You can’t sleep through your own social media efforts

August 3, 2011


…no effort, no real gain

I will admit right off the bat, this is a bit of a rant, which you know I don’t do very often.

I was on the phone with a prospect (an organization who is just contemplating how/if they should begin to participate in social media) and I was talking about the process we’ve developed to help clients create a social media strategy that actually defines why they’d invest resources into the effort and then measures against those goals.

Just like any marketing strategy — we identify audiences, key messages, the right channels etc.

We end up creating a very robust strategy with our clients and then we teach them how to implement it.  For the next several months, we walk along side them as they get their sea legs.   We help them test drive different tools and schedules until they really feel confident that they can generate, conduct, find and participate in the kinds of conversations where they can add value and get value in return.

After that, we help them tweak the strategy and we might help with some content editing or repurposing some existing content for a blog or e-newsletter — but for the most part, they’re doing it on their own.  Because it is their conversation to have.

At this point in the phone call the prospect stopped the conversation and said “wait a second, are you saying that you don’t believe you should do it all for us?  I’ve talked to four other firms/consultants and no one’s ever suggested that we would do some of it ourselves.  They said it would be much easier on us if we just paid them a monthly fee and they took care of it all.”

What???  Are you freaking kidding me?

I’m not going to get into the “social media expert” discussion because it’s been done to death.  But, it infuriates me when people hold themselves out as any sort of expert and then purposefully give their clients bad advice because it puts more money into their own pocket.  It’s not only a crappy way to do business and dishonest — but it has the potential to do some serious damage to the client’s business.

Of course hiring someone else to do it all for you would be easier.  But that doesn’t make it better or even right.  It would be easier if you sat on the couch rather than going to the gym — but you don’t actually build any muscles that way.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone to help you.  People hire MMG all the time for that very purpose.

But you have to do some of the driving yourself.  Think about it.

Can a paid consultant respond to a customer complaint on a Facebook page wall or add to a conversation about your area of expertise in your blog’s comment section?  They can probably fake it.  But it certainly is a lost opportunity if you let them “handle” it rather than you digging in and really either starting or enhancing a relationship — all in front of hundreds (or thousands) of potential buyers.

Don’t let any social media agency, company or consultant own your social media activity any more than you’d let a stranger answer your customer service line.

If you do, it may be the most expensive buying decision you ever make.


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Can your brand co-exist with your company’s brand?

July 28, 2011

…How do you balance your personal & company brand?

Earlier this week, we explored the idea of how your personal brand influences and sometimes becomes your company’s brand.  If you are an author, solo consultant or solopreneur that can actually work to your advantage, as we discussed.

On the flip side, if you’ve got an entire organization behind you (whether it’s 4 employees or 400) then having a very prominent brand can be problematic.


Because you get into the sticky situation of people wanting to hire YOU not your firm.  Which means your company can only grow to the peak of your own capacity.   And potential customers will be disappointed if they get assigned to one of your co-workers rather than being excited to be connected with an organization as smart as yours.

So how do you combat that?  You certainly don’t want to douse your own brand and when pointed in the right direction, your brand’s reach can extend to serve your entire company.  But how do you make sure your personal brand doesn’t overshadow the entire team?

Only the best: If you’re in the position to influence or control the hiring, you’re going to have to guard against settling.  You will need strong individuals who perform at the top of their game every day.  They also have to be ready to stand in tide of your brand and hold their own.   Be candid about the situation and help them define and build their own brands that compliment yours and the company’s.

You’re also going to have to recruit people who are committed to always bettering themselves: And part of your role is going to need to be coach/mentor.  We give a lot of lip service to the idea of hiring people who are smarter than ourselves, but you’re really going to have to walk that out.  How can you truly motivate and support them getting even better?

Celebrate your team: Get out of the spotlight when you can.  If you can turn it to one of your teammates, all the better.  You’re the team’s biggest and most vocal cheerleader.  Do it internally and do it with clients and prospects.    Encourage them to take leadership positions in the community, especially in areas where you have not already been.  Let them carve out their own path and be on the sidelines applauding the entire time.

