Saturday, July 19, 2008

Business Helpers

This is an email that I get free of charge that I recommend to others. Check it out, click on the links and sign yourself up.

Business Know-How Newsletter
Weekend Review

July 19, 2008

Were you too busy to read the Business Know-How newsletter or the Idea of the Day this week? We're sending this recap as a quick reminder of what articles we published this week and where to find them.
Featured Articles: Quick Links...

5 Tips for Marketing to Millennials
The Millennial Generation is just beginning to enter the workforce. Here are five things you can do to market to them more effectively.

Become the Ideal Radio and TV Talk Show Guest
You don't have to be a celebrity to appear as a guest on radio and television shows. Here are some tips to help you do well during your time on air.

The Best Way to Avoid Discounting
Just because your customer asks you for a better price does not mean they expect to get it. But even if you do have to lower your price to get the sale, learning these negotiation strategies will help you cut your losses.

Superlative Speakers Tell Spellbinding Stories
Telling good stories is a great way to get your point across and command your audience's attention.

Business Know-How

Career Know-How

Mailing & Shipping


Business Discussion


Labor Posters & HR Tools

Market Research Reports

Employee Handbook Template

Business Magazines

Employment Forms

Business Idea of the Day

Business Ideas:
Small Print, Big Consequences
Reading the small print on business contracts is the last thing most small business owners want to do.

Student Interns Aren't Free Labor
Are you paying the student interns you hired this summer a salary? If you aren’t paying them at least minimum wage, you could be breaking federal and/or state laws.

Understand What Customers Want
Your customers don't come to you because they want to buy the product or service you're selling. They come to you because they want to solve a problem they have.

Small Business Blog:
Free Tech Support from Microsoft for Vista Users
Thinking about buying a Windows Vista machine? Do so between now and Sept. 30, and Microsoft will throw in free technical support, tools and coaching.

Slip Sliding Away: Small-Biz Survey on the U.S. Economy
How low can small businesses' confidence in the U.S. economy go?

New Labor Laws in 8 States
Maine, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, District of Columbia, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Maryland have all updated their required labor law postings in the last few months. Find out what the changes were and order updated labor posters to stay in compliance.

Check our update chart to see the most recent required labor law notice changes for all states.

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Save or Spend?

When sales are slow, the natural inclination is to conserve your resources. Problem is that is often the opposite of what you should do. Here's why:

Retailers Refining Their Sales Strategies to Fit the Economy

Rather than pinching pennies as consumers rein in spending, some retailers are plowing money into standing out from the crowd, hoping to grab market share and emerge from the economy's slump in better shape than their rivals.

Some, like home-improvement giant Home Depot Inc., are sprucing up their stores and investing more in customer service. Others, like discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and consumer-electronics specialist Best Buy Co., are touting their commitment to low prices or promoting special deals to help strapped consumers stretch their dollars.

Their strategies are built at least partly on the premise that shoppers typically are creatures of habit and that the economy's doldrums offer an opportunity to change those habits as households try to economize. Moreover, Wall Street tends to put less pressure on retailers to perform when the economy is weak, which can give them room to finance strategic investments.

"This environment presents opportunities to capitalize on," says Frank Badillo, senior economist at TNS Retail Forward, a retail-marketing firm in Columbus, Ohio. A recent study by the firm found that about 20 percent of the nation's consumers are changing where they shop because of job or other economic worries.

Among the beneficiaries of those shifting dollars is Aldi Group, a no-frills, deep-discount grocer that operates more than 900 stores in 29 U.S. states. The chain, based in Germany, used to shun television advertising, but it recently ran a series of national commercials stressing its low prices on private-label products. The campaign's slogan: "Shop Aldi Smart."

Last month, a survey by Retail Forward showed that consumers were doing 25 percent more of their spending at deep discounters like Aldi than they were a year earlier.

In the past year, Home Depot has moved away from costly promotions, such as hefty discounts on carpeting, and is returning to an emphasis on everyday value, says Craig Menear, executive vice president for merchandising. It is improving performance-based financial incentives for its employees and managers. The chain is also planning to spend $3 billion over two years to improve its customer service and store maintenance, and build a new centralized distribution system in a bid to regain market share lost to smaller rival Lowe's Cos. in recent years.

For its part, Lowe's hasn't backed off on its heavy promotional spending, luring customers into its large warehouses with "project starter" coupons that provide $10 free on purchases of at least $50 and $25 off on purchases of at least $250.

While sales at stores open at least a year were down sharply in the latest quarter at both home-improvement retailers, Lowe's sales were a little better than Home Depot's. Both chains claim to be pulling market share from weaker, independent competitors. Last quarter, Lowe's gained share in all but four product categories, while Home Depot gained share or held steady in half its merchandise areas.

On a recent trip to a Lowe's store in North Dallas, shopper Amy Barrentine says she noticed retailers were blanketing the market with coupon offers. "They eventually cancel each other out, becoming less an incentive to lure you into a store than simply a reward for shopping where you normally shop, anyway," she said.

In the electronics field, Best Buy is taking aim at weaker rivals in part by offering a no-interest payment plan for big-ticket items, such as home-theater systems. Executive Vice President Michael A. Vitelli said Best Buy's sales and market share have increased in part because of shoppers adding items to their cart to reach the $999 minimum required for the no-interest plan. Best Buy estimates its share of U.S. consumer-electronics sales rose 1.5 percentage points in the latest quarter.

The financing program boosted the chain's sales of big-screen TVs by a "low double digit" percentage at stores open at least 14 months, Best Buy said. By contrast, rival Circuit City Stores Inc. reported lower television sales for the first quarter ended May 31.

