Decision Ease and Simplicity is What Your Customers Really Want

Forget engagement, relationships, social media, permission marketing and all the other fads, myths and marketing hype.

The key to successful marketing is making yes decisions easier for the customer.  I’ve been saying this for decades! Now, it has finally been validated by a formal study. See the Forbes article: Marketers Have It Wrong: Forget Engagement, Consumers Want Simplicity.  

Of course, I don’t need a study. I’ve applied this principle to help some companies create hundred million dollar sales increases, and one billion-dollar sales increase (Prilosec®).

As you read the article, beware of the common mistake the authors make. They blur the crucial distinction between “easy” and “simple.

The Difference Between “Easy” And “Simple” And Why It’s Important

Promise: In this article, I will help you learn how to help your customers make YES decisions more easily, whether your business is large or small, and whether you sell a product or a service. That’s my promise.

First, here’s the difference between simple and easy.

The opposite of simple is complex.

The opposite of easy is  difficult.


Simple, not easy: you are on safari, deep in Africa. Your guide says, “We are out of your Western food. What would you like for dinner tonight, worms or beetles?” This is a simple [non-complex] choice, but not easy. Product sellers do this all the time when they ask customers which added features they want, or whether they want Model A or Model B. Most of the time, customers have no idea what the difference really is, and if that difference is worth the price difference.

Easy, not simple: For example: the route from my house in NY to my friend’s house in Boston is extremely complex. It can’t be simplified. But my turn-by-turn navigation system makes the still-complex route easy, but not simple. When I use my GPS system, it just tells me to “turn left ahead.” It’s very easy and I end up where I want to go, with just as much complexity, but a minimum of difficulty.  The same method works well in marketing. The trick is to keep each step small, simple, easy and fun, with plenty of guidance, feedback and rewards. Are you acting as your customer’s turn-by-turn decision navigator, his GPS? In every category, the company that does it best wins.

If you blur this distinction, you will concentrate on making things simple, which is only one method of making things easy. And, it’s easy that you want.

Your job when marketing your product, service or idea is to help the customer’s decision-making process easier. Implementing even just the first three simple, easy steps I’m about to recommend here will increase your sales substantially. There are plenty more, so stay tuned. If you are getting this as a forwarded email, go to and sign up for my newsletter with the upper right form. You’ll also get the 10 Yesses report that you might have heard marketers discussing. [Another example of making things easier!]

The Three Best Steps That Will Explode Your Sales Immediately

Step 1.  Look at the materials or other place where your customer first encounters your product, service or idea.  Insert into all materials – or put a sign on the wall – that offers your equivalent of this incredibly effective, simple, clear, easy to understand promise: “If you [use/buy/prescribe/recommend] my product, I promise you that you will get …” Make sure it’s a benefit. That means, your product will make their life better in some specific, measurable way, whether it’s 15 minutes to change their oil or fresher bread or, as in my case, more sales faster by making customer decisions easier.  The “Promise + Benefit Combo” has been a marketing staple for over 100 years, but it’s astounding how often a simple, clear, easy to understand promise or claim is missing. Make sure you’ve got yours up front and center. Chances are, it’s not. Mine is after the 4th paragraph above in boldface type.

Step 2:  Go through the materials (such as web pages) or events (such as sales calls, demos, slide presentations, etc.) with a machete. What is your customer supposed to read or ingest into their brain as they try to navigate the path from interest to evaluating options, to learning about your product, trying it, buying it, learning to use it, etc. Pay attention to where they are dropping out or slowing down and take out at least 5 paragraphs that are not essential. More if you can get yourself to do it. Ruthlessly cut, which is one way of simplifying, which is one way of making things easier. You’ve seen many web sites that are distracting and cause you to lose interest.  Make sure yours isn’t one of them! Don’t believe me? Test the simpler version against the earlier, more complicated version and see how your sales convert. If something essential really is missing, you’ll find out quickly because people will ask questions. But, before you do, there is one thing I want you to add:

Step 3. Repeat your simple, solemn, beneficial promise in every place where it can reasonably be inserted without looking ridiculously repetitive. Make sure your materials support why the promise will be fulfilled.

To follow my own advice, I can make this entire article even easier for you to implement:

Make a promise. Cut everything else to the minimum communication required to support the promise. Rinse and repeat. Less is more.

Do it, with one thing, anything, NOW.

Let me know what happens.



Thoughts about Thinking

I’ve always thought, as you probably do, that people should think for themselves and that it’s fairly easy. You just put aside what other people are saying, examine the evidence firsthand and refrain from believing the assertions of others unless they match the evidence. 

Just about everyone thinks they can think for themselves, and doesn’t feel they need to learn how. 

While any individual issue may be complex and difficult, the act of thinking for ourselves ITSELF is not that hard for most of us.

But I got a rude awakening recently.

I recently met several young adults who had broken away from an entire lifetime of insular, ultra-fundamentalist religious upbringing, where they were not allowed to think for themselves. They were even told what shoe to put on first in the morning! They emerged, most in their 20’s, with a third grade education, unequipped to function in this society. 

Who were they to question thousands of years of thinking, the rituals that would keep disasters from happening, their wise elders who had spent a lifetime studying the holy books, and their peers who all agreed that there is only one right way of thinking? Well, they did. 

As I listened to the stories of these people, it became clear that their greatest act of courage was thinking for themselves when they had been told all their lives that it was a sin to question and deviate in the slightest way from their way of life.

