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 a 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-thought out 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.

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.

What 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.

Those of you who follow my blog and/or my monthly articles on LinkingRaleighNC  know that I am a big, big fan of social media.  All types – I text, instant message, FaceBook, Tweet, LinkIn, blog, comment on blogs AND yes I do a fair amount of it in the horizontal position.  I am one of those that ‘checks in’ if I wake up in the middle of the night – often times finding like-minded insomniacs to IM with on Yahoo or chat with on FaceBook.  My Android gets picked up before even my glasses (a testament to being in my 40s) upon waking to see what happened during the night.

 So, one would think that this week’s AdAge article stating that 10% of the under 25 category will respond to a text during sex wouldn’t phase me.

 Well, I guess I found my line….or at least one of them.  And, it’s not dotted….it’s thick, bold and drawn out in Sharpie-black ink.

 This got me thinking.  When/where else do I believe social media is not welcome? 

 What follows are my pet peeves – an arbitrary list of additional situations or scenarios where I believe a big NO SOCIAL MEDIA sign needs to be posted.

  1. Providing customer service.  This is a big one for me.  Not too long ago I was trying to share my displeasure about a service at my gym – O2 Fitness and the ‘service provider’ continued texting.  I felt unheard, not cared for and angry. 
  2. Operating heavy machinery.  This warning is not just for over the counter medications.  It never fails, it’s the middle of the day and I am driving behind someone who appears drunk – weaving ever so slightly, running over the little white bumps that separate the lanes.  I speed up around to pass them and glance over to discover that they are definitely intoxicated – mesmerized by the little keyboard on their smart phone.
  3. At the dinner table.  So, is this one way too obvious?  If out at a restaurant with someone, you wouldn’t consider staring and gawking at everyone that walks by, right?  Well, then what makes it seem ok to engage in a conversation via text or to push out Twitter updates in-between mouthfuls?
  4. Post two martinis.  Since social media platforms and cell phones don’t come with breathalyzers (a feature that I think should be added to cameras as well) it is probably in our own best interest to stay away from them if inebriated.  In my opinion, no good can come from those posts and once out there they are very hard to take back.
  5. Angry.  It’s bad enough if we say something in anger to someone but when we take the time to have it permanently captured digitally and then give it viral wings, one has to question IQ.  Once you hit ‘send’ or ‘share’ you are committed – for better or worse.  Bite your lip, throw a plate, punch a wall….all ways to express yourself and preserve your reputation – albeit there may be some blood or broken bones involved.

I am sure there are many other situations where participating in social media is not in our best interest or rude to others.  I would love your thoughts and comments.  I invite you to help me build on the list.  If it is robust enough, I’ll re-post the summary.  Just so that I’m clear, I write MarketingSmack alone, sober and not while driving.

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.”

 

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.  http://www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com

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.

Fast 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.

I am sure by now most of us have seen the new Nike commercial with Tiger Woods – 30 seconds of Tiger looking somewhat contrite into the camera while his deceased father’s words pipe down from somewhere – heaven? 

Earl’s voice reassuringly speaks to his son; “I want to find out what your thinking was….. I want to find out what your feelings are and did you learn anything”

I don’t know about everyone else but I keep waiting for Tiger to respond – “Yeah, I learned it sucks to get caught!” 

Aside from being tacky, I don’t believe the message – it’s not authentic.  Is this what big bucks with Wieden + Kennedy buys you?  Are they really trying to re-brand Tiger as someone who is sorry for being a philanderer and that somehow has “learned his lesson” and won’t do it again?  Please, do we look that stupid?

I have written about Tiger before – back in December when he posted his “I want privacy” plea on his website.  My contention then was that he would need to re-brand but that he didn’t get to do it in private.  I still believe Tiger needs re-branding.  But in my humble opinion he needs a NEW brand – I don’t want to be asked to believe that a double-digit mistress count was a tiny life hiccup and that he is restored to his family-man golf-deity status.

So, I can trash the new Nike creative ‘til the cows come home but what good is that if I don’t offer up a solution?  What brand would we believe?  I hearken back to a much more believable Nike re-branding of Charles Barkley, “I am not a role model”.  In thirty odd seconds Charles reminds us that he is paid to ‘wreak havoc’ on the basketball court NOT to raise our children.  I respect that brand– it’s authentic, sustainable and powerful.  Nicely done, W+K. 

And, while Nike hasn’t come knocking on my door for creative in the Tiger Woods’ re-branding mission, I will kindly offer up my idea, gratis: Tiger = golf and Nike sells golf balls, right?  So, why not take a fun ‘in your face, Tiger accepts who he is and many wish they could have the talent, fame, money and let’s face it, women he had’ approach.

I suggest to you and Nike, the following:

Maybe this is EXACTLY what keeps Nike from calling, who knows?  At least I get to share my absurd, ballsy thoughts in my MarketingSmack.  More Smack can be found on www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Note: This ad creation is a Jack Perez only special – neither approval nor endorsement was received from either Tiger Woods or Nike.  

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

March 24, 2010

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 Diane 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

March 18, 2010

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.

We 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

March 10, 2010

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 http://www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at http://www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The True Weight of Platinum

February 24, 2010

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…

February 17, 2010

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.

The Tao of Bar Camp

February 9, 2010

I, along with a couple hundred others, gave up my Saturday to experience what is known as a Bar Camp or an ‘unconference’ – my first ever.  At first glance it sounds like a recipe for chaos – no key note speakers and no pre-determined workshops or ‘tracks’ as they like to call them, in the NOT ‘unconference’ world.  I went in a bit skeptical, the control freak I am, wondering ‘who was going to be running the show?’

We ran the show AND it worked beautifully.

I have to admit when Nathan Gilliatt  announced that everyone in the room would introduce themselves my snarky barometer went up a notch.  It was going to take all day – but, you know, everyone played by the rules and I found it helpful and informative to know who in particular I really needed to meet.  Once again, the NOT ‘unconference’ shuns this concept – I wonder how many interesting people I have missed out on over the years?

The introductions flowed into the topic suggestions which flowed into room and time assignments effortlessly and surprisingly quickly.  Within a couple of hours, which were spent drinking CapStrat’s coffee and networking, we all were seated in our respective sessions of interest – sharing ideas, learning from one another, making great contacts and enriching our lives. 

The guiding topic was “Analytics” and the range of member-driven presentations and offerings ran the gamut from Quantivo’s Jason Rushin’s 101 Behavior Analytics primer to a very mathematically challenging Twitter session to Adam Covati’s hour-plus on Social Media. 

I’d be hard pressed to attend a NOT ‘unconference’  again after this experience. Social media is to company brochures what bar camps are to NOT ‘unconferences’ – the ability to engage in free-flow conversations spurred from user-driven content and to learn from others  – be they like-minded or not, was incredibly empowering.  While I did not contribute a topic, I had first-time jitters – I thank all of those that ‘got it’ and offered up the well spring.

The way seemed effortless and by the end of the day’s path I was tired but somehow smarter.

