Is your Facebook Advertising plan part of a bigger plan?

November 9, 2016

Digital advertising is getting a lot of attention and is generating a lot of buzz. For many small to mid-sized businesses, the risk is chasing the latest shiny object, the newest silver bullet. Keep in mind advertising is a marketing tactic. To clear through the noise, stay focused on your objectives and then evaluate if the tactics (e.g., digital advertising) will attain the objectives as effectively and cost efficiently as other alternatives. There are many aspects of digital advertising – PPC, Facebook Advertising, geofencing and the list goes on. One’s head could be spinning trying to evaluate what makes sense for your business. This blog highlights Facebook Advertising and how it is integrated into the overall marketing strategy to achieve both awareness and leads for a FMM client. The intent of the below is to highlight the importance of integration and coordination. Ultimately that is critical to effective and efficient planning and execution.

Assumptions before you read any further:

You have carefully reviewed all marketing tactics to achieve your defined objectives and have affirmed that money spent on Facebook advertising makes sense.


Integrating Facebook Advertising into your Marketing Plan: Review your marketing efforts – are they tightly integrated or is each effort (e.g., website content, banners and promos on your website, email marketing to drive leads, and Facebook advertising) a separate, disjointed effort like pieces from multiple puzzles? Are the messages cohesive? Do all the graphics support a consistent and cohesive brand? Think of your marketing plan including digital advertising as building one puzzle, not a bunch of random, puzzle pieces (e.g., tactics).

To help you integrate digital advertising into your plan, review the below simplified (yes this is simplified!) flow chart of 4 tightly integrated marketing work streams for one of FMM’s clients. Each month once the promotions have been confirmed with sales management, 4 tightly integrated work streams are kicked off. For this client, sequencing and timing is critical to have all elements orchestrated and live as promotion time periods are generally short (generally ~21 days ).


The 4 integrated work streams are:

  1. Email marketing with A/B testing – driving consumer to unique landing pages added to websites.
  2. Research – specifically competitive research and demographic profile building to support ad campaign building and website content.
  3. Website content – click throughs from email marketing campaigns go to unique landing pages; Facebook ads link to unique landing pages for additional details of specials. Pages include calls to action, competitive research to assist consumer in decision-making with all pages using Google Analytics for reporting and analysis by campaign.
  4. Facebook Advertising campaigns – multiple campaigns are developed for targeted audiences leveraging competitive research and demographic profiles to create a Facebook custom audience. Each campaign has unique ads linking to custom website landing pages. Each Facebook ad also includes a tracking URL, for accurate measurement of response using Google Analytics.

Your business may not be as time sensitive. For us, the tight orchestration is critical to not miss market opportunities and reach our ideal target audience through 2 primary marketing strategies: targeted email marketing and Facebook advertising allowing us to reach a distinct target audience with the same promotions.

Even if your business is not as time constrained, some things don’t change by incorporating digital advertising into the marketing mix. The same fundamentals apply that have always applied in effective marketing:  get the right offer out to the right audience.  Make sure the pieces fit together.  completed-puzzle-dreamstime_xs_70193339

Building Your Marketing Department – 3 Options CEOs Should Evaluate

November 1, 2016

It’s time. You know it. Your trusted advisors know it.

You need to fill that important gaping marketing hole in your organization. You have reached that point.

But now what?  Create a job description and start a search?  What is the job description? What skill sets do you need?

When you hit this important juncture, you need to take a step back and think through what is best for your business. Just like any decision, you need to know your options and evaluate each one.

CEO and 3 Options to evaluate

3 options you should evaluate:

OPTION 1 – HIRING: If you decide to make your first marketing hire for your growing small to mid-sized business, who do you hire? What skills do you really need? The likely answer is that you need a broad range of skills.  It’s also unlikely that you’ll find all of those capabilities in just one person. I have seen marketing job descriptions that are so unrealistic it is comical.

There are two likely outcomes from pursuing the hiring option:

  1. You Over Hire – You hire a senior person, add a 6 figure salary to your payroll, add the benefits burden including skyrocketing health care and office space and the reality is, you still have not solved your core challenge. You still have a gap in marketing skills as you will need additional expertise so this senior hire can get the marketing job done. This person will need the arms and legs to get the marketing program off the ground, and will no doubt request hiring multiple agencies (e.g., PR, advertising, digital marketing). This will bump up your marketing investment dramatically. You will be seeing dollar signs.
  2. You Under Hire – You avoid the big hit to your payroll and overhead, but boy do you pay for the management and supervisory burden of hiring a junior person. You now have a young, inexperienced employee demanding your time and direction. While eager, they don’t know anything about your industry, your business model, and they have little to no real marketing expertise. You have a tactical marketing person who lacks the experience and skills to strategically plan for and implement a marketing plan. You have hired an extra set of hands. The reality is this person can become more of a burden than a solution. At the end of the day, this hire may be too inexperienced to even serve as the marketing point person that could guide and manage agencies. You likely don’t have the marketing background to provide ongoing direction so you start to question if you were better off to have not hired at all.

Assuming you are convinced now to NOT HIRE, what other options do you consider?

OPTION 2 – Agencies.  You investigate the agency route. Hire an agency and let that firm be your marketing department. This option comes down to a similar basic question: what expertise do you need? Keep in mind most marketing agencies are specialists, they are niche players offering expertise in an area (or areas) of the marketing spectrum (e.g., PR, advertising, digital advertising, branding).  The problem with this approach is that most firms don’t operate as a fully functioning, integrated marketing department, as most represent parts of the marketing pie vs. the whole. To be effective, these agencies will require that someone in the company (by default – you) be their primary point of client contact, to provide ongoing strategic and tactical direction, and offer input and approve all materials. In other words, a degree of the burden, integration and coordination across various aspects of the marketing plan have to be owned by someone. (Assuming there is one marketing plan at all, as each agency will have their own view of what is most important) In addition to the coordination and integration challenges, another important consideration of this option is cost. Hiring an agency (for a spot/niche solution) or multiple agencies is costly and if you’re budget is too small (from their perspective), you may end up with junior people working on your account.

OPTION 3 – Outsource your marketing department. You decide not to hire to avoid rising health care costs and the administrative burdens outlined in Option 1. You avoid managing junior people and trying to manage multiple agencies that don’t work together and are not cost-effective. You evaluate the 3rd option: securing a proven marketing firm that functions as your marketing department – an outsourced version – that offers all of the disciplines on the marketing spectrum. Unlike the other two options, you secure one senior point of accountability who is part of your management team and manages the rest of the team. Unlike the other options, the burden of managing multiple agencies, integration and orchestration concerns are eliminated.  You don’t have to wonder if the sales tool kit messaging is aligned with the company positioning language in the press release or the messages just developed for your social media outreach.  It’s one integrated team. This option is not about cobbling together independent marketers and calling it a marketing department. What it is about is having a full-service marketing team all wearing the same team colors who are dedicated to your company’s success – and on the same page every step of the way. With one hire, you get a full service marketing department with specialists brought in when and as needed. Your level of investment? That should be based on goals, timeframe (how quickly you want to move) and what you can afford to invest to fuel your growth. The model should scale with you as your business scales. You get flexibility,  proven expertise and one point of accountability for a fraction of what it would take in terms of time and energy for you to build this talent pool, that you don’t need full-time. ROI is higher than both Options 1 and Option 2. There are not many firms that offer this model and do it well which is why Option 1 and Option 2 are more common.

For one client of For Marketing Matters, 166 hours were dedicated to managing and executing the marketing plan this past September. While that may sound like a lot, it is actually equal to ONE FTE for the month. That particular client benefitted from 9 FMM team members working on various elements of the marketing plan ranging from senior marketing talent with 30+ years of industry and marketing expertise to junior marketing coordinators. The skill set spanned 9 team members who brought their respective talents to the mix, ranging from strategy and messaging to PR to social media, SEO, web content development, email marketing, and graphic design.

Before you think about hiring to secure marketing expertise for your company, evaluate all your options. Other savvy CEOs of small to mid-sized businesses who are ready to invest in smart growth are going with Option 3 and finding an efficient and highly effective solution that delivers the ROI they seek from their marketing investment. For more on how FMM operates as a highly effective outsourced marketing department,  contact Mary at


How Training for a Half Marathon is Like Committing to Incorporating Marketing Into Your Business

October 25, 2016

13 weeks. One quarter. A lot can happen in that timeframe. This blog tracks what can be accomplished in 13 weeks with parallels between training for a half marathon and incorporating marketing as an ongoing, integral part of growing your business.

Half-Marathon View:  13 weeks ago I committed to training for my first half-marathon. I hadn’t been running much during the summer – maybe 3 or 4 miles every once in a while. I was working out regularly so I was fit, but not running fit. In late July, I worked out with a friend who inspired me to go for it. She encouraged me that I could train and run 13.1 miles. The farthest I have ever run in a race is the Falmouth Road Race – a 7 miler. This was (in my mind) doubling the distance – I know math, but seriously. I don’t buy the thinking that if you can run 7 you can run 13. I know if I can run 7 miles,  I can run … 7!

I printed out a training schedule and I had just enough time for what they recommended – 13 weeks.

The 13 Week Plan

My 13 Week Training Plan

However, that assumed you had a base of 8 miles per week. I didn’t. I had to build it so I ignored that minor detail of having a base and started ticking off the plan, day by day, week by week.


Business View: Set a goal for the next 13 weeks. It may seem daunting, but you can do it if you put your mind to it. What’s the goal? For this blog, the goal is you are going to (finally!) incorporate marketing into the ongoing fabric of your business. Stop dabbling with unfocused random marketing tactics. (The equivalent of running a few miles here and there) Stop putting off investing in your business and convincing yourself you will do this next year, when you have more sales, when there aren’t so many other demands on your time. You know that will never happen. You too are starting with no base as your company has not been investing in marketing (really) so off you go! Commit to the goal and get started!

Half Marathon View: Training – the first few weeks. I was not used to running so my week did not have that time baked into my calendar. I had my weeks planned with work, personal commitments, and my gym workouts. There was little ‘free’ time that I was looking to fill. Now I needed to make time for adding more exercise and specifically incorporating running into my days. Every week I mapped out which days in the week I would run and planned the longer distance run to be done over the weekend.

Business View: Training – the first few weeks. Marketing is not on your calendar either. You are the CEO – you wear many hats. You aren’t looking to add more things to your calendar. You are busy. Your days are also booked solid running a business. Where is finding the right marketing partner going to fit in? Just like running, you book time in your calendar and you make the time to evaluate your options. You wisely realize you don’t need full-time expertise so hiring makes no sense. You are looking for a marketing partner – one point of accountability that brings the team needed over time to scale as you need it. Work on the plan to identify partners to evaluate. Start building your base.

Half Marathon View: Summer vacation. I packed my sneakers and my running watch. There was no extra time in the training plan for a week off. As it was I was starting behind with no base. I could not afford to lose any time and risk injury by ramping up too quickly. I had to keep building endurance and getting the miles in. While going to the pool after a busy day of sight-seeing was really appealing, I laced up and went out for runs along the San Diego coast.

Business View: Summer vacation. Maybe I can skip a week and play golf, lay in the sun and get away. I have survived this long without focused, consistent marketing integrated into my business. Business is a bit slower this time of year anyway. After all, it is summer, I can let this slide a bit and skip a week right? OK, I know, Labor Day is around the corner and we need to get going now to build the fundamental marketing foundation we will need for a strong final quarter of the year and a strong next year strong. I will not take time off – I will work on evaluating potential marketing partners to help me get a marketing strategy and plan in place. I build a short list and keep working on it.

Half Marathon View: Building Weekly Miles and running distances I have never run. The plan is becoming a bit daunting. The mileage for this week includes a 10 mile run. I have never run 10 miles at once in my life. I am psyched out. What if my plantar fasciitis starts acting up? What if I can’t do the miles? What if it is hot on Saturday and I run out of steam? Out the door I go to run 10 miles. I am wiped out when I finish the run, but have achieved an important milestone. I have run double-digit miles!

Business View: Your trusted advisors are turning up the heat – have you selected a marketing partner? You are down to five weeks to present a clear, actionable marketing plan for the rest of the year and for 2017.  Pressure is mounting and time is running tight. There is no room for not completing your ‘homework’ required as key input into the marketing strategy. Where are the 3 top initiatives and supporting goals and milestones due this week? You select your marketing partner. You commit to investing in marketing to help strengthen your team to drive future growth. A milestone is achieved! You are relieved and encouraged.

Half Marathon View: Final weeks. Building confidence. Visualizing achievement. Going from 10 miles to running 11 multiple times to running 12 miles. Focused. Committed. Slightly nervous, but prepared. Eat well. Get sleep. Don’t get sick.

Business View:  Final weeks. Feeling prepared for the upcoming meeting with the board. The bulk of the hard, strategic thinking is done and now it’s fine-tuning with your trusted marketing partner. You are seeing the benefits of securing a team bringing their proven marketing expertise to the table. You’re excited about the potential for the business now that a solid marketing team and plan is in place. You feel confident in the health of the company and the solid footing it is now on. The time and investment will pay off. You can start to sense it as can the other members of your team.

Half Marathon View: It’s Game Day. It’s windy. It’s cool. No chance of rain. My play list is ready. I have my chews to take every 3-4 miles for energy. I am ready. My only concern is the wind and not being too cold or hot. My #9 hat for Ted Williams (my Dad’s favorite player) is well-worn, but it is my running hat. I have affixed 3 things to the hat that mean a lot to me: an American flag pin, a pink ribbon for breast cancer and a dark blue ribbon for colon cancer. I wear a bracelet for Alzheimer’s.

My Running Hat

My Running Hat


I change my outfit twice. My friends convince me to start the run wearing gloves. I have trained for 13 weeks. Off I go! I complete my first half marathon by sprinting to the finish with a big smile on my face. Mission accomplished. I never walked. I did it. Wahoo!

Business View: Game Day. You are ready for the board meeting. Your marketing partner is well-prepared, confident and poised. The planning and thinking and strategizing over the past 13 weeks has come together. Initial marketing plans have been implemented to build momentum and are showing results. The company is stronger and your management team is stronger. The past 13 weeks has made a difference in your business. You set a goal, you built a marketing base (foundation) and you and your marketing partner crushed the meeting with the board. You executed on the initial plan and now you have the expertise and strength to rely on to build and grow your business with your ongoing marketing partner. Wahoo!

Mary Honan, For Marketing Matters

Mission Accomplished

Why Look in the Rearview Mirror?

October 18, 2016






What’s the point of looking back? 

As CEO, what can you learn from looking back?  For Marketing Matters (FMM) starts year 10 this week. Given that milestone, I have been reviewing the past 9 years to update the business plan to grow and move forward. Part of that work has been ‘eating my own dog food’: updating and revising FMM’s marketing messaging and positioning.  It is from this place that I have been looking in the rearview mirror.

4 Key Takeaways from Looking in the Rearview Mirror:

  1. What a long, strange trip it’s been:  Revisiting the past 9 years by reading business plans, positioning, and reviewing clients has been fun! The path has taken many turns – some planned and some not. People I have met over the years, distant clients that helped launch FMM, and networking organizations that I was involved with. While time flies by, this is the longest ‘job’ now on my resume – wow!  So while it has not felt long, it has been strange! Some strange people along the way, but that is part of any journey! And with the strange moments being a blur in the rear view mirror it is actually comical to recall…and worthy to recall and learn from.
  2. The Cobbler’s Kids…I am a classic example of the Cobblers Kids not having shoes. So my takeaway is to not be so consumed with work that you don’t MAKE time to work on your own business strategically.  We are our clients’ outsourced marketing department. We develop and revise marketing messaging, design and build websites and keep all marketing materials current. Yet we (FMM) have gone years (yikes!) without updating our own website and our own marketing materials. Key takeaway – make it happen before year-end. I am now on a mission as this is embarrassing.
  3. Go Back. It is not wasted time. It really is enlightening to go back and review the journey. Where have clients come from? What networking efforts are bearing fruit? Make the time to go back and review your journey with an open, inquisitive mind.  There are key nuggets to affirm, to remember and to bring with you as you go forward. And if you are a Kenny Chesney fan like I am, listen to his song I Go Back as you take a stroll down memory lane and take notes.
  4. Celebrate. Celebrate progress. Celebrate accomplishments and how far you have come.  Whatever your milestone, take a step back and acknowledge the progress and the hard work that has taken you this far. It is not easy. However many years you have been doing it, feel good about how far you have come. Reflect on what you have built. As business owners we push ourselves and we work hard. A key takeaway for me is to pause and feel good about where FMM is now and how it started. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking in the rearview mirror has helped create a renewed sense of focus and energy!  Now I look forward to the road ahead and the journey to partner with more savvy CEOs of small and medium-sized growth-focused businesses.  I hope you too find benefit in taking a look in the rearview mirror for insight to help you move forward. And another final takeaway I have come to learn…enjoy the ride.


Beware of Loose Ends – they can unravel a brand

September 28, 2016

Loose ends – some are so important that ignoring them could ruin the fabric of your company – really.


There are endless ways a loose end can present itself in your business. The key is to not discount it as minor before you really know.

Most loose ends come from failing to completely close the loop in the first place. Ask yourself, how well is your team doing in closing loops?

Expectations of a close loop:

  • Closing a loop in business is like closing the door at home.
  • Did your mom ever say to you – “did you grow up in a barn?”  when you ran out and left the door ajar vs. closing it completely as they had asked?  Mine did. My point being, to completely close a loop in your business, you need to tie off the two loose ends for a tight knot.  Just like closing the door – close it to hear it click – not ajar – Shut.  Closed. Tight.
  • If the knot is not made, the loop is not closed. The analogy is that your customers are literally falling out of that opening and likely will NEVER return to your business. The loose ends are causing problems and you need to make sure you have the people and processes in place to identify the loose ends and get them tight in a knot that stays tight.

