Category Archives: marketing

Where did that come from?

Explaining sales is hard to do

As a wise marketing agency executive once said, “I know that half of our advertising works, I’m just not sure which half.”

I have the same impression of my own efforts at sales and marketing. Something’s working, I’m just not sure what.

So how do you keep doing what’s working, if you don’t know what’s working. You keep pushing, testing, monitoring and adjusting to continue getting better results. It will never be a straight line between cause and effect.

When you toss a message bottle in the ocean the ripples ricochet and send it in many different directions. It may touch the shore miles away or bump a passing boat at sea before it’s picked up and the message is read. And that person may not even care. Will they toss it back or send it to someone you intended it for? I hope you threw a lot of message bottles into the ocean. (It’s a metaphor. Please, no more plastic bottles in the ocean.)

It’s worth remembering the mysterious magic of The 4Ps of Effective SalesmanshipPatient, Persistent, Polite & Persuasive and applying those principles yourself.  They still work for me.

As you may have noticed, I’ve published several books recently for entrepreneurs and about entrepreneurs and I’m trying to follow my own advice. Be Patient, Persistent, Polite & Persuasive in applying the sales and marketing tactics that are most appropriate to the product and the target customer/reader. But it's strange how sales work.

Here’s an example.  My royalty statements recently showed a sale of 152 E-Book copies of my novel, Merger Maniac. That was unusual, so I drilled down into the details.  Apparently a bookseller in South Africa bought them from my U.S. distributor for re-sale to an online education site in the U.K. I hope they didn't think it was a text book on mergers. It’s a novel! About crime and corruption in the international computer business of the 1980s. I haven’t seen the reviews yet. And I haven’t been able to track down the buyer or the 152 new readers.

So I don’t know what buttons to push to make it happen again. I’ll just keep pushing the same buttons and hope I’m hitting the ones that seem to be working. Reviewing results and tracking down the details to improve performance wherever I can.

You should continue to apply the same tactics to your own sales and marketing efforts.  And enjoy the results even if you can’t explain them.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at:

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

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Image is everything

Don’t let packaging become a problem

Does your packaging provide a competitive advantage? Does it appeal to customers and enhance your brand name? Raise your corporate profile?

Or is it annoying and dysfunctional? Loud and obnoxious, attracting the wrong kind of attention.

The trick is to make packaging decisions in favour of the customer first. Not just for flashy presentation on the shelf or to prevent shoplifting. Think about those packages you hate and make sure you’re not among them. Like those giant colourful, appealing boxes of cereal that turn out to be only two-thirds full. Or Gillette razor-blades that are locked down and set off alarms if you want to take a closer look.

Is that really helping sales? Making it look overpriced and hard to buy?

Some packaging is all about presentation and not at all practical for consumers when they get it home. Buy a new shirt or pair of socks and you’ll ask yourself, “Why do they need all the paper and cardboard wrapping? And 27 pins buried in painfully hard to find places?”

heinz-ketchup-bottlesAnd then there’s Ketchup. Fifty years of impractical glass bottles that were a challenge to get the tomato paste out of. Was it really a branding strategy to build a cult following of unusually persistent dedicated buyers? Pissing people off is not usually a good sales tactic. Finally some genius at Heinz introduced the squeezable upside-down plastic container. Great! And much easier to consume large quantities. Now that has to be good for sales.

How good is your packaging?

Instead of wrapping up your stuff in flashy exaggerated marketing B.S. and tying it down tight so nobody can steal it, think about higher values of being functional, appealing, authentic and socially and environmentally responsible. Easy to open, but secure from tampering or inappropriate use. Non-polluting.

And stop worrying about people stealing it.

Try giving it away instead. Those people may just become loyal repeat customers and raving fans who tell everybody how wonderful you and your product are. Those giveaways may be your best-performing marketing initiative.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

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The Wanna Be Market

Are you the hunter or the prey?

dreamingHave you noticed how many serious businesses are marketing hard to the Wanna Be market? Wanna be a writer, movie star, professional athlete or internet millionaire? Buy my stuff.

Appealing to everyone who has a dream and is looking for the short-cut to realizing it. Stroking egos and offering to share the secrets, there is a constant barrage of pitches to keep the dreamers spending money and chasing the dream.

The super-spammers continue teasing us with guaranteed success for only $9.97, or $397, or $1997. But now the offers for fast, cheap and “guaranteed” solutions are also coming from Amazon, Shopify and dozens of other mainstream suppliers. Every celebrity guru, pop star, athlete and coach has advice to sell on how you too can be rich and famous, just never give up on your dream.

