The Social Media Marketing After-party Discussion

Posted on April 10, 2015 at 12:38 PM Comments comments (1)

You created a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter placing your small business on the social media party grid.  Free word-of-mouth marketing was supposed to take over and the cash register start ringing.  It hasn’t played out that way, so what happen?

A Foundation for Growth
Social media platforms can provide the foundation for growth.  Social platforms can help you and your organization be found, find, and engage your target audience.
· Be Found: To be found during the “search” process when a customer or prospect has a need or desire for a product or service that your organization is capable of delivering.
· Find: To be able to find and approach prospects with characteristic’s that line up well with your organizations target markets.  To create awareness, interest, desire and action (AIDA).
· Engage: To be able to approach customers and prospects with relevant content that creates awareness and builds trust.  Also, to be able to communicate in a way that positively impacts the customer experience across sales, marketing, and customer service.
Still, there is nothing magical about social media.  Other channels can provide those same elements including good old face-to-face meetings.  But social media can be very powerful if you remember the following six key points.
6 Key Points to Get Your Social Media Program on Track

1. Strategy: Do you have a social media strategy?  Social media is not a stand-alone marketing strategy.  It’s a component of your content marketing program and works best when it’s integrated through your strategic marketing plan.

2. Technology: Social media requires technology.  It means thinking about how your online social profile looks when presented on a smartphone, tablet and PC.  It means researching and understanding the complementary social applications that are available in the development ecosystem that help improve efficiency and effectiveness.  It means understanding the feature functionality of several platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube just to name a few.

3. Processes: Process discipline will help keep your social media strategy from falling into mass confusion.  Or at a minimum, you’ll be able to keep the opportunities that surface through your social channels from slipping through the cracks.  For example, how often are you going to create and post content?  How often are you going to login to your profiles to check for direct messages and new connection requests?  Your customers and prospects may expect you to be online real-time in order to receive the customer experience they’ve come to expect from your company.

4. Money:  Social media is not free.  The “free” versions of many social platforms are designed as a teaser if you will.  Full functionality is only made available with the paid version.  And you will need full functionality if you are using social media for business.  That means you need to make room in your marketing budget for social media expenses.

5. Time:  Preparing for, and engaging in customer and prospect conversations takes time.  That’s why social media takes time.  Not just time to learn how all the various social media sites and complementary applications work, but time to prepare the content to distribute through those channels.  And if it’s not your time, then it will be your employee’s time, and employees cost money.  So, we’re back to the budget issue.

6. Training:  The term “digital native” is often used to describe individuals born after 1980, when social digital technologies came online.  In other words, social media and other digital technologies are supposed to come natural to them. Don’t believe it.  Whether you are a digital native or digital immigrant (old-world settlers, who have lived in the analogue age and immigrated to the digital world) using social media for business requires training.  Social media channels often become the “voice” of your brand.  In order to minimize your risk you will want to have well trained individuals driving those channels.


Why Chief Marketing Officers are thinking about HR

Posted on April 1, 2015 at 2:16 PM Comments comments (21)
If you are a technology vendor or CIO don’t panic.  Chief Marketing Officers still love you.  We continue to think about and are concerned with technology and data.  But I’m starting to spend more time with HR this year.  Yes, I’m concerned with whether or not marketing has the “right people on the bus.”  That’s a challenge that never ends, particularly when the business environment is constantly changing.  What I’m bringing attention to, and becoming more concerned with, is the individuals we don’t have room for on the bus.  Let me set up the scenario.
Think about your total recruitment this year.  Based on the size of your company, your HR department is likely to post several jobs, for several departments, across various platforms depending on job scope and level.  Some of your organizations have appeared on “lists” recognizing your company as one of those “Best Places to Work.”  That means you are likely to get tens if not hundreds of applications for each position you seek to fill.  Now bear with me because I’m going to apply some math, logic, and then get personal in a moment.
For one mid-level management job you received 50 applications.  Your HR department called the top five best choices, based on geographic location (you didn't want to pay for relocation), experience and so on.  After the Skype interviews three were extended an invitation for personal face-to-face interviews and one job offer was tendered.  Actually, the person hired didn't technically go through your formal job process, they networked their way into the position.  OK then, here is the tricky part, were forty-five applicants sent the following standard HR email?

