An exclusive interview with author Yitzchok Saftlas, CEO of Bottom Line Marketing Group
Imagine going to one of the most experienced and successful marketing consultants around and getting guidance on how to promote your business or organization. You receive advice tailored to your situation, implement it, and soar to the top of your industry.
Now imagine that you could get that guidance for only a few dollars.
With the publication of Yitzchok Saftlas’s new book, So, What’s the Bottom Line? this dream has become a reality. Yitzchok has drawn on years of experience in assisting companies and organizations with their marketing needs, and presents in his new book 76 short lessons.
I had the privilege of speaking with Yitzchok about his business and his new book. His friendly and warm personality, as well as strong common sense approach to advertising, made it clear why he has been so successful in this field.
Yitzchok was born and raised in Brooklyn, and is a graduate of Yeshiva Tiferes Elimelech and the Yeshiva of Adelphia. He attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, and then worked for three years at Artscroll as a book cover and page layout designer. “Those were the days before desktop publishing,” he recalls. “Using a typesetting and stat machine, rubylith (lithographer’s tape used in graphic design) and an x-acto blade, I assisted in the production of nearly 100 publications.
“In 1992, I created Bottom Line Marketing Group, and there I have had the fortuity to share the wisdom I have gained. I’ve bolstered the growth of innumerable brands, businesses, and non-profit organizations, holding their hands through their successes and challenges.”
“When did you get the idea to write a book?” I asked Yitzchok.
“In 2009, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor of Yated Ne’eman, contacted me with a creative yet straightforward idea. ‘Yitzchok,’ he said, ‘the economy is really rough and people can use some good marketing ideas. Perhaps you want to pen a weekly business marketing column for the Yated Ne’eman?’ And as the saying goes, the rest is history. This book is culled from the very best columns that appeared.”
The book was released on December 10, 2015. Published by Morgan James, it is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is distributed to Jewish bookstores by Menucha Publishing.
Each chapter of the book is short and to the point – three or four pages long – designed for the typical attention span of today’s busy reader. A chapter usually begins with a story illustrating a point, and ends with a clear takeaway. It’s a book one could easily read in one sitting, and then keep on the shelf for future reference.
Most of the chapters survey case histories of famous advertising campaigns, and the lessons to be learned from them. These make So, What’s the Bottom Line? a living manual for marketing, and a pleasure to read. It’s not dry and technical like a college textbook. The author takes you through the stories behind Avis, Vitamin Water, and Kodak, showing you how they gained dominance of their industries by using the right slogans at the right time.
Occasionally, Yitzchok tells of a personal experience in his business, like the time a client complained that the response to an advertising campaign was low and suggested that perhaps it was time to stop the campaign altogether. On Yitzchok’s recommendation, they consulted three impartial consumers for feedback, and found that the advertising message had indeed been resonating with people. He advised that they stick it out for a few more months.
He makes the point that even a well-established product needs to be advertised. He cites what happened when the State of Colorado stopped advertising for two years. It plummeted from 1st to 17th place as a tourist destination – a disaster that took 14 years to undo.
“Does your company, or your book, give advice about how to run a business, or just marketing?” I asked.
“Sometimes there’s a fuzzy line between a business plan and a marketing plan,” Yitzchok responded. “You must always have a business plan that makes financial sense – one should never skip that step. My book is primarily about marketing advice. It covers how much money to set aside for marketing, but it doesn’t cover how to estimate whether a given investment will pay off. And in the book I caution – using the example of new Coke – that failure may not be due to faulty advertising, but to a flaw in the product itself.”
“Does someone have to be working in marketing to benefit from your advice?” I asked.
“No,” Yitchok answered. “Peppered throughout my book is advice that can be used to market ‘your personal brand’ – i.e. yourself and your area of expertise. Everything is up to Hashem, but you have to do your hishtadlut, too. For example, if you get a promotion or a new job, most likely someone observed you at work or in your free time and recommended you. Remember, you are always on display, so dress sharp and be at the ready. Everyone should be thinking about getting ahead in the world.”
One sample chapter of the book is available free online, the chapter about using the right words. These include “the 11 power words” – new, save, safety, proven, love, discover, guaranteed, health, results, you, and free. I asked Yitzchok if these words ever become so cliché that you have to find new ones.
“All studies have proven that something that works will continue to work,” he said. “When people hear “free” a bell in their brains automatically goes off. Of course, not everything advertised as free is really free, but in the age of Internet and social media people assume that companies will be taken to task and publicly shamed if they make a false promise.
“On the other hand, there’s also the need to be innovative and stand out from the competition. I have a chapter where I cite the example of Listerine, whose marketers opted for shock-value when they launched the slogan, ‘The taste you hate, twice a day.’
“And then there’s the restaurant that offered free meals to bald men on a certain day, bringing the restaurant free media coverage. When the men with full heads of hair protested that it was unfair, they got in the papers again.”
Many non-profits in the Jewish community like yeshivot, synagogues and tzedakah funds have already benefited from the services of Bottom Line Marketing Group over the years. I asked Yitzchok what advice his book contains for fundraising or getting a message out.
“The book has loads of material on non-profits, as well as suggestions for fundraising. For any yeshiva administrator, the book is a must-read. For example, educate your donor base: convey your organization’s mission and the need to support it, and keep donors up to date about your activities. For example, Bottom Line once made a 192-page book for Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, entitled Building Worlds.”
The information age has changed a lot about how companies market their products. So, What’s the Bottom Line? covers that subject too.
“I give tips on the importance of having a great website,” said Yitzchok. “It’s
crucial to keep it updated, to make one’s contact info easily accessible, to include testimonials, and to use attractive colors and fonts.”
Reading the book is not the only way to avail oneself of Yitzchok’s marketing tips. You can listen to him as he hosts “Mind Your Business” on 77 WABC radio every Sunday night at 11:00 PM. Podcasts of the show are available at www.WABCBizRadio.com.
“Everything is siyata dishmaya,” Yitzchok explains. “Around May of this year, a friend of mine calls me and says, ‘Yitzchok, you’re not going to believe this. A slot just opened up for a business show on 77WABC.’ The program isn’t just about marketing; it has evolved into a multi-faceted weekly business show, featuring prominent executives as guests, such as CEOs and executives of companies like Liberty Tax Services, Ricoh, Uber, and Saks Fifth Avenue.”
Yitzchok Saftlas has worked with Community Magazine over the years, and he has nothing but admiration for Brooklyn’s Sephardic community. “They’re sharp, smart people. Some of them are college-educated, some are not, but all of them have great ambition. That’s a strength of the Sephardic community. I’m always impressed that it’s their ambition, drive, and discipline that make them successful.”