Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Say It In Fewer Words

Abraham Lincoln took just 270 words to write the Gettysburg Address. 

Had he been around today, amidst the cacophonous cascade of social media and marketing information,  he might have nodded along with the sentiments of Jeff Hoffman.

Jeff writes in the online Inc. magazine that it's advisable to "distill your message to as few words as possible." 

Welcome to the Winter Solstice edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management. 

Here is an, ahem, abbreviated version of Jeff's article: 

It's amazing how complex our lives have become. Nothing's simple anymore. Think about it. Even your Facebook page has a million things going on. The increase in complexity has led to a decrease in focus. It's hard to know what even matters anymore.

Everybody's talking at once, saying so much, that customers can no longer remember what we started talking about in the first place. Tweets are flying through the atmosphere as thick as a flock of birds, filling minds with an endless stream of useless information, and crowding out the few things that were really worth knowing. 

What can you do about it? Focus on simplicity. To be truly memorable, to be the one product or service that people remember when the dust settles, you need to narrow down your message, streamline your sentences, cut out all the fluff, and deliver one--yes, just one--strong, simple message, and deliver it clearly and concisely. 

One of the most valuable skills in the world is the ability to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Writing lots of words is easy. Making your point with an absolute minimum number of words is really hard. Yet it is so much more effective. Mark Twain once said: "I would have written that shorter, but I didn't have the time." Find the time. 

Imagine you had a quick minute to tell a potential customer why he should do business with you. Because in today's world, that's all you have anyway. Write down what you want to say. Now cross out as many words as you can, each time reading the sentence again to see if it still delivers the point you want to make. Keep crossing out words until you have created the shortest sentence you possibly can.

 Keep it brief, straightforward, and clear. Eliminate any industry-specific jargon. Avoid the noise and clutter. 

There is an elegance in simplicity. Simplicity does not mean removing features, benefits, or services from your product. It means distilling what's most important about those features, and explaining them in the fewest words possible. Go ahead, write yours down, and get busy crossing things out. 

(Admittedly, I probably could have written this column in only two paragraphs.)    

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. @colorjar


Look for a new "Not Your Usual..." newsletter the first Tuesday of next month. 
Going forward, our core subject -- marketing -- will be different. 
Artfully different. :) 
But hopefully you'll continue to derive some thought-provoking ideas to help you in your business just the same. 
Until then, enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. 

Joel Kweskin 

704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
National Assn. of Wedding Professionals
Visit Charlotte

Monday, November 5, 2012


It's the month of Thanksgiving.  What are you thankful for? 

If you count among your blessings the profession you've chosen for yourself, then you're in an enviable group -- people who actually enjoy what they do for a living. 

Here's a piece that I authored a few years ago that I thought I'd reprise as a tip o' the hat to the jovial yet somewhat spiritual-minded Holiday that beckons in a little over two weeks. 

Welcome to another edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

I enthusiastically assert that I am one of the few people I know who doesn’t dread Sunday night. 

That’s because I really enjoy what I do – whether it’s the marketing and advertising hat I wear, or that of the caricature artist (reminder: holiday parties are coming up!), it’s fun to get the old creative juices flowing and keep that right side of the brain percolating.   

I get to work with graphic designers, photographers, web developers, printers, media people on occasion (even they have “creative” ideas)…and, for the most part, clients who are willing to try something arresting and engaging. 

I mention this – which, frankly has nothing to do with talent but everything to do with attitude and mindset – because every now and then I run across folks who give their 30-second elevator speech at networking groups with a dulled indifference that is disappointing if not downright discouraging. 

Anyway, “enthusiasm” is something that marketing guru Robert Middleton -- http://www.actionplan.com/ -- seems to find in short supply.  And that can have dire consequences for those out there marketing their business.  Like, er, um, everyone… 

“Look at some of the synonyms for enthusiasm,” he writes in a recent entry from his weekly e-zine (edited for brevity):

“Keenness, ardor, fervor, passion, zeal, zest, gusto, energy, verve, inspiration, excitement, vigor, fire, spirit, avidity, devotion, motivation, commitment, willingness, earnestness.

