Private schools are missing a marketing opportunity


Do you know the difference between cross-selling and upselling?

If not you need to. Because times are tough and many companies - especially ones with expensive products - tend to mess this up big time.

The bottom line: Learn how to cross-sell, and try NOT to up-sell. See below example of a shoe store:

  • Cross-selling: You own a shoe store. You sell me shoes. You also sell bags. You sell me a bag. One customer, two sales, more profit. 

  • Upselling: You own a shoe store. You advertise shoes for $9.99 "and up." I come in and ask for shoes. You tell me you have all kinds of shoes. Maybe I want the $15.99 version, with the rhinestones on the top. I am disgusted and walk out.

Upselling angers the customer. It leaves them feeling cheated. If I'm investing in a house, a car, a vacation - I want everything included in that big-ticket price.

Cross-selling, on the other hand, makes the customer happy. Because once a person discovers a brand they like and trust, they want to go back and buy more things from that same brand. It's like finding a friend. As Brand Autopsy quoted the CEO of Restoration Hardware the other day, "Great brands don't chase customers. Customers chase great brands."

Cross-selling is also vastly undervalued in the marketing community. It is, in fact, the point of branding: You don't want to sell the same product over and over again! Once your name has value, you want to use it to sell a lot of different things.

But because we marketers are so mental and obsessed with "launching" and "winning" rather than simply maintaining and building, we fail to see this.

Here's an excellent example - private school.

Extremely expensive. 

But parents willingly pay for it.

Because they believe that the brand is benefiting their child.

Enough to pay an arm and a leg to keep the child in that school.

Yet private schools focus almost exclusively on tuition. They are focused on getting students, more students, the right students, etc.


Once a private school has a good brand, it should be cross-selling lots of other things, at a premium:

1. Door-to-door transportation

2. Healthy lunch and snack 

3. Parenting workshops

4. Book

5. College counseling

6. Training methodologies that apply to the workplace

7. Retreats for parents and kids

8. Summer camp

9. Private-school-to-college program

10. One-on-one educational coaching

Yet how many schools take advantage of this?

Instead it's all about tuition, and after that, fundraising and donations.

Private schools, like all brands, need to get with the times and cross-sell like crazy.

Acquiring a new customer is hard. Keeping the customer is easier.

Cross-selling the customer is brilliant.

Good luck!

Relationship Fraud: How To Destroy Your Personal Brand In 10 Seconds


"Man is incomplete until he is married. Then he is finished." - Joke

Here's what I don't understand.

Not getting married is becoming normal. In roughly the past decade (2000-2009), the percentage of adults age 25-34 who are married went from 55% to 45%.

Getting divorced is normal too - with an estimated 40% of all marriages ending in divorce as of 2008.

So why are all these leaders getting married, then doing things they shouldn't do?

You can be the smartest person in the world, the highest achiever, the most committed to public service or your personal cause.

But if you are a cheater, people forever think the worst of you.

Maybe it's all the pressure people are under to be perfect or at least seem that way.

Maybe there is this idea that marriage somehow makes you look respectable and fit for a leadership position.

Certainly married people are seen as more mature and stable than their single counterparts.

But not if they are practicing relationship fraud!

Because if they'll cheat on their spouse, what's to stop them from cheating in other areas?

These days you can be the biggest psychopath and still have people's respect. As long as you are self-aware and unapologetic.

If you care anything about your personal brand - another word for reputation - practice relationship integrity.

It's better for you, and it's better not to make an innocent partner miserable.

Have a good weekend everybody - and good luck!

Communicators: You Can't Afford To Hold Your Nose


There is a photo of me as a 10-year-old that I both love and hate.


Do you have one of those?


It shows a happy girl swinging on a tire suspended from a tree. With a very bad perm, uncool glasses, and teeth practically screaming for the orthodontist.


I have a lot of good memories from that time. I went to a sleep-away camp where my mom was the nurse. And much like Piper happily trails Sarah Palin on her national bus tour, I followed my mom rather than hang out with the kids.


The air at camp was good. We ate breakfast in the big social hall. Huge wooden building. Big rough-hewn tables slapped with platefuls and platefuls of food. The air made me hungry, and I enjoyed the benefits of a kid’s speedy metabolism.


