Unless the building is on fire…stay OUT!

September 29, 2008

I know, as an agency owner, writer, speaker and active community volunteer (not to mention dad et al) there are some days when I literally run from meeting to meeting, trying to squeeze in phone calls in between meetings.  And then I wonder…when will I get all the work done that these meetings generated?  Those are frustrating days.  But, to be fair, I do it to myself. 

Sometimes I have to give myself a reprieve.  So I cone myself.Cone1_1

Coning is something we invented at McLellan Marketing Group because all of us need some "quiet time" now and then.  Every employee at MMG has a traffic cone in their office.  When that cone is placed in their doorway, it means, "unless the building is on fire, do not disturb me."

I coned myself for about 90 minutes yesterday.  The week had been frantic and I was riding very close to several deadlines.  I got more done in those 90 minutes than I had all week.  And best of all….I felt great.  I felt calm, I felt successful.  I felt like I was back in control.  Here are some of my secrets to successful coning.

  • Have a commonly understood signal (like the cone) that everyone in your office will honor.
  • Set the example by NEVER interrupting a coned person.
  • Turn your cell phone, regular phone et al ringers off.
  • Do not check e-mail, blog feeds or any other distraction during your coned time.
  • Do not do it for more than 90 minutes (its very frustrating to be on the other side of the cone and need to talk to someone who’s been coned for 3 hours.)
  • Make it a habit.  Do it at least 3 times a week.  Even for 30 minutes a time

Of course, it does not have to be a cone.  Get creative.  As you can see, I have added a skull to my own cone…just to reinforce the gravity of circumstance that one would experience if they broke the code of the cone.

It’s hard to keep those marketing juices flowing if you are feeling bogged down.  Find a way to get yourself some quiet time.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get re-fueled. 

(And yes, I have a carpet with a little road on it for match box cars in my office.  Another post for another time!)

How do you carve time out for yourself?  How do you get thinking time, writing time?

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Do you know your company’s story?

September 27, 2008

2530928014_a5eceec84b At McLellan Marketing Groupwe help clients discover their story so they can create love affairs with their customers. 

That’s where it all starts and ends at my shop.  Story = brand which probably equals USP (but deeper) or really….the heart and soul of the organization.

Why do you exist?  If the earth were to swallow you up — what would everyone not be able to find anywhere else?  When the clients that love you (you have some, right?) rave about you — what do they say?

If you think you know the answer….do your employees?  Do they tell the same story?  How about your vendors/partners?

Think back over your education.  Do you realize that we learn via stories.  Think of how you learned about history or sociology.  How about psych or Brit Lit. (what we Americans call it!)  We listen to and learn from the stories.

When I construct a presentation, for each main "lesson" I want to share with the audience, I ask myself…which story should I tell.  I never try to teach without stories.

So…stay with me here — when we want our clients to get it, to understand how we can help them, to create and spread word of mouth — how do we think they will do that?

Right!  Stories.

But, they can only know and tell our story if:

  • We know it
  • We share it with them

Over the next few days, we’re going to explore the MMG definition of story (brand) and what elements your story needs to include, if it’s going to be the marketing tool you want it to be.

Flickr photo courtesy of Scottish Libraries

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Your cobbler’s kids should have kick-a** shoes

September 25, 2008

80835024 The internet is a wonderful thing.  It allows anyone with a connection to create a virtual storefront.  It brings parity to the marketplace.  The little guys can compete with the big guys.  Excellent.

But what if the little guy (or the big guy for that matter) doesn’t have a clue?

The reality is that the internet has lowered the barriers for entry for just about every service business out there.  But it also means that just because it looks like a business, doesn’t mean it’s so.

I think the old adage…the cobbler’s children have no shoes is a really dangerous excuse in today’s marketplace.  And it’s a buyer beware world for all of us.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hire a financial planner who lives paycheck to paycheck.  I don’t want to hire a marketing firm who hasn’t created buzz for their own agency.  I don’t want to hire a personal trainer who is 40 pounds overweight and I don’t want to hire a business blog coach who has 137 subscribers to their own blog.

In today’s age of "insta-pop up" businesses where the assumption is if you have a website or blog, you must be legit — we have to be even more discerning than ever before.

If they have not done it for themselves, why in the world would you think they can do it for you?


I didn’t expect you

September 23, 2008

Picture_1 Two years ago today, I clicked on the “publish now” button here at Drew’s Marketing Minute for the first time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I figured I’d write and sometimes, someone would read.  Maybe a comment or two.  It was a grand experiment and I was flying without a net.

Now, 760 posts later — boy, did I write.  With 3,200+ subscribers, I guess you did some reading and with a whopping 5,526 comments as I write this — man, did you talk back!

