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?

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.


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


Twitter Tip: S&H Greenstamps

Way back in the day — that is, when I was a child — mothers across America paid cash for groceries and came home with a supply of tiny green stamps. We kids would fight for the right to lick the stamps and put them in the S&H Green Stamp books.

Yes, boys and girls, there was a time when stamps had to be licked.

Green Stamps were the first “trading stamp” rewards program offered in America. Wikipedia says that in the 1960s, The Sperry & Hutchinson Company (S&H) issued more stamps than the U.S. Post Office, and they were available everywhere. In those long ago days, there were no credit cards or computerized cash registers, either. How ever did we survive?

It would take months to fill a book… longer to fill 10 or 30. And every month, Mom went  through the catalog to pick out her reward. When she made it, when she had the 10 or 30 books she needed to “win,” she’d take that stack of stamp books to the post office. Many weeks later, her prize—a breadbox, a carving knife, or a supply of 100% cotton kitchen towels—would arrive in our mailbox.

All these years later, I mention S&H Green Stamps to a pair of 30-somethings, and they look at me like I’m some sort of dinosaur speaking an alien tongue. Being that I am a generation above them, that may very well be true, and there’s a lesson in that for me, I’m sure.

I Tweet this experience, and the next thing I know I’m being followed by @S&HGreenpoints… the 21st century incarnation of the company founded in 1896.

Here’s the Point:

S&HGreenpoints is a 19th Century company with a 21st Century marketing mind, using social media to monitor what is being said about them and their products, good or bad.

We should all be doing the same. Set your dashboard (TweetDeck or Hootsuite) to show whenever your Twitter name is mentioned. Pay close attention, and follow up on everything. Thanks to the people that mention you favorably, and find out what you can do to change the dynamics with those whose mentions are not so good.

Then tweet about it, please.

Ten Pounds of Wasted Paper

A few months ago I added a new element to my weekend ritual of shredding the name and address labels from mail received during the week. I weigh the bags before I put them in my trash hauler’s recycling container. Last week’s batch was ten pounds, including the unsolicited magazines, flyers, and catalogs on which the labels came.

Assuming the other residents of my condo community receive the same amount of mail as me, that’s just shy of a full ton of wasted paper, ink, postage, and shredding time coming in and out of one small corner of the world each week.

What a waste.

I’m doing what I can to go green, so I ordered the United States Postal Service “Handbook to Greener Direct Mail,” which came with a free 100% cotton t-shirt emblazoned with their “environmailism” trademark.

Here are a few tips from the handbook:

  • Build your list consciously, and scrub it regularly. I live in a condo but still get promo cards from lawn services and roofing companies who could have saved money (and trees) by eliminating condo or apartment complex addresses from their list.
  • Choose environmentally friendly paper. While there are many options, the USPS suggests you buy the highest post-consumer content paper your budget and function allow.
  • Reduce the use of plastics by using windowless envelopes.
  • Collaborate with your printer to make the best use of their press. Sometimes a slight change in a design allows them to produce more from each press sheet.

Are you schlepping ten pounds of wasted paper to your curbside every trash day? You can begin to decrease the amount of junk mail you receive by checking out


Bob’s Brilliant Marketing Tool

There were over 300 cars in Bob’s funeral procession – the sort of line you would expect for a dignitary or superstar, not a retired tool-and-die designer and small business owner from Detroit. The postman who delivered Bob’s business mail every day for twenty years wept openly. Bob was the only person on his route that greeted him by name, and always shared a smile, a joke, and a cup of coffee.

What made Bob and his business successful wasn’t his skill as a draftsman. He was talented and exact, but so were his competitors. It wasn’t his “convenient” location or the rates he charged – they were industry standard.

What made the difference was Bob. He had a way of letting you know you were important to him, whether you were his client, his neighbor, or his mailman. He didn’t have any 21st-century doodads – no iPod, Blackberry, cell phone, not even a brochure or website. He was so interested in the details of people’s lives – their kid’s names, family birthdays, hobbies, favorite restaurants – that everyone called him a friend. He was so precise and responsive his name was #1 on the “must call” list of all his business associates.

That’s marketing at its best.

There is no question that planning, research, and statistics hold a foundational place in a strong marketing program, but the most brilliant item in your marketing toolbox – the one that makes the most immediate and lasting impact and drives people to come back for more – is you, and what you put into your relationships.

Admit it – at least once in your life, you’ve chosen to buy from one person over another because you liked them and trusted them, not because of their slick brochure or cool TV commercials. And while we’re being honest, admit that for the most part, people who buy from you probably use the same criteria. The most brilliant item in your marketing toolbox cannot be outsourced for production, it can only be developed from within your own heart and mind.

It’s all an inside job.

So what would Bob say about marketing in these unusual times?

  • Be courageous. Be genuine, helpful and upbeat.
  • Share a smile, a joke and a cup of coffee with everyone you meet.
  • Encourage those who need a boost.
  • Give great applause to the smallest victories, and remember this truth: “The most effective marketing does not chase. It attracts.”

The Illinois Rain Forest

Drilling 200 feet below the earth’s surface in Vermillion County, Illinois, coal miners found the remains of a 15-square mile fossilized rain forest. Estimated by the National Geographic Society as about three hundred million years old, the fossilization occurred when an earthquake pulled the forest below sea level and buried it in mud.  Yes, that’s right – a prehistoric, dramatic and devastating earthquake in Illinois, of all places.

Reading the story in an old issue of the New York Times set me to thinking about the “ancient history” items in my home and office – the broken tools, ill-fitting clothes, and old business books stuffed and forgotten in closets and drawers…

…and how the world changes. Earthquakes bury a rain forest in mud, technology alters the way we grow our food, and lightning-fast changes in the social and economic climate change the world of marketing.

There will always be reason to keep a sturdy hammer or a little black dress close at hand, but the profitability of marketing efforts changes incrementally, like a shoreline altered by the tide, or dramatically, like a rain forest buried by an earthquake. Successful marketing requires frequent, careful review and strategic change.

What worked when things were moving fast may not work at all in a slow economy. What attracted a buyer last year may be worn out and cliché today.

A “geological survey” of your content files may unearth timeless treasures, or a pile of worn-out tools and fossilized processes. What’s working for you? What’s not working? What needs to be changed?

The hardest part is putting aside emotional attachment, having a clear vision of your goal and an awareness of your options, and heaving what no longer serves you. Perhaps what once was diamonds has turned to dust – or maybe what you thought was a depleted coalmine is actually a lush rain forest.

Will you sing “I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter” while you work?