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Less is More

Nov 1, 2015 | JSE Blog

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt uttered his now-famous remark: “Speak softly but carry a big stick; you will go far.” Although President Roosevelt’s words were spoken in the context of his foreign policy views, they also provide insight into business and life in general: subtle and substantial is ever more powerful than garish and shallow. Loud, bright, aggres-sive marketing campaigns may grab our attention (at least for the moment), but understated, simple, and clever advertising is often more memorable.

Let’s pull a Bill Belichick and take a peak at some of the more subtle plays from our own Marketing Department’s play-book:

1) Upgrade. During slow business cycles, it’s more important than ever to be careful with our marketing dollars. By all outward appearances, the word upgrade appears to fly in the face of that caution. By upgrading, I mean focusing marketing dollars, and when it comes to marketing, sometimes more is just less. Case in point: thrift shops and kitchen junk drawers everywhere are brimming with promotional pens and t-shirts. I’m not opposed to promotions – people love free- I only argue in favor of spending marketing dollars on items that potential clients are likely to hold on to for the long term.

For example, $100 will purchase 100 basic promotional pens- the simple kind that abound in kitchen drawers the planet over. Or that same $100 could purchase approximately 30 special pens that people will actually want to keep. To each their own, but we would rather see our marketing dollars have pride of place on a client’s desk than reside in the depths of a forgotten drawer. In researching this article, I was astounded to learn about the plethora of options available. They make pens now that MacGyvor would covet! Pens with built-in flash lights, screw driver heads, and multi-tool kits hidden in the body. There are also companies that manufacture promotional stylus pens for use with the multitudes of electronic gyzmos that now pervade our daily lives. Fancy pants.

Another example: t-shirts. Consider giving up cotton t-shirts in favor of collared golf shirts. While they may be more ex-pensive- which results in fewer of them- golf shirts make a nicer impression and are also far less likely to end up in a thrift store bin.

2) Mind your manners. In today’s world of electronic communication, the words “handwritten” and “paper” are quickly falling to the wayside. There was a time when it was de rigueur to thank people with handwritten notes, today, a person is lucky to receive a text message… Emily Post is most certainly spinning in her grave.

Nonetheless, there is a marketing opportunity presented by the twenty-first century’s general neglect of manners: the hand-written note. Taking a minute to send a note to a client sharing your genuine appreciation for their business is invaluable on an interpersonal level and, because so few people do it anymore, is also quite memorable. Excellent service finished off with a meaningful thank you note will leave clients with a nice impression. That impression will be remembered the next time they require a service that you provide or when a friend or colleague asks them for a referral. At the cost of a postage stamp and five minutes of time, thank you notes are perhaps one of the most cost effective marketing tools out there.

3) Be of service. In his seminal 1937 book, How to Make Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, the Pioneer of People Skills (and how to apply them successfully in business!) made the case for being of service to both clients and strangers without expecting anything in return. Acts of service don’t have to be sentimental, but in our hurried, harried world they are noteworthy. Examples include sending professional articles or links that may be of interest to clients or ac-quaintances, or researching a professional referral. Ask around if someone knows of a good mechanic or dry cleaner and contact the acquaintance who asked with the business or person’s name. Going out of our way to help when there’s noth-ing in it for us is not only altruistic, but memorable. Remember that people like to do business with people they like, and people will remember your kindness.

The practice can also be applied on a larger scale by being of use to the community at large. Look around and identify a need. Can your company help to fill it? In our modern world, when so many are focused on what one can get, being inter-ested in what one can give will put a person head and shoulders above the crowd.

Even though Facebook and Twitter may rule the roost in today’s digitally dominated world, there’s still quite a bit to be said for the power of human interaction.

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