”What can you do to generate (enthusiasm) in a society that's become increasingly skeptical, let alone downright cynical?

1. Fall in love with good ideas. (I was convinced that the next step in my business) was to offer programs at graduated levels. It took me five months to implement it, but the idea took hold and never let go.

2. Trust your inner voice. If you feel you can do something, feed that feeling. You feed your enthusiasm by sharing your ideas with like-minded, supportive people who are just as enthusiastic about their ideas.

3. Act as if. I used to call this ‘fake it until you make it.’ When you exhibit enthusiasm, it's contagious and you can become addicted to it. I can certainly think of worse addictions!

4. Question your unenthusiastic attitudes. When we're feeling apathetic, bored, disinterested, hesitant, stagnant, or fearful, it's useful to ask, ‘What would I have to believe to feel that way?’ Often it's something like: ‘If I really went for it 100% I might fail,’ or ‘I really don't make a difference anyway.’ Are those thoughts true? Probably not.

5. Take on a huge project. Think of Kennedy's speech: ‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.’”

Okay, this soap box is getting kind of rickety; I better get off and save it for another time.  Such as the first Tuesday of next month, for another enthusiastic shout-out from Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin
704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
National Assn. of Wedding Professionals,
Visit Charlotte

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scary Customer Service Facts

It's the month for that holiday that embraces ghosts, goblins and candy corn.

It's also the month when my baseball team is once again watching the post-season instead of participating in it.

But I digress.

Since it is indeed the month for Halloween, I thought I'd share this article I came across which touches on some "scary" facts pertaining to customer service.

Welcome to the October issue of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

Rod Jones, writing online in The Marketing Site -- Click here: Click here: Some Really Scary Facts -- notes that:

• Only 25% to 30% of a company’s customers are truly satisfied. That means that 70% of your existing customers can be easily lured away by your competitors.

• 96% of unhappy customers will never tell you about their dissatisfaction. They will simply walk over to your competitors at the slightest whim. That means that for every one customer who complains, 26 will remain forever silent.

• 91 % of unhappy customers will never purchase from you again!

• 70% of the reason why customers left companies had nothing whatsoever to do with the product… The reason for switching to your competitor was because of poor service.

• The average business loses between 10% and 30% of its customers each year largely due to poor service.

• It costs 8 times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

But here’s something positive….

• 70% of complaining customers will definitely do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favor.

Like so many challenges in life and in business, the solutions to even the most complex issues are simple in their pure concept. Let’s face it. What customers really want is to have a truly memorable experience every time that they engage with us.

Regretfully, in the world that we live in and in the nature of many of the people that we employ, customer ‘Wow!” experiences just don’t happen by chance.

To actually deliver ‘world class’ service, the entire organization needs to understand the full implication of customer service and service delivery and how each and every employee plays a significant role in the process. Change management and on-going training are the essential elements necessary to inculcate organizational focus on customer service.

To be truly effective, customer service can't be something your business tries to do in addition to its other business operations. Rather, customer service excellence needs to be at the heart of everything your business does. If creating memorable customer experiences is key to your sustainability (which it is), making sure such experiences are standard across your company needs to be a strategic imperative.

Great customer experiences encompass every aspect and area of your business - from the advertising, marketing and branding, to the way your customers interact with your product or service and how they are treated by your staff.

Focused customer service research and training will certainly deliver improvements to your customers' experiences with your business, but to get the full benefit, you need to build customer service into your business strategy.

In five years’ time how will we be able to identify those companies that have truly grasped the implications of the ‘Customer Service Ethos’?

