How To Ask For Money.

20 responses.

Want to know how to ask for money? Pull off any expressway and down onto any exit ramp in any big city in America and you’ll probably have the same experience:

There will be a man or woman dressed in soiled clothes and filthy sneakers standing at the red light hoping for a handout. They might be holding a dirty rag and a spray bottle. They might be holding a crumpled coffee cup. They might be holding a tattered piece of cardboard with some version of “Will Work For Food” scribbled on it in Magic Marker. Or they might just jab their crusty palm in your direction. Either way, their message is clear: “I need money.”

Let’s face it, sometimes you hand them some change but most times you don’t. And when you don’t you strategize the best way to turn down their request –Do you pull up to the light ahead of them to make it clear you’re not interested? Do you stop so far back from the light that you’re out of reach? Do you stare straight ahead – or down at your phone – and refuse to make eye contact? Do you look them right in the eye and shake your head “no”? Regardless of your technique the result is the same… the light turns green, you step on the gas, and the panhandler recedes in the distance, an oily smudge in your rearview mirror you forget about a moment later.

Now consider this scenario:

The maître d’ catches your eye and motions to you to enter the dining room. On your way to a booth in the main room you see Don Shula or Kevin Spacey or Jimmy Buffett or Michael Jordan sitting at a quiet table against the wall. You walk over and quickly tell them how much you love their work and that you’re their biggest fan. You don’t overstay your welcome but before the maître d’ leaves your table you ask him to bring you the celebrity’s check so you can treat your idol to dinner, anonymously, of course.

How To Ask For Money.Did you see what just happened? Don Shula’s net worth is estimated at $30 million; Kevin Spacey’s at $215 million; Jimmy Buffett’s at $400 million; and Michael Jordan’s fortune is estimated at more than $1 billion – yet they can’t pick up a check anywhere in the world. But the poor guy who’s down to his last dime and doesn’t know how to ask for money can’t even get half a buck when he needs it the most.

Kinda suggests that the old poverty routine is not how to ask for money, don’t it?

So why is it that so many companies – both for-profit and non-profit – use the poverty angle when they’re looking for business? Colleges will point out that tuition only pays a small percentage of their costs, so they need you to make up the difference. Accounts receivable clerks will tell the account payable clerks they’re trying to collect from that they need the money to make payroll. And consultants will point out that you should hire them because they need the business. In other words, established, successful companies resort to begging even though it’s clear that everyone loves a winner and the poverty approach does not work.

How To Ask For Money.Think fast. Which is the most impressive university in the country? I’ll bet you named Harvard. Did you know that Harvard’s endowment now stands at $36.4 billion dollars? According to The International Monetary Fund, that’s more money than the GDPs of over 90 nations, or virtually half the countries in the entire world. Clearly Harvard doesn’t need the funds, yet the money keeps pouring in. Clearly Harvard knows how to ask for money. Ironic, isn’t it, when you realize that the most successful organizations are also the ones that attract the most revenue?

Does this mean that a well-dressed panhandler who knew how to ask for money would actually collect more money than a desperate wretch? I don’t know and I’m not planning on donning a suit and standing on a street corner to find out anytime soon. But it does suggest success begets success and a powerful brand is a great way for you to build a powerful business.

What does it suggest you need to do for your business?

The Folly of Function.

8 responses.

The Folly of Function:

We were about eighteen minutes into our morning run when Jen’s running watch and my running watch both started beeping.

“That’s two miles.” I said between gasps for air. “Reassuring that the two GPS watches measured our distance exactly the same.”

“Yeah,” Jen answered, not nearly as out of breath as I was. “You have the expensive one and I have the cheap one. But they work the same.”

I had paid almost twice as much for my running watch as Jen paid for hers even though their time and distance functions are the same. But as I explained to Jen between gasps for air, I didn’t buy my watch for the better function I hoped it would deliver. In fact, I had first chosen the cheaper watch but when I got home I found that the cheaper unit wasn’t programmable and wouldn’t show me only one readout at a time. That was a problem because I run without my glasses and I couldn’t read the little readouts stacked on the dial. The more expensive watch was a better choice because it allowed me to project one large readout that I could actually read.

