Becoming a marketing master

Becoming a marketing masterYou don’t have to be a good writer or have a mind for marketing to set a goal of becoming a marketing master. You just have to be willing to do the hard work of learning how to do it and practicing it regularly.

There’s a huge body of research that has studied how people who are at the top of their game got there. Many people assume these superstars had a wealth of natural talent that gave them a huge advantage over the others in their field.

But even when you look at remarkable performers like Tiger Woods or Warren Buffet, it’s not true. We’ve all heard the story of how Tiger started playing golf at 18 months and had over 15 years of regular practice before he began competing at a national level. Warren Buffet admits that he knew very little but invested significant time studying business and financial statements to learn how to spot patterns and trends.

In fact, the research is so consistent it has evolved into what is commonly called the ten-year rule. It states that the most accomplished professionals, no matter what field they’re in; need about ten years of intense study to get to the top of their game. The ten years isn’t an average, it’s a minimum.

And there’s one more element that matters. It can’t be casual or haphazard practice. It needs to be what is called deliberate practice. It’s you doing things with the explicit goal of improving your performance that will push you past competent to a level of excellence.

Why does all of this matter to you, in terms of marketing?

  • It means for you to develop and execute effective marketing, you need to be deliberately practicing on a regular basis.
  • It erases the excuse “I’m just not wired to be good at this” when it comes to marketing your business.

Like most other aspects of running or owning a business, it boils down to doing the hard work and committing to it for the long haul.

And there’s one other benefit to taking this sort of approach. In the case of marketing – unlike a golf game or investing, you have a potential audience and that audience requires many marketing touches before they start paying attention. The fact that marketing is a marathon not a sprint works well with this “practice every day” philosophy.

Very few marketing tactics deliver instant results and when that happens, it’s more dumb luck than anything else. Marketing is a cumulative effort. Your efforts stack up and create that consistent drip drip drip marketing that we’ve talked about before.

In many ways, marketing is the perfect skill to develop, given the ten-year rule. You have to do it consistently and intentionally to get better at it and your audience needs you to do it consistently to notice you. So the more you practice, the better you get and the better results you’ll experience.

Now the question is – what do you need to do to put this idea into play?

Daily Practice: What marketing tactics can you commit to doing on a daily basis? Is it a Facebook page update? A customer thank you call?

Weekly Practice: What can you do every single week? An insightful blog post? Sending out targeted direct mail pieces and then following up with a call?

Monthly Practice: What, come rain or shine, will you do every month? Writing a helpful newsletter that establishes your expertise? Running an ad in a niche publication aimed at your primary audience?

Be sure you build your skills by practicing every single day and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to becoming a marketing master. Not only will you get better every day but you’ll get also more customers as you practice!

Where has your planning taken you so far?

planningAs the first quarter of 2015 whizzes past us, it’s time to take stock of your planning abilities. 25% of the year is now done. How are you doing on your goals for 2015?

I suspect the answer to that question fall into one of two camps.

Camp One (also known as the Camp of the Seat of My Pants): Goals? We’re doing pretty well. I think.

Translation: We didn’t set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goals so we know we want to make more money than we did last year, but other than that – we’re not sure what success in 2013 looks like.

Camp Two (also known as the Camp of the Strategic Planners): We’re at 32% of goal one, 17% of goal two and we’re doing a customer survey in June to see how we’re doing on goal three.

Translation: We took the time to set SMART goals and then built a plan for accomplishing those goals. We’re tracking our progress and adjusting the plan as we go.

Now you might argue that there’s a third camp. The Camp of Lucky Breaks. No argument there. Every once in awhile a business hits one out of the park through no particular fault or planned effort of their own. They’re just in the right place at the right time. Everyone deserves a break like that every now and then. But that’s the problem – it’s unpredictable and at best, sporadic.

Since we can’t count on falling into the third camp, the truth is – as business owners and leaders, we make a conscious decision to plan or not. Make whatever excuses you want – it’s either a priority or not.   And you get to reap the benefits or not. It’s really that simple.

Whenever I think about the true value of planning, I remember my experience with our office move a few years ago.  It was a sight to see. The team at MMG is filled with native planners. They like to be organized and anticipate as many details as possible. It’s how they work with our clients and it’s just how they’re wired.

We had several meetings in the months leading up to the move, trying to anticipate anything and everything we’d need. There were plenty of checklists and task assignments.

I watched in amazement at how smoothly the move went. Each area of the office was assigned a different color of duct tape and everything that belonged in that area was marked with the appropriate colored tape (including me by the end of the day!)

This allowed the moving crew to load the truck by area, knowing they’d unload in the same way. When we got to the new office, there were color-coded charts on the walls, and large colored signs by each area in the office. The unloading was incredibly fast and efficient.  Even on move day, – we were back on track and taking care of clients. Within two work days, we were completely settled into the new space and everyone was working at full speed.

That’s the thing – while planning does require an investment, it almost always pays dividends. Here’s the short list of planning perks.

You get where you want to be – by starting with the end in mind, you can plan the path to get there.

