Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Solopreneurs Can do Web 2.0 Better than Big Corporations

Whether we use Facebook and other Web 2.0 sites, email discussion groups, blogs, or even Usenet newsgroups, one of the key advantages for solopreneurs/very small companies is our ability to use social networking much more effectively than big corporations. This has been true all the way back to BBS systems in the 1980s.

We can be nimble, we don’t need committees to approve our posts, and we can be authentic. And this is one medium where dollars don’t mean as much as quality.

As someone who provides marketing consulting and copywriting to microbusinesses (many of them home-based businesses), I have been urging my clients (and the readers of my books) to pick a social medium that works for them, and work the niche since at least 1993.

E-mail discussion lists in particular have been very powerful in growing my own business from a local to an international clientele. They have allowed me to brand myself very powerfully in front of a carefully target group of prospects, and I get many clients as a result of a consistently helpful and well-informed posture.

What’s your experience?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ben Silverman: How NOT to do PR

Talk about a clueless company! First its PR department issues wrong information. Then when journalists pick up the story and cast the company in a negative light, they demand retractions saying the story was based on erroneous information–but not bothering to mention that the wrong stuff was supplied by them in the first place.

Read all the way down to see how they get their comeuppance–it’s sweet! The story in Ben Silverman’s PR Fuel is called “Shooting the Messenger

Monday, December 24, 2007

BenMack’s Amazing ‘Poker Without Cards’

Novels have been used to persuade since at least the days of Gulliver’s Travels. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Huckleberry Finn had a major influence on 19th century social policy; in more modern times, authors from Ayn Rand to Joseph Heller to Phillip Campbell have used novels as a platform for their agenda.

Now comes a novel that teaches the very skills of persuasion–something I’m not sure has been done before (though the late Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus trilogy skirts the edges).

Advertising maven Ben Mack’s Poker Without Cards goes deeper into the human psyche than even the very provocative Daniel Quinn, and with the same kind of unexpected mind twists. Set up as a dialogue over several months between Mack’s alter ego Howard W. Campbell and a hospital psychiatrist who believes Campbell holds the key to understanding a particularly difficult case, the book is a page-turner even without trying to have any kind of real plot. The places the two men go in their discussions may change your mind to the whole idea of what’s possible and how the brain actually works–while providing a gripping, if not particularly easy, read.

And speaking of persuasion, he’s managed to persuade people who seldom write blurbs to endorse his book, including not only Wilson himself but also Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brodie (author of Virus of the Mind as well as the original MS Word) and Internet marketer supreme Mark Joyner, among others.

As a marketer, I recommend this book without hesitation to marketers who want to understand persuasion on a deeper, more personal level than you can get from nonfiction. And as a planetary citizen, I recommend it to consumers who want to understand what’s being done to them by forces they may want to understand.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mendelsohn, the Fixer: Another UK Government Ethics Scandal

While others are shocked, investigate reporter Greg Palast is not surprised that Jon Mendelsohn, chief fundraiser for Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, is involved with a big scandal.

Nine years ago, Palast secretly recorded Mendelsohn–thinking he was taling to a lobbyist from Enron–bragging that he could get to anyone in British government is the price was right, even Gordon Brown (at that time in charge of the British treasury).

His question is not how a supposedly ethical party man was able to channel “£630,000 ($1.2 million) in dodgy, possibly illegal, campaign contributions to Labour”–but why Brown, who couldn’t have been uninformed about Mendelsohn’s shady history, brought him on board in the first place.

An interesting question, indeed!

Can an ‘Empty Calories’ Ad Actually Work?

On one of the many Internet marketing newsletters I read, I got this link, and this teaser:

Over 82% of the people who have viewed this
video have opted in for more information.

Must be pretty powerful, eh? So I went to check it out.

What I found was a short and extremely well-produced video from one of the masters of Internet marketing, someone who has been behind the launches of a dozen or so successful “continuity” programs–where you pay a fee each month until you tell the company you want out. Most of the continuity programs out there sell membership programs; this guy sells software tools, as well as a very popular seminar series.

And he’s someone who very much understands the power of focusing on benefits, and of delivering value–and has parlayed that understanding into many millions of dollars.