Courageous, yes. But bravery only got them so far. Then they ran smack into reality. The needed skills. Particularly additional thinking skills beyond the skeptical questioning that liberated them. Thinking often throws one into a world of uncertainty that can be quite uncomfortable.. They now had a wide-open world of possibilities, with no way to predict the future, no way to sort it out easily, no easy answers.

Conversely, someone once said that the conclusion is where the thinking stopped.

What they needed most was guidance in how to think for themselves, how to think through the issues that were gnawing at them. Both the broad issues of forming their own belief system, and the immediate issues about how they would feed themselves. 

As I thought about the challenges that they face in learning how to think for themselves, I realized that it is not self-evident how to think independently; that everyone, myself included, could use a review and some new tips in this area and that I had a lot to contribute from my thinking about thinking for so many decades. 

For instance:

  • How come the more I think, the more questions and uncertainty I have? What is certainty and uncertainty,  the role of dogma in reducing uncertainty; alternatives that don’t drive you crazy with too much data and possibility.
  • What is thinking and what are the different kinds of thinking? How do you choose which kind of thinking to engage in for any given issue?
  • What are the most fruitful kinds of questions and what kinds of questions inevitably lead to dead ends?
  • How do you make a decision that has to be made now, when you don’t have enough data and can’t predict the future?
  • How do you think about an area that you are unfamiliar with? (There is a way to became an almost “instant expert.”)
  • When everyone disagrees, how do you sort it out? 
  • When everyone agrees, how do you think for yourself and avoid getting roped into agreeing with prevailing nonsense?
  • Who am I to disagree with people who are more educated, or more expert in a particular area?
  • What’s an appropriate level of skepticism? (Did you know that both extreme skeptics and gullible people easily become victims of frauds? NEITHER has developed the skills of rational evaluation!)
  • What’s the difference between the different kinds of analytical and creative thinking and how do they complement each other?
  • The simple trick to understanding anything.
  • The 7 steps followed by the greatest genius and independent mind who ever lived. 

So, these are only some of the issues involved with thinking for oneself. 

I think that thinking is worth thinking about. More to follow.

In the meantime, I suggest that you think about your thinking. You are obviously highly skilled in some areas or you wouldn’t be reading this! What areas do you want to improve? Make a list. I’d like to hear what they are, so that I can address them. I’ll make a list, too. Let’s compare.

There is NOTHING more leveraged than improving one’s thinking. Every great thinker that I’ve studied thought a lot about thinking. I don’t think that it’s intelligence only that makes geniuses geniuses. I think that it’s thinking for themselves and not following conventional “wisdom.” 

Are YOU a Frustrated Marketer?

Join the Frustrated Marketers Club

What, you’re already a full-fledged member of the Frustrated Marketers Club? You don’t have to join?

Almost ALL marketers are frustrated with marketing problems: Customers are complacent; they often buy inferior products; they don’t want to listen to you; they don’t understand or trust your messages; they are skeptical, yet they fall hook, line and sinker for your competitors’ lies; they try your product ineptly, casually and indiscriminately; they don’t use it properly after they buy it; and when they are happy with your product, they don’t tell others.

I feel your pain. I’ve worked for decades with consulting clients who in the first 10 minutes of our conversation scream at me in frustration that they have the superior product, but no one wants to listen. Or, that customers are so cynical that they don’t believe a single word. My clients characterize their problems variously as a complacency problem (“I can’t get in the door!,” a credibility problem, a lack of sophistication problem, a product differentiation problem, a reputation problem, an unskilled usage problem, a failure to maintain the product properly problem, an inertia problem or a customers-are-stupid problem. Or, they are getting eaten alive by a much bigger competitor with huge budgets for marketing, or they have fixed past problems but are no longer believed, or they can’t explain their product to potential customers.

Why is it that customers seem to fall for every scheming con man’s pitch, but won’t believe you when you are telling the complete truth?

These are not the problems, they are the symptoms.

“Symptoms of what?,” you ask?

If I told you, it would be obvious, and you wouldn’t value the knowledge. So, I’ll give you a few days to think about it.

What do you think the most common marketing “problems” are all symptoms of?

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Well, that didn’t quite work

Last night, I posted a request that you switch from your Feedburner-sent newsletter of my blog. It turns out that you may have been getting the posts through Google also. Posts look horrible in both, and they both add ads that I can’t control, which are sometimes inappropriate.

So, I asked you to look and see if Feedburner was at the bottom. if it was, I asked you to unsubscribe and re-subscribe using the form at the bottom. Well, it seems that they also strip out forms, so the form was missing. Let’s try again:

So, here’s what I’d like you to do: Look at the bottom of this newsletter. If the very last line says that it’s powered by Google or Feedblitz, please unsubscribe by clicking on the appropriate link. Then, go to and put your email in the form in the upper right sidebar, and click the button. This whole thing should take about 15 seconds. Thanks.


You may need to make one click. I hope it doesn’t hurt :-)

You may need to make a simple click and re-enter your email if you want to continue to receive the best of my thinking. Why?

I’m switching off to a Newsletter-Centric rather than a Blog-Centric format. The difference is that blog posts are either read by newsreader software or by an automatic newsletter format such as Feedburner. If you don’t know what RSS is, you are probably reading this either on the blog directly or in an automatically generated format from Feedburner. This restricts my ability to send my subscribers special insider information that I don’t want to post generally on my blog, such as giving them access to various ebooks that I don’t want to give away to the general public.