Best Buy also is rapidly expanding sales of mobile phones through in-store sales kiosks, cutting into sales of one-time cellphone leader RadioShack Corp. It had 599 mobile-phone kiosks in its U.S. stores on May 31, up from 181 at the end of the year. Same-store sales of mobile phones were up 50 percent in stores with the kiosks. RadioShack blamed increased competition for a 10.5 percent decline in sales for the first quarter.

In addition, Best Buy is pursuing niche markets, grabbing business from musical-instruments retailer Guitar Center with expanded sales in California and pulling from local service companies with its Geek Squad computer-services stores. "We're playing offense in the marketplace," President Brian J. Dunn told investors in a recent conference call.

Wal-Mart, which has chased after more upscale clients in recent years, this year has stepped up advertising to promote its low-price offerings and reinforce its discount image. It spent $107 million in the fiscal first quarter to promote its Save More, Live Better campaign, up from its $75 million in ad spending in the year-earlier quarter.

The world's biggest retailer also recently offered to cash shoppers' tax-rebate checks for no fee and expanded its $4 generic-prescription-drug program to cover many over-the-counter drugs. As a result, the company reported sales rose 2.9 percent at stores open at least a year in the quarter ended April 30.

Sears Holdings Corp., however, said it plans to cut back on marketing spending for the rest of the year to lower costs. People familiar with the situation say the retailer cut about 10 percent, or $200 million, from its annual marketing budget.

Discounter Costco Wholesale Corp. is keeping sales humming by doing more strategic direct-mail promotions to its customers, steering shoppers to lower-price, but higher-margin, items such as jewelry. In the first quarter, Costco increased the number of jewelry offerings priced between $100 and $500 by 15 percent, says Kristin Badowski, a senior analyst at retail consultants Management Ventures Inc. "There are fewer items at the very high end," she says.

Drugstore chains CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co. are making a play for health- and beauty-product shoppers who are trading down from department stores.

Both chains have been selling private-label cosmetics goods that are pricier than those usually sold at the corner drugstore but generally cheaper than department-store versions.

CVS, for example, is marketing an exclusive line of skin-care products called Lumene. Walgreen recently began a promotion called "Satur-date," which offers customers miniconsulting sessions with beauty advisers and free samples of health and cosmetic items in its stores.

(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 07/09/08)

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Funny Ads

I have one of each of these.

I also have a library card.

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Two Marketing Tips

Got these in an email this week:

How to Write the Perfect Sales Letter
Favorite author Dean Rieck gives you a step-by-step formula for writing the perfect sales letter. Read more

Stop Driving Traffic, Start Capturing Leads
Chris Chariton of GlobalSpec shows you how to focus on getting prospects and customers to visit your sites and convert them into qualified sales leads.
Read more

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Golfing, Reading and Learning with Harvey

A few days ago I finished re-reading one of Harvey's books. If you are looking for an edge in the business world and sales business, look at the right side of this page and there are a few books that I have read and recommend to friends. Included is a book from Harvey.

You can even click on the book and buy it direct from

Here's some of Harvey's advice from this week:

Harvey Mackay's Column This Week

When it comes to business, get in the game of golf

With more than 27 million golfers in the United States alone, it's no wonder that golf for business purposes is a hole-in-one opportunity. Whether you're opening doors or closing deals, golf can enhance almost any business relationship.

So why is golf on the upswing?

TV and Tiger Woods are factors of course, but there's another reason that doesn't get much notice, except from sharp businesspeople. Golf is a networking game par excellance. In what other environment can you see your customer for four to five hours straight, without interruption from phones, meetings or competitors, for that matter?

In the United States, an estimated $28 billion in annual sales is attributed to contracts and relationships initiated on the golf course. That's why more than 20 million rounds of business golf will be played this year.

Another reason for the explosion in golf is that women are taking up the game in droves. More than 25 percent of the golfers in this country are now women, up significantly since the early '90s. It's no coincidence that women are taking giant leaps in business by reaping the same benefits found on the green.

"Women are seeing golf as an informal network to advance their careers," said Carol Bresnicky, spokeswoman for the Executive Women's Golf Association. The EWGA's membership has soared to 20,000 from 1,500 in 1991.

This is why we encourage all our sales reps at MackayMitchell Envelope Company – women included – to play golf. You're shooting a bogey if you don't get out on a course. I can attest to that after witnessing the U.S. Women's Open a couple weeks ago at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota where there were record crowds and more than 10,000 were 17 and under.

With gas and other costs climbing, home prices plummeting and the economy struggling, I haven't seen a lot of budgets cut for customer golf. In fact, companies are checking out ways to get more bang for their golf buck. Companies realize that a lot of business happens on the golf course.

A recent survey of corporate meeting planners by a trade magazine revealed golf was more important to attendees than a beach, a spa, shopping, cultural attractions or other outdoor sports.

It's also important to note that golf tends to expose your real character. In one study I found, 47 percent of those surveyed believed that behavior on the golf course usually paralleled behavior in business. It tests your fortitude, your confidence and your humility. If you're making a key hire or closing a business deal, the golf course is an ideal test because you see how people act in all kinds of circumstances. You can take note of their appearance, how they carry themselves and how well they follow the etiquette and rules of the game – even if they know how to have fun. And remember, they can see how you handle yourself as well!

As golf legend Bobby Jones said: "You can learn more about a man (woman) in nine holes than a lifetime."

It's equally important to follow golf and have an interest in the sport. It helps to be knowledgeable about golf, not just for sales, but also for your career. After all, you can't talk about business all the time, so golf is a great icebreaker.

