Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PreCall Planning With Linked In

Photo: Esparta

Matt Prazenka offered up a great idea at HVAC Comfortech. Use LinkedIn for pre-call planning.

Duh. This is so obvious, I can believe I didn't consider this before, but I didn't. I think of LinkedIn as a B2B resource, but it can also work for B2C.

If your CSR captures the customer's email address (and your CSR should) or if you receive a lead from an established customer, simply enter the email address into LinkedIn and check out the public profile. Look for clues about the prospect.

  • Does the prospect appear to value high-end products? Or does the prospect look like a value buyer?

  • What groups and organizations does the prospect belong to? Do you have any contacts with those groups? Do you have any affinity programs?

  • Do you have any LinkedIn contacts who are also contacts with the prospect? If so, can they shed insight or maybe, make a referral.

The profiles people provide to LinkedIn offer many clues that can aid a good salesperson. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to do the research.

Baseball Business Cards

Click For Larger Image

It's always gratifying to see Service Roundtable ideas in action. Alan Givens at Parrish Services took the Service Roundtable's baseball card as business card concept and upgraded it (see above). The cards made Alan's technicians extremely popular at Comfortech.

The cards add a fun element to your business. They also give you opportunities to share more information about your employees, making them human and authentic.

Certainly the cards are distinctive and merit conversation. In fact, two people asked me to keep for the card I managed to get. No one cared about any other business cards I collected at Comfortech.

This is powerful! The cards generate word-of-mouth.

The cards are also fun for the employees to pass out. This increases the potential that technicians will pass the cards out at every opportunity.

Alan promised to send me his template to upload to the Service Roundtable. In fact, he's probably already done it. I just need to dig through my email.

The Comfortech Zone

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the sign post up ahead, your next stop...The Comfortech Zone!

Okay, maybe it only seemed like that. Last week was Comfortech week. Much of the preceding week and all weekend were spent in preparation. No matter how far in advance we begin working on the show the days preceding Comfortech are a flurry of activity. It's my own fault. If you magically gave me another week to prepare I would find two weeks worth of new tasks to fill it.

For example, with the addition of the Brand U seminar, I decided to roll out a new contractor branding guide for the Retail Contractor Coalition. We were still printing them at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning when it was time to stop, pack up, and head to the airport. The day was a blur of travel, set up, presentation polishing, copying, and so on.

The rest of the branding guides were copied in black & white at a Nashville Kinko's. Fortunately, this was version 1.0 of the guide. There are a number of improvements we'll put in the next version, including a comprehensive, step-by-step, A to Z task list for contractors.

If Tuesday was a blur, Wednesday was a non-stop blur. For me, it was the most hectic day of the week. Brand U ran from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. And thanks to Steve Miles from Jerry Kelly Air Conditioning (and Visible Defects) efforts as emcee and the contractors who participated, it was great!

After Brand U, Steve Miles and I led our seminar on Contractor Branding, which was repeated on Thursday and Saturday. It was standing room only and we got some incredible feedback each time we presented.

Next, Mike Weil and I led the Comfortech Newcomers Session. I suggested this during an Advisory Board meeting a couple of years ago. I'm sure I said something like, "Hey Mike, you should offer a newcomer's orientation."

Mike Weil heard me say something like, "Hey Mike, I volunteer to put together and lead a newcomer's orientation."

Fortunately, it was fairly easy to prepare this year. I took last year's presentation and simply updated it.

The Opening Reception followed the Newcomers Session. The Service Roundtable's Best Dang Hospitality Party at Comfortech followed that. And this was just the first day!

Everyone who attended our party was given t-shirts and CDs with the brand new recording of I Wanna Market Me (The Contractor's Song). If you want a CD with the song, send me an email with your name, company, and shipping address.

The rest of Comfortech was nearly as hectic as Wednesday, with non-stop seminars, keynote speeches, the trade show, meetings, more hospitality parties, and after hours socializing through the end.

I commented to one of the Penton Media staffers that I felt like I spent the last two weeks in The Comfortech Zone, which I described as another dimension where time stopped and the rest of the world no longer exists. He nodded knowingly.

I left Comfortech Sunday, but remained in The Comfortech Zone until this morning. Monday afternoon I was scheduled to give a branding webinar, so the day was spent building the webinar using parts of several presentations, including my Comfortech presentation. Monday felt like the Hotel California (i.e., "You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!").

Comfortech was great and this may have been the best show ever, but it's sure good to be home. Now, I've just got to catch up on several thousand emails.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Young People Today

I want everyone to know there are in fact some young people out there who still take pride in doing things well, and given the opportunity will do just fine in the trades. I volunteer twice a week at one of our local high schools Technical Trade Class. The fellow in charge of the class has put together a group of retired trade’s people to mentor as well as teach the students their particular craft. To me he is a real hero, as for many years he has endured all of the nonsense that goes with modern day education, and every year he has to fight to keep the program going. In addition, he has to cope with the education systems obsession that everyone must go on to college, and working with your hands and brains is second best.

The mentors for the class include a Carpenter, Sheet Metal Worker, Cabinet Maker, Electrician, and of course an Old Plumber Dude. The students rotate every 6 weeks or so between the mentors, and therefore get some exposure to each trade. This way, they can find out if working in one of the trades being taught is something they might like to do in the future. Are some of the students clueless when it comes to working? Absolutely, but a few of them are not, as our little town is surrounded by many ranches and farms. As a result, many of these young people are used to doing chores and working hard. A few more of them have helped their dads or family members doing different things, so they also have a head start in the class.

My plumbing course includes installing piping in a Plumbing Module I had made up. The first step is doing some classroom work, where we go over safety as well as how to identify and take off fittings, size piping, lay out fixtures, as well as how to determine grade. We also make up some isometric drawings of the piping we are actually going to install in the Plumbing Module. Next, we go out to the Plumbing Module, where we rough-in and set finish for a Water Closet, Shower, and Lavatory. While working there, I stress that everything must be plumb and level where need be, and there has to be exactly 1/4 inch per foot grade on the horizontal waste and vent lines. Once they realize that I will not give an inch as far as doing things right is concerned, and will not hesitate on getting in their face if they goof off or disrespect me, things go very well.

I have had some people suggest that this is too much for today’s students to absorb. Nonsense, they need to be taught what is expected of them when they get out of school, not coddled while living in some make believe world. To that end, this is not some touchy feely do not hurt anyone’s feelings type of class, as all of the mentors treat the students as if they were actually working on a construction job-site. We hold the swearing down to a minimum, but do not hesitate in taking someone to task if they screw-up are in danger of getting hurt. Preaching safety in the workplace is a priority, and everyone works on it constantly.

I personally delight in constantly ragging and teasing the other trades, because that is what you do on the job, right. I refer to the sheet metal guy as “The Tin Knocker”, because that is what he is and does. I also suggest that Electricians receive far too much money for pulling some Romex though a hole. They respond in kind with their thoughts concerning Plumber’s, which I dare not put in writing. As a result, we all have a lot of fun while everyone in the class learns something about life and working in the real world, what a concept.

In the class that finished up this past June, one student found a job as a plumbing shop person with one of our local PHCC members company, which is very cool indeed. Another young man is now taking an HVAC class in Junior Collage, as he wants to pursue a career in the trades. A student named Ben is going on to collage, and is pursuing a career in “Green” Forest Management. We mentors feel very good about this, as we all had something to do with it.

This class is one of the best things I have seen at any level, let alone high school, as it costs the school nothing for the mentors, and truly helps the students. I feel that if it was implemented in every school, it would go a long ways toward helping many young people find their way in life. For the mentors it is also great, because we do not have to follow a curriculum that has been designed by some out of touch, collage obsessed, theory driven bureaucrat. We simply teach the students what we know works in the real world. That would be how to become good at their craft, and make a better than average living in the construction trades. It does not take a lot of work to set this up, especially if there is a shop class already in place. There are hundreds of retired trade’s people looking for something to do with their lives, and a phone call is all it would take to get some of them involved. Someone just has to take the bull by the horns and do it!

Just my thoughts,

Gene B

Friday, September 18, 2009

24 Ways to Boost Your Average Ticket – Part V

Finally, the conclusion to boosting your average ticket (yeah, I know it’s more than 24 ways, but I thought of a few others mid-stream)…

25. Stand Up Straight, Smile, and Look Customer In The Eye

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t trust a man who won’t look me in the eye.”