Every day I would devise a plan of escape from my snotty Long Island bunk counselors. I would sneak back out the side door of the dining hall to the infirmary, to watch the happenings at the daily “sick hour.” From 9-10 a.m., all aches and pains (physical and emotional) were dealt with one after the other. All sizes of Band-Aids dispensed.


There was a long padded brown plastic bench that served as an all-purpose examination table. I liked to sit there and swing my legs off the edge and listen. (The walls respected no concept of patient privacy in those days, and kids weren’t considered qualified listeners anyway.) I would go to the little fridge and crack open a can of Diet Pepsi.


Kid after kid came in. As did the counselors. I’m not pretending I remember what they said. Hey – I was 10! But I do remember the things my mom said. As they say, she didn’t play games – my mom got straight to the point – no matter how distasteful. Abrupt but caring, she was an early version of “House”:


“How did you get that?”


“What did you do?”


“Get real, OK?”


“I can’t help you if you’re gonna lie.”


Even with me she was always like that:


“What’s wrong? Spit it out there. I can see it in your eyes.”


You could try to look away and deny it. But she never let up till you spilled it. In fact she would get mad and stomp around the house till you came clean.


Being a communicator is SO very much the same. In fact it’s EXACTLY like being a doctor or a nurse of the organization, of its leaders. You have to ask, know or guess every little thing you can if you want to get to the truth. Because only the truth can unleash real communication that has any impact.


And only the truth can help you decide when it’s time to postpone communication till a later time. If ever.


I am reminded of all this by the current fascination with a tweet that definitely was tweeted, but is disputed in terms of who was the tweeter. When the media tries to get answers they get stuff like this (my favorite word to describe it is “cringeworthy”):


“How about you ask the questions, and I’ll give the answers. OK?”


“OK. Then answer the question.”


“No. Refer to my statements.”


“Why won’t you answer the question?”




Clearly, a mishandled situation.


I don’t know what happened and I don’t really care. That’s outside my scope.


What concerns me is how a public figure ends up screwing up so badly. Creating hell out of not only a career, but probably also a marriage.


Everybody is saying that the lying is the issue. In the age of social media, it’s the Original Sin to bob and weave and spin complicated words and get superior and all. (Cursing at a reporter is unheard of, yet interesting.)


Clearly that is one lesson. Confess, confess, confess. Admit it. It’s OK. The other day Eric Schmidt admitted that he should’ve anticipated the threat from Facebook. This from a head of Google, probably the top brand in the world? I was shocked at the honesty.


Mark Zuckerberg, for his part, admitted that his “learning project” for this year was to, essentially, shecht (Yiddish-butcher) animals and only eat things that he had personally slayed. I thought that was an absolutely grotesque goal. But he came right out and said it. Imagine if he had lied and said, “I never cut the heads off chickens…you must have confused me with somebody else.” In the end I just forgot about it.


Some might say that leaders err in running to lawyers rather than communication consultants. To that I simply cry “B.S.” If something as bad as that happens, you better have a lawyer working hand-in-hand with the crisis communication specialist.


Perhaps, one could argue, we should learn to develop advanced media capabilities in the era of tweets, blogs, Facebook and viral videos. Learn when to react and when to stand down. When to confront the press, how to redirect a message, and so on. OK. A hashtag does not an expert make.


But I see an issue much more fundamental than that.


Basically, the communicators that surround senior leaders have a hard time looking at the equivalent of fish guts.


This isn’t about the leader having “issues” with honesty or directness. It’s about the communicators that serve them.


The truth is, a lot of people just can’t stand the sight of blood, especially blood hemorraging. They turn their eyes away. They don’t want to believe the worst, they don’t want to think about the worst, they are uncomfortable envisioning the worst, and so their mind completely clouds them to the unpleasant possibilities.


To get medical about it again - ever watch Grey’s Anatomy? The character of the surgeon who is also a vet? When crises occur, he doesn’t give a damn about protocol. He throws the stuff in the room around, takes supplies where he can get them, rips the curtains off the wall to make a tourniquet – anything to save the patient.


How many communicators have that attitude about their bosses? About their organizations?


