The No. 1 Reason for Business Screw-Ups

If you had to guess, what would you say the No. 1 reason was for business screw-ups? Specifically, what’s the main reason for stupid errors, dumb recurring questions, unclear communications, employee un-civil war and blunders?

If you had to guess, what would you say the No. 1 reason was for business screw-ups? Specifically, what’s the main reason for stupid errors, dumb recurring questions, unclear communications, employee un-civil war and blunders?

The Reason May Surprise You!

“Forgetting” is the No. 1 reason for the free-for-all confusion and chaos in business!

How do I know?

Before learning the art of systematization, I was a “professional” at business screw-ups. Yes, an aficionado at business blunders. Not something I’m proud of, because my ignorance cost me dearly!

Did you know, way back in 1858 a man by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus studied and developed a system to measure “forgetting?”

It’s called the Hermann Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. It’s true!

According to Ebbinghaus’ measurements, people forget two-thirds of the information they receive within 24 hours. I believe it, because I’ve seen it and experienced it.

This being the case, it’s easy to understand WHY employees ask the business’ owner and managers the same questions repeatedly and WHY stupid errors reoccur daily.

The amazing thing is, experienced business owners seriously believe and repeat the myth that there’s nothing businesses can do about “the forgetting curve.” As a result, they say, “People are human; therefore, we must accept ‘forgetting’ as normal, and just deal with it.”

My response to that type of Mom and Pop-business-thinking is, “Tell the airline industry or your surgeon, if they forget something, you’ll understand. After all, they’re only human, right?”

Business Screw-Ups Not Tolerated at American Airlines

When I was a business owner in the printing industry, we printed for American Airlines. At that time, their hub was in Nashville, Tenn. I was always amazed at the amount of detailed information contained in their aircraft service manuals, which we printed daily.

Routinely, we received calls from an American Airlines purchasing agent asking the status of a certain manual, days before we were to deliver it. When we responded, for example, the manuals were 50% completed, the agent would say “OK, scrap them all, invoice us and come pick up the updated version.”

The reason for that was, someone in the organization had identified an issue or error with the manual; consequently, updating was immediate, no matter the cost. Their customer’s safety vastly outweighed the cost of reprinting those just-printed manuals.

The process of maintenance improvement is systematic at American Airlines. In fact, updating maintenance checklists and manuals is continual and routine. Nothing left to chance FORGETTING is not an option!

In like manner, we operated just like the “big boys” at our company. Control Checklists for quality were routine and the process of improvement, continual. If a professional business screw-up like myself can change, so can any small business owner.

You think American Airlines appreciated our quality control checklists? I’m sure they did!

Did I mention? Great systems work!

How Do Agencies Succeed in Changing Times?

The marketing and advertising industry, like many other industries, appears to be in a constant state of flux. So why do some advertising agencies succeed while others fail?

I love the marketing and advertising industry. And like other industries, it appears to be in a constant state of flux. So why do some advertising agencies succeed while others fail?

In business school you’re taught the concept of competitive landscape, the notion that this landscape is dynamic and ever changing. And that competitive advantage is fickle and fleeting. Your competitors are lurking and there’s a constant threat of losing your position in the ecosystem. The companies that succeed in this environment are the ones who continuously evolve and grow. This concept has proven itself to me time and again.

I’ve worked in the advertising industry +20 years. And I believe my professional experience has many parallels with changes in the industry. I’m an accountant by trade, started my career at a privately held marketing firm, followed by many years  in the holding company environment, and now am the CFO at an independent agency. Over the years, I’ve watched the industry that I love evolve into various renditions of itself.

I witnessed an industry predominately comprised of small independently owned agencies, transform via acquisitions and mergers into a handful of publicly traded holding companies. Unfortunately, these agencies have become so large and complex, they’ve struggled to react to client and market demands. And recently,  like my career the industry has come full circle with the return of the small independent agency structure.

And still there is more change in the horizon.  New players such as media giants, consultancies, and in house marketing departments have entered the space and are competing for marketing dollars. Have you ever wondered why agencies like DDB, BBDO, Ogilvy have succeeded with longevity?  Why have they dominated the industry for so many years while so many others have sailed away in the night?