Ironically, the biggest con men can look you straight in the eye, state the biggest whopper, and never blink. Con men know the actions that lead to trust. Eye contact is one of them.

Your field service personnel will improve add-on sales and repair close rates simply by tucking shirts in, standing up straight with shoulders back, smiling, looking the customer in the eye, and nodding in the affirmative to indicate understanding as the customer describes problems.

26. Practice Good Grooming

This should be obvious, but it’s important to appear as clean and groomed as possible. First, it’s a tangible clue about the quality of your service. If your field service personnel won’t take care of themselves, why should I expect them to take care of my home?

Next, some customers have a low tolerance level for dirty and disheveled people. They are going to be more willing to do business with and spend more time with neat, clean, groomed technicians.

Equip your trucks with handy wipes. Require your people to clean their hands before every service call.

Stock trucks with breath spray. It should be used before every call, especially after coffee, lunch, or a smoke break.

A morning shave should not be an option. Hair should be neatly trimmed and combed, even if a cap is worn.

27. Keep the Truck Stocked

If you want to boost add-on sales, keep your trucks stocked. Identify the most common sizes for accessories and keep one on each truck. Some plumbers, for example, keep storage water heaters on their trucks for replacement NOW. Others keep standard bath and kitchen faucets.

Air conditioning contractors, who want to sell more humidifiers and air cleaners, stock them in their mobile warehouses. Electrical contractors, who want to sell more whole house surge suppressors, similarly stock them.

Not only should trucks be fully stocked with universal (i.e., generic) repair parts that cost less than OEM parts, but trucks should carry common accessories to prevent the need to run to a supply house and to support impulse buying.

28. Conduct Feature/Benefit Training

You wouldn’t send your people into the field without the proper training to make repairs, so why do you send them in the field without the proper training to talk about the features and benefits of accessories, options, and upgrades?

In a service meeting, introduce one product at a time. Ask for a volunteer to call out the features, one at a time. Write each feature on a white board or flip chart.

Once the features have been listed, ask for the benefits to each. Write the benefits next to the features.

If appropriate, ask for a monetary value of the feature to the homeowner. Usually, the total of the monetary value of the features will exceed the installed cost of the product. If so, ask your service force if it’s in the homeowner’s best interest to let her know about the product that’s worth more than it costs.

After the meeting, write up the list of features and benefits, including values, on a single sheet that can be inserted into a price book. Pass it out at the next week’s service meeting for everyone to study.

A week after passing out the feature/benefit list, see who can recite the most features and benefits. To make the exercise more fun, have the tech hold a burning match while reciting the list (the match simulates the pressure of standing before a customer). Make it a contest with a spiff to the winner.

© 2009 Matt Michel


I hesitated to even post this as it is certainly not earth shaking, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it represents what happens to all of us when we have a bad business experience. First, a little background on what led up to this post. My Grandson Jack is 23 months old, and I adore him. In fact, it is flat embarrassing to see how he can wrap his 6 foot 5 inch 240-Pound “Papa” around his chubby little finger. Of course this has resulted in having my two sons whine about how I never spoiled them like I spoil Jack, so I have to put up with that also. From the git-go, I wanted Jack to learn how to appreciate and enjoy the simpler things in life. High on that list for me are vanilla milkshakes, as I still remember how much I loved them as a kid, and I really wanted Jack to be able to find out how good an ice cold extra thick vanilla milkshake tasted.

Well, today was the day, and I told Jack that “Papa” was taking him to the ice cream store. I ordered a large milk shake to go, and as we watched the young girl make it, I noticed she was using a lot of milk, and I was afraid it might not be thick enough. I probably should have said something, but I assumed she knew more about making milk shakes than I did. Well she did not, and sure enough, when we got home, I discovered the shake was extremely thin, and did not taste very good at all. Jack did not know the difference however, as he drank it down quickly and ended up with a vanilla milkshake mustache and grin to show for it, but I sure did.

I had looked forward to this day for months, and I was very disappointed for Jack as I felt he had missed out big-time. In fact, I resolved that I would never go to that store again, and I will not. I mean is this not silly on my part or what? With all of the problems in the world today, here is some old “Papa” dude having a hissy fit over the thickness of a freaking milk shake. Why not just let it go and move on? Well the reality is, that is how I felt, and how you feel overrides what you think.

I also recognized that your customers feel the very same way when someone or something in your company disappoints them, and the problem is you will probably never even know it. Most of the time they will just not call you again; they will just end up going away. They will also spend a lot of time telling other people how they feel about you and your company in a negative light, just as I am doing now. That is why I feel it is so important to have ongoing training and coaching of your employees, as you just cannot afford to have your customer’s disappointed.

Just my thoughts,

Gene B

How To Attend A Conference

Industry conferences and shows are excellent opportunities to pick up new ideas, to source new products, to motivate yourself, to recharge your batteries, and to have a good time. Most people, however, fail to maximize their opportunities. Here are 10 ways to get more out of your next show...

1. Plan

If seminars are concurrent, identify the seminars you most want to attend in advance. Depending on how seminars repeat, it may take a little juggling to hit the sessions you want to attend the most.

People usually choose seminars based on the topic or the speaker. Some topics address an issue you are facing or interested in. Some speakers are so good and/or knowledgeable that any session they lead is worth attending.

If two or more people from your company are attending, divide the seminars so you can cover as many as possible.

If a show accompanies the seminars, identify the vendors you want to visit in advance. Do not simply stop by the companies you're already familiar with. Try to visit new companies with new products and services.

After visiting the booths on your list, take time to walk the show floor. Be methodical, taking it aisle by aisle. You never know what you might find, which is the whole purpose for being there.

Often, vendors hold special sales for shows. Come prepared to act and you can save yourself quite a bit of money.

2. Walk Out of Bad Seminars

I know this sounds rude, but don't be afraid of walking out of a seminar if the topic isn't what you expected or need, or if the speaker is poor. You're paying too much money to attend the conference to sit through a bad seminar.

If you feel the need to leave, do so quickly and as unobtrusively as possible.

3. Adjust the Plan

In between seminar sessions ask others what sessions they attended, what was covered, and how well they liked them. Ask about the show. What was new and exciting. Based on the feedback you receive, don't be afraid to change your priorities.

4. Take Lots of Notes

There's so much information flying around conferences that it's easy to forget great ideas. One approach is to use 3X5 or 4X6 cards. The smaller size makes them easy to stick in your back pocket (lots of ideas get kicked around at hospitality rooms in the evenings). Try to limit yourself to one idea per card. I'll why explain later.

5. Don't Eat Alone

At lunch, sit down with people you don't know. Introduce yourself. Try to ask three or more questions of everyone at the table. You never know who you might meet and what you might learn.

Ask someone to join you for dinner. It's another opportunity to network and pick the brains of your peers. Don't eat alone.

6. Attend the Hospitality Functions

Some of the best educational opportunities arise during vendor hospitality functions. Be alert for new ideas, for new connections, and for people who have faced similar problems to those you face, but who have overcome them.

7. Limit the Alcohol

Have fun, but not in excess. You're attending the conference to learn. Don't drink so much that you have trouble getting up for the 8:00 a.m. seminar the next morning.

8. Don't Forget Business Cards

Duh. For multi-day conferences, put your business cards behind your name badge. That lessens the potential that you'll leave all of your cards in your room since most conferences practically mandate the continual use of your conference name badge. This is also a good place to stuff drink or meal tickets if they're included in your conference registration.

9. Recap Daily

Before going out to eat, take a few minutes to jot down additional notes and to adjust your plan for the following day, if necessary.

10. Debrief & Prioritize

At the end of the conference, spend an hour or so with everyone from your company who attended the show. Capture any new ideas on 4X6 cards. As a group, take your 4X6 cards and sort through them. Find the ONE idea you want to attack first. Then select the second and third. Work on the top priority before anything else. Next, tackle the number two priority.

Absent a method of priortization, the tendency is to get home and be so overwhelmed by all of the information that you do nothing OR to try and do everything at once so that you accomplish nothing.

Tell The Yellow Pages To Play "Let's Make a Deal"

Are yellow pages publishers so desperate they're willing to make deals? It seems so.

