Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Smart Rating

So there you are, at a networking event or a business meeting, eying a couple across the room. He has a gym-perfect physique, a crisp designer suit, and carefully manicured hands. She has a few extra pounds, a button missing on her blouse, and a hairstyle that hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

Which of the two is smarter?

The bad news: We are judged by our appearance.
The good news: We are respected for our brains.

Looking smart feels great, is great—but being smart is the icing on the cake.

These five simple practices will boost your “smart” rating:

  1. Boost Your Vocabulary: Crack open that dusty dictionary or thesaurus. Commit to learning and using one new word each day. Bookmark in your browser. Learn correct pronunciations, spelling, and context.
  2. Ask Questions: Benjamin Franklin said, “Humility makes great men twice honorable.” Focusing the conversation on what the other person knows and asking respectful questions achieves two things: It gives you an opportunity to learn even when you think you already know it all, and it engages the other person in their favorite topic—themselves.
  3. Read Good Books: If time is an issue, carry a book or e-Reader with you—read a few paragraphs or pages while you’re in the waiting room. Commit to reading two or three pages each day, or listen to audio books. Buy magazines or subscribe to feeds on topics with which you are not familiar—it will help you broaden your knowledge.
  4. Speak Simply: Increasing your vocabulary amplifies your ability to communicate, but obscure words, jumbo words or industry lingo confuse the conversation. Sadly, most American adults read at an 8th grade level. Use simple, ordinary words, and gauge your word choices on the “pomposity factor.” Never use a three syllable word when a two syllable word will do, and never use a two syllable word when a single syllable word gets your point across.
  5. Listen More than you Speak: William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” No one likes a conversation hog, or to be upstaged. Practice your listening skills, speak simply and concisely, and understand your role in the theater of the moment.

Being smart is the icing on the cake!

Five Cliches to Avoid in Marketing

We’ve all said it, done it, written it, read it in marketing and elsewhere. We’ve all used the ubiquitous cliché.

The guy in the office you call, “A breed apart.”

Mentioning the “hustle and bustle” of your day.

Things that will “knock your socks off.”


Clichés creep into our writing like ants onto an unswept floor. It happens when we let our thoughts wander, or push too hard to get things done in less time than they need.  Think about how often you hear people say, “ya know,” or “I’m, like” in ordinary conversation. Clichés, yes – because we are not as mindful of our words as we should be.

“Clichés were like plaque in the arteries of the imagination,

they clogged the sense of what was possible. “

(Charlie Jane Anders)

Here are five clichés to avoid in marketing, or any form of communication:

  1. At this point in time…  Each second that passes is “this point in time,”  By the time you’ve finished saying or reading the phrase, the point in time has passed. Instead of “At this point in time you may be shopping for a new oven,” just say, “Shopping for a new oven…”
  2. Each and every…  “each” is individual, “every”is collective. Pick one or the other.
  3. In other words… Generally used as a dependent phrase when you think the way you originally phrased something is too complex to be understood. Rather than expressing it twice, work a little harder to simplify what your saying right from the start.
  4. Quite simply… This is a variation of “In other words.”
  5. Due to the fact that… Stop it. Just state the fact. “Tom won’t be at work today, he broke his leg skiing over the weekend.”

What clichés do you think are the most annoying?

flow versus impact in marketing

In his  book, “The Art of Writing Copy,” Marketing wiz H.G. Lewis said:

Tying two statements together with “and” adds flow and subtracts impact.

Here is an Example of what he means:

Which bullet point is stronger?

  1. In  my line of work, every word counts, and I practice what I call “word economy.”
  2. In my line of work, every word counts. I practice what I call “word economy.”

Line one has flow, but the “and” dilutes the strength of both statements.  Line two creates a momentary loss of flow, but retains the impact of the individual statements.

Maybe you’ll guffaw. Maybe you’ll think that a one-word, comma-versus-period change isn’t worth your thought or effort. But I challenge you to give it a try in your next marketing campaign, particularly if you are limited to a specific word count.  Write your first draft, then, as Lewis recommends, “cold-bloodedly” remove the “ands” when they link two thoughts. Then read the statements out loud, considering the intent of the overall campaign.