  • These organizations understand what differentiates them from other players and are smart enough not to become complacent. They cultivate, invest in, nurture those differentiations and do not stray very far from their core capabilities. I once worked for an agency, founded in 1903, which originally specialized in tombstone print advertisement. Up until about the 1990’s, tombstone advertising was a very lucrative business and the agency’s client list included many large financial institutions on Wall Street. However, tombstone advertising was a dying art doomed for extinction with the prevalence of Internet technology. But when I joined the agency in 2013, it had successfully evolved to a B2B specialist with a niche in the financial sector. The +115 year old agency is a good example of the importance of nurturing and cultivating ones craft, it didn’t straying from its core capabilities and continues to service many of the same financial institutions at an  expanded capacity.  Evolution is key.
  • Standards need to be high. “If you have passion for what you do, the company you keep, the life you live, it will be reflected in whatever you create. Passion is like that; it springs out, jumps, unpredictable and unplanned, into everything we touch.” — R.D. Laing. These organizations have very high standards for the company they keep, services they provide and are passionate about the work they produce. My first Omnicom agency experience was invaluable in so many ways. Largely, because of the smart, talented, accomplished, passionate individuals that I had the pleasure to work with. Our leadership team of four, consisted of me, an Wharton MBA, NYU MBA and Oxford University graduate.  No, an Ivy League degree  wasn’t a prerequisite for the job. However the agency employed a rigorous screening process and were very selective with hires.  It was truly a special environment where each day was filled with opportunity to grow as a professional, collaborate with extremely talented colleagues and learn from super accomplished senior talent. The agency was successful in many ways, but largely for developing exemplary talent many of whom now hold senior leadership roles at various agencies across the country.
  • Lastly, there is a plan. It’s too easy to lose focus, the most successful leaders and organizations stay focused on the north star.  Successful agencies develop, communicate and deploy a well thought out strategic plan that is flexible and nimble enough to easily and quickly adjust. Generally, the leaders of these organizations are well liked and respected. They communicate their vision and strategy and inspire large groups of people to work towards that shared vision.  There is intention behind every decision, every purchase, every hire, every client interaction.

I believe the advertising industry is at a crossroads. With recent senior leadership changes at several of the holding companies, changing client demands and structures, with a steady growth of internal marketing departments. Which agencies will prevail and succeed in this next phase?


The 5 Best HR Tips for Increasing Employee Engagement

Effective employee engagement improves sales figures, decreases workforce turnovers and improves client satisfaction. The companies with the healthiest company culture are those with management who actively engage with employees. Follow these five best HR practices for the most effective employee engagement.

Effective employee engagement improves sales figures, decreases workforce turnovers and improves client satisfaction. The companies with the healthiest company culture are those with management who actively engage with employees. Engagement within an organization is the most effective tool companies can use to track and encourage employee successes. 

Below are the five best HR practices for increasing employee engagement:

1. Employee Engagement Begins With Training

Employee training is key for ensuring new employees have a smooth transition into an organizations culture. An informative and instructive on boarding process is the foundation upon which  employee engagement begins with an organization’s goals. By communicating clear and defined expectations management can pave the path for reaching the desired results.

Unfortunately a lot of management teams fail to incorporate employee engagement into the company’s organizational structure. In fact, 55% of new hires are not provided a sufficient induction or training plan.

Every company has different organizational structures. For that reason, it is imperative that management outlines the key expectations of the role. Outlining job responsibilities is the framework for which employees can reach goals and is essential for success.

2. Communicate Role Expectations

Setting up initial goals and objectives within your organization is a great way to ensure that your staff is on the right track. Individual roles should have their own set of responsibilities. Be sure to make time every few months for communication between management and staff members. This fosters the opportunity to evaluate role satisfaction and develop a plan for employee progression and career development. This will not only increase autonomy and integrity in the work place, but also allows management to understand the respective areas of interest for future positions and hiring.

This will also bolster engagements and motivate your new employees to strive for excellence in all areas. A successful CEO will make sure that new hires have a sound understanding of the firm’s values, mission, and goals.

3. Active Engagement and Role Maintenance

Once management is confident that the new hires have fully settled in to their designated role, it is important to keep levels of employee engagement as high as possible.

Commitment and gratitude toward employees goes a long way. Model behavior for employees starts at the top. So, it is likely that a company’s staff will mirror that same level of commitment and gratitude in their work performance.

Regular “one-on-ones”, acknowledgments and objective setting will motivate employees to reach goals and improve their skillsets. Don’t be afraid to challenge your people and engage in healthy competition.