It's tough to be a yellow pages publisher today. Extremely high profit margins have attracted new competitors. A long history of unresponsive personnel, poor customer service, extremely aggressive salespeople, and a we win/you lose attitude have resulted in high levels of customer antipathy. Then, the growing use and convenience of the Internet has started eating into your very business model. Businesses no longer feel trapped; they have alternatives. Pardon me while I shed a tear or two over their plight.

Yup. It's tough when your competition's increasing and your customers hate you and need you less and less. Throw in a recession and life gets so bad that you're forced to actually negotiate in good faith. Worse, you might even have to agree to getting paid for real performance.

Stunningly, this is exactly what some contractors are encountering if they're insistent enough. Recently, a Dallas air conditioning contractor managed to get the yellow pages to agree to a minimum call volume each month or the ad was heavily discounted (almost free). Moreover, to "count," each call had to last a minimum length of time. All calls, of course, were routed through a special number for tracking.

This program is especially attractive for air conditioning and other industries that experience seasonal demand. Why pay for 12 months of advertising when the ad only works for three or four months?

The contractor was able to negotiate this plan because he was willing to walk away from the deal and abandon the yellow pages altogether. The threat was credible. He had done it before.

When the yellow pages reps brought the contractor the contract and demanded he sign on the spot, the contractor refused. He explained, matter-of-factly, that he'd been lied to, too many times by this company. He would take the contract home and read every word. The yellow pages rep meekly agreed.

You may never have as much negotiating power with the yellow pages as you have today. Today you do not need take or leave their offer. Today you can give them yours.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


So why do so many company owners struggle with seeking help with their businesses? My theory is the very thing that makes them strike out on their own, gets in the way of them seeking help to make their business better. To me, most small business owners are like the gunslingers of the old West. They are fiercely independent, and do not cotton too having anyone else messing around in their business. The famous phrase “Badges, …..badges, I don’t got to show you no stinking badges” comes to mind here. Therefore, when you suggest they join an Enhancement Group of some kind and exchange business ideas with the members, their red flags go up. They come up with all kinds of excuses why they do not want to join, the two most common being they do not have time, and/or they cannot afford it.

The irony of this, is that by joining and then getting involved with a group of their successful peers, they will soon reap the benefits and be able to more than pay for their costs of belonging to the group. I believe one thing all of these enhancement groups have in common, is that the members have on average more successful businesses than many non-members do. I am not suggesting they are better people, just better business people. For crying out loud, we have more than enough class envy to go around in this country today anyway, without carrying it over to Plumbing and HVAC contractors.

If you talk to any successful business owner, you will find they have several things they all do. They are very good at delegating, and putting the right people in the right place. They work on their business, not in it. They are superior in marketing themselves and their business. They keep current with their markets by keeping their ear to the ground to find out who is doing what. They are constantly researching the latest technology, asking questions, and looking for an edge, as well as seeking advice through several mentors.

Some of these mentors are not in the same industry, as they realize that good business is good business for anyone. They spend a lot of time gaining knowledge attending seminars and meetings with their peers, and they are not afraid of the “Competition”, as they are secure in themselves and what they do. However, I feel the biggest thing they have in common is they have overcome the very strong force of Human Nature that makes most of us feel extremely uncomfortable by appearing less knowledgeable than our peers. So how do you get past this? I have found that until the person is ready overcome this fear, it just will not happen.

Over the years, I have developed a very low-pressure approach to getting new members in the PHCC. It can be as simple as just going to lunch and sharing some of the mistakes you have made over the years. Then explaining how you fixed them with the help from others in the industry, will go along way toward having someone realize that we are all in the same boat. A few times I have run their numbers at no charge, which has also gained some members. So it can be done, it just takes a little TLC.

Just my thoughts,

Gene B

"Vision Trumps All Other Senses"

Photo: Dreamglow

We recall information better when we see it. How much better? Try SIX TIMES better.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina cites a study by LJ Najjar, about information recall. If we hear something, we remember 10% of it three days later. If we see something, we remember 35% of the visual. If we see and hear the information, we remember 65%. Adding a visual increases recall by a factor of six!

What does this mean for your company?

1. Marketing

Long copy's not dead. Remember, long copy still sells. Long copy, by itself, may even be effective. But it's not as effective as it could be. Graphics and/or images make marketing more striking and more memorable.

If someone is still peddling all-copy direct mail or newspaper ads to you, remind the ad peddler that we're living in the 21st century. We can do more with images today. It's easier than ever, though never easy. And we know it makes our marketing more effective. Tell the ad peddler to put more effort into his craft can come back with visually appealing, graphically exciting support for the persuasive, sales-in-print copy.

2. Training

If you want better recall of your training, add visual support. Seeing may or may not be believing, but it is remembering.

3. Coaching

What works for service meetings also works one-on-one. Maybe you won't whip out a computer and LCD projector when coaching individuals, but you can draw diagrams.

4. Managing

Rather than simply report performance numbers, create visuals. These can be as simple as a bar chart or pie chart. Charting performance improves recall and drives home the results.

5. Selling

In sales presentations, seek ways to make points visually. This can be through the use of props (mentioned in an earlier Comanche Marketing post), presentation books, sales literature, and/or physically pointing something out to the homeowner.

Note: I got the statistics from Medina's book by way of the following presentation. This is worth watching if you ever give a PowerPoint presentation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Doh! I Ran Out Of Business Cards Again!

It was a purely social setting, centered around kids, and an unanticipated business opportunity. But it was a business opportunity. And here I was -- purportedly a marketing guy -- and I couldn't find a business card!

I did a mental Homer, as in Simpson, hitting myself while exclaiming, "Doh!"

Have you ever needed a card, but couldn't find one? Or, worse, the only card left was sweat stained and tattered around the edges.

I'm thinking about this because HVAC Comfortech is coming. A conference is the last place anyone should run out of business cards. Forget to bring socks and you can run to the store. Forget your business cards and you're history for the event.

Avoid finding yourself out and about without your business cards by storing them in multiple locations and periodically replenishing those locations. Here's my list...

  • Office desk
  • Home
  • Car
  • Wife's car
  • Wallet
  • Wife's purse
  • Computer bag
  • Bible (Hey, I've needed them at church many times)
  • Every suit jacket
  • Every windbreaker, casual jacket, and winter coat
  • Luggage
  • Gym bag

What am I overlooking?

Brand Reflection

Below is a presentation reminding marketers that prospects do not see themselves as they are, but as they want to be. The presentation creator suggests that your brand message should reflect and speak to the prospect's desired self-image. This is what Leo Burnett managed to achieve with the classic Marlboro Man ads.

It's also the basis of the Nike brand. Take a look at the following Nike wings poster. What does it do to sell shoes? Will Nike shoes give you Jordan's wingspan? Maybe not, but millions of Air Jordans were sold because people wanted to "be like Mike."

As the presentation notes, it's also what Dos Equis is attempting with their incredibly stupid ad series about "the most interesting man in the world." They're stupid because the guy in the ad says, "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis."

What are they trying to do? Based on the ad, I suspect the ad agency decided to position the Dos Equis brand as the beer for guys who don't drink beer. I'll give them this, it's not a crowded position (note: this is why ad agencies need adult supervision).

Flip through the presentation. The author makes his point well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Unique Business Card, But Is It Safe?

Photo: Jeff McNeill

This is an interesting business card. I suspect it was created with three objections:

1. Promote the website.

2. Stress a few key points (i.e., family ownership, long tenure, and Internet orders).

3. Emphasize that it's a Dallas company.

The card has a few drawbacks:

1. No logo.

2. No address.

3. Stating "Family Owned for 20 Years" dates it.

4. Possible trademark infringement.

Possibly the logo could be added on the right. It wouldn't reflect Google search results, but neither does a Google search with only one listing. Similarly, an address line could be added under the contact line.

I suppose a printer isn't very concerned about reprinting business cards. Still, I seem to find myself handing out cards printed three or four years ago. I don't know where they come from. I think I've gotten rid of them, but there they are and the new ones are nowhere in sight. It's better to change the line to "Family Owned Since 1989."