Let’s take a common situation that may occur in your business.  A customer complaint is received. How would your company handle a similar situation to one a client experienced this past week?

  • Scenario:  Customer complaint is submitted via unique email address that we (marketing) monitor regularly. We forward the email to the appropriate senior manager for him to review, investigate and address. Senior manager email response comes back to marketing and the CEO indicating no record found of what customer is complaining about.  Period. End of communication.

Is that really the end to the scenario? Is the loop closed or open?  The loose ends are not closed and if no further action is taken, this simple example has a high likelihood of becoming a significant issue.

If we (marketing) did not step in from there and take the ball, there would have been no proactive ownership taken to address the obvious loose end here…communicating back to the customer.  The loop was not closed at all. In fact the customer complaint from a very loyal customer was going to become more of an issue if we left the loop open and let the loose end dangle.

Let’s fast forward a few days or weeks to IF the above was literally the end:  Over time, the unhappy customer realizes his complaint is being ignored (from their perspective). It is likely and in today’s world, quitre reasonable, to expect the customer would be frustrated and sign on to Facebook, Yelp, Google+ and potentially other sites to share his story and frustration. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of consumers see the complaint and now have a negative view of the brand. The brand is damaged and whatever brilliant marketing we execute reaching these folks, the damage has been done.

The Actual Scenario to Close the Loop:

The actual scenario ended as follows:  Marketing saw the senior manager’s response of having no record of the issue. Marketing wrote a response to the customer that same day to apologize, empathize and share action that had been taken (by marketing and the CEO) to ensure the issue was addressed AND also investigated other potential root causes that could have caused the scenario to happen. Later that same evening, the customer replied to my email and thanked me for the attention and response.

Without closing the loop completely, loose ends appear. Initial little threads get pulled and grow to bigger issues. Before you know it you have a ball of thread that is one big mess.  Think of that as your brand.

6 Tips to Avoid Your Brand Unraveling Due to Loose Ends:

  1. Follow up. Don’t assume the loop was closed. If you have any doubts across your company, get the right manager on it or check on how it was solved.  For many of our clients, we (marketing) assume ownership, take the lead and follow up with others to ensure the loop was closed especially when it comes to customers. We (marketing) tie off the loose ends into one tight knot.
  2. Don’t assume. Don’t assume the scenario was an anomaly.  Confirm it was one. You will sleep better at night.
  3. Get to the root cause. Don’t accept on-the-surface answers in your business. (e.g., no record found; I don’t know; not my job; I think that so and so handled it).  It may take time and resources. Are you sending signals to quickly move onto the next fire or put this one out first?
  4. Be a detective – Ask questions, encourage your team to ask questions.  When mysteries aren’t solved, they will likely appear in some other, but similar form.
  5. Look for patterns. (pun intended given the thread/fabric analogies woven throughout this blog). Are you seeing a pattern that hints there is a bigger issue? A great way to identify patterns is to keep track of issues/situations and talk about them with your team. Patterns will emerge. If you are constantly playing whack-a-mole in your business, there are likely issues that need to be solved at the root cause.
  6. Hire people who are committed to customer service. A longer term solution (granted) but it starts with a mentality.  Do you surround yourself with people committed to solving problems and doing the right thing?  One suggestion to help you hire people with the right mindset:  during the interview process provide the candidate with a written scenario that reflects a tough, unhappy customer situation that could (or did) happen in your business.  Have the candidate describe how they would address the situation.  Listen carefully for word choice and tone. Ask yourself, are they empathetic, caring, and professional? Or do they use a tone and words that raise concerns? This can be an effective way to identify the appropriate mindset to serving customers as well as indications of if they are problem solvers by indicating how they investigate the root cause.

If we had viewed our role only as get the customer complaint to the proper manager to handle, the above scenario had the potential to be a MAJOR issue for the brand. There would be NO customer follow up, no acknowledgement of his issue.  In this scenario closing the loop completely required two levels of closure:

  1. Internally.  Investigating the cause and solving the problem at the root cause. Two internal systems were checked with no record of the complaint; 1 important external system was not checked. The initial manager response was incomplete. More digging was needed.
  2. From the customer perspective. Letting them know their complaint was heard, addressed and apologizing for the inconvenience.

Doing one without the other leaves a loose end somewhere. Some loose ends are harmless.  Others have the potential to do big harm and unwind all the good will, charity, and brand building that you have done for years.

Be on the lookout for loose ends in your business and tie them together to achieve a tight closed loop.


CEOs of Small to Mid-Sized Businesses – Take a Page out of Belichick’s Playbook

September 22, 2016

Summer is over. Fall is officially here.  While at the end of August and into early September, I yearned for a ‘Little More Summertime” as Jason Aldean sings. But within a short time frame, it feels good to be back full throttle in the ‘regular routine’; the work groove is back!  The Wall Street Journal had a great recent article about how September is the Real New Year. While the article focuses on getting one’s act together personally, the essence of the article applies to us as business owners.  Now is the time to clean out clutter in our businesses, focus, prioritize and plan.  We are in a productive time period and those who act will be better served than those who stay in summer mode too long.

PlaybookSo what does that mean for your business? What resolutions should you be making and committing to?  

Learn from Patriot’s Coach Bill Belichick.  While a man of few words in a post-game press conference (nearly painful to listen to), but his words of wisdom after Game 1’s win with Jimmy G as his starting quarterback were words of wisdom for any CEO/President/Business Owner this time of year:

“That’s the way to come here and get the job done,” Belichick stated. “And I’m telling you, we won the game in the meeting room, on the practice field, and in the walk-throughs. It just didn’t happen today. It happened all through the week. That was a great job.”

Belichick’s Playbook Simply Converts to 3 Key Components:

1) Build a game plan.

2) Implement a game plan.

3) Execute a game plan.

We all know that Bill and his management team have a game plan.  They have a Plan A, B and C. Fortunately for us as Pats fans they do have a plan: when the star quarterback is suspended for 4 games, they have a Plan B. When Jimmy G goes down in the second quarter of last Sunday’s game against Miami, they have a Plan C. Lots of questions this week about a Plan D – do you think they have one? I would bet on it!

So Take The Playbook and Apply it to your business:

  1. Do you have a game plan? If not, you have to kick-off your Fall season right here. We have all heard it: Failing to plan is planning to fail.  Get a plan in place.  Not for the sake of having one, but for the sake of prioritizing, establishing clear alignment and defining resource (human and financial) allocation.  You needed it in place yesterday so make the time NOW to get this done. The plan should include:
    • Goals and priorities for the rest of 2016? You should have a company plan and then each major functional area should have its own plan to support their role in supporting the overall goals. (Think special teams, defense, offense or marketing plan, sales plan, manufacturing plan etc.)
    • Define biggest challenges.
    • Develop a plan to overcome these challenges or workaround them.
    • Define metrics and milestones to measure progress along the way.
  2. How is implementation going? If you already have a plan in place, start here.
    • Is it being effectively implemented? Test yourself – are you sure?
    • Compare your business to the Patriots: pre-season, meeting room preparation. practice fields and walk-throughs. Is your business skipping important steps in the preparation (think sales meetings, think conference/event planning, think product launches, factory shutdowns etc.)  The Patriots leave no stone unturned in their preparation. be thorough. Pay attention to details. Don’t assume the details are covered. Discuss them openly and have contingencies mapped out and practiced – literally.
    • Is your team ready? Are they in shape? Do they know their roles? Do you have talent gaps? Training issues? Injuries (think vacations/sick leave/unfilled positions)
  3. Executing the plan.  If #1 is in place, and #2 is solid, then focus your Fall Resolution on execution.
    • Get your key team together to watch the films (aka review results and performance); what is working? what needs to be tweaked? Where are the weaknesses?
    • Be sure to involve the key people in your organization. Define action plans with clear timeframes to implement and ways to measure the effects of any changes to the plan.
    • Rinse/repeat. Revise and review.

Fall is here.  Personally, many people are back at the gym, committed to losing weight, updating their resume, volunteering for charities, cleaning out closets etc. As a CEO/President/Business Owner, tap into the energy for the benefit of your business to position your company for a productive, focused Fall season (and beyond). There is a certain rejuvenating spirit of cooler temperatures here in New England to leverage. Harness your team and the key business advisors you rely on to grow your business. While a man of few words, Belichick is a master at wisely having a plan along with surrounding himself with experts in their respective areas. This approach can and should be leveraged by business owners to surround themselves with talent to build, implement and execute according to plan (even if sometimes it is Plan C vs. the desired Plan A) It has served the Patriots well and served us well as fans.  Go Pats!  Go Red Sox!  Go Small Business Owners – Fall is here – get your head in the game and plan to prosper!

Share your knowledge with a student!

August 29, 2016

It’s that time again…Back to School.  Some parents look forward to it. I am not one of them.  I love having my kids home.  I love spending time with them and having them have down time. Our lives are too scheduled. It’s good to kick back and relax.

The back to school season brings hope; new beginnings. And not just for students. Many businesses see renewed commitment, a shift in gears, a natural shift from summer’s slower days to more focus, drive and a faster pace. It is almost like a light switch after Labor Day for many of us!

For students, it is another year: new schools, new classmates, new subjects, perhaps choosing a major or researching colleges.

We can all help in that experience for students no matter the age. Some of us randomly hear about ‘bring your daughter to work day’ or career day at the high school, but most of us get so caught up in our own daily work lives we don’t think about what we have to offer students of a wide variety of ages: we have career knowledge to share. We can be a resource to answer questions, share what we do, what we like about what we do and what we don’t like. Sounds basic, but it really should be shared and not just part of our bio or resume!

Simply: we all have an opportunity to share our knowledge with a student! We can help them find their lane!  finding your lane

I have been setting up informational interviews for my 15 year-old daughter to help her get a broader sense of career opportunities. Why? Because my background is business (marketing and finance) and my husband’s is also business (finance). She has limited exposure to other careers and I want to help her learn and evaluate what is possible to help her navigate and evaluate. She has expressed an interest in architecture or maybe interior design. I asked her about architecture  and what kind she thought of and she said “I would like to design the next Eiffel Tower!” As her mom I think both lanes could be fabulous for her, but I want to help her understand what those careers may be like and to get an insight into all the various paths one could take within those fields.

I am a nerd. I admit that regularly. I believe in the power of information; of research; of talking to people to learn more about what they do and how they think. Like any parent, I want the best for my kids and especially as a female, I want my daughter to know she can be anything she wants to be. I have asked (forced) her to create a list of questions to ask the architects that have been kind enough to agree to meet with her. I have explained to her their time is valuable and she needs to show up prepared.  As I guide her I think about how readily I would share my experiences with any student interested in marketing, finance and business careers in general to help them find their path and their passion.

How can you share your knowledge and your story of how you got to where you are today?

  1. Contact your local high schools to see if they have a career day
  2. Check out the local Boys & Girls Clubs
  3. Contact your local YMCA or YWCA as they may have programs you could participate in
  4. Your alma mater is a great place to help.  For many years, I reached out to the Boston College career center and posted paid internships for students majoring in Marketing. I loved working with these students and exposing them to various aspects of marketing by having them work on real client work to help them learn what they liked and what they did not like as well as apply what they were learning in the classroom.

As the new school year begins, I am committing to proactively offering to conduct information interviews with high school and college students to help them find their lane. Are you up for sharing your experience with a student?

Are you delivering at all stages?

August 17, 2016

Each consumer or client transaction has multiple stages. How is your company doing on delivering at every stage to attract, convert and serve your customers so they are champions for your business?

Below is an overview of a personal experience as a consumer that spanned several months from initial research to purchase to ‘using’ the product purchased. I hope this helps you review your key stages and address gaps that may be adversely affecting the total experience. This company did a great job from start to finish.

Stage 1. Looking to fill a need 

I was the consumer looking for a father’s day gift. Not the typical gift, but something that really was fun, unique and special. Not a gift for my own dad, but for my husband, the great father of our two kids.

I don’t have much time to shop. So I took a little bit of time online to search for ideas and see if anything struck me as a cool gift. I did all my shopping online relying on offers already in my inbox (opt ins) as well as solid SEO tagging as I did various online searches to help find ideas.  As is usually the case, I was in a bit of a time crunch to find something. I was ready to buy and now just needed to find the right thing.

Stage 2. Evaluating the offers.

My husband likes cars. I searched for an experience where he could drive a cool sports car on a race track. I came across some options, but several offers weren’t good enough – they only allowed the person to be a passenger, not to actually drive the car. I dismissed these and kept looking.  I quickly reviewed different options, striking off options as I learned more. Specific factors that affected my decision in addition to driving included location (needed to be in the general vicinity) and the vehicles needed to be cool, quality vehicles. He is a car snob.

Stage 3. The purchase.

I found exactly what I was looking for with Xtreme Experience. The experience included the option to drive the vehicle and they had many cool vehicles to choose from – Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari. The website was informative and the selection options were very clear and easy to choose. They also had brilliantly ‘packaged’ their offer for Father’s Day and had multiple packages from which to choose. The available dates at two different race tracks made scheduling easy and they wisely offered add-ons for their profits and for the consumer’s enjoyment. red lamborghini

My toughest decision was which vehicle to choose as there were so many and I am not a car snob.  I relied on my 19-year olds son’s insight to confirm my choice of the Ferrari 458 Italia. That was my first inclination as my research showed this vehicle seemed in high demand by the time slots so I figured it was a top choice. I made my choices and paid for the experience and printed out the information. After buying a small red sports car Match Box at Target, I had a prop for the father’s day gift.

Stage 4. The full package

I applaud Xtreme Experience in thinking through and delivering on the full package – from providing information easily on its website, developing unique offers with options, sending clear and thorough confirmation emails, providing periodic communication prior to the actual experience (well-timed and not too frequent) and last-minute communications offering other time alternatives due to the risk of storms on the day of the experience. They had detailed the key points affecting a buyer’s experience and had done a great job all the way through to anticipate questions and deliver on the promised experience.

Stage 5. The experience itself.

Two months after the initial on-line research and on-line purchase, Drive Day arrived.  I had not spoken to anyone from this organization. Up until today, everything had been done via their website. This past Sunday we drove to Palmer, MA (we saw parts of MA that we have never seen before) and spent 2+ hours in the car each way to check out Xtreme Experience and see if it would live up to expectations.

My checklist as the passenger and the consumer:

  • Signage:  great; very easy to know where to go.
  • Check-in: very easy; friendly staff; no hassle despite all the forms and waivers to sign including for those of us just watching from the Pit!
  • Amenities: Free cold bottled water provided for all including spectators (perfect as it was 95+ degrees)
  • Organization: very organized; we purchased a time slot; they had the timeframes down pat; everything worked like clockwork.Ferrari 458 Italia sign

In the training, they effectively cross sold my husband to encourage him to be a passenger in the lead car prior to his driving experience so he could see the track and all the 14 or so turns. He agreed (so the company had yet another offer that made sense and that he really enjoyed) and took off first with a seemingly professional driver who gave him a big thrill with his driving prowess.

Then he got his chance to drive and loved it. They delivered on all promises of the offer I had paid for and expected including the T-shirt and video of his actual drive. The vehicle was exactly as marketed and the day went off without a car

Two suggestions for Xtreme Experience

  1. Activities – it is a long time waiting as a friend/family member of the driver. It was nice to have a small umbrella and chairs but it would be great to have activities that those of us waiting around could do. Something as simple as a few  corn hole games, food to buy other than out of a machine, mini races with remote control cars…
  2. Survey after the experience. Get feedback. You do a great job but the one stage that I have not experienced is the final loop of sending me a survey as the buyer and asking for the email of the gift recipient to also get their direct feedback.

Great job Xtreme Experience.  Your brand reflects what you deliver and you have done a great job understanding and delivering during every stage of the consumer experience.  Well done!



What can your business learn from Rio?

August 4, 2016

RIO 2016 OlympicsI love the Olympics!  I clearly remember reading all there was to read in Sports Illustrated and in Newsweek when the mail would arrive! Yes, I am dating myself and my kids would be astonished to be reminded we did not have cell phones and internet to get live updates of athletes’ performances.  We sat in the ‘family room’ and watched TV as a family with no disturbances from everyone being on their own device.

With Opening Ceremonies tomorrow night, I can’t help but wonder what all of us can learn from all that is swirling around Rio 2016:  Zika, plumbing issues, contaminated water sources where athletes will be competing, corruption, a very pricey train that stops 8 miles short of Olympic Village…and the stories go on and on.  Perhaps there were such challenges in other Olympics as I was growing up, but this one in particular seems rampant with issues.  So what can we learn?

I would propose that Rio highlights the fundamental need for and importance of planning.  Both planning ahead and contingency planning.  Just like any major project in your company (or even a small project or initiative), one develops a plan. The plan includes critical milestones, dates that have to be met (e.g., opening ceremonies, arrival dates for athletes), resources (financial and human) that need to be available and trained to support the project.  Define the top-level goals of the initiative/project (insert the word Olympics) and then expand the plan by logical work streams (e.g., security, transportation, living quarters for athletes, venues, etc.)  Assign experienced owners to each work stream and develop formalized structures for meeting, coordinating, communicating etc.

Take security as one example.  Can anyone fathom leaving such a vital effort until Live Date minus ~45 days?  I was stunned to read the company hired to handle security (and now replaced) was only hired about a month ago!  They were supposed to hire about 3000 people and get them trained and they had achieved hiring about 500 and apparently the training was basically non-existent.  Yikes. So in addition to planning, once could also learn the importance of allocating the necessary time to properly train people on their roles; ensuring they have the tools and information they need to perform their roles.