Think differently about your products/services: Odds are your strong personal brand was borne out of you being very good at something.  And you probably built your company around that core competency, as well you should.

Let’s say you are the best cupcake maker in the world.  Your cupcakes make grown men weep.   And maybe there’s no way any of your very able bakers are going to be able to duplicate your cupcakes.  That’s okay….you keep making the cupcakes.  And if you want — your business can only sell cupcakes.  But that means you have to always be in the kitchen.  And your team can’t grow and enjoy basking in their own light.

Why not examine both what your customers need and where you team has some unique talents.  Perhaps there are some complimentary offerings that they could own.  Maybe one of your staff makes killer expresso or quiches.

Even within a niched company like a law firm specializing in taxes, there are nuances or levels that are worth exploring.    Help them find their own niche that can flourish alongside yours.

In the end, it’s a balancing act.

Every company would like to have a charismatic leader who is well known and well respected.  So you don’t want to do anything to diminish that.  But you do want to elevate the rest of your crew so that all of you can build a company that exists and succeeds beyond your own sphere of influence and your 24 hours in a day.

For those of you who have a strong presence or brand — how do you create the balance for your organization?


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Brand truth: I don’t care

June 13, 2011

…Are they really the tree huggers you’d hoped?

…about what you wish I cared about.

Way too many brands chase the fad of the day, thinking they can jump on a swell of consumer sentiment and rise those profits into the sunset.  No so fast, my friends.

For your brand to be effective, sticky and enduring — it has to be about what matters to your consumers.  They have to genuinely identify with it/care about it.  You can’t make them love you.  (Nod to Bonnie Raitt)  No matter how hot the trend is or how passionate you might personally be.

Case in point — a recent study done by OgilvyEarth (I’m pretty sure David Ogilvy rolls his eyes from the grave on that one) shows that most consumers aren’t buying the whole “green movement.” In particular, men are not motivated or swayed by green marketing messages.  It turns out that their perception when they hear green is “more expensive.”

So playing to the trend is actually hurting those brands who hoped that men would be moved to pull out their wallets based on the green movement marketing position.

Time to do your own brand check.  Are you trying to force an idea, value or belief at your core audience?  Or…do you know yourself and your core audience so well that you know what brings you together?

And before you are quick to answer…be ready to tell me this.  HOW do you know that your brand is what truly resonates in the hearts of your core audience?


Hat tip to Kami Watson Huyse for tweeting the Ogilvy link.


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Stop giving it away

May 17, 2011

….Are you giving away your expertise?

“Actually, I get paid to do that.”  I hear this every day in a client’s story as they lament a prospect expecting to get their thinking for free.

I say this every day in my own head too.  And, I’m betting you mutter it under your breath as well.

And yet, most people struggle with finding the words to tell yet another “prospect” that what they’re asking for isn’t free.  It’s actually the most rare of fruit that only comes from years of experience, study, real life trials and walking through the fire with a lot of clients.

You wouldn’t call a plumber and expect him to come to your house and diagnose and fix your problem for free – and yet every day, professionals, especially professionals of the creative class (doctors, lawyers, business coaches, marketing professionals, accountants and other knowledge based workers) are being asked to do that very thing.

If you’re a professional who draws on complex bodies of knowledge and experience to solve specific problems – you’ve probably faced this issue.  So how do you keep from having this recurring problem impact your business?

Actually – it’s a marketing issue.  And here are some ways to communicate away the situation.

Stop giving it away: This first suggestion is certainly the simplest in theory and the hardest in practice.  If you keep rewarding the bad behavior, you will just get more of it.  When someone asks you to share your expertise for free, you need to have a practiced and comfortable answer.

That answer should be based on your organization, your brand and your comfort level.  It should respectfully and clearly explain that your advice is not free, in fact that’s how you make your living.