That’s easy. They will be the companies still in business…

Check us out again the first Tuesday of next month for another haunting edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin

704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
National Assn. of Wedding Professionals,
Visit Charlotte

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brand "You"

Donald Trump, Wolfgang Puck, Oprah Winfrey. Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer.

Business names, celebrity names, sports names.

"Brand" names.

If, as scholar and communication theorist Marshall McLuhan suggested that "the medium is the message," then advertisers using themselves as the corporate "brand" are the new medium.

Welcome to the September issue of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

I'm a big proponent for promoting my clients in such a way as to trade on their name, their personality, their unique service. Especially In this age of social media, self-produced webinars and videos, podcasts, vanity books (published both online and off) and more.

It's the "brand" in us all that helps to influence consumers who are more likely to "like" us...and therefore more likely to buy.

Here in part is what one observer, writing for marketingprofs.com, has to add:

"Why Being Human Matters in Marketing" by Emily Eldridge


Instinct tells us that "humanizing" a brand—connecting it in the consumer's mind with a distinctive personality or an engaging personal narrative—is a good idea. But we don't have to rely on instinct. Research demonstrates how human interaction affects transactions, with lessons for marketers.

Iris Bohnet and Bruno Frey conducted an economic research study in 1999 called "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games." Two groups of students were recruited to participate in a series of social interactions in which members of the first group had to decide whether to share any portion of a sum of money—approximately $10—with a person in the second group.

When the first group knew nothing at all about those in the second group, participants offered, on average, only 26% of the money. When the moderators asked the second group to stand up—making them less anonymous to the first group—the offer increased to 39%. When the moderators shared personal information about those in the second group with those in the first, the average offer increased to 52%. And when members of the groups were introduced to one another, the average offer was 50%.

In other words, the greater the social distance, the less willing people were to hand over money.

Bohnet and Frey's study also has implications in these promotion-crazed times of Groupon, where consumers know the power of their wallets. They're worried about their own futures. If they can buy something for 95% off, they will.

But a brand that is humanized—with personal narratives, with human interactions—can command a higher price point and make the consumer happier in the process.

For example, Apple stores don't have rows of cashiers. Instead, they have easily identifiable employees throughout the store with mobile cashier platforms ready to interact. They will explain the benefits of each product, help you deal with issues, and share their passion for the products.

People are attracted to Apple because of its sleek products, but sticker shock could be an issue. Cheaper, equally (or more) powerful products are on the market. Yet Apple continues to increase its market share. The reason is that Apple has used Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and its army of highly passionate employees around the world to humanize its brand. And consumers worldwide have responded.

So think about what you can do to humanize your brand, both online and in-person. No matter how sleek your products, how beautifully designed your store or site, how sophisticated your analytics, people respond to the personal touch.

See you the first Tuesday of next month for a brand new Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin

704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
National Assn. of Wedding Professionals,
Visit Charlotte

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Using the English we have

We're in the middle of the Summer Olympics now, so with a nod towards its host country...and a client of mine who figuratively waves the Union Jack with mild yet charming chauvinism...let's salute England once again and the glorious language they gave to the world.

Here's a little nugget that was planted in this space a couple of years ago, but the subject's universality still bears fruit.

Welcome to another edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

According to Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert Siegel in “The Story of English” (Penguin 1992), “The statistics of English are astonishing. Of all the world’s languages (which now number over 2,700), it is arguably the richest in vocabulary. The compendious Oxford English Dictionary lists about 500,000 words; and a further half million technical and scientific terms remain uncatalogued.”

Author David Wilton adds, in “Wilton’s Word and Phrase Origins,” that “about 200,000 words are in common use today. An educated person has a vocabulary of about 20,000 words and uses about 2,000 in a week's conversation.”

So, with all the wonderful words available to us, why in the name of “multi-tasking” do we continue to use worn cliché after cliché to describe that which we bring to our professional capabilities?

