Thursday, July 17, 2014

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!"

Go online and look at any portfolio of a graphic artist – every artist follows their own style. Ask an artist for an interpretation of your brand and it winds up looking like their style.

This is not a bad thing. A great graphic artist is crazy about expressing themselves to explain YOUR BRAND. It's hard to express the visceral emotion of what you feel about whom you are, which is the job of a graphic artist, while remaining true to their personal style of expression.

I say, pick crazy every time. If your graphic artist is not crazy, you've selected the wrong artist.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Context is King

The old adage, "Content is King", no longer applies. In a connected, electronic world there is plenty of content – more than we can absorb. What matters now, is what matters to me (or you), tt's about "Context".

If you ever visit Reddit you might know what I'm writing about. I never click on every link. I'm looking for context, not content. I am interested in what interests me, what inspires me or connects to my state of mind. All those pictures of cute kittens and dogs... not working for me, all of the rhetorical questions to create controversy, not happening for me as well.

But, a post on electronics, hi-res photos of beautiful locations around the globe or news relevant to human struggle.... there I am, click-click-click.

Building an audience for any company, firm or organization is no longer, ever, about providing "content". It will forever more be about providing "context".

No insult intended if you chase photos of cute kitties.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Success Can Come by the Shortest Course

I participated in an adventure this evening. 

At the bottom of a fire training tower was a maze of tunnels – one at a time each of us was asked to enter the pitch-black path and find our way out.

At first I struggled – going right produced no results, I went to the left and nothing but walls and no course forward. After several minutes another man entered behind me as I kept trying to find a path forward... He disappeared around a corner I'd neglected.

I followed the sound of his progress in this labyrinth – turned right, found a hole into another tunnel, turned left, found a path leading right, then found a steel trap door leading forward (it squeaked loudly as I pushed it open). WAIT! The man in front of me did not produce this sound!!

AND. As I pushed the door open I saw light! Took one step down, turned left and arrived at the end of the challenge. SUCCESS!!

Each of the many men that entered the tower tonight found an exit. Most spent a long time inside. None found my secret journey to success.

What I took away from the experience is that there no guarantee to the best path... simply be focused on using all of my resources to produce the best result. By instinct, gut and sound I was the fastest man out of the tower.

Trusting myself is probably hardest of all instincts. Yet, success can easily come by doing what I know and trusting what I know.

Success does not have to be THE longest route. Simply believe, execute and have faith in your instinct!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Speak the Language of Your Audience

It has been my experience that attorneys and accountants love the written word as the best way to assimilate new information – I imagine it is their carefully developed attention to detail. Pictures, images stories and pictographs leave too much to individual interpretation. But, when marketing, the written word becomes a barrier to connecting with potential clients.

Marketing is not about creating media that "I" would read/watch/pay-attention-to. Marketing is about producing media designed for your potential audience. Often, what professional services need to produce will completely befuddle the firm partners – and absolutely hit the right note with the audience.

Remember, speak the language of your audience. They will appreciate you effort!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

There Are No New Ideas in Marketing ...

... just new methods and technologies for expressing (insert marketing/branding idea here).

I challenge any marketer to demonstrate they have come up with a truly NEW IDEA in how to market a product, person, company or concept!

About 20 years ago I came across a sales and marketing training manual dated circa 1917. Darned if that manual didn't emphasize everything I was pouring into my latest marketing campaign – a campaign my company thought was "groundbreaking!". The only difference was the methods and technologies I employed to get potential buyers to sit up and pay attention.

"Marketing" is all about causing people to desire what I am offering. Marketers have been performing this task for thousands of years! We are simply trying to apply tested and true methods within the framework of evolving tools and audience behaviors.

I encourage you to look closely at how your audience receives information, and meld your marketing to their preferences. While there are no new ideas on how to compel an audience to react, there are plenty of new methods and technologies that separate the the winners from the losers.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Taking Care of Your Greatest Marketing Resource

Your top marketing resource for growth is at your office every day – your employees!

