Archive | March, 2011

Don’t Waste Your Marketing Dollars

28 Mar

Unless you are Verizon, a company that seemingly has no cap on the amount of marketing dollars it can spend promoting FIOS, you have a budget. Use your budget wisely. Sounds simple yet how many companies don’t get this?

You may be wasting your marketing dollars (and creating bad blood along the way) if:

  • You are sending enewsletters without permission or too many times a week or without a clear, easy opt-out
  • You are sending non-targeted direct mail
  • You are using robo-calls to mass dial anyone in an area code (this is not only stupid, it is illegal)
  • You are using threatening language
  • You are sending multiple pieces and none of them have the same offer
  • You are sending marketing pieces that contain typos, grammatical and/or spelling mistakes
  • You are sending marketing pieces that look home-made (and not in the enticing, chocolate chip cookie kind of way)
  • You are mistaking the fact that someone once gave you a business card for the opportunity to blanket him/her with marketing messages
  • You are using your social media platforms to sell, sell, sell…never bothering to interact/engage
  • Your marketing does not match reality (you say you offer 24/7 support but what that means is that you can hold for assistance for 24 hours or more)

Marketing that works is strategic and thoughtful. Sending out hundreds of letters to people who have no need for your service (like sending coupons for garage door openers to people who live in apartment buildings) is a waste. Use your dollars wisely.



How to leave a bad impression

24 Mar

It seems lots of people and companies out there are trying hard to leave a bad impression.  If you want to join their ranks, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t respond to inquiries. If someone calls or emails, free free to ignore.
  • Don’t say thank you. If someone buys a product from you or gives you a contact or anything, don’t bother saying thank you. That would be nice.
  • Keep pounding away with the same message. Send the same offer over and over, a couple of times of day if possible.
  • Solicit free advice. Ask around for all the free advice you can. After all, it’s just advice, right?
  • After you get your free advice, feel free to ignore it. Someone’s an expert but that doesn’t mean he/she knows what she/he is saying.
  • Cancel or change plans at the last minute. Your time is more valuable than anybody else’s.
  • Use foul language. If you are on Twitter, go ahead, drop an f-bomb or two.
  • Be crass, self-involved, self-promoting. It’s all about you.

My question is: how hard are you trying to leave a bad impression?



How Not to Write a Cover Letter

22 Mar

Being a small business, I don’t often get cover letters and resumes, although once I got a perfume-scented resume on blue letterhead that went directly in the trash.  Yesterday, I got a cover letter that was truly stunning, and not in a good way. It was stunning because it was such a good example of how NOT to write a letter. I am posting it here, with comments (and with identity removed, of course).

To Whom it May Concern:

No personalization…unforgivable since I am the only person listed on my website.

I would like to be considered for employment with your company, so here is a little background on my education and experiences.

Doesn’t mention what type of employment is being sought.

I have a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from [XXX ]University, where I double majored in Marketing and Business Management.  I also earned a minor in Professional Communications.  I achieved a GPA of 3.49, while also being extremely involved in extra-curricular activities and community service opportunities on campus.

Would have put this down further…or talked about what subjects I learned about, more specifically.

I’ve gained experience relevant to the business industry through two internships, one with[xxx}- a marketing firm, and the other with[xxx}.  These internships allowed me to utilize the information I had been learning at[the University] and have allowed for me to gain experience in the marketing field.

No specificity: the writer could have given examples of specific tasks or information learned.

Before you ask, I’ll go ahead and answer the big questions in your mind.  Yes, I am currently in [other state]  No, I do not plan to work from here; I’m ready and willing to relocate.  And finally, No, I understand that I’m entry-level and do not expect to receive relocation funds.

Geez. Now you are a mind-reader. Don’t assume anything.

I have enclosed my resume for your review.   Also, my LinkedIn profile can be viewed at[LinkedIn], if that better fits your viewing preferences.

This is nit-picky but you have attached not enclosed your resume, since this is an email.

I would be happy to aid you and your company in future endeavors, if you will please contact me at [telephone and email] I would welcome the chance to discuss openings.

Notice that nearly every paragraph and sentence starts with I. It’s all about the writer and nothing about my company.

Thank you for your consideration.


