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Transparency Is The New Black

13 Dec Transparency

The truth. Sometimes it hurts to be honest, but it’s also what best showcases our true selves.

In marketing, it’s the quintessential way of communicating, on real terms and in very real ways with end-users.

Last week over 60 business leaders/marketers joined  for a session called

The name itself hints at what we discussed – the heavy truth of what it takes to be successful in a fast-pace, “no-one-cares-about-any-one-single-thing-you-do” world we live in.

Everyone one of us who attended the session came away enriched, inspired and ready to “crack the code. But one magical element came back over and over throughout the workshop - be transparent.

I’ve blogged about this concept before, post  this past October. But Seth reminded me once more about the value of not just be authentic, but as marketers…sticking to what we know and uniquely defining the course for how you do business.  For if you don’t, it can be a rat race of pleasing crowds. And in the end, pleasing no one.

How does this translate to everyday business needs?

1. Spread your passion (your art) through your work. Don’t let “mass appeal” dissuade you from what matters most to building your brand. 

2. Define/reshape efforts only around those that care most about your work, your product. 

3. Ignore noise that doesn’t reflect against the core of what you do. The peripheral is just that – noise. And it doesn’t always mean you need to change a program or product. If anything, noise is just affirmation that more than your core user base is listening and watching.

So be transparent. And focus, first and foremost, on what matters – to you and your most loyal fans and followers.

Passion Points

14 Nov Dance-Passion

Passion. It drives (most) everything we do.   From our choice of what to eat, what to wear, to whom we talk to, to who we date, and with whom we spend our time or lives with.  As marketers, it defines us. 

I spend a lot of time observing, as much as I do creating. And it resonates with me that when I produce my best work, or when I see others do so, it’s because my/our heart is in it. I/we care about every little detail because it genuinely matters. And it becomes (and feels) much less tactical, as it does exhilarating.

So what separates good from great marketing – in big or small organizations?  It is passion. 
Sounds simple. Perhaps even a bit naive to say – that passion alone might drive a good or bad marketing effort. But I actually believe it does.

A marketer is much like an artist, even a dancer. Sure there are basic guidelines we follow, certain rules that are played by. But near anyone can read a marketing textbook and go execute. But those who execute well, and in a memorable way, do so with passion behind their work.

Steve Jobs, as with many other infamous marketers, was renown for his passion. His passion for how every detail looked and felt.

The result? That everything from an email, to a store front, to an ad campaign, to a product’s shipping container exuded his (personal) passion for it. It was that simple, but very strong, emotion that conveyed itself into every end-product or message an end user received.

So unleash your passion.  Talk (market) something you really care about. Steer clear of things  you’d distribute only on fliers. Find that sweet spot both in  life and work. It will then naturally seep into every aspect of what you do.  From how you identify marketing channels, to how you focus and create messaging. Something (small), can then become very big.

Let’s Just Talk

25 Oct Let's Just Talk

A simple truth is often forgotten in marketing - let’s just talk.

 We often try so hard to be something, to say something (important) that we actually forget to relax. To just have a conversation. To be authentic in our dialogue with those we know, or those we don’t know.
I have Adam Duritz from  to credit for this blog post. For changing my world view on marketing. And for most importantly inspiring me to stop trying. To just BE. To be ME.
Yes, I work for . I wear a brand. I wear my own personal brand. We all do.  But underneath it all is just one human being needing to talk to another. To share a funny, to share a tear, to educate one other about something novel you or I have just discovered. Multiple those like-minds into tens, hundreds, thousands…you soon have a single conversation that evolves into a tribe, and that tribe sparks a business.
Adam challenged me and hundreds more at  this past week to “just be yourself”.  He stripped away the academia, the buzz words, even the industry tendency to get caught in tactics-by-tools and brought it all back simple truths – that marketing is about connecting people with similar passion points. It’s about having real conversations.
If you too would like to hear more of Adam’s viewpoint on people and social commerce, read and listento the  interview. You can also listen to his session on the live stream recording from (see Day 2, 3:14).
Enjoy. And happy conversing. Be real and be genuine with your customers. The rest and most memorable part of the journey as a business will follow.

Separating the Macro from the Micro for #SMB Marketing

1 Oct Separting the Macro

I’m going to burst bubbles. Marketing isn’t (always) sexy.

