Understanding and embracing our differences

I’m one of those annoying personalities who love to try and do everything. I just like learning new stuff. Maybe you’ll recognize the trait, it’s common with people who run small businesses. Most small business owners need to have a wide breadth of knowledge and talent to operate and fill in around the office when necessary. I do realize I’m never going to be great at everything, and professionals need to be contracted to do what I can’t. Fortunately, I love working with other people, especially if it means I can learn to do something new.

With that in mind, I wanted to present a couple of areas where professionals can make you look really great.

Understanding the difference between average and great headlines
Intelligent, compelling headlines accompanied by great imagery can instantly create a positive customer perception of your company. Unfortunately, more often than not, your typical headlines usually either sound like fortune cookie text, or somewhat boring factual statements. A talented headline writer can get your reader to comprehend the message you’re trying to convey, without blatantly stating the point. For example, instead of saying, “This is a great car.” BMW says they have “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Here’s a more realistic example. Not long ago I was working on a project with one of the top ranked business schools in the country to recruit for their Executive Education courses. I needed a top ranked writer, so I contracted Richard Link. Before working with Richard I outlined the basic direction he needed to convey. It was something like, “after attending an Executive Education course at Goizueta Business School your chances of becoming a high-powered business executive will increase.” Nothing fancy, just a basic idea, I knew Richard would come up with multiple approaches to make that idea rock, which he did.

First, take a look at a couple of examples to compare against Richard’s. This is Harvard Business School’s headline approach to basically the same problem. A plain factual statement.

“Educating leaders who make a difference in the world.”

And, another top-ranked school, Terry College of Business and their attempt at a factual statement.

“Further your education in an executive environment.”

Fianlly, Richard Link’s solution for the Goizueta School of Business. A different approach.

“After this course there will be a test… it’s called the Annual Shareholders Meeting.”

See what I mean; writers like Richard tell the reader what to think without stating it blatantly. He’s also giving the reader a better idea of the environment as it relates to Executive Education. The other two lines make large overarching statements, leading you to believe it’s a long-term program. It’s not, it’s short two-to-three day courses. Not only is his line better, he gives potential students a better idea of what to expect.

Embracing good photography
Last year I was working with Ventura & Company and a southeastern homebuilder named Chesapeake I noticed, while searching online, the horrible quality of photographs that were typical in showcasing new homes on the Internet.

Here’s an example that compares a typical series of new home photographs with a similar series from a professional photographer. We contracted John Slemp to work with us to create warm inviting photographs of homes. The Chesapeake homes were beautiful and John didn’t seem to have too much trouble making them look great.


The home below looks like it’s a nice house, but as this example shows how the beauty can easily be lost in the photographic translation. In fact, with this presentation it would, most likely, be difficult to get prospects excited about taking a home tour.


Here’s a process I go through before I call in the professionals. The first thing I do is to make a quick outline of the project. Nothing fancy, I just want to make sure I’ve thought everything through. I determine the copy points, find related imagery on iStock or another stock photo site and I create a thumbnail of what needs to be accomplished. In the long run, this practice will save time and money, but it also helps to ensure words, images and experience that are being produced are consistent with how you want your brand to be perceived.

One last tip: Hire a good proofreader. I have a wonderful colleague named Linda Rosenbaum who is a professional copy editor and proofreader. She reads all my stuff and has prevented me from looking stupid more times than I care to mention. With digital printing and online technology, there’s a lot more public leniency toward mistakes than in the past, but this is just another easy way for you to stand out from your competition. If your competitors present themselves with mistakes and you’re error free, that’s just one more reason that potential customers will choose to work with you.

So, hiring professionals to enhance your image can mean the difference between flat marketing and marketing that’s intelligent, good looking and created to generate income.

I hope this helps and I would love to hear how you’re doing. As always, please share any comments or questions. I look forward to talking to you again in a few days.



~ by Rich on January 27, 2009.

One Response to “Understanding and embracing our differences”

  1. Love the comparisons. How true! I am a horrible headline writer but a solid corporate writer. Jennifer Larson Sawin is one of my favorite headline writers as well.

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