Monthly Archives: June 2009

Deus ex Machina – Leave it in the Land of Fiction

One afternoon during my vacation I managed to grab a nap.  I woke up a couple of hours later. In the background I could faintly hear Nelly Furtado’s ‘Maneater’.  I lay there listening to the song, acknowledging in my own head that I liked it.  It ended 4.18 minutes later, paused, and then began again. And again. And again. 32 times to be exact. 

Why did I allow that to happen?  Why did I lay there laden with nap-lethargy helpless?  I begged the universe to intervene, as each and every time the song seemed to play louder. Give me a little deus ex machina – battery dying; thief stealing the iPhone, whatever to make it stop. 

I see this all the time in business.  Companies come to Summit because whatever they’re doing isn’t working — at all, anymore, not as expected… fill in the blank.  Yet, in some ways they are praying for divine intervention as well. 

They know the real problem is that the messaging is off – but somehow they feel helpless to make a change. Starting the process seems overwhelming, so they keep sending the old stuff out over the airwaves time and time again…..getting the same results.

All I needed to do was get out of bed, walk down the hallway and find the ‘off’ button.  While honing messaging and positioning is not as simple as that, allowing discordant messages to broadcast over and over again has much deeper ramifications.

And it gets worse. Businesses need to advertise and realize that their message is different or inconsistent. Oh! What if it actually attracts people to the website and there they see the dissonance – where your website persona is not in harmony with the ad copy or press releases or the lead generation chorus?

At the risk of being too self-serving, get up and get help.  It’s near impossible to find the time to hone your message yourself. Having a conductor lead you through the process will help keep the emotions of your star performers in check. 

Let your voice be heard. Get MarketingSmacked at

Getting Religion

A couple of weeks ago, Brian Gracely, a member of my network, suggested I blog my thoughts on how Summit has helped companies that have great technology, but a hardcore engineering (non-marketing) culture, adopt a strong marketing strategy and become more successful in the market. He was curious how we sell the change.  How do we get the culture to adopt it?  How does it get measured?

I immediately loved the topic, but alas my now entrenched style of ‘begin with a life experience and turn it into a business lesson’ kept me from employing it—until now.

This past weekend my NBC (No Book Club) spent a long weekend at Wrightsville Beach.  Nine women – mothers, non-mothers, scientists, therapists, school teachers, doctors, business owners, married, divorced, single, healthy, sick, 25-45 years old—all with one common thread; a mutual respect, admiration and non-judgmental flair for having fun.

One morning over coffee, one in the group decided to lead a prayer/bible study session.  I know, I know – a taboo topic.  She did her thing while others in the group listened—or didn’t as the case turned out to be.  She was preaching to the non-choir and try as she did (which was gentle) she could not get any converts. 

I had an epiphany:  I have been in my friend’s shoes many a time in conference rooms full of technologists, engineers and scientists.  No matter how I frame it or which words I choose, it sounds like I’m speaking in tongues to the non-believers.  Fortunately for me, what I am requesting my customers buy into doesn’t determine their after-life residence. 

Do you want to shake the non-believer?  Convert the skeptic?  Start small.

  • Define a project. Use their language, if possible.
  • Share the risk, if you can. 
  • Outline the metrics upfront and make sure each one of the members agrees to the definition of success. 
  • Report your findings and outcomes.  
  • Post-mortem the lessons learned to continue to grow your marketing flock.
  • Success is a wonderful converter, so merchandise your wins back to the customer.

Don’t be the lone voice in the wilderness – invite your faithful to have a little MarketingSmack! Get yours today at

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Karma–Paying it Forward

Maybe it’s because I am trying to have a beach vacation at the same time as I try to work, but this week’s blog feels more like a Jimmy Buffet song than a business advice.

About six to eight months ago I got a call from a longtime client turned colleague-friend who had left her VP of Marketing job in corporate America and was pursuing a consulting opportunity.  She requested our proprietary positioning process – the Summit Strategy Springboard TM.  While we’re pretty protective of our processes, I emailed her a sample immediately – no questions asked.

Fast forward.

A month ago I began conversations with a company in the Library IS world called Serials Solutions.  As the relationship unfolded it quickly became apparent who I was courting—the same company my friend Marianne was consulting with. I called Marianne and asked if I would be stepping on her toes. She assured me that our offerings were synergistic.  It didn’t stop there.  She then proceeded to be an advocate for Summit and instrumental in winning the business.  The best part?  We get to work with someone whom we respect and enjoy.

I am always amazed at the synchronicity in life.  I knew when she requested my help that it meant that she was pursuing an opportunity that Summit is exceptionally qualified to perform.  It didn’t matter.

