Do prospects have a clue who your company really is?

mcgraw-hill-ad1Over 55 years ago, specifically in 1958, a powerhouse publishing organization, McGraw-Hill, ran an ad in their magazines that became known as the “Man in the Chair” ad and you’ve probably come across it because it’s become iconic. The ad showed a stern faced, balding,  middle-aged executive wearing a bow tie and a brown suit, sitting in an office chair, hands clasped together and looking intently at the reader as if the reader was a salesperson. To the left of his picture were 7 very direct assertions, followed by an even more pointed question:

I don’t know who you are.

I don’t know your company.

I don’t know your company’s product.

I don’t know what your company stands for.

I don’t know your company’s customers.

I don’t know your company’s record.

I don’t know company’s reputation.

Now—what was it you wanted to sell me?

I think it would be safe to say that the importance of being able to address these questions is as important today as it was in 1958. Crazy how things don’t change. And it doesn’t matter if your business is a B2B or B2C marketer.  It doesn’t matter if you sell DNA preservation directly to consumers, urns to funeral homes or run a chain of cemeteries, how you create and nurture your reputation in advance of a sales call can make all the difference between success and failure to launch. And one could probably argue that in today’s digital and social media world, it’s maybe even more powerful. (Click on the video at the bottom to see what I mean.)   It remains a clear outline of fundamental sales and marketing questions every organization must be able to answer. How your people and marketing efforts address these seven “I don’t know’s” might very well determine if you get the new business…or not.

I don’t know who you are

When was the last time you made a major purchase without knowing anything about the company? Every sale requires a knowledge base or understanding of the brand or the person prior to a sale taking place. Now, however, salespeople spend less time on cold-calling, so that familiarity has to come from somewhere else. What is that “somewhere else” for your organization?

I don’t know your company

Buyer behavior has changed a lot… in even the past five years. The main change is that today, a buyer has practically infinite sources of information.  In fact, the buyer probably doesn’t want to talk to the seller or vendor because they’re the least credible source of information. So the buyer goes around and does all their research often without first talking to the seller.  And could conceivably talk to many, many sellers before getting around to speaking to you.  The implication is that sales opportunities depend on how easy it is for the buyer to find your info and say, “I’ve heard of you.” And the only way you can do that is by producing really amazing, useful, relevant content that a prospect is happy to engage with, happy to consume and happy to share. How strong is your presence in the digital and social media space?  How visible are you when your buyer is reading magazines or watching TV?

I don’t know your company’s product

Personal selling is still an important part of having people know something about you, but not in the way it used to be. Word-of-mouth was always important, and it’s ten times easier to get word-of-mouth advice today as a result of the all the online resources available.  People want the information right away, and if it’s not available or where they think it should be, they’ll look somewhere else. Another prospective sale — which could have led to numerous repeat sales — goes to a competitor. Your making sure that product features and benefits are clearly known beforehand will be the difference between speaking to a prospect or not.

I don’t know what your company stands for

Whether you call it a USP or value proposition, without it, without a good one, you’re dead!  If you can’t very quickly describe what makes you, your service or your company truly special in the eyes of the customer, don’t expect your customer to do it for you.  By default, they’ll just put you on the shelf called “commodity” and there you’ll stay. To have a lasting, profitable business, building both brand awareness and credibility is job-one in marketing. After all, it is much easier to open doors when the potential customer inside knows who you are, what you’re about and why you might be a better alternative than the next guy who knocks on the door.

I don’t know your company’s customers

Especially in the funeral business, a word from a satisfied customer counts most. In today’s world, those words show up, both good and bad, with a simple Google search.  Today, buyers depend more than ever on word-of-mouth references from people who have used those brands or products – often in the form of online reviews or client testimonials.  Think Google reviews, Angie’s List, Buzzillions or Yelp.  In fact, according to a the marketing group, ODM, about 90% of consumers trust the word of people they know and 70% of consumers trust the word of people they don’t know.  Just look at how we shop online: one of the first things we do is check the customer rating number on the product. And then we typically read the actual customer reviews to see why someone gave that product 1 star and why others gave the same product 5.

