Snail Mail From Some Desperate People

I recently decided to take a good look the junk mail I receive before tossing most of them in the garbage. I thought there might be some new and effective promotional ideas floating around in the world of direct marketing. I was quite surprised what I saw.

I’m going to review four pieces of mail. Spoiler Alert: I was appalled at what I saw.

I know it’s a challenge to imagine what these mailers look like, but use your imagination.

How Not to Sell Financial Planning Services

This gem came in in the form of a 5×8 folded card stuffed in an envelope. On the card’s cover is a color drawing of a turtle. A business card is included. A handwritten note on the folded card read:

Dear.Mr. Leepson,

Enclosed is my card because I have client meetings in your area the week of (Month, Day, Year) and would be happy to meet with you to discuss retirement planning or tax reduction strategies.

John (not his real name)

 I’m wondering:

  • Who is this guy?
  • I’m live in Maryland and he lives in Philadelphia. Why would I hire someone who doe not live in my community?
  • How did he get my name?
  • Why would I want to contact him?
  • What’s the story with the turtle?
  • Am I an afterthought? (maybe he can fit me in after his ‘client meetings’)
  • Why didn’t he have a ‘call for action’?

I remember reading an article in the Washington Post (March 27, 2016) called 10 Steps in Hiring a Financial Advisor. I quote: The first step in hiring a financial advisor is: “Ask Friends: Just as you rely on friends or relatives to find the best doctor or dentist, they can help you find a reliable financial advisor, too. Also, ask work colleagues or friends. Don’t seek out names in the phone book or online”.

 My advice to John: Hire a professional direct marketing copywriter and graphic designer to create your campaign.


How to Infantilize Your Customers

A local real estate agent sent this to me. The business envelope contained a flyer, a business card, and a scratch-off lottery ticket. The copy on the outside envelope, written in red, said Lottery Ticket Inside followed by four exclamation points. On the flyer, there is a childlike drawing of two flowers in flower pots.

The enclosed business card had the requisite smiling photo of the real estate agent with ten lines of copy on one side. On the reverse side of the business card was a 25-word mission statement or something like that.

The lottery ticket was a nice gimmick. It was an effective way to get me to open the envelope. Was it necessary? Maybe. Was a subliminal message being conveyed that selling my house would be a gamble? What does a lottery ticket have to do with real estate?

Have you ever seen a 10-year child use WordArt from PowerPoint to make a flyer? The title of the flyer sure looked that way.

There were twelve exclamation points throughout the flyer. The type was 18 point, bold and purple. Two words were written in bold capitals. There were three cheap looking and amateurish clip art illustrations placed randomly on the page.

My advice to the real estate agent: Look at how other real estate agents in you area are using direct marketing to sell houses. Copy their style. In my part of town, I see real estate agents use over-sized, full-color postcards with photos of properties.


Tooth Decay

I love receiving mailings from dentists. Lots of PhotoShopped smiles and goofy grins. When I first looked at this piece, I thought it was a 5½ x 8½ card. I didn’t notice that it was actually an 8½ x 11 sheet folded in half. This mailer was developed by an advertising agency specializing in dental marketing. I wonder how much this must have cost the dentist? Here’s the headline:

We Love Insurance. Why would anyone love insurance? What is it about insurance that’s loving?

Here are some other irritating things about this mailer.

  • Distracting ampersands (&) are used throughout. This is distracting for the reader and prevents the eye from moving seamlessly through the copy
  • The names of the dentist or dentists are never mentioned.
  • There are five photos of women and three photos of children. I guess men don’t need to go to the dentist. Yes, I know that women make most of the healthcare decisions for the family, so I’ll cut this dental practice some slack.
  • The copy reads One Trusted Office For All Your Dental Needs, yet there are two locations. Which office should you trust?

My advice to the dentist: Contact your ad agency and ask for your money back.


What Is It About These Dentists?

This is an 11×6, two-sided glossy postcard. A company that specializes in direct mail promotion created it. On the address side, there is a smiling photo of the dentist. There are 146 words of content, including the phrase…”A different kind of dentist”. In my opinion, a dentist is a dentist is a dentist.

To make things worse and to add to the clutter to the mailer, there is a coupon for a NO CHARGE exam and x-ray (normally a $400 value). There has to be a catch. At the bottom of the coupon it states:

  • Limited time (doesn’t say how long)
  • Offer only good for residents over 50
  • Must live in the town where the dentist practices

On the flip side of the card, the copy reads Meet a dentist who really cares. Do you know a dentist that doesn’t care?

When free services are offered via coupons, consumers take advantage of the freebie and tend not to purchase the service.

My advice to the dentist: Be clear and more specific about your offer.

This was a disappointing drive down the direct marketing road. If you’re thinking about using direct marketing to promote your business, there are tons of resources online that can guide you through the process of creating effective and creative mailers.


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 3

Signs and Symptoms

Now you are familiar with the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). We now move from causes of marketing paralysis to a discussion of the signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis.

