Author Archives: Chuck Sink

Knowing When to Advertise

Advertising is like insurance. Many don’t know they need it until they really need it. And, after buying it prudently, wouldn’t go without it. The good thing about advertising is that, unlike insurance, you reap its benefits when things are going well!

So, why is there so much reluctance among some businesses to develop and maintain an effective advertising campaign?

Jumping into paid advertising, especially in an untried medium, is a scary proposition to a lot of small business owners who must dig into their own back pockets to help fund an effective campaign. Aren’t you reluctant to spend a significant sum on a service whose success relies on the whims of other people, in other words, isn’t predictable? That’s what advertising is but thankfully, those whims can be effectively harnessed into buying action if you play your technology, timing, messaging and media cards right.

Your return on investment depends on a few simple factors – reach, frequency and relevance. These are the crucial elements of a campaign and if you put effort into all three, you should see a positive ROI.

After some experience, you’ll have the confidence to invest more as you begin to measure the results based on actual response rates. The great thing with digital is that results get better and better as you dial in your data-driven campaign to more qualified prospects!

When do you advertise?

Ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Have traditional business channels like word-of-mouth, networking and direct sales taken a pause or lagged in bringing in enough new business?
  • Are you unable to devote sufficient amounts of time to develop your sales & marketing channels due to other business priorities?

These are key questions that should lead you in the direction of at least a test marketing campaign with a sufficient advertising budget to move the needle in revenues. Determining the campaign scope and duration depends largely on your sales cycle. The goal is always a profitable return on investment and you can accurately calculate the cost per lead and cost per sale in real dollars & cents.

How do you measure success?

Let’s say your average new customer takes about one month from an initial inquiry to placing an order. In as little as 60 days from a campaign launch, you should be closing on some new business and have a bevy of leads in your sales pipeline. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to forecast your actual advertising ROI until you have sufficient data gathered from the digitally tracked campaign. But you can begin to make educated calculations within the first 90 days in most cases.

Hitting Paydirt

After a few months of dialing in your messaging and target market based on specific interests, you will begin to have a throttle-like ability to manage business growth and it can be very profitable!

Digital advertising campaigns using Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms work fast because they actively find the people you’re looking for while those people are happy to see your ad pop up, answering their current need.

Campaign effectiveness and tracking accuracy are the two reasons so many corporate marketing budgets are moving out of traditional print and broadcast, which are expensive and hard to measure, to digital which can predictively deliver results when it’s professionally managed. That’s how advertising works in the 21st Century!

Quality Sales Promotion

Rat Race Selling Anxiety 

When I was a young, aggressive salesman, I worked my tail off to get new business and produced enough to be valued. I cold called like crazy, set appointments and made presentations day after day. It was a constant struggle, though, to sustain business growth as it ebbed and flowed in spite of continuous and mighty selling efforts.

Meet Richard

There was one senior guy on the team named Richard who had all the giant accounts and he just sat there on the phone discussing business and taking big, fat orders. Either that or he would meet with his clients at the plant and entertain them as they kept an eye on their work. I suspect they also enjoyed Richard’s company and getting out of their own office for vendor meetings with a trusted, high-quality supplier.

His cup runneth over!

The real kicker about Richard was this. In spite of his already abundant sales success, most of the new business inquiries calling in would ask for Richard, and it drove me nuts! He never cold called and he never had to bang the phone for appointments like the rest of us. The biggest and most profitable business just flowed to Richard.

I liked Richard and we became fast friends but I also envied his ability to take in lucrative business without seeming to compete for it. What did he have that the rest of us didn’t?

Over the course of time and even a few career moves, it finally became clear why Richard excelled. He understood quality and he never cut corners. While I was trying to figure out ways to lower costs or match competitive price quotes just to win an order, Richard was increasing the prices his clients would pay while at the same time adding value to the total package.

No Surprises!

The primary value that Richard added was quality-assurance. Richard’s clients knew that if they worked with him, they would get the best quality products available. No shortcuts, no surprises; just predictable high quality at a fair, negotiated price.

