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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Achieving Relevancy in eMarketing

With three email accounts, I receive a large number of email solicitations. I typically begin each day scanning through the subject lines to determine which are the most relevant to me and, subsequently, would warrant a further look. The less relevant emails are saved, while the totally irrelevant ones are simply deleted. Luckily, for me, it takes me less than 3 seconds per email to make this determination.

I’d like to show you five of what I consider to be the most intriguing subject lines I saw in my inbox over the last two weeks:

1. “I took your advice!”
2. “Train Less, Stress Less, Run Faster!”
3. “Opportunity Knocking!”
4. “You’re Invited”
5. “Here are your questions…”

As you look at these subject lines, can you see what they have in common? They’re all about me! They are acknowledging me, offering to help me in some way, or inviting me to be a part of something. None names a product or service, nor does any mention price…or discounts…or savings! And yet, I opened each and every one of them.

eMarketing relevancy begins with the right message. The right message, or subject line, keeps the focus on your customer and, in so doing, leads to higher open rates. Higher open rates can lead to higher click rates, which can lead to new or stronger relationships and top line results.


The iconic seven-slot grille is the symbol of one of the world’s most recognized brands. The spirit of freedom and adventure it stands for has defined the Jeep brand throughout its 70-year history, attracting generations of loyal customers. Few brands command a following so loyal that Jeep designers have resisted major changes to the design of the grille for fear of alienating a devoted customer base. To what, then, does Jeep owe this enviable customer loyalty?

It’s the unique experience of freedom and adventure you get with a Jeep. Plowing through foot-high snow drifts before the light of day, crossing a stream on a rutted dirt road en route to an overnight camping destination, cruising along the beach with the wind in your hair, sitting under the stars watching Fourth of July fireworks, driving through an orchard on a quest for the perfect apple, and exchanging the “Wrangler wave” with other Wrangler drivers are all part of the Jeep brand’s unique selling proposition. These experiences make the brand different from any other.

I bought my Jeep Wrangler nine years ago. My boys, then ages 5 and 7, were with me from the very first test drive. I can’t remember who wanted the Jeep more – me or them. I purchased mine off the lot and theirs, miniature Matchbox® models of mine, from Toys ‘R Us. A Jeep Christmas tree ornament – a gift from my boys – followed soon after. Over the years, we’ve travelled many miles together and have accumulated lots of fond memories in our Jeep.   

My seven year-old is now 16 and will soon have his driver's license. The spirit of freedom and adventure is alive and well, even within him. Driving to and from swim practice, manually shifting the gears as he heads west  toward the mountains on an open highway, and cruising around with the top down on a summer evening are already ingrained experiences in his psyche. And so, another generation of Jeep Wrangler owners is born. Brand loyalty endures.

How unique is your brand’s selling proposition? Is it compelling your customers or members to yearn for more? Is it helping you to build brand loyalty for generations to come?

When I was in sales, I learned to appreciate the importance of results. I also learned to measure each and every one of my activities by the return on investment, or ROI, I would receive. If the activity helped me close more sales and its cost was reasonable, I would continue it. If it did not, I simply stopped doing it. In the results-oriented world of direct selling, activity is interesting and results matter.

In the marketing world, I often encounter others who seemingly place far greater emphasis on their activities than they do on the results of those activities. While marketing activities like research and analytics, development of promotional materials, and even branding are interesting per se, they should be deliberate and purposeful. The ROI on these activities should be measured in part by the top line results they produce – new customers or members, incremental revenues or donations, higher customer satisfaction rates, improved earnings, and increases in brand awareness or loyalty, etc. These top line results need to be weighed against the cost of achieving them, or their bottom-line impact on your organization.

As you take stock of your current marketing initiatives, identify the specific ROI you are anticipating from each. Do this by asking the following questions:

• What specific top line result(s) are you hoping to achieve with each marketing initiative?
• What is your timeline for results?
• What is the cost of each initiative (in terms of time, energy, and resources)?
• Are there ways to lower or minimize these costs?
• How will you measure success?

Remember, the mere fact an activity is interesting does not mean it will result in a desired benefit to your organization. As Winston Churchill once noted, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”.

When I was younger, I always thought the easiest job in the world was being a salesman. I loved to talk. What could be easier, I thought, than to take that new toy I just got for my birthday and tell everyone how great it was. Heck, I always did that anyway. I could pester people and talk to them forever about something I liked. And if I ever did run out of words, I could follow up by spending twice as much time showing them how wonderfully it worked.

When I got older, guess what happened? You guessed it; I became a salesman. But I soon learned that I could not have been more wrong about the best way to go about making a sale. My preconceived formula for selling (talk about the product, show them the product, and then watch them happily walk away with the product while I count my money) was not only ineffective but a recipe for disaster for someone who really wanted to become a good salesperson.

I started to notice that some of my peers were a lot more successful than others. When I watched various sales techniques, I began to see a common denominator among those who made the most sales: questions! The best salespeople were asking questions. But these were not just any questions; they were thoughtful ones. They were not simply a long series of questions requiring "yes" answers in the hopes that the final answer would also be "yes". They were good quality questions.

So what exactly are "good quality questions?"

Well, I started to use some common sense. How can you sell something to a customer without first finding out what makes the customer tick? The more I actually began dealing with real customers, the more I realized the importance of establishing an initial bond with them. I asked them questions about questions which did not require simple yes or no answers, but instead engaged the customer in a dialogue where the customer was an interested participant instead of a passive sales target. And then, most importantly of all, I shut my mouth and listened to their answers.

