What I’ve been tweeting lately

Business Resource Guides for Entrepreneurs
via Entrepreneur support

This Cloud report is your first step to understanding how cloud computing can transform your agency via @GovLoop

How the ‘New Digital Age’ Is Reshaping the World
via Inc

Incubators, Accelerators, Venturing, and More: Report from Boston Consulting Group

The Chatter Report: digital disruption and transformation via @KINSHIPd

The Secret to Effective Networking in the 21st Century via @michaelschein1

Finding the silver lining: Investing in mature-age workers via @better_leaders

End Your “Yeah, Me Too” Marketing. Right And Wrong Marketing Methods – And Little Pointers That Will Increase Your Profits (guest post)

Most businesses rely on advertising that does not differentiate them from their competitors.

I want to share with you the 2 most common marketing mistakes that nearly all business owners make. If you’ve done any advertising or marketing for your business ever, at all, I can virtually guarantee that you’ve been making at least 1 of the following 2 common marketing mistakes. And, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing business for 5, 10, 20, 30 years or more, and have been getting what most people would consider pretty good results—I’m here to tell you that these 2 mistakes have cost you a lot of money in lost opportunity and lost business.

I’m not just saying that to catch your attention. In fact, I want you to get some of your marketing material right now—be it a brochure, a radio script, a TV ad, a newspaper or magazine ad, your website, whatever it is—get access to it right now and then evaluate it for yourself as I describe these 2 mistakes. I want you to objectively judge your own marketing and advertising and make a determination for yourself whether or not what I’m saying has value.

So let’s begin.

Mistake #1 is using one of the 3 Forbidden Phrases. So what are the 3 forbidden phrases? Well, they are phrases that use platitudes. In marketing, platitudes are essentially the kiss of death. So let me give you the definition of a platitude as it pertains to marketing.

Platitudes are words or phrases that are dull, obvious, or predictable that lack power to create interest because they are overused an unoriginal, that are nevertheless still commonly used as though they were unique or distinctive.

Let me give you some examples of platitudes.

They are words and phrases like, “Highest Quality”, “Best Service”, “Largest Selection”, “Gets the job done right the first time”, “30 years of experience”, “Been in business since 1776 B.C.”, “Honest, Hard Working”, “You’ve tried the rest now try the best”, “Number one”, “Your dealer of choice”, “State-of-the-art”, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. You’ve heard this kind of junk for years. But now here’s the killer question, do you have these terms in your marketing? I bet you do. I don’t even know you, but if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d bet the farm on the fact that your advertising and marketing is loaded with platitudes just like these right now. Take a look for yourself.

Here’s the bottom line. These platitudes that fill up your marketing and advertising are killing your profits and destroying your market opportunities.

You see, these platitudes don’t distinguish or separate you in the marketplace. They don’t quantify or specify anything. They’re not believable, they are usually not provable, and they cause your prospects to minimize, discount, disbelieve—or worst of all, ignore you altogether.

Ultimately, your target market ends up believing that you and your business are just like everybody else in your industry. This is why your target market always ends up grinding you down on price, regardless of how great you claim your “service” is or how much better you think you are than your competitors.

None of that matters, because you have introduced yourself to the marketplace as one more scoop of vanilla in a whole sea of vanilla. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with vanilla, in fact I love vanilla, but what I am saying is that if you are perceived as being vanilla—just like everyone else, the only real message you are portraying to your target market is “me too.”

Think about how pitiful that is. This is why you are not dominating your market and this is why your sales and revenues are dependent upon the force of the market and not your ability to win over more and more customers and dominate your sector. That’s a big difference.

Allow me to break this down further for you by giving you some objective evaluations to determine if you really are using platitudes in your advertising or not.

I want to take you through 3 platitude evaluations that come directly out of Rich Harshaw’s book, Monopolize Your Marketplace. Rich Harshaw is a living marketing genius, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had his training. So let’s review these 3 evaluations which expose what we call the “3 Forbidden Phrases.”

