Monday, December 27, 2010

Quick Networking Tip: Teeing Up "Business Talk" Over Lunch

It was never hard for me to mix business and lunch. In fact, I don't quite understand why it is for other people - especially since most of our weekday lunches are with other business folks, even if they have also become friends over the years.

Perhaps I had lunches with good networkers who weren't shy about mixing the two, so I learned from them. (In at least one case, I know this is true.)

Anyway... I'm often asked for tips and figured I'd put a couple of them here.

Have a mental agenda. (Required.)

Bring a relevant article to share.

Tee up the conversation with phrases like:
"During the business part of our lunch, I'd like to..."
"After we order and before the food comes, let's talk shop."

Set up the lunch with a business topic.
"Let's go to lunch, since I am not 100% sure who might be a good prospect for you."
"Hey, why don't you look at my LinkedIn profile beforehand and let me know of anyone you might want to meet."
"I see you now offer _______ service. Let's grab a bite; I'd like to learn more."
I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come to mind.

Happy networking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sorry, Virginia, There's No Such Thing as a Social Media Strategy

|> Point One: Asking your marketing director to create a Social Media (SM) strategy is like asking your architect to develop a fastener strategy. No doubt the chosen building contractor will need to use nails, screws, and staples to build your house, but it's a misguided question. <|
Agreed you can ask the architect if she plans to specify stainless nails for the deck (so they don't rust), but that is very different than asking her for a fastener strategy.

First, let's take a high level look at planning and for the purposes of this discussion, we'll keep it to Strategy, Tactics, and Tools.*

Marketing Strategy – aligning marketing to business goals. In other words: What, specifically, can marketing do to help reach the business goals?

Marketing Tactics – creating the steps/processes we need to take/create to execute these strategies. In other words: How are we going to meet our strategic marketing goals?

Marketing Tools – developing the materials and physical requirements for tactic execution. In other words: What assets do we or the business development and sales folks need?

Using the above, we see that Social Media is a collection of tools, sort of like the hardware store or a toolbox would be to our analagous architect. She would not even be the one using the tools, let alone consider developing a "tool-upwards" process to strategy development.
|> The answer to the question: "Do you have a Social Media strategy?" is "That's impossible."<|
You should have a Social Media policy, of course. If you don't, then stop reading and get one.

But whenever I am asked if we have a Social Media strategy (or suggested that we should have one, or have an iPhone app, get on Twitter, create a Facebook page, do some crowd sourcing, etc.), I feel like a architect being asked to get a power drill and go do some architecting. Or like when I happen to have a screwdriver (the tool kind) in my hand and I am looking around my house for screws that have come loose. Sure, it's efficient to see what else I can tighten while I have the screwdriver in my hand and I'm on my way to the tool room, but it's not a strategy. And it's not efficient to grab a random tool from my toolroom and then wander around for things to hammer, route, drill, sand, etc.

|> Point Two: Creating a Social Media (SM) budget is like asking your architect to develop a fastener budget. Again, she will need to spend a percentage of your budget on fasteners, but picking a number to spend on fasteners before you even have a blueprint is a ridiculous exercise. <|
And yet, we are often asked – and advised by so-called Social Media experts – to portion off a certain amount of our marketing budget for social media.

If you got this far and don't agree that this is a pointless "tool-upwards" approach, then there is really no reason to read farther, since I am not going to try to convince you any more that this is laughable.

So the question is: Why are social media experts telling you to do this?

Answer: For the same reason the sales person from the storm door manufacturing company would ask you to budget a certain amount of money for the aluminum frame, insulated versions of his products. (Hint: So you can buy them.)

An associate of recently mine said, "There is no such thing as a social media expert."

I believe this is untrue. I know a number of social media experts and believe any one of them would be very helpful in showing you how to best select and use specific social media tools to execute your tactics and, in result, fulfill your overall strategies.

Yes, I know that specifying storm doors you cannot afford is a bad way to execute your tactics or meet your strategy. And that a qualified architect needs to know about storm door functionality and costs (or consult with someone who knows) before finalizing a blueprint. But the point is that the strategy comes first. You do not start by planning to spend 5% of your budget on storm doors, though you might end up there.

In shorter words, listen to any relevant and credible expert who can show you social media tools, tips and techniques, but do not listen to them when they start pre-allocating your budget.
|> The answer to the question: "How much should we budget for Social Media?" is "Nothing." <|
You should budget for tactics. If that means you will need to spend money on social media tools (and you very likely will), then you will need to allocate budget towards those tools … as you have budget and as it makes sense to realize your goals.

To end, let's say it all together: There is no such thing as a Social Media strategy.

If you don't agree, then I'd like to show you a few aluminum frame, insulated storm doors.

*Yes, this is a very simplistic approach and no doubt many people have a more sophisticated planning regimen. The question, however, is: Does your approach and terminology allow you to call Social Media a "strategy"? If so, comment below. I'd love to be proven wrong here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hang on Loosely: Remove Streetlights, I Mean, Controls and Perhaps You Will Get Better Results

"...if you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control."

First watch this video about what people will do when it's assumed they will do the right thing.

So what does removing streetlights in England have to do with Marketing and Business Development?

We, as marketing strategists, tend to see two different responses to lower-than-desired marketing/bizdev performance: tighten controls (punish inaction) vs. increase empowerment (reward spirited effort).

First a caveat: I am not talking about decreasing measurement. You can (and should) continue to measure activity and not simply results, but how do you get that activity? Do you loosen controls and promote the spirit of the rule? Or do you tighten controls and ding people when they fail to hit those additional metrics?

It's pretty obvious where my head is here: hang on loosely.

People succeed in different ways. If I say everyone needs to go to two networking events every month – and we will measure attendance – we should expect to see a lot of "12" scores in six months, but should also expect to see widely varying results (sales, connections, engagement scores of the resulting contacts, etc.).

