SALES IS NOT A DIRTY WORD

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In Brian Tracy’s, The Psychology Of Selling, he reminded those of us in sales to be proud of being sales people. Being a salesperson is to hold one of the most important and crucial positions in any organization. Without sales, there is no manufacturing, no HR, no R&D, no marketing, no distribution; there is nothing without sales. If there are no sales, there is no enterprise; it’s that important. If you are in sales, hold your head really high; you’re employing everyone around you.

Some people get a job in sales until they get a ‘real job.’ They do sales because there isn’t a position currently available in their field and when that position becomes available, often the sales job is wantonly dropped and they dive headfirst into the job they prepared for. That’s fine, but many of these people walked away from a career that may have proved to be far more lucrative and rewarding than the other course of action. I’m not suggesting the reader shouldn’t follow his or her dreams. By all means, do. But know that whatever your field of study or expertise is in, please realize that there is a sales component present. Even if you aren’t on commission, having basic sales skills will assist you in any endeavor. You may not have to get someone to sign on the dotted line to collect a check, but we all have to sell our ideas to others and convince them to see things our way. Sales skills are needed in all walks of life. 

Thanks for reading!

Empathetic Selling

 

3D Character and Umbrella

 

“Empathetic Selling” ©2014 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

empathy |ˈempəθē|

noun

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

 

sympathy |ˈsimpəθē|

noun ( pl. -thies)

1 feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune : they had great sympathy for the flood victims.

• ( one’s sympathies) formal expression of such feelings; condolences : all Tony’s friends joined in sending their sympathies to his widow Jean.

 

What we are doing here is empathizing with the consumer not sympathizing.

It has been said that if we can see the world from John Q. Public’s eyes, we can sell John Q. Public what John Q. Public buys.

Everyone likes to get an education, but no one likes to be schooled. When we are selling, we are educating our prospects. If and when they have concern or an objection to our proposal (erroneous or otherwise), it behooves us to educate them gently. Dale Carnegie taught us that “A person convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still.” Tom Hopkins teaches a great method to address this; it’s called the ‘Feel-Felt-Found” system.

If someone raises a concern, immediately agree with them and tell them, “I know how you feel.” Incidentally, you can say this with conviction because they indeed shared their concern with you, ergo you know how they feel. This works because it takes the ‘fight’ out of the prospect. The last thing they expect a salesperson to do is not throw a clever rebuttal back at them. It also shows them that you are listening to them and acknowledging their concern as valid. We then follow up with something akin to, “most folks I speak with have felt the same way.” This lets the prospect know that they are not the only ones with this concern. The last part of this equation is to preface your response with, “But what we have found is…” and here you can list all the reasons why your prospect need not be concerned. Take special note of the word “we” in:

“But what we have found is…”

If you say instead:

“But what I have found is…”

…your prospect will still feel as if they are being schooled. Present your facts as if your are both on the journey of discovery together and that you’re not preaching to them from on high.

If you skip the ‘Feel-Felt-Found’ method and go right into your rebuttal, it’s going to feel like a game of ping-pong to your prospect. They will think you have a ‘canned response’ for everything they say and you’ll lose them. The ‘Feel-Felt-Found method gives you an opportunity to really hear them and give them the best solution for their needs and wants, which is what selling really is all about.

 

Managing Expectations: One of the keys to success and happiness

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©2010 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

Not managing expectations is at the root of most failings when dealing with people; both in business and in our personal lives. If we’ve ever been burned in business, it’s because our expectations weren’t met. If our hearts have ever been broken, it’s because our expectations weren’t met. Something was supposed to—or not supposed to—happen, or someone was supposed to do—or not do—something. In either case, the expected result was not what the outcome ended up being. The consequence is always the same; disappointment. It’s not usually the end result in and of itself either; it’s that the expected result didn’t come to fruition.

Think of our own experiences in business. Whenever we got more than we bargained for, the memory is a sweet one. Whenever the converse is true, the experience can sour a business relationship enough to end it. Unfortunately, this happens very easily and it’s not necessarily because of malice. It’s usually because the entity making promises unrealistically set the bar of expectations too high. The ability to manage expectations comes with experience.