Meanwhile, the corners I cut in quality specs to compete on price were making some customers question the value they could expect from me in the future. It took me far too long to realize that not everyone wants more for less. I assumed price meant everything and I was trying to appease prospects I assumed were cheapskates.

Give back… to your competition!

True, there are plenty of cheapskates out there but in reality, there are lots of good people in the business world who understand what things cost. “You get what you pay for.” Those were Richard’s people! They knew that Richard understood the vital nature of high quality in manufacturing. When other people like them heard of Richard’s business approach and they needed our products, they called Richard, who else? And when Richard sensed cheapness or price challenges from a new business prospect, he would cheerfully (and wisely) refer them to competing manufacturers whom he knew would cut profits just to keep their machines running.

Be the person you would call!

The lesson here is that if you’re looking for more qualified sales leads, maybe you need to focus less on sales promotions and more on delivering premium quality to all your customers every single time you do business. Quality reputations can only be earned. If you’ve earned yours, go ahead and promote it!

Promote the one thing that separates your quality from the rest. Promote it everywhere you can.  If a prospect happens to see your company promotion and call you after also getting a referral, the sale is yours! And that was Richard’s secret to easygoing sales success. He promoted quality assurance and all his customers backed him up.

Make best-in-class quality your goal. Communicate what that really costs and clearly demonstrate its value. Then deliver the best quality consistently to build your reputation. Your marketing and sales efforts will work better as the quality seekers in your market find from you the really good stuff they’re looking for.

So first ask, is your stuff really that good?

Online User Experience: How much do you control?

There is only one place on the Internet over which you alone have control.

Every online platform except for one can modify, add to, or even ban your company messages. Your brand can be all over the place; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube, directories, blogs, guest landing pages, etc.

You can maximize your presence in all these online media and the brand experience visitors have will be limited and in many cases disappointing. Why? Because these spaces don’t belong to you and you are being used by them, not the other way around!

The hard truth of social media marketing: Your company information and, very likely, personal employee information are actually the product of social media companies, sold through advertising to other marketers. Your data (which is cumulatively collected with each login) belongs to them as much as it belongs to you. And if you want more than 5 or 6 people to see your posts, you must pay to have it distributed, even to your own friends, followers and connections!

So where is this one place on the Internet that you control completely? Hopefully, it’s the one in which you invest the most time and money – Your Website.

Your own Company Website gets top priority in all matters concerning online marketing. You can totally customize the experience for your specific target audiences. Social platforms, search engines and other channels are fine for distributing Your Website content, but they are not where your brand resides. Metaphorically, you should be entertaining your customers right inside your Home rather than having a quick chat inside a Starbucks.

Content Marketing at Work

I suggest getting busy writing about how you solve specific problems better than your competition. Take pictures and shoot video! At a minimum, hunt down some appropriate stock images for your campaign messages (just know how to choose them).

My company website has been producing higher quality leads in recent months following a content marketing campaign that resides, guess where?  Right where your eyes are focused now. This blog.

Questions? Ask a content marketing expert at
Chuck Sink Link.

Lead Generation or Seed Germination?

Stop demanding leads!

Every business owner and salesperson wants qualified new business leads that they can close, add to the client list and so build their business empire. If they could reduce their time spent prospecting and just focus on closing more deals, business would be sooooo much better! But is that realistic? Probably not.

There are all kinds of lead generation programs out there that vary in firepower and sophistication. Most of them utilize a combination of digital platforms that, when integrated, allow you to target demographic and interest-specific audiences, and follow them around on the web and with emails. They include various levels of personalization, even to the point of feeling creepy and intrusive.

The B2B Marketing Reality

You can definitely increase your website traffic and generate inbound “leads” with a well-programmed campaign. Up to a point. There’s a point at which message saturation occurs and no amount of great marketing will deliver new customers when there aren’t a bevy of needy prospects in your market during your campaign. This is the reality of most B2B marketing!

You hit up the same finite universe of potential buyers with a drip campaign hoping some will just peel away from their current business relationships, open an account and place an order with you. But the real qualified leads are few and far between, so what can you do?