Set the expectation early on: Long before someone ever gets you into a meeting – you need to establish the rules.  On your website, in your brochure, as a part of your “get to know us” PowerPoint – spell it out.  Be very clear that your thinking time/expertise is delivered for a fee.

You don’t have to list prices if you don’t want to get that specific.  Avoid being too nice and push yourself to be blatant that there will be a cost.

Don’t run after them: If they balk at being charged or try to get you to reduce your fee, be polite but stand firm.  (This requires being fair when you set your pricing to begin with).  If they walk away – let them.

I know this is tough when you really want the project – but they have just told you what value they’re going to assign to your years of experience.  Is that really a client you want?

Give it away but with intent and purpose: One way to demonstrate the value of what you sell is to give it away. (I’m not contradicting myself, I promise!)  So go ahead and give it away to a non-profit or a start up you’re sponsoring. (like our adopt a charity program)

Use that generosity to set the contrast for prospects.  “Now as you may know, we did this same sort of XYZ plan for charity 123, but naturally, in that case, we actually donated our expertise.”

Next time you find yourself grumbling about this problem, remember – you ‘re actually the one giving it away.  And only you can keep it from happening down the road.

Addendum:  Someone just shared this post with me from Kevin Dugan.  He’s ranting about the “can I buy you coffee and pick your brain” call, much in alignment with the post above.  See — it is something we’re all facing.

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Know. Like. Trust.

May 12, 2011



Too many organizations go hot and cold with their marketing.  They’re aggressive or at least active one month or one quarter and then are dormant for months at a time.  Or other companies market like crazy when sales are down but when they get busy, marketing falls off the radar.

Or maybe your particular version is that you only deliver the first half of the one/two punch.  You drop the direct mail piece but you never follow up with the phone call.

Regardless of how or why — the inconsistency of your marketing hurts you.  It turns a warm prospect into a cold one, by the time you get back around to marketing again.

This is one of the most common marketing mistakes that companies big and small make over and over.  They try to time their marketing.  Much like a day trader who believes you can time the market, knowing exactly when to jump in and out – some business owners and marketing types believe they can guestimate exactly when their marketing message needs to be in front of their consumers.


I’m not saying it’s impossible.  I’m saying it’s not necessary. And I would contend, it’s actually detrimental to your long-term success.

Here’s the kernel of truth we don’t like to acknowledge.  We can’t know (unless you sell Christmas trees or some other very seasonal product) when our prospects are going to begin their buying process. I’m not talking about when they’re going to buy.  The reality is – we need to get to them way before they make that decision.

To be one of the considered choices – you have to on the list to begin with.  Marketing is all about getting a prospect to know who you are, like who you are and trust who you are.

Just like in our personal relationships – that doesn’t happen in an instant.

Getting them to know you: We get to know others gradually, through either an extended contact or many quick hits.  Marketing works the same way.  In most cases, a prospect isn’t going to give you their time and attention for more than a few minutes…so you have to go with the “be present all the time, so when they need/want you – you’re there” model.  We call this drip marketing.  There are lots of ways to do this and I’ll dig into them next week.

Getting them to like you: This is about being authentic.  Will everyone like you?  Nope…but you don’t need everyone.  You just need enough of the right someones.  Here’s the tough part about this phase.  They have to like more than what you sell.  They also have to like the people selling it.  Let them get to know your organization and your people.

Getting them to trust you: The bigger your price tag, the deeper the trust needs to be.  But no matter what you sell, trust is the cornerstone of actually making the sale.  How do you get a buyer to trust you?  In marketing terms, it’s actually pretty straightforward.  You are honest (see getting them to like you), you are consistent and you actually follow up when you say you’re going to.

While all of that sounds simple, most businesses fail miserably at it.



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Social media cheat sheet 2011

April 13, 2011

Screen shot 2011 04 10 at 11 59 05 PM
Social Media Cheat Sheet 2011

As I continue to travel the country, teaching people how to integrate social media into their marketing efforts — the most common question asked is:  Which social media tool/site is the best?

And of course, my answer is an unequivocal — it depends.  The crowds sure love that!

