Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: April 2009

Is It Important to be Liked?

There is no doubt in my mind that most marketers like to be liked. Our profession is all about getting prospects and customers to like our products and our companies. This need to be liked helps us put ourselves in their shoes and create messages that resonate with them.

But what happens when a marketer becomes a manager of marketers? Does this need to be liked get in the way of being an effective manager?

I was prompted to think along these lines after reading a post on the Linked2Leadership blog How to Lead Ugly People. Luckily, this post wasn’t about the unfair advantage attractive people have. The author redefined “ugly” to mean “offensive.” I think a less loaded description would be to call them “difficult” employees. You know the ones I’m talking about.

The writer claimed that you should manage all people as thought you want to date them. (Read the post of you don’t believe me.) If you find out what motivates them and get them to like you they will be easier to manage.

I think difficult people behave the way they do because that behavior has historically worked for them. They may have current issues that they are dealing with, but their style of dealing with these issues is something developed early on.

I’m not saying that people can’t change. But if your primary goal of management is to be liked, you run the risk of enabling the bad behavior. And, if those that are easy to like (and to be managed) see you bending over backwards for their challenging co-worker, resentment can build and affect those who are behaving well.

Most of the comments on the post agreed with the writer. Maybe we all want to be liked so much that we’re afraid to offer a different opinion. So far, I am the only one that I has a different opinion. Am I wrong?

All the best!

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How honest should you be?

An interesting discussion was started on one of the LinkedIn group forums. It suggested that you should exploit your vulnerabilities and weaknesses to boost your marketing.

For those of you who belong to the ProMarketers group on LinkedIn, here’s a link to the discussion.

For those of you who don’t, here’s a link to the blog post referenced.

Essentially, the message is that openly sharing your problems can help you build a closer relationship with the customer. I’d agree to that to a certain extent, but with some conditions:

• This is not a strategy to be used too often as it will come across as whining and your customers will begin to lose confidence in you. People like to follow confident leaders and they want to buy from confident companies.

• This strategy won’t work if you are continually sharing the same issues over and over again. A software company that is constantly telling its customers why the latest release is delayed should rethink their release process and the process for communicating dates. (Unless of course you are a certain large software company where it’s just expected that you will be late with your releases.)

• If you caused a problem, you need to share how you are going to fix it.

• Once you’ve apologized and shared the remedy move forward. Too much apologizing can get tedious. And, for customers that tend to be a little hotheaded, it continues to remind them that it was your fault.

• If the problem is severe, do not send the message electronically. Your customers deserve a call.

• Always use your best communicators to share the message. Those who need to get the last word in, or who feel the need to be right, need not apply for this.

• You might consider restraining your PR and marketing folks. I’ve seen many of these communications over the years that passed through the hands of marketing and PR. The resulting communication left you dizzy if you know what I mean.

• This is not the time for Execs to hide behind the frontlines unless your execs are some of your worst communicators. (Some are!)

Now, putting all SEC and SOX rules aside, I’d love to know how you have successfully shared bad news with your customers and come out the better for it.

All the best!

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What Not to Say When e-Marketing

I confess. One reason I like getting e-mail solicitations from marketing vendors is because it gives me fodder for my blog. The poor ones give me plenty of examples of what not to do.

Here’s a great example. This was the beginning sentence of an e-mail from a marketing firm trying to sell me something. What they were trying to sell was not entirely clear from the e-mail.

“I was reviewing a variety of information regarding (your company’s) solutions and I’m interested in learning more about the ROI and TCO initiatives within your group.”

So, in other words, she is interested in using my time to educate her without any real promise of value to me? She lost me right there.

I was listening to a marketing webinar the other day where the speaker said the age of the consultative sale is pretty much over. That’s paraphrasing, of course, but I listen to a lot of these. If I could remember who it was I was listening to, I’d go back, quote the source, and get it right.

I didn’t think much about the statement at the time, but the speaker’s point hit me when I read the first line of this e-mail. Today’s buyers do not have time to spend educating you on their business so you can uncover some need that you can sell to.

To be sure, you should be looking for unrealized pains that your services can address, but with as busy as people are these days, you have to go in with an answer even before you know the question.

I know this is antithetical to the way many of us were educated in sales and marketing! But, as we compete for attention in an increasingly frantic world, your value proposition needs to resonate immediately with your target audience. More than ever, you have to prove in the first communication that you have the answer.

The e-mail continued, “…our firm has a great deal of experience in quantifying the value of ERP solutions using ROI justification. I would like to share some of that knowledge with you and your team.”

