Sunday, August 26, 2012

Your Marketing Director's Desk Is A Prison

Call #1: If you're a CEO, President or Managing Partner, call your Director of Marketing's office line three times in the next week.

If she or he picks up the phone, ask the following: What are you doing right now?

Truth is, it makes no difference. If they are at their desk all three times (or even two out of three times), ask yourself why you have a Director of Marketing.  Is it to be your "on call" marketing doer?  If so, then you either need to rethink the person you have in that role or what you expect of that role.  Or both.

As Marketing gets more and more technical, I've seen the role of marketer become more and more of a "desk jockey" position – creating blog posts, finessing SEO, scrubbing webinar lists, and etc.  Important work, no doubt, but is this what you want from a Marketing Director? Let me answer the question for you: No.  Sometimes, yes, but not all the time.

There is much debate about the moment when marketing becomes business development and business development becomes sales.  As well as where the hand-off needs to be for efforts and campaigns.  And there should be that debate.  It's important. So important that I suggest you have a 90 minute strategy meeting on this single point alone.
> On the soccer field, I've seen many coaches tell their defense never to cross the center line.  And for the attackers not to cross it the other way.  In both cases, this seems foolishly limiting to the flow of the game and, often, means there is a gap in both defense and attack.  
However, marketing needs to at least hand off the baton in motion (think relay race) and this requires getting away from their desk and working with both internal and (gasp!) external customers and groups.

Call #2: If you're the CEO, President or Managing Partner, call your Director of Marketing's office line, and ask another question: Which trade groups or associations do you belong to?  (Or use good grammar if you prefer.)

If the answer is "None" or all the groups have the word "Advertising," "Marketing" or "Social Media" in it, then you either need to rethink the person you have in that role or what you expect of that role.  Or both.

If your Marketing lead is a Manager and not a Director, simply search & replace those words in this post.

If your Marketing lead is a Coordinator or Specialist, then you are off the hook.  As far as this post goes, anyway.  You are either just starting up or have bigger issues.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Change "have" to "choose"

Sorry for being AWOL for a bit.  I've been juggling the youth soccer league, the Blackman Kallick Merger with Plante Moran, and our annual fundraiser for The Holiday Heroes Foundation.

Now that those are either over or in full swing, I can come back here and finish some blogs. And I will... soon.

In the meantime... Read this post from Harvard Business Review: If You Don't Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will.  

The second piece of advice, i.e. changing "have to" to "choose to" is amazingly liberating.  Try it and let me know how it goes ... or if you start choosing not to.

The third piece of advice requires that you have quickly and clearly articulated values. (I call mine "philosophies" to avoid any religious discussions and because they guide my working relationships, not my life decisions.) Many people who work with me know my two philosophies*.  And I advise leaders to let their staff and clients know theirs.

Do your clients and staff know yours?

But that's off the point of this post.

The reason I wrote it was because the "choose to" advice is damn good and it forced me to come here and post it to my meager reader base.


*What are they? 1) Don't pee in the pool.  2) A rising tide rises all boats.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Is your Out-Of-Office message losing you business while you're out of the office?

Why even bother with an automated out-of-office e-mail message?

As you think of reasons, let's roll into the blog post.

I received this message recently:

I am out of the ffice on business and have limited access to emails.  I will return on MArch 12.

That was the entirety of the message.

First, let's discuss the typos...

Is this an example of your attention to detail?  If so, then perhaps I'm glad I am not currently using or referring your services.  Or, if I am, you just lost some credibility in my eyes. 

Even without the typos, there is plenty more to dislike.

1) It's all about you.  If you know me, you've heard the following rule: Never start any communication with the word 'I.' Not saying you need to add the insipid "Your e-mail is important to me..." beginning, but perhaps there is another way to start this auto-reply?

2) I received this on May 4th.  Did he mean "May 12" or did he not revise the auto-reply before re-enabling it? I'll never know. However, May 12th is a Saturday, so I have a good guess.

3) Sucks to be me. OK, I now know you are away.  What should I do if I need something from you or your company during this period? I guess I can call the main line (painful … and not part of your auto-reply, so I have to hunt even for that) or hope you find time to reply during your limited access. In either case the e-mail only serves to solve #1 below.  Not very useful.  And not at all customer-centric.

