slight loss. The second and third attempts however should generate 25 to 50% return on investment. Successful long-term direct marketing programs can typically produce upwards of 200 to 300% return on investment. This often requires testing several solutions (See Testing White paper).Controlling Cost 
The best way to the control cost of a direct mail program is to figure out what all of your costs will be and how many products you need to sell in order to achieve a specified return on investment. We call this the R.O.I. Pro-forma. This evaluative tool should be used PRIOR to the mailing to help determine how much to mail, how much to test, and how much to spend on the package and postage. By setting this budget you can predict the profit or loss at every point on the response curve. (We have many examples of these ROI Pro-formas that we can share with our members).There are many other tricks of the trade in controlling costs with regards to direct marketing. For example, ever wonder if the mail house dropped ALL of your mail? Be sure to request U.S. Postal Service Form 3602-R Postage Statement. This is the standard form used by mail houses when delivering mail to the post office.Another way to control costs is by getting the best deal on printing. Most customers have the mail house print their mailing material. It is best to contract with a printing company that is close to the mail house to print up your envelopes, carriers, letters, and brochures. They can then deliver them to the mail house, instead of having the mail house print this material. Since the printer specializes in printing they can provide the service at a lower cost than mail house. Your savings can be rather significant by doing it this way.