3 Ways Color Can Influence Buying Behavior

There are many things that influence human behavior and color is definitely one of them.  The effect is often so subtle that we have no conscious realization that we are being influenced by color.

Research shows however, that color can actually influence buying behavior.  In fact, color has the power to evoke strong emotional responses and depending on your culture and your geographic location, using the wrong color could be enough to turn potential and existing customers away from your business.  As a result many marketers, like myself, have studied the meaning of color and the psychology behind color.  So let’s take a 50,000 foot view of color and give you some tips to help you influence customers the right way.

1. Geography and Culture

Sounds straight forward doesn’t it?  Not necessarily.  You don’t need to be a big company to think about the implications of working in different countries or selling to people of different cultures.  In fact, small business really needs to be on top of localization.

One of the best companies for localization is McDonald’s.  Small business can leverage the work they have done and apply it to their businesses.  For example, McDonald’s has  not only adapted the look and feel of their website to meet the local customer’s expectations, but they have changed their menu.   In terms of color, we see that Red plays prominently on their website in India.  Red is an important color and one that has positive meanings in India.


McDonald’s Website for Northern & Eastern India

 In Mexico however, red is really downplayed.  The website focuses more on the colors that are seen in the Mexican flag.

McDonald's Website for Mexico

McDonald’s Website for Mexico

And in The Netherlands, green is much more prominent than red on the website.  The golden arches are encased in green, not red.  Again, understanding the implications of color is important so that you can focus the right attention in the right place.

McDonald's Website for The Netherlands

McDonald’s Website for The Netherlands

2.  Age

This little known fact is one that can significantly impact your prospect or customer base. Understanding age and how color influences decisions is important if your business focuses on a specific age group.

According to research, green is a color that is more acceptable to people up to about 50 where as orange is a color that, as a person ages, is generally not preferred.   Additionally, as people age, the darker and strong the color, the more it is not desired.  Blue is consistently acceptable and preferred across all age groups.

If you are marketing to baby boomers, be sure to know what colors to fully leverage and which to stay away from.

Baby Boomer Image courtesy of goinglikesixty.com

Baby Boomer Image courtesy of goinglikesixty.com

3.  Psychological Impact of Color

It is true, colors bring on emotion.  Different colors mean different things.  Silver for example, brings about the emotion of calmness and if more on the gray side, it can bring about an emotional response of security, modesty or even intelligence.  Red in China is a sign of happiness and vitality.  When sending flowers to a family who is grieving and close to their Asian culture, be sure to send flowers that do not contain red.

For more information on the meaning of color, what emotions they evoke and how to use color, check out Using Color to Influence Buyer Behavior.

Takeaways:  Do your homework.  Look at what other companies have done and take cues from them.  Hire professionals who know about localization and understand how color can influence prospects and existing customers.

6 Communications Lessons from the Big Bang Theory

More and more I enjoy the Big Bang Theory, and no it is not because the theme song is done by a Canadian band – although that is not a bad thing either, but I digress.

Image courtesy of Big Bang Theory

Image courtesy of Big Bang Theory

The appeal for me really, is that through comedy, there are lessons that we can all take-away and use in real life.  Here’s a quick look at the lovable and absolutely amusing characters of the show:

1.  Dr. Raj Koothrappali

This sweet shy boy/man could be a blog posting all on its own.  Come to think of it, each character could have a separate posting; however, I will keep it to one for now.

With his extreme shyness,  his “selective mutism” condition, and his desire to become a part of American culture, Raj sometimes misses the nuances of situations.  Combine this with his naivety and he sometimes speaks when he shouldn’t.

Lesson Learned:  Of course this provides all sorts of comic relief, but the real lesson learned is really:  do your homework and know what the issues are both on the surface and, more importantly, below the surface.  By doing this, you can better prepare all your stakeholders and communicate in a more meaningful manner.

2.  Howard Wolowitz – Wow, there are really so many things to say.  Where would one start?

Well, despite his over active need for “love” and his incredible collection of terrible pick-up lines prior to getting married of course, there is a very kind and dependable side to Howard.  I think of the show when Penny wanted to give Leonard a surprise birthday party because he had never had one.  It was amazing just how far Howard would go to help Penny make this happen for Leonard.  Despite being deathly allergic to peanuts, he ate them in order to keep Leonard at the hospital long enough to get the party together.

The lesson we can learn from Howard:  be sure that the people that you choose to be on your team are as dedicated (minus taking a such a risk with one’s life) to the cause and doing things right, as you are.  Your team and your communications are only as good as your weakest link.  Being in it only for yourself doesn’t cut it.

