Tag Archives: professional development

What Type of Marketing Cry-Baby are You?

conflict-resolutionWhen a client complained to me recently about the difficulty of competing against larger companies, I had a flashback to when my kids were in grade school. Often, when they complained a whiny manner (with or without tears), I’d start singing one particular verse of the well-known kids’ song, “The Wheels on the Bus.”

As my kids started to whine, I would sing:

“The babies on the bus go wah, wah, wah

Wah, wah, wah…wah, wah, wah

The babies on the bus go wah, wah, wah

All through the town.”

As my kids whined louder, I would sing louder. And they would eventually storm away, totally frustrated. Over time, my kids got the message that I had zero tolerance for Cry-Babies. Eventually, I would only have to sing an extended warm-up note of the song (“The…..”), before they would stop whining and walk away.

As an abusive but somewhat responsible parent, I usually tried to have an “adult conversation” with the offending Cry-Baby to resolve the underlying problem, but only after the whining had stopped.

Over the course of my business career, I’ve run into several grown-up “Marketing Cry-Babies.” Whenever they start to whine about marketing-related challenges, I’m always tempted to begin singing the “babies on the bus” verse, but career risk and loss of client revenue serves to made me think twice.

Here are the 3 most common types of behavior exhibited by Marketing Cry-Babies. See if you fit into any one (or all) of these categories:

The “I want it NOW!” Cry-Baby: This marketer demands instant gratification. To him, marketing is a casino, complete with slot machines, craps tables and roulette wheels. With money to spend, he jumps from game to game – feeding the slots, placing chips on spaces – hoping to hit the jackpot. He doesn’t remain very long at any game, and believes that if he plays them all, he’s entitled to win something. When he runs out of money or grows tired of not winning big, this Cry-Baby will leave the casino angry or disappointed that his marketing “investment” has failed to pay off.

“I want it NOW!” Cry-Babies don’t understand that long-term strategy and tactical consistency are the most critical aspects of marketing success. My adult conversation with them goes like this: None of the “games” in the marketing toolkit – publicity, advertising, social media, videos, conferences, newsletters, blogging, direct mail, etc. – either individually or collectively will ever deliver an immediate jackpot. To be a consistent winner in the marketing casino, you need to really understand the risks and potential rewards of all the games; only play those games with odds that are in your favor; commit to playing those games long enough to win; and be willing to change how you’re playing the game – rather than walking away – if you are not winning.

The “It’s All About ME.” Cry-Baby: This marketer believes clients and prospects have a genuine interest in her company’s ideas, experience, success, etc. So the firm’s public-facing materials and “thought leadership” are promotional and self-serving. White papers and editorial content are poorly disguised sales pitches, and offer no helpful information or insights. Lots of time is devoted to winning industry recognition; far less time is invested in managing the customer experience or supporting the sales force.  This Cry-Baby can’t understand why all her marketing activity doesn’t improve revenue or client retention.

“It’s All about ME.” Cry-Babies don’t appreciate that clients and prospects aremost interested in how you can help with their particular problem or opportunity. My brief adult conversation with them goes like this: Clients and prospects don’t really give a hoot about your white papers, industry awards or client list. You need to learn what they need, how they think, and why they’re frustrated or optimistic. That effort demands two-way conversations, and direct market engagement. Based on those insights (which can change with great frequency) you’ll need to (re)direct all of your marketing efforts to resonate in their world, and not yours.

The “That’s Just Not Fair!” Cry-Baby: This marketer is convinced that the cards are stacked against him. There’s never enough money in the budget. The competition can’t be beaten.  Management doesn’t understand marketplace dynamics. Sales reps don’t know how to convert their leads. This Cry-Baby always has a reason for marketing’s lack of success, and lots of excuses not to try harder (or at all.)

“That’s Just Not Fair!” Cry-Babies are either afraid to fail, or afraid to succeed. Either way, they are hard-wired to whine, and often not worth having an adult conversation with. But here goes anyway: Having money to throw at marketing does not ensure success. Larger competitors can have greater bureaucracy that slows marketing momentum, and too many chefs in the marketing kitchen that dilute strategies and tactics. Big firms can get complacent, and be afraid to try new solutions. Regardless of budget or existing brand recognition, smaller firms can always gain competitive advantage through creativity, tenacity and a burning desire to steal the lunch from competitors, regardless of their size or reputation. Being the underdog can be a marketing asset; but you need to give people some good reasons to root for you.