Why? Because marketing, like any other aspect of running a business, is a combination of managing the macro and the micro details. And getting under the hood (the micro) is darn dirty. The fancy clothes come off, the scruffy clothes go on and the sleeves get rolled up. It’s time to get into the dirty details.

Case and point. You can have an email platform. You send daily campaigns almost religiously. You gloat over fabulous weekly calendars and spend time reviewing open rates, target audience, frequency optimization, etc. Great job. But you’ve secured (only) the basics.

Or…. you can dig into the details. And make allowances for your email efforts to also address two (micro) items to inform macro-level analysis, more adequately defining success metrics.

1 – Get user-level analytics vs. campaign-only.

This may sound basic to some. But it amazes me how many of us try flying planes (our marketing efforts) without real indicators if we’re flying in the right direction.

How do you get started?

  • Create purchase-level reporting (assuming you’re selling something) that allows you to understand what percentage of your target audience actually cares about an offering.
  • Take that a step further and start to analyize/understand what percentage of your users buy xyz. Then  identify how long it takes them to buy xyz, and how often they come back for more.

Without this information, you really are well, screwed.  But establish a rhythm around the above, even on a weekly basis and you’ll start to be able to identify programs that should stay and those that should go.

2 – A/B testing and analysis vs sticking to one concept throughout a campaign lifecyle.

You don’t have to be a statistician to perform simple compare and contrast. The more important aspect of this is to remember that an “idea” can have many dimensions and that only after a few trial runs do most things stick.
Yes, there are some one-time-wonder programs that occur. But for the most part marketing is a fine balance of ideating, creating, testing/execution and repeating with modifications.

How do you get started?

  • Establish a (short) list of goals for a specific campaign or program.
  • Identify scenarios that provide validation of an initial concept, or expose alternatives for segments within a larger target audience.

For example –  I like Shape Magazine, but also read Harvard Business Review. My (female) neighbor down the street lives in the same zip code, and has a similar lifestyle…but entirely different reading interests. As a marketer though, I might never learn that if I didn’t create a series of different offers/campaigns to see how user behavior differs. These insights then allow me, even almost require me, to become more personalized with my email messaging.

Why YOU (The Customer) Matters Most

21 Sep Why You

We say we’re listening, but we’re not. We say we care, but we don’t.

Sadly that is the situation that many businesses (and marketers) deal with. The “I” takes over the “what do you want” and we’re caught in a vicious cycle of pleasing…bottomline.

Yet follow a few case studies of businesses who found ways to put customers first, and it’s amazing how ”you”  translated into the very essence of a business, a vital part of their brand.

To name a few heroes…

 - Renowned for staying on lines with customers for hours to help find the perfect shoe. And a free return policy isn’t all that bad either.

 - SWA shook up the airline industry with doing away with boarding groups and adding cheap flights. The sheer “equality” factor that they took with how they served customers was refreshing and fliers flocked. (Until they started raising prices and somehow they weren’t all that different from everyone else.)

 - “Only the customer knows what the perfect coffee is”. Well, sort of. But they will give me coffee after coffee, for free, until I am satisfied with what I walk away with.

All of these businesses share one thing in common – they understand the exponential power of what one very happy customer means to gaining mass credibility and trust. And furthermore, they understand what it takes to establish a positive brand experience, which (does) translate into revenue stability and growth.

It’s not flash sales, it’s not airport advertising, it’s not billboards…it’s honest, well-earned recognition that xyz business revolves around, yes, a concept/business model, but also one that’s centered on customer satisfaction.

Lest we forget - it’s about what YOU (they) want.

Chasing Shadows, Finding Light

18 Sep Chasing Shadows

Personal or professional, the shadows reveal the truth about us as individuals, and in the business realm it separates the weak from the strong.

