“Enjoy The Silence” – Sounds of Marketing

Single(1990) by Depeche Mode

Listen and Watch While you Read

For many managers, now is the time to cram in all those performance evaluations they’ve been putting off. Instead of having conversations on a regular basis about professional development, goals and action plans, the performance appraisal ends up being the major formal discussion of the year.

Words like violence
Break the silence

The goal is to increase the employee’s effectiveness, not to punish him. But apart from the minority of employees who receive the highest ratings, performance reviews are often deflating and do more harm than good.

Painful to me
Pierce right through me

The performance appraisal becomes a one way conversation rather than a true dialogue. The boss seemingly has all the power and sees himself as evaluator while the subordinate becomes the spin doctor saying what he thinks the boss wants to hear.

Feelings are intense
Words are trivial

Since managers tend to avoid talking about problem areas throughout the year, this often carries over to the formal evaluation as well. Direct discussion about weaknesses is replaced with vague generalities and praise is watered down and ambiguous.

Words are meaningless
And forgettable

The company line is that pay is tied to performance. But most jobs have a pay range already in place before someone is hired. Raises are often determined by the boss based on market conditions and departmental budgets more than on the results of the performance evaluation.

Vows are spoken
To be broken

Instead of the year end ‘top down’ performance appraisal, managers should involve employees in decisions that affect them throughout the year. Seek input and feedback from subordinates. Engaging your employees is more meaningful than talking at them during a performance appraisal.

Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm

Bosses also need to put some skin in the game with dialogue that holds both parties accountable. Boost bottom-up communication, tap into employee knowledge and increase worker productivity. Listen more and talk less. You might be surprised when employees aren’t complaining as much to each other about your performance evaluation process.

Enjoy the silence

If you have a song suggestion for Sounds of Marketing, please let us know by emailing


Assertive Not Aggressive

Sometimes people are misperceived as aggressive or pushy when they confront others about an issue. Potential solutions and fresh ideas are ignored because the message was personalized and viewed negatively.

In other instances, the message is lost because tone and content move from assertive to personal. Emotions get in the way and prevent a healthy dialogue. Instead of solving the problem, we add to it by forcing our point of view on others.

Assertiveness involves striving for a win-win outcome by clearly communicating your needs, wants and thoughts, while acknowledging the needs of others.

If you perceive someone as aggressive, make sure it is not actually assertive behavior featuring a message you don’t want to hear. We often point out flaws in ‘style’ or ‘delivery’ when people confront difficult issues. It could simply be misreading of the situation or a move into self preservation mode. Either way, productivity and personal growth are tied to our ability to understand when others are offering solutions in an assertive manner instead of misperceiving it as aggressive behavior.

How do we avoid becoming aggressive ourselves?

Most people prefer to be assertive but unintentionally become aggressive due to a combination of lack of preparation and an inability to keep emotions in check.

Before confronting someone, think through or even write down what you are going to say. This enables you to clearly assess the nature of the problem, how it affects you, how you feel about it and what you want to change. Preparation also increases our understanding of where the other person is coming from and reduces our instinct to make it about them rather than the issue.

Listen to other perspectives and be direct and concise when explaining how you see the situation. Offer creative solutions and show a willingness to explore other options.

Being assertive can help you convey who you are and what you are about. It doesn’t always result in getting exactly what you want. But it does show you realize that other opinions matter and that you are interested in improving the situation.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Light Reading Archives 

Get Where You Want To Go!

Avoidance Is Not The Answer

Which of the following applies to your company?

  1. An employee repeatedly misses deadlines or makes mistakes but doesn’t hear about it from the boss.
  2. A co-worker has ‘protected status’ and can pretty much do things how and when they want.
  3. A manager is blatantly incompetent but somehow survives again and again.
  4. All of the above.

Unfortunately, many people will probably answer ‘All of the above.’


The avoidance approach to problem solving has become an accepted practice.

Workplace conflicts and problems are inevitable and often result from some combination of unclear expectations, poor communication, lack of clear authority and differing attitudes and skill sets of workers.

Subscribing to the ‘If I ignore it, maybe it will go away’ philosophy doesn’t solve anything and can actually lead to more problems. 

As painful as it might seem, addressing an issue or conflict directly will reduce stress for you and others.

