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Someone Has to Be the CMO

on July 26 in Small Business, Soapbox, The Office | 1 comment

Many small businesses or even mid-to-large-sized businesses with geographic dispersion have marketing people in-house or at least marketing-minded employees, whether at the top or within the company’s ranks.  But oftentimes, there’s not a dedicated, experienced resource at the C-level.  The lack of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or equivalent leadership role often results in a task-based approach to marketing, which means energy and resources can get expended based on assumptions, whims, and good sales pitches vs. data, analysis, and strategic goals.  The result?  Unknown value and potential waste of profits. For every company, it may not be feasible to bring in a marketer at this level and caliber; the costs of an executive search alone could be more than what is usually allocated in a market budget!  Bringing in an outside firm is also not always a smart economic investment.  So what is the internal champion of strategic marketing to do? My advice is find an ally–someone you trust who knows what questions to ask to put the potential for a marketing strategy into perspective, can help that get traction within the organization, and will assist with implementation at a cost in line with expected outcomes.  Large companies know that, for effective marketing results, there has to be a CMO at the helm; in small business, someone has to be the CMO (even if acting or undercover) so it might as well be you. Ready for your new role?  Let’s talk.  ...

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How Big Banks Are Blowing It

on March 17 in Soapbox | 4 comments

During the Q&A session of Gary Vaynerchuk’s talk last night, one guy brought up his annoyance with the bank tellers (at Wells Fargo) asking him questions about himself and making small talk. I forget the exact question but Gary’s response was that this is an annoying experience because it isn’t authentic. They want a piece of data about you so they can send you a promotion. And we know that because we have a strong BS meter.  I didn’t realize it at The Thank You Economy book signing* because there was so much to take in, but earlier that day, I was at Bank of America and the teller was making conversation with me.  I remember thinking, This is a little unusual and awkward. Especially the point where—during my funds transfer—she said, “Oh you have a business account with Bank of Arizona?”  While I only said yes in response, I’m thinking: Yes, because I like to bank locally.  I’m a member of Local First Arizona. I don’t like large institutions and the only reason my account is here is because you sold me a HELOC when I needed it and didn’t know the importance of supporting local business. But I digress . . . The point being, I noticed the woman next to me was completely unresponsive to her teller’s questions about the weather, weekend plans, etc.  So, this guy at the reading is not alone.  Maybe in some weird collective-executive imagination this is the banks’ way of trying to compete with social media.  Maybe they’re thinking: We’re going to be social for real. We’re going to build relationships with everyone who comes in–in person! What could be better than that? But it feels prescribed.  It’s like managers at the large national banks have given the directive “talk to customers, be their friend, and find out what makes them tick.”  The thing is, they can’t be my friend. A friend would hold onto my money and not charge me if I asked for it back. Period. Among other things.  Because I’m a data person, I wonder if Bank of America will start to see more people using ATMs in response to this “personalized service approach” or whatever they’re calling it in-house.  (You know it’s...

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Is Optimism a Requirement for Entrepreneurship?

on March 16 in Soapbox | 0 comments

A while ago I saw a quote someone re-tweeted from Michael E. Gerber, the author of The E-Myth and Founder of Club E:  “The entrepreneur sees opportunities everywhere we [sic] look, while many people see only problems everywhere they look.”  This statement made me wonder: Is seeing opportunities (aka optimism) vs. problems (aka pessimism) a requirement for entrepreneurship?  That just seemed too polarized and limiting for my tastes. Here’s what I’ve been able to work out so far.  Gerber’s quote may be true for entrepreneurs who see opportunity everywhere and especially for visionaries surrounded by opposition.  His statement provides a needed psychological boost–and rationale for consumption.  One thinks: “I see opportunity everywhere; others only shoot me down.  This guy supports and gets me so I need to follow him, buy his stuff, join his group, etc.”  Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE Michael Gerber. I’ve read the E-Myth Revisited and I’ve seen him speak. He is an incredible resource and inspiration.  He essentially has made the business case for process development to small business–something  most consultants constantly struggle to do.  In many ways, he is a hero and an icon for small business owners like me. But I guess I’m more concerned with defining a successful entrepreneur vs.  just an entrepreneur.  So my position is that successful entrepreneurs see opportunity but don’t put blinders on when it comes to problems. In other words, they have to see and listen to potential problems.  Sure, they must consider the source, but to mistake critical thinking for negativity and therefore to discount  it is (in my mind) a huge mistake. Everyone talks about entrepreneurs having vision but I think that vision alone can be their downfall.  Instead, I propose this: Success equals vision validated by data and tempered with reality—which is sometimes clouded by enthusiasm.  This is all the more reason entrepreneurs need outside perspective from a trusted advisor.  I realize my statement might sound pessimistic to some, but I call it healthy skepticism–and part of the value I provide to those who understand the necessity of working through “problems” before launching.  The rationale: Better for me to point out any potential pitfalls than your customers (or non-customers!) after you’ve already invested blood, sweat, tears, time, your money, other people’s money, etc. What do you think? Is seeing opportunities enough to make...

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How to Prevent Bad Marketing Decisions as a Small Business Owner

on February 10 in Small Business, Soapbox | 0 comments

Small business owners sometimes buy print/radio advertising, social media, and other tactical marketing solutions based on the recommendations of a sales representative for those services. Because they haven’t been able to look at all available solutions and make informed decisions (without sales pressure), the owner can incur unnecessary costs, create more work, and achieve little to no results. In worst-case scenarios, I have talked to small business owners who have to face closing their doors because of poor, ill-advised, costly, and ineffective marketing decisions. This is why an owner should speak with a marketing strategist first and talk about their business goals and challenges. By starting their conversations with an independent, skilled marketing professional and focusing on strategy and goals, owners can be assured that all the important factors when designing a marketing communications strategy—regardless of media—will come into play and that a plan will be created to meet the agreed-upon objectives. This approach allows small business owners to benefit from results-driven investments in their success based on a professional marketer’s understanding of who they are trying to reach (their market) and how their brand will “behave” as well as how the right solutions can be implemented based on actual owner budget and desired level of effort. If a small business owner you know is at risk of signing contracts with multiple media or agencies and intending to manage marketing in-house (especially without a professional marketing background and/or a professional marketing strategy in place), please stop...

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Can You Help Market My Small Business?

on January 11 in Soapbox | 0 comments

Oftentimes, I get the specific request to help market (i.e., “promote”) a product or service from a small business or microbusiness owner.  The assumption is that the barrier to sales is market awareness, understanding, or knowledge and that “marketing”—marketing communications or promotion of the product or service alone—will solve the problem. But I don’t like assumptions. And such a narrow definition of marketing isn’t helpful in most cases. So my first step to help market a small business is to find or validate the root cause of sluggish or slow sales. One of the first things I want to know is “Did you conduct market research before developing your product/service?” If the answer is yes, an in-depth review of the feedback collected in the product development phase (or service delivery planning phase) is needed.   If the answer is no, the small business owner will need to be open to solutions related to product development or “productization” beyond just marketing communications.  (Or find a lackey who will do his/her bidding.) Promoting a product or service that has not been designed based on a significant and validated market need is a waste of time and money. And as a results-driven marketing person, it’s no fun for me. Small business owners who have the market data—or value getting it—and have the ability to think strategically about their marketing efforts, even if the ultimate marketing solution isn’t what they anticipated at first, are more likely to be successful. According to a recent New York Times article, some of the key reasons why small businesses fail are that owners “cannot get out of their own way,”  “lack of focus, vision, planning, [and] standards,” and/or are participating in a declining market. I help small business owners to avoid these pitfalls by taking a holistic approach to marketing that includes product development and strategic planning instead of a task-based marketing communications approach as a panacea for slow or sluggish sales.   To learn more, send me an email. Related articles/items: Focus on . . . Product Development and...

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Anti-Social-Media Case #4: Quick Sales Fix

on August 20 in B-to-B, Small Business, Soapbox | 0 comments

There are just some cases where a small business owner or entrepreneur should not rely on social media as an answer. Especially solely. This is one of them. Reason # 4:  The Need to Increase Sales Quickly Social media efforts create awareness, as a form of word-of-mouth, which can drive sales over time.  The key is that there is no guarantee of a shorter sales cycle or a deluge of transactions as a result of singular social media efforts.  When combined with other marketing efforts that have been carefully orchestrated, however, short-term sales can be improved.  Overall, when there is an immediate need to increase sales, small business owners should not turn to using Facebook or Twitter more often as a solution.  Deeper evaluative skills and more strategy development are required to fix sluggish...

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