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Delivering Savings Until Closing Time Today

A man walks into the post office…WONDERUSPS2

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?

But there I was waiting to buy postage and I discovered a coupon jointly issued by Hallmark and the U.S. Postal Service.

In truth I shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past few years the Postal Service has been getting increasingly commercial in an effort to overcome an annual $5 billion deficit. And because the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency receiving zero tax dollars, that money obviously has to come from someplace.

So, a few years back they started selling ancillary items like packing supplies and greeting cards.

Then they struck deals to feature animated characters on postage stamps, including Bambi, Big Bird and Daffy Duck.

Today, stamps featuring Wonder Woman can be affixed to Snoopy greeting cards, both purchased at the postal counter.

The tie-in between postage stamps and Hallmark greeting cards is a logical one.

Post offices have a built-in customer traffic flow. Most cards get mailed and need stamps.

What better place to tie the stamps, card, and customers together than there?

Furthermore, free email graphics have been the source of headaches for Hallmark executives for a long time.

If they can sell more cards and pay the USPS a sales commission, everyone wins, right?

Their plan is obvious;

  • Customer chooses a card from the multiple displays in the postal store lobby;
  • Coupon offers $1 off 3 cards if purchased before Feb. 17, 2017 (That’s TODAY, in case you hadn’t noticed!);
  • Customer buys two additional cards and stamps for mailing them

The promotion’s demise date screams “Valentine’s Day,” though any cards sold there qualify for the discount.

Now let’s examine your business. Odds are good there’s a potential partner for you, regardless of what you sell.

Car dealerships can join forces with area gas stations. Bakeries can work with exercise studios, which, in turn, can partner with beverage companies.

The USPS isn’t collecting buyers’ contact information, but there’s no reason you can’t. A list of buyers is incredibly valuable, since:

  • They like what you and your partner sell
  • You have an established relationship
  • They’re likely to buy from you again

Partnerships must be carefully thought out and planned, but can be very successful if done right. Learn from the USPS and develop one today.

Selling with a smile

Successful salespeople looking to immediately develop customer rapport know smiling-thumbs-upthe importance of a smile.

A smile is a universal indicator of openness, friendliness, relaxation, and likeability. It’s a powerful asset for salespeople looking to build long-term client relationships.

Consider a job interview I once screwed up.

It was about 20 years ago in Boston, and I was perfect for the position. We went through the interview process and I met six or seven people with whom I’d be working. Everything was lining up in my favor.

After the meeting I wandered over to Quincy Market for lunch. Lost in thought, I didn’t pay much attention to the fellow in the suit giving me the once-over.

Not recognizing him as an executive who’d wandered through the meeting I just completed, I gave him a sour look.

It all went south from there, and I never heard from them again.

In hindsight, looking pleasant, or at least neutral, would have undoubtedly been more profitable. Live and learn, right?

Smiling’s value can’t be underestimated. It can easily make the difference between whether or not you walk out with a signed contract in your pocket.

Ask yourself if you smile:

  1. While talking about your company
  2. On phone calls when the other person can’t see you
  3. During public speaking engagements
  4. During video-conference calls
  5. In your professional headshot

People will quickly spot fake smiles, so sincerity’s important for a smile to be an effective tool.

Okay, it’s true that many sales professionals have a naturally upbeat personality, smiling frequently throughout the day and during interactions with customers and prospects.

Interestingly, this simple act also happens to be one of the most effective ways to cut through adverse situations, conflicts, and disappointment. If you’ve just been told no or a deal has fallen through, a smile is your first defense against negativity.

Indeed, many studies show that smiling attracts people because it projects positivity.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow astutely observed; “Into each life some rain must fall,” but a smile is the best defense. Even if you’re talking with people who don’t have time or money or don’t want to listen to you, smile anyway. It keeps you in control of your life, your emotions, and your selling process.

Got Original Ideas?

got-milkThis morning I drove past a truck that said “Got Tinting?” promoting a car window service.

Then there was a car saying “Got Cloud?” for computer storage.

In the afternoon I saw a shirt reading “Got Mary?” touting a church.

Tonight I saw “Got Debt?” campaign ads.

My question: Got Original Ideas?

These messages all reference a 1993 TV ad for California’s Milk Processor Board.

In it, a hapless history buff eating a peanut butter sandwich is called in a radio station contest to identify who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

He correctly answers “Aaron Burr,” but the peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth muffles his response.

Desperately he grabs a bottle of milk, only to find it empty. Our friend loses the prize as the commercial’s tag line appears: Got Milk?

And from that moment the phrase “Got Milk?” became part of the popular culture.

The ad is generally considered one of the best commercials of all time. It is even parodied in the Broadway musical Hamilton.

Here’s the thing; I recognize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Churches, computer firms, and others are obviously trying to leverage the Milk Board’s success into their own.

