The real lesson to take away from the US Presidential Election and the UK Brexit Vote.

I’ve worked in the marketing “industry” for several decades, and have been on the “buy-side” all that time. To those not in the industry that means I buy marketing services (creative and media) from companies who sell it. Those companies use very similar techniques as are used in politics to advise on the right message and mix of media, and I’ve found that the accuracy of those “techniques” has always been biased towards the exact services that those “sell-side” marketers are pushing.

During the election cycle we saw every single media outlet doing whatever they could to keep their revenue streams happy. On TV and radio this means keeping consumers watching/listening across ad-breaks, while in print and online it was to maximize their viewership by offering views that would be attractive to as wide an audience as possible.

So every issue was represented from both sides, every fact was questioned without facts and every bullshit idea was presented as equal to any fact. There was absolutely no interest in what any candidate actually was going to do, what was important was presenting every position as equal, allowing every party to just talk and talk.

Stolen information from emails, and candidly recorded audio was presented without any interest in its integrity and was presented as being as valid as formally recorded statements, creating a level of uncertainty around every piece of knowledge, facts and non-facts were melded, and it became hard to distinguish rumor from fact, so hard that most people gave up even trying to, “her lies” and “his misogyny, bigotry and bluster” was seen as equal, which I suspect in the cold hard light of history will be seen to not be so.

And then to support all of this, highly nuanced surveys and polls were continually captured and presented. I say highly nuanced, because polls and surveys always end up speaking to a small group of people who actually are willing to spend the time to answer questions. And when you pay someone to run a survey they quickly learn who they can rely on, and will go to the same people again and again, despite the clear data issue this generated, because that’s how they get paid.

The goal is to create content in support of revenue. Cheap content, presented as valuable beyond it’s true value. Low cost product generating high profit revenue is the dream of any business, including the media.

Polls, surveys, snippets of information then discussed by talking heads and bloggers, who then become the news source for more talking heads to discuss (just look at Foxnews, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, BBC News, Huffington post etc). The actual validity of the core data quickly gets lost in the process of generating “content”

In business the sell-side marketers are always pushing “facts” in support of the “buy-side” marketers case to spend more money. “buy-side” marketers are always under pressure to justify their budgets, and once they start to rely on the “sell-side facts” they are hooked into an addictive cycle that requires them to just double down on their committed plan, spending more and more.

This is exactly what the media do in every election cycle. The biggest measure of a campaign is seen as how much are they spending on ad’s. When in fact these adverts have almost no impact on the election, and yet every campaign buys into the bullshit. Every talking head, newspaper and blogger is writing about who has a bigger war chest, and who is spending more in this month’s cycle of ad’s. Every Ad is presented as a powerful new tool to swing the result, a tool that never produced the promised results, EVER!

The pain that businesses feel when they cannot see a direct relationship between their marketing investment and their business performance is EXACTLY the same as the pain that the electorate feel when the polls prove to be entirely devoid of reality.

The people who are marching up and down outside Trump buildings, should maybe think about marching up and down outside the “free presses” offices.


Is It Time To Go Back To Print?

Several years ago I stopped buying print magazines, instead relying on websites for my news, opinion and science. And for a while this worked well for me, I even got a kindle to read books.

Some people say that reading on a screen is just not the same as reading off of a page, and obviously they are right, it’s not the same. But in some ways it was easier, as your ability to find content is vastly increased, and it’s possible to travel with a complete library on any screen you choose.

But there are a couple of downsides to digital reading. The most obvious technical difference is in the quality of the represented text, it’s clearly different, and some don’t find it as easy to read (even through others love the fact you can resize text to suit your eyesight and mood).

But to me there really is only one reason why e-reading is not as good as paper reading, and that single reason is the increasingly annoying and intrusive ad’s.

A few years ago ad’s just sat at the top and bottom of a page, statically looking just the same as the ad’s in a printed newspaper. Then they started to pop-up and required extra work to navigate around.

But then they started to interact with the reader, to try and be “more relevant”, but actually are just like that really annoying kid you went to school with, who would never shut the fuck up.

That kid that would incessantly talk; and talk about absolutely anything, however irrelevent. That kid that as he became a teenager was clearly deranged, and would walk around the streets talking to anyone and anything that just happened to be in his or her line of sight. The one that used to have a regularly blackend eye from speaking crap to the wrong person he just happened to pass.

That person that probably even now is part of some anti-everything conspiracy group trying to tell the world that the moon landings were fake, and his mother was kidnapped by aliens.