The path to the MarketingSmack is still: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Last week I attended my first Triangle Social Media Club meeting hosted by Zach Ward from DSI Comedy.  I had been trying to meet one of the founders of the group, Wayne Sutton, for quite some time without much success and luckily saw his tweet regarding the upcoming opportunity.  The premise of the meeting was to showcase how analogous improvisation is to the art of social media.

 Not that any of you would know this, but I spent a great deal of time on ‘the stage’ in a previous life so this teaser was irresistible.

We gathered, about 25 of us, in the dark, musty theatre.  After the ritual milling around networking, Zach spoke to the group; first, showcasing how he has implemented and utilized a successful social media strategy to brand and promote himself and his theatre then secondly, to explain a core tenet of improvisation – Yes, And

Apparently, to be a successful (aka, funny) improviser, you need to master the skill of taking someone’s statement, AGREEING with it enthusiastically, and then BUILDING on it with a statement of your own.

Let me show you:

Jack: “My son loves dinosaurs”
Matt: “YES, your son does love dinosaurs AND so do I”
Jack: “YES, you do love dinosaurs AND I can never remember the names of them”
Matt: “YES, you can NEVER remember the names of dinosaurs AND neither, can I”….

I think we get the picture.

It’s this process of providing unconditional support to someone’s thought or idea and then augmenting it in a – and this is the tricky part – positive way.  This doesn’t work if you use the words “Yes, And…” but fill the gaps with statements that are typically preceded with “No, But.”  It also falls flat on its face if it isn’t authentic – which for some, might be the really tricky part.

The key here is to resist pushing your own agenda.  Let me say this again; resist pushing your own agenda. 

The rewards of “Yes, And…” seem obvious – outside of side-splitting laughter, you engender good will and establish a relationship that screams: “YES, let’s create a win/win scenario AND I’m ok helping you win first.”

Is it just me or does this seem like a viable life platform? 

YES, Zach had a lot of insightful words for us that night AND I walked out richer for the experience -a worthy blog topic, a fresh illustration to share with clients, renewed zest for my social media activities, and an inspiration to return to the stage. 

Dodging the ripe fruit and hook for yet another week – the MarketingSmack’s home theater is still at: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Recently Forbes published an article listing the companies that will continue shutting down operations in 2010.  The list has some well known brands: Blockbuster, Starbucks, Walden Books, Ritz Camera and Zales to name a few.  And, while all of these companies share in their financial crisis – only some will see the light of day again as disposable incomes peek out of the darkness of the recession.

People will buy coffee again.  Men will purchase jewelry again for their wives, girlfriends and mothers. 

Other industries have faced their ‘music’ so to speak as Internet enhancing technology proliferates.  Fundamental changes have been occurring for some time – no surprises.  The music industry with plummeting CD sales and rising piracy issues had to get clever and quick to save itself – and is still struggling with the paradigm shift.  And, who would ever think of buying a car without being armed with manufacturing costs, dealer mark-up data and blue book value of that trade-in? 

The playing field has changed – yet, again. What won’t we do anymore? 

We won’t drive to a physical location and browse the aisles in search of the latest release only to find it ‘taken’.  Not when we can download, immediately, at no extra cost, from the likes of NetFlix.

We won’t accept anything less than ‘killer-category’ inventory and bargain pricing for our written word – physical or E.  And, if we’re going to visit a bookstore it has more to do with the social opportunities – complete with coffee and live music.

We won’t print out hundreds and hundreds of 4×5’s and spend countless hours placing them in albums that take up valuable space and never get looked at.  Not when endless slide shows can play dust-free with minimal foot print.

So while Forbes’ list places the majority of the blame on the economic climate culprit – and, there’s no question that it is a contributing factor – the reality is that time has passed by the likes of the Blockbusters, Walden Books and Ritz Cameras of the world.  We no more need them than we need a public phone booth (although this has proven tricky for Superman) or a cigarette lighter at a concert. 

And while we’re no longer allowed those annoying phone busy signals to let the world know we’re unavailable, I still hope you have a little time to spend on the MarketingSmack: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Go Ask Lisa.

January 19, 2010

While I want to say I’m above it all, not enticed by the opportunities so abundantly provided to us by entertainers and politicians, I am not.  Today’s blog was inspired from a phone call I had last week with a dear childhood friend while on my way to a networking event.  She was actually delivering a message from her mother “You need to blog about your Lisa Druck story.” 

Who is Lisa Druck and why is she someone I should blog about?

John Edward’s dalliance, Rielle Hunter or Lisa as we fellow elementary school classmates called her, was in my fourth grade class at Pine Crest Preparatory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  She was super cool, wore make-up and didn’t succumb to the traditional white blouse under the forest green jumper uniform, so we all knew she wore a bra because we could sneak peak it from the side.  I coveted her brand – I wanted to be her.

I remember distinctly that for our big fourth grade book report assignment, Lisa read and discussed with poise and a sophisticated flair “Go Ask Alice” - a far cry from my “Harriet the Spy”. Her report clearly showcased a ‘naughty’ book that fascinated me, so I requested that my mom find, check-out and bring me a copy of it from the high school library, since any efforts to locate it in my lower school library were futile.

My mom, to whom English is a second language, dutifully sought out the book and upon check-out was questioned by her counterpart librarian as to who was going to read the book.  Needless to say, I never got my pudgy, fourth-grader paws on it.  It didn’t stop there.

“You MAY NOT be friends with Lisa Druck” – even in a heavy Spanish-laden accent, the message was crystal clear.

Can a nine year old develop a personal brand or did circumstances create it for her?  Did Lisa turn Rielle just continue to show up in the way that aligned with how she was perceived?

Everyone and every company has a brand; in some cases – and I bet it happens more often than not – that brand isn’t strategically constructed and managed.  The problem is that brands are enduring; even the bad ones.  Take Microsoft for instance; they’re well known for being stodgy and not innovative.  I doubt they like that.  I know they try hard to get us to believe something else.  Is that possible?  Can you re-invent a brand? 

With enough money, talent and perseverance you can.  Look at Target’s rise from K-Mart-type discount store status in the late 90’s and Chrysler’s recent logo re-fresh and “My Name is Ram” campaign to re-introduce the brand to truck lovers. But, it takes money and diligence.

And, while for some name changes – either company or personal – are attempted often in the hopes of brand resurrection, all bets are off if you don’t strategically develop and consistently maintain it.

MarketingSmack by any other name is still Jack’s blog: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Fish in a Barrel

January 12, 2010

I think it’s safe to say that in today’s environment almost everyone is frantically shucking oysters in search of that pearl – me included.  In that vein I attended the Triangle Business Advisors’ Round Table this past Friday.  I took note of this event on LinkedIn via one of my connections – an individual who happens to also be a business owner.  There were several professionals attending that I did not know and the topic – “Defining Your Target Market” interested me. In the world of ‘too many ways to spend your time’ I figured this one gave me extra bang for the buck – fresh meat and the potential to learn something, maybe.  Oh, and it was buck-less.

