Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: March 2008

What Would Captain Picard Do?

Emulating people you admire is nothing new. When you’re just starting out it’s a great way to try out different styles to see what works for you. When you’re further along in your career it can help you overcome those little personal style quirks that hold you back.

I used this method a lot when I first became a spokesperson for the press and analysts at Great Plains Software. I was an industry manager in the manufacturing industry and represented an underappreciated (in my opinion) and much-maligned product. Occasionally, I’d get questions that were a little slanted and seemingly designed to get a rise out of me.

Back then, I watched the political talk shows and studied how the interviewees handled the tough questions. Luckily, press and analyst interviews in our industry are not nearly that pointed, but it gave me many good ideas for how to handle the tougher questions. The individual I watched most closely back then was Colin Powell.

This has nothing to do with politics! I admired his ability to stay on point and be unflappable. The last thing you want to be in our business is combative. You are free to choose different individuals with different beliefs. Just make sure that they have a style that fits your industry and your personality.

So what does this have to do with Captain Picard? My point is that you can find inspiration almost anywhere!

Yes, I know he’s a fictional character, but I’ve always had a Trekker streak in me. When I tried to think of an unusual place to find inspiration, Captain Picard came to mind. So, here’s an example from way out in left-field.

For those of you who haven’t seen every rerun at least three times, whenever the Enterprise was faced with a challenge, Picard called his management team together for their insights, analysis and opinions. Sometimes he took their advice. Sometimes he didn’t. He always listened to it, but he owned the decision. And, once he made the decision his team knew it. There was no doubt about who was accountable for carrying it out!

The much younger me admired that style and I have to admit I still do. Hey, I am who I am. I am sure you can find many real-life business leaders who have a similar style, or maybe even a better one for you. I would love to hear where you get your inspiration from. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Twitter - Just Another IM?

Is Twitter nothing more than another form of Instant Messenger? That’s one of the most common critiques I’m seeing in my own informal research. But, even with my newbie status, I think it’s more than that.

I limit my IM connections to people that I know well. Most of them are colleagues with a handful of important business contacts thrown in. These are all people that I need to communicate with daily. IM keeps me from having to walk down the hall to see if they are in their office.

IM is also great when a matter is urgent. My colleagues and I can effectively interrupt one another even when we are on the phone or in a meeting. You could argue that e-mail would allow you to do the same, but e-mail just isn’t handled in the urgent way that IM is. Plus IM helps most people keep their interruptions short.

Twitter, on the other hand, has one huge advantage that IM does not. I can “introduce” myself to people that I would normally have a difficult time meeting in person. I could never get people I don’t know to accept an IM invitation from me. And, I’m certainly not going to IM people I don’t know about my latest blog post.

When I ask to follow someone on Twitter, I am saying I am interested in you and what you think and do. In return, almost everyone I have asked to follow has asked to follow me in return. I’m not yet sure if that’s standard Twitter etiquette, or they really are interested in me, but it’s a start.

Now, when I start using Twitter, I will send updates on my blog posts, interesting articles I’ve discovered, etc. Like blogging, if you’re going to use Twitter to expand your business circles, I think it’s important to stick to theme. For me, that’s all things marketing. Well, mostly marketing anyway. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Another Reason To Twitter

When I first started out using Twitter, I was thinking about it from a business perspective. How could I use this social media tool to enhance my own marketing career? However, there is another reason I think all adults should explore social media. Actually, I should say all parents.

If you have kids, they will eventually have access to all of these tools too—and probably dozens or hundreds more. Who knows, I may be too conservative in that estimate with the way technology advances exponentially.

When I was a teenager I spent hours on the telephone. (Call waiting had just been invented so we went from one call to the next.) My parents didn’t have to pay attention to what I was doing, because at least they knew I wasn’t talking to complete strangers. Not so with the internet.

The only way to protect your children is to know what they are doing. Telephones were easy to understand. Then came e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms and the like. Not as controllable, but still easy to understand. At the very least, you could look over your child’s shoulder and see what they were up to. (And hope that another responsible adult did the same at the school or library.)

Now we have tools like Twitter where kids can broadcast to perfect strangers what they are doing at any time of the day. They can even do it from their mobile phone. It’s no longer about control. Now you have to educate your child on how to use these tools responsibly.

To do that, you have to understand them. In many ways, this conversation with your child is even harder than “the talk.” Hey, at least we’ve been there, if you know what I mean. With social media, we may not even know what we’re talking about.