The Folly of Function

Funny thing is, nowhere in the ads or the documentation for the more expensive watch does Garmin say anything about that difference. Instead they talk about their watch’s long list of features such as the digital running coach (that I don’t use), the vertical oscillation reading (that I don’t understand), the cadence counter (that I don’t care about), and the recovery advisor (that I don’t believe).

What this means is Garmin is spending their time and money developing and advertising whiz-bang features that at least some of their buyers don’t understand, use or care about. Sure, different runners care about different attributes but the company doesn’t even promote the one benefit that almost every runner over 45 would probably be interested in – the simple fact that they can read the screen while they’re running!

Garmin fell for the folly of function.

Computer companies are well known for promoting digital differences – called speeds and feeds – that their consumers neither understand nor care about. Camera manufacturers, too, fill their product specs with numbers and metrics that don’t matter to the majority of their buyers. Car companies, electronics suppliers, and manufacturers of every stripe all fill their messaging with details of features and attributes that none of their buyers care about.

And it’s not just hard good makers that suffer the folly of function. When was the last time you heard a doctor or lawyer crowing about where they went to school? When was the last time a realtor told you how many agents they employed? When was the last time a moving company bragged about the number of trucks they own or a restaurant listed all of their locations?

But you don’t care how many degrees your doctor has; you care if they can solve your problem. You don’t care where your lawyer went to school; you care if they can handle your case. You don’t care how many agents work for the realty company you’re planning to hire; you care if the realtor who works for you can sell your house. You don’t care about how many trucks a moving company has; you care if they’ll protect grandma’s baby grand piano. And you don’t care how many restaurants the company manages; you care about how your salad will taste right here and right now.

The folly of function states that “the quality of a product’s performance is cost of entry but it’s not what makes the sale or pleases the client.” After all, all companies offer some degree of function or they wouldn’t remain in business. But after the generic requirement of function has been met, it becomes the What’s In It For Me Factor that makes the difference, makes the sale, and builds your brand.

What this means to you is that it’s time for a sober, gimlet-eyed look at your business’ messaging to make sure you’re not simply listing your features or cataloging your benefits but are making a clear and concise argument for how you make your customers’ lives better. Being able to read the display on my running watch does exactly that for me. What does it for your customers?

5 Critical Branding Questions.

2 responses.

Q: When is the best time to plant an oak tree?5 critical branding questions

A: Twenty years ago. Or today.

Happy New Year! 2015 is a brand new year and we’re right in the middle of New Year’s resolution month. That means not enough time has gone by to break the resolutions you’ve already made and there’s still about two weeks left to make some new resolutions.

So right now is the perfect time to resolve to do something about your brand. Sure it would have been great to do something about your brand a few years ago and it would have been good to do something about it last year. But like the proverbial oak tree, it’s never too late to get started and you can’t reap the benefits until you do.

Here’s a little list of five critical branding questions you can start on immediately. Make the commitment to work on them consistently and you will start seeing real benefits faster than you imagine.

  1. Who are you?

Step one is so easy to answer yet so hard to do. Simply put, you cannot build an effective persuasive brand until you can clearly identify who you are and what you believe. In our current cynical environment, standing for something cogent, consistent, and conscientious is the way to stand up and stand out. Your authentic self is what your clients and customers are crying out for.

Think of brands you respect. Whether they’re multinationals such as Apple, BMW or Illy; personalities such as Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly or Oprah Winfrey; or a local business you frequent and appreciate, they’ve earned your loyalty and respect because they stand for something you can depend on.

  1. Who are your best customers?

While it is critical to know who you are, it’s just as important to understand to whom you’re selling. Although artists can and do create their products for themselves and then hope they find an appropriate audience to support them and their work, the term “starving artist” exists for a reason.

  1. Where is the intersection between you and your best buyer?

Once you know who you are and what you stand for and you know who your best buyer is and what they care about, the next step is to figure out where they intersect. That is, what is it about you and what you do that makes your best buyers’ lives better?

This is much more important – and less common – then you might think. Too many businesses operate on the “if you build it, they will come” strategy without ever stopping to think why anyone will actually show up.