Trifecta!

The experience was well worth the investment.  While I didn’t necessarily gain academically from the discussion on target market, I did experience a brilliant implementation of pond stocking.  The discussion took place in the offices of one of the attendees – who rented or donated the crowded conference room – not sure which. 

When Bill Davis declared that his target market was limited to a five mile radius of his office space it was all I could do not to guffaw loudly and retort – “Don’t you mean a five foot radius?”  Whether we drove 5 or 50 miles that morning to attend the round table didn’t matter.  We were sitting on his home turf, literally feet away from his solution to our pain. 

Open Season.

Now the question is does he have the right bait? 

Bill has his version of the multi-billion dollar Subway $5 Foot-long campaign and it resonates with the hungry, self-selected, crowd.  Bill, and I know only after a five minute conversation with him that it was no accident, cleverly filled his conference room with HIS TARGET MARKET – individual consultants or owners of small business ALL looking to survive in the short-term and thrive…..eventually. 

I have been reminded recently by my readers that we who put a stake in the ground when we brand ourselves are not brave – but and I paraphrase ‘stupid’.  We just don’t know better – we don’t know or won’t admit that less than 20% of us will see the five year mark.  Here we were – a room full of ‘the stupids’ ready to hear Bill’s promise of 100 Days to Abundance(For $1 Day’)

While you can’t share it with a Coke and conversation over lunch it’s a pretty juicy worm ‘more product for less dollar’ value proposition.  One that is clearly ‘catching on’ because there were several of his clients present at the round table.  Not to be too cynical – but they would serve him better by staying out of the water – or he will need to dig out a bigger pond. 

Hook your latest MarketingSmack snack on: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Caveat Emptor: I have not participated in Bill’s program and cannot attest to the content, quality or results.

The Coconut Telegraph

January 5, 2010

“Put it on the coconut telegraph
All the celebration and the stress
Baby put it on the coconut telegraph
In twenty-five words or less”- Jimmy Buffet

In today’s world we get a minimum of 140 characters which on average is about 23 words or less.  And, maybe if there was only one conduit we’d be alright but the reality is that we are lousy with vehicles by which to celebrate and to stress. 

Up until recently, my MarketingSmack has been living a non-celebrated existence – every now and again germinating a comment.   I have been diligently writing the Smack for a year now – searching for ways to entertain, provoke thought, provide insight and promote ME.  Somewhere in the last month or so I hit a chord with my readers and the conversation took on a life of its own.  My readership doubled and comments where flying all over the place. 

And, I do mean ALL OVER THE PLACE….LinkedIn Groups, FaceBook, MarketingSmack, Twitter, my inbox…….    

Fantastic, right? 

With this new, what I hope to be true, ‘tipping point’ comes a whole new set of problems. 

While I enjoyed being notified every time a comment was made through the various vehicles that were hosting the discussion, some of my readers sent me ‘venting’ frustrated emails or voicemails because they could NOT enjoy the heated debate.  They read there was one going on – but the MarketingSmack fell short in meeting their expectations. 

The comments were happening but not ending up on my MarketingSmack site.  I didn’t see this coming.  Now I find myself wondering just how unforgivable is my social media faux pas.

On the one hand, it’s remarkable to actually snag a tiny piece of mindshare, generate a buzz – to get people talking about you/your ideas, or your products/services.  But, how critical is it that the conversations take place or end up in the same place?  And, if it is – how do you make that happen? 

Interestingly enough the adage seek and ye shall find had me stumble across Andrew Girdwood’s blog today Free your blog comments from SEO and improve your SEO”   He details nicely three competing hosted web services; ECHO, Disqus and Intense Debate.  I think Andrew does a great job of explaining the three – pros and cons.  I now find myself in the throes of choosing my preferred version of the Coconut Telegraph – where all those conversations – even the ones that aren’t so flattering – can find refuge.

MarketingSmack can be found on: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Sticks and Stones…….

December 28, 2009

Two weeks ago either bravery or some unidentified ingredient in my eggnog let me throw caution to the wind and I actually took a definitive ‘personal’ stance in my weekly MarketingSmack blog.  I don’t typically write about public figures nor do I usually disclose such personal criticism of others. Given I believe the majority of my readers are close friends that share similar beliefs, I thought it safe – a couple of more sips of that eggnog and I posted these thoughts on a few discussion groups in LinkedIn.

Hornets’ nest.

The first email notification of: “New comment on “Can You Camouflage a Tiger? – I am insulted that Tiger thinks it is ok to ask for privacy….” brought an instant sense of exhilaration.  I had written something worthy of discussion – something timely and relevant.  I clicked on ‘go to full discussion’ believing I would see adulation, sycophancy – my eyes devouring the wisdom and insight from fellow LinkedIn Group members – the likes of: LinkingRaleighNC, RTPconnect and Triangle Networking Group.

Ouch.

Dozens of people began to add comments; at first directed at me – most of them not in agreement, to put it mildly and then; at each other.  What I found interesting here is that I KNOW that it is critical to the world of branding – both company/product/service and individual – to take a stance; have an opinion; define clearly who you are and who you are not and confidently broadcast it to your audience with polite relentlessness.  I was somewhat surprised when upon reading the first “I don’t agree with Jack” comment – my initial reaction was defensive somewhat akin to the way a Junior high school student feels when discovering he’s the one with bad breath via a Slam Book.

On the one hand – people were talking about me….on the other hand – people weren’t seeing it my way…… What I learned from this experience is that there is a key component to the branding process that I have been leaving out. 

Bravery.

I spend a great deal of time helping companies and individuals brand themselves.  Countless hours spent on key executive interviews, customer focus groups, competitor reviews, market research etc… Helping them to create a unique position and message that states who and what they are – but in that same instant it states who and what they are NOT.  You have to be brave to take a stance – a stance that you know will resonate with some (and you hope that the some is large enough for you to be successful) but in this day of transparency you’ll hear from those that DON’T too.

Suffice it to say that as the conversations over my Tiger Woods’ blog continued over the last two weeks I watched the score board fluctuate ala basketball style….Jack 0  Nay Sayers 2……. Jack 4 Nay Sayers 2….. And so on and so on.  Not sure how the final tally looked and what I realize is that it doesn’t matter – I won.  I took a position, made it public, generated a healthy debate and made my personal/professional brand that much clearer.

The brave world of MarketingSmack can be found on: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Can You Camouflage a Tiger?

December 14, 2009

Tiger Woods requests privacy, twice to be exact, in his public ‘apology’ posted on his website on Friday.  Do you get to do that when you’ve spent a good portion of your life vying for public attention?  Having built one of the most, if not the most, visible brands in the world of sports – definitely the world of golf – Tiger Woods has broken his ‘brand promise’ to us and now wants ‘privacy’.

Did Tylenol request ‘privacy’ in 1982 when their household trusted pain reliever killed seven people in Chicago?  

