The Nightmare Of “Living The Dream” Copyright 2015 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

Living The Dream

When I travel to the Midwest, there is a great little green canteen where I get breakfast and/or lunch near my office in Chicago. There is a vivacious young lady who works there who answers with “living the dream” when asked “how are you today?” I sense a touch of good-natured snark in her voice when she says those words as I know a bit about her and her goals from our conversations. She is a very happy and good-natured person; she loves her job and is currently attending school to pursue her goals. The future is hers to make as she envisions it. Indeed I believe she is living the dream; her dream. Of the people I hear using this contemporary colloquialism, she actually means it in its positive connotation. She is the exception to the rule. Almost everyone else I encounter who says “living the dream,” is usually trapped in a self-imposed situation that they don’t like. Example; I recently had a drink at a bar where a very cantankerous young man snapped back at me with “living the dream” when I asked how he was doing. It was obvious from his tonality and mental state that he was hating life and what he was doing–or not doing–with it. “Living the dream” is sadly more often a nightmare for most people who wantonly throw those words out into the ether and don’t know that they could indeed be living the dream if they just decided to do so. I find this troubling.

I have to stop myself when I ponder young people’s jargon. I’ve been blessed to be alive for almost 50 years now and I’ve learned almost everything I know the hard way. Had the catch phrase “living the dream” existed when I was young, there is a very high likelihood that I would’ve used it too. When we are young, we have a tendency towards cynicism. Moreover, when some old-timer would tell me a thing or two, I always thought I knew better. Factoring this equation, I know that if you’re my age or older, I’m preaching to the choir. However, if you are a young person hungry to acquire some wisdom without falling on your face in the process, please read on.

Life is like a vacation; it has been designed to be amazing but it’s always too short. At the beginning of a vacation, we have a list of things to do and in spite of our best efforts, it’s over before we know it and we find there isn’t time for our list of to-dos as we pack our bags to go back to our ‘real lives.’ How I wish that when I was young, someone told me how short life was in a way that made me actually believe it. I really had no idea. Fast forward to now; there is so much I still yearn to do. So many dreams to experience. So many lives to touch. It pains me to have to confront the reality that I don’t have the time to even scratch the surface anymore and only choose the goals and dreams I know I still have time for and the ability to achieve. I’m feeling keenly aware of the fleeting nature of life lately and I find the more I express gratitude for it, the faster time slips through my fingers. It’s paradoxical recompense for taking pause to appreciate life’s blessings. That is a phenomenon I wasn’t expecting. and it compelled me to write this blog.

Whatever it is that makes your soul sing, do it now. Do it with gusto and dedication. Be true to your soul. So even if you have to take a job you don’t love, or do something you don’t like on the way to your goals, know that it’s a small price to pay. Remember success is a journey and not a destination, so when someone askes how you’re doing, you can answer them sincerely with “I’m living the dream” and mean it with every fiber of your being, like my friend at the green canteen.

Thank you

Branded, Specialty and Promotional Marketing Vehicles

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Part 1

Putting your company logo and messaging on your fleet (even if your fleet comprises of just one vehicle), is one of the most cost effective opportunities to promote your products and/or services. You might say that branded vehicles run in my DNA. My great-grandfather William Theodore, born 101 years before me in 1865, was apprenticed as a spice blender. He grew into a traveling salesman in south central New York State for Newell & Truesdell, purveyors of wholesale groceries and “Yankee Notions” in the last century. His service vehicle, a Model T Ford panel truck, was emblazoned with the logo: “New & True.” Where a lot of earlier branding seems “quaint” and outmoded now, his Ford Model T retains its dash and presents an unforgettable sight even today. The photo here is circa 1916.

Wouldn’t you think that by now, almost a century later, everyone would have learned that this is one of the most cost-effective methods of advertising based on ROI ever devised? They haven’t. Thousands and thousands of company vehicles traveling the highways are utterly blank or without a dash of branding of any kind. What a shame and what a wasted opportunity, especially when considering that mobile media advertising offers the lowest cost-per-impression of any major advertising medium.