Platitude Evaluation number one is called, “Well, I would hope so.”

Seriously, that’s the name of the evaluation. So here’s the deal, look at the statements and phrases in your advertising and then ask yourself this question. Could or would my prospects immediately respond to these statements by saying, “Well, I would hope so!”

For example, I’m looking right now at a couple of ads for plumbers. This one says, “we’ll find it and we’ll fix it.” Well, I would hope so, you’re a plumber for crying out loud. Or how about this incredible headline, “Plumbing Service and Repair.” Well I would hope so you are a plumber, right? I can’t believe it, this plumber here does plumbing service and repair.

“Quick honey, let’s call him instead of one of the other 500 plumbers in town who also do plumbing service and repair”.

Or check this ad out that says “licensed, bonded and insured,” and that they “fix taps and fixtures, water heaters, sinks, tubs and showers, etc.”

Well I would hope so. You’re a plumber. What else would you do? I mean, it’s so painfully obvious that it’s ridiculous. Or how about this common statement that says “committed to honest, ethical service.” Well I would hope so! What else would you expect them to say? Hey, we’re lousy, we’ll show up late, make your house dirty, expose our backsides to your kids and wife, and make sure that the problem that we fixed will break again a few weeks after we fix it. Of course not!

Everybody is going to say great things about themselves if they can get away with it.

Hopefully you see how ridiculous these statements are? Yet everyone uses them. Including you.

The biggest problem here is the fact that your true uniqueness and your true strengths, the real benefits that your customers get from doing business with you instead of your competitors can never shine when you use platitudes. So take a look at your advertising—especially all your printed advertising and marketing materials—do they pass the “Well I would hope so” evaluation? Or, are they full of platitudes? If you’re using platitudes, then you need to make changes.
And this is only evaluation #1. Let’s get to the other 2 evaluations…

Platitude Evaluation #2 is Who Else Can Say That?

Now, pay close attention to this one, because the question is not who else can do what you do, but who else can say what you say. The answer is usually anyone and everyone. Here’s a painter who says that he’s “Wellington’s best.” Really? Who else can say that?
Now this guy might actually be the best in Wellington and the best in the entire universe for all I know, but do you actually believe it just because he said it?

Who else can say that? Can’t the guy (on the next page of the phone book where I got this ad) who says, “where integrity and quality meet” also say that he’s Wellington’s best? Of course he can. See, these statements are dull and obvious and they lack power to create interest because they are overused an unoriginal. And you know what, they were nevertheless used as though they were unique or distinctive. Now look at your ad. Read a few lines and then ask yourself this, “Who else can say that?” If one of your competitors can say it, then you failed this evaluation.

One of the most common platitudes in advertisements is to tell us how long you’ve been in business. Everybody thinks it matters, but I promise you it doesn’t.

Here’s an illustration—I’m looking at a website for a Chiropractor who thinks you should visit his practice because he’s been a Chiropractor for over 29 years.

Who else can say that?

Well, how about his competitor who has the next listing in Google who has been “serving for over 30 years.” See what I mean? In fact, I want you to go online right now and type in any local industry to see what you find on company’s websites. Look up solicitors, mechanics, financial advisors, banks, contractors, designers, manufacturers, architects, technology companies, software companies, or any industry imaginable and compare them to their competitors who are also on the first page of Google and see what you’ll find.

What you’re going to find is that everybody is using virtually identical marketing statements. They are all platitudes. Everybody is saying what everybody else is saying meaning that the marketplace has to assume that everybody is basically the same—therefore the only thing that should matter is price. Do you hate getting ground down on price—well now you know why—it’s because you’ve become a master of the platitude over the years.

So let’s move onto the third evaluation, which often hurts the most because with this one, it all becomes very apparent that you have a marketing problem.

Platitude evaluation #3 is called “The Cross Out Write-In Test.”

Now for this evaluation, I’m going to have you cross out the name of your company in your advertisement and then write in the name of your competitor. Now tell me this, is the ad still valid? If so, you’ve just failed the test.

