Why Small Business Has an Advantage Over Big Business.

The perception of big business is not good. Only a few large companies share a

favorable impression with the public. I think I know why. One simple reason

is big business has the tendency to be faceless or lacking personality. BB has rigid


To change their rules is a major ordeal through multiple layers of management.

To examples of big business that have overcome this negative perception are

Virgin Airways and Apple computer. Why?

Clearly their founders were very visible and cool.

Their products and services were superior. Interestingly, their prices are higher

than their large scale competitors. Why is this important to small business owners?

It’s a fact  that even with big company competition, you have an advantage over

big business. It’s all about you.

“An ad does not have to look like an ad” David Ogilvy

Maybe that’s why 95% of advertising doesn’t work.

Do your ads look like ads? Most do!

Sales Promotion can be Bad for Business.

My wife is a serious bargain hunter. When she comes home from a shopping spree,

one of the first things she does, after walking through the door, is reach into a bag and pull out a

new item and say “How much”? It’s highly unlikely your guess will even come close to the price

she paid . Sometime she will give you a second guess. (That means it even lower)


Consumer today are much smarter. They recognize a real bargain from a totally

fabricated sale. The scam where the retailer marks-it-up to market-it-down that’s sure to turn

people off and be bad for business. Successful men’s clothing retailer Sy Sims had a great

advertising line. “An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer”. He said sale or bargain without

saying it in the headline of an ad. The ad copy did go on to say every day is a sale. Very smart.


Customers are being programmed to wait for a sale, especially from stores that have sales all

the time.  (I do it myself; one high-end retailer has a big summer shoe sale, when it starts I

pounce on it and grab some bargains. (I think?)


You might be wondering. Why then is “Promotion Bad for Business” I am glad you asked.

  • Have sales to often it will cheapen the brand and questions it’s value.
  • Run sales on consumables will only sell future purchases, reducing net profits.
  • Big sales don’t reward your dedicated customer’s, they promote smart bargain hunters like my wife who knows a great sale from a fake one. You can blame it on the internet.

What I learned at fifty, I want to share with you.

The other day I hit a major milestone. I wrote my fiftieth blog post.

Now, if you are one of the truly prodigious bloggers like Seth Godin,

who post “good stuff” three times a day. Then this post is not for you.

But, if you are thinking about creating a blog, you’re kind of new at it (6-mos-1-yr)

Or just darn curious about my experience and what you can learn after

about a year and a half of blogging.


Please keep in mind the following is not in any particular order. I learned a lot

of these tips by trial and error, reading article, books, seminars, experimentation

and having some fun and a few screw-ups along the way.

  • I found the morning around 9:30 (EST) to be the best time to post.
  • Don’t try to sell’em tell’em it supposed to be about sharing.
  • Before you start writing your post, remember it’s about the reader not you.
  • Pick 5-10 blogs you admire in your area of expertise and comment on them.
  • Consider guest bloggers periodically  (Truth be told I need to do more of this)
  • Try to include some of your keyword in headline or the first couple of lines.
  • Make post 150-200 words when possible.
  • Every once in a while “break the rules” These are not rules. They are just tips.

The Power of Viral…

The Good: Viral is the ultimate word for marketers.

The more connected we all become with technology,

the more powerful Viral becomes.

Last week an elderly lady of 84 years old wrote a review of a local restaurant.

It went viral; almost overnight 290,000 people read the review on the internet.

That’s some serious exposure within 24 hours. Viral is the new “game changer”.

The Bad: Viral can also become a public relations nightmare. When a person or company

intentional tries to slide something by the public and gets caught. Then it goes viral.

It can easily end a person’s career; severely damage a company’s reputation and sales.

Summary: I see no downside to things going viral. It’s a terrific way to let people

know what’s going on Good or Bad.

A few misconceptions about PR.