In any case, so far so good. We have everyone going to 24 networking events every year. This should end well.

But now we see that this "two per month" strategy isn't getting me as far as we expected. What happens next is the fork in the road.

Do we...

1) Add additional controls, such as requiring them to collect four business cards at each event? That's 96 cards per person per year!

2) Teach them networking strategies and reward those who move their new contacts to the next level?

Why not do both? Sure, why not? Anything else you want to add to our unending pile of tasks?

Moving on... if you had to pick one, which would you pick?

My advice is to pick #2.

If you select #1... No amount of controls will get the "letter-of-the-law" people to create break-through results. But you will force the "spirit-of-the-law" people into checking off boxes they do not feel have any value and might interfere with their ability to get to that value. Worse still, in my opinion, you might find yourself dinging the "spirit" folks for only making three contacts, when they are actually getting far more value from their three contacts than your "letter" folks are providing from their four.

And then what happens next?

More controls. And more controls. And more of your "spirit" folks checking off boxes to get you off their backs. And getting punished (or having to argue for exceptions) when they are doing the right thing!

Back to the video.

Yes, of course some people will "cheat" and not take turns ... and they will be rewarded by getting to their destination a few seconds faster for doing so. And that's not fair! And that makes us angry! But it makes us angry at them, not at the people who made the rules. This is an important distinction for those of us who believe morale is critical.

Most importantly, the majority of people will do the right thing and, in the end, the overall value to everyone is extraordinary.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two Business Development Tools You Must Use

1) Google Alerts and 2) LinkedIn Groups.

OK, yes, there are more than two "musts" for Business Development tools, but if you are not using these, then start now.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Don't Give Up On Your Blog (or Your e-Newsletter) Just Yet.

Tracking your readership is the easy part. Tracking your impact? Not so easy.

Your blog seems to get decent viewership, but has almost no followers and the only comments seem to come from SEO firms and spammers promoting E.D. pills or Russian brides. Your e-newsletter gets good opens and acceptable click-throughs, but, to outsiders looking in, it looks very much like a one-way street.

Should you give up? No. Not based on a lack of comments, anyway. At least not a lack of public comments.

Take heart from the following unsolicited comments from readers of two separate clients' efforts:
"Nice job David, I appreciated your insights and content this month especially."
(Not edited since I had permission to post. In fact, the "David" here, David Spitulnik, Managing Director of Blackman Kallick's Strategic Services Group, specifically asked me to create this blog post.)

If you looked at the Strategic Service's blog, you might wonder if anyone was actually reading it. But instead of judging its value by the number of comments you see, simply ask the author if he is getting any reaction or seeing any value. Actually, no need for you to pester him. David sent me a message after his most recent post: "Not sure what it is, but I have received more direct feedback this month than usual. One of them being a 'saw this note and passed it and your name along to a friend who needs help with succession planning.'"

And here's another unsolicited comment, in response to a different client's e-newsletter.
"Enjoyed your newsletter. Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of the _____ deal. We regularly have clients who are preparing their _____ but need to improve _____. I will be happy to send these folks your way."
Sounds just like the type of impact anyone would want from their efforts!

And, wait a second... let's go back to David's note. Did he say "direct feedback?" Let's consider that comment for a minute.

I'm frequently the voice of reason (against type, I know) when it comes to blogs and e-newsletters. My advice is often: Be patient. Build it slowly. Trust in your voice, your message and your readers. They'll come around.

Oh, and don't expect that you'll receive a Huffington Post-level comments. What makes you think you should receive that number of comments to your posts? More to the point: Why do you even want that?

Of course interaction is nice (like a pat on the back or the sound of a tree falling in the proverbial forest), but that's not how you should judge your blog or e-newsletter.

So, how should you judge it?

Don't ask me. Take a look back at your marketing plan and see why you created the blog or built the e-newsletter. If you are not realizing those specific goals, then do turn it off. If you don't know why you created it, then either turn it off or, quickly, come up with some goals. And then measure your success by those goals.

All that being said, if your goals included a specific number of comments to your every post, then you should change your goals and better manage the expectations of those judging the time (and money) you sink into these efforts.

But wait a second... am I really saying that you should simply trust that the blog is working?

No. Not at all.

If you are seeing no engagement (readership, click-throughs, etc.) then you can't be having any impact … and you need to charge course, since there is no there there. But if you are seeing decent engagement levels, and feel discouraged by a lack of public comments, then stay the course for a while longer.

What I am saying, simply (and admittedly not very succinctly), is not to judge your efforts solely by comments, but to look for other proof of engagement and impact. Such as direct feedback. Or people starting conversations with you based on what you wrote.

And I am also telling you not to judge other people's blogs by the number of comments. Judge them by the value of the content.

To end: Take heart and take your time. Building thought leadership takes patience and persistence.

Happy blogging.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Marketing is the Art of Managing Failure

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." - Elbert Hubbard
Are there any roles out there where failure rates as as high as what we marketers expect?

But first, what do I mean by failure?

We send out an e-blast to 1,000 people for an upcoming, free webinar. 320 open the e-blast. 50 click-through. And 6 register for our upcoming event. (Marketers right now are thinking, "If only...")

Here's the math:

32% open rate. 5% CTR. 6 registrants. A decent conversion rate for a single e-blast.

But let's turn the math around:

680 people (68%) never got* the invite. 950 people (95%) either didn't got it or didn't care. 994 people (99.4%) failed to register. If this were a test, you would get an A+ ... for failing.
I often explain that marketers are in the business of managing failure.
Only once in my career can I point back to a marketing effort with a 100% success rate, where every single recipient (105 of them) took the desired action (agreed to a meeting.) I can also point back to a campaign where we estimated a 10% acceptance rate and hit 30+%, which put the customer service folks in an untenable position for delivering on our promises**.

Unfortunately, I can also point back to efforts with 0% success rate. Yes, goose eggs. Where we wondered if the marketing actually dropped. (It's a sickening feeling, even for someone who knows that success is measured in partial percentages.)

