How Much Money Are You Burning?

You could employ the most professional and competent sales force in the industry…or employ the most brilliant marketers in the world, but if you are not communicating the value of your products and services in terms of what customers want to hear, you are wasting millions of dollars in marketing, advertising, sales calls, personnel, not to mention the opportunity costs.

Chip & Dan Heath have part of the answer in their book, “Made to Stick” wherein they outline 6 factors that are consistently present in the most remarkable, successful, and compelling ideas that drive people to action based on research they’ve done into thousands of ideas that “stuck” and those that didn’t. Following their own advice, they developed the (memorable) S.U.C.C.E.S.s metaphor:

  • S: Simple
  • U: Unexpected
  • C: Concrete
  • C: Credible
  • E: Emotional
  • S: Story
  • s—nothing, but you can’t spell “success” without the final “e”.


Citing a defense lawyer, “If you argue ten points [….], the jury won’t remember any.” A sticky message must be simple, ruthlessly narrowed, and profound.


How do we stand out in our over-crowded marketplaces? Why do dirty politics work so well? Why are we so drawn to company disasters, CEO downfalls, and celebrity misbehavior? People are creatures of habit, seeking order and consistency. To be noticed, we must be counter-intuitive and harness the element of surprise to break through and generate interest/curiosity.


If you were to suddenly stop on of your employees in the hall and ask her to recite the company’s mission statement, could she do it without hesitation? Despite having an elegant and all-inclusive statement, I’ll bet that most employees can’t remember it 30 days later.

To be sticky, ideas tneed to be explained in terms of human actions or using sensory input. Without being concrete, our ideas are subject to (mis)interpretation.


When looking to start accepting credit cards, where do you think small business owners turned first for information? They turned to their “trusted advisors”–other business owners or accountants–for recommendations. Interestingly, I found in my research for a client that they were either ignorant of or actively avoided vendor advertising.

To make our ideas stick we need to make them credible to our customers–and tap into credible sources.


Many people believe that emotions have no place in B2B sales. If that were true, from whence came the adage “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM (or Microsoft)”? The desire to make a safe, secure choice that prolongs employment is a very strong one. Emotions can short-circuit logic. As the saying goes, “logic makes people think but emotions make people act.” What types of emotional appeal work well in a B2B environment?


Finally, the notion of telling a story is perhaps the most powerful of all. This is why testimonials and case studies are so powerful. They allow our customers to view us through the eyes of someone who’s been there/done that–and lived to tell about it.


Does it Really Matter if Your Messages are Sticky?

Only if you are satisfied with mediocrity and second (or third) place. 

A major software company sold similar products to two different verticals. In one vertical they experienced 30-60% growth over last year whereas the other vertical suffered a 10% loss.  The difference?  The growth vertical had a very solid core story—one that was concrete, succinct, and compelling.  As is clearly seen by this example, the “sticky” messages tailored to customer needs are compelling and drive business/revenue growth.

On the opposite side of the coin, I just completed a big customer strategy project with a huge, Fortune 50 company where I found that nearly every salesperson had ignored marketing & developed their own, fully custom sales presentation—some of them promising vastly different features and rewards.  Their marketing collateral and brochures were abysmal and customers never read them.  The messages they were conveying were 180 degrees opposite of what their customers wanted, and the bulk of the content was a low-level description of features and benefits. Even with direct contact with the sales reps, customers had a very low overall understanding of the products the company offered, and the majority had no concept of the value to their business.  Customers could only compare competition on price, which meant lower profits, fewer customers, and significantly lower loyalty. 

Without the benefits of the Made To Stick program, this company is losing millions of dollars each and every year and losing customers to competitors. 

How much money are you willing to waste on ineffective marketing that hampers sales efforts, resulting in throttled revenue and stunted growth?