June 2009


Other links: Social Media Statistics and Tracking Sites

B2B Marcom can be loads of fun, shhhhhh, don’t tell!  Every so often, I’ll dig back here to some adventures and some of the lessons learned.  For the newly hired and/or newly minted, a Marcom assignment offers up the chance for grand fun while serving the greater outbound good – if you prime yourself to be nimble and open to the opportunities.

Before American Idol there was Star Search.  And that’s where this story starts…

Sawyer BrownLesson Learned:  Trusted networks, then as well as now, are vital resources that can be tapped for learning and execution.  You don’t have to be an “everything expert” so long as you know where to turn and when to go looking. Reach out, face-to-face.

It’s been a particularly difficult week for celebrities (we’ve seen the passing of MJ, Billy, and Charlie’s brightest angel – and Johnny’s sidekick and Star Search provocateur, Ed McMahon), the Star Search clips of Britney’s “discovery” brought back to mine my own brush with the soon-to-be famous: in this case country-western singer Mark Miller and his band, Sawyer Brown.

The year was 1983.  I was directing outbound marketing for a Fortune 200 heavy-industry ingredient brand.  We were on the cusp of launching an oil product aimed at the long-haul trucker.  Could there be any better solution than a Nashville, TN country song to spur on sales?  The target community was awash in CB radio use, boot and denim, and the strategies all aligned.  We needed only to solve for the music piece w/in a not so generous budget.  

Tapping what today would be called my “trusted network”, a friend of a friend knew a songwriter/producer.  A quick call produced the recommendation to use the contry/rock group, Sawyer Brown – at the time, unknown but on the verge of possible discovery.  They were competing on Star Search, hosted by McMahon, but had not yet won.  For pre-star dollars, we brought the five youngsters into studio and recorded various music beds, a long-score lyrics single and several 0:30 cuts for radio commercial use.

Two weeks later, Sawyer Brown won the show.  Recording contracts followed, and my company had rights to promote a  “name” recording star associated w/our product launch.  And, 25 years later, the band continues to shine brightly.

Pure Fun:  The Nashville Music Scene.  I was able to taste the Nashville music scene, watch/learn as some of the best studio musicians and Miller’s band brought our lyrics to life, and walked away with valuable experience along my Marcom path.  Oh, and that oil product?  The Sawyer Brown commercial has long since faded and been forgotten but the oil I helped launch is still out there and selling strong.  And, I have a framed, signed original of the music score in my home office.  Marcom… How cool is that!

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Spectrum_by_GRlMGORColor: Updated with new parody and spoof videos, and some all-time favorites.  Think the Agency-Client business is all work/no play?  Watch a few of these for a  perspective that’s too-funny to ignore.  Adding for the first time, marketing spoofs.  Send me your nominations and/or suggestions.  The laughs just keep coming.  Link to the previous listing here.  Other fun stuff:  Marketing Jargon Gone Wild. 

A Charlie Brown Ad Agency

When I grow up, I wanna work in Advertising

Exploding Paint

UPS Whiteboard Spot Spoof

You Gotta Know Inbound

Viral Marketing

… And Three All Time Favorites

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Ad/Media Sales 

Clients (Behaving Badly) 

 

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Audience s are groups you speak at.  Communities are groups you have a dialogue with.

Who you elect to target, your mindset for the targeting, makes all the difference.

“Communities”aren’t new.  We all have them/are part of them.  Growing up, our communities were classmates… teammates… the neighborhood gaggle.  In business, they are our colleagues, clients and industry groups.  Communities are the safe, trusted places where we test ideas, explore innovation, ask for help and seek resources.  Communities require participation – to have community requires you to be community.

segmentsThe implications for Agency and Marketing Communications professionals are large.  Messaging to an interactive community is so different an approach than if you messaging to a target audience segment.  Just look at the word characterization I instinctively chose for each:  “audience segment” (distanced, cold, passive);  “interactive”  (collaborative, dynamic, warm/fuzzy).