We produced a day and 1/2 company retreat for the commercial banking division of a large bank; an awards banquet followed by a state-of-the-bank day. While the agenda could have been serious and somber following a strict agenda and protocol, this bank chose to make room for what should be treated seriously and also fun and camaraderie.

The senior executives where warm and friendly, poked fun at themselves from the podium and created a "family"atmosphere – not an experience in reinforced hierarchy, and included everyone in the room. I witnessed real bonding among the employees, attentiveness to company goals and an honest exchange of "how can we do even more than we're doing now?".

I am certain every employee will charge back to their offices filled with renewed vigor and create a marketing tsunami in each of their markets – through effort, word-of-mouth and committed enthusiasm.

How often do you pause to recruit and renew your greatest marketing resource?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to be Heard When Stepping Up to a Microphone

In my current business, most of the "talent" at the mic are executives given the role of Emcee or award winners asked to say a few words. As a Sound Engineer trying to control sound while many people step up to speak at a large audience event, I have a few suggestions:

  • Adjust the microphone, as you step to the podium, to about 6" to 10" from your mouth. The sound engineer will handle volume. But, adjust the mic to be the right distance for you!
  • You definitely do not want to get too close to the mic. It will pick up every puff and breath you take and sound terrible. 
  • Project when you speak. Talk with force and conviction. Using your soft spoken little girl or little guy voice will not work.
  • DO NOT tap the mic with your hand to check if it is "live"!! Instead, look at your sound engineer for a signal or sign that says, "yes, you are good to go."
  • If you are holding a wireless mic or wearing a lavalier or madonna mic, NEVER go near a speaker. The feedback will cause hearing loss!
  • Definitely perform a pre-show sound check. I can set levels and sound to be perfect for your time on-stage.
It is the little details that make or break an event for me and our crew. We want to deliver the best event, every time, for every person. Sound may be the most important thing within the experience.

If you want to be the best talent or recipient, consider... there is a crew of people trying to make you look really good in your moment! Our recommendations do make sense.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Relationships is the Key to New Opportunties

Whatever success I have created or enjoyed has come from bring connected to other people. Not from applying to blind employment ads or knocking on unknown doors, but simply being connected and having conversations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Practice Your Elevator Pitch – It Makes a Difference

Today we shot video of senior executives, owners and CEOs from 24 companies that had been nominated for an annual business recognition program (Association for Corporate Growth-Orange County, Annual Awards Gala). Lots of fun and incredible people!

The set-up: Executives come to a central location where they are able to network with other nominees and sponsors, spend time with the judging panels talking about their company, and sit for a brief video session so we can gather footage for playback during the Gala event.

During the taping session one of the statements the executives were asked to make was, "In 30 seconds or less, describe what your company does". The results were very telling.

  • Executives that did the recording session before participating in the networking or time with the judging panel struggled to be concise and confident in describing their company. It usually took several minutes and multiple attempts before we had video we could work from.
  • Executives that networked and sat in front of the judging panel before being in front of the camera nailed it almost every time, the first time. And, they spoke with passion and confidence.
The difference of course is the the latter group, in the moment, had time to practice. They were meeting new people and had to constantly answer the "What does your company do?" question, and talk about the category in which they were nominated. The former group came in cold.

I am certain the former group thought hard about what to say about their company, maybe even had a prepared script they wrote themselves or received from their marketing people. But, there is no experience like being "on the spot" and answering questions.

My recommendation: Practice, practice, practice. Not just out-loud to yourself in your car or office. Practice in front of people – your staff, your marketing department, your family... ANYONE! Your ability to tell people what you do without the experience turning into an epic could be the difference between interest and boredom. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Job Choices for Well-Seasoned Marketing Veterans'

Being a "well-seasoned" marketer (meaning fast approaching 60 y/o and more than 35 years as a marketer), making a choice on what to do next is narrowed by time, experience and consideration by potential employers. As an incredibly experienced marketer there is no marketing position in my industry I could not perform well – yet most positions are no longer a good match; in challenge for me; the perception of potential employers; or how I'd like to complete my career (whether in 4 years or 15).

