Category Archives: Author Guest Posts

Emotional Stories that Sell: Techniques for Deeply Moving Buyers’ Decisions

As brain science now proves, emotions play a critical role in decision making. Human beings make rapid, subconscious, emotional decisions in one part of the brain, and then justify (or possibly adjust) those decisions more rationally in another area. Research also shows that we recall information more clearly and easily when it’s attached to emotion.

“If you want to influence buyers’ decisions, you need to influence them emotionally, not just rationally and logically,” affirms bestselling author Paul Smith. “And it’s difficult to influence people emotionally with only facts and logic and data. Fortunately, we have a tool to tap into people’s emotions quite effectively—a story.” In his new book, SELL WITH A STORY: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale (AMACOM; September 8, 2016), Smith offers the following techniques to enhance the emotional impact of the stories you tell buyers:

  • Make me feel. Telling buyers how your main character feels (“He was outraged.” “She was distraught.”) is a good start. Showing them how the character feels by describing his or her behavior (“He stormed in and kicked over a chair.” “She ducked behind her minivan and started crying.”) is better. Best is to actually make buyers feel those very emotions. To pull this off, put your listeners in an equal position with the main character. Gradually draw them into the story and let them know as much, but no more and no less, than him or her. This position allows listeners to experience the same emotion as the main character by finding out the same emotion-causing information in the same way he or she does in the story.
  • Make me care. If your listeners don’t know anything about the characters in your story, it’s difficult for them to care about what happens to those characters. If your story starts with, “There was this guy I used to work with who got fired…,” why should they care? But if you start with, “There was this guy named Matt I used to work with in California who was my favorite coworker. He got to work every morning before everyone and turned on the coffeepot. He’d always cover for me when I needed to take a day off. He knew the job and answered my questions without making me feel stupid for asking…,” and then go on to tell about how he got fired, then your listeners will care. Because they know Matt and like him.
  • Use dialogue. Instead of telling the audience what the characters feel, let them hear it. Use words that capture your character’s unspoken emotions, as well as what he or she says out loud. For example, instead of telling listeners that your character felt nervous and unprepared for her new job, you could share her inner thoughts this way: “She shook the interviewer’s hand and said, ‘Thank you so much for the job offer. I won’t let you down.’ But inside, she was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have no idea how to do this. I’m going to get fired on my first day!’”

Cover of Sell with a Story by Paul Smith

Adapted from Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale by Paul Smith (AMACOM September 2016).

PAUL SMITH is a popular speaker and expert trainer on business storytelling techniques. A former Procter & Gamble executive, his clients include Hewlett Packard, Bayer Medical, Progressive Insurance, Walmart, and other distinguished companies. As the author of Lead with a Story, his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Time, Forbes, The Washington Post, Success, and Investor’s Business Daily.



Back-to-School, With an EpiPen or Without

Mireille Schwartz and daughter with epipen

Author Mireille Schwartz and her daughter consider the EpiPen

The following is a guest post from Mireille Schwartz, author of the forthcoming When Your Child Has Food Allergies: A Parent’s Guide to Managing it All–From the Everyday to the Extreme (AMACOM April 2017), on this year’s back-to-school pharmacy visit and its collision with the recent EpiPen price controversy.

Two weeks ago, as part of my family’s back-to-school ritual, my daughter and I made an annual trip to our local pharmacy in order to refill her epinephrine auto-injector two-pack prescription. When your child has food allergies, there are certain times each calendar year that are pivotal touchpoints for safety: the birthday party, Halloween, winter holidays, and back-to-school. Families with food allergies survive and thrive with plenty of planning, and with strategies firmly in place to handle and manage the inevitable allergen exposures along the way. The epinephrine auto-injector is a huge part of this strategy.

Once a severe allergic reaction starts, epinephrine is usually the first line of defense to treat the situation. It’s a synthetic adrenaline that can reverse the severe symptoms of an allergic reaction in – literally – seconds. The medication is loaded up into an auto-injectable device, commonly referred to as the ‘EpiPen’ after the best-known brand, and one shot can stop an allergic reaction in its tracks. It’s considered the first and best solution in combating food allergies once they have been triggered. The epinephrine raises dangerously low blood pressure by tightening the blood vessels. The lung muscles relax, breathing eases, and swelling reduces in the throat and face. Then the heart rate increases as blood pressure rises, delivering the epinephrine faster to the whole body.