Dear (First Name),   

Thank you for your interest in our (Internal Job Number and Internal Job Title) position with XYZ Company.  While your credentials and experience are valuable, we have determined the credentials of other candidates may better fit our needs at this time.  Your profile will be available to our recruiters as they seek candidates for other opportunities.  Please check back for future opportunities.   

Kind regards,   

XYZ Company Human Resources   
** Please do not respond to this email.  This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response. **

From a math and logic perspective are we good so far?  You might be thinking, yes, your math is in the ballpark, we’d get about 50 applications for a mid-level job posting.  And logically we don’t have the bandwidth to give personal attention to the forty-five who didn't make the initial screening.  Sure, several in that group were very well qualified, but we had to make the cut somewhere.
“It’s not personal, Sonny.  It’s strictly business.”
The Godfather
I love that line, but it’s dead wrong.  It’s always personal.  We are by nature, an emotional being.  So, let’s take a personal look at the standard rejection letter.
1. It’s not from a person.  Sorry the “HR Department” and “Do Not Reply” don’t count.  By the way, how do you feel when you get an email concerning a subject that you’d naturally like to respond to, but can’t?
2. The subject line “Thank You for Your Interest” might just as well be a Western Union Death Notice.
3. The wording is very similar in most rejection letters.  It appears that all HR departments are using the same group of lawyers for this task.  Sorry, just kidding.  But really, how original.
4. Your high-level feedback, “credentials and experience are valuable” is not helpful to the applicant or the process they are going through.
5. Your response was late.  They applied for that position three months ago.  We know, you almost forgot to send any notice.  Simply terrible.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  Alan, you’re in marketing, I still don’t understand why you care about HR.  OK, here is why I care.  Forty-five (late) standard rejections letters multiplied by how many total job postings for the year?  From a branding perspective we have potentially upset hundreds of individuals who could very well hurt our sales in the future.  How?  Because many of the individuals we passed on could still end up in our industry.  They may end up as employees of our competitors, sales or marketing reps for our channel partners, or buyers for our current customers.  And we just dismissed their interest in our company with a canned rejection letter.  How much do you think they are really going to like us?  What makes it worse is that from a political perspective most of these individuals will keep their grudge silent.  Just like the consumer who has a terrible customer experience and chooses not to publicly voice their dissatisfaction, but they never return.

Is there an easy, quick and cheap answer?  No, this is a big problem that most organizations have given very little attention to.  I doubt the negative financial impact of these actions has ever been researched.  In fact, such research would probably be difficult to verify.  But I do have some ideas for improvement, and I’m going to be setting up more time with HR to discuss them.

Are You a Social Buzzkill?

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (100)

Imagine that you’re attending a major conference.  It’s time to head over to the networking kick-off session.  You’ve got your business cards in your pocket and your elevator speech is locked and loaded.  You’ve brushed up on current events and read the speakers backgrounds so you are ready to keep the conversation light and engaging.
And then it happens; you run into a social buzzkill.  He’s looking at your name tag now…
“Welcome Alan, thanks for shaking my hand!  Now, if it’s not too much trouble could you get out your smart phone and Like my Facebook page?  While you’re at it take a look at my website, and read my blogs and let me know what you think.  Also, let’s connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.  My company helps marketers get new customers.  Can we schedule a quick 30 minute demo to show you our stuff?”  Just let me know how I can help you! Well, here’s my business card, have a great conference!”
What a buzzkill.  Although, I’ll have to admit; at a face-to-face networking event I’ve never had that kind of greeting.  Why does it feel like a common occurrence when you’re on a social platform?  True networking is a give and take exercise.  I learn about you, and you learn about me.  We explore to see if there might be a mutual benefit.  Here are three signs that you might be a Twitter buzzkill:
1.  Social begging:  OK. It’s not really begging.  But you immediately request your new connections to “Like” your Facebook page, read your blog, or connect on LinkedIn.  You might even do all three through your automated direct message application you are using.  Automation can be helpful, and I understand the “call-to-action” temptation; but you need to turn it off.  You wouldn’t make a frontal attack like that during an initial face-to-face meeting, and you shouldn’t do it on a social platform.
2.  Extreme thankfulness:  Is it possible to be over-the-top with thankfulness?  I graduated from Abilene Christian University and I don’t find it difficult to be thankful for many things.  But I’m still going to put this on the table.  When your Twitter stream is just one long line of “thanks” or “welcomes” to your new followers it gets kind of annoying.  Even more annoying because you are doing it with an automation tool.  Plus, I’m not getting an idea of what real content you can offer.  We get it; you’re excited (and thankful) to be building an audience.  But again, turn off the automation.  When you list me with six or seven new followers all at once, and three of them are bots, it’s not like I really feel special.   Save the thanks and welcomes for key situations. 
3.  Welcome, but no follow:  You probably wouldn’t offer someone your business card, and then refuse to accept theirs.  But that’s what it feels like when you welcome a new follower, but don’t follow them back.  It might be that your follower to follows ratio is out of balance and you can’t follow more profiles just yet.  If that’s the case you need to unfollow someone who hasn’t followed you back yet in order to make room.  Don’t risk losing your new follower by telling them you’ll follow them later.  You’ll forget, or they may unfollow you if you don’t follow them back within a certain period of time.
I’ll get off my high horse now.  After all, it’s not like I’m the Ann Landers of Twitter.  In fact, you may totally disagree with the points above.  I do really like the buzz on Twitter though, and hate to see it killed.

