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A Marketing Rule- Carved in Stone September 23, 2014

Posted by Jack Macholl in Uncategorized.
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On a recent vacation trip to Maine I felt compelled to visit Freeport Maine, the world headquarters of L.L. Bean, the infamous outdoor gear, clothing and home goods store.

Part of my need to visit Bean was the long-term connection to their catalog. Growing up in the pre-Internet world of 1960’s and 70’s permitted me to experience the power of catalog marketing. When the L.L. Bean book arrived in the mailbox it was a big deal. My Dad enjoyed the outdoors, owned hunting and fishing gear, and often ordered their “old school” chamois shirts that literally lasted decades-or your money back. Years later, while teaching integrated marketing communications at Roosevelt University, I often brought L.L. Bean marketing materials in to my lectures (particularly the catalogs) to illustrate direct marketing best practices in use at that time.

Like many catalogs of the era, marketers, graphic designers, writers, proofreaders, photographers and printers created literal art. They captured the notion an “experience” long before modern use of the term “brand experience.” This was a different type of connection, in days when people did not travel as frequently by air due to the great expense, these catalogs provided a “travelogue;” using paintings, line drawings, copy, typography and graphic arts in combination to transport you to far away hunting and fishing destinations you could almost feel when you perused the book.

After spending hours looking at their advertising and product museum, and of course, shopping in their 100,000 square foot plus store, I was struck by an engraving on a stone outside the main entrance. The inscription read:

Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they’ll always come back for more.”

Leon Leonwood Bean’s

“Golden Rule,” 1912

This is a common sense business principle or “code” that L.L. Bean obviously lived by. The mere fact the town of Freeport was literally built around his company, one that has survived the Great Depression, two world wars, recessions and other challenges is a testimony to the long-term soundness of this very simple business foundation.

IMG_1665 IMG_1666If more of today’s businesses installed a similar stone by the employee door, we’d all spend less time on the telephone and online having people “apologize for the inconvenience.”


Elevator Pitches- How NOT to do one November 22, 2013

Posted by Jack Macholl in Uncategorized.
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ImageIn almost a decade of advising clients on marketing strategy and communications issues, the subject of “storytelling” or the ability to convey your brand “essence” surfaces quite often. From my vantage point it is still very important to venture out in the community and build an active grass roots movement to connect other humans with your story.

Let’s say you’re at a local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or maybe a professional group meeting. You meet someone and they ask,”so what do you do?”

How do you respond to that?  Is this where we employ the “elevator pitch?”

As I see it, most of the advice we’ve been given about “30—second elevator pitches” hasn’t been all that good. I’d like to share how not to do one…

When you analyze it, speaking with people is a delicate function. We really need to break thoughts down in to “bite size” chunks so not to overwhelm this person we just met.


 I would suggest breaking your “story or abbreviated pitch”  down to three stages- using your intuition to determine how interested the person is. The first phase is about providing a brief 30,000 foot overview point about what you offer…

First you need to establish-

Awareness- provide a high level overview of your story. This is particularly valuable as you work on a grass roots campaign to explain or differentiate your business or non-profit organization. Ideally if you can get to the crux of what you do in a sentence or two, that should suffice.

Next there’s-

Connection– if the person you are speaking with appears interested or begins to ask questions about your organization, you can proceed to explain the “differentiator” why you are great at what you do or what breakthroughs you have to offer.

After you allow a moment for that statement to be absorbed or perhaps the person you’re conversing with may or may not comment, you can then move it up a notch to-

 Understanding- this is the portion of the conversation where you try to see if the person is agreeable to learning more about your products, or perhaps in the case of non-profits, volunteering or donating to the cause- creating action.

If there is a clear level of interest or engagement, you may wish to ask,

“Would you like me to send over some information?” – I’d suggest exchanging business cards (yes, they still have a purpose…) or e-mail addresses. If you have a brochure or fact sheet available, by all means share it. Say you have an event  or seminar coming up, why not invite them?

In this world of personal brand building I read an awful lot of these “five ways to” posts, a great many about elevator pitches. Human communication is an interaction, this is (hopefully) the beginning of a relationship; typically you don’t walk up and unload your whole life story in one breath. If you ease in to conversation, touch on a few high level points people can quickly grasp, then it’s that’s where you’d want to begin.


Often these “how-to, five step tip” posts fail to discuss proper follow-up mechanisms. Here’s what I’d suggest for remaining in touch with people you meet.

E-mail is always a good start or perhaps a handwritten note with your business card. Thanking the contact for the opportunity to speak and hoping your paths will cross again soon– that simple phrase says a lot about your desire to establish a relationship.  If they appeared very interested there is nothing wrong with a phone call to invite them to meet or attend something the prospect might find beneficial.

Anywhere we can make our communication clear, consistent and very human, appealing to the emotions is where we want our “elevator speech” to be.