Actually I think that kid is now employed by Google. They have co-opted his lifelong skill of being irritating as the new ad presentation technique.

Who ever thought that ad’s that move around across your screen was a good thing?

Why do I need to see a thirty second ad before watching a video segment on a news article, when the ad has absolutely nothing to do with the article I’m trying to read.

And what total utter bastard thought we needed to hear a video auto play as we mistakenly mouse’d over some bold text in a scientific paper? (Yes I means YOU New Scientist magazine online).

I know that online advertising is a multi multi billion dollar business, but honestly does anyone actually read online ad’s or does everyone do what I do, and hunt longingly for the sneakily hidden X on the ad’s while reciting a series of swearwords that used to be just the domain of really humorous Tourette Syndrome sufferers.

My wife gets the paper delivered daily (mainly for the crossword) but I’m finding myself looking at it longingly, and remembering the halcyon days of the internet when advertising was an interactive as the woman who works at the DMV (ie. Not at all).

There is a tipping point online advertizers, one that you are fast approaching when I (and the silent majority) may have to resort to buying magazines again!


The one and only way to succeed with B2B marketing

Why is it that most B2B CMO’s last just a year or so? It’s simple they fall into the B2C trap, their CEO will ask them how much demand that last ad campaign generated, and they give an answer. It’s that simple the clock is ticking, trust will decay and a new CMO will be in within the year.

What happens? Well B2B marketing is a complex derivative process, where slowly but surely through brand enhancing value exchanges (aligned very carefully to the specifics of the target audience) prospects learn of problems that they should be thinking about solving, realize these are their problems, form a strategy to solve these problems, identify choices and enact a process of consideration, purchase and implementation. It’s a carefully crafted business process that involves decision makers, influencers, approvers and advisers.

B2B marketers have to make sure that they are providing great compelling knowledge, advice and quality access to the right people throughout the process without annoying the prospects. Being in consideration is key.

If the CMO ever says “well that advert generated 200% ROI” without explaining that the return on that investment was to move the needle on the brand or get prospects to move from unaware to aware then the assumption that the CEO would have it that that ad closed deals. That assumption can only lead to an erosion of trust, as clearly no ad in a B2B world actually closes a deal directly.

A B2B marketing campaign starts with a source of people to market too. These are contacts.

When a contact interacts with the campaign, ie. signing up for an event, downloading a gated asset, then that’s great, they are inquiring.

When those inquiring contacts start to share information about their intent which such jewels as a timeline, access to a budget, details on their requirement, then they are a lead.

And when that lead starts to get detailed it becomes qualified.

And when a qualified lead is accepted by sales as one they will expend effort on trying to win, assign an expected close date and a proposed deal value it becomes an opportunity.

I find it very helpful to call this the CILO process, as it’s a simple idea that the whole business can understand and adopt.

Not every single touch point builds leads, but campaigns build contacts, inquiries, leads, qualified leads and opportunities (CILO). Those are the true measures of a B2B marketing team. Ones that deeply drive sales and can start with a strategy and end with tactical success.

Training a CEO on what to expect and how to gain value from B2B marketing is the first and last job of the head of marketing. When the CEO and the marketing leaders are aligned, great things happen.

Any CMO that has survived longer that two years in a B2B marketing organization (without the CEO changing) is doing this.

When you look to hire a new head of marketing and you’re a B2B company, think about this when you read those resumes….


There must be a better way

Every day I get a dozen calls from sales people I don’t know, who try every technique they can think of to get past my receptionist and into my voicemail box. And by the very volume of these calls, the receptionist has now become real world trained to identify every trick in the book.

• The “I was asked to call at this time” gambit fails 100% of the time
• The “we have a scheduled meeting” play only leads to the receptionist calling me and confirming that it is bullshit.
• The “I was passed to you by xxx in your company” just doesn’t cut it.

Look sales people if you want to reach me, try something really new, try sending me something of value first, like an example of what you can do for me. Don’t call me or email me, send it in the post, that gets my attention and doesn’t waste my time, it just appears on my desk and I do look at it. Then if I like what you send “maybe” I’ll call you.

I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but how many services so you need to buy the same stuff. If I need something I do what everyone else does, either google it or ask someone else what they are using.