Take my word for it, you want to fill out the form below, especially if you haven’t received my Special Report, “The 10 Simple Yeses to More Sales Faster.”

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How to complain about a company via Twitter

In the wake of my Delta incident, I’ve been asked  by some readers for specific directions about how to complain on Twitter in a way that will get results.

It’s very simple: Just mention the company with an “@” sign in front of it. Or, do a search on Twitter to find out the Twitter account name they use, and put an @ sign in front if it. In the Case of Delta, I didn’t bother to look up what they used, and just used @Delta. It turns out that they use @Deltaassist, but they picked up on it quickly. As I mentioned in my previous post, don’t come from anger. Come from service to the company and your fellow followers. That said, ridicule, sarcasm and satire are fine, particularly if you can be funny.

Here is a list of the Tweets that I used, In reverse chronological order (Recent –> older). Read them from the bottom up.

Below are the complete public messages, omitting a few minor Direct (private) Messages that gave them the details of my Confirmation Number and the flights I wanted.

Note: to send them a private message, once the company responds to you, you have to “follow” them, then click “Messages” and you can then send them a private message.

Note how absurdly simple the whole dialogue was. But, it saved me $1200 ($150 change fee, $450 in fare adjustments times 2), plus several days of awaiting and sitting in a hurricane.

I hope this helps you get out of — or stay out of trouble — in the future.

P.S., our house is fine. Thanks to those who asked.

DeltaAssistDelta Assist

@GeorgeSilverman  Done! Thx for the shout out! We appreciate your business. Thx for choosing Delta.^EC
Delta Assist
DeltaAssistDelta Assist


@Delta just updated NE cities re hurricane. Very responsive to twitter. Changed my flights. Thanks. Wish phone people could have been as gd.
25 Aug

@DeltaAssist Much appreciated. Sent you a DM. Twitter sure worked better than my 4 calls. Your web Irene update is still as of 6 PM WED
DeltaAssistDelta Assist

@GeorgeSilverman My apologies; perhaps there’s something that I may be able to help you with. Pls follow/DM your conf# and details. ^EC
@deltaassist @Delta must be using Ouija Boards for their weather forecasting. All other models say Irene will hit NYC on Sun.

@Delta @deltaassist The Carolinas?? As of now, all models say it will hit NYC on Sun. Why not let us change flts for the entire E coast?

“Doug Dole” a sup @Delta says the hurricane will not hit NYC, so he won’t change my ticket w/o $450 per tkt fees! DON”T FLY Delta!

@Delta won’t change my tkt from a Sun flight from NYC w/o charging $300+ per ticket because NYC isn’t on the hurricane list!

Further Confirmation that Twitter WOM Works

Twitter just provided yet another confirmation of the power of word of mouth, and a useful tip for you if you get into the kind of trouble that I did.

This could get you out of serious trouble someday:

The Wednesday before the Hurricane Irene was to hit NYC, all models showed that it would pass over JFK airport Sunday Morning. I had a flight due to leave at 9AM on Sunday! So, I called Delta and explained that in view of the almost certainty of the hurricane hitting, I’d like to change my flight to two days earlier, and I’d like to do that now, so that I could save myself and Delta from at least one more call before they got swamped with hurricane rebookings. Spoke to a “Doug Dole” a supervisor at their reservation center, after the request was rejected by a regular agent. He informed me that NYC was not on the list from which they could issue re-bookings. Only Charlotte was listed (at that time only about an hour away from the hurricane’s impact.) I politely pointed out that that was cutting it a bit close and that I’d appreciate his accommodating me, given the inevitable crunch. He informed me that the hurricane was due to veer off and not hit NYC. He said that a change would involve a $150 re-booking fee and a $450 fare increase, since it would be a cancellation and re-booking on short notice. I called back to another supervisor, who said that she would waive the re-booking fee, but not the fare increase.

What would you have done?

As you probably guessed from the Twitter reference above, I got to work with several posts on Twitter, openly ridiculing Delta’s weather forecasting (which I guessed was being done by Ouija Board). I pointed out that their weather update was from 6 o’clock the previous day — an eternity when a hurricane is approaching. I quoted “Doug Dole,” their Utah supervisor, as forecasting that the hurricane was not going to hit NYC.

As I was composing a satirical post, about a half hour from my first Tweet, talking about how they were getting their updates via carrier pigeon, I got a reply from Delta. Their DeltaAssist people publicly tweeted that I should Direct Message my confirmation number and the flight I’d like to transfer to.

I sent them the requested info, and they quickly re-booked me with no additional charges. They also changed the weather updates, and about an hour later put the whole East Coast, including JFK, onto the list of cities approved for hurricane re-bookings.

They sent me a public tweet saying that they were happy to be of service in rescheduling my flight. I tweeted a cordial thank you for being so responsive and a wish that their telephone people could have been the same.


