There are things that work and many more that don't. Let's discuss what we've experienced . . . not our opinions . . . but actually what our days and nights as marketers, business leaders, parents, people are teaching us. Please give us a hand. Tell us about your experience with this stuff.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Which mistake are you more comfortable with?

We often have great leadership and management choices these days. We research the options, calculate the potential returns, try to understand the downstream implications to each decision, identify the risks associated with each and then . . . we have to decide:

What's the best decision to make?

Here's a little tool that often works for me.

While I'm looking at what's most likely to succeed or sometimes even which option is more likely to get executed, I find that no real certainty emerges. In many of these day-to-day decisions I ask the following question:

If both of these are a mistake, which mistake am I more comfortable with?

In other words, and not to be pessimistic, but if this turns into a failure or a mistake, which would I be most comfortable with?

For me, if I'm going to lose in a situation, I would like to do it on my own terms. Sometimes that's about minimizing human damage, sometimes its about cultural pain and sometimes its about just wanting to aim high. But in any case, if there is a problem I know I have to stand up and take whatever fallout there may be (most times the winners have plenty of people with deserved credit; but the buck stops with me on the losers).

So given that I'm playing for big wins knowing sometimes the alternative will happen and I'll need to shine the light directly on myself, then I'll choose the option which I will feel best about failing at.

Sure I probably need more therapy and know that this isn't for all decisions, but sometimes the math dictates that the potential realities of a decision must be faced before the eventual outcome. When I choose using this basis, I find that I can be more aggressive, I am more at peace and I am much less concerned about things not working out.

There are few people, managers or otherwise, who are more impactful on their situations, than those people who are not afraid to fail. This may help with that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Waste Your Sophistication

What is it that you truly understand? What core decisions about your business or your life have you made? Can you describe to an outsider what your business or department is all about (and I hope you are happy with that)?

I ask these questions because if you have clear answers to these questions, then the rest of your decisions should be much simpler. Note: I'm not saying without pain, but simpler.

The British have a saying that goes something like, 'he was too smart by half'. Its what I'm getting at.

For many of us, we've made decisions, we've learned great lessons; the rest is persistance and perseverance. Those are the traits that make all the difference once the direction is set.

And sophistication? That ability to see the nuance and understand the implication and develop the complexity? Its great to use a mentor/coach or your own experience to work through the thought, plan or idea. But once it's been done, get on with it. Execute and learn.

I can remember a proposal I worked on for a Big 4 consulting group. We started with a core team and put the proposal together. Then the 'powers that be' brought in more experts to review and contribute . . .they did this over and over again for a two week period. Over that period we changed/evolved the proposal 3 times a day. By the end of the process, we had over 30 different versions (I remember putting in my hours for those two weeks: 205 hours.) At the end of the iteration hell, on my own, I looked at the versions from the beginning to the end and you know what? I suspect you guessed it.

The last version was uncannily similar to the very first version. And you could track the evolution from human to simian to ape to simian and back to human. Scary.

So the arithmetic here comes down to this: use your sophistication to set your direction and then move as aggressively as you can. Don't suffer sophisticates or doubters lightly. And learn as you go. You'll run rings around the competition and your team will have a lot of fun.

Monday, November 1, 2010

People Truly Bond by Working Together

A great Boston-area social worker told me about a survey that was taken to determine what predicts whether families are closely-knit, functional and felt connected.

Seems that over 50 different influencers were identified but only one had a better than 60% statistical coorelation to predicting a close-knit family. Of all the factors, only those families that went 'camping' could be expected to be close and connected.

Well I can tell you I felt a bit taken a back when I heard that (yes, aback). First, my wife sure wasn't going to go for that and second, most of my camping experiences (Boy Scout, etc) included a myriad of mishaps including leaking tents, partially cooked food, uncomfortable beds, insect bites, etc. How could this be an answer for familial happiness?

Well, as the researchers supposedly found, camping puts people in a situation where, in fact, things go wrong and people have to work together to make them right. Campers suffer together and they work out their own personal solutions to each challenge. Its personal and its authentic to those groups of people. No one else shares those moments.

