Joe Sugarman, Drayton Bird and Me

A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of speaking at length with Joey Bushnell about copywriting, marketing and finding ways to get your business through tough economies like the one we’re facing right now.

There are two reasons this interview was special:

1) You know it’s hard for me to stop talking once I get started. Joey gave me a full hour to speak my mind.

2) This chat follows interviews with some of the greats in our industry: Joe Sugarman, Bob Bly, Drayton Bird, Ted Nicholas, Chris Marlow and others. I was humbled to be named among these legends.

During the call, we cover

  • why unique selling propositions (USP) can be bad for your brand – and what you should replace them with
  • 4 ways many businesses are sabotaging their own marketing
  • the reason most people struggle to persuade others and plenty more.

Check out the interview, Compelling Marketing Messages, over on Joey’s Web Marketing Inner Circle site.

It’s free to listen to. You don’t have to give your email address or anything, and there’s nothing for sale. Just sit back and see how much you can learn.



Is a Recession a Bad Thing? That Depends on You

You don’t need me to tell you that times are hard. The words of Charles Dickens ring true today: “It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.” How you position yourself and your business will determine whether you experience the best or the worst.

I recently spoke to a well-known certified resume writer/business owner. He described this paradox to me very clearly. “Job seekers need my services more than ever,” he noted. “But this is also the toughest time to spend the extra money to put together a really strong resume.

The distinction needs to be made between an expense and an investment. Hiring a resume writer who can help your job hunt end satisfactorily is an investment, not an expense. It pays off.

The same is true for marketing, training and business development.

Many people and businesses are scaling back, pinching their pennies and cutting “non-essentials.” The problem is, they need to be good at attracting customers and clients more than ever before. Employees need to be equipped to deliver better service than their competitors, who are too busy saving money to properly train their people.

During “good times,” when money comes easily, the budget has plenty of room for these initiatives. But when revenue starts drying up, most people react in fear. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, “What begins in fear usually ends in folly.” You can’t grow a business that way.

When the going gets tough, people and businesses need more information, better direction, more counsel, more inspiration. They need more help. Those who provide the help people need so badly are in position to make these “the best of times” for their businesses.

That is why it is absolutely critical that you:

1.) provide real, tangible value,

2.) present yourself as a trusted advisor, not another money-drain. An investment that will yield a profitable return.

Fear is natural. Implementing defensive strategies is instinctive. But both are counterproductive. You can’t advance and retreat simultaneously.

Retreating is what your competitors are doing.

Statistics show that businesses that maintain or increase aggressiveness in their investments such as marketing and coaching during recessionary phases grow more than 200% more than those that pull back. (See “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Don’t Skimp on Their Ad Budgets.” )

The challenges are daunting; the opportunities are awesome.

How are you responding to the economic climate we’re facing now? How does this affect your interactions with clients and prospects?

Counteract This Trend

You’ll do well to consider different strategies to make your services accessible to your target audience. Low-cost entry items, pared-down basic coaching, and group sessions are possible choices.

Whatever you do, do not devalue yourself or your services. The attitude that says “I know it’s hard out there, so I’ll discount my prices,” is a position of weakness. You are not a commodity. You are not less valuable just because the economy is in bad shape currently (If anything, you could charge more because of inflation!)

A better move would be to present alternative options, multiple ways you can help different people in different financial situations.

The quality of what you deliver is of paramount importance here. If you sell a book that makes marked improvements for the reader, not only will he be more likely to purchase your higher-level offers, but he’ll be more able to do so because of those improvements.

Business is not a zero-sum proposition. Your clients are not $2,000/month poorer because they retain your services. They pay you (you win), you help them achieve their goals (they win), and everyone is richer and happier.

Companies who approach their practice from the perspective that someone wins and someone loses are forfeiting some of the benefits they should be getting. They may be doing more harm than good.

You’ve probably heard it said that more millionaires were created in the Great Depression than any other time in American history.  It seems that “bad times” aren’t bad for everyone. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to use this downturn as an excuse for mediocrity and failure, or if you’ll look for the opportunities to gain the ground everyone else is forfeiting.


Set Your Sails

It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.”  – Jim Rohn

The economy is front, middle and back page news these days. Debt ceilings, the declining dollar and defaults are all we keep hearing about.