  • Don’t write private complaint letters. Use Twitter and the other public complaint and rating services to publicly flag companies that are not treating customers right. These will differ according to the circumstances.
  • Although I can’t prove it, my experience is that humor, ridicule and particularly satire works better than angry rants. See my Word of Mouth book for examples. Come from trying to help them do better, rather than from anger.
  • WOMM is not only about how you can increase it in your business. It is about how to wield the enormous power of WOM.
  • It’s also about doing what Delta obviously does: it has a team that monitors the social media sites and has the power to cut off a very negative backlash before it got started. Believe me, I know how to use word of mouth. If they had let this go unresolved, I could have created a major, very damaging campaign, boycott, or other negative consequences that could have cost them millions of dollars, as I sat here instead of LA because of a cancelled flight. Treat people right. Monitor their complaints, if for no other reason than you don’t know who you are dealing with. There are better reasons to treat people right, but for people who only look at numbers, this will do.
  • Why can’t companies like Delta do what it takes — like greater discretion, more aggressive forecasts, etc. — to handle situations like this? Why do we need to resort to public humiliation to get treated like valued customers? I know what they would say, and so do you, so I’ll spare you. However, the fact is that they DID treat me right, so they could have done so in my first phone call. BTW, JetBlue and Virgin were honoring re-booking requests at that time without a problem.
  • So, Delta missed a chance with an influential blogger to make me feel good about them, instead of confirming all the talk about them being unresponsive. The fact that they eventually did the right thing doesn’t change my opinion, since they did it under the threat of further public humiliation. JetBlue and Virgin got kicked up another notch, even though I wasn’t even booked on them! Despite the good outcome, I will not be booking on Delta in the future if I can help it. By the way, in the current issue of its in-flight magazine, their president is calling for government subsidies for the airlines. He needs subsidies, given the way he seems to run his airline. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard SouthWest, JetBlue and Virgin asking for government subsidies.
  • And, the most important lesson of all: Treat customers like your friends because in some ways they are even better than your friends. They are the ones, not your friends, that bought your house, put your kids through college and pay your salary. There is no downside to giving supervisors discretion to break rigid rules. So, a few people might scam them out of a re-booking fee. A few skittish passengers might re-book in the face of an uncertain storm that is making them anxious. So what?

Let’s all look at how we are treating customers — even those who might be making borderline unreasonable requests. But especially those who are sitting under hurricane projection models that are clustered more tightly than ever remembered by experienced meteorologists. Delta, if you have to have an obsessive, rigid rule, why not make it OK to switch flights the moment NOAA predicts that there is a greater than 50% chance of a hurricane hitting? Is that too much to ask? In your in-flight magazine, you are actively soliciting suggestions. Let’s see how you respond to this. Awaiting their comments below.

What is Marketing? You will be surprised.

Why Marketing?

Wikipedia says that:

Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development.[1] It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments.[1] It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Blah, blah, blah. Sounds great, but it’s completely useless. It’s almost the general definition of Business.

Let me give you a much more useful way to look at marketing:

Marketing is offering people something that is more valuable to them than the price you are charging – and getting them to see that it’s a good deal. 

The first part is trade. The second part makes it marketing.

Marketing is not something you do to customers, it’s something you do for customers.

It’s the service of making the right decisions easier for the customer.

This statement has been floating around the Internet for years. It’s my most quoted statement.  I’m delighted, because it goes right to the core: make the right decision easy.

Why is marketing about making decisions easier?

Because easy means faster and that’s really the hidden secret behind marketing success. If you can get customers to make decisions faster for your product than the competitor’s products, then you accumulate customers faster, even without greater brand choice.

But “faster” isn’t the primary thing to focus on. When people focus on getting the customer to act faster, they end up pushing or pulling the customer, creating resistance, and prolonging the decision cycle.

It’s sort of what happens when people focus directly on making money as the primary goal, rather than creating value. Money is a consequence of value creation, in fact, it’s the primary way that value is stored. Focus on money first, and weird things happen. Focus on value, and magical things happen. In the same way, focus on making customer decisions easier and simpler every step of the way, and sales accelerate automatically.

Marketing = easier decisions. Another reason

People are overloaded, with dozens of New Media. They don’t have time to deliberate. They are swamped. They don’t have time to sort through the flood of information. You provide the service of saving people from the time and burden of deliberation.

Marketing helps the customer at every step of the decision-making process:

  • Helps the customer find you more easily. In fact, marketing in good companies is part of product development in most good companies. The product wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for marketing.
  • Helps the customer get information about you more easily, understand it, weigh it, see what’s relevant, compare you to the competition
  • Helps the customer try your product, evaluate the trial, decide who the winner is.
  • Helps make it easier to buy, pay, get delivery, reduce risk (return policies, guarantees & warranties)
  • Helps the customer learn, use, fix and teach the product. Only a few companies have discovered that customer service isn’t a cost center, it’s a marketing center. Companies like Amazon, Zappo’s, Apple.
  • Should be insisting on better user interfaces, better help methods, better training tools.
  • Should be teaching customers how to expand their use, become more expert.
  • _hould be stimulating word of mouth. Giving the wording, channels, tools and motivation to tell other people. I just happen to have written a book on the subject.

So, it isn’t just about getting people to buy. It’s about smoothing the way, every step of the way.

You want to focus on making the series of potentially difficult decisions easy, simple, fun, smooth, effortless for the customer. And not just up to the moment of purchase. Throughout the life of the product, indeed, throughout your entire relationship with the customer. If you’re doing the right thing, they will trust you. And trust is very practical. It makes the decisions very easy and fast. For instance, Google and Apple make my decisions easy and, therefore, fast. They can be counted on to get it as close to right the first time, then rapidly improve by listening.