I don’t know your company’s record

Letting prospects know your company’s track record is easier today than it used to be. There are channels upon channels – from your website to social media to e-newsletters and email blasts to press releases – that can be used to ensure that the message is delivered in a consistent manner. Buyers want to have some comfort in knowing that you’re a company with a record of achievement and innovation, a company that has won awards for products or service or operation, an organization that’s been around for a while, one who isn’t caught up in multiple lawsuits, etc.

I don’t know your company’s reputation.

We’re talking about your company’s standing…status…character. Things that boil down to “can people trust you?”  How will your prospects find out that you do what you say you’ll do? Do you come across as thought leaders in your industry? Is your brand aligned with other organizations that have good reputations? You get the idea. Buyers cast verdicts on reputation with their pocketbooks, withholding business from companies they believe are ethically deficient and rewarding those with positive reputations. And, it doesn’t take long for judgments to spread. Will prospects see a company that values its customers or a company that people have no problem calling out in social media?

Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?

The original “Man in the Chair” ad was published long before Twitter, Facebook, Google, blogs, and digital hangouts. We’re in a new era. We’re all learning new ways to connect with prospects.  But as things look like they have changed in the ways that we engage, inform and become known to our markets, the basic message behind the ad is just as relevant today as it ever was. Being visible to our prospects and winning credibility in word and deed is still critical. Today it takes new ways of thinking and new ways of engaging in our markets and conversations as well as reframing some of the old ways that we went about it before.

As we know, sales start before a salesperson makes contact.  Times change, markets change, technologies and approaches change…but marketing fundamentals and human nature don’t. What would be said if the next sales conversation your company had, over the phone or even in person, was with “the man in the chair?”

Click on the video and see a comparison of the original “Man in the Chair” with how that would play out in a modernized version for today’s world. It’s eye-opening.

# # # #

Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

baby-boomer-magnetWhen I started creating advertising for funeral homes and cemeteries, it was the mid-1990s.   At that time, the very last thing we Baby Boomers were thinking about was funeral planning.  It was our parents and the generation immediately behind them who my clients were busy trying to reach.  Even then, I knew a few things about marketing to an older population, such as the fact that that they saw themselves as 10 younger than their chronological ages; that while their contemporaries may be “old,” they were not; and, as they were transitioning through life, there were important shifts in their priorities that funeral providers needed to hone in on.

But now it’s 2015 and we Boomers have caught up, made all the more evident to me at a recent high school reunion. Man, they looked old – but not me (I wanted to think)! And in that gathering, talking with old friends and OLD friends, it dawned on me both how similar and how dissimilar the rules to marketing are to this group compared with the audiences I was reaching in 1994.

For unlike previous generations of seniors, this current “prime cut” of the funeral-buying market are the Baby Boomers, a population whose attitudes and values were shaped by one of the most socially tumultuous periods in our history. This group, my peers, were raised on “Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.”  We are the generation inspired by the Beatles and Rolling Stones, “Five Easy Pieces,” Woodstock, George Carlin and free love,  Our views of authority and hometown tradition were smeared by Vietnam, Watergate, and the Chicago Seven. The 60s and 70s have become part of our hard-wiring.  So the image of grandma in her rocking chair today may need to include a tattoo or two, iPhone earbuds, a Chihuahua in her handbag, and very possibly, her rocking chair is really a seat on a plane as she prepares for her first skydive!

As you try to imagine this visual departure from Whistler’s Mother or American Gothic, you’d be well to consider these few brief underlying points about marketing to Baby Boomers.