When I meet with CEOs to discuss their marketing needs, I ask them if they plan. Do they have a strategic plan? Do they value a plan? Recently a prospective client stopped in his tracks as he paced the boardroom we were meeting in. “Why did you ask me that question?”, he asked me.  I smiled and explained that I ask it to evaluate the fit for us working together.  I value planning.  A key part of our value proposition is planning and accountability to delivering on the plan.  I have worked with clients who value the entrepreneurial spirit and insist that plans are not necessary; they insist they need to be nimble (inferring a plan is confining and restrictive) and they end up valuing activity over progress, ineffectively leading across the organization as there lacks alignment and focus. Plans bring people in an organization together. It provides focus and discipline and sets priorities.  He nodded and said – “Of course we plan. We have a business plan and I would see no other way to run our business”. Great – sounds like a good fit.

I would not go to this Olympics if someone offered me the experience for free. It is a shame that there appear to be so many aspects of the experience that present real risks and that for whatever reason have been poorly planned and/or executed.  As you watch the athletes compete, as you cheer on Team USA, reflect on the strength of your company’s plan.  When was the last time your business plan was reviewed? Do you have a marketing plan that aligns and supports the sales plan? What about training and employee development? For many companies the next quarter is the planning phase for 2017. Let’s hope and pray that all athletes and visitors to Rio 2016 are safe and sound. But for our businesses, remember that hope is not a strategy. Don’t leave your company’s future to chance.




Choose your words carefully

May 27, 2016

chess move strategy

One of my favorite parts of marketing is developing the brand through the careful selection of words.  I am a nerd. I readily admit that and am totally comfortable with that label.

This past month has been great spending strategic time on words. We made considerable progress for one of our clients in further development of the company’s messaging, positioning and terminology. In the past month we announced a new product and all the various efforts of preparing for that launch led to pages of notes, questions, and points of clarification. Additionally, and true for any small, rapidly growing company, the message naturally evolves over time. Two of us on the For Marketing Matters team led the charge to document standards to solidify and clarify positioning, messaging and word choice. Over the course of two meetings with the CEO we honed in on specific word selection to discuss, confirm and document standards including examples and explanations for the word selection. This document is a tremendous resource for our marketing team, but also for the company as a whole. The sessions with the CEO resulted in further clarity and alignment to the point the CEO requested the asset be included in the board package for this week’s meeting.

Why words matter (and how you could benefit from this same effort):

  1. Alignment.  How aligned is your team? For this client, the management team is geographically dispersed across the globe working at a rapid pace. This poses a real challenge for broader, strategic discussions to occur across the management team on a regular basis. We literally kept a running list of inconsistencies and questions to bring the challenge to light while developing press releases, sales tool kit materials, web content, technical specifications and sales presentations. As engineering was finalizing the product, operations was selecting final exterior finishes and sales was building the pipeline and the risks of mixed messages was high. Everyone had the right intent, but it felt like herding cats.
  2. Ownership. Words should not be casually selected with little to no grasp of the implication it can have. Example.  I was on a call reviewing a PowerPoint presentation and an idea was casually raised wondering if we should edit a bullet n the PowerPoint to describe the product as a “smart device”. I literally almost dropped the phone. Huh? This is not a casual edit to then move onto the next bullet. This type of descriptor needs to be thought through in terms of the implications to the product positioning and to the market and target buyers. If you are a CEO, ownership of messaging and the resulting choice of words needs to be made clear – this is not to be casually edited by anyone in the organization to decide they want to jump on the bandwagon of ‘smart devices’ or ‘Made in the USA’.
  3. Clarity. Literally don’t leave it up to chance. Don’t assume other employees are on the same page. Get it in writing and then distribute it – especially valuable if key personnel are geographically dispersed and don’t have the benefit of being in the same office, picking up important tidbits throughout the day.
  4. Scale. Just like the old telephone game played at many a sleepover as a kid, the message gets distorted with every person added to the chain. If scaling your organization is a priority to achieve your growth goals, don’t ignore the critical role that words have in enabling your company to scale. Capture the words you want employees to use; capture the words you want customers/clients/prospects to hear and understand. Use this asset as part of your on boarding plan.

focus definition in dictionary


Some tips to help you build, expand and manage this asset:

Ground rules:

First, it is important to recognize and embrace that this asset is never done.  It is a working document and marketing should own it. If you don’t have senior marketing expertise on your team, you need to. They don’t need to be fulltime, but you still need the expertise.

Second, this is not distributed for review and comment!  The danger of everyone in the company feeling they have a voice in weighing in on word choice is not realistic nor recommended. Marketing owns messaging. Marketing is not part of everyone’s job description. Working closely with the CEO is critical, but the reality is that others in the organization are most likely not well-suited for the nuances of word choice and let’s face it we all have our view of the world (remember those old posters where Boston would dominate the Globe, or New York etc.?)

What to include in establishing messaging, positioning and terminology standards:

Messaging – should include company-level and product level. Include the elevator pitch.

Terminology – document the terminology that is critical to your value proposition. Use examples of how the terms are to be used and what terms should never be used.  Example – for this client, the product is NEVER referenced as a ‘device’.  If this makes your head hurt, secure the right expertise to facilitate this investment – it will deliver a ROI if implemented correctly across the organization. No doubt.

Trademarks and registered trademarks – from a branding perspective, develop standards of how TM and R will be used. Again, consistency and clarity builds the brand. Don’t leave this to others in the organization to know how to handle. Document it and distribute across the organization.

Let’s face it most small, entrepreneurial companies don’t have a lot of overhead. They are nimble organizations. Many have not secured an outsourced marketing department like For Marketing Matters to develop and manage such assets to enable scaling of the brand and the organization. The reality is we can’t review every manual, document, proposal, client report that goes out the door for this client. We can build standards and manage the brand as part of the team and ultimately serve as the internal police to protect the brand.

So what words matter for your company?

As CEO, do you cringe when a team member uses a certain word that you never want used? Do you have a visceral reaction when a client is referred to as a customer or serving a customer is described as ‘dealing with the customer’? If your word choice is not clear internally, how can you possibly be well-understood by the market?

Watch this great Inc. video of how Dermalogica focused on words to build their brand.

The nerd in me celebrates the progress made in establishing standards in terminology this past month.  It feels great and paves the way for scale, efficiency, clarity and consistency.  The ROI is unquestionable.




My Super Bowl Ad Picks

February 8, 2016

Without my home team, the New England Patriots, I could really focus on the super bowl commercials more this year as was not nervous about the game and its ending.

My top 7 Super Bowl Ad Picks:

7. Audi ad in memory of Starman, David Bowie. Cool.

6. Avocado ad and reference to the dress phenomenon.  Clever.

5. Skittles and Steven Tyler – funny.

4. Budweiser and its messaging of not being imported, not a fruit cup.

3. NFL and 9 months after a city wins the Super Bowl. Funny.

2. Budweiser and #giveadamn.  Powerful.

Top pick: Doritos and Ultrasound ad. Hilarious. Top ad of the game.

Always entertaining. What was your favorite?

Are you on target?

February 6, 2016


Know your audience.  Marketing 101 stuff, right?

So, when was the last time you reviewed your documented ideal target audience? If your answer is vague and reminds you of how you answer the dental hygienist when asked about flossing, it’s time to review it.

Why should you bother?

  1. Are you hiring this year? If so, a current ideal target audience will help shorten a new sales person’s learning curve. Time is money.
  2. Are you evaluating events to speak at or attend? Your marketing team will be more effective in evaluating the right events to prioritize where the investment is spent if they can efficiently evaluate the event attendees against your ideal target audience.
  3. Messaging. Basic, I know, but really important to make sure your marketing message is revised and refined to speak to the ideal target audience.
  4. Media. Is PR part of your marketing strategy for awareness and credibility? If so, a documented target audience will help your marketing team or your PR agency fine-tune their media list and prioritize the media to target for coverage.
  5. Social media. Directly linked to messaging, but too many companies waste time with an unfocused social media effort. Groups (e.g., LinkedIn)can be a very effective way to dramatically increase awareness and credibility but you need to know who you want to reach for the social media specialists to develop the right content, hash tags and engage with the right groups to attain ROI.
  6. Alignment. This probably should be #1 on the list as having an ideal target audience in someone’s head does not scale. At a minimum sales and marketing (hopefully not the same group nor the same people!) work together to develop the ideal target audience and then revisit and refine with feedback from sales on a periodic basis.

This week we worked with one client to updated their ideal target audience. It had been a year.  It was great to see the progress in how much more we (marketing and sales) know about our ideal target audience in 12 months! The clarity of the refined target audience is already making an impact as we just today passed on an event given the target audience was not aligned with our priorities (time and money savings).  With new sales folks joining the company, this is a great way to help them prioritize their contacts in their iPhones/Rolodexes to help them get started with a targeted sales plan for their territory.

If you have never documented your ideal customer/client, do that first.  In no particular order, write down everything that makes your ideal client ideal. Then convert that list of characteristics (include key parameters including but not limited to geography (if relevant), industry, company type, size, attitude/outlook, needs, title/role) into your first documented ideal target audience. At least annually, review it. I bet you will be amazed at what you learn and how it helps you and your business.  After all, having an ideal target audience is fundamental to building a business on a solid marketing foundation.


CEOs: 4 things you can learn from Twitter

January 29, 2016

checklistAs a CEO/President of a small to medium-sized business, learning from Twitter may be way down your list of ways to manage and improve your business.  But, take note as there are several key take-aways from their actions this week.  In case you missed it, Twitter was prominent in the news with four top executives leaving the company and as covered by many publications including, The Wall Street Journal article,  it was announced by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey that he hired its first CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

So what can you learn from Twitter?

  1. Don’t wait for a ‘growth rut’ as Twitter did before securing the marketing talent and leadership needed to fuel your business.
  2. Make sure marketing has a seat at your leadership table. This is Twitter’s first Chief Marketing Officer! Until now, senior marketers at Twitter as described in the WSJ article, bounced around like a ping-pong ball reporting through various other departments including Finance (yikes).   The new CMO of Twitter, Leslie Berland, formerly with American Express, reports directly to the CEO.  As she should.
  3. Marketing is a critical function for any business. It is not a function that you only need when you are a certain size. It is not something you can assign (like a task or project) to another person and hope they can acquire the expertise and skill.  It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses punt when it comes to marketing. Reminds me of the recent Allstate Mayhem DIY ads.  If awareness, credibility, and lead generation are part of your goals, you need marketing expertise.  You may not need a CMO, but you need marketing expertise. Your company may not need a full-time team or even a full-time hire. Rent expertise via an agency model or maybe a combination of both makes sense. Twitter realized they needed senior leadership in the marketing function. Evaluate what you need and make the right investment in talent to reach your goals.
  4. Take action. Stop thinking about it. Put a plan in place and act. Twitter has many holes in its organization right now, but they filled a key one. 11 months left in 2016. What are you waiting for?

You may not have any time in your busy day for Twitter as a CEO of a small to mid-sized company. Can’t imagine how Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey manages his day given he also is CEO of Square.

Assess these 10 Things to Start 2016 Strong for your Business

January 4, 2016

2016-new-year-ss-1920-800x450The first full business week of 2016.  Time to clear out the holiday cobwebs and kick off 2016!  So what will the year bring for you and your business?





10 Things to Assess about Your Business to Start 2016 Strong:

  1. Your Customer/Client Base: are you in an acquisition mode, expansion mode or retention mode?
  2. Value proposition: the corner-stone of your company’s marketing foundation.  Is it solid? The 3 C’s of a solid value proposition:  is it clear, compelling and consistent? Do you need to revise/update/enhance for the new year to address competition or logical evolution of what you offer in terms of value?
  3. Target audience: compare your ideal target audience to your existing customer base. What did you learn in 2015 that affects your ideal target audience? How can you better appeal to your ideal target audience in 2016?
  4. Your dream list: is your dream list in good shape going into the new year? Do you have a workable list of clients, prospects and suspects? Do you have a scalable process to manage and update?
  5. Sales Tool Kit by sales stage: what elements in your sales tool kit need to be updated? What elements are used most effectively?  Where are the gaps that sales needs to more effectively move potential sales through the funnel?
  6. Client stories: what successes in 2015 have not been documented? How valuable could these stories be to support your goals in 2016?
  7. New employees: did you have new hires in 2015? Are you planning new hires in 2016? How are these employees being effectively on-boarded to know, understand and represent your brand? Who owns bringing these people onboard other than on the job training?
  8. What went well in 2015 that you need to ensure continues to go well in 2016?
  9. What did not go well in 2015 that you need to fix?
  10. Offerings/Products: any changes/updates to existing offerings? Any planned new offerings this year? What is the timeframe? What needs to be developed and prepared to effectively launch?

The start of a new year is a fresh start. We are bombarded with messages about making resolutions, planning for the new you. As you launch the first full week of the new year, make the time to take a step back, assess the above components that represent key elements of an effective marketing plan.  Use these 10 items to help you organize and prioritize a plan for 2016. Make this a great year for your business.  Make time for marketing. If it is part of your core expertise, leverage it. If it is not, don’t be a DIYer, secure the marketing talent you need to develop and execute a plan to get you to where you want to be in 2016.

Happy new year.  Go get ’em.

What a difference one woman made

October 30, 2015

ovarian cancer symbolEarlier this week, I said goodbye to my friend, Terry.  I was in Terry’s book group. Not my book group as I am the newbie, with most of the group being together for over 17 years.  I’ve probably been a member of the group for 10-12 years.  It is a wonderful group of ladies that I really enjoy and Terry’s passing leaves a tremendous void.  Terry battled ovarian cancer for six years. And it was a battle.  She was incredible in her fight, her strength, her grace and her courage.

I have learned more about Terry since her passing. Her obituary and her husband’s tribute at her funeral on Monday shed light on a woman who made an incredible mark on this world. And for those of you that never met her, she has impacted your lives too.

Terry has multiple patents to her name. She never shared that as we sat around, sipped on wine and snacked on cheese and crackers, or figs at her home to tie in with the book. We all knew she was incredibly intelligent with a fabulous sense of humor and matter of fact way of critiquing authors and characters. She was humble to say the least.

As a mechanical engineer, Terry has literally affected lives world-wide. Her patents include mechanics enabling the mass production of automobile air bags. Another Terry patent enables us to turn our phones one way or another for the display to shift.  The initial Wii system included Terry’s patented sensor work to detect motion.

Unlike many book groups, we read the books.  We discuss them and enjoy the various perspectives that each of us brings to the conversation. At the wake and funeral we were collectively referred to as the “book ladies” as we came together to remember our dear friend who we will miss very much. I am in awe of Terry and what she accomplished as an engineer. I know she had no regrets in swapping her engineering career for her favorite career of being a mother to her two sons.

I would not have known Terry had it not been for book group. Her two sons are older than my kids. Thank goodness for book group to have met such a wonderful person. Thank you Terry for your friendship and thank you for all you did in a life taken too soon. There will be a place set for you at our annual book group Christmas dinner and we will toast you, our dear and talented friend. There is no doubt the impact you made while on this Earth.  Rest in peace.

The power of empathy

August 26, 2015

Can adults learn empathy?  Mass General believes so and has launched an innovative training program to improve empathy among its doctors. In reading a recent article on this program in the Boston Globe, I was struck by how smart this training is for medical professionals. Mass General has deconstructed the doctor/patient relationship and patient experience to identify critical aspects that affect the overall delivery of their service: patient care.

Most people secure primary care physicians, pediatricians, dentists, oral surgeons, dermatologists and orthodontists from referrals. When it comes to medical specialists, your personal referral network may be significantly smaller and you are likely to rely on your primary care and other medical professionals referrals.  For many of us the ‘day to day’ core medical professionals in our life come from referrals. Think of how critical it is for these practices to have secure, solid relationships with their patients!

So where does empathy fit in?  Mass General has zeroed in on a critical aspect of patient care that many of us subconsciously value and seek in our relationships with doctors, but in some cases may not notice…until there isn’t any. I recently had lunch with a dear friend and colleague and as we covered many topics during our conversation she asked me – who is your primary care doctor? She immediately followed her question with “I hate mine.”  I described my doctor and shared how pragmatic and kind he is. He listens, and then I joked how he told me to never look up symptoms on the web. He commented that I would have myself half buried by researching symptoms online. Just call us or come in and see us he advised. Advice I appreciated and follow.

So the referral trail for my primary care came from my dear friend, Fran, when I first moved back to the Boston area.  She highly recommended him and 15 years later he is still my doctor. I have referred him to my neighbors when they move in from out-of-town and referred him to my nephew who just settled into the Boston area. Next my friend Edith and the referrals will continue!

Empathy is something we as marketers talk about a fair amount with our clients, especially clients in the B to C space. For one client in particular, customer service is a critical differentiator. A periodic training program developed by For Marketing Matters emphasizes the importance of empathy. We use examples of customer interactions to raise the awareness of being empathetic; being sensitive to the customer and how he/she may interpret the information being shared. In this particular case, the dollars being discussed are significant and the training focuses on reminding the sales people that they can become de-sensitized to the cost impact to the customer.

As you think about your industry and customers/clients or patients, here are 3 things to think about as it relates to the unique training that Mass General is doing:

Point 1.  What can you learn about your customer relationship by deconstructing the customer experience into the factors that most affect customer satisfaction (leading to retention and referrals)?

Customer image

Point 2. Once identified, how can you incorporate training or ongoing reinforcement of behaviors to improve one or more of these factors?

Point 3. How can you measure the impact of your investment in time and resources to measure an ROI?