Another way to illustrate this is to do it in reverse. Cross out your competitor’s name and replace it with your company’s name. Now tell me, is the ad still valid?

I really don’t care if you absolutely know that you have higher quality than your competitor because your competitor can still say that they have higher quality than you even if it’s not true. I can give you hundreds of other examples for insurance companies who can give you “fast, easy quotes” or dentists who offer “complete dental care” or landscape contractors who “cut to perfection,” but the bottom line is that none of these ads pass the cross out, write-in test, or the other platitude evaluations.

When we implement the Power Marketing Program™ into your business, one of the first things we do is remove all of the platitudes from your existing advertising.

We innovate your company and create specific and strategic marketing headlines, messages, and campaigns that absolutely separate you from your competitors and cause your prospects and customers to draw this simple conclusion:

“I’d have to be completely insane to work with anyone else but you—no matter the price.”

We even have a specific marketing evaluation form that we use that guarantees that you’ll never put out another dismal ad with platitudes that gets lackluster results. You see, as I’ve already mentioned, platitudes cause your marketplace to assume that you and your competitors are all the same. But, that’s probably not true.

You might have the best business of its kind in your industry, but since your ads and your competitor’s ads all use platitudes, then the marketplace can’t tell who actually offers the best value, so they call you up and ask you the same question that you’re probably really sick of hearing, which is, “how much do you charge?”
It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me give you one last example. Take a look at one of your company’s brochures. What’s on the top of the front cover? More than likely, you’ve put your company name and/or logo there. Guess what? If you did, you just failed the exam.

Let me explain why—nobody cares who you are until they know what you can do for them! Here’s another secret—instead of putting your company name or logo on the front cover of your brochure, you should put a hot-button loaded headline that emotionally connects with your prospects and makes them beg to read the content on the inside. I explain what I mean by this and exactly how to do it in our audio program.

So, is this making sense to you as you read it? Is it starting to become evident that using platitudes might be a problem for you right now and that you’d have a tremendous competitive advantage if you could figure out how to fix it?

I review the Strategic Marketing Formula for you in our audio program where I show you exactly how to fix this problem and get rid of the platitudes forever. I’ll teach you how to become a communications expert so you can start getting the results from your marketing that you should be getting.

Bio: Mike Noone is a Business Innovation Specialist, Copywriter and Certified Power Marketing Consultant. His background is in Construction crisis management and Psychotherapy. He is an Internationally Certified NLP Trainer and coach. He has started and run successful businesses in New Zealand, the UK, Poland and Thailand.
Mike is the author of several books including the International #1 Bestselling book “Speed Learning Secrets of NLP”. He lives in the Hutt Valley with his partner.
He is the Founder and COO of Tipping Point Marketing a Power Marketing Consultancy.

Great business books recently received

Syndetics book coverThe freaks shall inherit the earth : entrepreneurship for weirdos, misfits, and world dominators / Chris Brogan.
“Valuable for entrepreneurs and “employeepreneurs”….An easy read with a lot of lessons and practical advice that you can implement right away. Even if you work in a large organization, there is something here for you as you look to improve yourself and your organization. The book is broken into small enough pieces that it is easy to digest. Well worth it….If you want to improve what you are doing every day — and how you are going about it — read this book.” (Amazon reviewer)

Syndetics book coverThe frugal innovator : creating change on a shoestring budget / Charles Leadbeater.
“Frugal innovation is a powerful new model for creating solutions for a world struggling with rapid population growth, exploding demand from consumers on modest incomes, and global pressure to minimize environmental damage. This new wave of innovation started in the developing world but is spreading globally. This inspiring book provides an insight into what promises to become a worldwide movement as large companies in developed economies start to learn from entrepreneurs in the developing world, who are coming up with radical solutions to pressing challenges. Frugal innovators follow four design principles to create these solutions: ‘lean, simple, clean and social’. Frugal innovators are devising these new solutions for clean water and energy, affordable housing and health care, because the constraints they work give them no option but to think radically and challenge conventional wisdom. By unpicking the principles, drivers and methods for frugal innovation, Leadbeater’s analysis and case studies lead to practical ‘how-to’ strategies for applying frugal innovation wherever you work. “– Provided by publisher.