The trademark infringement is stickier. While Google shouldn't care much what a local printer does on a business card as long as it's not obscene or defamatory, the company employs lawyers. Lawyers can always make a mess out of things and big company lawyers get very snippy about company's marks. Check out the following from their website:

Don’t copy or imitate Google's trade dress, including the look and feel of Google web design properties or Google brand packaging, distinctive color combinations, typography, graphic designs, product icons, or imagery associated with Google.

Google does have an approval process for people who want to use its marks. Maybe the printer has gone through it. I would hope a printer would know enough to do that.

Absent permission, the safe approach is to add some lawyer language...

GOOGLE is a registered trademark of Google, Inc. We are not a partner, affiliate, or licensee of Google Inc., nor is our company in any other way formally associated with Google Inc.

Of course, that's sort of distracting. Since Google's had its own issues with trademark attorneys, they might be forgiving about others.

Personally, I'd seek permission. With permission and the other changes, I think this could be a clever card. Possibly, print a standard card on one side and this on the other.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

How's Your Beside Manner?

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the differences between doctors who get sued for malpractice with those who are not sued. Following is an excerpt from the book:

Believe it or not, the risk of being sued for malpractice has very little to do with how many mistakes a doctor makes. Analyses of malpractice lawsuits show that there are highly skilled doctors who get sued a lot and doctors who make lots of mistakes and never get sued. At the same time, the overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. In other words, patients don't file lawsuits because they've been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they've been harmed by shoddy medical care and something else happens to them.

What is that something else? It's how they were treated, on a personal level, by their doctor. What comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly. "People just don't sue doctors they like," is how Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer, puts it. "In all the years I've been in this business, I've never had a potential client walk in and say, 'I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.' We've had people come in saying they want to sue some specialist, and we'll say, 'We don't think that doctor was negligent. We think it's your primary care doctor who was at fault.' And the client will say, 'I don't care what she did. I love her, and I'm not suing her.'"

Burkin once had a client who had a breast tumor that wasn't spotted until it had metastasized, and she wanted to sue her internist for the delayed diagnosis. In fact, it was her radiologist who was potentially at fault. But the client was adamant. She wanted to sue the internist. "In our first meeting, she told me she hated this doctor because she never took the time to talk to her and never asked about her other symptoms," Burkin said. "'She never looked at me as a whole person,' the patient told us.. .. When a patient has a bad medical result, the doctor has to take the time to explain what happened, and to answer the patient's questions—to treat him like a human being. The doctors who don't are the ones who get sued." It isn't necessary, then, to know much about how a surgeon operates in order to know his likelihood of being sued. What you need to understand is the relationship between that doctor and his patients.

Recently the medical researcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Roughly half of the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice, and Levinson found that just on the basis of those conversations, she could find clear differences between the two groups. The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes). They were more likely to make "orienting" comments, such as "First I'll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over" or "I will leave time for your questions"—which help patients get a sense of what the visit is supposed to accomplish and when they ought to ask questions. They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying such things as "Go on, tell me more about that," and they were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit. Interestingly, there was no difference in the amount or quality of information they gave their patients; they didn't provide more details about medication or the patient's condition. The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients.

It's possible, in fact, to take this analysis even further. The psychologist Nalini Ambady listened to Levinson's tapes, zeroing in on the conversations that had been recorded between just surgeons and their patients. For each surgeon, she picked two patient conversations. Then, from each conversation, she selected two ten-second clips of the doctor talking, so her slice was a total of forty seconds. Finally, she "content-filtered" the slices, which means she removed the high-frequency sounds from speech that enable us to recognize individual words. What's left after content-filtering is a kind of garble that preserves intonation, pitch, and rhythm but erases content. Using that slice—and that slice alone—Ambady did a Gottman-style analysis. She had judges rate the slices of garble for such qualities as warmth, hostility, dominance, and anxiousness, and she found that by using only those ratings, she could predict which surgeons got sued and which ones didn't.

Ambady says that she and her colleagues were "totally stunned by the results," and it's not hard to understand why. The judges knew nothing about the skill level of the surgeons. They didn't know how experienced they were, what kind of training they had, or what kind of procedures they tended to do. They didn't even know what the doctors were saying to their patients. All they were using for their prediction was their analysis of the surgeon's tone of voice. In fact, it was even more basic than that: if the surgeon's voice was judged to sound dominant, the surgeon tended to be in the sued group. If the voice sounded less dominant and more concerned, the surgeon tended to be in the non-sued group. Could there be a thinner slice? Malpractice sounds like one of those infinitely complicated and multidimensional problems. But in the end it comes down to a matter of respect, and the simplest way that respect is communicated is through tone of voice, and the most corrosive tone of voice that a doctor can assume is a dominant tone. Did Ambady need to sample the entire history of a patient and doctor to pick up on that tone? No, because a medical consultation is a lot like one of Gottman's conflict discussions or a student's dorm room. It's one of those situations where the signature comes through loud and clear.

Re-read the passage above and switch the term, doctor, with technician or plumber or carpet cleaner or electrician or any other term you use for field service. Change malpractice with complaints to friends and neighbors, to the state contractor licensing board, to the district attorney, or to the state attorney general, or poor ratings on Google or Yelp.

The implication is that you can reduce complaints about your field service personnel by...

  • Slowing down (and not even slowing down much).

  • Removing anxiety by informing customers what you will do in advance, pre-framing the call (e.g., "First, relax. While I need to troubleshoot, I'm sure this isn't anything we haven't handled before. I'll get you taken care of. Here's how I'm going to proceed. I'm going take a look at the problem you reported to make sure it's the real problem and not a symptom of something else. This is likely going to require me to check this location and that location. When I finish, I'll report my findings to you and answer any questions. After you're satisfied with the work to be performed and authorize me to proceed, I'm going to make the necessary repairs, collect payment, and be on my way and out of your hair. Does this sound acceptable to you?")

  • Listening to the customer with empathy and encouraging the customer to share information.

  • Assuming an attitude and a posture of service (i.e., lose all defensive arrogance).

In health care and home care, good technical skills are not enough. They must be complmented by good interpersonal skills. In fact, patients and customers will forgive and explain away technical screw ups when the interpersonal skills are strong. There is little forgiveness when the interpersonal skills are lacking.

Every service call has two components. One is the problem that must be repaired. The second is the customer who must be attended to and reassured. With doctors, we call this "beside manner."

How's yours?

News That Doesn't Depress You: Manufacturing Expands in August, Following 18 Consecutive Months of Contraction

The Institute of Supply Management's Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) measures manufacturing expansion and contraction. When the PMI exceeds 50, the manufacturing sector is expanding. Less than 50 indicates a contraction. In August, the index was 52.9, the highest since June 2007.

Some industries are performing better than others. Industries that expanded include:

  • Textile Mills
  • Apparel, Leather & Allied Products
  • Paper Products
  • Miscellaneous Manufacturing
  • Printing & Related Support Activities
  • Computer & Electronic Products
  • Transportation Equipment
  • Nonmetallic Mineral Products
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components
  • Fabricated Metal Products
  • Chemical Products

Manufacturing industries still contracting include:

  • Primary Metals
  • Plastics & Rubber Products
  • Furniture & Related Products
  • Wood Products
  • Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products
  • Machinery

Representative comments from the survey respondents include:

  • "Production is picking up as demand [for] orders is being accelerated." (Nonmetallic Mineral Products)

  • "Demand from automotive manufacturers increasing thanks to 'Cash for Clunkers.'" (Fabricated Metal Products)

  • "In addition to improved business come the complications of a supply chain drained of inventory." (Paper Products)

  • "The sudden increase in customer demand, plus the low inventories held at services centers, is causing a shortage in the supply of raw steel." (Transportation Equipment)

  • "[It] appears customers' inventories are getting low, and they are cautiously placing orders." (Apparel, Leather & Allied Products)

CNBC's Larry Kudlow commented on the ISM report in his weekly editorial column:

At this pace, there could be 4 percent growth in real GDP for the third quarter.

Within the index, new business orders soared to 64.9 (the highest level since December 2004), production jumped to 61.9, and vendor performance improved to 57.1. This last statistic is important since vendor performance tracks supplier deliveries. When economic conditions heat up, deliveries tend to slow down. Think of Amazon delivering books a day or two later when orders are rapidly rising. And with inventories now at rock-bottom levels, businesses are going to have to rehire workers in order to reignite the production process and meet new demand.