My advice is to do less dreaming and dig a little deeper into the case studies and testimonials. You’ll find that the real secret, beyond having a dream, is having the talent, doing the hard work and being effective at marketing and promotion. Then a little luck and strong endorsements will help. There is no guarantee, but if you can check off all those requirements, then you are well along the path to realizing your dream. If not, then find a new dream that you can succeed at. It is always a question of finding what makes you unique, what you are good at and what you like to do. Those three make the winning combination.

Of course, marketing to the Wanna Be market has always been here. Convincing consumers that they have to have the product to be happier, healthier, more cool, beautiful, or successful has always been part of persuasive marketing tactics.

You know it works, but the next time you recognize it, check whether you are using it or being used.

Are you the hunter or the prey?

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.


This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph's, "Don't Do It the Hard Way". Read the book.

Marketing, Sales or Customer Service?

Are choices to be made? Do we need to deliver on all three?

Bplan strategy“First let’s define better the three elements of this process to build long-term valuable customer relationships:

Marketing – understanding the market and defining the target customer; building awareness, interest, and attraction; and, identifying prospects.

 Sales – converting interested prospects into qualified, buying customers.

 Customer service – delivering products and services as promised to ensure that each customer is a satisfied, repeat customer.

Each step has to be done consistently well for the results to be achieved. But a choice still has to be made - which element are you going to be best at? Will you win from competitors on marketing, sales, or customer service? You cannot be best at all three.

In my experience managing a second-tier brand name in computer hardware, we knew that we couldn't possibly out-market the multinationals, but we could out-sell them, one customer at a time. We spent a minimum of time and effort on marketing. Respecting basic principles of clear and consistent messaging and being creative at avoiding large expenditures worked for us.

Winning on customer service was also a challenge - it's expensive for any manufacturer to compete on warranty terms and technical support.

So we went back to salesmanship, even in the service department - coaching staff on persuading the customer to be reasonable, patient, and give us another order, please! We carefully explained to our service technicians that the best result from a call for tech support was to turn a complaint into a compliment and then pass the call to a sales rep for another order.

You can achieve success by being selective, instead of trying to be good at everything.

So take a look at your strategic positioning, your performance and your options in marketing, sales and customer service - then choose, focus and build one of them into your competitive weapon.”

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book. 

Evolution of Do-It-Yourself Marketing

confused-man1Don’t do it all yourself

It struck me recently in a meeting with two young entrepreneurs that we were struggling to do it all ourselves, when we should instead be calling on professionals who actually have the relevant expertise and experience to get the best results for the minimum expense.

Especially in social media marketing.

It looks easy, but it’s not

We’re all busy Tweeting, Facebooking and connecting on LinkedIn, thinking we know what we’re doing. It all seems a necessary and obvious part of our marketing programs. But are we accomplishing anything? Raising awareness, building our brand, attracting prospects and future customers? Maybe not.

Much like running a restaurant or retail store, consumers recognize good versus bad performance, but that does not mean they know how to succeed at it themselves. It is never as easy as the experienced professionals make it look. It is usually better to pay for advice to get it right the first time, instead of learning from the painful and expensive mistakes that may result from doing it ourselves.

We’ve been making the same mistake in do-it-yourself marketing for decades. Back in the 80’s, it was fun to play with all the available fonts and graphics in the new desktop software and then blast away with junk faxes. Not so much fun to discover that clients soon went from impressed to annoyed. Not the reaction we were going for.  But we repeated the mistakes with junk e-mail. Eventually, we learned to be more respectful of inboxes and social media connections to build and retain customer loyalty and engagement.

We have done the same with other marketing initiatives, trying to imitate the best. It looks easy, but it’s not. Choosing a brand name, slogan, graphics design, writing copy on websites and brochures. It all seems acceptable to the entrepreneur, until an experienced professional points out the lack of a clear, consistent strategic message directed at a well defined target market and customer.

Use the professionals well, help them help you

Don’t make the classic mistake of the entrepreneur who prefers to do it himself badly, rather than pay for an expensive professional. Entrepreneurs by nature are curious and self-confident and will certainly try it on their own. Just remember to stop when you have learned enough to be a better, more knowledgeable client so that you can direct the experts to get the results you want within the budget you can afford.

Try it, learn, and then get good advice to do it better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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And check out two new books by Uncle Ralph, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans." available online or at your favourite bookstore. To learn more or buy a copy: Click here




Choices to be made or all part of a continuum?

I believe they are the three elements of a process required to build long-term valuable customer relationships. Which is the primary value proposition of most businesses. (Buy once and goodbye forever is not a business model that works for anybody. If you can find one, please let me know.)

The three elements defined:

  1. Marketing - to build awareness, interest, attraction and generate customer initiated action in your direction.
  2. Sales - converting interested prospects into qualified, buying customers.
  3. Customer service - ensuring that each customer is a satisfied, repeat customer.