Resource conservation – you’ll burn fewer resources (time, money, good will) to accomplish your goals, which means you’re that much further ahead.

You can track your course – when you are actively monitoring a goal’s progress, you can make course corrections faster and minimize your losses.

You’ve lost the first quarter. Will you lose the second too or is it time to get planning?

Love advice is not good marketing advice

Love advice is not good marketing adviceAs we celebrated Valentine’s Day this month – there were many a cliché uttered in the name of love. I want you to remember that in most cases, they don’t work as well as marketing maxims. Love advice is not good marketing advice.

In fact, in general I might suggest that you shun cupid’s advice when it comes to marketing your organization. Let me give you a few examples.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: While this may be true in human interactions, buyers have a very short attention span. When your marketing is sporadic or worse – nonexistent, you can’t expect a prospect to think about you when they’re finally ready to buy.

Trying to reach our consumers, no matter what we sell, is a little like trying to time the market. The truth is – we don’t know when they’re going to be ready to pull the trigger. We do know that when they’re ready – typically they will identify three potential solutions and explore them. That’s why marketing’s job is to keep your product or service top of mind all the time so that when the prospect is actually ready – you’re in the short set of possibilities. Absence doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get a shot at the sale.

Love is blind: While in human interactions it’s true that appearances don’t trump love…in marketing, love is definitely not blind. How you present yourself has incredible impact on your ability to capture and keep the attention of a customer. When it comes to marketing, this isn’t so much about attractiveness as it is about consistency and being true to your brand.

Adhering to graphic standards that represent and promote your brand is vital to growing demand and brand loyalty. Consistent use of logo and brand colors begins to create a subconscious connection with your prospects and repeat customers. Pretty soon – if you’ve honored your brand’s visual guidelines you can trigger a reaction every time you use the brand’s color palette or logo. Think how we immediately associate a red soda can with Coke or a brown truck with UPS. You can create the same effect.

Opposites attract: We all know couples that seem like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common who are deliriously happy with one another. Shows what we know. But that phrase doesn’t work so well when it comes to customers. The truth is – every business has what we call “sweet spot” customers. Those people who are the perfect fit to what we have to offer. One of the reasons they’re our best fit is because they see the world in the same way we do. They agree with how we approach our industry and the specifics of not only what we do but how we do it.

Many companies go broke trying to be everything to everyone. Instead of embracing their sweet spot customers, they chase after every dollar, no matter how bad the fit may be. The result of that is almost always a very rocky relationship that ends in an ugly crash. And then, that former customer runs around town (or your industry) telling people about their bad experience. You’re far better to

All you need is love: In today’s economic times – I don’t care how much fun you are to work with, if you can’t generate results you won’t get to stick around for too long. One of the marketing mistakes that many organizations make is that they don’t put the spotlight on the results and give them their due.

There you have it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Valentine’s Day fueled parade but when it comes to love clichés and marketing – it is definitely not better to have loved and lost. Remember — love advice is not good marketing advice!

Instead, market smart and keep those customers for life!

5 tips for creating a company culture that connects with your sweet spot clients

creating a company cultureAn area of marketing that is often overlooked is how important it is to be mindful when creating a company culture. You don’t build a culture to make a sale. But the culture you build, if you’re very clear about your organization’s values and beliefs, can translate your company’s personality and attract right fit prospects. It can also reinforce your current customers’ buying decision.

Company culture doesn’t just happen. If you want it to really flourish, you need to make it a priority for your business. You need to build/strengthen the foundation of your culture and then nurture its growth from there.

The challenging aspect of corporate culture, of course, is that culture is shaped by the workforce. Which means it’s an ever-evolving entity. As employees come and go, the culture can be altered in ways that don’t benefit the employees or the organization.

Your culture is too valuable not to protect. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your culture has a consistent foundation that doesn’t ebb and flow over time. If the core is rock solid, then it’s okay if the details shift a little.  Ready to start creating a company culture? Keep these tips in mind.

Create a manifesto: Don’t hide your culture. Celebrate it. Capturing the essence of your culture in a statement of beliefs or manifesto will allow you to articulate the key values and behaviors that you want to protect.

Put it in your employee handbook, create a beautiful framed version and hang it proudly in your corporate office and read it out loud to kick off each year’s first staff meeting. You could even ask new hires to sign a commitment to honoring the manifesto on their first day of work.

Weave the culture’s core values into your job descriptions and review process: Employees know that if something is important enough to be a part of their annual review, then it must be pretty important to the company. You can reinforce your culture by rewarding your employees for keeping it alive.

It’s also a built in culture training program for new employees. If they know they’ll be held accountable to their job description when review time comes along, they’re much more likely to adopt those wanted behaviors.

Make your staff part of the solution: If you teach your employees how your company culture contributes to the success of the organization and then invite them to help you protect it, they’ll gladly accept the challenge.

Why not a team that is charged with bringing the culture to life through employee events, customer interactions and rewards programs? They’ll probably surprise you with their innovative ideas and enthusiasm.