Like any marketing tactic — the effectiveness of it is based on what you’re trying to accomplish.  Social media is no different.  Which is why, about a year ago, I was so happy  to share with you a cheat sheet that ranked different social media tools as good, okay, or bad…based on the goals you had.  (Created by

The goals were/remain:

  • Customer communication
  • Brand Exposure
  • Traffic to your site
  • SEO

The social media cheat sheet has been updated.  I think you’ll find it very valuable as you access where you should spend your social media resources (time, money, attention) in the coming year.

You can download a full sized PDF by clicking here.

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Your logo is a business tool

March 28, 2011

Your logo is a tool, not art

We were sitting in the conference room the other day with a new client.  He’s been in business for many years and is very successful.  He’s ready to reallyramp up his marketing and tackle some lofty goals.

And we’re ready to help. (After all, that’s what we do)

He went on to tell us that he really doesn’t like his logo.  It doesn’t tell his company’s story very well, it’s a little expected and in his opinion, it isn’t very attractive.  So the first project he’d like us to launch is a logo re-design.

I took a deep breath and told him no.

Now… granted I said it with more words…and nicer.  But basically I said this:

  • No logo is going to tell the whole story of your business
  • You have over a decade of equity in your current logo
  • Your current logo isn’t costing you any customers or any money (no one’s not choosing you because of your logo)
  • Your current logo is fine.  It’s not perfect and we’d be able to come up with something better.  But not so much better that it will line your pockets.
  • Remember a logo cost is far beyond just the cost of designing a new logo.  There are legal costs to register it, you have to re-print all of your business cards, letterhead, etc., your staff’s uniforms would need to be changed and your trucks would need to be re-vinyled.  Then, there’s building signage etc, etc. etc.

I summed it up with… if the only reason you want to change your logo is because you don’t like it, it’s not a good enough reason.  It’s not a piece of art you choose to put in your home, it is a business tool and your current logo is doing the job adequately.

I also told him, it was his company.  And if he hated the logo that much and he gritted his teeth every day when he saw it and it haunted him in his dreams — we’d design him a new logo.  But that if it was my money — I wouldn’t spend it there.

Do not get me wrong.  A logo is a very important part of your marketing effort.  Most logos suck and should be changed.  But his didn’t.  And it shouldn’t be changed for the subjective reason of his personal taste.

Your logo is a business tool.  If it’s doing a good job — leave it be.


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The Swahili take on branding

February 21, 2011

Shutterstock_1482262 Swahili proverb:  A boat does not go forward if each is rowing their own way.

Any good crew team will tell you that they rely on the coxswain to keep them in synch.  During a race, the coxswain shouts commands, keeping the crew on course.  No matter how polished or experienced the crew, they would not be successful without hearing the same commands over and over.

Branding works pretty much the same way.  No matter how talented your team is or how many years of experience — they need a brand champion who will serve as coxswain.  Someone who runs a long side them and keeps them on course, shouting directions and encouragement.

What does it take to be the brand’s coxswain?

Discipline: Sooner or later, your brand is going to put you in a spot where you have to make a tough decision.  For example, do you honor the brand or just hire any breathing body because your understaffed?  Branding is fun when you’re creating the logo.  It’s not as much fun when you’re making difficult business decisions.

Perseverance: Branding really is for the brave.  It’s a long-haul sort of proposition.  So your brand champion needs to be willing to go the distance.

A learner’s heart: Leading a brand effort is often uncharted waters.  So you have to enter into it accepting that you don’t know it all and will learn along the way.  You need to be curious, ask a lot of questions and listen to every perspective.

A welcoming spirit: You can’t build a company’s brand all by yourself.  You need to inspire others to join the cause.  You need to help them understand why it matters and how they can be a part of something meaningful.

What else do you think it takes to be a brand champion?

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Marketing tip #56: Walk a mile in their moccasins

February 8, 2011


I believe this is one of those marketing tips that we all nod our heads at and think, “gosh, I should do that one of these days” but really rarely get around to doing.