The main goal of a business is to provide the best product for a given situation. The main goal of marketing is to get people to see that it is the right choice, given the circumstances. In some circumstances, your product itself, in the abstract, isn’t the best product, or isn’t any better than any other product. But if you make the decisions easy, that is, make it easy to get and weigh information, to try, to use, to deal with you, to tell the people about it, your product then becomes the better product because, even if it’s equivalent in physical characteristics, it’s easier to find, understand, try, learn to use, fix, explain to others, etc. That’s better, even if the physical product is identical to the competitions’.

Where to go next :

My unique approach to marketing

Rent George’s Brain

Word-of-Mouth Marketing isn’t just about getting satisfied customers to recommend your product

No New Social Network Launched Today — Borowitz Report

Andy Borowitz reports:

No New Social Network Launched Today

SILICON VALLEY (The Borowitz Report) – A shockwave hit Silicon Valley today when, for the first time in five years, the day came and went without the launch of a single new social networking site.

Best line: Borowitz quotes someone in Silicon Valley, “I’m creating a new social network just for people who are creating social networks.”

Borowitz Report.

My unique approach to marketing

My approach to marketing is different.

Conventional marketing focuses on persuasion: to make the case better that yours is the more desirable product. That’s good. But there’s a better way.

My approach is to remove or reduce all decision obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, buy or talk about your product.

This is a fundamentally different approach to marketing.

I call it Decision Easification —- because there’s no word on English for “to make things easier.” “Facilitation” doesn’t quite do it.

Let me explain:


The customer goes through several stages on the decision path. Think of them as hills to climb:

Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.


On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:

Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.

So, they (1) stumble enough, (2) turn around and go home or (3) find another product that’s easier to fathom.

It’s at these hidden obstacles that you are losing most of your potential customers.

They’re mostly hidden to you because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, rough and uphill obstacle course.

Example: Take the switch from Windows to Mac. For years,  Apple didn’t get how hard the switch is. Yes, OS X is a simpler, more intuitive way of doing things. But while it’s simpler and easier, it’s different. So, at every difference point, learning or thinking has to happen. That slows people down, disorients them, breaks their flow, and makes them feel frustrated or stupid. Every Windows user knows they will have to go through this, so it’s a gigantic bump on the decision road, up the Culling, Trial and Learning hills. While Apple has made tremendous strides in easing the transition, they are still not there yet. They should have a Windows Transition Mode on their OS and their programs, and run Windows natively on OS X. The point is that Apple can be persuasive and convince people they have an easy-to-use operating system: but they haven’t eased the anticipated and actual transition enough. So, the hidden obstacle is: anticipated transition difficulty. Ease that and sales will multiply.

Your job is to find these friction points and get people past them. In age of overloaded customers, you have to do it — not by glitzy, razzle-dazzle marketing — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier.

If you would like to learn more about getting a one-on-one consultation with me, click here.

What are your marketing questions?

I just noticed something interesting. A lot of people come to this site after having Googled the phrase “Marketing Questions.” So, I looked up the phrase on Google Trends.

Marketing Questions

Pretty interesting and rare. It’s not very often that you see a common phrase suddenly appear with a few spikes and gradually double in a few years.

Even more interesting is that I get one of the top rankings on this phrase in Google Search. And, it’s around 2005 that I put up a lot of pages using that phrase. Here’s one: “Answers to these 23 marketing questions will send your product through the roof.”

In the meantime, the frequency of searches for “marketing” has gone down! (more…)

What do you think of this? HELP!

I’ve just revised my bio. It was pedantic and academic, and didn’t give a picture of what I’m all about. So, I revised it. Here’s the problem, I have Expert Blindness on this subject. While I think I’ve trained myself over the years to have less expert blindness than most, this one’s about the product I’m most expert about, close to and nonobjective about: ME. I don’t have a clue if this gives a picture of me in a good way, or if it’s off track. I’ve tried to reveal who and what I’m about in a way that facilitates decisions about whether to work with me as a marketing consultant. But I look at it and I don’t have a clue. I think you’ll find it interesting, since it summarizes some marketing principles about as succinctly as I’ve ever done.

I’d sure appreciate your frank feedback. Particularly, what was helpful in getting to know me? What gave you pause, raised questions, stimulated qualms, or in any way put you off. Don’t worry about being insulting or trying to be tactful. The main criteria you should use is, “Does this make it easier to get a 1-1.5 hour telephone marketing consultation with George Silverman?” What would make it easier?

You can either answer this email to, or go the About page and enter a comment. Thanks in advance.

I’m posting this as a blog post, so that the people who subscribe via email to get my blog posts will see it. Its actual home is the About page on the menu at the top of the pages on my web site.

