Erma Bombeck is my New Year’s inspiration?

December 31, 2008

63312255  A few weeks ago, Lewis Green wrote a post about his commitments for '09.  He challenged a handful of us to do the same.

I've been ruminating on it since then because I don't hold a lot of stock in resolutions.  A resolution is a "I'm going to try to…." which almost always results in a week long or month long effort…and then back to the old bad habit.  Typically, resolutions are just wishful thinking.

But a commitment feels more solid.  It's a promise, not a wish.  And so, rising to Lew's challenge…here's my commitment for '09 inspired by all people, Erma Bombeck.

When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say…."I used everything You gave me."

 ~ Erma Bombeck

What does that actually mean for me in '09?  In a nutshell, it means serving/helping/teaching as many people as I can, both in person and through technology. 

But specifically in my work world, it will mean:

  • Keeping this blog laser focused on helping business leaders market and brand their business better and smarter
  • Continue to travel the country, speaking at conferences and conventions
  • Launching a teleconference series that will allow readers to listen, learn and ask questions about marketing and branding
  • Introduce a new way for businesses to interact with me and build their own marketing program (more on this in early '09)
  • Look for more collaborative projects like Age of Conversation and Bloggers Social that give all of us a chance to learn from each other

And specifically for my soul, it will mean:

  • Being present and in tune with my family and friends
  • Continuing to be available to speak to college classes
  • Continuing my service to the non-profit boards I'm fortunate enough to be on
  • Giving myself permission to slow down and find an oasis to soak up now and then
  • Remembering that laughter, music and solitude are not wants, they're needs

How about you…what commitment are you making to the new year and yourself?

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Juicy words stimulate the senses and the urge to buy

December 29, 2008

57088469 I have to credit my daughter's 2nd grade teacher Bonnie Brockberg (many moons ago) with the phrase "juicy words."  She was teaching the class about adjectives and that's how she described them.

I've stolen the phrase and used it ever since.

Juicy words.  Succulent words.  Words that add both a flavor and a sound (or smell, or vivid visual) to your copy. You know what I'm talking about.  Ad copy or a letter that you have to read out loud to someone.  It's almost musical.

That kind of copy writing is mesmerizing.  It captures our imagination.  It's memorable.  It generates buzz.  It should be the kind of writing you work your tail off to create.

There was quite a lively discussion in the comments of my recent post about words to avoid in 2009.  One of points made was that most people are lazy writers.  They use the same common words that everyone else uses and they wonder why no one listens.

I want you to promise to seek out juicy words.  Weave them into your communications.  Don't be heavy-handed about it.  It's a delicate art.  A hint of juicy is plenty.  How do you start?

Read masters of the juicy words:  The J. Peterman catalog and blog are lyrical, entertaining and incredibly juicy.

Find tools that will help you get juicy:  The Visual Thesaurus is my trusty writing sidekick.  When I'm searching my brain for just the right word, it offers me many to choose from.

Get some juice on you: Jump in and squeeze!  It's going to be sticky but there's no other way.  You have to just practice.  Give it a shot in the comments box if you want.  We'll support your efforts!

Want to earn your audience's attention?  Want to get them reading your words aloud?   Then, take the pledge.  Come on, raise your right hand and repeat after me:

"I promise to be a practicing juicy word wizard.  I'll avoid words that are dull, mundane or ordinary in any way and replace them with language that stimulates the senses and the sales."

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How consistent is your company’s voice?

December 29, 2008

32314266 I have long preached the gospel of brand consistency. (I've also questioned if you can take it too far)  But I want to remind you about a more subtle but often forgotten about aspect of your brand where consistency is sometimes lost.

Often times, how you say something is more important than what you say. 

You should have a clear idea of what your company’s “voice” is. And regardless of how many different writers are involved, your materials should always be in the same voice.

How do you “sound” in your communications pieces?

Are you formal? Conversational? Do you use short, choppy sentences or long, descriptive paragraphs? Do you strictly adhere to grammar and style rules or do you take some liberties? What about slang or industry jargon?

What do each of those choices say about you?

Don’t assume the right answer is based on industry stereotypes. Imagine the tone and style differences between a corporate law firm and a law firm that specializes in family law.

Your voice goes beyond the written words. What is the attitude of your radio spot? How about your signage? Is your voice consistent in how you answer your phone? The signature line on your e-mail? What about your press releases and sales promotions materials? Your on hold message?

Think of all the ways you communicate to your customers, potential customers, employees, and vendors. How consistent is your voice?

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How to start or run your business for free

December 26, 2008

Cover In the January issue of Entrepreneur Magazine (see the cover to the left) available at your local news stand or online you will find my thoughts on how social media tools can help a start up or existing business and often times…for free.