We get so caught up in our processes and getting the job done that we forget that we’re doing it “to” and “with” a human being.  And those pesky human beings sometimes need a little hand holding or explanation — especially if they’re new to the task.

It’s so easy to get frustrated with yet another question or request that takes you off “the path of the plan.”  But honestly — if you find yourself reacting that way — then shame on you.  Yes…shame on you.

If a customer is pushing back, or asking more questions or seems unable to pull the trigger it’s because you left something unexplained.  The more firmly you dig in your heels and hold them to the process, the more unsure they feel.  Which just leads to…yup, more questions and concern.  It’s an ugly cycle.

I’m reminded of this truth as we work with a new vendor to McLellan Marketing Group.  While they’re quite good at what they do, they have the customer service skills of a grumpy drunk.  I have often found myself wondering if they have any concept of what it’s like to work with them.  My guess is… no.

Our experience with them has me very mindful of how we’re treating our own clients.  Are we taking the time to really walk out the next steps with them?  Are we in tune with their hesitations or worries?  Do we dismiss their concerns or ideas because “we know” what’s right?  And do we even bother to explain the why?

I find myself wanting to be able to experience us… as a new client.  What do they see and hear?  Do they feel welcome and important?  Or do they feel rushed and confused?  Are our procedures confusing?  Our bills clear?  Our gratitude evident?

We can’t step into their shoes, but we can ask for their feedback.  We can be more mindful of how it must feel from their position.  In our quest to create love affairs with our customers — this would seem to me to be pivotal.

How about you?  How do you balance conducting business in a way that is efficient and effective with customer care?  How do you stay in touch with what it’s like to do business with you?

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How much should I spend on marketing?

October 11, 2007

Budget This is probably one of the most asked questions of marketing agencies and consultants.  If you google the phrase, there are almost 17 million results.  Guess it’s on peoples’ minds, eh?

I think one of the reasons why it’s on everyone’s mind is because there is no magic answer.  Before we get into the methods of determining a right answer, let’s be very clear about these two points:

The exact amount matters less than having an amount.  In other words, having and tracking a marketing budget, even if your initial number is off, is much more important than getting the number exactly right.

You can have the right budget and spend it on the wrong things.  A marketing plan should always be tied to a strategic marketing budget.

Now, let’s tackle the question.  Here are some of the more effective ways to set a marketing budget:

Percentage of gross sales/revenue:

This is probably the simplest method.  Most experts recommend somewhere in the range of 2-8% of gross sales.  McKinsey & Company is often quoted at 5%.

Most small businesses (less than $5 million gross revenue) should shoot for at least 7-8%.


Many industries have their own standard.  For example:

  • Consumer package goods:  Up to 50% of projected net sales to launch a new product
  • Industrial B-to-B:  1% of gross sales
  • Retail:  4-10% of net revenues
  • Banks/Credit Unions:  2-5% of assets
  • Law firms:  1-4% of gross revenues
  • Pharmaceuticals:  Up to 20% of net sales
  • Hospitals:  1% of net revenues

Lifetime value of customer:

The idea is simple.  You identify how much profit (on average) you make during the lifetime of that customer relationship and determine how much you are willing to invest per customer acquisition.  If you choose this method be very careful that your numbers are accurate.

Goals/Plan driven:

The thinking behind this method is really a blend of some of the others.  Identify measurable goals (# of new clients, % of revenue increase, etc) and then determine your sales equation.

For example:  For every 100 prospects approached, you get 25 initial meetings.  From those 25 meetings, you can expect to get 12 invitations to present a proposal.  From 12 proposals, you will score 4 new clients.  If your goal is 20 new clients, you now know that you need to approach 500 qualified prospects.  You build your marketing plan to accomplish that and assign the costs accordingly.

Again, this method requires very accurate numbers to make the equations viable.

So what do you think?  Which method do you currently use?  If you don’t have a marketing budget, which method do you think would serve you best?

kick it on Iowa Newz

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