And there is the wisdom. People don't necessarily bond by playing together; fun is not a predictor for bonding and feeling personal warmth towards one another. People bond because they find themselves in the same situation/challenge, commit to working together and find a way to win or endure.

I had the priviledge and honor to be a single father of three children (age 3, 8, 11). Although their mother saw them and supported them on a regular weekly basis, it was my task to run the day-to-day family operation. The way I describe it is that it was like my three children and I stepped into a covered wagon in St. Louis and headed west. I certainly didn't know what I was doing and my wonderful kids knew less. But over time, we worked out every logistical issue. Each had responsibilities. Each knew they were depended on for things to work. And it worked . . .at least from where I stood.

I'm not saying my children and I have unique intimacy nor that there aren't issues between themselves and between them and me, but I can tell you this: We know things others don't know. We've been places others haven't been. And we've been there together.

Exaggeration? No, you feel this way when you have the personal experiences that people build working through the challenges.

Bond a team by having them work together towards something that all agree is important. There will be challenges, obstacles and personal differences, but the process of having to move the project to completion should give each an appreciation for the other. If you have some that can't team, then either find a place they can work in a solitary manner, intervene with them to let them know how this needs to work or get them out of your organization. (Note: People who can't or won't work with people shouldn't and its up to managers to isolate or get rid of them. I've got the scars on my back to prove this.)

So the math is simple: want bonding? Have people work together around something that is important to all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Sales Pitch: Just Because You Can, Should You?

OK so I'm getting old and there are some things that worked better 10 years . . .OK, OK, 15 years ago, than they do today. For instance, if I'm going to lift something heavy, head out on some air travel with heavy luggage or dig up my garden, then there are some steps I better take before I start. I'll need to stretch, warm up a bit, take an aleve and maybe sacrifice an innocent animal to the god of my choice in order to have any real physical functionality on the backside of the project. No doubt I can get the job done, but the on-going pain is a high price to pay.

Maybe this one makes it clearer: people fall in love (or lust or ?) and decide to get married. Clearly the vast majority who do (me included) often have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And the resulting consequences provide enough 'shake your head' moments to last a lifetime.

For those of us who's professional task is to make a difference in revenue, the question is similar. Just because we can get someone to sit down with us or our professionals to hear a pitch, does that mean we should do the pitch?

Often we need to take a minute and ask what the point is? Is it getting the next piece of business? Or is it building business relationships that will generate value on both sides for years to come?

I argue strongly that its critical that each new client relationship be built based on a personal knowledge of several basic questions:
>> What will make our client's company successful this year? How do they measure it?
>> What are the challenges that stand in the way of that success?
>> What are they doing to address those challenges?
>> Then ask the same questions for each contact personally (i.e. what will make the person successful this year? How will they measure it?)

Once we understand this information, we are in a position to address our client's most important professional issues. To the degree our solutions are set in that context, we build a solid relationship which can grow and which will be less vulnerable to competitive attacks.

There's no doubt that many of us can talk ourselves into getting a pitch heard. But for the vast majority of our client targets there are several steps which should occur before we have the presumption to even offer.

Otherwise the math is clear, there are many actions we can take and the consequences of those actions are often not what we intended.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Leader Can Make All the Difference

"I rode him like he was a good horse." Calvin Borel

In the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird, a horse that had lost 31 of his last 32 races and left the gate as a 50 to 1 bet, won one of the longest shot, most dramatic races in Derby history. Mine That Bird was a distant last on the back stretch and not even in contact with the pack. And he wins by 5+ lengths . . . going away. In short, there was no expert who expected this performance and most had not even studied the horse due to his track record. When jockey Calvin Borel was asked about his ride that day he said, "I rode him like he was a good horse."

I've had the privilege to come into two different organizations to organize, reorganize or run their marketing / business development groups. Each time I've been given a warning that some of the individuals on the team would probably need to be let go. And each time, I've seen people, who were formerly unappreciated and whose capabilities were questioned, raise their game to a new level and become highly valued players.

