Monday, 1 December 2014

Is Print Dead?

In today’s world of websites, emails, tweets, and social media, is the printed line card dead? Not in my opinion. When it comes down to it, there is no substitute for a nice, professionally printed piece of literature. In the early days of the Internet, having a website was tangible proof that your company was a real player. Not so today. Anyone can have a credible looking website with a few hours work. But to have a nicely printed line card or capabilities brochure, that takes some real commitment!

While more and more of our customer interactions are on line, or over the telephone, there is still no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. I strongly believe that after every visit, you need to leave something tangible behind. Our customers are so busy these days, they will quickly forget that we were there. But by leaving something like a line card behind, our customer will be reminded of our visit several times, as they shuffle if from place to place, until they finally file it. Even if they ultimately file it in the garbage, they will at least see it one more time before it finally leaves their sight!

And let’s not forget the small, but significant segment of customers who hate reading from a computer screen. Give them a printed line card, and they will love you. Also, many purchasing agents still keep an up-to-date paper file of suppliers line cards.

Are You Pinterested?

I am always looking at new social media outlets to see if they have any applications for business-to-business marketing. Recently I took a really good look at Pinterest.

I was introduced to the service by my daughter when she was planning her wedding. She and her friends used Pinterest to share ideas for a host of wedding related items like clothes, shoes, food, decor. If you’ve been involved in wedding planning lately, you have an idea of the range of things you have to consider.

 So how does it work? Once you have signed up for an account, you can create a number of boards to virtually “pin” images from the internet. You can annotate the images, and the images contain a link back to the original website. If you include a price in your annotation, a price overlays the corner of the image on your board. You can share your board with friends, and follow their boards.

 What’s the business application? I see it as a great tool for project planning. For most projects, we do a lot of research on the internet. Instead of taking notes, you can just pin an image from a supplier’s site to an appropriate board. Share your boards with colleagues, and have them contribute by pinning more ideas. Imagine that you are designing a new website. You can scour the internet for ideas, pin the ones you like, and share your findings with your website designer.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Know When to Keep Your Mouth Shut

As good salespeople we should always anticipate objections that our customers might have to our product or service. By anticipating objections, we can be prepared and offer intelligent, well reasoned responses to these objections. The trick is to know when to keep your mouth shut.

A number of years ago I was travelling with a new salesperson. You may recall when WHMIS was the big buzz word in the industry, and our customers were busy trying to collect Material Safety Data Sheets for every hazardous material in their plant. Our company had put together a collection of thousands of MSDS in a set of 6 binders, and we were selling the set for two thousand dollars. This was quite a bit of money at the time, and a number of prospects had objected to the price. We had learned to anticipate the price objection, and had formulated a good response.

Sure, two thousand dollars is a lot of money, but our collection contained the vast majority of data sheets that our customers were likely to need. By purchasing the set, our customers could save hundreds of hours of work, worth much more than two thousand dollars. And we really couldn’t sell the set for less, since we had put thousands of man hours into the set, and just producing the sets of binders was costly and time consuming.

So there we were, meeting a new customer to discuss the product, and of course he asked, “how much?” We tell him, “two thousand dollars”, and her replies, “that seems like a fair price!” My novice colleague jumps in and says, “many customers think that two thousand dollars is a high price”, and proceeds to offer our prepared response to the price objection.

Back in the car we discussed how the sales call went, and I told him, that I thought it was great that he had prepared a well reasoned response to the price objection, but, “you need to know when to keep your mouth shut!” Just because he had a prepared response didn’t mean he had to use it. By answering an unvoiced objection, he may have planted a seed of doubt in the customers mind that otherwise might never have germinated.

So yes, please prepare to answer objections, but for heaven’s sake, don’t answer objections that your customer doesn’t raise!

Monday, 28 October 2013

QR Codes

Have you seen these odd pixellated graphics showing up everywhere? They are QR Codes (Quick Response), and they are a great way to drive traffic to your website or blog. A QR code is a two dimensional bar code, and can contain a variety of information, including text, a website URL, a phone number, or an e-mail address. The great thing about QR Codes is that you don’t need a special bar code reader to read them. Any camera equipped smart phone can read them. You will need to install an app on your phone (I am currently using Qrafter on my iPhone). There are a variety of apps for iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile, and most are free, or just a few dollars.

You can put QR Codes just about anywhere. Put a QR Code on your business card to allow customers to quickly and easily add your contact information to their address book. Include a QR Code in a print ad or data sheet to take customers to your order page, or to more detailed information. Put a sign with a QR Code in your trade show booth to link customers to your website.

Your imagination is the limit. Why not print a QR Code on a t-shirt and walk around a trade show to see if anyone scans you? You can put a big QR Code on a billboard or on the side of your delivery truck. Put a QR Code on your front door in case a customer comes by when you are closed, and link them to your e-commerce page.

