Category Archives: Uncategorized

Clara Pellar’s Posthumous Advice to Obama

A few weeks ago NPR did a weekend edition story on how Americans don’t fall for hype during a crisis.  The story highlighted that a President’s approval ratings can be greatly impacted by actual behavior – what exactly is being done to solve the crisis at hand NOT the message being spun by the handlers.  In particular, it delved into Obama’s approval ratings as he deals with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the NY Times Square terrorism plot.

This is NOT aburger-bunsFP new concept nor is it one solely owned by politicians.  It’s what evidence-based marketing is all about.  No one can argue the importance of a concrete, well-thoughtout positioning statement and subsequent messages to your key audience, but if your constituents can’t find the beef you’re dead in the water.

You have to support the ‘spin’ or the messaging through substantiated actions.  No huge fluffy bun is going to hide a bad/ineffective product, service or behavior that falls short of its promise.  We want – no, we demand that claims (by companies, politicians, public figures) be supported by actions that we can measure.

Way back when – 1984 to be exact-, Wendy’s did just that with their iconic “Where’s the Beef” commercial.  They validated their ‘spin’ by letting us know that their one beef patty was bigger than McDonald’s and Burger King’s.  Measureable?  Tangible?  Absolutely.  Did any of us actually measure it?  Probably not.  But we BELIEVED it and got a fun message to proliferate to boot.

Don’t under-estimate the importance of the marriage between message and proof. If something exists but no one knows about it, does it matter? Or, can you just get by on telling people what you want them to believe? Each side of that equation is critical to the outcome.

Clara Pellar, the elderly actress who famously uttered the gutteral roar “Where’s the Beef?”, has been gone a long time…. and not to pick on Obama – (because the article includes the likes of Bush and Carter as examples of the behavior-does-not-equal-the-message equation)…, but I think her ‘prescient-twitter-ready’ line is an invaluable and timeless reminder to us all.

Always a fanatical data collector – sometimes to the chagrin of others – I am a big believer in evidence.  What’s worse is that I expect consistency as well.  Ever in the pursuit of holding my MarketingSmack to those same standards – hoping my effort is graded on a curve.

ISO the “Pause” Button

Where is it?  Where is life’s Pause button?

Maybe I should skip the blog writing this week.  I have no productive ‘insight’ to impart, no top 5 ways to improve or gain or establish better customer relationships, business practices, or social media strategy.

Gerbil_WheelWhat I do have is one of those weeks where the gerbil wheel seems fast, furious and suffocating.  Then I see several status bars on Face Book in search of some elusive life pause button.  Clearly fellow gerbil wheel inhabitants cry for help.

What is it that is causing each year to seem shorter and shorter?  Why is it that Christmas turns into the summer beach trip turns into Thanksgiving before you have finished your last load of laundry?  Oh, wait…you NEVER finish the last load of laundry, do you?

Maybe it’s as simple as having school-aged children – maybe this feeling of time slippage is a curse for that particular demographic?  I know it feels incredibly wrong to be booking summer camp options during a snow day in February.  Somehow, ‘knowing’ how those three months are scheduled in the middle of winter makes it feel like it’s time to start the next school year.  Eeek.

At the risk of being accused of an existential fit, where are we all going so quickly?  In part, it feels like life has become one large check-list….

I have no illusions that this post will be read by many – just the few MarketingSmack or Jack ‘loyalists’ and it’s probably better that way.  Those of you who do spend the five minutes reading my existential dribble words of wisdom are greatly appreciated.  Especially if you have a ‘stop-time’ watch available for purchase.

The Box of Chocolates – Four steps to building a network with the ‘right’ people

My last blog about the life of a ‘Connector’ prompted some great discussions amongst my LinkedIn groups and raised a good question/point.  Everyone seems to agree that it is more important to know the ‘right’ people rather than ‘a lot’ of people.  The mystery seems to lie in how do you go about identifying, meeting, developing and nurturing a networking relationship with them?

To quote a classic movie icon – “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
gold_box_lg_green

That being said, you can choose the drug store Whitman Sampler OR Swiss-made, The Ecstasy of Gold from DeLafée.  But, how do you even get to the point where the box in front of you is certainly filled with quality, unique, compelling – worth the calories – chocolate?

