This Week In Business

What’s in a Tagline?

Taglines have been around since the dawn of advertising. Brands seeking a way to stand out among competitors, to have their voices heard above all the others, have often utilized these simple yet effective marketing tools. The general goal for a tagline is to be timeless, unique, and true to the business. Remember the whole Verizon “Can you hear me now?” Or TNT’s “We know drama”? Admittedly, there are just as many terrible taglines out there as there are amazing. So, what are the elements of a decent tagline?

You sure do TNT, you sure do.

You sure do TNT, you sure do.

First and foremost, a tagline should be short. It shouldn’t just be your mission statement verbatim, or a list of your businesses promises. You don’t want to make people feel like they’re trying to memorize the first 18 lines of The Canterbury Tales. Where images and logos offer the “show, don’t tell” mentality, taglines are more of a “tell, but tell it quickly.” Your tagline should reflect your mission and overall philosophy. For instance, you shouldn’t be a community radio station with the tagline “The World is Yours.” It doesn’t really correspond with our business, and I also got that from Scarface, so it’s already been used (oh, yeah-taglines should also be original).

You also want something that can withstand the test of time (to a degree). Most taglines have a lifespan of at least a few years: there’s a happy medium of frequency somewhere on a scale of updating your Facebook status  to “This is how it must stay until the end of times.” In other words, creating a tagline doesn’t have to be a “‘Til death” commitment (Coca-Cola has cycled through some taglines over the years), but you will want something that’s going to stick for a bit.

It’s also a good idea to consider the type of business you have when thinking about taglines. Different industries have different tagline generation formulas. Service based businesses tend to use taglines that reflect reliability and quality, along the lines of “Service you can trust.” For example, Orkin recently used the tagline is “Pest control down to a science.” This tagline works because a) it demonstrates what they do (get rid of pests), b) gives them a bit of authority and expertise (i.e. we’re so good, we have this down to a science). This tagline gives the message “We will take care of your problem easily and efficiently, don’t you worry.” It’s not warm and fuzzy, but it is comforting. Examples of warm and fuzzy taglines are Olive Garden’s “When you’re here, you’re family,” or Allstate’s “You’re in good hands” (plus, the whole James Earl Jones bit helps).


I can’t help but read this in James Earl Jones’ voice.

Taglines for product based businesses are less about reliability guarantees, and more about standing out as a brand. These taglines are all about what makes a product special, different from the rest, and rely more on the brand’s story. Some product based taglines that you’re most likely familiar with include “Just do it” from Nike, “Be a hero” from GoPro, “They’re magically delicious” from Lucky Charms, or even “They’re grrrrrrrrrreat!” from Frosted Flakes. These taglines are all award-winning in terms of brevity- two to three words. And, they each hint at a promise. GoPro’s message suggests that YOU can go out and be a hero, with the help of their product. These taglines also address something unique about the product. What sets Frosted Flakes apart from the store brand Sugar Coated Corn-esque Flakes? Well, they’re grrrrrrrrrrrreat! Not just “they’re great,” that doesn’t sell. But “They’re grrrrrrrrrrrreat?” Now we’re getting somewhere.

Gr-r-reat, you say? I'm in.

Gr-r-reat, you say? I’m in.

Last but not least, considering the message of the non-profit sector. These are usually a “good for the community and/or world” message. Most non-profits use simple taglines that emphasize their mission, such as Doctor’s Without Borders: “Medical aid where it is needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial.” It’s a bit lengthier than the other examples, but it clearly conveys what the organization does, as well as their focus. People come first, not other institutions or organizations.  Another non-profit example is Smithsonian’s tagline: “Seriously Amazing.” And, if you’ve ever been to any of the Smithsonian museums, this tagline seems fairly accurate.


If you’re considering a tagline for your business, this article is a good starting point. In general, short, sweet, and true to your mission are always the way to go. In fact, you know who does a killer tagline? Little Caesar’s Pizza: “Pizza, Pizza.” 

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

Tech Thursday: Why You Should Consider E-Mail Templates

Flooded e-mail inboxes seem to be the norm nowadays, and its incredibly stressful. How can you possibly respond to everyone and get them all the information they need? It may seem Herculean, but it doesn’t have to be!

Enter e-mail templates, or, pre-written e-mails. These are great if you are responding to general or specific inquiries that you may recieve from people on a daily basis. Instead of having to start each e-mail from scratch, all you have to do is tweak a few words, and you’re done. Boom!

In this video, we talk a little bit about how e-mail templates are like the cookie cutters of your e-mail productivity. To sum it up: the wheel has already been invented for you, so you shouldn’t waste your precious time trying to recreate it each time you write an e-mail.

As a bonus, here are a couple resources for pre-writing e-mails (without sounding like a robot):

From Ramit Sethi, who also agrees that having a script saves a ton of time in the long run.

Using pre-written e-mails with G-mail

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Tech Thursday: What to Do When You Mess Up Online

We all make mistakes, and sometimes they are tragically public. And on social media.