Four percent growth is a lot lower than the 7 to 8 percent growth one would expect after a deep recession. That was the robust expansion pace we witnessed in 1983-84. But 4 percent growth becomes a V in light of pessimistic forecasts of 1 or 2 percent growth, or even a double-dip recession.

Kudlow credits the Fed's easy money and the market's ability to self-correct for economic mistakes as the reason we're emerging from the recession.

"While so-called spending-and-deficit stimulus may be an economic depressant, Friedmanite monetary stimulus -- which has been substantial -- is gradually exerting a powerful impact on economic growth," wrote Kudlow. "At the same time, businesses have become lean and mean, with radical cost-cutting of inventories, employment, and hours worked. That’s setting up a big profits surge, which is the biggest economic stimulus of all."

Kudlow is taking the Austrian economic view of the market, which makes him more bullish than Keynesian analysts currently holding sway on Wall Street. Kudlow notes that, "In Hayekian and von Misean terms, bad investment and spending decisions are being remedied through the free-market corrective process. And greased by easy money, today’s market correctives may produce a much stronger V-shaped recovery than the stock market consensus expects."

Lest We Forget

From a 9/11 Memorial

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Going Green

A lot of contractors are attracted by the opportunity to sell green products and services, but uncertain about the size of the opportunity. Should you reinvent your company to take advantage of the green movement? Or is it a short-term fad? Or a niche, not a core business?

You're not alone. Watch this interesting video where Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn talks about how he sees the opportunity presented by natural products for lawncare. While Hagedorn doubts whether natural products is a core business, he does think it's an area where Scotts can make money and is pursuing it accordingly.

Hagedorn probably has the right idea. Pursue the green movement like any other profitable business opportunity, but don't let it get in the way of your core competency. Remember, some customers will pay a premium for green products. Others won't pay more, but will give preference to greener solutions and companies, all else being equal.

Risky Marketing

Photo: Robbert van der Steeg

Chuck McKay has a great post on marketing risk at the All Business blog. Do you follow the herd or are you willing to risk standing apart? Read...

Does a Successful Zebra Need Its Stripes?

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

If you use Facebook, Nick O'Neill has a must read post on the All Facebook blog. He outlines 10 privacy settings you should know. These are:

1. Use Your Friend Lists
2. Remove Yourself From Facebook Search Results
3. Remove Yourself From Google
4. Avoid the Infamous Photo/Video Tag Mistake
5. Protect Your Albums
6. Prevent Stories From Showing Up in Your Friends’ News Feeds
7. Protect Against Published Application Stories
8. Make Your Contact Information Private
9. Avoid Embarrassing Wall Posts
10. Keep Your Friendships Private

You won't need all of these, but everyone will find one or two that could be used.

Click To Read The Story

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

24 Ways To Boost Your Average Ticket - Part V

22. Dispatch Service Personnel With Discrimination

Should you discriminate among your employees? Well, not in hiring or promotion with regard to race, creed, national origin or other stupid and illegal means. But do discriminate based on effectiveness and potential.

When I worked for a marketing research and consulting firm, I was stereotyped by the company president. For example, when a metal building manufacturer wanted help, I was the go to guy. I got the construction and high tech clients. I got the clients who made computer chips, but not those making potato chips. Food, fashion, travel, entertainment, and other marketing oriented companies went to other client service personnel who had a better chance of converting the prospects into clients.

As a salesperson, I didn’t like it very much. I felt locked out of the best revenue opportunities. The only way around it was to make myself available when other client service personnel were not. Working late and taking calls when no one else was around helped me land People, In-Style, and Time Magazines. It got me an opportunity with the Oxygen Channel (our first meeting was scheduled on 9/11 - great timing).

I didn’t like being discriminated against. No one does. Yet, I could see the logic behind the assignments. I also knew I had to create and take opportunities to prove myself so I would get better prospects going forward. It made me work harder. It will make your field service personnel work harder too.

Technical field service is no different than marketing client service. If a homeowner with a 20-year old furnace calls in with a no-heat call do you send the next available technician or wait to send a technician who will do the best job communicating with the homeowner about a replacement option as well as the repair option? The answer is, “It depends.”

If the outdoor temperature is 10 degrees, the homeowner’s not going to wait for Ubertech. You need to position someone as fast as possible. That presents an opportunity for the eager, but less polished professional. If he does well when given a good call, he’ll get better calls in the future.

Of course, if it’s early fall weather and the customer has been loyal for years, she might be patient enough to wait for you to send the best guy. Meanwhile, the less polished tech gets another tune-up. Sorry.

So send the plumber who passionately believes in tankless water heaters on calls where a water heater tank is leaking. Mr. Tankless will have more success upgrading the purchase than Mr. Standard Recovery Storage Tank Fan.

Match your field service personnel with the available opportunities that will maximize company revenue. Some contractors hesitate to maximize revenue through dispatching. The most successful do not.

23. Use Props, Pictures, And Diagrams In Sales Presentations

When Lennox Industries introduced the Pulse furnace, it was a dramatic departure from conventional, condensing gas furnaces and carried a huge premium. On the outside, the furnace looked like any other. They were all big rectangular boxes (and still are). Yet, the heat section was very different.

To help introduce the furnace to contractors, someone in the marketing department had thousands of desktop models of the heat section made in a prototype shop. Each was a miniature of the heat section, complete with a blinking light to simulate pulse technology in action. It was a cool desktop toy and that’s where most of them went: to someone’s desktop.

A few enterprising contractors recognized the potential of the model as a sales aid. They used the models on sales calls to explain the differences between the Pulse and other furnaces. The models helped these contractors close more sales, and more high-end sales.

The models were effective because two people out of three are visual learners. This doesn’t mean they can’t learn by listening to the glib speeches of your sales and service personnel, only that most people learn better when they can see props, pictures, and diagrams.

If possible, bring the product into the home to let the homeowner see, touch, and hold it. Plumbers can hold a faucet by the spout and hand it to a homeowner so the homeowner can feel its weight. Plumbers can show homeowners the differences between a faucet sold through the trade and one sold through the retailers (i.e., lots of plastic parts).

HVAC contractors can hold a thermostat or humidistat against the wall for the homeowner to envision. They can cut sections from tubular and clamshell furnace heat sections. They can show a section of a spiny fin aluminum coil, 3/8” copper coil, 5 or 7 mm coil, and or microchannel coil. Cut a filter drier in half and glue clear plastic over it to show homeowners how this protects the compressor.

Electrical contractors can show homeowners the differences in higher quality switches and ballasts with lower end products offered in the big box retail stores. Pest management companies can display rodent bait boxes and traps. Pool contractors can use tile samples, sections of pool filters, and more.

All companies can use diagrams to show homeowners a typical plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or pool systems. Diagrams can also be used to show homeowners the scope of work, such as a pest control technician using a diagram of a home to highlight for a homeowner where he will apply treatment.

Brochures and fliers can help people visualize products that are too large for samples, that can’t be easily shown, or that require action. Examples include termite infestations, dust mites, air infiltration, pool fountains, and so on.

Show people the products or illustrate the service and you will close more sales and sell more add-ons.

24. Pre-frame

Pre-framing is pre-selling. It’s setting the stage. It’s like foreshadowing in a book. Some pre-framing works over the course of a service call. Some takes years. Everyone in your organization should pre-frame.

Your dispatcher, if unable to sell a service agreement, should pre-frame an opportunity for the technician. The dispatcher says, “Mr. Homeowner, after the repair’s complete, would it be okay if I ask our technician to show you how you can save another 15% off today’s work with a service agreement?”

If the homeowner agrees, it’s an open invitation to explain how a service agreement saves money and will likely result in a new service agreement customer.

The technician can also pre-frame. He says, “Mr. Homeowner, here’s some literature about a few products other customers have expressed interest in. Take a look at them. After I finish the repair, would it be okay if I go over these and why they’re a good idea?”

Ask politely and it’s tough to refuse. If the homeowner agrees, he or she is more likely to scan, if not read the literature. The homeowner starts to think about the add-on products and accessories, making the discussion to follow much more natural.

As Ron Smith points out in his book, HVAC Spells Wealth, technicians can always pre-frame forward. The technician sets the stage for future work by noting wear and tear, telling homeowners that they’re going to need to take action in the not-to-distant future.