  1. We’re a highly skeptical market. We sharpened our teeth on the disillusionment brought about by government scandals like Watergate and Irangate. We don’t buy things anymore just because we’re told that’s what we should do, or that everybody else is doing it.  We want to research things first, know what our choices are, and decide things for ourselves.  The marketer who uses communication to inform and educate rather than just sell is valued as an important resource.  Use blogs, videos, downloadable literature and two-way conversations to overcome the wariness of today’s funeral service shoppers.
  2. We respond well to marketing that rewards our intelligence. Bad ads and cliche ads insult our intelligence.  They presume the audience is  mindless or will buy anything.  Funeral ads tend to be more guilty of this than other categories. Talk up to the audience, have fun with them on their terms, even honor their irreverence in respect to death and cemetery culture.
  3. We are thinking about the future more than ever, as the years ahead of us are getting shorter than those behind us.  We are thinking about our place in the future – what is our legacy and how will we be remembered.  Create marketing that supports our mission to find meaning in our having been placed on earth and how our being here has served the earth and others (a theme that has strong ties to cremation).    Tied in with that…
  4. Our values are shifting. This is a phenomenon that hasn’t changed no matter which generation.  As people get older, their perspectives do shift as they look back on their own roots.  Family and faith take on new greater meaning. (That accounts for the growth of websites like Ancestry.com, for example, as Boomers want to see where they came from.)  Many of us Boomers return to our religion after years of “lapse” but often do it on our own terms. And while we are OK with our own rebelliousness, we would like to see our grandchildren be models of scholarship and citizenship. Philanthropy and giving back are also more important as the years pass and we’re no longer trying to build our own careers but help others.
  5. We explore all the new media, but adapt more slowly than our kids. We especially love Facebook, smart phones, Skype, Yelp and Pinterest. But you won’t find Boomers leading the Twitter brigade; we like longer sentences. Don’t rule out traditional media such as broadcast and cable television, radio, direct mail and yes, even newspapers, as these are still widely consumed by us older guys since it’s the stuff we grew up with.  That said, if your establishment offers an online or mobile app that makes our lives easier, gives us better information, allows us to connect more with our families, or helps us live longer and healthier lives, we’re all in.  We’ll try anything once.  We’re Boomers and that’s what we do. We are health conscience and not as worried about our sex lives as ads claim. Help us stay in shape and look good.
  6. Many of our parents are still with us, but we’re the ones making their arrangements. Speaking to Baby Boomers talks not just to us but to our aging parents through us. The more you can speak our language, and the more you can reflect our values at every touchpoint, and the more often you’re visible to us whether in ads, online or out in public, the more your company’s name will be top-of-mind when the time comes to seek out a funeral provider, even if we’re not looking for one today.

As with any group, it’s unfair to throw a blanket over an entire population and say they’re covered.  Culture, religion, geography, politics and so many other factors enter into it.  Yet, it’s well to appreciate that in no previous time has there ever been a smarter, better informed, more affluent, more skeptical, healthier and longer-living population to serve your business’ growth. Putting your best marketing efforts toward earning their love is a must-do in your long-term business planning.


Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.



At the beginning of my career fingerpaitingas a copywriter, I was fortunate enough to have taken a class at UCLA taught by two great names in Los Angeles advertising, Jean Craig and Jack Foster.  Some of the most innovative, freshest advertising in the 1980’s and 90’s came out of these two remarkable creative leaders.  Jack, especially, inspired me because he was a Student (capital S) of creativity.  He explored – and later wrote about – what it takes to become more idea-prone, in other words, Creative.

No matter if you are a Sales Manager, a Funeral Director, an Accountant or a Marketing Director, everyone needs ideas. Not every idea needs to be earth-shattering or ingenious.  But good ideas break new ground and often generate better results than taking the well-worn path.  Jack, in his book “How to get Ideas,” quotes the Italian philosopher Vilfredo Pareto who defined creativity perfectly as “nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.”

The funeral profession sorely needs new ideas!  And the market is wide open for new possibilities.  So it behooves anyone in deathcare to think creatively and help bring about positive changes.  Here are some of Jack’s great insights into developing the mindset to think outside the box.

Have Fun

The best ideas usually come from people who are having FUN! Serious people don’t usually come up with innovative ideas. With humor and fun as the basis for creativity, you are more open to the unexpected. When we are having fun, we open ourselves up to new, unanticipated ideas and experiences.  Consider jokes: they are funny because they put a spin on something that seems illogical. I can always tell when I’ve come up with a winning idea because I find myself giggling.  Allow yourself to be playful!

Know that the idea is out there.

Jack believes that the ones who come up with ideas know that the ideas are out there; the ones who don’t come up with ideas don’t know that the ideas exist and therefore don’t pursue them.  Creativity, like so many other things is a self-fulfilling prophesy…just like telling yourself you’re not creative.  That’s a load of hooey!  We were all born creative but were taught not to be.

Go for the numbers.

One way to make it easier to get good ideas is to believe that there are many of them.  Never stop at “the first right idea.”  You have to muscle past that and go for idea quantity, no matter how silly some of the ideas seem at first.  Continuing to play after you think you’ve landed on an idea may produce a better one, or one that may combine with the “first right idea” and make it better.  Only after generating lots of good ideas is it time to be judgemental.