I wrote the author of this email back and told her there were no opportunities. I also gave her a couple of tips. She didn’t reply. I am pretty positive this letter will get her nowhere.

Here are my top three tips on how to write an effective cover letter:

  1. Personalize: Have a name (or at the very least a department or title). Mention the name of the company you are applying to, and why you are interested in working at that company.
  2. Summarize your background, but in relation to the potential job: In college, you probably took arts classes and sociology, etc. but perhaps you took a really great writing class that would help you be a copywriter, right?
  3. Talk about what you can do for the company: Can you bring in business, deal with clients, sweep the floor really well? What do you bring to the table?

What are your tips? What are the biggest mistakes you see when you get cover letters?



What makes stories work?

21 Mar

Last week, I attended a Washington Women In PR (WWPR) panel on “The Art of Storytelling.” WWPR’s Past President Debbie Friez has a great recap on the BurellesLuce blog.

While I agree with the concept that creating a story will help your organization to connect with its target audience, one thing was not answered. What makes the story work?

Danny Harris of People’s District said that stories help “show the texture,” which I take to mean give life and detail to otherwise dry and boring concepts. For instance, if I tell you I saw a homeless person on a street corner, that means nothing. But if I tell you that I stopped to talk to the homeless person, and he was able to tell me that because of a health issue he lost his job, and then his house, now you understand the situation. The story fills in the details.

Stories should be memorable, ideally. But then again, not every story, and certainly not corporate stories, is memorable.  Stories should aim to create recognition and let you find commonality with them through the details they impart. Yet what details will resonate with your audience?

One thing not one person on the panel said and which I think is absolutely critical for storytelling is this: authenticity.

Although it is a much-vaunted word (especially on social media), authenticity is a concept that is often lacking in marketing communications. When something doesn’t ring true it is because it is not authentic. Case in point:  my criticism of Pepco’s ads about customers being first. Those ads were simply not authentic. Why? Because anyone who has had to deal with Pepco knows that customers are NOT first. Same goes for Comcast (Here is a total aside, I went to Comcast to return equipment and saw a sign that said “Customers are our first priority.” Of course, the customer service office was a small cramped affair where a dozen people were waiting in line for one or two surly customer service reps. Yes, I am sure Comcast puts customers first.)

If you are going to use stories to relay your marketing message you have to be sure they are authentic. People see through the BS. And people who see through it will now have a really bad impression about your organization.

What do you think makes stories work?


The New York Times’ Pay Wall

18 Mar

Yesterday, the New York Times announced its new subscription plan. Basically, you can read 20 articles on their site per month for free, and if you want continued access you will need to pay $15 a month. This applies to your IPad subscription too. If you are a print subscriber, your digital access is included.

It is very telling that this announcement generated more than 2,000 comments on the New York Times site (more would have come in but the NYT shut down comments). I started reading through them, and the majority of what I read seemed to indicate that readers will not pay for access. The biggest argument: it is too expensive.  The second biggest argument: already carries lots of advertising.

Will the pay wall work? In my opinion, it will backfire for various reasons:

  • Human nature:  People do not like to pay for what they used to get for free. And, there are plenty of other news sites on the Web that are still free.
  • Work arounds: If you click through on a Facebook or Twitter link to a New York Times article, you get around the paywall.
  • Too much money: People are looking for ways to save money and paying for a digital subscription is probably an easy budget cut.
  • Fewer readers=lost revenue: So say some people continue to pay for the content on the New York Times site. It will never be the same amount as the people accessing it for free.  With fewer numbers, they will either have to charge less for their online ads (and lose revenue) or lose advertisers unwilling to pay for fewer impressions.

For many years, I was a subscriber to the New York Times print edition. I was a huge fan of their crossword puzzle and I loved the Sunday Times. But, the price was exorbitant. I had to stop my subscription. I missed the crossword puzzle, yes, but not the huge bill. People will do the same with the site. They will miss it at first, but they won’t pay for it because of budgetary constraints.

UPDATE: Just came across this article from emedia vitals, which says that some sites using the “metered model” have actually gained visitors. Is it that you think you get what you pay for?

Your thoughts? Take my poll.


Web and social media irritants

16 Mar

There are things that I see happening on social media and on the web that are irritating. They happen way too often. Here are my top peeves (and least of this week).

