Tag Archives: marketing strategist


Three Marketing Communication Lessons from “Cool Hand Luke”

There are nine words uttered not only about an iconic movie hero but also by many of us engaged in the delivery of marketing communication.

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It was my daughter who suggested we watch the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” because she had heard many cultural references and wanted to see what it was about. As a movie lover, I’m always up for a classic flick, especially if it features a young Paul Newman (who, with his southern drawl and devil-may-care attitude, continually reminded me of Matthew McConoughy in his day).

In case you haven’t seen it, Newman plays the title role, a man sent to a southern work jail for vandalizing parking meters in a drunken haze one night. Luke is an irrepressible rebel, who first provokes, then gradually earns the respect of his fellow inmates. The quintessential quote from the movie occurs in a scene when Luke smarts off to one of the overseers, “Captain”, played by Strother Martin. Captain roughly shoves him down a hill in an attempt to discipline him and then explains to the men nearby who are looking on as a way of explanation, “What we have here is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

You can’t help but feel the corners of your mouth twitch upward. It’s a dark, comedic moment. There was no communication problem, of course. Luke heard everything the warden ever said, including a speech about how he “better get used to those chains clinking” and never try to escape. (Luke also reprises the quote right before…well, I won’t spoil it for you!). The problem was not the communication, but the fact that the communication was ignored. Luke heard, but didn’t obey. (Nor would he ever, which is why he was such a great character to watch!)

But if you’re an entrepreneur, in sales or even on a marketing team in your company, you can understand the frustration of dealing with “one-way” communication. When you send a blog post, social media message or eblast into the world and nobody replies (or only a small number do) you can easily become disheartened. Did you waste all that time, effort and budget for nothing?

The answer, in my opinion, is always “no”. Anytime you communicate, even if it is one-way, you make an impression, which can be the beginning of a meaningful dialogue. But how do we move the needle from our audience “hearing” our message to actually “acting” on it? It’s the $64 million dollar question isn’t it? It’s never in our complete control…but there are a few things we can do to move the needle.

Tell them again and again. I read a statistic once that it takes 5-7 impressions of your brand for people to recognize it. Repetition is key, which is why any communication effort is never wasted. While it may not garner an immediate response, it can indeed make the all important first impression, or it can be the final impression that convinces them to pick up the phone. Either way, it is never a wasted effort.

Telling them “again and again” requires a marketing strategy. The specifics of the what, where, when and how all play into the success of the communication and should be carefully considered. In Luke’s case, he received the message that he better not try to escape from the jail repeatedly, but it fell on deaf ears. This may happen too, but we never want people to call your competitor because they were not aware of your offering. They need to be told…many times.

Tell them in different ways. In the biz, we call these the communication channels. Your website is one channel you are probably already using to give everyone your message, but how else can you reach your audience? Are they on social media? At the trade show? At special events? A new marketing piece? Your message will only be effective if you place it where your audience will see it. For example, choose your social media channels carefully; if your audience is on Twitter, rather than Facebook, that’s where your message should be.

Tell them what to do. This is an incredibly simple yet overlooked principle by many entrepreneurs or marketing newbies. We call it the “call to action.” After you deliver your message, tell your audience what to do next, i.e., click here, call today for a consultation, fill out our quote form. A call to action does more than just reap your reward. By offering a suggestion, you actively engage the reader to make a conscious decision to act or not act, rather than just go on to the next thing. For a split second, they need to consider the validity of your request in regard to their situation. Otherwise they just read or hear your message and think, “that’s nice” and go on to the next thing. It only makes sense that you would be more concerned with their reaction to your message than they would be. Ask for what you want or you may not get it.

All things considered, the Captain wasn’t a bad communicator. He delivered his message repeatedly, and through the use of clubs, tracking hound dogs, armed guards, etc. he subtly told Luke in many different ways that if he tried to escape, there would be consequences. He also was clear about what he wanted: unconditional subordination, which was something Luke couldn’t give.

We too will craft beautiful blogs, amazing marketing campaigns and the most dynamic, interactive website you can imagine and the engagement statistics may fall short of our expectations. But we should remember that while we may not actually see the full effect of our efforts, we will have undeniably accomplished one very substantial goal. Contrary to what the Captain may say, we will have skillfully demonstrated our ability to communicate.

Karen Dix is the owner of Big Ideas Writing, a content development and marketing strategy firm. Visit at www.bigideaswriting.com.

How Finding the Right Corporate Message is Like Carving a Pumpkin

What does carving a jack o’ lantern and finding a new corporate message have in common?


For some people, change is the scariest word in the English language. To Americans in this election year, or businesses facing a marketing challenge, change can be as frightening as those movies they always seem to air on TV this time of year. But before a pumpkin can become a jack o’ lantern, it must undergo a true transformation, losing pieces of itself to become something even more fantastical and magnetic to everyone around it. This is not unlike a business finding the right corporate message.

One of the joys of being in marketing is ushering companies through exciting changes. Whether it’s a new website, launching a blog program or a complete re-branding effort, revamping the existing (or creating something new out of nothing) is always an exhilarating challenge that interestingly, has a lot in common with carving that pumpkin. For example…

You remove the top from where it sits. You have to shake up things a little to produce change, right? How else can you get an objective viewpoint unless you get the cooperative leader, CEO or founder of the company to take a different perspective on what’s happening with the company? Only then can we objectively assess the company from the outside looking in. It’s just a temporary move…we always put the top back on, don’t we? It’s important, though, to remove the top to welcome the change that’s yet to come.