Not the hell too many.


Great communication isn’t just about learning the from-the-trenches survival skills. Anyone can do that.


Or overcoming your fear of telling the truth. That fear turns to adrenalin, fast.


Rather, it’s about properly understanding what the real nature of your job is. What you were hired to do.


For $40,000 a year you can string a few sentences together. That’s not particularly brilliant.


What your job is, is to make the people in the lines of business talk to you in a real way about what’s going on.


To force them to give you the truth.


So that you can get the alcohol out, bleed the wound, and apply the Band-Aid.


They may cry like babies or curse like dogs as the initial sting hits them.


But it’s a heck of a lot better for the screaming to happen inside the office, than outside in front of the TV cameras.


Just like being a doctor, being a communicator is a sacred trust.


Serve people who have honor, and then honor them with your very best.


Good luck!


Photo source here.


Free Speech Is Most Important When Your Reputation Is Threatened


I'm afraid of dogs. 

Especially big dogs. Especially when they bark.

One time we were looking at a house to buy. There were four dogs in there. Barking like crazy. We ran out like hell, and my older one couldn't be within a mile of a dog for years after.

Five years later we went to a friend's house for barbeque. Another big damn dog. Loud as can be.

I let it jump around me and tried to look happy (straining). Frozen with terror, I forced myself to relax. I had heard that when you tense up, the dog does too.

I was freaking petrified.

(Remember Rooney, the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when he confronts the dog in the kitchen and it takes him down? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about)

Eventually I learned that dogs are not necessarily dangerous. With a few exceptions. Including when they are backed into a corner or think you are going to re-enact a previous attack.

So I was worrying about the wrong thing.

It's not how big the dog is at all.

Rather it's how cornered the dog feels. (Which is exactly why they're good household pets - not only loving to the family, but magificent at scaring off burglars.)

People are not that far from dogs.

If you corner a dog, it will spring up and lash out at you.

Similarly, if a person perceives themselves boxed into a corner and attacked, they will kick and scream and thrash to get rid of the threat.

One way to do this is with your "fists" - physical self-defense with a rock or a club or a gun.

But another way, a more relevant way for today's times, is verbally - protecting your turf by taking the enemy out with words. 

In fact, today, people both attack and defend themselves using words. By communicating.

This presents a particular problem in a social media-driven world. 

Because where the attacks might have come from a few influential sources in the past, now they can spring up from anywhere. 

And there is nobody who can evade making mistakes.

Remember "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and the way Ferris made a laughingstock of Rooney the principal? The more Rooney tensed up, the worse Ferris got him.

Similarly, a leader's natural reaction to social media is protective. Like someone raising their arms to shield from an attack. 

If you tell them to relax and not tense up, you may get resistance.

"Look how many attackers there are," you may get told. "Be realistic."

To an extent that philosophy is correct. Hackers and social media slanderers can target your work, your family, your reputation, your bank account, and even the various defenses that literally keep the country running.

But just like in the martial arts, the only way to fight a dedicated enemy is to calm the mind and then use their force to your advantage.

To put this simply: It is a waste of time to try to meet force with force in the social media realm. It is time-consuming, energy-consuming, and ultimately counterproductive. In fact, you end up looking paranoid and bad.

Instead, be like the Buddha. Smile. Acknowledge the detractors. Embrace them as people, even as you disagree with what they're saying or doing. If it comes to an actual conflict, use the legal tools at your disposal to engage in it. But don't get down in the mud.

It isn't worth it, and if you do you've let them win the battle.

Peace everyone - have a good day. And good luck!


Photo source here.

Obsessing about the competition blinds you to opportunity: The case of Burger King

Been watching those Burger King commercials lately.

You know these. They compare themselves to McDonald's again. BK's positioned as broiled and fresh, Mickey D's as fried and factory-like.


There is nothing more boring than a brand that feels inadequate.

I read an article the other day about Burger King's current business difficulties. It's been on my mind. They've been around so long, they have so much money, can't they get an idea?

Then it occurred to me: They are obsessed with the competition. They're egotistical. They can't step back and think outside the box (oh G-d, I hate that phrase, but it is really appropriate here.)

