B2B, business, copywriting, marketing, website

5 Companies that are Getting Marketing Language Right

How many times have you looked at a company’s website and come away still not knowing what they do? Maybe they build wizardly rainmakers but who can be sure? The homepage hits you with: “Improve your economics with the increased cloudification of your networks driven by the widespread growth of loT, mobility and 5G.”

In other words, in order to know anything about this company, you need to speak telco. But since your site’s homepage is a public business card, why not give the rest of us a sentence or two about why we should care? If the summary of what you do is help keep companies safe from massive data breaches and save them money at the same time, then why not say that?

So what companies are doing communication right? Here are five to start.

1). 23 and me–at Interactive Day San Diego last week, Jean Freeman, agency head of Zambezi was asked about brands she thinks are doing a good job delivering strong, clear messaging. She cited 23 and me, the genetic testing service that enables you to trace your ancestry, giving it high marks for “synthesizing complex information with infographics and making it accessible for consumers.”

Their homepage below not only tells you exactly what they do, it makes you instantly curious about your favorite subject (you).

23 and Me

2). Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. All I can say is I hope they pay their copywriters well because they’re brilliant. Like many people, I love Trader Joe’s for its great prices, quirky hippie vibe and friendly bell-ringing ‘crew members.’

But the thing they do really, really well is create desire for their products. Who needs terms like ‘demand creation’ when you can get moved to buy a box of lemon cake mix you didn’t know you wanted until you read a magic blurb like this:

trader joe's

Joe, you had me at ‘Gilding this lemony lily of a dessert…’

3). AirBnB–yes this company isn’t exactly an up-and-comer and they have a massive ad budget, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve props for nailing the wanderlust in all of us. Check out their homepage below and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to get your wheeled North Face duffel out of the garage right this minute.


Notice the word ‘unique’ is on this site as well as 23 and me. Sounds basic but we all crave uniqueness. In the Maslow hierarchy this fits somewhere between ‘love/belonging’ and the highest state of ‘self actualization.’ We all want to believe who we are and what we do matter–whether it’s our DNA or our experiences. AirBnB takes the fear out of where to start and let’s you imagine what your living room in New Delhi could look like. It dares you to go somewhere with strong images and just a few words.

4). Kyriba–going a completely different direction, here’s an example of a rapidly growing technology company in San Diego. They’re not a household name, and their product is a very niche enterprise software for businesses who need help with their treasury management.

They aren’t marketing to consumers, but see that? Even I can explain in one sentence what they do. Why? Because, although their site goes deep into geek speak about cloud solutions once you enter it, their homepage is clean and clear. The language is about you–not them. ‘We understand your challenges,’ hits another couple of points on Maslow’s hierarchy: ‘safety’ and ‘esteem’–the need to ensure your company is respected and engaging in safe financial practices. You’re then invited for a consultation. A very tight entry page for a complex suite of products.


5). Canva–I will admit I’m in love with this site and its easy design tools and templates that even a hopeless rookie like me can use. What makes it amazing, though, isn’t the expected elements like the site’s sleek and spare imagery that’s meticulously wrought with an experienced and disciplined hand.

No, what makes it work is the un-intimidating and simple language from the moment you enter the site: ‘Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and professional layouts to design consistently stunning graphics.’ Who wouldn’t want consistently stunning? If you haven’t been here yet, this is a seriously cool site and it makes downloading free templates for everything from a resume to a baby shower invite really easy, which addresses a pain point many people would have when considering a DIY graphic design site. Notice the first word in this headline is ‘Easily.’ Boom.


Good communication is about making it easy for the person who’s reading about your company to understand who you are and what you’re offering. It’s also about talking to the customer–their needs, their desires–without crowing right out of the gate. It’s challenging yet intuitive. These five companies do a great job striking that balance.

email subject lines, Uncategorized

Best & Worst Email Subject Lines for Salespeople

Most salespeople spend a good part of each day trying to come up with breakthrough email subject lines to get prospects to open and hopefully read their emails. Trolling for new ideas, I happened upon the blog below offering 29 email subject lines proven to get the attention of the person at the other end. Some are great. But some you should absolutely not use if you want to stay in the game.

Let’s start with the clunkers that are obnoxious at best and rude at worst. Never would I ever send a prospect an email with some of the subject lines advised below. For example: #7 Should I Stay or Should I Go?,  #4 Do Not Open this Email, #14 Where is the Love?, #15 You are not Alone, or, #17 Feeling Blue? Like Baby Pandas? I mean, seriously? Unless you had a recent conversation about your client’s trip to the mountains of Sichuan, China, please don’t follow up with a random YouTube video of frolicking baby pandas. And the one asking ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?‘ practically begs the recipient to send a single word reply with the word, ‘Go.‘ But that’s just me.

Unless you’re really dialed in to your client’s sense of humor–my vote is don’t risk your brand just for the sake of getting someone to open your email. Ditto trying to force a response from someone by offering an email with a break-up subject line like #1Permission to Close Your File?  Yup, shut it. And then go away, please.