Paying it forward is not a short-term strategy, and if you looked at the link in this sentence, not just a quaint concept.  Consistently thinking of helping others first without an ‘angle’ really does pay off.  The thing is – and it’s a little paradoxical – you really need to buy into the concept that you don’t expect anything in return.  Believing deep in your gut that giving the help is what’s important is what yields the reward.  The new client on the roster? That’s the cherry on top. And with Serials Solutions, it gets even cooler. Our strategy there is to help academic libraries make their collections—and their facilities—more relevant to the patron base. That’s a long way of saying we get to help more dedicated helpers of people help even more people. Knowledge is power…

Know anyone who needs encouragement?  Pay it forward by reminding them that some good deeds are rewarded – just when you least expect it.

Get your karma SMACK! Try some Marketingsmack today at

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The Valuable Loud Clank of Failure

Earlier this week in class, my TKD master placed two folding chairs on the training mat.  He told us to make two lines behind them.  We replied ‘yes, sir’ and proceeded to, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  None of us had ever had this experience and there was an air of uncertainty and apprehension.

He then told us to stand directly behind the chair and kick above it with a back kick.  Easy enough, right? 

What followed was a series of hesitant, wobbly, ungainly kicks—some making it over the chair—some making a loud CLANKING sound as the chair was smacked or kicked over.  The sound was a not-to-be-ignored message that our technique was wrong.

Accountability. Metrics. 

Ah, metrics. The bane of the marketer. Or not. The problem with metrics is that you can’t hide from being accountable.  Every time that chair clanked, the individual standing there was faced with a challenge – “Who do I blame?  Do I make excuses?”  I went immediately to – “Hey, I’m only 5’2 -that chair is really tall for me!”  I heard another one of my much taller training partners complain that his feet were too big.  It’s our nature to find a reason why the obvious failure does not belong to us.

In business, metrics evaluate what’s working and what is not.  In some cases metrics are obvious—a lead generation campaign or a trade show.  Not a tough ROI to calculate.  For other programs, a bit of creativity needs to be employed.  For example, when Summit leads clients through a Summit Strategy Springboard, we pre-set the parameters of success. We determine the height of that chair. 

One measure of success is to have all the key executives describing the company for whom they work in the same language.  Trust me when I say that clearing the chair with a back-kick is child’s play by comparison. 

Without metrics one can kick about haphazardly. But the cacophony of our failures is what rings in our head to help us get it right.  While we won’t execute perfectly every time, having the ability to know when we do sure sounds sweet. So set your height and give it kick. Close your eyes and listen for the result, regardless of the sound or success or failure. Measure it—it’s not going to be ignored

The journey or a thousand kicks starts with one SMACK! Try some Marketingsmack today at

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Blinded by the Light

This past weekend I spent three and a half days on Sunset Beach with 27 other martial artists training eight hours a day.  It’s an annual grueling occurrence for my martial arts group, and for those mothers out there, it is somewhat akin to childbearing – in the midst of all the pain, you swear you’ll never do it again, only to find yourself back there a year later.

I had an epiphany during our last sparring workout.  It was early morning, the sun was low in the sky, and I somehow managed to keep each of my opponents facing the sun.  Something clicked, and after almost four years of no-strategy, haphazard, throw-a-kick-out-there-see-if-it-lands sparring I was actually employing a STRATEGY.   

How often do we follow the bright shiny object, or react when we should be planning? 

I know Summit’s been guilty of it every now and again – a potential piece of business presents itself that isn’t in our sweet spot, but we pursue it anyway. The result is never our best work, and it sometimes exacts a great cost.  When you have limited resources—and who doesn’t these days—it’s critical to stay the course. 

Don’t have a course?  Here’s how to get one.

  1. Create a situation analysis, self-evaluation and competitor analysis: both internal and external; both micro-environmental and macro-environmental.
  2. Set objectives. Put them against a timeline; short-term and long-term.
  3. Craft a vision statement, a mission statement, overall corporate, and, if needed, strategic business unit objectives (both financial and strategic), and last but not least tactical objectives.

When you are done you’ll have a clear picture of where you stand today, where you’d like to be in the future and how you plan to get there.  Be at peace with the fact that you cannot and should not be the right choice for everyone.  Focus on those who need and are receptive to your product/service and your approach to doing business.  Your laser sharp business strategy and Disruptive ConversationTM will surely blind your competition.

Or, you can stare a little into the sun and take one right on the chin.

Wanna get smacked? Try some Marketingsmack today at

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