Don’t Let Your Opinion Overly Influence Your Judgment

Your opinions are subjective, based on various forms of input, i.e. physical, emotional, intellectual, etc.  Sometimes, after many years of creating marketing strategies and executing marketing plans, you feel you’ve attained the rank of expert, and believe that you know best based on your opinions.  That’s when you may start to get into trouble, and actually reduce your value to your company or clients.

Opinions are not necessarily wisdom.  Experience is great, but it is only one data source when making a judgment. You must go beyond opinion and gather new objective data for every situation in which you find yourself.  Why?  Because only dead things are static and unchanging, and whatever market you are in is very much alive, especially today.

"You cannot step twice into the same stream." Heraclitus

I realize this may seem like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but how many times have you seen a colleague just “phone it in”, instead of do the heavy lifting of gathering all the appropriate information before plotting a course of action?

It is the truly wise person who uses his/her experienced-based opinions, in combination with new, objective data, to make business judgments.  If you short cut the judgment process, you could end up short cutting your career.

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Add Understanding To Truth

Let’s start with truth.  It’s a wonderful, unavoidable, exhilarating, depressing, freeing, and confining thing … and most important as a marketer, it will always find a way to surface.  So begin by acknowledging exactly what your products and services are; no more, no less.  If your products and services range from best-in-class to good-enough, then you have something with which to work.  But products are not enough by themselves … “build it and they will come” works mostly in the movies, and not in the market.  Playing fast and loose with the truth is a short-term strategy usually ending in disaster.  Planting your feet firmly in the truth, and then helping others understand the importance of where you are, is the key to robust, long-term growth.

Back when I was doing corporate marketing in a beer company, we had a CFO who wanted to focus only on the facts, and “let others interpret them the way they want.”  To make a long story short, after a stagnating stock price for a couple of years, the CEO finally let us write the quarterly earnings release.  We added understanding to the CFO’s facts (the truth), and the stock price again substantially outpaced the market.  Why?  Because the market again came to understand why we were a great company with good products.  As a side note, when I started at Anheuser-Busch in 1981 the share price was $38.00.  Over the years the stock split 24 to 1 and was sold to In Bev in 2008 for $70.00 per share.  That is a 4400% increase  … and the company is 160 years old.

The moral of this blog is simple: understand the truth about what you have to offer, and find a way to communicate understanding of the truth, and how this truth adds value to your customers/stakeholders.  That is how to maximize your company’s potential.

Posted in Advertising, consumer goods, creativity, customers, Marketing, marketing communications, Orogen, Public Relations, sales | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

So, How Do You Start With The End In Mind?

Every business consultant worth his salt will tell you to start your planning with the end in mind. (See Chris Brogan) “The easiest way to solve a maze,” they say, “is to start at the end.”  Truer words were never spoken, but why is it so few people actually start at the end and map their way back to the beginning? Why, because it requires imagining every possible scenario from then until now.  Too complicated / time-consuming for most to do.  Everyone starts with good intentions, but the shear breadth of what they would have to do is too daunting.

Here is a way to break down this task, and actually have a chance at completing the most important phase of it.  No matter what you end goal is (market share; revenue; growth percentage; etc.) there are nine areas that you have to clearly picture to achieve your end game:

  1. Customers – who are they, how many of them do you need, where are they, how do you segment them, how profitable are they, what’s your average revenue per customer?
  2. Sales Force – who are they, how many of them do you need, where are they, how are they structured, what’s their average sales per person, what role does online sales provide, what are your anticipated online revenues, what channels are used for online sales?
  3. Marketing Communications – What channels of communication are most effective in reaching those customers, who is creating your messages, what are the key messages you send, how many customers should receive your messages?
  4. Branding – What are your brand promises, what is your value proposition, who owns branding at your company, what are the brand extensions you utilize?
  5. Customer Service – who are your service personnel, how many of them do you need, where are they, how are they structured?
  6. Operations – Who are your suppliers, how is your product or service produced, how is it distributed, what are the timing parameters for distribution,  what is your backup system?
  7. Accounting – What method(s) of pricing do you use, what are your payment terms, who does your accounting, to what information do you need time-sensitive access, who does your collection, how do you bring customers and vendors on board?
  8. Legal – Who provides legal guidance, who are your go-to attorneys for problems, what are the requirements and restrictions under which you operate/sell?
  9. Administration – How is the company structured, who owns the previously discussed functions, how does the company compensate the organization?