If you thought I was talking about the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

Than this post is a MUST read for you. Most of the following points are

pretty darn basic, but like most good teachers will tell you “assume nothing”

  • Some practioners of public relations at large and small firms are still telling prospects that they have contacts in high places. They may know a name and title but that will not guarantee placement. A good story is a good story.
  • Clients that spend money on advertising in a specific medium are entitled to FREE media space (PR articles).
  • The most important event for a client has NO INTEREST to the publications readership.
  • Social media sites are just another tool, not the only tool.
  • Integrating your PR program with all other forms of marketing is critical to your success.

This is a very good place to start, especially with a new client who has never done PR.

Bill Maher needs a swift kick in the ads

So does all the other media celebrities Democrat and Republican,

who think they are special and can say whatever they like.

They are bullies and thugs. Everyone knows the best way to deal with

bullies are to confront them head on. (I don’t mean you should wallow

in the dirty with them.) You need to inflict a little pain in their life,

not in a physical sense. In a place that will hurt even more, their pocketbook.

There are several ways to do this: I suspect you could take legal action and

have it drag through the courts. A better way, would be to focus your attention

on the businesses/corporations that help pay his salary and keep him employed.

Television advertisers are ultra-sensitive to public pressure, they will jump ship in seconds.

After all who would really miss Bill Maher he is a joke and a repeat offender of insults.

And in need of a swift kick in the a_ _. No apology needed.

Did your ads score at the Super Bowl?

At 3.5 million dollars per ad just for media space alone. It’s hard

to imagine that you could sell enough product to justify a “media buy”

for this gigantic sporting event.


The salespeople selling this venue will be the first to say things like: “Are you kidding this is a

bargain with one-hundred and ten million viewers tuned into your message”. (Maybe you could

convince them, that in fact its more like105 million, because 5% could be in the bathroom)


Either way, it’s still a lot of eyeballs being exposed to your ad/s. Advertising is about exposures

and impressions. Right? Well, yes but. How many people around the world are interested in

Acura’s new sports car version of the NSX, starting at $95,000? How about a Chrysler 300 ad

with a “dirty Harry” Clint Eastwood spokesperson message. That more than fifty percent of

viewers polled in focus groups, after the ad ran, misunderstood. My personal favorite was an ad

for an insurance company that was creative, but I couldn’t remember the name of the brand

who made the ad.


So what should a company do in a world-wide recession, which has say 20

million to waste? Forget about mass merchandising it so yesterday. Pick five targeted

categories. Make one a charity. You’ll not only score and pick up fans you’ll also be a winner

If you’re into blogging…

learn from the best.

When I first started to think about blogging,

I had the mindset, to identify some of the best in the business.

Forming a short list of really great marketing bloggers was easy.

Before I ever put my fingers on a keyboard to write a post

I read these blogs religiously for a couple of months. I learned how the best shared their

knowledge in the blogosphere. I still read many of the same blogs to this day and a few others.

Not surprisingly, the one that stands out the most is the number one business blog in America,

Seth Godin. Why? He goes well beyond “sharing information” He makes you think.

He offers opinions. He poses questions. He cites examples and he lets you draw your own conclusions.

Don’t pre-judge your client.

“Oh, he’ll never go for that or when it comes to creative she is very conservative”.

I have heard statements like that many times before. It’s a mistake to pre-judge.

I understand the frustration about presenting new concepts to clients. Most especially

existing clients, who you have established a “predictability factor” based on past history.


Remember, if you are in the advertising business as an in-house agency or outside service.

It’s your job and responsibility to create fresh, new concepts that just might blow the

doors wide open for new sales. It’s a risky proposition but that is the nature of advertising.

Nothing is guaranteed and you need to explore new ideas to get attention.

You Just Landed a Huge Account. Congratulations!

This is the biggest piece of business that you have ever won. It is also how small businesses

“get to the next level”. So, after all the celebrating, high fiving and accolades to your staff

you are thinking. What do I do now?

Urgent meeting

You grab your new business guy and his team together quickly.

You have no time to waste. You are on a roll. The momentum is sky high. However, the

number one reason for this urgent meeting is to prepare yourself. Not for how you are

going to handle this new account. Hopefully, you have sorted that out already.

