Tag : televangelist

66: Mug Shot Marketing

State Farm BillboardOn the way home from a North Carolina airport Monday, I passed a vibrant-red billboard (similar to the one above) with a giant human head pictured next to an insurance company logo and white letters that spelled something like, “You’re a name not a number.”

I found it ironic, since the appeal was made impersonally to a bunch of cars probably sold to the advertiser as “traffic count per day.” It was trite—a line entrepreneurs have made meaningless right next to “We specialize in customer service.”

But it got me thinking about a question I’ve been asked multiple times from small business marketers: “Should I put my picture in my advertising?”

The answer to that question depends on your profession and sometimes—hard truth—how attractive you are.

So, who CAN market themselves with portraits?

Politicians & Professional Speakers
Politics is big business, and your brand is wrapped around your personal image. That doesn’t mean all political materials need to have your likeness to be effective; but you get a pass on marketing with your pearly whites. If you have ever earned a sizable appearance fee, your audience already knows you like the spotlight. In either case, selling your face won’t make you seem any more arrogant—I mean, confident (sorry)—than you already are.

Athletes & Famous Chefs
If you’re trying to extend your financial security in your free time—and leverage your personality or body of work, your image might help sell your product or service. It has already been sold by TV networks and other appearances. You’ve got a photo excuse, even though your name may be enough to sell what you’re selling.

Media Celebrities & Personalities
If you’ve appeared regularly or significantly on screens or through speakers, pictures of you might help sell your work. More than likely, though, you’re not making the advertising decisions and answering the phone, as someone else is marketing your appearance. But if you’re pushing a post-reality-TV career, help yourself to public face time. And if you’re Chuck Norris—well, just know that everyone is too scared to buy what you’re selling.

Gynecologists & Proctologists
Some (though not all) women I know say they prefer women OBGYN physicians over their male counterparts; and maybe guys feel better about prostate rectal exams administered by other dudes—don’t know . . . haven’t crossed that bridge yet. If you work in gender-specific professions, you’ll get a pass, too. You may not always be able to illustrate exactly what you do with stock images, but you may be able to find a creative solution to illustrate the end result. Otherwise, your public proof of gender may be an asset to you.

Personal Trainers & Nutritionists
If you’re the result of what you’re selling, illustrate it. It doesn’t hurt to show the ramifications others have experienced; don’t neglect those—especially if they’re famous. But people want to see that you practice what you preach. That said, your picture doesn’t need to be the brand; so, don’t shy away from logos and other creative campaign imagery.

Baby Sitters & Nannies
Baby sitters don’t buy billboards or wrap their cars. It’s probably best for parents to use other family members or someone from a trust-fostering social group rather than strangers. But if you’re putting fliers in newspaper boxes or selling your child-supervision door-to-door, you might want to show that your face isn’t pierced too much to make it through airport security or framed in skull and evil clown tattoos.

Who should NOT market themselves with portraits?

Bench Seat
People like this local entrepreneur, pictured on a Kroger waiting bench; if you need me to explain, your friends may be carrying secret cameras for Stacy and Clinton. Faith healers who wear glasses—still don’t understand that visual irony. All ministers, actually. (If Mother Teresa wouldn’t, you probably shouldn’t either.) Divorce lawyers like this fellow. People who previously appeared in post office wanted posters. Currently-profitable drug dealers.

And probably you.

Sorry. If you don’t fit squarely in one of the above-bolded categories, your face is probably taking the place of either (1) more and better sales content and/or (2) white space to give your advertising breathing room. I know what you’re going to say: “But I’m an agent trying to sell myself, not just my [umbrella] company.” But does your face sell what you sell? Could you, instead, create a personal logo or advertising theme? Could you brand a creative URL or phone number? If you work for yourself, you hopefully passed on the chance to name your business after yourself and grabbed something memorable. This will give you more flexible branding options. (I have never regretted naming my design company after an open-cockpit aircraft.)

See the problem is that your brand should be uniform and everywhere, and we humans age faster than our logos. Your profile shot can sit next to your bio on your web site and maybe even on your business card, where people interact with it only by choice. But if people don’t want what you’re selling, more than likely, they won’t buy it because “they look like a nice person.” Don’t kid yourself: if your looks don’t get you a free lunch, they probably won’t get you business.