4. Promote From Within

There are many tools available for managers to utilize to acknowledge the accomplishments of their team. One of the most traditional and effective means of rewarding hardworking employees, is granting them a raise or promotion; or both if you can.  If available, promotion from within is key for morale and a great way reward your staff members for their hard work.

Promotion from within provides an extremely strong index of the firm’s core culture. Managers should recognize that the individual  rewards send a message to the entire organization. Be certain that the behaviors which are being endorsed by the promotion are in line with the firm’s culture and values. Again, being a model of positive behavior will ensure the remainder of the staff will look to emulate those behaviors you want to see reinforced.

Encouraging employee engagement through vertical communication is also great way to express mutual respect and show appreciation amongst one another.

5. Hire Multi-talented Employees

To maintain an edge in this increasingly competitive economy, companies need to ensure that they employ individuals referred to as “Unicorns” by HR managers. A Unicorn refers to a multi-skilled employee who is able to multitask and wear more than one hat.  .

Unicorns are normally talented in numerous areas and can execute them all beyond a superficial level. Finding these employees starts before the interview process. A persons references and past work experience provides a window to the type of benefits they can provide your company.

Here are some of the key advantages of hiring Multi-talented employees:

  • Multi-talented employees can save you a significant amount of money.
  • Employees with a wide range skill sets improve productivity and business efficiency. You won’t need to worry about the level of work quality since they’ll perform remarkably in all business tasks and projects handed over to them.
  • Having multi-talented employees allows for other team members to take sick and vacation days due to their ability to step into various roles. He or she can easily fill in and execute many jobs impeccably.
  • Improves staff retention and motivation.


Why GDPR Matters More Than You Think

The GDPR grants European Union (EU) citizens power over their personal information, giving them a literal off-switch for how their personal data is used. While this gives more control to consumers, it creates more work for marketers and potentially more litigation. This matters more than you think.

GDPR is here, and yet the world still spins. For some all is well, for others all is not well. Nonetheless, let me take this opportunity to share with you a story.

Fresh out of graduate school I was on a mission to prove myself capable in the business world. I took a position as number two at a privately held accounting firm. This was the halcyon days of Sarbanes–Oxley. Google was not yet the dominant species and your personal information was as likely to be in a file cabinet as it would be on a server. Back then, protecting customers’ digital information was a certain form of alchemy. An alchemy I was able to practice during my first tax season.

For the uninitiated, tax season is a non-stop cavalcade of social security numbers, W2s, receipts, and bank routing numbers. We were a midsize firm, hosting our own servers, with twenty thousand or so clients. We looked like a tasty (and easy to acquire) target for the nefarious sort. In the middle of my first tax season, we became a target.

Our founder came crashing into my office, and of course, I was with a client. He yelled in a panic, “We’re being hacked! What do we do?” As I calmed our client’s nerves, assuring them their information was safe; I walked into our server room, and turned off the power. I then calmly turned to our founder and said, “Now they are not hacking us anymore.”

We had an off-switch.

A way to protect our data by simply removing our system from the source of the problem: connectivity. In a lot of ways, that is the spirit behind the European Union’s (EU) new data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR grants EU citizens explicit power over their information and the right to decide what companies keep, how it is used, and whom it can be shared with. It also grants the right for EU citizens to take their information back (and in essence removed from a company’s servers). For a fantastic primer on GDPR compliance for marketers, check out Heather Fletcher’s guide.

It is an off-switch for the storing and use of personal information.

More Control for Consumers

The GDPR is not just about protecting privacy. It is about shifting control of personal information into the hands of consumers and away from businesses. A strangely anti-libertarian move that introduces conflict between data retention laws in regulated industries (such as banking and securities in the U.S.) and the individual rights it grants to consumers (something the inevitable case law to sort out). The intent is clear; consumers should have control over their personal data, not corporations.

While the implications for marketing are not yet be fully known, the GDPR requires (massive) changes to systems. Especially niche ones that specialize in consumer data and analytics. Entire industries may vanish and new ones are already emerging. The impact of the requirements, and how they are enforced, effects marketing technology as it is now, and how it is developed. Not to mention the impact on the development of AI, machine learning, and other emerging marketing technologies.

This is not conjecture, the GDPR text specifically calls this tension out. In the provision on Legitimate Interest one section reads, “Abiding by all this likely drastically reduces the amount of personal data a controller or processor is able to freely process both due to subjects not opting in and the loss of prior collected data.” The framers of the GDPR expect a sizeable decrease in the personal information that can be used in marketing. Opening the door for a new set of regulations FinServ marketers need to manage.

