The Skin in the Game is Your Brand

Success All the e-mail said was, “Being successful developing and commercializing technologies and start-ups is a given or I wouldn’t have contacted you. I appreciate your offer but I don’t do business with people or groups that don’t have skin in the game.”

Skin in the Game according to Investopedia

A term coined by renowned investor Warren Buffett referring to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running.

Your Brand is at stake every time.

Every consultant puts skin in the game every time they accept an engagement. If their recommendations fail they will lose Trust with that client and with every one that client tells. The skin they have in the game each time is the lifetime value of their brand. That value is always greater than being allowed to invest in the startup without having legal control.

Value, like Brand, is perceived.

Your value to clients depends on their situation, how much information you can elicit to make a proposal and how strongly you believe in yourself.

Here’s the suggestion that was rejected:

“I’m not a stranger to new products. I stopped counting successful introductions at 207 and that was years ago. I’m willing to invest an hour on Skype to determine how viable I think the product is. But, full disclosure, I’m too busy on paid retainers to take on any additional work without getting paid for it. If I believe your product has the positive value that Digimarc had (I named the company) I will give you the same deal I gave them, a monthly retainer plus a stock bonus. Call or e-mail if you want to take the next step.” 

Skin in the game is a two-way street.

In my experience, the proposition is always essentially the same: Give the start-up the benefit of your time, knowledge and wisdom for a percentage of the company in the future. In other words, we want all your value for as long as it takes but we don’t want to pay for it and, oh yes, you’ll have no say in how the company operates.

Does that sound fair and balanced to you?

Without candor there is no trust

In a conversation with any entrepreneur or start-up if they do not believe in their offering it will show. If they are not cognizant of a marketing problem I may be able to help merely by pointing it out. Should they have been short-sighted about how the company will be run as it moves into the future I may be able to suggest both interim and long term solutions. My initial conversations with start-ups are based on both of us being truthful with each other with the objective of making them successful.

The skin in the game is your brand… and theirs.

Your Brand has established value or they wouldn’t be talking to you. Theirs has little or none. In my view the fees for services is a negotiation.

They need to build a business. You need to be paid.

How you get paid is another matter. If you believe in your brand you should be able to determine the value of your services to the prospect and be paid at that level via any combination of cash, stock or ownership you can agree on.

What say you?

Jerry Fletcher Keynote in ColombiaJerry Fletcher is a beBee ambassador, founder and Grand Poobah of

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for Trust-based Brand development, Positioning and business development on and off-line. He is also a sought-after International Speaker.


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Butterflies Have No Choice

Ben, a friend as well as a client said it over lunch, “Butterflies don’t have a choice.”

Butterflies have no choiceWe’d been talking about visualizing and positioning a non-profit he’s working with. The intent of the organization is to provide the necessary elements for a metamorphosis of the members.

All of us in the lunch bunch agreed that the word metamorphosis was a little too sophisticated for marketing purposes and as we talked we kept coming back to different interpretations of Ben’s statement.

Gail, our copywriter who has edited several non-fiction books said, “He’s right. The butterfly is the end result of a metamorphosis. It starts out as a caterpillar with a voracious appetite than wraps itself in a cocoon and when it emerges it is a winged jewel that flits about for a short time and then dies. It has no choice.”

The doctor of direct marketing, Rick injected, “But everything we do is about choice. In fact if there is no competition for something it is hard to make a marketing case for it. And even within the product or service being offered we build in choices in price, complexity, level of service, you name it. People want choice.”

Chris, our youngest member, a corporate digital director said, “But not too much choice. Have you noticed how pricing for just about anything on line has three or five levels and that is it. And more often than not the company that had five now has three. Our tests show that limiting the offering increases sales across the board.”

The sales doyen, Kate pulled her glasses off, squeezed the bridge of her nose and asked, “Ben, does any of that connect with what you meant?”

Ben replied, “Yes and no. I mean, what I was thinking about was the difference between a butterfly and a potential member. A butterfly is going to be one whether it wants to or not. The folks that might join us have to make a choice. They can continue lives of quiet desperation without the knowledge that can transform them or join us. If they want to change their lives to something more comfortable for them we can help. I think of them sort of like caterpillars that can join us, wrap themselves in the cocoon of education that we offer and emerge like a butterfly, a joy to themselves, the community of other members, and the world.”

I said, “That’s why I suggested the butterfly as a symbol for the group. Both of us thought it was right and that judgment has been verified in all of our discussions with the folks that are going to make it work. Most folks can’t come up with the M word but they all understand the idea of giving people the information they need to transform themselves when their lives have been disrupted either by choice or by chance.”

Rob our southern-friend brand guru chuckled and said, “Sounds to me like this choice thing is what you got to tell people about if’n y’all want to get ‘em to join up. ‘Minds me of a lady I once knew that had two or three butterfly tattoos flying up her back. She had a choice. And in my view it turned out right lovely.

You guys are offering folks a chance to go from a situation where they are struggling to one where they take flight. It ain’t the iridescent wings like the butterfly that’s important. The external doesn’t matter. It is the beauty they can find inside themselves that you offer. It is the ability to help them find the butterfly inside and help it take wing. Think about it in terms of an inner glow that your organization can fire up. That radiance lights up the world around the person that is transformed. Your benefit is a serene exhilaration for a new beginning. Their choice is whether or not they want to make the change.”

“And that is why we say Bubba is the Brand Guru. He understands the emotions that are at the heart of customer viewpoints,” I said.

The Takeaway

Don’t get trapped in the external symbols of a brand. The emotional content of your offer is what is remembered. How you say it is sometimes more important than the benefit you deliver.

Jerry Fletcher’s blog recaps conversations with clients, prospects and the unruly mob of business development professionals he consorts with. They discuss marketing that works from solopreneur to enterprise level. Jerry Fletcher is the ringleader and “Watson” of the dialogue. Sign up for the blog and other publications at:

Jerry has been researching and implementing small business marketing that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy for 25 years as President of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. Learn more at

Schedule a personal appearance. Jerry speaks internationally on Networking, Marketing and Contact Relationship Magic.


3 Secrets to Linked In Success

Linked In SecretsAs I sat down, Kate, the sales doyen was saying, “It is amazing what you can do with Linked In! I use it to research companies and prospects and build my perceived expertise and all sorts of things.”

Rick asked, “Care to share?”

“Allow me my direct marketing friend,” I said. “I’m always curious about how folks use social media tools. I wrote a primer for my clients on Linked In mostly about how to get started. Here are the three things I said were essential:

  1. Build a great Profile that includes your key words and start adding connections.
  2. Select some groups and participate.
  3. Research people, companies and prospects you find interesting and follow them.

Kate clapped her hands and said, “Way to go for the basics, big guy. Anybody have advice on the profile part first?”

Chris, who makes his living as a Digital Marketing Master, said, ”Remember that anyone searching you on linked In has one of two attention spans:

  • As long as gnat in a windstorm if they are scanning
  • As long as it takes to read it all if they really want to know about you… the kind of research I’ll bet Kate does.”

Branding Guru Rob (who we all call Bubba) piped up, “So you’d best ‘member to give folks a reason why to learn more with the words right behind your name.

“Good point Bubba,” said Kate. “I’m going to read that piece that Fletch wrote for the profile part. What about the part they call interests on linked In?”

Gail said, “I’m a writer, I like to know what they are calling things so I opened it up on my laptop. Under interests it has: Companies, Groups, Pulse and Education.

“Let’s stick with groups,” said Rick. “Do I want to go with peers or prospects? Do I even have to choose one or the other?”

“Kate,” I said, “let me take that one. I say both. If you do only peers it can wind up like you’re talking to yourself but you do need to know what is going on in your profession. Prospect groups can give you insight into what they want from people like you and whether or not they have problems you can solve… for a fee.”

“I agree,” said Kate. “The only way to determine which groups to join is to look at them. Look at the number of posts and comments and frequency to decide which ones merit your attention. Then get involved. You can set notifications from for every discussion to daily or weekly summaries.

Gail asked, “What about research?”

“Pull up my profile,” Kate responded. Notice that there are entries in just about every category they provide. Notice, too that the words sales, sales consulting, sales training and other sales references occur throughout. (Sign up to get your copy of the Networking Ninja Beginner’s Guide to Linked In.)

That gets people to come to me. But when you are looking for information you can use  just type the search term into the search box at the top of the page. A person’s name or a company name is where I usually start. Once you get to a person’s profile you’ll be able to learn more than you ever thought possible. Where they went to school, how they got to their current position, even how you might be connected.

Every person I know uses it slightly differently but there is no longer an excuse for walking into meeting with an executive knowing nothing about them.

The Takeaway
Have a complete profile that is consistent with your website, your other social media profiles and causes people to want to contact you.  Engage with the kinds of people that can keep you informed about your profession and may need your services. Be proactive. Look into those that express an interest and build the relationship.


Jerry Fletcher’s blog recaps conversations with clients, prospects and a group of business development professionals. They discuss what’s new, what’s old, what’s good, bad and ugly plus creative thinking to find what works. Jerry Fletcher is the ringleader and secretary of the dialogue.

Jerry has been researching and implementing small business marketing that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy for 20 years as President of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. Learn more at

Schedule a personal appearance. Jerry speaks internationally on Networking, Marketing and Contact Relationship Magic.


Marketing Is Not Education

People espond to solutions not problems“I need a little help with a client that thinks education is marketing,” I said. “He keeps wanting to do videos of ridiculous length to talk at people instead of working from their opinions and interest to sell his non-profit.

There is a cardinal rule of Marketing: People buy solutions, not problems. I learned the lesson that you can’t sell by educating long ago doing split testing. I know that if you offer a solution to a problem people have versus a description of the problem that the solution will win every time. Even if both A and B offer the solution, the one that leads with the solution will win.

Rick disagreed saying, “But there are certain cases where pumping enough fear into the equation can get people to go one direction or another. Politics is rife with that sort of thing. And there, sometimes, it works. True, it can lead to polarization and that ain’t pretty. But fear is a primal motivator.”

“Minds me of a story ‘bout a kid cryin’ wolf when there was no wolf,” drawled Bob. “The problem is that when you try to scare people enough times they get so accustomed to your suasion that it is like water wickin’ off a duck’s back. That’s like the whole Global Warming/Climate Change thing. Now there is a branding problem if ever there was one.”

“Branding problem?” Gail asked.

“Sho nuff,” Rob replied. There was this VP from Tennessee that told us all about it in a TED presentation and then in a movie. He talked about it as Global Warming and showed us how just looking at the gain in carbon in the air was enough to cause global catastrophes. Then a bunch of folks that didn’t agree and had vested interests to protect made him out to be the kid cryin’ wolf. As a result we don’t hear about global warming any more. Now its Climate Change.”

“And believers are still trying to back the hearse up to the door.” I said. “Every time you turn around they find some new piece of scientific evidence that supports the argument that Climate Change is happening. The problem with all those arguments is that they are arguments. What they consider proofs are so far from Joe Public’s experience that it is like trying to explain a computer to a man of the renaissance when you don’t even speak the language.”

“Worse still, Kate said, the believers don’t understand the failed communications. They are so convinced that they are right that they cannot understand any other viewpoint.

When you’re selling you have to listen. You have to establish rapport with the buyer. You have to offer a solution to their problem. If they don’t perceive a problem or are not prepared to discuss it you are wasting your time.”

Chris asked, “So are you saying you should just walk away?”

“Yes. If they aren’t buying you have no choice” said Kate.

“But that is completely the opposite of building whitepapers and videos and all sorts of things to move people down a funnel to make a purchase. Why not try that?” asked Chris.

First you have to get their interest” said Rick. And right there is the crux of the problem. The problem has become polarized. I believe it is now seen as political. And because of that people walk away from it. They tune out.

Regardless of how novel the educational approach is they perceive it as preaching. People do not trust politicians. They don’t like people with holier than thou attitudes. So they direct their attention elsewhere.”

“There’s one more piece to this which we shouldn’t overlook,” said Gail. Nobody, so far as I know has approached the consumer audience by accepting and emulating their attitude. Nobody has recognized how they have heard this big problem exists. Nobody has acceded to the consumer viewpoint that it takes a government or a treaty organization to take care of this. Nobody has admitted that Joe and Jane Public feel stymied and don’t see a way out.”

“So what I hear you saying is to present a solution couched in the terms of the audience. Let them know we understand. Offer a solution. Keep it simple. Make it easy for them to contribute. How do we do that with no budget? What do you suggest,” I asked.

What do you suggest? Let me know down there at the bottom of the page.


Jerry And his Marketing Wranglers will be back next week with something about how a rodeo relates to Marketing.

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Marketing Consulting, Coaching and Contact Relationship Magic
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What Is Your Value Proposition?

Value proposition“Whether you market to consumers or businesses you gotta have one,” said Gail, our copy guru, over lunch.

“How’s that different from a position or a tagline?” said Chris.

“Usually it’s longer than either but may include elements of both. It is a promise. It tells the potential customer what expectations will be fulfilled when they buy from you. It is a clear statement, usually a paragraph in length.

It has to clearly answer these questions:

  1. What product or service is your company selling?
  2. What benefit do I (or my company) get out of using it?
  3. Am I the target customer/user it is intended for?
  4. Is it for specific need, use or occasion?
  5. How is yours unique from the alternatives?

Right about there I jumped in saying, “But what is the answer to Chris’s question?”

Gail looked over her glasses at me and said, “Let me give you the way I test a value proposition. I print it out and show it to someone that might have use for it and have them read it and wait for their reaction. If they want to know more I ask why. If they don’t understand it I go back to the keyboard. If they ask the price I know I’m on the right track.

Before I go that far though I make sure that:

  • It is easily understood
  • It tells me in concrete terms what I’m going to get when I buy and use it.
  • I know how it is different from competitor offerings
  • There’s no hype, no superlatives and no insider jargon
  • It takes only a few seconds to read.

Rick who had been watching and stuffing his face with a burger asked, “So where do I use this wonderful thing?”

All of us looked at Gail. She sniffed and said, “It should be on the home page or landing page of your web site and, incidentally should be tested before put it up there. It should, in some form, be on most pages of your website not to mention in just about every form of communications you use. The trick is to vary it just enough to make it fresh and interesting in all those places.

Jerry Fletcher has just switched to WordPress for his blog. Once he is over the frustration of working in a new software the blog will continue with new material. Find out more about Jerry at

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