Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interrrupting Your Currently Scheduled Programming...

I know I said yesterday that I would bring "Mandatory Marketing for 2008, Part 2" today, but there's been a change of schedule. I took my own Content Strategy advice and updated some of my web site's language last night. Check it out!

And, there's more to come! Notice the next to the last bullet point...
I'm putting the final touches on my newest service, "GPA: Geek Personal Agent." Next Monday, look for a hyperlink to the pdf that fully explains this latest offering.

Okay, back to the promised programming tomorrow... Part 2

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mandatory Marketing for 2008, Part 1

So, here we are... It's almost February. Do you know where your Marketing is?

My industry has spent the last 4 weeks in analysis of 2007 and predicting 2008 "mandatory" marketing strategies: Social Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Online Video, etc. These and other topics have hit the headlines and have marketers scratching their heads as to which technology or fad to turn to next.

Let's cut the clutter:
1. SEO, Search Engine Optimization-- If you haven't gotten around to optimizing your web site, please join this year. Paid ads are okay, but 4 out of 5 searchers utilize natural search and your goal is to appear on the first page of search results.

2. Develop a Content Strategy-- Pay attention to any niche areas to ensure that your content is relevant and focused. Text length should be short and bullet points are more likely to attractive and read since longer articles tend to be overwhelming and overlooked.

3. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising-- Continually track and analyze conversions. Hone keywords to ensure that you are staying ahead of your competitors.

4. Build a Blog-- More and more Internet media researchers, journalists, and potential customers are turning to blogs for up-to-the-minute information and personal perspectives on you and your company.

5. Develop a mobile compatible web site-- Mobile devices are increasingly being used to access the Internet... whether it be comparison shopping on-the-go or for up-to-the-minute information, directions, or buying tickets to events. Is your site "mobile ready?"

Tomorrow... Part 2

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So What's the Big Idea?

Stumbled across in my reading last night:
"Clients and prospects have zero tolerance for marketing fluff, but a deep thirst for ideas that can help them. Selling services is not just about price, qualifications, or your firm's long string of success stories (as thrilling as those are). It's about the insights and ideas you bring to clients... if you can't provide great ideas, you might as well stay home."

Now, while this perspective applies to me and my work, it also applies to anyone who is in business to make a profit and make a difference. So, what's YOUR big idea? What problems are you solving? What solutions are you providing to your customers? How are you making them happy and coming back for more?

If you don't know... let me know

Monday, January 28, 2008

PR: In-House or Outsource?

In? Out? Geesh, when it comes to Public Relations and Media Management, most companies (especially start-ups) have to face either hiring full-time in-house personnel or outsourcing the function to a firm. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of either scenario:

1. The PROS of an in-house person/staff:
- Lower cost-- decent PR firm will run you $10K to $18K monthly
- You retain the knowledge and control of your industry secrets/advantages
- You own the press/analyst relationships more directly
- Your team is able to respond quicker in case of crisis management or breaking news

2. The PROS of a PR firm:
- Compounded network of their access to industry journalists/analysts
- Their client roster/peer as potential network for your company
- Valuable outside sounding board
- Additional source of new ideas

3. The CONS of an in-house person/staff:
- PR is usually just a sub-set of overall marketing responsibilities
- Less frequent correspondence with journalists than a PR firm will have may lead to missed coverage opportunities
- Being too close to subject matter may limit scope of new ideas

4. The CONS of a PR firm:
- Exhorbitant cost
- Typically most of work delivered by junior-level firm staffers
- Time spent keeping your PR firm updated
- They own the journalist/analyst relationships
- Possible conflicts of interest with their other clients
- Weekly/monthly status reports and other posturing and continuing "sales" activities

Whichever option you decide is best for your business, just make sure your PR professional keeps track of published articles, editorials, press announcements, TV appearances, all coverage your company garners each month. Your person should list these items attached to the monthly invoice along with the time spend making call to try and get speaking engagements and the community relations work performed so that you, as the business owner, can see how much time and relationship building goes into the whole PR and media process.

I figure when my clients see how all these activities add up, they can choose either to handle it themselves in-house (plus run their business which already keeps them overwhelmed), or let me do what I feel I do best.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Friday Funny

It's been a long, hard week for me, so here are my final thoughts this Friday...

Everyone get outside, enjoy your winter weather, and have a great weekend... with no complaints! ;-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Silent Symphony

Every once in a while I like to pop in and check out Mark Stevens' "Unconventional Thinking Blog." Today he sent out an email that has a very specific message about life, but I also think it applies to marketing and your company's brand message.

Mark says, "The Music Of The Silences... it is so much more powerful than the music of the orchestra. Of the exclamations. Of the boisterous proclamations. When nothing has to be said, and yet everything is as clear as can be, it is a masterpiece.This is the art of the subtle.