For myself, earlier in my career, I can remember my performance and development being dramatically impacted by leaders and managers who believed in me and just as importantly, provided me with a role that, with their guidance, I could win in.

Just as in the Derby example above, one needs a leader who knows how to win, who has an approach that has been tested and who understands how to handle the various talents provided to him or her.

I've seen leaders who's teams were about the leader's success. Those team's success is dependant on the brilliance of the leaders. Not being brilliant myself, I've always thought success was dependant on the cumulative talents of the team, aligned and directed in a manner that played to their strengths and protected individuals from their weaknesses. That seems to work rather well.

So I'm curious:
What are your expectations for your team?
What are your expectations for each individual?
How do you train them to win?
Does each individual understand what is critical for them to do in order to win?

Cause the math of this is simple: Followers are only as good as their leaders allow/train them to be.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Can Trust Transform Your Business?

I recently participated in a webinar run by Stephen Covey around the impact that Trust can have internally and externally in your business. He paints a compelling picture with his examples.

One involves a coffee and muffin vendor who doubles his business by setting out a change basket (with his own money in it) at the end of his counter. He had noticed that he was losing customers due to the long lines in the morning which were primarily caused by the slow payment process (taking money / giving change). So he put out the change basket, took / fulfilled the orders and allowed his customers to make their on change. He handled twice the number of transactions and his customers appreciated the trust he had given them.

But yesteray I actually heard another example of this dynamic on NPR. In a incredibly poor section of a city in India (3 square miles hold 500,000 people), the local CocaCola bottler was working through ways to increase their sales (whether you think this is appropriate or now, watch what happens). Traditionally, the Coke vendors stored the drinks behind the counter and required all customers to order them personally. One of the local sales guys convinces some of the Coke vendors to put a cooler outside the front door of their establishment allowing all customers access to review their options and pick their own drink. As in the example above, sales of drinks have doubled (10 fold in one case), transforming many of these vendor's business success. Their customers tell them that they are proud that they can be trusted.

Frankly I think most of us find this idea of trust with our clients to be revolutionary. And certainly scary.

I remember when some companies figured out they could give a money-back guarentee without risking much at all; and yes, most of us now know that there is no real benefit to us as customers. Its a huge hassle to deal with any vendor whose product doesn't work properly; never mind the cost of the product.

But that's not what is being offered here: these examples are saying that the business trusts the customer to protect the business's income if the customer gets appropriate trust upfront.

There's the pinch: many really don't trust their clients enough to allow the clients to determine what services should be provided (we often think we know better what our clients need), how they should be delivered (it might require our organizations/practices to change or evolve) and what compensation is deserved.

But its really worse that that: we really don't want to transform our business relationships, we just want to get paid more for being historically relevant. And for most, we will only consider change once we are in so much pain that we have no choice (ergo the 'burning platform' scenario).

OK, so read those two examples above and give yourself a moment to wonder if there is a scenario where trusting your clients could provide you with such a distinctive relationship that your clients would think differently about themselves and the business relationship because of the way you treat them . . .from the very start. Some very interesting math indeed (yeah I said indeed).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Success of Strategy: It Isn't What You Think

The key to success continues to be a subject of wonderment to me. I study and observe over and over again the number of times great minds move in a direction with great conviction only to discover that they got lucky. It's as if moving with conviction makes you much more likely to get lucky . . . if you are smart enough to adjust.

I always enjoy talking with successful people about how they got where they are. And the most frequent response is that 'it was an accident' or 'there really was not any overarching plan' or 'the phone rang and I picked it up'. The serendipities of success seem to be the rule, however the fact remains that these people were looking for success and determined to find it. It's just that the path moved a bit.