  1. What are the ways you can distribute your message?

It used to be easy to figure out your distribution strategy. There were three TV stations (four if you count PBS), a few magazines, some newspapers, radio and billboards. Plus, you could print your logo on t-shirts and ballpoint pens.

Today we’ve got 500 cable channels, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat; websites and apps and email marketing; podcasts and blogs and vlogs; desktop and mobile; and all the traditional outlets as well.

If you’re wondering which are the right media to use, the correct answer is all of them. You never know where your audience is or where they’ll find your message.

Critical Branding Questions

  1. How can you make your message 24/7/365?

Your New Year’s resolution should be to not only answer my five critical branding questions but to make your answers a daily part of your business plan and activities. Just like the oak tree, your brand needs to be continually nurtured, fertilized, pruned, and watered. Only then can you enjoy all the benefits that a great brand can provide this year and every year as it grows and grows and grows.


You’re invited to Following Your Own Sense of Justice, the first ever auction of my father’s artwork. All proceeds will go to create a scholarship for deserving students at Miami-Dade College.

You can visit the online auction HERE and visit the work in person at the gallery at the Freedom Tower, 600 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami. Of course we hope you’ll join us Friday night, January 16 for the gallery show and auction of a true Renaissance man.

Click HERE for the auction. Click HERE for the save the date announcement. Click HERE for the evite.

Jeremy Mikolajczak, museum director:

Following Your Own Sense of Justice is a retrospective of Leonard Turkel’s rarely seen artwork and a true testament to the legacy of a man that proved to be one of Miami’s greatest mavericks of civic equality and community building. Auction proceeds will be used to provide scholarships for at-risk youth.”

Please bid online and please join us.

Renaissance Man

Renaissance Man

My Dad. Renaissance Man. An Invitation.

6 responses.

My dad was a lot of things. High school basketball center. Air Force navigator. Civil rights leader. Developer. Entrepreneur. Musician. Community advocate. Superhero. And of course, husband, brother, son, and father. A true Renaissance man.

As Jeremy Mikolajczak, executive director and chief curator of the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design wrote so beautifully:

“Leonard Turkel was coined the ‘Father of Florida Condominiums’ by The Miami Herald and is noted as the pioneer of the Florida condominium development boom. But behind the exterior of the successful entrepreneur, Leonard Turkel had a social conscience that proved much greater than that of the typical businessman.”

My dad, the Renaissance man, was also an artist. From Jeremy again:

“In addition to leaving behind a legacy for equal rights, proper inner-city housing, mobile health clinics, and midnight basketball for at-risk teenagers, Leonard Turkel was an artist who created hundreds of collages and assemblages that mirror his morals of social justice.”

My dad would visit libraries and photo archives to search for old black and white or sepia prints of mostly groups of people involved in his various interests – usually civil rights, community service, or music. Then he’d have the photos enlarged and mounted onto sheets of foam board. Next he’d hand tint the images, cut them out, and reassemble them in 3D assemblages that brought new attention and meaning to both the pictures and the subjects they presented.

Renaissance ManLast January we hosted Following Your Own Sense of Justice – a retrospective of my father’s artworks at the MDC Museum & Galleries. We were absolutely stunned by the outpouring of enthusiasm, appreciation, and love that we all enjoyed that night and across the weeks that the work hung on the gallery walls. What’s more, once we saw the work displayed in the museum we realized just how meaningful and important Dad’s work really is.

The other thing we discovered was just how many people were interested in owning a piece of Dad’s work to enjoy in their own home or collection. The heartfelt requests were so overwhelming that we decided right then and there to figure out how to make that a possibility so that even more people could enjoy his vision and talents.

Thanks to Jeremy’s help again, we’ve opened an online auction that will culminate in a gallery auction at the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design on January 16, 2015. Of course, because this auction was created to honor Dad’s life and work, the proceeds of the sale will go to establishing a scholarship in Leonard Turkel’s name for deserving students who want to make our community – and their lives – better.

Renaissance Man

You can visit the online auction HERE and visit the work in person at the gallery at the Freedom Tower, 600 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami. Of course we hope you’ll join us Friday night for the gallery show and auction of a true Renaissance man.