Set Your Mind on Goals

Free-thinking without knowing where you want to go will take you nowhere in particular.  Even within the idea of “playing around,” creativity must be a goal-oriented activity, just as with any other problem-solving effort. Start out by declaring what it is you want to achieve and then get playful on the road to getting there.

Be More Like a Child

Have you noticed that children play without worrying that their efforts are silly or childish? They don’t fret about painting outside the lines or making the sky orange. Jack points out that this is every adult’s problem: we think too much! Adults have too many boundaries, too many rules, preconceptions, assumptions, and restrictions. A child on the other hand, is innocent and free. They do not know what they cannot or should not do. Every situation is looked at with fresh eyes.  To be more like a child is to forget what was done before. Break the rules. Be illogical. Be silly. Be free. Then watch out, because the ideas that will flow.

Rethink your Thinking

There’s an old agency joke about how many art directors it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is, “why does it have to be a light bulb?’  That’s because creative people are always challenging basic assumptions and by thinking about the problems differently they often arrive at different solutions. So…why does a casket have to be shaped like a casket?  Or how can you double your income on a direct cremation and leave the family feeling better for it?  Make sure to ask the question “What assumptions am I making that I don’t have to? What unnecessary limitations am I putting on myself?”

The funeral profession, more than most any other, suffers from being too conservative and stuck in its ways.  Yes, death care does call for sensitivity and a degree of decorum.  But that should never limit the free flow of new ideas.  The two most damaging phrases in business are “We’ve always done it this way” and “We’ve never done it that way.”  But, my friends and readers, give into your inner child as Jack Foster advises and say “What if…?” See where it can take you.  Like death itself, it may take you to a far better place.


Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.

ChiselLike so many of us living in drought-ridden Southern California, my wife and I are looking to modify our home landscaping to soak up less water.  Some of my neighbors have simply ripped out their entire lawns and replaced them with gravel rock and cactus. That’s the cheap way out and it doesn’t beautify their homes one bit. Wanting to take a more aesthetic path, we called in two different landscape companies to quote on how they’d create a drought-resistant yard that still complements our house and neighborhood.

I had no idea what a good job might cost so we simply asked each company what they would do and what they’d charge for doing it.

The first quote came in from a company that did beautiful work and the owner really “got” what we wanted.  His quote was seventeen grand!  Eeyikes!  The second company came in at only eleven thousand, much more palatable, but I wasn’t as convinced about the artistry of their work.  I asked the first company how they could bring down their bid and the contractor said he could take this out and that out and it would reduce the bottom line some, but now I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

Given the initial six thousand dollar spread, my wife said it was a no-brainer: we should accept the lower bid…and I almost agreed.  Then it hit me.  I called up the first company again, the one I really wanted, and this time asked rather than bring down the initial bid, what could they do if I said create something wonderful for eleven thousand dollars?  This approach surprised the landscaper and he loved the challenge.  And needless to say, he came back with an entirely different design that was also wonderful while at the same time met our budget.

I realized that this is what happens to our agency all the time.  We get approached by a prospective client and are asked what it costs to work with us and develop a year’s marketing program.  If the prospective client hasn’t provided us a budget to start with, which is often the case, the moment we throw any number at them, they get sticker shock and that’s the end of the conversation.  What a shame. What usually happens after that is the company either takes some kind of budget approach and gets a poor outcome, or doesn’t make any change whatsoever and suffers all the more for it.

Why not do what I did with the landscapers?  Start by singling out the best talent possible and then, either on your own or together, arrive at a total budget that’s just below your pain threshold, one you can live with, and let the agency help you get the most bang for your buck.  Then you have the best of both worlds, the top talent and a budget to do the most effective job possible.

Taking the lowest bid or chiseling a good bid from the top only cuts down on possibilities.  Starting with a fixed amount and asking a supplier what’s the most you can get from it puts everybody in a creative mode, exactly where they all should be.

Whether you’re hiring a marketing agency, a freelance writer, a filmmaker or an engineering company, hiring based on talent, and budgeting based on your pain threshold (that only you alone can determine) will yield superior results.