Pre-framing sets up sales conversations and makes them more comfortable, which is especially important for service personnel who might be uncomfortable with the notion of selling in the first place.

© 2009 Matt Michel

More next time

Subject to Change

This is a nice presentation that will help you to think about your business and offerings from a customer perspective.

Building Inspectors Filmed Taking Bribes

Photo: iChaz

An investigation of the Luchese crime family's involvement with the Bloods street gang ends up with New York building inspectors caught on video taking bribes to overlook code violations and dealing drugs.

To address the corruption, the Department of Buildings will start tracking inspectors with GPS.

Read More

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

News That Doesn't Depress You: Index of Leading Environmental Indicators

If pressed, would you say that pollution levels have increased or decreased since the 1970s? I bet most people would say things have gotten worse.

Well, things haven't gotten worse. The environment is a lot cleaner according to Steven Hayward's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2009.

The following is from the executive summary...

The year 2009 marks the anniversary of several key moments in environmental history, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker disaster, the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and, perhaps most notoriously, the Cuyahoga River fire of June 1969. As this edition of the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators reports, the recovery of the ecosystems of both the Cuyahoga River and Prince William Sound has been nothing short of remarkable, though it seldom gets much attention in the media or from environmentalists.

Hayward reports on the Cuyahoga...

Meanwhile, how is the Cuyahoga River doing 40 years later? The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that when the Ohio State EPA began assessing fish populations in the Akron-to-Cleveland stretch of the Cuyahoga in the 1980s, the field biologists would often come back with a count of 10 fish or less. Not 10 species, but 10 actual fish. But when biologists visited the same stretch last summer, they found 40 different species now thriving in the Cuyahoga, including steelhead trout and northern pike. Steve Tuckerman of the Ohio EPA told the Plain Dealer: “It’s been an absolutely amazing recovery. I wouldn’t have believed that this section of the river would have this dramatic of a turnaround in my career, but it has.” Indeed, the Cuyahoga is expected this year to meet the federal Clean Water Act’s stringent standard for healthy habitat for aquatic life. Quite a contrast from the early years after the 1969 fire, when a federal report found that “The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes.”

And Prince William Sound...

A recent edition of the Marine Pollution Bulletin summarized the long-term monitoring efforts of the aftermath of Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound; the data suggest that the sound has returned almost completely to its pre-spill condition.

Here are a few other tidbits from the executive summary...

  • Rainforest expansion exceeds rainforest deforestation (the rainforests are no longer shrinking; they're growing).

  • According to a World Bank ranking, no American or Western European city is among the 50 cities with the worst air pollution (i.e., pollution is related to poverty; only wealthy countries can afford the clean up and protect the environment).

  • In the past decade, air pollution has fallen for the ten most polluted U.S. cities.

  • Atmospheric heavy metals have dropped dramatically during the last century.

  • Stratospheric ozone levels have increased.

  • Water quality in the U.S. is good.

  • Domestic ocean fisheries are getting healthier.

  • 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 and we've seen no warming for ten years.

  • Arctic sea ice increased in 2008 (and though it's not in the report, it further increased in 2009).

If you worry about the state of the environment, this is a good report to read. While we've still got problems to solve, the environment is much cleaner than it was when I was a kid.

If you wonder how things could be improving when all of the news about the environment is grim, it's the money. Environmental groups run on donations and grants. The quickest way to dry up the flow of money would be to admit that things are pretty good and getting better. Thus, the need to get all worked up about one crisis after another.

Download the report (PDF, 61 pages)

Defending Capitalism

I can't recall a time when capitalism was under assault like today. The closest was when Nixon declared himself a Keynesian, instituted wage and price controls, responded to the OPEC oil price shock by rationing gas, launched affirmative action, and created the EPA, OSHA, and the EEOC. Yet, even during the days of Nixonian economic meddling almost everyone at least paid lip service to notion that capitalism was superior to socialism and communism (which are really just different shades of the same color). And this was before the Soviet Union collapsed and communism was spreading triumphantly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Today, we can see the wreck socialism and communism has made of countries around the world. As Churchill said, "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

History shows socialism is a failure and capitalism is a success. Yet, collectively, we're not paying attention to the lessons of the last century. More and more people fail to see socialism and communism as rusty failures, believing instead that they are bright, shiny, beautiful new economic philosophies that are much more alluring than crass, crude capitalism.

It's now chic to wear t-shirts featuring the murderous thug Che Guevara. Newsweek proudly declares in a cover story, "We are all socialists now!" Oliver Stone makes loving documentaries about Castro and Chavez. Michael Moore, the living definition of hypocrisy, releases another propaganda piece where the leftist loon calls capitalism evil and declares that it must be replaced (though Moore's not offering to share his eight figure net worth).

Lots of people are throwing rocks at capitalism. Few defend it these days, which is dangerous. Out of ignorance, the public might just chunk it for socialism. According to a Rasmussen poll, one American in five prefers socialism to capitalism and another 27% aren't sure which system is better. Among adults under age 30, a third prefer socialism and another 30% aren't sure which is the better system. This is truly frightening.

Despite the presence of Ted Turner, one of the best defenses of capitalism, the pursuit of individual self interest, and the profit motive was the John Stossel special on greed. Stossel has been trying to get this shown in schools. After watching it, you might want to show it to your kids. It's in three parts and takes around 40 minutes.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Could Germany's Portable Woman's Toilet Expand Plumbing Product Offerings?

Photo: KETS

I don't make this stuff up. I'm not that imaginative. I just pass it along. According to a story from Germany's Spiegel...

A German company says it has designed the world's first pocket urinal for women and claims it will put an end to nightmare encounters with filthy public toilets, time-consuming queuing and having to relieve oneself into yoghurt cups during car journeys.

The disposable Ladybag is a plastic bag fitted with absorbent polymers that turn urine into a gel. It's the size of a chocolate bar when folded. It has a wide opening and can be used squatting, sitting or standing. Its gel can absorb half a liter -- enough to process the average amount of urine per sitting -- but the bag itself can hold a whole liter in an emergency.

Yogurt cups during car journeys? Maybe the Germans are a little too efficient.

A package of three Ladybags costs a little more than $16 in Germany ($13 without the German value-added tax). Over 20 thousand have sold in the first year. A similar product for men, called the Roadbag, sells at the rate of 200 thousand a year.

I don't know whether anyone is planning on importing these into North America, though this seems like the type of product Shubee or M.A.R.S. might carry. If so, it might lead to add-on sales during calls.

Personally, I'll never be able to drive the Autobahn again without wondering... Nah. I'm not going there.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Write Your Copy to These Human Emotions that Never Change.

Photo: Arwen Abendstern

This is another great piece from John Schulte, posted here with his permission...

Write Your Copy to These Human Emotions that Never Change.
By John Schulte

  • To make money
  • To be praised
  • To avoid criticism
  • To save time
  • To be clean
  • To keep possessions
  • To avoid effort
  • To be in style
  • To be interesting
  • To avoid loss of reputation
  • To have health
  • To have beautiful possessions
  • To avoid trouble
  • To enjoy pleasure
  • To be an individual
  • To attract the opposite sex
  • To take advantage of opportunities
  • The desire to avoid loss
  • To avoid physical pain
  • To satisfy an appetite
  • To avoid loss of money
  • To be popular
  • The desire to gain
  • To achieve comfort
  • To gratify curiosity
  • To emulate others

John Schulte is a Small Business Consultant and Direct Marketing Strategist. He is a 30-year veteran of advertising, marketing, publicity, promotions and sales. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of mail order, direct mail, cataloging and overall direct marketing. He is one of the few people in the United States that has been certified by a United States Federal Court as a Direct Marketing and Catalog expert, able to act as an expert witness in federally related corporate disputes. John is also president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home based Business. http://www.nmoa.org/directmarketingtoolkit

Charlie Greer Invites You To Attend The Las Vegas Roundtable

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bein' Generous

Matt posted in the SRT about a Starbucks givin' him a free cuppa' coffee because ... well, just because, and he tied that "feelgood" cuppa' to bein' priced right. I'd like to back up that advice with my own experience. As a plumbing contractor I was lookin' to do some kind of freebie as a way of attracting attention. I decided to have a raffle for a free water heater, installation and all, and wrote to our local paper about it. We gave out one raffle ticket per visit -- new and old customers alike -- for 6 months and, with a lot of fanfare of course, drew a winner. The publicity we got from that one give-a-way paid for that water heater installation 10 times over, and the winner has referred us to many of her friends.