OK, so why am I writing this?

Because marketers are often sitting across the desks from professionals who cannot fail. People for whom imperfection is career-threatening. 88% of your shipments arrived on time. 92% of your products worked as promised. 96% of your financial reports were accurate. 99.5% of the food your restaurant served today was safe for consumption. (Bear with this example...I'm coming off a bout of food poisoning courtesy of a mid-scale restaurant.) None of these are acceptable rates.

So when you, the profession marketer, talk excitedly about a "whopping" 32% open rate, these can't-fail professionals wonder if they could do your job with both hands tied behind their backs, pecking at the keyboard with their noses. When you talk about the 15 people who attended the webinar, they wonder just how far away from an actual monetary transaction this might be, only wishing that they also got credit for jobs partially done.
Marketers are more like kids at a party trying to get candy from a pinata. Sometimes our first swing hits the empty air.
We need the people sitting across from us to understand that we are in the business of managing failure. Our success is measured in small percentages. And, often, the target moves, so our next attempt has even less "success." But we recalibrate and take another shot. Then we measure the results and, if they are higher, we move in that direction some more.
When we clip the pinata, we readjust our aim, hoping this one will be more on target.
So, I repeat, marketers are in the business of managing failure. We do not expect anything close to a 100% success rate. And if you, our CEOs and Managing Partners and Presidents, expect we will succeed every time, then you are judging us by the wrong criteria.

Our job is not to get it perfect the first time, though that would be nice. Our job is to take calculated risks that, if we do our jobs well, can eventually create predictive results that provide a valuable and sustainable return on investment.
And when we hit the pinata just right ... everyone gets candy!

*Yes, I know that "got" is the wrong word. They "got" the e-mail, it just bounced off their cranium like a gnat off a motorcycle helmet. Not a technical bounce, but a functional one.
**The resulting sales for the product, however, made up for any short term grief.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

E-mail Advice That Makes People Angry ... or How to Keep Your E-mails Typo-free.

One of the toughest jobs of a Marketing Director is telling people that they had a typo in their e-mail or sent an unprofessional e-mail.

People don't want to hear it.

"I was going 100 miles an hour that day. Of course, I'd have a small typo."

"A typo? Who cares? Every e-mail has typos these days."

"So I forgot to include a subject line. Stop being so picky."

But the truth is that you are judged by your work and your work includes the e-mails you send. And here's a tougher truth: People are looking for reasons not to hire or keep you. They are actively looking for any excuse so they can justify their business decision of not using your service or not buying your products.

When I see a typo, I wonder:
a) Are they careless? Or
b) Do they simply not care?

When the CEO of a client company sends me an e-mail with a typo I think it's (b) they simply don't care. Why should they bother to proofread internal e-mails or e-mails to vendors? And while this might surprise people who know me... I agree. I hope they have better things to do than proofread internal e-mails. In fact, I hope everyone does.

So, we are only talking about typos in external e-mails.

But I really don't want to write a post on why sending unprofessional e-mails is bad. If you don't agree, you've already stopped reading. But if you do care that the people in your organization write proper e-mails, without typos, but don't want to get that snippy nasty-gram back for actually trying to help... here is your solution:

Send them the below portion of this blog post. Say it's from me. With love.


Three e-mails you should never send and how to ensure you never (or at least very rarely) do.

1) An e-mail with a typo.

First of all, go to Preferences in your Outlook® and select all the check spelling options. This will add squiggly lines under all your misspelled words as you compose them and it will also ask you to "ignore" or "change" all misspelled words before you send the e-mail.

However, this will not stop you from sending homonyms or other typos that are correctly spelled, but not the correct word. (Think back to the old poem with the line: "My checker tolled me sew.")

The most common one here seems to be "their" and "there." Another example, my personal demon, is using the word "from" when you mean "form."

Here's a trick to avoiding this kind of typo: Read the e-mail aloud before you send it.

Your eyes might not catch the typo, but your ears will.

Try to catch the errors below.
  • "You should receive the PDF form Nicki by 5pm today."
  • "I now you like sushi, so let's meet at Yasu."
  • "I never did here from Marc. Did you?"
A spellchecker also won't catch contraction errors such as the very common "your" instead of "you're" one. Since the "read aloud" trick doesn't seem to work all the time on these errors, here's an additional trick: Read all contractions as if they weren't contractions. That is, when reading the e-mail aloud say, "you are", even when you wrote "you're."

Try to catch the errors in the two following sentences.
  • "Every sentence should stand up on it's own."
  • "I haven't seen you're boss around lately."

The spell checker should also catch typos in the subject line, but, for some reason, this tends to be a good place to find typos, anyway.

Simple advice here: Proofread your subject lines, too.

2) An e-mail without a subject line.

I seem to receive a greta deal of these and I am unsure how it happens. Outlook should pop-up a message line that reads: "This message has no subject. Are you sure you want to send it?" If you get that message, click "cancel" and add a subject line.

Try, right now, to send a message without a subject line. If you don't get that message box, contact your IT person. In the past you must have selected the "Don't show me this message again." option. Why you did that is beyond me. But you did and, sadly, there is no preference you can check to get it back. Your IT person can, however, fix it. And once it's fixed, there is never (not ever!) a good reason to choose the "never show" option, since you should only see that box when you accidentally forget to include a subject line.

Let me put that more directly: You should want to be notified when you are about to make a careless mistake. Don't stop your computer from helping you.

Also, if you proofread your subject lines and see that there is nothing to proofread, then, well, add something to proofread.

3) An e-mail without a body. ("Subject line messaging")

For some reason, people think this is efficient.
Subject line: Please send me the updated Petrovich file. I also want Version 2 of the Montrose one. Thanks.

Yep, I get it. What more did you need to say? The whole message was in the subject line.

