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Will you survive the first 100 days?

Posted on January 26, 2017 at 8:51 AM Comments comments (1)
Whenever a new president takes office talk turns to the vaunted first 100 days.  The phrase has been around since FDR and is now used by the media to measure the successes and accomplishments of a president during their initial leadership transition.  It’s interesting to note that this benchmark has rarely correlated with the subsequent success or failure of a president’s time in office.  After all, every president goes through ups and downs as they face the challenges that are unique to their particular time in history.  So what keeps the hundred days mythology alive then?  And why have experienced business executives who are starting new positions also been coached to take their first 100 days seriously?  Because, almost every organization is really working from a sequence of short-term plans, so it would be disastrous for a new executive to think they have six, nine or 12 months to get up to speed.  First impressions are critical to future momentum; first impressions influence credibility, trust and often longer-term success.  And as we all know, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Sadly; statistics show that nearly 11 percent of executives will fail in their first year on the job, and according to Manchester Inc. nearly 40 percent won't make it past the first 18 months in a new position. Those facts are eye opening and imply that either a lot of executives are operating with a faulty 100-day plan, or that organizations are doing a great job of placing candidates in the wrong positions.

If you are an executive facing a new assignment take some time to read Michael Watkins “The First 90 Days.”  Yes, it was penned back in 2003 but it is still a pretty good read on the subject and it will help you with your strategy.

If you are responsible for hiring a new executive perhaps it’s time to consider a different type of strategy.  A strategy based on temporary, interim or fractional executive leadership.  Keep in mind, temporary or interim doesn’t mean less talented, and your risk of placing the wrong executive will be greatly reduced.


Why the phrase “mutual benefit” never works with an influencer

Posted on January 17, 2017 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)
I’d like to connect and collaborate for mutual benefit.” Like many of you, I’m often approached with that line on many social platforms.  In truth, when that phrase is used within a LinkedIn connection request from someone I don’t know it makes me cringe because past experience has proven that they really mean one of two things:
1.       I’d like you to accept my connection request so I can immediately pitch you on the solution I’m peddling because I’m sure you are a qualified persona.
2.       I’d liked to be able to leverage you and pick your mind but not actually pay for your services, knowledge or social capital.
The second example of course refers to asking “who, what, when, where, why and how” strategy type questions that represents a consultants or other knowledge workers primary source of value.  I know, I know, I know, I sound very jaded.  But we all know that in today’s social media world I’m not off-base.  In the beginning LinkedIn was about connecting to people you actually knew.  Today, too many so-called “social networking experts” are merely trying to pile up connections and then making attempts to microwave the relationship with no intention of exploring the possibility of mutual benefits.
The challenge for those of you who are “reaching out” with a sincere heart is that the only way to know if there is going to be mutual benefit is when the connection and collaboration is actually accomplished.  And that process generally doesn’t start unless each party first “trusts” the other.
Look, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make a cold call or approach a stranger on LinkedIn, but why aren’t you working on building awareness and trust first? So, how do you build trust if you’re not connected and already engaging?
Be Found
1.        To be found during the “search” process usually refers to when a customer or prospect has a need or desire for a product or service that your organization is capable of delivering. But in this case that is not what I’m talking about. Initially you need to take steps to get on their radar screen.  You want them to notice you in a good way.  To be found, read their blogs and respond with thoughtful comments.  Read their updates on LinkedIn and hit the “Like” button.  Retweet and Like their Twitter posts.  Now, don’t go over-the-top with this strategy.  You don’t want to come across as some type of stalking crazy groupie.  But if you perform this task consistently over a medium-long period of time I can assure you that your targeted influencer will notice you.  Influencers take special note of their audience engagement and they live for it.
2.       To be able to find and approach prospects with characteristic’s that line up well with your organizations target markets.  For the record, sending a cold connection request using the LinkedIn standard template and expecting your target to instantly understand your background and trust you are not what you should be doing.  Of course, if you are already some well-known personality perhaps that will work for you.  I’m not well-known so I never send the standard template connection request.  Your potential new connection is only going to take a few seconds to scan your profile.  That means your profile and related content needs to be top quality.
3.       To engage generally means 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.  But here again that is not what I’m talking about.  You originally took the step to try and customize your request; you said “I’d like to connect and collaborate for mutual benefit.  But if you want to develop “trust” you need to already be thinking of ways to do something for your new potential influencer connection.  Now, I know what you are thinking:
A)     If they would just listen to my pitch they’d get it.  I’ll use my standard “our customers tell us that they are struggling with blah, blah, blah” and they’ll say “so am!! Please come to my rescue!”  Or you’ll send them your Nascar logo slide with your current customers implying that they would be stupid not to listen.  Look, you still need that type of content but you are breaking it out too early.  You haven’t touched me “emotionally” by letting me know “what’s in it for me?”
B)     So, “what’s in it for them?”  This is the most difficult part of the assignment because you are really going to need to think through your personal value-prop.  And you need to do it before you have the initial conversations.  Your potential influencer connection wants to know that you have given this a great deal of thought.  You cannot wimp out by saying “I’ll just ask them a question, like - what can I do for you?”  Remember, the customer often doesn’t know what they want until you tell them.  At this point they don’t really know you, or trust you, and they have no idea how you might be able to help them personally.  That means you are going to be dead-in-the-water because they will not be able to truthfully answer your question or understand you value-proposition.
Unless you’ve carefully considered the ramifications, use “I’d like to connect and collaborate for mutual benefit” with great caution.