More Regulations for Marketers

Ahh yes, the fiery ritual of regulatory compliance. The ebb and flow of pushing boundaries and finding leverage points in regulations. Teetering on that fine edge marks the life of a marketer in the FinServ industry.

Raise your hand if you have had an excellent marketing piece rejected because it did not pass regulatory muster.

While the job for marketers is to find creative and engaging ways to generate interest in products and services, for many in the FinServ industry, it is their compliance officers job to make sure it is within the legal boundaries of what is acceptable. GDPR may make the relationship between marketing and compliance more crucial.

Up until now, all FinServ marketers had to worry about was regulators liking what we say about our products and services. With the introduction of stricter consent rules, comes the introduction of more regulations.

Organizations impacted by the GDPR, will now have to demonstrate compliance in new areas, including audit trails for how data is acquired and consent was earned. The costs associated with this are enormous. As much of the data that is collected and processed, exist on disparate systems. For some companies, it may be cheaper to pay the fines, then to do the work to come into compliance.

More Gray Areas for Litigators to Sort Out

I take a great amount of joy in using data to solve organizational problems, especially in marketing. There is something about eradicating opinions with a well-executed A/B test. Better yet, using historical customer behavioral trends to build predictive models and forecasting tools. For those who do business in the EU, however, those scenarios are now a bit more difficult.

While gray areas are found in most of the GDPR, a couple of provisions introduce gray areas for common marketing practices. The two provisions that may yet reek havoc on marketing are the profiling and processing provisions.

GDPR compliance requires that individuals be able to opt out of being subject to automatic decision making, which already includes the use of cookies on websites, but can also mean personalized marketing. Further, individuals must also give consent to their information being processed, whatever that means.

While it is uncertain how the inevitable lawsuits and regulatory challenges will shape these areas, what is clear is that the GDPR was designed to force change. This means that EU citizens can say no to being part of marketing automation, and no to their information being augmented by third party services. Both common practices in digital marketing.

You need not be clairvoyant to see the litany of litigation that will challenge these provisions. Especially when business start shutting down or are fined for doing legitimate activities with consumer data. At the very least, many of us will need to start keeping an audit trail of where, how, and why we obtained information about our customers. Just in case.

A New World of Marketing Possibilities

To my boss at the accounting firm, my solution to our hacking problem was unorthodox and revolutionary. It was something that he would never have thought of. A course of action that was as creative as it was pragmatic.

It was literally an off-switch that changed the way we dealt with hackers.

And what do marketers do best? We take constraints and limitations and exploit them, find the leverage points and go. While the GDPR introduces new limitations, it also opens up a whole new world of marketing possibilities we do not know yet. There GDPR is here and make no mistake, while the US may not adopt all of what the GDPR is, similar controls will make their way across the pond.

Consumers will be given an off-switch for their data and that changes the game.

So Why Does GDPR Matter More Than You Think?

Whoever figures out the leverage points within the GDPR and how to use them as an advantage in marketing gets to define how our game will be played.

7 Event Planning Tips and Tricks From the Pros

Event planning is an eloquent art that can leave a lasting impression on attendees. Strategic event planning can be used to create new relationships, promote a product and increase employee participation. When done right, an event will leave a positive lasting impression long after it has passed. Follow this easy to use, step-by-step guide to plan an event like the pros.

Event planning is an eloquent art that can leave a lasting impression on attendees. Strategic event planning can be used to create new relationships, promote a product and increase employee participation. When done right, an event will leave a positive lasting impression long after it has passed.

Follow this easy to use, step-by-step guide to plan an event like the pros.

1. Event Planning with a Purpose

The beginning stages of event planning can never start too early. The first thing you should focus on is the purpose of your event. Are you fundraising, holding an informational workshop or corporate event? Or maybe your event is a celebration like a birthday party, wedding or anniversary. Whatever the occasion, once you clearly define your purpose, other things will fall into place, including who will be attending, the décor and how the occasion will be organized.

2. Gather Volunteers

Event planning is hard work and it can be difficult to go it alone. If you know people who are willing to volunteer, you can start delegating specific tasks to them. Sending invites, welcoming guests and cleaning are things you should think about when considering who is going to do what. If you are unable to find people who can help you for free, consider hiring a crew.