Social Networking Choke Points

Posted on March 29, 2015 at 11:17 AM Comments comments (189)

A choke point is a strategic channel which could be closed or blocked to stop sea traffic.  At the Strait of Gibraltar, where Spain reaches for Morocco, only eight miles separate Africa from Europe.  It’s a strategic location that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.  When the world’s economy depended on merchant ships, control of Gibraltar meant control over the flow of products and profits to merchants throughout a large portion of the world.

Have your social networking messages sailed into a choke point?  It’s no secret in today’s relationship economy that your prospect is in control of their Networking Strait.  And that means where rapport reaches for credibility, a value-based relationship is built, and only then can the flow of products and profits begin.  Some relationships appear to be no more than anonymous encounters, lasting only as long as it takes to finish a simple transaction.  Others are the prelude to a full merger of supply and demand chains.  Whatever the duration or objective, strategic relationships generally depend on mutual value and trust.
Why you’re not getting that demo appointment
To enter an Executive Networking Strait you must be prepared to deliver a communication experience that builds rapport, credibility and creates value.  Unfortunately, that’s not what generally happens.  Whether by email, telephone, or through social media, the gist of the initial communication is often the following:

The usual headline or grabber statement
“Quick Question” or “Follow-up” or “Just reaching out”   

Alan,I wanted to reach out because our fully oxygenated, holistic, end-to-end digital marketing solution is revolutionary.  I’d love to get a quick 30 minutes of your time for a demo so you can see the full power and scope of our capabilities.  What time would work best for you? Or is there someone on your team I should be working with?   


Alan,Based on your title and background, I thought our marketing solution would be of interest to you.  Feel free to visit our website to learn more about us.  I’d love to do a quick demo so you can see the features and benefits.  You can go to this (URL here) to schedule a time that works best for you.


Alan,We seem to have several groups and interests in common.  Would you be open to a quick call?  We’re doing some exciting things here and I think our solution would be a good fit.      

I’m a little over-the-top with my examples, but not by much.  Yes, in general you can assume that the CMO has a budget and authority to buy (the B and A of the traditional BANT qualification mechanism).  And according to a Gartner report, by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.  So, of course you want to go straight for a top decision maker, who has dollars to purchase, and jump-start the sales process with an eye popping demonstration.  If the CMO could just see the product in action, they would instantly understand the value and sign the order.  However; I’m going to assume that your days are not completely booked with those types of executive level meetings.

Whether the CMO is managing a global organization, or a start-up, the marketing technology landscape they are facing is large and continues to grow.  Large or small, the CMO doesn’t want to have their time wasted.  So, they’re probably not going to just stroll over to your website to “learn more about” your company.  In addition, they generally don’t open their calendars for total strangers to talk to them about something they are ill-informed about, or currently couldn’t care less about.  In short, you are pushing buttons that turn them off, so it’s no wonder they rarely return your call or reply to your digital invitation.  You want to project yourself as a “thought-leader,” someone who can be trusted.  But at this point the CMO is not thinking of you as a thought-leader nor as a future trusted advisor.  At this point, you are merely another transactional salesperson chasing a quota.
A Roadmap to Navigate the Executive Networking Strait
The networking roadmap appears straight forward, but customer relationships are sometimes messy and emotional.  In addition, customer relationships cannot be microwaved.  If your communication style is based on “always-be-closing,” where every message must contain a “call-to-action,” then social networks may not be the right communication channel for your accelerated time frame.  Remember, your communications need to focus on creating rapport, building credibility and demonstrating value over the long-term: 