Ready for the answer?

It’s not universal, some people can and do get around the natural order of things, but the reality is that for most it STARTS with the Whitman Sampler and evolves into Ecstasy.

I’ll be more specific – what follows here is my suggested path to the ‘gold’.

  1. Gather – At the beginning of your networking career you will be served well by meeting a lot of people.  And, this is by no means an easy feat.  When I say ‘meet’ I mean – schedule time, have coffee, ask questions – professional and personal. Get to know the person, make a point to keep in touch and add value.
  2. Research – LinkedIn is a fantastic tool by which to sample the goods.  You can tell a great deal about someone by their profile and better yet, by their recommendations should they have them.  If you’ve done #1 for a while and well, you’ll be lucky enough to know someone who knows the individual you are interested in and can get an introduction.
  3. Leverage – As you keep in touch with your growing network remind those that you find impressive that you are always open to meeting interesting and compelling people.  Never sell your services during these opportunities – you’ll have a higher likelihood of getting that coveted introduction.
  4. Reciprocate – You start to get requests – if you’ve done your groundwork, consistently and have added value along the way the phone will ring.  The word will get around that you are someone worth knowing – worth the investment. I firmly believe the greatest gift we give one another is our time – make it worthwhile; for both of you.

As you stumble-upon high quality people, they will in turn suggest others  – let’s face it, good people know good people.  Before you know it your network will resemble The Ecstasy box of chocolates where you know no matter which one you choose you’ll be certain of the quality.

Hoping this week’s MarketingSmack’s filling is rich and worthy of your time.  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com

Sometimes You’re the Windshield…..(the life of the ‘Connector’)

I was looking for a lost email yesterday when I stumbled upon an online introduction I made in August of 2006.  I chuckled while reading it – in it I state:

Given my conversations with each of you, I think the two of you would benefit from knowing one another.  Consider yourselves introduced.  Would love to hear how it turns out.”

Fast forward three and a half years and I find myself in the midst of re-branding their co-founded company, Innovalyst.

I wish I could say all my connections end up in such a lucrative way – both financially and personally – as my relationship with these two individuals has grown and flourished over the years.

But alas, being a “connector” as defined by Gladwell in his Tipping Point book has not always proved so.  Case in point, a couple of years back I had a client who provides a shipping software solution for 3PLs, shippers, brokers and carriers.  We had a great working relationship and to this day I can call on Geoff to be a reference on my behalf – or at least I hope so, after this blog.  Well, at some point I met someone over coffee who gave me a sixth-sense type feeling and within days of that coffee I sent one of my ‘Consider yourselves introduced’ emails to both of them.

bug-gooFast forward again – this time about a year or so and my coffee networking buddy became Geoff’s CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and within his first week had the pleasure of firing me.  Ouch.  Not personal – but not fun.

I can’t stop connecting people – it would be like asking me to stop eating Oreo’s dunked in milk.  It doesn’t even seem to be a frontal lobe activity anymore – sometimes I just know two people need to meet.  The real question is can you monetize your gift or is it a loss leader – so to speak?

If Hugh and Paul had not met would there be an Innovalyst?  And, even though Les fired me and I have not subsequently seen revenue from Transite  – is it money in the karmic bank so to speak?

Or as my friend Janet, reminded me just now on the phone – sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.

Like a moth to a flame – my hopes are you will rush right out and get SMACKED, weekly.  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com

As an aside: My friend Janet is the President of KJAS, parent company of  Ethical Advocate,  who also has developed a long-term business relationship via one of my connections.  See, I told you I can’t stop.

My Personal Nestle Social Media Moment

I’ve been watching Nestle’s social media nightmare play out on FaceBook and Twitter over the last month.  For those of you who somehow have missed this – in a nutshell – Greenpeace Trojan-horsed Nestle’s FaceBook Fan page and slammed the company for its role in the illegal deforestation of rainforests and the killing of orangutans.  All in the name of bringing us more yummy Kit Kat bars.  This type of tree-hugging and criticism happens all the time – however the MAGNITUDE and VELOCITY now enabled by social media channels is unprecedented. 