The Crux of Business Growth

Unless your messages are relevant to their thinking and well-timed to their needs, prospective business customers couldn’t care less about your drips and drabs following them around in browsers and delivered in emails. But when they’re ready for change, you need to have readied them to think of your brand first. So the question becomes, how do you maximize your current market share and position your company as the category leader when the market expands?

You build trusted relationships based on an authentic brand. And these relationships can begin with simple awareness and grow from there. Yes, it’s about branding again!

What do you do better than most if not all of your competition? Figure out how to make that fact resonate in every company message. Make it the foundation of your sales, marketing and PR. Don’t stray!

As your prospects notice the consistency in your value proposition and hear about your work in media or word of mouth, they might actually become excited about the chance to do business with you when the time comes. You may be unaware of any relationship brewing with your prospects as they are mindfully starting to develop a relationship with you. Then your phone rings and it’s them!

The B2B Marketing Bonus

Each new relationship offers additional marketing and sales momentum!

While B2B marketing may seem a bit humdrum compared with consumer or lifestyle campaigns, business clients tend to be much higher stakes customers who depend heavily on your services. The relationship is important because they are trusting some part of their business to your care, and as they grow to enjoy working with you and your team, your best form of advertising comes free; a testimonial, a kind word… a referral and another new client.

When you’ve been at this game a while, you realize that without a brand name – one that people in your market have reasons to talk about – your sales will remain flat. But if your company works hard on consistent brand awareness, sales growth becomes less of a challenge and more of a fulfillment – an answer to your market’s call.

Your Other Team

They Have Your Back

Loyal employee engagement shores up company strength more than perhaps any other factor. That’s why it’s constantly on every responsible executive’s mind. Your team must execute your business operations with a purpose or your product and service quality will quickly slide downhill. Following the slide, morale sinks and you’ve got deeper problems.

We all need people to show up each day with an eager willingness to collaborate, do their part and be mutually rewarded by our companies’ success.

You can read a lot about employee engagement in comprehensive HR literature as well as top strategic business books. There’s another kind of human engagement that’s almost as vital to your business as that of your key employees. How are your relationships with suppliers and contractors? How’s your supplier engagement going?

“You didn’t build that!” (LOL)

If your company is like most, you probably don’t manufacture every product component or implement every service you deliver to your clients. At a minimum, you probably rely on parts suppliers or subcontractors, whatever your company does. What if suddenly, a couple of them decided they didn’t really care about your business, maybe ran into some issues and ceased to serve your “account.” What if that’s all you and your team were thought of by critical suppliers, an “account?”

The people who run the businesses you partner with need to be solidly grounded and totally dedicated to their clients’ needs. Simply stated, their people need to care about your people. And your independent contractors need to follow your directions as if you’re the boss. You need strong, trusted relationships with your “vendors.” I try to refer to each of my suppliers as a “business partner” or else simply by their name, and my clients get to know me on a personal level as we work together.

We’re (independently) in this together!

Who can say their business runs smoothly every single day? We all know the answer! Whenever my company has run into production or communication problems, every one of my reliable “business partners” has jumped in with both feet through the thick of the issue until it was solved. I’m extremely grateful for my contractor relationships. If you happen to be one of the men and women contributing your talents to our premium marketing services, thank you!

When you are experiencing challenges together with your solution partners, and you sense real dedication and mutual trust among yourselves, that’s engagement!

Call it vendor engagement, supplier engagement or business partner engagement, it’s priceless, just like earning and keeping the quality work of your best employees. Always remember to nurture your relationships for better engagement – both inside and outside your company.

The Sanctuary of Business Life

I enjoy escaping the falsely portrayed world in the media by tuning it out and getting real. It’s really wonderful to get out in the real world and work with familiar people, collaborating on various endeavors with them. It’s nice to live in a peaceful and prosperous place where people work together every day to help each other out. This is what is normal.

Most people in this country get along great! What you see “in the news” is largely fabricated or distorted for ratings as well as political and personal agendas.