To me, that’s one more reason to Twitter. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Twitter - Day One

You need to push your personal envelope now and then. I just did that by joining Twitter.

I have to admit I have no idea what it's good for yet, but many of my social media savvy colleagues have joined. I hear them talking about whom they are "following." Makes them sound like stalkers, but they swear it's business.

In the coming weeks I hope to weed through the morass of young’uns talking about what they are eating, doing, watching etc. to find the golden nugget of a business purpose for this tool.

If I do, I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear how Twitter has helped you become a better marketer. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Take a Deep Breath and Count to Ten…or More

Remember this one from when we were kids? It works in business too. A common mistake I see from younger or more highly strung professionals is that they jump on every e-mail as soon as they see it. Perhaps it’s the increase in caffeine laden drinks such as Red Bull. Or perhaps it’s because their blackberry is always handy during boring meetings. Or maybe it’s just the desire to end the day with an empty in-box. (As if that will ever happen!)

The problem is that e-mail isn’t the same as a face-to-face conversation. Ever read something once and dashed off a quick response only to go back and reread the e-mail later and realized you missed the point? Makes you feel stupid, doesn’t it? Fortunately, these mistakes happen to everyone and others on the thread usually figure out what happened. It’s not career threatening.

Ever dashed off an e-mail when you’re irritated? You go back and read what you wrote and realize that you sounded like an ass. Maybe not career threatening, but enough of these and it will certainly be career limiting. Good communication skills are a prerequisite for any marketing role.

How about dashing off an e-mail when you are angry? You just got a really annoying e-mail from a colleague and you feel compelled to set the record straight with this guy. It’s for his own good!

Stop! Depending on who your colleague is and the clout they have, this can be career threatening. At the very least, it gets in the way of getting the job done.

Don’t just count to ten. Let an entire day pass. The chances are good that you’ll realize that any escalation of the conflict on your side is irrelevant. Anger passes on the other side too and by the time you get around to responding to the e-mail they’re probably feeling a little sheepish about their original tone.

A former colleague sent me a nasty note once. She accused me of bias against the French because I didn’t understand her accent. As I recall it was the phone line that was poor that day. I ignored the e-mail and neither one of us ever brought it up again. Since then we’ve become good friends. (I have a suspicion that she doesn’t even remember it and I’m not going to bring it up!)

If you do need to respond to an e-mail, wait at least a day and respond factually. No clever comebacks. Anything other than a mature, professional, e-mail can easily stir up conflict.

Finally, if you absolutely must set the record straight, do it over the phone. At least there won’t be an electronic record of you making a fool of yourself. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

My Favorite Interview Question

It seems like everyone has their favorite interview question. The question that they feel helps them understand who the candidate is and how they will perform. Often these questions are psychological in nature, such as “what do you want on your tombstone?” Or, they may be designed to put the candidate in a real life situations such as, “Sell me this pencil.”

My favorite question is a real life situation question. When I am interviewing a marketer, I ask them to tell me what their favorite software application is and why. Excel is a common answer. More often than not, this person is an analytical. This is great for roles that require analytical thinking such as product manager or market researcher. Not so good if I need to find someone who can build a polished PowerPoint.

If their favorite application is Microsoft Word, I’m probably talking to a writer. If it’s a layout application of some sort, I’m almost always talking to a designer. If it’s the latest game, that tells me something too! (Nothing against gamers, but they better have a second favorite!)

This one simple question allows me to assess easily what type of person I am speaking to and their likely skill set.

What’s your favorite interview question? Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Social Media Excess

What message are you sending with the frequency of your posts?

Popular wisdom says that, if you want to have a successful blog, you should blog and blog often. Some even suggest that several times a day is the appropriate amount. But what does such frequent posting say to an individual reader?

If blogging IS what you do for a living, or it’s a major form of advertising for your business, that makes some sense. Blogging often, and all the related “to-dos” involved with a successful social media strategy, are the keys to being noticed. It takes effort to make it through all the social media noise on the web today.

But, before you sacrifice all of your free time (and maybe a little company time too) make sure you know why you are blogging in the first place. And, consider the message you are sending to the individual reader.

I blog because I love to write. That’s why I started and that’s why I keep going. It may also explain why my blog doesn’t lack for posts but could use a user interface overhall.
I also blog because I am developing new professional relationships all the time. I like to think that my blog gives them an introduction to me even before we meet.

When I’m meeting another marketing professional for the first time, I love it when they have a blog. It gives me a sense of who they are and what’s important to them. For potential employees, I get a sense of their personality. Whether you’re amiable, contentious, gregarious or driven – that comes through in how you write.