Who knew? Inaccurate website leads to happiness

July 2, 2015

Scenario:  Need to renew my passport and get a passport for my daughter (a minor).  Rely heavily on websites to print the paperwork, complete it in advance and to confirm details to ensure I have everything in order to get this done…today. Find her birth certificate, confirm document notarized to ensure she is not getting a passport without her father knowing it.  I am confident I have everything so final search prior to leaving the house was to confirm a post office location that did not require an appointment.  Conduct my online search – confirm passport application hours all day, call to be sure, but after being on hold give up after 10 minutes.

Drive 45 minutes (to be near another errand) to enter the Medford Post Office on Forest Street. Signs greet us apologizing for service delays due to training going on as well as signs indicating appointments required for passport applications – uggh! Wait in line to see if there is a chance of an appointment for today already knowing the answer.  Yep – nope – can’t help you today.  Go to Malden – gives me the address. Why doesn’t anyone ensure the website information is accurate??!!

I remain calm (surprisingly) and plug in the address to the Malden post office.  Off we go.  Wait in line…a friendly woman calls us up and confirms no appointment needed and they also do photos – yes!  Things are looking up.  Until we are told that I am missing information to proceed. My daughter’s passport can’t be processed.  Here is where technology is a wonderful thing: my daughter calls her Dad; he emails me what I need.  We drive to a Staples and sure enough, they are happy to print out the document we need. I offer to pay them for their help and the associate declines – happy to help.  Very nice. Thank you Staples.

So where does happiness come in?

Next door to the Malden Post Office is the Malden Y. Once we have successfully completed passport #2, I suggest we go into the Y. My daughter cleaned out her bedroom yesterday – a thorough cleaning.  In my car are bags of clothes, girly pillows, stuffed animals, and a small wicker rocker.  I speak to a woman and a man at the Y and explain that we would love to donate these items if they could use them to give to young girls. They are thrilled to accept the items and that is where the real happiness came today. They explained that the majority of the families they serve are low-income. What Meredith has outgrown would bring a smile to a young girl’s face.  Thank goodness the Medford post office could not help us earlier today.  We would never have ended up next door to the Malden Y to donate bags of items.

This time, I am not criticizing an entity for having inaccurate information on their website. I can’t stop thinking about young girls finding something they like to put a smile on their face.

It’s all over but the crying

May 11, 2015

As the songs say, It’s all over but the crying.  Hank Williams Jr. or Garbage depending on your preferred genre.

It's all over but the crying.

It’s all over but the crying.

The college process is over…for now.  And all that is left for me, the Mom, is the crying. The crying at this week’s Mother/Son breakfast.  Seeing my son speak at a graduation event Thursday night.  Baccalaureate on Saturday night and finally, watching him cross the stage on Sunday to receive his high school diploma from St. John’s Prep. People tell you it goes by fast. They are right – it flies.

So a blog about reflections of the college search, application and selection process from a marketer. My top ten list for college admissions officers to learn from:

10. Map the customer experience – it starts with parking. Make visiting your campus easy and hassle-free. Validated parking tickets for free parking is a nice touch. If not possible, clear notification and availability of quarters for meter parking by BU undergraduate admissions office was well thought out. Frustrated parents do not make for a happy and supportive tour group!

9. Survey your prospective customers!  After a campus visit, find out what they liked and what they did not so you can continue to improve. Consider perspectives of BOTH students and parents in your survey design and sampling.

8. Marketing 101: Update your value proposition. Review and update your key messaging.  Make sure it is accurate and is relevant to your ideal target audience. Kudos to Drexel University.  Liked their tagline. Like that they clearly document and present The Drexel Difference.  They know who they are and clearly present and appeal to their target student.  Impressive.

7. Automated, inaccurate emails damage your brand. Just like any other consumer-interaction, there is nothing more stressful than receiving indications of missing information as part of an application process only to discover that was ‘an automated reply’ and can be ignored.  Yikes. Get your internal processes in order!

6. Book store. Make it part of the tour.  Best tour route:  Georgetown University. Ended in the student commons by the book store. Basic stuff. Smart.

5. Food.  It is important.  It is a differentiator.  Prospective students care about food.  Parents care about food and healthy options.  Kudos to tours that ended with coupons to try the food. Kudos to tours that took us through actual dining areas.  A big thumbs down to schools who do NOT address allergies and the demands of prospective students.  This is not a new requirement.  There is enough stress of thinking about your 18-year-old being on their own without wondering if kids with allergies will be at risk walking into a dining hall.

4. Tour guides make or break it. Critical success factor for any school to have top-notch highly trained tour guides! These students need to be vetted, trained and mystery-shopped! It is amazing how many stories I have heard in the past 18 months of prospective students removing great schools from their list due to the impression the tour guide made. Admission officers take notice! These kids are a critical success factor.

3. Shout out to University of Loyola in Baltimore for great emails to prospective parents, well-designed mailers to prospective students and for their impressive and timely communications the week of decision-making to address head on the safety of its city as the city was erupting.  A job well done. I was very impressed with the tone of the communications and the consistent affirmation that this school has a strong brand identity that came through in all of its written communications.

2. Use video. It is engaging and interesting. Hint:  George Washington University. Sitting in a large room for our 3rd college tour of the day with no video was rough. When a 12-year-old comments on how poor the group presentation was, that is a big clue!

1. No one cares how many volumes are in the library.  Remove these stats from your standard tour.  Prospective students don’t care and either do parents. It is a useless fact. Not a differentiator.

So, it is all over but the crying…at least for me. Likely a two-year break before we ramp up the process again as my daughter heads into high school next year. Oh, and the winner is:  Bentley University.  Very proud.


Two Words Grown-Ups should be able to say

March 20, 2015

It is astonishing how immature ‘grown-ups’ can be. Why is it that these two words (basic words that were part of our vocabulary as young children), get lost in too many adults’ vocabulary? They can’t say two simple, easy-to pronounce words.  They can’t bring themselves to say:  “I’m sorry”.

can't say sorry or I am wrongRemember Fonzie?  In many Happy Days episodes over the years, Fonzie had a tough time saying “I’m wrong” and ‘I’m sorry”.

For a good laugh, view snippets from this classic TV show by watching this consolidated video.






Why these two simple words are so powerful and important in professional relationships:

1. Vulnerability.  No one is perfect. Things happen. Being able to say I’m sorry is a great way to let others know you are human.

2. Honesty.  If you missed a deadline, been late to a meeting, forgot to attach the document to an email, sent the wrong file by mistake…whatever happened, be honest. People want to work with people who are honest. Not being able to simply say I’m sorry in these situations is not being honest with yourself or your colleagues. It makes the mistake, oversight, problem worse by not being honest with those impacted. It negatively reflects on you. It raises doubt about your honesty and your professionalism.

3. Accountability. Be accountable for your actions. Admit whatever it was did not go as planned/as agreed/as expected. Be a man (or woman) and step up and deal with it. Don’t avoid it. Don’t brush it aside like it did not matter. Grow up and accept the consequences and start with simply saying “I’m sorry”. By not doing so, you are exposing an unfavorable character flaw that is more important that you think.

4. Sincerity. Say it and mean it. If you can’t say I’m sorry, do you wonder what else your colleagues or clients or partners think you are not capable of saying or doing? Being able to say it and mean it is really a (basic) but valuable personality trait. You can earn people’s trust by being sincere. You can earn people’s respect by being sincere.

5. It is the right thing to do. Really simple: do the right thing! If you Fu*&% up, fix it. Do the right thing. As one of my co-workers would say: ‘grow a pair’. Say “I’m sorry” because you need to say it. The people you have impacted deserve that respect and acknowledgement. Treat other people with the respect they deserve and simply, do the right thing!

I have lived a real-life saga over the past  two weeks interacting with a ‘professional’ who is not professional. She has failed in all 5 reasons listed above as to why these two words are powerful. Her communications have highlighted her inability to be honest, accountable and sincere.  Her inability to ever acknowledge the big impact her actions and lack thereof have had on others has been astonishing and the impetus for this blog.

I could fill two pages of content of examples of where saying I’m sorry is warranted in the professional world. But I won’t! Also, for the record I am NOT encouraging people to be wimps and say “I’m sorry” as a knee-jerk reaction when you have NOTHING to be sorry for.  Consciously work on putting these two simple, powerful words BACK into your vocabulary. It will make the world a better place if everyone said I’m sorry.  Then, (a girl can hope!) if we can each learn from the root cause and fix the root cause…well the impact of that could really be something.

As Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of her daily Ellen show “Be kind to one another!”  And, be a grown-up and say “I’m sorry.”





Hey Mother Nature – take this!

March 8, 2015

Mother Nature made her impact.  This is a winter many of us won’t soon forget:  record-breaking cold; record-breaking snow; roof collapses; the MBTA and commuter rail service in Boston struggling to operate. Roads in Southie changed to one-way streets due to the massive snow piles limiting the space for two cars to pass. Let’s face it, Mother Nature has been on a rampage.

Mother Nature making an impactThis winter has had a broad effect on the economy.  Your business may be down because of Mother Nature.  Auto sales were way off in February.  Restaurants have been hit hard due to so many weekend storms and cancelled reservations.  I met with an insurance sales guy last week and he indicated business was down due to so many snow days that made booking and keeping appointments a challenge.

So what do you do as a business owner?


How can your business fight back?

Focus.  Plan.  Execute.

The recommendation is not new.  It’s very simple.  Simple to state, but not easy to do.

When we get beat up and business may be down, it may be tempting to get distracted with any new shiny object and get off track.  Don’t!  The key is to get back to basics.  Focus on what’s most important for your business and put together a phased, logical plan and then execute.  This is what any good marketing department or marketing agency should be doing for you.  But, if you are not investing regularly in marketing and instead treating it as a project, that is where you need to make a change.  You are wasting time and money with limited impact.

What should impact look like?

Monthly measurable results.  Just like we measure wind chill and snowfall amounts, measure the impact of your marketing efforts.  If you are not getting detailed, metric-laden marketing reports, you need to evaluate the value you are getting.

Some examples of the impact reported to For Marketing Matters clients in their February Impact reports (return on marketing investment):


– New logo with tagline completed for a client; branding standards established; email signatures created for all employees

– New designs and messaging materials developed


– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

– # blogs written and exposure/reach achieved via these posts


– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured


– Total Leads and leads by lead source as compared to target leads needed (client has monthly leads exceeding target so leads are not an issue; converting leads is the issue); # web leads including if prospect has budget approved with majority of leads having urgency of less than 30 days to act. (does your sales team get leads that give you this level of information?)

– New sales tool kit materials completed and available for sales team to use (including this month internal FAQs to help sales consistently and completely respond to questions; two new sets of PowerPoint slides addressing industry standard and opportunity for prospect to earn LEED credits)

– Ideal Target Profiles completed and distributed to sales to enhance targeting and shorten sales cycle

– Detailed website analysis; new web content developed and stats including SEO results and ratings

– Detailed email marketing results with lead reports for sales to act on


The above is an overview of the type of impact that we make in a month.  Impact is client-specific, but normally falls into the above categories.    Whatever your priorities, your marketing department or agency should be managing, measuring and reviewing IMPACT with you monthly.  Not activity, but impact. It is important to make that distinction so you as CEO are not wow’d by  activity.  To quote, Joe Friday from Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”

Marketing is an investment and like any investment you should expect a return. If you are looking to fight back and make an impact, start with assess what marketing is doing for you. If your business priorities involve increasing awareness, gaining credibility and building leads then the marketing function plays a critical role. If you are not seeing the monthly impact from your current marketing investment, take a good hard look at what you are doing and who is doing the work.

Don’t let Mother Nature be the only one making measurable impact.


Is your business sending mixed signals?

February 4, 2015

How could a sweater be backordered til end of February and ship the same day?

Is your business sending mixed signals? 

mixed signalsPost Christmas we had some returns to take care of.  Turns out that a catalog company that up until now, I have really liked has a silly policy of “free shipping” BUT deducts a flat rate of $6 for any returns.  Really?  Seems like a stupid policy to me and plants the seed that makes me think twice about ordering from them in the future. But I could get beyond that silly policy, but there is more.

We ship two items back – one item a return and another an exchange for a different size.  In the same day, I receive a voice mail form the company  explaining (poorly) that the exchanged item referenced by all their internal-only codes (blah blah blah) is backordered and will ship at the end of February.  No indication if I need to call and confirm that I still want the order.  Strange message and really lousy use of internal gibberish that a customer does not care about.  Fast forward, 3 hours from the voice mail message.  Email received.  The SAME exchanged item that was backordered 3 hours ago has shipped via UPS and the tracking number is provided.  HUH?  What the heck is going on and who the heck is in charge?  Mixed signals.

Carbon2Cobalt has nice, unique items.  The items are not inexpensive and as far as I know, the only option I have to purchase such items is via mail order. Their brand image has taken a hit.  They have been knocked down many pegs in my book.  First detail happened before Christmas!  I had to return a gift purchased for my nephew PRIOR to Christmas as when the item arrived it had unique top stitching that my teenage son did not like and told me his cousin would not like either!  Note to the reader – the stitching was not visible in the images online and there was no mention of this detail that was prominent on the real item. Details matter.)  Second, the sweater being exchanged would not have had to be exchanged if their website included such notes as this style runs large – suggest you order down one size.

This is not a blog to trash Carbon2Cobalt.  It is a heads up to ask yourself – are your signals clear?  Are you sending mixed messages?

Whatever your business (retail or not), I suggest the following 10 steps to protect your brand and your business from taking the significant hit that Carbon2Cobalt has taken based on my experiences over the past month. This story does NOT just relate to retailers.  Do you Mr./Mrs. CEO know what it is like to be your own customer or client?  Is it painful to receive inaccurate and conflicting information?  Do you consistently come across to your customers as though you have no clue what is happening and who is in charge?

Recommended action items to see how clear your signals are:

1. Review your return policies

2.Return your phone scripts.

3. Listen to your on-hold messages.

4. Review and audit product and service descriptions. (e.g., sweater runs large; note top stitching around zipper in bright contrasting color)

5. Review patterns of returned products or customer feedback indicating product/service did not meet expectations.

6. Lose the jargon.  Get rid of codes and acronyms in your customer communications that mean nothing to the customer! Don’t talk about stock numbers – in this case describe the sweater! It is that simple.

7. Document and prioritize your customer moments of truth.

8. Measure and manage to these moments of truth.

9. Train new employees on your brand; your tone; your core values.

10. Repeat items above and never assume they are working correctly.

I am not saying these things are easy.  However, they are basic.  Get the basics right before you are focusing too much time and energy on the ‘nice to have’ items.  Get down to basics.

Carbon2Cobalt you have some work to do to earn back a loyal customer. I am now skeptical and honestly curious what will be coming in the mail.  Any bets on if the correct item in the correct size will ship anytime soon?


The joy of saying no.

January 27, 2015


A few month’s ago I wrote about ignoring my ideal target client profile and the resulting angst that ensued.  I am happy to share that I learned from that experience and had the pleasure of saying no to a potential new client last week.  Ah, the joy of saying no!

The reality is I still could have done better and made the decision sooner.  That is why I am writing this blog as perhaps others could benefit from this recent experience, too.

A dear friend introduces me to this prospective client.  She has been a dear friend for years and I was intrigued with the sector and the value proposition that this company had to offer.  I knew For Marketing Matters (FMM) could help them get a solid foundation in place and build awareness and a solid pipeline for them.  An initial phone conversation happens; I follow-up and follow-up and struggle to get commitment for a meeting. The CEO conveys how important marketing is to him, but is so busy with other priorities (initial hint that I ignored). Finally get a face to face meeting. Many other stakeholders in the room.  Good discussion.  Many head nodders agreeing with my proposed approach and methodology. CEO emphasizes sense of urgency and requests proposal to get started.  Proposal prepared and initial feedback from other top stakeholders is favorable.  Follow up and radio silence – for weeks.  Then the week before Christmas, CEO must have a meeting with me – can not wait.  So I shuffle schedule around, we meet in person and during the discussion there are all kinds of red flags flying (big hints, but I persevere).  I think after the meeting: I can overcome that.  I can work with that.  So I jump through hoops to get proposal written and turned around to client in one business day and guess what happens?  You know this story – nothing.  Radio silence again for two plus weeks.

A light goes on with me.  I come out of my fog and realize:  This is not my ideal client. In fact, this is not even close to being a client that I am going to enjoy working with.  The only item in the PRO column to go after this business is that I would have the opportunity to work and help my dear friend.  The CON column is long with all kinds of good reasons to ditch the work.  The fog has cleared.  I stop the silliness and let the prospective client know that I will not be moving forward to provide marketing services because it is not a good fit and it not set up for success – his or mine.

Boy did that feel good.  I did what was right for me and For Marketing Matters and I know I did what was right for his company.  He was not committed to making the investments in the right areas that needed attention.  I shared the story with my business coach.  As always, she provided such incredible insight and commented, you have given him a gift.  Huh?  That thought had never crossed my mind.  She went on to explain that this decision is one of many points of feedback that he is likely getting.  There is a chance that over time he may connect the dots and realize he needs to change how he is leading the company and where he is investing in expertise.  His head of sales and head of business development (partner channel) both had recommended he accept my initial proposal.  He ignored their advice and instead chose the dabbler approach:  work on marketing tactics only and ignore the need for a strong marketing foundation.  If that business approach was literally the physical structure of the business today, the physical building would likely fall n the face of Juno, our raging blizzard.

My key learning and the point of this blog today:  use your target profile to evaluate potential clients; listen to your gut when it tells you to run; thank your friend for the introduction (in this case she was fully supportive and understanding why I was not going to move forward) and be true to who you are and the value of the services you offer.  If others don’t value it, that is ok.  There are many who do and it is so much more enjoyable to work with those that are wise to invest in marketing expertise (in my case) and value the real impact it has on growing their business and driving real value.  Just say no.  It feels really good.