Now that you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to march back to the beginning.  The easiest route is to clearly picture the environment you’ve created with those answers, and decide how you will go about creating that environment from your starting point.  It’s not exactly what the consultants had in mind, but it takes the best part of what they suggest, and gives you a less challenging way to get there.

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Developing Uncommon Vision

Creativity is seeing common things in uncommon ways.  It’s that simple.  It’s that hard.

James by Close Chuck

Close-up of James’ eye

 So, how do you learn to see common things in uncommon ways, particularly regarding your marketing efforts? First, deconstruct whatever you’re focusing upon, whether it’s a  product or marketing activity  … break it down to its basic elements –size, shape, color, materials, resources, timing, audience, goals,  personnel,  expense, etc.  Next, exchange some, or all, those elements for random examples of the same element (bigger, rounder, sooner, etc.). At this point, you should start to see some openings in the way that product or activity is perceived that weren’t obvious.

Now take a different tack: Imagine that product or activity moving into an environment where it would never normally be found.  How would it be received?  What would its affect be?

Take it a little farther: What is its opposite from that product or activity?  Decide what elements make it different from its opposite.   What happens if you incorporate some of those differences into your product or activity?

You’ve just done four things:

  1. You’ve opened yourself up to looking at your products and the way you market them from their basic elements outward.
  2. You’ve realized the environment in which they reside often defines them.
  3. You’ve decided some of what makes your products and marketing activities different.
  4. And most important of all, you’ve discovered alternatives.

That’s how you see common things in uncommon ways, and it didn’t require another creative genius to point them out. 

As with any rigorous exercise, always do a little stretching (intellectually) to warm up.  Read a case study on great marketing, go to an art gallery, or check out some classic ad campaigns on YouTube.  Eventually, uncommon vision will become second nature to you.

Anyone else have good creativity development ideas for marketers you’d like to discuss?

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Propellers Or Anchors: What’s Attached To Your Marketing?

Propellers and anchors have specific and opposite functions: One is designed to move you, and the other is designed to hold you in place.  Being held in place is not necessarily bad, but it is not moving you ahead. Sometimes companies are confused about what is really a propeller, and what is really an anchor. 

Here are a few ways marketing components (activities, resources, functions, and channels) can be identified as one or the other:

Marketing Component Anchor Propeller
Channel Partners Service existing customers without expanding customer base or product set Bring new customers and customer ideas to the table; finds new ways to service customers
Advertising Agencies Same ad campaign/ads; same brand look and feel; same media; same personnel Provide new research-based campaigns/ads; update brand elements; new ways to reach target audiences; new perspectives from new personnel
Pricing Totally predictable without any variation Test market segments to determine receptivity to new approaches and methods
Sales Promotion Predictable and annually repeated New timing; new components; new offerings
Public Relations Agencies Same media list; same events; same conferences; same personnel Introduction to new journalists; identifying appropriate new events and conferences; adding personnel with insight and industry connections
Personal Selling Same sales presentations; same incentives; same personnel Customer-specific, updated sales presentations; updated salary compensation and incentives; new selling tools
Direct Marketing Same catalog/direct mail piece layout; same copy; same timing; same distribution list New formats/creative; test different timing; expanded customer list

Every good ship needs both, but when the progress being made isn’t up to expectations, take a look at the things you’ve deployed in your marketing.  What was once a propeller could now be an anchor.

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Sand Castle Marketing And How To Avoid It

A client of mine, Dana Barciz, recently used a phrase I haven’t heard before:  Sand Castle Marketing.  Sand Castle Marketing is when you build a beautiful marketing plan, and the wave of budget concern/re-prioritization washes ashore and sweeps away a good portion of your hard work.  If you’ve been around marketing for a few years, you know exactly what it is.  The question I’m going to address is how to avoid it.