I once did a demonstration before my business referral group of how I develop a print ad. To help determine the eventual concept, I interviewed a volunteer “client” by asking him different questions about his business. Sure enough, when asked what differentiates himself from his competition, he proudly intoned “service.”

Oh really, I asked, what else?

“We care about the customer.”

Hmmmm, you don’t say...

“And we’re experienced,” he added.

I’m going to take a wild stab at this, but I’ll just bet that isn’t the first time those words have been used to, ho-hum, excite and entice a potential customer.

Look, we’re all guilty of falling back on the familiar – in this case, words that have been used ten thousand times before. But the more serious consequence of using these hackneyed phrases is that they simply lose their meaning after a while.

If you say about your business that you provide “great service,” that you really and truly “care” about your customer, and that no one can match your “experience,” I’ll counter that every time with “SO WHAT?” Every business can, in one facet or another, make that claim! You may BE different from your competition…but you’re not SAYING anything differently.

Put it this way -- if text for your brochure, ad or 30-second oral commercial is worded in such generalities that ANYBODY else can put their name at the end of it, it’s time to consider rewriting the piece.

So, how can you sound differently?

Sound differently!

Keep a dictionary or thesaurus next to your computer. Illustrate examples of your “service.” Use case studies that back up how you “care.” Quote testimonials where others have benefited from your “experience.”

You’ll come across as uniquely differentiated, more accomplished and with a better chance of getting your points across.
When Gloria Estefan sang of telling her lover how she feels “but the words get in the way,” we all know how that feels. But we can’t afford, literally, to let that happen when it’s time to sell our products and services.

Whether it’s developing your printed or electronic marketing materials…speaking at a seminar…or simply doing your 30-second spiel at a networking get-together…choose your words well, and wisely. And make them words that count.

With 500,000 words at our disposal -- it shouldn't be too difficult. If we only make the effort.

See you the first Tuesday of next month for another etymological sampling of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin

joel@jdkmarketing.biz704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
NAWP, Visit Charlotte

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This Applies to I and You


I recently took to the soap box of my Facebook wall and proceeded to bemoan the postings of all the folks therein who apparently don't know the English language from an English muffin.

Now I'm not talking about typos. In the haste with which some folks rush to present the latest observation on...on...whatever...they might miss a letter or a whole word here and there. I have no qualm with that.

But, sheesh, not knowing the difference in usage between "to" and "too"...or "their" and "there"...or "me" and "I"...aargh!

Welcome to the July edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

We are not perfect. And I, for one, can very much be my own worst critic.

But, as is pointed out in the following online article from The Wall Street Journal -- This Embarrasses You and I by Sue Shellenbarger -- there is "an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say."

When Caren Berg told colleagues at a recent staff meeting, "There's new people you should meet," her boss Don Silver broke in, says Ms. Berg, a senior vice president at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., marketing and crisis-communications company.

"I cringe every time I hear" people misuse "is" for "are," Mr. Silver says. The company's chief operations officer, Mr. Silver also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with "like." For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. "I am losing the battle," he says.

Employers say the grammar skills of people they hire are getting worse, a recent survey shows. But language is evolving so fast that old rules of usage are eroding.

"I'm shocked at the rampant illiteracy" on Twitter, says Bryan A. Garner, author of "Garner's Modern American Usage" and president of LawProse, a Dallas training and consulting firm. He has compiled a list of 30 examples of "uneducated English," such as saying "I could care less," instead of "I couldn't care less," or, "He expected Helen and I to help him," instead of "Helen and me."

Most participants in the Society for Human Resource Management-AARP survey blame younger workers for the skills gap. Tamara Erickson, an author and consultant on generational issues, says the problem isn't a lack of skill among 20- and 30-somethings. Accustomed to texting and social networking, "they've developed a new norm," Ms. Erickson says.