Amazingly, many out-of-office messages have typos.  And some really bad ones.   I've seen the word 'business' misspelled by a business advisor. I've seen the company name misspelled. (This is more common than you might think.) And, more often, I've seen out-of-office messages that were clearly written for a previous absence, since the dates are old or apply to a prior year.
Tip #1: Proofread your messages!
Tip #2: Check the dates on your calendar.
Now back to the original question:  Why even bother with an automated out-of-office message? 

Here are the top two things your message should communicate to the recipients:

1) Do not expect a fast reply, and 
2) Here's what you can do in the interim.

If your out-of-office message fails to deliver both of these, then you should strongly consider revising it.

And here's a third:

3) Even though I am out-of-the-office, you are smart for using/hiring us. 

Some people add a 'why' or 'where' to the message, such as "...presenting at..." or "...helping a client with..." This shows they are active and/or attentive.

Some others add the heart-warming " vacation..." mention.  A recent one I received let recipients know he was taking his daughter on a tour of colleges, which made me think very highly of him. Others might be annoyed, but I thought better of him and it gave me something to talk to him about when we communicated next.

On the plus side, I've read some strong out-of-office messages that either made me laugh or were written in a way that made me hear the sender's voice.  That being said, some read like small novels and, well, that can be hit or miss.  Especially if the banter buries the "Here is who you can contact in the meantime" portion.

Perhaps there is a chance to show some creativity, as you might do with your voice mail message?

To end: Your out-of-office message is your representative while you are away.  Think of what you want it to communicate while you sip that Mai Tai or slide your rollercase into the overhead bin.

At least, fix your typos and let me, your potentially important client or prospect, know what I can do in your absence.  


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ain't Talkin', Just Walkin' – Inspiration Comes From Odd Places

Question: Where do you find inspiration for your business development efforts?  

Some people find their motivation from YouTube Videos with soaring music, spacious images and cliches.  And that's fine.

Others find motivation from inspirational case stories such as people who climb mountains with only one leg, recover from tragedy/beat illness, and succeed despite odds that make you embarrassed to complain when the barista puts skim and not soy milk in your latte. And that's fine, too.
Me, many years ago in NYC: "I hate shaving."My roommate: "If you had no hands, you'd be happy to be able to complain about hating shaving." (Even so, I grew a beard.)
For business development, for me, it's a combination of three things:

1) Curiosity.  I meet a new person and I really want to know what they do, how they help others, what sets them and/or their offerings apart, and how they go about letting others know about this stuff.

2) Data.  I kind of get off on listening to folks say "Great work sells itself" and then checking to see the growth of their client base and the number of people they've networked with in the past 90 days, as well as their other business development efforts.  (Hint: doing a good job/having quality products are table stakes, not your business development plan. I have tons of data to prove this.)

Also, I like seeing how opportunities arise - using spreadsheets and forms.  Often, business developers are so sure they know who refers them business and how opportunities appear.  Often their beliefs are anecdotal and the actual metrics do not fully support them, or identify unnoticed veins of opportunity.  This takes effort, but the strategy is about as simple as it gets: Things that work once tend to work again. Things that work twice tend to work over and over again.
When you walk in the gym and suddenly feel tired, how do you steel your heart for the work-out, and even push yourself to do one more rep, one more mile, 100 more calories, ten more pounds?
3) The music in my iPod.  Today, while on the treadmill (since it was too cold for rollerblading), Bob Dylan's "Ain't Talkin', Just Walkin'" came on.  I found this motivational.  Four simple words.  I also like the lines: "Heart burnin', still yearnin'" and "My mule is sick, my horse is blind."  Now the rest of the song isn't very inspiring from a BD perspective, but I do like the idea that Bob Dylan (or the fictional singer of this song) is simply moving forward and not spending time telling people about what he "plans" to do. 

So... from where do you find inspiration for your business development efforts? (Post below if you are so inclined.)  If you don't know, perhaps finding this source would help motivate you to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

But I Licked it First! -or- How to Ensure Prospects Die on the Vine

So here's the situation: One of your sales reps, partners, whatevers meets someone at a networking event. He or she logs the contact in your CRM (which is great), but then the wheels come off. No one else at your organization can even touch that contact or that company. Oh, they can, but they won't.

Why not? Because if anything ever closes from that contact or that company, the person who logged the contact has progenitor, that is, proof he or she was the origin point and, in many situations, gets all the credit and commission – regardless of any effort past the first touch.
"But everyone should advance the lead for the good of the business," you say from your corner suite.