But let me explain how e-mail works in this century.
  1. There is a preview pane now. So I can read most of your e-mail without opening it.
  2. The 'In' box is actually a thin column where people can see the sender's name and only a few words of your subject line. So I have to open up the e-mail anyway.
  3. When I open the e-mail, Outlook puts the subject line in a grey box, making your amazing creation harder to read.
So, when your recipient opens your e-mail, he likely sees only the body of your message, which reads:


Then it's a treasure hunt for the message. This is the opposite of efficient.

In fact, if I'm looking at your message on my smart phone, I could read your whole two sentence message without actually opening the e-mail unless you use your special trick of putting the entire message in the subject line.

It's funny, since there is really no reason why "subject line messaging" is actually unprofessional (albeit lots of reasons it's inefficient), but my informal poll of about two dozen people revealed that NO ONE likes this and EVERYONE thinks it's unprofessional. A few of them used pretty choice words about the, and I quote, "D-bags" who do this.

So, stop it. Even (read: especially) for internal e-mails, since it'll come across as bossy and rude, not efficient.



Here is the full "Candidate for a Pullet Surprise" poem, which includes the line: "My checker tolled me sew." (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Are You (Unwittingly) Wearing Red or Blue During Your Presentations? Start Wearing Purple.

All apologies to Gogol Bordello. But listen to this song as you read this post. Or instead of reading this post which might be more entertaining.

Many businesses (if not all) are subject to governmental regulations and law changes.

Because of this, there are many experts who cover – either directly or tangentially – updates and pending law changes during their speeches and presentations. When they do, with a word, eye roll, or even tone of voice, they can quickly disengage half their audience.

Did you just use the term, "Obamacare?" Bad idea! Half the audience now believes you are the local leader of the Tea Party. They stopped thinking of you as an expert at anything. Now they see you in a bright red jacket with a gun in one hand and misspelled rally poster in the other.

Did you sigh when an audience member used the phrase "liberal agenda" in his question? Oops! Half the people in attendance have just decided you are anti-business. They now see you in a blue jacket (with leather elbow patches) handing all their hard-earned money to a welfare cheat.

It's a fact that Congress' decision on extending Bush's tax cuts is a critical business issue right now. But if you can't say "Bush" without verbally painting yourself red or blue, you need to call the tax cuts by another name.

|> Unsure if your words, looks or tone are betraying you and disengaging half your audience? Ask someone who sits on the far side of the aisle from you to attend your practice session. <|

You don't practice your presentations beforehand? Let me know when you are speaking next, so I can avoid it.

You don't know anyone who has stupid politics (i.e. disagrees with you politically)? You need to widen your circle and, again, let me know when you are speaking next, so I can avoid it.

In short words: If you are a true expert, you can keep your personal politics out of your presentations.

In shorter words: Start wearing purple.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Technical Ability vs. Marketing Ability? It's Time to Graduate from this High School Mentality.

Back in high school, there was peer pressure to actually do poorly on tests. Why? Because getting straight A's and being cool were mutually exclusive. Cool vs. Smart. Pick one.

We knew, then, that this was stupid. Not simply because the dichotomy was imaginary, but also because acting on it would limit our future success.

Fast forward to our career lives and there is an equally stupid either/or proposition: Technical ability vs. Marketing ability.

And the syllogism is just as stupid as it was when we were fifteen.

1) He gets good grades.
2) Therefore: He must be uncool.

1) She can make it rain.
2) Therefore: She must have, at best, mediocre technical ability.

Back in high school, I heard good students called 'losers' by others who didn't even know them.

Now, I hear strong networkers and marketers dinged for having 'poor technical skills' by people who have zero insights into that person's work product.

Do we think we get so many points and have to assign them to one category or the other? Of course, we don't. But we do believe that if we are technically able and cannot market, then we have made a positive choice.

Let me rip off your blinders and give you a new syllogism:

1) You are unable to be good at both marketing and service.
2) Therefore: You are jealous at others who might actually be good at both.

And, though this news will make you really unhappy, you need to hear it: There are plenty of rainmakers who have far stronger technical ability than you.

We do not get a fixed number of points and the skill sets that make people good marketers do not conflict with the ones that make people good at their craft.

Life is unfair. You are jealous. << Let's admit to both of these RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW.

Done? Good.

Now you can stop assuming that people who can bring in business cannot also service that business or engineer innovative solutions. They can. And they do. And, very likely, they make far more money than you. And they deserve it.

So, why am I writing this? Because I am tired of companies rejecting strong marketers since they assume that these people cannot deliver on the technical side. And I am tired of the technical snobs rolling their eyes in marketing meetings, believing that marketing is for people without technical abilities.

All you are doing is limiting your own future and your company's future. Just like others tried to do to you back in high school. But now you are doing it to yourself and, worse, to others and to your organization.

It's not their fault you are bad at developing business; it's yours. And it's not because you have (or believe you have) superior technical ability. It's because you stupidly think that people only get so many points to assign.

It's time to graduate from high school. And, if you haven't noticed, the economy is weak right now. So, it's also time to improve your marketing skills.

The only thing holding you back is your belief that marketing ability and technical ability are on the same slider knob. They are on different controls and they can both go up to 10. (Or 11 for you Spinal Tap fans.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Turning Tough Times Into Triumph

Keith McFarland, author of The Breakthrough Company and Bounce and a regular columnist for Business Week, gave a speech entitled "Turning Tough Times Into Triumph" at a Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce event on September 30th.

David Spitulnik, Managing Director of Blackman Kallick's Strategic Services Group, and I wrote a synopsis of the talk, along with some tactical next steps for business owners.

You can read the article at The Strategy Insights blog.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CEOs can – and Should – Take a Lesson from a Soccer Coach

Everything I learned about business, I learned from coaching youth soccer.

I say this a lot and while it's a fairly large overstatement, I do learn business lessons from coaching soccer. And I often use these lessons when counseling or training (or boring) my clients and staff.