If you want to move up in some companies, it doesn't hurt to hang a golf picture or two or have a putter and some golf balls on display in your office. It helps build rapport and relationships, and it's a great – and safe – topic of conversation.

So why is golf so popular? A friend recently shared a clever email, which shed some light on the subject:

  • Golf is an honorable game with the overwhelming majority of players being honorable people who don't need referees.
  • Professional golfers are paid in direct proportion to how well they play.
  • Golfers don't hold out for more money or demand new contracts because of another player's deal.
  • When golfers make a mistake, no one is there to cover for them or back them.
  • Golf doesn't change its rules to attract fans. Golfers have to adapt to an entirely new playing area each week.
  • Tiger Woods hits a golf ball twice as far as the best home run hitters.

Mackay's Moral: Any way you slice it, golf suits business to a tee. Get out there and have a ball!

Miss a column? The last three weeks of Harvey's columns are always archived online.

More information and learning tools can be found online at

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Finals

After hours Marketing News:

Drivers Happier With Dealership Services Departments
by Karl Greenberg
[Automotive] J.D. Power's study suggests the things that make customers happy in auto service are probably the same as in medical intervention: communication, clear, cogent explanation before and after to explain the procedure and charges and why the charges and work was fair and appropriate. - Read the whole story...

Sony Campaign Illustrates Technological Birth Process
by Laurie Sullivan
[Electronics] The biggest challenge became making something so abstract seem believable and real, says 180LA writer Graham Douglas. "We wanted it to seem like a situation that could happen in your living room when you step out," he says. "The visuals are delightfully odd." - Read the whole story...

Nike Kicks Off Sneaker Smackdown
by Sarah Mahoney
[Retail] The countdown to the Beijing Olympics is just weeks away, which can only mean one thing: Athletic-shoe companies are preparing to give armchair athletes goosebumps. And expect them to pull out all the emotional stops, hoping that verklempt consumers will overlook the soft U.S. economy and go shoe shopping. - Read the whole story...

Oil Economist Gets Warm Welcome At Motor Press Gathering
by Karl Greenberg
[Automotive] John Felmy said Congress should be more helpful to the oil companies by not arguing for higher taxes, or for quicker exploration of leased lands. He says the latter is impossible because it is expensive and time-consuming to explore. "The argument that the industry should focus on [property] that doesn't have drilling going on; well, oil leases don't come with Mapquest." - Read the whole story...

Air Travel Means Endless Ads For Captive Audience
by Erik Sass
[Transportation] Once branding consultant warns that the ads could nosedive. "By advertising in the usually highly stressful and negative environments of air travel," says Denise Lee Yohn, "brands risk subconsciously associating themselves with the stress, fatigue, and frustration that people feel in those environments." - Read the whole story...

Suzuki Taps Siltanen & Partners For AOR

Mars Celebrates Milky Way's 85th Anniversary

Use Of Internet Coupons Up 83%, Firm Says

Peroni Launches New Ads On TV, Cable

FDA Lets Tomatoes Off The Hook

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Customer Service & Marketing

Earlier this week I emphasized how important it is to have everyone in your company aware of your marketing efforts.

At the Customers Rock! blog, they recently wrote about customer service vs. marketing.

I say your customer service is an essential part of your marketing.

Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?

Overheard the other day from a cashier at my local grocery store (a large chain, by the way): “Can I get a bagger over here? You aren’t paying me enough to have me bag the groceries, too!” I heard this as I was coming up to the check-out counter with my purchases (which were only a few items).

Wow, what does that do to the brand’s marketing messages?

The issue here is this: the customer doesn’t differentiate between what marketing is saying and what they hear from customer service personnel. All messages, regardless of medium or origin, add up to communicate the brand’s image to the customer. Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).

When we look at it from the company’s perspective, we see silo-thinking, each department focused on their own area. When we look at it from the customer’s perspective, what do we see? One brand, with everyone working together for a great customer experience? Or many experiences, looking like many brands, with the experience differing based on how customer service personnel are asked to behave?

Customers Rock! was started to focus on highlighting companies that understand these concepts. Customers Rock! doesn’t mean the customer is always right. It means we should view our customers as one of the most important assets that we have; therefore, we should plan each step of how we are going to get, keep, and grow these assets.

Who is speaking more loudly to customers at your organization? Do you need to bring those messages into alignment? What do customers think about your brand, from all perspectives? These are critical questions to answer as companies consider how to weather the current economic storms.

“The relationship that is formed when marketing and customer service meet is like saying that you’re making good on your promises.” Meikah

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Levi's New Marketing Strategy

The Wall Street Journal shares with us what's going on with the most recognized brand of Jeans in the USA:

Levi's Marketers Hope One Size Fits All

Jeans and Ads Will Get
Only Minimal Tailoring
In Global 501 Campaign
July 18, 2008; Page B7

Levi Strauss & Co. is betting one size can fit all.

Bucking industry trends, Levi Strauss is retooling its signature button-fly 501 jeans so that they will have the same fit in each of the 110 countries in which the company says they are sold.

Simultaneously, the San Francisco-based company is launching its first global marketing campaign in which print and television ads contain the same theme, content and slogan, "Live Unbuttoned," the world over. In some cases, the actors will change to resemble the populace in the country where the ad is being presented.

[Levi's new global marketing campaign will feature print and television ads that contain the same theme, content and slogan, 'Live Unbuttoned,' the world over.]
Levi's new global marketing campaign will feature print and television ads that contain the same theme, content and slogan, 'Live Unbuttoned,' the world over.