The answer lies in three parts:

  1. Don’t build your castle too close to the water’s edge;
  2. Create an infrastructure allowing you to take your basic design and remodel it quickly if the wave hits; and
  3. Knowing if you’re on a beach, a wave will get you someday.

Don’t build your castle too close to the water’s edge.  Sell-in to all senior management that your marketing efforts aren’t discretionary budget items, but integral to sales. Use facts and customer testimonials to do it.  Capture the high ground by spending time and effort selling internally as well as externally.  It goes without saying you have to have a good track record to do it.

Create an infrastructure that will allow you to take your basic design and remodel it quickly if the wave hits.  As part of your planning process establish the pillars upon which your plan rests, know the levers that give you the opportunity to quickly move new plans into action, identify alternatives to all your resources/materials, and determine priorities.  If you do this you will be able to move quickly, and senior management will appreciate it.

Knowing if you’re on a beach, a wave will get you someday.  It happens.  Be prepared to handle it professionally and your management team will be impressed.  Don’t resort to histrionics, because you may end up as history.

Posted in Advertising, budget, management, Marketing, marketing plan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

A Client’s Bill Of Rights

I’ve written about what it takes to be a great client .  Here is a list of 15 “Rights” you, as the client,  should expect from a great marketing agency.  This is also a way to tell if you are working with a top-notch firm:

  1. Intellectual honesty, with discretion.
  2. Good surprises from great work.
  3. Confidentiality, in all circumstances and forever.
  4. Competitive/Industry intelligence, often unsolicited.
  5. Knowing who will be working on your business from day one, and not high-level sell-in with lower-level service.
  6. Having the attention of the right people at the agency whenever you need it.
  7. Slightly more value than for what you’ve been billed … great agencies always supply value-adds.
  8. Respect for everyone in your organization.
  9. Realistic expectation of time lines, and remaining true to them.
  10. Upfront pricing, with adjustments noted in advance; no billing surprises.
  11. If necessary, having all invoices explained with detailed documentation.
  12. A clear understanding you exclusively own the work for which you’ve paid.
  13. Strict adherence to all performance guarantees unless re-negotiated.
  14. The agency understands they are like baseball managers: As long as they are regularly winning, they stay employed.
  15. A graceful separation, if necessary, demonstrating mutual respect.

Some of these would be included in your work agreement, but others reflect the way the relationship is handled and the commitment the agency has to you.

I haven’t included “results” guarantees because they are usually complicated and don’t work out as intended.  What they often do is hasten the end of the relationship.

Please feel free to add something if I’ve missed it.

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Menu For A Successful TV Commercial Or Short Video

We’ve all seen :30 second epic TV spots that cost millions to produce but don’t do much for the brand.  If you want to avoid that fate, and have the best results (sales/brand building) for your advertising/video, then here are eight rules to follow:

  1. Have specific goals for each spot/video.
  2. The product/brand must be the hero.
  3. The creative must evoke emotion; humor is best, nostalgia next best.
  4. You must hook the viewer with something bold within the first 60 frames (two seconds).
  5. For a :30 second spot, you should make it clear within the first eight seconds what is the product/brand you’re promoting.  This can be done visually or aurally.
  6. The product/brand must be seen or heard about at least five times within the :30 second spot.
  7. Never expose the TV spot to the same audience more than 16 times over the life of the commercial … it will begin to irritate customers and your impact will be negative instead of positive.
  8. Measure its effectiveness and adopt or adapt.

Here are two very different spots, one new, one old, and I’ll let you decide which one does a better job building its brand:

    Recycling Ants

One way of deciding if the commercial worked for the brand is to see how you describe ithe commercial after its viewing … is the brand in your description, or was it irrelevant to the description of the spot?