So it came as no surprise when I was sent the following:

Here is my favorite part:

Another important lesson football management has to offer business is that the manager does not sit, isolated, in a huge office, which removes him from close contact with all levels of his staff. He is literally on the sidelines.

I would add that leaders should "coach from the sidelines…and only the players on the sidelines."

Sadly, most leaders don't get this. They phone down their edicts, keep performance metrics hidden, and mainly work with people on a one-to-one basis instead of building functional groups.

Winning takes a coordinated team. And a strong coach. And, apparently, lots and lots of soccer analogies.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Worst Word To Use In Front Of Marketers

Funny, since I was thinking about this post as I walked to a lunch with a friend in fundraising and she mentioned the same issue. And when she mentioned the issue, she used the exact same word.

What's the word? It's... JUST.

"Just" is a hateful word that means, in effect, "What you do is easy."

Examples: "Just set up a webinar so fifty of our prospects can ..." "Just write a white paper on this and have CFOs of ..." "Just get a speaking engagement at ..." or, using my fundraising friend's frustrated comment, "Just get ten percent of our members to make x-sized donations to the campaign."

What could be so hard about that? The idea is the hard part, right? The other person JUST needs to execute the idea.

As a marketing guy, I'm in the privileged position of hearing non-marketers talk about their marketing needs and their marketing people a lot. I hear the word "just" constantly. As in, "Why can't my marketing person just..." Often what follows is the equivalent of "...bicycle to Spain on a pogo stick." Not quite sure why you want to go there, but it's obvious that neither of the tactics you conflated will get you there.

Now, I know that people generally think what they do is hard and what other people do is easy (regardless of how much the other people are paid to do the easy work … or how much specific training they might have), but I believe that marketing people hear the word "just" more than any others. (Though now I wonder if fundraising people hear it more.)

Anyway... Here's the deal: The word "just" doesn't mean the other person's task is easy. It means that you likely do not understand what it would take to get that task done. And there is a word for people who don't understand something. That word is "ignorant."

In short: The next time you are about to use the word "just", ask, instead, "how" they would accomplish the task or realize the desired outcome. The solution might not be as straightforward as you think and, well, everyone just might learn something.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The #1 New Business Lie: Great Work Sells Itself.

One of the greatest myths to Business Development is "Great Work Sells Itself."

It's amazing how many times I hear this. A quick look at that person's sales/origination figures, though, is proof enough that they are fooling themselves.

If you believe that great work sells itself, my friend, there are only two possibilities:

1) You are wrong.
2) You are not delivering great work.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear: Your clients expect great work. This is their jumping off point. And, once they get your 'great' work, they can move on the reasons they bought it from you: doing whatever they were doing before you arrived.

Your clients are not in the business of selling your services/products, nor of consuming more without being provided a business case for doing so. In fact, many clients do not realize how good they have it, since they have no perspective on what bad or mediocre work might look like.

And yet, despite all the proof to the contrary (read: consistently low rainmaking numbers), you persist in your belief that great work sells itself.

A related digression: They say if you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door. This is a Field of Dreams.

1) How does anyone know you have a better mousetrap?
2) Why would anyone take the time to actively promote your better mousetrap?

The answer to these questions is the answer to the problem above.

If you do great work, let them know why you believe this is the case. ("See this mousetrap? Here is why it's better than the alternatives." Dyson understands.)

Better yet, show them by pointing out other places/ways where you can help them.

Or, at least, ask them if you are meeting/exceeding their expectations. If you receive criticism, fix it. If you receive a compliment, don't just say "Thanks" or, worse, "No problem." Use this as an opportunity to ask for more work or a referral. With luck, they will provide a compliment without such prompting. This is your opening to ask them to take the next step.
|> The bigger picture is letting them know you and they have a business relationship, not solely a customer/supplier one. <|
How? Promote their services. Refer them business or make strategic introductions to help them fill gaps. Ask them how you can help their business beyond the scope of what you are doing now. Even beyond the scope of what you can provide yourself. (Here is the magic question: "Forget that I am a ______ for a second. What other business issues do you need help solving?") And then help them find someone who can fix it … unless you can yourself, of course. Since they have no idea what else you do, they might tee up some additional work. If nothing else, once they see you care about their business, they will probably return the favor.

The 'mousetrap' quotation has made me mad for some time now. Like the mousetrap the 'better' one replaces, it also needs fixing.

Here goes: "If you build a better mousetrap – and let people know about it – people will beat a path to your door."

But back to the people who believe great work sells itself. It'd be better for them to continue believing in the Tooth Fairy. At least with the Tooth Fairy real money changes hands.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three random pieces of marketing advice.

1) Bring paper and a pen to every prospect meeting. Heck, bring one to every internal meeting as well. No, you can't remember everything important that was said or all the dates that were thrown out. But that's only one side of the value. Taking notes makes other people think you care.
2) Call people by the names they call themselves. If they introduce themself as "Robert" then they are "Robert", not "Bob" or "Rob." There is a reason they said, "Hi, I'm Robert" and not "Hi, I'm Rob." It's what they want you to call them. If you are unsure, ask. Do not assume "Rob" is their nickname or, even if it is, that you get to use it.
3) Ask questions and then shut up and listen to the answer. It's amazing to me how many people ask questions, often good ones, and then quickly supply a possible answer. Sometimes long, involved answers that have the sole purpose of letting you know how smart they are. Really, you are just being a crashing bore. Smart people listen.

I'll leave you with a quote I saw on Quotivate (a fun LinkedIn group): "Knowledge talks, wisdom listens." -Anonymous

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 ways to make sure you do NOT monetize your network.

A popular saying: Your network is your net worth.

This is why so many marketing advisors counsel on how to build a network. Some even teach you how to monetize it, which is the hard part (and why so many advisors focus only on the first, easier half.)