Did Magic ask for us to ‘look the other’ way in 1991 when he admitted to having the HIV virus?

History is very clear as to how each of those entities handled their breach of their brand promise to the world.  What is Tiger going to do?  At the end of the day, the issue isn’t whether or not he was ‘unfaithful’ – we are so used to infidelity it doesn’t really shock us any longer – much less surprise.  What we aren’t ok with is being actively lied to, manipulated or made to feel foolish. 

Tiger Woods and those in his employment have spent countless days and dollars to create an image. Back in 2003, Steinberg, Wood’s agent, told a Wharton audience that representing a star in an individual sport is much like managing a consumer brand. “Coca-Cola, Kodak, Nike – those are three of the largest international brands. Tiger Woods is on a par with them. You can’t walk down a street in Kuala Lumpur or New Zealand and say, ‘Tiger Woods,’ and not get a response.

If that’s so – you can’t have it both ways.

Earlier this year there was fear that Wood’s knee injury would negatively impact the recall factor for his brand empire: Nike, General Motors, American Express, Accenture et al. – laughable today in light of the parade of mistresses.  There is brand fallout.  Late night TV is notorious for wreaking havoc on the weak – exhibited public frailty no matter how insignificant is fodder for the one-liners.  BrandWeek discloses that; “On average, about 6% of viewers recalling a brand mention in a late night show report a negative opinion. In the case of Tiger Woods’ sponsors, the negative shift was 11%.”

I am insulted that Tiger thinks it is ok to ask for privacy.  He doesn’t get to – in my opinion.  Those bright stripes and glossy coat are smeared with …., well this is a g-rated blog, the only way to regain any of that luster is to re-build his personal brand with integrity – not just for his wife and children – but for the millions he betrayed. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue my quest for flamboyant visibility of the MarketingSmack.  Read it at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Seller Beware

December 9, 2009

This past Sunday I participated in a “Go See” Cub Scout requirement with my son and god son.  The event was the local university’s women’s basketball game – the idea being that watching/learning/understanding an ‘organized’ sport is useful or has merit – somehow. 

As we sat there amidst all the ‘team-spirit’ pre-game hype, I consoled myself and accepted the fact that I was stuck there for the duration.  Next to me, two seven year olds played relentlessly with their arm chair and begged for popcorn.  It was going to be a long two hours.The national anthem sung, popcorn in hand, the game clock set to that ‘big lie’ 20 minutes, and we were off.  I am not sure we made it to 19 minutes on that clock when the first; “Can we go?” hit me from the right. 

Fighting my own personal desire to stand-up and run out of the building; I began a feeble attempt to sell a ‘brand’ I didn’t believe in.  You can just imagine how well that worked for me and for my trapped customers who could smell my lack of sincerity and knowledge, for that matter.  We ended up playing ‘watch the game clock and see it go to zero’ – with loud protests every time it stopped and a non-stop barrage of questions as to why and when it would start again. We made it through the first half.

What is important here?   

Selling is a process by which we transfer beliefs – getting others to believe the way you do about the product or service.  (While I failed to ‘sell-in’ the basketball game; I sure succeeded in this transfer.)  How well we transfer those beliefs boils down to how well we do the following two things:

A confident approach is a critical key to success. How many of us check out online reviews of products or services to see just ‘how confident’ the raves are before we commit to being a consumer?

Knowledge is useful too.  Maybe if I had known more about the game I could have captured more of their mindshare – away from the moving arm rest and popcorn.  No such luck.

And beware, when you try to sell something you don’t believe in, you risk your reputation.  Afterwards, I had to confess to my son that I too found the game boring for fear that I would lose credibility with him and my ability to convince him to “buy” future products from me.

Confidently, I encourage you to read my MarketingSmack.  It can be found at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

A few weeks ago NPR’s Talk of the Nation ran a show highlighting that those who survive rounds of layoffs at companies suffer more long-term anxiety and depression and fare worse from a career advancement perspective if finally laid-off late in the game. Really? Going to work every day, collecting a pay check and keeping the creditors at bay is WORSE than unemployment? 

The theory has merit.  

I poked around a little and discovered back in March, Time ran an article espousing the same theory – that staying in an environment of uncertainty for long periods of time is what really causes us to downward spiral. 

Of course, not all of us. 

Somehow entrepreneurs (whack-jobs) and women (be careful) tend to fare better.  Each somehow handles the additional levels of uncertainty in a more graceful manner.  Apparently, women are just grateful to be employed – secure or not.  Sad statement, isn’t it?

So, whether you are one of the currently un- or under-employed or waiting around nervously wondering if ‘You’re Next,’ there is another theory that aligns with one of my life mantras: “It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do about what happens to you that matters.” 

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discusses the opposing case studies of winning the lottery and becoming paralyzed.  “It’s better to win the lottery than to break your neck, but not by as much as you’d think” he states in his book The Happiness Hypothesis.  Turns out long-term both sets of people show that whether or not they were millionaires or paraplegics they eventually regressed to their baseline of happiness – once the period of change has ended.

What in the world could I be talking about? 

In the midst of all of this economic turmoil – what is it that we need to glean and be ok with? If you’re one of the luck/unlucky – you pick – to be still employed; relax, be grateful, stop with the guilt and keep it up.  If you’re the other kind……well, the advice isn’t any different, is it?

I am still hoping to cope with the tumultuous crazy changes that come with lottery winning versus the other not-so-pleasant option; but I get that at the end of it all lies – choice. 

Choose some MarketingSmack.  It can be found at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

NOTE ABOUT NPR STORY: I wanted to link to this story for my readers, but for the life of me can’t find it.  Maybe I imagined the story….but I’m using it anyway.

A Friend of Mine……

November 19, 2009

I, along with 1199 others, attended Internet Summit 09 in Raleigh two weeks ago.  I spent an entire day roaming dimly-lit, cold rooms filled with information-hungry (and for some of us just plain hungry) audience members listening to panel after panel discussion on relevant, hip, state-of-the-moment current events.  

I have been writing MarketingSmack now for almost a year and can count on a couple hundred reads each time around.  Secretly, and I guess now not so secretly, I have been wondering how to reach a larger audience.  Towards the end of a session on blogging, I raised the question.  Why not?  Here was a sofa full of the likes of Andy Beal and Rick Klau

“If someone had a blog and wanted to generate a larger readership, what would you recommend?” I asked from the front table.  Immediately someone retorted “Who is this blogger—you?”  “Ahhh, a friend” was my not-so-quick-witted reply.  Well, they were very generous to my ‘friend’ with advice –

1. blog MUCH more frequently

2. the audience might just be the right size

3. become more involved and participatory in fellow blogger’s worlds.

So, here it is a couple of weeks later and I can’t seem to muster the nerve to bombard my audience with more than a weekly blog.  I know I’m witty and clever but geez what could I possibly have to impart that requires blogging MULTIPLE times – dare I say someone suggested 10 to 20 times per week?  Is it a black and white situation?  If you don’t blog that prolifically you won’t gain a significant audience? 

