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Marketing Ploys That Drive Me Mad

Marketing for the Masses Leaves Me Cold

I’ve always had an issue with ad agencies who insist on treating their audience like illiterate imbeciles. In fact, I’m often irrationally offended by some of the ad campaigns. That’s not to say I don’t find some of them both entertaining and creatively elegant. But those are few and far between. Some, however, really send me over the edge.

While I realize their intent is to stick in people’s minds when they shop for the company’s product, I fail to see how insulting our intelligence accomplishes the goal. The fact that they’re memorable only reminds me of companies I’ll never do business with because of their determination to reach the lowest common denominator, which appears to the the mind of a 10-year-old who finds things like farts amusing.

Here are some examples of those I find offensive and unworthy of my business:

Geico – I’ve had about enough of the stupid gecko and all his antics, and frankly, the camel is no better.

State Farm – Who can blame the nightgown-clad wife for failing to believe her husband is surreptitiously talking to “Jake” about insurance at 3 in the morning? That they’ve now put an actor into the role of “Jake” and placed him, in all his annoying glory in other versions of their ad isn’t making me feel any more confident of the company, or willing to spend my money on their services.

Trollies – Repeating their name in a sing-song voice is just annoying, as far as I’m concerned, though I suspect they’re achieving their goal of getting young kids to beg for the unhealthy treat they sell.

Haribo- Seriously? A conference table full of adults in business suits talking like 4-year-olds? Again, it’s clearly a ploy to make kids beg their parents to buy the candy, but I find it in very poor taste.

Progressive – Flo has always been annoying, as far as I’m concerned, but if possible, Chris, or whatever his name is is infinitely worse. And their Zoom call is the kind of joke I’d boo a comedian off the stage for (and trust me, I’ve seen some bad comedy that I either sat through silently, or got up and walked out on, but have never booed anyone off the stage!).

Ore-Ida – Up until now, I was ambivalent, but their new “potato pay” ad aimed at bribing kids with french fries to eat their vegetables? I find this both reprehensible, and ill-advised.

Liberty Mutual – In my opinion, the worst of the bunch. From a blithering idiot with a psychotic emu, to a babbling actor who can’t say a few simple lines, they insult my intelligence, and offend my senses every time one of their ads comes on. More than once, I’ve been tempted to throw a shoe at the screen.

Ad Agencies Selling Desperation and False Happiness

The toxic creativity of the ad teams for companies like these makes me eternally grateful for the of the DVR, and the option to record what I want to watch so I can fast-forward through the commercials and watch movies and shows without the annoying commercial breaks.

Thankfully, although many companies have made the leap to free online games, the most annoying have yet to discover the appeal, perhaps because those of us who play those games are on a higher intellectual plane, and, like me would give them the opposite result, and put their clients on a “do not buy” list.

The saddest part of all this is with so many creative, and clever ad campaigns out there, the most memorable are also the most annoying. In a lot of ways, they’ve caused me to tune out no matter who’s commercial is on the screen. But they’re not doing it alone. I’m also appalled by the number of ads for:

  • Drugs
  • Attorneys touting class-action suits against drug companies
  • Tax evasion assistance
  • Anti-aging products (come on, ladies! We’ve earned those age spots, extra pounds, and grey hairs! Who says we have to be model perfect at 50, 60, 70, or 80? We made it this far, and I, for one celebrate it!)
  • Exercise programs and equipment
  • Medical Equipment that’s supposedly covered by Medicare (and likely carries an extremely high price tag as a result)

Avoidance Behavior Caused by Immoral Advertising

Any one of these earns, at best, an eye roll from me. I love my Hallmark movies, but they seem to be funded by all of the above. In their defense, I guess they know their average audience, and someone spent a lot of time and money to figure it out. I never fit anyone’s expectations, and I’m certainly not average in any way shape or form, though it took me years to realize it.