To review it, click here

Companies who unseated the leader by making decisions to use them easier:

  • Google — Simple and fast
  • Amazon — “One-Click” simple
  • Staples — “That was easy.”
  • Apple — “It just works.” “Macintosh. It Does More. It Costs Less. It’s that Simple.”
  • Dell Computers — “Easy as Dell”
  • Toyota — “Best built cars in the world”
  • Campbell’s Soup — “Reach for the Campbell’s, it’s right on your shelf.”
  • Duncan Hines Cake Mix and other easy-to-prepare mixes
  • Timex Watches — “Ridiculously easy to use” (Timex with I-Control)
  • McDonalds — 9? Billion Sold
  • GEICO — “So easy a caveman can do it”
  • FedEx — “When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight”
  • Bounty — “The Quicker Picker-upper”
  • Visa — “It’s everywhere you want to be”
  • Nike — “Just do it”
  • Club Med — “The Antidote for Civilization” (all-inclusive, easy, simple)
  • NY Times — “All the news that’s fit to print”
  • WINS Radio, NY — “You give us 20 minutes, we’ll give you the world”
  • Shell Oil — “You can be sure of Shell”
  • Yellow Pages — “Let your fingers do the walking”
  • AT&T — “Reach out and touch someone”
  • Blogger — “Push Button Publishing”
  • Philips — “Sense and Simplicity”

Whole categories are based upon companies that make it easier for the customer to try, buy, use, learn:

  • Supermarkets
  • Fast Food
  • Social Networking
  • Internet Commerce
  • e-books
  • email
  • ATMS

Feel free to add others below. Remember, we’re not talking only about ease-of-use or ease-of-purchase. We’re talking about ease-of-deciding, i.e. decision friendliness.

Remember: The Decision Friendliest Product Wins

Find out more

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Marketing John Galt

Atlas Shrugged —  the marketing phenomenon.

Saw the movie of Atlas Shrugged last weekend. I had high hopes and low expectations. I knew Ayn Rand personally, I’m an admirer of the book and I’ve read it many times. I expected to be disappointed because the book is so rich and deep that I couldn’t imagine how a movie could do it justice. I was sure that with only a 10 million dollar budget, an extremely tight schedule and unknown actors, it wouldn’t even come close to the book. It didn’t. But it was MUCH better than I expected.

I was disappointed by some of the flaws (particularly some actors who didn’t look the part), and some strange directorial choices (couldn’t he find some other things for them to do with their hands besides drink cocktails?). But these are trivial in comparison to the achievement of producing the film itself, and the more important exposure it gives to the central ideas of Ayn Rand.

It managed to capture the main theme of the Ayn Rand book: The difference between the producers who create wealth and the pseudo-capitalists who live off of government influence, bailouts and the redistribution of wealth — and how much  the whole society relies on the producers.

This is primarily a marketing blog (though not always!), and I tend to see things through that filter. I’m always alert to the lessons we can learn from product successes, partial successes, and failures. This is no exception.

While it’s too early to tell if the movie is a commercial success, it’s marketing is already an example of several important “secrets” and has much to teach us. (Remember, I use the word “secrets” in its sense of important but frequently overlooked key principles.)

The Marketing Secrets of Atlas Shrugged.

Secret 1: Product appeal: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 didn’t try to be everything to everybody. It was independently produced. While this is not always desirable, I suspect that, in this case, it allowed for something that is essential: it didn’t have to compromise and please everybody, especially people in larger studios who tend to search for “broad appeal,” trying to please everybody. The secret here is that you have to be something definite, unusual, special even if it turns off large segments of people. In fact, the product which gets people to love it passionately and hate it passionately will win — not the product that everyone likes but doesn’t love. If you market by eliminating objections, you’re sunk. I’m sure there are contrary examples, but I haven’t found one. Take a stand. Make your product definite, flaunt its shortcomings and brag about why it’s unusual and special.

He who tries to be everything to everybody is nothing to anybody.

Secret 2: You don’t have to spend a lot of money, if you’ve got the goods. A certain austerity ($10 Million for a film is minuscule) probably helped the production values. I don’t know; I’m not a film expert. But in marketing, I know. They had virtually no marketing budget. This forced them to think. They used a word-of-mouth campaign that you can read about here:

Hollywood Reporter Article

The most important secrets are to go to the people who can spread the word. In this case, certain commentators, Tea Party groups, other pro-Objectivist groups and allied groups, such as Libertarian and Conservative groups. I would also go to pro-business groups, since this is the first businessperson-as-hero movie in a long time.

So the secret is: leverage your budget and other resources by getting other people to sell your product. Go to the people who would like to see your product succeed. If there are no such people, either you are overlooking them or you need to further develop your product to be one that a small segment of people will RAVE about. THEN, find those people. Or, you can try advertising, but you’re probably wasting your money. Put it in R&D.

Secret 3: Atlas Shrugged was a movie that Ayn Rand admirers have been hoping for, for over 45 years. It’s easier to find high-pent-up-demand products than you think.

Secret 4: Take advantage of spin-off products. People want to have T-Shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, etc. Accommodate them.

Secret 5 & 6: Certainly this was unintentional, but they were forced into scarcity marketing. The movie was only available in 299 theaters around the country (normal is 3000), frustrating large numbers of people, which made them want it more and made them willing to take action. The producers harnessed this frustration through a web site that encouraged people to pressure theater owners to run the film. But they didn’t have enough prints, increasing the desire. The next weekend (the Easter weekend) they were in about 450 theaters. Projections are they will be at a thousand in a week or two.

So, scarcity marketing can help (Secret 5), and don’t neglect turning your customers into salespeople not only to their friends but to more leveraged people such as retailers, distributors and, in this case, theater owners (Secret 6).

Secret 8: Teasers. Atlas is a mammoth book. So, they broke it into three parts, each coming out on Tax Day, April 15th. Now, they can take advantage of the anticipation for two more years.