One debilitating symptom is the glazed-over look in your eyes. The glazed over look is caused by information overload. It’s the look you get when trying to take your marketing ideas from concept to implementation. What happens to you? You lose clear vision and assume a dull, bored appearance. This is noticeable to those who look at you. You can’t seem to concentrate on your work and look like you have not slept in days. When your eyes glaze over, they become fixed and shiny, as if you are not seeing anything.

Some people, when working, get so spaced out that their computer screen looks blurry. It’s especially hard to avoid getting that glazed-over look when you’re using your tablet. The symptom tends to get worse if you’re trying to work at Starbucks. It’s been reported that some sufferers drift off to an alien galaxy. This is not good.

Have you experienced a glazed-over look when the dreaded word “marketing” is mentioned or when you’re trying to create your marketing campaign? Can you tell if you’re beginning to feel your eyes glaze over? If so, what do you experience?

Just being aware of what’s happening to you is the first step to recovery.


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 2

Here are two more causes of marketing paralysis

Marketing Paralysis Cause II

Getting unhelpful or misguided advice. It’s always a good idea to talk things over with a friend and get some advice. You might want to discuss a new idea, clarify a stumbling block, or just plain talk about your business. If you’re considering starting a solo business, it gets lonely quickly in the early stages of planning your business strategies.

Key point: People love to give advice. When someone gives you advice, there’s a good chance that the advice they give you is more about what the other person needs rather than what you need. Be careful and don’t get sucked in to their advice.

Phone a friend who is not employed in your industry or profession. You might want fresh eyes on your situation. You want the other person’s perspective. However, there might be times when you’ll want to talk to someone in your field of business.

When you initially talk with your friends, do not ask your friends to solve your problem for you. Ask them not to give you advice. Ask them to listen and act as a sounding board. Sometimes, just saying aloud what your situation is can be helpful. Now, you can brainstorm ideas or solutions.

Marketing Paralysis Cause III

So far, we’ve discussed two of the three main causes of marketing paralysis – using the wrong marketing model and getting unhelpful or misguided advice. You were presented with some tips and suggestions to immunize yourself against marketing paralysis. The third cause of marketing paralysis information overload.

There are thousands of marketing resources online –print books on marketing; ebooks, self-help guides, websites focusing on how to use social media, e-seminars and podcasts. To make things even more overwhelming I found a website that listed 72 different definitions of marketing. That’s a lot of information!

Look at the Small Business Administration’s ( website. There are all sorts of resources available on how to market and build a small business. They have 42 online training courses and 69 videos. Reading these definitions can contribute to marketing paralysis.

There are a lot of ‘professional’ marketers out there willing to take your money to help you build a marketing plan. These self-proclaimed marketing gurus tend to profess quick solutions to complex marketing problems. They encourage you to purchase their guides and marketing plan outline. Chances are, these plans contain more information than you need.

Look back at the three causes of marketing paralysis: using the wrong model of marketing; getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload. Is there one particular cause of marketing paralysis that you can relate to? Are you using the model that best fits your business?


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 1

This is a six-part series called Preventing Marketing Paralysis. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a start-up or are already in business, the practical tools and tactics you’ll learn will be of value to you. We’ll discuss the causes, signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis. And, most important, you’ll be given practical tips and suggestions to prevent you from becoming a victim of marketing paralysis. Be sure to read all six chapters, you’ll be glad you did.

What is Marketing Paralysis?

Marketing paralysis is a syndrome commonly seen in small business owners and providers of personal and professional services, who have little or no knowledge of marketing.

Marketing paralysis is similar to analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is over-analyzing a situation or idea to the point that nothing ever gets done. Those individuals or groups who suffer from analysis paralysis usually say something like, “We need more data. Let’s start from the beginning again. We need to get the right people to work on this.” Consequently, the project or idea stagnates and in many cases, no decision is made. Marketing paralysis occurs when, in the process of creating a marketing campaign, you stop dead in your tracks, unable to move forward.

Marketing Paralysis – Cause I

Using the wrong model of marketing. Most marketing models are based on strategies and tactics aimed at selling products, not services. Selling products entails a completely different strategic approach. For example, if you are building a marketing plan to sell gardening supplies, your marketing and sales tactics are based on straightforward transactions. When you sell a product such as a garden hose, your customer shops for a certain brand, price, or specific features (length and thickness, type of material, etc.). There is more than one option to buy. It’s easy to sell value. There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a simple transaction and uses traditional sales techniques.

On the other hand, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any type of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are consultative, not transactional. It’s hard to sell a single option service (accounting). Consultative selling requires you to build a relationship with potential clients or customers. There is high emotional involvement in the relationship. When promoting services, word-of-mouth and referral-based strategies are used.

Have you applied the wrong marketing model’s strategies and tactics in your business? What happened?

In the next chapter, you’ll learn two more causes of marketing paralysis.

Stay tuned.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing


House of Cards?


Question 1: How many of your own business cards do you have in your wallet, purse, or brief case? If you have less than five, hurry up and put more in your wallet, purse, or briefcase. Or, have more printed.

Question 2: How many of your business cards do you have laying around your house or office? If you have fewer than fifty, go online now and order more.

