As the Navy likes to say, “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.”
Plan Your Marketing Communications
If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing dollars and time, then you have to plan. Period. Maybe I’m type A and like things to be orderly — but I do not think so.
Plan the course
Without a plan, you cannot easily tell what is and what is not working. I like to think of Marketing Plans and Business Strategy Plans as a an intended course the ship needs to sail. The only way to know if we are on course or not is to refer to where we are against where we said we were going to be.
How do your customers seek and find information?
I like to take a spreadsheet and create a matrix: what information and in what channel and for whom?
New Product Release
Call to action
When will they release
Call to action
Do you need a calendar?
Which other forms of media?
Calendar of releases by event (tradeshow, product is finally ready, etc)
Releases of products by event
Location of booth
Call to set up appointments in advance of show
Audience (where in world)
What formats to be re-marketed into?
What is BIG message
What is it that you hope to achieve in each channel and how will you know you have succeeded?
Target number of opens or click-thrus
Targeted leads and/or companies (number, quality, and specific names)
Target number of quotes, orders, and sales
The matrix can be however you like to think of your “To-Do’s”. Another way to do the matrix is by calendar year.
Find that inner giggle and let it loose. Laugh like a 10 year old. Now figure out how your brand can do that!
Humor in advertising
You have heard this before, but I will repeat it:
People buy from people.
It is your job for your brand to be human and real for your customers. One great way is to use humor.
This Psychology for Marketers post has a few examples of videos which have worked well for their brands. Of course, the most in-your-face humorous clips are British. While it works on that side of the pond, on this side of the pond it is likely to get you in hot water. Be mindful of your demographics!
This HubSpot post has more “American” brands with more “American” humor examples. Notice that many of the brands featured in the post are boring insurance companies. We have certainly noticed in our house that the insurance company ads have been spectacular, witty, and funny enough to watch several times (to see what you missed the first 10 times).
Humor builds brands
Data show that humor will not necessarily sell more product from the outset. The data show that humor makes your brand more memorable. If your brand is more memorable (for good things) then eventually you should sell more products — if you have done your product marketing correctly!
What wacky, crazy things happen if people don’t use your product?
If you can find the humor, be it witty, dry, or (gasp) cute, then you may be on to something more memorable than what you have been doing.
How to do humor
Humor can go awry, so be careful. Start small and get bigger as you get better.
Rule of three. People remember three things:
“I came. I saw. I conquered.” — Julius Ceasar
“I can promise you Blood, Sweat, (Toil) and Tears” — Winston Churchill
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” — William Shakespeare
Big, big, little or Little, little, big.
Use the rule of three, with a twist. The first item establishes the pattern. The second item reinforces the pattern. The third item provides the twist or humor.
“Let me tell you where you are wrong.” Famous words from Winfred Denk.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Show your ad, your copy, and your images to your team, your family, and people who do not know what you are trying to do or accomplish. I always like to use people who are my “naysayers” or “most critical commentators” to tell me where I am wrong. If you can get a smirk from your favorite nitpicker, you probably have something.
Now do it
There is a time and a place to use humor. Figure out when and where. To have the most effectiveness, it should be planned. Both the channel and the timing.
It is March 7, Alexander Graham Bell Day. Pick up that telephone and call someone.
It is that simple and yet it is still hard.
Three ideas to get you going and lower your energy barriers:
Check in on how the last order, service call, or project was received by their customer. I had a consultant in a previous life who was really good at this. About every six months, if I had not called her, she would call me and ask “how is it going?” Not only did she get feedback, I usually had another project to give her and get off of my desk.
Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, derives from the data presented in a 1953 psychology paper that our short-term working memory is limited. People forget to reach out, even when they need to. Save them the time, energy, and embarrassment. Call them first!
The “Did you know we also do?” call. Just this weekend I was speaking with a general practitioner friend, and he was telling me a story about a patient who needed a doctor to see her kids. She had never thought her GP could be their GP until it was mentioned during a routine visit. He had never asked her if she was happy with her kids’ doctor. We often forget that the people with whom we do business add services, do more than one thing, or already have the solution to a problem we have.
Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, re-iterates that when you do not need the information, you let it go out of your easily accessed memory. This is especially true for customers who associate you and your company with a particular solution or product. If they had no need of other products or services when you mentioned it, they immediately lost the ability to recall that.