As I did this, I realized the gold mine that lay in front of me. I was not only building a foundation of trust between the customer and myself but at the same time I was learning a lot about my customers:  what motivated them, what they were feeling at this particular time in their lives, and what they needed.

This strategy has the customer reaching the point where he is telling both of us, me and even more importantly, himself, what his problems are. In many cases these are problems which my customer never really articulated before. If I had articulated them to him, it could have been perceived as me giving a sales pitch. But the fact that the customer himself is doing the talking increases the value ten-fold.

This is where my job becomes easy because all I need to do now is gently guide the customer towards the solution to his problem. But once again, instead of making statements, I ask a few well-formed questions! And, of course, I supplement them with a heavy dose of listening! These questions simply plant a seed in the customer's mind; an image of the customer's problems being answered and the product I happen to be selling being the main ingredient in the solution.

Most of the time I not only get the sale, but also the gratitude and lasting trust of my new client for helping him/her find the right answers.

To summarize my simple strategy:

  • Ask questions to find out as much as possible about the customer.
  • Let the customers to do most of the talking; simply reinforce and gently steer so they articulate their problems.
  • Listen! And then listen some more!
  • Lastly, ask questions which cause the customer to visualize the solution with the product I am selling as the solution's centerpiece.


Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including one for California self storage.  Art works with a number of sites including those in Texas as well as Illinois self storage sites.  In an effort to boost sales, he has tried many different sales strategies and has found that those that create the most dialogue with consumers are often the most successful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Are You Really Sure We Should Print This?

One of our readers emailed me this advertisement from a popular men's magazine (see below - click on the picture to view a much larger version). Head & Shoulder's Polamolecule ad offer is "Formulated to give you fuller, thicker-looking hair in one week. Guaranteed."

Head & Shoulder's should be congratulated on its excellent tie-in with a celebrity like Troy Pola, who obviously spends a lot of time and money on his hair. The many challenges facing them is the execution of the ad...Here are five quick review items.

1. Key Message: Western hemisphere visitors will always look to the top left first when viewing just about anything. The top left here should have the Head & Shoulder's key message or headline here.

2. Picture is Not Compelling: The picture is well, a bit strange. It's not really a molecule and the ad states this at the very bottom. Then when you get past the initial strangeness, you start deconstructing the image and focus on the many mini heads. They are distracting and take you away from the key fact and benefits of using the shampoo.

3. Headline at the Bottom:  As mentioned in #1, here is the key message. What is missing here is the tie-in with and to Troy Pola. The ad should specifically talk about how Troy enjoys Head & Shoulders and what it does for his scalp and hair.

4. Muddled Message: The bottom paragraph should also tie-in the shampoo with Troy. Instead the text is trying too hard to be clever and humorous. Where is the call-to-action of trying and buying the shampoo? Such a call-to-action is on the website!

5. Fails to Leverage: One of the supporting messages is "Official shampoo of the NFL." Again, specifically tie this in and to using and the benefits of the shampoo.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Little Touch that Matters

My daughter's day care staff reminded us of the upcoming picture day with a sticker (see below). Signs are posted everywhere--at the front door, in the class rooms, and in the hallways. The providers have been telling us for weeks and for the past few days.

Did my wife and I remember? Not really. When we looked at our daughter's daily report form (below), we saw the bright green reminder sticker for tomorrow's picture day.

Likely the stickers were provided by the photography studio. What a great idea.

What little touches can you make with your clients, members, stakeholders, grantees, etc.?

One common question I receive about web seminars is, "How can I grab my audience's attention?"  The same question can be applied to live, in-person presentations. The unstated part of the question, and really, what each person is really asking is, "How do I keep my audience's attention throughout the presentation?"

You can't. Accept it. With both types of delivery, people are always multi-tasking (e.g., answering email, looking at his/her smart phone, and completing other work activities). The real question becomes, "How do I keep my audience's attention for most of the time?" And this is where speakers, trainers, instructors, keynotes, etc. show their true skill and worth. This is where one must balance inspiration, education, and entertainment appropriate to the audience, its goals, and your goals.

It's easy to grab attention in the beginning and the end with an interesting personal story, business story, humorous anecdote, powerful photograph, cartoon, or compelling summary. During the middle part, say the middle 50 minutes, is what defines the skill and success of the speaker.

Here are a couple of tips for keeping attention for both web seminars and live, in-person presentations:

Web Seminars
- Ensure your slides are professional looking. How your slides display text, color, layout, branding, etc. matter a lot to viewers.
- Change slides at least every two minutes. Change is key to maintaining attention. "What's coming next?" thinking keeps people focused on your presentation and you.
- Include an interaction about every 15 minutes. I define interactions as any type of written or verbal exercise. Examples include audience poll, answer questions via the Q&A field, and asking for direct comment and feedback with smaller groups.

Live, In-Person Presentation
- Tell interesting personal stories with specific business messages. Here, your story should be a little longer and richer with descriptions and background than web seminars. In a typical 60-minute presentation, generally keep your story under three minutes.
- Leverage body language. Use eye contact, your hands and arms, and your body to accentuate and complement your messages. Try a variety of gestures and body movements, perhaps even exaggerate some to make your point. Remember, part of your responsibility is to entertain.
- Include an interaction about every 12 minutes. Examples include by-a-show-of-hands request, written exercise from a workbook, or partner exercise (e.g., share your elevator speech).

Next time you are in the audience, pay a little more attention to how the speaker grabs and maintains attention.

What tips and suggestions do you have?

I recently spent a warm October Saturday at an amusement park. It was something my son and his friends had wanted to do during the summer and we just never seemed to find the time.