Then there’s the idea that my audience size is Goldilocks ‘just right’.  Again, I am confused.  Don’t I want my brand in front of as many as possible?  Yes, I do understand that it needs to be the right people but there is something to be said about critical mass and finding atypical, out of the ordinary applications for your product or services.

And, finally the concept of gaining exposure by participating in the world of other’s online adventure.  In a short five minutes I became a believer of this one.  Reading Marketing Pilgrim, I stumbled upon an excerpt of an interesting paper on “US Interactive Marketing Forecast by Industry, 2009-2014″ by Forrester and retweeted it – within five minutes (and I am not exaggerating) I received an email from Forrester letting me know they were ‘Following Me’. 

Thanks Guys.

So, here I sit mulling over the numerous strands of advice and wonder what has legs – what is relevant beyond the pushing of Smack?  Out of the three, I think genuine interest in what other’s are espousing and lending a hand in spreading their message resonates – in a ‘pay it forward’ type way.

While it never hurts to have expert advice, what really matters is what you all think.  Let me have it – never too late.  MarketingSmack can be found at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Loin Cloth Found Inside a Bun

November 11, 2009

The day after my ‘The Emperor’s Naked’ blog I was having breakfast with Paul Domanico from Innovalyst and his first words to me were:  “Blues may come and go – it’s what you’re going to do about it – that’s what I want to know.”  So, I’ve thought about that – I also found myself Googling those words and combinations of those words to see what song he ‘borrowed’ that from. The closest I got was Gregg Allman’s ‘Come and Go Blues’.  Apparently, it’s an original.

Paul wasn’t the only chimer-in-er.  Several people sent back emails or made comments on my post.  From what I can tell, and mind you I am not vouching for its statistical significance, there are many out there who are shivering from exposure.

So, to answer Paul’s question, “What are you going to do about it?”  If we all agree there is a problem and that the current state of affairs is not working – then how do we do it differently?  There’s the personal aspect of the equation – figuring out what we can live without and doing so.  While that may impact the ‘demand’ part, I doubt enough changes can be made to balance the equation.  That ‘supply’ side still needs attention. 

Maybe it’s time to address strategy.  Is your focus too wide or too narrow?  Is there an audience or use for your product or service that you haven’t explored?  Do you need to change your tactics in the short-term? 

I just read a Business Week article ‘The Accidental Hero’ about an obscure Miami Subway franchisee that in response to scarily decreased weekend traffic came up with a $5 Footlong offer.  Stuart Frankel relentlessly pushed his idea to Subway’s corporate leadership, finally got approval, and well, the fact that it became a nationwide, profitable campaign says it all.  It’s not rocket science but the somewhat obvious “more-product-less-price” concept had generated $3.8 billion by the end of August 2009.  You can get crazy and make some fancy pants and shirt to go with your loin cloth for that kinda money.

I would love to hear from you.  Have you been brainstorming your version of the $5 Footlong?  Let me know – but beware it may end up in some MarketingSmack.

Still a little chilly from the nakedness?  Well at least you can fill your tummy with an inexpensive healthy sandwich while you consume MarketingSmack.  Get it at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The Emperor is Naked

November 3, 2009

So, my son is at the age now where the barrage of more difficult, nuance-filled, questions is popping up.  Curiosity of the subtle is beginning to tax my creative capacity to deliver explanations.  It’s innocent enough, a fairy tale – one of Andersen’s most popular about an emperor who unwittingly hires two swindlers to create a new suit of clothes for him.  And, while my son is still too young to truly ‘get’ the full power of the metaphor, he is starting to question and wonder why no one was brave enough to save the duped, exposed emperor.

The recession is over, according to the experts – (i.e. economists).  In a recent Newsweek article, the New York University economist Nouriel Roubini predicts the recovery will feel like a recession at about 1 percent growth over the next few years.  The real sting – where most of us our ‘taking it’ – the unemployment rate, now at 9.8%, continues to rise.  The supposed stimulus period has had little effect on actual job creation and I think that the grand ‘good-news-only’ marketing claims of over one million jobs created or saved are actually going to tick people off.  While clearly high on the Disruptive ConversationTM scale of impact not quite meeting the evidence-based marketing criteria, if you ask me. 

As the Market Builder for Summit, I spend a great deal of time networking and making connections.  I am not exaggerating when I say that a –what I deem to be significant percentage of my network – has at some point in time in the last year to year and a half sent me an email requesting my assistance in their new job search.  Sad to report I have had a couple of those people send out more than one of those types of emails over the course of that same time period. 

Are we, as a collective unconscious, allowing the emperor to run around indecently?  I have orchestrated several networking lunches.  These fabulous opportunities to sit across the table from five other professionals over lunch and in an informal, more intimate setting, get to know one another.  Everyone is looking for the same thing—the addition of a client, a new job, a contracting opportunity—but at the same time smiling optimistically and not acknowledging the cold breeze that pierces through the magical threadless suit.

What are your thoughts? What are you looking for?

Don’t ignore the big elephant in the room pushing that MarketingSmack at you.  Get it at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at  www.summitstrategypartners.com.

By Hook or by Crook

October 21, 2009

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at  www.summitstrategypartners.com.

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

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Secret Ingredient

September 23, 2009

For those of you who are expecting my normal, analogy-driven, story-format blog; my apologies.  This week I feel it imperative to do some promoting:  Actual PR for an individual and organization that, in my humble opinion, is doing it right and poised to skyrocket.

I have been telling people for years that I am unfit to work for Corporate America. That no one would have me. The hierarchal, management-by-consensus-nothing-ever-gets-done, spend-too-much-time-in-meetings malaise is unbearable. 

It is that primary reason that 11 years ago, I started a boutique, nimble, FLAT, best-in-breed organization that is all about the WORK.  The model, back 11 years ago, was somewhat original—establish relationships with experts in each key area of marketing and PR and assemble a just-in-time “A-Team” for your client as needed.  However, the tipping point eluded me.

Enter Paul Domanico.

Paul is ex-GSK.  I say that as if he is ex-Mafia, or ex-CIA (is there a difference?).  Corporate America did not blunt Paul or his partners at Innovalyst. Today, their genius is available on the open market.

Paul is a managing partner of Innovalyst.  He and four other life science super stars have started an organization that, akin to Summit Strategy Partners, utilizes the principle of the just-in-time “A-Team”.  Last week at the Innovalyst Forum (if you work in life science, you must attend), the brilliance of all of this became very apparent. 

The Innovalyst team has identified that secret ingredient—a way to create a post-modern/virtual business that is ALL about the WORK and SCALABLE.  With the help of some kicking infrastructure provided by InfoStrength, Paul and his team have created a set of tools by which to identify, maintain and promote this wealth of talent they have cleverly named ICAN (Intellectual Capital Advisory Network). 

Innovalyst is a perfect match for Summit.  Yes, they are a client, but more importantly, a partner. A perfect synergistic vehicle by which to augment the ICAN with stellar marketing and PR talent. 

