Before You Advertise

You’re under advertising.

You might be the exception to the above statement.

But that doesn’t change the fact that most small businesses under advertise.

So, you probably need to advertise more. However, before you spend a single dollar buying audience, (A.K.A. advertising) here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • If my advertising works, do I have the capacity to handle a higher volume of product or clients? (Business logistics)
    • For products: Do I have enough cash reserves to float the time between buying inventory and getting paid for sold inventory?
    • For services: Do either I or my current employees have available time in the week to absorb more clients?
    • Am I able to hire more people to match growth?
  • Do I have something to say that’s worth saying? (Messaging)
    • If it’s worth saying, is it also believable?
    • If it’s worth saying and it’s believable, is it also entertaining?
  • Have I calculated my advertising budget? (Media)
    • Do I know on which media my budget will buy effective repetition?
    • Can I afford to advertise at that level of repetition 52 weeks a year every year?
  • Have my employees been trained to maximize the effectiveness of my advertising? (Business Culture)
    • Does the way the phones are answered, emails are worded, and customers talked to align with and reinforce the brand?
    •  Do the inanimate aspects of my business such as colors, lighting, logos, fonts, and building/vehicle care align with and reinforce the brand?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then figure out how to make it a yes before you buy advertising.

You’ll make each of your advertising dollars punch harder, sprint faster, soar higher.

You’ll gaze upon new horizons.

 – Zac Smith, VC

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Own Your Own Money Printing Press

“Logistics.”

Ohhhhhh that’s a boring dull word. Not at all sexy, glitzy, or creative.

But logistics is where the real money is made.

Logistics are the giant green shoulders advertising stands on.

There are lots of industries that are like money presses. All you have to do is show up and the money prints right into your bank account.

It’s the showing up that’s the tricky part, though, usually because of the logistics involved in that industry.

Take liquor stores for example.

I’ve never seen a liquor store go out of business because they didn’t advertise. Owning a liquor store is like owning your own money printing press. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Have you seen the logistical nightmare you have to wade through to own a liquor store?

Kilometers of licensing and regulatory red tape, strewn in a bureaucratic rat’s nest running to the horizon. Not to mention figuring out distributors, supply, real-estate, and inventory troubles.

However, to the person who tackles the logistics, go the spoils.

That’s true of a lot of business sectors.

So, the question is, are you willing to tackle the logistical problems others shy away from?

 – Zac Smith, VC

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Shift the View

What I’m about to tell you may or may not be true.

I think it’s true, but I respect that I could be alone on this. So, let’s make a deal.

If you’re willing to set aside any skepticism for just a moment, I promise to not try and change your mind.

Deal?

Ok, here it is:

You’ve never changed anyone’s mind on anything.

It’s not because of any failing on your part. It’s just that it’s not possible to change someone else’s mind. You may have said or done something that gave the cause-and-effect appearance of changing someone’s mind. But you didn’t actually change their mind; they did.

This isn’t simply conceptual semantics for the sake of argument. It’s a powerful shift in view that I’ve found to be valuable.

How so?

It takes the pressure off you.

Consider, in traditional sales it’s put upon the salesperson to try and overcome objections then convince and win the customer into a sale.

That’s a lot of stress. If the sale falls through then it’s a failure on the part of the salesperson. Ouch.

Knowing that you can’t change someone’s mind, what if your job is to only provide as much information and guidance as possible to furnish the customer with what they need to decide? If the customer doesn’t buy, then no sweat. You didn’t fail. They simply chose not to buy from you.

Now, don’t mishear me. I’m not saying you can take a blasé attitude towards sales. Every salesperson has a responsibility to do their best to be helpful and informative. Falling short of that is not acceptable.

But you can’t change people’s minds. And so sometimes there’s nothing you could have said or done differently. That person was never going to be your customer.

See how low pressure that is?

– Zac Smith, VC

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The Twilight Between

There’s something I’ve noticed about the best ad writers in the world.

They write neither fiction or nonfiction.

Instead, they weave both in a twilight realm that is the truth told more powerful than reality.

It’s like this. You know how there are fictional works based on real events?

Well, good ads are like that but they’re reality based on fiction.

Pure facts can be informative, but not moving.
Pure fiction can be moving, but not informative.