Research by the American Trucking association, reveals that wrapped or branded vehicles get an average of 138 visual impressions per mile. That gives your brand, company or cause, first hand exposure to about 16 million potential customers a year—per vehicle. Additionally, a study by the ad agency, RYP & Becker Group, reveals some truly exciting data. 97% of survey respondents recalled the copy and creative of the wrapped vehicle. 98% thought the wrapped vehicles created a positive image for the advertiser. Finally, 96% thought vehicle graphics had far more impact than billboards. I hope you are convinced and are now planning on branding your fleet (even if it’s just one vehicle, or your personal car), and if your fleet is already branded, let’s take this opportunity as far as we can.

To stand out in this era of sensory overload, we must do something beyond the ordinary to survive and thrive in our modern business climate. Nowadays, no one is going to tell their friends about a truck with magnetic logos stuck on the doors. Logos on the side of your vehicles are a good start, but they’re not going to be enough. There are many other ways to take vehicle branding further. Following are some options you may want to consider. Harvey MacKay, in his timeless tome, “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” makes the wise suggestion of putting your company logo on the roof of your vehicle (in addition to the sides and back). He wrote that almost 25 years ago, yet today, countless side-branded-only vehicles roll down streets and roads all over the world, with mute, blank roofs staring back at all those executives in high rise offices (or any office above the 2nd or 3rd floor, for that matter). We can take a cue from some service vehicles like police cruisers and ambulances, as we’ll often see messaging on their roofs.

Ambulances also put their messaging on the leading edge of their hoods—with the copy in reverse—so that we can read the messaging in our rearview mirrors when they are behind us. This reverse messaging on the hood is a great place to put your website address (check with local restrictions on this tactic, as some municipalities have archaic laws against reverse copy on the hood of any vehicles except ambulances). Putting your messaging on the back of your fleet is also crucial. It’s worth noting, this is the best surface on your vehicles where you can have detailed information about your goods or services, as this is the only surface that can be viewed for a prolonged period of time by other motorists when vehicles are on the move. Anyone following your vehicles can potentially follow them as long as they’d like. They don’t have to pass you until they have read your messaging (so keep it really interesting).

To recap:

· Messaging on the doors (or anywhere on the side). Utilize logos and minimal copy here (7 words-max). Have your creative do most of the talking on these surfaces.

· Messaging on the roof or top surface of the hood/trunk. Make it big and bold here. Something that can be read from a high floor in a tall building. This means large fonts and few words (5 words max).

· Messaging on the leading edge of the hood in reverse (keep it simple; website only, for instance). Again, check your local ordinances.

· Messaging on the rear. Go into more detail here and keep it interesting, compelling and creative. Something akin to, “You’re following the leader in (insert your product or service and note features and benefits). Call us today and we’ll put you in front of your competition.” Make sure your phone number, website, social media links and QR codes are prominently displayed here.

Please comment and check back for Part 2 soon! Thanks!

Acquired Immunity To Viral Marketing Part 2

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(Bee sure to read Part 1 first: https://edgewaterblog.com/2014/07/01/acquired-immunity-to-viral-marketing-part-1/)

Recently, one of our V.I.Bees, Geoff, had a refreshing and extremely clever idea for a new marketing moniker. He called it “Pollination Marketing.” That his idea succinctly complimented the name of our organization, made it all the more appealing to us (everyone at our company, http://www.BusyBeePromotions.com, is referred to as a “Bee”). Alas, a little research in the availability of the domain was unfortunately an object lesson on the phenomena of universal consciousness; someone had beaten us to the punch; someone is sitting on it. If it’s not too late to make a long story short, had Geoff’s brainchild been applied to our business model, the idea was that we would send our ‘Bees’ out into the market place with ‘pollen’ in the form of samples, talking points, tchotchkes & literature. The ‘Bees’ pollinate the consumer with this information and create new customers that would then bloom the world over. Cool, huh? It gets better; not only do the worker Bees go out and spread the word about our clients (or Busy Bee for that matter), they return to the hive (our office) with new ‘pollen’ from cross-pollinating/cross-promoting with contacts they have encountered in their travels in the form of collected literature, photos, business cards, quotes from the public, specific metrics and other anecdotal information that we relay back to our clients for joint venture opportunities and to incorporate into our ever-evolving business model. As far as I was concerned, it was a honey of an idea. 