You take a good look inside. Scooping and scraping away the sinewy, slimy threads of “pumpkin guts” is important to get to the smooth, fleshy, peach-colored innards that reflect any new light we put inside our Halloween creation. This reminds me of the research phase when I’m working with a company to find out what makes it tick. Inside a pumpkin we find the seeds. Inside a business, we find the people who can help the company grow and prosper.

You check out the competition.  Do you peek at Pinterest for jack o’ lantern designs before you put knife to pumpkin? Every company needs to be aware of what their competitor is doing before they can properly position themselves in the marketplace. They also need to know themselves. Not every face looks great on a tall oblong pumpkin. Some look better on a short, round one.

You carve the face.  After careful deliberation, a splash of creative planning and a deep breath, you begin the transformation of the pumpkin into the jack o’lantern. There is no cry of pain from a pumpkin, and it doesn’t have to be painful for a company either to launch a new brand, marketing message or positioning statement. Nothing too easy is ever worthwhile. Stick to the plan, implement it in a slow, steady manner and the change will happen painlessly, before you know it!

You set the light inside.  As you set a light inside, the pumpkin has completed its transformation into a jack o’ lantern for all to see! The business can get a new “face” too. It can give its target audience a glimpse into its center, and reveal itself in a new way with a fresh, compelling corporate message. While a jack o’ lantern attracts trick or treaters with its newfound light, the business can expect good things too, like new markets, more leads, perhaps a business award or just putting a good scare into competitors!

This fall will be a time of transformation for the country, just as it is for so many pumpkins out there. If it is time for a change in your company’s marketing strategy, remember that change doesn’t have to be scary. Feel free to contact me and find out how.


Professional Freelance Writing Not Your Target MarketI find myself asking clients this question on a daily basisand I’m often surprised by the answer.  As a professional freelance copywriter and marketing strategist,  I need to know who they want to communicate their message to before I begin working with them. Finding a target market can be daunting but it’s at the heart of effective marketing.  So while  I may not know who your customer IS,  I certainly know who your customer IS NOT.

Your customer is NOT “anyone who will buy”.  Having a target market this large will lead to frustration. Plus it makes putting together a marketing plan completely impossible. How can we decide where to spend the marketing budget when the audience iseveryone?  Divide that chunk of the audience into specific, smaller pieces. Easier to chew that way.

Your customer is NOT “everyone in the world”.  If you put a geographic constraint on your target market you will find a more manageable audience to talk to. You may have a great product but are you really going to sell it overseas immediately? Market in phases. Today, Chicago.  Tomorrow, then the Midwest. Next week, the coast. And so on.

Your customer is probably NOT “from age one to 100.”  I can’t think of many products that would appeal to both of these age groups and I don’t think they’ve started giving credit cards to babies yet.  Define your target market by age. This helps determine how you market as well as the tone you use to communicate. Respect the generation gap and communicate accordingly.

Your customer is NOT “rich and poor.”  The socioeconomic level of your audience is important because it will determine the access they have to different marketing channels. This in turn, will help you determine how to spend your marketing dollars. The price point of your product and services will play a role in defining this demographic as well.

Strategic placement of your marketing message is key to reaching your audience. Think about the specific places your target audience moves, lives, goes for information and entertainment.  A strategic plan will arise.

If you need to determine your target market and write a strategic plan to reach them, Big Ideas Writing can help.  Call us at 630-778-6182.




Deciding Your Marketing BudgetAccording to Marketing Sherpa, 68% of SMBs are planning to increase their marketing budget in 2013. The very thought of it makes the heart of this web content writer skip a beat with the hope that some of them might seek my services. An increased marketing budget is always exciting but making decisions about how to spend it can be tricky.  Here are five questions to answer before deciding on a new marketing strategy.

Who is your target market?  This is such a basic question that companies forget to keep asking it.  Sometimes the cogs are in place, the wheels are in motion but a company fails to reach the people they want. Why?  Because their target market or demographics have changed!  Make sure your company has kept abreast of who is using your products/services and why.

How does your target market find your products/services…today?  Statistics show that the number of shoppers using the internet for purchases has risen 23% between 2009 and 2015.  For  service-based businesses, the internet is often the critical path to customers.  Make sure your web presence is strong enough to entice and convert your prospective customers.  In other marketing channels, make sure you have a presence where your customers are.  If they are using Facebook and Twitter, then you should too.  If they attend a particular trade show, make your reservation.

Will current marketing strategies continue to work in the future?  If you have more dollars to spend, you can do more of the same or something completely different.  Depending on your business, the market and the sophistication of your audience, a bigger budget may create the opportunity to try a new marketing avenue with unprecedented success!

What kind of ROI do you need to see?  Hopefully, your company has some metrics and means of measuring the ROI of your current marketing campaigns in place. If not, a subjective assessment is needed, at the least, before spending/buying decisions are made for the coming year.  Then it becomes a matter of value for your dollar as you determine your strategy. In most cases, social media and internet marketing will come out on top as the most cost-effective ways to spend your dollars.

What kind of manpower do you require?   If you can increase your marketing activity using the existing staff in your marketing department, congratulations.  However, you may find you need to expand by hiring a part-time or full-time employee, or a freelancer.  Often a reasonably priced freelancer can serve as your outsourced graphic designer, marketing strategist or professional freelance copywriter to update your website content, write your blog or post your social media. 

Whatever decisions you make, make them wisely.  In the marketing world, a few dollars spent prudently can rival the results of a larger budget spent foolishly!