The overriding guiding principle: first bring value. These people don’t owe you anything. Remember that, and you will start winning. Because your prospects will know an email from you usually has something they need. Furthermore, people are busy, and scattered, and getting back to you with an answer isn’t their first priority, even though they swore they’d have an answer on your killer proposal by Wednesday and you are still waiting for a responses the following Tuesday.

So what are some good opening lines? I liked all the ones that led with ideas: #13 (X) Tips for (Pain Point)  or #12 A Benefit for Client Name Here or #18 ‘Idea for_______, or #25 ‘Some Blogs You Might Like And certainly the basics like #3 Our Next Steps or  #11 Hoping to Help are a vast improvement over ‘Checking In’ or ‘Update?’

But what do you do to get a response from the decision maker on a lingering proposal where you’re getting radio silence? Not listed below but I’ve had good luck with: ‘Do You Have Everything you Need?‘ or, ‘Any Feedback on Proposal?‘ And if pushed where you’ve done multiple outreaches to no reaction, it’s fair to ask a direct question that doesn’t use gimmicks or threats. If you really feel all is lost then go ahead and send an email with the subject line, ‘Is XYZ Proposal Still Alive?‘ Usually you will get an answer, and sometimes it will be better news than you think, where your prospects replies with something like, “Yes, thanks for your patience. Our budget is on hold for three more weeks and we should have an answer for you then.” You keep the conversation going without nuking the bridge, which even when people deserve it, you should never do. Really. Just don’t do it. You’ll regret it when the person you sent that snarky email to becomes the CMO of a company you really want to do business with.

In summary, just be really good at what you do. And make tons of calls. Because if you do, you won’t be moved to resort to email subject lines that don’t honor you or your client. But, you should still check out the link below. Because there’s some really good ones also. And different approaches work for different people.


creative selling, disruptive media, Got Milk?, sales

We Got Food & Wine to Change its Name to Food & Milk! (No, really).

One of the more creative integrated campaigns I’ve worked on as a sales person was with the CA Milk Processor Board (AKA Got Milk) with Goodby Silverstein in San Francisco. Jeff Goodby himself was on our initial kick-off call, where my team and I had the seemingly impossible task of convincing the editors at Food & Wine to allow a custom cover wrap over the existing December 2017 cover renaming its fabled brand to “Food & Milk.” And, oh, this would be mailed to every California subscriber.

The goal was to produce a fresh creative stunt for the holidays to get consumers to think of milk as a beverage that belonged on the big people’s table along with the appetizers as part of its “Food Loves Milk” campaign that also included TV and digital.

In a lesson in patience, perseverance, diplomacy and sheer will–it got done. But, here’s just a few of the hurdles we had to jump over to get there:

  1. Editors weren’t opposed to the idea, but understandably wanted to be involved and review all concepts.
  2. Agency was fine with this but wanted to view the actual cover image to ensure their creative was in harmony.
  3. Time Inc. legal wasn’t a fan of either of these ideas and dithered for weeks on the feasibility of the concept.
  4. Finally, the legal team shifted their interpretation of this being a ‘copyright infringement’ to a ‘brand takeover’ and we got a green light.
  5. Then the US Postal Service got in on the act. Apparently, we’d incur a hefty postal up charge if we wanted to pursue this as it violated the periodical rate. We’re talking a six-figure increase.
  6. Finally, we arrived at a concession where the actual Food & Wine logo could appear in a tiny font below the Food & Milk logo, which satisfied the requirement and we got the up charge waived.
  7. We then discovered that the Food & Wine logo, though simple and elegant, is actually a custom font. As such, we had to engage the services of the Time Inc. (now Meredith) creative studio, The Foundry, to make us a custom M, L, and K for the word ‘Milk.’
  8. And then we were good!! See below for all the press this got. We didn’t get to toot our own horn because the legal folks got skittish. But, my prediction is we’ll see a lot more creative executions like this where marketers borrow interests from key brands and platforms to keep their audience guessing. Fun stuff!



This is the cover and inside front cover of the December 2017 issue that was mailed to CA subscribers of Food & Wine over their “real” cover!–milk/53275


B2B, Corporate blogs

The Print Version of Native

Though digital is the dominant product in the portfolios I’ve sold through, print is still an essential anchor to drive site traffic and fully engage consumers. Here’s a blog I wrote when I was overseeing a direct-marketing product line at MNI Targeted Media.

Click the link below for a sample of corporate product blogging.




business, creative selling, disruptive media, sales, strategy

Sample Entertainment Industry Proposal

I’ve built my sales career by creatively assembling media platforms to help clients identify and connect with their audiences. In this example, multiple touch points include a ‘disruptive traditional’ print tactic, mobile, digital and on-screen ads to help influence Academy voters and stimulate box office sales.

Have a look:

Entertainment Proposal for Feature Films