If they could open their minds for five seconds they would realize that burgers are not their business at all.

It's not McDonald's, either.

For Five Guys it is.

McDonald's is in the business of feeding families cheaply. It defines Americana, even though it's a global brand too. In that way it's in the same "brand bubble" as Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart.

Five Guys is in the business of making great burgers. They sell other things, most notably the fries, but it's really about the burger. Just like In-N-Out Burger. The focus is very specifically on meat.

Burger King, in contrast to all of these, is about BROILING THINGS. It's a masculine brand. Men like to grill. Men "own" their grills. The fire. The smell of smoke. It's primal. It is such a huge opportunity. And they're missing it.

Hello Burger King, are you listening? The creepy "Burger King" cartoon character to rival Ronald McDonald was a big mistake. You had the winning formula all along - you just haven't realized it.

As a friend reminded me lately, branding is ultimately about differentiation. Doing something separate from the pack. Not imitating them and not competing directly against them.

Branding is just like becoming your own best self. You are inherently unique. You succeed by realizing your own potential. That's it.

So regarding Burger King - you can broil endless things. Let's get started! Burgers, chicken, salmon, corn, vegetables.

While we're at it, lose the name and take up an acronym. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. You become BK.

Get a sophisticated color scheme. Maroon, navy, gray. No cartoons, ever.

Burger King is not alone. The most envied brands in the world frequently get messed up by thinking about the competition.

Look at Kate Middleton. The gossip papers have it that she's competitive with sister Pippa, that they have a "friendly rivalry."

I can't even wrap my head around that. I know her life's not perfect, but she seems pretty happy. And she's worrying about her sister? That is just sad.

How can you get to a place where you're thinking about the potential of your brand, and not whether you're measuring up to some imaginary standard set by your competition?

One important thing: Surround yourself with true supporters. People who want to see you become your true best self. People who pick you up, and don't drag you down.

Joel Osteen talked about that in his TV sermon today. (I'm Jewish, but I find his sermons motivational and inspired.)

He recalled taking over his father's ministry. There were friends who doubted Osteen's ability to do a good job.

Eventually, he removed them from his inner circle. "Some people you have to love from a distance."

Similarly, there was an associate of his father who doubted his vision for the future. For the "brand" if you will. To put the ministry on TV.

He admitted to being happy at the good-bye barbeque when the associate left.

None other than Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, re-assumed control of the brand when it became too commoditized and lost its way. It needed Schultz's personal stamp. That uniqueness.

The bottom-line lesson:

If you want to realize the potential of your brand, don't look outside of you. Don't trust the naysayers. Don't let yourself feel inadequate.

Instead, take stock of who you are. What you have to contribute. What makes you unique, and interesting, and special.

That's what the market wants to buy from you. That's what you have to offer that's of value.

Maybe it's different than what you had in mind. That's OK.

We all have a unique destiny, and as Osteen said today, there's a very short time to realize it.

Good luck!

Photo source here

The 10 Commandments of Retail

Just my own opinion.

Thou shalt:

1. Organize the store

2. Have fun interactive displays

3. Display abundance

4. Give a percentage of profit to charity

5. Smilingly accept returns

Thou shalt not:

1. Confuse the customer

2. Abuse the staff

3. Make it hard for the disabled to get in

4. Mislead on prices

5. Profit from exploited labor or crime in the supply chain

Does talking about a problem make it your fault?


Learning to walk requires falling.

I don't know of any brand, any marketing plan, any communication effort that was perfect right from the start.

Every initiative has problems. 

But somehow we have this false idea that "as long as we ignore it, the problem doesn't exist."

Total denial is a survival mechanism we have inherited from past generations.

When the only way to cope with the ravages of abuse, crime, and poverty was to pretend they weren't happening.

Remember those TV shows of the 1950s? They were both comforting and frightening at the same time. Because they portrayed a world where nothing was wrong. Even as there was quite a bit of unrest under the surface.

This isn't going to be a long post. I just want to express a basic idea.

Talking about a problem doesn't mean that you created it.

It doesn't make it your fault.

It makes you a friend.

If you see something wrong, it's your duty to say something. Constructively. Appropriately. 

In communication and in life.

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone, and good luck!

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