And lets face it;  the economy is in shambles. Experts across the country and around the globe are saying that a crisis is unavoidable at this stage.

Now I’m no economics expert, but I’m forced to concur.

The truth is, you and I can’t do much about America’s economy as a whole. The problem is just too big.

I’m not saying that to convince you to throw up you hands and take a fatalistic mentality. Quite the contrary.  Any good coach will tell you not to get caught up in things you have no control over, but to focus on what you can control.

So here’s the question that really matters: how’s YOUR economy?

You can get bogged down about the macroeconomic situation, but you should be more worried about protecting your personal microeconomy.

2011 has been my most profitable year yet as a copywriter. While so many of my colleagues are complaining about taking a hit, having difficulty finding gigs. On the other hand, right now, I have a waiting list for clients who want to work with me.

I’m not saying that to brag, believe me. I bring it up because if I can do it, so can you.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you a few insights into why my economy is not currently reflecting what we’re seeing in the economy at large.

1.) I’m continuing to give. So many businesses are clenching their fists, holding back what they could be sharing, for fear of being ripped off. Or, instead of taking the time to nurture leads and develop relationships, they are rushing the selling process.

Give as much value as you can. Giving information (in a strategic fashion) will firmly establish you as an expert, as an individual or business that cares about it’s customers and communities.

2.) Positioning. Don’t get caught in the death spiral of commoditization. You absolutely must be unique, especially during a downturn like we’re facing now. If your competitors can honestly make the same claims that you make about your business, you can only compete with them on price. You don’t really want to do that, do you?

Find your own unique selling proposition/competitive advantage and make sure your target audience knows why you’re a smarter choice than the other guy.

3.) Don’t react in fear. Define a plan of attack and be proactive. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to work with? What  account are you aiming for? What do you have to do to get it?

Fear is killing your competitors.

Remember: “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” (George Bernard Shaw)

4.) Find out what your audience wants and help them get it.

5.) Don’t be afraid to negotiate confidently.

By all means, seek to understand the big picture. But also understand that no matter what the economy at large is like, there are always some people who are winning. Put yourself in a place to be one of the victors.


Ad Agencies in a Recession

P.T. Barnum, a man who knew more than a little something about advertising, is quoted as saying “Without promotion something terrible happens…Nothing!”

Advertising agencies have something incredibly valuable to offer the world: the ability to literally create interest in, traffic to and generate sales revenue for a business.

During recessions it is common for businesses to reduce their advertising and/or marketing expenses. Studies prove time and again that cutting costs here is a costly mistake. Without advertising, nothing happens.

This is just as true for the ad agencies themselves as it is for their clients. And for this reason, ad agencies need to ADVERTISE; they must market themselves. If anyone understands this point, it should be advertisers.

Advertising and marketing are especially important during times of economic downturn. But in order for advertising agencies to survive a recession, they have to focus on one activity (promoting themselves), which comprises two major parts.

1) It is of the utmost importance that their services produce results. More than ever, people creating advertisements will have creating actual sales for their clients. Those are the only results that truly matter. Today, many agencies measure success by awards they win and recognition they get for clever or entertaining ad spots.

The retail pioneer who created the concept of the department store, John Wanamaker said, “I know half of my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” And he is widely regarded as an advertising genius!

Wasting advertising dollars is no longer acceptable. Clients want to be certain that the ad campaigns are working. If they can’t measure the return on their investment, why shouldn’t they cut ad budgets? Intelligent business leaders will not continue throwing hard-earned (and hard to come by) money down the drain. Measurable, or scientific, advertising methods are designed to show how profitable a series of advertisements are. Claude Hopkins, one of the fathers of modern advertising, wrote a classic book on this very subject, titled Scientific Advertising.

2) If advertising agencies want to survive in this type of economy, their self-promotion will have to educate both current and prospective clients on how they will help THEM through the recession.

Marketers that have proven their ability to increase sales and revenue for their clients for should announce that fact to the world. What better way to run a thriving business than to help others succeed? In an environment of fear, the assurance of proven results will help generate influx of customers.

Advertising agencies that follow these steps should be experiencing the opposite of a recession. The opportunity to explode your business is upon you!