Three ways to boost your social media presence and be more engaging

Posted on December 22, 2016 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Ha-ha, made you look!  When my kids were little they would sometimes taunt me with that phrase.  It was intended as a playful insult because they tricked me into looking at something that didn’t really exist.  With my marketing teams, that phrase is not said in jest.  Its code for marketing content and messaging that forms a favorable impression; it catches our target audiences’ attention and piques their interest.  Marketers want attention.  They want their audience to engage with their social profiles.  In order to boost my social media presence and fine-tune my engagement I focus on three key areas:

  • Characters:  I don’t wait for people to find me; I proactively search for interesting and relevant business characters and connect to them first.  This is not as easy today as it used to be when many automation tools, such as TweetAdder, were available.  There are still some fun and interesting ways to build a targeted audience though.  One method involves major trade conferences, and you don’t actually need to attend to implement this process.  My example involves the HubSpot #Inbound16 conference.  I did not physically attend, but I didn’t pay close attention to the profiles tweeting about it and I engaged them.

As you can see, many of the profiles I engaged not only followed me back, but they also “Listed” me.  There are worse things in life than to be listed under “Inbound Stars” or “Inbound16 Rockstars!”  This feedback had the added benefit of letting me know that my profile and content made a favorable impression.

  • Cadence:  I focus on creating a consistent flow of relevant thought-leadership material; without making it feel over-the-top or spammy.  It definitely takes time and creativity to build relevant and engaging content.  But this is a case where marketing automation will not necessarily make it easier, and in fact could actually damage your brand if done poorly.  Let me show you an example.

Yes, this is marketing automation gone awry.  This type of twitter stream is not engaging and does not provide relevant content.  It’s pure noise.

  • Callout:  I look for opportunities to mention my connections in order to help them build their social capital.  Here again (example above), “thanking” someone for following you back doesn’t count.  In fact, don’t do it.  There are other ways to mention someone that are much more effective.  I like to look for important lists that have been published.  For example, Brand Quarterly Magazine recently published their 2016 Top “50 Marketing-Thought Leaders Over 50” list.  I recognized each of the award winners through tweets like the following:

This tweet not only calls out a few of those recognized but also has a customized video  (also below) that makes the effort even more attention grabbing.

Did the individuals recognized appreciate the video content and the mention?  As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Why Your Sales “Follow Up” is Not Working

Posted on November 25, 2016 at 2:22 PM Comments comments (3)

It happens all the time by email, telephone, and through social media, the fake “I just wanted to follow up” sales prospecting approach.