What does it take to manage expectations? In a nutshell, it comes down to only taking on what you can effectively execute with the resources at hand. If a business is a new one, very often the proprietor is anxious about securing business and will sometimes agree to something before resources are secured to execute; be it in personnel, equipment or specialized knowledge. But this can also happen to the seasoned business professional who may be hurting for business and will agree to, or say anything to secure the business. These folks may think that everything will fall into place once the wheels start moving, but very often it doesn’t. Whether you’re new or experienced; don’t ever fall into this trap.

At my company, the rare times something hasn’t gone right in the eyes or our clients is because we as a company didn’t properly manage their expectations  (I’m very grateful those occasions have been few-and-far-between). The reasons for this can often be traced back to working with a third party who made promises we weren’t aware of and as a result, we had a hard time reigning in those expectations when proposals and big plans were being made without us being present, either by the first or third party. Sometimes expectations are set in brain storming sessions which is a mistake. That’s an environment where all ideas are on the table. That’s where concepts are born, not where the executional minutia is established. The problem manifests when those sessions are revisited without an objective review of how the viable expectations can be set and established. Of course everyone would like to meet all expectations and every company does their best to do this, but it’s a good idea to sometimes lower expectations. It’s been said that it’s best to under promise and over deliver.

My company produced a conference for NRC (now called Avid) back in 2004 and the keynote speaker, Paul Cardis, CEO of NRC cited an excellent example of managing expectations (for those who don’t know this company, they are basically the J. D. Power of home builders here in the States). This portion of his talk covered a somewhat common phenomenon in home building; as a new house settles, the foundation will sometimes crack. This is an important customer service and public relations issue for builders. If enough people file complaints to the Better Business Bureau about cracked foundations in new homes, it could potentially sink a home builder. How should a home builder address this? By managing expectations. Mr. Cardis told his audience that home builders shouldn’t hide the fact that foundations may crack. Instead, he urged builders to preemptively inform all home buyers that not only can their foundations crack—but that they WILL crack! Does that come as a shock to you? It did to me. Even though all foundations won’t crack (most don’t), is it a good idea to tell someone who just gave you perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) for a new home, that the foundation is going to crack? Apparently yes. The reader is probably quicker than I, but just in case you need some clarification; if you don’t disclose everything to someone who’s just made perhaps the largest investment of their lives, and something like a foundation cracks, you’re going to have trouble. If however, you preemptively tell them that it is going to happen, you have properly managed expectations. Put yourself in the position of that home buyer. While you are being shown the property, the agent tells you something to the effect;

“This is a new home which was built on cleared land. The ground under the home was formally a corn field and never supported anything heavier than a tractor.  After all the tons of concrete, wood, bricks, roofing, windows, flooring, etc. are piled on top of the ground, it’s common & expected that the foundation will crack with settling. We of course take all measures to prevent this, but most of the time, it will. If and when it happens, we of course will come and fix it free of charge for the first 5 years of ownership after which time, the home will have settled properly so as to prevent this from being a chronic condition.”

Now you as the home buyer, have been prepared for your foundation to crack. If and when it does, you take it in stride because your expectations have been managed properly. If however, the builder chooses not to disclose this information to you and if and when your foundation breaks, you’re calling 60 minutes or John Stossel and the builder has a big problem and an even bigger PR issue. Let’s say the foundation never cracks (which is the most likely scenario), now this customer is telling everyone within earshot how great their house is and how amazing it is that the foundation didn’t crack. That represents new business for the builder while the former scenario represents lost-and never-to-be-had business. Use this example & think of the dollar value of managing expectations properly in your business. If you are in fact a home builder and the median home price is $165,000 (in 2011) a lost sale based on profits of 50% is $82,500 and a sale made represents this same figure written in the ledger with black ink; all by managing expectations. Whatever your business is, think of your average transaction, and do the math. Not just with that client, but with all the word-of-mouth that client will either generate or forever keep at bay.