Shutting off broadcast news and social media gives you a much better and more accurate survey of reality, which is right where you stand. And hopefully, nobody else standing there hates you. If they do, they should probably seek some help for that.

My point is that the business world functions much better than the politically charged, agenda driven media world but is too boring to make headlines and lead broadcasts. Discord seems to sell, so many prominent media figures sow it as we see in much inaccurate, biased reporting based on opinion, groupthink and hearsay. Now, even entertainment reeks of politics as we keep hearing from former comedians on late night television.

In my opinion, journalistic standards have never been lower so it’s best to treat all initial reporting in most media with a high degree of skepticism or at least inquisitive curiosity.

We’ve heard the phrase, “If it bleeds it leads.” Today’s media rule seems to be, “If it makes them pissed, it tops the list!” What kind of journalistic standard is that? The lowest kind.

Time to raise the standards!

Keep marketing simple!

For marketing communications, keep complexity and sophistication in storage.

There are those in business who relish sophistication in processes and systems. The more thinking and creative engineering that go into technology, products and services, the better they will perform (or be perceived to perform). But when it comes to marketing, sophisticated ideas just muddy up your messages.

If you have a brand identity or important message to convey, keep it simple, even if there are nuances. Why? Because the rest of us are mostly babes in the woods. Remember that only you think exactly the way you do and can perfectly connect your own dots. Those dots you so easily connect may appear disparate to the rest of us so it’s your responsibility to make certain that we know what dot #1 is all about before you start confusing us with dots 2 through 17 all at once.

What about those subtle nuances that really differentiate us, you might ask? If a nuance is what differentiates your product or service then your messages should be all about the nuance. If that nuance must be fully understood by your audience, make it the primary message.

If the value proposition is complex, build your case in understandable stages.

Once you add more than two or three ancillary features or components to your main value proposition, you dilute, spread around and complicate your main idea. By all means, be well prepared to articulate every granular detail of your value delivery but save those details until your audience wants or needs to know them.

A Simple 4-Step Approach

If you need to make your message understandable and actionable, there’s a methodology you can use called AIDA (Attention – Interest – Desire – Action). To apply AIDA in your marketing messages and throughout your selling process, take your prospect through these communication stages:

Attention – First you need them to notice you and listen. Make a bold, singular promise.

Interest – Once listening, build interest in how you will enrich your customer. Begin to reveal some key features that will help them. You can further differentiate your offering with nuance and sophistication as long as your prospect wants to remain engaged. This is really the make or break stage because interest can be lost as quickly as gained. You must move them into wanting your product, or there’s no sale.

Desire – One way to know if your prospect has reached the desire stage is by the questions they ask. If the questions focus on recommended service levels, budget ranges, or what actual implementation involves, you and your prospect have reached the closing stage of the sale and are ready for…

ACTION – Unless your message is acted upon, why bother with branding, great web design and advertising? Why have salespeople? Marketing and sales cost a lot of money so they have to work! Your calls to action can be anything from e-commerce or direct contact links on your website to full-blown presentations and contract negotiations, depending on what you’re selling.

It’s best to hold your most sophisticated or complex product/service benefits for when you may need them, such as convincing a senior engineering team that your technology is superior. Give them the building blocks to decide for themselves.

In marketing, the complex features do belong somewhere on your website with a clear navigation path. If your home and landing pages have a strong primary message, your visitors will go deeper to learn what they need to know, and hopefully place an order or call you with questions.

Content is gold. You have limited mind space and attention spans to work with. Avoid muddying the water by keeping your initial marketing message simple. A powerful first impression can set the ball rolling from attention to ACTION faster than you expect.

Stick to your business and stay out of the pulpit.

Gillette (Proctor & Gamble) wants to be the corporate hero of the day as they roll out their “shaving toxic masculinity” ad. If you haven’t seen the spot, it’s all about how men often act like jerks, are bullies and treat women badly. Its message is actually age-old and classic; that men should act like gentlemen and teach boys about respect and kindness to all, regardless of our differences.

Gillette blew it in my opinion. Their marketing group projected their own cultural and political bias onto their target audience and many of us are turned off by their overt condemnation of all masculinity as “toxic.”

