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, 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.