Tag Archives: marketing

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.

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.

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Dating vs. Networking – turns out they’re more alike than not.

How do you get noticed?  How do you get mindshare?  And most importantly how do you get chosen?

I’m an avid networker.  I try to spend time with at least eight new people a month AND re-connect with five.  It’s something I enjoy – and let’s face it – it helps keep Summit on people’s minds.

Individual one-on-ones take time, energy and effort to maintain.  It’s not unlike dating. (Of course, not everyone agrees.) There are other strategies that would allow me to get my message out to many at once (and clearly I employ some of those as well – like this blog and Summit’s FaceBook Page).  But in my experience the individual relationships I foster and maintain are what keeps my company’s pipeline full.

Here are my very strict rules of engagement:

  1. Always find a way to be introduced by someone they know
  2. Always ask personal and professional questions (the personal information helps me ‘remember’ people better)
  3. Always ask what you can do for them (and follow-through)
  4. NEVER sell your services

Let me re-state that – I NEVER sell my services at one of these meetings.

Last summer, three-quarters of the way through a ‘get to know you’ meeting, my colleague began asking specific questions about how Summit might be able to help his company.  What specific services might I recommend and why?  I very politely refused to engage in the conversation.  I told him that I wasn’t there to sell him services. “But what if I want to talk about your services?” was his response.  I told him I’d be happy to set-up a subsequent meeting to have that discussion.

At 9 a.m. the next morning an email came over with the subject line – “Now, can we talk about your services?”  He’s been a client ever since.

Of course, not every meeting turns out like that, but enough ‘first dates’ turn into relationships to keep Summit humming along.

Let us know about your relationship with work. Tell us how you get picked up. And leave the one stand talk out of it!

Wake up in morning with a little MarketingSMACK at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com, or visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Jack

Know Your Limits

This past week I read one of 13 of my required books for my upcoming TaeKwonDo black belt test. I purposefully chose the shortest one with the biggest type to give myself a quick, albeit false sense, of accomplishment.

Zen in the Martial Arts. I know, it may sound boring to most of you, but this innocuous little book is chock-full of pearls of wisdom. Wisdom applied to how one should be on ‘the mat’, as we martial artists like to say…but, also, and more importantly, how to be on the mat of business and life.

While several of these Zen principles hit home to me personally, in my training as well as my role as a mother and yes, as a professional, the one that seems almost counterintuitive, Know Your Limits, struck me.

The premise is that in order to learn and grow, as a person or as an organization, you must be ready to accept your limitations. “You must accept the fact that you are capable in some directions and limited in others, and you must develop your capabilities.” We all call this ‘playing to your strengths’.

But how do you do this? How do you figure out the best way to communicate and market your company to your constituents?

Here are Summit Strategy Partners’ top five tips to begin this quest. It is not all-inclusive and you if want a more detailed, tailored answer we’re happy to help (the shameless plug part).

  1. Who are you? If you haven’t visited your positioning and messaging in over a year, do so now.
  2. Trust an outside expert to guide you through the process. This leaves you to do what you do best—run your business—and it keeps emotion out of it.
  3. Get your executive team to rally behind the effort. If they don’t appreciate and champion the project, it is doomed to fail.
  4. Study your competition. Knowing their limits and how they are positioned will help you in developing your Disruptive ConversationTM.
  5. Ask your customers and partners tough questions. Find out what it is you’re not doing well. This is the key to getting better. (But engage an outside expert to ask those questions. Your customers and partners will find it hard to tell you directly.)

Tell us how it works out for you. Add to our list. Tell us your yen for zen. And, of course, have a heapin’ helpin’ of Marketingsmack! at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com. Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com

Jack

The Fickle Customer

The Fickle Customer

I have always viewed my son as my customer and sometimes, employee. I manage his growth, meet his demands, ensure the ROI of his young life (he’ll be responsible for it later).

Last week, on a school night that ended late, he requested, pleaded—implored that we have spaghetti and meatballs. Mind you, this request is truly three standard deviations from the usual dinner suspects. I tried the local pizza take-out route with no luck, so I was left winging it.

Let me just say, I had NEVER made meatballs before.

It’s 6:30 and I found myself buying ground meat. I think we all get the picture. There is still the ‘get the kid ready for bed’ process that needs to be carefully timed against that looming 8 p.m. bedtime deadline.