The campaign, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, shows characters letting go of inhibitions and being carefree, which viewers in some markets outside the U.S. might interpret as glorifying recklessness. One TV ad debuting in early August, for example, shows a young man and woman exchanging flirtatious glances as they unbutton their 501s.

Ultimately, they both pull down their jeans and, holding hands, leap off a pier into the ocean. The final shot shows them kissing underwater as the words "501" and "Live Unbuttoned" appear.

Levi Strauss CEO John Anderson says the company is going with both a global fit and global campaign because it believes straight-leg jeans are a global fashion trend, and now is the time to establish the 501 as the obvious option for shoppers around the world. But some analysts say financial considerations are also surely a contributing factor: It is simply cheaper to produce, sell and market one kind of jeans than dozens of varieties.

"One of the benefits of speaking with one voice is you can be more efficient and stretch your money," says Joyce King Thomas, chief creative officer at ad agency McCann Erickson, a unit of Interpublic Group, who had no involvement with the campaign.

There is a reason why American apparel companies often tailor the fit of their clothing when selling abroad: People in different parts of the world have different shapes and preferences. And some industry observers say Levi Strauss could have a tough time selling the concept of a single global fit. "At the end of the day, the customer may like the way the product looks and the image it represents, but if they don't like the fit, they're not going to buy it," says Monica Tang, an analyst with retail consultant Kurt Salmon Associates.

Levi Strauss says the fabric on the jeans is designed to mold to the wearer's body, regardless of body shape, which will help to account for differences in body type. The company also says it will continue to tailor the sizes offered to different parts of the world.

The stakes are high for Levi Strauss, whose sales peaked at $7.1 billion in 1996 before sliding for eight years while the company missed trends like premium denim and generally failed to respond quickly to changing consumer tastes among young people. Net sales rose 4% to $4.4 billion in 2007, when positive currency effects are included. They fell 8% in the second quarter of this year amid problems related to implementing a new software system designed to boost efficiency.

Levi Strauss has long played the localization game just like a lot of other companies. It has had creative teams in different regions that tinkered with the fit of its 501 jeans to cater to local tastes and fads. A 501 jean bought in New York sometimes had a different fit and look than one bought in Hong Kong. The "rise" (the distance between the crotch and the waistband) might be slightly higher or lower, or a seam more curved, or one pair of jeans might have a different pocket design.

And because the Levi brand has stood for different things in different places, the marketing message has varied by location. In Europe, where the company ran separate ad campaigns, Levi Strauss is considered premium denim, and its five-pocket 501s are more expensive there. But in America, a Levi 501 jean is considered more of a staple, and ads have consistently alluded to Levi Strauss's American roots.

Levi Strauss declined to disclose the cost of its new marketing campaign, which also includes billboards and viral videos -- clips posted on popular Web-video sites such as YouTube. Levi spent $77.7 million on ads in the U.S. last year, according to ad-tracking firm TNS Media Intelligence.

Levi Strauss joins a long list of multinational companies trying to market globally. What the company is doing is "gutsy in today's world," says Neil Parker, global head of strategy at branding agency Wolff Olins, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc. "We're living in a world that has moved a long way beyond Western advertising culture being exported everywhere on a consistent basis. How the core idea of what the brand is about gets translated really needs to be flexible to accommodate regional differences."

What is more, he says, fashion is much more about individual style these days, making it harder for an apparel company to dictate a trend from the "top-down."

Write to Ray A. Smith at

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Selling Attitudes

This arrived this week in my email:

Start Selling More Newsletter
Issue 371

July 15, 2008

StartSelling more

A New S.P.I.N. On Selling

SPIN Selling, written by Neil Rackham and published in 1988 is a terrific book. The book emphasizes the importance of asking the right sales questions. I was so inspired by this book I eventually wrote my own book emphasizing sales questions, "The 12 Best Questions To Ask Customers."

I'd like to use the word S.P.I.N. in a slightly different way. I'd like to use the word as an acronym.

Putting the right S.P.I.N. into your business especially during these turbulent times can change your attitude and improve your selling results.

Think of the word S.P.I.N. as four pieces to the selling puzzle.

S = Shrug it off

P = Preparation and practice

I = Initiative

N = New

Let's start with Shrug it off. Right now most of the world's news is negative. In the USA the real estate market is hurting, financial markets are in chaos, and just when you think gas prices can't go any higher - they go higher. Shrug it off. That's right, dismiss the bad news or it will eventually consume and overwhelm you.

If the news gets you down, do something that picks you back up. If you're an entrepreneur or a professional sales representative you can't afford to be down and negative when you're working with your sales prospects and customers. Change your routine. Exercise more. Read motivational books. Buy a book of quotations.

And stay away from negative people because it's amazing how contagious negativity can be.

Inject a little Preparation and Practice into every selling day. For example, when you're planning sales calls for the next day, you can prepare several questions in writing. While you're driving to the account practice them. If you don't practice what you're going to say before you get to the account you end up practicing on your sales prospects and customers. Nothing could be worse!

  • You can also prepare and practice specific parts of your planned sales call.
  • You can prepare and practice how you will present the benefits of your products.
  • You can prepare and practice how you'll deal with the price objection.
  • You can prepare and practice how you'll ask for the next appointment.
  • You can even prepare and practice how you will ask for the business.

You know before you get to see your sales prospect if you've prepared and practiced enough - and unfortunately so will your sales prospect.

My approach to S.P.I.N. selling includes "Initiative." The initiative I'm referring to is personal initiative. This word covers all aspects of professional selling. When times are tough it requires that you become tougher.