Unlike antihistamine tablets and syrups like Benadryl – also useful, but not as fast-acting – epinephrine is available by a prescription only, and the shelf-life of the medication is slightly more than 12 months, meaning that refills are needed annually. The back-to-school season is a natural time to re-up: school is the ultimate zone for those inevitable allergen exposures.

The end-of-summer trip to the pharmacy is typically pretty boring, with some waiting around, then the polite small talk with our pharmacist followed by the handoff. This time, however, while we waited, we could see a buzz building behind the counter. Our pharmacist scowled at his computer screen, clicking a button over and over on his keyboard. Our eyes met, he quickly looked away, and he summoned over the head pharmacist. Together they began a quiet and heated discussion with the monitor’s glow on their frowning faces. Next, a third pharmacist walked up and tried her hand at the computer keyboard, while the three conferred in hushed tones.

My daughter and I are dependent on these EpiPens. As inconceivable as it was for me to consider, I had to ask: “Is there a problem with our prescription?” The head pharmacist was apologetic as he told me and my daughter, “I’m sorry, but even with your EpiPen coupon, the charge for your daughter’s medication today is $700.” He was clearly uncomfortable and caught off guard. I asked all of the questions a parent asks: was this for ALL the refills available for the entire year? Was this an error of some kind? The pharmacist couldn’t explain it, and he was as astounded as I was.

For Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the EpiPen, back-to-school is the ultimate time to gouge the customer—a customer desperate and dependent on the product. This price hike also happened directly following the removal of the other leading epinephrine auto-injector, Sanofi’s Auvi-Q that “talked you through” its use, from the market. A generic alternative has not yet arrived for consumers. And so it looks like Mylan, the EpiPen manufacturer, has done the cold and calculated unthinkable to us.

This week I’ve heard countless stories from families dejected to hear the same bad news at their own pharmacies all across the country. In some towns the EpiPen price surpassed $1,000. Families were frightened, many left without their child’s medications. No lifesaving medication for the school year.

Earlier this week, I met with my daughter’s school and handed them her brand new EpiPen two-pack. I also swapped out the soon-to-expire EpiPen two-pack in her personal emergency bag, carried daily in her backpack.

How many other families this week did not?

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Food allergy expert & author MIREILLE SCHWARTZ imparts wisdom gathered during her lifetime with food allergies in her upcoming book, When Your Child Has Food Allergies (AMACOM April 2017). She’ll share the stories behind the stories, and with them the health, safety, efficacy, common sense, and fragilities that make us who we are. “Food is everywhere, and our relationship to food needs to be healthy if we are to stay healthy,” Schwartz says. The author lives with her family in San Francisco.


Kimberly Palmer on Talking to Your Kids About Money

It’s important to talk with your kids about money: as studies show, kids learn about money and how to manage it, wisely or not, from watching and listening to their parents.
Kimberly Palmer, author of SMART MOM, RICH MOM: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family (AMACOM June 2016) and a mom of two, offers the following ideas for conversations that will help kids navigate our complicated financial world:

1) Mistakes You’ve Made with Money. Kids love to hear about their parents’ mistakes, and not just to smirk. It lets them know that it’s okay to be less than perfect. Potential examples to share include waiting to start a 401(k) account, getting into credit card debt, or wasting money on a splurge you regretted.

2) How You Earn Money and Use It. Thanks to direct-deposit, online shopping, and plastic, the exchange of goods and services for cash is almost invisible. Talking about how mom and dad work hard to earn a paycheck so we can turn around and use it to pay for our food, home, clothes, and car can make the virtual world of commerce a little more real.

3) How to Be a Media Critic. Kids are exposed to advertising everywhere: smartphone apps, websites, product placement within TV shows. As kids get older, point out differences between an ad and a show. Teach them to be skeptical of all the promises that advertising makes to get them (or their mom) to spend money.