"Every great business person lets their accomplishments talk for themselves. Every great company delivers something exceptional and allows the silent referrals to build its base. People go to business school for years to learn how to make noise. To beat drums. To spend zillions on advertising. Caught up in the machine of conventional wisdom, they forget that yes, life imitates art, but business imitates life as well."

With those thoughts, I pose the question... look closely at your company, it's mission, it's Unique Value Proposition and selling point. Is your message distilled, refined, defined not only by what it says, but also by the whitespace... the void that's left... the echoing silence? Most-times it's not what you're saying; it's what you're not that speaking most loudly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Davos 2008-- Why You Should Care

Over the next 5 days, the tiny Swiss ski resort of Davos will host its annual invasion of the powerful, rich, and famous... filling the high altitude atmosphere with opinion, policy, and a little more hot air. The annual World Economic Forum.

The Forum typically champions a capitalistic and free-market world view where some 1,000 of the world's largest businesses pay $38,700 a piece for annual membership into this exclusive club. Not counting the extra $15,990 per person to attend the actual meetings in Davos that opened today.

Just what the hell are all these inflated egos discussing? The Meeting has opened with calls from the Co-Chairs to exercise "The Power of Collaborative Innovation" to meet the top challenges of economic instability, climate change and environmentalism, and equitable growth. Reporters and journalists from around the globe will record debates on subjects ranging from the state of Pakistan to cancer. But one topic, the state of the world's economy, will certainly garner the most talk.

So, how does this affect your business? As in all things in life, the "trickle-down theory" is why Davos should be important to you. CEO watching is a past-time of mine and I've realized that the discussions at Davos this year are the product launches in five.

I am currently working with a client who's entire business platform is based on leveraging technology for corporate information collaboration (i.e. no more paper). They are in front of the wave that addresses all 3 of the challenges listed above and I am very excited about their launch and subsequent growth (more info to come!!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Brand Plan

People only remember one thing about your brand, so say the most by speaking the least... the simplest message wins.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Money for Marketing... (or Money OR Marketing?)

As financial commentary continues to suggest an economic recession ahead (SOMETHING'S got to sell business newspapers, mags, and talking heads), most companies' first reactions are to cut costs... and they usually start with marketing, also viewed as the "fluff" department, right when they need to get their message out and stay in front of customers the most. If you don't continue to attract customers then downturn survival is impossible.

It isn't just about cutting costs... it's about spending wisely, so I'm outlining some ways small businesses can leverage the power of search engine and online marketing to weather the recession storm. Online marketing provides the most accountable way to acquire new customers. When times get tougher, you need to make sure every marketing dollar you spend counts and is providing return.

1. Organic listing (search engine results)-- getting your company into the web results of top search engines is vital for generating free traffic to your site.

2. Sponsored listing (search advertising)-- Search engine advertising involves promoting your business on the search engines in their sponsored listings area. This is the surest way to gain exposure to vital prospects in tough times. Not only is listing possible in a short time frame (your search engine ads can be live in hours), but the sponsored results are keyword specific providing rapid targeting opportunities.

3. Local search listing (bricks and mortar business listings)-- Offering businesses the opportunity to tap into the growing number of customers using search to find bricks and mortar retailers and service providers in their area.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taking Chances

Met with a new client yesterday (one who has never gone into business for himself before). As we were discussing all the concerns this gentleman had... leaving his secure job (that he hates), leaving the status of his title (that really means nothing to him), leaving 5 weeks of paid vacation (to which he always takes his laptop and Blackberry), it got me thinking about myself and all the changes that have come from taking the chance... taking the leap to officially be in business for myself.

1. I've Lost My Fear of Failure: With less at stake, just my own ego, I'm more open to taking chances and risking potential failure. No longer wedded to constant success, I relish the learning curve of a new experience, if not always the result.

2. I say Yes Instead of No: Thriving on your own delivers a knock-out punch to that portion of your brain that's always muttering, "You can't do that." Yes, actually, you can. A lot has been written about the courage to say no... the tremendous freedom in turning down unwanted requests and invitations or turning aside nosy queries. Let's take back the courage in saying yes.

3. I'm Less of a Control Freak: Okay, notice I say "less," not "not." I used to think that if I wanted something to happen, I had to micromanage every detail. Now, I understand that I can also surf the waves of life, working toward a goal rather than attacking it like Normandy Beach. It's amazing the serendipities and financial rewards that will just flow to you if you'll get out of their way.

4. I'm Nicer: My friends and family know that I am always open for coffee, a ride to the airport, a shoulder to lean on and cry on. I genuinely pay attention to the name tag on the checkout person at my Whole Foods, and I look for opportunities to say "good morning" to others.