Question 3: YES or NO. 
I have up-to-date business cards. If you answered No, you know what to do.

So, what’s the big deal about business cards? Along with having a prepared elevator speech, you should always have up-to-date business cards on hand. And, here’s an example of why.

I recently, attended a networking event. I met a lawyer who specializes in working with small business owners on legal matters. He was the perfect referral source for me. I wanted to follow up with him and at the end of our brief conversation, I asked him for his business card. He fished through his wallet and found a crumpled up, dog-eared business card. He took out the card and said, “Oh, my phone number changed, and so did my email address”. He scribbled his new contact information on the back of his card and handed it to me. I then thought twice about contacting him. There must be other lawyers with his specialty who don’t have crumpled, outdated business cards. I did not contact him.

You know what they say about first impressions. Is this the kind of first impression you want to make?

You can drive yourself crazy reading articles on the Internet about what to include or exclude on your business card, whether to purchase or use free templates, which fonts to use, etc.

6 tips for creating a legible and succinct business card

  1. Put your contact information on one side only.
  2. Use one or maybe two different fonts. If your customers are over the age of 50, pump up the size of the font.
  3. Put the least amount of contact information on your card. Do you need to put your landline, cell, fax, email address, mailing address, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram logos on the card? Is it necessary to put an inspirational phrase on the card? Less is more.
  4. Make sure any graphic you use does not overshadow your contact information.
  5. Even though you get price discounts when you order larger quantities of cards, buy small quantities. You never know when your contact information might change.
  6. Before you go ahead and print your business cards, have a friend look it over. You’ll be surprised at, in the rush to print the card, glaring typos are made.

If you have any doubts about what your card should say and how it should look, check out other people’s cards. You might get some good ideas.


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse

Here’s a story that demonstrates how to avoid putting the cart before the horse, in a marketing sense.

I was hired by a professional membership association to create a marketing plan. I’d be working under the auspices of the association’s newly formed Marketing Committee. The members of the committee had input into all aspects of the project. At the first meeting, I asked the committee members what they thought the scope of the project should be. Immediately, one of the members suggested they produce an informational booklet describing all the good things the association does. She said this would be a great way to ‘market the association.’

I tried, to no avail to direct the conversation back to defining the scope of the project. By this time, the committee was fixated on the idea of producing a booklet and what the booklet should contain. Then, the conversation shifted from the idea of writing a booklet to a discussion of what political ramifications might occur, if the booklet was published. One member was concerned that the booklet should not, in any way, offend any member of the association, or any special interest group. After this discussion went nowhere, the committee moved on.

Then, I bluntly asked, “What’s the purpose of this booklet?” The committee members said that the booklet should be used to:

  • Recruit new members
  • Update active members on the association’s accomplishments
  • Educate the public
  • Influence and educate local, state, and national policy makers on issues important to the association’s membership.

In other words, the booklet would serve the needs of everyone. I said to myself, “ this ain’t gonna work.” If the booklet was written, it would have to address the unique needs of:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • The public
  • Lawmakers 
(local, state, national)
  • Members of the Marketing Committee
  • The leadership of the association (after all, the leadership has to approve the budget for the production, distribution, and promotion of the booklet).

We’re getting nowhere, fast. Towards the end of the meeting, I suggested we break down the committee and form a small working group. They liked this idea. So, here’s what we did:

  1. I asked the work group, Who’s your most important target group? If the committee had selected, ‘the public’ as a target group, which they didn’t, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot (the public is 324 million people). The public has to be broken down by age, sex, geographic area, income, educational level, special interests, buying patterns, etc. They selected prospective members as their most important target group.
  1. Why is this group important? The association has many stakeholders, from the rank and file member to corporations that support the association. Why are prospective members more important than other groups? Because, prospective members will join and provide badly needed dues and non-dues revenue to ensure the financial stability of the association.
  1. What message do you want to convey to this group? Once the target group was identified, the message can be posited. In this case, the message is to inform prospective members of the benefits of joining such as having a venue to connect with other members and develop contacts encourage them to support their profession.
  1. And, last but not least, What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group? Once you know who your target is and what the message is, then select the best vehicle to communicate that message. Here’s where it gets tricky.

In order to select the most effective vehicle to communicate the message, we need to understand the purchasing habits of the prospective members. These prospects range in age from 26 – 35. For example, they prefer to receive most communication electronically. They are skeptical of traditional sales approaches.

Based on this and other demographic and psychographic data, the committee agreed to:

  • Update their current prospect list (including non-members who have previously purchased books and journals)
  • Request lists of graduate students from graduate schools
  • Update the association’s website to include a section devoted to prospective members
  • Capture email addresses of those visiting the website and those who request to receive the association’s newsletter
  • Send email newsletters to prospects
  • Use website and email to promote a special discount on membership

As of this writing, the Marketing Committee submitted a budget to the Finance Committee for approval. Let’s wait and see if the budget gets approved.

Now you can plan your marketing campaigns this order:

  1. Who’s your most important target group?
  2. Why is this group important?
  3. What message you want to convey to this group?
  4. What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group

If you follow the above four steps, you’ll be putting the horse before the cart.