Christopher Whitson

We make customers (and money) grow on trees!

Marketing Isn't Advertising Isn't Selling - Part 1

A business dictionary lesson on marketing, advertising, and selling

We hear those three words used interchangeably a lot. And the people that use them together are doing it wrong. Each of those things are different in so many ways. Larger companies have entire departments that focus on each one separately. Unfortunately, small business usually don't have the resources to split these categories, much less understand how much each one affects their bottom line.


Marketing is the aura of your business. It is the feeling that customers get from using what you've got and the energy you emit to the world. It is something that can be spun into what you want it to say. Think of it as a form of PR. With clever marketing, you can take something concrete and measurable about your business and put it out there as a sensation, a taste, or anything your customers hearts may desire. McDonald's does this all the time. They stopped trying to sell the food and the ingredients a long time ago. Now they sell you on the feeling..."I'm Lovin' it!". A house cleaning company may make a commercial about a family spending the day at the zoo and eating ice cream. It has nothing to do with cleaning houses, but they want you to get the feeling of being with your family by not having to clean your house this weekend. They are marketing the feeling instead of the cleaning!

Marketing is also your branding: from the logo design to the color of the walls on the sales floor. These things also help with the feeling that your business emotes. A nice clean logo with pleasing colors is more attractive to most people as opposed to bold-faced and black font type. How your employees dress is also a form of marketing. You could spend every dime of profit you earned on something to do with marketing and no matter how profitable you were, could still find something else to spend on marketing. And the worst part is that with all this money you're spending, it's the hardest area of your business to know what money is being best spent where. Unless you hook up with an industry's almost a guessing game until you find something that works.


Advertising is something you do to get them into your store, visiting your website, or calling your phone. It's the 'call to action' you always hear about. It's getting your customer to connect to the marketing that you provided them; sometimes together, sometimes separate. Advertising is the sign on the back of the bus bench and the commercials you see on television. They are the click ads online and the announcement on a PA system in the store letting customers know about a new sale.

Advertising is the money you spend with newspapers, radio stations, magazines, websites, television, etc. Like marketing, it's sometimes hard to track successes and failures. Most businesses we work with are terrible at advertising metrics. You'll never know if the person who bought your new thingamajig did so because they saw it on the back of a magazine cover at the dentist office unless you ask. And most business owners don't ask. Of course there is this awesome thing called internet advertising that is super easy to track as long as it's set up by a professional who knows what they are doing. The same thing goes for your website, which handles marketing, advertising, and yes...selling.

And now the catch...

Here's the part that most business owners don't take into account. Marketing and Advertising are cost centers. THEY GENERATE ZERO REVENUE! Yes, I said it. Zero, none, zilch, nothing. There is not a single marketing or advertising campaign that makes that little *ding* noise on the cash register. And this is where most businesses have the disconnect. They get all warm and fuzzy inside because they placed an ad in the phone book or got that billboard by the freeway they always wanted.

Big deal, who cares? It's great that they saw your advertising, and that your marketing triggered a reaction from them. But getting them on the phone doesn't ring the cash register. John Doe typing your website address into his browser is not a swipe of the credit card. That's where selling comes in! And it's a big bad monster. It's the big, gaping hole we see in most businesses; especially smaller ones.

Continue to: Marketing Isn't Advertising Isn't Selling - Part 2

Why a hotel manager fired a frequent guest

Firing a customer or client may just save your business...

You've heard this one:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If the customer is wrong, see #1

Well, we think it's the dumbest philosophy that any business would ascribe to adhere to. If you've been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that both 1 and 2 are dead wrong. We will admit that there are certain situations that business owners face where they have to suck it up and play the game, giving in to a difficult customer. But they should not be the only way to deal with difficult clients.