Which are you after – flow, or impact?


The Six Emotions that Impact Everyone

David Brooks


David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking was in Toledo, Ohio last November, as the keynote speaker for the District 28 Toastmasters Fall Conference.

He talked about a trivia column he read years ago, in which the author – one L.M. Boyd, noted that every human being experiences six emotions:

          happiness           sadness         anger          surprise          disgust           fear

The gist of his presentation, relating to professional speakers, was this: The best way to connect with an audience – in person, over the airwaves or internet, is to share moments in your own life that elicit the emotion you want them to feel. When you share a moment that brought you happiness, most people will share that same sense of happiness as you tell it. As Mr. Brooks says, “They may not have been there for the moment, but they will be there for the emotion.”

How can and will you use L.M. Boyd’s wisdom in marketing your product, your service, or yourself as a public speaker?

Clarify Your Marketing Efforts

We must manage so many things as a small business owner – inventory, people, accounts, sales, and of course, marketing.

Too often, we get bogged down in thinking we have to cover all the bases, stretch our marketing budget and time across all the avenues. We build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. We buy ad space and send out flyers through our local Chamber of Commerce. We generate e-newsletters, press releases, blog posts. And in the end, we are exhausted emotionally, physically and financially by trying to do it all, and do it everywhere.

It’s time to stop doing it all and start doing it smart.

Three steps to defining a framework for your marketing efforts:

  1. What is your intent?  Go beyond a sales goal – “I want to make money” is not enough. Is your intent to motivate people to a specific action? To educate, influence, or entertain them? Why do you do what you do? My intent in promoting The Write Concept is to help business owners and nonprofits develop marketing communications that are clear, concise, and motivating – to move minds with “words that matter.”
  2. Define your own results.  What do you really want from any particular activity?  Again, if it is “to sell stuff,” you are selling yourself short.  You may determine that reaching a “friend” list of 5,000 on your Facebook page is a worthy result. One of mine is to increasing my blog subscribers by 5% each month. Define a result you wish to achieve – a small step towards a bigger goal. Pick ONE social media outlet to start, and focus your energies there. You can expand to others as the results prove appropriate.
  3. Build your strategy. Look at your intent and the result you wish to achieve, and determine what steps will get you there. For me, a first step is being consistent in writing blog posts that matter – blog posts that help people be better in their communications. Tied in with that is making sure I am consistent in posting links to the posts on the social media outlets of my choice – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

It boils down to this: decide on a purpose, the results that will show you your efforts are “working,” and the steps you will take to make it happen. Then get out there and do it.


A Marketing Mistake to Avoid at all Costs

A friend and fellow marketing professional shared this story:

She had attended one of those super-sized networking events, where she was approached by a woman who mentioned that she was familiar with the non-profit for which my friend works, and in fact, was “good friends” with the president. Business cards were, of course, exchanged.

A week later my friend, an associate who attended the event with her, and the organization’s president all received “nice to meet you” cards from that woman.

She Gets:

A Thumbs Up for following up after the event.




A Thumbs Down for committing today’s Marketing Mistake: Unfiltered Automation.



An automated card service is handy when you meet new people and want to say “nice to meet you,” but before you dump all those names and addresses into your database and tell the system to send the exact same card to everyone, exercise a bit of patience and do some sorting. Otherwise, it may cost you more than the price of printing and postage – it may cost you your reputation.

If you met two or three people from the same company, in the same office, put them on different lists and send them different cards, or send a single card and mention all their names. My friend made it clear that the three of them felt the sender “insincere,” in that there was no consideration for them as individuals. She said it would have been more appropriate to send one card addressed to them as a group, or send a different card to each of them.

Consider this: if you are not giving your complete attention to details relating to your own business, why would a prospect trust you with their business?  Even a card in the mail is a testimony to your credibility and trustworthiness.

Make each piece you send count – every card, every letter, every email, every Facebook post – so your efforts don’t cost you way more than just money and time.


