The Most Important Marketing Doc Ever? The RFP.

I just got off a juicy conference call with a client and a partner. An interesting discussion came up.

The client was describing a bunch of projects they have lined up. A batch of case studies, a white paper, a data sheet for an upcoming trade show. . the typical round-up of persuasion projects.

They riffed for a bit on how the brochure/data sheet needs to be brief, because no one has time to read these days and it’s really difficult to compete for attention.

Then they said something really interesting. “We need to work on custom intros for the RFPs we’re working on. This is the one document that really has to sell – they have to read it, so the lead-in has to be really compelling. It directly impacts the sale.”

Um, yeah. This makes a lot of sense to me. People are bombarded with email newsletters, tantalizing links to content in Twitter and Facebook, magazines on their tables, and countless other “media interruptions.”

But.. they have to read closely when it counts – in an RFP. Their job depends on it, so companies throw a lot of resources and thought at RFP writing – especially on the front-end executive summary and positioning copy.

I’ve done this type of work before. I worked on a 100+pp RFP for Pitney Bowes a few years ago. They were bidding for the big law firm Latham & Watkins’ business. It was exactly this type of drill. They wanted a marketing writer to help write several sections and edit the entire document for persuasiveness, attention to detail, and consistency.

What do you think? Have you been seeing more of this kind of work? Please share your thoughts below.

9 Wise Quotes from the Advertising World

These gems from Jack Forde’s Copywriter’s roundtable newsletter. The most anticipated email in my inbox.

“Many a small thing has been made large by the
right kind of advertising.” – Mark Twain

“Words calculated to catch everyone may catch no
one.” – Adlai Stevenson

“Yes, I sell people things they don’t need. I
can’t, however, sell them something they don’t
want.” – John O’Toole

“Everyone is in sales… whatever area you work
in, you DO have clients and you DO need to sell.” –
Jay Abraham

“Advertising people who ignore research are as
dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy
signals.” – David Ogilvy

“I once used the word ‘obsolete’ in a headline,
only to discover that 43% of housewives had no idea
what it meant. In another headline I used the word
‘ineffable,’ only to discover that I didn’t know
what it meant myself.” – David Ogilvy

“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t
want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to
your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.” – David

“Committees can criticize advertisements, but they
should never be allowed to create them.” David

“For a business not to advertise
is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what
you are doing but no one else does.” – Stuart Britt


The Ecstasy of Buying: How to Sell More by Understanding 1 Simple Motivation

I’m posting a quote today that re-enforces an idea that often gets lost when you spend a lot of time analyzing marketing strategies, positioning products and thinking hard about how to sell. Here it is:

“Buying is a profound pleasure.”

— Simone de Beauvoir

When selling (retail, online, persuading or otherwise), we often forget that half the battle is already won. People want to be convinced! They want to buy things. They want to hear stories that pique their interest. It is a profound pleasure to learn something, to have a new toy, to improve one’s life through purchasing and understanding.

We’re all surrounded by stuff we bought that’s useless or gathering dust now. But at the time of purchase, it did its job. The item made us feel a certain way. It promised good things and often delivered them.

Remember this when writing marketing copy and selling your wares. People want your stuff. You just need to tune into those emotions they conjure when purchasing. How’s it going to make them feel? What are they going to tell their friends about their new purchase? Integrate those ideas into your headlines and copy. Tell good, genuine stories and buyers will respond.

How Is Shipping Marketing?

Business people don’t always directly relate shipping to marketing, but the indirect ties are undeniable. This applies to all kinds of businesses, not just eBay.

Let’s start with customer satisfaction:

* Customers who love your service come back
* Satisfied customers tell two friends.. and so on
* Your product becomes more valuable when it’s shipped quickly
* Items that are packaged right arrive intact and unblemished
* Efficient shipping operations support all of the above

Next, marketing efforts:

* An item that arrives unscathed delivers on your promises and guarantees
* Promotions and flyers in the packaging generate repeat business
* Clean, professionally packaged goods reflect positively on your company and brand
* Customers that rave about your efficient, professional operations will post good feedback and tell their friends about your store/listings

If you ship, pay attention to your practices. It’s marketing in disguise.