You may be saying to yourself, “I already do that”, and maybe you do. That’s great. May I suggest that you go a step further and tell your clients to expect something negative when the odds flesh out that it hardly ever happens? I’m not suggesting that you stretch the truth here. If a potential scenario has never happened before and in all likelihood won’t, don’t present it as such. But if the potential scenario has been demonstrated to have happened in the past with some degree of consistency, then present is as something to be on the look out for. It’s always best to under promise and over deliver. Remember, that negative scenario may end up happening after all. This way, you’ve covered your bases.

In the promotions industry, we often work with two or more parties when planning events. It’s vital to our reputations that we stay on top of the expectations of the party paying the bills. It’s a balancing act to be sure; reassuring the client that the outcome they want is something your company can deliver (so they do in fact do business with you) and not overselling yourself (which ensures a one-time-only-transaction and countless lost revenue and bad blood). As promotions professionals, we must exercise due diligence with these third parties. If they are promising the world to the client and they then bring you in as the fall guy, who takes the fall? We do. It’s vital to be included in on all conceptual & planning meetings. I can’t tell you how many times we have been brought into a project that should never have left the brain storming session it was originally brought up in. A perfect example of this was with one of our best clients. I’m not going to disclose which client it was or where it happened because we fortunately sill do a great deal of business with them and they don’t need the embarrassment. In the interest of giving you, the reader very important information whilst protecting the reputation of one of my cherished client, I’m changing names, places and details, but not changing the gist of the lesson I learned the hard way.

A number of years ago, this client approached us with an ambitious project of decorating a large number of their prominent stores with holiday decorations. We had been working with this client in many areas of the country for years and already had a solid relationship. As a result, we were recommended to this particular region for the project which we were initially grateful for, but later lamented. We flew out to meet with them and the project (as it was presented to us) seemed to be only in need of a vendor to execute it (us). Little did we know that internally, the expectations of this company’s brass had already been raised to unrealistic levels by well-meaning marketing folks who, to say the least, hadn’t taken legal ramifications or their own operational logistics and risk management into consideration.

The plan was to cover their stores top to bottom and in and out with holiday lights. The effect was to be over-the-top; the same way a certain someone in your neighborhood goes the extra mile when doing their holiday decorations on their home. It was to be grand. It was to be news worthy. It was to be spectacular & we wanted nothing more than to deliver the goods. The challenge was though, was our client hadn’t cleared any of this internally before bringing us in. No legal counsel, no operations, no risk management, no facilities—nothing and no one. In hindsight, we weren’t really given the job of executing this event as it was planned; we were given the job of reigning the entire scope of the project in. Right away, we discovered that no one had bothered to check to see if the stores had enough electrical service to support all the lights requested (they didn’t. Not one store had the reserve power). Even if the stores could have all the lights on them without blowing every circuit in their breaker boxes, the lawyers wouldn’t allow any lights to be installed on the stores that could be reached by customers or their kids (either deliberately or accidentally). The end result was that we lined the cornices and roof lines of the stores with strings of lights; something that the property managers at most of these properties did anyway at no extra charge to the tenants as a part of their lease.

Guess who ended up looking bad? Who ended up looking like they couldn’t do what they were brought in to do? Who ended up representing the complete failure of a project that should never have the left board room? The lawyers? Nope. Risk management? No, guess again. Facilities? Try again. The good-intentioned marketing people? You get one more guess. That’s right; our company. We were tarred and feathered, black listed and had the door of future business in this region slammed in our face. And why did that happen? Because we didn’t manage expectations properly. In essence, we didn’t tell them that their foundations were going to crack and they did—big time. What makes this all the worse is that we did everything we possibly could have done to make this promotion a success—except manage the expectations. I can’t put a dollar figure on this blunder, but based on the volume of business we get from other regions that this client serves, its many hundreds of thousands of dollars. More often than not in our industry, we only get one opportunity at bat.

