The Necessity of Selling Yourself

Several years ago while running a company in Las Vegas I met a manager at a bank that over time a relationship was formed and this manager, who was not a personal banker, eventually took care of all of our business banking needs personally because of the volume of business we did with the bank, anything we needed all we had to do was call her.  One day I went to the bank to and she advised me that she would be leaving the bank in two weeks that she had taken a job as a bank manager at another bank.  Well this would not do, having someone else taking care of our banking needs was unacceptable, I had come to trust and depend on her, and having built a relationship over years, I was not keen on working with anyone else.  So when she moved to her new position at the other bank, I moved with her, transferring our company accounts to the new bank where she now worked.   Many people might find this a little odd, bank manager leaves the bank, so you move your business accounts to the bank with her, this is a big deal, moving all of your funds from one bank to another, printing new checks, getting new credit cards, business check cards and anything else tied to those accounts, and people asked me why would you move banks just because the manager moved?  My answer was because I have a relationship with that person, I trust them to take care of us, I don’t want someone else to take care of our banking, I have been using this person for years, and I am comfortable with them.  I tell you about this because of the extreme importance of selling one’s self in business, and it doesn’t matter what kind of business you are in, it doesn’t matter what product or service that you are selling, someone else is doing the same thing, the odds are your product or service is not unique.  When you bring in a new client, they are not buying your product, they are not buying your service, they are buying you.  This bank manager had sold herself to me I was not buying the services the bank offered, I was buying her.

Several years ago I had a partner who decided to branch out and do some business on his own, behind my back ofcourse, and tried to do business with our clients off the radar.  He didn’t leave the company to do this, he just tried to do side business behind my back, so he could keep all the money; so when he started reaching out to existing clients my phone started to ring, every single person that he contacted called me, all in all it was four or five of our biggest clients, and they were all asking what was going on with this guy, telling me he was calling them trying to do business behind my back, giving them a better deal, and everyone of them called me.  Why would they call me and tell me this when they could have gotten a better deal and saved money? They did it because a relationship had been formed and they had trust in me, they could have left anytime and found a better deal somewhere, because there is always a better deal to be found, you can always find it for less somewhere else, then why not do it?   Because relationships are important, people get a sense of security and it is more important sometimes than savings or cost.

Whenever I do business with someone or when I try to bring in a new client I’m not just pitching them on our product or service,  I’m pitching them on me, I’m trying to sell me, because in the end that’s what’s going to help them make a decision to move forward or not.  Do they want me, do they want to buy me, do they want to do business with me?  So it’s extremely important to present yourself in a desirable way, to make it so that potential clients want to do business with you, and I can’t stress the importance of selling yourself.  What you do has a reflection on the company, the product and service you are representing, whether you are the owner or principle or just a sales person, it doesn’t matter, your what they’re buying, your who their doing business with.  People become comfortable and they don’t want change and that’s why I gave the example of the bank and transferring my company’s accounts due to the bank manager changing jobs.  People want that sense of security, they want to know that the person they deal with will be there, and that that’s who will be taking care of them, not someone else, and not someone they don’t know. So it’s really important to remember when dealing with potential clients that everything that you do, everything that you say, is being considered as part of their decision making process, whether that is just an over the phone communication or an in person communication, choose your words carefully because it’s not just a product or service that they are buying, they are buying you.  You need to be informative, you need to come across as someone who knows the product or service, but beyond that you need to come across as somebody who is trustworthy and honest and dependable.  Because they’re looking for the whole package, they’re just not looking for the product and that’s where you come in, you’re a bigger product that the actual product itself.  It doesn’t matter what you are selling, whether is a big ticket item or a small product or service, you are the actual product that is being sold.

Does truth in advertising still exist?

I recently spent a lot of time looking at the way companies advertise, I’ve looked at companies various slogans both present and past because my company is in the process of reimaging and rebranding itself, so this has caused me to do a lot of thinking, a lot of research.  I’ve gone back and looked at all these different slogans in many different verticals over the past 50 years, from the 1950’s to the present and it has made me wonder, are we different as a society when it comes to advertising than we were  back then? The term truth in advertising used to mean something and I wonder if it still does or is it just one more of those old fashioned terms that history has retired.  In the United States, it is illegal to lie in advertising; you can’t make up something that isn’t true in order to drive up sales.  My father used to always tell me “they can’t say it if it isn’t true”, and he was right from a legal standpoint, but we all know that legal is not the issue, companies today are very good at embellishing on facts and twisting truths so that their not really lying, but they’re not really telling the truth either.  It makes me wonder how we, as a society of marketing professionals, whether in marketing companies themselves or marketing professionals in various industries look at a marketing campaign; does ethics fit into the equation when we are considering a marketing campaign?