Failing to plan is…

November 25, 2014

You know the quote:  Failing to plan is planning to fail. Benjamin Franklin.

So how is 2015 planning progressing for your business?  And, specifically, how is the marketing plan coming?

Plan Word Shows Guidance Or Business Planning


Next Monday is December 1st!

So here are some recommendations to help you get started on documenting the strategy for 2015, defining the business goals and then developing the marketing plan to get you on the right path for a great 2015.

Note this will be tougher if you have NEVER had a marketing plan.  If you had a marketing plan in place for 2014, then leverage that as your starting point.


Below are 8 steps to get started on a useful plan:

1. Define and document your strategic objectives.  What are the top 1-3 things you MUST accomplish next year? (Not tactics.  Strategic objectives.)

2. Identify the resources needed to achieve these objectives.  (people, money, processes, partners, new clients).  Keeping at a high level, what is it going to take to get you where you want to be?

3. How will success be measured?  If possible, identify intermediate metrics for success along the way and then ultimate success metrics. (revenue, # new clients, margin, # of new square footage operational in the new facility, etc.)

note:  with key business goals defined, then the marketing plan can start taking shape…

4. Define the fundamental focus of the marketing effort.  In other words, is the focus increasing awareness, generating leads and acquiring new clients?  Perhaps retaining existing clients and acquiring new clients to support your growth strategy?  Are you introducing a new product line that marketing will be critical in announcing and bringing to market?  Clearly define the priority and the marketing strategy  that will support the above business objectives.

5. The marketing plan needs to be developed within a budget.  Any increase from this year?  Know what range you are working with to avoid the frustrations of building a masterpiece only to learn your masterpiece has to be re-done to fit the approved budget.  Document the assumptions and as details are developed, code each.  Suggested coding would be critical (critical strategically), important (fundamental work that needs to happen) and nice to have (not essential, but would be beneficial).  With this coding, if budget money becomes available during the year, you know where the money will be funneled vs. late nights preparing for a board meeting figuring out how to build your compelling story of why marketing should get a slice of the pie!

6. With a defined marketing strategy and a budget, phase the marketing plan.  We start with defining the marketing priorities by quarter – then breaking that down into months.  This keeps you aligned with the overall business objectives and enables you and your team to not lose the forest through the trees.  Stay strategic.

7. Revisit the marketing foundation.  As part of the marketing plan, there are ongoing foundational elements that require ongoing marketing work.  The Dream list is never done.  What capabilities or services lack the support of compelling client solution briefs and testimonials?  Make sure your plan does not lose focus on efforts to strengthen the marketing foundation in the new year.  Weave this work into the marketing plan.

8. Summarize the marketing plan on one page.  If the executive summary is clear and solid, the detailed plan will be that much better.  Just like an elevator pitch can be the most challenging part of messaging work given its brevity, the same is true for a one page summary.  It forces us to clearly and concisely present the plan that is then detailed across many pages.

It’s getting late in November.  If your fiscal year is a calendar year, you need to get going to be set up for success come January 2.  If you are running a business without a business plan and without a marketing plan, maybe it’s time to think about your New Year’s Resolution now.  After all, as Peter Drucker says:  “What gets measured, gets managed.”

A solid plan is a great way to get ready for 2015.  No time like the present to get started.

Know when to walk away, know when to run!

November 14, 2014

I am not one to quote Kenny Rogers frequently, but boy does this line capture it for me.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  We all learn the hard way and with hindsight being 20/20, we commonly look back and think – should have walked away.  So what does this have to do with marketing?


A solid business has to start with a solid foundation.  For Marketing Matters has 13 essential elements to be on solid ground and the first two are:

#1.  Define your value proposition.

#2.  Develop your target profile.

If you have completed #2 and I mean documented as clearly as you can EXACTLY who you want to be selling to and working with, then you are in MUCH better shape to assess prospects and decide whether the opportunity is a good match for you and your business.  Congratulations if you have this in place.  Most small and medium-sized businesses skip this step.  Responses include:  Oh, we know that.  Sure, we have done that…. so, I ask them for a copy.  Uh, Oh, it is in our heads.  We don’t have to write it down.

I have a documented target profile and I ignored it.  I was introduced to a business owner, referred by another business owner that I have a lot of respect for and admire.  As a potential source for referrals, I wanted to help his client out and show what FMM can do.

As a marketer, I ignored my target profile, my notes from my initial meeting and my gut. Complete idiot. This business owner did not fit my profile at all.  He is a classic dabbler:  not interested in strategy, just marketing tactics.  His priority was getting an email blast out the door.  He was looking for a silver bullet and I took the bait.  I should have RUN.

Of course, the project (note to self – my business model is NOT to engage in projects, but to earn serving as the outsourced marketing department) had a tight timeframe and details were sketchy.  Again, RUN.  Just this once I will deviate from my core business strategy.  I was referred and I want to deliver.  I left the initial meeting with such clarity of how we could help his business have a clearer, stronger go-to-market plan.  So, I respond with “Sure, we can start with a project.”  In my mind I would still develop some of the core marketing foundational work that he really needed as part of the project and, of course, he will see the benefit.  In my mind, I will help him and it will be all ok.  Doh!  So not true.

To avoid reliving a nightmare of a project, this blog is focused on how you can learn from my stupidity.

Document your target audience.  Don’t skip this step.  This is NOT simply a title and industry.  Dig into the details of what are they like, what is important to you about this company and this individual. My ideal client is MARK.  Not because he is a man, but because he or she wants to make a Mark in this world – they are passionate about what they do and they invest in their business.  They are not dabblers.  They are not do-it-yourselfers.  They are smart, passionate, focused, driven and committed to growing their business.  To do so, they surround themselves with professionals to have the expertise and insight that they need and value.  They are optimists (working with pessimists is a drag for me). They know what they don’t know and they are not nickel and dimers.  I am their partner, not a vendor. They get ‘it’ and they appreciate accountability, hard work, insight and they value results.  They value having a plan to stay on course, but are open to evaluating what is working and what is not.

Once you have this type of target profile clearly defined, convert it into questions to evaluate prospective clients!  Once you have the profile and the associated questions to evaluate prospects, use it.  Be consistent.  I ignored my notes.  Not because I wanted to work with the business owner and his business, but because I wanted to deliver on the referral.  Stupid.

Then leverage your written target profile to help you and others in your company consistently and clearly evaluate prospective business.  Not all business is good business.  Not all revenue is worth it.  Not only will it help you RUN AWAY from potential clients that are not a good fit, it will help you scale your business to have more business development folks evaluating potential business in the same way. Make it part of your sales process.

If you don’t have a target profile developed, get this done.  In the meantime go with your gut.  I know a great marketing company that can help you grow…but you’ll have to fit the ideal target profile!


Hey marketers! Stay in the race to prioritize the leads you are generating!

September 26, 2014

The hand-off in a relay is a critical point in the race.  Valuable time can be lost if the baton hand-off is not precise or even worse, the race can be lost if the baton is dropped.

Baton handoff








The hand-off of leads from marketing to sales is like the relay race hand-off.  Not only can time be lost, but revenue can be lost.

Ways marketing can help with the hand-off of leads to help sales and sales management (while also helping marketing in its efforts):

1.   Gather information to help qualify the lead.  For example, with a web form, design the submittal form to gather important information that will help ‘qualify’ the lead.  Work with sales to identify desired fields and then balance what is reasonable to ask while keeping the form short.  Example:  For a B to B client, we designed the web form to enable the individual to indicate if budget is approved, timeframe a decision will be made (having pre-defined timeframes set) and enabling files to be attached to the lead to provide further specifications.  Forms can be designed to test layout and number of fields required and option to determine what will work best for your industry.

Know your audience (marketing 101) – give your prospect flexibility; while for one client we would like to gather phone and email, the reality is our target audience is more likely to prefer email over phone.  Knowing that, we do not require a phone number at the risk of receiving no leads vs. leads with less information than is ideal.

Benefit to sales: marketing is handing off leads that have quality indicators that assist them in further qualifying the lead:  budget approved (yes or no), timeframe of need, specification files attached.  Level of detail in the form submitted assist sales in acting on this lead quickly with a focused list of questions.

2. Too many batons…Any other marketers out there frustrated that leads generated are not being followed up on?  Uggh!

Years ago when initially getting started with a particular client, the client acknowledged they lacked leads.  There was NO inbound activity.  The company was solely reliant on its existing customer base with little to no new business being generated.  The sales function was largely an order taking function.  Fast forward, we get the marketing foundation in place, start executing an integrated marketing plan and the tables turn.  Leads are coming in the door and guess what?  Sales is now having a tough time prioritizing and keeping up!  Now leads are not being followed up on and sales is complaining that the volume of inbound leads is too much.

How can marketing help with this challenge?  Stay in the race after handing off the baton.  What I mean by this is, marketing run alongside sales as they work the leads to learn more about what is happening to the leads.  Gather the facts (not hearsay) as to how leads are being assigned, what leads are not good and why, and help contribute to solutions vs. walking away and categorizing the issue as a sales problem.  Gathering facts will help you determine if there is an opportunity to refine the lead generation activities and reduce overall volume while maintaining or improving overall quality.  Running alongside sales will also shed insight into raising the important issue of leads not being worked at all.  As part of the relay team, do your leg of the race well and then support your team members in getting to the finish line strong.

3. Offer insight into Prioritizing Leads

Not all leads are created equal.

Many would argue that prioritizing leads is squarely in the court of sales management and not marketing.  I would agree, except For Marketing Matters’ clients are small and mid-sized businesses.  Organizational structure and responsibilities are not always as defined as we have seen in our corporate experiences.  So while staying in our lane, marketers can provide great insight into working with sales to help prioritize leads.  Specifically, marketing as keeper of the brand has developed the ideal target profile, is aware of and well-versed in entry-level products/services and those that help build a loyal and committed customer.  Marketing offers great insight into what should affect prioritizing a lead.

If there are not parameters in place for prioritizing leads and you as the marketing team are generating leads, develop a straw man to work with sales management to finalize and agree to.  If sales is not working all leads or loses sight of past leads that were important, but are no longer on the radar screen, get a simple yet clear prioritization process in place.  This helps get some leads to  “NO” quicker and helps sales and sales management clearly understand what leads deserve attention and what ones take a backseat.  Not all leads are created equal.  Don’t allocate time equally across leads.

How to get started:  Use a simple prioritization indicator such as A, B, C, D or use 4 star, 3 start, 2 star and 1 star or 1,2,3 or 4.

If prioritizing is an issue and sales is losing sight of where to spend their time, marketing can get this prioritization underway, agreed to and incorporated into pipeline reporting.  This helps marketing show the quality of leads that they are generating and it helps sales learn how to allocate their time and sales management can mange the pipeline and coach to this prioritization.  With an agreed to prioritization, you can also address head with facts the quality of the leads being generated by marketing and by sales as all leads should be prioritized in the same manner no matter the source.


The revenue generating engine in any company includes marketing and sales.  Instead of throwing leads over the fence, handoff the leads and then stay in the race to monitor, learn, and refine.  Marketers should be an active participant in generating revenue.  Then when the baton comes back to marketing for lead generation, you are in better shape to run your leg well and greatly contribute to overall success.

Can your brand make this impact?

September 3, 2014

I am in awe of the Market Basket brand and the impact this brand has had on so many lives, especially in the past several months.  I boycotted the store and closely watched the events unfurl.  There was rarely an interaction over these past weeks that did not include a reference to the Market Basket saga.

This past weekend I went back.  I debated as time was tight (isn’t it always?) and I have no patience for making two stops to get what I need.  I decided I would give Market Basket a chance and see how if they had any produce and dairy.  Wow!  I was wow’d.  I am a consumer who is not easily wow’d, but I was smiling as I approached the doors.  Signs in the windows  – “Thank you” and “Welcome Home” – really nice choosing home over back.  The friendly voice over the intercom reinforced the welcome and more kind words of thanks.  Employees had smiles; you could feel the positive vibe.  The bakery team was handing out free snacks (note to my trainer – I DID not take any).  I started shopping in produce and was not just surprised, but amazed at the full bins and all the fresh produce.  It was Sunday of a long weekend.  Truckers, warehouse teams and the store staff were busting their butts to get this store back to normal.  As I shopped, a man spoke to me and shared his excitement for the store being back, for being able to shop again at a store he loved and commenting on how the produce was back.  There really was an energy and an excitement that was heartwarming.  It is not uncommon for me to speak to people I don’t know (ask my kids), but chatting with the shopper near you seemed normal, healthy and part of the process we had all been through as collective Market Basket shoppers.  I was having fun, actually enjoying this.  Reminder, this is grocery shopping people!  One of the most mundane weekly chores on my list.  How the heck has Market Basket turned grocery shopping into an experience?

The marketer in me can’t help myself.  This brand is amazing!  People walked off their jobs to support Artie T.  They risked the stability of their lives – their jobs and their income to support their leader.  They love the brand – the store, the family atmosphere and what they stand for.  They organized shopping carts in the parking lot to form his initials.  Local establishments delivered pizza to the workers.  We as customers boycotted the stores and went elsewhere to pay more and get less. Local farmers lost business.  People on fixed incomes suffered. People on bus routes suffered. Then the news broke that a deal had been reached and Artie T was back.  There was palpable excitement, relief and joy.  Full page ads in the Boston Globe including suppliers welcoming Market Basket back.  Reminder, this is a grocery store chain. AMAZING.

So what is it?  As I say to my clients, what is the secret sauce? This is more than JUST low prices.  There are plenty of discount, low price companies that have never attained this brand status.  There is not this level of affinity, brand equity, love, and loyalty attributed to a brand like this and certainly not in this same category.  This is uncommon, unique and yes, remarkable.  A neighbor of mine was self-described as being ‘sad’ over the risk of Market Basket going away.  Another friend expressed concern – what if they sell to Hannaford? It was MORE than just the low prices.  It was the secret sauce.

My grocery shopping over Labor Day weekend was an experience.  Managers stocking shelves, smiling and thanking you.  Helping me try to find an item on my list and then sincerely apologizing to me because they did not yet have it n stock.  I smiled and said “No problem at all.  I am glad you guys are back and I completely understand.”   People were so nice, so warm and friendly.  In a sea of mostly strangers, there was a sense of belonging, of being one, of the power of standing for something that is good. I can’t pinpoint all the ingredients of this secret sauce, but I am in awe.  I train client’s employees on the brand and on the message.  I am in awe of this number of employees being in sync, being on message and clearly and consistently representing the brand.  As the cashier said to me as we chatted during checkout, ‘we look forward to the movie’ and with her big wide smile thanked me for coming back.  That is a movie I will see.  I also look forward to reading the business case as clearly this is one story we can all continue to learn from.


Can you be reliable?

July 21, 2014

Do you know what your customers want from your business?  This company does.

We are in a ‘this old house’ phase where every major item seems to be breaking, decaying or rotting.  The most recent replacement expense was the fence.  The original, came-with-the-house, white picket fence was long overdue to be replaced.  It was staying up on a prayer.  Fast forward from the quote phase to the installation phase and what does Reliable Fence have?  A very happy customer who wants to share their experience with the world.  Contractors have a reputation for being horrible about follow up and follow through.  When I have an experience that ‘wows’ I need to share.

reliable fence

So, why am I blogging about Reliable Fence?  Frankly, as a marketer, I am not impressed with many businesses.  Their brand is weak, their logo is not legible, there is no thought on color scheme, their customer service is lousy, their phone systems is equivalent to voice mail hell…the list goes on and on.  So many business owners don’t get “it” , they dabble, they cut corners and ultimately they leave a bad impression.  I am impressed when a firm gets it and I feel part of my marketing evangelist role in life is to spread the good news of companies that I recommend because they do the important things well.

Reliable Fence is my latest example.  First reason:  Marketing 101.  They put a sign up in our yard prior to doing the work to market their business to all runners, walkers and neighbors.  Smart.  Yep, basic, but smart.  Do you know how many companies assume our little cul de sac is not worth putting up a sign?  Silly assumption.  They should see how many people walk and run and bike and our homes are all the same age so HELLO?  They likely will need your service too!  Ok…back to Reliable Fence.

Second reason for a shout out to Reliable Fence.  Material delivery phase.  Pretty basic stuff, right? What could go wrong at this simple stage?  Well, let’s see, have you ever had a business unload something right in front of one of your garage doors for days?  Or directly on the lawn to kill the lawn or in a flower bed?  Not with this company.  The lead guy came to the door, introduced himself (basic, but often does not happen), remembered my name, reviewed the job with me and asked great clarifying questions.  He was friendly, professional, and focused.  He confirmed where he could leave all the materials and confirmed the timing of the job and their expected duration.  He and his partner unloaded all the materials and I could immediately tell they were organized by area and out of the way from causing any harm or hassle.  Nice.

Third reason for shout out to Reliable Fence:  They were neat and thorough.  They used our garden hose to wash off the fence sections as they got them done.  At the end of the day, they put the hose back where they found it.  They picked up all their trash as they worked.  Yes, really.

Final reason for shout out to Reliable Fence:  they worked really hard and never complained.  They had to move 4 granite posts into place and there was no close access for them to drive the posts to the needed location.  These posts were heavy (so I am told!).  My husband came up with a solution using our lawn tractor and a neighbor’s tractor trailer to save their backs.  They were so appreciative!  This work was hard and it was hot.  It was Friday afternoon in the summer and they were grinding it out.  They could have cut out on a Friday and said they would be back on Monday to finish the job. (sound familiar?)  Nope, they stayed until after 7pm on a Friday night and the two guys lived in Western MA – they had a long drive ahead of them and never complained.  They did not cut any corners to start their weekend.  Instead they reviewed the finished work with me, patiently reviewing the gates and keys and never indicating that they needed to get out of Dodge and start the weekend.

