Sunday, December 30, 2012

Intel and The Snuggie

Neither fire, the wheel, the microprocessor nor The Snuggie has been invented yet in much of the marketing world.

This is why you still fend off inumerable unwanted marketing messages. Yes, part of it is low cost for delivery- like the lovable Web pop-up window, but for many marketing flatliners/flat-world minds, most of the onslaught is due to people with the IQ of cole slaw and the creative wherewithal of Open-Mic Night for Tax Attorneys.

The reason you (and I) loathe most salespeople is they are taught to "overcome objections". In the late 19th Century, this might have made sense. Now it only makes for antagonism. What part of "I'm not interested" do you not understand? The only thing created by this marketing mindset is the desire to flee from the "sales eagle!" to a place enveloped on four sides by kevlar.

As they continue to tinker with the wheel, these knuckle-draggers LOVE to hear you're "not in the market" for their products and services! Ya see, while they're hanging pictures on their cave walls, they'll explain that you acually have a "latent" need for your product. They read about it in a book entitled "You Can Sell Ice To Eskimos and swimming Titantic survivors while I'm Cashing Your $19.95 for this Book"

Very few business have the resources to build a large and effective marketing engine. Apple creates desires for products in which neither the desire nor product even existed 6 months ago. Your company is not Apple. You work for Fred's Widget and Snuggie Factory.

That means your company and its marketing efforts will need to seek new customers by initiating contact. That contact doesn't need to be wear a plaid jacket. That contact doesn't need to "overcome objections". It needs to be intelligently targeted, it needs to be concise, it needs to be smart and it needs to find people where timing and receptivity come together.

And if they tell you they're "all set" and their needs for widgets and/or Snuggies has been met for the next several decades, thank them and move on. There are people out there who want or need your stuff but are so swamped with work and life "to do's" that they've shelved action. They're listening.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Running Water and You

If some poor soul in the developing world can produce the same output and work you do… though they go home every night to a house that doesn’t even have running water- if the above is true for you- you have to find a new line of work.

It seems unfair but it’s the reality of Labor Market Darwinism, a term first coined by me roughly 45 seconds ago.

There isn’t a politician in the US with the cajones to say this, of course. They default to the patronizing we need to create good-paying jobs! line and everybody cheers. Hoo-ray! We are for good-paying jobs, too!!, they shout.

Lovely idea, it really is. Problem is it’s up to the people and not the politicians and these cheering people are being spoon-fed glee without any substance.

We hear about training and various other vague programs that, apparently, if you elect Candidate A…SHAZAM!..they will be able to create good-paying jobs with their copyright-protected program entitled Creating Good Paying Jobs Via Training And Various Other Vague Programs And Stuff Initiative (CGJVTAVOVPASI as it’s also known as in the world of make-believe).

There are a lot of good people, hard-working people who got blindsided by globalization and that stinks. No man is an island; I don’t care how talented or ambitious someone is. We’re an interdependent species. But let’s look at some of the generations that preceded us and faced hardship more significant than the current Great Recession. These people and these generations prevailed. They did so, amazingly, in a manner entirely different than the Occupy Wall Street movement. Instead, they did it all by busting their stones and managed to do it (brace yourself) without the advent of the iPhone, the standard-issue weapon of the Occupy Wall Street soldiers.

Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra- who wasn’t quite as articulate as your average cocker spaniel- said it best: “..80% of this game is half mental!..”

He was talking about mental toughness. We all need to find it when things aren’t going well- and they will for EVERYBODY from time to time. Tune out the person running for office and tune it to what’s important to you.

And stop staring at your smartphone screen as you’re walking down the street.

Monday, September 3, 2012


That is the number of pages in the book Atlas Shrugged. You may curse Ayn Rand's name that many times if you choose to soldier your way through this book that weighs slightly less than a small sedan.

Love/hate is not strong enough language to describe my relationship with this book. It is, however, on a VERY short list of books that forced me to re-examine some of my own beliefs. For that reason alone, I view it as nothing short of a masterpiece.

The list of people wildy successful in their work who list it as a major influence in their life is endless. But it has also been read by an alarming number of scientists, bookworms, hardcore capitalists, hardcore Marxists, CEO's, hippies, social workers and every academic who ever walked the planet. Aspiring Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan said the book shook him at his core and changed his life forever.