Large company or small, no decision-maker wants to have their time wasted.  So, they’re probably not going to visit your website to first “learn more about” your product.  In addition, executives generally don’t open their calendars for total strangers to talk to them about something they are ill-informed about, or couldn’t care less about.  In short, you are pushing a button that turns them off, so it’s no wonder they are not returning your call or replying to your digital contact.  What have you done wrong?  You wanted to project yourself as a “thought-leader,” someone the executive could trust.  But at this point they are not thinking of you as a thought-leader nor as a trusted advisor.  You are merely another account development person trying to fake a “follow up” to an initial conversation that hasn’t happened.  So, what thoughts are really going through your prospects mind?
1. Who are you?  Were you referred to me by someone I trust?  Did we meet at a conference?  Did you comment on one of my blogs or have we been engaging in conversation on Twitter?  In short, how can I trust you if I don’t know you?
2. What exactly are you claiming your solution will do for my organization? Increase revenue? Decrease cost? Mitigate risk?  How will you prove that claim?
3. What’s in it for me?  Yes, we make decisions intellectually, but we buy emotionally.  That means you also need to appeal to the emotional side of my brain.
4. What part of my budget would your solution impact?
    a. What application are we already using in that space?  Would a change be worth the effort?
    b. Does my team have the mental bandwidth to take on another application?
    c. Where does this application fit in relation to other processes?

You need to reboot your initial approach.  Take some time to gain rapport and build your credibility.  Help the executive understand how a relationship with you could reduce their risk.  Your main goal is to develop a deep level of trust.  If they trust you they are more likely to open up and let you ask the questions that would extract their pain points and determine if they can create funding for your project.  If you understand their pain points you will then be in a better position to customize your sales process to address their exact needs.  And that’s what “following-up” is really about.

You Are the Messenger and Message
Contact Alan See CMO Temps, LLC at [email protected]

Real-Time Talent Mismanagement in Action

Posted on November 17, 2016 at 8:56 AM Comments comments (2)

“We’re looking for a lighter version of you.”  In a business recruiting situation, they probably don’t mean that you’re overweight.  Odds are they’re telling you that they think you’re “overqualified.”  And overqualified is usually code speak for the following:
1. You are too old.
2. You are too expensive.
3. The hiring manager would be uncomfortable with your credentials.  Perhaps even intimidated.
4. They don’t have the forward thinking vision to consider expanding the position, or to anticipate their future talent needs.
5. All of the above.
Overqualified candidates are rarely invited to interview with the hiring manager.  Their resume or social profile is screened and the assumption made that the person would be bored and not motivated, so they would underperform or leave.  As a result, the standard template rejection email is sent letting them know they should feel free to apply for other jobs you have posted.  Of course you’ll feel they’re overqualified for those jobs too inviting the process to start over.  This is completely ludicrous when you think about it.  No doubt HR has metrics, case studies or white papers that explain why it’s always done that way.  And yet, the overqualified candidate expressed interest.  They initiated first contact with your company.  If nothing else, don’t you wonder why?  For example:
· They want to shift industries.
· Move to a new location.
· Travel less or more.
· Achieve greater work/life balance.
· They just want to make a change.
There could be several other reasons, but you’ll never know because your organization doesn’t have the time or see the need to have a conversation.  And yet, your sales and marketing organizations may very well be spending large portions of their time and promotion budgets trying to meet those same personas.  Take note; overqualified is also code speak for:
1. Well known and connected.
2. Influential decision maker.
3. Knowledgeable
4. Motivated
5. All of the above.
Why you should be networking with the Overqualified
Are there unique factors you should consider in this situation?  Indeed and here are just a couple to start:
· Before you reject the candidate find out if there is room to expand the job role in order to take advantage of his/her background.  Also, think carefully about future needs.  This situation may present an opportunity to bring in areas of expertise that are not currently represented at your company but will eventually be needed.  Take time to find out what is really motivating them to make a change in order to validate additional consideration.
· If hiring is definitely not an option make sure you examine and evaluate their social capital carefully.  The last thing you want to do is to set fire to a bridge that your sales and/or marketing team has been trying to build.  Consider creating a networking process to introduce the candidate to key employees within your organization.  That action will help your employees grow their social capital, and at the same time soften the rejection and help keep doors open with the candidate should your needs change.

