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.

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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

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.

  

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

Yes, Jobs and Opportunities

February 24, 2009

So, while I am not the one who typically writes these blogs – my partner, Tom is, I decided today to step out on the wild side. This current business environment has been non-stop—or so it feels like it to me— gloom and doom. According to a recent Forbes article, 108,123 individuals were laid-off in December of ’08 in companies ranging from the obvious Merrill Lynchs of the world to the Targets and everything in between. That’s one month. Merry Christmas.

However, here on the front-lines of everyday getting by, we’re seeing plenty of companies in search of very specific, special talent. The Raleigh-based imarketingmix site lists a variety of (and yes I am partial to noticing ‘marketing-type’ jobs—imagine that) positions available.

With so much TALENT out there right now, I wonder how any of these slots stay open for more than minutes at a time? And, I fear the requirements for such positions. I can just hear it now: “Well, Mr. Jones, you’d like this product manager position, would you? How many lives have you saved in the last six months, huh?”

One of our clients, InCentric, is in need of technical sales people. Why isn’t there a line busting down their door? Or, maybe now there will be? StrikeIron is seeking a CRM partner marketing manager.

What does it all mean? In this time of great uncertainty the fact still remains that businesses that ‘get it’ will seize the opportunity—whether it’s a direct hire that fits the bill, or a fast-moving partner that gets them where they need to be—quickly. And, what better time than now than to get a miracle-worker, life-saver as the newest team member? Share your thoughts with me. Got a job to publicize? How about a need to fill? Maybe you’re out paving your own way now. Tell us what your doing and how you’re doing it.

Jack