Syndetics book coverThe hard thing about hard things : building a business when there are no easy answers / Ben Horowitz.
“*Starred Review* It’s fairly evident that this is a collection of blogs, loosely strung together, united in their varied perspectives on start-ups, CEO-dom, and business in general. Though Horowitz is a cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and his credentials reside mainly in Silicon Valley, he’s imparted some valuable insight on hard lessons learned that apply to any manager, whether in the executive suite or not. As with most experiential books, it is all about him but it’s written in such an engaging and universally acceptable manner that no one could object. Leave aside his background, for the moment. Who would realize, for instance, that executives worry about things like initiating layoffs, hiring the right people, training, and minimizing politics, among others? It’s a refreshingly honest take, and his colorful (and, yes, profanity-laced) language breaks down any other misperceptions about the role and the person. Plus, his imagination is compelling, such as the comparisons between peacetime and wartime CEOs: Peacetime CEO always has a contingency plan. Wartime CEO knows that sometimes you gotta roll a hard six. After all, the success equation is easy: the hard thing is getting it done.–Jacobs, Barbara Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe curve : turning followers into superfans / Nicholas Lovell.
The concept of the Curve starts as a seemingly niche idea, focused on a few specific industries. By the end of the book it feels both common sense and revolutionary in the potential breadth of its applicability. It has provided a new lens through which to evaluate and understand corporate strategy. A ‘must read’ for anyone needing to understand the future of business. In addition it is packed with fascinating anecdotes and observations, which makes it a compelling and enjoyable read.” (Amazon UK reviewer)

Syndetics book coverFire : how fast, inexpensive, restrained and elegant methods ignite innovation / Dan Ward.
“Ward’s military career led to his expertise in high-speed, low-cost innovation, and he transposes his military principles and techniques into a marketplace-innovation system he calls FIRE (fast, inexpensive, restrained, and elegant). He explains his marketplace acronym: fast is about defining a project objective that can be satisfied on a short time line; inexpensive means delivering meaningful capabilities on a shoestring, a respected skill; restrained means self-control, tight budgets, small teams, activities focused on the short-term; and elegant values simplicity over complexity in design of organizations and processes, relying on experience and rules of thumb to solve specific problems as they arise rather than adhering to rigid rules. FIRE is an approach to innovations that focuses on outcomes rather than compliance. Ward concludes, By placing a premium on speed, thrift, simplicity, and restraint, we can deliver first-in-class and best-in-class products without spending decades and billions. This thought-provoking book, developed with a military perspective, offers valuable insight for those striving for innovation in their business activities.–Whaley, Mary Copyright 2010 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

Syndetics book coverBig data @ work : dispelling the myths, uncovering the opportunities / Thomas H. Davenport.
” From prior content on big data, there is some welcomed new information that frames the field as it continues its maturity. BD is not going away. Definitely worth the read. Davenport is a good writer, excellent researcher and provides a nice compendium of where big data is today from new sources as a seasoned expert in analytics. Despite some of the other sub-par assessments among other reviewers, you have to understand the intent of this book; it is NOT intended to move you into becoming a data scientist but rather providing you a very current snapshot on the current state of the technology and most recent developments for the organization in big data readiness. For the exec wanting to get a refreshed update on the technology, start here you will not be disappointed.” (Amazon reviewer)

What I’ve been tweeting lately

Accenture 2014 Manufacturing Skills and Training Study (US) via http://fulltextreports.com

The Introvert’s Guide to Better Business Networking

Overcoming the age gap with cross-generational mentoring via @better_leaders

The Potential of Civic Leaders to Leverage Technology via @MeetoftheMinds

Global From Day One, New Zealand’s Startup Scene @roddrury In The WSJ via @abrahamgibson