 I have been keeping my fingers crossed that the powers that be within Nestle would hurry-up and realize that being defensive, dismissive, or arrogant wasn’t in their best interest.  I have used the early 80’s Tylenol Chicago death crisis as an example before and it applies yet again.  That said, Tylenol had much more control over the actual response and the delivery of it.  Nestle, not so much.  It was and is happening REAL TIME and very publicly.

 There are a variety of pieces written on how Nestle should have responded – how they should show-up now and how businesses need to be prepared for their eventual ‘turn’ so to speak – so I won’t go into those here.  What I do want to share is the notion that even if you DO respond in a timely fashion, with humility and an offer of restitution that sometimes the recipient just isn’t ready to hear it  – or isn’t willing – or is too hurt.  Sometimes you can’t undo the mistake, no matter how hard you try. And, sometimes you have to be patient and persistent about being transparent and ‘doing the right thing’.

A few days ago I recklessly made a somewhat ‘unfeeling’ comment on Twitter.  In hindsight, I am not sure what possessed me – I cavalierly took one person’s misfortune and used it as an example of how a new trend in location based services may have a huge downside.

Well, I received a direct message (DM) back letting me know that my comment was not appreciated.  I quickly posted a public apology taking full responsibility for my stupidity and making a reference to the fact that there are times when I behave like the back-end of a donkey.  I followed up with a private email – groveling a bit more and offering lunch as an olive branch. 

Two days of radio silence and I was beside myself.  I made a mistake and wanted to be forgiven immediately.  Life doesn’t work that way, does it?  Finally today, in the middle of writing this blog, the long-awaited DM accepting my apology beeped through.

The lesson I was reminded of – the lesson Nestle and others need to remember….is that avoiding making mistakes is impossible – not a viable option –  however, taking accountability for them and being genuine in our willingness to make things whole, is. At the end of the day – as seen from our collective trust in Tylenol, we have a grand capacity to forgive and regain faith.  So, my advice to Nestle and everyone else – whether their faux pas is being played out to millions of just a few – accept responsibility for your actions and figure out a way to make it right.  Oh, and most importantly accept the fact that it may be on someone else’s timeline.

Seeing if I can get through one day without a blunder – how much trouble can I get in by writing the Smack?  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

A Universal Truth

This week’s posting is not for the wussy and may actually piss some off. Can you use the words ‘piss’ and ‘off’ in a professional blog? Some may think I’ve crossed a line in human decency – in the “some things are better left unsaid, even if we might think it” category.

Last night I attended the launch party for IHeart Charity. IHeart Charity provides a smart phone application that allows users to “Tap-n-Give” to a number of pre-selected charities. The application is currently only available on the IPhone/Apple platform.

Four charities are currently hosted and each had their opportunity to speak. The first three had reasonable causes – animals, Haiti, green energy – with solid positioning and sound reasons to encourage donations. I listened – relatively unmoved.

Then Dianenecklace
Moore took the stage. Diane is tall, strikingly beautiful, with closely shorn hair (a tribute to her daughter not the 80’s edgy singer Sinead) and a peaceful presence. While I ‘care’ about a smattering of other topics in the world, I felt a resonant, heart-wrenching connection to Diane’s organization, Striving for More. Founded by Diane after her daughter’s death from cancer at the age of eight, the charity’s sole purpose is to ensure that no family endures childhood cancer alone. What parent cannot relate to that?

I think we can all agree that there aren’t many ultimate truths – that we each, as individuals, connect to or with different messages – hence one of marketing’s challenges, right? Understanding different audiences and digging deep to create a Disruptive Conversation™ – that which will rise above the din of the white noise and move the potential consumer to take action is no easy feat. Ms. Moore has her Disruptive Conversation™  nailed – it is authentic, personal, compelling and it rings out above so many other messages because it speaks to us as a universal truth. The natural order has been disrupted and we fundamentally don’t understand how that can happen and want desperately to make it stop. Or, with the help of Striving for More, at least survive it.

She shared her story – simple, direct, not a trace of marketing speak – and the audience wept. Ah yes, there were women present but I heard a few of the men complain of blurred vision. Sometimes it’s obvious – right? What is worthwhile? What we can all get behind? When we have the opportunity to be involved with one of those organizations – whether as a client, consumer or supporter – the answer is simple.

So, why am I going to make people angry?

