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Entries in marketing (16)



I read a lot of books about leadership and success. I also read a lot of "self help" books, geared mostly toward changing the way you think and behave. I read tons of biographies and case studies. I may or may not read more of these things that you, but I like my odds. 

The thing is, it's not like I started reading these over the weekend. I've spent years reading about ways to improve myself, in every avenue of life. And yet, for the longest time, even though I knew a lot about how to reshape my life into what I wanted it to be, I spent a great deal of my time doing and being the opposite of what I wanted.


There's a pretty simple answer to that, and it's one that makes me want to *head desk.* The fact is, reading tons of books about leadership and success and personal growth is a wonderful tool for getting your brain in gear and learning how to better yourself. But nothing you read is going to matter one bit until you DO SOMETHING.

The secret ingredient for success is action.

It took me a long time to get to that idea, even though I can specifically remember saying it, even as far back as my early 20s. I knew, even then, that knowing something wasn't enough. Acting on what you know is what gets you past ho-hum and into ho-boy!

Goal setting is another area where I've always fallen short. Every single book you read about leadership or sucess of personal growth tells you to write down your goals and revisit them often. I've written down goals over the years, but never really focused on them. I never revisited them. So what good were they? Until I'm ready to review those goals and take action on them, the answer is "not a lot."

As part of goal setting, I've read a lot about creating a "vision board." This is sort of a visual cue for your goals. You create a space where you can hang magazine clippings and photographs and small visual things that remind you of what you're trying to achieve in all areas of your life. Pictures of cars or houses you'd like to own, the physical fitness you'd like to achieve, careers you'd like to get into into. It seems strange, and the idea has been co-opted by some from the "new age" set, but the truth is vision boards are simple marketing in action.

I work in marketing. I know from experience that if you can get someone to identify with your product or service on a personal level, to connect to it through as many senses as possible, they are going to be far more likely to buy it. Ad campaigns use photos and video of happy people doing fun things, whether or not those have anything to do with the product itself, so that you can start to associate the product with "the good life." How often have you seen a commercial for a medication that never actually shows the medication? Instead you see happy, healthy people surfing and mountain climbing and playing in a park with friends and family. Message: "If you use this medication, your life will be as good as this one is." 

So having a vision board is like creating a marketing campaign for your own "product," your life. Set your goals, and then reinforce those goals by creating a vision board—your own "marketing campaign"—so that you are constantly giving yourself the message, "If I work toward my goals, I'll have the life I want."

The other side of this is adjusting as you go

Sometimes you think an action will lead to achieving your goal, but discover that things don't quite work the way you intended. Because life is inherently unpredictable, you have to be open to trying a new tactic when you don't get the result you want. Study what someone else is doing, through books and films, to get a result you'd like to have, and try it their way. If it doesn't work out the way you intended, study someone else, take what you learn, and try again. Measure what works and what doesn't, and adjust course until you get the result you want

The final bit is a piece of advice for getting where you want to go is something I actually fight with folks over. Seriouslythey see this as so profound, so revolutionary, so insane, they can't believe it would ever work in millions years. I hesitate even to give you this secret, for fear you'll scoff and never believe me again. But here goes. Deep breath ...

If you want something, ask for it.

See? Told you it was radical. Some people have been known to hear this advice and run, screaming "heretic!" all the way. 

But the truth is, most of the time we could easily have exactly what we want in our lives if we'd just take a chance and ask for it. I have seriously put this into effect in my own life. I ask for a better deal in stores. I ask if I can have something for free. I ask for a better position or a pay raise. 

The biggest barrier? Overcoming the sense that I'm somehow being offensive by asking for what I want. We are so accustomed to just taking what we get, accepting every price, accepting every offer as "the price, the offer," it actually offends our sensibilities when someone asks, out plain, for what they want! If you can get over that irrational fear, you'll find yourself getting more and more of what you want out of life. 

Sometimes, all it takes is to ask and you'll get it. Other times, you'll get a counter offer, which is equally as good. The guy at the store says, "You can't have it for the price you want, but if you bring in a coupon from online or come in next week you can get it on sale." Your boss says, "You can't have a raise, but if you give me a sales goal and meet or beat it in three months I'll raise your salary." Counter offers let you know the "rules" for getting what you want, and knowing those rules lets you map out the steps to acheiving your goal. See how that worked out? 

There's actually a Biblical grounding for asking for what you want:

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

Matthew 7:7-11

Ask, search, knock. Sounds like action steps to me. Success in any part of your life requires you to take action and go out and find it.