·Rapport:  Rapport is the ability to understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.  Without rapport, you will not get what you want - not friends, not demos, not sales.
·Credibility:  Is the quality of being believable.  Its confidence in your competence in the topic or idea you are trying to present. 
·Value:  The relationship creates some form of value that clearly contributes to the fulfillment of the customer’s needs and desires, or helps them mitigate risk. 
Think about those three factors for a minute.  They have a lot in common with a job interview.  Yes, in many ways when you are trying to contact a top decision maker you are on a job interview.  Have you been thinking of that initial contact in that light?

·Making a good first impression:  There is no room for error here.  The executive you are trying to reach is probably going to check you out on LinkedIn first in order to understand your background and credentials.  Does your presence on the major social platforms set a professional tone?  Is the executive likely to view you … not your company and not your solution portfolio … as someone capable of adding value to their day?

·Listen:  This means listening with your full attention.  Read their blogs, review their LinkedIn profile from top to bottom, and follow their posts on Twitter.  Show them you are interested in understanding how they feel by listening with empathy.

·Stop trying to close:  Top executives don’t like “being closed,” or pounced on.  Just because they followed you back on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s time to ask for a short demo to “see if there is a fit.”  In fact, just because they followed you on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s immediately a good time to suggest connecting on LinkedIn.  Yes, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all social networking platforms.  But connection on one doesn’t equal immediate and automatic connection on all of them.  They probably have a different networking strategy for each platform so you are shooting yourself in the foot by trying to move to fast.  Nurture the relationship before suggesting deeper engagement.

Leverage the Power Triangle to Bootstrap Your Marketing Program

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 3:02 PM Comments comments (0)
The other night I told my wife that I might actually be a growth hacker.  She just looked at me and said, “You spend way too much time online.”
Sean Ellis, who is known for helping Dropbox grow in its early days, coined the term "growth hacker" in 2010.  In a blog post, he defined a growth hacker as "a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth."  In April 2012 the idea of growth hacking really took off when a blogger named Andrew Chen wrote a piece called “Growth hacker is the new VP Marketing.”  Of course, now that CMO’s are expected to have a technical background my CIO counterparts don’t find the “hacker” reference particularly funny.
Is your true north pointed toward growth?  Yeah, that’s what I thought … who’s isn’t?  In one way or another we are all trying to create growth with resources that are subject to being hacked or cut out completely.  In my mind, the term “bootstrap” works just as well.  Bootstrapping is often used to describe situations of self-reliance.  It means to develop by effort with little or no assistance.  In the world of marketing this often equates to launching a new customer initiative with minimal capital or cash flow.  The current anxiety over the global economy suggests 2015 could be a bootstrapping year as chief executives, chairmen and company presidents focus on our slow growth economy. That means CMO’s will have plenty of opportunities to document their “how I bootstrapped the bear” marketing stories.