3. Create an Event Budget

If you don’t create a budget, you run the risk of spending way more than you had anticipated. Think about the cost of location, staff, food and whatever other expenses will be incurred. Try to save money wherever possible.  This can be done by finding inexpensive venues and using volunteers rather than a hired staff.

4. Decide on the Event Time and Place

Before deciding on a date, think about what else might be happening around that time. If there are other events that are similar to yours happening on the same date, it may hurt your attendance. Also, consider working around holidays and school or work schedules.

When thinking about location, find something that will be easily accessible for your guests. Also, note that your venue should be booked in advance, so you can be sure it will be available on the date you are requesting. If you are planning an event in Detroit, Brooklyn Outdoor can provide an industrial chic loft with panoramic views of the city. Use of this space includes an attentive staff that can see to every last detail.

6. Other Logistics

Other logistics to be considered include parking, what items and equipment you will need, whether you want to provide giveaways for your guests to take home and whether you want to have a photographer present to document the event.

7. The Countdown

As the event gets closer, you will realize there is a lot of be done to make everything run smoothly. When you are about two weeks out from the event, you will want to think about meeting with your team, visiting the venue and confirming your guest list to make sure everyone is on the same page.

During this time, it is easy to become stressed out so do your best to keep calm. Careful planning in the early stages can help to eliminate some of the stress. Planning an event is a lot of work, but if you are well organized, it can go relatively smoothly.

Business IS Personal, and Other Leadership Rules

“Business is one of the most human things in the world,” Simon Sinek said early on in his presentation during &THEN. He shared that when he hears someone say, “It’s not personal, it’s business” he just laughs to himself. No, no it’s not … business is personal. It’s human.

I have a new marketing crush. It’s Simon Sinek.

Simon SinekHe was the Monday morning inspirational keynote speaker during DMA’s &THEN event last week and I’m still running over in my head all the things he discussed in under an hour, a week later, because he gave us that much to chew on.

His wonderfully dynamic speaking skills aside, Simon was able to be upfront and frank with a hall full of marketers.

“Business is one of the most human things in the world,” he said early on in his presentation. Then he commented on that when he hears someone say, “It’s not personal, it’s business” he just laughs to himself. No, no it’s not … business is personal. It’s human.

business_personalAnd human is something we could all stand to do a little better, and a bit more often. Especially in leadership roles.

Simon spoke about how in this ever-connected world, technology shouldn’t replace human contact. Instead, it should bring humans together. And leaders need to take the charge.

Certificates Don’t Make a Leader

“[There’s an] incredible lack of leadership across the world today in every industry,” Simon said. It may seem harsh, but hang on before you brush off his point.

As humans, we like intensity because its easy to measure, and this is how leadership is often taught:

  1. Attend a leadership seminar
  2. Earn a certificate
  3. ”I’m a leader now!”

It’s the intensity we crave, but that’s not how it works. Consistency matters more than intensity. Good leaders are built over time, energy and actions.

Another point of his I really liked was that good leaders create an environment of vulnerability, which allows people to speak up and honestly ask for help and feel safe. If you know you can ask for help with a project and not fear a layoff or something else, employees will do so. This builds trust and stronger teams (trust me, THIS WORKS).

Put the Phone Down

We’re all saying this, but Simon both reinforced points and made some new ones.

When someone’s smartphone is out — whether in their hand, on a table or anywhere else visible — it makes the other person in the conversation feel less important. Why? Because at any moment it’s understood that a notification can go off, and attention gets transferred directly to the phone.

During a meeting, a smartphone on the table announces to all “you’re not important.” And yes, Simon let us all know that flipping the phone over in an attempt to be polite is still just as bad. And it’s true! How many meetings have you sat through with all the buzzing from phones being set to vibrate … or the phone with the ringer still on?

It’s distracting, but we all do it … and probably because a fair number of the people in leaderships roles are doing it. Not to be jerks, but because of this need to constantly be connected. Here, the tech gets in the way of the relationships.

Toward the end of his presentation, Simon said, “Whoever understands people the best wins.” “People” are our prospects, customers and even our fellow employees. Make it personal … because that’s just what good business is.

There will probably be a couple more blog posts in the future that will reference Simon’s presentation at &THEN 2016 … he gave me a lot to think about.

