All posts by Mike McCandless

About Mike McCandless

Business developer, shopkeeper, book publisher, and writer.


This is the only thing that matters in partnerships.

The 4 C’s

  • Customers
  • Competitors
  • Collaborators
  • Co-operators

branding…mostly a feeling…

Branding is all about how people feel about your company. Your brand is the collective experiences of the customers and prospects who have researched your product, bought your product, used your product, seen your ads, browsed your website, or talked with or met with your people. So, it follows that while you have crucial influence over your brand, you don’t have control.

Your brand isn’t your logo. That’s a graphic symbol that will evoke your brand. generate whatever feelings people have about your product and company. You can trademark a logo, but that only will keep someone else from using it or imitating it too closely should they think that doing so would be to their advantage…because of your brand.

Your colors, typeface, and style aren’t your brand. Again, symbols.

Branding is hard. This is why so many meetings where you talk about your branding devolve into arguments about the logo, the colors, the symbols. To talk productively about your brand, you have to have a vision for how you want people to feel about you and then know something about how they actually do feel. You need to have been listening. This is hard.


media and messages

Marshall McLuhan famously explained that “the medium is the message.” Although his context was not my context, the idea still applies perfectly.

Over and over again, I observe that marketers of all types make the mistake of not fitting or adapting their messages to a new medium. Every medium has its own requirements and imperatives for being used most effectively. If your messages are not re-shaped and stylized to fit some medium other than the medium of origin, your message will lose impact and focus.

The ephemeral nature of the live spoken word may require that you use more words to let listeners follow the thought trail and keep up. The persistent and referential nature of the written word allows you to tighten up the prose because readers can go at their own paces and re-read as necessary to maximize absorption. This is a big deal for marketers, where every medium counts and where you should always be concerned about bang-for-buck metrics.

Respect every medium. Use its unique potential in your messaging ensemble.

adaptive marketing

Changes AheadI don’t know if this is a new term or not, but it sure fits real life. I have witnessed both businesses and nonprofits fall from market dominance because they didn’t adapt to changes in their markets.

Stuff changes…all the time. There’s nothing easier than becoming lulled into a false sense of security by good times. Everything you touch turns to gold. Everybody loves you. But that’s bound to change when you least expect it. The trick is to expect it.

Every organization ought to have a change agent. This is someone who is on the lookout for changes in the market who can begin planning strategies for dealing with change. This will be a visionary CEO many times, but CEOs are often known for becoming the biggest fans of the successful realities they helped create. Whoever your change agent is, he or she needs the support of the CEO or other power in the organization because theirs will be a tough job: always ready to remind anyone who needs to hear it that things are changing and changes in the organization need to start happening…yesterday.

How do you spell success?

Capitalization? A great idea? The right people in the right seats? A killer plan?
What matters most to a successful startup anything?

According to Bill Gross of Idealab, it’s ….


These three little words will trigger everything you need to remember about creating effective marketing communications.

Connect with your audience. What problem will you solve? What pain will you alleviate? What benefit will you offer? Be personal; be emotional; be direct; be compelling.

Inform them with what they need to know, and only what they need to know, to support the action decision you want them to take when you…

Ask them to take action.

No matter if you’re creating a three-line web ad or a white paper. Always, always, always use these three prompts to structure your communication. Forgetting any one of these, and especially the Ask, will doom your creation to the circular file in your reader’s mind.


the world’s worst prospect follow-up note

mercuryThe hand-written note card began, “Thank you so much for your time yesterday.” and was signed…well, it wasn’t signed, unless the squiggle following the last legible word and looking like the astronomical symbol for Mercury, was a signature or initial of someone the writer was sure I’d know. Since I had no meetings yesterday, I don’t. But when was yesterday? No date.

The note went on, “I hope we were able to provide you all….” Ah-ha! I was not the only person not at the meeting! Or, the writer is from the South. Not sure.

“…with enough information that demonstrated our unique solutions and [illegible] sewer.” I swear, it looks exactly like “sewer.” This can’t be right. We’re the marketing department.

“We truly hope that we are selected to partner with you and help you with all of your needs.” We certainly ought to consider them, I suppose, if they can help with all our needs. Some specific reference to what we talked about would be nice here.

The name of the company sending the note was printed in the return address area of the envelope and again in the lower right corner of the card. No address, city, state or tag line. No contact info. No URL. Who are these people?

Don’t let this happen to you.

social media is plural

beeI have a bee in my bonnet about how people are using the term “social media” in spoken and written communications. People who should know better.

The reason I’m bugged is that so many people are already struggling with how to understand and use social media marketing that we marketers ought to be making this easier and not harder so that business people can get on with their new, improved marketing lives.

Social Media Style

social medium: a World Wide Web-based software application that creates a two-way, interactive communication channel between sender and receiver, publisher and reader, seller and prospect, provider and user, etc. Compare with news medium,

social media: the various World Wide Web-based software applications and services used to implement

social media marketing: using the social media to implement typical marketing strategies such as prospect acquisition, customer communications, customer service, advertising and promotions.

social media for the confused

food_artsI’m assuming that everyone still knows what magazines are. That we haven’t been so possessed by the Web that we have forgotten what magazines have always done for us…transport us inside communities of people interested in the same things we are. I’ve always found magazines, and especially trade, or industry-specific, magazines to be the very best way to tune in to the news, information, images and ads about a market or subject I where I needed a quick education. Came in very handy. Continue reading social media for the confused

accentuate the positive

Ever heard this old song? It’s all about marketing communications…

No, really! I can’t think of a better way to describe what distinguishes marketing writing from other kinds of communications. Continue reading accentuate the positive