This was a hard lesson and was the impetus behind a check list that we now use whenever strategies are established, or we are brought into a project that has already been planned without our input. It is the best way to ensure that no one is disappointed and more importantly, that your client is happy and will reach out to you for future projects. Of course you should customize this list to reflect your services or product offering, but it’s a great start. Whatever you do, just be sure you manage all expectations—your clients and your own.

Expectation checklist:

  1. What are the current expectations?
  2. Who established them?
  3. How many parties were/are involved in the planning?
  4. Who are they?
  5. Who set the budget?
  6. Are current expectations possible to execute within given parameters?
  7. Has legal counsel been retained for this project?
  8. How much creative time has already been invested?
  9. What logistical work has already been done?
  10. Establish roles & responsibilities.
  11. Lower expectations & under promise.
  12. Over deliver.

Transference of Enthusiasm with Experiential Marketing

©2013 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

You started a company offering a product or service that you believe in strongly; something you knew had alluring features and useful benefits that outweighed its retail cost. The concept of your product or service was so exciting to you that it kept you up nights. You wanted to share it with the world and you couldn’t contain your enthusiasm. You knew that if you could transfer your enthusiasm for your product or service to the marketplace, almost everyone would feel as you do about your offering and gladly purchase it from you.

As Peter Drucker said, “There are only two basic functions in business; Innovation and Marketing”. At this point, you have the innovation part down. Now the marketing part kicks in. How do you do this? What are the best ways to inform and educate potential customers? Will your website, Facebook or Twitter page convey this enthusiasm? Will traditional channels do the trick, i.e. print, radio and TV media? Maybe you can advertise on YouTube? How about signage, such as billboards or other placards? Finally, let’s not forget experiential marketing; high quality, face-to-face interactions with brand ambassadors (at Busy Bee Promotions, we call our BAs ‘BEEs’ or BEE-As). The best approach is to implement as many marketing techniques as your budget allows (that are applicable to your offering) and then measure the results of each. All of the above can communicate enthusiasm, but in this article, we’ll examine experiential marketing, as it’s the most effective way to transfer enthusiasm for your offering to the marketplace.

There is no substitute for face-to-face, human interactions. One enthusiastic person communicating with another person will always have far more impact on the marketplace than any static advertisement, or web presence will ever have. It’s akin to the difference between seeing a band live and seeing a billboard for the band; there is no comparison. When marketing with BAs the trade-off is that the cost-per-interaction is higher than other methods, but the conversion to sales or other opt-ins is so much greater that the curve is in favor of the brand ambassador. Suffice it to say, the key to having a successful transference of enthusiasm with a street team of BAs is to have the right team; a dynamic, vibrant and energetic team that shares the enthusiasm you have for your offering and can effectively communicate that to your marketplace. With every interaction they have, your market penetration will grow exponentially.

For more on the value of word-of-mouth marketing, read the “Face-To-Face Book” by Keller and Fay. I highly recommend it.

The image below is courtesy of: http://www.3sdcmetro.com/2013/02/15/how-to-keep-your-enthusiasm/

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Scratching The Itch In The Marketplace