The list of choices as I see it are:

  • CMO at large department company (which for me is at a professional services firm)
  • Marketing, Networking or Leadership consultant
  • Professional speaker or author
  • Leadership/firm mentor
  • Create a training program or trainer for an existing training company
  • Sales and/or marketing for a company selling to the professional services industry
  • Freelance marketing contributor (such as writing, graphics, project management)
  • Doing something completely different and maintaining a satisfactory lifestyle
There may be other directions, but to stay specifically within the professional services industry these are the most choices.

Each choice comes with advantages, limitations, skill sets and an individuals desire. For instance, being an account or sales executive has never been attractive to me. No gonna happen. On the other hand, being a trainer or mentor feels like a great fit.

For me, a choice is at hand – what is next? If you have ideas, let me know, or wait to find out which direction I choose.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Context = Relevance

This post by Thom Singer about the desire to be relevant caused me to think about all of the incredible personalities I've encountered over the years, and which actually have been relevant to me. Thom's bullets are smack on – and I will venture to add one more:
  • The person with the largest context is the most relevant. Be the person with the largest context.
Context is equal to; what drives me, a higher purpose, a theme, a reason for being. It encompasses not just what I want but what I want for others. It is a state of both humble and proud, quietly working and loudly proceeding.

Every person I can think of that has been relevant to me embodied the qualities Thom pointed out, and they had incredible context. What they said and did mattered to everyone around themselves.

What this looks like is: Sitting in a meeting where purpose and direction are going six ways to Sunday, all of the participants explaining, pleading, arguing for their point of view and no progress is being made in any direction. In walks the person with a greater context... with just a few words the meeting is rocketing forward and everyone is excited to contribute to "where we are going now".

I encourage you to look at why you're attempting to do what you do, find what really motivates you and turn that into a greater context. You will be more relevant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Begin Your Presentation with the Result in Mind

Working the last few years as a promoter and event producer I've seen all sides of people either exciting their audience or boring them to death. The "boring them" part is too easy a trap (the result of doing the same thing as everyone else time after time). The difference I've noticed between great and grinding is how the presenter approached their presentation.

What is incredibly successful is:
  • Don't think about what you want your audience to know about you! Instead think about what the audience wants for themselves.
  • Don't think about what your audience will be saying on the way into your presentation. Instead plan for what you want your audience to be saying on the way out of your event.
  • Start your presentation prep from the conclusion, and back into the opening remarks. It is amazing how differently your event will look when you begin with the end as your starting point.
  • Be a story-teller. No one is excited by facts (unless you're a systems engineer listening to the spec's list on the latest Android chip). Make your presentation about real people, their challenges and their successes.
  • Focus on connecting with your audience and creating relationships. Engage individuals from the audience, hear their voices and include them in a conversation – not "let me tell you, it's all about me".

Over the years I have attended hundreds of presentations, maybe even thousands. Unfortunately it's been rare that a presentation was exciting, different, engaged me and caused me to think differently...

And that is your opportunity! If you begin with the result in mind you will have leaped over 90% of your competition. I challenge you to try it – begin with your result in mind.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Way to Make an Annual Sales Meeting Incredibly Engaging

Merit Property Management held their annual sales meeting this week at the Irvine Marriott — about 570 of their people in the room for the day. The program held the usual content of company updates, awards for successes and a fun series of videos we helped them produce. And mid-afternoon they did something that really blew me away!

The Chief Administration officer took to the stage and asked everyone to clear their tables of all content as a score of people started passing out gift bags to each table. As part of their annual meetings, beginning last year, they have determined to make charitable giving a part of the program. This year’s activity — care packages for military men and women serving overseas (last year they made blankets for children in need).

First they honored the existing veterans within the room and launched into preparing the care packages. Each table created a Hero’s t-shirt (drawing or writing whatever they wanted on a white t-shirt with colored markers), wrote personalized messages on provided thank you cards, and then filled a shipping box with multiple items purchased by Merit specifically for the packages. They had even done their homework and spoke with military representatives to find out what items a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine would want to receive.

Maybe this is something other companies are already doing … it was a first for me and I was moved. The activity was energizing, people were really engaged, there was a lot of laughter and I witnessed how it drew their workforce together.

I look forward to recommending this type of activity to everyone of our clients. I hope you pass it forward with your company.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Short Riff on Attorneys Photos

Photos are a funny thing -- they capture our image in a instant and live forever as a projection of whom we are. And sometimes, a photo is the first time a potential client get a visual impression to match to a name.

So, what do your photos communicate?

Remember, attorneys are the product a client buys. While the brand reputation of a law firm is amazingly important a buyer ultimately makes a choice for the product. Understand there is a difference between the knowledge of an attorney and the personality of an attorney. Knowledge is the commodity -- personality is unique.

Do your photos reflect the unique personalities of individual lawyers?

There are so many great photographers out there that can produce much more than chest-up head shots half turned in front of a mottled blue canvas backdrop! Our lawyers deserve more than a photo one step better than a drivers license capture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conversation Starters

It's an age old dilemma when meeting new people at a business event. “If I meet someone what am I going to say?” You wonder how to start a conversation and worry that you’ll sound silly commenting on the usual stuff like sports scores and the weather for the billionth time. Here’s how to change that.

When you say hello and he/she responds with the usual, “How are you?”, answer in this way:

“Today I am feeling ____(see list of feelings below) because ______.”

The list of feelings you can choose from are: Loving | Joyful | Happy | Peaceful | Grateful | Fearful | Angry | Sad | Hurt.

Do not use any other words
. It might sound something like this:

Them: “How are you?”
You: “Thanks for asking. Today I am feeling peaceful because most of the things I wanted to get done this week have been accomplished.”

The reason it works is that you are answering with openness and honesty -- actually opening the door to a more meaningful conversation. Your answer will create questions and off you go on a great conversation!

What about the words fear, anger, sad and hurt. Should you use them? Absolutely. If it is what you are feeling, say it. “Today I am feeling angry (or) sad because it cost me $50 to fill my gas tank.” “Today I am feeling hurt because a long time friend in moving back east.”

It is the open and honest sharing that will win you a new friend!

This works when you state feelings and reasons that are real. Connecting with people requires a little risk… take the chance so that you can reap the reward.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Your Reputation is Your Brand

Its been said you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat waiters and waitresses in restaurants -- and I agree that is a pretty accurate barometer. In the business of professional services the brand of a firm is so closely linked to the personality and character of its partners that it can be said the reputation of one partner will be the brand for all.

At one firm I've worked with there was a partner that was smooth as silk in his treatment of client executives yet, was a caustic, rude man to everyone else including the non-executive staff at his client companies. When a client would finally say (and eventually most of them did), 'enough is enough,' and went looking for new representation, there was nothing we could do as a firm to salvage the business. We were told quite often that any firm that allowed that type of behavior was not the firm they wanted to be with....

If you struggle to understand how to create or affect your firms brand, just look to its smallest parts; the reputation of your individual partners. What is their reputation both inside and outside the walls of your office? Ask your clients for their opinion of the people in your firm and then ask them about their opinion of your firm in total. You’ll find the two sound very much alike.

Your reputation is your brand.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Working an Event in 60 Minutes or Less

UPDATE: 'Tis the holiday season -- family, tradition, joy. . . and business related celebrations -- too many to count. Right now is a great time to reinvigorate, renew and begin great relationships! I am reaching back into my archives this holiday season to bring back some of the most popular posts on event networking -- tips and ideas that will help you make the most of this December.

Working an Event in 60 Minutes or Less
I attend more than 150 business events events every year. That's a lot of crackers, cucumbers, cheese, cheap wine and name badge spotting. Phew! It takes its toll and I'm not always capable of handling a full two to four hour production from start to finish. During heavy event seasons I've also had to cover two or more events in one evening. And, sometimes work or life commitments dictate how quickly I need to leave. Whatever the reason I've learned a few things about maximizing an event without attending for the duration.
  • Arrive early -- (when possible) I might be the first person there. This allows me time to talk with organizers, association principles, etc. These are all good connections to have and explore. They can key me in on expected attendees, future activities and opportunities.
  • Read the names on the badges at the registration table. I like knowing whom I might meet; prospects, clients, competitors, referral resources, etc.
  • Once people start flowing in I stay near the entrance to the main networking area. People are more capable of being easily engaged in conversation earlier than later. Plus, I will have a better chance of meeting everyone I want to meet. More importantly I am seen by a maximum of attendees. Being seen is almost as important as being known.
  • If I must visit the bar or food tables -- I greet someone and invite them to join me. From the front door almost everyone is headed to one of those two places as their next stop after registration.
  • I offer to bring drinks to a gaggle of people. They will definitely include me in their conversation when I return and people feel good about people that pamper them.
  • After about 30 minutes, when the crowd has really grown and a good buzz is happening I walk from the entrance to the furthest point away in the networking space. Along the way I greet people I know but haven't spoken with yet, I wave and nod at people I've already talked to, and smile at as many people as look me in the eye.
  • Once at the back of the room I survey the room for a cluster of VIPs hoping I know someone in the gathering. If so... that's where I'm headed. If not, I look for a fellow service provider to discuss who is attending. What we can do together is make mutual introductions and share information/insight about people in the room.
  • When the event is 45 minutes old I have pretty much "worked" the room and can start toward the exit much like I entered; nodding, shaking hands, and smiling.
What I have accomplished is immense! I was seen by many, I appeared to be known by many, I made all-important connections (and set up opportunities for private meetings), and been a contributor to the all important buzz of an event.

For the record let me say that I think it is bad form to leave early. For all of the effort that individuals put into an event -- it is the decent thing to stay to the end (I hope for the same from attendees at events that I orchestrate). But, at every event it is not possible for me to stay as it is not possible for everyone that shows up.

If you find that your time is limited these where just a few ideas for making the journey productive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Dangers of Reading from a Script or Teleprompter

I helped produce an awards event this evening -- each presenter was reading from a teleprompter. And each presenter sounded like he/she was reading from a teleprompter -- flat delivery, stumbling over complex sentences and dry humor delivered like a news story. OOF! The best moments of the evening came when award recipients were given the podium to make a few off-the-cuff comments (no script).

A truth is that most business and community event presenters are not professional actors or Emcees. It's just us regular folk. Someone hands us a script or tells us to look at the teleprompter and off we go hoping not to look the fool.... Here are a few suggestions for injecting a bit more personality and fun back into scripted events:
  • Hire a coach to work with your presenters for an hour or two. A good coach will offer valuable instruction on voice modulation, engaging the audience and working with the script, not for it.
  • Don't put humor in the script word-for-word. Instead put a placeholder in the script and have the presenter practice his/her delivery.
  • Place reminders in the script for the presenter to look at and talk with the audience.
  • Have the presenters read through and rehearse BEFORE the day of the event.
A great presenter, to me, is one who sounds like he/she is using his/her own words to engage me in the importance of what is being said. This can only happen with coaching, preparation and passion.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

MC Joins The Showpros Group

I have joined The Showpros Group -- in a more real light, I have joined with John Brown, an exceptional individual!

This is quite the move for me. After more than 16 years marketing law and accounting firms I have chosen to go over to the other side and become a vendor -- and am happy for the move.

What John does is create exceptional audience experiences. John has been my go-to guy for a long time and I'm so excited to be a part of what he creates. What we can create together is yet to be seen, but I have to say, I am so excited to be back on the creative side of performing extraordinary!

Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

One Relationship is Better Than One Hundred Acquaintances

What is the price of one great business relationship? Could it be worth the cost of your annual marketing budget? I bet the answer is, "YES!"