Posted in Advertising, Business Development, consumer goods, Credit Cards, eCommerce, financial services, Marketing, Medical technology, organic, Orogen, siliconvalley, social media, Solar energy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eight Principles of Fault-Line Marketing

If you’ve been actively involved in marketing for at least six months, then you’ve run into the phrase “fundamental discontinuity”.  For marketing purposes, this means your industry/your business/your product jumps to a new level without typical straight line evolution. Everybody wants to bring something to market representing a fundamental discontinuity with the past/present, and leap ahead of the competition … but how do you do that?  I call it “Fault-line Marketing”, and here are its eight principles:

  1. Be prepared to expend about the same amount of energy an earthquake gives off.  Remember Edison’s quote about 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

    Thomas Alva Edison

  2. Attack the weak spots.  Research where the market is most susceptible to change; soft spots in your market’s core vulnerable to exponential change, e.g. weak service, weak quality, weak delivery times, weak product adaptability, unmet needs, etc.
  3. Try, try again; tectonic plates never stop moving.  One more quote from Edison: “I didn’t fail, I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
  4. To decide if it is really a fundamental discontinuity, test the magnitude of change and how disruptive it is, or will be.  That’s why seismographs and research firms exist.
  5. Market the change, not just the product.  Thousands of earthquakes happen everyday, but you only hear about the ones the News decide to cover.  Journalists cover them because of the change the quakes created, not just because they happened.
  6. Help the market understand the truth about what happened, and make it real to them; how it affects their personal/commercial lives.
  7. Aftershocks follow big quakes, so take advantage of them.  What are the ancillary opportunities others ignore because they are still focused on the big one?
  8. Aquifers are often under fault lines, just like resources are usually plentiful where change really exists.  Use those resources to accelerate growth, and explore the next fault line.

    San Adreas fault and Crystal Springs

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To Be A Great Marketer, Be A Great Client

Every company needs support to achieve greatness.  It goes beyond support from customers/investors/employees, and includes suppliers and service providers. One group that seems especially important is your marketing services agency. If you believe just paying them is enough to get their best, then you’ve probably not learned how to be a great client, and you’ve never achieved your company’s full marketing potential. 

I was lucky enough to learn about being a client from one of the best, Mike Roarty, former head of marketing at Anheuser-Busch.  During his tenure, the brewery and its agencies came up with “This Bud’s For You,” “Weekends Were Made For Michelob,” “Gimme A Light, A Bud Light,” “Spuds MacKenzie,” and many other great marketing programs. Mike won so many “Man of the Year” awards it would be difficult to note them all, but he is a member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, and was a Daytona 500 Grand Marshall, and Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, Ireland.

Michael J. Roarty

Here are ten ways Mike taught me to be a great client:

  1. Establish the rules of engagement first, and stick to them.  Bending the rules in your favor because “you’re the one with the checkbook” is not motivational.
  2. Clearly communicate what deliverables you expect to receive, when, and in which format.  Be willing to negotiate upfront, and be flexible with good reason.
  3. Give your marketing agency time to do their job.  You want to be treated like you are their only client, but you know you are not.
  4. Build in time for inevitable delays.  If you need it in four weeks, tell them you want it in three; if you want it by Christmas, tell them by Thanksgiving.  And as long as they tell you in advance it may be slightly late, don’t punish them, especially since you’ve already built-in time for the delay.
  5. Listen.  You can learn a lot from them if you’re not the only one talking, and it shows your respect for them.
  6. Always appreciate what they bring to the table.  Sometimes their work may not be spot on, but people who spend their lives selling creative ideas need reinforcement for their work.  Tell them “I see where you were going with this, and that would work in many situations, but have you thought about approaching it this way so we can get here?”  That should put them back on track without taking away their spirit.
  7. Be as specific as possible with your direction.  The clearer you are, the faster and better their work will be. Saying “I know what I like and that’s not it,” doesn’t move the ball down the field very far.
  8. Be available.  Access to you or your team during critical points in the process is vital to producing the end result you want.
  9. Reinforce great work and show your appreciation.  Instead of you being the one that is always taken to lunch, pick up the tab once in a while, invite them to your holiday party, or offer to recommend them to other companies.
  10. Be honest, but understand honesty is only one virtue.  Honesty builds trust which builds partnerships, but being humble, generous, and considerate helps the partnership flourish.

Posted in Advertising, Business Development, consumer goods, Credit Cards, eCommerce, financial services, Marketing, Medical technology, Mobile Payments, Orogen, Public Relations, renewable energy, siliconvalley, social media, software, Solar energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment