Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

A Refresher on Making Small Talk

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Networking events are back and that means polishing up on small talk and conversation starters. It’s been a long while since we navigated a crowd of mainly strangers. So, if you find yourself standing alone, take a breath, move in, and get chatting.

Before You Go

Scan the news headlines, and peek at the movie reviews. Current events are always good topics.

Opening Lines

Introduce yourself – Stick to a first name to make it easier to remember, and hopefully the person you’re meeting will do the same. Give a little tidbit of info about you, and ask a question. E.g., Hi, I’m Dave. I’m accountant at an ad agency. What kind of work do you do?

Start with a compliment – E.g., Hi, I’m Sarah. I’ve been admiring your fabulous shoes.

Talk about the venue – E.g., Have you had any food yet? It sure looks good. I’m Veronica.

Follow Ups

Do you work in the neighbourhood? I’m looking for a nice restaurant to take clients.

How did you get into that business?

Tell me more about your job; what does a typical day look like for you?

Do you travel a lot?

Introduce Others

When you meet someone, really focus on their name. Repeat it, as in, “Nice to meet you Mariah.” And say it to yourself a few more times. Then, when someone else joins your group, introduce the others around you, and yourself to the new person. Add something about another, or what you’ve been talking about. E.g., “Sarah’s just back from Italy and we’ve been talking about how much we love Italian food.” Everyone will be impressed that you remembered their name, and the new person will feel welcomed.

Let Others Talk

Let others do most of the talking, but if you’re asked a question, give more than the shortest answer. If you’re asked about your job, give your title, what you actually do, and any specialties you focus on. Be sure to ask a question back, to keep the conversation going.

Networking is important and you want to make the most of the opportunity to expand your circle. Forget the sale pitch. What you do for a living will come up, guaranteed. Just enjoy yourself. A happy face says a lot about a person.

Maybe You Need to Rethink Your Org Chart

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It’s probably not news to you that there is a pretty significant labour shortage right now. If you’re not struggling with it in your own business, you’ve probably noticed it at the grocery store or coffee shop. It’s not just entry level or low paying jobs that are vacant either, it’s at all levels and all industries.

Some blame Covid for the great resignation, but an aging population is also having an impact. But the reasons why are not as important as what you’re going to do about it.

While some will advise you to offer incentives like a signing bonus, or let employees choose their own work places or work hours, those tactics are all about getting a higher share of a scarce resource. And, since the labour pool is going to continue to shrink for a while yet, the competition will get fierce and the bidding increasingly higher. But is there an option?


A colleague of ours had an interesting suggestion. She contends that most businesses don’t actually need all of the staff on their org charts, and that by analyzing each job function, you can pare down to a core team that is actually more productive than filling every position you have now.

When a business first starts, there are usually a few people doing everything. There’s a list of things that need doing and the first person who finishes one task takes on the next task on the list that they’re capable of doing. Then, you have more work than can be accomplished by the few, so a new person is hired. And this is where we all make our first mistake – we write a job description. Usually, the start-up partners put all the things they don’t want to do into the new person’s job. Shortly thereafter, the new job is far too much work for one person, and they off-load to a new hire.

Traditionally, job descriptions are a list of tasks, and then the skills to do those tasks are added. And then you try to find a person who has the skills to do the tasks on that particular job description. That’s the mistake. By listing the tasks first, you begin building barriers between team members. Every time you need more people, you create a task list for that person. Sure, you may think you have the big picture in mind, but you’re working against the whole notion of a cooperative and collaborative team.

A team needs a variety of skills to perform the tasks required to do the job that the business is in. “Skills” – that’s the key word. So, you need more technical support on your team. Typically, you’d take a copy of the job description you have for your one technician, and create a second position exactly the same. And even though you don’t have 40 hours of excess work, there’s no way that you’re going to find a technician to take a part-time job, so you hire full-time. The sales person is also struggling to keep up with leads, so you make a copy of the sales position and fill that. And on and on it goes.

The alternative? First, take inventory of all of the skills you already have. Since your office manager only put his office management experience on his job application for the office manager job, you don’t know that he also has sales experience. And the sale woman you have, also has experience in tech support. Pitch the job descriptions and look at what you have and what you need. Maybe one person does sales in the morning and tech support in the afternoons. Maybe the office manager wants to learn more about accounting. The point is, people have a multitude of skills and defining what is and isn’t their job, doesn’t give a team enough flexibility to be all they can be.

While we don’t necessarily endorse our colleague’s theory, it is interesting to note that our project manager also writes music, and our web developer is a talented artist, and our writer used to manage an IT department. Just saying, it’s something to think about.