3.  Penny – Over and above being the eye candy for the male viewers, Penny has a completely different set of smarts than “the boys”.  Bringing a softer side of things and a completely different outlook and set of experiences, Penny has actually helped them evolve.

The lesson learned from Penny’s character and interaction is:  when forming your team it is absolutely critical to ensure that you have someone who thinks differently than the rest.  This person will not only challenge you to see things differently, but help your messages be clearer and more on target, thus you will increase your probability of successfully communicating.

4.  Dr. Leonard Hofstadter – Good ole Leonard.  Growing up the child of a world famous child psychiatrist and neuroscientist who severely lacked the ability to express any love at all, Leonard is probably the closest to not being a geek of all “the boys”.

The lesson that we learn from Leonard is pretty straight forward: be consistent, be steady and never give up.  An important lesson in communicating, Leonard demonstrated this with his consistent pursuit of Penny.

5.  Dr.  Sheldon Cooper – Perhaps one of the most kookiest characters on TV right now, Sheldon is hilarious.  How the writers came up with the idea of someone like Sheldon is fun in itself.  Part child, part man, part human being who is borderline insane, Sheldon demonstrates one of the most important things that we can learn from The Big Bang Theory.

Lesson learned from Sheldon:  with continuous support from your team, individuals can learn from others in order to become better at a task, to become a better co-worker, and finally to become a better person.  For Sheldon to improve and evolve however, he has to be receptive.  Like communications should be, it is a two-way street.  People have to be receptive to messages, trust and be willing to accept change.

Finally, the overall lesson that we can take away from the characters on The Big Bang Theory:  be true, be loyal, be honest, and always share.  These are simple tenants to good communications.

Do you follow these tenants?  Do you share or do you shut people out?

A version of this post was previously posted on my old blog New World Marketing & Communications

3 Reasons A 5-Year Career Plan is full of $#!+

Remember way back, when there was an established line of questioning that job applicants were asked?  You know the things to determine if you would stay with the company forever, what your ambition was, how organized you are, etc?

5 year plan

One of the standard questions was of course, where do you see yourself in 5 years.  Way back “then” I always dreaded this question.  Why?  Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to be doing in 5 years. Just the opposite.  For me, that was a very personal question.  I liken it to someone asking me for my age or weight.  So, of course the standard answer was:  “I want to be in your job.”  This was not meant to be threatening of course, but rather the response was supposed to mean that I had ambition and therefore will want more and better things “at the company” and would stay forever.  Therefore, it was safe to invest in me.

Today however, it doesn’t make sense to ask this question and here are 3 reasons why:

1.  Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)

M&As have resulted in layoffs or reassignments for an increasing number of people.  Even those that survive the cuts begin looking elsewhere. Knowing what things will look like in two or three years would mean you have a crystal ball.  Five years, is well, just impossible.

2.  We Have Created A Monster –  A Culture of Job Hopping

Whether we like it or not, we have created a culture of job hopping.  According to Forbes in 2012, the average worker stayed at his or her job for an average of 4.4 years.  And, Millennials expect to stay in a job less than three years.  As hiring managers, we need to realize that this is reality and plan accordingly.

3.  We Are Creating New Jobs

In 5 years a lot changes.  A lot.  Today people work in roles that were non existent 5 years ago. There are far too many exciting possibilities to limit yourself.  Who can predict what new roles will emerge a year or two down the road? People want to keep their eyes wide open and avoid being pigeon holed.

So, it is not to say that people are non committal.  It is not that at all.  Times have changed and as a result people have changed.  The likelihood that people under the age of 45  will work for one employer for his or her entire career is just not the norm any longer.

Who knows, maybe the trend will be to question people who stay with the same employer for more than 5 years?  Maybe they will be looked upon as lacking ambition and drive and are really satisfied with the status quo?  What do you think?  Will this trend continue, or will things change yet again?

5 KPIs Every Small Business Needs to Know

Let’s face it, running a small business is challenging but exhilarating!  There are many initiatives that need your focus and many others that take your attention.  When it comes to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), there are many that you need to know and understand, but here are 5 to really focus on when just getting started:

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

1. Cost per acquisition (CPA)

With limited budgets, knowing where to focus your marketing dollars is critical.  Spending on the right media is essential.  Therefore, knowing your CPA will help you focus your limited dollars.