When you see an advertisement for an oil company that is advertising an additive that they put in their gasoline telling you that it makes your engine run better, are they telling us the truth?  Is it really better?  If you use Chevron with Techron, does your engine truly run better than if you would have gotten gas at the station across the street that does not have this additive? How about foods that are labeled as “Fat Free” and they lead the consumer to believe that eating this food is good for you and good for your kids, or if you eat a specific type of food it is good for helping you lose weight,  but in the small print they will tell you that people who have eaten this food along with a healthy  balanced diet and exercise have shown a significant weight loss, but if you dieted and exercised without this product wouldn’t you lose weight whether you used this product or not?  A little twist there.  How about infomercials that go through a half hour presentation showing you people that have used their product or selling system and have shown how they have made thousands of dollars and they are driving sports cars and buying expensive houses, paid off their bills, were able to quit their jobs, and the entire infomercial is a hype on how you can become independently wealthy, you can live the life like those they are showcasing do.  Then at the very end of the infomercial at the bottom of the screen in letters so small Superman would need to put his spectacles on to read, it tells you that this should not be considered a typical result.  So what does that mean?  You went through a half hour of hyping me up on this system showing me people in big houses, sports cars and yachts making hundreds of thousands of dollars, you showed me a guy who just bought nine houses with no money down in his first month and is now rolling in money then you tell me it is not a typical result? Then why did you show it to me, unless you wanted me to think that it was?  So isn’t this leading me to believe that I can make this type of money?  The only reason they put the disclaimer at the end is because they legally have to.  Is there any ethical or moral issue here?  Any product that is leading me to believe something that is not true, even if they don’t come straight out and tell me this, but are leading me to believe or pointing me in that direction without actually saying the words, is there a moral or ethical issue here?

I don’t really know what the answers are; I’m just asking the questions. But I do question if these types of advertising campaigns are ethical or moral.  Where is the line and how many advertisers or companies in our society have crossed it?  I think that everybody is guilty in some degree of having done this in one way or another and so I am not here to point fingers or single out any particular company, I am asking this of our business and marketing society in general. Do we have a responsibility to those that we are advertising to, to be completely honest with them?  Using infomercials again as an example,  showing someone how to buy investment property with no money down, as that company do I have an ethical responsibility to not show the guy that’s bought and sold nine houses his first month and making hundreds of thousands of dollars and if so then how do I sell my product?  Do I show the average typical person whose failing, because we all know that 90% of the people who buy this program are not going to make any money, they’re going to buy the package, it’s going to sit in the drawer and their never going to do anything with it, so do we tell them that  they are most likely never going to sell anything? On the other hand we really do have a guy who was successful and bought and sold nine houses, were not making him up, he’s not an actor, he is real and he is really making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.  Is our ethical responsibility to not put the disclaimer in small print, or to not lead you to believe that this could be you, because that is exactly what this infomercial is doing.  It is making you think that you could be this guy, it is hyping you up on this system so that you’ll buy it, that’s where this company makes their money, by selling you the package.

Again my question; is it ethical?  Is it ethical for the company selling you information on how to buy and sell houses with no money down, is it ethical for the company that claims you can lose weight by eating their product and in small print telling you along with a healthy diet and exercise, which would have helped you lose weight without using their product.  Any company that is embellishing or overstretching or twisting the truth by leading you to believe something that it is not, by pointing you in the right direction so to speak, but not straight out telling you a lie, is this an ethical issue?  I don’t know the answer; but I think this is something that we all need to think about “Does Truth in Advertising Still Exist?”

The Email Marketing Chronicles – Text or HTML, Which delivers better results?

Depending on who you talk to in the marketing world you’ll get different answers to the question, what should I use in my email marketing ad, text or html format, and to be honest with you there really is no clear cut answer.  One thing that is for sure is you have to look at not only what’s in your ad, but you have to look at who your ad is targeting.  If your targeting a consumer, html often is preferred over text, but that’s not really a clear cut rule either, it really depends on what type of consumer you are targeting; are you selling online games to a target of 18 to 29 year olds, or are you selling Medicaid supplement insurance to seniors 60 years plus?  These are two very different markets, so one could argue that for the former you would probably want to use html because you want to dazzle them, you want to impress them because they’re young, they are looking for an application (game) to be used online, so you want to give them all the bells and whistles.  With the latter target, you have to consider that this target is not as technologically savvy as the younger target and they really are looking for simple, non complicated, and text delivers that, it gives them what they want, it delivers clear cut information without all the bells and whistles, it allows them to quickly read the message, to decipher exactly what it is that is being offered to them.  So I think you have the possibility of risking losing some of the people in this age group if you are using a message that is too flashy.