5. I'm Smarter: No longer tied to one particular industry of business, my consulting takes me into the intricacies of wine fermentation, the complexities of IP telephony, the orchestra of running a successful restaurant, and the twists and turns of all kinds of businesses. I get to meet facinating people every week and it's amazing to feel my own creativity humming.

6. I'm More Fun: If we wisely write our plan as we launch into a career of our own, the new life will make us happier. We will become a delightful person reminiscent of who we were as a child. On Monday this week, Scott Ellis and I were working on his DZX Medical company together in our sweats and ball caps. Around 11:30am after having been hard at it for 4 good hours, I said, "Let's go for a walk."

Across the street from my condo is a private park nestled between three office buildings. It is beautiful... landscaped shrubbery, manicured grassy lawns, small pools with fountains, and tons of benches under large shady trees. To make this oasis complete, the park has installed a 8 foot by 8 foot concrete checkers board with large, 1 foot diameter round checkers.

As attorneys and bankers and finances players ventured down from their offices, ran quickly to the diner across the park, and hurried back to their desks all in 10 minutes flat, Scott and I played checkers for an hour.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Twelve Amateur Mistakes

I'm reading an absolutely phenomenal book right now, "Why Johnny Can't Brand" by Bill Schley and Carl Nichols, Jr. I bring you, distilled thought from these two fine gentlemen, The Twelve Amateur Mistakes:

1. Spraying and praying... saying nothing by saying everything.
2. Failing to choose... a unique value proposition out of misplaced fear.
3. Creating a better mousetrap... and thinking you've created desire.
4. Entertaining, joking, singing, and dancing... without a selling idea.
5. Knowing all the answers... but never testing.
6. Breathing your own fumes... forgetting no one cares how great you are, they care how great you'll make them.
7. Playing inside when the sun's out... closing your eyes to the competition.
8. Forgetting that marketing is about sales... not marketing.
9. Being original instead of effective... it's not art appreciation, it's sales appreciation.
10. Chopping down your trees before they grow... changing your message too often.
11. Failing to simplify... being hard to understand, therefore, difficult to buy.
12. Forgetting the mantra, "It's trust, trust, trust" in the mind of the customer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why Consistency is Critical

Consistency is the concrete, the superglue, the foundation of every brand that works. Consistency of message over time delivers the impact you need... over time. Consider the "Little Brother Poking Torture."

When your big brother pokes you lightly over and over in the exact same spot and won't stop. At first, it doesn't hurt. Then, it's annoying. But soon, it's excruciating and you've actually got a bruise. The key is the exact same spot. If he'd poked you lightly all over, it'd eventually be annoying but not effective.

Unfortunately, most companies, even the big ones who should know better, usually want to tell customers about all their features, all their potential service options, on and on, ad naseum. The more details you provide, the more vaguely you communicate. The more directions you give, the harder it is to be located. The higher the number, the lower the value. KNOW (specifically) who you are... Own it. Claim it. Put a stake in it, stay consistent with it, and watch what happens. The narrower you focus, the wider your message goes.

Along the same lines, a business partner of mine met with an associate of his yesterday, Paul Nichols... a former VC and all-around smart guy who's seen a lot of business plans and business owners. They were talking about entreprenuers and how they sometimes benefit from not knowing what (i.e. how much work) they are getting themselves into. Toward the end of that conversation, Paul made the following quote--
"It's frightening how much of our economy is dependent on people not knowing what they're doing."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Marketing Moves Mislead

So, I receive an email last Friday from (where I buy all my face soaps and creams) informing me that Monday, January 14th, will be the last day to take advantage of their $20.08 discount on all orders. This morning I gleefully go shopping and hit the payment cart area where I am to enter discount code "NEWYOU" only to be informed that I have not reached the minimum purchase requirement. HUH?!?!??

I go back and read every single word of the email promotion... not one letter about a minimum purchase amount. I now take precious time out of my morning and call Customer Service. The associated reads her copy of the email with me over the phone and doesn't find a thing about a minimum amount either. OH.... THERE it is. I'm supposed to go to the Home Page of the web site and click a "Details" link in Times New Roman 7pt. font embedded inside the huge purple graphic to know that I have to order a minimum $100 pre-tax / pre-shipping to qualify for the $20.08 off my order. Now, I'm pissed.

Note to all marketers, salespeople, and senior management of companies big and small: This move is misleading... It's LYING... but, most of all, it will make your loyal customers angry. And, they'll think twice about doing business with you again.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thoughts for the Day Friday

Actually... questions:
1. What do I need more of in my business?
2. What's not working?
3. What personal barriers are standing in my way?
4. What do I need to succeed?
5. What do I want to change?