The Ultimate guide to Enterprise Social Technologies via @Michae1Green

New business and management books

Syndetics book coverRiding the creative rollercoaster : how leaders evoke creativity, productivity and innovation / Dr. Nick Udall.
“Leadership is about creating opportunities for individuals and teams in order to cultivate innovation at all levels of an organization. The only way to shape purposeful, meaningful and successful futures is through innovation. This book turns the current understanding of innovation on its head. It explores how innovation is actually a mindset, not a business led process. How we think, relate, learn and organize either moves us towards this mindset or away from it. It’s time for leaders to move to a multi-dimensional view of innovation, where creative breakthrough is evoked by design. Rewriting the rules of innovation, each chapter reveals a different part of the puzzle, giving the reader new insights to re-order and re-pattern what leadership in today’s world can achieve”– Provided by publisher

Syndetics book coverStrategic thinking for advertising creatives / Alice Kavounas Taylor.“Comprehensive, insightful, readable…As an-award winning copywriter – not to mention joint founder and former leader of one of the UK’s most renowned creative advertising courses – Alice Kavounas Taylor ought to know a thing or two about advertising strategy. Here’s proof that she does. The book gives an in-depth yet approachable view of a complex subject, deconstructing each step of the classic Creative Brief in turn, and illustrating the principles of the process with well chosen practical examples. A valuable addition to the library of anyone studying, or with an interest in, creativity and strategic thinking.” (Amazon UK reviewer)

Syndetics book coverFinding the space to lead : a practical guide to mindful leadership / by Janice Marturano.
“Great resource…As a certified coach this is the resource I’ve been looking for. Working with leaders for 11 years, teaching these tools is an integral part of our work. Now we have Janice’s tips, practices, and realistic ways to integrate mindfulness into our busy days. This book includes the role of emotions in leadership (often ignored or barely acknowledged), practical methods such as desk chair meditation, and purposeful pauses. I highly recommend this book.” (Amazon reviewer)

Syndetics book coverBuilding your business the right-brain way : sustainable success for the creative entrepreneur / Jennifer Lee ; illustrations by Kate Prentiss ; foreword by Michael Port.
“Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way by Jennifer Lee is a solid book to help more creative types (or right-brained people) build their business. Lee includes valuable resources and tips on succeeding, and coaches you through the exercises to help you along the way. If you have big goals or little goals, this is definitely a book you should read!.. a fun, colorful, and engaging book to read about business. It doesn’t seem like those words should be used in the same sentence, but it works with Lee’s book! The format of the book works in an organized, practical way to help people who are more creative than set on working with excel sheets about money and their business plan. Of course a business should be taken seriously, but who says you can’t also have fun while being successful with it? ” (Amazon reviewer)

Syndetics book coverOut of office / Simon Salt.
“Salt has done a great job of writing a step-by-step guide for people who are seeking to work from home part-time or full-time. It’s especially great for people new to this type of working situation but also beneficial for people who have being doing it for awhile and feel like something is not quite work. It covers a lot of different potential challenges and offers different ideas for resolving them to make the work from home situation actually work. I really appreciate that Salt took the time to consult a number of different people who have worked from home in different ways and included their information, experiences and tips in the book. We all do this type of work differently so it’s helpful to see a variety of viewpoints on common issues” (Amazon reviewer)

Syndetics book coverThe brain sell : when science meets shopping : how the new mind sciences and the persuasion industry are reading our thoughts, influencing our emotions and stimulating us to shop / Dr. David Lewis.
“The Perfect Guide to Neuromarketing, What makes David Lewis’s book so impressive is the balance it strikes between conveying his undoubted expertise in investigating the way consumers’ brains work and his candour about the limitations of neuromarketing techniques like EEG and fMRI.
Lewis evidently understands the subject with the depth that reflects his academic background, however his written style is light and accessible and the book is peppered with real-world examples that reveal how companies capitalise on the way in which our brains work (which is appreciably different from how we think we think!).” (Amazon UK reviewer)