In the meantime, I’m still praying for rain…


Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

Lots of Likes SMWhen it comes to sharing on social media, there’s you and your network of friends and contacts. These are all the people that you’re connected with on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc.  And like you, these people have their network, in other words, your network’s network. The big secret of social media, not just for your personal brand but for your company is that it’s not about your network per se. It’s not even so much about reaching those in your network. It’s about reaching your network’s network.

So every message you put out there should be something that your network wants to forward. If your network doesn’t want to forward it along to their networks, then your brilliant post or exciting news dies with them. It’s like telling a room full of people you know something wonderful that you would hope they would tell others…but the word never gets out. On the other hand, if you put out content that’s surprising, that teaches, that adds to the conversation, that provokes thought, that taps into a bigger discussion, then people will forward it. In a sense, they reward you for being oh so clever and smart.

For example, I’m of that age where I’m taking more of an interest in insurance-related matters, so I’ve found myself going to New York Life’s Facebook page.  There they ask questions, have polls, allow you to fill in the blank on things that directly have to do with insurance; but many other times the content is peripheral – what do you want your legacy to be? How old is the oldest person you know and what makes them special? It’s stuff people comment on a lot. As you may know, what happens then on Facebook is that those comments show up on people’s individual pages as commenting about something on New York Life’s page. So it becomes viral… which is the art of reaching your network’s network.

So what kind of messages are likely to be forwarded, or maybe more importantly, what kind of messages are boring and least likely to be forwarded? Well, one kind is the “look at our facilities” update.  Or “here’s our new product.”  Sorry to be so cruel, but who the heck really cares but your own people?  It’s just you talking about you.  And isn’t that just the kind of guy you hate to talk to at a party?

Oh, and then there’s the type of messaging that you find all over LinkedIn and Twitter…the over-populating of meaningless updates and posts without cessation. One post or tweet after another to the point you get tired seeing this person’s face show up on your screen ever again! If the idea of social media marketing is to form relationships with people, then why would you want to undo what you’ve accomplished by over-marketing your company to the point where people say, “I’ve had enough. Buh-bye!”

So what kind of messages generate traffic for business and does get forwarded to your network’s network?  It turns out you already saw this in high school when a message of great personal value went out there and was forwarded. I’ll call this “My parents are out of town…bring your own beer” message. This type of update breaks through the rest of the “ho-hum” messages because it does two things: it produces a high emotional response and people like sharing practically useful content to help out their friends, as well as business customers or prospects.


Now I’m not a psychologist but I’ve found through personal experience that the likelihood of sharing content seems to hinge on things that produce an emotional response by means of wonder, joy, fear and anxiety, laughter, fear and surprise. I’m sure there are many other motivators but let’s just talk about these for a moment.

  • Wonder – If it’s something truly amazing, people can’t resist commenting on it and passing it along. This can be in the form of a photograph, a story, a real-life event, or a list of links to really great resources.
  • Joy – What makes people happy? There’s loads of things. It can be something funny, inspiring, or anything that’s enlightening and uplifting. It’s telling a story that people can connect with.
  • Fear and Anxiety – As people move toward “carrots,” they run from “sticks.” People react if they’re anxious or fearful. If you’re writing content that talks about potentially losing out on something, missing an opportunity, or heading in a wrong or even tragic direction, you’ll get attention. More than that, this kind of emotional content gets passed along.
  • Laughter – If you’re in the funeral business, you know the healing power of a good laugh. Humor has a long history of going viral. Step outside of the dark cloak and crack a grin.
  • Surprise – What surprises people? Anything that goes against their expectations. Things that astonish them as well as things that might shock them, from challenging assumptions or long-held ideas to great new ways to do things.

Just take a look at this wonderful, relevant and extremely viral video on YouTube that has garnered millions of hits.  If you’re a death care provider, there’s no reason this couldn’t fit in as a post on your Facebook page that would certainly get “clicked along” to others. That’s what I’m talking about. There’s lots of great content out there if you look.

As we know, the idea of social media is to create and strengthen relationships with people.  We do that by sharing information that they’d like to get, read and pass along to others. That doesn’t happen if what you have to say isn’t interesting and you won’t be interesting until you say and do things imaginatively, originally, freshly.


Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.