Everyone wants a formula for success. Turns out the Bible has had one all along. But it helps to have things broken down for us into easy, step-by-step chunks. So I've worked up a formula that may be helpful:

Goal setting + Education + Reinforcement + Ask For What You Want + Taking Action + Adjusting Course  = Get the outcome you want

I think this is pretty simple. And I'm seeing results from applying this formula in my own life. But here's a little extra bit, a multiplier, that will accelerate and even exponentially increase the results you get from the formula:

Get the outcome you want X Glorfiy God in all you do = Get more than you ever dreamt possible!

Success isn't really that hard to achieve. Yes, it can be hard work to get the exact result you want, but the process is simple and straight forward. God wants more for you than just success, though. He wants to multiply your success, and give you a life above and beyond your own intentions. God has an intended life for you that is levels and levels above what you intend for yourself. So take action, but take action that glorfies Him. You'll find your success multiplying daily. 

That's math even I like. 


life is marketing (but marketing ain't life)

Dealing with each other isn't easy.

No matter how much we think we know about other people, the fact that they ARE people means we're already coming underprepared for this mission. People are, by their nature, difficult if not impossible to understand.

In Marketing, the whole idea is to know how people think, and then construct a message that taps into that, so you can reach a targeted group of people and convince them to do something that you want them to do. You learn a lot of terms when you work in marketing as an industrydemographic, metric, response rate, and a whole bunch more that may or may not be decipherable to the average Joe. We folk of the Marketing cloth are trained to look at raw data, make a story of it, draw conclusions from it, change our approach and try to boost the numbers on the next go. Did our message get through? Did we convince people to do what we wanted? What action DID our audience take, and was it expected?

I have this "life is marketing" philosophy, and it's more or less in development all the time. I believe that we spend every day of our lives trying to interpret the data that's flowing our way, and tailoring our response in order to achieve our goals. That's the definition of Marketing, and it's the definition of our relationships with other people. We all try really hard, every minute of the day, to get the results we're after, to say things just right, to persuade others to see things our way. 

God is the most successful Marketer of all time. He's had a campaign running for 2,000 years that has successfully persuaded the viewpoints and perspectives of BILLIONS. His brand is maybe the single most recognized brand in history. Show someone a cross some time and ask what comes to mind. The emotion behind their response my vary, but they know what it means. Take that, Nike swoosh.

The trouble comes when we forget what the message is, and concetrate on the marketing itself. We have words for this, such as "dogma" or "fanatacism" or even "fundamentalism." Sometimes the impact of the marketing is positive and sometimes it's negative, but in both cases it isn't the point. God doesn't want us focused on the Marketing, He wants us focused on the Message. 

Nike has effective marketing, but if all their audience ever does is rave about the latest ad campaign, and no one ever buys a pair of shoes, then Nike's marketing team has failed. 

Coke is a universally known brand, but if no one has the Coke (just the smile), then eventually old Coca-Cola stuff becomes nothing more than collector's items, reminding us of a bygone era in which some old soda company used to be in business, but no longer supplies us with sugary soda goodness. 

Wearing a cross necklace or sticking a Jesus fish on your bumper tells a story about what message is influencing you, but if you aren't living that message then you're just as good as an empty Coke bottle on a shelf. Maybe interesting to look at, maybe a few nice curves, maybe an interesting logo, but still empty. 

When I say "life is marketing," I'm really talking about relationships, and how we deal with each other. But the real point of life is the message, not the marketing. How you livin'? What fruit is your life producing? If all you have is some nice flash, a catchy logo, a recognizable brand, you might want to rethink your strategy. Life may be marketing, but marketing isn't life.  


the Yahoo mistake your startup can't make

Here's a shocker: The Web changed everything.

You've heard that before, mostly about 10+ years ago. Actually, over the past 20 years the Web has become such an integral part of our lives that it's hard to imagine life without it. I can't even remember how I managed to drive from one place to another before Google Maps. And how did I satisfy personal curiosity before the sum of all human knowledge was literally at my fingertips? Am I the only one who gets stressed out when watching old movies, wondering why no one is checking their iPhones?

There's such an immediacy to everything now. Take this blog post, for example. I just sat down and started typing. In a few minutes I'll hit "Save & Close," and this thing will go public. It will post to my website, then the RSS feed will be picked up by the service that pushes it to my social media channels. Within half an hour it could be read by hundreds, thousands, heck maybe millions (a fella can dream), who only a couple of decades ago would have to wait for it to appear in their paper or in a magazine, weeks or months after it was written. 

I DID write for papers and magazines back then, you know. Stop scoffing!

Along with the immediacythe increased expansion of "reachability" that content producers havethere's been a simultaneous decrease in limitations of distance. I'm sitting in an office in Houston, but you may be reading this from a bedroom in Paris or a ski slope in Colorado or a men's room in Chicago (hi there). 