At Busy Bee Promotions, we do indeed create a buzz for our clients. It’s a great descriptor of our service, it’s brand appropriate and we can live with it far into the foreseeable future. Much more importantly though, it’s appropriate for our clients and is an activity that their customers and clients won’t run for cover from either because it doesn’t connote something negative like “viral,” so everyone wins.

Perhaps this is a good time to step back from what we are selling for a moment and revisit why we are selling it. If we as consumers like a product, service or cause that we believe in, we have to ask ourselves; “how did I become aware of this?” “Did someone disrupt me?” “Did someone virally market me?” If we ourselves came upon a product or service that we like by more traditional means of data transference and brand awareness activities, let’s give our potential customers the same opportunity to reach the same conclusion—in the same manner that we did about what we are selling. It’s the best way to show respect for those who will be parting with their hard-earned money when purchasing our goods and services.

In a world where euphony is the norm, our profession has decided to invert euphony. It’s baffling and it’s a problem. The ‘opportunity’ to address this ‘issue’ is a ‘challenge’ that we in our industry all need to be up for, or eventually, our clients will avoid us like the plague.

To recap:

• Be honest and frank with your target consumer. Don’t try to bamboozle them into opting in to your product or service by cloaking your intentions in euphony. There is nothing wrong with closing a deal and charging a fee for service; it’s the free enterprise system and we need make no apologies for engaging in it.

  • While it’s acceptable and encouraged to use euphony (in serious personal matters, for instance), it should be discouraged in business vernacular. It’s a waste of time and disperses the focus needed to accomplish goals and resolve problems.

  • Come up with a creative way to describe how you’re marketing your product, service or cause (i.e. “pollination marketing”/ “creating a buzz”). Make it brand appropriate for your product/service and it’ll be something that’ll grow with your organization and not have to be reinvented ad nauseam as consumers won’t become resistant to it. 

Thanks for reading!

Acquired Immunity To Viral Marketing Part 1

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I’m a huge fan of Jay Conrad Livingston and his line of “Guerilla Marketing” books which are some of the most clever and informative series of works in the history our industry. It’s not a stretch to say that he was the founding father of modern promotions. “Guerilla” is also a great way to define his message. He used the word as a metaphor for his brand of marketing although it is a term that initially entered the modern vernacular with negative connotations.

I remember when I first heard the word “guerilla.” I was watching The CBS Evening News anchored by Walter Cronkite with my mom, dad and big brother. The details escape me because I was so young, but I remember it was about bad guys in Lebanon. My father also had to explain to me that Mr. Cronkite wasn’t calling these bad guys “gorillas.” It was my first lesson on homonyms, but I digress. It helps to remind ourselves that Mr. Livingston’s message succeeded in spite of the negative connotation, not because of it. No one believes his intention was that we’d take his terminology literally and start shooting up Beirut whilst passing out branded tchotchkes. He was just telling us there was another way to get our point across which involved tactics not unlike a guerrilla ambush on an unsuspecting—but ultimately grateful—public. Juxtapose that tactic with what’s happening now; he took a negative term and turned it into a positive euphemism. The exact opposite is happening in the marketing world today. 

Allow me to set the stage: We’ve all been exposed to euphemistic rebranding of negative terms in the sterile corridors of the corporate world. Long ago and in more pragmatic times, we may have heard someone say something akin to, “We have a problem and it needs to be fixed.” It was clear, concise, to the point and we understood there was a problem and it needed to be fixed. No further explanation was needed. However sometime in the last 20 or 30 years, some mid-level manager raised on Dick & Jane and new math (and who may have just been subjected to sensitivity training), proselytized that people ran for cover when hearing the word “problem,” lest their self esteem be irreparably damaged as a result of the exposure. By some decree, the word “problem” was substituted with the word “challenge.” After all, everyone likes a challenge, don’t they? When “Challenge” lost its luster (after a very short while, incidentally), it was unceremoniously replaced with “issues.” That wasn’t good enough either and now we actually call problems “opportunities.” Good grief. Isn’t it sad to think that soon, that wonderfully positive word will be laden with negative connotations? 