So it was a shock to watch this video. It’s an exercise in non-benefit-oriented brand-building, and the call to action at the end is extremely week in my opinion–what I call “empty calories marketing.” In other words, the sort of thing you’d expect from a large ad agency that wants to make its client feel good but doesn’t care about actually generating results, and not one of the most sophisticated direct marketers on the planet.

Well, maybe he knows something I don’t. I wasn’t moved to leave my name of the squeeze page at the end, but if that copy in the e-mail blast is to believed, better than 4 out of 5 visitors do leave their names.

I’ll be curious to learn what kind of results he gets from this. And also whether other marketers disagree with me and feel the ad is effective.

Note: the link above is the affiliate link for the people who sent me the e-mail. I am not an affiliate of this program.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mark Joyner’s Viral Experiment: Blogging Courseware

Mark Joyner has deservedly enjoyed a reputation as one of the online world’s most creative and successful marketers, going back many years.

He and I have become Internet friends after he bought a copy of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First over my website and I responded with a personal note.

Now Mark is trying another viral experiment with his new blogging course: giving it to anyone who posts the following text on his or her blog.

I’m evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they’re letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

• The best blogging techniques.
• How to get traffic to your blog.
• How to turn your blog into money

I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it’s still free.

That’s Mark’s language. i don’t write like that. I’d just say that anything Mark is giving away is certainly worth exploring. I own three of his books (one of them, The Great Formula, even has half a chapter by me. I’m going to get my copy.

But anything Mark does is also worth studying. As a marketer, this is what I see:

• A clear attempt to go viral with the power of free
• Canned text that will show up on hundreds or thousands of websites, and in most cases without any added commentary
• My own need to add commentary, in part because I don’t like to pass off other people’s words as my own, and in part because I want to differentiate this page for the gazillion identical pages this will generate

If I were Mark, I’d have actually encouraged people to do their own text, and use his link. But that wasn’t my call to make.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For Sale: Congressional Medal of Honor-What Next?

Ken MacArthur reports that he was offered a Congressional Medal of Honor in a robot-telemarketing call by the office of Congressman Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma.

He was quite rightly sickened by the for-a-fee pitch, as the Congressional Medal of Honor is supposed to be “the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.”

Hmmm–didn’t Jesus himself throw the moneychangers out of the temple? Wasn’t the Protestant Reformation launched by people who were sick and tired of the Vatican selling indulgences that hadn’t been earned? And didn’t a certain President Clinton get in trouble for selling access to the White House and the Lincoln Bedroom? Have we learned nothing? Are we so wwilling to cheapen the name of the veterans who earned this powerful accolade?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Mafia’s Code of Ethics

Chris MacDonald’s Business Ethics Blog has a very amusing article on the Mafia’s Code of Ethics, in which he extracts business success principles from the until-recently-secretMafia’s 10 Commandments.

As one example:

#3. Never be seen with cops.” (i.e., avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest)

Chris doesn’t do permalinks on his blog, so to find this post, dated 11/11/07, use the search bar to hunt for ” Business Ethics, Mafia Style”.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sony’s Paint-Fireworks Commercial: Marketing Lessons

Watch the stunning commercial Sony made showing fireworks made of paint instead of the usual substances.

Then watch the behind-the-scenes story of the making of this commercial.

As a marketer, what conclusions can you draw? Here are a few of mine:

• It is still possible to make commercials that are also art–even make them absolutely riveting
The logistics involved in this 60-second spot are as complex as a general’s decisions on the battlefield
f you don’t have several million dollars to play with, making TV commercials may not be the best use of your marketing resources, because you cannot compete with this level of craftsmanship
If the purpose of the ad is to get me to buy this particular TV, the ad is an utter failure; at no time does it show me any benefit to this set over any other
However, if the purpose is to draw a positive association with the theater, the excitement the art of it, and the viral thrill of sharing it with your friends, then the ad is a rip-roaring success–but whether that will translate to enough additional sales to justify the costs of producing and airing the ad, I don’t know

Hillary Clinton would be a Disaster for the Democrats

Who will the Democrats nominate? Let’s hope it’s not Hillary. There are thousands and thousands of people in the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” working to nominate somebody who more closely represents the progressive viewpoint.