Two examples:

Recently reading William Manchester's The World Lit Only By Fire, Manchester discusses how the great Spanish and English explorers found a new world while attempting to find a sea route to the east. Their ambition was to replace the land-based commercial routes (which produced a dozen different hands touching, charging and moving the goods) for a sea route with lower pricing and more predictable business relationships. In the end, the big win was finding a entirely new source of business, land and wealth. Ironically the Portuguese were more successful in attaining the sea route to the east (note: in fact they discover Brazil when one of their ships gets lost in an extreme storm rounding the Cape of Good Hope; sounds a bit far fetched, but that's the story), but in the long run lost the opportunity to redefine their and our world.

The second, more recent, example involves the founders of Microsoft and its genesis. One story has it that Bill Gates et al saw their future in the developing of software for computers. Certainly this viewpoint and its wisdom is unquestionable. However the critical moment, say some business historians, came when IBM needed an operating system for their new line of computers and the Microsoft guys bought one they had used in the past. They licensed it to IBM, thereby funding Microsoft's dreams. Gates was going after one thing; it drove him to seek something else which in the end enabled him to do exactly what he wanted. But let's be clear, the Microsoft kingdom was built on the success of the licensing of an operating system, not the fun, neat software they were building. There were and have been plenty of developers of fun, neat software who never made it out of their garage. The operating system license was the key to the success.

So what's the arithmetic here? Well, it seems that moving with conviction and even daring, gives one a chance to be successful; however having the ability to adjust as opportunities evolve along the way becomes even more a predictor.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Leadership Helps Their People Win

Although most of us get hired by companies, we excel by organizing, training and guiding teams of people. And those people follow us . . .personally. We lead and they follow.

These last two years forced many of us to evaluate tough, and in some cases, terrible, decisions in order to preserve and ensure the health of these companies.

However, our success is still dependent on the performance of these people, these teams . . .personally. Companies don't really perform, people do. We may need to measure a company and even make decisions about company strategy, tactics and resourcing, but things happen exclusively because a person makes it happen.

So as executives we move through 2010, watching warily the ebb and flow of our market and the demand of our clients. But in the end our leadership and certainly our company is most measuarable not by what we have done for our company, but how our people have won. If they don't win, our company doesn't win. And then it gets, or it should, get very personal for us as leaders.

Here's the math: this is not war and we are not Generals. Our call is to be servant leaders to people who are depending on us to show them the way to the professional life they want. It can be a strange path, but there is no doubt of the expectations for where that path should lead.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Strategy: The Cost of Great Decisions

Leadership and organizations have to understand the cost of getting to a decision and the organization's ability to execute those decisions.

On the one hand sit decisions that determine the strategic direction. These are inherently costly and time consuming. As they should be.

However once the strategic decisions are determined, every other decision should be about getting execution done which follows the strategy. And the cost associated with making those and the time those decisions take up should be minimized. In fact the determinating factor should be can those decisions be executed appropriately and how fast?

Once a strategy is determined: a decision that is 70% right/accurate/special that gets executed beats a 100% right decision that doesn't . . . every time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Best Opportunity to Build Loyalty Occurs Around Problems

Interviewing a large key client a few years ago I ask him why they had become so loyal to our company.

Without hesitation he started, "Well you guys were handling a very important matter for us and it wasn't going well. I approached (the relationship partner) and let him know that I was displeased and that something had to be done. (The relationship partner) made the decision to replace one of your senior partners handling the matter with someone else. And the change worked and the matter's result was highly appreicated by us. In effect (the relationship partner) showed us that our relationship took first priority over any politics within your firm. From that time on we knew we would be taken care of and that we were partners with your firm."

I've seen this played out time and time again. When things get tough, we each have the opportunity to show what we are made of and develop a relationship with clients and teammates which speaks louder than all the good times.

The math says that Loyalty can be more a function of trust based on how we deal with problems than all the dinners and the wins . . .that client service is shown best in tough moments.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Key Measurement of Strategy is Ability to Say No

Everyone claims they have a strategy.

One of the best ways for testing any person's or company's strategy is the organization's ability to say 'no' to opportunities.

Strategy should inherently focus an organization's resources and investments. And by definition, a strategy then limits what can be invested in.

So next time you are considering a strategy, ask yourself and your partners, what does this eliminate? If if doesn't eliminate much, then its pretty useless.

The arithmetic here is where there aren't easy and enforceable "no's", there won't be great "yes's" and will limit returns for the strategy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leadership vs. Representation

Leadership facilitates people moving forward.

Representation, at best, manages to the lowest common denominator or at worst, represents only the people who put him/her in position.

Leadership accepts the hard realities and shows a way through those, most times through their own actions.

Representation practices 'ole' management'. A tough reality comes to them and they pass it on to the next person down the line without providing any assistance at all. " . . . travels down hill"

Leadership believes that his/her highest calling is to enable the success of those who look to him/her.

Representation views their team's role as ensuring his/her well-being and success.

Often Leadership is unaware of its value because they concentrate on building the value of others.

Representation mostly sees their own value and anything that might build or threaten it.

Leadership builds an enduring path for its shareholders and team members.

Representation builds a path for itself.

Leadership is about others.

Representation is ultimately about itself.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What is real innovation?

Sometimes innovation seems kind of a beauty thing . . .in the eye of the beholder.

But more and more, I appreciate the innovation which helps us do and accomplish what we've set out to accomplish.

I hear of tactics and technology which redefine what individuals and organizations can do. But sadly most times, no one asks why we should ?

What makes an idea or innovation worth pursuing?

For organizations without clearly defined business strategy, its almost impossible to wrestle the myriad of wonderful innovations that come its way. Politics (loudest voice) and copying competitors can become the decision making norm.

Once again this is why doing the hard work of making a clear decision on what a firm's strategy (does this word even communicate anything anymore?), business model, culture, mission, goal is so critical.

We can accomplish great things, but not if we are spending the bulk of our time trying to accomplish objectives not consistent with the above or doing lesser things which eat inordinate resources and contribute below the highest rate of return that shareholders deserve.

Generally speaking, meaningful innovation returns inordinate returns to the shareholders and do so without violating the strengths and business model of the organization.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Have you communicated it 3 times yet?

If the work of marketing and business development centers around building and evolving relationships, both within the organization and outside (and it certainly does); then arguably the most important skill to hone is an understanding of communications.

For many who grew up focusing on advertising or sales, the numbers and the effect of those communication numbers are drilled into you (frequency, reach, sales calls, conversion, etc). However it seems many of these principles are getting lost.

Possbly the most important one revolves around understanding what it takes for a message to be heard and possibly understood.

What was drilled into me as a young marketing professional was that the research showed that messages must be sent a minimum of 3 times to expect anyone to hear it. And that the optimum number of communications was 6 to 9 times.

In other words, if its important,
> noone hears it before you've said it 3 times
> one should expect for people to have heard your message once you have communicated it 6 times and that
> there was probably less real value to communicating it more than 9 times. If it hadn't been understood or acted upon at that point, it probably wouldn't be.

So if you believe your communication's responsibility stops with sending an email or a white paper or because you left a message or gave a speech, you are extremely naive. Or maybe what you have to say just isn't very important.

So here's the arithmetic: if you are communicating something which requires perception and/or possible action and you haven't communicated your message a mimimum of three times, you shouldn't expect anything from anyone. Follow this rule and your life (both professionally and personally) will make a whole lot more sense . . .and you may become be a great communicator.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Avoiding the Flavor of the Month Club in Marketing Technology

I had the thrill of watching the consulting arm of Ernst & Young at the end of the 90's. They printed money working with the leading companies in the world around primarily putting in technology solutions to operational or system challenges.

However E&Y was always clear about what determined whether their technology solution would return value to the client: the technology had to be tied into an established business process. In fact a part of some assignments would include working with the client to develop or evolve a relavent business process which would require the technology solution in order to acheive the value goal.

Within law firms, this rule is rarely considered or understood. Its why CRM is a pipe dream in most environments and CRM software implementation is a vain exercise.

The question always has to be asked first? What established business proces is this supporting? For instance, if a firm isn't currently comfortable sharing its information with one another and there aren't truly functional cross-practice Industry Groups and/or Client Teams, what is the point of a CRM tool? Well, for many firms so far the point is to have a powerful mail list program.

The 'build it and they will come' orientation to organization evolution mostly fails. It only works when people are looking for a way or place to do something that they don't currently possess or their current way is broken. Better mousetraps are always more expensive and often miss the mark of the user's or purchaser's needs.

So as we are thinking about impacting our organization by investing the shareholder's monies in new marketing technology, we base our investments on how the organization is currently moving into the marketplace.

Otherwise the arithmetic on initiatives not conncected to current business process is that you have just bought into the flavor of the month club. These are usually good ideas that have no place to connect or grow within the organization. And they will not generate the value you desire.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank You Mr. Parker

I've been reading Robert Parker's (NY Times Obit) Spenser novels for over 30 years (yeah, I know how to spell his character's name with an 's').

I started reading them when I lived in Boston and saw one of the books at John Tannheimer's house. Turns out John's mother lived in the same Massachusetts town as Mr. Parker and his wife and the book was signed by him.

I read the book and have been reading them ever since. No big deal really. Just a character in a book series. However . . .

If my second child had been a boy, he would have been called Spenser. My sister and brother-in-law liked the idea/name so much, they did name a son Spenser.
Early in the series Mr. Parker would have Spenser mention his favorite beer of the moment and oddly enough that would become mine as well. I still buy Rolling Rock beer in the summer and usually think of Spenser. I learned about champagne from Spenser's sidekick Hawk (Hawk would not appreciate being referred to as 'sidekick') who preferred it to all other libations.
Dozens of times I would start off a great vacation by purchasing the latest Spenser and read it during the trip. I considered it a treat and a respite. And it always felt like I was going home a bit. They were a dependable constant in a ever changing life landscape.

Other than that, Spenser, is/was everything I am not but at times might want to be. I think that's kinda what heroes in the movies and books tend to be.

Of course I never met Mr. Parker, but have always assumed that his Spenser character exhibited many traits that Parker most admired and that many of the twists and turns of Spenser's life reflected various developments and realizations in Mr. Parker's own. I could be wrong but that was the impression.

More than anything else, Parker gave me an on-going reference of a normal man with special skills that lived in a world filled with truths that somehow rarely worked out the way people wanted them to work out. And Spenser's mission was always to be the person who helped them work those things out. He was the guy people came to when they had no one else or when all the others had failed them. He stood up for people who could not stand up for themselves. And often he went into places where those people had no hope of emerging unharmed. Yeah, hero stuff.

I remember when I first started reading Sherlock Holmes stories. I mentioned it to Gregory Ross and he said, "I'm so jeolous of you. I remember when I read those stories the first time . . . how special and exciting they were . . .". Well I've been reading the Spenser stories for the first time for over 30 years and now I guess I'm about done. Quite a fun ride and a great gift to me.

Thanks Mr. Parker.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becoming Relevant

Why would someone want us around? What makes another person be interested in relating to us? And how can these connections have long term value?

Its a pretty simple game actually. People who are relevant to us for on-going and long term relationship possess one or more of these attributes:

1. They get us. These rare people have made it their business to know and understand me in a way that few do. Most often it is exhibited by their ability to understand my concerns, fears or needs. And oddly enough they seem to be able to forgive our idiosyncrasies and idiocies. No small thing that.
2. They are where we are. These individuals live with or speak about specific situations/content in a way that is authentic and experienced-based that leads me to believe that we are very similar. They don't have to listen to me, or in some cases even know me; I just want to have access to what they think and what they are working out. (If you have a number 1 who is also a number 2: walk away, you are a big winner.)
3. They listen to us and, oddly enough, seem genuinely interested. Mind you, they may not understand, but they want to. Oddly enough, we don't require someone to understand, we just require them to want to understand. . .to be about us a bit.
4. They choose us to relate to. This is the weirdest of the lot. We have no idea why they want to spend time with us and, many times, we may not see why we should be around them but we do.