The average ad writer will pick one side and hunker in.

The great ad writers know they must marry both together in seamless copy.

In practice, ads must be based on truth. It’s the only place to start. But once your foundation is laid you must paint a fictional reality that does not yet exist, in which your customer can see themselves experiencing the benefits of your product or service.

This is not smoke-and-mirrors and it’s not dishonest because the fictional part is what will come to pass. Just as soon as they become your customer.

So, what’s your strength?

Are you better at laying out the facts or painting fiction?

Whichever way you lean, the path to leveling up your ad writing lays in embracing the other side.

– Zac Smith, VC

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Enjoy the View

This ever happen to you?

You’re hiking up a trail to a scenic vista and at your first stop for a breather you turn around and, wow. Look how far up you’ve come already!

Bam! Your brain just got a hit of dopamine.

By stopping to see your progress you trigger the reward center of your brain. Which makes you feel good and encourages you to keep doing the activity that got you there.

Look, life is hard enough as it is. Not to mention if you’re also running your own business or heading up a team. Wouldn’t you like a hit o’ that dopamine encouragement? That clever little hormone that helps you keep going?

If you’re nodding yes then here’s what you have to do.

Stop and look up from your work.

How far have you come? For real, what mile markers have you hit on your way to what you’re working towards? Actually answer this question for yourself. You deserve to hear it.

Ok, now, even if you don’t feel like it, make two fists and raise them above your head in a victory pose and give me a woohoo!

Did you woo?

I wooed.

Definitely woo now if you didn’t woo already.

Or if the victory pose isn’t your thing, then take those same two fists and put your arms down at your side in a right-angle bend at your elbows and do a happy little wiggle.

However you choose to acknowledge progress, the important thing is that you’re acknowledging it. Even if it’s only thirty seconds, make time to recognize forward movement. Celebrate the ordinary. Enjoy the view.

It won’t make your journey to the top any faster.

But it will be a whole lot more fun.

– Zac Smith, VC

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How to Write Hiring Ads – Part 2

(If you’d like to start with Part 1 of this series, CLICK HERE)

Right now, is an amazing opportunity for you, the business owner.

Businesses that don’t know how to keep their talent are in the process of losing their people.

Which means it’s the perfect time for you to scoop them up and grow.

All you need is a hiring ad that’ll let them know about you, assuming you can make an attractive offer.

Oh, side note before we jump in. All of this assumes your company is a place people would actually like to work. If it’s not, then start by making it an inviting place before you try to hire people. Otherwise, they’ll leave as fast as you can bring them in.

Last time, in Part 1, we learned why it’s important to make the hiring ad about the potential hire and not about your company. (So to speak.)

If that’s the case, then what’s next? Is there another piece to the hiring ad equation?

There is.

Frame the ad so it speaks only to your perfect candidates.

How do you do that?

Here’s one simple trick for writing hiring ads that attract the people you want, and repel the losers.

Interview your star employees.

Find out why they chose to work for you and what keeps them there. What are the heart strings your company plucks? What inspires them? What motivates them? What thing, if you changed it, would make them leave?

Sift the answers and try to see into true motivations.

Chances are they’ll share motivating factors with others who would do well at your company.

Armed now with this information, carefully craft your hiring ad to include your star employee’s true motivators.

Because like gets like and you’ll have put out the siren call for amazing people. Soon to be working for you.

– Zac Smith, VC

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Survey Says…

At some point in your professional career – be it as a business owner, executive, manager, or consultant – there’s a high likelihood you’ll be part of creating a survey.

If that happens then you should know about three survey pitfalls. There are two about biases and one about expectations; and ignoring any of them can horribly skew your results.

I say this assuming you don’t want to horribly skew your results and that you would like an as accurate picture as possible from your survey.

Because, you can use what I’m about to tell you for evil.  You can make survey results say whatever you want them to say by engineering these pitfalls to steer the outcome.

So don’t do that.


1. Sampling Bias

Not just any group will give you accurate responses for what you’re trying to measure. If you don’t take this into account you could get some results like this comic.

2. Question Bias

The way you word your questions absolutely matters.

Dr. Neil Postman, who taught at the New York University, sums it up best.