For help calculating your CPA, check out ClickZ

2.  Customer churn

Do you know how many customers are repeat customers?  Keeping customers is far more cost-effective than acquiring new customers.  While you need both for a business to thrive, you need to focus some attention on keeping customers.  Churn measures the percentage of customers that leave during a given period of time.

While there are different ways to calculate churn, check out  Churn-Rate 101 to get you started.

 3.  Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)

While there are different inputs to calculate a CSI, companies should be looking at what is important to their business and to their customers and ranking that performance.  For example, you may consider response time, safety messaging, and transaction accuracy as your top areas where you wish to measure customer satisfaction.

A CSI is a great way to take a pulse of customer experience and learn what areas of the business may need improvement.

To learn more about CSIs, check out the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

4.  Lifetime Value (LTV)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, LTV is worth much more.  LTV estimates the value of customer-worth to your company.  For example, if you charge a monthly subscription or maintenance fee, you will want to find out how long the average customer will actually be a customer.

To calculate LTV, check out this article on Entepreneur.com

5.  Operating Cash Flow 

The operating cash flow ratio is one of the most important cash flow ratios. It is a clear indication of how money moves into and out of the company and how the company pays its bills.  Understanding your cash flow will help you understand just how liquid your business is and how quick you can move.

These of course are just five of the many business KPIs that are important to a business, but they are great ones to think about when just starting out.

For more small business tips, visit www.taylormadecanada.com

5 Sales Pitch Lessons from the Shark Tank

Developing a sales pitch is both complex and time consuming. What may work for some buyers might not be right for others. Time is money and whether you’re selling a product, service, or a full solution, you need to captivate your audience immediately.

Image courtesy of the newsroomtuneup.com

Image courtesy of the newsroomtuneup.com

Nowhere is this more evident than on ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality series that finds entrepreneurs attempting to sell their big idea to a panel of successful investors.

The program is a textbook example of making a successful first impression by being properly prepared to nail your big pitch.

Here are five tips for perfecting your sales pitch from the sharks of Shark Tank:


 Let’s face it; we get pumped when we talk to someone who brings his/her A-Game. If you are excited about what you are selling, it will come through in your pitch. In the Shark Tank, people who are excited and knowledgeable immediately get the Sharks’ attention.


 Know what you want to say in the most concise and informative manner that addresses real pain points for your audience. In other words, what will motivate them to work with you? In Dan Pink’s latest book, he discusses how understanding real motivation can transform how you sell. In the Shark Tank, the Sharks are motivated by why something is different and how what you’re offering will fix “something.” If you can’t demonstrate that in the first 40 seconds, you have already lost ground.


On the Canadian version of Shark Tank known as Dragon’s Den, a team seeking investment utilized gymnasts to demonstrate that their product – add-ons to seeing glasses that would prevent them from falling off – actually worked. This definitely got the panel’s attention. It was interesting, it was different, and it proved that the product worked. Three of the five “dragons” invested in the company.


When making the pitch know how much room for negotiation you have. Being able to make the deal on the spot could mean the difference between a yes and a no. Like in the Shark Tank, if you capture their interest with a good pitch, you can make a deal right there in that moment. Once you walk out the door, however, it could be over.


The most common advice that the Sharks give:  “never give up.”  This applies to everything in life! Perfecting your sales pitch does take time and patience. Be sure to learn from each experience and bring that to the table for your next pitch.


Note: a version of this post was previously shared on the salesforce.com blog.

5 Tips for Students to Avoid Looking Like an Ass When Job Hunting

Whether you are in your first year of college or university, or your last, it’s time to start thinking about your personal brand.  Whether you are looking for your first summer job, or better yet preparing to graduate, you need to think about what your brand will be when you graduate.  And yes, you do need to be thinking about your personal brand now.  Here are 5 tips to get you started:


1.  Think about what your dream job looks like

It is never too early to think about this and be sure to take courses that fit that view.  Don’t be afraid to stray outside your faculty for courses.  Think outside the box and how the new skills will help you get that dream job.

2.  Volunteer

Everyone should volunteer.  Not only does it build character and teach you how to work with people of different backgrounds, but it also enables you to test out what you learn in school.  Be selective however.  Don’t just volunteer for the sake of volunteering.  Think again of the dream job and be passionate about what you do.  Not only will it make the volunteering more enjoyable, but it will likely open more doors for you.

3.  Take time for R&R

Sure you need to relax and restore, but that is not what I am suggesting.  Instead be sure to read and research.  This might sound like a strange thing to tell a student, but you need to stretch yourself.  Be sure to read mainstream news each day.  Research companies, people and trends that you are hearing about in the news.