It is reality

“Prepare Yourself” to find another piece of business just as large to insulate yourself. If this

new account is 40, 50 or even 60% of your total gross volume. You could be in trouble at

anytime when/if you lose this business. Sounds a bit pessimistic I know. But it is not, it is reality.

S___ happens

Mergers, acquisitions, client staff changes and even bankruptcy,

I have seen it happen .

Thank goodness it never happened at my agency. Besides, just

imagine if you get another huge account, what a great party it will be!

Change your attitude, improve your life…

Over the last 25 years, I have talked to a lot of successful people in advertising.

Some of the positions and titles they held varied considerably from Executive Vice-President of

Advertising World-Wide, Account-Supervisors at advertising agencies, Media Reps and even

Chief Marketing Officers.

Healthy dose

In retrospect, there was one common personality trait that stood out among this assorted and

collective group.  Most if not all; of these folks shared a very healthy dose of (PMA)

“Positive Mental Attitude” with rare exception. So, I started to wonder are these people putting

me on or faking it? The more I thought about it, I concluded absolutely not. It is really hard to

fake enthusiasm unless you are one heck of an actor and everyone can’t be that good at acting.

Extending my PMA observations beyond advertising people, I was thinking what an impact this

has on improving your life and the people around you.

Challenges vs. Problems

No more viewing events from the dark-side, no more pessimistic thinking, less worrying

about issues (you can’t change anyway). Just imagine how a real attitude adjustment

changes the way you see issues. Problems are seen as challenges looking for answers.

Best of all, PMA is contagious it affects everyone around you with positive vibrations!

Do you care to make a prediction about newspapers?

The ongoing conversation in advertising is: “will print media survive”.

It is no secret, newspapers, magazines anything in print is getting thinner

by the issue. Most people blame it on the Internet; I think that’s a fair assessment.

But, I also don’t think newspapers will become extinct either.

The delivery of the form will change, it has too. Call it Darwinian if you like.

Ironically, I see newspapers going back to their original presentation. One sheet

(maybe?  11” X 14” in size) with some bold headlines in different point sizes,

and fonts, to make them visually exciting. After these attractive headlines, a one or

two sentence summary of the article with the option to read the full article on line.

The major difference is the information/news is preselected by the individual.

Does this sound familiar? It should. News aggregators do it online with great success.

However, old habits die hard. (Traditional newspapers) The population is aging andreading online is a pain. Recycling paper is an issue; Newspapers are in trouble financially, every other week a new one closes. We’ll see soon how this story unfolds.

Do You Know The Top Ten Newspapers in America?

My guess is that most people can name maybe five or six at best. Last week,
I posted an article in reference to making a prediction about “will print media survive
Below is a list of the top ten papers, I thought it would be interesting to see what happens to
the big boys over the next six to twelve months. I made my prediction, what is yours?
The order below starts with the highest circulation.

The Wall Street Journal
USA Today
New York Times
New York Daily News
The Los Angeles Times
San Jose Mercury News
The New York Post
The Washington Post
Chicago Tribune
Dallas Morning News

This information was confirmed by 24/7wallst.com. Please visit that site for more detailed information about circulation, financial stability and editor’s predictions for survival.

How to maximize your advertising visibility in print…

It is a well known fact; advertising is an expensive investment in any business.

You need to maximize the dollars in your ad budget. Most magazine reps can

show you the larger the ad space (size of your ad) in their publication, the greater

the lead generation. So a two-page, four color ad might theoretically generate 300 inquires

vs. a small fractional 1/3 of a page ad, may only generate 25, 30 inquires or even less.

That seems to make sense doesn’t it?  Occasionally a smaller ad can “out pull” a bigger ad.

But, that is a rare circumstance some people might even consider it just plain luck.

What can an advertiser do especially if they have a modest budget? I am glad you asked.

Here are three media placement options to consider:

1)      Buy a “junior page” you’ll own the space because in most cases they surround that ad with editorial copy (note you will need to edit the copy not just reduce it down to a 7” X 10” format) from the original 11” X 14” tabloid size.