“Did you know” will place a new memory in their brains — especially if they need it now!
Calls trump email. Follow up with a quote, a trade show call, or a inquiry. You never know if the email got lost in the ether or they forgot it was in their inbox.
In the rule of remembering, 7 ± 2, your customer has probably already forgotten your email. That email got forgotten about the time she suddenly remembered to pick up milk on the way home the other day.
“It’s been xxx days/weeks since we last spoke and I was wondering if this project was still under way.” Who knows what you will learn.
It’s called “dialing for dollars” and it works. What are you waiting for? You can always start with “Happy Alexander Graham Bell Day”!
Do you provide the energy? the activator in your group? or are you the creative one? The one with more ideas than light bulbs?
This article is on “forcing” the bulb time. Yes, I’m mixing metaphors.
Creativity is a necessary skill in the 21st century. As we do less manual labor and more knowledge work, our brain and being able to tap into its creativity and problem-solving centers becomes uber important.
The latest research into creativity is focused on creating “flow states” — that optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. This is when you get going and cannot stop, do not want to stop, and wish you could type faster and work longer.
To achieve flow three conditions must be met (according to the research):
Be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.
The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
Good balance between perceived challenges of the task of their own perceived skills at solving the challenges.
Since the scientists have proven three conditions must be met for you and your team to be in the “flow zone” while being creative, your strategies must require planning to create environments where the three conditions are met: goals, immediate feedback, achievable challenges.
Sales plan example
X numbers of leads
X/Y leads turn into opportunities
X/Y/Z opportunities turn into orders
Orders shipped turn into sales (don’t forget this part, sometimes the factory can’t do this!)
Want to increase sales? Increase X, decrease Y or Z, or increase $ per sale. It is really this simple and yet it is so hard to execute. Our difficulty with executing a sales plan will often derive from an inability to get into ‘flow’ with the process.
Analyze your process where does it work, where does it bog down? Do you get the leads but the have a difficult time following up? Do you follow up but do not get the order?
Use the strategy of optimizing flow to lower energy barriers for execution. We do what we like. If we get orders, then we’ll likely do more of the difficult stuff to get the orders. Lowered energy barrier. Be creative & strategic about how you can permanently lower energy barriers to execute your sales plan.
Flow focuses on goals, immediate feedback, and perceived matching of challenges to capabilities. Setting a sales goal of $/month or $/year fails on at least two of these fronts. Instead, focus on setting up the systems or processes — these can meet the criteria of flow:
# of calls per day
## of quotes per month
### of leads of a certain type
Marketing content example
The theory is that content is king.
Content will drive the customers to the sales people. Content will filter out the non-sales leads. Content will enable customers with needs today to find us.
The person given the task of writing said content says “what content, what can we say, what can we not say, do you have any photos?” Content is now dead in the water.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Develop the plan. Use your theory of flow: goals, feedback, achievable.
Start with ### of leads of a certain type (from the sales plan).
What do they need to know?
How will you measure if it worked (or didn’t)?
Often writing content stalls out because there was a failure to find one of the conditions of flow. Don’t know the segment; don’t know what they need to know; inability to fill page due to lack of knowledge. Brainstorm how you can work around the roadblocks and barriers. Can you and your team find a way to flow around the issues like water?
The daily challenge of finding flow is just that, a daily challenge. We get distracted by the environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, too messy). We have that nagging shopping list, taxes to fill out, etc. Some authors about flow suggest that dealing with the distractions is absolutely required in order to find peace and enter the flow state.
5 ideas on how to get into flow:
Just write. My professor in technical writing told us when we can’t get going, to find a timer and write for 45 minutes about anything. After 45 minutes, throw that out; start on real project.
Lean in. Start the piece. Outline. Find resources and pictures. Get going (but don’t throw it out) and soon you will find yourself in the flow of the work.
Minimize distractions. Turn off the phone; turn off email and facebook alerts; give yourself permission to focus. Sometimes it is as simple as saying I have permission to work on work.
Windshield time. 20 minutes of windshield time is what I need to have epiphany after epiphany. It’s amazing how many ideas I have on the off ramp at Louisiana. Now I just need to record them without crashing the car!
Brainstorm. Write down ideas. Any ideas. There are no bad ideas. Build on what was said or written down before. Fishbone diagrams, whatever. Soon you will be amazed at the great ideas you are having.
This post was hard to write. Lots of ideas (too many bulbs?), not a lot of thinning or organization (mixing metaphors, I know), and a difficulty in staying on track with the organization of the piece. Partly because it’s a stretch to say that batteries are closely related to light bulbs and electricity.
Lightening is electricity and while it is “all over the place” it too can have a huge impact. So today, you get something “all over the place”. I hope it has some impact.
This post is about strategically finding or creating flow to generate a creative environment/atmosphere. Two suggestions for marketing and sales when these processes lose their flow. After I wrote the marketing piece I thought I should take my own advice (hmmm…).
1800 Volta invents the first battery, known as the voltaic pile.
1836 Daniell invents an improved battery capable of operating at 1.1 volts and used in early telegraph networks.
1859 Gaston Plante invented the lead-acid battery, the first rechargeable battery and the same technology used today in cars, boats, and RVs.
1912 Lewis started Lithium battery research, but it took 60 more years before they became mainstream in small devices like cameras and cell phones.
1955 Urry at Union Carbide improved upon alkaline battery design to lower their product costs — now making it possible to power a laser pointer to distract our cats.
1983 Borst invents the potato clock as a mass-produced science fair product. It works the same way batteries work: mild phosphoric acid, naturally occurring in potatoes and other starches, results in a chemical reaction where electrons are freed from the zinc probe (negatively charged) and accepted onto the copper probe (positively charged). Boil the potato and the electrical capacity of the potato increases 10 fold!
Ever feel energized by coming up with a cool new idea?
Or do you feel energized by completing a project?
For fans of Myers-Briggs, the introspective self-report questionnaire for sorting out differing psychological preferences, the most quantifiable of its characteristics is extroversion versus introversion — or “where you get your energy from.” Though I must say I was a bit shocked when I did research on the research behind Myers-Briggs; I learned that the data was not terribly credible.
The Gallup Strengths Finder assessment ranks you on 34 “strengths”. The theory being if you play to your strengths you will move forward faster and be more personally successful. As with Myers-Briggs, the data can be sketchy. However, it is fascinating to contemplate the top 5 strengths the survey will reveal to you and how you can focus on them to achieve greatness or at least (your) world domination.
According to the MBTI-school, extroverts get their energy from being with people; introverts get energized by being alone. Some of us can be energized by being in a group of people coming up with cool ideas. Others find energy reading a book or analyzing data.
Regardless of what MBTI tells you, you probably have a sense that you fall into one of those buckets more often than the other. Make note of it as that is your energy source.
If you work with a team, think about your team mates. Have you noticed where and when each member of the team “finds” his or her energy? Have you asked?
Gallup’s Strengths Finder
Based on a book written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, StrengthsFinder is the theory that there are a certain number of “fixed universal personal-character attributes” sometimes called ‘talent themes’. By focusing on your strengths, you move forward faster.
For $10 you can take the quiz online and your top 5 strengths will “pop out”. Spend a bit more and you can get all 34 ranked. Every strength has a dark side. Activators get stuff done; however, they rankle people who do not have highly ranked activator attributes as “rushing”.
Spooky? Horoscope like? Maybe. The placebo effect is real. Use what you can, right?
Strategies to Harness Your Energy
Now that you have figured out what you think your strengths are (ha-ha or ask a trusted friend to tell you the truth!) — how do you use that to further your efforts?
Strategy is the overall campaign plan; tactics are the means to achieve the plan.
Develop a plan to use your creativity at your highest energy point
Plan your teams’ efforts to use their highest energy points
Balance your team (if you can between introverts and extroverts) to make best use of each skill set/personality trait.
Plan to use a large event like a trade show to get the team’s energy behind a new initiative, like creating a catalog of products, new literature pieces, or new displays and videos.
Use an organizational change to re-vamp the website, launching the new website with the roll-out of the change (if possible).
Plan your content marketing in trade journals for the whole year
Work out a schedule with the journals & product managers
Schedule around key events (trade shows or new product launches)
Commit to the plan
Tactics to Find Your Energy (when slightly lost!)