Are you still thinking about sending that overqualified candidate your standard rejection letter?

How to Bridge the Gap between Sales and Marketing

Posted on November 15, 2016 at 12:47 PM Comments comments (0)
“On the Beach.” In the consulting world that expression means you are not involved in activity that is billable.  In other words, you are not directly creating revenue for your company.  And that is always a dangerous place to be if you want to stay employed.  An early mentor of mine told me to “never get removed from the real revenue stream.”  For several years I lived by that advice through a career in sales, but I knew there were also important positions within an organization that by design, were not directly revenue producing.  Yes, we’re talking about the staff that supports the revenue generators.  The accounting term often used is “overhead.”  Overhead expenses may apply to a variety of operational categories, including marketing for some organizations.  Most marketers though, including me now, hate the thought of being labeled overhead.  You are simply not going to find us On the Beach.  That’s why marketing ROI metrics are always top-of-mind.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we spend more time trying to figure out how to measure the results of our activity than actually creating campaigns.  The continuous struggle to cost justify every marketing move is often a major reason for the gap that exists between sales and marketing.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time in both disciplines so I’m going to offer five key points that have helped me “bridge the gap” with my sales counterpart.  Keep in mind that my point-of-view is coming from the B2B world and may not apply to all of you.
1. Listen to and show some empathy for the people who carry the quota.  I’m fortunate that my background makes this first point easy.  I have both inside and field-based sales experience as well as direct and indirect channel experience.  I’ve covered a territory as both an individual contributor as well as a sales manager and I know what it feels like to be directly in front of the customer and responsible for the quota.  That experience creates immediate credibility that is priceless with my sales counterpart.  I listen to and am empathetic with the sales organization, and they know my feelings are sincere.
2. I don’t tell sales how to do their job.  A sales person who can cover their quota year after year is worth their weight in gold.  The last thing you need to do is to suggest that you (marketing) understand the customer or the sales environment they’re dealing with better than they do.  In other words, I don’t walk around acting like the company know-it-all.
3. Keep your sales force informed.  When I was covering a territory it used to irritate me when HQ would send content (email blasts, direct mail, etc.) into my territory without telling me.  In fact, on one occasion it created a problem because I had a proposal ready to close and I didn’t want any more messaging to confuse the decision maker.
4. Lead generation and lead nurturing are music to their ears.  Yes, we joke about leads being “qualified and ready-to-buy right now.”  But in the B2B solution selling space where sales cycles are long and deal values are high they are not realistically expecting that type of lead.  They want help keeping the brand top-of-mind and an increase in “footprint influence” throughout their accounts.
5. I lead from the front and teach by example.  Social networking for sales results is important in today’s business environment because social media has the potential to influence the customer experience when employees are able to initiate conversations on social platforms and begin building trust-based relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.  For that reason I’m very active on social media demonstrating by example how the right content distributed consistently through the various social platforms builds credibility, trust and conversations that start sales motions.
How do you build your bridges? 