Customer ‘Loyalty’ — It’s Never a Sure Thing

As “Data,” “CRM” and the “Customer Database” continue the march toward the center of the marketing organization in tens of thousands of businesses, not surprisingly another “classic” marketing concept is rather “new” again — customer loyalty.

CRM keyAs “Data,” “CRM” and the “Customer Database” continue the march toward the center of the marketing organization in tens of thousands of businesses, not surprisingly another “classic” marketing concept is rather “new” again — customer loyalty.

Customer Loyalty: Where to Start

The right place to start in your consideration of customer loyalty and creating a loyalty program is simple, and yet relatively often, rather overlooked.

A simple question we ask when discussing the “loyalty” dimension of customer experiences and the customer data they produce goes something like this: What does success look like when you implement a customer loyalty program?

The answer to that varies — but the worst answer is “nothing.”

“Nothing” is never determining what the end in mind should be for your customer loyalty program in the first place. When organizations invest in defining the outcome they seek, they are roughly 20 percent of the way to success. As the axiom goes, “If you spend 90 percent of your time defining the problem, you’ll solve it in 10 percent of the time.”

What Can We Expect From Loyalty Initiatives?

So what should we expect from a customer loyalty program? Here’s a partial list we’ve heard from the brands where we’ve used customer data to inform and improve customer loyalty:

  • You keep those customers longer
  • You generate more social referrals
  • Those customers buy more often (frequency)
  • They are less sensitive to pricing and increases in particular
  • The cost of customer acquisition can actually be lower
  • Exchanges and returns decrease “naturally”
  • You recognize profit growth

These are all very real outcomes you can expect from a high-quality customer loyalty program built around your unique customer and your business.

How Does Loyalty Really Work?

This is the best question to ask. Most organizations I’ve worked with on managing a customer base (customer database) to drive business performance begin with a gold, or black card, a name for an elite club or a space they will convert to lavish “loyal” customers with attention.

Persona Marketing Tricks

How does a marketer go about creating the most effective set of personas? The first step is to create the 360-degree customer view out of available data. Personalization must be about the person, not about channel, product or even brand.

Personal.jpgHow does a marketer go about creating the most effective set of personas? The first step is to create the 360-degree customer view out of available data. Personalization must be about the person, not about channel, product or even brand.

For that, all event- and transaction-level data must be rearranged around the target individuals. Often, this data step turns out to be the first major hurdle for the marketers.

Then marketers, along with data scientists, should draw the list of required personas. After all, all analytical work must start with a clear definition of targets, and the targets must be set with clear business goals.

If you could ask for any personas for your marketing efforts, what would they be? Surely, the list would vary greatly depending on the lines of business that you are in. Obvious ones — such as “High-Value Customer,” “Frequent Shopper” or “Online Buyer” could be helpful for all types of retailers.

Going beyond that, marketers must expand their imaginations and think about the list from the customer’s point of view, while keeping a sight on the products and services that are to be offered to them. We must look at this as an ultimate “match-making” exercise between the buyers and the products, way more sophisticated than a rudimentary product-to-product level match (as in “If you purchased product A, you must also be interested in product B”).

The idea is to create personas imagining what you are going to do with them in marketing campaigns. “Frequent Flyer” maybe an obvious choice, but would you need a related but different one called “Frequent Business Traveler”? Would you extend the “Young Family” to “Avid Theme Park Visitors”? Why not both?

For B-to-B applications, we can think of many more along the lines of a “Consumable/Repeat Purchase” persona and “Big Ticket Items,” but the idea is to have both of them on the menu, as one may reveal both types of traits at the same time.

Similarly, if you are in a telecommunication business, what would be a good set of personas for broadband service? What type of personas can explain the “why” part of the equations? Simply for the sales of broadband, we can think of the following set as a starter:

  • Big Family
  • Home Office
  • High-Tech Professional
  • Avid Gamer
  • Avid Movie Downloader
  • Voice-over IP User
  • Frequent International Caller
  • Early Adopter
  • Etc., etc.

The key is matching the propensity of a customer and the product, and showing compelling reasons why they need to purchase a particular product. We all routinely consume all kinds of products and services, but each of us does it for different reasons. Personalizing the message based on known or inferred personal traits is the key to stand out in the age of over-communication.

Once we imagine the list, there are ways to build the personas. I can say that with conviction, as I’ve seen a persona called “NASCAR Fan” being used in an election season. So, don’t be shy and start being creative on your whiteboard today.

Marketing Awards: What Are They Good For?