The market is ready now – and more than that, it demands it.  And, while there is still some great talent churning away in management, from my viewpoint the rock stars are making it happen in a new way.

Rock star material?  Interested in joining the band?  Drop me a line.  In the meantime, you can rock out with some MarketingSmack at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Virgin Experience

September 9, 2009

This past weekend a very persuasive friend of mine convinced me to participate in my FIRST triathlon- the ‘Goofus Triathlon Challenge’.

A swim across a pond with a creatively named floatie – which I named Virgin Experience; a three mile trail run; an eight mile bike ride which includes a mandatory stop at a local ice cream institution where you must eat a full-cream ice cream cone while rocking in a chair on their porch; the ride back; and another one mile run which culminates in a jump into the pond.

Sounds easy enough.

Up until the morning of the ‘race’ I had not been on a bike in 16 years, since I rode my bicycle Dagny to work at HP in Roseville, CA.  I know, I know the old adage – and thank goodness it is true.  But, times have changed in bike-land.  As I stood on my friend’s cul-de-sac getting the 30 second gear lesson, all I could hear were the voices in my own anxiety-ridden head.  How was I going to get on and off the bike?  How was I going to NOT get hit by a car?  How was I going to NOT get lost?

I completed it, despite the many, ride-on-the-brakes-I’m-going-too-fast-and-going-to-die moments.  Not to mention the times where the gears would shift willy-nilly and my feet would fly off the pedals. The universe’s comic relief. Needless to say I was last.  But, I completed it.

Isn’t that the point sometimes?

How many times have we been in a situation where we’re uncertain?  Where we have to ‘perform’ but are unsure of how it will all come together?  Sure, we can beta test, perform clinical trials, train and rehearse. But undoubtedly there comes a moment when an opportunity presents itself and we don’t have time for preparation and a ‘go/no-go’ decision has to be made.  Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor—not in play, not in work.

How do you make your decision to pull the trigger?  How do you weigh the risks and rewards?  I would love to hear your stories, and if it is OK, share them with others. Think of it as an opportunity.

Receiving MarketingSmack is no virgin experience, but who knows? Maybe reading it will encourage you to take one on, like the ‘Goofus Triathlon.’ 

You can find MarketingSmack at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

A week before the school year started, I answered my phone to an unrecognized number only to experience something akin to (and here is where I date myself) a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstake winner moment – sans Ed McMahon. 

My son’s elementary school started a dual-Spanish/English language program last year and I had ‘entered him to win’.  Alas, to no avail.  Kindergarten came and went and there was no knock at my door.  Best I got was ‘runner up’. 

Fast-forward a year and he’s IN. 

Just like that, we went from raising a child in one language to two. I am first-generation born American. Raised in a Spanish-speaking household, I am fortunate enough to be fluent, without much effort. I made a promise to my Dad that I would do the same.  I tried, really I did, and for the first almost-four years my son spoke Spanish as well as he did English.  Then came the day he bluntly told me he would speak Spanish ‘no more.’  I wish I could lay all the blame on him, but in reality it was no easy feat on my end.  As he aged, so did the complexity of our conversations. It became apparent to me that by insisting that we only speak Spanish, I was building a barrier between us. 

Clearly, healthy communication is difficult enough on its own – no need to complicate it further.

This experience helped me realize that no matter how hard I try to prepare and control the environment around me, there is always an element of the “lottery” lurking. 

“It’s smarter to be lucky than it’s lucky to be smart.”

That lottery element seems pervasive – I had a fantastic networking meeting this week that under ordinary circumstances would have exceeded my expectations. Instead it left me disappointed because of this one line:  “I wish we would have met two months ago, my firm just hired blah, blah, blah….”  Honestly, the rest of that sentence was a blur.

How do we avoid heading down the existentialist rathole?  Prepping for meetings and following through in light of the idea that somehow ‘luck’ comes into play can be very frustrating.  That being said, doing the homework – in the case of my son’s education, applying for the program, is essential to the possibility of having your lottery number called out. You’ve got to have a ticket in order to win.

By the way, I do know Ed McMahon never actually worked for PCH but I do find it fascinating that I believed he did until I ‘Googled’ it.  Apparently I am in good company.  Theres’s no big prize to register for but maybe my MarketingSmack will resonate and encourage you to stay the course.  You can find my MarketingSmack at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

This is not about health care, really. It’s about truth. It’s about messages, and what we want and need in our communication.

At the risk of disclosing my ignorance—or worst yet—my indifference to the world of politics, the debate over our nation’s health care whirls around me as I silently sit on the sidelines, not participating.  

My primary source of information, or dis-information, depending on your view point, is my FaceBook friends. I live in a very liberal town, so most of the individuals in my life are clear Obama supporters and thus support his national health policy.  My FaceBook town is not as homogeneous, housing a spectrum of individuals.  There I learned that the 47 million un-insured are that way because somehow they want to be.  And that we pay 50% more than the next highest spending country per capita with the worst outcome. 

I am amazed at both the dichotomy of the messages – and how deeply each side believes to have THE TRUTH. 

The sad truth for me is that I can’t be bothered with sorting out all the clutter. I can barely keep up with running my life – you know, making lunch for my son; feeding the cats; networking; running Summit Strategy Partners.  I want someone to gather and analyze the data then present a succinct PowerPoint presentation with insights: those areas where both sides are in sync (in my opinion this is most likely where the truth is hiding) and the chasms.  A handful of verbatims would be nice.

My guess is that there are a great many of us who walk around with this as a secret wish—that a succinct case be laid out in front of us. A nice package that sells the truth and supports it with evidence.

Perhaps you’re wondering how best to serve your customers or what new target market to approach and how? 

The latest MarketingSmack doesn’t clear up the murkiness our politicians create. My not-so-altruistic interest is to remind you that marketing strategy insights are just a phone call away.  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

A few nights ago my neighbor and her daughter were at my place.  Aimee and I were sharing a glass of wine and catching up while our kids played just outside the front door.  They quickly burst in – her daughter’s hands clasped together, wrists wrapped in rope.

Without missing a beat—and utilizing the exact same language and tone— Aimee and I immediately hit them with a barrage of questions.

“Why are your hands tied-up?”  “What are you doing?”  “Whose idea was this?”

It was clear that we were unusually curious to understand the specifics of this particular game.  In return, without missing a beat, the kids looked at us as if we’d just stepped off Planet Crazy and responded:

“I’m a princess.”  …..   “And I’m rescuing her.”

My friend and I locked eyes, acknowledged the breakdown in processing the visual cues and had some funny verbal exchange about the Marquis de Sade.

It hit me—so to speak—that the four of us encapsulated in that moment the reason that market segmentation is a critical success factor. We’re talking about verbal and visual cues. This is why humor works when presenting a situation out of the normal context.

Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer communication, creating and using customer profiles enhances your chances to provide the ‘right’ verbal and visual cues to illicit the desired response.

