Category Archives: Marketing

When Should You Lie?

is lying ever appropriate in business?

There are those times in the life of any business when it seems that telling the truth may not be the best thing to do.

So, the question comes up, when is it okay to lie when it comes to your business?

The answer, in a word, is: never.

Remember, the basis for any good communication is trust. If you’re less than truthful in business, you’ve damaged the message you’re trying to send. Sometimes you can do irreparable damage to your business identity if you’re not truthful.

One of the best examples of this happened in 2001 with the collapse of Enron. It’s obvious that the company was telling lies, not only to its employees but to its customers and investors as well. The people at the top of the company were telling everyone that business was great while it was in a state of freefall. If Enron had told the truth would this have prevented the collapse? It’s not likely the collapse could have been prevented by truthful communications at that point, but it certainly would have prevented a tremendous amount of heartache and financial loss for many people.

Truth in communications extends to everyone your business comes in contact with. That means not only customers, but also vendors and suppliers, and employees.

If your business is truthful with everyone you’ll keep more people happy and your business will be known for its trustworthiness. Remember, that everyone your business comes in contact with is a communications channel for you.

pinocchioLie to a vendor or supplier and word could get around making it more difficult for you to do business with other vendors. Lie to employees and you may find they aren’t giving you their best efforts.

Probably worst of all, if you lie to your customers word will eventually get around which could put you out of business.

Be sure that your employees all know that lying about anything related to your business is strictly forbidden. Train your employees to handle as many situations as possible but constantly remind them if they’re not sure how to answer a question or complaint they should always escalate the problem to a superior rather than lie. This is another reason management should never lie to employees. If the company exhibits truthfulness at every turn with employees they will learn that trustworthiness is important to the success of the company and they’ll exhibit truthfulness in their business dealings.

One of the toughest times to tell the truth is when something negative has occurred within the organization. But this is definitely one of those times when you want to be sure that all communications coming from your company are the truth. Never try to cover up a negative situation with a lie; it will only make matters worse. When something goes wrong, it’s best to admit the company’s mistake, explain how it has been corrected and then move on. Dwelling on company problems will only make the problems seem worse.

Protect all your communications channels by always telling the truth.




Watch The Signs

By no means am I an expert on signage.  However, a number of people have said they respect my opinions on marketing communications and advertising so I guess I can make a couple of comments on good signage.

A well-designed and well-placed sign can do wonders for a business.

If that last statement is true, then the opposite would likely be true as well.  If the sign isn’t well-designed or well-placed it won’t help the business, and could in fact hurt.

Who Are You?

Marketing communications is about communicating. Be sure you're communicating.What started me thinking about this is the construction of a new restaurant a few miles from our home.

This restaurant is being built at the corner of a very busy intersection with thousands of cars passing through each and every day.  The restaurant is located in what I would consider the premiere spot of a shopping center that includes Best Buy, Target, a grocery store, a bank, a couple of fast food restaurants, and some other businesses.

I say it’s in the premiere spot because it’s the most visible spot in the shopping center and right at the corner of this busy intersection.

What’s the restaurant?

I have no idea.

My wife and I have driven past countless times and throughout the construction, we kept waiting for a sign with the name of the restaurant. Finally, when the building was nearly complete, a banner was hung on the side.  It said, “Now hiring.” Still no clue as to which restaurant this might be.

Is it a chain?  Or a brand new entry in the dining world?  What kind of food do they serve?

No clue.

I Still Can’t See Your Sign

The other day, I finally spotted a sign on the front of the restaurant.  However, I still have no clue what it says, because it faces into the shopping center. The only people who will see this sign are people who are in the shopping center.

That means tens of thousands of people passing by each day will have no idea about this restaurant.  If they are curious enough, they’ll have to drive into the shopping center to check.  But, really, how many of those tens of thousands passing by will even bother?

I’m very curious about it, but not enough to drive in and see.

Check Your Sign

If yours is the kind of business that uses a sign or signs as a way to generate customer traffic, take a look at your signs.

  • Is your sign placed so that the most people will be able to see it?
  • How close does someone need to be to see the sign?
  • Is the sign easily readable?
  • Can it be seen at night?
  • Can it be seen when the sun is out?  How about on a cloudy, rainy day?
  • Does the sign let people know what you do or do they have to guess?

Remember, marketing communications is about communicating.  Don’t make people guess.  Make it easy for them to know who you are and what you do.


When Good Policies Go Bad

Rules and regulations.

We all hate them but yet we can’t live without them, especially in business.

Be sure your company policies don't hurt your marketingUsually, the rules and regulations when it comes to business, are called policies.  It’s important to have policies in place so everyone in the organization knows how to handle situations when they arise. With policies in place, people don’t have to think about how to handle a situation.

There’s the problem.

People don’t have to think and so they don’t think about how to best serve the customer. If a company relies totally on its policies to deal with situations your business may come across as inept — not the communications message you want to be sending.

Let me give you a couple of examples to show you what I mean.

A few years ago, I was talking to someone who worked as a clerk for a large national department store.  He had a customer who wanted to purchase an item that was on sale.  However the item was unavailable in this particular store, although it was available at one of the store’s other locations in town.  The customer asked to have the item shipped from the other store to her home and the clerk, being a customer service pro, said, “No problem.”

The customer left the store, happy that she would be receiving her purchase in a few days.

So, what’s the problem?

You’re thinking, where’s the problem? The problem is with store policy.

As the clerk began writing up the order to have the item shipped, his boss informed him that store policy is that items that are on sale for more than 50 percent cannot be shipped. You may be thinking, well that’s a good policy because the store would lose money on sale items being shipped.

Here’s where a good policy went bad.

The item the customer wanted was priced at $350, and that was the sale price!  According to store policy because this item was on sale for more than 50 percent it couldn’t be shipped.  Now if the customer had bought a $30 item that was full-price the store would have shipped it, no questions asked.

That’s where a good policy turns bad.

Be sure your employees can override a company policy using common sense.

Policies need exceptions

Let your people make exceptions for bad policiesHere’s another example that came from a nationally broadcast radio program that tried to help people solve consumer related issues. A woman called the show to seek help on resolving a problem she was having with a health club in the Midwest.  She had paid a large membership fee to join the health club and was then diagnosed with an illness that would prevent her from doing any vigorous exercise.  She wanted to get her membership fee refunded because she was not going to be able to use the service but the health club was refusing to refund the money.  They told her that the policy was that fees could not be refunded and the policy couldn’t be violated even with her health problems.

The radio program got the health club person on the phone and on the air and she informed the host that even though this client was ill and unable to use the health club they couldn’t alter the policy.  She said if she did it for this person she would have to do it for everyone (highly unlikely). The host suggested that maybe with a doctor’s note — confirming the woman’s illness — the health club could issue a refund.  She replied that the client could get the doctor to write anything so that wouldn’t work either.

It went back and forth like this for a while making the health club look worse and worse.  I doubt that a refund was ever issued but this problem likely did some damage to the reputation of the health club.

Allow some flexibility

Remember, policies are good, but complete inflexibility when it comes to administering policies is bad.  Be sure to tell your employees to follow the policies, especially when dealing with customers. At the same time, let your employees know that they should also use some common sense with the policies.

Don’t let good policies create bad communications.


Why I Check My Email First

One of the time management tips I’ve seen many times is to not check your email first thing in the morning.

I’m not a time management expert by any means. In fact, I could definitely do a much better job of time management.

However, it seems counter productive to me to avoid checking my email for an hour or two after I start my work day.

Checking email first isn't a bad thingAlong with my voiceover clients around the US and Canada, I have clients in Asia and Europe. By the time I start my day (and I start pretty early), the day is over for my Asian clients, and it’s well into the afternoon for my European clients.  Waiting a few more hours to get to my email doesn’t help my clients and it doesn’t help me.

How can you plan?

One of the first things I do each day is to take some time for planning out the day. My planning naturally includes what voiceover projects I need to record. If one of my non-US clients has sent me a project while I was sleeping, and I don’t check my email, I won’t include it in my plan for the day.

If I wait a couple of hours to check my email and then find a project waiting, it’ll throw off my plan for the day. That just adds more stress as I try to rearrange my day.

Most days, it takes me less than five minutes first thing in the morning to check my email. I skim down my Inbox checking to see if there are emails from clients. I read those first and respond if I need to.  Then I double back and quickly review the remaining emails.

Keep it lean

I’ve unsubscribed from a lot of newsletter-type emails because I wasn’t seeing value in most of them. I unsubscribe from most marketing emails the first time they show up in my Inbox. By keeping my Inbox pretty lean, I’m able to quickly go through and clean things out.

One email management tip I do agree with is not checking my email constantly. I don’t have any alerts sent to my phone or my desktop so I’m not prompted to check email until I’m ready. Once I’ve checked it first thing in the morning, I can move on to other work. Then through the day, I’ll do a quick check every hour or two.

Checking email first thing in morning isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact for me, it’s much more productive than waiting until later. Plus I think it’s give me the opportunity to provide better service to my clients.


Why Outsourcing Your Production is a Good Idea

My wife and I are getting ready to add a patio to a house we bought a couple of years ago. We considered a deck, but for a variety of reasons decided that a poured concrete patio would better suit the plans we have for the home.

I’m not all that handy when it comes to doing projects like this, but these days with so much information available online about home improvement projects, I’m sure that I could figure out how to pour a concrete patio. However, I’m not going to attempt this particular project.

Why not?

There are a variety of reasons, but the primary reason is that I know that a professional will be able to do a much better job than I could ever do.

I’ve never poured a concrete patio, so I would need to spend time learning the process, gathering the necessary tools and equipment, mixing the concrete, floating it, and more than anything, stressing about whether it will come out right. Plus, I can use the time in more productive ways, either building my business or enjoying my free time.

Save time by hiring a professional
Save time by hiring a professional

Instead, a professional has experience doing this, has all the tools and equipment needed, and knows all the little tricks and tips for doing  the job right.

It’s the same with audio and video production. Sure, you could  probably do it yourself but is this really the best use of your time and resources?

Let’s say you want to create a marketing video to promote your company. You’ll need to spend time planning out what you want to include in the video. You’ll need to shoot the video and then edit it. You’ll need to record the voiceover and edit the audio. Then you’ll need to put all the pieces together.

video shoot
Hire a professional video producer

It’s a lot of work and can take a lot of time if you don’t have experience producing audio and video.

Instead, if you hire a professional video producer and a professional voice talent, you can use your time more productively building your business while they put your marketing video together.

Voiceovers by Tim McLaughlin
Hire a professional voice talent

It’s all about what economists call “opportunity cost.”

Simply put, how much is your time worth? Would you get more benefit by investing your time doing something else while the professionals take care of creating your marketing video? For most business people, the answer is “yes” since the time it would take you to learn how to create a video and the time it would take to actually complete the project could be spent in more productive activities.

Before you take the DIY route when putting together an audio or video production, contact some professionals. In the long run, I think you’ll find that you’ll have a better finished product and it will actually cost you less than you think.

For some tips on putting together a marketing video take a look at How to engage customers and prospects with video.