Despite sunny skies and warm temperatures, attendance at the fully-staffed park seemed surprisingly low for most of the day. The parking lot was empty and, for the most part, the lines for the major attractions were relatively short. For a while, it seemed, the large crowds of summer were gone and it was time to close the books on yet another season.

And then something magical happened. As dusk settled over the park, King’s Dominion readied for its annual Halloween Haunt – one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most popular Halloween-themed events. Fog and haunting sounds filled the air, monsters suddenly appeared from nowhere, and visitors arrived in droves. Scary times had arrived. With a front gate admission price of $56.99 for ages 3-61, it was clear seasonal discounts weren’t needed to attract visitors during this off-season period.

With a tag line of “All You Fear is Here,” King’s Dominion has found a way to extend their summer season well beyond the Labor Day weekend.

Are scary times defining the end of your seasonal business or are they opening the door to longer selling seasons and more revenue?


In March of 2009, I met Seb Elsworth of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). It was about 9pm at a reception at the Great Ideas Conference (from ASAE). Seb is the director of strategy for ACEVO, a very important association in the UK. They bring together the senior leadership of charities to discuss strategy and tactics on a variety of topics such as messaging, volunteerism, government support, grants, programs, publicity, board of directors, and the list goes on.

Our serendipitious meeting included of course, seredipitous conversation. By the time the night was over, we had agreed I would present a business storytelling keynote in London.

Image 1 is the cover page of my keynote, Build the Right Relationships:  How What You Say Significantly Impacts Organisational Performance. Over the course of about 20 minutes I shared several important concepts. One of the big ones was shown on image 2 below--Pants.  Several years ago I learned the word "pants" to the British means underwear and trousers are used for what we refer to as pants in the United States. I shared this story with the group. I then asked them, "Do you have any pants in your messaging?" Are there words and phrases you know of or think might be misunderstood or not as impactful as they could be?

Additionally, on image 3, I briefly covered the four questions about business storytelling and how it affects the CEO and his/her charity organization.

"What Do You Do?" and "That's Interesting, Tell Me More," two fun, insightful business exercises were introduced to the group of about 200.

It was another fantastic international experience. (Read the subsequent blog entry, Wow! Tell Me More - An Article for United Kingdom Charities, on my article published in ACEVO's Network Magazine).


The local bicyclist association had a clear message: “Join thousands of area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work!” I wondered if these words would be enough to compel hundreds of commuters in the Washington, DC area to trade their gas pedals for bike pedals on National Bike to Work Day.

On May 21st, I rode my bike to work.  The participation rate for this year’s event in our area was among the highest on record, with 9,200 riders.

Among my closest friends and acquaintances, I didn’t have a lot of company. The message of helping the environment while engaging in physical activity didn’t really resonate with them. The potential hassles of dealing with rush hour traffic at busy intersections and working up a sweat on the way to work, I suppose, became the ultimate deal-breakers...

What if the message was different? What if I showed them how pleasant my ride to work really was? Images of clear skies, comfortable temperatures, no traffic, and pathways through the idyllic countryside all conjure up appealing reasons for taking your bike to work, right? Sometimes, words aren’t enough and pictures really are worth a thousand words.

Look at the view I had as I cycled along my 10-mile commute. Compare it to the view from your windshield as you drove to and from work that day.

Next year’s “Bike to Work Day” is 11 months away. Are you in?

Friend and colleague Maddie Grant sent me a link to this really neat "spontaneous" dance at the National Restaurant Association's Hotel-Motel Show® in Chicago's McCormick Place.

It's called a flash mob dance. While the phrase description sounds sort of scary and ominous, it really is fun to watch random people join in the fun. For four minutes, attendees could take a break from the hustle and bustle and let loose.

According to the YouTube write up, it was an original choreographed dance routing by Christina Chen. All people had to do was watch her dance and copy her body movement.

What do you think happened afterward?

- The ~100 dancers along with ~150 watchers talked about those four minutes for the rest of the day and likely the next week. 

- People were happier
- These people were excited about the conference and it inspired others
- Got other people talking and asking questions about the next dance
- Inspired your organizing committee to come up with new and additional ways to add value and extend the experience to your participants

We spend at least a third of our day at work...What are you doing to increase enjoyment at your organization?

“Innovation is more important now than ever,” said Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Chair of the Edison Best New Product Awards. “The Edison Award winners are the moving parts in the engine of economic growth. They inspire people to think outside the box and improve the lives of people around the world.”

The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), a nearly 2000 member, not-for-profit organization of senior-level marketing professionals, recently judged the 2010 Edison Best New Product Awards and congratulates the winners, ranging in everything from a mini-car and electronic motorcycle to a household wind turbine electronic generator and gluten-free cake mixes.

The Edison Best New Product Awards, presented by Discovery Channel, honored a wide range of new products and product innovations at an awards gala held at Capitale in lower Manhattan. New and innovative products in fifteen categories were recognized for innovation and invention in the spirit of Thomas Alva Edison, America’s greatest inventor and marketer.

The Edison Awards, a peer-review honor similar to the Oscars (one newspaper called them the “Oscars of Innovation”) is voted on by roughly 2,000 members of MENG. The awards symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Edison, inspiring America’s drive to remain in the forefront of innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy.

A complete list of Edison Best New Product Award winners by category and Edison Green Award finalists include:

- Gold – 3M MPro Mobile Projection Camera from 3M
- Silver – OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown Technology from OnStar
- Bronze – iRa C3 Portable Video Monitoring Software from Lextech Labs
- Bronze – LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen from Livescribe Inc.