Tactics are the day to day things you do to keep going, keep innovating, keeping to that schedule & strategy you worked so hard to develop at the beginning of the year.
Use a strength from strengths finder. For example, I get completely energized when I analyze data. In that 3 o’clock slump, if I can find some data to review, slice, and dice, before I know it I’m re-energized. Weird but true.
Start a 30 minute task. If you get energy from starting projects, pull out your planning tools and start planning. Pretty soon you’ll go from planning to executing (or getting the team to execute.
Learn something new. Learners can “find” energy by learning something new. Now is the time to try that new program, app, or to find the new program or app that will make this year easier & better.
Do a no-brainer. Expense reports? Cleaning off your desk? Filing your paperwork? When your mojo has left the building, sometimes doing mindless tasks will open up the creative flood gates. This is why Einstein worked in a patent office.
Sounds like an episode from Jerry Seinfeld. The one where George decides if he does everything opposite from how he normally does things, life gets better.
A different perspective
You have done this before. You drive the opposite way home or to the office and the road looks different (e.g., when driving south, I nearly always miss the turn into my neighborhood because it looks so different). You sit in the passenger seat and see businesses you had not noticed before.
What could you do to get a different perspective on your marketing strategy? your customer segments? your partners in your target market?
The “Tiny House” movement is an Opposite Strategy to home ownership. The “Cut the Cord” movement is an Opposite Tactic for reducing entertainment costs. “Minimalism” is an Opposite Way of Life for reducing clutter, right-sizing costs, and improving quality of life.
If you buy, sell. If you sell, buy. Work on the floor. Run a focus group with past customers. Do something that is different to see your world, your business, and your strategies from an entirely different perspective.
Change it up. Examine the “we always do”
In a Netflix movie on Queen Victoria, Prince Albert walks into a room to see the staff setting the table to serve a meal for a king who had been dead for 20 years. Because “that’s how we always do it.” No orders to stop setting the table, so the table kept getting set for 365 days for over 20 years. That’s 7300 uneaten meals.
You may think your organization is not quite as silly. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.
I am sure there are things you do that should be re-examined, questioned, and either improved or stopped.
Blue ocean strategy
A good read, “Blue Ocean Strategy“, gets its title from a strategy of sailing into “clean” air. When you sail as part of a pack, only the lead boat gets good wind. Everyone else gets what is called “dirty air”.
Dirty air is slower. Dirty air comes from a less preferential angle, influenced by the sails it hits before yours. Dirty air is more turbulent.
The lead boat gets good wind. To get out of “dirty air” one must sail away from the pack.
Are you doing what everyone else is doing?
Is it time to sail away from the pack?
An excellent tool to examine how you might find new opportunities and sail away from the pack is to use Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas to examine your model versus what your customers may want.
Change up a revenue source (rent versus sell, pay per use, subscriptions)? Change up a distribution system?
Change a partner or supply chain?
I missed getting holiday cards out. Then I missed sending out Happy New Year’s cards out. Apparently I sent client-thank-you-presents out, but forgot to say who they were from…
I could throw in the towel and give up or I could drop back a few yards, punt, and try again.
I decided to follow my own advice: don’t give up; don’t allow myself the luxury of pain; and do my best even if I think no one is looking.
Find another day, way, touch point
As marketers, we are always looking for the excuse to reach out to our customers. To say “Hey, we are still here. Buy from us. Talk to us.”
A client, Ed, pointed out that I had a unique way of finding humor. Also, he said people don’t notice you sometimes until you are gone (he was amazed at how many people came to his store only after he put the “going out of business” sign up).
Another client introduced me as “someone who used to write.” Oops, is my “out of business” sign up?
It occurred to me that every day is a “national holiday” of some sort or another. I had found my excuse. Now I needed to find my humor and a little Mo & Jo.
According to several websites, January 6 is National Bean Day.
The Huffington Post supposed it was to honor “Gregor Mendel, who famously used bean and pea plants to test his theories on inheritance. Mendel died on this day in 1884.”
