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.

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.