8 Ways to Create Emotional Bonds with Your Customers

Posted on November 3, 2016 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (19)
People simply are not subject to the rigorous laws of logic or measurable with the precision that data-driven marketers would like.  In fact, most purchase decisions are made emotionally, and then justified, rather than the other way around.  That means it’s critical for organizations to create customer relationships through emotional bonds.  Here are eight ways your organization can help create emotional bonds that build deep customer relationships:
1. Brand:  You need to start with a strong brand identity that your customers can identify with.  Your brand must not only communicate a message, but also inform, motivate and deliver as promised.  The better your brand is at keeping its promises, the better your brand is at being trusted.
2. Learning Relationships:  Organizations that implement learning relationships are better able to understand and anticipate a customer’s unique needs.  Learning organizations understand that great customer experiences start with listening to the customer to learn instead of talking to the customer to sell.  Customers in a learning relationship experience a heightened sense of vendor awareness and are more likely to be loyal because their vendor understands their needs.
3. Use technology to connect in positive and collaborative ways:  Customer connections that engender loyalty deliver a seamless experience across channels and touch points while demonstrating integrity and interest.
4. Empower:  Ensure high quality customer interactions that demonstrate a caring attitude by empowering your employees to resolve problems.  If you want your people to act like it’s their business, make it their business.  Empowerment leads to never losing a customer over a stupid rule.
5. Great Service:  Almost every customer has a service support need at some point.  Use support incidents as an opportunity to solidify relationships.  Providing excellent service and quick resolution can build customer trust.
6. One view of the company:  Despite the desires of corporate managers, the customer ultimately controls the relationship.  If the customer is in control, don’t they need a 360 degree view of the company?  Great customer experiences start when you make it easy for the customer to do business across your entire organization.
7. Layers:  Customers have layers, and relationship layers are built on trust and dialog over time.  Customer loyalty requires the care and commitment to take the time, invest the money, and have the patience to grow the relationship.
8. Dynamic real-time processes:  Building relationships takes time; however, instant gratification has been a feature of our everyday lives for a long time.  Give your customers their rewards now, and keep your promises on time.


Can Your Company Compete with Radical Trust?

Posted on October 28, 2016 at 7:37 AM Comments comments (204)
Several years ago I heard a story about a shoe repair shop from one of their long-time customers.  It’s a small business tale about trust with a twist that might surprise you.  Like many businesses, this shoe repair shop was built on a self-service model.  That model was necessary because the sole proprietor did his cobbling at night; during the day he held down a full-time job as an employee of another company.  His customers left their shoes for repair in a converted newspaper vending machine located on his front porch.  Shoes that were ready for pick-up as well as the money folder were also in the machine.  Yes, I said the money folder.  Customers dropped off and picked up their shoes and also left their payment.  He never came up short, of money or shoes.
In the last few years there has been plenty of material written about earning customer trust.  However; you don’t see much written about trusting the customer.  Can you earn trust without giving it?  For the cobbler’s customers in that rural community it appears a key to giving trust was getting it first.
Today we would describe that type of business climate as “radical trust.”  It’s a state of trust where parties on both sides of a transaction fully recognize the greater benefits of reciprocal good faith.  The cobbler let his customers into his inner circle by trusting that he would get paid for his work.  He believed that people were inherently good and let the self-policing reputation-based honor system work.
I suspect for many businesses it would be a scary thought to implicitly trust their customers.  And yet, without trust most relationships will not move forward.  I often think of trust through the following formula:

Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk
Actions that help develop rapport and credibility, while at the same time reducing risk, will build long-lasting, trust-based relationships.  In marketing, Collin Douma describes the notion of radical trust as a key mindset required for marketers and advertisers to enter the social media marketing space.  In his opinion, the tide has turned and now marketers must radically trust the consumer in order to build the brand.
Trust is the real currency in the social economy.  Does your company trust the customer?  Small businesses typically produce nearly half of the U.S. private nonfarm GDP. You can’t help but feel that radical trust is an important part of what holds our economy together.

We wish you the best of luck in your search!

Posted on September 30, 2016 at 10:09 AM Comments comments (21)

Your company needs a marketing leader so your HR team is engaged to round up the best possible candidates.  This person will provide leadership for your entire marketing group, craft your strategic marketing plan, and report directly to your CEO as part of the executive management team.  Your notice in LinkedIn draws many qualified candidates; in fact, you suspect there are some who currently earn more than your budgeted reference range.  You can only hire one of them though and you have a small staff, so you tell yourself that you don’t have time for niceties.  That means the majority of the applicants will receive your boiler-plated HR rejection letter.

From: [email protected]   

Dear Candidate,   

After careful consideration, the team has decided not to proceed with your candidacy for the Chief Marketing Officer position at XYZ Company. While this position was not a match, XYZ Company is growing and we continue to add new positions, so please keep an eye on our career site.  Thanks again for your interest in XYZ Company. We wish you the best of luck in your search! 