Each step has to be done consistently well for the results to be achieved. But a choice still has to be made - which element are you going to be best at? Will you win from competitors on marketing, sales, or customer service? You cannot be best at all three.

From my experience as a second tier OEM brand name in computer hardware, we knew that we couldn't possibly out-spend or out-market the multinationals, but we could out-sell them -one customer at a time.

Winning on customer service was also a challenge - it's expensive to compete on warranty terms and technical support. So we went back to salesmanship in the service department - coaching staff on persuading the customer to be reasonable, patient, and give us another order, please!

So take a look at your own performance in marketing, sales and customer service - then choose, focus and build one of them into your competitive weapon.

Seth Godin has to be the best at capturing concepts and then communicating them creatively.

You may know him best from his books, if you've heard of "The Purple Cow", "Survival is not Enough", "Meatball Sundae", "The Big Red Fez" or his original claim to fame -"Permission Marketing".

His Blog is also recommended reading for thoughtful inspiration on marketing and communications in general. (Click on the Blog link in the right margin.)

But even Seth Godin doesn't get it right all the time. And he admits it as he has re-issued his book "All Marketers are Liars" under the new title, (same contents) "All Marketers Tell Stories".

As he discovered, it may be a catchy title, but it is insulting and unappealing to the intended audience. Another lesson learned.

Maclean's magazine arrived in the mail today and it's hard not to notice the four catchy headlines for articles in this issue. Starting with:

Can we fix the vaccination plan before it's too late "

And across the top banner:

(Even if it's these two)



Now that's an issue that will get read today.

Are your marketing communications that catchy? Maybe too much sensational yellow journalism for you? (No coincidence this issue had a yellow cover?)

Still it's a key principle of marketing that images and colours may catch the eye, but headlines capture attention. If you can also qualify the reader and get their interest, then you've really got it right this time.

Our PSN Breakfast Series on October 15th went well with three speakers on "Entrepreneurial Challenges" including my own presentation on "The Seven Biggest Mistakes that Enrepreneurs Make". (Lots of nodding heads and smiles of recognition from the audience even if no one wanted to admit to having made all seven!)

If you would like to review the PowerPoint slides, including Chris Murray's "Success Strategies for Internet Marketing" and Margot Uson's "Winning the War for Talent", they are available at
Thanks for your interest.

The Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make

Which ones are you making? How can you avoid them?

I was recently asked to do a presentation with my associates at a breakfast seminar for business clients. We had arrived at the title “Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make” before I had the list prepared, so I decided to do a survey of entrepreneurs and their advisors to complement my own ideas. The feedback was enlightening.

Here are some of the suggested “Biggest Mistakes” from the survey:
“Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow”, “Afraid of Marketing and Sales, “Reactive, not strategic”, “Not delegating”, “Hiring too fast, Firing too slow”, “Not focused”, “Communicating too much, or too little”, “Not using consultants” (That last one was from the consultants, not their clients!)

The feedback also reinforced my own experience that it is OK to fail and make mistakes, as long as they are small, frequent, and early. It’s all part of the learning experience to get better. But big mistakes can kill your business.

Here is my final list of the Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make.

#1 Too Entrepreneurial
Certain characteristics of entrepreneurs are necessary for them to be successful. But if over-indulged they can lead to big mistakes. These include the tendency to be too opportunistic and not be sufficiently selective and focused; to be too optimistic and miss or ignore the warning signs; to be too impatient and expect too much too soon.

Entrepreneurs usually have great confidence in their instincts and consequently rely on “gut feel”. The mistake is to neglect or ignore market feedback and analysis of the facts. Being action-oriented, the tendency is to react and “fire” before the “ready, aim” stages are complete. Painful surprises can result.

Many successful entrepreneurs have achieved a lot based on their energy, charm, charisma, and persuasiveness, but then get caught by selling on personality, not on performance. Clients start to notice that expectations are not being met.

Entrepreneurs are expected to be decisive and demonstrate “leadership”. Both can be overdone – deciding too quickly and providing too much direction so that input, initiative and creativity are stifled.

“Doing it my way” often means improvising and learning on the fly, or sticking with what works, until it stops working. The mistake is in neglecting to evolve and grow by optimizing systems and installing best practices and latest technologies.

All these mistakes can lead to serious consequences, as a result of being “too entrepreneurial”.

#2 Lack of Strategic Direction

Another consequence of the action-oriented entrepreneurial approach is the tendency to get lost in the daily details and completely neglect the original strategic plan and objectives. The owner-manager soon becomes pre-occupied by operating decisions and all the demands on his time from customers, employees and the constant fire-fighting. It leaves little time for fire prevention.

This situation is worsened as the entrepreneur concludes that the best solution is “do-it-myself”. Not delegating to staff or using external expertise may seem like the least-cost solution, but probably undervalues the owner’s own time and expertise and does not lead to long-term solutions.