There can be dozens of factors to consider when segmenting your market – ranging from social esteem, to language, to specific needs such as a reduction in expense.  It can be mind-numbing and paralyzing.  And, depending on the size of your market, overkill.  That said, at minimum the following should be addressed:

  • Demographics (age, family size, life cycle, occupation)
  • Geography (states, regions, countries)
  • Behaviors (product knowledge, usage, attitudes, responses)
  • Psychographics (lifestyle, values, personality)

No need to beat a dead horse, but take the time to analyze the needs and wants of different market segments before creating messaging and marketing tools. By doing so you will make marketing easier, discover niche markets, and become more efficient with your marketing resources.

How to market to Aimee and me?  Well, isn’t that obvious?

Tie yourself up for a few minutes with the latest MarketingSmack—We’ll show you the ropes. www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Well, let me just start by saying that anyone who takes themselves too seriously AND happens to be in sales may want to hop over this week’s blog.

A few weeks back, my almost seven year old got in this “I need a bunny” kick.  It was life or death and for days he relentlessly, without the aid of collateral and a website, expounded on the virtues of this purchase.  I was ‘featured’ and ‘benefited’ to death. 

Feature: “It can use the same litter box as the cats.”

Benefit: “No additional work for you, Mama.”

It was also round the clock – let’s ‘make-a-deal’ time.  Classic over-promise/under deliver, sell your soul to the devil type behavior.  “If I get a bunny I’ll be good for the rest of the summer.”  When that wasn’t accepted, he upped the ante.  In true hard-wired salesperson style, he had no problems changing the terms of the contract.  “OK, I’ll be good for the REST of my LIFE.”

Now we’re talking.  Tempting to say the least.

I am the biz dev person for my company.  Bluntly put, I am in sales.  It says so, right on my card – Market Builder (fancy, innocuous term for ‘I want to sell you our services’.)  It occurs to me that I am not that dissimilar in my approach.  Ok, ok, I try not to make ‘life-time’ promises to clients but there is something to be said about not giving up. 

Once you are clear on your service/product offering and have identified those in your market who would best be served by them, then a little tenacity and creativity can make all the difference.  That being said, figuring out when to ‘take NO for an answer’ is valuable as well.

Luckily for me my son’s loyalty to a particular product is whimsical at best.  He’s hopped on over to negotiating life-time behavioral changes for Super Mario Figures. Kid’s got a future – if his employer can just keep him focused.

Nibble on the latest MarketingSmack. MarketingSmack. Get Smacked at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Forrest from the Trees

July 16, 2009

A friend took me sailing, if you can call it that when both the mast and boom are naked, a week or so ago. (I cheated on these terms and looked them up.)  A beautiful, sunny, breezy day. A perfect backdrop to hang-out, swim, eat, drink and listen to music. 

A half-bottle of chardonnay later, I lay down on the bow—I know, I know…some of you might not think I work—what jumped out at me was a thick, even, tree-line juxtaposed against the bright blue sky. 

This long line of trees all seemed about the same size.  In the world of Adapt or Die, it struck me that on the surface it appeared as if these trees were all in agreement to grow and flourish collectively—a wall of uniformity. 

It reminded me of Big Brands. HP, IBM, Dell.  Eli Lilly, GSK, Pfizer.  Coke, Pepsi.  – You get the picture.

We know that between these players the only agreement is the constant pursuit of ‘lunch eating’.  They have to appear to play nice, partner, co-opitate. (Except Coke and Pepsi—no cooperation there.) But underneath the veneer, you know they struggle. They’re tripping over each other to separate from the pack, gain an advantage and then somehow keep it. Look at Coke Zero. It’s even fighting against its mothership, Coke. 

Market share, revenue, shareholder wealth—or in the case of my chardonnay-induced analogy, sunlight, water, air and nutrients.

I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again the notion of having a Disruptive ConversationTM blows its way in.  Of course to have the Disruptive Conversation you have to be disruptive.  Be a tree that thrives in shade, have seeds that are light enough that wind can carry them to places where there are fewer trees competing for resources.  Live with less water.

Find and embrace your differentiation. Be disruptive. If roots can break rocks, what can you do?

Can’t see the forest through the trees? How ‘bout a smack of clarity. MarketingSmack. Get Smacked at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Two Ears, One Mouse

July 7, 2009

There’s an expression that we were given two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.

My son’s mouse—and I use this determination of ownership loosely—was cast in a movie recently.  We were to be out of town during the filming and the director/producer agreed to take possession of the rodent star ahead of time.  I was thrilled to find someone to take over the duties associated with the mouse while we would be gone.

Two days into the trip I got the ill-fated phone call that Gus had met with an untimely demise at the jaws of a large dog. The dog was only partially responsible. The reality is that Gus was a victim of poor listening.

My son had shown concern about leaving the mouse in the first place.  “He’ll be scared.  They don’t know how to take care of him.  I don’t want Gus to be in the movie.”  I ignored all of his pleadings in order to push my own agenda, which was having someone take care of the mouse.

At drop-off, I questioned the wisdom of leaving the mouse cage on the floor of an office that is oft-times visited by a number of dogs.  My question was equally dismissed. 

See it coming?

How often do we ignore, gloss-over or run roughshod over questions or concerns raised around us?  It is hard for us—when we’ve made up our minds—to truly hear differing opinions.  Or not even differing, simply opinions that make our brilliant ideas not so stellar. 

I am a big believer in the Pareto Principle when it comes to pulling the trigger on business decisions.  And, one could argue that this mousicide falls into the realm of an acceptable level of risk-taking.  But, it is a good reminder that sometimes pearls of wisdom don’t always emanate from the loudest, most powerful or most driven member of an organization.  Listening is a crucial component of success.

According to Brian Wilson, the editor of businessListening.com, the top two strategies for business listeners are as follows:

  1. Know your goals for the conversation.
    • Exchange information.
    • Build a relationship.
    • Feel good.
    • Make someone else feel good.
  2. Be aware of your choices.
    • Talk or listen.
    • Focus or clarify.
    • Listen attentively or not.

It’s always helpful to recognize that our actions and inactions are really choices with consequences. Maybe if I had been a bit more attentive to my son’s concerns, or I had expressed more clearly my hesitance to leave Gus snout high, I wouldn’t be struggling with the obituary.

 (P.S. The witness to Gus’ demise said it was over very quickly. No one had informed the dog owner that the office was temporarily off-limits.)

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…..you 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 www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Getting Religion

June 23, 2009

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

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

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.

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

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

Blinded by the Light

June 3, 2009

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 www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

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

Companies that don’t make an effort to keep us faithful – to keep us from straying – have a hard time keeping customers.  And, at the risk of saying something so simple that it sounds insulting, it is far more economical to keep a customer than to get a new one.  Of course, there are some companies that either have a distinct niche product or big heavy switching costs (akin to those of a divorce) that keep the timid or risk averse staying put. 

Maybe not fulfilled—but staying put.