Electronics & Computers
- Gold – Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200 With Cardioscan, from 3M and Zargis
- Silver – CarMD Handheld Car Tester from CarMD
- Bronze – Zeo Personal Sleep Coach from Zeo Inc.

Science & Medical – Standard
- Gold - The Harmonic Blade for Endoscopic Surgery from Ethicon Endosurgery
- Silver – Volusonâ E-Series Ultrasound System from GE Healthcare
- Bronze – Compasâ Prosthesis Alignment System from Orthocare Innovations

Science & Medical – “Game Changers”
- Gold - MicroChips Illumeä Continuous Glucose Monitoring System from MicroCHIPS
- Silver - MicroJet Transdermal Drug Patch from Corium International
- Bronze - Nanomaxx Handheld Ultrasound System from Sonosite Inc.

Consumer Packaged Goods - Personal Care Segment
- Gold - Alwaysâ Infinity Feminine Protection from Procter & Gamble
- Silver – Cover Girlâ & Olayâ Simply Ageless Foundation from Procter & Gamble
- Bronze - Full Thickening Hair Cream from Living Proof

Consumer Packaged Goods – Foods Segment
- Gold - Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Dessert Mixes from General Mills
- Silver - Healthy Choice Fresh Mixersä from Con Agra

Consumer Packaged Goods – Household Segment
- Gold – Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets from Henkel
- Silver – Bounce Dryer Bar from Procter & Gamble
- Bronze – Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaning Gel from S.C. Johnson

Consumer Packaged Goods – Consumer Drug Segment
- Gold - Alignâ Probiotic Food Supplement from Procter & Gamble
- Silver - Zyrtecâ Allergy Treatment from McNeil Consumer Healthcare
- Bronze - Latisseâ Prescription Medication for Eyelash Regrowth, from Allergan

Media & Visual Communications
- Gold - Kindle II Digital Reader from
- Silver - Nook Digital Reader from Barnes & Noble
- Bronze - iFood Assistant from Kraft

Industrial Design
- Gold – Sole Power Roof Tile from SRS Energy
- Silver – Motorola APXä 7000 First Responder Radio from Motorola
- Bronze – Pilarâ Kitchen Faucet with Touch20 from Delta

Lifestyle & Social Impact
- Gold - GE Hybrid Water Heater from GE Consumer & Industrial Appliances
- Silver - The Edison Nation Open Innovation Network from Edison Nation
- Bronze - CCA Software Suite for Non-Profit Organizations from CCA Global Partners

Energy & Sustainability – Sustainability
- Gold – Prima Bottled Water Packaging from Primo Water
- Silver – 100% PCR Clamshell Packaging from Earthbound Farm
- Bronze – Natura 100% Zero-VOC Paint from Benjamin Moore

Energy & Sustainability – Energy
- Gold – Honeywell Wind Turbine Gearless Blade Tip Power System from Windtronics
- Silver – Quantum Lightä Optics from QD Vision
- Bronze – OPOWER Software and Marketing Program from OPower

Living, Working & Learning Environments
- Gold – Affordable Housing, from The Phoenix Commotion
- Silver – Affordable Green Housing, from Builders of Hope
- Bronze – WorkSpring from Steelcase

- Gold – The Tata Nano Automobile from Tata Motors
- Silver – The Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycle from Brammo, Inc.

Edison Green Award
- Game-Changer Award: The City of Greensburg, Kansas
- Gold – Kohl’s Department Stores
- Silver - TerraCycle
- Bronze – Parducci Cellars

The 2010 Edison Awards are sponsored by TV’s Discovery Channel, Google, The Nielsen Company (a leader in market research and intelligence best known for TV’s “Nielsen ratings”), and Strategyn, a global leader in innovation management.

The Edison Awards are associated with The Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers University, the State
University of New Jersey. The Edison Papers, which has studied the five million pages of research notes left by the great inventor over the past 30 years, is the custodian of the criteria of The Edison Awards.

Edison Best New Product Awards are given annually. The Award was founded 23 years ago by the American Marketing Association. Full details about each of the 2010 Edison Award winners are available online at Edison Awards.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Content is King in Social Media

All too often I hear people say, "I need to tweet more" or "I don't use Faceook enough." I then challenge them and ask three questions:

1. What are you trying to accomplish?

2. What do your target audiences want?

3. Where do your target audiences spend their time when it comes to social media?

I can't stress this enough, it is not about the social media sites (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, SlideShare, Xing, Ning, Ecademy, and the other trillion sites), it is about the content first.

Social media is always about the content.

You have to offer content with high educational value, differentiated, and preferably unique. Otherwise, people will find other sources for their information.

In the end you are competing for someone's attention. Generate interest with engaging and compelling messages (e.g., elevator speech or elevator pitch) and keep them with awesome content like:

- white papers they can't get anywhere else
- articles offering different perspectives
- interesting tweets
- insightful blogs
- engaging videos

and more...

After you identify what your target audience wants, figure out how to deliver it...on the appropriate social media sites.

An interview on National Public Radio a few years ago really caught my attention. It was in November, right before the holiday season. The NPR journalist was interviewing a variety of small charities with interesting niches. And what made it compelling was there was going to be a charity day where you could meet representatives from each of these charities.

I grabbed my wife and we went to this wonderful display of passion for causes you never hear about in mainstream media. HeroRATS ( piqued my curiosity while listening to the radio and we headed straight to its table.

