Better to not do it at all

October 8, 2006


It is one of the cornerstones to a good marketing and branding foundation.  Ann Michael at Manage to Change has a fantastic post on this topic.   Her point (and warning) is such an excellent one.  If you aren’t going to deliver on it consistently — don’t start.  It’s, as my daughter used to say, mean teasing.

Ann’s focus is on your customers and she’s right on the money.  But it holds just as true for employees.  How you treat your team speaks volumes to your customers, vendors and potential employees.  Don’t think its not being watched and judged.  So again — don’t do what you aren’t willing to keep doing.

At my agency, McLellan Marketing Group, I have always worked with the notion that I want to ruin my employees so they can’t possibly imagine working any place else.  I hire remarkably smart, creative people.  So I know my competitors are always looking to steal them.  I want to create a work environment  that demonstrates I’m as committed to them as I need them to be to our clients.  Here are some of the things we do to keep everyone motivated and happy.

~ Weekly concierge service from our good friends at Legs on Lease (someone to run their errands)
~ Professional masseuse doing chair massages
~ We close the office at noon on Fridays
~ An annual education allowance
~ Free soda (when you have to be creative on demand…caffeine is important!)
~ We just took a 3 day trip to Mpls as a team and people could bring spouses etc.

We take the same "let’s spoil them to death" attitude with our clients.  Come to a meeting at our place — you’ll get freshly baked cookies.  Every time.  Is that a reason for them to choose us?  Of course not.  But do you think they notice if they can’t smell the cookies when they come in?  You bet they do.

How can you spoil your employees and clients?  What’s something that is uniquely branded you but also, to Ann’s point, something you are going to commit to doing for the long haul?

To stand out in the crowded marketplace you need to do both.  Be audaciously true to your brand AND be consistent.  So what could you do?

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Link love or lazy links?

October 7, 2006

I’ve noticed that one of the prevailing types of posts in the blogosphere are link lists.  You know what I’m talking about — where a blogger will simply list 2-5 links to other blog site’s blog posts.  So here’s the question of the day — smart or lazy?

Here’s my general philosophy about marketing messages.  Don’t make your consumers work any harder than they have to.  Keep in mind, they are only marginally interested in what you have to say.  All along, they are wondering "what’s in this for me?" and if you don’t answer the question pretty quickly, they will move on. Images

So my answer to the question posed above is it all depends.  Some link lists are great.  The author tells you why they think you’d find value in the link they are providing.  Check out how Church of the Customer bloggers handle their links list.  By reading the brief description, I know whether or not it’s worth my time to check it out.  Genuine link love.

But, I’ve also stumbled upon plenty of lazy linkers out there.  A laundry list of links with no explanation serves no purpose to your readers.  If anything, it seems to me that the poster is simply either too lazy to actually write something and feels pressure to post or…even worse, they are trying to fake link love to get link backs.  (We all know you shouldn’t fake it!)

Either way, your consumers are too smart.   If you are linking for your own benefit — knock it off.  If you’re linking to share great posts or give someone a well deserved shout out — then be sure to put a little meat on the bone for your readers so they can decide if its of interest.

Long term, if you don’t — they’ll self select you right out of the mix.

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Who is your posse?

October 5, 2006

Like many of you, I own my own business.  I have employees, clients, vendors, peers.  Love them all.  But there are times when I still feel a bit like the lighthouse operator — out there all alone, trying to shine my light in the right places.

That’s why I have a posse.  They keep my passion at full tilt, they keep me sane, they offer me comfort, support or a kick in the pants — depending on what I need.  Each owns a marketing agency like I do…so they know the road I travel.  Each is brilliant and each one has helped me build and grow my business.

Twice a year, we physically gather (the picture is us in Jackson Hole, WY a couple weeks agoCimg3345) to spend two days sharing best practices, learning and laughing together.  In between our gatherings, we connect through a list serv, the phone and shared projects.  We’ve been together for 6+ years now.  They’re not just my business advisors and sounding board — they’re my friends.  They all own marketing agencies throughout the country.  You’ll find them in San Diego (Market Design Group), San Francisco (Gumas Advertising), Denver (AOR), Philly (Altus and 2010 Design), New Hampshire (Bedford Granite) and Washington DC (Fixation).  And of course, there’s us in Des Moines, IA.  If you need an agency in one of these geographical areas, you will find none better.

But here’s my real point.  I’ve got mine, do you?

Who do you surround yourself with?  Who pushes you to be better?  Who can you share everything (including financials) with and know you’re safe?