If you are going to market your mug shot, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Vehicle Wraps

  • Pay or barter for professional photography.
  • Have pictures taken from both right and left angles to give future advertising more flexibility.
  • Request both full body (preferably standing) and head shots.
  • Ask your photographer for high-resolution, masked images (those cut out from their backgrounds), and request both .JPG and .PSD versions of such. Even if you can’t open the files, keep them on hand to give to your designer and media outlets. (An advance thanks on behalf of whichever graphic designer you hire to handle these in your advertising.)
  • And go all in. If you do signs, billboards, vehicle wraps, brochures, newspaper ads, etc., you want your marketing to be consistent. Use the same look across all media as closely as possible, and realize that you’ll need to update your materials on an annual or biannual basis.


I’ll just put it on the table: one of the hardest parts of the Christian life is living in full, willing understanding of the fact that our lives our meant for one purpose: when people see us, they should see Jesus. I pray for that on Sunday mornings, when I take my directional antics to my church’s parking lot. Sometimes, I even pray that over my hangar time.

But it’s too easy to work on my Ryan brand, the one I’ve so well crafted and curated for public consumption. As an often-insecure business owner, sometimes I take biplane’s image-building past healthy levels, too. My mug gets in the way.

Thankfully, we are not without example. Christ came and showed us what a self-abandoned life looks like. While people knew him for his miracles and captivating oratory skills, Jesus was able to say with heaven’s approval: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

I’m not there yet, but I hope that each year the people around me can see more and more of the one who planned my birth, my life path, and my gifts—for his glory. How ’bout you? What parts of your life are obstructing other people from seeing God alive in you?

[footer]Vehicle wrap images used by permission from Barbra Bannon of Cranky Creative.
Billboard image from this uncopyrighted gallery.[/footer]

41: The Not-so-silver Blogging Bullet

Communication BulletsIf you’re reading the same articles I am these days, you’ve heard there’s a silver bullet minted for business: blogging. A recent HubSpot study showed that commercial web sites with blogs garnered 55% more visitors than those without blogs. And they had 97% more inbound links (when other sites link to yours) than their blogless counterparts.

But to kill it at blogging for business, your ammo will have to be a 4-part alloy of balanced attributes. In unclassified documents obtained by biplane productions for this article, the not-so-shocking components are now available for commercial application.

Helpful Information

Readers are willing to waste their time on entertainment. But they draw the line on useless information. You wouldn’t care about your local tire shop owner’s trip to the Tire Industry Association‘s annual convention. You wouldn’t finish a story on you local UHaul‘s shipment of new trucks. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Change out your business for a random one in your phone book, then ask yourself, “Would I care about this news or advice?” If not, try a different topic. The more reader-centric you make your writing, the more likely your readers will absorb your content.

Give them practical information they can consider, if not use. Break it down into bite-size chunks or steps. Eliminate jargon to make room for layman’s terms. Prove that you’ve earned your insight, which they can receive for free.

Engaging Content

There are no owner’s manuals on The New York Times best sellers list. Extremely helpful content (in multiple languages, no less), but even gals wouldn’t grab a coffee at Barnes & Noble and read one. You’re going to find few doctoral theses shared on facebook or forwarded via email. Even with all the uproar, the various health care bills right now will go mostly unread by the masses whose lives they might impact.

So, sprinkle your knowledge with anecdotes, statistics, even graphics. Give it the sound of your voice, not wikipedia’s. Treat the reader as your friend, and they’ll stick around for more of your stories. Better yet, they’ll forward them to their other friends.

Altruistic Feel

You know that icky feeling when you’re flipping through the channels and a televangelist sneaks a book or DVD pitch in there? He may or may not have preceded the infomercial with inspirational insight; but a cord of distrust binds your interest, because the smell of narcissism and self promotion burn your perception. A lot of blogs wreak of these tendencies.

Don’t be that guy! Don’t soak your words with marketing. Trust that what you’ve dispensed for free will be received with gratitude and maybe even returned to you in some measure. People consult and hire experts, especially humble ones.