But I have yet to see anyone explain how to make sure you do NOT monetize your network. And yet so many people are accidental experts at this.

After studying some of the best (whose names will never be mentioned), I figured it'd be a good time to list out their top ten "skills."

1) Ignore other people's knowledge of the person you are meeting. Just because they know a lot about this person and why they might be valuable to you, they're not worth the 5-10 minutes to learn any of this.
2) Make sure not to thank referrers. Or even let them know you met their referral. Why should they need to know you actually met? Best to leave them guessing. And why should they care if it went well or was a near miss? So they can better tailor their next referral? Pah! Who needs that type of precision?
3) Broken funnel? Keep pouring them in! Your network is like a meat grinder. The more meat you jam into it the better. Never look at what comes out the other side. Ick. Right?
4) The latest networking tools are always the best. Networking is a technology race. Linked In? Maxed that one at 500. Twitter? That's so 2009. Foursquare? Been there, mayored that. Groupon? Time to move on. Whoever gets there first wins, right? If your network can't keep up, that's their problem.
5) Everything you do is noteworthy. Had lunch at a nice place? Tweet it! Tired of the heat? Post it on LinkedIn. Saw some funny shoes? Send out a link to the pic. They voted Jose off SYTYCD and he was your fave? Everyone needs to know. They hang on your every word.
6) LOL typos. OMG. poeple r to anal about typoos. Its 2010 and proofngg is 4 people with to much time. They kno u r busy and cant stop to proof your posts. They know if you they refer you business, youll b moar carful
7) The busier the better. Make sure you let people know how busy you are and how impossible it is to reach you. Busy = success. Simple fact.
8) Measure by number.* The more people in your network the better. The more retweets and pageviews, the higher your score. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings? You still have time for a couple coffees. Pipelines and relationship maps are for people with small networks, not for networking pros like you. And make sure you let everyone know, at every chance, how many others have fallen into your net.
9) Networking is a one-way street. ...and you are the princess in the castle at the end of the cul-de-sac. In fact, you take this to the next level. You make sure they know that you do not actually read anything they post. "If you want to reach me, send me an e-mail. I do not have time to read tweets." (Actual tweet.) Networking is not a conversation; it's a lecture. From you (the expert) to them (the fawning pupil who basks in the glory of being connected to you.)
10) Networking is synonymous to selling. You are the master of turning every coffee into a proposal meeting. Every breakfast into a presentation. They've finished their food and you haven't yet taken a bite. That's proof you are putting the time to better use. Now, mouth full, time to go for the close. You rock.

OK, I stopped at 10. I'm sure you can add more.

*I have to be serious for a minute. There are so many tools that measure the reach of your networking efforts, but so few that measure the impact in terms of revenue. If you provide professional services or work at a small company, you can (and should) do this by hand. If you work at a large company, take a random sampling. List out the networking platforms used by your clients (those that pay you actual money) and successful referral sources (those that connected you to people who pay you actual money). Then put a check mark if you can prove that they used this to become clients (or learn about additional product/service offerings) or successfully refer you to someone who became a client. More simply put: Make a list of networking efforts that your current targets are also using. When I did this for myself and for a couple other people, the results were decisive. In short: Keep panning where you are finding gold.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why You Should Never Lose on Price. And How to Make Me Right.

AYSO Region 423's Referee Administrator counsels new soccer refs with the following advice: "If you never call a hand ball, you will be right 95% of the time."

With that in mind, I'll start this blog post by saying that you should NEVER lose a new business pitch on price. If you think you did, you are fooling yourself. If the prospect says you did, then they are lying (though maybe for good reason. Call it a white lie.)

In my role, I have access to reviewing many lost proposals and access to many others who also have access to reviewing lots of lost proposals. When we are told that "we lost on price" and contact that lost prospect, we almost always get a different reason. I have yet to hear a CMO contradict this statement.

Then why did the prospect say it was price? This is the business equivalent of "It's not you; it's me." I'm no relationship expert, but I can tell you this: When you hear this phrase, it IS you.

OK, then, how do you not lose on price?

1) Ask about price. Ask what % of the decision will be based on price. This should not be your first question, of course. But if they are creating a weighted XLS, ask what % each attribute will be weighted. If they are not creating an XLS, then ask how they will compare bids and what will be the key determining factor(s).
2) Ask about competition. Are you competing against low-cost providers? Are you competing against hungry competitors who are low-balling currently? Or are the other competitors selling on value, too?
3) Ask about the other buying factors. How important are these? "If we are, perhaps, a little higher on price, but we can show you that we knock the ball out of the park when it comes to __________, will we win this?" Watch them carefully when you ask this question.
4) Ask them why are they bidding the project out. Was (is) there an incumbent? How did they find your name? Often you can find out the price question here. If they are leaving due to lack of service, you should be good. If they are leaving since they feel they are being overcharged for "a commodity," your red flag should go up.
5) Do your research on the prospect. Do they tend to buy from low-cost providers? Contact their other suppliers and ask what they care about. Ask if they pay their bills on time or argue over every nickel and dime. What you are hunting for here is not price, it's value factors. What does this prospect value most?
6) Ask them who is making the final decision. Is this a buyer who cares only about cost? Unlikely. While a CFO (for example) might care more about cost than the end-user, if she/he bought only on price, then the company would no longer be in business. Sure, when provided with 3 like options, the CFO might gravitate to price, but if you cannot show that you are not a like option, then you deserve to lose, regardless of price.
7) Deliver the proposal in person. My #1 pet peeve. If you e-mailed the proposal, you did not lose on price. You lost on customer service. You also lost an opportunity to be there when they saw the price. If their eyes became pie plates, then you would have a chance to see why they were expecting a lower price. Perhaps you added a lot of features/services that they didn't want or need? Who knows? (Answer: not you.) Here I advise people to set the proposal delivery meeting during the scope meeting. If they refuse to set a date or say, "Just e-mail it over and we'll call you." then you know they do not value customer service ... or are looking for a stalking horse. If prospects won't set a date for discussing the proposal, then you should reconsider sending them one. See Yogi Berra quote below.