One of my top ten peeves of all time, and which I have discussed before, is the impersonal invitation to connect on LinkedIn. In the past few weeks, I have received at least four or five invitations from people I don’t know and who haven’t made the slightest attempt to personalize the LinkedIn generated note “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”  I got one this morning, and I fired back a note telling the person in question that we hadn’t ever met, and that a tip for her would be too personalize the note.  She wrote back this really clueless note:

Please accept my sincere apologies. I must have mistaken you for someone else. I thought I had met you at a XXXX function. I never send blind invitations.
I am currently writing for a couple of online magazines and am building local pr connections.
So sorry to be an annoyance.

Why is this clueless? Because, a)  she did send a blind invitation. She could have written something like, “We met at a XXX event last week, and I would like to connect with you here.” And b) she is telling me she is using LinkedIn to build connections, which I interpret as using this forum to send out countless queries and newsletters , etc.  So, she is not seeking to build a connection with ME, she is seeking to build her network to profit her work.

Other irritants are:

Blog posts that are not shareable on social media. And ironically, this post, from the All things WOM, from the Word of Mouth Association, IS NOT SHAREABLE. Has no share buttons. Really. How stupid is this.

Web redesigns that are not useful to the reader. The Washington Post redesigned their website and recently re-launched it. As far as I can tell, readers were not consulted.  In a note to readers, sent THREE days after the re-launch the Post says:

The Washington Post is now even more essential and more in tune with the way you interact with news.

  • Follow stories as they develop and share your ideas as they evolve
  • Watch events unfold with new video programs
  • Know what’s getting the most buzz and what’s really happening in D.C.
  • Get straight to your favorite coverage with destination hubs for Politics, Local, Sports and Opinions

I guess what they mean by “more essential” is less stuff to read. Now I have to dig through the site to get to local news. And where are the blogs? Oh, and by screwing around with the site, lots of the Post’s blog RSS feeds were messed up. Nice going.

Using swear words on Twitter. I have written about this before, and I will again in light of this article in the New York Times. I swear all the time, just not on Twitter. Because Twitter is a broadcast medium that is also archived. What you say here is on the record for ALL to see.  It shows a lack of thought to use your words carelessly.

Promoting yourself endlessly or worse, showing off on Twitter. There is one particular person, whom I just unfollowed today, who felt it necessary to be a braggart at every turn.  It was things like this: “aren’t you jealous of my fabulous view?” with an attached picture. Why do I want to read this? Why do I care? Again, Twitter is a broadcast medium. What you say can be seen by 1000s of people.

Sending too many (or useless) email marketing messages. The AMA-DC was sending me four emails A WEEK. I told them it was too much. They unsubscribed me for criticizing them. And here is Entrepreneur’s take on why people stop following you. Read it and see that too many emails or too many posts irritate people.  (And get this, I keep getting Comcast’s marketing missives, even though they CANCELLED my account.)

Any of these get your goat too?





Are you trying to bully your customers?

8 Mar

Today, I got this precious direct marketing letter:

Dear Deborah:

Again congratulations on the purchase of your home [address omitted].We hope that it has been a pleasant experience for you.

We have been trying to contact you regarding our termite warranty but have been unable to do so. We also did not receive a response to our previous letter. Please call [name and contacted omitted0 at your earliest convenience so that we may discuss this important matter with you. Also, be sure to ask about our PEST CONTROL SERVICE PLAN for as low as $376 per year. This will be our final effort to contact you by mail. This will be our final effort to contact you by mail.

(Yes, in the letter the last sentence is repeated and it is underlined.)

Let’s break this down. This company is trying to get me to buy a service plan at $376 per year.  They are direct mailing me off a list of recent home buyers.  Apparently, I should contact them immediately and if not, they will do what? Apparently, they will start contacting me by other means other than mail. Will they be sending out their bully squad to my door to get me to purchase their plan?

Also, they claim they have been trying to reach me. What they have been doing is sending this same letter at least three times.

What this letter is doing, plain and simple, is bullying me.  This company thinks that sending a letter like this will get me to call them, when all it does is make me think that they just don’t get it.

What do people do when they are being bullied? Do they turn around and do business with you or do they run the other way?