“A question, even of the simplest kind, is not, and never can be unbiased.
The structure of any question is as devoid of neutrality as its content.
The form of a question may ease our way or pose obstacles. Or, when

even slightly altered, it may generate antithetical answers, as in the case of the two priests who, being unsure if it was permissible to smoke and pray at the same time, wrote to the Pope for a definitive answer. One priest asked, “Is it permissible to smoke while praying?” and was told it is not, since prayer should be the focus of one’s whole attention. The other priest asked if it is permissible to pray while smoking and was told that it is, since it is always permissible to pray.”  

3. Expectations

Know that, even if you do everything perfectly, your survey results have limitations.

No survey or data, (this includes website metrics, etc.) can tell you what to do next. It can’t tell you what changes to make. It can’t tell you what hazards to avoid in the future or how to grow.

The only thing it can tell you are the effects of what you did.

Surveys show you the results of past actions.

For example, if you have an oak sapling in your yard and every year you measure its height; that annual data will be a snapshot of how well you’ve taken care of that tree in the past. How well you watered, fertilized, and tended it. But that data can never tell you how tall that tree will grow.

You won’t know until it’s done growing.

Same for surveys.

The takeaway?

If you manage the above three pitfalls you can gather some useful data and insights from surveys.

From there, make your best educated guess on how to proceed and blaze forward.

– Zac Smith, VC

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How to Write Hiring Ads – Part 1

If the labor landscape is a 2 liter of Diet Coke, then 2020 was a handful of white Mentos.

The resulting effervescent employee redistribution has left many businesses scrambling. And in 2021, it’s an amazing opportunity for you, the business owner, to scoop up the talent and people you’ve been needing.

And all you need is a hiring ad that’ll attract the people you’re looking for.

There are several different angles and approaches to accomplish this, so I’m breaking this topic up into manageable chunks.

Here’s part one.

Oh, side note before we jump in. All of this assumes your company is a place people would actually like to work. If it’s not, then start by making it an inviting place before you try to hire people. Otherwise, they’ll leave as fast as you can hire them. And that’s just a waste of your and their time.

Bad advertising is about you, your company, and your product.

This is true when you’re trying to sell customers. It’s also true of ads for employment.

I know you already know this concept, but I’m reminding you of it because if we don’t start here, none of the other proven techniques I’m sharing with you will work.

So, don’t make your employment ad about your company, your staffing needs, or what the prospective hire can do for you.

Make it about them, their needs, and what you can do for them as their employer.

Question. In the ad, do your potential employees need to know about your company, the job, and where they’ll be working?

Yes, they do.

So how do you tell them about your company without making the ad about your company?

Weave the details in through narrative.

If you need someone who can lift fifty-pound sacks, a bad recruitment ad would have a bullet list item that says something like, “Must be able to lift 50lb sacks.”

Instead, make it about them by saying, for example, “…and when the truck comes in at 8am, you’re there to help them unload the 50lb sacks and stack them in the warehouse. But that’s not a problem for you because you’re strong and know proper lifting technique.”

For each job requirement, skill set, or point you need them to know about your company, weave it into a story about them and when and why they’ll encounter it.

By doing so, they’ll see themselves doing the job in their mind’s eye. And once they’ve rehearsed it in their mind, they’re precipitously close to acting it out in the real world.

– Zac Smith, VC

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Creative Handcuffs

Stop.

Before you click send, publish, or post on your email, ad, or newsletter; is your writing as vibrant or engaging as you would like it to be?

If the answer is no, then seize this golden opportunity to shake things up a bit.

Zest it.

The fun way.

Make up at least three random black and white rules for your writing.

For Example, every third sentence must have a color. Begin every forth sentence with an imperative verb, starting with the first sentence. Make every fifth sentence kick with the red chili dust of brevity at three words or shorter.

After that?

You write shackled by your arbitrary linguistic handcuffs.

Push against those grey concrete walls you’ve created.

Do you know what will happen?

Even if you get to the end and decide you’re not going to use it, you’ll have stretched your creativity and energized your writing. Breathing green words.

Go now.

Any random rules will do.

Burn down boring with the purple flames of creative handcuffs.

– Zac Smith, VC

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A Revealing Price Scheme

In the world of high-ticket product and service sales pitches, when do you reveal your price?

Right up front? Or save it until the end?

I’ve noticed there are devout followers for each method.