Click HERE for the auction. Click HERE for the save the date announcement. Click HERE for the evite.

As thanks to Jeremy Mikolajczak for all his assistance, let’s hear from him again:

Following Your Own Sense of Justice is a retrospective of Leonard Turkel’s rarely seen artwork and a true testament to the legacy of a man that proved to be one of Miami’s greatest mavericks of civic equality and community building. Auction proceeds will be used to provide scholarships for at-risk youth.”

Please join us.

Top Ten Lists: My Best Branding & Life Hacks of 2014

One response.

At the end of every year television and the Internet are inundated with top ten lists – the best top ten lists of this, the worst top ten lists of that – and 2014 is no different.

Taking a page out of this time-honored tradition of top ten lists, I thought I’d review the top ideas marketing tips we talked about this year with the hope that you will find them as useful, valuable, and enjoyable as I did. Here they are in chronological order. Happy New Year.

  1. Leave Early.
    Wanna stay calm when you’re traveling in 2015? It’s easy… leave early. Nothing reduces your stress and makes travel a pleasure more than not having to rush. HERE’S how to do it and what to do when you do.
  2. The best way to learn about Social Media is to do it.
    If anything has changed the way products and services are marketed it’s social media. But that doesn’t mean everyone has jumped in with both feet yet. If you’re still sitting on the sidelines, read THIS and get started.
  3. Move your customers from Needs to Wants and from Whys to Hows.
    Raising your prices and still selling more is not hard if you make this simple but profound paradigm shift – Simply move your customers from Needs to Wants and from Whys to Hows. HERE’S how.NEEDS-arrow-WANTS-final
  4. Travel Light.
    The other thing that makes travel a snap is traveling light. Fortune Magazine wrote an article on my obsession. Click HERE to  find a bunch of great tips that you can use on your next journey.
  5. Dealing with criticism.
    Sometimes it takes more than a simple first glance to know if a brand strategy is going to work. Eiffel, a Beethoven, and Cézanne all suffered from THIS. But that doesn’t mean you should.
  6. Work life balance is bullshit.
    It is. HERE’S why, and what you can do about it.
  7. Being The Best at Everything You Do.
    My dad told me to do whatever I wanted but to be the best at it. I’ll bet yours did too. HERE’S how.
  8. Why Robin William’s death mattered to my family.
    Most of my blog posts are about how to build your brand. But occasionally I try to tackle more important issues because they matter. Robin William’s death gave me a painful and profound insight into my family and the world. I think THIS might help you too.
  9. Creating a disruptive app.
    Heidi Dobbs is teaching little kids to read with an iPhone app called Babyfonics Genius,. HERE’S what you need to know about creating your own disruptive technology. Bill O’Reilly
  10. Bill O’Reilly’s brand is the most congruent in the world.
    When I was on his show, Bill O’Reilly beat me up pretty good. He also taught me the KEY REQUIREMENT to building a truly congruent brand.

    Plus two extras just for you!

  11. Be Nice.
    It’s simple. It’s true. It’s all HERE. Be nice.
  12. Overcoming competency.
    You have to be good at what you do to be successful. But, contrary to what I said earlier, you don’t have to be the best. In fact, it might get in the way. HERE’S why.

Bah Humbug. Or, Always Willing To Do Less.

5 responses.

Bah Humbug. Pardon me for being a skeptamist, but does anything say, “I did as little as possible” more than a generic e-mail holiday greeting? I just received this one (amongst many) and am reprinting its touching message here in all its insipid entirety to make my point:

“As the Holiday Season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and on those who have helped to shape our business in a most significant way. We truly value our relationship with you and look forward to working with you in the year to come. We wish you a very happy Holiday Season and a New Year filled with peace, love and prosperity.”

I haven’t actually done business with the company that sent me this sentimental bit of falderal but if I had I don’t imagine I’d feel truly valued regardless of their promise that I am.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like a card picked out of a catalog and imprinted with a company name and a mailing label offers much more heartfelt sentiment, especially when the postage comes from a machine and not a stamp. But still.

While I’m busy bashing the holiday spirit with my bah-humbugging, let’s not forget gift cards. Believe it or not, gift cards were the most requested holiday gifts again this year, specifically, cards from Visa, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Wal-Mart, Target, and Starbucks. Besides echoing the “I did as little as possible” sentiment of generic e-mail holiday greetings, gift cards both telegraph a complete lack of interest in the recipient’s interests, taste, etc. as well as confirming the giver’s complete lack of imagination, enterprise, and thoughtfulness.

Bah Humbug

Sure the cards allow the receiver to buy whatever they want and certainly eliminate the concern about what to do with the ugly sweater, foolish gadget or inappropriate gag gift, but they also negate the carefully chosen book, the delicious hand baked cookies, and the breathless “how did you know I wanted that?” or “I LOVE it!!” response that a little thought and enterprise generates.

Of course asking for gift cards is even more bah humbug loathsome than giving them. For some odd reason, people who would never think twice about begging for money on a street corner have no shame about asking for spare change as long as it’s digitally transferred on a little plastic sheet. Why not just have friends and family members send money towards your car loan or mortgage payment? Or better yet, just give them your bank’s routing number and have them make a direct deposit directly into your account. That would be easier for everyone.

From a branding point of view, gift giving is not only a great way to show your clients, customers, coworkers, and cohorts how much they mean to you but also the perfect way to express a little bit of your authentic self in your gifts and greetings. Regardless of the amount of money you spend, the effort you make and the thought you contribute is what tells your recipients exactly what you think — or don’t think — of them.

No bah humbug here — I hope you enjoy a warm and loving holiday surrounded by family and friends and a thoughtful, optimistic, safe, and very prosperous New Year full of excitement, opportunity, and love. I look forward to continuing this ongoing conversation with you and I thank you for reading and commenting. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Happy everything you celebrate!

What Is Your Blue Box?

14 responses.

In hindsight it wasn’t such a good idea.

I had already tossed my blue box of fishing hooks and lures down into the boat next to my rods. Instead of climbing down the ladder after them, I had the bright idea to jump the three feet from the pier to the floating dock below. I put my hand on the piling to steady myself and stepped off. But the second I headed down I felt a searing pain in my left hand. Crashing onto the dock, I looked down at my palm and wondered where my wedding ring was and why my finger was turning red and hurt so much. It suddenly dawned on me that my ring was jammed up against my first knuckle, sort of under the shredded skin, so I gritted my teeth and pulled the ring back down and then slid it off my finger just before my ring finger swelled up like a chicken drumstick.

What IS your blue box?After my wife pulled a bandage from the first aid kit in the blue box and cleaned the wound, I figured out what had happened. When I grabbed the piling, my wedding ring got caught on an errant nail sticking out of the wood. When I jumped off the dock, my ring stayed behind. Lucky for me the piling was old and weathered and the nail had been hammered in with the grain, so my weight pulled the nail up and out of the wood instead of causing the awful alternative.

To this day, my ring is an oval instead of a circle and has a little nick in it and my finger has a scar where the ring dug in. Remember to ask me the next time we see each other and I’ll show you.

Already a repository for emotion, this near-miss gave my wedding ring a whole new meaningful story. But it didn’t change the functional value of the ring itself – despite what it represents, including almost yanking my finger off, my wedding band is still only worth its paltry weight times the current cost of gold.

If I was selling wedding rings, it would behoove me to not sell their functional value (weight x cost of materials) but instead to sell their emotional value. The big question is how do you do this in the store or online to make the ring more valuable BEFORE it has been invested with personal experience?

What IS your blue box?One company has figured this out. By taking their wedding bands (and other products) and presenting them in blue cardboard boxes with white ribbons, Tiffany & Co. instantly instills their goods with additional perceived value at very little cost.

Are Tiffany’s wedding bands and engagement rings better than the competition’s? It does depend on how you define the word better, but from a functional point of view it would be hard to argue that any well-made ring is much different than any other. However, when a spouse-to-be is on their knees proposing to the love of their life, most of us would agree that the experience would be even more dramatic if the proffered ring is presented in that iconic blue box with the white ribbon.