"All I will get is pain and grief if I even go near it," they mumble from their office a floor (or more) below.

Why "licked it first?"

You open a box of donuts. There is one Boston Creme donut in there, but Bob quickly leans down and licks it. While many others wants that donut, no one will ever touch it. Why not? Because Bob licked it.

Eventually, the donut goes stale and it's tossed into the garbage.

Sadly, this describes the "origination" policies of many sales & marketing organizations. (And, in my world, every organization is a sales & marketing organization.)

How can you solve the donut problem? Drop a plastic knife into the box. Then people will cut off part of the donut and leave the rest for others.


An interesting 'fail.'

Sitting in a meeting (as a consultant), I learned that marketing had "stopped" delivering leads to a specific business developer. Funny, since the marketing team had no knowledge that they had been formerly successful for that individual. No credit was provided to marketing on the BD's reports. No mention that the efforts had led to "over the transom" calls. Not even a "Hey, thanks!" Nothing. Until, of course, the leads stopped arriving. And then, the marketing team was criticized for suddenly being a failure. (How heart warming!)

Now the marketing team knew their efforts were, possibly, indirectly helping that BD guy, since he was doing well on sales and they were promoting his services – but they did not know a specific direct path was working.

Why didn't the BD mention anything before? Because he did not want to lose the commission or have to fight for it. Also note: the marketing team at this organization receives no commission for being part of the success path. None. But the BD guy did not want to lose the leads to a "house" account, or even have to share the kudos, so he said nothing. Who won here? (Considering all the parties and making a mental tally...) No one! And everyone left the meeting annoyed at everyone else.

Who's fault is this? Leadership's for rewarding individual success and punishing teamwork.

So what can be done?

1) Time bombs. Set up a rule that any contact that has no activity for 30, 60, 90, or 180 days is fair game. (Think "fast fish" from Moby Dick ... which I believe I referenced in an earlier post.)

2) Teamwork. Sure, give credit for the original touch, but not 100% credit. What is the right number? The one that gets people to request help from the 'licker' (creating a pursuit team) vs. watching the contact die on the vine.

3) Bonus for growth, not specific sales. Sure, give the 'licker' a spiff for bringing the contact into the fold (after something closes or, at least, after there is a real proposal/contract on the table of course), but also give the other team members a bonus for hitting their larger goals.

4) Psychic rewards for playing nice. Publicly thank the other players, by name, and with some small or non-monetary reward. Too many leaders publicly call out the individual who originally licked the contact or brought the ball over the finish line without even recognizing the blockers or tacklers. Or, perhaps worse, pacifying them with "...and the many other people who helped here..." said right before the bonus check is handed over to the single individual.

A simple question.

Are you creating Bobs that lick the best donuts? ...or are you dropping a plastic knife in the box to promote teamwork?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Being Smarter is not a Selling Proposition.

John Tuld: There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.
ˆˆ This comes from the movie "Margin Call" which is well worth watching.

John, the firm's leader, continues to explain that cheating is off the table (you can decide if this is true in their case) and that the other firms' people are just as smart as they are (he says this even knowing they have a literal rocket scientist in the room.) So the only option left to them is to be first.
Whether or not you believe this is a false choice, that is, that there are 4th and 5th options, those of us in marketing (especially for professional services firms) are often presented with "we are smarter" as part of the firm's value statement.

First of all, no, you are not smarter.

You might know more about a specific area or have more experience in a specific circumstance, but you are not smarter than your competition. Bristle all you want and, to be fair, you might be right to do so. I've met some people who are, quite simply, smarter than the rest of us. I think of myself as pretty smart, but I often run into people who quickly leave me in their dust. (Likely even more than I believe there to be.) You might be one of them.

I've also met a few people who are able to more adeptly apply their intelligence (and/or experience) to specific needs. And you might be one of those.

In fact, you might be the rarest of all rarities and in both categories. But I'd bet against it. Odds, are you only believe this to be the case. Many people I meet feel they are in this rare air and, well, not so many of them are in either category. But that's fine. Nothing wrong with thinking you are smart, so long as you don't put off people by lording your intelligence over them (regardless of it being true.) Believing you are smart and can apply this intelligence is a good thing.

Secondly, who said being smarter was good for business development?

My experience shows that intelligence does not equate to rainmaking skills. Some smart folks are good at bringing in new business. Some aren't. Some truly dull wits (a few who make you wonder how they manage to tie their own shoes) are phenomenal at getting clients and customers in the door.

