Archive for the ‘CEO’ 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.

 

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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

bluetooth_rear_view_mirror_hands_free_car_kit

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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 hitch.ferrari 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.

 

 

 

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.

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.