Hillary has made it abundantly clear that neither peace or personal liberty is particularly important to her. She has an abysmal record. She voted for the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, has been quick to embrace the Bush Administration’s warmongering rhetoric on Iran, has as far as I can tell has shown no real leadership during her years in the Senate.

She has a double-whammy disadvantage. the Right, for reasons I don’t understand, demonizes and vilifies her to the point where they would come out in droves to vote against her, even if her opponent is someone they also despise–while the Left is completely uninspired by her, recognizes the betrayal of their constituency, and wouldn’t turn out to support her bid. The Dems are crazy if they nominate her.

She may get some votes from muddy thinkers who think that voting for a woman is always the progressive choice (ignoring examples throughout recent decades from Margaret Thatcher on down). She won’t get votes from true progressives.

While I might have to grit my teeth to do it, I think I could vote for any of the other Dems in the running. If it’s Hillary, I’ll bloody well vote Green. And in the primary at least, I’ll have the fun of voting for a candidate whose views are quite close to my own: Dennis Kucinich.

Voting Reforms Needed: 7-Point Plan for the US

How to Reform the US Voting Process: A 7-Point Plan
Do we ever need serious electoral reform in the US (all those in parliamentary democracies can take a moment to laugh at us)! Here’s my reform platform:

Instant runoff voting
Allocation of presidential electoral votes proportionally in *all* states (Nebraska and Maine already do this)
Proportional representation in Congress and state legislatures including minority parties at a 5 percent threshold
• De-marginalization of third parties (possibly through a parliamentary system)
• Participation by all recognized party candidates in party debates
• Removal of elections from the control of clearly partisan operatives such as the State Co- Chairs of one candidate’s campaign

[This actually happened both in Florida, 2000–Katherine Harris–and Ohio, 2004–Kenneth Blackwell. In both cases, the Secretary of State, in charge of the election, also happened to be the Bush state co-chair. In both cases, the question of who actually won that state will be forever under a cloud. and in both cases, the state was the crucial determinant of victory or defeat nationally. and in both cases, millions of people do not accept the “result” as valid–myself included–and therefore grant no legitimacy to the Bush II presidency.]

• And don’t let us forget the most important: voter-verified paper ballots, screened on a first pass by an optical scanner machine for a preliminary count but then hand-counted under appropriate supervision and controlled conditions, in the presence of neutral observers, observers from each party (including third parties), and the media

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A New Low for Scraped Content

It’s bad enough that sploggers go around lifting articles and slapping them up on splogs (spam blogs) with no paragraph breaks and a bunch of Google ads.

Now, Business Week reports on professor Philip M. Parker, “author” of 300,000 scraped books.

I am sorry, but setting a computer robot to pull data from a topic is not authorship. While as a multi-source compilation it probably doesn’t qualify legally as theft, it certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth! Some of “his” reports sell for as much as $495, too.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Slate’s IQ Article Doesn’t Show the Whole Picture

A friend recently sent this link to a very controversial article on IQ and race by William Saletan that appeared in Slate.

I’m for reconciliation. Later this week, I’ll make that case. But if you choose to fight the evidence, here’s what you’re up against. Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70. One IQ table shows 113 in Hong Kong, 110 in Japan, and 100 in Britain. White populations in Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States score closer to one another than to the worldwide black average. It’s been that way for at least a century.

I wouldn’t be so quick to reach Saletan’s conclusion. The ultra-high score among Jews, for instance, points toward the influence of culture vs. nature (and as a Jew, I can say this on the basis of some experience). The vast majority of Jewish homes are filled with books, and the people who live in them have a 3000-year-old culture of reading, learning, and testing their theories by argument, even with God. Jewish parents are more likely to take their kids to museums and cultural events regularly, to expose them to highbrow music and art (though I think Asians do so even more).

The classical music youth scene in my area, which is overwhelmingly white and Christian, runs about 40 percent Asian or Jewish. By percentage of population, it should probably be somewhere around 3 to 5 percent, combined.