Doing things the way you've always done things will not differentiate you from your competition. Take the initiative to learn more about personal salesmanship and selling skills. Literally - hit the books. Visit article directories such as and look for the best articles to help you achieve greater selling success.

Take the initiative to pick up the telephone and schedule more appointments. Take the initiative to allocate more face-to-face time calling on sales prospects which represent new business opportunities for you.

Take the initiative to cross sell and up-sell whenever possible. Take the initiative to do everything imaginable to help your customers solve their problems.

And take the initiative on every sales call to exceed your sales prospect's and/or customer's expectations.

The final piece to S.P.I.N. selling is the word “New.” The two most popular words in the English language are "New" and "Free." You can skip the free, but focus on what's new.

How do you personally respond to the question, "What's new?"

  • Do you have new products?
  • Do you have new management?
  • Do you have new technology?
  • Do you have new ways to solve old problems?
  • Do you have new programs?
  • Do you have anything that's new?

Focus on what's new, not what's problematic. Get excited when you're talking about what's new to your sales prospects and customers. If you're excited, they'll become excited.

Develop a new attitude about everything. Sure the stock market is down. Novice investors are bailing out. Warren Buffett is licking his chops because of all the buying opportunities he sees.

The real estate market is down and everybody is thinking doom and gloom - except for the very shrewd investors who enjoy bottom fishing and buying properties at bargain basement prices.

It's not easy being positive when all the news is so negative. You have the ultimate control over your thoughts. So choose optimism over pessimism, positive over negative, sunny versus gloomy, and winning over losing.

You’ll be glad you did and so will your customers.

Growing your business, increasing your sales, and making more money is easy when you put the right S.P.I.N. on it.

PS - Checkout my 57 Sales Tips!

Cross Selling

Checkout my new web page on the subject of cross selling.

See it here

Are You Getting Enough Kick Back Time

Not according to an article I just read. "A national survey by found that 31% of Americans do not take all the vacation days they get, and we average only 14 days a year to begin with."

The average worker in France gets 37 days. What's wrong with this picture? Everything!

Take your vacations. They reduce stress and actually are a boost to your creativity.

Tip - plan them well in advance, it gives you and your family something to look forward to.

By The Way

This is not for everyone. Since 80% of all salespeople don't routinely invest in themselves - you can skip this section. On the other hand if you belong to the 20% group here are a few things you might be interested in:

A NEW Sales Manual which includes a bonus booklet of 250 quotations.

250 Transformational, Inspirational, Motivational, and Educational Quotes.

Special 3-CD pack save 48% - to help you sell more during tough times.

Links To Previous Newsletters

S.P.I.N. Selling

Phone Selling Techniques

Sales-secrets Best Advice

Link to Sales Dilemma

Start selling more today and everyday . . .

Jim Meisenheimer

20 years . . .
512 customers . . .
83.3% repeat business

In-house Sales Training | Sell More Blog | More sales articles | Time Management book

To subscribe:

It's easy to subscribe to my newsletter. To join send a blank email to:

Jim Meisenheimer | 13506 Blythefield Terrace | Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202 | 941-907-0415

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Batteries ARE Customer Service

This arrived in my email from the Weakest Link:

Whenever I buy something that says "batteries sold separately." I calmly dream that this will be the store redeeming my basic faith in a company’s ability to seize the most self-evident opportunity for customer service.

(I’m starting to think I am a hopeless idealist.)

1. If you are selling an item. TEST it before you let the customer walk out with it. Take out a pair of batteries. Put them in and make sure everything works.

It really doesn’t matter that the item is made by Widget Industries in Upper Mongolia. YOU sold it, and the customer will be angry with YOU when it doesn’t work.

2 . (This is where companies make fools of themselves) Turn off the object and put it back in the box before closing the sale. But LEAVE THE BATTERIES.

Yes, I said it! Save your key rings, forget about the complimentary Frisbee. Take the unusually smart step of actually making sure that the item will work when they get home without the customer needing to buy batteries.

In fact, if I come home with an object without batteries, but a complimentary branding Frisbee, I’m probably going to be even more fuming than if I didn’t get the Frisbee at all. At that second I am going to wonder what moron came up with that idea instead of just giving me a pair of bloody AA’s! Now I’m both angry that I have to go back out and get batteries, and convinced that your establishment is owned and operated by a cretin. Not the customer experience you should be shooting for.

Giving It Away Increase Sales

The amazing thing is that your sale of batteries has a great chance of increasing too. Why? Because if you don’t have a policy of testing each item, your sales clerks are going to forget to remind the customer they will need batteries x amount of times out of a hundred.

If clerks test everything as a policy, they won’t forget as often and that will improve sales of batteries as well. And here is the kicker, the customer probably has other things that need batteries, so even though you just gave them batteries for the item they purchased, they will often end up buying them for other items.

It All Goes In the Plus Column

If the item you are selling is $2.49 with a profit margin of 30 cents. This is admittedly not a great idea. But if you are holding a profit margin anywhere over $3 per item, you can’t really lose by doing this.

AA batteries are about 7 cents if you buy in bulk. You are paying more for those fancy brochures used to staple the receipt to in case the product doesn’t work. Now you will have to deal with less customer returns as well, which also saves you money and bad will. (See the math here?)

If you have a profit margin that is high, Say $70. You will have to convert 1 sale in every 250 to a returning customer or a referral for it to break even.

I guarantee you will be head and shoulders above the competition that are still standing there like misers, taking them back out of the gadget before asking you if you would like to buy batteries. To me, that is not just a missed opportunity of customer service. It’s downright counterproductive and borderline rude.