(I'm aware that 50% of US citizens who know who their elected officials are like Paul Ryan very much; the other 50%, not so much).

Ayn Rand lived the first leg of her life under totalitarianism in the former USSR. Though she left barely a twenty year old to come to the United States, she witnessed plenty of what can go horribly wrong in what would be a political system doomed worldwide.

This book of dystopian fiction and most of her other works (fiction and non-fiction) chronicles the virtue of the profit motive fueled by each individuals maximum creative and innovative output, (i.e. their work). For people born without such innate talents, she professed it was their job to assist in the efforts of those who were to build a just and efficient society.

I agree with much if not most of what she writes. I think the book would have been equally effective at 584 pages. She also is a bit of a zealot. That understatement is analogous to saying "Paris Hilton is a bit of a no-talent".

Rand said many times subsequent to the book being published she realizes that very few people on Earth could ever actually live up to the ideals the books protagonists exhibited and lived. Rand's critics, past and present, paint her to be a heartless industrialist who would send all of the world's weak to the ovens.

Glad I read it, believe all people who consider themselves critical thinkers should read it and feel sorry for people I see on the train reading it who are ONLY on page 584.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

300-500 words

Been awhile since I plucked away at the keyboard.

Could use the standard "been busy" but that's horsebleep. If you want something done, assign it to a busy person I was told many moons ago.

I haven't wrote because it's not urgent that I do so and pounding out 300-500 words is hard work. I've been paid to write before; it was no less easy then.

People waste absurd amounts of energy wondering why people do what they do. I've always felt the same way on this subject. We are who we are- that's why. That's why one person builds a suspension bridge while another is draining a case of beer and wondering why life is so "unfair".

Of course it's unfair except don't ask the guy who's tripping over his "empties". Ask the mother in Somalia who's seen more hunger and horror in a week than you'll ever know in five lifetimes. Ask her about it. She's likely to tell you things are bound to get better while Drunky the Clown will blame bankers and politicians.

If a guy who repeatedly takes shortcuts in his work tells you how hard "he used to work", he's about as credible as a late-night infomercial selling no-money-down real estate investing. (Speaking of bankers...go tell a retail banker about your plans for investment properties without using a dime of your money. He'll think you're a funny guy. Then two armed security people will help you find your way out).

Hard work will set you free. Unfortunatley, it was Karl Marx who coined that phrase but it's the ultimate truism. I wish it was Lincoln who said it but it doesn't matter because, according to some other famous deceased person- well done is better than well said.

For the record, the last word on this post was word #299. I need to get on the shortcuts.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Let Me Ask My Engineer

It's been a long time since folks relied on salespeople for information. Some say that died with the internet but I believe it's been longer than that. The so-called Information Age didn't begin with the internet..though it got a helluva boost.

It's true, for decades, businesses and people relied to a degree on salespeople to learn about what's out there. The overwhelming majority of salespeople would tell them "what's out there" all right. What's "out there" is actually in the bag I'm toting around! In fairness, that was their job. This practice still goes on today in certain industries(e.g. pharmaceuticals).

It wasn't long before U.S. corporations decided they liked the moniker "Sales Consultant" more than the many variations of Sales Rep. I always found the title Sales Consultant hilarious. Ask your Acme Widget Sales Consultant which other widgets- aside from Acme's- they recommend. A professional consultant is an expert who gets paid for their non-compromised advice. To earn a decent living as a consultant, you need to really know your stuff. And when it comes time to advise your client on what products or services to buy, a commission is a kickback. Fine, I guess, as long as you reveal it to your client. It's actually a common practice in professional consulting but I'm not so sure how often the customer knows the consultant is getting a spiff. If the consultant recommends something they don't believe in or are entirely ignorant on, they best keep their eyes peeled for the Karmic Train heading their way.

Today's salespeople whose sole responsibility is to manage existing accounts are required to promote upsells. That's really the only thing they're measured on. If sales are flat (or worse) with an account, Hell is on the way and hell is bringing their manager with them. What's called a "sense of urgency" internally with the vendor is really the panic button being pushed repeatedley. Instead of getting creative companies get aggressive first followed by desperate.