It’s difficult for an audience segment/target never invests personally your the message.  But if you can tap into community, behaviors are much more likely to be impacted.

Think through the distinction as your next campaign readies for launch, as you evolve strategies for you next outbound initiative.  The approach and metrics may look quite different, as you do.

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Other posts worth a look:  MDF and Ptnr Mktg      Agencies Behaving Badly  

message post illustrationEver been here?  … marketing stakeholders disrupted and disconnected from what should be a common messaging platform… having to navigate how to support one product launch in the context of another…  or worse?

It should be simple, straightforward, but often isn’t.   Case in point, our tech-industry Marcom team was asked recently to troubleshoot a technology messaging discussion which required that two adjacent Business Units align to support the launch of a new product family into a downstream Channel segment in the context of many previous months of OEM messaging.  The minefield:  mediate and message the same underlying technology against different end-customer value propositions.

Adding to the urgency were: tight deadlines, changing market strategy, a complimentary product acquisition, and a silo’d marketing motion hampered by geography, new managers and new organizations.

The BU team tasked with the new product family launch loudly maintained that marketplace messages weren’t yet defined, and that messaging was yet to be written – despite production and distribution of several FLASH modules, a press release , a product sales promotion flyer and a global, customer rollout looming just six-weeks away.  The OEM-side BU team was baffled that the Channel team seemed to want to ignore the market conditioning and technology leadership context build previously, and disputed that the market audience targets could be isolated.

None of the leads were inexperienced; all believed in doing the right thing.  What resulted, however, was a clear disconnect and loss of opportunity to leverage previous messaging groundwork.  While BUs drive messaging, Marcom can/should drive the process of getting there, sanity checking the strategy, and to write craft both a message matrix and the respective message specifics, given target audiences.

I offered up the following framework to prompt cross-BU collaboration. 

  • A brief briefing call:  30 minutes.  Get the principal stakeholders in a room/on a call and talking.  Keep it small, just the core team who really care.  Don’t presume alignment from previous discussion.  Start fresh. Ignore all the previous calls and emails.  Start completely over. I asked the Channel launch lead for a 5 minute summary of his marketing requirements/needs; then the OEM lead took 5 minutes to paint the context and previous market conditioning.  The remaining time was a free-flowing discussion. 
  •  First, propose themes, not messages:  Following the client discussion, get in a corner w/your internal team and brainstorm themes, not messages.  Avoid the clammer to jump immediately to copy writing.  In this case, our internal Marcom team devised four messaging “themes” then did a brief follow-up call w/the core BU teams/leads to discuss, tweak and finalize.  The goal was to establish a benchmark approach against which the later specific messages could be validated.  
  •  Now, add the context:  With theme alignment, our internal Marcom team then layered in reminders of corporate brand pillars and did a recap of the technology messaging foundation that had been put into place from the OEM side.  Of course these were always present in the background but having the discipline to write it all down was a step that assured all parties were paying attention to the corporate context.  One outcome was discovery that several of the core stakeholders were not aware of corporate positioning and branding. This step moved fase.  All this was able tomoved very quickly (remember the urgency of the product family launch).  Don’t let time pressure cause you to skip steps.
  • Propose messaging platforms:  Formalize a messaging platform presentation.  We elected to build a short powerpoint foil set rather than using a Word doc or just discussion.  Building a formal presentation itself demonstrated thoughtfulness and commitment, beyond the content.   Prior to the formal presentation, we soft-sold/tested the recommendations 1:1 to understand and address concerns.  Don’t try to solve/answer every single questions ahead of time.  Seek open, authentic discussion.  But… have a structure, rationale for the recommendations and align stakeholders to the process and end goal(s).  Our results were positive and permitted us to launch on the same call to an audience target and  message matrix discussion.  You might find that this is better done in separate meetings.  Our messaging platform consisted of 4 key statements under each approved theme;  eg, a theme of “value” was translated into a messaging platform of “price/margin”… the theme of “brand/trust” was translated into a messaging platform statement such as “unique product DNA and breadth”.  From the messaging platform statements come the actual message matrix tailored to individual audience target segments.
  • Audience targets for the message matrix framework: Has two parts you must walk thru:  Audience Targets, and the Message Statements specific to those respective audiences.  Don’t forget to consider internal audiences (sales force, employees) and external, adjacent audiences:  competitors, stock holders/analysts, customer segments for other BU groups.  Also, consider audiences that are more “means to an end” than end targets themselves.  An example of this might be trade press journalists where you’re seeking coverage of your message but the real target is the reader, not the writer.   A sample matrix might look like:
(Messagine Platform) Connectivity Price-Margin Brand Value
Our Internal Sales Force      
Reseller Network      
Tier II OEM Management      
Tier I OEM Engineering Mgmt      
Trade Media/Journalists      

