How to Win Friends and Influence People

You can have the best marketing plan, tons of creative ideas for your social media campaign, and a killer product or service. But, if you don’t communicate your message in a compelling and persuasive way, you might as well pack up and shutter your store (virtual or  brick and mortar).  Here’s a primer on how to write compelling and persuasive copy.

Feature-oriented copy

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It read like an owner’s technical manual telling you about the details of a product.

When advertisers use feature-oriented copy, it reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would emphatically say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented copy is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented copy is what’s known as ‘tell’ copy. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Feature-oriented copy is all about you

Benefit­-oriented copy is all about your customers needs

Benefit-oriented copy

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising copywriter suggested advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, mostly on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented copy came flying into the mainstream. Benefit-oriented copy answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented copy sells, not tells. This type of copy convinces customers that your product or service will help them.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional copy I found on their website.

Feature: Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted, boost enabled lifting mechanism. Benefit: Makes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy

Feature: Desk works either standing or sitting. Benefit:Perfect way to increase energy, your health and productivity

Feature: No hardware needed to secure desk to workstation. Benefit: Easy to install

As you can see, the list of benefits definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now you have an understanding of how and why to use benefit-oriented copy. Rewrite your website and other promotional material to include as much benefit-oriented copy as possible. Don’t over-do it. You need some feature-oriented copy.

Lots of Help for You

The Internet is full of blogs, forums, articles and e-books on how to write effective copy for your website. Consult these resources and you’ll get a sense of what style of writing works and doesn’t work for you.

Some Things to Know Before You Build Your Marketing Plan

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

-Yogi Berra

You can find lots of online resources showing you how to write a marketing plan. Some use a fill-in-the­ blanks approach while others give you general guidelines and specify necessary topics to be included in the plan. There are marketing plan guidelines for promoting products and other types of plans for promoting services.

I’m not going into detail about what constitutes a marketing plan. I am going to ask you tough questions before you start. Your plan helps you organize your thinking. It’s a fluid document gives you a track to run on. It should be evaluated on a regular basis.

But what about the stuff no one tells you about writing a marketing plan?

Ask yourself:

  1. Why am I writing a marketing plan for my business?
  2. Did someone say I should?
  3. Can I write this by myself or do I need help?
  4. How much time and energy will it take to write the plan?

Key points:

  • In your plan, less of everything is more and creativity is crucial
  • Your plan is not a term paper, it’s an action document
  • Don’t diminish the quality of your marketing plan by watering it down with gratuitous information


  • Use everyday words, not jargon (hard to do for many people)
  • Summarize and synthesize key data points
  • Go easy on timelines and charts
  • Clearly articulate the difference between strategies and tactics
    • Strategies are what we want to accomplish
    • Tactics are specific tools used to implement the strategy
  • Include a budget and aim to get your budget figures “roughly right” not perfect

Here is a final note for those of you who want to look at planning in a new light.

“For battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

-Dwight D Eisenhower, who led the Allied Forces in the invasion against the Nazis during World War II.


A Revisionist History of Branding – Part 2

Personal branding is a combination of marketing and promotional activities you do to influence how others see you.

In my previous post, I wrote about the history of branding from a cattle rancher’s perspective. Here’s an example of how one woman used a combination of marketing activities to influence how others see her. Rose is a lobbyist and well-known advocate for low-income housing in her state. She wanted to establish connections with state legislators and their staff with the goal of passing legislation to assist low-income families seeking affordable housing. In order to achieve her goal, she wanted to be seen as the go-to person in the state for any issue related to low-income housing.  Rose wanted key legislative decision makers to associate her name with low-income housing.

How did Rose initiate the personal branding process? First, she wrote a series of white papers based on her research on low-income housing. Second, she scheduled short, in person briefings with individual legislators and their staff to discuss key policy issues regarding low-income housing. Third, she started blogging. This was very easy to do because Rose would blog about different aspects of her research. She had tons of content to share.

What’s the difference between what Rose did to brand herself and what she did to promote her services? Nothing.  It’s the same thing. Don’t get trapped into thinking that branding is some mystery panacea for your business wows. Call it what you want, I’ll call it establishing and maintaining connections with customers as a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Rose was successful in helping pass critical legislation that funded low-cost housing by:

  1. Having data to support her position and sharing it with key decision makers
  2. Blogging on a regular basis
  3. Cultivating and maintaining relationships in the state legislature

Good work, Rose.

I encourage you to read books and/or articles specifically related to personal branding. Don’t be shocked, you’ll find hundreds of them.

Hashtags-at-a-Glance: An Interview with Gabe Seiden

Time for a Quick Quiz:

True or False: A hashtag (#) is an illegal drug. If you answered True, then you better read the following. If you answered False, you should still read the next 587 words.

I talked to Gabe Seiden from Connect4Consulting about the world of hashtags. I wanted to give information to my clients about hashtags so they would have a cursory understanding of the concept before they built a social media program for their business. I wasn’t looking for a do-it-yourself manual on the use of hashtags or a long-winded diatribe on the analytics involved in hashtags.

Q. Gabe, what is a hashtag?

A. A hashtag is a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. Hashtags are unavoidable. Everyone uses them – on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, even TV. For example, if you type #NationalCoffeeDay (or #nationalCoffeeDay or #nationalcoffeeday, because it’s not case-sensitive) into Twitter’s Search box at the top of any Twitter page and hit Enter, you’ll get a list of tweets related to National Coffee Day (September 30th, by the way). What you won’t get are tweets that talk about “coffee” because “coffee” isn’t preceded by the hashtag.

Q. Why do I want to know about hashtags?

A. Hashtags allow you to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share info related to it.

Q. Where do hashtags come from?

A. Any user can create one simply by adding it to their own tweet. For example, when a plane went down in the Hudson River a few years ago, some Twitter user wrote a post and added #flight1549 to it. I have no idea who this person was, but somebody else would have read it and when he posted something about the incident, added #flight1549 to HIS tweet. For something like this, where tweets would have been flying fast and furiously, it wouldn’t have taken long for this hashtag to go viral and suddenly thousands of people posting about it would have added it to their tweets as well. Then, if you wanted info on the situation, you could do a search on #flight1549 and see everything that people had written about it.

Now hashtags only show up spontaneously if there’s a breaking news item. Otherwise, they’re used to promote, praise, or pan people (#TrumpSucks), brands (#VolkswagenScandal), events (#MNF), and anything else people want to discuss en masse (#Joaquin).

Q. How do I create my own hashtag?

A. The first thing you do is conduct a basic Twitter search to see if a related term already exists. These days, odds are it does. Probably the only reason you would need to create a new one nowadays would be for the group activities category I mentioned above. In that case, since the tag will use up some of your 140-character limit, you want to keep it fairly short, while still making it precise so other people aren’t likely to use it for another purpose. For example, let’s say I wanted to create a virtual book club with my friends scattered around the country. I might create the #gsbookclub hashtag that we would all add to the tweets we’re posting about the books we’re reading.

If you want more than just your friends to use the hashtag, you might want to “announce” it to your followers.

For more information on how to use hashtags, contact Gabe, or visit his website.