There are infinite ways to handle making a mistake online, but we’ve narrowed down 3 strategies that you may find helpful (and, just waiting for it to go away isn’t one of the options. Sorry!)

Surprising And Delighting People- Your Thoughts Please!

So we’ve been recently doing a Skillshare course with Seth Godin about marketing… And it’s been interesting to kind of see this business in a different way.

In general, I think we provide pretty good customer service. I will be the first to say sometimes I drop the ball but it’s relatively infrequent and I always try to do something to make up for it (like update a client’s software or design them a new Facebook cover), sometimes telling them but often times not. (Full disclosure: I do that extra something nice mostly for myself, so I feel like if it wasn’t a job as well done as it could have been, I’ve somehow made up for it.)

Not sure how to say it in Chinese but it means 'good bone water', which is delightful in and of itself.

Not sure how to say it in Chinese but it means ‘good bone water’, which is delightful in and of itself.

I’ve been really thinking a lot about surprising and delighting customers, which Seth Godin urges us to do in this course. Here’s something that comes to mind:

I’ve been getting acupuncture to help with my arm issues. After my last session, Lea (my therapist? pricker? puncturist? not sure what to call her?) gave me some ‘Good Bone Water’, basically like a natural BenGay.

I brought it home and the requisite I-am-a-12-year-old-boy style jokes ensued between Derrick and I…

Until I realized that two nights in a row, Derrick asked me to put the good bone water on his shoulder and I had been waking up with more relaxed arms after rubbing it on my arms the last couple nights. “I should buy more of this stuff.” I thought. Gosh, that acupuncturist is clever getting me dependent on this stuff…

I got the box out of the garbage to see how much my new habit was going to cost me.



That’s it?

With a $10 gift, she surprised and delighted me… even though I’ve probably spent over $500 with her at this point, I (and now Derrick) was psyched about the bone water which I never would have tried otherwise.

So I’m searching for other stories of times people have been surprised and delighted by a company. Please share yours! I am hoping to get some inspiration so we can think of new ways to surprise and delight our customers.

P.S. I will say also here how a few customers have surprised and delighted me: by including a thank you note with their mailed in payment. I can count the number of times it has happened on one hand and, while I didn’t get into this work to get praise, it warms my heart to get them and I’ve kept every single one.

Employee Satisfaction, à la Buzzfeed

So, you may or may not be aware that I spend a lot of time, um, researching, on Buzzfeed. Something that has stuck out to me lately is the way they use employees to humblebrag about their work environment. In June, Buzzfeed employee Justin accidentally sent an e-mail about running late because the hot water in his apartment building wasn’t working to the whole Buzzfeed community. Rather than being embarrassing and disastrous, the result was embarrassing and hilarious.

And, there was even a message straight from the top.

And, there was even a message straight from the top.



Another example of Buzzfeed employees at “work” is this post about a couple girls who decided to try their hand at Tarot Card readings. Two of them drew cards and answered questions based on what they assumed the cards meant. A third woman with actual experience with Tarot readings then chimed in. It’s pretty hysterical, and worth a read if you have some time.


What do these examples of employee tomfoolery have to do with my business, you may ask. Well, there’s a lesson in employee satisfaction within these Buzzfeed articles. Here’s the breakdown on what satisfied employees can do for your business:

1) Happiness Factor:  If you take a business management class (or, a marketing class in my case), you will probably be told that the key to customer satisfaction is employee satisfaction. This isn’t rocket science, I suppose: the faces of your employees equals the face of your business. Ideally, the face of your business is a happy one. On the flip side, if the face of your business has a rather sour disposition, people are less inclined to come back as repeat customers.

This Business Insider list shows the “Happiest Companies” in America this year. Curious about how one quantifies happiness, I looked into their methodology. The components of happiness in a job include: cash compensation (i.e. salary, bonuses, commissions, tips), stress level, flexibility around work schedule, and meaningfulness of the job (i.e. are employees made to feel that their job is important?).

So, while you may not be able to increase salaries or give bonuses, you CAN make changes to the work environment, and turn it into a place that employees love. Remember, you want the face of your business to smile (like it means it).

Interestingly, there are a lot of petroleum companies on this list...

Cities with the happiest employees


2) Engagement Encouragement  The example of Buzzfeed may be a bit extreme in terms of goofiness, but it shows that you can encourage employees to showcase your business. Justin was able to show off the Buzzfeed work environment by posting the various responses to his e-mail, including one from the CEO. While reading the post, I was thinking, “Man, these people are so clever! It would be so fun to work with them. I think I love Buzzfeed EVEN MORE NOW!” 

Encouraging employees to engage in the business in a fun way has a few benefits: self-promotion (in a subtle way), increased productivity, incentive to go above and beyond the call of duty, and overall better quality of work.