2)      Take two horizontal half page ads, left and right respectively. Negotiate hard to have your editorial copy (press release) above your “junior spread”

3)      This is a bit “old school” as the younger folks like to say. But trust me it does work.
Create three 1/3 square ads. Place in consecutive lower right pages, like 6, 8, and 10.

If it works you will be a hero! If it doesn’t, oh what the heck at least you tried
something new and stepped out of your comfort zone.

“What was Your Secret Sauce for Client Retention”…

That was one of the good questions the writer asked. She was doing an article on the advertising agency business; and I was one of her sources. The answer was simple; I didn’t need to give it much thought.

Recognize the problem

Way back when I started the business twenty plus years ago, I recognized client retention was a huge problem in the advertising industry. I gave it a lot of thought then knowing that client retention was the lifeblood of every business. The statistics has since got much worse.  (Today, the average client/ agency relationship is about thirteen months.)

More research

Finally, my big secret revealed. It was simple, just two words. Learn fast. After we knew we had won the business we did even more research. We read about the industry, the completion, our new clients back history. You name it we read it. Unofficially, the theory was we would learn so much so quickly. They couldn’t afford to fire us. Besides, imagine what a pain in the buttocks it is to train someone
all over again.

It helped us

Make the learning curve really, really short. Do great work and provide outrageous service.
You’ll be amazed how your client retention rates soar. Combined with a little luck, it helped us keep clients over ten years on average.

Don’t do trendy with your advertising.

Face it; coming up with “the big idea” in advertising is truly hard.

It is also one of the reasons why most advertising is bland and even boring.

But borrowing a “cool idea” from another advertiser is not the answer.

It may be trendy or the latest thing. However, it will not do much

for your ad program, except remind them of the first time they noticed the ad

Ironically, the brands that produce clutter busting advertising are market leaders

who work hard at leadership and rarely ever follow.

Have You Watched Any of the Presidential Debates? You Should.

Not because you’re a political junkie. Not because you will find the perfect Presidential candidate,

who is seeking the Republican nomination for the highest office in America.

The real reason you should watch is: if you look closely you can clearly identify classic marketing

Issues and how high-priced consultants and marketing strategists offer solutions for their clients.

The names of the cast members in this 12 act play, is not important in comparison to the

lessons about marketing. What is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of the candidate?

Many have yet to solve this problem. How do they Position themselves against the competition?

How they take a negative fact an turn it into a positive. For example the unpopular circumstance of

being branded a Washington insider. In these very tough economic times knowing who to call, to move

things along the political highway and being tagged the smartest guy in the room. The very successful

business person who could duplicate his success at the Whitehouse despite being labeled a flip flopper.

The attractive female who is presenting her self as super mom with 28 children and an IRS tax attorney.

If you want to learn more about marketing, tune into the next performance on December 15th . I’ll be

watching. There is no debate about it.  

Treating Prospects as Customers is a Mistake.

After twenty-five plus years in the advertising business, I have

seen this problem play out many times at other businesses. Truthfully,

I have done it myself at my own advertising agency. Until, one day I

wised up about this loosing proposition and made a drastic change.

For clarity: customers are the lifeblood of your business and should

be treated with appreciation and trust. Prospects either need to get

a project done or they are reviewing firms for future engagements.

The number one NO NO mistake is when a prospect ask for you to do

spec (FREE) work. That cost you money for staff, overhead, your

billable time. Your regular customers pay you for work everyday, why

should you do it FREE for a prospect? Besides you can bet 3, 4 or even

5 other businesses are bidding on the same project. Not great odds (20%)

unless you like long-shots.

Another mistake with a prospect is getting a firm budget or helping them

to establish one. (Most vendors do not like to discuss price in the beginning)

Third in my list of mistakes with prospects is be realistic in cost, turn-around

time, scheduling and delivery. Don’t tell them what they want to hear.

It’s a good start to building trust and making them a customer.