Also cringe-worthy are products which created a need we never knew we had so they could solve it, for the meager price of {insert dollar figure here}. From Botox to Plexaderm, turkey neck to muffin tops, why must they try to make people feel bad about themselves; about the natural process of aging? I doubt surgery, expensive serums, or weight reduction pills make anyone feel better about themselves. And I’m certain none of them make a person healthier, physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. In fact, I suspect they make things worse more often than not.

All About the Money But Give Me Subtlety and A Good Story

I don’t doubt people are making a lot of money creating ad campaigns. Heaven knows, the they represent wouldn’t pay over $5 million for a Super Bowl spot if they didn’t expect to make astronomical profits from the ads. I shudder to think what they paid for the creation of those ads in order to make them Super Bowl worthy! I know I watch the game to see what those companies produce for entertainment value alone.

Speaking of Super Bowl, I have to say that Budweiser rarely misses the mark, especially when they use the Clydesdales, dogs, or both. While I’m not a beer drinker, I do love the ads they put out, not only for Super Bowl, but for veterans on the 4th of July, as well as their ads that combine horses and dogs, like this one. One of my favorites is the one about the puppy who really wanted to be with the horses. You can find it here.

There are plenty of other companies who tickle my fancy rather than insulting my intelligence. I enjoy their commercials even if they sell a product I don’t buy. Coke is one, and I loved their polar bear, and penguin commercials for the pure creativity involved. They definitely scored high on my cuteness meter, and I’d watch the ads at least once or twice just for fun. As a writer, I appreciate creativity. As a business owner, I don’t appreciate a company that shoves their product in my face with the only overt message being “buy my product because it’ll make you better, happier, more attractive” or some other BS.

Long story short, you may get my attention by either tickling my fancy, or insulting my intelligence. Guess whose product or service I’m more likely to buy, if it’s something I’d use anyway?

Advertising Makes Me Grateful for So Much

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I have the intelligence to weed out things I don’t need, and companies who don’t respect my discerning nature.
  2. I’m grateful we all have choices, even if not all of them are good ones.
  3. I’m grateful for the time I’ve put in appreciating my body and myself. I know I have room for improvement, but that won’t be found in lotions, potions, or surgery.
  4. I’m grateful for the healthy habits I continue to add to my arsenal.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; health, wisdom, intelligence, joy, inspiration, motivation, commitment to myself and my goals, appreciation for the small things, family, friendship, love, joy, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income.

If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Upgrading My Marketing Mindset

Marketing Makes Me Ill

I admit it. I’m a hater, at least when it comes to marketing for myself. The idea of trying to sell my own services is the stuff of nightmares. But as a solopreneur, I’m learning you simply have to suck it up and find a way to do it.

That’s not to say we have to sound like those annoying car salesmen who used to frequent the limited TV channels when I was a kid. We just have to learn to put ourselves out there and give people an opportunity to ask us about the services or products we offer.

As a writer, the most common of these is pitching. Unfortunately, my brain has twisted that word into a rather unappetizing pretzel as palatable as the afore-mentioned care salesman. Though I can’t get completely away from pitching, I have been able to soften the word so it doesn’t stick in my craw.

Proposing vs. Pitching

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to write proposals and that’s where I start to hit my stride. I spent far too many hours working with a proposal team in my last job, and have taken much of what I learned in those hours to heart. There are plenty of do’s and even more don’ts about proposal writing. My favorite of all of them is the “so what?” approach to evaluating a proposal.

The “so what?” approach essentially looks at all you’re offering the client or customer from their standpoint. If you can’t show the benefits of something you’re offering, or demonstrate how it will make their life easier, they’ll likely read it and wonder why you even included it. Many things fall into this category including lengthy descriptions of your assets and attributes. Believe me, a potential client doesn’t give a horse’s patoot how many years you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to feel comfortable handing over not only their hard-earned cash, but tasks they want done on time, within budget, and above all, done right.

Testimonials from previous customers are great, but in this day and age, they’ve probably already looked at your website and seen the testimonials.