This article from Forbes describes the relationship between employee satisfaction and business performance in greater (and more technical) detail. There is also this flow chart:

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.59.09 PM

3) “We’ve Got Your Back”  This idea goes along with encouragement. If, for instance, the girls doing Tarot readings were somehow disciplined for their post, they a) would lose incentive to engage with the company and b) wouldn’t be convinced that Buzzfeed had their backs.

When a business or boss tells their employees “Yes, please go ahead and do X. That would be great”, following through and standing behind employees who do X is important. Unless they are completely missing the point of the task or botching it, punishing them will generate feelings of betrayal, and all incentive they have to do X.  And perhaps any other future task that’s asked of them. Basically, it’s all a downward spiral. Don’t create trust issues with your employees. 

Of course, I consider myself a satisfied employee here at Breaking Even… which may have something to do with Nicole indulging my Buzzfeed habit.

Some Thoughts On Asking People For Money

helpmepoorNot sure if it’s the time of year in general (a lot of non-profits have a fiscal year that ends June 30) or it’s the fact that the business bank account takes a hit in May (I pay the PO Box, workers comp insurance, liability insurance, and a few other once a year bills within a two week period- painful)… but I start noticing the solicitation letters start.

Now I’m not going to name names so if you are here for the gossip, you are going to be disappointed. (I do have to run into some of these people at the grocery store after all.)

What I am going to say is a few things about asking for money, on the internet or otherwise.

1) Your first contact with me shouldn’t be to ask me for money.
There is a local non-profit that sends me a solicitation via mail once a year. I’ve never been to one of their events, set foot in their building, or met any of their board. Yet somehow, I should feel compelled to write a check.

Here’s the thing. Getting anything from people- volunteer time, money, anything- is about relationships. You don’t go on a first date and say ‘Hi, nice to meet you, let’s get married.’

We all need a little romancing.

The Abbe Museum with their “Abbe Underground” program the last couple years has had quarterly-ish events courting the under 40 crowd (ie nurturing future donors and getting new people into the museum space and aware of their programs). The donation envelopes were always on the table at events but they never pushed… because they are in this for the long haul. Why guilt $20 out of me now when I’d gladly give $200 every year once I got to know them?

So let’s say you were a music non-profit and have bought a mailing list off your local chamber, didn’t have the money or staff for an in person event. What is a bootstrapped organization to do? Why not send me a card on World Music Day (October 1 in case you were curious but didn’t feel like clicking). It would cost about the same amount to send that in the mail as a boring letter and I’d think it was a lot more interesting. And speaking of that…

2) Please stop doing what everyone else is doing.

If I see one more $100+ per plate gala fundraiser in the summer on Mount Desert Island, I may scream.

First of all, I get that there are a lot of fancy people around here. And I get that they want to party down. But, come on, are we really going to keep hitting up the same 250ish people for money all the time?

An example of something different for around these parts? Dress Up At The Jesup, a fundraiser our local library is throwing in June (still in the works but I help set up the payment form so I know these things). Apps and dress up like your favorite character in a book for $35. Fun night out, ties in with their mission, and something different. Win, win, win. Why can’t more people get creative when it comes to asking for money?

3) Stop speaking non-profit.

So we’re all guilty of this to some extent (myself included though I will say I try very hard to not get too jargon-y on the blog or otherwise). Below is me speaking non-profit (warning I only worked at a non-profit for a couple years so it might be more like pigeon non-profit but you’ll get the idea).

Our mission statement allows us to partner with existing community organizations to increase programming range; develop curriculum to educate affected groups; and impact those in programs in a more impactful way.

Now read your last solicitation letter and really look at it. Could you cut half the words out of it and say the same thing? Is there a word that would make your grandmother feel stupid? Did you have to read a paragraph two or three times because you spaced out?

Ok let’s rework the sentence.

We work directly with organizations like the Bar Harbor Historical Society and Mount Desert Island High School to create history education programs that serve high schools to senior citizens, with a total reach of 500 households.

Now that sentence is actually a little longer but probably felt shorter. Why?

  • I got specific, with what we did and the impact we have (bonus points for numbers, people).
  • I name dropped actual other cool places (‘trust symbol’- i.e. other people think we’re cool so you can too).
  • I took out the jargon.

 4) Make it easy.

I once was at an event and they gave out Clynk bags with stickers on connected to the nonprofit’s account. All people had to do was go home, fill one up with returnable bottles, and drop it off at the grocery store. They didn’t just say ‘Oh we accept donations via Clynk.’ They made it very easy to give bottles that I heard through the grapevine added up to over $600 in donations.

The ultimate in easiness is setting up a donation form on your website. (By the way if you have a Wordpress website and a Stripe account, we’ll set it up an online donation form for you for $300. We might not do it that cheap forever but it’s a nice entry point for many.) One person we set up a form for got a $500 donation via the website… the next day. Results may vary but I guarantee, if you don’t make people mail in a check, it’s a lot easier to get money from them.

So as you get ready to ask donors and potential donors for support, I hope this helps give some perspective. Ask and you shall receive? Maybe. But ask with the person in mind and that is much much more likely.