Do it NOW – Value your customer’s success!

I’m a fan of Seth Godin’s books. I don’t get paid anything to promote them, but I just end up doing that because I read them and always find a few gems of wisdom within.

The marketing/advertising/good-business books are light, airy and fast paced. They’re not chock full of compelling research or detailed justification, but that’s part of the reason they’re good. They don’t weigh you down, and, for some reason, they come across as authoritative anyway.

They’re also very entertaining – in the way a light, sophisticated comedy film or a smart sitcom is. Godin’s books may be a part of a new book genre – business books that instruct yet seem like entertainment. Curious stuff.

The one I’m reviewing right now is called The Big Moo. Here’s a takeaway that I stumbled across (It’s nothing new, but he puts it aptly and it’s a good reminder for all of us in marketing):

“Customers sometimes love the simple stuff, having a human answer the phone on the first ring, receiving work ahead of time… and getting a special thank you reminding them that you value more than their business… you value their success.” [my emphasis added]

I’m going to take this advice today and reach out to some of my business customers with this very message. I do value their success, and every brochure and white paper I write for them is an attempt to win them more business.

By the way, I value your success, too. This blog is designed for that express purpose. And if you bought the eBay Marketing book, I appreciate your business. If you’ve read it, you’ll see that it’s designed to help you sell more and bring in more profits. Your success is my success. It’s written for all kinds of online and offline sellers, so don’t let the eBay title fool you. There are lots of gems in there.

If you’ve found the book valuable, please spread the word. And comment to this blog or email me ( if you have some examples of how you’ve put some of the strategies to work.

Enjoy the weekend!



Auction Pricing Strategies – Lowest Price for Highest Final Value?

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s site, Inside Influence Report, frequently has interesting articles on persuasion and pricing related to eBay, auctions and general bidding processes. They talk about how bids with low

starting prices tend to generate higher final sale prices than bids utilizing high starting prices.

The site offers three general insights:

1)Lower starting prices encourage participation by as many bidders as possible

2)Increased traffic and bidding generated by low starting prices acts as “social proof” to other prospective buyers. In other words, the prospects notice that something must be good because of how many people are crowding around it.

3)Those who get into the bidding early invest time and effort updating their bids and following the auction. This makes it more likely that they will commit to winning the auction and bidding up the item.

The researchers also noted that when traffic to a listing was limited (due to something like a misspelled word in the item description), lower starting prices were less effective – thus bolstering their social proof observations.

Bottom line: Auctions need traffic, and they should start out with low prices in order to attract the optimal number of bidders. Perhaps this is why eBay stores are so tough to get off the ground. Those of us who have been successful with auctions cringe at the idea of fixed prices perhaps.

What’s your experience? Do your observations support these findings? Chime in and let us all know. Thanks.

“How could the malls be full while we’re in a recession?” asked his wife.

My wife recently remarked that the malls are full. “How could we be in a recession?” she said.

It got me thinking. Personal spending is obviously way down, but people still want to have a mall experience. They want to window shop, buy some small things, taste candy, play with pets, jump through fountains, see cool fashions and maybe dream a little.

The thing that *really* gets me. . in a recession. . is this. People go by the hoards to a place where the finest marketing minds in the world (from the most talented ad agencies known to man) are working their magic. Everything from the display windows and signage, to the cashier talk and uniforms, to the music and temperature, to the promos and tagging… is designed by the best of the best.

This may not be true of every store in every mall. The malls I usually witness are Fashion Island in Newport Beach CA, and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, CA. But it’s certainly relevant to most of the national chains and high-end designers.

The point is that these people are voluntarily exposing themselves to a situation designed to suck money out of their pockets.

They want to be pitched, sold, persuaded and wow’ed! They want that, deep down.

And what do we complain about in marketing? Let me count the ways: Traditional advertising is dying. There’s too much noise out there. People are shutting out our messages. People are fed up with consumer-driven behavior. The market is resisting our messaging.

Yet, the malls still bring em in.

I realize that malls are “opt-in.” Maybe that’s something to ponder, too. Is there a way you can make your business and partner businesses more like a mall?

Something to think about. Enjoy your weekend. And please comment below to add your observations.