In a slow growth economy, one of the major reasons businesses go under is because they run out of cash. Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business and in order to keep the business healthy, cash needs to continue flowing; and slow growth can be particularly hard-hitting for small businesses unless they have plenty of capital to ride out the doldrums.  In my blog post “You Can Support Headcount and Share of Voice on a Tight Budget” written during the 2008 economic downturn I presented a high-level case study in which a small business was able to increase qualified leads by 7 percent while cutting their marketing budget by 24 percent.  And the decrease in spend was not the result of reducing headcount.  So, let me offer what I consider a business development “power triangle” that may help you bootstrap your 2015 marketing plans.
1. Blog: I know; you’ve been blogging for years now.  But you need to get more people motivated and involved.  One person creating one post a month means you are far behind in the content-marketing arms race.  Attention spans are short and quality expectations are high.  So, keep them short and entertaining with relevant stories.  Focus on building trust, rapport and credibility.  And remember, relationships are not developed overnight.  Think long-term, not every communication needs to blast a “call-to-action.”  You can create focused content by leveraging your in-house subject matter experts to provide material that supports each phase of your sales cycle.  As always, make sure the content is search engine-optimized so certain keywords are likely to be picked up in industry-specific searches. 
2. LinkedIn: I know; you’ve been on LinkedIn for years.  But too many people in your organization still consider LinkedIn as a resume tool that you only think about when you are searching for a job.  They don’t understand that LinkedIn may very well be the best business development tool on the planet.  Help your organization understand how adding blog posts, video, projects and presentations to their profile helps increase their credibility.  The decision makers your sales force is trying to contact are reviewing their profiles.  If they don’t like what they see, chances are they won’t be returning any phone calls or accepting any meeting requests.
3. Twitter: I know; it’s been a month since you logged on and you still don’t really see the value of Twitter as a business development tool.  This element of the power triangle is where most organizations will fall short.  They don’t understand the value of Twitter to help build and nurture a targeted audience.  And they haven’t figured out how to use the platform in an integrated way to start conversations that actually develop into business relationships.  At best they’re probably using Twitter merely to broadcast product-focused messages.  New social employee advocacy applications can help.  So, renew your perspective on this application and build your audience.
By integrating your social media platforms and content strategies you can create a focused marketing program that can make a cost effective difference in both your lead generation and lead nurturing programs. It will also help you maintain your customer-focus while you’re doing everything possible to manage your cash flow in a slow economy.


How Does Word-of-Mouth Marketing Really Work?

Posted on March 12, 2015 at 9:46 AM Comments comments (482)
Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) today is both online and through face-to-face interaction.  At times we think of WOMM in terms of marketing buzz, the interaction of users of a product or service that amplifies the brand and in some cases goes viral.
In reality, regular old everyday “buzz” is not as glamorous as we marketers like to imagine.  Recommendations from friends and family don’t often come with viral like excitement, but from a place of more practical experience.
This perspective was driven home for me during a lecture with some senior business students during their capstone marketing course.  The class had been working through a marketing media planning session focused on a national plumbing company. The students did an excellent job. In fact, I was impressed with their recommendations to leverage social media in addition to the traditional media typically used for advertising in the plumbing industry.  Of course, most 22 years olds have never actually had to call a plumber, and that fact came out in the following exchange:
Alan“What I would like for you to do is to close your eyes and imagine that you have recently purchased your first home. You walk down into your basement and you notice water on the floor because your hot water heater is leaking. What’s the first thing you are going to do?”
Student“I’ll probably still live in this area, so I’ll pick up the phone and call my dad.”
Alan“You’re not going to leverage one of your social media communities, or go online and do a search on plumbing? … Is your dad a plumber?”
Student“Well – no; but he will know who to call.”
When I think about it, it’s not hard for me to imagine that the situation above would play out the same in my home. I can hear it now:
My 24 year old daughter“Dad – my hot water heater is leaking!! Can you help me?!”
Alan“Yes, don’t panic, I’ll be over in a second and we’ll figure it out.”
So, which plumbing company do you think will get the business?  Well, when is the last time I used my plumber?  Do I still have their number?  Should I do a quick online search?  Should I grab my yellow pages directory?  Didn’t I recently get a direct mail coupon from a plumbing company? Should I send a tweet asking my followers for a local recommendation?  Perhaps I should grab some tools.  No, I definitely should not do that because I’d create a disaster!

6 Steps for Asking Better Questions

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 10:42 AM Comments comments (0)

Does your company encourage questioning in any substantive way? If so, does your company provide any training programs focused on guidelines and best practices for questioning?  In truth, many companies, whether consciously or not, have established cultures that tend to discourage inquiry in the form of someone’s asking “Why are we doing this?”  The impulse is to keep plowing ahead, doing what we’ve done, and rarely stepping back to question whether we’re on the right path.

According to Socrates, “Wisdom is limited to an awareness of your own ignorance.” Socrates used his Socratic Method as a means of uncovering this ignorance by challenging the completeness of thinking. His series of disciplined and probing questions brought his students to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter or issue. Can a business leader use the Socratic Method to build a learning organization that is agile, adaptable, and creative? Is there a business benefit to creating a culture that not only encourages independent thinking and sound reasoning, but also accepts the responsibility of their decisions?

