Your Business Card Is Your Offline Home Page

Business Card Home PageAllow me to set a familiar scene…

You’re in need of a certain service. You know what you want, and you hit Google to do a search. On the first page of results, there are about 4 or 5 entries that seem to fit what you’re looking for. You click on the link, and based on the first 5-10 seconds on the home page, you decide whether or not that company gets your business.

Now, let’s go to another familiar scene…

You’re at a networking function, and have talked to 20 or 30 people. You are getting ready to leave, and take a quick look at the business cards you’ve collected during the evening. Some you can match with a person you remember talking to. Others are so generic – you can’t help but feel that the person they represented must have been too. You can’t remember a thing about them.

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Bizarre Amazon Parings – UPDATED

marketing-odditiesFrom the file of odd and strange marketing, comes Amazon’s bizarre pairing of books. As a business owner, you always have to be mindful of who is presenting your image – and how they are doing it. Last week, when I was reading about the book Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson, I was a little baffled why the book Toxic Parents was paired with it (it has since been changed). Then I found some information about how parings are done. It seems that Ms. Madson learned that one can buy the right to pair their book with another. From a marketing perspective this is really horrible – paid pairings with no author input. Ms. Madson did take some control and used what she had available to get the message out – her Amazon “plog” and her own blog:

To my surprise, however, this week, I visited my page to check on sales stats only to discover that my book had been paired this week with the unlikely title, Toxic Parents: Overcoming Your Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. What this book may have to do with the subject of improvising a life I cannot imagine. Upon investigation I discovered that Amazon allows a bookseller to buy the right to advertise their book as a “pairing.” Apparently there need be no permission given from either the author or the publisher of the book being “paired.” I certainly gave none, and when I checked with my editor I found that we have no rights in this matter. We must simply wait out the period in which the advertising has been purchased. At best, this is exploitive.

I applaud Ms. Madson for being aware of her image and using the tools available to her to speak directly to her audience.

Now, for an even more unfortunate paring, check out the book that I recommended in the “Why Settle for Just One Path?” post – The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine. As of this writing they have it paired with Blow Him Away (I’m not providing a link, or the subtitle for obvious reasons. I’m not a prude by any stretch, but unlike Amazon, I intend to stay on topic and consider my audience). Not only do the two subjects have nothing to do with one another, there is the potential for brand damage, due to the subject matter. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with what folks choose to read. This is still a free country (as of this writing, anyway). It’s the marketing and the image that I take issue with. Authors, or at least publishers, should have some control how their image is presented. If I were Margaret Lobenstine, I wouldn’t be too happy about Amazon’s policy.

Personally, I love Amazon. I’ve been a customer for over a decade, and have spent a fortune there. The prices, service, and support are top notch. But as a content creator, I find this pretty disconcerting and a little absurd.

So the moral of the story is to do your best to manage your image – and when you can’t, use the tools that are available to explain why. You work hard to present your company to the world, don’t let your image be hijacked by someone else.


I received a wonderful email from Patricia Ryan Madson. After much work on her part, she was able to get the matter resolved:

I was delighted to see your post about the Amazon “pairings” in what seems to me to be a scandal. Thanks for writing about this. I was feeling quite alone fighting the Goliath. After lots of work I found someone at Amazon who told me that in fact the publisher that had booked the pair was MY publisher. Seems Random House has dozens of imprints but likely only a single merchandising department. Bell Tower, my imprint is way down the line of small presses. I finally got my own editor to go to bat to try and uncouple this unsuitable pair. And, today (TADA!) she succeeded. She got to pick some other Random House title and chose “Positive Energy” which is a more likely bedfellow.

I was very pleased to find out that she was able to get a much more compatible pairing. Way to go Patricia!

Update 2:

I received an email from Margaret Lobenstine, and she’s having a much more difficult time getting Amazon to do something about the pairing of her book. She informed me that she has been in touch with her agent and editor, and that they did not pay for the current pairing. She also:

…finally got through to someone in “Seller Support” at Amazon who told me he would be sure to let the Catalog department know of the mismatch — but that a) no one from outside Amazon can reach the Catalog department, period and b) they tend to take a looooooong time to make changes.

If anyone has any suggestions on what else could be done, please let me know.

Do Your Customers Know What the Heck You’re Talking About?

blobThink about how many times you’ve been inundated with jargon and had no idea what the other person was talking about. A techie, your mechanic, your financial advisor – it is way too common a practice to try and kill our prospects with our intelligence. You don’t like feeling stupid, and neither do your customers. So why is it that so many business people try to make themselves feel smart by tossing around words that really don’t do their customers any good?


A paradigm shift is necessary to leverage the strategic ubiquity for those asynchronous decentralized procedures which are quickly becoming an industry standard using VoIP.

Now ladies and gentlemen, is that sentence helpful at all? The fact that I strung together a bunch of words and created my own version of a nonsense verse would be obvious, if we hadn’t heard something eerily similar from the halls of corporate life.

Guilty As Charged

Working in the Web and software world for so long, I have to say I’ve been guilty of this myself. But I learned early on, that you come across as more articulate and smart if you are able to explain what you are offering in a simple, straight-forward way – without all the jargon. You also end up with more accounts and sales. As many of you may know, it’s actually much harder to describe certain things in layman’s terms. I’ve seen mechanics who could explain a rack-and-pinion system to someone who thought it was rack-and-peanut steering. I’ve met investment advisors who could explain the short-sell in such simple terms, that it would make Gordon Gekko cringe. And not to toot my own horn, but I always found my refacing cabinets analogy for new software interfaces to be very easy to understand.

What You Do – Plain and Simple

The ultimate goal is to help your customers and prospects understand what you can do for them – plain and simple. If I can’t decipher the words you’re throwing at me, I have no hope of understanding how what you’re providing is of any value. And you have no hope of walking away with my business. Think back to a time when someone made you feel really smart by explaining something you didn’t understand in terms that made sense. Is that someone you would like to do business with? Then think of the “Customer Support” person that made you feel like an idiot as they “explained” what your problem was (not their problem, your problem). Chances are, you are no longer doing business with that company or they’ve got you no matter what – they’re a monopoly, utility company, or you’re related.

So What Can You Do?

  • Start by understanding your customers. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to tailor your message to meet their needs.
  • Don’t just assume that all of your customers understand what you take for granted. For example – there are still many people who don’t know what a blog is. So before you can sell them on the benefits of blogging, you have to help them to understand what a blog is.
  • Explain your business in 10 words or less, then ask someone who doesn’t know your business to listen to the 10 word summary and explain back to you in more detail what it is they think you do.
  • Go through some of your marketing and support copy and cross out any words that seem “buzzwordy” or “jargony.” If you end up with a mostly marked up document, its time to re-think how you communicate.
  • Ask your kids to tell you what they think you do for a living. Then ask your Mom or Grandma. “Computer Guy” or “Business Woman” are not very descriptive. See if you can explain it to them so that they get it.
  • And finally, ask your customers to tell you what you do – in their own words. You may be amazed at what they say.

Communication is crucial to the success of a home-based business. Being able to clearly explain what you do will ensure that your customers can also explain it. Make it easy for your customers to refer business to you by talking like a human, not like some corporate drone. You can’t get much word-of-mouth business if the words coming out of your mouth make no sense.

About today’s cartoon – The cartoon illustrating today’s post is part of Chewing Pencils Group Drawing Project. In a wonderful instance of kismet, I got the idea for the cartoon as I was thinking of an illustration for this post. I think it captures today’s theme well, while fitting nicely into the topic of the Group Drawing Project – a Christmas themed blog cartoon.