HeroRATS is now a charity that The Chief Storyteller donates to annually. I wanted to share a little of what we received after donating in 2009. Below is a picture of Hero Rat Allan and his trainer John along with the organization's postcard. We also received a personalized letter from Allan thanking us for our contribution. While I know the charities selected all do great work, it is really nice to receive more than a thank you letter.

For this very reason, we at The Chief Storyteller personally inscribe and sign every one of our holiday and thank you cards.

About HeroRATS
HeroRATS are trained African giant pouched rats that detect explosives and diagnose disease. They use their highly sensitive and accurate sense of smell to identify the presence of both metal and plastic cased landmines, and can be trained to detect a number of different things like explosives, tuberculosis bacteria, tobacco, contraband, etc. Because of their light weight, the rats do not set off the landmines and are not hurt at all. Once trained, a HeroRAT can clear an area the size of two football fields per month. (click on the image for a larger version)

Yesterday I was reviewing a website on a beautiful 24" monitor. The images were crisp and attracted the eye, there was plenty of white space, and the call-to-action buttons easy to see.

Then...I suggested that we look at the website on a some laptops, especially an ultraportable. The viewing experience changed dramatically, especially when it came to the pictures. They now consumed too much of the viewing area. And the information on the bottom area required scrolling to read.

Generally, first time visitors are eye scanning, starting from the top left (for Western hemisphere visitors). Ensure that your home page is viewer-friendly on all of the major formats such as ultraportable, 17", 19" monitor, and 24" monitor.

Also look at your website under different screen resolutions.

And lastly, look at the website with each of the major Internet browsers (e.g., Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, and Safari).

I'm a member of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG). It is an excellent organization for executive-level marketers who share their passion and expertise to ensure each member’s success (see below for more information on MENG). Since I joined a few years ago, MENG keeps expanding its services and educational resources.

And speaking of resources, today MENG released the findings of its recent survey. MENG surveyed their nearly 2,000 members from around the world to determine which marketing blogs, written by non-MENG members for objectivity, were being read. 

I thought it was an interesting insight into what "marketing executives are reading."

The top five include:

1. Seth Godin
2. Mashable, "The Social Media Guide"
3. Chris Brogan "Learn how human business works"
4. Guy Kawasaki's "How to Change the World"
5. Tom Peters
5. John Jantsch's "Duct Tape Marketing"

I'm familiar with many of the blog's listed. Denise Lee Yohn's "Brand as business bites" and Avinash Kaushik’s Occam’s Razor are two that I am going to read through and explore.

Hope that you find something to pique your interest and help. To see the entire list, click here.


About MENG:
The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) is the premiere international community of executive-level marketers who share their passion and expertise to ensure each member’s success. This
not-for-profit organization of nearly 2,000 members fosters career and personal success across virtually all industries and marketing specialties by providing networking opportunities and the ability to share knowledge and best practices. Members must have reached at least the VP level in their organization. Eighty four percent of members have Fortune 500 experience and 70% have earned graduate degrees, the majority of which are from top-20 business schools. To learn more about MENG, post executive level marketing positions, or to access MENG’s database of marketing executives, speakers and consultants, visit MENG can also be found on Twitter at

Just a quick note...Duane Bailey has joined The Chief Storyteller. He will be a regular contributor to the blog as well as writing articles, newsletters, tip guides, etc.

Welcome aboard Duane.

Article Summary:   Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.


Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: 5 Activities You Really Should Do
© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 2009


About three years ago, I was in a local retail store. While chatting with Mark, the friendly sales associate, he asked me what I did. For some reason, I hesitated and almost said, “I’m in the marketing field.” Instead, I faithfully delivered my elevator speech (your answer to “What do you do?”). I piqued Mark’s interest. Instantly, he started talking about his challenges and difficulty in finding clients for his part-time art business. Thirty minutes later, we exchanged contact information. A week later, Mark started drawing business cartoons for me. Guaranteed, if I responded with the typical “I’m in marketing” answer, the opportunity would have been missed.

“Remember that the person you’re about to meet can become as important to you as someone you’ve known for years.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book, could not have said it better. I can recall dozens of random and unplanned events where I turned strangers into new friends and clients, gained new ideas, or learned something new. Some of the events may seem small while others large. The question is, will you make the most of the interaction or will you let it pass on by? 

Here are five scenarios that occur to each and every one of us, if not on a daily basis, certainly weekly. Think about how you can maximize these experiences as they relate to you and your personal and professional life.

Talk to the Woman on the Grocery Store Line
p>If I had a dollar for every time someone shared a story about meeting someone on a line, I could retire now. Whether it is a line at the grocery store, waiting room at the doctor’s office, registering for your child’s soccer team, or listening for your name to be called at a restaurant, think about talking to the stranger beside you. Gauge the receptiveness of the person with a short, in-the-moment comment about something relevant to the situation you are sharing. Then see where things go from there.

Make THE Telephone Call
I read a long time ago in Selling Power Magazine to make THE call. The call is the one you do not want to make. You know…the one to the “challenging client” or the one where you will likely hear “no thank you” to your proposal. By making the call early in the morning, you significantly reduce your anxiety level for the rest of the day. And then, everyone benefits!

Send the Quick Email
Email is quick, easy, and painless. As a society we have become so used to email that you should be sending more to recognize people. There are so many reasons to send “that” quick email. Some reasons include birthdays, anniversaries, articles, ideas, links to a [blank] (e.g., website, newsletter, tweet, and blog), referrals, and updates on a significant personal or professional event.

Attend the XYZ Networking Event
“I’m too tired, I’ll skip this one” is an all-too common refrain. Instead, view networking as an integral part of your day. Make it part of your weekly routine. Attend breakfast, lunch, dinner, and social events throughout the week. Remember to view these as business blind dates…you may just meet your next best client or partner.