I can also promise you that the statement "I’m going to leave these in here, if you would like to buy extra batteries, this item takes Double A’s" will do more for your customer satisfaction than a Frisbee ever will.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The latest ad campaigns

This is a weekly feature from Mediapost:

Out to Launch
by Amy Corr
SOYJOY bows optimistic campaign. Dell computers are like snowflakes: each one is different. Microsoft small-business site giving away 5000 gallons of gas. Let's launch!

Adidas launched a print campaign in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia for the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympic games. "Inside" features Olympic athletes performing better because of the support they've received from other people. Creative demonstrates this support by illustrating each athlete performing with multiple limbs. Featured athletes include Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva; American sprinter Tyson Gay; American track star Jeremy Wariner; South Korean weightlifter Jang Mi-Ran; and Taiwan taekwondo athletes Zhu Mu-Yen and Yang Shu-Jun. "I run with 600 million legs," says an ad featuring Jeremy Wariner running on a track in sneakers, flip-flops and high-heeled shoes. See the ads here, here, here, here, here and here. TBWA/Tequila Hong Kong created the campaign.

How much do I love "Grand Ole Opera," the new TV spot for Jeep Cherokee? Not as much as "La Boheme," the opera whose melody is used in the spot, but enough to watch the ad multiple times! Genuine opera singers sing the praises of owning a Jeep Cherokee in Italian. It helps remove a stranded vehicle stuck in a snow embankment and makes shoveling heavy bags of manure a pleasant experience. Get me a translator, stat! Watch the ad here, created by Cutwater.

Euro RSCG New York launched a pro bono TV campaign in an effort to help fight homelessness in New York City. The campaign commemorates the fourth anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg's pledge to reduce the rate of the city's homeless by two-thirds. Unfortunately, the number of homeless people living in New York has increased; and the average age of a person living in New York is a sad, unacceptable, 9. The PSAs promote the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that provides housing, food, job training and hope to the homeless. The ad features homeless people of all ages reading aloud the plight of New York City's homeless as written in an article from New York magazine. Watch the spots here, on the Coalition for the Homeless Web site.

Dell is pushing the customizable button in its latest two TV ads. Much as dogs can sometimes resemble their owners, so can Dell computers. Do you like the color pink? Enough to match your laptop to your scooter? Make it work. See the ad here. The second ad stars a man who takes a series of pictures of him and his ladylove. The storytelling set of photos come to a conclusion when the man crops the woman out of a picture, posts his mug online and poof, he has a new woman in his story of photographs. See the ad here. Mother created the campaign and Mediacom handled the media buy.

IKEA launched a Spanish-language spot called "Kitchens," showing the room's universal role in houses as a central area of vitality. The spot incorporates various IKEA Kitchen products into the ad, while illustrating the important role a kitchen plays throughout all the hours of a day. The little girl that needs to pee might be the cutest part of the ad, seen here. *SCPF created the campaign and MediaCom handled the media buy.

A little piece of Miami came to Times Square this month in a guerilla effort promoting season two of USA's "Burn Notice." And by little piece of Miami, I mean a 50-ton sand sculpture that was constructed in Times Square. Aside from the ridiculous amount of sand, a team of Broadway actors went rollerblading throughout the city singing, "Burn, Notice, Burn!" tweaking the lyrics to "Disco Inferno." I'm glad I missed that. More up my alley was a beach towel giveaway in New York, Chicago and L.A. markets. See pictures from the campaign here and here. The michael alan group executed the stunts.

Earlier this year, SOYJOY repositioned itself from an energy bar to a provider of whole soy. The company's latest print campaign connects having a good day physically and mentally to eating soy. It's a very simple, positive, upbeat print campaign. I like it. "Whole soy: A source of good karma," reads one ad. "Side effects from whole soy may include pleasant music playing quietly in head," says another. See the ads here, here, here, here and here, created by RPA.

Microsoft Small Business launched a Web site that offers small businesses practical business tips during a difficult economic time. offers five ways that small businesses can save money -- and 5,000 gallons of gas to one lucky small-business owner who enters their information online. In addition to this site, Microsoft is launching a peer-to-peer learning site later this month where small-business owners can share tips and advice with fellow SMB. Bradley and Montgomery created the campaign.
Amy Corr is managing editor, online newsletters for MediaPost. She can be reached at

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How to Email

You would think that we don't need to teach people how to use email.
But since it is a rather new form of communication, compared to regular mail (remember typewriters?), not everyone is aware of some of the common courtesies.

One, is don't spam.

The day of forwarding funny stories and cartoons is over.
Most of us are too busy to read them. The few that I get, about 2 a month, are okay.

But speaking of spam, if you are using email to reach out to customers, there are some rules to follow.

In my new role of Vice President of Communications for our local Advertising Federation, I am now responsible for overseeing our email and direct mail list.

So here's some advice from Seth Godin for you and me:

If you don't want to get email

...don't send email.


If you send a note to 100 or 1000 customers/clients/prospects/shippers/parents (whatever), be sure to give people a way to reply! I think this is especially important for small organizations or small subsets of lists... Amazon and eBay and others get a bit of a pass.

If it's important enough for you to send to me, it may be important enough for me to write back.

I know it's horribly expensive and inconvenient to work your way through the replies, but aren't the replies exactly what you need to see? What an opportunity.

Email is medium all onto itself. It's the only medium where the human voice appears the same whether it's 'live' or 'recorded' and where there's an expectation that all interactions are two-way.