The Key is in the Customization

Remember all those resumes and cover letters you’ve sent out over the years? And remember when you finally learned that sending generic ones would most likely get you passed over no matter how good your qualifications were? A decent proposal (or pitch or query or whatever word you choose to use) is much the same. Sure, I use a template. I suspect most freelancers do. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel every time we propose a job. But you have to take the time to learn something about the client and their company.

Sometimes, they’re not very forthcoming about their business, so you have to read between the lines. Sometimes, you’ll get a little bit of information from your direct questions, but the real gold comes from doing a little research, and from conversations and emails. In short, from less formal communications.

Lately, I’ve found that asking an innocent question in the context of the conversation will yield gems you weren’t expecting, but which will give you insight into what the client is really trying to accomplish with the service or product you offer. (From here on out, I’m just going to talk about services since that’s what I do. Product marketing is an entirely different ballgame anyway).

Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts

In the last couple of months I’ve learned a few useful things about potential clients and proposals which are making me look at the whole process from a much less revolted point of view.

  • Rarely is the service you’re proposing your contact’s priority. They’ve been given the task of coordinating with potential candidates, but they have a lot of other responsibilities which are more important than what you’re proposing.
  • Patience is rewarded. Because of the first point, you may experience long lags between your responses and theirs. Get used to it. Check in once a week or so, but don’t be a pest. You’ll often learn where things stand priority-wise if you ask for a little time to respond to their latest request.
  • Always believe that no news is good news once you’re communicating with the potential client. I’ve sent out my share of queries which never even get opened, so I know what it feels like to send my best efforts into a black hole—every freelancer and solopreneur I know has files full of rejections by silence. So when you do get someone to respond, take it as a yes until such time as, god forbid, they tell you no.
  • (This one should probably have gone first, but this list is not in order of importance) Spend time on the company website getting to know who you want to be working with. This is where strong investigative skills come in handy. But you can certainly take note of the obvious things like pages on their site (for me, one of the first things I look for is evidence of a blog. If it exists, I look at how active it is, and when they last posted). From there, look for the services or products they offer, the people they serve, and the problems they solve.
  • Leave room in your proposal for services above and beyond what you’re proposing. Make sure you have a clause which covers you for “scope creep”. I see many freelance service providers complaining about clients who take advantage of them.  Putting the “scope creep” clause in the proposal and contract tells the client exactly what they’re signing up for and when additional work will require a new or modified contract.
  • Whether you’re dealing with the company President or someone 20 steps down the ladder, respect and consideration go a long way. Those gate keepers have the power to lock you out. Never lose sight of that. I’m reminded of the years I worked in Corporate America. Until computers rendered a lot of secretarial tasks obsolete, every director and upper-level manager had a secretary or admin and woe be to the person who got on that admin’s bad side. When all else fails, put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated by someone whether you’re just recommending them or you’re the decision-maker?
Learning to Wait, Revise, and Rethink

Patience has never been my strong suit. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m gaining a newfound level of respect for a friend who is a commercial realtor. Many times, I’ve seen her comment on the latest iteration of a contract, often in double digits. As I propose and re-propose myself, I’m learning it’s just part of the process. People re-evaluate. When they see something in black and white, it makes them think about what they truly want. They’re not trying to be difficult. They simply want to be clear on how the problem they’re facing should be solved.

I’m also gaining an appreciation for marketing, and despite the many voices telling me it’s just a numbers game and I have to send out a million pitches, I believe we have to find what works for us. When I hear someone say they get sick to their stomach whenever they pitch, yet they spend a significant part of their day doing it, I have to ask Why would you want to do something that feels like a bad case of morning sickness? Be creative. Find something that works without the physical discomfort.

I’m one who gets physically ill just thinking about selling myself. But I’m also not willing to give up on myself, so I’m taking my own advice and looking for a better way. Part of that is talking to people who more about putting yourself out there to gain recognition and trust rather than playing the numbers game. I spent enough of my life playing with numbers. I’m learning I prefer words, hands down.