If you have any good ideas that I haven’t suggested, leave a comment. If you would like a free QR Code to play with, email me at, tell me what site you want to link to, and I will send you a custom QR Code.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Verdana and Georgia--Two Fonts for the Web

Most fonts that we use today were designed to be printed and subsequently read on paper. They have not been optimized for reading on a computer screen. In smaller font sizes, classic typefaces that are both beautiful and easy to read on paper, may be much less readable on a computer screen. With small font sizes, small or thin part of the font may be lost, and the open centres of letter may fill in.

To solve these problems, Microsoft commissioned typeface designer Matthew Carter to design two fonts for the web. Carter was best known for the design of the Bell Centennial typeface, which allowed AT&T to print readable telephone directories in a smaller type size.

Carter designed two fonts, Verdana, a sans-serif font, and Gerogia, a serif font. Verdana is similar to the classic type faces Univers and Helvetica. Georgia is similar to Times and Times New Roman. To make the fonts easier to read on the Web, Verdana and Georgia have a larger “x” height, and greater spacing between characters. Elements of the fonts that would be too thin in small sizes are made thicker. The bold style of the fonts is made so that the centres of letters will not fill in, even at the smallest sizes.

The two typefaces unquestionable achieve their main goal. They are indeed very readable in small sizes. With the proliferation of small screens on the iPad and other tables, and the increased use of netbooks with small screens, these are unquestionably desirable characteristics. But I am afraid that I just don’t like them. Verdana always looks TOO big to me, and at larger type sizes, the spacing between letters seems too large. Georgia is a bit better, but it still looks sort of fat and inelegant.

So what to do? Well, if your application demands maximum readability, these typefaces are worth considering, especially in smaller type sizes. For headlines, I wouldn’t even consider them for a moment. In larger sizes, more traditional fonts are quite readable. Personally, I think the best plan is to select the font that you prefer, and test it. Create your page, and view it on as many different screen sizes and in as many different web browsers as possible. If it renders well, looks good, and is readable, go for it!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

E-mail or Email?

Is it e-mail or email? Or maybe E-mail or Email. I’ve been preaching lately about checking your spelling, but I have to confess, I just didn’t know what to do about the shortened form for electronic mail.

A Google search revealed the news that the AP Stylebook (the style guide used by the majority of media outlets) announced earlier this year that email is the way to go. Oh, and no capital letter (except of course at the start of a sentence). I have been using website in preference to web site for some time now, and it turns out that the AP Stylebook blessed this spelling last year.

So there you have it. From now on, I am an email and website kind of guy.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Please Proofread!

It has been suggested that the quality of written English has been in decline in inverse proportion to the increase in texting, tweeting, and posting to Facebook. I am not aware of any hard scientific data to support this conclusion, but I have noticed a trend.

I’ve also heard it argued that this is no big deal. So what if there are misspelled ungrammatical tweets floating around the cyber universe? It does no harm. Sorry, but I have to disagree, because I have seen the trend migrating over into business communication.

If you write for business, even a lowly 140 character tweet, you should resist the pressure to be dragged down by the grammatically challenged. I can offer three great reasons as to why this is so.

First, good grammar is essential for good, accurate communication. I learned the lesson for myself the hard way. You see I am a terrible speller, but I do make an effort. I use spell check religiously. Several years ago, I received an email from my manager's boss asking me to do something. I banged out a quick reply, promising that I would definitely do it. But spell check had other ideas, and instead I replied that I would defiantly do it. Within a few minutes I got a call from my manager to find out why I was defying his boss! Lesson learned.

Second, communications containing poor grammar and multiple typos just looks sloppy and careless. Do you want your customers to think of you as sloppy and careless?

Third, poor spelling and grammar may make you appear to be uneducated, or even stupid. Again, uneducated or stupid, not words that you want your customers or clients to associate with you.

Convinced? Now, what do you do about it? Here are a few suggestions to keep you on the right track. First, turn on automatic spell check on all of your applications, especially on your email. Second, don’t just bang out an email or post and click send. Once you have composed your message, take a minute to read it over. You are much more likely to catch errors if you read out loud. If you are in a busy office where reading out loud would annoy your cubicle mates, just read softly to yourself, it works just as well. If your text is important, or is likely to be read by many readers, take an extra step and have a trusted colleague read your material first.

One other suggestion for email, don’t fill in the “To” address until just before you are ready to send your message. This avoids the embarrassment resulting from accidentally clicking “Send” before you are ready.

Finally, if smooth flowing grammatically correct prose is just not your thing, consider getting a pro to ghost write for you. We can help. Canadians, visit us at, or Americans visit