In marketing the constant is change

ChangeSwitchYou know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based in truth, even though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business and especially to marketing.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it…I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files, ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired to think about.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is – it’s in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Today and tomorrow, I am leading a marketing workshop and one of the things we’ll talk about is mobile and how quickly it became a key element in any marketing strategy. I know what I’ll see. While some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or aren’t looking forward to facing it.

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top ten blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far out there publication or blog in your industry an subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blinded by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

In our world…you either keep up or you quickly become irrelevant.  Don’t be the marketing pro who is still spouting off about the latest and greatest — from 5 years ago.  Find a way to stay current and keep your clients/business there too.

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So you want a career in advertising?

Fired businessman searching for a job isolated on white backgrouI was recently contacted by a college student who asked if he could interview me for one of this classes.  One of the questions he asked is one I get a lot, so I thought I’d share my answer with you here.

If you aspire to be in our business — I hope it helps.  If you’re already in the business — what did I miss?

What advice would you give to anyone who was aspiring to enter the field of advertising?

Yikes… there are lots of things to know but here are some of the biggies.

  • You cannot do it alone so surround yourself with really smart, good-hearted people who you can count on.
  • The day you stop learning is the day you begin to become irrelevant. There is always more to learn.
  • Before anyone will give you their business, they need to know you care about them/their company.
  • When you make a mistake (and you will make a ton) be very quick to call attention to it, own it and work like a dog to fix it. And never forget to say I’m sorry.
  • If you help other people whenever you can, when you need help – there will be someone there to offer it.
  • There’s nothing wrong with making money. Don’t be ashamed to charge what you are worth.
  • Owning your own business means that when times are tough, everyone gets paid but you. So be very smart about not overspending your money and build up a nest egg for those tough times.
  • The smartest person in the room is not the one who knows all the answers. It’s the person who asks the best questions.

When I hire, I don’t worry too much about the degree the person has or things like grade point averages. I can teach them about marketing but I can’t make them honest or hard working.

I look for people who have a passion for helping other people. I hire people who volunteer their time, have a passion for a cause and instead of whining about it – do something about it.

I definitely want good writers, no matter what position they might fill. In today’s business world, with email etc. – everyone needs to be able to communicate clearly and be well spoken, both in face-to-face encounters and in writing.

I also look for someone who gets that our business is not 9-5 and isn’t going to freak out if they have to work late or over a weekend. Our business is very demanding and depending on what’s going on with our clients, we can put in some incredibly long, grueling weeks.

I also want someone who is willing to do “grunt” work. In a small agency, everyone pitches in and does what it takes to get the job done. If I can stuff envelopes or whatever – so can they.

I want someone who is a self-starter, a lifelong learner, a reader, someone who is funny, ethical and someone who resonates with our company’s core beliefs, which are:

  • Passion cannot be ignored.
  • Breakthrough thinking breeds breakthrough creative.
  • The guys in the white hats do win.
  • We take our work seriously. Ourselves, not so much.
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Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

What have you learned lately?

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.04.02 AMOne of the sure signs of a person who is going to be successful is that they wholeheartedly behave in lifelong learning. I didn’t say believe in life long learning because I’ve found just about everyone believes in it. But few actually act upon that belief.

If you are someone who gives lifelong learning more than lip service (waving to all the “believers” but not behaviors out there!) then I have a conference I want to tell you about.

I don’t know about you — but I learn best by doing.  Yes, I can read about something or hear a presentation — but I’m much more likely to retain the information if there’s some hands on aspect to the training.

BlogHOT (HOT = hands on training) is designed to be a very different kind of learning experience. Which you know it would be — since it is Mack Collier’s creation. Rather than two days of people talking at you — this is 2 days of people talking and doing WITH you.

Here’s how much I believe in this conference — I am speaking there on my own dime. I’m not getting paid and I am buying my own plane ticket. (I am getting a hotel room, which I greatly appreciate). You all know how busy I am. As much as I would like to, I just can’t afford to speak anywhere for free, except for college classrooms.

Mack has gathered an amazing group of people for you to learn with.  (scroll through the list here) Best of all — there not going to be there to talk at you and run.  They are there to teach/learn with you.  There will be tons of time to connect with these folks before and after their scheduled presentations and because this is a new event — the crowd will be manageable and you will score plenty of one on one time with everyone.

BlogH.O.T. (H.O.T. stands for Hands-On Training) is a conference for anyone that wants to improve their blogging efforts, especially if you are blogging for a business. The goal of BlogH.O.T. is to not only provide instruction on how to improve your blogging efforts but also show you how to be a better blogger.

Since I am speaking at this event, event management has enabled me to extend to you a special offer to attend BlogH.O.T. at a $100 discount if you register by February 15! To receive your discount, you must use this special registration link and enter the special Promotion Code BHS113. This is the only way to take advantage of this special offer. Your total savings will be $200 off the regular price – $100 savings plus $100 early-bird savings but only if you register by February 15!

I’d love to see you there!

 

P.S.  Nope — I am not making a dime on this conference and other than the fun of meeting you — I don’t get anything if you attend.  But YOU will get a lot.  So please consider it.

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One Page Business Plan Template

Most businesses don’t create a plan for the upcoming year because it’s too daunting a task.  Which is why I’m a big advocate of the one page business plan and why I am sharing our one page business plan template with all of you.

It’s based on a couple of assumptions.  First — no business can tackle dozens of goals in a single year.  It’s better to identify a small handful of goals and build a plan around accomplishing those.

Even if you only set a handful of goals, you can’t tackle them all at once.  You need to prioritize them and then tackle one or two of them at a time.

Second — most business owners and leaders are a little myopic.  They tend to focus on the area of the business that is either causing the most trouble or is the aspect of the business they enjoy the most.  But they rarely give equal weight to all the different facets of the organization.

This one page business plan template takes care of both of these issues.  First — it forces you to only set six goals.  Not five and not 65.  Then, it asks you to rank the goals in order of importance, so you can decide where to focus first.

But you don’t set any six goals.  You set one goal per aspect of your business. The one page business plan forces you to create a well-rounded plan that takes into account:

  • Leadership/Management
  • Staffing
  • Internal Systems
  • Financial
  • New Business
  • Marketing

If you grow all these different aspects of your business together, your business remains stable and strong.  The one page business plan template forces you to think about the organization holistically and allows you to lead its growth in a more balanced way.

Here’s what I like best about this template.  It’s simple enough that you’ll actually do it.  Download it (click here to download the one page business plan template) and get started!

 

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5 Marketing To Dos to get done before 2013

This is the time of year where work grinds to a halt.

We have another two weeks or so before the holiday frenzy, parties, hangovers and the general professional apathy creeps in and productivity becomes a dirty word.

But don’t give up hope yet.  I think there’s still a few things we can get done before we all sing Auld Lang Syne. Here are the five things I think you should focus on as the year winds down.

Your website: Take the time to look at every page, click on every link and make a list of what’s missing.  We spend a lot of time building our websites but once they’re done, they tend to be forgotten.  Fix all those broken links, correct any copy that’s wrong and update the pages that are out of date or are missing some of your more current offerings.  Look for simple things you can do to increase visitors and engagement.

Your five best customers: Take the time to actually think about those customers who help you keep the doors open.  Then, in this crazy rushed time — write them a handwritten thank you note/letter.  Be specific about why you love working with them — and send it so you end their year with a smile.

Call it quits: Look back over the past 12-24 months.  What’s the one marketing tactic that you have really dedicated yourself to but it just hasn’t caught on fire.  This has to be something that you feel you really implemented well, thoroughly and can’t imagine what you could have done better.  If you can say that and it’s not delivering results — it’s time to let it go.  Make December 2012 the last time you invest in it.

Identify your #1: If at the end of 2013, you could claim one accomplishment or goal’s achievement that would benefit the organization more than anything else — what would it to be? Spend some time identifying the barriers that are between you and that accomplishment and what you need to leap over them.  Build a one page business plan for getting to that goal as early in 2013 as you can.  Make it your priority.

Fix what’s broken: When you look back at your marketing efforts for 2012 — what’s the one marketing tactic that you know you did a lousy job of implementing?  You know it can and will work but you just let other things get in the way or you did it half-heartedly. It’s time to get serious.  Figure out what got in your way and figure a way around it.  Farm it out, get something else off your plate, make a bet that you can’t afford to lose — do whatever you need to do — to  make it happen and happen well.

There you have it — get those five things done and then you can drink that 3rd glass of spiked egg nog at the company party without any guilt.  And you’ll start 2013 with a storm of focus and energy.

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Desperate makes us both feel cheap (pricing strategy)

Your pricing strategy should never be accidental.  It’s a vital element in your marketing mix.

Let me give you an example:  We use an outside vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’d been with them for over five years.

We recently discovered a better solution.  Not only is it better, but it’s also less expensive. It wasn’t so much the fact that it was cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was. “We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

We’re still leaving but now, instead of feeling a little guilty about leaving our old vendor, I’m feeling a bit used. If they’d valued our business – why didn’t they offer us this new price while we were still their customer?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price just to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It makes everyone feel a little cheap. In the end, no one wins and you can kiss any sort of recommendation goodbye.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.

It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.