I don’t think you can generalize to innate intelligence. But it would be worth looking at why such a lower percentage of parents in the normative group, and even lower percentages among non-Asian people of color, expose their children to the kinds of experiences that expand brains. I strongly suspect the reasons would be cultural. I’d love to see some studies that address that aspect.

Not to mention that the IQ test itself is widely known to have strong cultural biases toward the majority culture. And that it measures expected capability over age. I was never told what my IQ score was as a child, but I was told that it was quite high. However, I may just have been ahead of my peer group in that regard, and if I were tested today it’s quite possible that my IQ would be more typical. Because I was extremely book-smart for my age all through childhood, but others have had a chance to catch up. If I was reading at 12th grade level in 4th grade, it doesn’t mean that by the time I finished college I was still reading at three times my grade level. In fact, I don’t do well with writing written above the level of a liberal-arts grad student.

And then there’s the matter of different types of intelligences. I can argue intellectual concepts at a reasonably high level–but don’t *ever* ask me to take apart a car engine–or connect a thin wooden bat with a fast-moving round object! I’d have flunked those intelligences completely as a child and would flunk them again as a 50-year-old.

Intelligences can evolve over time. As an example, over the last 12 years or so, I’m slowly, slowly learning to declutter my physical space. It comes very hard for me, but I am making progress.

I surely hope we don’t retreat to the days of making social policy based on these sorts of data!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Combining Creative and Effective Copywriting

It’s not often that I see a salesletter that not only moves me to immediate action, but also makes me laugh out loud.

Rob Toth’s letter at did just that.

First of all, Rob got me to his page by having a brief tip in Doug Hudiberg’s Daily Marketing Ace. I was so intrigued by the title of the free report: “Buy Now! How To Get Customers Ordering So Fast Your Bank Account May End Up With a Speeding Ticket” that I had to click on over.

Reaching the page I see the same headline and a cute cartoon that directly illustrates it.

After the cartoon and a couple of brief lines, he jumps right in with the zany, humorous tone that pokes fun at the whole genre of sales letters while pulling me further into the content:

Sorry if I seem a bit out of breath. I was just at the hospital and had to hurry back to be able to tell you about this. You definitely want to hear this.

Why was I at the hospital? I went to see a friend of mine. (I feel so bad for this). He was rushed in for surgery hours ago. Doctors say he damaged his jaw’s bone structure when it dropped to the floor hard after having read a sneak-peek copy of my new report that I sent over to him.

Like I said, I feel really bad about it. So let’s have a quick safety meeting you-and-I. Do me a favor and go grab a pillow (or one of those Costco sized bags of marshmallows should do the trick as well) … before you listen to anything more that I say (and definitely before you read my report), please place that pillow (or your baggy) under your jaw. This is for your own good.

Of course, I read all the way down.

And then he’s got a really short window to take action, with a visible, ticking clock counting the time–just a few minutes (warning, once you say yes, you have to get back to the confirmation email very quickly as well–something I think could easily backfire). Since it’s a free report and there’s nothing to lose, I took the bait. I haven’t read the report yet, but I signed up.

I understand why the back button doesn’t work, because he quite correctly wants the time limit to be real. But one thing I’d do differently if I were Rob is make it easier to share the webpage. After I said yes, I wanted to share it, but it wasn’t easy’ the back button didn’t take me there. I finally had to dig through my email trash can and find the Daily Marketing Ace that had the link.

I think this could go viral if it the you-signed-up, confirm-quickly page had some language like

“Did you have fun here? If you want to share the page with your friends, here’s the link.”

For more on great copywriting, BTW, my award-winning book Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World has a huge and informative section.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Iran Gave Up The Bomb Program–and Bush Knew

By now, everyone’s probably heard the news earlier in the week: not only did Iran stop pursuing its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but Bush knew this as far back as August–even though he was still claiming otherwise as recently as Tuesday

ABC put it like this:

“I was made aware of the NIE last week,” Bush said Tuesday. “In August, I think it was [Director of National Intelligence] Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.”