Holiday Greetings that Make a Difference

You’re seeing it already: the arrival of “Happy Holidays” messages filling your email box, each with some variation of the same message:

Sincerest wishes for hope, happiness and peace during this Holiday Season and throughout the coming year.

It’s canned, it’s boring, and it rarely feels “sincere,” especially when you know it has come to you via an email distribution service, and that you’ve received it only because your email address has been added to a list.

How to Make a Difference

    • Buy a box of holiday cards that fit your business style, to be sent to people on your “A” list.  HAND WRITE a personal message inside: “Dear Joe & Joan: hope your annual ski trip takes you to new heights!” or “Dear Mark: Saw the photo of your new son on Facebook. Congratulations!”
    • HAND ADDRESS the envelopes. Yes, you do have time. Write and address a few cards each day. No one said it has to be done all at once.
    • For the “B” list, buy more cards. Have your administrative assistant create mailing labels. Sign the cards. Really, just do it – you can sign your name to a few at a time when you take a five-minute break from a project, or while you’re watching TV.
    • For the “C” list, write a generic – but not sterile – message, and send it via whatever mail delivery service you use – Constant Contact, iContact, and MailChimp are three options. Just make sure you remove the “A” and “B” list people from this group before you hit “send.”

The Results

If your relationship with your clients is like mine, your phone will ring, or you will find personal “thank you” messages in your email box. Either is an opportunity for a brief, personal conversation that people will remember long after the eggnog is gone and the tree lights stowed in the garage.

Give your greetings the personal touch this year, and carry the practice into the new year.

It will make a difference in your business.


The Changing Face of Marketing Options for Small Business

Stick around long enough and you begin to see patterns in everything, particularly in the changing face of marketing options for small business.

In his book Youtility, author Jay Baer speaks of the long-time marketing strategy called Top of Mind Awareness, or TOMA.  “When America had three major TV networks, it was easy to reach people with a single commercial,” Baer states.

The Media Challenge

But the TV market has changed, as stats from Baer’s book show. Consider the #1 TV shows over the last 4 decades, and the percentage of American households with TVs that tuned in:

1977: Happy Days (31.5%)
1987: The Cosby Show (27.8%)
1997: Seinfeld (21.7%)
2007: American Idol (16.1%)
2011: Sunday Night Football (12.9%)

The interesting thing in these numbers is not which show is #1 in any given decade, but the slow decline in the number of people “tuned in” to the #1 show. It’s not that we are no longer watching TV. We are, in fact, watching more TV than ever – but over hundreds of channels, and often viewing more than one screen at a time.  That makes it harder than ever to gain attention – and as Baer says, “You can’t promote to people you can’t find.”

The Solution

Throughout his book, Baer stresses the solution to the fractured media landscape and ultra-short attention span of entire generations is Youtility: Massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.

The strongest points, in my view, are these:

  • If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you may create a customer for life.
  • You have to understand what your prospective customers need to make better decisions, and how you can improve their lives by providing it.
  • Use Social Media to promote your useful information first, and your company second.

And the most important point:

Being useful must be part of your company DNA.


3 Simple Tips for Effective Online Marketing

Effecting marketing generates momentum, right?

It generates buzz, builds your online friends, Twitter followers, the number of folks who “Like” your Facebook Page, and, eventually, fills your pipeline and bank account.

And, it’s a circle game. As you create and refine your marketing plans, keep these three things in mind:

The 80/20 rule: 80% of your Tweets and FB posts should be informative or educational material your prospects and clients really want to read. Only 20% should be “promo” material for your goods or services.

If you are posting the same info multiple times over several days (such as an event notice), change up the title or lead-in material.

The Momentum generated by Marketing should ALWAYS come back to YOU—that is, to your main website, blog, email, or some other “call to action” location.

Not sure how to generate Momentum for your business? Contact Us.


Marketing Facts and Fantasies

HubSpot’s research shows that 39% of B2B companies has acquired new customers as a result of their activity on Twitter.

Over on Facebook, the number is 41%. It’s a coin toss between the two, but the fact is, business is taking place among all the chatter.

Did you know that 25% of the addresses on your email list will “expire” each year?

Watch the slideshow for more. Marketing fact vs Marketing fantasy