Always be Ready for What Do You Do?
While the question asked is “What do you do?” the answer people are looking for is “What can you do for me?” Therefore, it must pique your reader/listener’s attention. Ensure your elevator speech takes less than 30 seconds to say, is memorable, is easy to understand, and evokes a “Wow! Tell me more” response.

Do you remember the day your best friend was a stranger? Whatever that day was, it took time from the first contact to develop that relationship into best friend status. Now think of your best client, partner, member, employee, or board member. Someone initiated the first contact—created that first impression. Now that we are in the holiday months, parties and social events abound. People are generally in a better mood and more receptive to talking to strangers. Take advantage of every opportunity to create your own positive first impressions and maintain lasting relationships.


Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.


Around March of 2009 American Movie Classics (AMC) Television announced its new slogan, "Story Matters Here." Charlie Collier, president of AMC, said it "defines what the network stands for and is the common thread unifying everything we do."

Collier also said, "Whether commemorating favorite films from every genre and decade, or creating insightful non-scripted programming and acclaimed original productions, the AMC experience is an uncompromising celebration of great stories."

In the Wall Street Journal article (link below), Collier was quoted as saying, "We don't have an audience, we have audiences. The challenge for us is pulling them together."

To better connect with its audiences, AMC has developed a theme for each night of the week.

- Monday: geared for women with lifestyle, beauty, food, friendship and family
- Tuesday: Cinemania with hosted interactive short-form programs featuring sponsored trivia
- Wednesday: geared to men with action
- Thursday: red carpet news such as openings
- Friday: events
- Saturday: events
- Sunday: for original programming like Breaking Bad and Mad Men

Additional Resources:

- AMC saddles up for 'True West', article in Variety, 3/2009
Television Commercial, Story Matters Here: Story Elements, aired 6/2009
AMC Shakes Up Marketing, Wall Street Journal Article, 3/2009 
- Copy of AMC's press release, 3/2009

I've been helping several clients with presentations these past few weeks. These are initial, generate interest presentations. And the common theme is "assume too much."

The challenge is all too often, presenters assume the audience…

- Has the same level of passion
- Cares about the subject as much as you
- Understands the complexities and connections of the information
- Will be able to retain ALL of the information presented

With rare exception, none of the assumptions are accurate.

To ensure maximum comprehension and information retention, think of your audience as a room full of 10th graders. Envision yourself as a 15-year old. How is your attention span? Ability to remember what was presented? And so on.

Leave the details, jargon, facts, and complex information for subsequent meetings…AFTER you have generated interest with a compelling presentation.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Billboards War: BMW vs. Audi

During a period of research on the Internet, I happened upon this site showing a billboard advertising "war" between Audi and BMW in Santa Monica, California. The text from the website is below followed by a picture of the two billboards. Very clever of BMW. What will Audi do next?

BMW and Audi are dueling again, but this time, onto the “marketing battle field”. And what would be the best place to do so other than the one of the top states when it comes to car luxury sales: California.

On the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Beverly Glen Blvd (corrected the location), Audi has put up some billboards showing the all new Audi A4 along with the headline: “Your move, BMW”. Santa Monica BMW, a local dealership, took on the challenge and entered a virtual chess game ….of course, with cars rather than pawns, kings or queens.

Article Summary:  Deliberate small talk differentiates you.We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Business is Personal: Build Rapport with Small Talk

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 2009

Relationships are not built in a vacuum. They are collaborative efforts, established one moment at a time. Deliberate, well-crafted small talk conversations accelerate bonding and rapport. Imagine this: you made a great first impression on the telephone with William, CEO of a Fortune 2000 firm. A few days later, you are on your way to the follow-up meeting at his office. Are you prepared for your “second” impression?

Early in my career, I thought I prepared well for the second meeting. In reality, I only prepared for part of the meeting—the conversation related to the offering. I did not prepare well for the human side—the bonding and rapport.

Many people complain that small talk is a waste of time, that is feels forced and fake. On the contrary, small talk is essential to building rapport and establishing a relationship. By following the suggestions below, small talk becomes a powerful part of any sales meeting. The difference between effective and ineffective small talk is being deliberate. Deliberate small talk done well accelerates connection. Small talk contributes to sales and customer service success every time you meet with prospects and clients.

There are several types of small talk. Edmondson and House (1981) describe the most common type as the words exchanged before transitioning to “business talk” (see end of article for references). Business talk is talking about the agenda items. Drew and Chilton (2000) define another type as simply “keep in touch.” Saftoiu (2006) presents a third type as “transitional” small talk. Transitional “consists of short conversations inserted within business talk…to check on the state of the relationship and to release some of the tension that heavy topics might have brought up.”

The best sales professionals are well prepared for various types of conversations. Here are several suggestions to make small talk an important part of your sales toolbox.

Develop a List of Questions
Always perform competitive and business intelligence research. This is the most important part of small talk success. Research both the organization and all of the attendees, especially the “Key Decision Makers” (KDMs). Develop a master list of statements and questions relevant to your attendees, sorted by priority. Regarding personal questions, your interest must be genuine (insincerity is quite easy to discern).

For the organization, know its competitors, products and services, history, recent successes, future challenges, and the like. For the attendees, look for genuine common interests. Examples include where someone grew up, attended school, and their hobbies, charities, and professional associations.