Have I mentioned the fence?  No, because at the end of the day my expectations were that the fence would be what we had contracted for.  The fence is their product, but the reality is HOW they did the job was more important to me than the baseline expectation of having a new fence installed that would be properly installed to last for years and look good.

Marketing Message for today:  learn from Reliable Fence.  I expected their fence to be reliable.  That was not the ‘wow’ factor.  I was pleasantly surprised with the professionalism of the team and the manner in how they conduct business.  Kudos to you, Reliable Fence.  I can see why you have been in business for over 50 years.  May others learn from you how to deliver on what is most important to their customer vs. delivering just what was contracted for.  Thanks for great service and a great fence.


When Packaging is Not Enough

July 8, 2014

These days, more and more people are carefully reading product packaging,  Packaging can be a powerful marketing tool to speak to your target audience.  I admit this is not my area of expertise as I primarily focus on B to B marketing and thrive on marketing services and complex products. But as a consumer, I value and appreciate the importance of packaging and that is why I am compelled to write about such an odd topic that could get downright dirty and nasty quickly.

Reading the packaging

Now, are you curious?!

I have been buying the same brand of toilet paper for years.  Remember the ads:  “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin”?!  I was sold on this brand and like many things in my life as a consumer, I am a loyal customer.  It makes decision-making easy and certainly makes grocery shopping as efficient as I can be.  If I like a brand, I stick with it.  Perhaps I would buy Cottonelle once in a while, but any good analyst would quickly realize that softness was a key feature of the brand that I purchased in this product category.

Not anymore.  I am done with Charmin.  Good bye Cottonelle.  Why you may ask?  Because, during a Sunday night service call, a drain guy digging up our front yard to solve a septic tank issue informed us that Charmin is bad. We should be using Scott!  Huh?  I had no idea.

The marketer in me immediately thought of why has this message not reached me and other folks living with a septic system?  We have lived in this home and been on septic for 14 years and I never knew this was a product differentiator?  Where have I been?  So, today, I went to the grocery store in between meetings and honestly, went down the toilet paper aisle with a curiosity that is not only weird, but very marketing-nerdy as I could not wait to see if the packaging of Scott toilet paper included messaging about its unique features.  Sure enough – a ‘septic safe’ message right on the package!

But, hold on! Marketers that messaging on the package is not enough!  Until today, I NEVER looked at the Scott’s packaging before because I do not look at ANY other brand of toilet paper in the whole aisle. The small ‘septic safe’ would have gone totally un-noticed as I went down this aisle with blinders on. Unless I had seen an ad or read an article about its benefits of being ‘septic safe’, I never would have known until this tatted guy casually solved our issue by telling us what I wish I had known 14 years ago – buy Scott.

Since Sunday evening, my mind has been thinking about all kinds of ways this message could be better shared to target home owners using septic, but I need to move on to focus on my clients and their needs.  However, there is a marketing lesson here and I am noodling it around in my head to remind myself of the broader opportunity this story highlights:  as marketers we have to think how best to reach our ideal target audience and convey the unique differentiators of our products and services in a way that matters to them and in a way that actually reaches them.  In this case, the packaging appears to be reinforcing a benefit to consumers already buying the product.  Without knowing for sure, I expect this product category has a fairly high brand loyalty.

Thanks Drain Man for informing me and saving me from future annoying and potentially expensive septic issues.  He is an influencer in my purchasing behavior and this loyal customer has switched brands to the one he recommended.

As I conclude, I have to say I am surprised to write such a blog and not even have one potty talk reference. Is that called maturity? Great Scott!


A Marketer’s View of a Crazy Month of June

June 26, 2014

iStock_000002980903Small - blur time passing quickly

How can next week be the 4th of July? It is amazing to me how fast the month of June passed, but when I think about what occurred in the month it is very clear to me why it was such a blur.

The following 5 events and efforts highlight this crazy month of June:

1. College visits – we hit the circuit of the latest round of college visits hours after my son’s junior year ended. Two moms and “two rising seniors” on a flight to Philly to see 5 schools in 2 days. And the winner is…Drexel University! From the moment we entered the admissions office, Drexel wins the marketing award for having the clearest sense of who they are, for being consistent across all touch points of who they are, for a solid and well thought out value proposition and for offering a real sense of value. Kudos to Drexel University! Excellent video, excellent presenters, fabulous tagline and excellent tour group leader and they even followed up with a survey to get feedback. Great job!

2. Client Event with the American Red Cross – I am a planner. In all aspects of my life I plan. I know it is a strength and a gift to my clients, but I also know that life can be overly planned and structured. I get that. When it comes to planning client events, my team is an A team. We document, plan, update and ensure that all items are well-planned, communicated and executed well. When a client event is planned with a large national organization such as the American Red Cross, we assume they too have their plan defined and under control. That was not the case. They were fragmented, bureaucratic and ‘loose’ which is not how we operate. Fortunately up to 72 lives can be saved with the blood that was drawn the day of the event, but we know what could have and should have been. Live and learn. We move on.

3. Boston Red Sox Pitcher Jake Peavy and client event – what a highlight of the month! I am a HUGE Red Sox fan and have been since I wanted to marry outfield Reggie Smith back in the early 1970s! (so no, I have not recently jumped on the bandwagon just because they won some trophies!) Jake Peavy is our designated player this year for Jaffarian Volvo Toyota Scion and he was able to join us. What a tremendous person! I so enjoyed meeting him and a highlight of my month was him letting me try on his World Series ring. See facebook for the photo!. Thank you Jake for being so gracious including your heartfelt conversation with a war veteran who had served 15 months in Iraq. Thank you Luke Peavy for helping to make this happen – so great to meet with you and chat with you. I am confident the Red Sox will turn it around after the all star break.

4. Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity – the Builders Blitz from June 9 – June 14th! Wow what a week! It truly takes a village of wonderful people to plan and execute on building two homes in 5 1/2 days. There are hundreds of people to thanks and dozens of companies to name who made this week so special. The good news is there are many great people in the world who want to give back and help others. The two families who will call these two houses “home” each have five children. It was an incredible week and thanks to so many who made this so worthwhile and special including The Eagle Tribune, Rumba, North Shore Magazine who helped cover the event and spread the good news of Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity. I owned the marketing efforts – signage, t-shirts and PR. As part of the team and as a board member, it was a fabulous week. Now if I could only be seen in some of the press photos 😉

5. Client work – yes the month still included client work. The common themes were content creation and lead generation. Our efforts to generate leads for our clients continued strong with clients consistently acknowledging that lack of leads was not their issue. FMM clients had more leads than targeted! Unfortunately the common issue is sales working the leads effectively to convert them to revenue. Another big focus in the month was content creation – specifically content for a client leveraging Thomas Net as a generator of leads. Note to anyone investing in such listings – secure a proven marketing partner to ensure your listings are accurate, thorough and complete. Investing in such a listing may make a lot of sense but if you rely on the folks at such a company to understand your business and present you clearly and correctly, you are likely mistaken and wasting the investment. Don’t risk relying on strangers to write your marketing message. Get it right and you will get better leads.

June was a blur. I expect July will also pass quickly, but I hope the first week last 3 weeks! Summer is officially here and the 4th of July is upon us. Looking forward to some downtime to recharge the battery that is running a bit low.

Making A Split Decision: Stop and Help

April 26, 2014

School vacation week is over and like the kids, I look back and think “how is it already over?”. I joke with adults that I am not ‘normal’, as I love hanging out with my kids and I relish the lazier days of vacation just as much as they do.

As I look back on the week and get ready for the school and work week ahead, a random event made the biggest impression on me this past week. It got me thinking about what if it had not been vacation week…would I have done the same thing?

Thursday was an ‘off’ day for our family – no college visits, no girls shopping sprees, no definite plans. A day we were going to play it by ear. I told my kids they could sleep as long as they wanted and I would go to the gym and then we’d plan the day. I went to the gym and then drove to Medford for my allergy shot. I caught up on some work emails while at the allergy office and then headed home, calling my daughter to let her know I was on my way.

Heading north on 93, a truck crossing lanes of traffic up ahead caught my eye and I quickly realized a nasty accident was happening just ahead of me. Car parts were flying, cars were crashing into each other and four lanes of steady traffic were braking and swerving. I was in the far left lane, and cautiously slowed as most vehicles made the quick decision to move right, avoid the wreckage and keep going. I did not follow.

My instinct told me to stop. I stayed in the left lane and stopped my car – immediately putting on my hazard lights. A vehicle ahead of me had been hit hard on the passenger side and the driver, a dad, was quickly pulling young kids out of the back seat and getting them on the other side of the guard rail to be safer. Within seconds, three young girls were standing on the side of 93 North in 45 mph winds. I called 911 to report the accident and then ran toward the girls. I offered to take the girls with me and have them in my car where they would be safe and warm. The Mom and Dad, clearly shaken, agreed and the 3 young girls ran with me back to my car to be safe and warm.

I talked to the girls and tried to calm them down. The youngest, only 6 years old, was shaking and so scared. I had a blanket in the car from Marathon Monday and her cousin wrapped her up so she could get warm. I wished I had something to offer them, but I only had gum, the end of my morning Dunkin Donuts coffee and the radio. Given I listen to The Highway, the fabulous country music station on Sirius Radio, I changed the radio to Kiss 108 to better appeal to their musical interests! I talked to them with my main focus on keeping them calm and reassuring them everything would be ok. Two of the girls were sisters and the other a cousin, all headed for a vacation.

State Police officers, fire trucks, tow trucks, and many EMTs quickly arrived to assess the situation and to focus on getting people safely out of vehicles and en route for hospital care. Others focused on documenting the accident and identifying who was in which vehicles. 93 north was full of emergency vehicles, tow trucks and debris.

The family rental was packed with luggage and food and treats for the beach vacation. We moved luggage to my vehicle as I offered to get them anywhere they needed to go. By this point, the Mom joined me in my vehicle along with the girls so she too could be warm as well as sit down as she had hit her head during the crash.

All the responders were incredible – a huge tribute to their professionalism but more importantly to how they all spoke kindly and compassionately with the three girls. I was so impressed as they checked the youngest girl’s seatbelt ‘burn’ on her little neck and how they explained the reasoning for ending up putting the mom in a neck brace and strapping her to a back board. All scary stuff for young eyes to witness but the EMTs and state police explained how they wanted to keep the family together and suggested that all 5 be transported via ambulance to be checked out. The two older girls had been incredibly brave until they heard that news that they too would be traveling via ambulance and no longer staying in my car with me. They too then began to shake and cry at the thought of going into an ambulance. I focused on soothing them while finalizing the plans with their grandfather to meet him at a local restaurant parking lot to get him the family’s luggage. I had nothing to offer them except my pack of gum which I gave to the oldest as a small item for them to have, chew on and enjoy. The family’s day had taken a strange turn. There would be no beach vacation.

Fortunately, the girls were fine and the parents’ injuries were not serious. They were lucky. I am glad I was there to help them and to offer them a place to be out of the wind and away from the wreckage. I am glad in that instant I did not veer right and keep going. I would have wanted someone to stop and help my family. The mom commented while sitting in my car that I probably had a million things I needed to be doing. I smiled and explained that this was a quiet vacation day for me and my kids. I am grateful it was and hope that even if I did have a busy, jam-packed workday, that I would make the same split second decision and stop to help.

B to B Marketing: Is your company building a Dream List?

April 13, 2014

Scenario: You are CEO of a B to B business. Your goal is growth (sales and profitability). Your growth strategy is expand existing clients and attract new ones. You need to expand awareness of your products/services in a cost-effective way.

Marketing works the top of the funnel, building the message, creating the awareness and opening doors for sales to then qualify, build relationships, propose solutions and close the deal. A critical asset that a B to B company needs to effectively go to market is a Dream List.

What is a Dream List?
– it is an asset of all company contacts – clients, prospects, suspects, referral sources, partners, competitors.
– it is CRITICAL to organize this information in a useful manner.
– it may be as simple as establishing an Excel spreadsheet or may be part of your company’s ERP software – often referred to as the CRM module. You may use; honestly the actual software is less critical than having an asset that is carefully organized, built and maintained.

A Dream List - A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

A Dream List – A critical element for a strong Marketing Foundation

If you don’t have a company asset (aka A Dream List) that represents a usable list that marketing can use to target and prioritize messages to fuel your growth, you are going to struggle with achieving your growth goals. You also run the risk of renting lists and driving costs to acquire new clients. Build an asset that marketing AND sales continue to add to. Over the past 3 years, we built a Dream List for one client from scratch – starting first with consolidating their known contacts. We started with ~400 B to B contacts and have grown that to over 6,000 contacts that is our source for our ongoing marketing efforts. When this client installs their new ERP system this July, we will simply map the fields of our Dream List Excel file to load all this knowledge and all this work to be housed as a central asset.

I am looking forward to the fruits of our labor appearing in pipeline reports where the pipeline can then be sorted by industry, by client type, by source code and by many other fields enabling us as marketers to see the impact we have made on the bottom line and by continuing to build the Dream List adding new contacts daily that come in from our marketing efforts that generate phone and email and web leads. A closed loop marketing effort is a beautiful thing, but a critical marketing foundational element is that unglamorous Dream List that we started building years ago.

By the way, you may wonder why I call it “A Dream List”? Like the Dream Team is your go-to A players, the Dream List is the go-to list for your marketing efforts. It should be your source, your “system of record” of your client base, a centralized repository of your prospects and contacts you have built over the years. Start building.

This is not a good sign

March 23, 2014
The importance of alignment

The importance of alignment

Is this an accurate image of how your marketing and sales groups operate? Each headed in their own direction? If so, you as the CEO have a fundamental problem and it is not just an internal issue.

Alignment is required. I use this term “alignment” consistently when working with my clients. For all of my clients a marketing plan is in place. As we make measurable progress building awareness and generating leads, the client conversation naturally leads to the importance of alignment with sales. What specifically do I mean by alignment? Visually it would mean moving the sales sign in the above image so it is right under marketing and headed in the same direction. The direction is defined by the company strategy and priorities.

1. Why under marketing? Simply, marketing builds the top of the funnel through its efforts focused on building the brand awareness, generating leads for sales to then nurture and close. Sales leverages the marketing message to retain clients, expand business and handle leads from marketing to convert to clients.
2. Why in the same direction? Honestly, this seems like it should be obvious. Do you want marketing focused on acquiring new clients through lead generation efforts yet sales is only focused on expanding existing clients so there is no appetite or bandwidth to work the leads that marketing is bringing in? The two groups need to be aligned to the priorities of your company. I have clients that struggle with the ‘alignment’ word. Some clients prefer ‘partnership’, but to have a partnership you first need to be aligned.

Alignment is key. Alignment between marketing and sales MUST include the following:
Strategy. Make sure you have alignment at the strategic level. In other words, if your growth strategy for 2014 is based on acquiring new clients while retaining existing and expanding within existing, there is a direct implication to the role that marketing will play to reach BOTH existing clients and new and that naturally affects the sales organization and how it develops its sales plan for the year.
Goals. The goals for both marketing and sales need to support the strategy. These should be measurable and tracked consistently for both groups.
Incentives. Many companies only have a sales incentive plan. Why don’t you have an upside for marketing that is ‘aligned’ with the behavior you need that is also then aligned with sales? Make sure you are not equating aligned with the incentives being the same! Marketing should have incentives tied to the top of the funnel while sales should have incentives tied to the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Priorities. As CEO are you confident that the quarterly and monthly priorities within marketing and sales are in alignment? Are they pulling in the same direction or working against themselves?

The reality is that all your functions need to be aligned, working like a well-oiled machine. I am focused on marketing and sales because there is SO MUCH opportunity for companies to grow by getting these signs aligned and headed in the same direction. The upside is HUGE.

How will you as a CEO or President get the signs headed in the same direction starting in Q2?</strong>

At the risk of thinking about this as an organizational exercise, keep in mind the real negative impact of having these two groups not in sync is felt by your clients and prospects. They are the ones getting mixed messages. That should be enough reason to work on this intersection and make it a priority.

Two weeks left in Q1. SMB CEO, are you where you wanted to be?

March 14, 2014

Hey Mr./Mrs. CEO or President of a small to mid-sized growth business!

It’s the middle of March. Hard to believe based on the cold snowy days here in New England, but enough talking about the weather. Let’s talk business. Specifically, YOUR business.

Time for action. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

There are two more weeks left in the month of March. Two more weeks left in the first quarter of 2014. Just eleven business days left. Tick. Tick.

Are you on track to meet your Q1 goals? Do you have the actionable information you need to confidently answer this question?

At this point in Q1, the marketing plan for your business should be rock solid. The plan is being executed and you as CEO should have the following information readily available QTD (quarter to date) from your VP of marketing (internal or agency):
1. # leads generated by marketing efforts by source code MTD and QTD; conversion rates to quotes and sales
2. Analysis of key channels including website updates, analysis, key SEO term rankings
3. Event plans for upcoming events to define goals, metrics of success and roles to generate ROI on exhibiting at trade shows
4. Media coverage secured; updated media list and upcoming planned interviews
5. Reporting on brand awareness
6. Status of sales tool kit and new materials developed QTD to support sales process
7. Timing and schedule of any remaining marketing initiatives planned for Q1
8. Any other key metrics reports for top strategic goals – direct marketing, email marketing, webinar attendance

If you are serious about growing your business, look at your business like a CEO. Surround yourself with talent to achieve your growth goals. Discipline, rigor and accountability are not only critical to bigger business’ success. They are why small businesses get bigger and so many SMBs stall or ultimately fail. You can maintain your culture while still instilling discipline, accountability and reporting to help you do your primary job: leading the business in growth and prosperity. As a marketer, the above list is an example of the types of information you should have to assess the execution of the marketing plan. As CEO, you need this same degree of reporting and accountability from all key functions. The clock is ticking. Q1 is wrapping up quickly. What decisions and investments will you be making to make Q2 a great quarter for your company?