 

  • Now, write the specific messages:  Now you get to do what everyone wanted to do at the beginning… write the specific message statements.   But by using a framework and process, you have validation points to proof against, not just opinions and disconnected ideas.   You could elect to fill out the matrix with strawman statements as a starting point… or partially populate a few of the rows as an example and thought starter… or go in “blank” and do it live.  So long as the end result is a completed document that the stakeholders bless, your mission is accomplished.   Once completed, and as a proof point, our Marcom team went the next step to show both BU leads how the new messaging would implement.  We took an actual sales launch piece already in circulation, re-worked it using matrix messages to re-hone the piece. 

Benefits of having a matrix and putting the core team thru an alignment process in the context of brand, positioning and existing market conditioning was that for future work, not just the launch itself, there was now a benchmark to reference.  At the end of this exercise, we learned there was a large advertising campaign being developed.  The message matrix could now be used to more crisply discuss audience priorities and target ad spending discussions.

A caution:  guard against confusing the “messsaging platform”” step with the “specific message ” step.  The former sets direction, the latter is where you craft  language related to a specific target audience.   The BU teams walked away pleased, and with documentation that could be share and used to manage.  Marcom demonstrated its value-add role and reinforced the science and expertise available.  Now, it’s a matter of being accountable during the execution steps to the agreed upon messages and targets.  Not entirely easy, but that’s a topic for a future blog…

Please weigh-in:  Have you faced similar challenges?  Would this approach be useful?  Would welcome feedback and commentary.

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Spectrum_by_GRlMGORColor, Fun for Thought:  Marketeers gotta walk the talk, if you want to be in the game.  Here’s a beginning collection of terms and terminology gaining traction, and several sources well worth the bookmark.  If you’re feeling busted by the distinctions between Twubes and Twitches, or just plain curious about marketing jargon gone wild – check ’em out. 

Send me your nominations.

Trends Rising

Crowdsourcing and what it means for innovation.

Trust Agent – Using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust. 

Lingo Worth Some Love

*  Flog:  Fake blog, eg marketing folx pretending to be interested third-party leaving reviews of their own products/blog posts.

*  Dark Marketing – Discreetly sponsored online entertainment.

*  Relanguage – $200 word used in place of the $5 variety:  reword, rephrase or rewrite.

*  (oldy but goodie) Reasonable Facsimile – blast from the distant past, as in the old ad pitch: “send in three cornflake boxtops (to qualify your entry in x contest), or a “reasonable facsimile”.  For months as a child I searched for that magical key: reasonable facsimile that was to be my key to the kingdom.

* Warchalking – wall tags that wireless hackers place to mark nearby networking nodes that can be tapped for free.

Sites Worth the Bookmark

Jargon Watch – Where MBA business buzzwords go to die.