The entrepreneur may have good awareness of long-term strategic issues and had them in mind when the business was launched. But they are now neglected, and the original Business Plan (if there was one) is not documented, updated or shared.

Lack of strategic direction is listed here as #2, but may be the Biggest Mistake that Entrepreneurs Make.

#3 “That was Easy, Let’s Do It Again!”

Another common mistake that can have devastating consequences on the business is the over-confident entrepreneur who concludes, “That was easy, let’s do it again!” So he or she leaps into new markets, new product lines, or even a new business or investment opportunity.
It’s important to remember: Making money doesn’t make you smart.

Do you really know what you did to succeed? Or what mistakes and risks you avoided? Is now a good time to start something new? How much will the current business be impacted by new initiatives? Is your success really transferable?

Many successful entrepreneurs have made the mistake of jumping into a new venture – merger, acquisition, restaurant franchise or real estate investment – and blowing away the equity value they generated in their original business.
Another big mistake to avoid.

#4 Focused on Profit

Being focused on profit doesn’t seem like a mistake. After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of running a business? No, actually. As I explain to students in their first Finance class, the primary financial objective of any business is “to enhance long-term shareholder value”.
Many short-term profit-oriented decisions can hurt long-term value. Examples are many: cutting staff, maintenance or marketing expense; not upgrading systems and technology; accepting high credit risk or low margin customers; avoiding taxes, environmental or quality issues.

Most entrepreneurs are very focused on managing the bottom line by monitoring sales, gross margin and expenses. They always know those numbers.

But they are usually ignoring asset management, especially cash flow. The business may appear very profitable, but have constant cash flow challenges because management is neglecting inventory and receivables, in particular. And unfortunately it is not as simple as: Collect fast, Pay slow. Customer and supplier relationships can be at risk if cash flow issues force you to take that approach.

Managing the Balance Sheet also requires good management of debt and balancing short-term and long-term needs with short and long-term sources of funds.
And the Most Undervalued Asset doesn’t usually even appear on the Balance Sheet: Human Resources. That leads to Biggest Mistake #5.

#5 Neglecting Key Relationships

The key relationship for any business is the one between its owners and the staff. Management and employee communications are essential to business performance and often not managed very well. Key employees need to be recognized and engaged. Mistakes made with key employees can jeopardize the whole business.

Similarly, don’t make the mistake of being distracted by the most annoying and persistent customer. Your biggest customers are not likely the “squeakiest”, just the most important. Don’t make the mistake of letting them be neglected.

Do you need to squeak more yourself? Do your suppliers appreciate you enough?
Fast growth and profitability may be coming from one or two key customers or suppliers which can lead to over-dependence on their business. And your success may be convincing them that they don’t need you in the middle any more. Be wary.

Another key relationship not to be neglected: Is your bank a welcome and willing partner in your business? Remember “friends in need” have to be developed in advance.

#6 Poor Marketing & Sales

You know there is a problem brewing when you hear the entrepreneur explaining that “The product sells itself”, or “Price is all that matters”, or “Our Sales Reps need to do a better job”. These are signs of poor marketing and sales results. Usually the company is failing at both the strategic marketing level and at the execution of effective marketing and sales activities.

Not only are opportunities for profitable growth being missed, but the company may be on the downward slide to “out of business” without a well-conceived marketing plan and effective sales strategies.

#7 Distracted by Personal Issues

And finally #7 – Personal Issues that distract attention from good management of the business.
Personalities and their issues can seriously affect business performance regardless of whether they are owner, management or staff issues. Sometimes they are simply ignored until they become a problem. Sometimes they are a result of too much success and behaving like a rock star.

Family businesses in particular run the risk of favouritism and having family matters interfere with business success. Managing personalities and corporate culture are a particular challenge in family businesses.

In Summary, the Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make:

  1. Too Entrepreneurial
  2. Lack of Strategic Direction
  3. “Let’s do it again!”
  4. Focused on Profit
  5. Neglecting Key Relationships
  6. Poor Marketing and Sales
  7. Personal Distractions

Now the obvious question is: How to Avoid Them?

The answer is: Balance!

Each of these Big Mistakes is a result of the entrepreneur failing to achieve balance between opposing approaches and decision making processes. Avoiding these mistakes requires the entrepreneur and business owner to:

  • Balance the Entrepreneurial Approach with Analytical Input
  • Balance Strategic Vision with Operational Detail
  • Add the Head and the Heart to the “Gut Feel”
  • Manage for Long-term Value not just Short-term Profit
  • Keep Personal Priorities in your Plan but Out of your Business

I hope that helps you to grow and prosper in your own business and avoid the Seven Biggest Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make.