I don’t really know how to say this without sounding a little goofy — but I am humbled by your presence here.  I know how busy you are.  I know how many excellent marketing blogs there are.  And still you come.  I didn’t expect you.

And thank goodness you showed up!  Do you realize what we’ve done together in these two years?  We’ve sparked ideas, we’ve raised issues, we critiqued, applauded and even gotten a little weepy once or twice.

We co-wrote Giving College Grads a Fighting Chance and invited the world to download it for free.

We created the resource — New Blogger’s Toolbox and loaded it with great blogs and teachers for the novice blogger.

Together, we launched Age of Conversation and raised about $14,000 at last count for Variety, the Children’s Charity.  And as crazy as we are…we’re about to do it again!

We created Blogger’s Social and literally brought the world to NYC for a weekend of laughter, hugging and some crazy hats.

But above all, we connected.  For me anyway, this has gone way beyond just writing about marketing and branding.  Just like we preach — by just being here and being yourselves, sharing with gusto, and creating a welcoming place for others to join us — together, we created a community.

I’ve talked to many of you on the phone or via e-mail.  I’ve met you for coffee, for a beer, for dinner or for a laugh.  We’ve skyped, ooVoo’d, texted and traded guest posts.

And in some cases, we’ve shared a weekend or a moment.  And they’ve all been remarkable.  From this grand experiment, I’ve gained so much.  But what I value the most is you.

Thank you for sharing this space with me for the past two years.  I really didn’t expect you.  But man, am I glad you showed up!

Here’s a little and very incomplete pictorial view of some of the people this blog has brought into my life.  I’m grateful beyond measure.


Pictured…Luc Debaisieux, CK, Gavin Heaton, Lori Magno


Pictured…Connie Reece & me


Pictured…Me, Sandy Renshaw, Tom Vander Well, Timothy Johnson, Mike Sansone, Terry Starbucker and Mike Wagner


Pictured…me & Roberta Rosenberg


Pictured…Todd And & me


Pictured…Anna Farmery & me

Just like the marketing lesson you’re probably sick of hearing me preach — in the end, it’s about the relationship.   Again, thank you so much for being a part of this blog.  I didn’t expect you. But I love that you’re here!


Taking your show on the road

September 23, 2008

472526248_433f67e4a3 Trade shows are an incredibly effective way to introduce your business to a wide array of potential new customers.  When it comes to displays, I have some good news and some bad news.  Want the good news first?  Your competitors’ booths probably stink. 

Ready for the bad news?  Yours probably does too.

Let’s face it — most booths look and behave the same.  Think of the "standards" of a booth.  How many of those do you include with yours?  Is there a way to freshen it up a little?

Here are some rules to think about when you or your agency is working on your display.

~ What’s the point?  Identify the one fact/impression you want everyone to remember from your display.  Not three main points or five.  One.  Once you have communicated that, stop. 

~ Force them to stop.  Do something so visually arresting that people cannot help but stop.  This is not the time to be timid.  Be bold.  Grab them and (figuratively) drag them into your space.  I’m not talking (unless it fits with your brand) something silly.  I am talking relevant but WOW!

~ Think of it like a billboard.  Be brief.  This is not the place to reproduce your sales letter or brochure. 

~ Less is more.  Some companies’ trade show space is like a three-ring circus.  People do not want to walk into chaos.  Having one good, bold idea is much more effective than throwing the kitchen sink at the attendees. 

~ Do it right.  Yes, you are going to have to spend more money.  But, it is an investment that will last for years.  This is not the place to go cheap.  It will be glaringly obvious and speak volumes about your business.

If you’re going to invest the money and time resources to have a presence at a trade show, make sure you maximize that investment by having a display that they’ll remember long after the show doors close.

We’ve all been to plenty of shows.  Think back — what’s the most memorable booth you’ve ever seen and what about it sticks out in your mind?

Flickr photo courtesy of the Image Group.


Should you answer back to their ad?

September 21, 2008

Last week, I wrote about not letting your competitors’ actions lure you off your path.  (There were some really smart comments, so check them out.) 

And then, lo and behold…an excellent example for us to discuss appeared.  Everyone is familiar with the brilliant Apple campaign Mac versus PC.  Just in case you’re not…here’s an example.

And now, Microsoft has come out with a TV spot that answers the Apple campaign.  (Sorry for the quality, it’s the best I could find.)

Good idea or bad?  Do they sound defensive?  Look reactive?  Do they do a good job of making their point? Do they change your perceptions?  Would this influence your buying decision?


Hey ye sea dog, how many flags are ye hoistin’?