The worst though has to be the spam emails.
I get several hundred of these every week. The ones offing penis enlargements and requesting help to get large amounts of money out of Nigeria get picked up quite well by the anti-spam tools, but about 20 of these every day are from companies trying to sell me contact lists, website development services or reporting tools. I may actually update my email autoreply to external people to say “btw I already have a web team, great contact lists and a BI team, so if you want to sell me any of these things, consider yourself updated I DON’T NEED THEM”

If you want to send me an email don’t, send me something of value, there are loads of things I don’t know, so tell me some of them. I , like most busy people respond well to those who take the time to think through the situation and provide something interesting.

Robot-calls, spam quality emails, cold calls along with pop-up ad’s on webpages, or unrequested requests on social media are dead to me.


Trust, Empower, Support

It’s not enough to hire the best people. You must allow them to perform at their maximum ability. Great people need to have the ability to excel otherwise they will fail to achieve glory and will just leave.

And the ability of anyone of perform well in an executive (or leadership of a team) position is to have the ability to make decisions based on agreed objectives.

Plans that change with the wind are all too common, and virtually always fail.

What is critical is that once a plan is agreed it’s implemented by high performers who have the trust of their managers and are empowered to make decisions in-line with the plan, and critical to success, are supported in these decisions.

There is no point in allowing someone to make a decision and then spending months questioning the detail. That form of micro-management is very common, and incredibly destructive. Instead stand behind the decisions you empowered your team to make.If they made the wrong choices, you as the leader must take responsibility. This ensures teams succeed (or fail) together, and everyone supporting each other leads to the greatest successes.

This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with a poor decision, just do it behind closed doors, and use it as a chance to grow trust and improve teamwork. Then together fix the mistake. If your team knows they are trusted and supported they will be empowered to make the best in every situation. And they can and will continually improve.

Hire well, plan well, and then trust your team to deliver.

Measure people by their ethics and the results achieved.

Be open and honest when setting goals. Make sure everyone knows the plan. Everyone must know deeply:

Why we are in this business
What problem we are tasked with solving
Why is solving this problem critical
What budget, timeline, resources are available to solve this problem

Trust, empower and support your team if you want to drive to success and retain you top talent.


B2B Branding – It’s all about the customer!

So many companies spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about brand names. Often the reasons are childish. Here are some of the most common ones I’ve seen:

1. Our development team spent thousands of hours developing this code and they love to see it have a name so that they can be proud of it.

2. We use a variety of routes to market and we price the same stuff differently depending on how we sell it, so giving everything a different name allows us to keep control.

3. We acquired a company and that was they name they used, and we don’t want to change it, as the employees from that company tell us it will upset people.

4. We named those products after the children of the CEO, he has five children so we needed to use five brand names.

5. We hired a new Chief of Marketing, and they wanted to make their mark.

6. We were bored with our old brand and wanted to shake it up.

Of course these all sound like stupid reasons to create a brand name, but I can asure you these are all real examples.

For consumer products brand names do make sense, they allow a company to build attributes around a product, group of products or category and then provide a reason for consumers to be loyal to that association.

But the same does not hold true for business purchases. Business people tend to follow a very careful purchasing process that starts with the identification of a problem that needs to be solved and the formation of a team to consider the best ways of solving it. This team will include business, technical and financial people who will all consider the ways of solving it from their perspective. Some of this team will be more eloquent that others and will have a greater say in the final decision, but the process strips out emotion and relies of cold hard facts.

Business products are therefore most successful when they are easy to describe technically, financially and at a business level. The cool name plays very little part in it. In fact a cool name gets in the way. If the product is called the “iflapgrabber 2000” no one will know what it is on an invoice, while if it was called “a door handle” it will pass through the process of review much more easily.

If the response to a request for a quote lists “iflabgrabber 2000, iattach-o-top, iattach-o-bot, iportalblock, isecuritizer and iopener” as opposed
to “a door, hinges, a handle, a lock and a key” it’s easy to see which one will create confusion and which one is easy to say yes to.

Brands in business actually can create barriers, making it hard for people to choose a solution, hard to share it and hard to communicate.

Many companies who sell to businesses are learning this lesson and moving away from individual brand names towards simple descriptive names that make their products easier to understand and consume in business.

If you want to sell more to businesses, think like the people you are trying to sell too. Know what problem they want to solve, who they are and how they would like to solve it.


“Waffer” thin marketing

It’s far too easy for marketing people to be disingenuous.

Why does a company market?

Well there are three key reasons:
• one- to generate demand for their products,
• two – to create awareness for their products as “air-cover” for their sales efforts and demand-generation efforts
• and three – to create brand equity otherwise known as good-will on the balance sheet.

These three goals are critical success factors for any company, but without a clear understanding of what they mean it’s far too easy for a marketing team (and the management team that pays marketing) to get wrapped up in the measure and loose site of the goal.

Demand generation is the term we all give to the process of bringing prospective customers to our sales organization. The idea is that marketing does “stuff” that carefully qualifies contacts and delivers them for sales to engage in meaningful dialogues that lead to closed deals. The challenge can be that marketing don’t always expend enough effort to qualify-out weak contacts and basically blast every business card they can find at sales to achieve their volume targets. Of course this means that sales are bombarded with thousands of names and phone numbers and can either choose to dial for dollars or ignore the output of marketing, and instead use their own networks to build their pipeline.

If the measure on marketing is to generate a huge number of “leads” where a lead is defined as the information on a business card, then marketing can absolutely do this. Marketing will achieve their goals but the business needle will not move.

Instead marketing should have the goal of generating leads that convert to qualified business. If a lead is not ‘converted’ by sales into an opportunity with a close date, expected value and a documented value proposition based on input directly from the prospect, it isn’t worth anything to sales. When you measure marketing on this type of quality lead creation things get real, really quickly.

Sales and marketing working together with marketing owning the market-to-qualified lead process and sales owning the qualified-lead-to-close process works very well. But if marketing own the mr-creosote model of demand generation where everything that goes into the bucket comes directly out again then marketing and sales are not aligned and no value is created.

A great example of a technique used to create Mr-Creosote marketing is the embedded pop-up ad. These annoying zones on web pages pop-up when you mouse over them or close by them, and they have a barely visible X that if you click on makes them close again. Many people fail to find the X and so click on the wrong area on the pop-up and cause it to spawn a web page. The Mr-Creosote Marketer logs this as a click-through. Showing incredible results from a marketing investment, because their measure was click through rate.

Of course these click-through’ s are not real, and this can be seen by checking the bounce rate. A bounce is where the prospect once going to a page, closes it straight away without delving any further. If your marketing department is getting massive levels of CTR (click through rate), ask to see the bounce rate. If the bounce rate is in the high 90 percentages, do the right thing and rip your mr-creosote marketer a new one.

mr creosote

Awareness marketing and brand-equity marketing, just like demand gen marketing need to be scrutinized to make sure what you are asking for in terms of goals are aligned with your measures. It’s too easy to achieve results that are not aligned to the business needs.

Marketing is a core fundamental requirement for a business, and it must be treated as such. Making sure that the person that leads marketing is part of the executive management function and that their goals are aligned with the business is the sure-fire way to make this happen.

If you bury marketing as a sub-element of sales or promote a long time junior person to run marketing, who does not have the experience of being a partner in the business, expect to see Mr Creosote sitting at your table.


The 7 Habits of Corporate Executives

I’ve read and listened to a good number of books on business, marketing, management, etc. which offer many excellent approaches, techniques and tips to run a successful, innovative, motivated team and organization. These books were/are best-sellers.

7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_PeopleI know that the senior management of virtually every organization reads them and that many assign them to their teams and the next generation of leaders. “Long-term thinking,” “train, nurture and retain staff,” “always look at things from the perspective of your customers and prospects,” “treat everyone with respect and assume positive intent,” etc.

So my question is, “Why is it so rare that senior management actually follows any of that advice?”

Why do its readers go from "Good to Ghastly?"
Why do its readers go from “Good to Ghastly?”
Are they just not bright enough? Weak minded? Unable to change bad habits? Prefer “politics” to actual achievement as a strategy to advance? I mean really, WTF?

Did they mean well but revert to “Lord of the Flies” behavior after one bad quarter? Or are they just hiding their “crazy” in public most of the time? I’m asking because now that I’m back on positive side of the ledger I’m horrified at how bad it had been so often at so many places for me, my family and my friends. I had a chat with my first real business “mentor” the other night regarding helping his daughter get started in her chosen field and I was reminded how shocking it was when I first worked with him and was truly trusted, supported and empowered by him and the entire management team when we worked together in the 90’s.

We were all “jazzed up” to go to work every day, weren’t afraid to take calculated risks, and achieved great success with a small team and virtually no budget. Motivated, smart people we were and we innovated virtually every day to make the place better. Did I find a great leadership through my own research? LinkedIn? No, it was pure luck for me (and for them), that we “found” each other and were able to do great things and enjoy the process.

Why is that so rare today? Are 70% of Americans just idiots (as one of my best friends continually points out)? Do people really just not listen and comprehend good advice anymore? Are all “organizations” above a certain size just destined to go horribly dysfunctional because of their size? Is even the best corporate culture guaranteed to dissolve above 100 employees?

Soooo many "leaders" need to really read this book.
Soooo many “leaders” need to really read this book.
I don’t know the answer and believe me, I’m not complaining – I love competing against badly managed companies with toxic management styles and dysfunctional cultures. The bigger and better resourced they are, the better; it makes for greater satisfaction when you beat them and have your pick of their customers and their best employees.

I still would like to know the answer but until then I’ll just enjoy the fact that the competition is not going from “Good to Great,” doesn’t live by the “No Asshole Rule” and clearly hasn’t adopted “7 (or even 1), Habit of Highly Effective People.”

p.s.: When asked what my favorite “business” books are, the response is simple: “The Essential Drucker” and “The No Asshole Rule.” Great advice to work and live by everyday-

Best. Business. Book. Ever.
Best. Business. Book. Ever.


lets tlk social

Every marketing person I speak to thinks that social media just has to be part of their marketing mix. I ask the question;

Think about it, social media is simply a forum for people who know each other, knew each other or share some element of interest in common. That means that they… we…. are not really interested in companies, products or services when we choose to use any of the plethora of social media systems that exist. What we are interested in, is people.

Tell me about you, about your interests, your frustrations, your opinions. When I get to know you I will start to care about your views. And when I care (even a little) then I may be interested in the company you work for, what you think of them, and maybe about the product you make or sell.

There is a massive difference between you and your product, at least I choose (we all choose) to believe that.

Once I care, things change.

So businesses, social media is no quick, cheap place to get a list of people to market to, it’s possibly the most expensive medium in existence. It’s expensive because there is no escape from actually acting like a human being, and deeply understanding the people who you interact with.

When facebook created the ‘like” button, they were being incredibly astute in the language they used.


Wasting Leads.

If you work in sales or marketing then the word “lead” can either be a driver for your work or the biggest pain of your life.

The idea is simple; a lead is a piece of information that you can use to contact a prospective new customer.

The perfect business lead would contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of the team of people within a company that have identified a problem that your company is capable of solving. These people also would have a time-line in mind to solve this problem and a defined budget in mind AND they have asked for a salesman from your company to call.

When marketing give a fully detailed lead to the sale team, it’s a wonderful moment, where proud marketers carry this perfect lead to the sales people, and the sales people smile, take control of the lead, call the customer and shortly after ring the bell, crack open the champers and pat the marketing teams on their backs, all feeling that a job has been well done.

Strangely enough this scenario doesn’t happen that often.

What actually happens is quite different.

The marketing team are given a target of how many leads they must deliver to sales. And so they deliver them.

Every time a customer reads an email that was sent, that’s a lead, which is passed to sales.

Every time a card is scanned at a trade show, that’s a lead, which is passed to sales.

Every time a prospect goes to the website, downloads a paper or does anything which identifies them as a person who can fog a mirror (ie. Is alive), that’s a lead, which is passed to sales.


Marketing make their quota of leads passed to sales, get their on-target earnings and move on, while sales think marketing have no idea what they are doing and are just annoyed at these low quality leads.

On the other hand sales need leads, so in the absence of high quality leads they will dumpster dive, calling every potential prospect that hopefully will take their call. But it’s not a good relationship or situation.

Of course there is immense pressure on sales, not just to make their quota of sales but also to meet numerous other metrics. Todays ERP, CRM and sales management systems allow sales people to be tracked in a million ways. And to meet their on-target earnings they need to meet every measure.

All of this leads to people learning how to punk the system, to most effectively meet their goals, while avoiding as much scrutiny as possible.

EVERY salesman has a list of deals they are working on, that are outside of what they report to their management. This allows they to manage the most effective way to deliver the sales while maximizing their income, and also creates a massive gap between what the management of company knows and what the sales people know.

Sales people and marketing people are smart, they all have degrees, many have multiple degrees, and they know how to survive.

sales marketing

There are some companies that have addressed these challenges, but it’s hard and therefore rare.

If you don’t know what it takes to create a perfect lead, then you need to know how to help sales with imperfect leads. If you avoid this issue you are wasting a massive amount of your teams time and resources.