Here's what you do:

1. Send the email to your permission list, an announcement that's anticipated, personal and relevant.

2. Set up a "reply to" that's a different address.

3. In the email, at the bottom, give people a web address where they can go to give feedback, or give them an email they can write to that will be read by a real person.

4. If they hit reply, the replyto will automatically send the note to the right person.

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Blog Tips

A friend asked me recently, (again), if this blogging was worth it.

It all depends on how you measure it.

And that depends on your goals for blogging.

This site has a couple of goals.

Spread the word about what's going on in the marketing/advertising/sales world so that others can learn and become better at marketing/advertising/sales. It also helps expose you to others ideas and wisdom. (That's why it's Collective Wisdom.)

And it also serves a my own personal marketing forum. If you want to establish yourself as an expert or authority on a subject, then a blog is one way to market yourself. And this one gets world wide attention I've noticed.

Need some tips on blogging? Read this from the DLM blog:

11 Ways to Generate Ideas for your Blog

Posted: 15 Jul 2008 10:09 AM CDT

Written on 7/15/2008 by Syed Abbas of
“Content is King”, it is true to the core. Creating valuable content is a challenge and doing it regularly is a bigger challenge. I meet quite a few bloggers during conferences and events and one of the most commonly discussed issues among new bloggers is, “How can I create content on a continuous basis? Where do I get the ideas from?” This is one of the major reasons most bloggers start with lot of enthusiasm and quit in despair. It's simple math, content creation on regular basis adds value to a blog which brings more users. Now go in reverse, No content – No Value, No Value – No visitors. I’ve put together few things which have helped me generate ideas and put them in words for my readers on regular basis.
  • Do Not Panic – Have Fun
    I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful sunny day; you sit down with your laptop to publish a great article only to realize that you don’t know what to write. Panic sets in, “I have to publish an article today and I have no idea what to write about, I don’t even have anything saved in Drafts.”

    The more you panic the worse it gets. So, you know what? Don’t bother! Think of it as a holiday, go hangout with friends, watch a movie, visit your favorite eat joint, spend time at the library, do whatever it takes to put yourself at ease. While you are out having fun, record your thoughts (if any) which can be potential blog posts. Just record your thoughts at this time don’t spend time thinking if they are really worth a post, do that once you get back home.

    The point I am trying to make here is that ideas for posts or articles will come to you naturally. All you have to do is look around without worrying about it. Most of the ideas come from regular conversations with friends and others or by something you see at a store on the sidewalk, etc..

  • Feed aggregators
    This is THE most important source of getting ideas for blog posts. I cannot stress enough on how important this is. If you are a blogger and you do not have a list of blogs you follow through aggregators, then you are missing something really important. Feed aggregators are the fastest medium of getting the latest news and articles from blogs and websites and believe me the sooner you blog about “something” the better it is.

    If you don’t currently use any aggregators, start building one now! I use iGoogle and the Google Desktop Web Clips Gadget to get the latest from the blogs and news sites I follow.

    I can help you build your iGoogle, just shoot me an e-mail at nerd[at] and mention one of the following categories: “Tech News”, “Official Tech Blogs”, “Gadgets and Products” and I will share all the blog feeds I follow under that category. This way you can create your iGoogle page with close to 100 feeds instantly.

  • Social Media Sites:
    Social Media sites are a very good source of certified interesting and valuable information. I say “certified”, because information on these sites is posted by readers like you and I who find it interesting enough to be shared with others.

    Few of the sites I Follow are:

    Feel free to add me to your friends list on Digg, Twitter or Stumbleupon.

  • Visit Forums, QnA, News sites, etc.
    Identify the nature of blog you are running and the kind of content your users like to read. Once you have that, find forums and sites discussing related information. Make a list of such forums and sites and be a regular visitor. Comments and users discussions on such sites will generate enough leads to keep you busy writing for a while.

    Example forums and sites:

  • Learn and Teach
    Did you do anything recently which required a lot of reading and research on multiple sites? If yes, then write about it (do pass links to the original source). If you had to learn something and did not know about it then the chances are, another million people on the internet are searching for it too. So write about it.

    For example:
    • How to download videos from YouTube and other Video sites?
    • How to search for different file formats?

  • Keyword Logs of your site
    Sometimes you will see keywords on the logs which does not match the content on your site but can be a good topic for the next valuable post.

    Following image has a keyword which will get me to research if .rar files can be opened online. If yes then that will make a good post for users wanting to know how it’s done.

    I use Google Analytics to track visitor information on my tech blog. It’s a free tool which can be used on any site or blog including blogger and Wordpress blogs.

  • Watch TV
    This is the easiest, just watch TV. Try watching news, tech shows, product launches, etc, instead of CSI or Lost. This is not only a good source of information but sometimes offers the opportunity of breaking the news on the internet, as you know breaking news has its own advantages.

    TV can certainly help but it depends on the kind of blog you run and the information you are looking for. For example a tech blog writer will greatly benefit from a program such as Click – BBC world.

  • Software Sites
    Visiting sites like will help you find new software that is hitting the market.. If you manage to find one that has recently launched, is very useful and not many blogs have reviewed it yet, then that could be a potential article.

    Such sites usually offer a list of recently added or released software’s and utilities which can be very useful or you can go the software list page and sort by “Date” to see the latest additions.

    Example sites:

  • Events and Conferences
    Keep a track of events and conferences; these can be potential blog posts. If published at the right time, these blogs can attract a lot of visitors and subscribers.

    Example events and conferences:

    • iPhone launch
    • SunTech Days
    • 4th of July
    • Valentine’s Day

  • Track comments and e-mails on the blog
    Some of the top running articles on my technology blog are the result of tracking comments and e-mail from the blog. This can prove to be one of the best sources of ideas for posts and articles as users mostly leave comments asking questions.