The message of respect and kindness itself is good but the thrust of the ad presupposes that disciplined respect by men is a new, progressive idea and that men need to clean up their act, never mind our unshaven faces. If there’s a positive side for Gillette, the brand will gain additional support from the market segment in which the message resonates, but that would be a hard segment to measure.

The Marketing Risks

I believe the risks for Gillette are twofold. 1) They have annoyed a sizable portion of their customer base because the ad’s tone implies that most men have been jerks all along but things are different now and they better get with the times! 2) The ad’s video news clip collage panders to progressive political leanings and the #MeToo movement. It will be seen as an insincere play on promoting social justice.

As a longtime Gillette customer, I’m very annoyed! Why did this corporation jump headlong for no apparent reason into a politically charged cultural movement, attempting to shame men and correct their behavior?

The only behavior of mine that Gillette has any business in whatsoever is my grooming behavior.

As for social behavior, I will look to my Church, family, friends, neighbors and colleagues for feedback and correction, and so should the rest of Gillette’s audience in my opinion. There are no moral and spiritual leaders in the marketing team at Gillette or all of Proctor and Gamble and they have no business assuming moral authority in their advertising campaigns.

Here’s the Marketing Kicker

My advice is to keep all of your business messages on point. Attempting to use your company’s platform to influence the culture will only divert your attention and resources away from your primary business purpose – serving your customers.

I believe the best marketing is sincere marketing. So far, my best shaves have been with Gillette razors. They make excellent shaving products and that’s the only message I want to hear from a razor company that profits from my continued patronage.

Business Growth in 2019: Who’s with me?

I’m reading all this leading-edge news on LinkedIn, the WSJ, Bloomberg, CNBC, Forbes, you name it. All the experts seem strangely gleeful as they talk down the economy, stating with certitude that we’re headed full steam into a downturn. They don’t know exactly when but they’re almost sure it will be 2019.

Don’t follow the leaders down!

This is how I’m seeing things play out in business news as the year 2018 ends. I hope I’m wrong, but this stuff is predictable and I’ve closely studied economic cycles for more than 30 years. Negative chatter is contagious and creates “headwinds” against continued good economic times. But you can set your sails to tack against headwind and make a lot of forward progress.

I’m sorry to say this, but there are no executives of large American corporations who strike me as inspiring moral and ethical leaders. I cannot think of a single one. But there are numerous small business, independent enterprise and nonprofit leaders to whom I aspire and whose example I would like to follow, some I know personally. They are people bent on serving instead of controlling. These are people who stick with principles no matter what, and I’m talking about moral, ethical and economic principles. They enjoy enduring success.

The small business community needs to coalesce around the idea that the prevailing thoughts and decisions made by the leaders of large corporations and government (silent partners) often go against a stronger economy and the good of our country and society.

Do they still teach real economics?

If you subsidize something, you will enlarge it or encourage more of it. If you tax something, you will diminish it. This is a macroeconomics principle – an immutable law of economics.

If you serve your customer with value, you improve his position and therefore build more demand for your products. If you create more work or complexity for your customer and charge him for it in the process, you will damage him and lose his business. He will tell others about the bad experience as well. This is simple microeconomics which follows the macroeconomics principle.

Be solution oriented!

Why not put these immutable economic laws to work for our own businesses and multiply our numbers by example?

networkingAny strong network of small business and enterprise leaders can work together in the markets and within their own companies to more effectively beat back negative economic forces, including politics and negative chatter aligned against them.

Put your best networking, service, sales and marketing game on, starting now!

Growth in 2019, 2020 and beyond is not only possible but probable if business leaders will get in the trenches with their people and demonstrate how much they care about the future. Leaders in great small businesses always do some heavy lifting with their teams to shore up conditions in the company and better serve customers. The also stay committed to their brand identities and work to build their reputations.