Recently, Yahoo and Best Buy decided to pull in their remote work force. They have their reasons, and likely a room full of well-paid, brilliant minds that can explain, to the decimal, exactly why this is a good move for these companies. I can only come at it from the perspective of the lowly marketing consultant and copywriter.

It's a mistake. 

Pulling in the troops means increasing overhead. It means cutting yourself out of the worldwide pool of brilliant experts that are only an inbox away. It means limiting your access to a broader canopy of ideas and experiences, and drastically reducing your ability to innovate.

The good thing about Yahoo and Best Buy is that they are established brands, powerful enough to correct for a mistake once they see it impacting the bottom line. So by no means do I believe this is the end for either company, unless they stubbornly hold on to what they're planning. A bigger issue is that many smaller companies are watching, and may follow Yahoo's lead.

DISASTER. The only real advantage that startups and small- to mid-sized businesses have is their flexibility and adaptability. Having access to the larger pool of talent made available by technology gives them the ammunition and the arsenal they need to be competitive. Keeping everything "in-house" has been the death knell for more companies than I could possibly name.

There is no way to predict what will happen with Yahoo and this drive to bring everybody home from the wilds. It may work very well for them. They do have the advantage of being a known brand with a lot of backing. People may uproot and move closer to Yahoo offices worldwide, just for the opportunity to be a part of the company. More likely, from my perspective, is that those talented people Yahoo depends on, who could balance work and family life before because they worked from home, are going to be on the lookout for a chance to jump ship, first opportunity they get.

And because they ARE talented people from Yahoo, with a proven track record for working remotely, they'll likely find that opportunity sooner rather than later. Contracts and golden handcuffs be damned.

So Yahoo loses some of its top talent, and the industry gains it by simply offering the chance for a balanced work/home lifestyle. Does it really cost Yahoo that much time and productivity for people to communicate via Skype or IRC or email or the million other ways we communicate online? As far as I can tell, most office buildings are crammed full of people who are mostly doing anything they can to get through the day so they can get back to their families and homes ... the real point of working, actually.

If someone is not producing, you let them go. If they miss deadlines, you let them go. If they are not collaborating effectively, you let them go. Or better yet, you train them, incentivise them, get them on the same page, and let them go if they can't manage that. It's really very simple, and cost effective. It doesn't matter WHERE people work. It matters that they produce.

If your business is more focused on keeping people within sight than with results, you're going to have a very tough time. Focus on metrics, and adjust your strategy according to those results, and you will succeed. It's worked for thousands of billion-dollar companies. It will work for your small startup. Don't worry about where your people are. Don't worry at all. Just make a plan, make your expectations clear, demand quantifiable results, and prepare to change your strategy based on what you're seeing. That's the formula. It works.

To Yahoo, all I can say is, good luck. I personally see this as a chance to quietly dismiss a large number of employees, without having to lay them off. It's smart, really, from a certain perspective. But it's not right. It is, in fact, wrong. No shade of grey there. This is the wrong move, and it will have a cost, even if that cost can't be predicted at the moment.

For startups and small businesses ... there are going to be some very talented former Yahoo employees looking for new opportunities very soon. Go get 'em.



marketing tip for photographers

Marketing tip for photographers: Show your work to the client in a very public place.

Starbucks will work.

This morning, I was sitting in my local Starbucks, surrounded by Christmas cheer and non-fat lattes, tappity-tapping one of those story things I seem so fond of. I saw a woman come in, wave to another woman, and then the two of them took a seat.

Woman #2 was holding a bag that she emptied onto the table between them, pulling out a book and a small, nice-looking, flat “gift box.” The box was filled with large prints of a young girl, probably around three or four years old. The book was a VERY nicely done portfolio of those shots and more, all large and in glorious color, and very impressive.

Woman #1 cooed and awed over every shot, and absolutely loved the presentation. And I heard Woman #2 thank her and tell her that she’d send a code in an email that would let Woman #1 order any size or quantity of prints she wanted.

It was a great presentation. And when the two said goodbye and parted, a third woman stepped up and asked, “Was that your work?”

“Yes,” Woman #2 smiled.

“Could I please have your card? I’m actually looking for a photographer who can take pictures of my kids!”

Woman #2 had to go to her car to get the card, but when she returned she handed Woman #3 a small envelope, about the size of a Christmas card envelope.

“Oh, you have a whole little packet!” Woman #3 said.

“I keep a big box of them in my car!” said Woman #2. “Every time I show my clients their photos while we’re at Starbucks I end up being asked for a card, so I put together this little packet.”

I’m pretty sure that’s a photographer with a new client.

Word of mouth has always been the best form of marketing. Get some good buzz, and people find you. That’s the best way to sell your product or services. Make a friend, and that friend wants to support you. I can’t think of a better way to market!


ducks & doobies you read

If you watch this video, a bus full of orphans will be saved from a river.