Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

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!

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.

 

Is your business sending mixed signals?

February 4, 2015

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

Is your business sending mixed signals? 

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended action items to see how clear your signals are:

1. Review your return policies

2.Return your phone scripts.

3. Listen to your on-hold messages.

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

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

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

7. Document and prioritize your customer moments of truth.

8. Measure and manage to these moments of truth.

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

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

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

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

 

The joy of saying no.

January 27, 2015

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.

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

September 26, 2014

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

Baton handoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Offer insight into Prioritizing Leads

Not all leads are created equal.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Can your brand make this impact?

September 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Marketer’s View of a Crazy Month of June

June 26, 2014

iStock_000002980903Small - blur time passing quickly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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