Business Growth Tactics for the New Year

In 2019, a strong leader will:

  • Work closely with their salespeople and give them real leads instead of simply demanding more calls.
  • Spend considerable time on production floors and job sites performing needed tasks and adding production value as well as developing employee relationships.
  • Spend a lot of time with customers, learning what they really need, carefully considering how they or someone in their network can meet those needs.
  • Be a committed brand manager, constantly nurturing the brand in the market by continually directing and helping to manage strong marketing campaigns.

If a bad recession in the overall economy does happen, your market share and brand awareness will determine how well you ride it out or even grow right through it.

Top-of-mind brand awareness is priceless. Those who have it usually earn it, and they remain in the market like flashing beacons as their competitors fade from the promotional stage.

I’m going to increase my marketing budget now and step on the gas even more during 2019. I also pledge to follow the sales, production and customer service advice listed above.

Are you with me?

Use Technology Right: Stick to Your Business!

Smart phones build us up and tear us down as we choose.

The information technology age has enabled me and countless others to start businesses and create great careers for ourselves. Publishing and broadcasting are no longer the exclusive realms of big business, requiring large amounts of capital. The internet has leveled the playing field for anyone with an interesting or worthwhile message to compete with major media networks for audience attention.

Thankfully for my business, this includes advertising and public relations. I want to make clear that I’m extremely grateful for what technology has enabled me to do; create a job I love and serve more people every day.

I prefer the desktop experience when working, but lately, I’m using my phone more out of efficiency and convenience. If I can do something easily and quickly on my phone to serve a client, I’m all in! However, I’m human and prone to instant gratification like everyone else. That’s where the smartphone can be dangerous to productivity and progress.

Beware of The Enemy Smartphone!

I often find myself picking up my phone because I know what it can do and because it’s there. For no reason at all, I can pull myself away from an important task to get an update on… I don’t know… There must be something new and cool going on somewhere in my network or the world, right? Why do I rob my myself and others of this valuable time? Because I’ve been conditioned by our culture to “be connected 24/7.”

Now I’m working hard to counter that bad influence! I’m training myself to ignore the amazing shiny object that beckons me with audio-visual notifications.

The do-not-disturb setting or off button can work wonders. And it’s amazing how people move on with their lives after texting or emailing you if you don’t respond right away. Of course, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” However, when I hear my phone ring, I try to pick it up immediately because people making the effort to speak with me usually deserve a returned effort and who knows what opportunity might spring from a real live conversation?

A Touch Too Much!

My new phone is amazing with all its dazzling color brilliance and crisp graphics. Everything on it calls for my fingers to activate it by the slightest touch. In fact, my phone is always ready to open an app and order something online if I simply touch it the wrong way. For example, a travel insurance policy order was placed on my phone apparently by an inadvertent screen touch on some Google ad that I didn’t notice was open. I had to spend significant time on the phone to cancel the order! That’s dangerous in addition to time-wasting. Touch screens tend to be a touch too touchy, in my opinion.

Check it less and reduce your stress!

Technology has, unfortunately, shown us it’s power to diminish happiness as much as enhance it. There is a whole class of addiction surrounding the socially-fueled highs people get from interactions on their devices. At least one of Facebook’s founders even admitted that they designed the platform to hook people on instant social recognition, and they have been successful in that quest.

Oftentimes, the “conversations” that go on in social media will tend criss-cross, with no direct human presence, and lead to anger and stressed out feelings. Just not worth it! People can certainly abuse communication technology and I for one am attempting to align it with my goals and values.

It’s really all about making sensible choices. What tools will provide the most leverage for the task at hand? Are you using the tools to produce or just be amused?

When it comes to business communications, I’ve found nothing works quite like the telephone. Sometimes, keys in the ignition and some road time is what it takes to leverage your business relationships.

Learn From an Expert

My friend and colleague Carol Phillips of Health Design wrote a great article that inspired me to think about how I’m using technology to communicate and get work done. I’m trying to avoid the useless entertainment and chatter that often lead to stress and regret. You may want to read Carol’s excellent article about a more balanced approach for using technology to enhance life rather than detract from it.

Finally, I invite you to call my smartphone at 603-345-7223 if you have questions about using technology – in a good way of course – for your marketing communications.