Wired Magazine’s Jargon Watch

DoubleTongued Dictionary

For more substance on the care and feeding of Agency-Client Relationships, check out these links:

Agencies Behaving Badly

The Client-Side:  A Marcom Mirror

MDF and Co-Marketing Primer

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Spectrum_by_GRlMGORColor, Current Events: The characters and video recaps (fyi, accessing the video takes a registration – well worth it) from the NY140 Character Conference, June 16-17. Follow @140conf on Twitter for updates.  Next up in the fall will be confs in LA and London.  Follow me on Twitter @CarlsonCOS .

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0611_unwanted_behaviorWith the  interest in Thursday’s post “Agencies Behaving Badly”, I was prompted to update a post from last May concerning Client-side Marketing/Marcom Manager Behavior.   To be fair, Agencies don’t own all the blame for relationships going south. 

The story below suggests a solution path for Marcom buyers and the need for those of us working on the Client-side to hold up a mirror, not just scapegoat our Agency service providers.

On a team call recently, a younger colleague of mine related his frustrations as a product introduction was winding toward outbound launch.  Beyond the usual grumble, the frustration level boiled hot as he described working w/a new Agency creative team, juggling internal support resources, and the inevitable complex approval cycles required to align to messaging requirements and corporate branding standards. Knowing both sides and the shared commitment, I wondered what was really causing the project to go south – to clearly be ending up at a place where neither Agency nor client felt it was a job best done?

I’ll offer up a four-point checklist for self-evaluation if your day-to-day involves managing Ad, Web, Marcom or PR projects using outside support.

  • Partnership:  Behave/become a collaborator, don’t act like Purchasing.  This isn’t to say don’t negotiate… isn’t to say roll over and don’t demand accountability; but if you solely squeeze for every nickel and pound during every step, outcomes will reflect that tone and approach.  For me, this is first, second and third on the “learn first lis” – and unfortunately the adversarial trend as a client  approach to Agency conversations is one I see more and more of these days.  Also, it’s a two way street: Agencies that go for the quick client kill rather than expend the effort required for a long term relationship seems to be becoming the norm.  Perhaps a sign of tight economic times and lack of demonstrated client loyalty (subject of a future blog) the Agency team.  Would love feedback on the Agency-Client relationship model.
  • Empathy: the ability to understand another’s emotions/feelings; awareness of another’s point of view and the ability to imagine an answer.  Once you demonstrate an understanding of Agency pain points and the tension resulting from multiple clients/projects compete for the same shrinking resources.  On both sides, don’t pander with arbitrary padded deadlines.  Being truthful contributes to credibility and builds trust.  Projects always involve compromise. With empathy, better decisions can be made on when to compromise (subject of a future blog) and/or how to navigate to a solution w/out compromise.
  • Knowledge:  I’ll lay this one mostly at clients’ feet.  The best buyers have the ability to walk the talk.  Nothing gains a client more credibility w/Agency counterparts than the ability to debate/discuss production and problem solve during the project process.  (Nothing usually shocks Agency folx more than when a client actually demonstrates this understanding and knowledge)  I find that the creative teams love it… the account teams/Agency managers cringe in fear, often because the Agency account teams (sadly) don’t know the landscape any better than most clients do.  Too young, too inexperienced, too focused on sales rather than the disciplines of communication – pick you reason.  Buyers who are able to get beyond the Agency’s account team layer and go hands-on w/the creative types will win big.  High risk, Agencies will say, because clients don’t know how to talk to creative.  But that’s the point, clients must learn/must be able to do so.  
  • Communicate:  Seems simple, but when the project or relationship isn’t working, ask both sides and I’ve found often that each were guilty of one or several communication sins: talking past each other, talking at the wrong level (ie believing that paper managers not the real leads could solve things), or just plain not talking at all but thinking that they were.  In the fray, step back from the tactical turmoil and check yourself:  over-communicating is never wrong;  if someone is pinging you for detail, they haven’t heard your previous answer no matter how many times you think you’ve given it.  Postpone your frustration and pick up the phone.  Trading email isn’t the way to project manage in a crisis.  Go F2F if you can… at worst, pick up the phone.  And remember, no answer isn’t an answer.

 Please weigh-in with your experiences

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