I most often center on #smb, but big or small, challenges exist. There’s a day when you must learn something new. There’s a day when you must try something different. And there’s almost always  a day when you get validation you’re on the right path, while others you can feel lost and well, in the shadows.
Chasing shadows? It’s the ability to recognize there is a challenge and to face it head-on to pass through.
Case and point – SEO. SEO might as well be the Red Sea to some, even myself. (Yes, I’m admitting I’m not an SEO expert.) I know the role it plays in my toolkit, and I understand the basics. But I don’t put enough emphasis on it. Yet, I must.
Why? Because SEO (search-engine-marketing) is the fundamentals of digital content development and distribution. SEO also is the foundation of web design. Heck, it’s part of how I manage this blog to ensure there’s an organic discoverability aspect of what I create.
But I do still need to sharpen my skills around the topic? Yes. In fact, I’d argue that over 50% of marketers have no clue what SEO really is nor actually apply it to their (digital) designs and/or content management efforts.
Finding light is about creating ways to solve for bigger challenges. For example, deciding whether to learn first-hand how something (i.e. SEO) should be done or deciding to out-source the effort to someone who is (or claims) to be an expert in that given field.
My choice and maybe yours – balance the two scenarios. Learn first-hand, but also recognize my/your greatest strength will never be SEO specifically. Yet can surround yourself by others who focus on the topic and learn with them, further rounding out your skillset.

#Execution: Baby Steps and Herculean Moves

14 Sep #execution

A day in the life of a small business marketer: baby steps and herculean moves. It starts small, it feels big. And it is.

Every day is about taking one step forward and making choices. Choices surrounding prioritization of Email activities versus Social Media, or Social Media versus Display media, or Display media versus mobile SEM.

The reality? It’s less about what should be done (ever), it’s about making choices that will define  herculean moves. The quantum leap that lends itself to break-through communication efforts and motivational insights.

Baby steps. These are actually the strategic decisions you and/or your larger team make to establish baselines for success. For example..

  • Defining the role of social media in your organization.
  • Structuring revenue-centric communication priorities (a.k.a. target audience).
  • Creating reporting frameworks for measuring KPIs.

Herculean moves. This is the compilation of everything we often coin as “execution”. Many folks can plan or theorize about what “should be done”. But a smaller few can get-it-done and take something from concept/ideation to final delivery.   It’s about…

  • Delivering a roadmap for SEO versus saying “let’s focus on SEO and here’s why”. It’s doing it.
  • Agreeing to focus on xyz email campaigns and creating daily deliverables for a larger team to deliver against.
  • Going from deciding a new messaging/brand strategy is needed, to carving out a a few days to deliver a 90 day plan for how messaging will/can be changed across a business.

It’s starts small, it goes big. Are you doing both?

Leave Your Ego At the Door

10 Sep Leave Your Ego

Marketing. It can be a vanity fair. A chance to puff your chest and show off grandeous ideas or projects to the rest of the world. But if it doesn’t drive results. It’s not worth it. Plain and simple. Leave your ego at the door.

A former colleague/boss/mentor of mine once said, “Don’t forget to block and tackle.” To this day, I use that line with my team at  and in my day-to-day attempt to remember that marketing isn’t all grandeous planning or 5-star stickers. It’s often the behind-the-scenes block and tackle that gets the job done.

Block and tackle?

  • Developing an email lifecyle grid to create event-based messaging triggers from ”hello” to “sorry, we missed you”, to “need help getting started?”.
  • Scheduling 5% of your time each day doing research and analyzing internal and industry reports.
  • Taking time to mentor an employee.

The fun stuff?

  • Develping creative for a large-spread print ad.
  • Attending a networking event.
  • Interviewing new vendors.

Big or small, fun or boring…it all has to get done. But be prepared to leave your ego at the door and to dedicate more than ample time to focus on the basics – your website, your customers, your brand personality and your data.  Without it, you and your business simply won’t survive.

Leave (Discounts) Alone

31 Aug Leave Discounts

Do you discount your way to high-volume user engagement and usage behavior? 

This is a contentious issue with marketers, especially those in high-growth environments.

My response? No. Only with moderation, perhaps.

And why?

  • Discounts are modified versions of “flash sales”. They create a lack of urgency in every day browse/shopping mode because purchases are not based on perceived value, but because it’s the cheapest product at that point in time.
  • Discounts, if mis-used, prompt comparison shopping. True, most users/prospective customers will do that anyways. We can’t stop that. But the deeper tragedy that can occur is missing a larger opportunity to create lifetime customers based on creating/driving product (value-add) awareness versus attracting “discount hunters”, “coupon clippers”, whatever-you-name-it that hone in on the cheapest price available for xyz.

Short story – approach discounting with caution. And blend time-sensitive offers with messaging that includes product FAQs, educational resources (i.e. how-to videos).

Discounting, frequently, can create quick-wins of attracting (new) users shopping for the “best deal”, but it doesn’t always drive quality users and customers that will drive your business value forward.


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