3 years later we're still gettin' feedback about how great it was we did such a promotion, and when are we goin' to do another. Well, we are doin' another but in a different area -- Green Plumbing; but that's for another post. So? So be a real business and price yourself right. Why are so many of us afraid to make a good living?

Can You Afford To Be Generous?

Photo: powerbooktrance

On the drive to work, I swung by Starbucks. I stop by this particular Starbucks fairly often, but not enough for me to recognize any of their employees. The only clue to the amount of money Starbucks sucks out of me was my use of a Starbucks logoed mug, which was a gift.

I asked for the bold coffee. The barista rang up the order and took my mug to rince it out. She returned to sadly inform me that the bold wasn't ready. It would take another three minutes. Or, she offered, I could have Pike Place now.

In truth, three minutes is no big deal. I can pull out my phone and easily spend ten times that about amusing myself with Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, email, or one of the blogs I follow. Shoot, in a normal restaurant it takes a multiple of three minutes to catch the wait staff's attention (though servers always seem to be Johnny-on-the-spot when I don't want anything).

But I didn't want to wait three minutes this morning. I smiled and said, "Oh, just give me the Pike Place."

She cheerfully filled my mug and when I started to pay, refused to accept it. She said, "This one's on us."

A free cup of coffee isn't like winning the lottery, but it still felt good. A McDonald's is located about a quarter mile away. I doubt McDonald's would give me a free cup of coffee, though McDonald's promises coffee for less.

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker

Honestly, the margin in coffee is high enough that McDonald's has plenty of room to give a cup away now and then, but I doubt management looks at it that way. I suspect they think they're offering a generous price and nothing more is needed. At least, that's what their marketing suggests.

By charging more, Starbucks has more room to be more generous. Even though I pay higher prices at Starbucks, I feel like I'm treated better. Starbucks seems friendlier and more caring.

Coffee's not the same as in-home service, but it's still part of the service industry. Scale the principle and it can work for your company.

Do you charge enough that you can afford to make a generous gesture from time to time?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sometimes it pays to be wrong

Just quietly sitting like a little fly on the wall you can overhear some of the strangest conversations. Recently while trying to get my hair cut at a major franchise salon business I was sitting in the chair waiting for the stylist to start when a customer came in who had supposedly made an appointment with a specific stylist who we will name “Missy” to protect the innocent.

The stylist was not there because she was not scheduled to work on Saturdays. Now by itself this really was not a major problem, true the customer might have been upset and annoyed that she had made the mistake of arriving on the day that the stylist did not work, but the problem escalated like a fire out of control in dry brush when the manager intervened in an attempt to rectify the problem.

Keep in mind that the customer was positive that they had their hair done by the stylist on Saturday afternoons due to the fact they worked locally and it was the only time that they were able to get off from work to come have their hair done. Now I am by no means a hairstylist or a beauty shop manager, but common sense dictates that when you have an irate customer you try everything to defuse the situation not to exacerbate it.

Instead of simply replying back to the customer that “I’m sorry but Missy isn’t in today, her schedule now is during the weekdays. Would you like me to make an appointment for you on a day that she’s available?” The manager of the beauty salon instead took an immediate defensive position and in effect accused the customer of being a liar by saying “I do all the scheduling and Missy has never worked on a weekend. She has children and can’t arrange for a babysitter so she only works Monday through Friday! You had to have come in on a Monday through Friday if Missy ever did your hair!”

Now it’s bad enough that the customer feels slighted that they will not have their favorite hairstylist taking care of the mop on top of their head, but now they have an sarcastic comment by someone who’s supposed to be in charge of effectively accusing them of not knowing what they’re talking about. Probably without a doubt the manager was correct, if she indeed does the scheduling she would know when Missy works and when Missy does not work. But what is amazing is that the manager was willing to create a confrontational situation where it could have been avoided simply by agreeing that Missy was not there that day and could be found in the salon on these specific days.

In an attempt to always be right and never give up an inch of ground many managers create their own nightmares by putting the customer on the offensive by being accusatory. What is the real gain in a situation like? If you are in a position of customer service remember that many times the customer’s wrong in their perception of how things are done or were done. But what is gained by arguing with them even if you are correct and they are not? You may win the battle but in the long term you lose the war when the customer who is now embarrassed feels that it is just easier not to do business with you.

A sad part of this is that now the consumer instead of being an advocate of your company becomes an immediate detractor and does not hesitate to tell other perspective clients of the dissatisfaction with the way you as a manager handled the situation. Pride is a major problem for many people but as a manager it is a problem that we must swallow and get past if we are to defuse situations that could be nothing more than a simple bump, instead of letting them turn into full-blown wars in which there are no winners only losers.

This battle took place in a simple hair salon the cost of a victory will be paid in the defeat of losing a customer who cuts their hair every month but beyond that the ramifications of the bad publicity through word-of-mouth by the jilted customer that this will bring that particular salon by the circle of influence that the customer who was offended has, will have a greater impact than simply annoying one customer in a simple so long.

If this is the general strategy of the management of this company they are going to have to market more heavily in order to gain replacement customers for those that they are running off by their defensive “we are correct attitude.”

Sometimes it pays to be wrong.

Tips on Empowering Service Workers

The following video, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, features Thunderbird School of Global Management professor David Bowen talking about ways companies can empower frontline service workers.

Powerful Headlines…Powerful Copy…Powerful Sales

Photo: viZZZual.com

NOTE: I ran across the following article by John Schulte, president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home based Business. It's really good. I asked John's permission to repost it on Comanche and he graciously gave me permission and sent along a complementary piece that will be posted later.

Bookmark this page and/or buy John's book because you will want to reference John's checklists again and again. If someone else creates your marketing, send a link to this page. I wish I'd written it. It's good stuff.


Powerful Headlines…Powerful Copy…Powerful Sales
By John Schulte

What words you use in your advertising and how you put them together can mean the success or failure of an advertisement. That’s why copywriters are called “wordsmiths” and the good ones get paid very well.

I have assembled this collection for you to have by your side when writing copy…so when you need an idea as you work you can refer to it as needed. Copywriting takes practice, to get good takes time. If you can’t afford to practice while you are selling, hire a pro. In the long run it will be better for you. Onward.

This is not a large-scale study, but the chief findings are significant; namely, the words you, new and how are outstanding.

Every copywriter should remember the value of hammering away at you, you, you, both in headlines and in copy.

Regarding new, David Ogilvy said: If you try hard enough, you can almost always use new in your copy.

Then there is the word how, which is in third place on the list. People want to know how to solve problems, how to get ahead, how to be attractive, how to win friends and how to end money worries.

So, the next time you write an ad or a direct-mail letter or a TV commercial, try to give your copy the benefit of these three important words: you . . . new . . . how.


  • suddenly
  • miracle
  • now
  • magic
  • announcing
  • offer
  • introducing
  • quick
  • improvement
  • easy
  • amazing
  • wanted
  • sensational
  • challenge
  • remarkable
  • compare
  • revolutionary
  • bargain
  • startling
  • hurry

Ogilvy also said: Don't turn up your nose at these cliché’s. They may be shopworn, but they work. That is why you see them turn up so often in the headlines of mail-order advertisers and others who can measure the results of their advertisements."

Max Sackheim seconded this advice by reprinting Ogilvy's list of words in his book My First Sixty Years in Advertising.


I would like to enlarge on Ogilvy's list and give the aspiring copywriter an even greater range of words to choose from. In order to do this, I turned to the following:

  • Successful direct marketing ads
  • Successful direct-mail letters
  • Mail order catalogs
  • Textbooks on advertising
  • Direct response classified advertising

I reviewed these and other sources, and tabulated the persuasive words that occurred most often. Listed below are the results of this analysis. For easy reference, the words are grouped under ten headings.