Seven SinsNot too long ago, I was watching a series about the Seven Deadly Sins.  No, not Grumpy, Sleepy and Dopey…but Wrath, Pride, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Lust and Gluttony.  Things started churning in my mind and I wondered, what are the “Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing?”  Your choices are as good as mine, but   given what I continue to see taking place within marketing and marketing departments across all different industries, here’s my list.  It applies as much within the funeral industry as it does with food producers, medical product suppliers and consumer electronics manufacturers. Hopefully, you’re not committing more than a few, if any.  You decide.


In the Dilbert cartoon series, Dilbert says that “marketing is just liquor and guessing.” Funny…but as we know, a bit simplistic. Yet, too many companies assume that there is absolutely no need to substantiate their beliefs about the marketplace, about what their prospects want, about why their customers are buying, about what people think of their brand, about most anything having to do with products, services and buyers.  Generally the thinking is that no one can know the marketplace as well as the company and the market will accept whatever you offer. Guess (pun intended) how that turned out for Kodak, Borders Books, TWA, and certainly some recognizable companies in the funeral industry!  Ask yourself, when was the last time your company committed the time and resources to do some marketing research…qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, etc.  And do it right.

Marketing by Committee (Indecisiveness)

I’m not sure why, but when it comes to marketing, everyone seems to have a say. Partners, staff, associates, spouses, and the janitor all want to give their two-cents. That makes as much sense as having an accounting committee to help figure out where the credits and debits are posted? Or an office supply committee to pick out the colors of pens you order? Committees, by nature, are full of compromises so solutions are usually watered down versions that will wind up doing little or nothing to accomplish your growth goals. Marketing by committee leads to lots of bad ideas and poorly thought-out plans. Instead of bright, bold strokes from the marketing brush, you get a sea of beige. And then it doesn’t work. Who would have thunk it! The solution is to decide on objectives and budget, and then let the most qualified team member (or members) write a marketing plan. Once the plan is approved, ONE person gets appointed within the organization to take on the role as “the decider.”  Empower him or her to make all the courageous decisions required to position your company to dominate your category. Many executives forget that great marketing is not about staff consensus. Great marketing is about what works.


When different aspects of your marketing messages don’t reinforce each other, the inconsistencies alienate prospects and current customers. Inconsistent marketing distorts clear expectations, makes potential customers unsure of the characteristics of your service or products and creates unhappy customers who don’t get what they expect. These inconsistencies affect businesses by reducing both initial sales to consumers as well as diminish repeat sales from dissatisfied customers. We’ve seen companies change messages nearly with every ad, which together or individually have nothing in common with their website, Facebook page or literature.  Also, be consistent with your marketing plan. Don’t stop running an ad, for instance, just because the first insertion didn’t ring your phone off the hook. Give your campaign time to work, but you also need to know when a change in direction is a good idea. Remember, people are not paying that much attention to you, but when they do, it helps if the message you’re saying now is similar to the message that they heard the last time.


There is hardly a more insidious demon than the dreaded “status-quo.” It generally takes the form of “whatever we did last year is good enough.” Except, things change. Your competitors are changing things up. Your customer’s needs are changing. The marketplace is changing.  Here are few things to avoid the sin of complacency: Keep looking in your rearview mirror to see what your competitors are doing. Listen to new ideas from customers, staff members, and from whatever books or magazines you read, as the next big idea may not come out of your own mouth. Strive to upset your competitors by beating them to the punch, always moving ahead to be a “New and Improved” version of whatever you are today.


Okay, so after reading articles by “experts” about how you should have a customer engagement program in place (so you can be more “customer-centric”), you’ve put your company on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Heck, you’re even ready to go when the next big social media platform launches. You’ve got your product literature online, and your Web site has a blog and videos. Not to mention all the offline activities ranging from special events to advertising to PR, etc.  You’re like the guy on the old Ed Sullivan Show, spinning his plates on sticks and running from one to the other as each begins to wobble.  Whoa, slow down there cowboy, focus, and be sure that you really need all those marketing activities.  And that each has earned its rightful place in a well thought-out strategy.  Better to do one or two things right than lots of stuff without cause, thought, or management.


From so much marketing activity that I see, especially in the deathcare business, the memo has not reached the desk of many marketers that “It’s not about what your company wants to say but rather about what the customer wants to hear.” We call that Inside-Out thinking, looking at the world from your own perspective rather than the customers’.  What has made companies like Nike, Apple, Amazon and Southwest Airlines great is they’re always looking at things from the buyers’ perspectives –what we call Outside-In thinking. Customers only consider “what’s in it for me.”  When all you do is list your company’s features, you’re talking to yourself about yourself; when you present customer-oriented benefits, you’re tuning in on the buyers’ brainwaves. So in short, it’s not about you.