Euphony has its place in the lexicon though. When someone’s vital signs cease to be apparent, it blunts the trauma to survivors when we say this person has “passed on” or “passed” versus this person “died.” We don’t get buried, we get “interred.” In fact, life insurance companies go so far as to tell survivors that the policy in question had “matured.” We can forgive euphony in businesses that deal with death, but for the rest of us, it borders on ridiculous and it implies that everyone on the payroll is an easily traumatized child. I think it’s time to come full circle; indeed we have a ‘problem’ and it needs to be fixed. You’d never know it, with all the “Johnny-come-lately-me-too” terms in the marketing world we are being subjected to. I believe these new buzz words and phrases try in vain to capture the clever and whimsical spirit and vibe of the late Mr. Livingston’s epiphany. For instance, can we all agree that ‘viral marketing’ is a vile term? Why must our industry come up with these negative-sounding names to describe what we do? Viruses are bad. No one wants one and if we can help it, we’d never seek one out to bring home to the family.

This blog will appear dated very shortly as I’m certain we will stop using this buzz term shortly (wishful thinking?). But I can’t help thinking it will be replaced with another, even more negative sounding name. ‘Disruptive’ is another gem. It’s as if the only way to get the attention of our target consumer is to disrupt them (read: Piss them off). If someone disrupts me while I’m busy living my life, I can tell you with complete certainty I will not be investing in their product, company, cause, or service. I would also maintain that I’m not alone in this sentiment. You get the point; I’m illustrating, with absurdity, the absurd. What we do in marketing and promotions is an honorable endeavor but with names like “Viral Marketing” floating around out there defining what we do, at best you’d think that we’re up to no good and at worst, trying to infect the public with something that may kill them. If we just call what we’re doing “marketing” and “promotions,” we’re being honest with the consumer. If on the other hand, our product, service or cause needs to be spread by such disgusting sounding names as ‘viral marketing,’ we shouldn’t be surprised when our demographic target moves from our sights and hides where we can’t find him or her. It may be for the aforementioned reasons we have to keep on reinventing, or ‘mutating’ ways to get our message in front of consumers. No one wants our viruses; hence the name of this blog, “acquired immunity” and I believe these terms and tactics are creating an ever-resistant strain of consumer. Note that the author is keenly aware that ‘viral’ is a metaphor, but words have meaning and by continuously using negative words in our communications, it reinforces negativism. Keep in mind the term, “guerrilla marketing” is the exception to inverted euphony; it worked. Most, if not all the others, don’t. 

Come back soon for Part 2

Thanks!

DON’T GIVE UP

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Jim Rohn would ask audiences during his talks, “How long would you give your baby to learn how to walk, before you just told him or her to stop trying?” The reaction was unanimous: “As long as it takes! My baby will keep trying until they walk!” Tony Robbins used this same analogy and made the observation that this is why every able-bodied person on Earth learns how to walk; our parents didn’t give up on us. Later in life, whenever we set our goals in any endeavor – be it sales or even losing weight – we need to get it done with the same resolve we used to learn to walk as children; keep working on it until we succeed.

A little perspective on the passage of time helps us . How often do we toast the new year and ask ourselves and our friends, “where did the time go?” It’s a universal reaction at midnight. In the blink of an eye, another year goes by. Can we all agree that time flies? Earl Nightingale reminded us to keep working at our goals—no matter how long it takes to get them accomplished. The time will pass anyway. If we embark on a goal that takes one, five, ten or twenty years to accomplish, so what? For instance, if we start a ten year project when we’re 30, we will be 40 when it’s done and we’ll feel very accomplished. Conversely, if we don’t work on our our ten year project, guess how old we’ll be in ten years and more importantly, how will we feel? If we do our best for as long as it takes, success will be ours. I’ll close with another quote from Jim Rohn, “Discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tons.”

BODY LANGUAGE

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It’s been said that our bodies communicate 90% of what we are saying, versus 10% for our words. We’ve all heard, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” We wield far more influence with our words when they are accompanied with positive body language. I’m not going to delve too deeply into this on this blog, as this is a study in and of itself. If you’d like to learn more about this subject, I would suggest that you study NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), the last word on the subject.