At RescueTime, for example, grammar rules have never come up. At the Seattle-based maker of personal-productivity software, most employees are in their 30s. Sincerity and clarity expressed in "140 characters and sound bytes" are seen as hallmarks of good communication—not "the king's grammar," says Jason Grimes, 38, vice president of product marketing. "Those who can be sincere, and still text and Twitter and communicate on Facebook—those are the ones who are going to succeed."

Christopher Telano, chief internal auditor at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., has employees circulate their reports to co-workers to review for accuracy and grammar, he says. He coaches auditors to use action verbs such as "verify" and "confirm" and tells them to write below a 12th-grade reading level so it can be easily understood.

Mr. Garner, the usage expert, requires all job applicants at his nine-employee firm—including people who just want to pack boxes—to pass spelling and grammar tests before he will hire them. And he requires employees to have at least two other people copy-edit and make corrections to every important email and letter that goes out.

"Twenty-five years ago it was impossible to put your hands on something that hadn't been professionally copy-edited," Mr. Garner says. "Today, it is actually hard to put your hands on something that has been professionally copy-edited."

Join us again the first Tuesday of next month for another Strunk & White-approved edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin

704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
NAWP. Visit Charlotte

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Doodling your way to success?

Back in high school history class, I had a friend who had a unique way of taking notes.

Rather than write down in words the salient points made by the teacher, Joe would sketch the images those words formed in his head.

His notebook was filled with illustrations of famous people voicing famous quotes or famous warriors doing battle with famous opponents. It was his way of having the information resonate more vibrantly and, therefore, more concretely for a longer lasting impact.

Turns out Joe may have been on to something that in current times the business world has discovered as a means of explaining complicated ideas. And to "help generate ideas, fuel collaboration and simplify communication."

Welcome to the Summer Solstice edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

Most of you know that, in addition to copy writing in the marketing "game," I also comprise my professional time as a caricature artist. Happily, my ability to draw has served me well when brainstorming rough ideas on the proverbial napkin over coffee with a client, prospect or colleague.

I recently came across this online article in the Wall Street Journal that appealed not only to my creative bent, but my artistic capabilities.

In "Doodling for Dollars," author Rachel Silverman writes," Put down that smart phone; pick up that crayon," as firms are trying to get their "gadget-obsessed workers to look up...and sketch ideas.

"Doodling proponents say it can help generate ideas, fuel collaboration and simplify communication. It can be especially helpful among global colleagues who don't share a common first language. Putting pen to paper also is seen as an antidote to the pervasiveness of digital culture, getting workers to look up from their devices. And studies show it can help workers retain more information.

"Even with advanced gadgets such as smart phones and tablets, 'the hand is the easiest way to get something down,' says Everett Katigbak, a communication designer at Facebook. Most of the walls at the company's offices around the country have been coated with dry-erase or chalkboard paint or a treatment for glass to allow employees to sketch ideas whenever they arise. The company's offices are filled with jottings, from mathematical equations to doodles of cats and dollar signs.

"A 2009 study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers retained more than non-doodlers when remembering information that had been presented in a boring context, such as a meeting or conference call. The logic, according to Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in England, is that doodling takes up just enough cognitive energy to prevent the mind from daydreaming.

"HomeAway, an Austin, Texas, vacation-rental company, hired a graphic facilitator to help train a dozen employees—including senior managers and training and human-resources staff—to use visual shorthand and sketching to help guide meetings, says Lori Knowlton, the company's vice president of human resources. The aim was to better 'capture ideas using images,' she says. Plus, it is more fun than 'being surrounded by spreadsheets and emails.'

"The company also brought in graphic recorder Sunni Brown to help sketch, in real time, what was discussed at a large company meeting on HomeAway's strategy. The resulting cartoonlike image, which serves as the meeting's minutes, hangs framed at the company's headquarters."


So, does it pay to doodle? Draw your own conclusions.

(I couldn't resist.)

See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another broad brush stroke of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin

704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
Facebook, LinkedIn,
NAWP. Visit Charlotte