There's quite an impressive list of resources whether you're trying to manage file storage, host content or boost your web presence.

If you've been a reader here for a while, you'll recognize some of the tools like ooVoo, Jott and Google Alerts.  But I promise you…there are plenty of new discoveries to be made.

I'd love you to take a peek at the article (page 42-45) and then come back here to let me know what you think. 

In the meantime…what web 2.0 tool has been the most effective for your business?

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Holiday gifts for you (free stuff!)

December 22, 2008

59936802 I've got a few wrapped packages with your name on them!  Use them well.  Steal from them.  And of course, share them liberally. 

After all, it is the season of giving!

Drew's free stuff page:

Come download ebooks, tools and more.  (click here)

Joan Stewart's The Best of the Publicity Hound's PR Tips of the Week.

Joan pulled the best of the best and put them into an e-book.  She's inviting everyone to not only download but "re-gift."  (click here)

Chris Brogan's free ebook on personal branding

Chris is always quick to share his insights and knowledge.  This is a short (15 pages) but smart read.  (click here)

Seth Godin's Flipping the Funnel ebook

Seth gets viral marketing like nobody's business.  Check out his ebook on how he sees web 2.0 tools meshing with his Purple Cow theories.  (click here)

John Jantsch's Social Media for Small Businesses ebook

John's always got something practical and valuable to say.  Check out his free ebook.  (click here)

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10 words to avoid in 2009

December 22, 2008

36726310 Good friend to the Marketing Minute, Susan Gunelius (author of Harry Potter, the story of a global business phenomenon) has a great article on Entrepreneuer's website.  In the article, Susan reminds us that the normally jaded and wary consumer is even more so after the economic struggles of 2008.

I think her list will surprise you.  It includes works that traditionally have been touted as buying trigger words.  It also includes some copywriting 101 tips that have been passed down for ages.  Let's see what you think.

Here are 5 of Susan's 10 words to avoid in your 2009 marketing efforts.  These are the ones that intrigued me the most and I wondered what you thought.


Ads that include messages about a free product or service promotions can work well during an economic downturn, but consumers need to see the products perform well. E-mail spam filters are tough on messages that include "free" in the subject line. While it might be tempting to use a subject line that says, "Open now to get your free widget," that's an e-mail spam filter red flag that will send your message to most recipients' spam boxes. When the economy is tough, you can't risk having your e-mails not make it to the intended recipients. Replace "free" with "complimentary" or "gratis" to sneak by spam filters without compromising the effectiveness of your message.


Few people believe in guarantees these days. Unless you can prove your guarantee is real, use the valuable real estate space in your ad for a more effective message that consumers are likely to believe and act on.


If you want to waste space in your ads, include "really" in your copy. This word does nothing to help your messages. Instead, it slows consumers down, and they are not likely to wait around for the complete message. Don't risk losing them by loading your copy with useless filler words. Make sure every word in your copy is there for a reason.


Does  a message sound more compelling with "very" in it? Is "When you need very fresh flowers, call ABC Florist," more effective than "When you need fresh flowers, call ABC Florist"? If you answered, yes, reread the last paragraph.


You're not helping anyone when you offer "opportunities" in your copy. Consumers don't want opportunities. They want to feel confident handing over their hard-earned money. They want to know they'll get the results they want and need, not the opportunity to perhaps get those results. Don't let them wonder what they'll get when they pull out their wallets. Tell them.

To see the other five words and read Susan's thoughts on them, check out the article.  But before you go…what do you think?  Is free now a tainted word?  Should we stop offering guarantees?

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Search Engine Marketing demystified

December 19, 2008

Picture 11 SEM, SEO, organic search engine optimization, driving traffic, etc, etc.

I believe for most people, search engine optimization/marketing is one of the most confusing, misunderstood aspects of marketing today.

But it doesn't have to be.

This fall, Mike Moran and Bill Hunt released the 2nd edition of their book Search Engine Marketing, Inc: Driving search traffic to your company's web site.  The guide is 600+ pages and packed with practical, applicable information.  I've worked my way through it once and now am heading back in to begin implementing some of their strategies.

This is not a book for someone who wants a light read.  But if you want to understand how search engine marketing really works and how you can master the tricks of the trade — buy it now.

The book also comes with a DVD, filled with more than 2 hours of video tutorials, podcasts, articles and slide sets.

This book will be on your desk, propped open and dog-eared, for a long time to come.  I know mine will be.

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Social media faux pas or social media smart — you decide

December 18, 2008

There's the brewing of a lively discussion going on at one of the other blogs I write for, IowaBiz.  It's a situation worthy of your thoughts so I thought I would bring the conversation over here.

