Thinking Inside the Box & Missed Opportunities

I had a disturbing conversation the other day.  It was with a friend who is also a bricks and mortar business owner and after years of preaching the gospel of marketing to him, I’ve come to realize he likes “thinking inside the box” when it comes to marketing his business.

So as I pulled up to the restaurant, I promised myself I would keep the conversation about everything but business (since I know from experience any marketing ideas I share typically land with a solid THUD). Nope, this time I was going to keep it strictly at a friendly level and stay far away from talking business or marketing.

This lasted about 10 minutes (we hadn’t even gotten our eggs yet).

It started innocently when he mentioned a recent solo email he sent to his list (I think he was trying to let me know he was marketing his business before I even asked the question).  He described what he did and I could sense a level of impending frustration in his voice.

I bit my tongue and kept my mouth shut.

So I sent this email and it offered great prices on a few select products, but nobody bought…”

I kept my mouth closed and simply nodded in understanding, but I could feel my resolve weakening as I continued to listen.

I sent one last month and one this month and no sales.”

And then “it” came over me and I couldn’t help myself (so much for my promise to myself before I got out of my car).  If you’re like me, you know what “it” is.

It” is the unbridled passion for direct marketing and thinking creatively about the ways you promote your business.  The result was a tidal wave of questions asking what he did and how he did it.

I quickly shared several stories of other bricks and mortar business owners and how they are doing the same thing, SUCCESSFULLY!

I told him he cannot send just one email a month and expect people to open it, read it and buy from it.

I laid out a simple, yet effective plan for not only email marketing, but offering a continuity program for his business (which I believe could really work for him).

It was then our waitress brought our meals and when I looked back up at him, his glazed eyes said everything…

“I hear you Mike, but I don’t think you understand my customers.”


I knew better than to open my mouth and I still could not help myself.

If you’ve ever tried sharing the types of marketing strategies I discuss on this site with somebody who doesn’t get it, you know exactly how I felt, which is why I steered the rest of the conversation back away from business and made the mental note to write this article.

“Thinking inside the box” is the antithesis of what I stand for and preach about when it comes to marketing.  The best visual metaphor I can think of to describe this type of mental attitude is an old ad from around 1931 from a company called Electrolux-Servel.


This is a real ad and you can click on it to read the copy.  It’s classic (read that headline again) and unfortunately it describes the way a lot of business owners think about the marketing of their business today.

Sales suffer.  Profitability suffers.  Prospects and customers suffer. All because the business owner wears blinders and is afraid to learn new things and try new strategies.

As we close out 2013, it’s always a good time of year to make the personal promise to the upcoming year a year of change and growth (however you define them).  Challenge yourself to think creatively and differently about your business in 2014.  Try new ideas.  Revisit old ideas that worked and if you’re wearing any sort of blinders, take them off!


Most importantly remember the fundamentals of good direct response marketing.

  • Find a person with a pain or want.
  • Fix the pain or fulfill the want.
  • Let the person know you have the solution for them and offer ways for them to respond.

The need for every latest gimmick or shiny object is not necessary to grow your business in 2014 and in many cases it’s simply a matter of revisiting and implementing the fundamentals.

To give you a head start, click here for a free download of my updated “media checklist” which you can print out and use in your business.

The other thing is a bit of a tease, but in early 2014, I am going to announce some big news and something I’ve been working on for months.  I practice what I preach and I am going back to the fundamentals of my business and coming out with something very special.  Stay tuned and best wishes this holiday season!

About Mike Capuzzi

I'm a speaker, author and high impact marketing strategist for business owners and sharp, aggressive entrepreneurs looking to get to the next level in their business. I'm also the the inventor of the world-famous CopyDoodles. CopyDoodles are the world's largest library of handwritten fonts, hand-drawn doodles, comics and more designed to grab attention and boost your marketing results!


  1. Mike Gibson on December 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Great article. When this comment was made, “I hear you Mike, but I don’t think you understand my customers,” I would have wanted to make this comment (but, of course, wouldn’t have): “Oh, yes I do understand your customers. It is YOU that don’t understand your customers…and how to reach out to them…as evidenced by the lack of response you are getting to your marketing/advertising.”

    • Mike Capuzzi on December 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Mike – Trust me… I had to bite my tongue. Hard.

  2. Mike Gibson on December 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Mike – Depending on circumstances, would this be an opportunity to do a ‘joint venture’ with a prospective client to prove to him that you know what you’re talking about? Or do you only take on clients who are will ‘step up to the plate’ because of their confidence in what you have to offer?

    • Mike Capuzzi on December 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Mike – not clear exactly on what you are asking. Tell you what…. send a REPLY to the email that sent you this article and fill me in more.

  3. Grant Miller on December 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Very insightful as always, thanks Mike!

    • Mike Capuzzi on December 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks Grant. Did you get your book you won after last week’s contest?

  4. Jon on December 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    What a great ad example! And thanks for the free gift of a checklist!
    As always great content. thanks Mike
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    • Mike Capuzzi on December 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks Jon! You are welcome and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  5. Rebecca Bloomquist on December 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, interesting article for sure…and, I’ve so ‘been there, done that’ with other friend’s businesses. I usually can’t help myself either and offer ideas and suggestions that are mostly met with glazed eyes. I’ve started to carry more tissues around with me to clean up the trickle of blood from biting my tongue to hard….

    Thanks for the updated media checklist! Much appreciated! I’ve already printed it out and pinned it to my office bulletin board.

    • Mike Capuzzi on December 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks Rebecca! Happy 2014!

  6. Bill Quickel on January 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Yes once again ideas I can use or should use more often. I think I understand the question “joint venture’ with a prospective client to prove to him” you do an ad with him to show what could be done it it was done correctly.

    Doing a sales compaign with someone else helps cut the costs and helps do a promo more often.

    Thanks again
    Bill Quickel

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