Another aspect that you have to consider is if your target is B2B. This target usually wants quick and easy, they just want the information because they are busy, at work,  and don’t have a lot of time, so it’s a just cut all the crap mentality, tell them what you want and make it an easy to read message.  I personally can relate to this, I don’t need all the colors, I don’t need all the flash, just tell me what you have to say and do it quickly, because I’m busy.

Again, you really have to look at who your target is, and what you’re selling. But even taking all of that into consideration there really is no absolute rule when it comes to the type of format that you are going to use.  I always make the recommendation to clients that they shouldn’t guess which works better, html or text, test it and know for sure.  Do a small sampling using both formats and see which one gives you the better results and then go ahead full speed ahead with the format that gave you the best results. It’s a pretty easy solution, granted it is going to cost you a little extra to do that test, and you may have paid a graphic artists to create an ad that you may end up not using, but that’s okay, it’s better that you spend a few dollars on an ad that’s not going to be used, than doing an entire marketing campaign and getting poor results.

At the end of the day my advice is and always has been to my clients, test your market using both formats so that you know for sure which one works better so that you’re not guessing, and you should do this for every type of product you market.  In any type of marketing there should always be a test phase, don’t just jump into the water, stick your toe in first and test the water, go slow at first, understand your target, understand the parameters of the campaign and judge which works better, what’s going to give you the better results.  It’s a little time consuming in the beginning but worth every second in the long run if it gives you a successful email marketing campaign.  This has been the advice of marketers over the years for all types of media and is a common sense marketing principle that should be used in any type of marketing and most certainly applies to Email Marketing.

The Purpose of Email Marketing

Do you know what the purpose of Email Marketing is? The email ad has one purpose and one purpose only, and thatpurpose is not to create sales? What? Your thinking I’ve finally gone off my rocker right?  How is email marketing’s purpose to not create sales, isn’t that the purpose of all marketing in the end?  No, and this is something I have tried to beat into people’s brains over and over; the purpose of email marketing is NOT to create sales, its purpose is to drive traffic to a website, that’s it, that’s its only purpose, it’s the websites job to create sales.  At Throttle when we look at an email marketing campaign, we consider a successful campaign one that has a high click through ratio; we look at the open rates and then we look at how people clicked through to the website, if that number is high or meets expectations based on the amount of email that was sent, we consider that a success.  Now the client may have a different definition of what success is, and they may look at the campaign and say great, 500 people went to my website but only two sales were generated, this isn’t a success this is a disaster.  My answer to them is my job was to create an email marketing ad to drive traffic to your site, I did that, I have nothing to do with the content or design of your website, I have nothing to do with the product that is being sold, so how do you overcome this?  Well, you can’t overcome this 100%, because you really have don’t have any control over the product;  I recently had a client that asked me how I thought their product would do, my answer to them was brutally honest; I didn’t know,  this is a unique product that I have never marketed in all my years, it was an inexpensive product, only about $20 and the target was anybody over the age of 21 in the U.S., so it had a very large market, and he wanted to send out several million; I had to be honest with him and I told him thats the amount of email you want to send out in this case because it can be offered nationally, that’s good, but I don’t know about the product, and then I gave him my opinion and my advice on his website;  I didn’t like the site, and I went through his site and I made some notes on what I thought he should do to change his website, and that’s exactly what he did and I think this is something that we need to do with each and every client.

We have two battles; the first thing we have to overcome with the client is to convince them to allow you to create an email campaign based on your expertise not on their vision as I discussed in yesterday’s article (Your clients wasting their money and its your fault). The second thing that you need to do is take a look at their website. Even though you didn’t create it, you need to see if it was done professionally, does it work?  If it doesn’t I think that you owe it to your client to tell them that you don’t think the website works, that you don’t think it’s going to have a high conversion rate, and tell them why.   Give them the opportunity to go back and fix it before conducting the email campaign, but your hands are going to be tied in many cases and there is  only so much that you can do, but you at least owe it to yourclient to give them your professional opinion.  So at the end of the day our policy is if the client refuses to take our advice and create an email ad that doesn’t work and is not within the guidelines that we have created, we won’t take their business, we’ll turn them down, and we will tell them that we are not interested in doing it because we know that the results are going to be dismal and that this is not going to accomplish what they want it to. The website is a little different, since that is really not part of the email campaign, just where we are driving traffic to, we are not going to refuse the job based on their site, but we are going to give them our opinion, and we are going to tell them why and what we think they should do, if they make the decision to move on anyway and don’t heed your advice, at least you’ve told them, and don’t tell them passively, you really need to tell them strongly, so that there’s no misunderstanding, so that when it doesn’t work they can’t come back and say it didn’t work. You can tell them it did work, look how many clicks you got through to your website based on the email campaign that we created for you, once they were there it was up to your website to convert them into a sale, if it didn’t then the client needs to be asking themselves “why?”. They got to the website, and then they stopped. Why did they stop, why didn’t they go on? There is only three reasons in my mind; they didn’t like the product, they didn’t like the price, or they didn’t like the website, it wasn’t designed in a way that was user friendly or it didn’t compel them to move on into the site, to stay on the site and continue to read, to investigate, to learn more about the product or service that is being offered, they stopped, and they left.  So that is on the client, but it is, as a business, your responsibility to educate them because when a client comes to us, we feel it is our responsibility ethically to tell them everything that is going to make this a successful campaign, to give them all the information that they need to make an informed decision, not just take their money to take their money. This is not a new problem and it is not going to go away overnight, the key to success for companies that are doing email marketing campaigns is to not let the clients control the campaign, you set the guidelines, you control it, they either do it your way or they don’t do it at all, because at the end of the day  you’re supposed to be looking out for their well being, you are doing this for their benefit, and while some may not see this, many will.  They came to you because you are the expert, and a wise man once said to me, “it is your job to do give the client what they need, not what they want.”

Your clients wasting their money and its your fault

Over the last couple of months I have discussed on multiple occasions the issue of clients creating an email marketing ad based on their vision instead of allowing you to create the ad based on your expertise on what works and what doesn’t work.  We’ve talked about this many times and it continues to be an issue and one that travels across many different verticals,  and part of the problem I think is most clients are basing their vision on what their email marketing ad should look like on traditional experience, that being print advertising because in print you have different colors and graphics, and so many different things you can do, glossy paper, four color, eight color, whatever the case may be, and you want to create those ads in a way so that they stand out.  The same thing with magazine ads,  everything comes down to making the ad stand out, the problem is email doesn’t work that way and it’s very difficult to get clients to understand this.  We talked about this back in August  (The one about the email marketing campaign that failed) and last week we had a guest article by Karen Post (No, I can’t help you: 9 reasons passing on cash will make you richer – Karen Post) and she talked about toxic money, taking money from clients that you really shouldn’t take and I don’t think that stops at taking money that’s going to make your job miserable or cause you more work, or cause you to have a low or nonexistent ROI on a project, I think it has to include email marketing clients too,  because I think toxic money goes two ways, because if you’re allowing your client to spend money on an email campaign that you knows not going to work based on the ad that is being created, this is toxic money for both you and the client.  Its toxic money for the client because they are not going to get what they paid for because they are throwing money away, and it’s not doing them any good, and its toxic money for you because while you’re going to make a profit initially you are not going to have a happy client here, and they are not going to come back and keep doing business with you, in the end you allowed them to create this ad.

At the end of the day you have to manage your clients and you have to create a policy that outlines what can and cannot be done in an email ad, and you need to be strong and you need to tell the client that you are only willing to go ahead with the campaign under certain these conditions.  You have to create a set of guidelines for email marketing ads and in advance you need to tell the client what those guidelines are; as a business we will not allow an email marketing campaign if it has not been created in the scope of these guidelines.  Are you going to lose some clients, possibly, and if they use another company that allows them to send this ad out, it will not be successful and chances are they will probably come back to you and this time more willing to listen to what you are saying, overall I think you are going to gain the confidence of your clients because you are showing that you are not all about the money, you are not willing to take someone’s money just for the sake of taking their money, you are willing to turn that money down.  We recently had this discussion at Throttle Media and we discussed how taking money from a client that will not listen to what we are saying to them just isn’t an option, we are willing to turn the job down.  We have created a set of guidelines at our company on what should and shouldn’t be done when creating an email marketing ad, based on our expertise and our years of experience and our knowledge of the universe that we operate in every day.  One of the big things is companies are creating ads or have a vision of what an ad should look like based on traditional advertising, and that just doesn’t work; you can’t create a graphics only ad and have it work, it might look really good, its sexy, but it has no teeth, it’s going to get caught by every spam filter that exists, you can’t put in big red letters dollar signs and “sale” or “special promotion” or “click here for savings”. There’s a whole list of things that you cannot do, and it might be the best looking ad that’s ever been created, but what good is it if it isn’t effective, if it doesn’t bring people to your website…  and that of course is what it needs to do, if it doesn’t, than who really cares how good it looks, or what a great job the designer did, or how pleased the client is with how great it looks, because I can assure you that same client is not going to be jumping up and down with joy once they see their small or not existent click through rate.  So I cannot stress enough, if you are taking money from a client and the ad was not properly created by today’s email marketing standards, than this is toxic money for both you and the client.