Here are the facts:

Hubbell Realty is a very established and respected builder/developer in Iowa.  They have just opened a new condo complex in one of the more affluent suburbs.  The condo's design, size and amenities make it a perfect fit for young professionals.

And so a perfect fit for social media.

Hubbell's advertising agency has invented what they are calling a spokesperson.  (She is actually one of the agency's ad reps who lives in Philadelphia).  This spokesperson has a Facebook account (she went to school at Depaw University, spends time at Johnny's Hall of Fame (a local hang out), celebrated her birthday in November and loves watching The Office.)  She has a blog (so far, she only writes about how much she loves her new home) and she's done some videos.  (Feed readers and e-mail subscribers, click on the post's headline to view.)

Here's the question: 

As you see on the video, no one is told that Hailey is a fictitious character, played by a woman in Philly.  On her Facebook page, there is a note that says "Hailey Brownstone is part of a Hubbell Homes promotional campaign."  But other than that notation — I can't find any disclaimer or explanation that tells us that Hailey isn't real.

She's received date requests and has 130 Facebook friends. 

The company and some of the supporters of the campaign at IowaBiz argue that since her name is Hailey Brownstone we should all get the joke.  The place is called GreenWay Crossing.  And they have brownstones and villas.

I did a search and there are plenty of Brownstones out there.  I'm thinking most of them are real people. 

So what do you think?  Smart social media campaign?  Social media faux pas?

UPDATE:  The comments are so plentiful — we had to go to two pages.  After Cat's comment…click on the NEXT to keep reading!

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Mark Twain…the branding expert

December 16, 2008

Twain I had coffee today with a gentleman who made the comment that "branding was the hot, new thing."

Yes and no.  It’s certainly one of the buzz words of the day.  But the truth of the matter is… genuine, dig deep branding is a fundamental truth that has been talked about for a century or better.  Listen to what branding expert Mark Twain has to say on the subject:

"I cannot give you a formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody."

How about you?  Are you narrowing your focus or in this recession panic filled time, are you trying to please everyone?

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5 musts of business blogging

December 15, 2008

66762819 Just about every day at McLellan Marketing Group, we’re working with clients who want to explore social media and what it can do for their company.   And almost all of them think they want to blog.

Not so fast.

I think one of the most irresponsible things we (MMG) can do, is simply give them the keys to a blog and set them off.  Because many of them will end up in a ditch.  Not because they’re not competent and capable.  But because not every one or every company should blog.

Before we’ll build them a blog and teach them how to engage it….we review the 5 musts of business blogging and walk them through each step.  If they can get through all five, they’re probably a good candidate to blog.

You must have a clear purpose.

The why sets the tone for everything.  Who are you going to talk to?  What types of things will you write about?  Who should be writing?  How will you decide if it’s working or not?

Way too many companies launch a blog simply because it’s the cool, new things to do.  Really bad idea.  Don’t do a thing until you have a vision for your blog.

Listen at least twice as much as you write.

Good bloggers are good blog readers.  They read inside their own category and they read blogs that have little to do with their core competency.  They read smart writers.  They reference smart writers and they create a network of smart bloggers, inside and outside of their profession.

Jump into conversations and add value.

Most beginning bloggers  believe that all they need to do is write their blog posts and voila, a following will show up.  Rarely.

You earn your stripes and the respect of other bloggers, readers and the like at other people’s blogs long before you can earn it at your own blog.  A good blogger is not only a frequent reader…but a frequent commenter.

And “great post!” doesn’t count.  When you comment — add to the conversation.  Do that consistently and you will entice people to your own blog.  Skip this step and your blog becomes a dusty monologue.

Write and then write some more.

The tech blogs seem to have a new post every 5.7 seconds.  For the average business blog, that would be insane.  But 3 to 5 on topic, on target posts a week is what it’s going to take create the stickiness that will attract and keep readers satisfied.

We’re not talking thesis papers here.  Blog posts should focus on one teachable message or thought.  Short and sweet (shoot for 300 words or less) wins the day most of the time.

Be in it for the long haul.

Business blogging is not a quick fix. It’s relationship-based, whether that’s your relationship with your readers, with other bloggers, or with the media — it’s all about connecting.

If you’re looking for an insta-success, try something else.  Even if you do everything just right, it’s going to take some time and discipline to create a community.

If you’re not going to give it a year, don’t give it a start.

Whew…if that hasn’t scared you off, then you’re probably a pretty good candidate for a business blog.  Let us know if we can help.

And, a hat tip to my blog coach Mike Sansone.  I learned all of this stuff at his knee a few years ago and keep on learning from him today.

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