About an hour later, he’s showered, in pjs and meatballs are on the plate – complete with red sauce and a pile of spaghetti. Phew – I’ve met expectations, delivered on time and on budget. My client will be so pleased.

One look, one small bite and this tiny tyrant of a customer informs me that he FORGOT—he doesn’t really LIKE meatballs. Fickle.

* * * * *

We’ve all had them – customers that make us jump through hoops of fire while juggling sharp blades only to inform us that ‘eh, that’s not what I was looking for’. Or, worse yet, they keep changing their minds….pushing further and further, frustrating us while scope-creeping us into “Would you like fries with that?” wages.

We call this business you don’t want. And while we still end up with business we don’t want, we’ve gotten better at avoiding or ameliorating it.

Here are some tips to running your client relationships the way you both will feel satisfied and successful:

  • Set, document and agree to clear objectives.

  • Develop and agree to metrics.

  • Get signoffs at milestones.

  • Communicate status, progress, and potential issues in a timely manner.

  • Have the post-mortem check-up – find out want went well and what needs improvement.

And lastly, remember that your relationship is win/win.

As a customer-driven organization, Summit strives for 100% referenceable customers. But while we do what it takes to get it done for our customers, they have to measure up too.

Good marketing isn’t a commodity. Our customer referenceability metric assumes our customer will want to continue to work with us—that good work should perpetuate our relationship.

As for my meatball son, he has a captive vendor in me. I have a different set of tips for dealing with him.

Get yourself a little MarketingSMACK! at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com

Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com

Jack

Illegal Breast Stroke

I am having a dickens of a time keeping my personal life out of the Summit blogs. I guess, at the end of the day, I have one life. That being said……

Last week I had my first official ‘adult swim lesson’. I decided I needed to add something else to my already-lengthy list of exercise routines. I made a barter arrangement with a very successful triathlete and training coach, Stacey Richardson. (See how cleverly I am holding up my end of the barter agreement by promoting her services in this blog?)

It took me about 10 minutes, and unfortunately I am NOT exaggerating, to figure out how to put on the one-piece Speedo. Then, there was the ‘how do these flippin’ goggles go on my head’ struggle? Needless to say I screamed ROOKIE to all those calm, capped graceful swimmers. And when Stacey said “Show me your breast stroke” I felt my heart race and muscles tense. I was in foreign waters—literally. I knew it and my performance reflected my uncertainty.

Ready for the great leap to the world of business?

I have this conversation with almost everyone I meet. “There’s no point in jumping in to the deep end if you don’t prepare yourself, at least to the best of your ability, for success.”

The other side of that coin is that even when you have prepared — you’re wearing the right suit and goggles (or you have spent time with your customers and ‘wish list’ customers to understand what they want and what speaks to them) — there is still a level of uncertainty and risk when the ‘show me your stuff’ moment hits.

While occasionally you may be called out on your ‘illegal breast stroke kick’, the fundamental ingredients: understand your target, speak your Disruptive ConversationTM, know who else is talking to your audience and what is being said, rely on the conduits your target trusts for information and deliver that information the way they want it–will give you a competitive advantage over most of the others in your pool.

This type of preparation is essential. And when it comes time to show-off that breast stroke, you won’t come up gasping for air.

(P.S. Anticipating all those wise-guy remarks: I know, I know, we put on our bathing suits one leg at a time.)

The Gecko Must Die

Which came first, the Caveman or the Gecko?

I used to actually like some of the Geico advertising. I thought it was clever. But now I’m annoyed.

For months, when the first few Caveman ads came out, I would blurt out: “I’ll have the roasht duck with the…mango shalsha” as if I too had Neanderthal jaws.

Yes, I know. I’m linking to Geico and giving them play even as I rant.

The thing is, too much of a good thing truly is bad. Especially with their lizard, Geico is all over the radio, TV, and next to my news articles on the Web.

And now, they torture us with “Somebody’s Watching Me,” that lame 80s song from (who remembers) Rockwell. No. I won’t link to this.

It’s overexposure. It’s untargeted, and it’s annoying.

As you know, Summit does strategic marketing. It’s in our best interest to encourage companies to market. But smartly. Doing the equivalent of hosing consumers down isn’t smart. I say it again. It’s annoying.

So I’d like to propose two ideas: 1) The Gecko must die. And, 2) Companies should target their audiences with one-to-one marketing and reach out to them personally.  Amazon, with its personalization engine, gets this. It recommends to you what it projects you personally would like. Smart.