Secret 7: What’s the product? While it may seem obvious that the product is the movie, it isn’t that simple. In book form, Atlas Shrugged sold about 150,000 copies per year until recently, making it an all-time continual best-seller. However, since Obama was elected, it has sold more than 600,000 copies. As of this writing, the extra publicity about Ayn Rand, her ideas, her uncanny predictions about present events has kicked it up to about 25 on the Amazon best-seller list, amazing for a 50+ year-old book.

So, I think the product is her ideas, made tangible through the book, then the movie coming at a time when it explains so much about our present society that it gets a lot of press about how she predicted what is happening, which increases the sales of the book. Ultimately, it should make Part 2 of the movie, due out next year, much more fundable and a greater success. So, I would say that it’s the brand — call it Ayn Rand’s Ideas, or Objectivism — that is the product.

So, the secret is: think deeply about what the real product is. It probably isn’t what you think it is. What you think you’re selling is probably the material form of what you are really selling.

Get a Free Copy of “The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing – Second Edition”

I have a gift for you, the readers of my blog: a free copy of the Second Edition of my book, “The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.”

I’ve described a little of its history here.

It is a broad, systematic approach to word-of-mouth marketing. It approaches WOMM in principle and avoids getting bogged down in all the details of the tools of word-of-mouth marketing. if you don’t understand the basic principles, you’ll get overwhelmed, fast. That’s what’s happening in life in general and in marketing in particular.

I list dozens of broad categories of new media that have become popular since 2001, the publication date of the first edition. ALL of them contribute to the importance of word of mouth and, therefore, to our overload — to yours as a marketer and to your customers.

Not only are you and your customers in overload, we are in the middle of several simultaneous revolutions. So, I give you some advice for what to do when inside revolutions.

This book will help you know how to think about the wildly changing world we are living in.

The first person who I just gave a preview copy to just emailed, “This isn’t a book about word-of-mouth marketing, it’s a book about life.” I couldn’t have hoped for a higher compliment.

Click on this link to fill out the download form.

Are you selling a product, service or idea? Yes.

You are selling all three. I can’t think of a single product, service or idea that doesn’t at least imply the other two. You are almost certainly neglecting two of these and and missing some great opportunities.

Product: The physical embodiment of what you are selling, how it’s manifest in the world, the deliverable, how you know it’s there.

Service: The actions taken to produce the product.

Idea: The way it’s held in the mind of the customer in thoughts and feelings.

Try to name a single product/service/idea that doesn’t have the other two. You are probably thinking that you have only one of these.

Think about the other two that you are neglecting. There, right in front of you, are the opportunities that you are missing.

Examples of one that people might think don’t have the other two:

Pure Product?

Candy bar: is the service alleviating hunger, giving a treat, a reward, and indulgence? Is the idea “coconut almond” or “deserved reward” or “guilty pleasure”? Your decision is an opportunity.

“Pure commodity” such as gold, steel, soybeans, etc. It’s all about the service: payment terms, delivery, support, advice, guarantee of purity, etc.

An iPod wasn’t mainly a product. We forget that it was an idea: first and foremost it was a way of organizing, storing, sharing and playing your music mess of tapes, CDs, records, files, etc. It was a service that proved that if you make music ridiculously easy to buy, store and organize most people will buy, not steal.

Most great “products” are really great implementations of a great idea.

Conclusion: there is no pure product. There is no parity, me-too, product. A service and idea is always involved.

Pure Service?

A psychotherapist: What’s the product? Health? Growth? Counseling? Confidence? Feeling of well-being? Greater functionality? Greater emotional health? All or some of the above? What’s the “idea”? Remediation or growth. support, fixing, encouraging, greater-self responsibility? Different for each patient? Does the patient know? Is the product delivered in person, by phone, internationally by Skype? Via books, individual sessions, group sessions, speeches, TV talks, a radio call-in program, etc.?

Plumber: Is the product fixing problems, new installations, residential, commercial. Is the idea speed, reliability, always showing up, etc.?

Are Google Search, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter services? Yes. Are they products? Yes. They are at the very least web sites. How you define the product, the idea,  (social contact, finding answers, on-demand goods, instant X, easy X, etc. is worth billions of dollars in these cases. They made the right calls at the right time, and implemented their products brilliantly. None was the first.)

Conclusion: There is no such thing as a pure service that doesn’t have a product and an idea behind it.

Pure ideas?

What if you are selling the idea of Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less Spending? If you are actually trying to “sell” it, i.e., persuade people to agree with you, rather than swirling it around in your head, what’s the product, the actions, of your thinking? Joining/starting a Tea Party chapter? Starting a new party? Writing essays, talking, teaching, etc. If you’re actively selling your idea, there has to be a product of your efforts. What’s the service you will provide? Running for office, teaching, lecturing, public speaking, blogging, etc.?

New product idea: You have an idea for a product or service. You’re not selling it unless you are taking steps to manifest it (that’s the product of your thinking) and you are selectively taking actions in the service of the idea: are you the entrepreneur, the finance person, the inventor, the engineer, some or all of the above? What other services do you need to make the idea into a product?

Conclusion: There are “pure” ideas, but not in the marketing context. As soon as you start “selling” the idea, it has to take the form of a product with its attendant services, or a service with its attendant products.

Again, think about the areas you might be neglecting and how you can change your assumptions.

If you think you might make a million dollars out of these insights, at the very least, you owe me lunch, and a rave in the comments section below.