Plan your work then work your plan.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two Tech Trends to Track

Technology alone hardly ever is the key to unlocking economic value: companies only create real wealth when they combine tech with new ways of doing business. With that said, I offer two trends to keep an eye on to shape your company in the coming years.

1. Using consumers as innovators: And, allowing your customers to cocreate with your business. As the Internet has evolved, it has become more of a widespread platform for interaction, communication, and activism. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organizations of all sizes. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit... new product innovation (design), constructive feedback to avoid wasted R&D funds (testing), and brand tweaking (marketing / viral marketing) are just a few ideas that will dramatically hit the bottom line, engender greater loyalty, and speed up development cycles.

2. Making businesses from information: The pools of data captured from the aforementioned trend are now raw material for new information-based business opportunities. Frequent contributors to "market imperfections" reveal relevant data about new market opportunities, potential acquisitions, pricing differences among suppliers, and other business situations. These imperfections allow astute middlemen with more and better information to extract premiums for aggregating and creating new companies around it. The Internet has brought greater transparency to markets such as airline tickets, hotel rooms, and stocks, but many other sectors are wide open for similar illumination.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"I'm a Slasher"

A topic that came up in quite a few holiday cocktail conversations-- the lack of desire for a stair-stepped "career path" in almost everyone my age. Used to be sensible young people learned to aspire for the high GPA, private (preferably Ivy League) college, then advanced degrees to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc. Now... you've "made it."

Not so anymore. Lifestyle, strategy, and innovation matter more than ever. Gen X (of which my friends and I are a part) and Gen Y have the tools to monetize their unique skills and passions to take advantage of a new long tail of jobs. Entrepreneurs, the Internet, and mobile computing empower the intellectual worker in new ways.

Our culture idolizes risk, reward, and the story of the common-man-making-it-big. Today, we have broader definitions of sucess, and especially among younger workers, professional status is now linked to ideas of flexibility, creativity, and uniqueness... work self and home self are now ONE self.

Hence, my new answer to the standard cocktail question, "So, what do you do?"
Me: "I'm a Slasher... entrepreneur slash consultant slash mentor slash CEO's GPS."
Slashing my way through a multi-faceted professional life with numerous industries of experience under my belt, this answer seems the most appropriate. And, increasingly, it's the right answer for many.

One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

Monday, January 7, 2008

Welcome 2008!

Now that everyone is back to work, how about some...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Basic Business Strategy Options

1. Grow fast... and ahead of most competitors.
2. Grow in line with the industry
3. Defend your existing status... assumes that you've got a strong starting position in the first place.
4. Catch up... might necessitate new leadership.
5. Turn around... mandates a radical new approach.
6. Hang in... go with the flow and don't expend much effort.
7. Harvest time... milk the opportunity with an eye on withdrawal.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Marketing vs. Sales

We all know that Marketing creates the pretty brochures and Sales uses the brochures to close a deal, but what about the gray areas... the brand representation, the product definitions, the RFP requirements?

Marketing's purpose is to generate the leads. Sales' purpose is to close the deals. However, it happens all the time... these guys butt heads. Picture it: the sales rep and the marketing manager go together to a visit a prospect and close the sale. The marketing manager watches in horror as the product/service/widget/whatever doesn't perform up to "brand specifications" rendering the entire Marketing department essentially LFC, Liars First Class. Now watch the horror to the nth degree that flashes across the sales guy's face when he hears marketing blurt out, "We'll give you another upgrade... this time for free."

The old line goes, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later." When a company understands the true essence of both sales and marketing, and applies them in the right blend, the question isn’t being paid now or later. It’s being paid now and later.

Simply stated, marketing takes the long-term view of customer relationships, paving the way for sales to occur in the short-term. One feeds the other. Companies get into trouble when their appetite for short-term sales neglects the key role of long-term marketing.

Putting sales and marketing together in the same group is the single biggest mistake... actually, it's mistake number 2. The Biggest Mistake is hiring a guy with the title "VP of Sales & Marketing" expecting her to actually do either one worth a crap. These two groups have different goals, and when a wheel falls off, sales always wins because squeaky-wheel problems win against the need for long-term results.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Productivity Product RAVE!

I know that productivity is always a topic high on everyone's New Year's Resolutions' lists, so here's my 2 cents.

As a Happy New Year present, I received MindJet's MindManager software, "Software for Visualizing and Using Information." I can't stop raving about this product and I know it's going to impact my business this year.

The website states, "inspires people and businesses to align individuals and teams, engage and excites employees, accelerate business processes and win new business faster," but I also see planning, brainstorming, and product development applications. It's only day 2 in the year and I've already positioned myself as "genius" in front of one of my clients with an in-dept SWOT analysis of their startup.