There is some recourse, however, for all types of Marketing Cry-Babies who insist on whining. They simply need to spend more time on the golf course, where that behavior is always appropriate, and where you’re encouraged to attach a “crying towel” to your bag. Fore!

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Two Words That Can Make or Break Your Career

thank you

In the business world, just about everything you do can influence your success. The way you dress. The language you use. Personal grooming habits. Your manners. Sense of humor. Writing ability. It’s a very long list.

Your career path is loaded with opportunities as well as land mines, involving a host of factors that are often totally unrelated to your professional capabilities, and largely associated with your attitude and how you treat others.

In large measure, your success is based on the ability to recognize and demonstrate appreciation for the assistance and kindness of other people, who may be inside and outside of your company.  “Thank you” can be the two most powerful words in your career.

A few years ago, a former business associate asked if I would set up a “networking interview” for his best friend’s daughter, who was a recent college graduate exploring career opportunities in marketing. I arranged for the young woman to meet with a very senior marketing executive at a well-known firm, who as a favor to me spent considerable time counseling the college grad. The Cliff Notes version of this incident ends with neither my friend thanking me for arranging the interview, nor the young woman thanking the senior marketing executive for her time. I felt abused by my friend’s lack of courtesy to me, as well as embarrassment by the young woman’s failure to thank the senior executive who did me the favor of seeing her. It was a double whammy that left me wondering why I bothered to help.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been both pleased and disappointed by the ability and inability of people – well known and hardly known – to thank me for a kindness. And in all cases, perhaps unfairly, I’ve drawn long-lasting conclusions about their professionalism and character as a result of their behavior.

Although I’m confident that I’ve also failed on occasion to say “thank you” to someone deserving of my appreciation, the failure of others to acknowledge a favor has made me much more aware of the importance of the gesture. In my ongoing quest to make saying “thank you” an ingrained habit, here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Thank people for everything:  Most importantly, thank people for their time, even if it’s a 5-minute conversation. I’ve never understood corporate managers who consciously withhold praise and thanks from people, as part of some strange Pavlovian approach to motivation and performance.  People need to know that they are valued, and when it comes to thanking them, “less is more” makes little sense.  If your appreciation is appropriate, genuine and frequently expressed, then people at every level of the corporate ladder – from the kid in the mail room, to the bigwig in the corner office – will be much more likely to view you as someone they want to help in the future.

It’s never too late to thank someone:  Ideally, an immediate response has the greatest impact, because it shows you’re truly engaged in the relationship and focused on needs other than your own. But we all have busy lives, and it’s very easy to overlook gestures that are deserving of a “thank you.” Compounding the oversight, if some time has passed since the gesture, we’re often too embarrassed to reach out to thank the individual, fearing it will reflect poorly on our manners. The opposite is true. Even if your “thank you” has been overdue by weeks, months or years…it may have greater impact on the recipient, because it demonstrates that their kindness was not quickly forgotten. (Make sure you apologize for the delayed response, and skip the excuses.)

How you thank people counts a lot: Common sense dictates whether your “thank you” is performed in real-time, after the fact, or both. Aside from timing, the method you use to thank someone is very important. “Normal course” appreciation protocol (not involving gifts, tickets to events, etc.) usually is accomplished by voice, email or snail mail; which is often the rank order of the thank you’s perceived value.

Your “thank you” method can be more important than the message itself. One very large law firm in New Jersey, for example, ranks its job candidates this way, following their interview: No written “thank you” = Eliminated as Candidate. An Emailed “thank you” note = Considered for Position. A hand-written, mailed “thank you” note = Preferred for Position. This successful law firm understands that lots of people can do well in law school, but very few people have the empathy, social skills and professionalism – demonstrated by their taking the time that’s required to write and mail a personalized note – that will resonate with their clients and reflect well on the firm’s brand reputation. (Don’t let terrible handwriting preclude you from this opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Either use block printing, or engage the assistance of someone with legible handwriting.)

Very often, it’s the little things in life, and in a business career, that can make an enormous difference. Expressing thanks is a small gesture that always counts, because it’s more than a superficial courtesy. Your ability to say “thank you” reflects an unselfish personal value system, and signals to others that you are someone worth knowing and helping.

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