The Socratic process can be broken down into a series of 6 steps of questioning:

1. Clarification: Why are you stating that? What do we already know about this? How does this relate to our discussion? Can you give me an example?

2. Probing assumptions: What could we assume instead? How can you verify or disprove? What would happen if (blank)? How did you choose those assumptions?

3. Probing rationale: How do you know this? What do you think causes (blank)? What evidence is there that supports (blank)? How might it be refuted?

4. Questioning viewpoints: What are alternative ways of looking at this? What are the strengths and weaknesses of (blank)? Explain why this is necessary or beneficial and who benefits from it.

5. Probing consequences: What are the consequences of this assumption? How does (blank) affect (blank)? How does (blank) fit with what our experience tells us? What generalizations can we make?

6. Questions on the question: What is the point of the question? Why do you think I asked the question? What does (blank) mean?

The year ahead is going to be challenging for many organizations. When your business is faced with a combination of resource limitations, personal insecurity and demands for greater productivity, emotions will run high. For a business manager this represents a significant challenge, and that’s why helping your team stay focused through logical questioning will help them keep on track. One important thing to remember though is that Socrates, while an excellent teacher, also used this method of questioning to “shred” his opponents. That means the Socratic Method can be used both for both building up and tearing down - so remain mindful of how you use it.


How to Lead Your Marketing Organization through Uncharted Waters

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (20)
The advertisement above is Sir Ernest Shackleton's recruitment notice for his 1915 Antarctic expedition.  His entire crew of 27 men did return.  But their adventure is one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration.  Shackleton, his ship Endurance crushed by ice in Antarctic’s Weddell Sea, led his crew to safety through a series of impossible journeys over land and sea.  What began as a journey of exploration became a 20-month battle to stay alive, demanding ingenuity, courage, and leadership.  I’m guessing the 5,000 applicants who were rejected were glad they didn’t get the job.
Years ago I used to welcome my new marketing classes with this recruitment notice.  It was an attention grabber and a thought provoking way to get the class started. Marketing as a business discipline requires endurance; it’s also a functional area that often faces hazardous conditions in relation to various business environments.  In years past you could count on at least one speaker in all marketing related conferences to quote the statistics from the most recent Spencer Stuart CMO survey.  The average tenure for a Chief Marketing Officer is now 45 months.  Compared to previous years the CMO’s tenure is now solidly on the rise:
·45.0 months - 2013
·45.0 months - 2012
·43.0 months - 2011
·42.0 months - 2010
·34.7 months - 2009
·28.4 months - 2008
·26.8 months - 2007
·23.2 months - 2006
·23.5 months - 2005
·23.6 months - 2004
Does increasing tenure suggest that the danger of leading a marketing organization is fading?  Probably not, changing market conditions will continue to throw many marketing leaders into uncharted waters.  Are you prepared to lead amid uncertainty and doubt?  Sir Ernst Shackleton distinguished himself as a hero, not only among the masses, but also among the officers, scientists and crew members on his expedition.  How did he do it?
1. Trust: While Shackleton was called “The Boss” by his men, he did not differentiate himself from them.  When the crew had to move off the ship and camp on the ice Shackleton ensured that neither he nor his officers received preferential treatment.  Trust is the foundation of leadership and Shackleton’s crew trusted him during their journey because of his consistent and fair management and communication style.
2. Servant Leadership: In order to help his crew get over the trauma of abandoning the Endurance, Shackleton literally served his men: “Rising early in the morning, he made hot milk and hand-delivered it to every tent in the camp.”  Unlike top-down leadership approaches, servant leadership emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power.  Servant leadership is designed to help enhance the growth of individuals in the organization, and increase teamwork and personal involvement.  Shackleton’s servant leadership style helped pull his crew together and secure their rescue.
3. Vision: After selecting five of the toughest and best crew members, Shackleton announced that this select group would seek help by sailing a lifeboat over 800 miles across the most dangerous ocean on the planet in order to reach a whaling station on South Georgia.  The plan worked and the rest of the expedition party was eventually rescued.  True vision goes beyond what one individual can accomplish.  It pulls the entire team forward.

Of course there are additional factors that could be added to the list above; but amid your current challenges what leadership characteristics are you counting on to help position your team for “honor and recognition?”