As an Account Manager, your job really involves just two things. You need to be an EXPERT on your customer's business, especially in relation to how your offerings facilitates their business needs. Secondly, in the age of insanely piss-poor customer service, you need to offer world-class customer service. That's a HUGE value to your customer. Constantly trying to upsell them is not. Lastly, you need to be an expert on any product/service your company offers that your customer may be interested in. Just having information about your products is useless, it's a mouse-click away. If you represent technical wares, "let me reach out to my engineer" can NOT be your default response to every question. You will be eminently expendible to both your customer and your company if you can't solve basic technical customer problems. Some products/services are EXTREMELY technical and the sales engineers are constantly being trained so common sense prevails here but the account manager, at minimum, should be able to handle technical questions that are frequently asked.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Villagers with Torches

So let me get this straight.

We're going to tax the richest Americans at a considerably higher rate and let government employees decide where that money is best spent?

Haven't we seen this movie before?

That Turnip Truck that just accidentally dislodged a human occupant...that wasn't me. I'm well aware this fine nation has untold numbers of idiot sons and daughters who were born on third base but are convinced they hit a triple. A fortuitious birth is the only reason they have great material wealth. Then there's the other group of very high income earners who's only real achievement was, as Woody Allen once advised, just showing up. It's hard for anybody-not just the poor- to look at them and not feel that life is inherently unfair. The bad news is life is unfair but the vast majority of America's poor would be considered rich in the developing world.

Less than 20 years ago, two esteemed scholars named Thomas Stanley and William Danko did the most comprehensive study on wealth ever conducted in US history. Their findings stunned everybody. More than half of Americans with a high net worth didn't inheret a nickel and are COMPLETELY self-made. They are almost all small business owners, they are job creators and, yes, many earn enough money to where they would get walloped by tax increases on "the wealthy".

These people do not keep their money under their mattress. They put their money to work, often investing in enterprise and endeavors that create jobs. They're pretty smart with their money considering they started with zilch-o and now have plenty.

So we're going to take their money and let government employees decide where it should go?

How about other high-income earners whose immense efforts increase the quality of life for everybody. The skilled physician, the astute engineer, the brilliant chemist or the job creating entrepreneur..just to name a few. So were going to take away the money they've earned and give it to the government so, in the words of our Commander in Chief, we "can spread the wealth around?".

What has history taught us about Socialism? Capitalism is hardly perfect but Socialism has miserably failed the human race because we are hard-wired in a way that decrees it to failure.

Back to the Turnup Truck: A reasonably intelligent Golden Retriever..umm...ah, ah..I mean politician...a reasonably intelligent politician who desperately wants to retain their power..umm...ah, I mean position and plays the populist game would read this and say this is not the group we're going to subject to higher taxes. We're after the Fatcats only, they'll tell you. That's horsebleep! The politician will tell you they're after the Commodities Trader and the Financier who makes millions and pays the same percentage in taxes as Warren Buffet's secretary.

People who make millions simply because they have millions or by gambling (e.g. stock and commodities speculation)'s easy to vilify them. As much as you may hate them, the majority busted their behinds in their studies and later in their work. Most are unmitigated workaholics. A great deal of the money they spend or invest fuels the economy EXPOTENTIALLY more effectively than money acquired via taxing and spent by the government. I do belive this particular group should pay more but lets lose the "villagers-with-torches mentality". It's illogical groupthink that has no basis in reality.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Everyone but You

I just learned on the airwaves that one of the Auto Makers- might have been Toyota- was holding a sales event at one of their dealerships. I was told that I unequivocally needed to attend because, and I quote, "EVERYONE is going!".

I was alarmed.

How am I just finding this out now?

I got on my bag phone and called a close friend. I was a bit embarrassed (for me)reaching out to him to ascertain my level of social blindness. He answered his car phone and I just spit it out. He was also unaware of this event of such grandeur. He then told me this is an advertising method called the "bandwagon technique" used by advertisers, reaching its height of popularity in the year 718 A.D. He said it is never used anymore, largely because its creative ingenuity is on a par with infomercials purporting weight loss with no exercise or diet.

The first paragraph is true; the remainder is me having a little fun.

Jerry Seinfeld once observed that a man leaning on his car horn to hopefully garner the attention and favor of an attractive female pedestrian is "out of ideas". That poor SOB isn't alone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pardon the Interuption

People do not like being interrupted.

