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.