“Good Marketing Starts with Good Manners”

I can see myself standing in front of a classroom of advertising students (of all ages)

making this statement. Most if not all would be thinking “so tell me something new

Professor John.” A braver one in the group might even shout out “hello captain obvious”


So, for the sake of this conversation let’s consider this article a reminder of good business.

I have no doubt, that if I took a random survey about bad manners, (customer service)

most people could contribute at least one recent horror story of their own.


I don’t believe the quick answer is: Just fire the receptionist and hire a new one.

Then stand over that new person until they get the right tone. It’s a bit more complicated then that.


Here’s some suggestions how to minimize this bad manner problem.

  • Don’t just hire the first warm body.
  • Pay more than average for this position, let them know why.
  • Call in often, especially in the first ninety days.
  • Let every one have a turn at answering the phone in reception, parts and service.
  • Tell your customers what’s going on and ask for their input.

Good manners saves you money, bad manners cost you plenty in lost sales.

The Rotten Christmas Gift.

Can you believe it? It’s that time of the year again.

A few years back, I was the President of an advertising agency.

Right after Thanksgiving, I would start to get a little anxiety about

what type of gift I was going to give my clients for Christmas?


It may sound ridiculous to you, but I didn’t want to give the same gift every year.

At the start of the agency it was easy. After twenty-five years it became harder.

Well one year toward the end of my agency business, I became lazy. I gave

everyone a beautiful fruit basket.  Almost everyone called to thank me and raved

how gorgeous they were.


Around January 5th of the New Year, I did get a call from an irate “newer client”

She was pissed and literally demanded a new gift. I apologized and sent out

another basket immediately.


This may sound weird but of all the 21 active clients, I was glad it happened to her.

In the six months of doing work for her, she became a tyrant and a real SOB.

When I signed her up months earlier, I had a strange feeling about her.


What’s the take away from this story?  Be careful when you give out fruit baskets

they are perishable. Be careful when you have a strange feeling about someone.

In the end, it was the perfect gift for her. BTW, about two months later, I got fired by her

for some stinking, rotten reason. It turned out to be a Merry Christmas gift after all.

The best way to get your star to rise fast in advertising…

find yourself a mentor. Ideally this person will work in the same company.

Although that is not imperative, it will just make it easier. Its common knowledge

most successful people have had mentors in their advertising careers.

How does it happen? They have either been adopted by a key player or they

latched onto someone within the company who is a brain-trust, a creative power-house,

someone who is the energy field of a successful business.

The student mentor relationship is a very delicate balance. You clearly don’t want to be a

pain. But you do want to be a sponge to learn everything you can from years of experience.

A few suggestions: listen twice as much as you talk, ask good questions, volunteer to help your

selected mentor as mush as you can. If they come to like you, it’s amazing how much it

will help your career projectile. I know, it happened to me and I am still grateful.

How to inspire creative people…

My number one rule in working with creative people the past twenty odd years has

always been treat them as your equal. Regardless of what position you hold in the business.


Clearly different

In advertising agencies many departments have a strange view of creative people.

They just don’t understand the process they go through to develop “great creative”

consequently they see them as weird, unusual and clearly different.


See differently

They are different. Its part of their DNA .It is also what they were hired for to see

things differently for the agencies clients.


Over the last few decades one of the main complaints with clients is the lack of creativity.


Think differently

Maybe the time has come for you to think differently about the creative people

in your organization and inspire them to exceed their own expectations.

Here are a few suggestions to consider. It worked for me.

  • Get out of the way.
  • Assist them anyway you can.
  • Don’t hold back anything.
  • Give them detailed information and if you don’t have it, get it.
  • As soon as you leave a client meeting call them with an update.
  • Be straight with them tell them the good, bad and even the ugly.
  • Give them full credit for a “killer” concept that they originated.

John Howlett
President of the Avizagroup.
25yr vet of adv biz, speaker, writer, thought leader, strategic thinker, enjoys helping companies, people and students with advertising issues.
For more information visit: www.avizagroup.com or
email John.h@avizagroup.com

Review avizagroup.com on alexa.com
Copyright © 1996-2010 Lets Talk. All rights reserved.
Jarrah theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress