Archive for the ‘business growth’ Category

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 mhonan@formarketingmatters.com.

 

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

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!

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.

 

 

 

Are you on target?

February 6, 2016

Target-Audience

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.

 

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.

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?

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):

Brand:

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

– New designs and messaging materials developed

Awareness:

– Online reputation management; response to positive and negative postings

– Social media posts, growth, reach

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

Credibility:

– Customer success stories written and communicated to prospects/clients

– Speaking opportunities secured; award submissions

– # press releases distributed and coverage secured

Leads:

– 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.

 

The joy of saying no.

January 27, 2015

Keep-Calm

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.