However, if a potential employee has been holding down a job and posting to their blog a couple times a day, that’s a red flag for me. It means they are either using their employer’s time to do their own business. Or, it means they need to get a life. Either trait could be a problem for me as an employer.

How do you see it? Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Measure What Matters

I get a little irritated with marketers who inflate the numbers. Let me explain.

“Joe” tells me that the webcast he just ran produced 100 leads. That’s a lot of leads from a webcast in our business. I inquire how many people attended the webcast. It turns out that 100 people expressed an interest in the webcast, and 60 attended.

That’s not a bad attendance rate, but that doesn’t mean that all 100 people who registered for the seminar are leads. It means that we have 100 names to call to discover the level of interest and fit for our product. Depending on the subject of the webcast, they are usually slightly warmer than a cold call list. In my book, the webcast registrants are “inquiries”, but not leads.

There’s a lot of semantics here. You can call these inquiries “leads” if it works for you. In fact, I don’t have anything against generating inquiries. After all, inquiries are where it all starts.

The problem I have is when marketers determine the success of a campaign by the number of inquiries it produces. If you can’t reliably tell me how many sales we can expect from 100 inquiries, I don’t think you can use it as a measure of success for a campaign. Inquiries don’t pay the bills.

In my department, the only metric we talk about publicly is leads that we put in the hands of the sales team. We do measure other metrics like cost per lead and click-throughs but those metrics are often irrelevant to anyone outside our team. A lead to us means there is a potential project that could involve our product and they fit our target profile for size of company and industry.

I know the sales team can close X% of these leads that we produce. Knowing their sales goals, I can reliably work backward to the goal for number of leads that my team needs to generate. We become part of the team and the connection between sales and marketing strengthens.

It also removes the blame game. If sales doesn’t reach its goals, yet we hit our leads goals, we know there’s something else going on. No one can say, “we didn’t have enough leads” because sales and marketing agreed ahead of time on the goal.

Every business is different. No matter what product you market, make sure you measure what matters. I would love to hear from others in the marketing field. How do you measure what matters in your business? Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The Benefits of Outsourced Marketing Part 3

Part 3: Agility

This is the third part in my series on the benefits of outsourcing marketing tasks. So far, I’ve cited:

Black Arts (expertise required)

The third reason I will cite is agility. You need to measure your marketing as it contributes to the success of the organization. And, you need to make changes quickly to any initiatives that are not contributing.

If I hire an individual to fill a certain role, there’s a level of permanence to that. They’re part of the team. There’s a certain sense of obligation to that individual, especially if you hired them away from another company. And, even if you did decide that you no longer need them, there’s the issue of severance. Outside the US, severance pay laws can put a much greater strain on the budget!

On the other hand, if you hire a vendor to fill a need, you can make changes to your strategy much more quickly. Most of my vendor contracts are inherently short-term. If I like the way the vendor performed, I keep using them. If I was less than satisfied, or I need a different skill set, I can easily work with someone new.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the vendors I work with. Many of them have become good friends over the years. I rely on their knowledge of the profession and their guidance. However, it’s still a business relationship. If we “grow in different directions” making a change is just part of doing business. Parting ways is a lot less stressful on both sides of the table since the vendor is not an employee.

Using vendors to provide marketing services is a big part of keeping my marketing agile and responding quickly to the growing needs of my organization. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on when you should hire a vendor and when you should add to your own staff. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Loyalty or Self-Delusion?

The Reality of Career Advancement

I was just thinking about the last time a colleague camped out at my office door and complained about their lack of advancement. I’m going to say here what would be politically imprudent to say in person.

It seems that everyone wants to advance. Or, at least they’ve been programmed by our culture to believe that they must continue to climb to the next rung on the corporate ladder. But, unlike the British Navy of 200 years ago, advancement isn’t a matter of waiting for the people in front of you to die. Even today, it’s not always based on meritocracy. Just because you deserve advancement, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Companies pay for services from an employee. When they hire you to perform these services they come with a specific pay range. If you don’t know your pay range, talk to your HR representative. They can probably find out for you. If it’s against company policy to share this information with you, you can get an idea from other sources if your role fits a well-defined position such as product marketing manager.

When you start in a role, especially early in your career or when it’s a job you haven’t done before, you probably begin toward the bottom of the pay scale. As you provide more value in that role, you should expect to move up the pay scale. Unfortunately, not all companies follow a formal review process. It’s imperative that you make sure that your role is well-defined and that you record your performance against that role. This is your evidence to ask for more pay and possible advancement.

The problem comes when you want to move to the next level in an organization. It’s arguably easier in a large organization where roles open up as people move around. In my time at larger organizations, I was able to create new roles several times by seeing a need and selling management on my ability to fill that need. This gave me visibility as well as experience that my peers didn’t have. There was always somebody to backfill my old role.

In a smaller company it’s not as easy. With fewer people there may not be someone else to take over your tasks if you move up. Hiring someone new is not always a solution as smaller companies keep a tight reign on payroll costs. Plus the company still needs you to perform this role so they may be content to keep you where you are.

There’s also the factor of your image within the company. If you’ve been at the same company for a long time, people will have an image of you that may have been formed when you were younger and a lot less wiser.

At the first company I worked for, I stayed for almost thirteen years. I made career advancements, but for the most part it was a series of lateral moves every couple of years. It built a great foundation for me, but didn’t do much to help me climb the ladder.

I had finally made the decision that it was time to move when the company was acquired by Microsoft. (Sometimes I get incredibly lucky) I stayed at Microsoft for another four years where I learned even more than I had in the first seventeen years. But, after four years at Microsoft, I knew I had hit the ceiling within that organization unless I wanted to move to Redmond. Without much angst, I moved on.

The moral of all of this rambling is that you can’t afford to delude yourself. You may think you are at your present company because you are happy. If you’re complaining to your colleagues about lack of opportunity you are not all that happy.

You may think that your time served in your company is being loyal. The job market is littered with loyal workers who were laid off after years of service. Loyalty is not something that organizations expect nor do they return it. They encourage it only while it behooves them to keep an employee on staff. As soon as it’s not in their best interests, you are out the door.

Below are some red flags that may signal that it’s time to move on. No one in particular is a signal that you should move on. But, if you find that more than one of them applies to you, I encourage you to get that resume pulled together and start exploring.

- You have been at your company for more than 10 years.
- You have been in the same role for more than 3 years.
- You are technically in an entry-level position when you’ve been in the work force for more than five years. This also assumes that you didn’t make a recent lateral move.
- You are at the top of your pay scale for your role.
- You’ve been passed over for a promotion more than once.
- Your manager seems sympathetic to advancement but doesn’t give you any clear indication of what is expected for advancement.
- You don’t think your ideas are taken seriously within your organization.

Switching companies can be intimidating, but it can also be cathartic. A new company with new faces is a chance to rev up your career again. It’s a chance to leave a lot of baggage behind and be the kind of marketing professional you know you can be.

I wish you the best of luck in your own advancement efforts!

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Tip #2 Hire People Who Know More Than You Do

Over the years, I’ve collected a rather large collection of practical advice for marketers. I call this list, “Melissa’s Tips for Corporate Survival.” Some of these tips are advice from others that has helped me. Other tips, like today’s advice, are just observations on approaches that have served me well. I hope my tips give you ideas for how to excel in your own work and career.

In my career I’ve seen several really great managers with one huge weakness. They’re threatened by people they manage. This is especially true when the manager is actively doing the same tasks that their employees do. The most classic example if the young sales manager who resists the wisdom of his or her more seasoned sales staff.

I have a motto. If the people on my team don’t know more about something than I do, then I hired the wrong people. If they never come up with anything that I couldn’t have come up by myself, then I need to hire a new team.

I may have spent more than two decades as a marketer but that doesn’t mean I’ve done every single tasks in the course of my career. For example, I’ve relied on the output from a call center but I’ve never worked in one nor managed one. On my team, there is an individual who has. When it comes to hiring a telemarketing vendor or improving our own internal call center, I rely on her insight.

Another member of the team loves social media. I wouldn’t have my own blog if I didn’t think it was a cool concept. However, as you can probably tell from my layout, I don’t spend every moment of my free time tweaking the html code. He does so I rely on this team member to make sure we meet our goals. I make sure his projects support our corporate objectives but rarely do I ever give explicit instructions. Moreover, I’ve learned far more from him about social media than he will ever learn from me.

This concept even applies to interns. In fact, interns have a huge advantage as they’ve grown up using computers for almost everything. For example, one of our interns does a great job touching up executive publicity photos.

Teams with managers who are threatened by their own staff have a tougher time accomplishing their goals. When they do, it’s because the team leader successfully pulls everyone into line so things are done his or her way. This can work if the team is made up of younger or relatively inexperienced people. To me, it just doesn’t seem like a very satisfying style. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

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