If you don’t have a posse, you need to find one.  If you want to create one from scratch, I highly recommend the book Meet & Grow Rich by Joe Vitale and Bill Hibbler.  It’s about creating what they call MasterMind groups.  Posse…MasterMind.  Potato…Potato.  I don’t care what you call it.  I just care that you think about getting one.

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October 3, 2006

L.L.Bean retail store in Freeport, Maine.Image via Wikipedia

I think we all know happens when we assume something, eh?

Here’s a lesson oft learned the hard way.  When proofreading, do not assume.

Overzealous proofreading can create a catastrophe no different than doing a poor job or not doing it at all.  Recently mail order giant L.L. Bean barely averted disaster because they have a culture that puts great value on diligent proofreading.  An employee was 100% certain (always be wary…) that the toll-free number in the catalog proof was incorrect.  It was listed as an 877 number and the employee knew it was really supposed to be an 800 number.  So, he changed it.

Yes, you guessed it. The number was correct as it originated in the proof.  Had he not proudly mentioned his "catch" to a fellow employee, L.L. Bean would have had about 500,000 catalogs in their recycle bin.  Ouch.

Whenever you proof phone numbers, it’s always a good idea to take the extra second or two and dial the number.  Remember the rule — before you correct, check!

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Blogtipping. Friend or foe?

October 2, 2006


I fully admit I am still a neophyte in the blogosphere.  I aspire to be a seasoned vet and no doubt will get there one day.  But I’m still learning.

I spotted an interesting trend over the past few days that has been given the moniker of blogtipping.  The premise is a simple one.  On the first of every month, bloggers introduce their community to 2-3 new blogs.  With each introduction is a shout out for a few things that make the blog good and the author then offers one tip on how the blog could be even better.

Easton Ellsworth gets the nod for starting this new custom.  Ann Michael, Mike Sansone, Phil Gerbyshak and Liz Strauss took blogtipping to a hilarious turn by creating a 4-part ode to the notion.  Cute…you bet.  But does it make marketing sense?

Traditional views in marketing is that the world is a competitive place. Does it make sense to tell your “customers” about something they might like better than what you have to sell?   Shouldn’t you do  everything in your power to keep them enamored with you and their eyes off any potential competitor?

Nope.  Have you ever tried to hold a puppy who didn’t want to be held?  They squirm, wiggle and whimper until you let go.  Customers are the same way.  No one wants to feel bound against their will.  You will earn their loyalty and respect (and repeat business) by demonstrating that you know them well enough to point them in the direction of other products, services and in this case, blogs that they will benefit from discovering.

The benefits to you?  Clients love referrals.  If you introduce them to something/one they love, they’ll love you even more!  The other benefit?  If you scratch my back, I might scratch yours.  It’s human nature to learn more about someone who makes a referral to you.  If you’re a good fit for their audience, those you have tipped will probably return the favor.

Is there a downside?  I don’t think so.  I highly doubt that anyone unsubscribes from a blog which has successfully blogtipped them to another great blog.  After all, you’ve just demonstrated that you know your customer well enough to know what else they’ll enjoy.

So blogtipping is a great marketing strategy!  And I will be joining the fray of tippers come November 1st!  Hats off to Easton and everyone else who embraces the blogosphere by recognizing that believing in abundance is a much smarter strategy than clinging to the poor puppies!

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Get the referrals that are best for you!

September 30, 2006

A roll of shiny grey duct tape.Image via Wikipedia

John Jantsch over at Duct Tape Marketing had an interesting post about referrals and being wiser about who you ask to be a referral source.  He makes a very valid point — some clients are better referrals than others.  I could not agree more.

But I think it goes beyond that. Before you can know which clients are best suited to help you grow your business, you’d better know what you are best suited to deliver.   As we’ve talked about before, branding is for the bold.  When you have the courage to define your organization’s brand, by default you are also saying that you’re not going to try to be everything to everyone.  Branding is about narrowing your focus and your reach.  You will not cast your net as wide.  But you will drill down a lot deeper.

So let’s say that you are a healthcare copywriter who’s passion is for making complicated medical information accessible to the lay person.  Your best referral sources are going to be clients that have hired you to do that sort of work.  Sure, you’ve taken generalist copywriting jobs.  And those clients probably love you too.  If they happen to refer you — great.  But concentrate your energy in terms of actively soliciting referrals within your area of expertise.  Honor your brand.  Actively grow your business within your brand.  Drill deeper.  And ask your best clients to help!