©2013 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I’ve been an entrepreneur and small business owner for the better part of 30 years. Looking back at all of my successes and failures, one common theme has been at play; the marketplace always has the final say. The wants, needs and desires of the business owner are always ancillary. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of bringing a product or service that they love and believe in to the marketplace, without researching if there is actually a demand for it. Idealism is a risky proposition in business. Rewind to 1993 when I started my first company, Busy Bee Music. It was a recording studio. At the time, I was a performing musician and recording artist. I invested thousands of dollars in microphones and recording equipment, signed a lease on some raw commercial space, invested yet more into building the space out into control rooms, isolation booths, live rooms and so much more before I had my first customer. I mistook my musical passion for marketplace demand. I lost my shirt; and more. Being success driven and an entrepreneur at heart, I didn’t let this learning experience defeat me, but it wasn’t until I met my business partner and built a company based on the demands of the marketplace, that I felt success. Our current company, Busy Bee Promotions provides a service that all businesses desperately need; getting new customers. We are serving the marketplace and our positioning is rock solid; everyone needs and wants what we provide. If you are currently enjoying the success you expected, it is because the marketplace has responded favorably to your unique selling proposition. You produce a product or offer a service that there is a demand for and you’re marketing it correctly. You’re in small company as less than 5% of companies accomplish this and most are out of business within five years. If however, your company is struggling, it’s not too late to turn your ship around. Invest more time studying your marketplace. Did you open a business based on your passions and not market demand? I’m not suggesting that your passions aren’t shared by others, but if your product or service is too niche, you are limiting the growth potential of your company. If you are committed to your vision, one option is to expand your services or product offerings to be attractive to a larger pool of potential customers, or change your marketing approach. Pinpoint and market directly to your ideal customer, instead of trying to win over consumers who will never opt in. As a rule, it’s better business, and much easier, to scratch an existing itch than it is to create the itch. There are a few exceptions to this rule though. Look at Apple. Who on earth can honestly say that they thought the iPad was good idea when it first came out? Did you immediately want to run out and get one? Most people didn’t. However, after millions of marketing dollars spent by Apple, most of us want one; the itch has been created and Apple is scratching it (along with Samsung & Microsoft, et al). It needs to be said though that most of us aren’t worth $623.5 billion like Apple, so we’re better off catering to existing demand. After we’ve enjoyed a level of success where we can safely take some risks, we can incrementally introduce our more passionate ideas to existing customers. Who knows? You may become the next Apple!

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Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART VIII

“…Reason #47…” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I think I wanted to punch a hole in a wall the very first time I saw this on television. It was about 10 years ago and it was at the very beginning of an ad campaign (a fictitious name will be used to protect the identity of the offending company). The very first spot of the campaign this particular company aired was;

“Reason #47 why you should use Wilson Widgets…”

Here’s the problem: There weren’t 46 reasons cited before reason #47. They just started with reason #47. Let me dissect why this happens and why you may want to avoid buying products and services from companies that do this. This ploy targets two types of people; dummies and bigger dummies. The dummies think they must have missed the first 46 spots and they need to get on board—now. They think to themselves:

“Boy, if they’re on their 47th spot about this product/service, it must be great! Honey, let’s go buy some before it’s too late.”

The even bigger dummies think:

“How sardonically funny and clever; “reason #47”. I’m sure there are at least 46 other reasons to buy this product/service, but their marketing folks decided which reasons to air first and it just happened to start with reason #47. Kind of like Star Wars didn’t start with episode one. I’m sure time was tight and they couldn’t reshoot this spot and say it was reason #1. They just needed to get it out on the airwaves—now.” 

Who thinks this is cool? Who falls for this? Answer to both questions: No one reading this book does.

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part VIX!

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART VII

“In A Word” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I am more than happy to slay this one with far more than one word. How many times have we heard something like exhibit A; “Why do I drive a German car? In a word: Quality engineering.” Excuse me, but that was more than one word. Of course I could be mistaken. Let’s look at this together—just to make sure I’m not missing something. Let’s see, after the promise to address the query—with a solitary word—as to why someone would chose to drive an automobile with Teutonic lineage, I see the word “Quality”. Okay, there’s one word. But wait; is that another word immediately after the one and only word we were expecting? Why yes, I believe it is. Upon closer inspection, I’m definitely seeing the word “engineering” after “quality”. Would it have killed the copy writer to instead use exhibit B; “Why do I drive a German car? Two words: Quality engineering.” I really need to step back away from this one and walk around it because it confounds me. I’ve seen and read adverts that set up the tag line with the preface “In a word:” and then actually make the statement in one word; cool. But that would only account for 50% of the spots that use this cliché. Frankly, I like when there is an opportunity for this kind of brevity. Less is more in advertising after all.  Perhaps it is this desire for brevity that copy writers cling to this ploy—even when it isn’t in the cards to get the point across in—well—a word (Did that annoy you? Good. I’m still making sure you’re still paying attention). Instead of reworking the spot that may have been entirely based on the threadbare, “in a word…” tag line, they sneak a second word (& sometimes, yes, a third word) into the copy, hoping that the reader/listener/viewer only pays attention to the subject and not to any superfluous adjectives, or the other way around. I’m sorry but an adjective is still a word in my world and there is nothing wrong with exhibit B. In fact, it’s more powerful because the word “engineering” without a favorable adjective could just as well be “crappy engineering”. Just ask anyone who drove a Yugo or Trabant back in the day (if they survived the experience). Moreover, is it really that bad if two or more words are used? With all this said, inserting the preface, “in a word”, adds three words of copy; brevity indeed. Should this type of copy be banished from advertising? In three words; yes it should.