One-to-one marketing is not just a name on a mailing label or email address. We’re talking about a postcard and/or email message that seems to know you, know your area, and demonstrates this in the copy. Then, it directs you to a Personal URL with your name in it. All wrapped up with a reason to respond.

We’re doing this now with a partner. We’re seeing the response rate jump. And we know who is responding and when. This is smart marketing. Not zipcode blasting.

Why not give it a Marketingsmack! and see if you can hit a home run over the fence? Ask Jack about it.

As for Geico, they should try HULU on the web, where consumers can select the ad, the length and the placement. It’s better than video spamming us with cavemen, lizards, and 80s washout musicians.

(P.S. It’s NCAA Hoops Finals time. Take a break, view the funniest SMACK you’ll see in the tournament, and send this blog to friend.)

The tail that wagged the market share…

Last week one of my clients, upon reading my blog, suggested that maybe I should go ahead and unveil one or two of those ‘smart’ clients to which I alluded.  Disclose what opportunities are being seized.

A quick glimpse into the online rental industry—as of January, the top 49 online rental sites show a “long tail,”— demonstrating the idea that “in a market with high freedom of choice, (i.e. music online), the blockbusters (i.e. Brittany Spears) can be outsold by the many smaller niche products.”  Personally, I imagine Brittany more as a ballbuster, than a blockbuster, but I digress.

The online rental data reveals that 21% of the market share is held by the top site, and that the top three rental sites collectively hold about 48% market share. As the proliferation of smaller sites increases, market share will be whittled away from the leaders.

Enter Hometownrent.com.

Hometownrent.com is an early-stage online listing service for property managers and owners.  Each geography has its own locally-identified url—chapelhillrent.com; burlingtonrent.com; blahblahrent.com; —you get the picture. The company competes with well-established, national players.

Hometownrent.com builds interest in its locations by attracting listings. In many of its markets they own the top search engine rankings, and that boosts the rental search traffic.

Some would say this is a mature market and that it’s useless to compete against behemoths that can outspend them. But Hometownrent.com understands that the present environment favors rental markets and that they are actually competing in a democratic open field that is favorable to stealing market share.

With that in mind, the company has begun a number of well-integrated, cost-effective campaigns to attract property owners and managers with multiple listings. The message is clear and the audience well understood – both key factors for success. It will be fun to watch as Hometownrent.com adds to the long tail of niche market share stealers.

Meanwhile, how are YOU doing—and what are you doing? Give us a MarketingSmack and tell us here – in other words, give us something else to write about.

–Jack

A shot in the arm…or, this week, the thigh

For the last nine months I’ve had in my possession an epi-pen – a just-in-case precaution for a phantom allergy that attacks without warning. I’ve often wondered if I’d have the nerve to actually jam that needle into the side of my thigh. Do I have what it takes?

Turns out, I do. I’m better now. And wiser for the experience.

What in the world does this personal story have to do with a business blog? I found myself, maybe due to the sleep and food deprivation, drawing an analogy. I wondered: “Who is going to make it to the other side of this economic down-turn? Who has the nerve to do what it takes to survive – to jam that needle and plunge.”

The companies and individuals that refuse to run scared are going to survive. More than survive – they’ll flourish.

I recently read an article in Money magazine that imparted this lesson, among other important ones: “If your competitors are in retreat, you can build your market presence.” Summit is grateful to have some pretty smart clients – clients that view this time as opportunistic and have continued to spend wisely to remain in front of their constituents. This is not to say that they haven’t changed the mix— they have, as have a lot of companies, according to a recent Duke Fuqua School of Business study showing marketing growth this year despite the economy.

In some ways, looking like you’re doing well is half the battle. People feel reassured that ‘you’re in it for the long haul’ if they see you as healthy and pursuing business with vigor.

But if you can’t change with the times, if you can’t ride the waves of technology and customer expectations, then no amount of posturing will help and you may well be the next RBW implosion. For RBW, clients reigned in their ad budgets, media outlets insisted on being paid directly, and suddenly, a great agency went “Poof!” owing more than it was worth.

Could RBW have adapted to encompass new areas to spend client money outside traditional advertising? Maybe. We don’t know all of the reasons they failed. But they did. And I can’t help but think it’s because they couldn’t take the shot.

Painful, maybe – but when death is the alternative – jamming seems like an easy choice.

I’d love to hear your stories of bravery. What, if you can share without giving away top secrets, are you doing to stay in the game? Tell us here.