4.  Contribute

In addition to R&R, be sure to contribute your comments, thoughts, ideas and even pose questions when reading blogs or news articles.  This will not only help you learn more, but it will also begin to establish your name as someone who is knowledgeable and someone who contributes his or her own thoughts.

5.  Think before You Post Online

I saved this one for last and not because it is the least important.  Actually, it is just the opposite.  When thinking about your personal brand, you need to think about everything that you say and do.  You need to be consistent in all channels of your life.  This is particularly important in your online persona.  Remember every photo of you partying can and will come back to haunt you at some point.  Every stupid comment you make will resurface.  If possible, work with a professional to develop your LinkedIn profile.  It might cost a few dollars, but it will be worth it when you outshine your competition.

For more information on social channels and best practices, visit TaylorMade Solutions.

3 Things the Jimmy Kimmel Twerking Prank Should Teach Us

Jimmy Kimmel did a fantastic job pranking the world.  Yes, the world.  A fake video uploaded to YouTube with a girl twerking and catching fire not only went viral with more than 9 million views on YouTube, but mainstream media went crazy over it.  So, what should this prank teach us?

Image from the Jimmy Kimmel reveal

Image from the Jimmy Kimmel reveal

1. Just because it is on social doesn’t mean it is true!

What ever happened to critical reasoning?  Have we blindly become a society of people who will believe whatever we see?  Apparently so.  When did social become the one source of truth.  Why didn’t mainstream media investigate? Why did they care?  I hope that this is not indication of what is to come.  We need the media.  We need them to be able to investigate and tell the truth.  After all, media remain one of the few trusted sources of information based on the latest Edelman Trust Barometer.

2.  People are fickle

As a whole we want to believe ridiculous things happen and kind of enjoy watching people make fools of themselves. (Although I must confess that I did not watch the video until I saw the Jimmy Kimmel unveiling of the prank)

3.  We have Lost Perspective

When did twerking, regardless of who is doing it, become our fascination?  More people have paid attention to this original prank than some much more important and relevant issues. Case in point:  a news story in my city has unveiled some serious criticisms of our local hospital.  While in said hospital yesterday I overheard two health-care workers  talking in an elevator.  The Miley Cyrus twerking story came up and both knew about that.  The story, which directly impacts them about their hospital, was only known by one of the two workers.  This story has been all over the media for days. I can’t imagine that it is not being spoken of a lot in the hospital.  How sad that someone would know about twerking versus something that they are a part of.

What are your thoughts on this prank and people not valuing the important issues that can directly impact them?  Have we become too fickle and lost perspective?

5 Tips for Small Business Owners To Pick a Content Marketing Expert

Content marketing continues to grow and for good reason. It enables businesses to leverage their expertise in a real and demonstrable manner, at a relatively low cost. So, why aren’t more small businesses taking advantage and implementing content marketing? The answer is simple.  They just don’t have the expertise or the time.  The good news is that there is help.  There are many excellent marketing practitioners who live and breathe content marketing.  At the same time, there are many people who profess to understand content marketing and do not.  Here are 5 tips for getting started when seeking your content marketer:

Content is King

Image courtesy of doublelinx.com

1.  Think Strategically

One of the first things that a content marketer should ask about is your strategy.  Good content marketing consultants will interview you about this and ask thought-provoking questions.

2.  Develop Personas

In order to curate content, it is essential that your content marketing professional be able to develop personas, should you not already have them.

 3. Act with Integration in Mind

Content should not be created only with social in mind.  An integrated approach must be taken.  Be sure that your marketing consultant has the expertise to leverage and implement an integrated marketing approach tied to your strategy.  Don’t be dazzled by someone who knows how to set up a Facebook Page or Group.

 4.  Execute Based on Best Practices

Be sure to ask questions to determine if your consultant knows how to make use of the right channels at the right time.  For example, recommending to post updates to Facebook at the wrong times with the wrong content will result in poor results.  This also applies to quality over quantity.   Always look for consultants that focus on quality first.

 5.  Focus On Long-term Results

As tempted as we are to want things to happen immediately, marketing is something that takes time.  Your consultant should be prepared to guide you through the process and make adjustments as needed.  Remember we are dealing with consumer behaviour and influencing behaviour takes time.

These are just 5 starting points to get you thinking.

Looking for more tips for small business?  Check out:  25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business.