The Team at XYZ Company

Let’s take a minute to explore this story.
  • Yes, you are receiving many resumes from individuals who don’t necessarily line up with some of your job specs, or their current situation would require relocation which may not be an option.  And of course there are those who didn’t explicitly follow all of the initial instructions; like giving you a detailed history of their earnings or a list of references to call.  But you are receiving interest and several of those individuals more than match the most important items on your “Purple Squirrel” wish list.
  • If you looked closely you would also discover that many of the individuals you are about to reject are actually industry thought-leaders who have experience running organizations and managing P&L’s.  They are well connected leaders with social capital and plenty of clout.  In short, they have valuable influence and access to a large targeted audience that listens to them.
  • “Careful consideration” is always total bologna.  Let’s face it, you only glanced at their resume and they know it.  That’s why they didn’t bother sending a cover letter.
  • They’ve just applied for a position reporting to your CEO that would have placed them on the executive management team.  What other positions do you think they should “keep an eye on?”  The entry level account manager role that happens to be open?
If you have any empathy at all you know that you’d be disappointed to receive a note like the example shown no matter what position you were applying for.  And from my added comments it’s obvious I believe that template letters are nonsensical, and in fact could be disastrous when applied to the executive level no matter the functional area (Legal, Finance, IT, Sales, HR, etc.).  To make matters worse, a few of the more socially savvy applicants took proactive steps to attempt networking with some of your senior team members.  Alas, your senior team is socially inept and they completely ignored the engagement.
Adding a new member to your executive management team is high risk.  Not just as it relates to the hiring of the “right” individual, but to your entire corporate brand over the course of your search.  How you and your management team treat the executive candidates and react to their social invitations could have a lasting impact on your brand that may or may not be helpful.

Just remember, many of the applicants you reject and/or ignore could end up as key executives with your suppliers, channel partners or current customers.  And what will they be thinking about your corporate brand then?

Through the Eyes of the Customer

Posted on September 26, 2016 at 4:34 PM Comments comments (13)

Beloit College released their Mindset List for the class of 2020.  This year’s list contains 60 items that provide a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of this fall’s entering class.  Most of this year’s freshmen were born in 1998, just for fun; take a look at the world through their eyes:
  • There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
  • Grandpa has always been able to reach for the Celebrex.
  • They never heard Harry Caray try to sing during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field.
  • West Nile has always been a virus found in the U.S.
  • Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.
  • The Sandy Hook tragedy is their Columbine.
  • The United States has always been at war.
  • The Ali/Frazier boxing match for their generation was between the daughters of Muhammad and Joe.
  • They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. 
  • Each year they've been alive the U.S. population has grown by more than one million Latinos. 
  • TV ads for casinos have always been permitted to mention that there is actually gambling going on in there. 
  • If you want to reach them, you’d better send a text—emails are often ignored.
  • NFL coaches have always had the opportunity to throw a red flag and question the ref.
  • Bluetooth has always been keeping us wireless and synchronized.
  • X-rays have always been digital allowing them to be read immediately.
  • Exxon and Mobil have been one company—and it doesn’t own any gas stations.
  • John Elway and Wayne Gretzky have always been retired.
  • They have never seen billboard ads for cigarettes.
  • Airline tickets have always been purchased online.
In general, the Mindset List is a statement of experiences and events that shape the views of this year’s freshmen.  It’s how they see and understand what occurs around them.  And since most people believe their views are accurate it must also represent their understanding of the truth.  Their perception is their reality.
Marketing is involved in the process of dealing with perceptions.  What makes the process even more challenging is that consumers frequently make purchasing decisions based on second-hand perceptions (friends, family and other social connections).  In short, they make purchasing decisions based on another person’s perception of reality.  If your organization views the world through a product-centric position you may be inclined to dismiss the perception challenge.  Market research facts and figures convince you that the real truth is on your side and that the best product - your product, will win.  Do you believe that all you need is to have the truth on your side?

Perceptions can be a source of strengths or of weakness.  It takes skill and discipline to overcome bad perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation, and fear in order to get down to the truth.  Most of us struggle to get past our perceptions, that’s why marketer’s need to embrace the phrase “through the eyes of the customer.”