There is a common denominator among these that is critical to all of our relationships (business or otherwise): in order for a relationship to be somewhat satisfying, the other person must show a consistent interest in us or an interest in what we believe helps to define us (our interests, needs, fears, ambitions).

So to become relevant to others we have to be about them. The bar is actually pretty low; we just need to turn our internal volume down and turn up the microphone that people speak into . . .and listen to them.

The hanging chad here is: what about the authentic me? Isn't there a place for my voice? Absolutely there is, but we need to spend a bit of effort finding that place and those people. Your head and your heart will tell you and magically, so will the people. All I ask is that you not give up too easily in this search. You will find the place and it will be worth it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Twitter is neat; Dinner is better

Over the last year, many of us have been taking a ride through the ever evolving world of social media.

As such, we've considered what it means to be a good citizen in the social media world, why someone would be interested in relationship with us (besides courtesy) and how to provide value to the willing souls we come into contact with.

However many of the leading social media lights that I've been following (including Eric Fletcher , Melanie Green , Adrian Dayton , Kent Huffman)model what its really all about: taking online relationships offline. They make them as personal as they can be.

All of these people work hard to connect with professional peers using Twitter, Blogs, webinars, speeches, etc. Then they find opportunities to have phone conferences, meetings, lunches and make the interaction as close to face-to-face as possible.

So last week I had the opportunity to sit on a conference panel on social media for marketing/business development partners and professionals in the law firm industry. For me, the big take away from the conference was the experiece of, once again, meeting face-to-face with people I've only cooresponded with in the past and realizing that the opportunities to learn and grow in these relationships are exponential when we take them offline.

Duh . . .couldn't be more obvious. However for many I talk to, I don't hear about plans to do more than increase their twitter and/or blog followers.

The reality and the arithmetic of it is that unless the social media plan includes a way to transition these relationships to something that transcends the internet, their value is being highly limited and maybe even wasted. Twitter is neat; Dinner is better.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What inspires us?

Its a wonderful blessing to find yourself in a career that, more times than not, provides you with moments of great energy and a reason to be optimistic.

However, fact is there's just times when many of us run day to day trying to stay on top of the breadth of responsibilities we are fortunate to have. And if we don't watch out, we can become managers and leaders who don't have any personal inspiration (and by the way, anyone who doesn't inspire is not a leader).

So the question comes to us: what inspires us?

I know a monthly lunch trip to the Museum of Art provides new insights and understandings for me. Other times its business books, magazines (Harvard Business Review, Business Week, The Economist, etc). Sometimes inspiration comes from being around innovative peers who are drawing a higher line (however being around peers who just whine and complain is never inspirational).

If you can't remember what inspires you, then just try a few things and see what happens. Reach out to people you respect and see what works for them.

Whatever inspires us, we have to build it into our routine. Its not a serendipity, its a part of our program. Just as much as our physical regime (crap this means I'll have to workout this week)is critical, being involved in activity that has a chance to inspire us is critical to our personal and professional health.

The arithmetic here is that organizations may need inspiration more than they need additional insight and truth. We have to bring it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

6 Criteria for a Marketing Technology Approach That Works

Many of us are fortunate to work for organizations which expect us to help build a better team, business model, business development process, etc which returns more profit to the shareholders.

However as our industry evolves, it still has a tendency to being reactive, faddish and unstrategic. So when it comes to making marketing technology decisions, we can get caught up in a dysfunctional process that eats up resources.

So with finite (in some cases shrinking) resources and growing expectations, how do we make marketing technology decisions?

Here's the criteria I'm using these days which helps me focus on what will deliver value in a lean and focused environment:

1. How will the marketing technology benefit our client? (Now wait Allen, isn't this about us. No, it is always about the client.) If we are an organization focused on serving clients and providing value for them and marketing / bus dev's chief function is to facilitate that relationship, then the technology has to be seen in this light.
Will the technology help us understand the client better? Will it help us focus better on their most important needs? Will it help us have a better relationship with them? And do the clients care about any of this?