4) Planning for Big Goals. When your kids start asking for expensive things, as kids tend to do, encourage them to draw a picture of what they want and consider ways the family could save to make that goal possible. Explain how you are making sacrifices to put money toward their future college education.

5) How to Use Credit Cards and Bank Accounts. To kids (and some adults), it’s not at all obvious that you should really try to pay off the full credit card balance each month as opposed to paying the required minimum. Explain why and let kids look over your shoulder as you manage your accounts and pay your bills.

6) Being Assertive (to Companies and Bosses). Let your kids overhear you calling a company to ask for a refund or to demand better service. Help your kids practice asking for more money, perhaps for their allowance or babysitting services, so they can learn the right words to use and get comfortable with the concept of negotiation before they get their first salary offer.

Cover of Smart Mom Rich Mom by Kimberly Palmer

Adapted from Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family by Kimberly Palmer (AMACOM June 2016).

KIMBERLY PALMER, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, was the senior money editor at US News & World Report for nine years. She is an adjunct professor at American University, where she teaches a course on mastering social media. She lives with her family, including two children, in the Washington, D.C., area.


Cliff Ennico Shares 10 Need-to-Know Facts on the SEC’s New Crowdfunding Regulations


The following is a guest post from Cliff Ennico, author of The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money For Your Small Business or Start-Up with Equity Funding Portals (AMACOM May 2016).


On May 16, 2016, the SEC handed down regulations under the federal JOBS Act that allow small businesses and early stage companies to raise capital on the Internet via “crowdfunding portals,” such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and SeedInvest.

The regulations are over 600 pages long, but here are some key points:

  1. It’s Not Just for Tech Companies.  Any small business can raise money under these rules, including retail, service and other “non-scalable” businesses that haven’t been able to tap into the securities markets until now.
  2. It’s Not Just for “Accredited Investors”.  Anyone can buy securities in a crowdfunded offering, although there are limits on how much they can invest.  If your company has a large following on social media, you can solicit them to view your offering (but see below).
  3. Some Companies Can’t Crowdfund.  Foreign companies (other than Canada), hedge funds and other investment companies, public companies and companies that have run afoul of SEC rules in the past can’t take advantage of the new rules.
  4. You Gotta Use a Portal.  You can’t crowdfund from your website or Facebook page.  You must register with a broker-dealer or “crowdfunding portal” (registered as such with both the SEC and FINRA) and post your offering only there.  Fees will run between 5% and 10% of the offering amount, with (maybe) flat fees for small offerings.
  5. You Gotta Do the Paperwork.  You have to fill out a disclosure document using the SEC’s Form C (available as an “online questionnaire”) on the crowdfunding portal.  You can attach “supplemental materials” such as marketing videos, product demonstrations and the like, but if you put these on the portal they can’t appear anywhere else (for example, on your website or until the offering is completed.
  6. You Can Only Raise So Much.  You can raise up to $1 million over a rolling 12-month period with crowdfunding.
  7. You Can’t Advertise Outside the Portal.  You can post an “offering notice” on your website directing investors to the portal, and e-mail the “offering notice” to your social media crowd, but that’s it.  You can’t communicate with investors directly, only through the portal.
  8. For Big Cash Raises, You May Need Audited Financials.  If you are raising less than $100,000, your CEO can bless the financials.  Over that, your financials must be “reviewed” by an independent CPA, but if you raise more than $500,000 in two (or more) separate offerings, the second offering must include audited financial statements.
  9. You Can “Double Dip”.  If your crowdfunded offering is acceptable, you can go back for more (up to $1 million), but you will need updated business and financial information, and will probably have to pay a separate fee to the portal.  You will also have to explain why you need the extra money.
  10. You Need to Manage Your “Crowd”.  Consider carefully what it will mean to have dozens, if not hundreds, of investors to keep track of if your crowdfunded offering is successful.  You will need to develop an “investor relations” strategy for keeping your crowd informed, up to date and satisfied with your company’s performance.  It will be much tougher to “pivot” your business plan in a different direction with a crowd watching over your management team’s shoulders.