Well, because in the midst of all of this I believe there is a marketing lesson here for those of us who don’t have an obvious ‘universal truth’ to deliver. The closer we can get to one, the higher likelihood we have of altering our audience’s perceptions and behaviors.

Great marketing is when something as banal as athletic wear can speak to us at that ‘universal truth’ level. Nike delivers it: our fundamental fear of failure. Everyone has it – everyone can identify with it.

Always the truth delivered here – at least MY truth: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The image above is one of the many ways that Striving for More provides encouragement to children struggling with cancer.  Each time a child endures a procedure they are given a Courage Bead.

Twitter Sold Me a Bridge

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal posted an article entitled Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media – Marketing via Facebook, Twitter Yields Results for Some, Others Say It’s Overrated; ‘Hype Right Now Exceeds the Reality.

The important words in the title are “Right Now”.  Don’t be fooled, Social Media is here to stay. If you ignore it, it will run you over. A true paradigm shift – reinforcing what is already a reality – consumers are in control.

It’s not new; consumers have been rating products online for more than 15 years. The “Social Shopping Study 2007,” commissioned by PowerReviews identified a significant segment of online shoppers as Social Researchers – “consumers who actively (always or most of the time) seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision.” 86% of Social Researchers find customer reviews extremely or very important and 76% find “top rated product” lists (by customers) to be extremely or very important.

These results align with what I describe as Summit’s Credibility Pyramid.

Picture1We believe our own experience first and foremost, then we believe those who are similar or like us, third on that credibility scale are the industry pundits, analysts or media and at the end of it all – the least credible source is the vendor.

Why is understanding this concept critical in the advent of the rise of Social Media?

We no longer have to go online and “look” for reviews. Now these opinions – good or bad – get pushed to us anywhere at any time. Twitter, Face Book, Buzz, even LinkedIn all provide conduits for consumers to be heard and heeded. So while there may still be some skeptics about making the investment and not everyone will rush right out and pull a ‘Jackie Siddall’ and purchase a $1,900 folding kayak based on a Tweet, the power dynamic has permanently shifted and whether you are selling kayaks, bridges or pharmaceuticals you better join in the conversation.

Cross over to the Smack – http://marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Under New Management

My dojhang has been recently stamped with a – what is supposed to inspire glee and hope sign, “UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”. We’ve all experienced it – either within our own work environments due to mergers or acquisitions or in our communities. Typically it happens to a restaurant or bar that has been closed for a while and then, just like that – it pops back on the scene promising better food, ambience, hipper music. And, when that’s the case everyone’s the winner.

What happens when the business is an on-going entity with a subscribed set of consumers? How do you manage the transition to the new management without alienating your existing customer base – without stamping out the ‘culture’ so to speak? I do think the key word here is TRANSITION the concept of passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another ….rather than the abrupt, no room for dialogue, Alice in Wonderland ‘Off with His Head’ type moment.

At the risk of falling into the ‘everyone’s a critic’ camp, I can certainly give you a fat list of what NOT to do. So, I’ll try – really, I will – to stay on track and stick to what should be done.

When managing the changeover, which may include – feature enhancements, price adjustments, rules of engagement alterations, employment modifications it is best to lead with what will be received well. If your promise is a better new widget then prove it. I may suggest to you that major price increases with absolutely no real change – but just a ‘promise’ for change – and an unclear promise at that, is a BAD idea. It builds resentment and mistrust, even amongst the most patient and loyal.

If your organization depends on the geography model, meaning your customers must be local to consume your goods and services then ignoring that communities’ ‘corporate culture’ is another grave error. While you may have standard operating procedures and a brand that works really well in your corporate headquarters they may not translate to outside of that location. Let’s face it, a hot new bar by the name of G-Spot or ManHole may inspire long lines in San Fran or Key West but would sit lonely and empty in ConservativeTown, USA.

As we all know change, no matter how it’s presented, can be stressful – the fear of the unknown, the break in routine, the adjustments to a new product or service. And while it is inevitable and can only be classified as ‘change’ for a short period of time before becoming the new ‘norm’, I do believe there are ‘better’ choices to be made when it comes to gaining customer acceptance and continued loyalty.