There are many valuable resources out there to help you in your research. Internal resources include the organization’s website, press releases, annual reports, interviews with executives, conference presentations, biographies, and investor presentations. External resources include Hoovers, Gartner, Forrester Research, Yankee Group, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg,, Internet search engines, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Now your conversations are targeted and deliberate.

Gauge Receptivity
Understand and tune into the KDM’s personality. Does William prefer small talk or business talk? Unsure? Dip your toe into the pool. Follow William’s lead. Whatever his preference, you are prepared.

Start-of-meeting small talk should last only a few minutes. If William does not provide timing cues, then you should transition to business talk within five to seven minutes. Since you did your pre-meeting preparation and research on the organization, your deliberate small talk complements the agenda. Your small talk continues to be relevant and important to the meeting. It establishes your efforts to understand and gain familiarity with William and his organization.

Share and Ask
Let us assume that there are several people attending your meeting. As soon as you walk into the conference room, you discover that William is running late. Begin your bonding and rapport with the folks in the room with your prepared list of statements and questions. As you initiate conversation, remember the key to successful small talk is “share and ask.”

Based on your research, share something important about yourself relevant to your KDM. Then ask a related question. By sharing something about yourself first, you exhibit positive signs of trust.

One example is “Margaret, I am also active in XYZ association. How are your experiences with XYZ?” Another example is “Damodar, I graduated from EFG University with an MBA in 19XX. I noticed that you went to LMN for your MBA. What did you like the most?” A third example, “Sofia, I read in the Wall Street Journal about your new [blank] initiative. We did something similar a few years ago. I’m curious, how is this initiative progressing?”

The answers will likely offer insights into how the KDM thinks. The right small talk can uncover information about potential cross-selling opportunities for their future product launch, new customer service strategies, and more.

Deliberate Small Talk Differentiates
We all recognize that relationships take time. Each opportunity that you have to touch your prospect is an opportunity to accelerate success. Small talk is an effective way of making a positive impact. Your challenge is balancing small talk and business talk with the stated or unstated preferences of your KDMs.

Effective small talk demonstrates attentiveness, positive listening, and genuine interest. It enables the conversation to go beyond the nuts and bolts of pure business. It enables you to connect on a personal level as well. If you win on price, you will also lose on price. You have to differentiate yourself. Forming personal bonds is crucial to winning most contracts. Why? Because business is personal.


- Willis Edmondson and Juliane House, Let’s Talk and Talk About It. A Pedagogic Interactional Grammar of English, 1981.
- Paul Drew and Kathy Chilton, Calling Just to Keep in Touch: Regular and Habitualised Telephone Calls as an Environment for Small Talk, 2000.
- Razvan Saftoiu, Laughter in Small Talk: Aspects from Romanian Interactions, 2006.


Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.


Last night I ordered a new box of filters for our heating and cooling unit. Upon checkout, right at the "complete purchase" button, was the option for reminders. The website picture is below (click on the image to see a larger version).

This is an excellent option to help me remember when to change the filter. Even when you use the Internet to search for lowest price, value added features and previous experiences contribute to loyalty. This time, Iaqsource was not the lowest price. Because of my previous experience with fast delivery, customer service, and price, I chose Iaqsource again.

What are you doing to help build loyalty? Small and big?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

If I Owned the Silver Diner I Would…

The other day I had lunch in the Silver Diner. I paid special attention to the comment card. From the title, "If I Owned the Silver Diner I Would…" to the call-to-action at the bottom, this card is well-done. It is simple, straightforward, and has a combination of check boxes and open text fields. One suggestion is to make the call-to-action text bigger.

Are you asking your stakeholders how you are doing?

How's this for publicity and exposure! In honor of it's 60th anniversary, Hasbro transformed Lombard Street in San Francisco, California into a larger-than-life Candy Land board game. Having lived in San Francisco, I wish I was there to take part.

Knowing what graphic artists can do today, you would think that somebody doctored the photograph. The setup crew started the night before to create this amazing event. Hundreds of children were there to take part in playing the life-size game, interact with the main characters, and eat cake (see below–it's a work of art).

According to Hasbro's press release, "CANDY LAND is often a child’s first board game."

At an evening reception, someone was laughing in disbelief when viewing a picture on a phone. It was the store front for Zanzibar's Tavern, a gentleman's club. I too laughed at the customized message on the sign "Welcome Association Execs" (see picture below). In fact most people said, "NO WAY!" While I too said "No way," I applauded the club's clever messaging and targeted marketing. I had to see it for myself.

The sign was customized just for us–the 4,500 or so professionals in associations and related fields as part of the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership annual conference in Toronto, Canada.

The next day I found myself on Yonge Street snapping pictures of Zanzibar's. It is a local landmark and serves as the backdrop in many Hollywood movies. I then spoke to Allen, the general manager, for a few minutes by telephone. Allen shared he customizes the signage for just about every conference and major event that comes to Toronto. According to Allen, he does "see at least a little increase in foot traffic."

Michelle James (my creativity and humor buddy for years) at The Center for Creative Emergence has set up an amazing conference on creativity and innovation in the workplace. Join me and many leaders in their field on Sunday October 4th in Washington, DC. Join us for a little push or a big push outside your comfort zone. Leave with practical and immediately useful approaches, ideas, and suggestions. More information is below and you can visit the conference site here.

Creativity in Business Conference, Sunday, October 4th
Come experience a vibrant, forward-thinking, content-rich day of exploration, examination, learning, play, discovery, connecting, collaborating and emergence! Leave with principles, approaches, frameworks and a "navigation tool kit"  you can start applying to your work, life or business right away.