For this blog, I’ll highlight what I have found to be the salient points of body language that have greatly helped me in my sales and business career:

• Smile! Pretty simple: Just wear your best smile as often as you can. Make sure it’s genuine and warm.

• Listen intently by maintaining eye contact.

• Make sure your posture is straight and strong

•Subtly nod your head to communicate an affirmative message to your prospect—whether or not you agree with them (more on that in my blog, Empathetic Selling https://edgewaterblog.com/2014/05/07/empathetic-selling/). A little nod is letting them know you’re present and paying attention.

• Pace your prospect’s style of speaking. Speak slowly if they do. Speak quickly if they do. Speak loudly if they do. Speak softly if they do. People like people who are like them and one of the quickest ways to establish rapport is to have a similar speaking pattern. Be careful not to mock them; do this with stealth.

This is the tip of the iceberg. I strongly encourage you to do your research on NLP and body language, not just for a sales tool, but in the interest of effective communication in all your endeavors.

HOW TO GET MORE YESES

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Let’s examine the “Yes, yes, yes” method of closing the sale. At first blush, this tip may seem like a contradiction of my earlier blog, Assume The Sale, (https://edgewaterblog.com/2014/06/25/assume-the-sale/) when I suggested that you never ask a closed-ended question (one that could be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’). So is this a contradiction to our last training? No.

In sales and business, we have to try everything until we find what works for us and depending on our personalities and our ability to persuade, this “yes, yes, yes” tactic can work wonders. Legendary sales trainer Brian Tracy, says that when people answer “yes” to a series of questions, they are more likely to say, “yes” to your ultimate proposition. The trick is to make certain that the questions you ask will indeed illicit a “yes” response; nothing that requires a commitment by the prospect. Come up with some ‘safe’ questions. For instance, if it’s nice out, ask the consumer, “Isn’t this a beautiful day?” They answer, “yes.” If your home team just won a big game, ask, “Isn’t it great that xxxxx won??” Again, they answer, “yes.” Then when it comes to asking someone to make a purchase, they are on a ‘yes-roll’ and the likelihood of getting them to make a purchase goes up exponentially (factoring that you still ask “which,” not “if,” during your close-see Assume The Sale). I’m suggesting that you have very upbeat, positive and light-hearted conversations with your prospect to grease the skids.

It’s important not to overdo this as we only have a small window of time to properly educate the consumer and too much fluff will annoy them. Formulate our questions in advance so that we’re not getting “no’s” about anything. It’s a highly effective tactic that will go a long way to increasing cooperation and compliance in all areas of our lives, not just when we’re selling. 

ASSUME THE SALE

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Sometimes a clever joke in a movie or TV show is all that it takes to permanently alter the perceptions of the multitude. In the old TV show, The Odd Couple, the character of Felix Unger is in court and demonstrates why one should never “assume.” Click here for a link to the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svkgOsr7pUc This logic was used once again in the original Bad News Bears movie in 1976. It’s a cute and clever joke, but ever since this joke was first proffered, generations of people have almost always assigned a negative connotation to the word “assume,” as if making an assumption is always a bad thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Can we all agree that when we assume something to be so, it rarely results in all parties transforming into asses?

One of the greatest salespeople ever, Elmer Wheeler, used to instruct his students, “Don’t ask if, ask which.” In other words, don’t give your prospect a choice between something and nothing. Rather, give them a choice between something and something else. Instead of asking, “Would you like one of these knick knacks?” – ask instead, “Which one of these knick knacks would you like?” or “How many knick knacks would you like?” or “What color/size knick knack would you like?” Often when someone says “no thank you” to your offer, it isn’t because they’re not interested; it’s because you gave them the opportunity to say “no,” which often times is just a conditioned response. When you ask an “if” question, you are giving the prospect a choice between “yes” and “no.” This is what we call a ‘closed-ended question.’ These are to be avoided whenever possible. At worst, they end the sales process immediately with a “no” response and at best, you won’t have much to go on with a “yes” response. As salespeople, we are always trying to engage our prospects in conversations that reveal their needs and wants. If someone just gives you a “yes,” you now have to ask another question to dig deeper. Assuming the sale begins with asking open-ended questions that start with “Which,” “When,” “Where,” “What” and “How.” These will get your prospect reflecting, responding and revealing their real needs and wants to you.

Another part of ‘assuming the sale’ is to have the right attitude about your product or service. If what you are selling isn’t something that you’re completely sold on, you’ll have a hard time selling it. You should start your day with the assumption that since you’re sold, everyone else will be too. If you have reservations about what you’re selling, your prospects will be able to tell. If you are not sure about how you feel about this, do a little research into your product(s) and service(s) and do a little soul searching too; you may have to work somewhere else, or sell a different product or service to succeed. Anthony Robbins discusses this in his best-selling book, Unlimited Power. We have to be congruent to have the influence we desire. As salespeople, we have to be fully aligned in this area.

Assuming the sale is a one of the strongest tools for maintaining a positive attitude and succeeding. Our greatest successes will usually follow entering a situation with highest expectations of a successful outcome.

THE MORE THE MERRIER

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Nike reminds us: “Just Do It.” Don’t overthink sales, or how you’re going to approach prospects. The worst thing that’ll happen if you don’t close the deal is that you will learn how to not close the deal and you’ll get it right the next time. A perfect example of this was back in the late 1980s, I was the Chicago sales manager for Metagram America, a long defunct, alphanumeric paging/answering service, which at the time was the cutting edge in communications technology. It was a 24/7 live answering service that would answer your calls with a customized greeting and then send the user, what would today be called a text message, on a device that looked like a beeper. Remember those? All of our sales reps were issued one of these pagers and were tasked to hit the pavement. Many of the reps would sit in the office and spend hours figuring out their strategy for the day before getting in their cars and going on sales calls. At best, they would see about three to four prospects before coming back to the office to complain that they hadn’t closed any sales.

My number one salesman had a different strategy. I hardly ever saw him. The only time he would ever come in the office would be to get more literature and business cards. The rest of his time was spent talking to people about Metagram America. He would talk to hundreds of people every week and he sold more than anyone in the country. He ‘just did it.’ He didn’t over think it. He would strike up casual conversations with people he met at the bus stop, train station, at the grocery store— whenever and wherever he was. He didn’t take the process too seriously and his commissions were seriously large. I’m not suggesting that every company has a product or service that lends itself to this type of approach. I’m aware that some things can’t be closed without a lengthy and involved consultative process. But in all industries, a salesperson can still vacillate too long before getting the ball rolling.

The bottom line with regard to the numbers game is to do the math. There is a very good chance that you will double your sales if you pitch twice as many people. You will triple your sales if you pitch three times as many people and so on. Ask yourself how big of a raise you’d like, set your goals, do the math and hit the pavement. 

GET TO THE POINT

 

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Polonius made reference that brevity is the soul of wit in Hamlet and it’s still true today. I maintain that we are either born with wit, or not. It’s not a teachable skill, but we can learn to be brief and a great book for learning the art of brevity is, How To Get Your Point Across In 30 Seconds Or Less by Milo Frank. I highly recommend it. It’s vital to understand and appreciate how busy prospects are these days. An example I like using to illustrate the importance of brevity today is with TV advertisements. In television’s infancy, commercials could be as long as two minutes. Viewers were so enamored of their TV sets in those days, that even watching commercials was entertaining. It didn’t matter that they were watching a pitch. What mattered was that they were watching anything at all. The 2 minute spot evolved into 30 to 60-second spots which were the norm for decades. Fast forward to the present day. I recently gave a talk to an entrepreneur class at Columbia College and asked the students for a show of hands: “Who has watched a network television commercial in the last 12 months?” Not one student raised their hand. The advertisements young people are noticing (or ignoring) these days are online and when the ads give the viewer the option of skipping the spot in five seconds, almost all the students exercise this option. Does that open your eyes? It did mine. We have to respect our prospect’s time, and we need to get to the point and get to it fast.

When we are communicating on any level-be it with advertising, or calling someone on the phone-we have to be as brief as humanly possible. A good rule of thumb is to communicate what what needs to be said and not what we want to say.