Tick. Tick.

The Marketing Power of Signs

February 14, 2014

Good signs create brand awareness. Many business owners can improve their marketing efforts simply by investing in quality signage.
Two examples to share with you today:

Example #1: A missed opportunity

Creative use of an ambulance!  No signage.

Creative use of an ambulance! No signage.

Points for creativity are earned by this roofer who uses an ambulance for transporting roofing materials and ladders. Unfortunately the creativity stopped there and the obvious opportunity to have some fun with branding and signage fell through the cracks. After doing good work, there was no request to put a sign in our yard to promote his roofing services in our neighborhood where all homes were built around the same time and are likely in need a new roof, too. A missed opportunity to leave business cards for us to share. The owner clearly did not know he was doing the roof of a marketer! I did not even know his company’s name when someone asked me for a reference. Missed opportunity. A sign would have created at least one lead if not more. What is that worth to the owner?

Example #2: Signs lead to Connections and Charity Involvement
Contrast the above example of a missed opportunity with the power of effective signs. I am on the board for Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity and we are in the midst of planning for the June Home Builder’s Blitz when two homes will be built in 6 days! In a recent meeting, it was brought up that we needed a few more building companies to commit to the cause. I immediately thought of local builders’ that I knew of and suggested that the lead builder reach out to Steeplechase Builders as I had seen their signs in many places. Fast forward, Steeplechase Builders was thrilled to be contacted as they were looking for charity to get involved in and this was a perfect fit. This week I met the two principals of Steeplechase Builders and shared with them the story of how their signs led to their being part of this great effort. These business owners are smart: they regularly invest in their signs and leverage their existing customers to be a solid referral source. It is likely their involvement in Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity will increase the visibility of Steeplechase Builders and it is my hope that this leads to continued growth for these business owners who are committed to giving back. See what a sign can do!

Do you have stuffed olives?

January 16, 2014


As you kick off the year and focus on having a great 2014, take a step back and ask yourself – What can I do to better serve my customers? 

The best way to answer this question is really quite basic. Put a feedback loop in place.  Make sure you have a communications process in place to ask your sales people, your waiters and waitresses, your customer service people, your delivery people – anyone who has interactions with prospects or customers:  What do they ask for that we are not providing?

So what do stuffed olives have to do with this blog? 

I can’t take the marketer out of me. I can’t put my customer-centric mindset aside – whether it’s watching TV and analyzing the commercials, driving by a commercial vehicle on the highway and noting the poor branding or unreadable graphics, or going out to dinner with my family. I see opportunities. I see simple ways to improve customer service, simple ways to improve one’s message, be consistent with imagery and ways to “wow” the customer. The example to highlight my point is stuffed olives.

When we go out to dinner, I know what the request will be of the bartender or waiter/waitress before we leave our home. My husband will ask – “do you have stuffed olives?”  as he orders his martini. The best and hoped-for answer is – “of course” and then indicate they stuff them with fresh bleu cheese. Nice! The evening is off to a good start. The most common answer, however, is an immediate, no hesitation “No”. The missed opportunity is that 90% of the places have olives and they have bleu cheese. The sad part is no consideration, no offer to take the pimento out and put some bleu cheese in for voila, a stuffed olive!  They simply and quickly say ‘no’ and move on to taking the drink order. Lesson #1 – clue your employees into the simple missed opportunity; the opportunity to say yes and make it happen without a lot of effort or negative impact on margins. Pretty simple stuff.

Lesson #2 – As the owner, President or CEO, are you even aware of what your customers or prospects are asking for and getting the answer of ‘no’?  This is the part of the dinner where I get on my soap box – I comment to my kids and husband that I bet them that no one ever shares with the manager or the owner that people are even asking for stuffed olives. The feedback loop is likely nonexistent. Do you have an easy way to gather more info so you are in the know and can make an informed business decision about whether you will choose to offer your business equivalent of the ‘stuffed olive’ example? Suggestion: put a feedback loop in place for 2014! In this example, a waiter or bartender could simply leave a note or post an email every day of requests they receive that aren’t met. For other organizations, a sales person could share in a weekly call or put in their call report. Customer service could have a simple email that they capture the patterns of one or many. The point of lesson #2 is this feedback loop does not have to be complex or process-heavy. Make it happen – I bet you you’ll identify something that you can do in Q1 of 2014 to improve how you are serving your target audience.

This overused acronym does apply here (sorry)  K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple stupid. Put in some consistent process that enables you to have a better handle on what your customers are looking for and then deliver it. Don’t treat this as a New Rear’s Resolution as if you do, like most resolutions, it will not last until Valentine’s Day. Just do it consistently and let your team know it is not a fad, but a smart way of doing business. Listen. Don’t say no – work on saying yes more.

Go find out what the equivalent of having stuffed olives is for your business. It may surprise you and help 2014 results. Cheers!

Is Anyone’s Customer Service WOWing you this Christmas?

December 13, 2013

Tis the season…to be wowed by fabulous customer service.  Are you feeling the love?


I do a lot of shopping online for Christmas.  I find it easy, efficient and productive.  This year?  not so much.  Cyber Monday was a disappointment for me due to a variety of bad online experiences.  I understand if I was shopping on December 20th, but promoting products that aren’t available early in the shopping season is frustrating and does damage to the brand.

Here are my bad brand experiences to date followed by my one wow experience so far:

1. Negative – Timberland.  Their top sellers are out of stock yet they promote 30-40% off online.  The reality is you can’t get the product you want in any ‘normal’ sizes.  Who planned their inventory for the holiday season?

2. Negative – Vineyard Vines.  This brand has taken off like a rocket, yet their inventory was wiped out very early – I am talking November.  Their catalog arrived and immediately I checked on some items and there was limited to no availability by color, size and item.  Bummer.

3. Negative – Carbon 2 Cobalt.  I like their styles and last year had great luck with this store and ordering online last Christmas.  This year?  Not so much.  I found a sweater I wanted to buy for my nephew, went to the site, searched for the item number – nothing.  No message.  Searched by name – nothing.  Searched by product type – Men’s Sweaters.  The sweater I wanted to order was the featured image on the landing page – perfect I think!  There it is – now I just need to order it.  That was the problem.  The sweater is nowhere to be found on the website.  Huh?  No one thought to have a message appear that the product is sold out, out of stock, something?  I left the site and they lost my business.

Being a glass half full person, I kept on shopping online, determined to find something I liked.  I started to do a search to address my frustration with BOTH Vineyard Vines and Carbon 2 Cobalt and I found the online Bloomingdales website with available product for me to order.  Not only did I find items I liked, they had sizes in stock!  Bonanza!  As I started my order for 3 nephews, I noticed a promotion to get an additional 10% off by signing up for emails.  Perfect.  The 10% represented a decent savings so I signed up, received my text alert that I was enrolled…but then there was no promo code to complete my online order.  Bummer.  I picked up the phone and called customer support as chat was not available at the time.  (Odd as chat should be available late afternoon during Christmas don’t you think?)  Anyway, my wow moment was about to happen so back to the point.  The customer service person was great – friendly, empathetic, and resourceful.  I explained I did not get a promo code for the additional 10% off my order.  She explained that that code would not be sent for 1-3 days (no where on the website) and she apologized for that not being clear.  She offered to give me 15% off my order and placed the order for me to ensure it went through and the discount was applied.  WOW!  She exceeded my high expectations.  Kudos to Bloomingdales for doing what no one else has done this holiday season.  I got great deals and had a wow experience.

Let me know what business is wowing you this Christmas season.  I want to know!

When coffee is not enough.

November 22, 2013

cup of coffee

Hey restaurant owners and managers.  Pay attention.  Two things not to do when anyone on your team screws up someone’s order at a restaurant:

1. Offer them a free dessert.

2. Bring the check and say, “I did not charge you for your coffee”.

Lesson to all business owners: when you screw up, and we all have and will, do the right thing.  Do more than the customer or guest expected.  Wow them – this is your chance!  This is the BIG moment to shine.

I met two dear friends this week for our GNO dinner.  We waited 45 minutes for a table, ordered quickly and got right down to business – talking and catching up.  Dinners were served and my meal was no where in sight.  The waitress neglected to order it.  She apologized.  I understood.  It happens.  She offered us free dessert – we explained we did not want dessert.  We ordered coffees.  I purposefully did not ask for a discount on my meal.  I wanted to see what she would do.  She opted for the weak path, the cheap path, the ‘she-won’t-care’ path.  She didn’t charge us for two coffees.  How pathetic.

My guess is she did not tell the manager.  She did not want to draw attention to herself by making a mistake to discount my meal.  She and the restaurant – Not Your Average Joe’s was very average.

How do we all avoid being weak, being average and disappointing the customer?

1. Training – get your team trained using examples and scenarios clearly defining your expectations

2. Believe in Wow’ing and create that mentality in your business

3. Empower your employees to WOW

4. Share ‘wow’ moments with your team; share the feedback that you get from customers

5. Think like a consumer, client, customer.

Don’t be an Average Joe.  Be above average.  Be excellent. Let’s get to wowing and make your peace-offering more than a cup of average Joe.

Use Common Sense People!

November 11, 2013

8 a.m.  The sound of a doorbell enters into my head – huh?  Am I dreaming?  The household is sound asleep after staying up late to cheer on Bama vs. LSU.  Plus it is Sunday morning of a long weekend.  A treasured day to catch up on some sleep.  Then a flurry of activity outside the house – a sound of multiple voices and then the sound of metal ladders being extended…what the heck is going on?!

Our gutters were cleaned yesterday morning.  Yep, Sunday morning starting at 8 a.m.  REALLY?  Who in this company thought this was a good idea?  When do gutters get cleaned by a hired service on a Sunday morning?  For 20 minutes, men ran up and down our roof, right above our heads as we were trying to sleep; talking in normal everyday voices, going about their business like this was completely standard operating procedure.  Unbelievable.

How does this happen?  How do businesses rationalize that this is ok?  Did the owner/president approve this idea that they could get more homes done this Fall by sneaking in a Sunday?  Was 8am considered to be a reasonable time that their services would not be disturbing anybody?  I am full of questions and disbelief that this company actually did this.

There are two main points that particularly strike me:

1. Sunday.  We have lost Sundays to be a day of rest.  What happened to going to church, visiting grandparents, and having a big Sunday dinner?  That is how I grew up.  Now Sunday has become just another day in the weekend to catch up, do errands, get to the grocery store, do laundry.  Kids have birthday parties on Sundays.  Kids sports are played on Sundays.  We are an overscheduled society where Sunday is another day we need and use to conduct business.  It started with malls being open, then banks started marketing their being open to conduct business on Sunday and now basic home services are jumping in too? What the heck! Do I need to specify when home services are retained that they are NOT to come on Sunday? When are we going to fight to get our Sundays back?

2. Common sense.  Who in this gutter service company decided it was absolutely fine to clean our gutters yesterday morning at 8am?  Who gave the green light and on what basis did they think it was fine?  It is not OK on so many levels to deliver this service on a Sunday.  And who rationalized that 8 a.m. seemed like a good idea?

Common sense goes a long way. gertrudestein107878 This company does not appear to have any.  Don’t over think what your business needs to do to be successful.  Try some common sense and think like your customer.  This will serve you and your business well.

As Voltaire rightly said, “Common sense is not so common”.  Use it as a competitive differentiator!  It may just be that simple.

Finally, the most amazing part of all of this?  My 16-year-old son slept through all of the noise and commotion of the men running above his head.  Never heard a thing.  Wow.

Obamacare from a marketing perspective

October 30, 2013

minimalwall-10-52-1-minimal-wallpaper-keep-it-simple-We have all heard the phrase “Keep it simple stupid”.  A similar phrase I use when developing marketing messages for clients is:  “take it to a Disney Level”.  In other words – be clear; keep it simple and have key points that are easy to understand.  Another litmus test of mine is:  would my 12-year-old get it?

Marketing 101 stuff:  develop a clear and consistent value proposition.  In order to develop the value proposition you need to know your target audience.  Then any offerings/products that you bring to market fit within your overall value proposition,  with each product filling a role (a benefit) in meeting your audiences’ needs.  It can be challenging to break down a complex product into clear and concise benefits, but fundamentally that is what good marketers do.

Developing an elevator pitch is an important marketing element.  Many clients struggle with how to present their business and services in a clear and compelling way.  They get too technical, too long, and too jargon-filled.  With the help of marketers, clients grow to appreciate the  power of a clear, simple message that others will understand and be able to repeat.  Clear and simple works.

Fundamentally that is where Obamacare derailed.  Granted, improving our health care system is a complex problem.  From a marketer’s perspective they tried to solve complexity with complexity (perhaps purposefully?) and lost sight of core simple messages that would define the solution.  What we are now learning is that a key talking point of guaranteeing any American who liked their health plan and doctor would be able to keep it now appears untrue.  Gone is a key tenet that people had become used to hearing. Now we are left with one negative message: a very expensive, non functioning website.

Let’s treat Obamacare as a product line, with multiple products (aka health plans) within it.  Product development including marketing first defines the product family – its key benefits and features; THEN logically each product is defined to fit within the  product line (health care options).  Each product has its own unique features and benefits aligned to the target audience it is intended to serve.  From this product definition,  business requirements are then defined and documented including the desired customer experience via the website and the customer support centers.  Then technical requirements are defined, developed and tested within components of the system and across the entire system.  Yes, I realize am simplifying the process.  It is at the 30,000 foot level that the approach to bringing this product offering to market should be simple and clear.  I can’t help but wonder if our government has the ability to keep anything simple and clear.

Keep it simple.  Start at a 30,000 foot level to define the product and the message.  Then drill down into a plan to bring a product to market with clear timelines, milestones, and accountability.  Obamacare is a cluster.  It is faulty at all levels – from its name (Affordable Care Act – seems like an oxymoron) to core messaging, product development, project management and implementation.

From the perspective of a marketer, this product rollout is a disaster.  And the sad part is that we the American Public will pay the price.

Consistency of a brand – Hooters and the San Diego Mayor

August 16, 2013

This week, Hooters announced the San Diego Mayor is not welcome in their local restaurants. This announcement was covered on CNN, Reuters and highlighted in my favorite satellite radio station, the Highway. I chuckled when I heard the news. I applaud establishments including the “Hooters Girls”, as they were referred to in the press, for taking a stand against a sleazy mayor who has presented lame excuses for his inexcusable behavior towards women.

Why did I find the Hooters’ news funny? The signs in the windows at the San Diego Hooters’ restaurants state the mayor will “not be served in this establishment; We believe women should be treated with respect”. Ok, great. But wait a minute Hooters – while you believe women should be treated with respect, have you thought about the core component of your brand and value proposition to your customers? Does this seem even slightly inconsistent with your overall brand positioning? The Hooters brand is not helping the cause of women being regarded highly for anything other than their physical attributes. The irony of the news made me laugh. Any one else get a chuckle over this news?

College Visit – A Marketer’s Perspective

July 12, 2013
The first impression

The first impression

Last week we combined a family trip to DC to start looking at colleges as my son will be a junior in high school.  Despite being on vacation – having the out of office email messages set and clients informed that I was away – I could not refrain from wearing my marketer’s hat while in the information sessions and touring each campus.

Colleges are in a very competitive market.  Students have so many choices of where to apply and the common application has made the process easier to cast a wider net than when I was applying to college.  Colleges need to have a clear value proposition, understand their target audience, present their brand clearly to parents and students – it is a classic marketing opportunity to do it really well or to miss the mark and lose the prospect. 

We sat in 4 information sessions and took 4 campus tours in the course of two steamy days in Washington DC.  Data points from the marketer:

– Two admissions offices had snacks and bottled water readily available along with umbrellas- a nice touch and nice attention to detail given the heat.

– 3 out of 4 used video and PowerPoints for their information session – they were professional, presented their value proposition and their points of differentiation well.  I was amazed that one school’s information session was in a large room with no visual aids – it was the worst information session and was especially boring.

– Facts:  it is great to share statistics.  What was noticeable, however, was inconsistent numbers!  The presenter in the info session would share one stat and the tour guide’s numbers were slightly different.  When my 11 year old picks up on how the numbers did not match, it is time for the message to be revisited and the numbers to be consistent!  The inconsistency plants seeds of doubt.  Get the message straight and then ensure all ‘touch points’ are on message. 

– only 1 tour went by the school book store!  Wow!  What is the best indicator of if a prospect is interested in your school?  They buy a t-shirt or sweatshirt after the tour.  Kudos to Georgetown University for designing and orchestrating a tour that ended at the bookstore.  We left with a bag full of Georgetown stuff.

– You have one chance for a first impression.  Tour guides can make or break a college visit.  We can all learn from carefully evaluating, screening and training team members to ensure they represent the brand.  One of our tour guides was so incredibly nervous, it was painful to listen to him after a while and watch him twitch and shift his weight and fumble over his words.  I had to tune him out and my son’s comment as we exited the tour at our first chance was that he ‘was annoying’.

 – Personal follow-up!  This is sales 101 basics – sell the school to the parents and the prospective student!  One student tour guide wrote and mailed and personal thank you to my son that arrived shortly after we returned from our trip.  Kudos to Catholic University for a well-planned tour, impressive tour guide, and great follow-up.  We knew nothing about this school, and all 4 of us were very impressed after our visit. 