However today the White House is saying the President was told much more…

[White House press secretary Dana] Perino stated Bush had been told in August that Iran suspended it’s covert nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney et al. are still beating the drums of war against Iran. Isn’t it time to beat the drums for impeachment, instead?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

A Brave Man Who Does Not Seek Revenge

Bassam Aramin lost his daughter in January. Bassam is Palestinian; his daughter was killed by the Israeli army.

Most people would seek revenge–especially someone with Bassam’s background. He spent seven years in an Israeli jail, for terrorism.

But Bassam, and the small group of people he works with on Israeli-Palestinian relations, understands that more violence doesn’t bring his daughter back.

Bassam is a co-founder of Combatants for Peace, a remarkable group that brings people together on both sides–not just bystanders or even activists, but people who formerly participated directly in continuing the violence.

Bassam has a beautiful essay in the Jewish Daily Forward: “A Plea for Peace From a Bereaved Palestinian Father.” I urge you to read it.

Here’s a little piece:

I will not rest until the soldier responsible for my daughter’s death is put on trial, and made to face what he has done. I will see to it that the world does not forget my daughter, my lovely Abir.

But I will not seek vengeance. No, I will continue the work I have undertaken with my Israeli brothers. I will fight with all I have within me to see that Abir’s name, Abir’s blood, becomes the bridge that finally closes the gap between us, the bridge that allows Israelis and Palestinians to finally, inshallah, live in peace.

I heard some members of Bassam’s group, a former Israeli soldier and a former Arab terrorist (not Bassam) just days after Abir Aramin was killed, and I was deeply moved by their story of seeking peace even as their own hands had built the violence. Here’s the report on that event.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lou Dobbs, Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzales: Spin & Spin Control

TV pundit and talk show host Lou Dobbs is a master manipulator. He did an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now–an arena that he clearly considered hostile territory–and he used every sleazoid right-wing media manipulation technique I’ve ever seen: interrupting, name calling, avoiding the topic with a twisted answer changing the subject, denying he said something until it was proven on tape, claiming to hold a high standard only to be caught out on fact-checking issues, demanding to be allowed to finish the question but not granting his interlocuters the same courtesy…and plenty more. This interview demonstrates a lot of what’s wrong with “punditocracy.” Oh yes, and he cleverly started the interview by focusing on areas that his audience would actually agree with. But most of his hour focused on immigration, and especially on exposing his rather bizarre sources for his politics on that issue.

Fortunately, Goodman and Gonzales were up to the challenge and kept him honest–territory that seems, from listening to the interview, to be terra incognita: unknown.

I particularly liked Juan Gonzales’ response here:

LOU DOBBS: What in the world is your point?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’m getting to my point, but give me the time to do it. We have time on this show, unlike—we don’t do soundbites here, alright?

Go to the link and don’t just read the transcript. Listen or watch. Listen or watch, and examine this interview through the lens of media manipulation by a right-wing punditocracy that doesn’t want to give air to opposing views, makes up facts when the real ones are inconvenient and resorts to personal attacks when nothing else seems to be working.

Lou Dobbs embodies much that is wrong with contemporary journalism–but Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, and the entire Democracy Now staff (which does an amazing job digging up news that doesn’t make the mainstream media, five whole hours a week), embody much of what is right.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Ferret Poop, Media Opportunities, and You

Look what a skilled marketer can do to create a news angle.

A government agency, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), sent out a news release advising people to dispose of old prescription meds so they can’t be abused. Since flushing them down the toilet can have ill effects on water sources and the animals that use them,

“Mixing prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags, will further ensure the drugs are not diverted…Ferret waste, like nearly any other form of pet waste, can be effectively used to help prevent the abuse of unused prescription drugs,” SAMHSA spokesman Mark Weber said.

And the American Ferret Association was ready to pounce! That group’s press release noted,

“The U.S. government declares ferret poop to be an effective weapon against drug abuse.”

Brilliant! So brilliant that Reuters (one of the largest newswire services in the world) picked it up.

Can you find some lessons on making yourself newsworthy?

(Thanks to Joan Stewart of for tipping me off to this story–I’ve been reading her excellent newsletter for years)