So you asked and...

They wouldn't tell you. Did they tell you about other attributes they value? Are their other suppliers delivering value vs. cost? Research around it.

Price is their #1 concern. Ask yourself: Is your company's differentiator one of price? Or do you want to have a short-term, unprofitable relationship for alternative reasons? If so, full speed ahead. You've met a good match. If not, then, run. Sure, I've gamed my NEVER here, but if you can't compete, don't. Why create a proposal when you know you will lose? As Yogi Berra said, "Swing at the strikes."

Whenever possible (and I know in many cases you cannot), take a lesson from car dealerships and tell them the price up front … before the pitch. It's the first place they'll look anyway, so why not peel off the bandaid? Then you can spend the rest of the time piling on value until the price is overcome. We're 2% higher than the other bid? Fine, I'm going to show you 5% more value. Only 2%? Usually we're higher than that. Then explain why.

I tell prospects that if they get five bids, we'll probably be the second highest. That is, at the top of the three palatable bids. Or, if I know they are top-feeding, I let them know we'll be in the middle. "You are considering some solid firms, we'll be right in the middle of that pack price-wise." And then I pause to see their reaction. At least now they know not to expect us to be the low-cost option and we can focus on value.

In short, if you are proposing and do not know how much the prospect cares about price, then you need to do a better job with your pre-proposal efforts. Or you'll deserve to lose. And, when you do, they will say it was price. And you will believe them.

Note: Only once in the past 2 years have I come to the conclusion that the buyer did, in fact, buy solely on price. I saw the buyer's weighted spreadsheet and price was 60% of the score. Fair enough... but the winning bidder was rated lowest in every other category vs. four options. In one category they were even rated "substandard." I would have loved to be in the room when this decision was being made. "They're the worst of all and in this one case, they can't provide what we need, but they are the cheapest." I pity the end-users. Actually, I pity all their employees and all their customers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Small Giants – A book review of sorts

Kenneth Klassman of Horwood Marcus & Berk lent me his copy of Small Giants. (Bo Burlingham, 2005) It's about a number of business owners who decided to make (or keep) their businesses great at the expense of growth.

The book is mainly about this trade off. Being great, like consistent growth, is hard to sustain. The bigger catch is that being great is hard to define, whereas being bigger is more easily measured. The author tries to bottle "greatness", though doesn't quite succeed in my opinion. Along the way, however, we learn how these owners identified and took the less traveled fork.

While, like most business books, it could do with significant editing, there are many things I liked:

1) It was not fiction. Too many "business" books lately are about fictional companies that fall neatly into re-imagined paradigms to make the author's point. Real world is messy. Real business is messier. I mistrust business strategists that have to fabricate companies to fit their strategies. These writers' other, bigger problem is they also think they can write fiction. The ideas are often weak and the stories are poorly written. The people and companies in Small Giants are real, so you get insights into real-world decision paths that you might also someday face ... and a few solid marketing tactics.

2) It clearly highlights the outside pressure business owners get to grow their business, often without considering the business owner's personal goals. Business owners are under a great deal of pressure to grow their business. The higher your "score" the better you are as a businessperson. As someone who has "settled" (someone else's word, not mine) for a small company, I was pleased to read a counterpoint to success being building what you could, not what you want. It's not easy to grow a business. People that can make their companies bigger have a real and significant talent. But building the business you want is just as tough. To be fair, I know of a lot of businesses that are neither. Having the choice is a high class problem. And good for you if you can get there.

3) It provides plenty of valuable takeaways. Most good business books have one or two ideas that are worth the entire read. Small Giants is worth it for the "starfish" parable alone, but has, by my count, five more ideas that, each, would be worth the 215 page read.

I won't spoil the starfish story, but after reading that section I knew why I was so bothered by a process one of my clients put into place. The new process was efficient, both from a standpoint of time and money. But it was not the right thing to do.

The next day I put in place an effort to fix the process, even though only a few people might benefit. Perhaps as few as one or two. And it might take a significant amount of effort for this limited success. But the few people deserve it. And shame on us for not trying when we knew, in our hearts, that the less efficient path was the better one.

In short, Small Giants is well worth reading and I thank Kenny for the loan.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Using generic job descriptions to find (and fire) organizational dead wood

One of the things my firm does is build - and fix – marketing and bizdev teams. This requires assessing current and future staff and, unfortunately, being somewhat merciless when it comes to ensuring they are the right people with the right skills to accomplish the set goals.

Here's (part of) my strategy:

1) Get generic job descriptions for their roles. These are readily available from the trade organizations or your peers in those industries.
2) Assess each line on the job description by the following criteria:
a) Do we need this? If no, cross it off. If yes, continue.
b) Do we, as an organization, value this? And recognize and reward when this is done well? If you answer 'no' to either of these, then this is a big issue. The employee will succeed in an demotivating vacuum. You need to fix this disconnect.
c) Does the person currently do this? If yes, stop.
d) If they are not doing this, are they doing something more valuable? If yes, stop. (But who*, then, can do this?)
e) If they are not doing this and not doing anything more valuable, could they (with reasonable training OK) accomplish this? If no, then see the parens in the title.

Clearly generic job descriptions are only a starting point for these efforts. No organization is exactly like any other. I get that. But the positions within your structure should be benchmarked by some outside standard. Also, when employees compare compensation, this is where they will look. So, at least, you have some common language for your discussions.

More to the point: if the person cannot completely fulfill a generic job description and are not providing alternative value, then you are putting their personal needs above the goals of the department and the company. You should find someone else and they should find a place where their, shall we say, precision skills are more valued.

Now here's the fun and important part.