You find me the best rainmaker at a company and I very much doubt you will have found me the firm's smartest professional. Some of the best rainmakers I know are very bright people. Some are below average by comparison to others in their field. And they know it. And they shrug it off. In fact, a good number of them have told me (sotto voce) that they know the race does not often go to the mentally swiftest. "The trick is to make the client think he's the smartest person in the room and you just happen to be good at the one thing they need you do to."

The real trick, I believe, is to have a great idea and present it in a way that makes the client thinks it was his idea.Often this is the best (or only) way to get anything approved. But I digress...

You are not smarter. And, even if you are, this is not a value proposition.

Putting a finer point on it, telling people you are smart is the opposite of marketing. Showing them that they are smart to hire you or buy your stuff is what we strive for in marketing. The more we can do this, the more customers we will get and the longer we will keep them.

Never miss an opportunity to let your customers know they were smart to hire you and to keep paying you. A great way to do this is to get a referral from them and have that referral thank them for the introduction; or have them thank their friend for turning them onto your service or product. This makes your customer feel smart and helps you get new business. But again, I digress.

Also, being smart does not equate to providing value.

It's how you apply the combination of your experience and intelligence that matters. And it depends on what you are building. Google has made a business of hiring the smartest people around. We've all heard about their interview tests. But the fact they are smarter has no value to me. What's valuable to me is that Google's tools help me find and promote things more efficiently. Which helps me sell stuff for my clients, even if they might be less intelligent than their competitors. And helps me out maneuver marketers who might be far smarter than me.

The next time someone asks what sets you and your company apart and you think "we are smarter" or "I am smarter," rethink. You are not smarter and, even if you are, it makes no difference.

So... using the choices above, you can either be first or cheat. I think Mr. Tuld chose wisely. But what do I know? I'm not a rocket scientist.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How NOT to handle an internal referral

We think of referrals as something that comes from an external source, that is, someone outside of our organization*. And, generally, people know how to handle these.

1) Keep your referrer in the loop. Do not let them hear of your success (or lack thereof) from a third party.
2) Show appreciation regardless of the end result.
3) If the referral is not in your sweet spot, use this an an opportunity to help the referrer better understand what a sweet spot referral might look like – and make sure you also understand their specific needs & wants (which might not be a quid pro quo referral.)

That being said, I notice that most people are far weaker when it comes to internal referrals, that is, referrals that come from people within your organization. I can easily guess why these are treated differently ("It's their job to bring me referrals," ... "What? Do they think I can't do my job without their help?" ... Etc.), but guessing at this reason is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is what often seems to happen next:
1) a lengthy dissertation on how well the professional is already connected to the prospect,
2) a long sigh about this now being added to an already full work load,
3) twenty questions (a la Reservoir Dogs) about the path or opportunity,
4) a complete lack of response, leaving the referrer wondering if the recipient has fallen off a cliff. (And when the recipient is toggled, the internal referrer sometimes receives a snippy "Will look at this when I get a chance" e-mail in response.)

What the internal referrer almost NEVER receives is the following: "Thanks." Or "Great work." Or "Appreciate it." Or etc.

What the internal referrer also RARELY receives is any follow-up information on what happened next, if anything.

Since the internal referrer frequently receives no value from the referral (other than a self-applied gold star he/she can use on a future performance review), this strikes me as short sighted on behalf of the recipient of the referral (read: the last referral you will get from this source) and debilitating to the organization as a whole. Not to mention brutal to the referrer who now has nothing to report back to his/her network contact. Does the recipient think the internal referrer lives in a vacuum?

Anyway, this is kind of like the star running back failing to acknowledge a good block that set him free for a touchdown run or a long pick up. Sure, it's the blocker's job to do so, but why not take the second to acknowledge it?

However, unlike the blocking analogy above, you will never know when the internal referrer missed (or ignored, or avoided) an opportunity to help your organization gain a few open yards. Also unlike the analogy, it's often not this internal referrer's job to find referrals. It's just something he/she was doing to help rise the tide at your organization. And they were treated poorly for doing so.

To end: Perhaps you should assess how your organization responds to and recognizes internal referrals from all parties, even those who are not incentivized to do so.

*Can't stop myself from mentioning that current customers/clients should be a strong source of external referrals. If this is not the case with your business, then, well, fix that, too.