For those trying to lose weight or improve their diet as part of their New Year’s resolutions, they may wish/want/desire a little push to increase the healthy in their diet. From the National Day website:
Today, just as throughout the Old and New World history, beans are an important source of protein. A very healthy choice for any meal or snack, they are also an excellent source of fiber, are low in fat and are high in complex carbohydrates, folate and iron.
If you are a fan of Michael Pollan and his book or documentary “In Defense of Food”, you can have beans and feel satisfied that you have eaten food, mostly plants (and hopefully), not too much!
There you go — January 6, National Bean Day.
PS. I think you can also have Jelly Beans for dessert!
If you see your glass as half empty, pour it into a smaller glass and stop bitching.
In the past three years alone:
my accountant passed away from pancreatic cancer
my photographer passed away from too many cancers to count
three close neighbors died from heart-related surgical complications
my dad had a catastrophic heart attack and died instantly
my in-laws passed away within 24 hours of each other from dementia
my 95 year-old grandmother passed away in her sleep
a client passed away from a neuro disease
several former colleagues passed away
we experienced a flood that caused extensive, expensive damage
three computers have fried or melted their hard drives
my doctor threatened me with a statin
Time for a new glass
Appreciation time. My neighbors, Roger and Diane, were lovely people. They had lived in China, Turkey, Finland, and Nigeria. They survived coups, Russian wire-tapping, amputations, and the death of a child.
They hung out on their porch, invited neighbors for a glass of wine, and eventually started a weekly Friday-after-work bring your own wine and tapas tradition. They worked hard to appreciate what they had, their neighbors, and their family.
While my recent three years have been spent on appreciation exercises and expeditions to visit people who have been important in my life, your appreciation time can be with customers, potential customers, past colleagues, or influencers.
I had a colleague once tell me that our most difficult customers made us better. He was right. Appreciate the customers who make you better. The bosses that made you work hard. The colleagues who were difficult.
Be funny. Be memorable. Ed, a client who recently passed away, once told me that I was really funny. He thought his organization needed that humor because he thought that humor would be memorable. We remember humor:
Where’s the beef? We’re gonna need a bigger boat! Queen Elizabeth II parachuting into the Olympic Games.
Injecting a bit of humor if your brand can tolerate it (if Queen Elizabeth can be funny, probably everyone can be) is a great way to become memorable.
Do your best, even when you think no one is looking. Actually, Stu Schmill, Varsity Lightweight Men’s Coach used to shout, “Do not allow yourself the luxury of pain.” The first time I heard that I was sitting in the stroke seat of the Women’s Varsity 8 for the very first time. It was a cold, rainy, grey (did I mention wet) morning — I was trying out for the stroke seat, completely nervous (wet and cold) and afraid of failing. Melissa Norcross, the coxswain of our boat, dutifully repeated the chant: “Do not allow yourself the luxury of pain.” Years and years later, at a master’s rowing event, “Coach” who had also been witness to that same practice, retold the story of that morning to his companion, saying “It was the best practice racing I ever saw. Lynore never gave up, she just coming back, pulling even, pulling ahead, and coming back.”
Do not give up. Sometimes we all need help with this. Is it time to out-source a difficult task? Or one that’s not getting done?
– I hired a personal trainer so I could not “allow myself to feel the luxury of pain”
– I found and deployed a new computer back-up system
– I asked everyone I knew for an IT support person referral
– I asked everyone I knew for an accountant referral
– We have a new and improved first floor after renovations
Work hard. In rowing we do what’s called a Power 10. 10 hard strokes. It helps pull focus into the boat; it gets everyone in sync; it gets the swing back to keep working hard.
– I eliminated the bad foods from the house
– I stock and prep good foods to make it easier to eat right
– I enabled the Fitbit feature that tells me to go to bed
– I enlisted my son to help me stay the course
What can you do for yourself or your team that would be your metaphoric Power 10?
It rains on everyone. Today, our ski area has had only 8 inches of natural snow. All of the Colorado and New Mexico ski areas have had paltry snow this year. If the ski areas give up, they go out of business. They are playing to their strengths (bike & ski with the same lift ticket!) — as should the rest of us.
Complaining about the snow is not going to improve the snow, help my skiing, or improve my mood. I am personally using this ski season as my time to get stronger, get better at telemarking, and improve my turns.
Play to your strength or shore up a weakness. Pick one. Right size your glass.