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part VIII!

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART VI

“Real_____For Real People” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

Not too much needs to be said about this one. An example of this type of copy is used by a flea market in the suburbs of Chicago who’s slogan is, “Real bargains for real people.” Nothing against people who go to flea markets, but the message here seems to be that only people who go to flea markets (or people who need or want to save money) are the real people amongst the rest of us animals, space aliens, cyborgs and robots who don’t mind paying full price. I’ve been to a few flea markets in my day and I can assure you that it was not an experience akin to Pinnocchio’s metamorphosis from a wooden toy to a real boy. My DNA double helix escaped the experience without being mutated into a homo sapiens-because I was fortunate enough to have been born a real person in the first place. Note to copy writers; anyone who can read, see or hear your copy is a real person and we’re not impressed.

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part VII!

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away PART V

“The Female Reveal” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

In these commercials, very often we see several scenes showing a very skilled rider on a motorcycle, who’s putting the bike through its paces and beating another, obviously skilled rider in a competition, the viewer is then to be “shocked” when the winning rider removes her helmet to reveal that it was a beautiful and feminine woman the whole time at the helm of this otherwise manly machine. Not only is this as predictable as the rising sun, it is completely demeaning to women. Because the intended reaction these advertisers are trying to illicit is to shock the (male) viewer by smashing an assumed and antiquated assumption that only a man could know how to ride a motorcycle like that. Note: this assumption is held only by the agency or client—not you, the viewer. You can substitute the motorcycle in the commercial with any other activity that requires that a helmet be worn, which can conveniently conceal a beautiful head of female hair. What in the world is the message here? On the surface it is to challenge the spurious assumptions of the viewer. We, the viewer see this rider put their motorcycle through its paces and outperform other riders; I mean, what else could we possibly assume? It’s a male rider and a manly one at that, right? But wait, we weren’t even questioning that. We were engrossed in the action, interested in the motorcycle and seeing ourselves (us males, that is) doing the same thing with that magnificent machine. Wait—what’s this? Of for the love of God! That was a woman this whole time?! She just took off her helmet after winning the race and is showing this world full of Neanderthals that a woman can beat all these men—at their game. Can you say “adding insult to injury”? Is nothing sacred? Wait—that’s not enlightened thinking. What company is this commercial for, Honda? They must be telling us that today, women can do anything. Well, let’s all go out and buy Hondas and hopefully I can hold my own when some mysterious, leather-clad and androgynous looking figure appears on the motorcycle next to me at a red light. Maybe if I channel Alan Alda whilst dropping the clutch, this mystery challenger to my masculinity and virility will show me mercy. After all, did I not buy a product from the company that showed me the light?

I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek now. The sales message is lost because the assumption being made is that everyone watching this commercial is a chauvinist pig and has either forgotten the countless Gloria Steinem appearances on the Donahue show, or is too young to remember them (if you’re the latter, thank your lucky stars). This may have been cute and clever in the ‘70s when it first started happening, but the ‘70s are a long time ago. In closing, were Alan Alda and Loretta Swit cool in the ‘70s? No. Were Burt Reynolds and Sally Field? Yes.

 

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part VI!

Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away Part IV

The “Challenge” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

    When Pepsi launched the Pepsi Challenge in 1975, it was novel; it was different. It was perceived as gutsy and adventurous, which it was. The distant, number two fiddle in the cola wars (Pepsi) was taking on the number one fiddle (Coca-Cola). As far as an ad campaign, it worked. Whatever your preference is, be it Coca Cola or Pepsi (mine is Coke—hands down), the campaign was memorable. It took on a life of its own. It was re-launched every few years and for the most part, was a successful ad campaign every time it was implemented. It may have lost some of its luster over the years, but it was still honest & effective every time it was introduced to a new, well—Pepsi generation—of consumers (see how annoying that is? Just making sure you’re still paying attention. See: http://wp.me/p1vziS-n). The last time I was aware of it being pushed hard was in 2000. There was a little 10’X 10’ tent set up at a few of the events our company was executing that year. It was great to see the challenge live and participate in it. However a little challenge goes a long way. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get through a day where we don’t hear of the latest “challenge”. More often than not however, it isn’t a company pitting itself against its arch rival in an honest blind taste test with consumers as it was with the Pepsi campaign. It is the company challenging the consumer to find flaw with its own product or offering. It goes something like this:
“The Blowhard Box Spring Challenge; if you find the same mattress priced lower anywhere else, we’ll refund you double the difference in price”.
Allow me to translate:
“We’re a mattress store & like all mattress stores, we sell a proprietary line of mattresses that can’t be found anywhere else. You see, when ACME Mattress makes this beauty sleep 2000 for Blowhard Box Spring, they call it something else at the Mattress Monster down the street. In other words, we’re challenging you to a game where you the consumer, can never win. Since nobody else sells the Beauty Sleep 2000, you won’t be able to find a better price anywhere-guaranteed.”
It’s this kind of underhanded marketing that has jaded consumers look the other way when the word “challenge” is thrown into the equation. Think about it; when you are home from work, tire and kicking back on the sofa after dinner, are you watching television itching for a challenge? Do you want to throw down every time you’re challenged to find a better price? If so, you have a lot of spare time and energy and do not represent the average consumer. I can assure you, when you need tires for your car you aren’t looking to face off with the service manager at the local new car dealer in a bout of mixed martial arts because his company challenged you to find a better deal on a set of tires that are unavailable anywhere else. You just want new tires and want to end up on the winning side of the limited-shaft-principle. I know when I’m veggin’ at home watching television, I’m not looking for a challenge. I want to relax and be entertained. I’ve worked hard all day and I don’t need to take the Oreck challenge. I already know my vacuum cleaner sucks (notice: no “well” http://wp.me/p1vziS-n). If I took on the challenge, I would end up feeling like a dumb dumb for buying what I bought. You want a real challenge? I challenge Mr. Oreck to get in the ring for 18 rounds of bare fisted, early 19th century pugilism with Gentleman Jim Colbert. That would be more entertaining than to give Mr. Oreck the opportunity to rub it in my face that his vacuum is better than my SUX2002, thank you. If the goal of these faux challenges is to actually chastise the consumer, then it’s mission accomplished for 90% of these “challenges”. If on the other hand the goal is to sell more products or create new customers, then its definitely mission-not-accomplished. Just give us the features and benefits then go away. If you can do that, while at the same time being mildly entertaining, funny, memorable and motivational, then more power—and—money to you. When Pepsi challenged us, there was the very real possibility that people would choose the competitor’s product-and they often did. Fortunately for Pepsi, when the cameras were rolling, more people chose Pepsi than Coca Cola and the rest is history. What’s more, if Coca Cola was picked 2 to 1 over Pepsi in those early Pepsi Challenges, those ads never would have seen the light of day. Of course, that victory only represented an increased market share for Pepsi and little else. Coca Cola is still king in the world market as a recognized brand, but eating into their market share at any level can be considered success, but I digress. That was the only simple and pure “challenge” this author knows of.
To recap: If you have a product or service that your are comfortable would defeat your competition, go ahead and put together some sort of challenge. Just make sure it’s a challenge where not only you company wins, but more importantly, where the customer wins.

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part V!