September 19, 2008

Blackbeardeede (Note to my readers.  No, I have not gone off the deep end.  September 19th is blog like a pirate day and who’d want to miss out on that??)

Aft in th’ tide, buccanneers banded together in crews an’ sailed th’ seas, lookin’ fer places t’ plunder an’ pillage. Each crew tookst great pride in the’r ability t’ secure bounty. They be like a tight-knit family, workin’ an’ playin’ together. They boasted o’ battles won an’ lasses wooed. Piratin’ be a team sport an’ ye wore yer team`s colors wi’ honor. T’ tell th’ world jus’ who be approachin’, each crew hoisted a unique jolly roger on the’r vessel, typically adorned wi’ symbols that told a tale o’ the’r captain.

Th’ jolly rogers be defended, often times wi’ th’ sea dogs` lives. They be that important a symbol. They told th’ crew`s distinct tale.

How about ye? Do ye hoist a single jolly roger that tells o’ yer unique tale or do ye spend half yer time, hoistin’ an’ changin’ jolly rogers, dependin’ on who ye be talkin’ t’ or what yer scurvy dog competitors be doin’?

If ye dasn’t hoist a jolly roger at all — what tale would ye want yer jolly roger t’ tell, if ye could only be havin’ th’ one? What symbols would ye include so that yer tale would be remembered an’ re-told by them who saw ‘t?

Can ye imagine th’ pride ye might create in yer own crew, if ye gave them a powerful tale an’ a symbolic jolly roger t’ wave an’ raise?

Maybe ye canna wave a jolly roger at yer place o’ business. But what could ye hoist t’ be a constant reminder o’ what ye an’ yer crew would swashbuckle t’ th’ Davy Jones’ locker t’ defend?

If ye dasn’t give yer crew an’ yer customers somethin’ t’ b’lieve in an’ defend, why ortin’ ta they keep comin’ aft?

The flag is Blackbeard’s.  To read more about pirate flags and all things pirate…check this out.


Brace your business for the bumpy road

September 18, 2008


Banks failing, gas prices rising, and the credit crunch pinching — no wonder business people are nervous.  These are scary times.

But they don’t have to be disastrous times.  We’ve weathered recessions (even though we are apparently not in one) before and we will weather this one too.

There’s been some very smart writing on the topic, from a marketing perspective and I wanted to point you to a couple excellent posts.

John Rosen at Stopwatch Marketing (have you read his book?) tells us how to thrive in a slowdown.

John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing (have you read his book?) gives us 7 time-tested ways to dig out from a recession.

Hang in there…this is the time to invest in the relationships you have with current customers, stay visible in the marketplace (especially if your competitors are cutting back), build and protect your brand and overall, think long-term in your strategies.

The businesses that keep focused and recognizes that this a just a bump in the road (albeit a good sized bump) will be in stride to really take off once we’re on better ground. 

Better times are around the corner, we just need to keep keeping on to get there.


Don’t worry traditional media — you’re not done yet

September 16, 2008

36593032 I get it.  It’s sexy and new.  Social media/digital marketing is to 2008 what banner ads were to the 90s.  (Remember how they were going to change the world and everyone was going to make a killing?)

At MMG, we’ve done many a digital campaign for our clients.  And the results exceeded everyone’s expectations.  So I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with digital marketing or using social media as a marketing tool.  We know, from doing it, that it’s very effective.

But just like in the good old days of advertising, when everyone talked media mix, we need to remember….you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.  Yesterday’s media mix might have been radio and print.  Today’s media mix needs to be a blend of traditional and digital marketing efforts.

You will almost always get better results when you have a hearty mix of the two.

Jason Baer, of Convince and Convert, wrote a smart post on this topic, with a couple mini case studies to prove his point.

Bottom line — it’s not an either or choice.  It’s now a "what’s the best of both?" choice.  So, as you think about your next campaign and begin to formulate your media plan, remember – add plenty of ingredients and blend well.

If you’re buying media for clients or your own business — how has your media buying changed and how do you perceive the need (or lack thereof) for a media mix?


Are you being lured off track?

September 14, 2008

10003797 Have you ever had the experience of driving along, paying attention to something off in the horizon and next thing you know, you’ve driven to that spot?  And it wasn’t where you meant to go?

The same phenomenon can happen in your business. 

My most recent post over at Small Business Branding talks about how you can keep your competition from luring you away from your own business plan/path

it’s a dangerous and all too common problem.  Much like my driving example — letting your competition lure you from doing what you need to do can cost you some serious time, money and other resources.

You don’t want to get caught up in the "me too" game of following your competition’s lead.  Come on over and jump into the discussion.