1. Words That Denote News
If you have news to tell, here are a number of ways to present it:

  • announcing
  • novel
  • introducing
  • modern
  • presenting
  • recent
  • today
  • latest
  • new
  • suddenly
  • now
  • revolutionary

2. Approval
People are more apt to buy if you can furnish evidence of the value of your product or service.

  • recognized
  • sanctioned
  • authorized
  • approved
  • commended
  • proven
  • recommended
  • accepted
  • honored
  • guaranteed
  • acclaimed
  • endorsed
  • complimented
  • certified
  • popular
  • tested
  • lauded
  • praised
  • admired

3. Large Size
Here are words you can use if large size is a feature of your product:

  • big
  • tremendous
  • large
  • massive
  • sizable
  • gigantic
  • huge
  • voluminous
  • vast
  • mammoth
  • enormous
  • great
  • spacious
  • colossal

4. Surprising
The element of surprise or unusualness is an attractive fea¬ture in some cases.

  • amazing
  • fantastic
  • astonishing
  • extraordinary
  • astounding
  • exceptional
  • startling
  • notable
  • surprising
  • noteworthy
  • singular
  • striking
  • sensational
  • strange
  • uncommon
  • stunning
  • unusual
  • magic
  • remarkable
  • miracle

5. Quality
Every reader or listener is concerned with the quality of your product.

  • good
  • first-rate
  • better
  • choice
  • fine
  • unparalleled
  • valuable
  • unsurpassed
  • remarkable
  • unique
  • exclusive
  • terrific
  • imported
  • selected
  • rugged
  • special
  • durable
  • personalized
  • improved
  • limited
  • excellent
  • rare
  • top
  • genuine
  • superior
  • authentic
  • greatest
  • outstanding
  • famous
  • wonderful
  • noted
  • surpassing

6. Interest
The following words denote interest and apply mostly to books, booklets, pamphlets, etc.:

  • absorbing
  • stirring
  • instructive
  • entertaining
  • informative
  • enlightening
  • interesting
  • fascinating
  • revealing
  • exciting
  • secrets
  • profusely illustrated

7. Appearance
Sometimes the appearance of a product is its most important feature.

  • beautiful
  • classic
  • elegant
  • distinctive
  • attractive
  • fashionable
  • flattering
  • appealing
  • handsome
  • fascinating
  • glamorous
  • exquisite
  • dramatic
  • scenic
  • captivating
  • colorful
  • charming
  • lavish
  • spectacular
  • magnificent


In writing your copy, do not neglect the tested words and phrases that are used in direct marketing advertising. Keep the lists in this chapter handy. Look them over before you write. Refer to them often. Put some you, new and how to into your ad, letter or commercial. And before you write your Act now paragraph, review the action phrases that experienced ad writers have found helpful in promoting the thing that every advertiser wants . action.

8. Utility
There are times when the utility of a product is the important consideration.

  • handy
  • reversible
  • helpful
  • serviceable
  • useful
  • workable
  • usable
  • versatile
  • practical
  • powerful
  • washable
  • reliable

9. Money
Making money and saving money are topics of universal concern.

  • wealth
  • liberal
  • fortune
  • reduced (price)
  • profitable
  • lowest (price)
  • bargain
  • discount (price)

10. Miscellaneous
Here are useful words that apply in a variety of categories:

  • quick
  • successful
  • quickly
  • gift
  • easy
  • complete
  • easily
  • lifetime
  • immediately
  • absolutely
  • hurry
  • only (price)

The next time you write an ad, you may find it helpful to review these word lists. For example, if you have news to tell, take a look at the list of words that denote news. Do the same with the other lists.

Your copy will be improved if you include some of the persuasive words that have sold millions of dollars' worth of goods and services.

What are the persuasive phrases that are used again and again by direct marketing advertisers? Here are examples:

1. Free Offers
A review of direct marketing ads, letters, catalogs, etc., reveals that the most frequently used phrases are free offers.

  • Yours free
  • Free gift
  • Booklet free
  • Ask for free folder
  • Free guide book
  • Literature free
  • Moneymaking facts free
  • Free trial lesson
  • Free to new members
  • Free examination
  • Free demonstration
  • Free cost estimate
  • Free consultation
  • Try it ten days free
  • Thirty-two-page catalog free
  • Free plans for_________________
  • Free sample
  • Yours for the asking
  • Test lesson free
  • Free gift if you act at once

2. Charge Offers
Some advertisers charge a fee or require a postage stamp.

  • Moneymaking facts free
  • Free lesson, $.50
  • $.25 brings details
  • Stamp brings details
  • $1.00 brings complete______________
  • Free gift if you act at once
  • Stamped envelope brings_______________
  • Send $.25 to help cover postage and handling

3. News
If you have news to tell, it should be given prominence. It will increase response.

  • Just arrived
  • New here
  • It's here
  • New discovery
  • New, improved
  • New invention
  • Important development
  • The world's first ___________
  • Just off the press
  • Hot off the press
  • Just published
  • Just out
  • Beginning (date)
  • At last
  • New method of ________
  • New modernized__________
  • Latest findings

4. How-To
People want to know how to do things-how to get ahead-how to solve problems-how to make money-how to enjoy life. In each of the following how phrases, you can com¬plete the phrase with your own solution to the prospect's problem.

  • How to ________
  • How to get __________
  • How to have _________
  • How to keep _________
  • How to start ____________
  • How to begin ___________
  • How to become __________
  • How to improve your _________
  • How to develop __________
  • How to get the most out of ________
  • How to avoid ________
  • How to end ________
  • How to get rid of ________
  • How to conquer How I ______
  • How I improved my ___________
  • How to enjoy How you can ________

5. Information
People buy magazines and newspapers and listen to broadcasts to get information. You can successfully compete for attention by telling your prospects the things they want to know.

  • Seven ways to _________
  • The truth about _________
  • The one sensible way to _________
  • Plain talks with _________
  • Profitable tips for _________
  • Confidential chats with ________
  • Twenty tips for _________
  • The common sense of ________
  • Your one sure way to ________
  • Guide to ________
  • Helpful hints on ________
  • Practical hints on __________
  • Advice to _________
  • What you should know about _________
  • Facts you should know
  • Mistakes you can avoid

6. Confidence Building
No matter how attractive your offer is, you must build believability into your ad. Here are phrases that will help.

  • Award winning Seal of approval
  • Founded (year)
  • Established ________ years
  • You risk nothing
  • Make this test
  • Over _________ thousands sold
  • What others say (include testimonials)
  • See before you buy
  • Money back if not delighted
  • Proved in laboratory tests
  • If not delighted, just write Cancel on the bill.

7. Price
People are always looking for bargains. Here are some phrases that deal with price:

  • Sale priced
  • Only ten percent above wholesale/dealers cost
  • Save up to $ ____________
  • Less than half price
  • Fantastic saving
  • Price going up
  • Price goes up (date)
  • Order before the price goes up
  • Never again at this price

8. Miscellaneous Phrases
Here are frequently used phrases that can work in a number of situations:

  • Send no money
  • No obligation
  • No salesperson will call
  • Special offer
  • The key to ________
  • Only $.25 a day
  • Now you can ___________
  • You don't have to be rich to _____________
  • Money-saving offer
  • The secret of __________
  • Yours if you can qualify
  • Do you have these symptoms of ________?
  • Who else wants _________?
  • From manufacturer to you
  • Buy direct and save
  • For quick information, call _________
  • Orders shipped within 24 hours
  • Easy payment plan

9. Immediate Action
Most folks tend to delay action. Urge them to act quickly. Or better still, give them a valid reason for quick action.

  • Act now
  • Don't delay
  • Order now
  • Order today
  • Order now, pay later
  • Delay may be serious
  • Don't put it off
  • Send today
  • Send post card today
  • Get started today
  • Investigate today
  • Act fast
  • Be the first
  • Rush name for details
  • For a short time only
  • While the supply lasts
  • Price going up
  • Supply limited
  • Last chance

John Schulte is a Small Business Consultant and Direct Marketing Strategist. He is a 30-year veteran of advertising, marketing, publicity, promotions and sales. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of mail order, direct mail, cataloging and overall direct marketing. He is one of the few people in the United States that has been certified by a United States Federal Court as a Direct Marketing and Catalog expert, able to act as an expert witness in federally related corporate disputes. John is also president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home based Business. http://www.nmoa.org/directmarketingtoolkit