You could start by clearly defining the problem (and making sure you are not part of it). Try to understand the ‘whys’ behind the problem and the people involved. Develop some creative potential solutions other than everyone else being fired except you. Then, discuss the situation and your ideas openly without making any personal attacks or assailing anyone’s character.

If your boss is part of the problem or allowing it to occur, you still need to take the time to assess the situation. Ask your boss for some time to discuss an idea you have that you think can help the team. Present your ideas and potential solutions and ask for feedback to learn what he or she thinks.

At the least, you put the subject out there and make sure poor communication is no longer the issue. If you can start an open dialogue about the problem, you and others can begin working towards a solution. You might not totally agree with the end result.

But, one thing is for sure, avoidance is not the answer.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Light Reading Archives

Get Where You Want To Go!

Spend Less, Get More-5 Steps to Integrated Marketing

Spend Less, Get More-5 Steps to Integrated Marketing

Light Reading is a series of communications from MASSolutions that sheds light on common business challenges and provides solutions to strengthen your bottom line.

What do senior leaders typically think when asked to commit more resources to messaging and selling? Decision makers tend to lump Marketing, PR, Communications and Advertising together and ask:

Do we really need that?

How much does it cost?

How will we know if it is working?

Isn’t (insert name of person or department) responsible for that?

Focus on Marketing ROI Needed

Marketing and messaging professionals passionately explain their ideas but often fail to convey the Return on Investment (ROI) in terms CEO’s, CFO’s and entrepreneurs are accustomed to hearing. The end result is a lack of buy-in.

Senior leaders also tend to lose patience with multiple departments or vendors (PR, Marketing, Corporate Communications, etc.) that rarely communicate with each other as well as they should. Each function or area sees things in their own biased way.

Sales or Business Development thinks they’re king because they bring in the business, others find them arrogant and demanding. Advertising thinks they’re cool and full of big ideas, others see them as full of something else. PR talks about framing the message, other departments wonder what they really do. The end result? Senior leaders think these areas are inefficient cost centers with overlapping, duplicative efforts.

Organizations talk about getting these departments to work together but become frustrated with mixed results attributed to the type of work and workers involved. Phrases like “You know those creative people,” or “That’s marketing. They’re different,” are used to explain it away.

How can your organization overcome this cycle of frustration?

Five Steps to Integration

Champion the idea of creating a true integrated marketing and PR program by focusing on these five strategic initiatives:

  1. Develop mutually agreed upon target markets that messaging and selling efforts will focus on and make sure each department knows and agrees on the target markets. For example, Sales often overlooks the importance of employees as a key target market while Corporate Communications sees this group as vital. Advertising sometimes focuses too much on the creative message and neglects key target markets. Communicating the specifics about each market segment is the first step toward successful integration.
  2. Find out what each target market wants by asking them, through multiple channels. While engaging a market research firm is the most formal research method, don’t overlook other ways to learn about target markets. Your Sales team can ask customers and prospects what they think and track results. Corporate Communications should be able to easily survey employees. Your methodology doesn’t have to be perfect. The key takeaway is ask your customers, internal and external, what they think and act accordingly.
  3. Develop a consistent message and require each department to live by it. Be vigilant about message consistency but also be flexible. For example, your sales team isn’t going to use the advertising slogan all the time. Tweak the message accordingly for each target market but ensure the overall theme is still conveyed. Consider secret shopping so you can learn what your customers are really seeing and hearing.
  4. Work with each department or vendor on clearly defining their goals and the market forces that impact their ability to achieve those goals. Develop a summary of each department or vendor’s specific roles and strengths. Convey these key points to everyone involved. The goal is to increase the level of understanding and respect across functions.
  5. Instill a Corporate-Wide Marketing ROI focus. Challenge your marketing and messaging professionals to provide rationale in terms of Marketing ROI Success Metrics. Ask them to work in conjunction with Finance to build the metrics. Report the success metrics to leaders and managers throughout the organization. The more they know about your marketing, selling and messaging strategy, the better.


Developing a true Integrated Marketing, PR and Selling program doesn’t just happen. But once you invest the time and effort, you will reap the benefits of a positive Marketing ROI.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

I’ll Get To It Later

Ever put off focusing on a big project by working on small, seemingly meaningless tasks instead?

Psychologists who study procrastination note that the practice is prevalent at home and in the workplace. Some estimate that 15 to 20% of adults progress (or regress) to become habitual procrastinators who put off just about everything, again and again.

Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, estimates that procrastination costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually, with computer games like Minesweeper and Solitaire alone counting for billions in lost time and productivity.

But, don’t worry about it right now. Stanford University professor John Perry believes he’s found a strategy that will help procrastinators become more productive.

Perry’s theory goes something like this: While procrastinators put things off, they rarely do absolutely nothing. Instead, they work on marginally useful things while thinking about those big picture projects or decisions.

Perry believes in completing small, low-priority tasks to build a sense of accomplishment. He calls it ‘structured procrastination’ and suggests focusing time on less formidable and more useful assignments, such as following up with clients, completing expense reports or catching up on industry news. By doing so, the procrastinator becomes more productive and gains the energy to tackle more important jobs.

Perry also notes that many procrastinators feel guilty about putting things off. Since guilt saps motivation and reinforces the desire to delay, structured procrastination might at least reduce the guilt.

Obviously, the best approach is to prioritize appropriately and work on completing the most important tasks first. But, if you struggle with procrastination, you might be able to improve your situation through structured procrastination.

I could probably come up with a list of reasons why procrastination of any sort should not be considered a positive. But, I have to catch up on the latest Steelers news online…so I’ll get to it later.


David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Joe Camel Kicked Out by Gangrenous Foot

Could graphic imagery like a picture of a diseased lung on a pack of cigarettes reduce the number of smokers?

The Australian government is looking to find out.  New regulations that require Australian cigarette companies to cover 75 percent of the front of cigarette packs with health warnings and stunning images kicked in October 1st. Potential cigarette customers will now see 14 rotating pictures on the front of cigarette packes including a gangrenous foot, bloody urine in a toilet,  a diseased lung, a cancerous tongue or Bryan, a man who died at 34 from lung cancer but wanted others to learn how smoking since he was a teenager led to his death.

Companies can not use trademarks on the cigarette packaging but must use designated font type and point sizes.

The legislation was passed about a year ago and also bans “decorative ridges, embossing, bulges, or other irregularities of shape or texture.”

The World Health Organization supports the requirements which might lead to other countries implementing similar standards.

It will be interesting to see how cigarette makers respond. They have a tough story to tell and many of the industry’s brands were built through iconic imagery like the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel.

What do you think? Should there be regulations on cigarette marketing? What would you do if you had to tell their story under these marketing limitations?





The Issue Not the Instance

In a survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 48% said poor service led them to change companies in the past year. Another study asked respondents to describe their most recent buying experience and half said they had at least one problem. It seems like we are always hearing, seeing or reading about customers having terrible experiences.

When our service is lacking, what do we tell the client or customer? When we miss an internal deadline or fail to hit a goal, what do we say to our boss?

“We were crazy busy and things got pushed back a little bit.”

“(INSERT SUPPOSED CRISIS) happened so I had to spend time fixing it.”

“He was a difficult customer. He was impatient and rude.”

“(NAME) was working on that and I had to wait for her to finish it.”

“Our price was too high so we lost the sale.”

And the list could go on…

Sometimes legitimate roadblocks keep us from meeting deadlines, being on time or reaching our goals. However, bosses, peers and clients are often frustrated and perceive the responses as excuses rather than reality.

Why the disconnect?

It could be the focus is on the instance rather than the issue.

If internal and external customers are continually disappointed or you regularly miss deadlines or goals, it doesn’t really matter what happened in the most recent instance. The issue is you do not deliver what you promise. After the fact, time is wasted rationalizing with phrases like “We were crazy busy,” and self improvement opportunities are lost.

You obviously need to attempt to fix ‘the instance’ as soon as possible. But, more importantly, you need to concentrate on the issue—the reason why deadlines aren’t met or client service is lacking–and how to improve your skills in this area.

Set clear, specific targets and prioritize activities to achieve goals and meet deadlines. Follow-up with your boss, peers, subordinates and clients regularly to make sure milestones within the action plan are being met. Listen to the customer and provide value added service or a discount when something doesn’t go as well as expected.

And, stay away from those tired, old excuses.

The next time you are asked why something didn’t go as planned, take personal responsibility and focus on the issue not the instance.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Creativity and Innovation Lead to More Sales

In today’s hyper competitive environment, your organization has to relentlessly pursue innovation. Creativity can lead to new ideas that become competitive advantages.

It’s also no longer enough for Sales, PR and Communications to tell your company’s story. Employees throughout the organization need to become de facto members of your Integrated Marketing team.

How do you create an environment of creativity and innovation?

Ask and answer these three questions:

  1. Who are we trying to reach and influence? Clearly define and drill down your target markets and communicate to everyone in your organization about these segmented groups. How do they think? What moves them? Why do they say ‘Yes’ to your company? What makes them say ‘No?’ Explain your target markets in detail to your entire organization so everyone knows the specifics.
  2. What are we really selling? Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market isn’t just selling fish. We can buy fish at thousands of places and barely remember doing so. Pike Place is selling the experience just like Starbucks and Apple. Today’s marketplace is driven by our experiences. Asking ‘What are we really selling?’ and tailoring your message to that experience can increase sales and enhance your brand.
  3. How can we tweak our offerings to better meet our customer’s needs?
    Make gathering customer feedback part of your formal sales process. Have each salesperson ask their clients and prospects how to change and improve the company’s offerings with questions like: “What are the top three things you would change about our company?” “What’s the one thing we could do to make you happier?”

Coach your sales team on how to ask the questions and track the results. Respond to what customers and prospects say. Be willing to change, innovate and create something new. Tell customers and prospects what you learned and what you did about it. Then, make the ask and close the business.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Make Industry Experience Added Bonus, Not Top Priority

Solutions to help you grow…

When searching for a new hire to fill a key position, temptation exists to find a direct or exact experience match. For example, if the position is in health insurance sales, search for someone with health insurance sales experience. If a company needs a vendor partner, find one that focuses mainly on your industry.

While it is understandable hiring managers or company leaders want a new team member to ‘hit the ground running,’ focusing too much on industry experience can limit potential or result in a bad fit for the organization.

Time and again we have seen clients frustrated because new hires with plenty of industry experience lack the creative mindset or internal drive necessary to succeed. On the other hand, we have watched talented individuals change industries and thrive. The same goes with vendor partners. Good ones leverage their problem solving skills to succeed in multiple industries.

Think about why most new hires or team members don’t meet expectations. Is it because of their lack of technical skills or industry knowledge? Nope. Usually problems occur because of factors like a lack of drive, the inability to mesh with the team, clashing with their new boss or struggling with the corporate culture. And, regardless of the level of industry experience, new hires still need to be re-trained on their new company’s systems.

This is not to say having industry experience is a bad thing. It can be a positive but should rank behind other more important attributes like drive, creative problem solving skills and a track record of individual and team success. Drive or desire to excel is critical to success—you either have it or you don’t. Creative problem solving skills separate peak performers from the rest of the pack. And, a track record of success indicates an ability to consistently achieve goals.

Instead of overemphasizing a direct or exact experience match, focus first on attitude and outlook. Industry experience can be a plus or added bonus. But, the lack thereof can be overcome through talent, drive and creativity.


David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

If It Has To Be Your Idea, You’re Stunting Growth–Yours and Your Company’s

Sounds of Marketing
“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, Graduation(2007) by Kanye West

La, la, la, la wait till I get my money right

Hearing this song makes me think of the beginning of the movie The Hangover. But forget that for a moment while we focus on our tendency to fight new ideas and how that impacts both our growth and that of our companies.

La, la, la, la then you can’t tell me nothing right 

It’s an understatement that change is difficult for anyone. As we gain experience and achieve more success, we struggle even more–consciously or subconsciously–with different perspectives. We begin to stick more with the decision making that brought us success.

I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny,
and what I do? Act more stupidly.

We push back on new ideas from peers, subordinates, people inside and outside the organization. It doesn’t matter who or where the ideas come from because the end result is the same.

Even my Momma couldn’t get through to me…

It’s probably a strange combination of hubris, insecurity and resistance to change. It takes courage and discipline to listen to new ideas from others.

Excuse me, was you saying something?
Uh, uh, you can’t tell me nothing

You might not even realize you are stifling creativity or ignoring potential opportunities. Maybe you really think yours is the best or only way. Regardless, your personal growth and that of your company is stunted.

Ha ha you can’t tell me nothing
Uh, uh, you can’t tell me nothing

You can change your ways or hope for the best in a challenging economy that requires everyone to relentlessly pursue innovation to survive.

Take a look at your decision making process. How have you been responding to differing opinions and fresh approaches? Open up to new ideas and creative strategies. The end result will be ongoing growth for you and your organization.

Watch the video here

Get Where You Want to Go!
Light Reading Archives


David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.