When I first started in this business, I remember that our new business pitch at Ogilvy & Mather Direct always included a page about the many awards the agency had won — and the DMA ECHO Award was always front and center.

When I first started in this business, I remember that our new business pitch at Ogilvy & Mather Direct always included a page about the many awards the agency had won — and the DMA ECHO Award was always front and center.

Considering we spent all our energy trying to methodically figure out how to stimulate response among a target audience, the ECHO Award was worth bragging about as it celebrated the equal weighting of strategy, creative and results. And after all, if you got that trifecta right, the client was celebrating right along with you.

Today it’s no different. The Direct Marketing Association ECHO Award still recognizes and rewards those individuals who have figured out how to successfully achieve (or exceed!) a desired marketing objective — whether it’s to increase new lead volume, increase average order size, achieve a specific sales goal, retain customers or improve brand perception.

These are all goals established by the most senior of company management as part of overall business objectives, and they then leave it up to sales and marketing to figure out how to meet them. For most, it takes planning, research, strategic thinking, ingenuity, design and copy skill and, sometimes, a whole lot of luck, to create a marketing effort that explodes with success.

How many people can claim that they’ve been on that team?

Often, the DMA and the ECHO Awards are viewed as “old fashioned” or “the people who do direct mail” — but that’s far from reality. The techniques that were carefully cultivated over years of testing and re-testing, are now being applied across the digital landscape, from email to landing pages, in games and on Facebook.

Despite Millenials believing that they are the ones who invented targeting, retargeting, video, and the ability to track, collect and share data insights, direct marketers have been mastering and refining these tools for decades.

Some have complained that awards are worthless — that they don’t consider effectiveness (which is the point of advertising), or that they are merely a way of patting ourselves on the back, or that the high cost of entry precludes smaller agencies.

But effectiveness is one of the key judging metrics for the ECHOs — because what’s the point of designing creative marketing solutions if they’re not effective in helping the client achieve their goals?

And while every awards program needs to charge an entry fee as it takes staff to organize and administrate, the ECHOs are reasonably priced — especially if you get your act together and enter by the early-bird deadline.

And yes, as a winner, it is a way of patting ourselves on the shoulder, but when you create a campaign that helps meet or exceed a sales objective, we should all be shouting from the rooftops!

This year I’m honored to be the Judging Chair of the 2015 ECHO Awards. Our Judging Committee (comprised of volunteers) has worked hard to recruit over 150 senior judges from every corner of the globe. Our current past Chair of the ECHO Board of Governors took over an Ambassador role this year and has been busy working with other associations from dozens of domestic and international marketing organizations to encourage participation from every member — whether as an entrant or a Judge. If you think you’d qualify as a judge, we invite you to apply before June 1, 2015.

The ECHOs are not merely about recognizing ideas or expensive and elaborate creative solutions that only the biggest clients could afford. The ECHOs are carefully reviewed by a jury of marketing peers who carefully review the business challenges you faced, your objectives, your strategic brilliance, how you brought that brilliance to life creatively and the measurable results you achieved. If one of those dimensions falls flat, then your ability to win an ECHO diminishes dramatically.

The bottom line is that the ECHOs are about celebrating business success. And for that reason alone, those that enter and win should be prime targets for recruiters, because these are the people who have figured out how to move the needle. And trust me, that is no small feat.

Analytics Isn’t Reporting

Today, virtually all organizations have challenges in effectively leveraging analytics to drive business performance. Odds are pretty good that when you read that statement, you thought of at least one example in your organization. Perhaps you thought about the systemic contribution that analytics is making or a frustration you’ve had with analytics performance. If so, you’re hardly alone.

Today, virtually all organizations have challenges in effectively leveraging analytics to drive business performance.

Odds are pretty good that when you read that statement, you thought of at least one example in your organization. Perhaps you thought about the systemic contribution that analytics is making or a frustration you’ve had with analytics performance. If so, you’re hardly alone.

Here’s my home base for thinking about “analytics” in your organization.

“The promise of marketing analytics isn’t esoteric, or abstract — it’s fundamentally simple — analytics generates evidence of problem or opportunity that can be used to drive a specific business impact.”

Yet marketing analytics all too often fails to live up to its full potential. When it comes to the Web, almost a decade after the advent of mass adoption of Web analytics platforms like Google Analytics, engagement and conversion rates are still struggling to make methodical progress forward, and bring the business to materially greater profitability.