I have coveted an iPhone now for months.  I have watched people I know gracefully touch the screen to bring up photos, enlarge emails so that even my mother could read them—a friend even went as far as to have her iPhone listen to a snippet of a song none of us could identify on someone else’s voicemail and come back with the name and artist.  Impressive.  But, alas, I remain faithful to Verizon sans iPhone.

Why do I reward Verizon by remaining a loyal customer? 

Because, in my opinion, they are doing it right.  Time and time again, among the myriad customer touch points, my experience has been consistently fabulous. They are the company that called me, unsolicited, to inform me that my texting habits were starting to get to the junkie-level and that they could ‘help me out’ with their $5/month all-the-texts-you-can-handle-plan.  And, then to really make me swoon, they retro-actively reimbursed my substance abuse.

The point of all this? 

It’s back to my soap box on the importance of a branding strategy that is unified and consistent.  When we lead a company through our Branding Strategy SpringboardTM, a critical component of the outcome is a unified position and understanding that the customer’s experience must be managed from the first receptionist greeting to the after-sale pillow talk.

It’s not rocket science, but it takes acknowledging the importance of customer service and committing the organization to consistently perform in a particular way. The costs of a misstep could be that one customer – and the chances of a reconciliation….well, you do the math.  

Have a little Marketingsmack at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com

I’ve thought about this question a great deal, mostly from the perspective of Summit’s positioning.  Finally, I threw the question out to my LinkedIn network – a savvy group of people – and just as I expected, I received a flurry of answers touting the benefits of one over the other or going for the Holy Grail, as defined by McKinsey’s Concept of T, and demanding both.

It seems that I am not the only one struggling with this question.

Recently we have been in talks with a bio-tech firm about helping them penetrate a new market.  Their legitimate concern is how they will trust that we can guide them if we aren’t deep experts in their vertical.

Now mind you, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this hesitation.  It’s tricky to address your prospects’ concerns about your level of expertise in their industry. 

Clearly, if you view Summit’s client list, you’ll see breadth. But we also have very deep marketing and PR knowledge.  And more importantly, I believe smarts and chemistry are far more critical success factors than either breadth or depth.  It’s hard to accomplish great things with someone who doesn’t inspire you.

So ask if your marketing partner is smart enough and experienced enough to access the minds of the experts in the targeted industry.  And, is the chemistry between you one that breeds success?

You, as the company, know your industry better than anyone else, save analysts. If you hire someone with deep industry knowledge, you get that same knowledge, but may run the risk of getting a bit of “group think”.  If you have someone smart who can ask the tough questions, you may discover what you don’t know or find that ‘testing’ your resolve is an additional benefit – right along with that really effective lead generation campaign you requested.

My network generously pointed out that arguments can be made for either and/or both. But no matter what you believe, never settle for anything less than smarts and great chemistry.

Have a little Marketingsmack at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

 Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com

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

April 27, 2009

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

April 20, 2009

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

April 13, 2009

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.)

Paris Calling…

April 7, 2009

A few months back, Paris Delane, a musician who had been part of one of my favorite bands, Sonia Dada, found me on FaceBook and requested to ‘friend me’. I accepted. Shortly after that he became a FAN of my company page Summit Strategy Partners on FaceBook and started reading my blogs.

 I thought that was neat.

 Last Sunday evening while I was enjoying some ‘me’ time complete with sashimi, sauvignon blanc and an episode of Buffy, he called. I was surprised, to say the least. Paris shared with me his gratitude for his success and his desire to give back and help others reach theirs. Towards the end of our 20 minute call he requested that I send him an email describing my company, its services and showcasing Summit’s Disruptive ConversationTM

 Paris offered to help promote Summit Strategy Partners to many of the influential people he has been fortunate enough to meet and befriend over the course of his long career. I thanked him, got off the phone and ran to the refrigerator to check how much of that sauvignon was STILL in the bottle. The next day I wrote that email, first thing, and sent it to Paris with a ‘thanks’.

 Many people tell me I am a consummate networker – a maven and a connector.

 My perspective is that you should approach networking with the mindset to help the person you’re networking with. Give, rather than take.

 One of my biggest thrills is to introduce people who then go on to make great things happen for one another. Networking depends upon having a general plan for meeting the type of individual you can help and who can help you. But be open for the Paris’s of the universe.

 Since that Sunday call, Summit Strategy Partners’ FAN page has grown by 20 percent. And, I have a feeling it’s just beginning – hopefully, a blog or two from now I will be espousing the wonders of viral. Until then, I’ll just make sure the sauvignon doesn’t run out.

  

I just had one of those mistaken-identity moments that really hit home the importance of expectations.  I had a lunch appointment with the CEO of a local company.  I had met Greg only once before, about a year ago and remembered him to be a tall, lanky, red-haired man.

As I drove up to the restaurant, I immediately saw who I thought to be Greg standing outside the door.  He caught my gaze and nodded in approval as if to say ‘hey, it’s me’.  As I approached, I stuck out my hand and said his name.  He said ‘yes’ and then proceeded to lean over and kiss me on the cheek while attempting to hug me.

I rarely find myself at a loss for what to do, but this behavior really threw me.

I fumbled, awkwardly patted him on the back and made some ridiculous comment like: “Well, I guess we’ve been working together long enough to warrant a hug and kiss.”

It gets better.

We walked in chatting, and as the hostess seated us, he informed me that he was very excited about our lunch.  I was a bit surprised by his exuberance, but told him how pleased I was that he was open to meeting and sharing networking contacts.  At this point, ‘Greg’ stepped back, thoroughly perplexed, and asked “Do you know who I am?” I assuredly retorted, “Yes, Greg”.

He said “Kevin”.

It’s at this exact moment when I realized that Kevin was waiting for a date and I was not that person.  The rest was a mix of apologies; embarrassment and a long spotlighted walk past the hostess station—where the real Greg shook my hand in a firm, business-like manner.  This simple act, in sync with my initial expectations and within the framework by which most business relationships behave, immediately put me at ease, ready to move forward with the lunch appointment. As we walked by Kevin and his date, I thought to myself ‘I wonder how Kevin’s expectations are faring?’

The point of it all?

This wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity. It was about perceptions and expectations. As providers of goods and services, Summit projects a framework, very diligently, of what to expect. You do too. This increases the likelihood of our clients’ being in the mood to accept. It’s part of each of our brand’s experience.

We enter with a perception. We believe it and demand it.  So when the experience does not align with your expectations, however that truth plays out for you, the impact is brutal, a bit like meeting your financial analyst and discovering his office is in the back of a carwash. You’d pull back from the handshake or the hug and go looking elsewhere.

So it’s worth examining what you are projecting and how you carry it off. We don’t often consider that our brand experience includes how we meet at lunch—but it absolutely does. If your employees aren’t carrying off your company’s values in their dress and conduct, then don’t bother having them carry the business card.

Now, who wants to buy me lunch next week?

The Gecko Must Die

March 20, 2009

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.)

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

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