Urgent vs. Important

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Many businesses slow down during the summer months, and that makes it a great time to work on things that are important, without the distraction of urgencies.

The distinction between urgent and important is best know as tenants of the Eisenhower Matrix. The former President of the United States was a very accomplished leader in the military prior to running for office. He was particularly known for his organizational skills and ability to effectively manage myriad responsibilities.

The Eisenhower Matrix combines urgency and importance into four categories:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important but Not Urgent
  3. Urgent but Not Important
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

Anything that falls into the last category, doesn’t need to be done at all; in fact, should simply be deleted from any to do list.

While category #1 is likely where you’ll focus day to day, some will argue that category #2 is where a manager or business owner should be spending most of their time. Long-term goals, strategic plans, and projects that advance those goals and plans, are the things that are going to lead to continuous success.

The matrix is a great tool for sorting out a long list of tasks, deciding which can be delegated (#3), which need a scheduled time (#2), and what you’re not going to do at all (#4).

So, if you’re having a slow summer and want to do something productive, take some time with things in #2 – long term planning, reviewing project progress, researching new equipment or techniques that could save you money over time, etc. And try not to get distracted by issues that are not important, urgent or not.

Then again, you could just go on vacation which for some is important.

Effective Advertising – Part 6: Follow-up

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This is the final article in our series on effective advertising. The five factors for getting results are: visibility, attention/appeal, problem/solution, calls to action, and follow-up.

Your ads have done their job by getting potential buyers to your website (or retail outlet). Your website has done its job converting viewers into buyers. Now, you need your loyalty and retention plan to kick in.

Brand recall takes multiple impressions, in addition to a positive experience. Ideally, you’d like your new customer to make another purchase sooner rather than later. If you make your pitch too soon though, they won’t have had the chance to try the product. If you wait too long, they may have already moved on to try something else. So, here’s an example schedule:

  1. An immediate email confirming the order, and foreshadowing how much they’re going to love it.
  2. An email confirming the item has shipped and expected delivery date. (In the case of services, confirm the appointment date.)
  3. Delivery confirmation request, with tips for using.
  4. About a week later, request a review and showcase a few other curated products based on their purchase.
  5. About a month later, offer a discount on any products or services.
  6. Keep them on your mailing list for new products or sales events.

If the customer is unhappy with their purchase, do whatever you can to make them happy again. Give a full refund, offer a discount on a different product or send a pack of samples. The customers you turn around can end up being your longest-term clients and great brand ambassadors.

So, what could a great ad do for your business? Tell us your goal and we’ll get started!

Effective Advertising – Part 5: Call to action

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So far in this series, we’ve covered visibility, getting attention and appealing to your target audience, and pitching your solution. In this article, we’re going to talk about the call to action.


The call to action is what you’re asking your potential customer to do next. With rare exception, every advertisement needs to have a call to action. The exceptions are some ads in strategic campaigns that begin with teaser ads. These are most often used to introduce new brands or new products from well known brands. The ads are released in a specific sequence to build curiosity until the big reveal. These types of campaigns are expensive and somewhat risky, but can be effective.

The type of action you want an ad viewer to take depends on a number of things, including the placement of the ad, the memorability of your phone number, location, and web address, as well as your business model or sales path.

Internet ads can be linked directly to your web site, which is ideal. Outdoor and print ads though rely on the viewer’s memory, so that’s when short URLs come in handy. If you have a physical location, say at a well-known mall, or if you sell your product through a chain retailer, your call to action can be more general; like, “Visit us at Metrotown” or “Buy now at Old Navy.”

Let’s get back to digital ads though, because you have an opportunity here for a strategic series of calls to action that can be very effective. So, the viewer clicks the ad and is directed to your site. Which page do you want them to land on? For sales, it’s best to have a unique landing page for each different ad, that is created to be an extension of the ad. For example, if you’re ad is pitching a specific product, you don’t want the potential buyer landing on your home page. You want to take them right to the product and give them the opportunity to buy. So, your landing page might look something like this:

  • A basic repeat of the ad with a Buy Now button.
  • More information about the product; all those benefits you haven’t yet mentioned, with a slightly different (more enticing call to action) like, Order Now and get free samples of the whole line of these amazing serums!
  • A few testimonials.
  • More detailed information, like the research that went in to development, before and after photos, and more testimonials.
  • Another call to make a purchase, as well as an option to engage without making a purchase, like subscribing to your newsletter.

Now, if they click that Buy button, you want to get them checked-out ASAP. Ask only for the information you need to make the sale, on as few screens as possible. Minimize the clicks, get the sale.

You can do more after the sale. We’ll talk about ways to follow-up next time.