I’ve also noticed that both methods can be quite effective.

Let’s compare and contrast.

Those who belive you should name the price right up front extol its virtues as being straightforward, honest, and scare-away-the-tire-kickers. They say it works well because you name the price without flinching and THEN tell the customer about all the great things they’re getting and all the free add-ons.

The more you talk after naming the price the lower that price becomes perceptually.

We could describe this as cost then value building.

Those who believe you should first talk about all the great features and all the free bonus items and THEN at the end name your price praise this method as friendly, helpful, and informative. They say it works well because you don’t scare away on-the-fence customers and that more facetime upfront builds a bond that’ll help seal the sale.

The more you talk before naming the price the more that price is perceived as a deal.

This would be described as value building then cost.

Again, I’ve seen and used both price reveals effectively. The holy secret is to make sure that whatever the price is, it’s perceived as a value compared to the cost.

And this is where devout work and skill come in because every customer greets you with a preset expectation of what they’re getting and how much it should cost.

To exceed those expectations is the true dogma.

– Zac Smith, VC

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A Friendly Creature, Always Happy to Help

We’re putting out the call for a strange and rare creature not known to most places.

A friendly creature, always happy to help, who haunts the night walks of campus.

Are you the next Vice Chancellor of Wizard Academy?

If the following words play sweet songs of destiny to your ears, you are that rare and wonderful being.

You can be important or you can make a difference.

We’re betting you’d rather make a difference.

Wizard Academy exists as a refuge to the small business owner and entrepreneur. A place to take shelter from gale and ice. A haven for gathering their wits and topping off on encouragement. A bastion of inspiration before stepping back out into the storm.

Their brief respite on campus can make all the difference for their businesses and their families. For their employees and their employees’ families. Your friendly face, always happy to help, is at the center of it all.

You’ll have a hand in making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people. Strangers who you’ll probably never meet will glow in warm smile because of your role here.

You can be important or you can make a difference.

As the Vice Chancellor of Wizard Academy, you’re the grease in the axle, the cartilage in the knee. You keep everything running smoothly; and that’s no small task.

How’s your hat collection?

Because as the VC you wear many different hats.

Subject but not limited to:

  • Advertiser
  • Bartender
  • Camp counsellor
  • Cook
  • Copy writer
  • Dishwasher
  • Encourager
  • Entertainer
  • Historian
  • Host
  • Housekeeper
  • Human resources
  • Instructor
  • Janitor
  • Maintenance
  • Motivational speaker
  • Philosopher
  • Public relations
  • Scheduler
  • Social Media
  • Tour guide
  • Waiter
  • Website editor
  • Xylophone player

A to X. If it’s needed for the running of this school then at some point it’ll be on your plate.

But don’t worry if you can’t do all the things listed above. First, you probably have other talents and skills that are valuable. Second, there’s a wealth of world class people around this school who’ll teach you anything that’s needed or that you’d like to learn.

The important thing is that you’re chronically curious and humble enough to be taught.

A bit like Westley in the Princess Bride, welcome to the ship of the Dread Pirate Roberts. At first, you’ll say, “Goodnight. I’ll most likely die in the morning.” But you won’t die. Instead, you’ll pick up bits of skill and knowledge here and there until someday, you yourself will don the mantle of Dread Pirate Roberts.

You can be important or you can make a difference.

Being the Vice Chancellor is a bit like being a parent.

You work so hard behind the scenes. Long days. Late nights. A lot of unseen jobs that need to be done. And sometimes at the end of the day you are tired. But you’re also happy. You’ll have that satisfied, full feeling that comes from actually making a difference in the lives of others.

For example, part of the job is giving tours of campus to new students the night before class. One evening after walking everyone around, showing them the different pieces of art, architecture and their significance, you end the tour in the lecture room of the Tower. You’ve decided to conclude by explaining the three legs of every important journey.

As you’re describing the second leg, the longest and most arduous of the legs, you notice the students’ eyes are locked on you. As if you were a prophet, you’re describing their pain points and struggles. They’re in awe and wonder that they’ve found a place that understands them; you understand what they’re going through and how hard it is. Most of all, you understand how important it is that they keep going and not give up.

And then you tell them about the third leg of the journey they’re on. The part they haven’t reached yet but that ends in hope and a promise of better things to come.