One of the biggest errors in strategy is the inadvertent substitution of “reporting,” or even “dashboards,” for a robust analytics process. It helps to first appreciate how subtle that difference is and why it happens:

  1. Analytics Is Interesting. Analytics can be intellectually stimulating, but some individuals and organizations spend too much time in the rapture of how interesting all that data can be. I was recently at an event where a smart young woman had a name badge on that said “I love data” below her name. I was tempted to write “I make money with the data” under my own.

    While I’ll be the first to express a life-long affair with the database and discovering “interesting” things in the data, that’s just not enough. So we have to monitor when analytics isn’t producing the evidence we need to affect change and deliver a business impact. While that can take a tremendous amount of work, the purpose itself must remain clear to create value.

  2. Reports Don’t Always Have the Right Questions Behind Them. Most of us came up in business generating and reading reports. I confess that I remember craving a report we used to call “the blue book” (if you still remember paper). I looked forward to every week when I ran my business line off of it in a large company that razed many a forest generating blue books. Thankfully, they email them now — but these reports are the same static, one-dimensional view of the business, many years later.

    The problem comes when we see our “standard reports” as the answer, even if the question we should be asking has changed.

    When you’re dealing with fickle consumers, and infinite choice is a click away, those questions sometimes change faster than “reporting standards” can realistically keep up with.

  3. The Relevancy Is Gone. Better than 80 percent of the time, I see marketing organizations with ample “stats” on their historical activity — yet they often fundamentally lack a strategic big picture and framework to consistently improve marketing and business decision-making. Frequently, the same organizations struggled with aligning the technical implementation of analytics and metrics required to drive business growth.

  4. Continuous Business Improvement Sometimes Requires a Cultural Shift. Cultural shifts of any size aren’t trivial, of course. I recently attended an all-day digital commerce strategy summit at a large brand I’ve done strategy work with during the past year. Dozens of staff, vendors and executives attended. The ultimate revelation for some of these executives who made the six-figure investment in the event was, “this requires patience, and is very methodical and testing-based” — it took a huge amount of effort, resources and time. To the credit of the executive who sponsored this event, a necessary cultural shift was recognized. While all in attendance knew intuitively about “test-optimize-learn” and had a large investment in their analytics software platform — she recognized that her organization was playing catch-up culturally — an achievement in itself.

5. Prioritization Is Key. Many large and more traditional organizations have very deep roots in a task- and reporting-based culture. This stifles Data Athletes from doing their jobs. Prioritization is key. As the old saying goes, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” Executive sponsors need to make choices on where to dial effort back; focus can then be applied to build a point of view based on evidence, and the opportunity to create and discover the context of opportunity and problems.

Forward vs. Backward Analysis.
Very frequently, I’ve helped organizations that started analytics processes or programs by looking “backward” at tactical reports; these reports can only show if a past tactic has or hasn’t worked. You cannot tell if a different tactic or mix of tactics would have done better, and by how much. Worse yet, the very volume of these “reports” often obscures the bigger picture. The solution … Look forward.

Analytics Should Be Forward-Looking. It’s driven not only by analyzing the past, but by creating a framework for planning and creating future performance. In other words, what to test, how to test it, and how to use the results of those tests to drive continuous improvements in the business.

In short, analytics done well creates visibility into what you should be doing and suggests the delta with what you are currently doing. Think about the aforementioned necessity for prioritization — Analytics done well helps you set those priorities.

Analytics professionals and and the executive team must all work together according to one principle:

Analytics is the process of identifying truths from data.
These truths inform decisions that measurably improve business performance.

Analytics Must Be Purpose-Driven.
Here’s a simple approach to create focus and align the specific implementation of analytics to serve you and your business growth:

  • Your business’s Purpose drives specific Business Objectives.
  • Those Business Objectives, in turn, inform Goals.
  • Your Goals are tracked via KPIs.
  • The KPIs are continuously compared against Benchmarks.

It’s easy to dive into the weeds, get lost in the data, lose patience with the process, and begin a bottom-up approach. This deceptively simple framework I’ve suggested will help you take a top-down approach to analytics that ensures you are measuring the right things — correctly. When you do, you will become a true analytics-driven organization.

Doing so will help your organization grow faster, more consistently and reliably — and that makes for a valuable and happier organization. Be a Data Athlete, not an analytics nerd — and you’ll make all the difference in your organization.