2. How will the technology make our firm more profitable? Not more active or work more hours; how will it return more money to the shareholders?

3. Does the technology fill a hole, demand or fit the business process involved with executing our strategy? Not will it benefit everyone in the firm, but will it increase the value and productivity of our go-to-market strategy?

4. Will the technology integrate with the other firm technology? Will it work in concert with the firm financial system, the CRM system and all content management technology? No one needs a stand alone resource.

5. Does it make the marketing function more efficient? Can we do better work and do it more quickly? (In an environment where resources are shrinking, I would add that it be personnel neutral? Sometimes we don't have the extra personnel slots to manage new technology.)

6. Is is scalable? A holdover from my days at E&Y, we always want to make sure our technology fits in with most any reasonable growth scenario.

Oh yeah, and I guess you need to check if you can afford it. I don't list this only because you'll have plenty of help in this area.

Bottom-line is that we have to accept the arithmetic that marketing technology can't be about flavor of the month fads or what others are doing. Mid-tech and even low-tech solutions have their place (note: Southwest Airlines built the most succssful domestic airlines based on customer's simple needs and simple solutions). Figure out your criteria and stick to it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Letting Ideas Die

Sometimes it seems that the bane of my professional existence are the all the new ideas that come my way. Hundreds and hundreds, all well intentioned, all sincerely expressed, and the vast majority expected to make a significant contribution.
The reality is something quite different.

For many of us serving people in professional services, our most significant challenges often revolve around communicating with smart people with limited experience in marketing and/or business development. And the process around that relationship often entails one of those professionals becoming intersted in or at least wanting to discuss ideas or problems which in no way coorelate to their established strategy or tactics. And the vast majority of these ideas become another rabbit being chased.

So what do we do? For me and my team it comes down to three things:
> Sponsorship: Is there an attorney/partner who will sponsor and head up the idea. Marketing will team with them, but we don't do execution that is not headed by an partner champion. No event, RFP, marketing technology tool, etc gets started without a partner champion.
> Budget: Is there committed funding for the idea? No money, no activity.

If the idea passes these tests and its still a problem, I encourage you to get out of the way of it and let it get executed ASAP or die a natural death. . .and often they will.

Accept the arithmetic: If the bad idea has sponsorship and budget, then get it done quickly and move on or you watch it die. And there's always a possibility that you are wrong and it needed to get done. It happens.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I feel like howling at the moon.

Well, its my birthday and I'll be damned if I will be timid about it.
I'm getting older and maybe even old and I plan on refusing to go politely into it. I may get crotchity (or moreso some would say) and I may want my own way a bit more, but if I can get this effin' back to cooperate, I plan to be trouble for you and anyone who you bring into my presence.

It just doesn't make any sense to be any other way.

There are changes to be made, people to wake up, kids to put the fear of God into and adults to bring to shore. And maybe save myself along the way.

OK I got that out of the way. Wonder where it came from?

Suspect it had something to do with Springsteen on the radio doing 'Roselita". Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Social Media: What We Know So Far

Many of us earned our marketing communications chops on various types of advertising, direct marketing, media PR and other conventional communications tools. We developed an understanding of what each is for and how they fit together to acheive various marketing communications objectives.

However with the continual changing and burgeoning social media environment, these new tools have often not been incorporated into a unified understanding.

It is critical for us not just to know how to use each tool, but more importantly how these tools fit together to provide more value for our organizations.

Our friends at Forrester Research has provided a model for us. It helps us see the value and function each of the tools provides in developing relationship, credibility and visibility. Thanks ladies and gentlemen at Forrester.

Thanks to John Foley (@johnfoleyjr) and Dave Fleet at Social Media Today ( turning me on to this helpful chart.

For more information on this and other insights at Forrester go to: Sean Corcoran will discuss the chart above in more detail.