Creativity is the capital of the new economy. Join creativity thought leaders, pioneering entrepreneurs and business innovators – in the fields of applied creativity and innovation, organizational change/development/storytelling, social media and transformational leadership – from around the country for a full-day event focused on:

> Harnessing and focusing individual, group and organizational creativity
> Fostering a work environment conducive for creativity and innovation
> Integrating creativity, business, and serving the greater good

Conference: 9:00-5:30

Conference includes:
> Experiential Breakout Sessions
> Compelling Thought Leader Panels
> Real-time Ideating/Crowdsourcing
> Facilitated Improvisation
> Arts and Business Services Auction
> Pioneering Thinkers and Facilitators

Speakers (see the website for biographies):
> Jennifer Abernethy, Americas first Sales Stylist™,
> Cherie Beck, master practitioner and trainer of Spiral Dynamics integral,
> Larry Blumsack, Founder of Zoka Institute,
> Mike Bonifer, author of GameChangers,
> Diane Cline, PhD, Over The Horizon Consulting,
> Jen Consalvo, co-founder of Shiny Heart Ventures,
> Frank Gruber, well-known for the blog SOMEWHAT FRANK,
> Stan Gryskiewicz, PhD, founded and currently leads Association for Managers of Innovation (AMI),
> Sam Horn, America's Intrigue Expert and creator of the POP! Process,
> Michelle James, Conference Chair and Master of Ceremonies,
> Jeff Klein, CEO of Cause Alliance Marketing®,
> Ira Koretsky, business storyteller and strategic messaging, The Chief Storyteller,
> Jennifer Lee, MA, CPCC, PCC, of Artizen Coaching,
> Michael Margolis, business storyteller and change strategist,
> Nick O'Neill, Founder of Social Times, Inc.,
> Brian Robertson, pioneer of Holacracy™,
> Paul Scheele, chairman of Natural Brilliance Productions,
> Russell Schoen, partner at New and Improved,
> Gail Taylor, Founder of TIA – The Integrated Approach™,
> Jesse Thomas, CEO and Founder of JESS3 – a creative interactive agency,
> Win Wenger, PhD, pioneer in the fields of creativity and creative method, founder of Project Renaissance,



Recently I was sent a YouTube link on Delta's Planeguage. I then tracked it down on Delta's blog and found this description.

So we’ve created  a series of animated videos we want to share with you. They’re called Planeguage (the language of traveling by plane). We hope you enjoy these videos and find some humor in these experiences that we’ve all shared.

While they are quite funny, Delta does not make an explicit connections, suggestions, comments, etc. about what to take away from any of the videos. Since Delta made six of these, its decision has to be purposeful. Even some of the comments echo the lack of clarity presented by the videos. With a little linking to flying behavior, what you can do as a frequent flyer, or what Delta can/could/should do, I think that these videos would have made a bigger impact.

The first one was published in October of 2007 and the sixth one in January of 2008. You can find links to all of them below.

Additional Resources:
#1, Middleman 
#2, Lav dance
#3, Kidtastrophe 
#4, Shady Lady 
#5, Miracle on 34th Row 
#6, Domino 
- Delta's YouTube Planeguage site

Delta planeguage

From the recent July 2009 official press release from Merriam-Webster, nearly 100 new words have been added to its newest edition, the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Hardworking word-lovers everywhere can now learn the meaning of the word staycation ("a vacation spent at home or nearby") along with nearly 100 other new words and senses added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. America's best-selling dictionary offers its new 2009 entries in its updated print edition and online at

Some of the words include: staycation, frenemy, carbon footprint, green-collar, earmark, locavore, naproxen, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, docusoap, fan fiction, vlog, webisode, memory foam, missalette, and zip line

It is interesting to note that some of these new words are derivatives of two words together. Examples include staycation (stay and vacation), frenemy (friend and enemy), and locavore (local and carnivore).

Got an idea for a new word, let them know. Who knows?

And drum roll please for the most pressing question…(go ahead, do the drum roll on your lap!)…when do the new words make it into your popular word processing software such as Microsoft Word?

Additional Resources:
Definitions for 25 of the 2009 words from Merriam-Webster
- Lake Superior State University 2009 Banished Words List blog entry (note, staycation was one of my favorites)
- Merriam-Webster's Press Release announcing new words
- "How does a word get into a Merriam-Webster dictionary?" from Merriam-Webster
- Submit your idea for a new word here
- Sample of words with definitions from 2008
- Sample of words with some definitions from the new 2006 word list
The American Dialect Society (word lists dating back to 1990)

Have you seen the new Evian "Water Babies" commercial? It's a highly creative and technically advanced piece of movie making. The producers used over 90 babies to make the commercial (view brief behind the scenes video).

The video went "viral" soon after launch. As of this blog, the views top 5.3 million. Several of the actor babies have Facebook pages. Tom has 728 friends, Anna has 583, and Vincent has 551. Evian has also created its own YouTube landing page.

The video is vibrant, light-hearted, on message (live young), entertaining, fast-paced, and is set to a classic song from Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight.

In 1998, Evian had its first babies commercial with a water ballet. You can find this on YouTube (personal note: why didn't Evian put this commercial up on its YouTube page along with others?)

Up until the new rap baby commercial, Evian brilliantly used water as the main character. The water takes on a life of its own.

Here are links to a variety of Evian commercials I found on YouTube:
- Water ballet with babies (1998)
- Water ballet with senior citizens (2000)
Rap babies (2009)
Workout Girl (Asian)
We Will Rock You 1 (part of a series) (in French)
We Will Rock You 2 (part of a series) (in French)
- There are plenty more on YouTube!

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