When you conclude the group of students surprise you by bursting into spontaneous applause. Some of them are wiping tears from the corners of their eyes and thanking you because it’s been so long since anyone gave them hope.

You say goodnight and send them back down to their student rooms in Engelbrecht. As you’re standing in the Tower and closing the door behind them, you’re beaming and you’ve got a little extra spring in your step. And that’s good. Because now you’re rolling your sleeves up and grabbing the mop and bucket. The Tower still needs mopping before class, and it’s up to you make sure it gets done.

Here’s another example. You sit in every class because that’s what the Vice Chancellor does. You’re making sure everyone is enjoying themselves and has what they need while getting to listen to the greatest teachers of business and communication of our time. From the students’ perspective, you’re getting to sit at the front of the room and pour wine every now and then. What they don’t see is that, when you stepped out of class for those fifteen minutes it was because you were cleaning and touching up the restrooms in between breaks.

You can be important or you can make a difference.

This position isn’t for you if you need a structured schedule, micro-management, or someone to tell you what to do every day. After orientation, you’ll be setting your own weekly schedule and then following through to make sure everything is getting done. Productive freedom.

Vice Chancellor isn’t for you if you don’t want to get paid to day drink. You’ll be opening up bottles of wine at 8:30 in the morning on class days and leading whiskey tastings after dinner. This isn’t an issue because you know how to participate with the students while self-regulating.

Speaking of self-regulating, this job isn’t for you if you must air your personal opinions to students. You, of course, have your opinions but you know when is and is not an appropriate time to share them because you’re good at putting people at ease and creating a peaceful environment.

Wizard Academy is a refuge for all people, and as VC you’re the public face of the Academy. You know how to talk to and interact with people of all cultural, ethnic, sexual, and social backgrounds. You make everyone feel welcome and safe. That can include diffusing situations between students from time-to-time.

Vice Chancellor definitely isn’t for you if you can’t pivot on short notice. Sometimes the whole plan gets changed at the last minute. But you can handle that just fine because you innovate. You’re a problem solver. And while you prefer to have a structure in place, you’re not afraid to break it if opportunity presents itself.

You can be important or you can make a difference.

If you put a higher priority on making a difference, you’ll find a happy home here.

And here’s the thing. When you make a difference, you are important.

You’ll be important to our alumni, their families, and every life touched by the concentric ripples of your touch.

And most of all, you’ll be important to your Wizard Academy family.

We’re a small team and every member’s contributions are known and make a difference.

You make an important difference.

Full-time salaried position. Must live within commuting distance of Wizard Academy. Nontraditional work schedule. Some early mornings. Some late nights. Some early morning to late nights. And some short days.

Click HERE to submit an application.

– Zac Smith, VC

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It’s Not a Harmless Question

There are certain ideas and concepts in sales that are not omnidirectional.

The idea it doesn’t hurt to ask is one such example.

It doesn’t hurt to ask is a one-way street that only works if you’re the customer.

You’re on the sales floor* checking out the greatest kitchen turbo blender five thousand in neon pink for $600. This is, of course, a used retro blender specialty store and haggling is to be expected. So, you think, “I wonder if they’d take $400? It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

And in this situation, you’d be correct. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? They say no and then you get to decide if you want to pay $600 for it or not.

As the customer, you retain control even in the worst-case scenario.

Does not work the same if you’re the seller.**

If you’re trying to decide whether or not to ask for the sale, it doesn’t hurt to ask ABSOLUTELY can hurt if you’re asking too soon. (Asking too soon can be very off-putting.)

And once put off, you likely won’t get a chance to ask your prospective customer for the sale a second time.

However, you’re not oblivious to these kinds of things.

Even though most of us have far more experience as a buyer than we do as a seller, you know that certain concepts in sales only go one direction.

– Zac Smith, VC 

*Every time I hear “sales floor” I imagine this goofy make-believe type of floor that’s part of a children’s game. Like someone suddenly calls out, “The floor is lava.” And you have to jump on top of the nearest furniture otherwise the salesperson will talk to you.

**We’re going to set aside instances where you’re lucky enough to be selling something that’s in such high demand the customer can’t afford to not pay what you’re asking. Most of us do not have this luxury in the things we sell.

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