Effective Advertising – Part 4: Problem > Solution

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Your ad has caught the attention of your target audience. Now, what’s your sales pitch? Concisely summarizing the solution you have to offer is the third factor in creating an effective ad. This series starts here.

The old standard was to showcase “features and benefits.” That approach is still fine for long copy, like a brochure or the inside pages of your website. For an advertisement though, you need to get to the point fast. You’re selling a solution. How that solution is created is less important.

Here are some examples of headlines to attract and appeal followed with a solution statement:

• Sleep Better: This non-addictive prescription drug will put you to sleep in ten minutes, guaranteed.
Cobwebs on the ceiling? We’ll get those for you. We also collect dust bunnies.

The viewer relates to the headline; they really need sleep, or those cobwebs have been bugging them for weeks. In the first example, we get right to it. Take our pill and you’ll fall asleep fast. “Guaranteed” keeps them interested. They don’t know what that guarantee is yet, but since other solutions haven’t worked, they’ll keep reading to find out.

The second example is a little more obtuse, but makes the point that this cleaning service has a bit of a sense of humor and does a good job – from ceiling to floor.

The goal is to keep the viewers attention for a few more seconds. Depending on the type of ad, and more specifically, how much space you have, you can either give them a little more information or move right to your call to action.

While it’s tempting to list ALL of the wonderful things about your product or service, pick the one or two that are most important to your target market. Think about overcoming objections. For the skeptical insomniac, outline that guarantee: “Your money back at the point of purchase, no questions asked.” For the one who’s realizing they need help with the cleaning, the words “affordable” and “bonded” might be good choices.

You don’t have to make the sale – yet. You just want to get them thinking about your offer.

Effective Advertising – Part 3: Attention and Appeal

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This series is about five of the key factors in effective advertising. In Part 2, we talked about visibility, or getting your ads in front of your target markets. Now we’re going to discuss getting attention and appealing to your target audience with your ads.

Attention and appeal are different but the viewer moves from one to the other almost instantaneously. Attention equals eye-catching, while appeal means relevant, interesting, or enjoyable to look at.

Seek the attention of your target audience with one focal point; either an image or a headline, as you don’t want these two elements competing.


In these examples, Harley Davidson chose an image that will appeal to those who dream of the open road. UNICEF chose a bold headline with a very recognizable word. Both included clever text that makes the ads memorable because they’re relatable. Harley Davidson’s says “Somewhere on an airplane a man is trying to rip open a small bag of peanuts.” UNICEF’s message is particularly good because there is unexpected twist – likes equal zero vaccinations.

You can use your buyer persona to choose colours, shapes, fonts, and images. In general, bold colours and large fonts are attracting, and emotion evoking images and clever text are attracting.

Things that are odd, opposites juxtaposed, and humour can be both attracting and appealing. Altered images have become popular, but be aware that things like altering faces can also be off-putting.

Another caution. We are currently living in a very sensitive environment, so although the goal is to get attention, you need to be extremely careful to do that in a positive way that is not going to offend anyone. That is a challenge, but protecting your brand is important.

Next time, presenting your solution.

Effective Advertising – Part 2: Visibility

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We’re exploring the five key factors in effective advertising. First up is visibility. What we’re talking about here is getting the ads in front of your target audience. So, the first thing to think about is who are you targeting and where do you find them? Remember to consider market segments, and this is where your personas will come in handy. Let’s look at two as examples for a cleaning business.

Let’s say that Persona #1 is Alice. Alice is retired and still lives in her own house with her husband. They have a good pension income and spend their time golfing and hosting their grandchildren for weekend sleep overs. As an older couple, they are pretty traditional in their thinking. They give money to their church for mission work, but don’t really subscribe to any causes. Alice represents your prospects for housekeeping services.

Persona #2 is Kyle. Kyle is the 35-year-old building manager for three strata complexes. He has a fixed budget for the cleaning services he needs, but is likely to sign a contract for at least a year. Kyle is no nonsense, so he’d prefer one company to all three buildings, and wants the job done right, so he’s not getting calls from the strata council after hours. Kyle lives with his wife and three children, and usually socializes with other families. Kyle represents your prospects for commercial cleaning contracts.

Alice and Kyle are not very likely to cross paths, so they’ll need different ad platforms and different pitches.

Google search ads though, apply to both. It’s by far the most visible platform of all. Ads for Alice should focus on bonded employees, high quality and reliable service. Ads for Kyle would feature the word “commercial” and contract discounts, in addition to insurance, quality and reliability.

At her age, Alice is among the 60% of Boomers and older, that read the newspaper. If she lives in a community of less than 100 thousand that has a community newspaper, the percentage goes up. Newspaper advertising can only be target to this type of extent, so is a relatively shot-gun approach. However, a few newspaper ads combined with other forms of advertising, might work quite well.