Professional Execution

I love when Jay Leno televised newspaper clippings of bad communication. The words made sense to the advertiser or writer. But poor editing and/or a lack of outside insight turned their effort into a detriment to their organization—and accidental humor on a large stage. Grammar, syntax, capitalization, punctuation—they matter. Presentation and readability can make or break your post. Undeveloped thoughts can turn interest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been spared by the pre-release review of my wife or a trusted peer. I’ve even chose not to publish posts, based on such counsel.

Treat your writing like you do your professional craft. Don’t be afraid to call in other eyes or even collaborate with other writers. Excellence communicates professionalism. Good ideas poorly expressed lose their impact.

We’ve all heard, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” Parents and teachers have proven this true for millennia. Sadly, many churches and their parishioners have not. Many times, to be candid, I have not.

Denominations emphasize our differences. Religion wraps faith in layers of suffocating exclusivity and distracting tradition. Christians, me included at times in my life, have made heaven a result of doctrines and creeds, checked lists, and kept rules. In so many ways, touching so many lives, the movement of Jesus has driven people away from our cause instead of to Him.

The secular world doesn’t care what version of the Bible we read or what reformer we most closely follow. They don’t search for a name on a sign. We won’t attract them with mission statements or the “what we believe” page on our web site. Few, if any, are impressed into heaven.

They want to know a personal God, and they want to see what that looks like in us. We are called to study the Truth and warned to watch for wolves. But we are asked to love with wisdom, to care with sacrifice. It’s easier to learn than to love. It’s easier to segregate than to unify. But easy is the harlot of the opposition.

[footer]Image(s) used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

12: Accelerating Between the Jersey Walls

HOV SignI regularly get asked by college students and young designers how to build a profitable design firm. (I’ve been told that Biplane Productions is an anomaly for my age and the current market.) Success can’t be encapsulated in an easy proverb or single piece of advice, but I tell them all the same thing: find your niche, learn it inside and out, become the best vendor in that arena.

It’s not just designers. The other day, a (very successful) auctioneer told me that he wished he wasn’t answering the phones but getting the kind of auctions he wants. I’ve given the same advice to brand new auction entrepreneurs and auctioneers whose careers span longer than my life: develop your niche, and get your auction brand synonymous with what you sell.

People shop specialists, from mechanics to doctors to retail stores. Specialists generate larger margins; their narrow but deep experience gives their recommendations more credence and their value more worth. That’s why Best Buy can charge more for the same big screen TV brands that Sam’s Club sells, why people buy more engagement rings from mall jewelry stores than pawn shops or even Wal-Mart.

It’s counterintuitive, though, on the flip side of the transaction. It doesn’t make sense that you could do more business by working only one segment of available business. If I hadn’t seen it in Biplane, I may not have come to believe it. Over 90% of my revenue now comes from auction companies, most of them real estate specialists. I’ve found efficiencies, predictable transaction patterns, and a moderate intuition I didn’t have when I designed for anyone who called.

It doesn’t have to be cold turkey or absolute. Auction what you love to sell, what makes you money. But your marketing materials (web site, brochures, proposals, etc.) should emphasize only one or two—maybe three, if similar—area(s) of specialty. It simplifies your brand message, which makes it easier to remember and easier for clients to recommend to their peers.

Brand simplification will move you from “the auctioneer” to the marketer that knows how to sell [x] better than anyone. When you’re “the only” or “one of few,” you’ll find less competition and less effort spent justifying your commission.

I don’t know how many Christians I’ve met trying to set the world on fire for Jesus through mass efforts like passing out tracts in crowded areas, street preaching, and televangelism. They reach somebody, probably more than one somebody. I just don’t know if that’s the most efficient use of a Christian’s personal outreach energy.

I’ve found that the personal connection carries more weight and long term ramifications than a pamphlet on a gas station toilet or the echoes of a street preacher’s megaphone.

Jesus talked to crowds, but the crowds were fickle—even later crucified him. The fishermen who became martyrs and the Pharisees who left their comfort zones met Jesus personally. He took the time to know them, to walk with them—to spend dinner at Zaccheus’ house.

That’s more risky. It’s not easy. But we’re called to fish for followers like Jesus did. He didn’t need paper or microphones, and he didn’t appear to everyone in his generation—despite his ability to do so. He impacted the sphere of influence available to him.

Are we?