That sounds so nice, doesn’t it? But if she wanted to share that knowledge she could have done so by linking to a white paper or a webinar within the body of the e-mail. Had I downloaded it, she would have had the added advantage of knowing that her message resonated with me.

“(our company) enables technology companies to quantify the economic business impact of their solutions using third-party validation. Our team develops custom ROI and TCO business value sales and marketing tools for every stage of the selling process from lead generation to close.”

I assumed from her interest in my ROI and TCO initiatives that their firm offered something along these lines. I’m less interested in their “great deal of experience” than I am in what they have accomplished during that time. If they focus on ROI and TCO practices they should understand how important ROI is to any prospective buyer. How about some examples of value provided?

I went to the website more out of curiosity than any real interest in her poorly stated value proposition. The web site was far stronger than this introductory e-mail and had plenty of content they could have linked to. She could have added value to me and improved her chance of adding me as a customer. Today’s best practices in e-mail marketing are a win-win for both seller and prospect.

I deleted all references to the company sending the e-mail since it’s not my intent to embarrass anyone. If this marketer reads my blog, hopefully she will forgive me for using her as a sample of what not to do. In the end, I hope this example can make all of us better at adding value to our prospects lives and reaching our future customers.

All the best!

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Help! I have to do it all!

It’s Friday again! That means it’s time for another Friday Dilemma. For those of you new to this series of posts, let me explain how this works.

Every Friday, I post a scenario that poses a dilemma to marketers. These dilemmas are less about the science of marketing and more about the art of getting the job done. I try to pick scenarios where there is no obvious right or wrong approach and you really have to think about the advice you would give to the marketer in the scenario.

In today’s dilemma, imagine you are a marketer in a mid-sized IT shop. The annual revenues are roughly $50 million and the organization has achieved year over year growth for the last several years. However, this year the demand for the technology services your organization offers has declined significantly. In order to meet financial goals the staff was reduced by almost a third.

The marketing team was made up of three people. You, a peer and your manager. Your team was primarily responsible for lead generation but you were also tasked with some PR work and developing sales tools. In your “spare time” you did a bit of competitive research as well.

Marketing was affected by the down-sizing more so than other parts of the organization. After the layoffs, your team is down to one – you.

At first, you had a bit of survivor guilt and you felt really bad for your colleagues. You even wondered why you were spared. You figured that maybe it was the recognition of your hard work that you’ve always dreamed of. But no matter what the reason, you were just glad you still had a job.

After a couple of weeks the shock of losing your colleagues to the layoffs wore off a bit and your eye was back on the job. While you would never say it out loud, you were thinking this may be the opportunity to show what you are really worth. When the economy improves and staff can be added, maybe you can even get promoted into a management position.

After a month or so, the bloom is off that rose. Not only are you a third of the marketing staff the organization once had, your programs budget was slashed in half. Now you have to do it all and you have less money to do it with.

It’s also apparent that your organization, especially the sales team, seems to think that you can market your way out of this recession. If anything, they are asking you to produce more than you did with the money and staff you had prior to the cuts.

Whether it takes months or years for things improve, how do you best meet your goals and maintain your sanity?
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The Questions That Should Have Been Asked

I ran across a quick article on a blog that focused on the questions a prospective CMO should ask when determining if a role and company is right for them. While it’s water under the bridge now, some of these questions might have helped our hapless executive in Champagne Taste, Beer Budget. Actually, the questions offered in this article would be beneficial for any seasoned marketer looking at taking a new position.

Here’s the link to the article. What do the best CMO candidates ask in an interview?

Questions like “How do you Plan to define success for the (position title) over the next 12 months and the first three years?” can tell you a lot about how the role is seen in the organization. It can also tell you how long you have before you’re expected to produce “big things.”

There was one company I knew that had a standing joke about the Superman cape that was put on every management-level new hire. As soon as the individual accepted the role, the rumors would start about how brilliant he/she was and how they were going to do great things.

After three months, when the new manager didn’t single handedly orchestrate a turn-around, the cape started fraying a bit. By six months, it had disintegrated completely and the old-timers in the organization were starting to ask how such a poor choice could have been made.

Even if you’re one of those who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and are now looking for work, these questions should still be asked. With so many competitors for the same position out there, it’s tempting to just take the first thing that comes along.

In the case of the marketing executive in Champagne Taste, Beer Budget, I’m sure the answers would have been less than ideal. But even if the individual decided to take the role, at least they would be going in with their eyes open.
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