    Few of these questions might require a lot of explanation in terms of following steps to accomplish a task or simply explaining a concept. So keep your eyes open and never let any comment or e-mail go without a notice.

  • Last but not the least…
    Sleep well, eat well, go to the gym and stay fit.

    Bloggers usually work long hours and don’t get enough sleep which results in loss of focus. Not only blogging but anything you do, requires focus and best efforts for excellent results. The only way you can focus and give your 100% is by staying fit by sleeping enough and eating right.
I hope these tips were helpful. -Syed

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5 tips for Marketing to Millennials

A few months ago our local Advertising Federation had a guest speaker on this topic. This advice is from the website:

The Millennial Generation was born between 1977 and 1998 and is just beginning to enter the workforce. As with each new generation, the Millennials come with their own set of expectations and abilities. Here are five things you can do to market to this group more effectively.


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Walmart Brand Changes

Laura Ries wrote this:

Wal-Mart: To change or not to change, that was the question.

The word “branding” comes from the cattle ranching days of the Old West. The branding of livestock was a rigidly-enforced practice that helped to keep life peaceful and orderly.

All cattle look pretty much the same. Without a brand, no cowboy would know whose cattle are whose. Determining ownership would be a nightmare.

In the American West, cattle still graze freely and branding allows ranchers to easily identify their animals especially during the fall roundup.

(Of course, some ranchers keep their herds on fenced lots and in that case branding isn’t required but is often done anyway. And in business, if you have no competition you don't need a brand either.)

A brand is the special mark or identifying design owned by a rancher. Branding occurs when an owner’s branding iron is heated to red hot in a fire and is pressed against the side of the animal. Not a particularly pleasurable process for the animal but essential for the rancher.


In the marketplace, brands and branding are as essential as they are on the ranch. Without a brand, consumers would have difficulty differentiating one product from another. But while any company can put a mark on the side of a package, that doesn’t make the mark a powerful brand. Brands are only powerful when you can burn that same mark into the mind of the consumer as well. Ouch!

Burning the consumer’s mind is the key detail many companies miss. They think branding is putting their name and logo on the package. But that is only half the answer. Making a branding iron is the easy part. Holding the consumer down and burning that brand into the mind is the hard part.

The good news is that once you have burned your brand in the mind of the consumer it is practically permanent. An established brand is difficult to change and hard to forget. Unless you keep changing what the brand stands for to the point of no recognition.

It is important to keep the look of your branding iron consistent over time. Constant or drastic change can be a brand-killer.

(Of course, if nobody knows your brand, you can change it all you want. Marlboro was initially a women’s cigarette which was rebranded with cowboy imagery.)

It was no trouble for Marlboro to change from a woman’s to a man’s cigarette but they can’t change from the cowboys without dire consequences. Marlboro has wisely stuck to the same imagery, look and logo for over 50 years.

Marlboro brand

Why do companies want to change the look of their brand? One reason is to keep the brand current and fresh. Or to attempt to change the position of the brand.

Making subtle changes over time to a brand is fine. It allows you to keep the logo fresh and up-to-date. The UPS logo has undergone 4 changes over 100 years but it still retains the same look, feel and most importantly the same color, brown. Consumers have hardly noticed the changes.

Ups logo

Sometimes a logo may not be perfect, but sudden, radical change to a well-known brand can be jarring, disturbing and destructive. This is the case with the latest changes to the Wal-Mart logo.

Since the launch of the company in 1962, Wal-Mart has made many subtle changes. But for the most part it has stuck to its traditional uppercase type. The brand is currently the world’s largest retailer meaning that its logo is burned into the minds of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Walmart logos

So what did they just announce? A drastic change. Not a small change, but a change that makes me cringe.

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate? Uppercase or lowercase? Star or no star? Dark blue or light blue? One color or two colors? Let’s change everything!

One change would have been radical enough, but making all these changes at once will disconnect Wal-Mart from its past. Which for the world’s largest retailer is stupid.

In general, it’s preferable to avoid hyphens in names and to use upper and lowercase letters rather than all-caps. But for Wal-Mart, its name and its typography are so well known that changing everything at once is dangerous.

What is even worse is the yellow starburst that Wal-Mart is adding to the end of its name. What the heck is that? I’ll tell you what it is. It is an attempt to make Wal-Mart look like a environmentally-friendly company and a big-box store that cares despite a record of union blocking and community commoditizing.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said: "This logo update is simply a reflection of the refreshed image of our stores and our renewed sense of purpose of helping people save money so they can live better."

Really? I think this logo update is an attempt by Wal-Mart to try and change the minds of consumers. To try to convince them that Wal-Mart has a renewed sense of purpose.

Has anybody mentioned Wal-Mart’s renewed sense of purpose to you? No one has mentioned it to me.

Changing the logo won’t change the brand in the mind. The only way to change what people think about Wal-Mart is to generate favorable publicity. The company has been making progress in this area with a more media-friendly CEO, Lee Scott, and by promoting energy-efficient light bulbs and a discounted drug program. I congratulate Wal-Mart for their PR, but question their radical logotype redesign.

For consumers who had problems with Wal-Mart’s brand the new logo won’t change their minds, slapping lipstick on a pig does little good either. For consumers who love to shop and save money at Wal-Mart (and there are a lot more of these consumers) the new logo is likely to confuse and frustrate. It is like your wife coming home with a new Mohawk, she might hope it makes her suddenly look young and rebellious but her family knows nothing could be further from the truth.

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