The simple, timely message wins — How to Make Your Message Simple and Timely

The No-Brainer Solution

I guess after the annual Super Bowl Advertising Debacle — in which advertisers try to show how cool they are by making “in” cultural references and edgy humorous skits that have nothing to do with product benefits — I’m on a clarification and simplification of message kick.

After cleaning up my own messages here and here, I got to thinking about the importance of simple messages. I wrote about it in the 2nd edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. (My presumably left-wing NY editors insisted on taking out the stuff about the Tea Party, but they didn’t have any trouble with the stuff about Obama.). Thought you might be interested in the unexpurgated version if you are in the idea marketing business. And, oh, by the way, believe me, you are in the business of marketing ideas.

Eisenhower once said, Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Secret: To sell an idea, you must find out what people want most, down deeply, under the concrete.

You can’t find it by asking and taking the first answers. You have to probe deeply.. As Henry Ford once said, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, but it would have given him the opportunity to ask a “dumb question,” “Yes, but what would faster horses mean for you?” You have to identify the real desire.

Then, you have to show them how getting it is more important than clinging to and defending some of their most cherished beliefs, such as the idea that the horseless carriage is an infernal machine sent by the devil.

That’s how Obama sold Hope and Change. Those people who were willing to take a chance on him gave him a chance because they so desperately wanted something different, almost anything different. [It was a simple, elegant message, at a time of despair and dissatisfaction.] That message triumphed over a mushy Republican message that I can’t even summarize, and nobody else could either — hence the lack of word of mouth.

That’s why the Tea Party arose soon after, appealing to Independents and Democratic and Republican segments with a simple, brilliant message of “Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less spending.” Everyone got it. You either believed that we were on a disasterous spending binge or you didn’t. The Tea Party refused to get involved in any other issues, leaving that up to the individual candidates to sell locally (simplicity). They will probably win big (They did. This was written in the summer of 2010) because it reflects what people want, in an elegantly simple message. Conventional wisdom is that its popularity was due to “anti-incumbency,” but it’s much more profound than that.

People are willing to change their beliefs when a basic need — in this case their children’s and their own financial security — is threatened and they are presented with a clearly stated solution, and they get the social, word-of-mouth support that is enabled and magnified by the Internet.

Interestingly, one involved a strong central leader, the other the lack of a central leader. For Obama, it was a central person who was unique and spectacularly articulate enough to spark a WOM firestorm over a couple of simple words, “hope and change,”  that summed up people’s frustrations and aspirations.

For the Tea Party Movement, it was also a simple idea, “smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, and the lack of an identified leader that made it possible.

Both tapped into a basic need, and got the word of mouth going in a unique way.

Both illustrate what a simple message at just the right time can do, especially in the Internet Age.

The entire Middle East seems like it’s about to join Yemen and Egypt as the simple American idea — that we seem to keep forgetting — spreads: We don’t want to be told what to do by “rulers.” In other words, liberty and freedom, as rights inherent in individuals, not granted by governments, monarchs or other gangs.

I’m sure you have heard of “flash mobs.” People might decide to show up at a store or an intersection, all at the same time, and swamp all available space. Now, a whole country or even the world can become a flash mob — and they don’t even have to wait for an election.

The lesson for you is the power of the simple, consistent, repeatable, timely message.

My message in the Age of Overload: Ease the decisions. Make your product, service, and ideas a “no-brainer.”

How? Stay tuned. What, you don’t have a subscription? Sign up, free. See, I made it easy.

A little more detail about the 3-sentence Secrets of Marketing

This site is about ONE central idea:

“Easify” the customer decision process:

It’s The Secret Key to Marketing Success

  • Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
  • So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
  • So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.

    Conventional marketing: make the product look more desirable.

    My approach: Eliminate the decision blocks.

    A little more detail: Every decision path has several major stages. Think of them as hills to climb:

    Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.

    On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:

    Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, fog, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.

    If they stumble enough, they pause, flounder, go home or find another product that’s easier to fathom. It’s at these hidden obstacles that you’re losing most of your potential customers.

    They’re mostly hidden because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to understand and get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, hilly obstacle course.

    Your job is to identify these friction points and get people past them. In this day and age, you have to do it — not only by being more persuasive — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier. Give them shortcuts past the hills.

    Conventional marketing tries to be more persuasive: to make the case better that this is the more desirable product.

    My approach is to remove all possible obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves getting finding and eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, try, buy or talk about the product. Every click. Every unnecessary word. Every distracting graphic. Everything that doesn’t clarify. Everything that isn’t from the right source, in the right medium, in the right form, at the right level of detail, in the right sequence, for the right kind of customer.

    This is a different approach to marketing that has caused record-breaking sales increases.

    I’ve finally distilled the secret to marketing success into 3 sentences

    The Secret Key to Marketing Success

    • Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
    • So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
    • So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.

    I’m the leading expert on easifying the customer decision process. If you want clever word play, pretty pictures, or other razzle-dazzle, I’m not your guy. But if you’ve tried all that, try my approach. It’s easier, cheaper and so much more effective.

    I keep telling my consulting clients that they need to have a terse statement like this that sums up the essence of their differences, but they are blocked by expert blindness. I’m no exception. It’s taken 10 years to come up with these three sentences for myself. If there were another decision easification consultant in the world, he or she could have done it for me in a few hours, except for one thing: S/he also would have also had expert blindness in this area! But in your area, I’m an expert in easification, and just ignorant enough to say it simply.

    Learn a little more about the secret to marketing success.