CXO Conversations before the Company Meeting

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 8:02 AM Comments comments (97)
A trim balding man in khakis with a button down shirt, the CMO looks the part he has played for so many years – the affable, hardworking executive who gets the job done.  It’s the 2015 sales kickoff meeting and he is setting in the front row with the rest of the executive team getting ready to address the troops.  He could still remember a time when these meetings required full business attire, there was no PowerPoint, and there were no smart phones or facilitated hashtagged social conversations with the audience.  The business world had changed, and he loved it.  He had been one of the first to join LinkedIn back in 2002, and could tweet and blog with the best of them.  Social media and mobile devices were changing the business landscape, and his company was determined to meet the transformation challenge.  The prior year had involved several one-on-one meetings with his counterparts.  They were productive, but at times he could still feel a little tension and some apprehension.

Information Technology - The Chief Information Officer
The prior year had begun with several meetings involving the Chief Information Officer.  In late 2012 Gartner analyst Laura McLellan had published a report that contained the statement “by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.”  Of course a sound bite like that raised some eyebrows in both marketing and IT.  It was time to check their facts and see if that prediction could be supported with their own data.  The CMO and CIO had already been working closely together over the past couple of years as a result of the organizations ongoing social media and mobile marketing initiatives.  And what did they discover?

That technology spends of 17% was indeed the second largest part of their marketing budget.  But for their company, the associated dollar value was not more than the IT budget or likely to overtake it.  What was actually becoming of greater concern was the number of applications, programs and platforms the small marketing team was being tasked to learn and manage.  In fact, across all the marketing functions, the number currently stood at well over two dozen.
2015 CMO/CIO View: Marketing departments are often responsible for several technical applications. They can include aspects of CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, website analytics, data analytics, marketing research, creative applications, webinar-meeting, and more.  This doesn’t even begin to touch on all the new social media and mobile marketing related platforms and applications that are now part of the strategic marketing plan.  The CMO and CIO need to focus more on matching talent and headcount to the applications that are actually being used and bringing value than worrying about who has the bigger budget.
Sales – The Chief Sales Officer
Like many CMO’s he had started his career in sales.  He had carried a quota and covered a territory just like the CSO.  That background brought great credibility and helped them agree on many strategies; but they could still have their moments when it came to lead generation.  Of course sales would like “qualified, ready-to-buy right now” leads.  But they both know in complex solution selling environments that’s not a realistic expectation.  Marketing was providing support through the entire sales cycle, but their main focus – including the budget – was on the front end.  Creating awareness, generating interest and building greater industry credibility had been important to helping them engage with prospects and customers.  And the fact that over 60% of their marketing budget was dedicated to lead generation activity supported that point-of-view.
2015 CMO/CSO View:  There will always be some degree of tension between sales and marketing when it comes to lead generation activity.  And that’s OK, the key is not to let it spiral out of control.  One area the CMO and CSO agreed needed more focus was on helping the sales teams understand and make better use of social media, particularly LinkedIn.  Many sales people still viewed LinkedIn as a resume tool.  They were not leveraging it as a business development platform.  Subject matter experts from the marketing team will be spending more time training the sales teams, one-on-one if necessary, in order to make improvements in this area.
Legal – Chief Legal Counsel
A few years ago the CMO and Chief Legal Counsel had a difficult relationship.  At one point the CMO had actually said “I’d rather go to the dentist than have a meeting with our legal department.”  The reason is that Legal and HR had formed an alliance to band all corporate social media activity.  Employees were not allowed to access LinkedIn during its early years and later on blogging, Facebook and Twitter went through similar review processes.  That was now in the past, the legal department was onboard.
2015 CMO/Legal View:  Legal understands the value of social media and recognizes the fact that there will always be some degree of risk associated with those media channels that cannot be totally mitigated.  However, that doesn’t mean marketing gets a free pass.  The marketing department will work to make sure all “Social Media Policies and Procedures” documentation is always up-to-date and communicated throughout the organization.  This will be very important because new “Social Employee Advocacy” software applications are likely to expand how marketing leverages social media throughout the company in order to help employees feel comfortable in the role of brand advocates.
Human Resources – Chief Human Resources Officer
Like legal, HR has been fully engaged with marketing as it related to the new social media channels.  Sure, in the beginning they worried about employee productivity and whether or not social media was even relevant to their functional area.  At times they still wonder about the productivity, but they definitely see the recruitment value.