Gratitude Always Works

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful there is more than one way to reach my goals.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples I see before me. Some, I’ll incorporate into my strategy, others I won’t. It doesn’t mean any of them are bad. Some are just a better fit for me.
  3. I’m grateful for dance nights, even when the DJ plays the same old boring dances instead of the many new ones we’ve learned. I get my exercise, my social engagement, and my hugs.
  4. I’m grateful for the upgrades I’ve made in my house in the last week or two. They’re neither expensive nor earth shaking. But they make me feel better, clearer, and more confident of my ability to attract the things I dream of.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, manifestations, inspiration, motivation, companionship, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


The Facebook Live associated with this post can be found here.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

December 12, 2014 Today’s quandary #shericonaway #copywrite

To copywrite or not to copywrite, that is the question.

Today, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. But before I proceed, let me provide a little back story: As my loyal readers know, I quit my job a year ago to focus solely on writing. In that time I have completed the first draft and first revision on one novel and the first 50,000 words on a second one. I’ve also learned that getting a novel from inception to publication is not a quick process.

In July, I purchased a copywriting course from AWAI, believing that this might be the solution to my cash flow until I started publishing novels. Well into the third chapter of the course, I found myself floundering, struggling to even get myself motivated to do the work, in part because bald faced sales pitches have never been of interest to me, and, in fact, I skim through one or two that I receive just for the amusement value. Do people really get sucked in by this stuff? Of course they do, or it wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry. But could I look myself in the mirror after doing that kind of writing? Hard to say.

So, what’s the dilema, you say? Seems pretty simple, right?

On the one hand, finishing the course and following the guidelines would likely bring me a source of revenue while the novel writing/editing/revising/promoting process continues. It might also give me a platform with which to do said promoting. On the other hand, I find myself resisting every attempt to continue the course and, in fact, have already decided to skip over one part which has me completely blocked. On the other hand, why am I really pursuing it? If it’s true that doing what you love with passion and devotion will attract whatever you need, then using my writing with the sole intent of making money is surely sending the wrong message and might well stifle my truly creative endeavors.

Yet, a girl has to eat, the mortgage must be paid, the cats must be fed and vet bills met. I do have the other option of trying to drum up more accounting business, but frankly, that makes me break out in a cold sweat, even more than finishing the copywriting course and marketing myself that way.

Writing has always been my passion, my resource and my refuge.

I’m not really looking for someone to give me an answer here. The fact is, whenever I’ve been faced with a serious decision, a major turning point, a struggle or a frustration, I’ve always turned to my very best friend in the world: the written word. I have innumerable brain dumps in which I poured out my thoughts, feelings, concerns and woes to either a piece of paper or a computer screen, knowing that I’d get a completely non-judgmental ear. Sure, I wouldn’t get any sage advice or sympathy either, but maybe that’s not what I was looking for. I truly believe that every answer we need is inside ourselves, either via our connection to the Universe as a whole, or through the experiences our spirit has had in the many human lifetimes it has already passed.

Sometimes, just the act of getting the words out into the world is enough to stir those mental juices into finding a solution or making a decision. My hope is that this time won’t be the exception to my lifelong rule. Often, just saying or writing the words opens a door to allow just the right piece of information in.

I ask you this: What do you do when you’re on the horns of a dilemma, unable to move forward until you’ve given yourself an answer?

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned making lists, though in this case, I don’t see a list developing, other than a list of questions. I’ve found, though, that some problems and questions lend themselves better to lists and others to just a free flow of thoughts. In this case, I’m going to go with the free flow. What about you? How might you approach something like this?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for an avenue which helps me pull my thoughts together.
2. I am grateful for the creativity with which I have been blessed.
3. I am grateful for quiet, rainy days which lend themselves to deep thoughts and staying in my pajamas all day.
4. I am grateful for the cleansing rain which has bathed my home this week. I pray that those adversely affected can soon make a full recovery.
5. I am grateful for abundance: inspiration, cogitation, laughter, love, friendship, joy, health, harmony, peace and prosperity.


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