CLIFF ENNICO is a syndicated columnist and author of The Crowdfunding Handbook: Raise Money For Your Small Business or Start-Up with Equity Funding Portals (AMACOM May 2016). This article is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.

Nick Westergaard: Changing Times Call for Scrappy Marketers

WestergaardThe following is a guest post from Nick Westergaard, author of GET SCRAPPY: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small (AMACOM April 2016).

It is a dizzying time to be in marketing. Each day we wake up and are distracted by all of the shiny new things coming at us. There are over a billion people on Facebook. Snapchat has 150 million daily active users. An excited mom in a Chewbacca mask can post a Facebook live video and dominate the news.

As marketer, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s easy to ride the tide and bounce from network to network, setting up presences everywhere for your brand, creating and sharing every new form of content. But this is neither efficient nor effective. As marketing continues to change at a breakneck pace, few have the resources to be this unfocused with their marketing.

You need to be smart. You need to get scrappy.

If you’re asking, “What is scrappy?” — let’s start with what scrappy isn’t. Scrappy isn’t marketing small. Scrappy isn’t marketing on the cheap. And, most importantly, scrappy isn’t dumbing down your marketing.

My favorite definition comes from the Urban Dictionary, which defines scrappy as describing “someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence, and heart.”

In short, anyone can get scrappy. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2B, B2C, non-profit, or government. The local dry cleaner who does its own marketing can benefit from getting scrappy just as much as a marketer in a larger organization. As Samantha Hersil, who leads digital marketing at Pacific Cycle for brands like Schwinn, Kid Trax, and Roadmaster, told me, “We all wish that we had a few people and a few dollars more.” We all face the same hurdles that can be overcome with will, persistence, and heart.

Scrappy is doing more with less. Scrappy is a spirit determined to simplify marketing in today’s complex digital world. Scrappy is thinking like an underdog (even if you aren’t) with a winning and determined mindset. Let’s explore that mindset a little further.

Brains Before Budget — When you start to think about personnel, tools, and technology, digital marketing can get real expensive real fast. Remember, getting scrappy is more than just being cheap. It’s about getting smart first so you can do more with less, putting your brains before your budget.

Faced with all of these shiny new things, too many marketers skip strategy. Before you rush to plant the flag on a new social network, ask yourself, what is it you’re trying to accomplish? What’s your business objective?

Market Like a Mousetrap — “No one’s ever bothered to build a better mousetrap.” That’s because the mousetrap is both effective and efficient. Like the mousetrap, to get scrappy with your marketing, you have to be both effective and efficient. To be effective, your objective has to be clearly defined first (the trap’s objective is pretty obvious) so that you know when the job is done (snap!).

Efficiency provides the best construct for a more scrappy relationship with money. Being efficient is more than just being cheap. You’ve still met your desired objective. You’ve just done so with minimal expense.

See Ideas Everywhere — Stay open to ideas from outside your industry. “Nope. That’s a B2C idea. We’re B2B. That won’t work here.” Or perhaps, “That’s too business-y. We’re a non-profit and things are sooooooo different for us.” Many times you can have an even greater impact because it’s an approach that’s not often taken in your industry. Cloud-computing giant Salesforce developed an app that allowed fans to create custom Valentine’s Day e-cards to share via social media. Wait! Isn’t Valentine’s Day a consumer-focused holiday? Isn’t Salesforce a B2B company? Maybe, but they had some fun and stood out in a big way by daring to think beyond their own sector stereotypes.

Technology is moving too fast for you to be confined by the ideas in your industry. To stay ahead, you have to learn to collect insights and ideas from beyond your specific niche and industry.

To get scrappy with your marketing you need to remember to (1) put your brains before your budget, (2) market like a mousetrap, and (3) see ideas everywhere. Then and only then can you start doing more with less. More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. By embracing this mindset, you can get scrappy with your marketing as others are already doing—at organizations big and small.

Are you ready to get scrappy with your marketing?



Nick Westergaard is Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands at organizations of all sizes — from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies to the President’s Jobs Council. An in-demand speaker at conferences throughout the world, he also teaches branding and marketing at the University of Iowa and hosts the popular On Brand podcast