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Want to be the Supreme Bean?

September 27, 2006

A couple posts from the always insightful Phil Gerbyshak and the beautiful and passionate Kammie Kobyleski (sorry Phil, you just don’t quite make it to beautiful!) have me thinking about how critical it is to bring our passion and positive attitude to work every day.  How you celebrate doing that says a great deal about your organization’s culture…and your brand.

At McLellan Marketing Group, we embrace our sense of teamwork with a bit of proverbial tongue in cheek.  Everyone is assigned a different kind of bean.  Because of my habitual kidney stones, yes…you guessed it, I got kidney beans.  There are lima, coffee, pinto and a variety of others.


We also printed up index sized cards that say "You’ve been beaned" and have some room to write a note.  The premise is simple.  When one of your teammates goes out of their way to be helpful or supportive — you bean them.  You write a little note, thanking them for what they did and leave the note and one of your beans on their desk.

At the end of every month, we tally the beans.  Whoever received the most beans is declared the "Supreme Bean" and heralded by everyone. They also receive a $10 gift card.

Over the years, many of the employees have created quite a collection of beans that they proudly display on their desks in a variety of creative containers.

Easy.  Cheap.  Fun.  And a great way to declare our absolute intent to be passionate about the work we do, our clients and perhaps most of all, each other.  Do you suppose when we add a team member and explain the whole bean thing, they get a sense that team focused is one of our core values?

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Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!

September 24, 2006

Even if you don’t like baseball (which, btw is sick and wrong) you have to like the song Centerfield by John Fogerty.  Great melody and a great message.

The song is about passion for the game and a hunger to play it.  That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling about blogging of late.

Once my blog coach, Mike Sansone, turned me onto the power of blogging, I’ve been hooked.  Images_1

Mike’s an amazing combination of coach, cheerleader, and play coordinator.  He’s helped me with the technology, the culture and the nuts and bolts of blogging.  The generosity of his spirit is only eclipsed by his vast knowledge on the subject.  That’s what makes a player or a coach great.  Anyone can understand the rules of the game or even the mechanics of it.  But, when something ignites your passion and you can’t wait to step up to the plate again — that’s what makes a champion.  And in the world of blogging, Mike is just that — a champion.

So, if in the infancy of my blog I am doing anything right — clearly it is a credit to Mike.  I am pretty darn sure that any of the mistakes I have or will make along the way are all mine!

Thanks coach for helping me get into the game!

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Could you get to Cooperstown without a map?

September 19, 2006

Sure, you probably could.  But you’d make a few wrong turns along the way.  You’d waste time and resources (gas) and with today’s prices, that could cost a pretty penny.

The same is true of marketing plans.  Can you be successful without one?  You bet.  Will you get there as quickly or with a full tank of gas?  Nope.  95 business owners out of 100 do not have a marketing plan.  They have no written map that will show them how they plan on getting to their goals.  So guess what?  Most of them never get there.  Of the 5% that actually have a written plan — less than 3% actually refer to it or use it as an action plan.

Do you have a written marketing plan?  If you do — is it gathering dust or propelling you towards your success?

Why not hop on the highway and beeline for your company’s version of Cooperstown?  (BTW…for those of you who didn’t recognize it, Cooperstown is the home to the baseball hall of fame.)  If you’re headed that way, don’t forget your map!

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The Mall of America offers marketing insight

September 17, 2006

I brought my daughter and one of her best friends up to Minneapolis and the Mall of America.  I know, I know.  I keep telling you — I am dumber than I look!


For those of you who have not visited the nation’s largest mall, it has an amusement park of sorts right in the middle.  So while the girls were in line to go on a contraption designed to lodge their stomach in their throats, I was doing one of my favorite things, observing life as it meandered by. 

I found a bench where I could see the girls and do some people watching.  The bench happened to be right next to one of those "smash a penny" and imbed some picture on it for a souvenir.  I glanced and noticed that the penny memento would cost you 51 cents.  I shook my head, thinking they probably never have to empty out the cash box on that machine.  Who in the world would spend 50 cents to mutilate a penny, only to toss it into their underwear drawer when they got home?

I sat there for about 15 minutes.  In that span of time, 5 different sets of people gleefully got their penny souvenirs.  Shows you what I know!

What a great marketing reminder.  Just because we do or don’t like something does not mean our target audience feels the same way.  We must resist putting ourselves into the potential customers’ shoes.  Or, we can imagine that everyone is just like us AND accept the fact that we’re going to miss out on selling a lot of pennies!

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