I was once a spectator to a situation at a hotel where we were working on increasing business guests and customer satisfaction. This hotel was part of a large portfolio of a chain that you have heard of that has a loyalty program of which you might have been a member of at some point. This hotel was not in the best part of town, but the staff was working hard to turn it around and took ownership in the successes and failures of the hotel.To improve guest satisfaction and bookings, the hotel had a guaranteed refund policy that if a guest was unhappy with any part of their stay, they would refund every cent of that nights stay, no questions asked.

A guest who had earned the highest loyalty level that could be had in the hotel brand had taken a #2 in his bed. The housekeeping manager had found it and reported it to management. The guest called the hotel later in the day after checking out and told the desk employee over the phone that his room was messy and he wanted his room rate refunded. He tried to make it seem like the hotel did not clean it's beds. It didn't take her long to realize that the "caca guy" and the man on the phone were one and the same. A manager quickly took over the call and explained to the guest that he would be glad to refund his money, but that he would never be able to stay at the hotel again. The guest became furious and threatened to file a complaint as a high-level loyalty member. The manager calmly told the guest to do whatever he thought was necessary, but that he was standing by his decision.

It took a lot of guts for this manager to do as he did. This guest was not a random guest. He was there almost every week. In his own embarrassment, he made a mistake in thinking that the hotel would just cower down into submission. But the hotel manager knew that his staff would not leave a bed with human feces in it. He earned a lot of respect from the hotel staff for that move. The guest also returned later that afternoon and formally apologized to the manager and the desk clerk for his behavior. The guest continued to stay at the hotel and a healthy business relationship continued.

This story is true. I was there. Will every customer that gets fired stay a customer? Of course not. But some of them will. And bad customers take up so much time and energy from you and your staff that more businesses should be firing more customers more often. The business world would be a much better place and so would your bottom line. So fire the bad customers that make you hate your job and allow a nice, fluffy, happy customer take their place!

EDITORS NOTE: Sorry for the poo references. We couldn't not tell this story...and we had to tell it accurately!

Using VOIP in Your Business

Voice Over Internet Protocol

Using the technology that is available can really help your business excel. Technology can help you to save money and make it convenient to conduct business all over the world . A good example of this is VOIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol. Businesses large and small are using VOIP more and more frequently. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, there's no reason not to save money on your phone bill!

Unless you are a large corporation or need several lines, the good news is that there is very little that is necessary in order for you to get started using this technology. For the home and small business user, simply having a broadband Internet connection, such as cable or DSL, will have plenty of speed for your needs. The other equipment that is necessary is usually just a headset and speakers, and possibly a special phone/audio card in your computer if you want to be able to talk through your computer. Most VOIP providers, however, will supply you with all the hardware you need, so just get yourself a plain-old corded or wireless handset phone. We use VOIP with a two-line phone bought at Best Buy that has both handheld and wireless capabilities.

A great benefit to VOIP technology is that it is not only other computers that can be contacted, but you can also contact people on any type of device such as land lines and cellular/mobile phones. In addition, there are affordable calling plans available that give you the ability to call international numbers, saving a significant amount of money over what you may currently be paying through your land-line phone provider.

The quality is going to be dependent upon a number of factors. For example, the more internet bandwidth you have available, the more likely it is going to be that you can have call clarity that can't be distinguished from a land-line phone. Fortunately, over the past several years, this technology has improved considerably and even slower DSL connections have amazing call quality. We have used ours with as little as 1.2 Megabytes per second while having our computers surfing the internet. Don't expect to have any such luck with a dial-up plan, though.

Another thing you will want to consider is the software that may be necessary. For larger businesses, licensing may be necessary for very specific software that will help to suit your needs and handle call transfers, voicemail boxes, conference calls or even recording calls for later use. For home users, the software that is necessary can easily be downloaded in order to make calls, either locally or around the world using their home Internet connection.

We are fortunate enough to use Vonage and they provide us with all the hardware except a phone. So we provide the internet connection and a phone to plug into their box and we are ready to go. No matter where we are in the world, anyone can call the same number and that phone will ring wherever we have it plugged in. Amazing!