Monthly Archives: October 2009

By Hook or by Crook

It’s down to the wire.  After six months of university-reminiscent reading requirements and paper composition, miles of uphill running, thousands of kicks and punches and the memorization of dozens of impractical Korean terms like ‘Deung joo-muhk ahp Chee-gee’, my black belt testing date looms on the horizon. 

And, what does my seven-year-old do? – Starts a three-day fever with a wet cough.

What does mama do?  I begin a borderline compulsive disorder armed with Lysol can, antibacterial sprays, soap, Emergen-C, zinc tablets and the refusal of motherly affection.  I spent three days turning my head, washing my hands, spraying the computer, the phone, the bed pillows, pretty much anything that wouldn’t need medical attention from the ingestion of Lysol.

How many events in life are so unique, such rare opportunities that the mere thought of missing it brings one to the brink of dismal grief?

Births (the baby is coming whether or not you’re ready), RFP deadlines for multiple-zeros-budget government gigs, weddings (although many of us get second and sometimes third opportunities for those), the Boston Marathon and the Kona Ironman are a handful that I can think of off the top of my head.

There are times in life when re-scheduling is not an option.  Where the curtain will rise and whether or not you are there or feel prepared is irrelevant.  Such events provide a very fine and clear filter on our prioritization – even if it is just for the moment.  When else would it be alright for a mother to withhold hugs and kisses from a sick little boy? 

I skirted that bug and still have three more days until ‘showtime’.  I find myself avoiding human contact, keeping an unusual level of vitamin C coursing through my body and exercising mind-control to keep myself from training.  With this increased rest-induced angst, I find myself wondering further what other success or failures in life are event-specific driven?  

The curtain rises this Sunday on my black belt test but you all can get your latest MarketingSmack right now – and, it’s in English to boot at or visit us at

(By the way, for those of you who care, the afore-mentioned Korean term means ‘back fist’.)

Motherhood Low #233: “Lego Falls into Toilet”

A couple of nights ago as I was busy deciphering the relevance and importance of the materials in my son’s school backpack, his panic-stricken voice pierced through the house: “Mama, I dropped my Lego in the toilet!”

 The physiological response that followed that statement was palpable.  I immediately went into negotiation mode: “We have thousands of Lego pieces – just how important can THIS ONE be?”  “It’s a WHEEL,” he countered. 

 Well, you can all guess what Motherhood Low #234 is.

 As I fished that “special” critical plastic Lego wheel from the bowl I thought to myself, “Is there no limit to what I will do for this person?”

 Today’s business climate is murky.  Everyone is trying to do more with less and in so doing, those who are actually sticking around to do the ‘more’ are being heavily burdened.  Where is that line where it is no longer OK? 

 In our ecosystem, we have contacts and clients who no longer have the healthy budgets we grew to enjoy, but somehow the decrease in budget has had no impact on their need for services.  We struggle with balancing ‘doing right’ by our clients with ‘doing right’ by our P&L. Services, unlike physical goods, are sometimes hard to clearly define.  You may feel it’s OK to ask your tax person a clarifying question without compensation. But you wouldn’t ask him to file a Schedule C. Like CPAs and lawyers, Marketers run into those five minute calls with questions such as: ‘What do you think of this tagline?’

I know that in our particular case, we want to build and maintain lifetime relationships with our clients. To that purpose, we don’t worry too much about the adhoc ‘free’ advice.  We believe it all comes back to us at some point. That being said, it’s important to know how to recognize when and how you’ll react to your customer’s Lego falling in an unspeakable place. 

Have a plan in place. Know how many hours or pearls of wisdom you are comfortable giving away in the interest of building good will. Know when to draw a line, and with integrity, insist that compensation, even if it’s deferred, be agreed to.

You’re in a relationship with your customers, so it’s important that they understand when they pull or push too hard. If you want to be valued, value yourself and value your work.  Find your limits and make them known. Or be satisfied with fishing treasures out of toilets.

Down in the dumps? Circling the bowl? Don’t let your wheels come off. Have a hit of MarketingSmack at or visit us at