Managing to deliver yet another week of MarketingSmack www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The True Weight of Platinum

Yevgeni Plushenko will forever be known as a poor loser, NOT as the incredible silver medalist who landed the ‘quad’ at the Winter Olympics of 2010.  Is that really what he intended?  Did he and those that manage him truly think it through before his hubristic announcement that he was robbed of his ‘Gold’ and that he had won the ‘Platinum’?

When you decide to participate in the Olympics, you, by default, resign yourself to the outcome.  Whether you like it or not – the judges do get to choose. They get to determine what is worthy of a medal, of any substance.  If this is a problem for you, there are more quantitatively measured sports that don’t rely on ‘judgment’ – that are based on quantifiable metrics; time, distance, weight, height, etc… Not so for those more art-related endeavors.

As in figure skating and gymnastics, the world of marketing is also evaluated at times in a more qualitative manner.  Sure, there are times when we can verify the number of click-thrus, registrants for a webinar, or Twitter followers.  Those are the moments that I, as a marketer, relish.  The success or failure of a ‘performance’ so to speak is not based on opinion. 

With that said, there are many times when the triumph of a marketing activity is determined in the same way as some define pornography…. “I’ll know it when I see it.”  When the activity is not directly linked to a generated lead or closed sale, the ‘value’ isn’t always obvious.  Given that each and every one of us sees things differently – through our own view finder and massaged by our own experiences and perception, the hope for the ‘Gold’ can seem elusive.

We in the marketing world can take a lesson from Olympic figure skating. While there is still an ‘art’ component to the sport, the performers know what is expected of them.  They are at least clear as to what has to ‘show up’ during those minutes on the ice to be subjectively critiqued. 

So that we don’t have to invent our own awards of excellence in the face of disappointing the ‘judges’, it is best to set baseline metrics of success even when the results are more akin to how graceful the double Axel is landed.   For instance, the positioning of a brand is no easy feat.  And while there are a number of standard and accepted formats – there is a very large component which relies on whether or not it ‘resonates’ with the eventual owners of that position.  Not to mention how it will be received in the marketplace.  Having a metric in place, “Everyone within the company will describe the brand utilizing the same language, consistently” – is one such example. 

If you are able to establish clearly how your effort will be judged and ‘graded’ ahead of time, you have a better chance of skating circles around other marketers.  And, you’ll be able to take your rightful position on that center podium.

MarketingSmack is constantly in search of the ‘Gold’ and is open to all opinions regarding performance –  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Runaway Train…

A client of mine was ‘nominated’ recently for Top 50 Entrepreneur of the Year by the regional Business Leader Magazine.  He called me to get my opinion and see if I thought it was something worthwhile and respected.  Having heard some great things from my network over the years about the publication and in particular their Business Leader Breakfast series, I encouraged my client to participate.

Then I logged onto LinkedIn

A seemingly innocuous discussion started by Bill Yodder entitled “Business Leader Media and your $84” caught my attention.  I clicked on the thread and was bombarded with less than stellar comments, by many, regarding the general ethics – or lack thereof – surrounding BLM’s business practices.  I threw my two cents in – actually asking the group for advice about my client.  What came back was an unequivocal ‘stay away’. 

I quickly became emotionally involved – feeling somewhat ‘betrayed’ by this organization who had the ‘nerve’ to misbehave behind my back – so to speak, potentially making me look bad.  After all, I had given them an approval thumbs up. 

Well, first – shame on me.  I know better.  I tell my clients all the time don’t assume your reference customer is still a reference customer – EVER.  Always check their current level of satisfaction before handing them over to your prospect; you don’t want to find yourself tied to the tracks with the faint distant whistle blowing.

Secondly, what was BLM thinking?  

Really?  In today’s incredibly public, everyone has access to everyone’s thoughts and ideas and we’re not afraid to share them world, there are organizations that think they can pull the wool over our eyes? 

The real quagmire is this; they, under the leadership of Dan Davies, did have a great reputation.  A change in ownership and a slippery slope downward have become public.  The bummer is that there is a new conductor on board and he, presumably, wants to ‘make it whole’ again. 

Can he?  How do you stop the train wreck?  Bob, if you’re out there listening – you better take it on quickly, directly and publically or you may have nothing left but twisted metal and loose screws.

 Keeping the MarketingSmack on track www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.