Maybe, just maybe, the deadliest marketing sin of all is not having one over-arching marketing strategy – and insuring its implementation through all your tactics.  Executing marketing tactics without having a well-developed integrated strategy is like leaving your roadmap or GPS at home and blithely driving off without considering if you’ve chosen the right road. So if you wouldn’t haphazardly set off on an important trip in your car, why let it happen with regard to your company’s marketing activities. It’s easy to start with the “how” but if you haven’t identified the “what,” you may find yourself spending a lot of time executing tactics that don’t take you where you want to go.  In so doing, you’ll be wasting time, resources and losing out on sales-producing opportunities. What is needed is one single integrated strategy that informs all your delivery platforms whether online or offline, print, broadcast, or social. That way, at every point in your attack plan, at every customer touchpoint, you’re moving the ball forward, not sideways or even backward.

Yes, there are more Deadly Sins that I might have mentioned, such as Fear (of exploring different paths), Overconfidence (trying to be a “do-it-yourselfer” when it’s better to rely on experts), Ignorance (of not measuring or knowing the results of your activities), or Miserliness (saving yourself into bankruptcy).  But Seven is Seven, and now you know what Seven Deadly Marketing Sins are at the top of my list.

Now, let us all go out and to the best of our ability, sin no more.


Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Dan on LinkedInSee agency work via this link.

Back in the early 1940s, Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company coined the phrase “USP – Unique Selling Proposition.”  The term referred to a having, finding or creating a distinctive point of view or reason to buy that is wholly different from the competitions’.

But as a catchphrase, USP is so 70-years-ago!

In the 80’s, marketing agencies, HR consultants and motivational speakers started using the term “elevator pitch,” which kinda says the same thing: What is so special about you (or your company, or your product) that you can express it in just 30 seconds on the ride up the elevator and expect the listener to get it?  We hear that term a lot in angel and investor meetings.

More recently, we find ourselves using the phrase “value proposition.”  And we’ve shorted the time to about 5 seconds, but we’ll settle for 30, just as long as it clearly tells the story.

Your value proposition is the answer to the question “what customer objective does my company help to achieve better than anyone or anything else?

Whichever term you favor, USP, elevator pitch, or value proposition, without it, without a good one, you’re dead!  If you can’t very quickly describe what makes you, your product, your service or your company truly special in the eyes of the customer, don’t expect your customer to do it for you.  By default, they’ll just put you on the shelf called “commodity,” and there you’ll stay.

Every business, whether funeral home or fast-food restaurant, starts out with the same baseline of customer fulfillment as its competition. If you run a funeral home, for example, you might say your value proposition is how much you care for families and the deceased.  But then, what funeral home doesn’t say that?  If you manage a cemetery, you might default to “a beautiful, restful place of honor.” But that’s not unique to your property alone, so it doesn’t really make you special, does it?  Poof, you’re a commodity!  You’re just the same as everybody else.

On the other hand, your value proposition has to be one that is not merely unique but deserves an exclamation point in the eyes of your customer.  It has to create a real sense of Wow! or there really is no value, just proposition.  What can you say that captures the imagination and puts you in a class all your own? That’s at the very heart of making a sale or losing out on one.

I’ll be honest, defining your value proposition takes some real corporate soul-searching at the most fundamental level. It requires seeing yourself from your competitors’ customers’ point of view.  It may even require re-inventing your organization so that there’s an entirely new but better value proposition than the one you’re claiming now.

Commit to asking yourself, just as soon as you finish reading this post, “what’s our value proposition?”  Ask your associates and see if their answers agree with your own, and if they can articulate it in less than 90 seconds.  Aim for 30.  (For my company, we can do it in two seconds: “Agent of Change.”  We even own the registered trademark on it!)

Your value proposition is the very cornerstone of your business.  All sales and marketing must emanate from it.  The stronger your value proposition is…

…and the more clearly it expresses your unique ability to improve your customers’ lives…

…and the most concisely you can articulate it between elevator floors…

…the more confident you can be in betting on your company’s success!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: