Thursday, January 31, 2008

12 Things About Marketing I Learned By 52 That I Wish I Knew At 30

I ran across an interesting article titled 12 Things I Learned By 42 That I Wish I Knew At 22 and it got me to thinking about marketing and what I know now that could have been so useful much earlier in my career. Here are a few things that come to mind:
  1. There is no such thing as a marketing emergency. Marketing project deadlines are almost always created internally -- some date or time is pulled out of the air by someone trying to over-perform or exceed a perceived expectation. While this rule has exceptions there have been so many times I stressed out to deliver against imagined urgency.
  2. Emotion trumps logic. While people state logic to justify a decision the real choice is always made in the gut. I spent so many years creating communications material that highlighted features and benefits -- later I learned that what people really want is a good story that tugs at what they love, fear, or are passionate about.
  3. I cannot make anyone change. I would love that what I create in branding, marketing or communication programs enables an epiphany for everyone I target -- but that's not going to happen. What I know now is that I must plan into any strategy I develop the time it takes for people come around to the ideas I am promoting. People DO change but is a choice they have to arrive at in their own good time.
  4. People do change. Great marketing does enable people to arrive at a point of change. While I cannot control how long it takes for them to arrive there, if I offer them truth they will arrive none-the-less.
  5. White-space is my friend. Five good words in 12 point font in the middle of a blank sheet of paper have far greater impact than 1000 great words on the same page. People love to be teased, to be intrigued and to imagine for themselves what my words mean for them. White space = dream space.
  6. Red means strong. There are so many colors, each evoking different emotions to different people. But red, the color so vibrant and energetic, is the exclusive color of passion and strength. It is like the rail gun of colors. Use it wisely and people cannot help but to pay attention.
  7. Good people and vendors never cost too much. The last marketing coordinator I hired I would have tripled her salary if it was in my power. Her ROI was far beyond the any industry average for salary scales. The difference that great people and vendors make is so huge it should never be negotiable.
  8. My ideas are not always the answer. It was so easy when I was younger to dig in my heels against any marketing idea that did not match my thinking. It turns out there are so many ways for one thing to work and I benefit by being open to exploring every idea, even if it is not my own.
  9. Nothing is outside the box. People state they want "outside the box" but what they are really saying is "offer me something that is different but not too different". The "box" is an imaginary place of social norms that define what we can or cannot expect. Great marketing is about staying in the box, but being in a part of the box less populated by anyone else.
  10. Untruths in marketing are stupid. I once had an executive tell me that it's not important for people to know us, it's important for them to believe us. Over the years I learned that communicating the truth about a person or a firm is the best way to land truly loyal, happy and profitable clients.
  11. Never be your own proof-reader. Ever. One letter out of place, two letters transposed, a period where it does not belong and suddenly my masterpiece becomes a great debacle. And reading it backwards or upside down is not a great trick for catching mistakes. Just give it up and ask someone else to read it -- maybe even two or three people.
  12. There are no new ideas in marketing, just new perspectives. Just older and less used ideas that could be reborn (remember the box in #9). I have a copy of a sales training manual from the year 1917 that teaches the very same principles taught by IBM, Saturn and Merrill Lynch today. These days retro graphic design is the new cool and the marketing things we did in the '70's and '80's is just waiting to come around again. I no longer frustrate to reinvent the wheel (or communications piece) -- I just look for ideas in the part of the box that people have not visited for a while.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is Marketing as Easy as It Looks? (With a Culinary Twist)

I confess to being a closet executive chef. I can never be asked enough to journey to the home of a friend or business associate to prepare the meal for their dinner party or gathering. I am as addicted to watching the Food Channel as others are to catching the latest episode of "24". What can I say? I love slicing, dicing, the smell of garlic searing in a hot pan, and the challenge of bringing together several recipes to create a culinary moment.

Over the years I have cooked for as few as four and as many as 60 -- so far the reviews have been great.

So what does this have to do with marketing you ask? Well, maybe, everything. It turns out that culinary skills are often perceived in the same light as marketing skills. Everyone thinks it looks easy and discount the efforts of professionals (or want-to-be professional chefs like me).

Several weeks ago I prepared a wonderful Chicken Cacciatore on a bed of Creamy Corn Polenta. After the meal, like so many times the host asked for the recipe, which I happily provided. A few weeks later she called to say that she had prepared the same meal but it just didn't come out nearly as good. She wondered what secret I'd withheld.

And here is the secret of being a good chef or a marketer of professional services -- experience. As a marketer or chef I feel confident in my skills to adjust a program or recipe as each experience develops. Every situation (or recipe) never develops the same way because the circumstances are always changing. And, I knew how to plate the food in such a way that even before the first bite everyone was expecting incredible taste.

My message today is that anyone can be a great marketer or chef, but it is not as easy as it looks. Unless you have invested a lot of time to be good at either your best move is hire one when your need is now.

For the record, there are so many chefs out there that leave me in their dust. While I do prepare (hopefully every time) great meals I am definitely in awe of the Emeril's and Tyler's of this world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Great PR Comes From Great PR Professionals

It is no secret that getting your name in print is foundational in marketing your firm or practice. Unfortunately too many people believe that whipping out a press release and faxing or emailing it to reporters and editors is all it takes. If that was all it takes, how is it that some names appear so much more often than others -- and I've heard from so many stating their releases never get printed.

Here is how great PR really happens: Hire a PR professional -- period.

When I was at Rutan & Tucker we had Dan Pittman (Pittman & Associates) on retainer. Dan put the Rutan name in print so often not a week passed that the firm was named in a media outlet. I can actually only recall one time that we pushed out a release that was not picked up by media.

What a PR professional like Dan delivers is relationships with editors and reporters, an experienced understanding of what gets printed, and the time it takes to follow-up on everything sent to media. What he delivers, in spades, is your name in print.

Always, always hire a good, professional PR person like Dan to handle your media desires. The investment is worth every penny!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Creating Personal Buzz in the Business Community

I spoke to a packed room of great executives this morning at the Orange County chapter meeting of ExecuNet. The topic was "Creating Personal Buzz" and I would love to share all that I spoke of this morning. . . but then that would not be fair to the people that paid to hear me ramble. I do hope they got more than just rambling and it was fun to talk about something I am passionate about.

This afternoon, after I'd been mulling over my presentation for a few hours it did occur to me that my talk had a greater theme than just steps to create buzz (or personal brand), something I hope the audience got even as I did not articulate it exactly.

What I missed saying out loud was the foundation of anyone with a prominent personal brand -- their seemly innate ability to project quality of self, their unwillingness to be associated with anything less than the best, and the confidence they project beyond themselves.

Now that's not so hard is it (he states sideways)? In truth it is the most easy thing to do, but it might take some time for it to become easy.

I know a lot of people that follow most of the steps I outlined this morning for creating personal buzz yet very few of them stand out in the bigger picture. I think it's because they don't yet believe in themselves. And that is the difference. Self.

I would encourage anyone trying to stand out in a crowd to first look at how they feel about themselves, make that whole, and then just go out and confidently be you. Your brand will be rewarded exponentially.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What Barrett-Jackson Affirms About Event Strategy

I have been watching the 2008 edition of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, AZ over the last four days (always an entertaining watch). Running over six days they consistently offer the most sought-after cars in the world for auction with no-reserve bidding. The auction draws huge volumes of rich elite and celebrities from racing, entertainment, and industry. It is a BIG deal!

What has any of this to do with marketing legal or professional services? Well, it is simply an event. A well executed, highly publicized event to be sure, but no different than any conference, seminar or gala.

Certain patterns were still there:
  • The event started slow with crowds building to a zenith on Saturday.
  • Cars brought to the auction block were carefully staged toward the Saturday peak (of highest ticket potential buyers)
  • The events highest "celebrity per frame" value peaked on Saturday.
  • Sunday still offered great cars to auction but to a significantly reduced audience. Most high-rollers were already gone or heading out the door (lots of empty seats).
It is so wonderful to watch a world-class company like Barrett-Jackson dealing with the same event issues as the rest of us. As marketers we are constantly trying to overcome event patterns that have existed forever. Even they cannot overcome the problem of dwindling attendance in the waining moments of a great event.

After watching this event and seeing the patterns I encourage you to stop planning for what happens at the end of your event and instead focus on the middle -- the apex. It is the middle part that will live the longest in the memory of your audience.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Price of a Referral Relationship

I get so many calls from quality executives representing good businesses asking for introductions to other professionals that might provide quality referrals. I am happy to open my Rolodex for the right people but, sometimes, the executives I hear from do not understand the price of a referral relationship.

Here is a business truth -- "I would love to help you but what is in it for me?"

"Referrals" is the monetary unit of sale in the business of offering relationships. Not just for me (which of course I have to keep in mind) but also for the person I might connect them to.

Before you call anyone to ask for an introduction do your homework and figure out what you have to offer in trade. Do not EVER ask anyone to step up for you if you are not prepared to reciprocate.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

What kind of person are you when interacting with your staff, fellow attorneys, leadership, clients, or other business people? I think the greatest difficulty any of us face in the workplace are people that approach their position in this world as being "entitled". While I hold no bias between cats and dogs (both have been dear to me), the list below (that I found here) spoke volumes about different people I have encountered at law firms.
  1. Dogs come when you call them. Cats take a message and get back to you when they are good and ready.
  2. Dogs will give you unconditional love forever. Cats will make you pay for every mistake you've ever made since the day you were born.
  3. Dogs will let you give them a bath without taking out a contract on your life.
  4. Dogs will tilt their heads and listen whenever you talk. Cats will yawn and close their eyes.
  5. Dogs will bark to wake you up if the house is on fire. Cats will quietly sneak out the back door.
  6. Dogs will sit, lie down, and heel on command. Cats will smirk and walk away.
  7. Dogs will bring you your slippers or the evening newspaper. Cats might bring you a dead mouse.
  8. Dogs will greet you and lick your face when you come home from work. Cats will be mad that you went to work at all.
  9. Dogs will play Frisbee with you all afternoon. Cats will take a three hour nap.
  10. Dogs will sit on the car seat next to you. Cats have to have their own private box or they will not go at all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Am Not Saying That I Do Not Have Competition, But....

I attended a great networking mixer this evening hosted by the OC Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth and spent the evening pitching my new coaching business (Marketing Catalyst, LLC) to a lot of lawyers, accountants, and many other professional services executives. Much to my delight most of the people I spoke to exclaimed, "What a perfect business for you Bruce, that service is so needed." They would continue, "I have never heard of anyone doing something like that just for lawyers."

Key phrase here, "I have never heard of anyone doing something like that just for lawyers."

I happen to know of several great professionals offering this service to lawyers -- so why don't the lawyers (and so many other professionals) know about this?

Here is a message to my competition -- A big chunk of your target market does not know you are out there. My marketplace believes I am offering a unique service. I am not, but I'm not going to tell anyone anything different.

BTW, by the end of the evening I had confirmed one new client and two on the cusp.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Creating a Personal Brand Statement

I am the featured speaker at a meeting of the Orange County chapter of ExecuNet in a few weeks. It is the first time I am publicly coming out of the blocks as the principal of Marketing Catalyst, LLC. -- what I say about me is incredibly important as it will be the first public statement that defines our brand. Here is what I wrote:

About the Speaker
Speaking to executive audiences across the country, Bruce Allen is an evangelist of innovation in relationship and business development. His presentations are highly motivational, information-rich and always entertaining. As a marketing executive and mentor/coach Bruce has helped companies, firms, executives, and attorneys to take control of their goals and opportunities.

As a Chief Marketing Officer, marketing leader at international firms including Deloitte & Touche and Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and board member for high-growth professional services companies Bruce has proven his ability to create market presence by uncovering and communicating the strengths that already existed in the culture and individuals of the firms he served. Recently Bruce founded Marketing Catalyst LLC, a coaching and mentoring partnership to help attorneys in the challenge to grow their practice and develop the personal marketing skills that will define their success. Bruce is also the author of the top-ranked, on-line journal MarketingCatalyst.

What is weird about this experience is that I am writing about me -- not about an illusionary vision of a collective of attorneys. How can I say good things, hit the truth of whom I am, and not overstate anything about my firm.

This is really hard stuff!

So, I look to you, anyone reading this post, to let me know if I am on-target. Expressing a brand is a very personal business, and a very public one. It is always the public opinion that matters most.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Creating a Brand to Match a Person and an Entity

Now that I am launching Marketing Catalyst as a business I find myself in the brand creation process again. In this case though the brand has to match me exactly while communicating a strong message about a solid business entity (vs. a group of individuals within a larger firm).

Just like any brand project I have started by identifying and writing down everything I can say about myself or my firm that speaks to my/our strengths. At first it was a long list and I am in the process of narrowing the list to less than 10 bullets. These final statements will become the "unique selling points" around which will be built the Marketing Catalyst brand.

I'd like to be able to share them with you right now but alas the last several days have found me tending to family matters.

My Mother passed away as she slept on December 30 after a long battle with deteriorating health. She was 75. It was something that all of my family was prepared for and yet remains a struggle in the end. We gathered in Denver last week to handle arrangements and do the things a family does at these times. I pray my Mother has a final peace.

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