2015 CMO/HR View:  There is one important area the CMO would like to see a change made as it relates to HR and how their current processes impact the corporate brand.  This project will also involve IT.

Current HR applications and processes offer prospective employees the ability to connect their LinkedIn profiles and or upload their current resumes.  Either way, the process still requires them to enter the same employment and education history that can be found in those sources.  This duplication of effort is time consuming, frustrating and leaves a bad first impression of the corporate brand.
2015 CMO / CEO View:
The Chief Executive Officer came up through finance and is pretty much a numbers person.  And, as you might suspect, the CEO takes special interest in things that increase revenue, decrease costs, or mitigates risk.  In short, that means the question “What’s the ROI?” is never going to be far from the surface.  The CEO is taking the stage now to kick off the meeting.  Let’s listen…
“What is currently impossible to do that if it were possible would change everything.”
That’s an interesting question to open the meeting with…
“Well, use the hashtag #ItsPossible for today’s meeting because we’ve got big news!”

OK, the CEO is more than just a numbers person!  The CEO understands the importance of leading by example and is not afraid to leverage the new social platforms.  It’s going to be a fun year!


Disruptive Strategies for Winning Customers

Posted on February 9, 2015 at 1:02 PM Comments comments (1)

I grew up in Grinnell, Iowa, a small town in the rural Midwest. It’s not exactly the place you would expect to find one of the most prolific scoring basketball teams in the nation. The “Grinnell System,” Grinnell College’s run-and-gun offense is considered unorthodox, even chaotic, but it is fun to watch. Grinnell teams have led all playing levels in scoring for 19 of the past 21 seasons, while ranking first in the country in 3-point shooting for 17 of the past 21 years.  According to Head Coach David Arseneault’s book titled “The Running Game: A Formula for Success,” his strategy is based on five basic principles:

1. The team must take at least 100 shots in a game. The goal is to attempt a shot every 12 seconds and try to get the ball back within 10 seconds.
2. More than half the shots need to come from the three-point range. A sharp-shooters dream. Thirty-six different Pioneers have made a record-setting 6 three-point shots in a game. Most schools are lucky to have one player with that record.
3. Shoot 25 more times than their opponents. This requires discipline and a complete understanding of the overall strategy. In the words of one player, “you need to keep jacking it up.”
4. Offensive rebounds need to be garnered on 33 percent of the shots the team takes. This requires high energy and complete focus on positioning.
5. Finally, the team needs to create 32 turnovers with their press defense. This requires a steady stream of fresh players. Grinnell uses all its players in every game, and five-player substitutions are not unusual.
In short, Grinnell shoots before they can turn it over, and they create a tempo of play that fosters confusion and frustration with their opponent. By doing so, it often gives the Pioneers an opportunity to win with lesser talent. That’s an important point because as a Division III school, they do not offer athletic scholarships.
Grinnell’s strategy is creative, innovative and fun. Is there an application for smaller organizations as it relates to customer acquisition and loyalty?

I think so, because when tiny Grinnell executes on their strategy they win at a 95% clip. Innovation is often disruptive to larger existing organizations and this provides smaller enterprises with an opportunity to level the playing field. Possible applications in the current economy include:
1. Take more shots. Translation: Break large marketing campaigns into several highly targeted micro campaigns based on continuous selection of the best customers.
2. Take the big three-pointer first. Translation: Do your P&L homework upfront and structure the best offer immediately. Don’t hold back, consumers with cash and a willingness to spend it are in short supply right now.
3. Shoot more often. Translation: Monitor trigger events (contract dates, service calls, etc.) closely and nurture two-way relationship-building conversations. For example, if a service contract is set to expire don’t wait to begin renewal conversations. Stalling is not the best strategy in today’s economy.
4. Position for rebounds. Translation: Monitor social media and understand how your brand is positioned.
5. Press to force turnovers. Translation: Leverage and engage your entire organization as it relates to customers and prospects. Your opponents may drop the ball and you’ll want to take immediate advantage.
The run-and-gun isn’t without its flaws; particularly on the defensive end. For example, Grinnell once scored 148 points in a game and still lost the contest. Even so, you can bet the entire audience was fully engaged.