Marketing a college successfully demands a solid marketing foundation – knowing the competition, knowing the target audience, presenting the message clearly, concisely and consistently and continuing to follow up with prospects to inform and nurture the relationship.  Finally – none of the tours asked for feedback from the parents or the participants! What a missed opportunity.

For these schools’ marketing department, there are more lessons to be learned.

Getting ‘it’

May 7, 2013

Marketing is as effective as sales.  Sales is as effective as customer service.  Customer service is as effective as operations.  Bottom line – it takes coordination, integration and a lot of work to build a brand and execute on the brand promise.  Your efforts are always dependent on someone else doing their part.  There also seems to be a ‘special sauce’ – people who get ‘it’.

I often speak to my clients about their employees who ‘get it’; sometimes training can help; other times it is that innate, natural ability to do the right thing – no need to have a written process, procedure, manual or training session.

I love meeting people who get ‘it’.  I love experiencing people who get ‘it’.  It is refreshing, it is encouraging, it is exhilarating!

Big kudos to DiMillo’s restaurant in Portland Maine.  They get “it” – beautiful views from their unique floating restaurant in lovely Casco Bay, great food (best lobster roll I have ever had – little to no mayo – what restaurant puts the number of calories on the menu for the lobster roll?  Never seen it anywhere else but DiMillo’s can because it is chock full of lobsta – as we Mainers say it!), free parking to all patrons who get their parking ticket stamped – nice touch, and friendly staff.  They have the whole package and that comes from leadership and from people who get ‘it’.  Steve DiMillo could have done what many restaurants do when they don’t get ‘it’ – they offer a free dessert to the person celebrating a birthday.  Nope – not the case.  My mom’s birthday lunch (a lobster roll – not that it matters but people who don’t get ‘it’ may have chosen not to based on the meal ordered) was on the house after he stopped by our table to chat, learned it was my mother’s birthday and graciously engaged us in conversation for several minutes.  When the waitress later brought the bill by, she wished my mom Happy Birthday and shared that the lunch was on the house.  Nice touch.  Nice gesture.  Will I forget it?  No way.  Thanks Steve.  You made a special birthday lunch for my Mom even more enjoyable for me the marketer.  I work with my clients on all aspects of the customer experience and raising the bar, doing the right thing, going above and beyond and you epitomized what can be an elusive goal for many.

When you get ‘it’, you do the right thing.  When you get ‘it’, you experience your business as the customer, not as the owner or head of customer service or sales or marketing.  When you get ‘it’, you think long-term and you perform random acts of kindness to surprise your customers, to wow them, to be nice and to treat others as you would want to be treated.

‘It’ is powerful stuff.  I love ‘it’.

Size matters – how customer service unravels

December 15, 2012

In your small business, who manages customer service?  If you are a small business owner, maybe you do.  It is truly the buck stops with you.  As you grow, how do you continue to manage and have a pulse on customer service?  Many large companies seem to completely lose any sense of how to deliver quality customer service.  They are lousy.  The poster child of lousy service is cable.  Until Verizon Fios came into the area, cable was essentially a monopoly.  So, I stuck it out with Comcast.  This week, they proved again that changing their trucks to deemphasize the Comcast brand and to lead with XFinity does not change the fundamental issues this large corporation has with service.  Paint the trucks with whatever name they like – who cares?

They do not have a handle on serving their customers.  Their services are ‘bundled’ but they can’t service you in a bundled way.  Is that logical?  You have to speak to different technicians when you have an issue even if your issue is with both high-speed internet and TV.  The automated phone system does not allow you to choose both – really?  Does that make sense from a customer point of view?  How hard would it be to tell there is an outage in an area by address/location in this world of GPS and Google Maps?  If multiple people with similar street addresses have called over a short period of time to report problems, shouldn’t Comcast be able to figure that out?  They can’t.

So, what does that mean for SMBs?  Most of us are committed to high quality service and to growth.  How do you scale your business AND keep the sense of focus and commitment on serving your customers?  What is it that makes large companies be so stupid in how they operate?  One aspect is organizational structure works against quality customer service.

When your customer have a question or an issue, are they faced with your organizational hierarchies?  Are they handed off to another person?  Do you make it easy for them to know who to speak to?

We all seek to grow.  Growth is good.  Usually.  Thinking small, maintaining a customer perspective is key.  I don’t miss corporate America at all.  I just wish I had a small local cable company to work with to avoid having to deal with Comcast.  As you grow, don’t lose sight of the customer.



Marketing and advertising…huh?

November 30, 2012

Do you ever cringe when you have to select a drop down box?  Maybe it is the age range and you have now been bumped into the next age group…that is a bummer.  But, honestly, my worst nightmare is when I am asked for my career category or to indicate specific expertise within the broad (and largely misunderstood) world of “marketing”.  This makes me crazier than moving up in an age category!

I enjoy the challenge of being an evangelist for marketing.  I am ok with explaining to CEOs and presidents of companies that marketing is not a project that can be done for 2 weeks and be checked off the list.  I am fine with explaining to engineers that launching a commercial product at an event at the end of January will take more effort than the requested “create some graphics”, a PDF and get an email blast out the door.  In a sick sort of way, I enjoy carrying the “why marketing matters” banner:  chipping away with examples and analogies to help others understand where marketing fits in to grow their business on an ongoing basis.

What I don’t understand is the random categories that are developed to put us marketers in a box!  I have found marketing as a subcategory within the main category of Human Resources in one such crazy drop down box list that the state created.  Instead of beating my head against a brick wall, I emailed the responsible group explaining that if marketing companies were going to be interested in working on state projects, it was not encouraging to be categorized as part of HR and also was highly unlikely that companies seeking marketing services companies would find them buried within the HR category.  No response on that email.

So what got me on this soap box today?   I was quickly doing some updates on LinkedIn and added a service on the FMM company listing.  As I added the new service, LinkedIn prompted me to select the category that this service fit into.  The only relevant choice was:  ‘marketing and advertising’.  Huh?!  LinkedIn has many marketing professional groups.  I find many of the groups interactions to be thought-provoking and relevant.  How can we get LinkedIn to “GET” that marketing and advertising is not a category of services?  Why is one specific marketing element (‘advertising’) being called out over any other potential marketing element that may be relevant in executing marketing?  If they want to list subcategories under marketing, great but advertising does not belong at the same level in the category listing.

Ay yi yi.  Tonight, I am again reminded that I view marketing broadly.  I raise my banner higher as to why marketing matters and why I will continue to work on evangelizing what marketing is and why it really matters. Look out LinkedIn!

A marketing lesson from Sandy

October 30, 2012

One good thing about Sandy is we had plenty of notice that the storm was forming and was headed our way.  The news reports gave us time to get ready.  Many of us create a mental or physical checklist in advance including:  groceries, water, batteries, charge the cell phones, test flashlights, stack wood for fires in case of power outage, and secure all outdoor items that could become airborne.  We do what we can to be ready, and then hunker down and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

In business, if you know your goals are to increase awareness of your products/services, retain existing clients and acquire news ones, what is your checklist to make that happen?  Does it include the following?

  • develop a clear, concise and compelling value proposition
  • define your target audience being as descriptive as you can
  • document stories that explain what you do and the benefits delivered to convey expertise and credibility
  • build and maintain a dream list; a segmented list of clients, prospects and suspects that need to be informed and aware of what you offer

Don’t wait for a disaster to build a solid marketing foundation.  Learn from Sandy and start with a plan. For more about the importance of a marketing plan, click here to read a recently published article written by Mary Honan, Principal of For Marketing Matters.

What I meant was…

October 26, 2012

In this heated political environment, the difference between what one meant to say and what was actually said is big. In fact, it could be the difference between winning and losing an election.

In the world of marketing, word choice and meaning is critical. Not only is developing the message important, but delivering it clearly to convey the emotions and intent is both an art and a science.

An example of where the art and the science came up short was evident to me on the highway earlier this week:  Sherwin Williams Paint or SWP.  Their trucks prominently promote the following message: “Cover the Earth”. The dominant image is paint dripping over the globe.

Really? This message grabbed my attention and elicited an immediate negative reaction.  I don’t want to see the globe covered in paint! In this era of going green and protecting the environment, they depict the globe being covered in paint – really?!  Who thought this was a good idea?  I doubt the marketers at SWP thought through the implications of this message when they designed any and all components of how this message would be delivered. Like some politicians, I would expect their spokesperson to start the explanation with “what we meant was…” A suggested message for SWP is to try a more positive message such as: “Let us brighten your world”.

Make optimism a way of life

October 9, 2012

I am a glass half-full person and enjoy being around other optimists. I had the pleasure of starting this past gloomy Thursday in a room full of optimists and it was invigorating! The event was called “thrive: celebrating the impact of our small business community” put on by Interise, a fabulous organization that I am proud to be affiliated with as a PSN member, private sector network, aka an advisor to entrepreneurs going through their street-wise MBA program.

The room was full of small business owners; entrepreneurs who despite the challenging economic times have persevered to not only build businesses, but to “thrive” by hiring AND giving back to the community.

Speakers included Scott Harshbarger, former Attorney General of the state of MA, and our current state treasurer, Steve Grossman. Mr. Harshbarger’s brief comments were excellent citing the importance of small business to our economic health. Mr. Grossman’s message was from the heart and had some great nuggets including my favorite analogy of the importance of a strong ‘foundation’. He not only recognized the important role that small business owners have in our economy, but articulated a level of community involvement that I hadn’t recognized until this morning.  Specifically, Mr. Grossman recognized small business owners for their economic impact AND for the important role we play in the community. He asked each of us to raise our hands if we are involved in more than one charitable organization. Nearly the entire room of over 100 people raised their hands! Wow!

What does that tell us? it tells me that optimistic people, people who have taken the risk to venture out on their own and who have continued to persevere despite recent challenges including limited access to capital, high health care costs, and rising gas prices, are not only optimistic, but are committed to giving back.

The audience this morning was not just about their business.  We as a group are striving for a better world; a better community and in doing so give back our time and talents to help others, not for the sake of directly impacting our own business, but because that sense of community is part of our who we are.  The thrive award recipients were an impressive group of business owners who have truly made an impact with their business and in the greater community.  I applaud all who were recognized and was glad I made the time to attend.

Steve Grossman concluded his remarks with a message passed onto him from his father: Make optimism a way of life.

As an American, as a small business owner, as a mom, I do make optimism a way of my life and Steve Grossman reminded me this morning of the power of optimism as I joined a group of fellow small business owners to celebrate the impact of small business on our community!  Here’s to optimism, thriving and an ongoing commitment to help others do the same!

8 Steps for More Effective Event Planning

October 2, 2012

The past few weeks we have been preparing for a trade show that one of our clients is exhibiting at next week. This can be a very time consuming and expensive effort for any size business, but especially for a small business where thousands of dollars can be wasted.

How can you avoid wasting precious marketing dollars and sales time on the wrong event?
1. Do your homework to identify who attends the event. Ask yourself, are they my ideal target client? if not, are your ideal referral sources attending? If yes to either question, move to question 2. Otherwise, stop kidding yourself and don’t commit to this event.
2. Is there an opportunity to speak or be part of a panel to reach your target audience?
3. Carefully review the exhibiting opportunities. My client committed to space to then discover displays were limited to table tops only eliminating the opportunity to leverage existing display materials that were too big for the space. Cha-ching! Suddenly this event became very expensive.
4. Clearly define success metrics for the event. What will make this investment worth it? Consolidate all event-related expenses. Know exactly what you are investing (ideally BEFORE making a decision to commit to a sponsorship or exhibiting) although not realizing we were limited to a table top, unforeseen costs quickly changed the investment for this particular show.
5. Define roles of everyone attending. This is not a free day or two out of the office. Clearly communicate what is expected, what success will be and how success will be tracked. If you can’t track results, why are you even thinking of going to begin with?!
6. Define a source tracking code or a mechanism to track contacts and leads coming from this event. Make this systematic. Don’t rely on sales saying they will remember where contacts and opportunities come from.
7. Especially for small businesses, don’t assume event details are covered. Have checklists of who is doing what, bringing what and doing what. In other words, for every event being considered, have a repeatable plan and process for evaluating and planning.
8. A step that most companies never do: Have a post mortem meeting shortly after the event. Document what went well, what did not go well, would you go to this same event in the future and if so why. No one ever remembers the details that make or break the ROI on an event. Document it, store it and pull it up for quick review prior to committing. The sooner after the event the better as waiting too long diminishes the value.
Events can be an effective marketing element for businesses. Most companies don’t evaluate events well and are ineffective in measuring the ROI. For a formulaic approach, see a .

Resist the marketing wilderness

September 26, 2012

A colleague of mine in Colorado, a business coach, asked me to assess a marketing proposal that her client had received from a local small business marketing firm. I was happy to help her out and provide my perspective on what the marketing consultant had proposed.
Forwarded to me was an email summarizing the cost and recommended marketing tactics (side note – surprising to not see a proposal). The email was a series of marketing tactics. All may be legitimate options for this small business seeking marketing support, but my immediate questions were: what is the strategy? how is success going to be measured? is there a marketing plan or just a laundry list of tactics? The client and the marketing firm were BOTH operating in the marketing wilderness – losing the forest from the trees by focusing on marketing tactics (e.g, Facebook, Google +, website, advertising, etc).
It is not easy, but resist the temptation to be sucked into the marketing wilderness! The gravitational pull is strong – especially these days with the attraction and pressure to jump into the social media section of the wilderness with both feet and no focus or strategy (in many cases).
If you are planning to strengthen your marketing efforts – great. But don’t lose your solid business sense in the process. Be sure you have a clear strategy, metrics to track success and a small business marketing consultant that is NOT just doing marketing tactics. Establish clear goals (not just tactics) and define what success will be and how it will be measured.  THEN, prioritize the marketing tactics that will best support the goals and work within your budget.  A marketing consultant worth their fees will embrace accountability and not work in the wilderness.  Don’t confuse marketing activity with progress. Stay out of the marketing wilderness. In addition to being overcrowded, it is truly a jungle.

Are you delivering the complete package?

December 15, 2016

Tis the season of packages..just ask UPS, the United States Postal Service and FedEx. If I could sing I would break into song:  “brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.”

But what about packaging your product or service offering? Are you delivering the complete package?

Consider the following for your business:

  1. Do you deliver a physical product?
  2. Are you delivering a service?

Either way, you may be missing out on an opportunity to tie your product or service up in a bow – literally and figuratively.

Now is THE PERFECT time to take note of what retailers do so effectively with their packaging. Learn from their ideas to help your business improve the delivery of your product or service. There are many creative and cost-effective ways to deliver the complete package to your customers or clients.

Three examples:

  • Brooks running shoes: Fabulous packaging! Love how they leverage product ‘real estate’ including inside the shoe on the heel of each sneaker to convey their message (Carpe Diem, Run Happy messages in my pair). While every pair of sneakers comes in a box, Brooks has fully leveraged the entire box to build and reinforce their brand. A message in the interior of the top of the box, a run happy sticker on the corner, and the box itself has favorite running routes in Seattle that make up the design of the box cover.


Brooks has effectively converted their required packaging  for shoes (the good ol’ mundane shoe box) into an effective marketing element. They have put creative thinking into the shoe box to tell more of their story and to build their brand. Smart. Clever. Well-done!

  • Vineyard Vines: Two guys quit their corporate jobs to start this company in Martha’s Vineyard. You may or may not care about their story, but they effectively tell their story in their catalogs and in the interior flap of their shipping box: vv-1 Very smart to convert the shipping box into an opportunity to tell their story. They need to have a shipping box anyway so why not make it a vehicle to build the brand!

Below is one of Vineyard Vines’ gift boxes. The boxes are of high quality (they should be to support their brand) and the interior of their apparel boxes are brightly colored and convey their tagline: Every Day Should Feel This Good. Note the tissue paper and sticker. vv2The packing slip is accompanied with a larger signature whale sticker for the Thule or car.  Brilliant way to increase awareness of their brand.

So you may now be saying, geez, these examples are big-time retailers. She wants me to learn from them and their big marketing budgets? Humor me and keep reading. Packaging does not need to be extravagant.

  • Rose & Dove Specialty Gift Shop: a fabulous gift shop located in North Andover, MA. Kellee Twadelle, the proprietor, established her packaging signature style years ago and has stuck with it as it is efficient, highly recognizable, simple and festive. As shown below, the packaging is a branded brown paper bag in many different sizes – she leverages ribbons and tissue paper for the event, season or holiday (e.g., Mother’s Day) for a ready to give gift, eliminating the need to gift wrap at home for no additional cost. Below is an example of her signature packaging: rose-dove-1

Being a gift shop, some sort of packaging is expected. Rose & Dove delivers the complete package while managing packaging expenses.

What can you learn from these 3 examples to help you deliver the complete package in 2017? As you scramble to buy and wrap gifts, take note. B to B can learn from what B to C companies are doing when it comes to packaging!  Take note as the UPS or FedEx delivery person comes!  Think about how and where you can improve your packaging of your product or service.

As you work on your 2017 marketing plan ( you are working on it, right?) think about opportunities to incorporate your messaging into your packaging including the following:

  • Does your packaging have space that could include key aspects of your brand’s message? Look at the exterior and interior packaging – are there blank/unused areas?
  • Could a simple sticker with a message help? (See above and the Run Happy message on the Brooks shoe box)
  • What accompanies your product or service that could be better branded? Think packing slips, installation instructions and invoices. Does the wording and visuals really represent your company’s values and beliefs?

As you wrap up the year and plan for 2017, shift your mindset. To deliver the complete package to your customers, stop thinking of packaging as an expense; view packaging as an integral part of your marketing investment to build your brand and separate you from your competition.