'Apprentice' castoff gets chance to do the firing

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HE MAY HAVE GOTTEN FIRED FROM NBC'S "The Apprentice," but Danny Kastner , founder-CEO of online marketing company POPstick, isn't letting The Donald's diss get him down. Kastner, who was made redundant in episode three of Donald Trump's reality TV show, will be a featured speaker at the Digital Marketing Conference & Expo in New York, April 19-20. Kastner launched Boston-based POPstick in 1998, and has two other Internet startups to his credit. More recently, his claim to fame has been as the wacky, guitar-toting creative Trump fired for not playing by the rules. Kastner's presentation at the Digital Marketing Conference, "Selling Air: A Real-time `Mocumentary,' " will show an e-marketing strategy so effective it can help fictitious company SkyAwry Inc., whose product is ... air. The session will have an "Apprentice"-like theme, beginning with a boardroom scene where, as The Donald says, "Someone will be fired." In this case, it's a SkyAwry marketing project manager who is accused of incompetence. The session may also feature "special guests" who complement the "Apprentice" theme-presumably an eliminated contestant or two-though the conference's PR team isn't naming names yet.

THE MARKETING WORLD IS ABUZZ about branded entertainment, and b-to-b companies are getting in on the action. Peoria, Ill.-based construction equipment manufacturing giant Caterpillar Inc. will have its name and brand featured in "American Chopper," the Discovery Channel show about a family-run, Rock Tavern, N.Y.-based company that creates custom motorcycles. In each episode, viewers are treated to a glimpse of the blood, sweat and father-son screaming matches that go into creating a bike. In a two-part series that runs April 4 and April 11, the Teutul family at Orange County Choppers custom designs and manufactures a chopper to embody Cat's brand attributes of quality and strength. The finished Cat chopper appeared at construction industry trade show CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas last month and will make appearances at Cat dealers around the country starting in May. The effort has been very successful at generating excitement and awareness among Caterpillar's customers, dealers and employees, said Ben Cordani, Cat spokesman. "At the end of the day, it helps us build relationships and make contact with both long-term customers and potential customers," he said. Media planning agency Starlink brokered the deal, in which Caterpillar agreed to purchase an undisclosed amount of Discovery Channel advertising inventory.

WANT TO KNOW THE SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL b-to-b technology sales? You have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run. In other words, think of sales as a high-stakes game of poker, says Ronald J. Walsh , sales strategy consultant and author of the recently published "High Stakes Selling: Taking the Gamble Out of High Tech Sales." In poker, you have to know the house rules, for instance, the amount the dealer takes from the pot, the betting caps and how disputes are handled. In sales, Walsh says, that translates into knowing the processes of your client's company. Also important, in poker and b-to-b sales, is knowing how to interpret the style and behavior of the players at the table. You don't need the fastest, cheapest or most advanced product to win a high-stakes deal, Walsh argues. Knowing the decision-maker's goals and risk style-as well as what the competition is offering-will go a long way. In the book, Walsh also explains how salespeople can identify and confront cheating in its various forms: information sharing, when another salesperson obtains restricted information that's not available to all vendors; manipulation, when the purchasing process is different for certain vendors; and collusion, when a subset of players is cooperating covertly for mutual gain. When in doubt, he says, fall back on the old saying: If you can't spot the sucker at the table, it's probably you.

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