Admail is another option of Alice’s demographic – older adult living in their own home. They tend to check their mail regularly, so even if your postcard type ad puts the idea of using a cleaning service, it might be worth it.

Pinterest’s largest age group of users is those aged 50 to 64 and skews female (78%), and since Alice has grandchildren, she may visit the site for craft ideas.

Facebook would be another social media site worth considering. Although Alice is older than the highest user group demographic, Facebook allows fairly in-depth targeting, so your ad spend won’t be wasted.

In a client acquisition blitz scenario, you could also consider radio, as well as discount coupons in a cooperative advertising promotion with local golf courses.

Now, Kyle is going to be a little harder to reach, since it’s his job role that you want to target. Your best bet with Kyle is probably YouTube. He’s among the largest age and gender group of users (15-35, 54% male), and there’s a good chance that he looks up how to do some repairs in his buildings. While ads would be one way to attract Kyle, a few of your own videos about how to keep cleaning costs down, or a spray for hallway carpets that prevents stains, might also get his attention.

Direct mail addressed to the Building Manager is a way to get more information to Kyle, and perhaps an offer for a free quote after a walk-though. Meeting Kyle in person is a really great way to move him up your prospect list.

Of course, there are so many other advertising options: billboards, buses, television, radio, direct email, and many more social media sites, including LinkedIn for business people, and Snapchat for a younger demographic.

They key is to find the places that your target markets are likely to visit, in person or online, and that’s where you want your ads to be.

Effective Advertising – Part 1: Introduction

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A return on investment is the goal for all advertising campaigns. The higher the return, the more effective the advertising is; but let’s not forget about the investment part. Advertising costs you money, so you don’t want to take a hit or miss approach and wait for the results to come in. Like all investments, you need to do your homework; you need to be thoughtful; and, you need to be strategic.

Our last series talked about buyer behavior, and our last article talked about buyer personas. In this series we’ll
reference both of those discussions, as we unpack five of the key factors in effective advertising.

As always, the buyer is at the center of your decision making. Most markets need to be segmented to make the groupings as homogeneous as possible. Each segment is the basis for the buyer persona your ads will target, and will figure prominently as well look at:

Visibility: Where will your buyer see your ad?

Attention/Appeal: These are two different things, but they quickly act in concert. Your ads need to get attention, and then appeal to your targeted customers.

Problem/Solution: Features and benefits are a bit old school. Ads need to address problems or pain points, with a solution.

Call to Action: Except in specific and strategically sound circumstances, every ad needs a call to action that can be remembered and easily followed.

Follow Up: The best ads in the world don’t actually sell anything, your company does. How you follow up will, or won’t, get the sale.

Whether you do your own advertising or rely on us, it’s helpful to understand the thinking process. So, stay tuned as we look at each of these factors in more depth.


Three Ways to Use Customer Personas

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A customer persona is a fictional character that represents your target market. If you have a segmented market, you’ll want to have a persona for each segment. The more information your have about your target market, the more detail you can add, and the more useful the persona will be. Data points include:

  • Demographics: age, job, income, location, education, ethnicity, and family status.
  • Psychographics: likes, dislikes, values, interests, motivations, frustrations.
  • Social: how they interact with friends, how they use leisure time, how they identify within social groups.
  • Behavioral: purpose of and how they interact with your business, previous purchases, purchase process preferences, desktop or mobile.

The persona should describe a typical customer. Statistical averages, like the average age, are not helpful. If your two segments are pre-teens and middle-aged adults, the average age is going to be about 30, which is an entirely different segment. For marketing purposes, your persona has to be truly representative.

Given a name, your persona comes to life and now you are focused on “Donna” to:

  1. Refine your marketing strategy: In our recent series, we reviewed the buying cycle and how to market at each phase along the customer’s path. Now you can refine those general strategies for Donna specifically. What’s going to get Donna’s attention? What motivates Donna to seek your products or services? What will Donna want to know about the product or service before she makes a decision to buy? How do you keep Donna as a long-term customer?
  2. Create compelling ads: What values do you want to convey to Donna? What emotions do you want to evoke? What will trigger Donna to move to the next phase in the buying cycle?
  3. Create meaningful content: Donna’s a well educated professional in the business world. She wants information that is concise and precise. She’s also concerned about the environment, so your website needs to address what you’re doing to be good environmental stewards. Donna also wants to ensure that her high-end suits aren’t being made by young children, so you need to tell her that. We know that Donna likes to travel, so you could have a page about the locations from which you source your fabrics, and maybe a blog post about how silk is made.

Personas are a way to get into the mind-set of your customers. So, what’s your Donna like?