Before I bring on a new team member (or add to their roles/responsibilities), we clearly discuss the parts of their job that fail test 2b. This becomes their challenge, that is, helping to fix this part of the overall structure of the organization. They are asked to help me create - or develop on their own and then we can discuss – the path to getting the organization to recognize and reward successes here.

Others have written on why it's important to have people create their own paths for success and respect, so I'll end here.


*I have seen too many managers decide that they will add this line item to their own to do list. Wait, let me see if I understand. Your report has more important things to do than fulfill this line on their job description, but you do not? Here's what I do: Hand it down to this employee's subordinate (as a stretch goal) or go back to 2a and cross it off. Your team can't do everything.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Be less helpful. Choose your data wisely.

Ignore the 'mathbooks' part. This is worth the time. And is about far more than fixing the way we learn math.

Lots of interesting ideas, including:
1) We are bombarded by data, but we often have trouble finding data-based solutions. This is clearly related.
2) Toss your staff into the deep end and see how, where and if they swim to shore.

Enjoy the video. Let me know your thoughts.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Raise your hand if you're in sales

Simply put, if your hand didn't go up, then you had better be working behind the counter at Burger King.

During training sessions I ask the audience to raise their hands if they're in sales. If this is the first time they've heard this, usually only the Sales or BizDev folks raise their hands. "I didn't ask if you were salespeople, I asked if you were in sales." A few more hands go up. "OK, everyone, raise your hands. And keep them up." Then I ask the question again. At this point, a few hands drop ... but then these people look around nervously and realize they are supposed to keep their hands up.

When I coach youth soccer, I have this exercise where I have my team stand in a circle around me. I drop the ball I'm holding and ask, "Who's ball is this?" Usually no one says anything, so I ask them individually.

"Who's ball is this?"
"Umm... yours?"
"You're almost right." To the next child: "Who's ball is this?"
"The league's?"
"Getting colder." Next child: "Who's ball is this?" I repeat it as they guess themselves out.
Then I say, "It's my ball."
The first child looks at me like she'd been cheated. "I said that."
"You almost said it." I ask her again, "Who's ball is this?"
"Not quite"
"But you just said..."
"It's MY ball."
By this time, one of the children understands. My favorite moment was when a 9 year old girl walked over to the ball, and dribbled it back to where she was standing. "It's MY ball," she said with a smile.

Clearly this is the message. Possession is key in soccer. We always want our team to have control of the ball (unless it's in the back of the other team's goal). This requires that each one of us, individually, think that getting possession of the ball is our, personal job.

While we must work as a team, and need to communicate clearly who is in the best position to get the ball back (we do not want to clump up like oatmeal), we cannot hope someone else makes the effort to get the ball or create a plan to get back possession. And we need to hustle to make this happen.

Before games, I'd drop the game ball onto the field and ask, "Who's ball is this?" and every child on my team would yell, "It's MY ball!"
"Yes, it is. Now let's act like it."

So... Raise your hand if you're in sales.

Now let's act like it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I did it this way. So can you. (The 6% Solution)

Amazing how many times people in corner offices tell this (see subject line) to their subordinates.

Amazing how many times they ridicule time-tested marketing strategies by saying, "When I was building my book of business, I didn't need spreadsheets, social media, etc."

Their point: Do what I did and you will succeed. Do anything else and you are lazy or a time-waster.

I call this The 6% Solution. Read on to learn why.

There have been lots of blog posts explaining why a "Do as I did and you'll get what I got" approach isn't a winning game plan. They all boil down to:
1) 'Cause I'm not you. Correct.
2) Times have changed. Also correct.

But let's take a fresh approach:

Game 1: Pick a stock. Now send 'buy' and 'sell' notes to 32 people. You'll get 16 right. Pick another stock. Send 'buy' and 'sell' notes to the 16 people who received your 'correct' pick last time. Repeat for the 8 you got 'right' this time. Repeat, again, for the 4 lucky people. You will now have 2 people (from the original 32) that have received four correct picks in a row.

Game 2: Pick 32 random Associates or Managers. In 10 years, 8 will be partners/VPs. In 15 years 4 will be firm leaders. In 20 years, 1 will be managing partner/CEO and 1 will be the top rainmaker/salesperson in the company.

See where I am going?

Sure you are talented. Sure you are good at networking, time management, and concensus-building. I am not taking any of that away from you. You fully deserve (in most cases) to be where you are. And while much was skill, it was also a numbers game. There are many people who used "your way" and failed. You think you had a special skill and you might have. But you are not helping by promoting your path as the only path.

If you look at one Manager or Associate and say, "Do what I did and you will get what I got." your odds of being right are about the same as the numbers game above. Or 6%. (1 in 16)

So... please... let us provide them with strategy, diligence and planning. Do not undermine our attempts at structure. A 6% success rate when it comes to business development/leadership planning is not good enough for us.

Oh, and one final thought: They can learn from both of us. It's not an either/or proposition.

Why a blog? Why this blog? Why now?

The last thing the web needs is another blogger, right? And, worse still, another marketing blogger.

It's not that I am finally jumping on this bandwagon. It's more like I am finally driving my own wagon, after helping (read: ghost writing) plenty of blogs over the years and having internal blogs, I decided it's time.

Why is it time?

There have been a few thoughts I've kept to myself, since they'd point too much of a finger at specific people. Or at least these people would think the finger was pointed at them. Solipsism is king. (Get over yourself. Other people also have fatal flaws.)

Why should you care?

Likely you won't. But every now and then you might find yourself wondering why you've hit a wall trying to get people to understand what you think are basic marketing premises. Or you think you have a great plan and it just isn't working. And the reason or, I hope, the solution might be here for you.

What if you think I'm wrong?

Don't hold back. Post comments and share links to contradictory research. I'm not here to make friends or collect followers. It's about ideas and strategies. If you have any, post 'em. But bring your A game. There are some really smart people in my circle and some might come here to share their ideas and criticize any weak posts. (Even mine.)