This helps explain the immense popularity, historically speaking, of the Web pop-up window, the television commercial during the suspenseful moment of the film you're watching, the BLARING car dealership ad on the radio (NOBODY beats our prices!...we're customer-centric!!)and the knuckle-dragging script reader who calls you at home trying to sell you vinyl siding for your brick condominium.

If you are required to cold call ANYONE as part of your job and your employer also requires you to read from a script or close to it, you have no shot of succeeding. You are human spam and my heart goes out to you...seriously. Nobody deserves that type of abuse...on both ends of the line.

A small parable: My kitchen is on fire. You solicit my business by knocking on my front door. You happen to be selling hand-held fire extinguishers. Good timing, bro. Where do I sign? Actually, gimme that bad boy so I can put out this inferno; then, you just made a sale hombre. Great timing. If you're selling something else, I'm not interesting in speaking with you right now.

This horsebleep about "overcoming objections" when you're calling me cold really grinds my gears. It's the proverbial trying to teach a pig how to sing. All you are doing- as you attempt to "overcome my objections"- is pissing me off. Nothing else. If I'm already your customer and we know each other, that's different. Even then, be tactful and be smart when you try to persuade me to see things your way.

You can make money and new customers by cold calling.It's not easy and it's DEFINITELY not for people with thin skin.

There is ZERO magic involved. Aside from effective voice projection, modulation, tone and some common courtesy, success is in the numbers. People are either in the market for something or they are not. And even if they are in the market, they might not tell you because: 1.) They don't like what you're saying on the phone and how you're saying it. 2.) They don't know you or your company and 3.) They do know some people AND some companies who do make what they are in the market for.

Be a pro on the call and you have a shot.

There have been numerous exceptions in the marketplace over the years (Most people were not "in the market" for a portable digital music player when they bought their first iPod). There are examples in the business-to-business arena as well...though I can't think of one off the top of my head...that's how rare they are).

Find people in the the market for what you are selling. The other 95% + you speak with, be polite and thank them for taking your call and move on.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Free beer with that?

We've all heard the stat that says something like: Of the 6,446,118 restaurants that will open in the US this year, only one will survive...and only because they serve free beer after 5 PM.

Seriously, first-year restaurant failure numbers are frightening.

The rest of the private sector start-up small and medium size business (SMB)numbers aren't a helluva lot better.

After obligatory niceties, I've asked plenty of new SMB entrepreneurs about to tip their toes into the pool the following question: How to you plan to get customers? Their answers range typically from "it's in marketing section of my business plan" to "what do you mean?".

People you know who run a business, have employees and have run the company for some time- these are folks with some serious intestinal fortitude. People who you know who have spent their career working for others but CONSTANTLY complain and tell others their plans to start their own business...they are intestinal parasites.

Hail, hail the small business owner.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pass me the Sanctimony, please.

"..It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

I make a point of not using other people's words in this space..especially quotes. I put considerable effort in defining "financial conflict of interest" and NOTHING my grey matter could summons trumps this. Thank you, Upton Sinclair.

Two pieces of legislation are currently in the House and Senate that both essentially address the same thing: Intellectual Property. Understandably, forces and factions on both sides are lining up to protect their interests. What KILLS me when situations like this occur (and they do relentlessly) is how organizations espouse that it is THE PEOPLE they care about and not their own financial interests. The stories of the "poor people" or "the artists" who will be victims if the legislative outcome goes one way or another.

Business, name it. It's not me I'm concerned about, crows the carnival barker du jour!!! Pass the Kleenex, please...I'm falling to pieces over here.

As human beings subject to the helplessness of a finite lifespan and an entirely unpredictable tomorrow, we are hard-wired to care about ourselves and our loved ones closest to us more than anything else. (even more than random "artists"!!). And unless there's an abject collapse of the worlds financial system, money can sometimes eliminate or at least assuage the inevitable problems and heartbreaks that are part of all of our lives. Many of us care about money ONLY for this reason. Obviously, untold numbers of others obsess over money for less benevolent reasons. Either way, people care about it.

And then we deny it...why?

Entertainment giant Viacom will tell you their primary concern is for "the artist". Really? Go ask 1,000 entertainers how much Viacom cares about them. If the likes of Viacom publicly said that "our profits help MANY people and we are getting ripped off" they'd have my ear.