Regardless of what you’re selling, though, people expect you to address their concerns.

But if the best message you can deliver is a blatant rip-off of someone else’s ad campaign, that doesn’t say much about your ability to provide original solutions.

In fact, if you’re incapable of generating original ideas and the next guy can, shouldn’t I just hire him instead?

Because even if his ideas aren’t a home run, at least he’s making the effort. Just saying “Got Shoes?” or “Got Chocolate?” tells me you’re just phoning it in.

Please don’t misunderstand. You should be watching other marketing materials looking for ideas. Someone may have a great concept for photography, typography, or copy and you can use it as research.

But research and outright theft are completely different. Research Good. Theft Bad.

Get it?

So the next time you think it’s clever to just say “Got Whatever?”, think again. You’re NOT being clever…you’re being a “Me Too!”. And you’re fooling nobody but yourself.

One might even argue your marketing efforts are being counter-productive.

Are you reading the room properly?

crowdMy bride and I recently borrowed a friend’s timeshare.

The location was nice and the facilities adequate, yet we knew there’s be a sales pitch the moment we announced we weren’t owners.

We weren’t disappointed.

Checking in, we heard of the many benefits of ownership. Then we were offered a free breakfast, an AMEX gift card, and a vacation.

Were we seeking a timeshare, it might have been tempting.

Sadly, neither of us gets vast amounts of vacation. Both of us dedicating a half-day to a hard core sales pitch was unacceptable.

Plus we don’t travel enough to make timeshare ownership a logical investment. It was the wrong opportunity for us.

Searching for their next sales commission, the staff never left us alone.

We encountered more pitches, videos in the lobby, and daily fliers under our door.

They misread their audience, and early on crossed the fine line between friendly persuasion and obnoxious hard sell. At that moment I crossed the line from pleasant “No, thank you” to a snarling “Get OUT of my face!”

It’s possible your organization also has potential customers who don’t respond to your sales pitch.

Regardless of your industry, repeating your message in hopes of making the sale is a given.

But it’s also important to recognize the wisdom my father provided when he advised me that you can’t do business with everybody.

Sales prospects might not like your offering, pricing, quality, service, or location. Or you just may not be a good fit for their lifestyle.

Learn to read the room and understand your customers’ needs. Talk with them about their objections or concerns to see if there’s a way to adjust what you’re selling to what they’re potentially buying.

Then, as part of your sales funnel, adjust your filter to recognize some people should just be written off.

And remember: Just as “No” means “NO!” in the dating world, so too should it carry significant weight in sales scenarios.

Because regardless of the reason someone doesn’t want to work with you, showing respect for their decision will help you avoid alienating them.

Then, should the seeds you planted during the conversation ever actually take root, they’ll think positively of you and potentially become a live sales prospect.

Has poor taste become the norm?

mbt pottyToilet humor is popular with children thrilled by flaunting cultural taboos about waste excretion.

This perhaps explains why one of my favorite movie bit is the sophomoric, way-over-the-top, hysterically funny campfire scene from “Blazing Saddles.” It’s my inner child striving to escape.

But introducing effective scatological humor into print advertising is difficult.

Consider this headline: “Tiffany, why did you…dookie…on Eric’s pillow?”

This copy stares at me from a coupon insert from a kitty litter company. I’m hard-pressed to see how cat poop on someone’s pillow passes for good messaging.

“Cats are complicated. Great Litter is simple,” the ad concludes.

My friend Lori Frank observed, “Litter IS simple. Buy, pour, clean up. DUH.”

As a dog person and finding the ad flawed, I know I probably didn’t have the right mindset.

So I asked cat owners on Facebook for their thoughts. Their unanimous response: It’s a stupid ad.

My conclusion: Great advertising is complicated. Bad taste is simple.

I won’t surprise you saying your business must market itself to be successful.

But effective communications combines thorough market intelligence, good strategy and sufficient budget.

Since children don’t typically buy kitty litter, this marketer apparently appeals to middle-aged women with 10-year-old humor.

Perhaps the advertiser didn’t properly understand the product or the audience. They didn’t do their research.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

Okay, I’m not Fred Astaire and I don’t reek from elegance at every turn. Over the years I’ve been known to say and do things that weren’t as refined as I might’ve hoped in retrospect.

Still, in my mind’s eye I’ve got a certain amount of class and expect to be treated accordingly.

I want my movies to have more clever dialogue than raunchy jokes. I’ll listen to classical and jazz over disjointed electronic thumping.

And I expect advertisers to deliver tasteful messaging that speaks to my image of myself. If they feel they need to talk to the lowest common denominator to make a sale, they’ve lost my attention.

I’m suspecting I’m not alone with this attitude.

Assuming I’m correct, brands should be combining class, style, taste, and good-natured humor to raise customers to a higher plateau. Appealing to lowest common denominators will drag those brands into the gutter.

We deserve better than that.