Hire for culture, train for skills: Identify the attitudes and behaviors that best support your company’s culture and hire for those traits. You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. It’s much easier for a new hire to fit into an environment that aligns with his or her own personal beliefs. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole puts a great deal of stress on both the organization and the new employee.

Share the vision: The purpose of a company culture is to support the organization as it marches towards its future. One way to help the employees understand the importance of protecting and building the culture is by sharing the desired end result.

Once they share the vision, they’ll be inspired to guard everything that will help you all achieve that vision. If anything, they will strengthen your culture to help you get there even faster.

Your culture matters every day. Purposefully creating a company culture will help you recruit and retain your best talent. It supports how you deliver excellence to your customers and it is a compass that guides you towards even greater successes. Be sure you protect it like the valuable asset that it is.

5 tips for getting over stage fright

tips for getting over stage frightHave stage fright?  You’re not alone.

They say that our greatest fear, once you’ve eliminated death as a choice, is public speaking.

And yet many of us are called to take that plunge on a regular basis. Whether you are speaking to group of two in a sales presentation or you’re standing at a podium, with hundreds of eyes on you – the intent is the same.

We want to impart knowledge, persuade, entertain and be remembered. And above all else, we want to get through the presentation without looking like a fool or being paralyzed by our stage fright.

I’m one of those rare individuals who isn’t freaked out at the idea of speaking to a group. I like it. But I think I enjoy it because I have a very set routine of prepping for each speech. By the time I step up to the podium or approach the next sales call, I’m confident that I won’t embarrass myself or be nervous to step up on that stage.

Here are my secrets to prepping and delivering a presentation that gets them to ask you back.

Know your audience: One of the easiest ways to get off track with a presentation is to either talk over the audience’s head or at a level that is insulting because your audience is way ahead of you. Not only do you need to understand where they’re coming from, in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of personality. Are they an audience who asks a lot of questions? Are they open to small group activities or sharing information about their work?

Grab them right up front: You need to quickly take charge of your audience. In a large group setting, you might tell them a powerful story. In a sales presentation, you might lead with a stat or fact that is guaranteed to grab their attention. Too many speakers limp into their presentation – either by telling a lame joke or by getting too technical too fast. You want an emotional reaction of some kind to kick you off.

Assume the worst: I’ve watched many speakers melt into a puddle of goo right in front of an audience because their PowerPoint didn’t load right or their video worked but there was no sound or the internet connection was faulty so they couldn’t demo something. When it comes to speaking and technology – assume it will fail. Always have a back up (your presentation on multiple jump drives, the YouTube video on-line but also on a DVD, etc.) You need to be ready to deliver your presentation in the pitch black with no power, if need be. If you’re that prepared, you’ll worry a whole lot less.

Think sound bytes and repeats: In today’s “tweet while you are talking” world, you want to give your audience plenty of tidbits to share. Give them key facts, stats and catch phrases. Imagine someone from your audience going back to the office and re-telling a story you told during your presentation. Which one would get retold? If you answered “none of them” then you’d better come up with a story that is so funny, compelling, astounding or illuminating that people won’t be able to help but repeat it.

Be ready to improvise: You can do all the prep in the world, but sometimes that nagging stage fright had it right — something could still go wrong. At the end of the day, there are many elements of giving a presentation that are out of your control. So even though I am advocating ample prep time, you also have to realize that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. It might be a tough question during the Q&A or a technology malfunction. If you can keep your sense of humor and your balance – your audience will reward you for it.

Odds are you were invited to make the presentation. So remember that your audience is anxious for you to be successful as well. Do the prep work, have faith that you know what you’re talking about and try to enjoy the conversation.

Even if something does go wrong — remember at the end of the day — your audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect.  They just want you to be real and share something of value.

I want you to get extreme!

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I like to pass along people, ideas and events I think you’ll find valuable.

My friend, Steve Farber, is a world-renowned leadership expert. He consults with global 100 brands. His book The Radical LEAP has been named one of the 100 best business books of all time and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while — you know that in my opinion, it’s one of the three most brilliant business books I’ve ever read.

To announce the Extreme Leadership Summit, coming April 11-13 in Chicago, Steve is offering an MP3 audio download of his popular program, Extreme Leadership: How to Put More Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof into Your Work. The DVD of this 2-hour speech sells for $90, but Steve is offering this audio to my friends for free.

Yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy. I’m confident you’ll resonate with Steve’s call to take a LEAP in your life at work and at home – this is, to practice Extreme Leadership through Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Cultivate more love in, and for, your business
  • Generate energy for a more productive career
  • Develop more courage to change your world
  • Prove your value and credibility to others – and yourself
  • Lead in an extreme manner that gets big results

Not only is Steve’s program packed with great content, his delivery is entertaining, provocative, and funny.

Click here and opt-in to receive the MP3 file. You’ll find Steve great company on your commute, your next flight, or during your treadmill tribulations.

Steve delivers high value in everything he does, so I’m confident this is a relationship you’ll appreciate and cultivate.

Consider it a holiday gift from Steve and me to you. To your success in 2014!