12 Reasons to Do a Communications Audit Immediately

Communications is at the core of success and therefore, a periodic communications audit is critical to ensure that you are meeting the changing needs to your stakeholders.  Here are 12 reasons to do a communications audit immediately:

Image Courtesy of www.bcrealtysolutions.ca

1.  You are no longer getting the same level of employee feedback as you once did.

2.  Your external stakeholders are no longer engaged.

3.  Repeat Customers have diminished.

4.  Your Top of the Funnel Sales Leads have decreased.

5.  Regulators or legislative bodies claim that they don’t know what you are doing.

6.  The media report that you are not available for comment or did not respond by time of deadline.

7.  Your read rate of online newsletters has decreased.

8.  Employee retention is an issue.

9.  Employee sick time is increasing.

10.  Labor relations is an issue.

11.  Investors are not happy.

12.  You don’t know what medium is the right one to communicate with employees, customers, stakeholders, regulators, media, etc.

The good news is that a communications audit can be done to determine strengths and weaknesses between management and employees and management and external parties. The focus can be exclusively on the internal or external relationship, or both.  An audit will not only determine strengths and weaknesses, but it will also determine the channels of choice for specific audiences, frequency of communication and how different types of communications should be addressed for specific audiences.  

For more information on how to do a Communications Audit, check out:  8 Key Steps for a Successful Communications Audit.


25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business

Small and medium business owners are always on the lookout for great resources to help them grow, but they don’t  always have time to research, read, and sort the wheat from the chaff. So I’ve done the preliminary work for you.

Here are 25 helpful small business resources covering everything from naming your new business to creating content for your marketing strategy, to increasing sales.


Image compliments of entrepreneur.com

In no particular order, here a list of SMB resources you’re going to want to bookmark:

1. Entrepreneur Solutions Playbook – 25 Small-Business Challenges [PDF]: A great discussion on the Top 25 Small Business Challenges

2. The Simple Guide to Branding Your Small Business [Infographic]: Looking for great advice on branding?  Check out this visual.

3. 5 Startup Naming Rules from SXSW: This article discusses how to position your business, including Do’s and Don’t’s.

4. Facebook – Small Business Page: Great up-to-date ideas and information for small businesses plus you can contribute your ideas.

5. Six Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy: Whether you’re just getting started with content marketing or you’re at it for awhile, this article to shares best practices.

6. Small Business Mobility Meets Big Business Needs: Learn more about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

7. Reuters Small Business Resource Center: Looking for a well-rounded source for starting a business, employment law and more, check out this resource center.

8. CNN Small Business Community: Join the CNN Small Business Community for interesting posts from CNN Money.

9. Smart Bizz – Small Business and Startups Internet Technology Resources: Another good source for a broad range of subjects from e-commerce, productivity and more in this resource center.

10. NFIB – National Federation of Independent Business, the Voice of Small Business: From healthcare to sales and customer service to finance and accounting, get topical posts to help you advance your business.

11. Smallbusiness.com – a Free Wiki: Get local-based information based on your State.  Check out this community portal to learn the latest happenings in small business.

12. Wall Street Journal – Market Watch: Looking for an aggregate of great news-related posts for your small business? This is another great one-stop shop.

13. CitiBank Small Business Resources: Learn more about risk and financial security.

14. AT&T Strategies and Insights:  Access posts on how to attract customers, increase sales, build relationships and more on this handy site.

15. IT Business Edge – Small Business Computing: Get how-to guides, small business tips and more on this site.

16. Bank of America Small Business Community: Learn about small businesses of the month, ask the community questions and more.

17. Network Solutions – Small Business Center: Get a roundup of small business news all in one spot.

18. Cisco Small Business Resource Center: This center has articles, customer stories news and more all in one spot.

19. Small Business Guides: Get the latest guides on financing, training and events.

20. Go Small Biz: Looking for a go-to on tax/accounting, sales, HR, risk and tech in one spot?  This could be your go-to.

21. All Business – Your Small Business Advantage: Get access to the top stories, All Business experts and more.

22. Information Week SMB Technology for Small and Midsized Business: Get access to weekly email updates, SMB stories right from SMBs and more.

23. Microsoft Business for Small and Midsized Business: Learn new ways to use Microsoft tools get tips and marketing research.

24. DuctTape Marketing Blog: Blog posts, free ebooks and information on courses abound this site.

25. AMEX Open Forum: Recently redesigned, exchange advice, get ideas and learn small business success.

Note:  a version of this post appeared on the Salesforce blog that I wrote for them in August of this year.