Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why I Hate Triangle Relationships – A Rant

Your client hires you as their marketing firm. Then they, separately hire an SEO firm, or website developer, or PR firm, or etc., or etc. And, of course the client expects you to both to play nicely and provide integrated services that build on each other … "the sum of the parts ..." and all that.
Hint: This is not limited to marketing relationships. Not nearly.
All well and good until something doesn't work. Or there is a new project on the table. Or new data appears. Or a process needs to be developed. Or feedback is required. Or it's a Tuesday.

Then you get this unhealthy triangle where two firms are fighting for attention, respect, information, and, worse still, budget. And you, the client who thinks competition is a good idea, end up with fighting sibling that aren't related by blood so have no sticky red reason or impending reunion to bury their hatchets. And you are doing double work to keep both teams up-to-speed.
The single line worth reading in this post:
Set up a straight line relationship from you to a lead to a sub.
Take it from someone who has been part of many triangles and been the lead and sub for many, many projects: Avoid the triangle relationship like the plague.
If I, as the sub, cannot take direction from your chosen lead, then give me two options: 1) shut up and 2) leave. Or a third option: 3) shut up and leave.

At worst, I will sit back and wait until the lead's total incompetence is discovered and I get promoted or, in a better case, we'll find mutual ground (with your best interests in mind). In the best case scenario, we'll get along and develop a business relationship, perhaps in the same lead-to-sub line or perhaps reversed, but always thinking of you every time another client sends us a check.

But please do not expect that you can magically make the triangle relationship work.

You can't.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Literally "Phoning It In"

The Urban Dictionary defines "phone it in" as ...
1) Literal - To present something, whether an idea, project, product, etc. by way of a phone call, rather than in person.
2) Used to describe a lazy or uninspired attempt. Perform an act in a perfunctory, uncommitted fashion, as if it didn't matter.
Reviewing a new business opportunity with a Partner at a professional service firm, I asked, "When are you presenting the ideas?"

The response, "On Monday."

I knew the answer before I asked the next question, so I asked it in a leading manner, "Are you going there or is _Name_ coming here?"

Without hesitating, he said, "We're talking over the phone, but I plan to e-mail him something to review prior."

Phoning it in.

We seem to have taken a literal term and made it into a euphemism for "perfunctory." This is dangerous.

Now that we have e-mail, many people rationalize a phone call believing they could do worse and simply e-mail the prospect. However, being able to do worse does not mean you did well. And many people would argue that a text or e-mail is actually more personal than a phone call.
"But you can't hear tone in an e-mail, which is why I call people directly," he argues proudly.
> Don't be so proud. You can't see expression on a phone.

"That's why I use Skype," she beams.
> Better, agreed, but are we looking to be better or make the sale? "That was a better shot, this time," says the coach, "but you still missed."
We need to remember why the expression "phoning it in" became an expression in the first place. Sending an e-mail or Skyping, whether or not this is better or worse than a live call, is still "phoning it in" if it replaces an in-person meeting.

While there are many times when an e-mail, phone call or Skype is more efficient and environmentally-sound than an in-person meeting, we need to keep the expression "phoning it in" in mind when looking to close business.

To end: If you are using the phone or your computer instead of your feet to deliver an idea, then ask yourself the following: "Am I phoning it in?" If you start to weigh the answer against worse forms of communication, then the answer is "Yes, you are phoning it in." And you know what to do instead.


On a positive note, I recently received the following note as part of a pipeline update: "They sent out the RFP to 8 firms and __name deleted__ said we were the only firm to come out and speak to them."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fast Five – Some Marketing Ideas You Might Have Missed

For those of you looking for interesting marketing links, Daniel Jackman, e-Marketing Coordinator at Blackman Kallick, and I write a monthly column called the FastFive in the Association for Accounting Marketing newsletter.

I keep meaning to post links in this blog and keep forgetting... until now.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Is a Specific Promotion Worth the Spend?

When a marketing or promotional opportunity appears, the question is... Is it worth using any of your precious budget or time?

Normally, the question of ROI comes up: Will we get our money back or 4x to 8x our money back? If the answer is "yes", that is, you can guarantee that your spend will return 4x or 8x the investment, then stop here. If you are 100% sure that putting $1,000 down will return $4-8,000 in the next, say, 12 months, there is zero reason to hold off. In fact, please contact me and I'll pay half ... assuming you will give me half or even a quarter of the return.

Since sure things are rare in marketing, read on...

How to quickly judge if a marketing opportunity is worth pursuing:

1) Ignore ROI. Yes, I said it, ignore ROI. Recall, you are guessing, not guaranteeing. If you can guarantee it, then read above.

2) Avoid any "Act now or forever lose the opportunity" offers. One of my clients, long ago, said, "I do not regret any missed opportunities that turned out well. I regret the ones I took that turned out poorly." There are opportunities, like interviews or speaking presentations, that time-bomb quickly ... so assess them quickly. But do not say "yes" only because they go away soon. Anyway, if a rep says you need to let them know about a 50% off deal by Friday or you lose the space, and this wasn't already in your plans, then nine times out of ten you are better off shrugging and pressing delete on the voice- or e-mail.

3) Determine the 'all in' cost, that is, money and time. No need to figure out the hourly or billing rates of the people involved, simply make a list including dollars and people hours. I.e. inventory your investment.

4) Ask yourself the following question: Is this the best possible use of this investment? Make a list of what else you could do and rank them. If the opportunity in question rises to the top, then go for it. If not, then don't do it ... regardless if you will actually move forward with the better option(s).

A Partner at an accounting firm and I did this assessment the other day and he quickly listed out two or three things he would rather do "...if we had this money and time allocated." End of discussion about the so-called opportunity that instigated the assessment. We had better uses for the time and money and, while we may or may not move forward with any of those, why would we move forward with the lesser option ... regardless of estimated ROI?

In short: Judge "act now" opportunities not on whether or not they are a good buy, but if you could do better.