What I find most interesting is that you can purchase jewelry, watches, sterling silver accessories, cut crystal, and other gifts in a Tiffany store but you can’t buy the blue box itself. You only get one if you buy their products.

Car companies don’t require that. You can buy Ferrari racing shoes, BMW fitted luggage, and Mercedes-Benz key rings regardless of whether you drive their cars or not.

Universities don’t do it either. You can buy a Harvard sweatshirt, a Michigan State baseball cap or a University of Florida license plate frame even if you’ve never set foot on their campuses.

What IS your blue box?What’s the takeaway here that you can benefit from? Quite simply, it is in understanding that the things you do are no different from the things inside Tiffany’s blue box. At their most functional level, your services are worth what the market says they’re worth – metaphorically defined as weight x cost. But at an emotional level what you do is worth as much as you say its worth, IF you can define it in a way that imbues your services with value.

To separate yourself from your competition and demonstrate your expanded value to your consumer, the answer you need to put your finger on is not what’s IN your blue box but what IS your blue box.

Pick a Lane.

27 responses.

I finally finished writing my next book. As much as I enjoy writing the books, the thing I don’t like to do is write the proposals for the agent and publisher. Even though I know how important proposals are to the process, it seems silly to me to spend time writing an overview instead of working on the book itself. And the worst part of writing the proposal is answering the question, “What books does yours compete with?”

What books does mine compete with? Are they freaking kidding? No one’s ever written a book like mine before!! It’s unique, singular, exclusive. Not one author in the history of the world has ever written a book like mine. Not one. Not never.

Instead of answering this belittling question, I thought I’d be smart as a fox and actually write and design and lay out the book instead of writing a proposal. Then I’d order a few custom published printed samples and cart them around to agents and publishers, drop them on their desks and say, “Here. It’s all done. You want a piece of this?”

I figured if I produced a real sample then agents and publishers could actually see what they were buying. I wouldn’t have to explain my idea, I wouldn’t have to demonstrate that I could write the manuscript, I wouldn’t have to promise that I would actually complete the book, and I wouldn’t have to define the competition. I could plop the sample down and the book would speak for itself. Publishing success, here I come!

But pride doth indeed cometh before the fall.

After all this planning and scheming, the first question from the first agent I spoke to was “what books does yours compete with?” Clearly Steinbeck (and Burns before him) was right when he wrote: “The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

Luckily, I didn’t stomp off but instead blurted out the one book that I thought was most similar to what I had produced. Even more lucky, the agent told me that he keeps that same book on his desk to show people who ask him what kind of book they should write. Wow. It really is better to be lucky than good isn’t it?

Here’s what I learned: If you actually tell your agent that your book is like nothing else in the market they’ll hang up on you. First, it’s doubtful that out of all the millions of books that have been printed, and the billions that have been suggested, yours is totally different. Second, with all the potential authors scrambling for advantage, if no one’s bothered to write a book even remotely similar to yours it’s because there’s no market for it. Third, if you don’t know what else is out there, you haven’t done your homework. And fourth, no agent believes you’re actually smart enough to come up with something totally new.

Instead you have to pick a lane.

How many talented musicians languish in obscurity because they can’t (or won’t) pick a lane? “My new album? It’s kind of a ground breaking countryish, punkie, hard rock take on classical Broadway show tunes expressed through an urban techno-voicing over authentic Celtic rhythms.”

“Sorry,” says the A&R guy, “iTunes doesn’t have a category for that. Next.”

How many valuable non-profits can’t secure funding because they don’t (or won’t)pick a lane in the clearly defined sections on the grants applications they fill out?

How often do you see famous actors who can also dance, sing, play musical instruments, and do other things you didn’t expect from them? Actor Robert Downey Jr. singing with Sting; musicians Mandy Moore and Queen Latifah acting; actor Richard Gere playing the piano in Pretty Woman, the trumpet in The Cotton Club, and performing song and dance in Chicago; boy-bander Justin Timberlake and comedian Jimmy Fallon doing anything.


Despite all their prodigious talents, each one of them became famous for one thing because they knew, or someone told them, to focus.

As Steve Jobs said, “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” Why? Because “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” In other words, pick a lane.

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