Leadership, Marketing

The Year of Truth – Why Marketing and Operations Should Drink Lots of Coffee

It’s 2016. The world is different.

Marketing is different.

Marketing is charged with telling the world about your company, your brand, your team. They have to do this by establishing trust with the customer. Those customers have an expectation that if you say you are something or do something that those things are true. In today’s instant gratification economy, if their expectation isn’t met with what you told them to expect, it’s on social media, the news, and spreading to other customers as one more data point.

What are they saying?

You lied to me.

Marketers have the responsibility to your customers to tell the truth. This responsibility becomes a problem when the delivery or operations side of the business can’t deliver on that promise.

This is about truth. It’s about the brand. It’s about the entire customer experience.

That experience doesn’t start when they enter the store or the website or the app. It starts when they see an advertisement or hear about it from a friend and Google you.

The brand of the organization cuts across the entire company. From sales and marketing to delivery to finance, all three legs of the business are impacted by saying one thing and doing another.

If you say you support your product, make sure you support it. If you advertise a turnaround time, make sure you are executing on it.

Marketing is telling the world the story of your brand. Operations is responsible for delivery of that story to each and every customer. Without alignment there is friction. Without accountability there is mediocrity, without structure there is chaos.

These two people are in the same boat and drink the same coffee. They should have coffee together…a lot (once a week, maybe even every day) to ensure that the business says what it does and does what it says.

Make 2016 the year of truth.



Ever wonder what keeps people going? 

Today I listened to some excellent thoughts on how Impact will keep you motivated by Ron Gutman presented by Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders.

Two specific points that struck me as fundamental.

Have a vision. When things get really really hard, it’s the vision, the purpose that will keep you going. This is the impact. How does what you do impact the world and how can tell that story to others to help inspire them?

Pick the right team. As you hire or partner up, finding the right people is both incredibly difficult and incredibly critical. It starts with passion and buy-in to the mission. You can teach the rest, but passion, shared values, and shared goals are crucial.


Personal Development

Start a Scorecard

Start a Scorecard

Never underestimate the power of a spreadsheet.

Whether you are trying to wrap up a project, looking for a job, building a business, or organizing an event, a spreadsheet can help organize the process and keep you accountable. Yes, it’s a spreadsheet, but more importantly, it’s a scorecard.

Set a Goal
Write a go-live date or a date for an end goal. This is when you will be where you want to go. Next, set a timeline do some rough math and track backwards. Want to put on an event? You have a live date, you will need time to organize details, invite guests, and plan everything. Looking for your next job? What’s your go-live?

Set the details
How many lunches do you think it will take to find the right opportunity? How many opportunities do you want? These are the details that go into the process, write the details down, don’t just think about them, put them in writing so you can see them regularly.

Commit to hitting your goals every week. If nothing else promise yourself 4 weeks. If it isn’t working after 4 weeks you can change it, but nail it for 4 weeks before making a change.

Update it regularly
Make sure to look at it daily. Even if you don’t have anything to write down it will help keep you motivated. Remember, it’s a scorecard, and at least half the value is visually seeing your goals and reminding you to take action…every day.

In the example below, I used this scorecard to help align goals and metrics around marketing. A simple spreadsheet sets goals and tracks progress against week. Very simple, results-oriented and effective to keeping me on task.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.24.16 PM


How to Build and Launch a Website in 4 weeks

Websites are essential in today’s digital marketing landscape. They can also be expensive and time consuming to build. For those without the budget to have a pro shop build a new website and for those who think they can do it themselves there are plenty of ways to get a new website off the ground in short order without major expenses or having a computer science degree. All it takes is WordPress, a good theme, some well-written good content, some research and a little confidence.

Purpose & Requirements
Before stating anything else you must define the purpose of the website. Why are people going to come here and what will they do? What does a successful conversion look like and how will you measure success? What functionality is important to achieve success? Write down the requirements of the site so everyone is on the same page. This exercise will really help you understand what you are building and why you are spending your time/money.

Whether you are starting a new website or dusting off that 10 year old eye sore start with a blank canvas. Don’t even open that old website, it won’t help you. Start writing down questions such as who are we, what do we do, how do we do it, why do we do it and so on. Then answer these questions with as many ideas as you can. Then pare down, pare some more and then pare till it hurts. Remember that the website is supposed to tell your story and cause users to do something [don’t forget to define these]. You want the content to do this with as much efficacy as possible while still effectively telling your story in type and imagery.

Start with content ASAP – content always always always is what takes the longest. Clients always underestimate this.

Tips on messaging

  • Less is more
  • Iterate. Write everything down. Edit. Make sure you got everything. Edit again. And again.
  • Enforce character counts for efficacy
  • Explain what you do or what your product does, why it’s imporant, and why you are the best
  • Drive conversions
  • Use top shelf photography

Increasingly, access to affordable or even free photos is becoming more easy. Here is a list of some great sites to find free photos. If all else fails, find some stock photos on one of the stock websites or take your own photography (make sure it’s high quality).



Graphics, infographics and more
These days it is difficult to get people to read content. Break it up a bit and make it visual by presenting content in infographics, charts, and other illustrations. This not only breaks up the content, but it makes it much more engaging for the user.

Tips on vetting imagery

  • Is the photo relevant to your industry/story?
  • Is it appropriate for your audience?
  • What is the shelf life of the image (when will it look stale)?

While you can’t design and code something from scratch on a budget you can find a pre-built  theme and customize it to your design, color scheme and style. The best way to get design done on a budget is to select a theme from a website like www.themeforest.com. Not only do they have up-to-date designs, but, typically everything is coded and is built to be responsive – meaning it automatically adjusts to work on mobile and tablets.

WordPress is the most widely used content management platform in the world. It is highly flexible, easy-to-use and supported by a large development community. Oh, and it’s free. It has good guides on getting started and you don’t have to be a programmer to do some pretty cool stuff.

Tips on using WordPress

Analytics & SEO
Use Google Analytics to track user data and adwords for SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Yoast for SEO will provide many tools for help making your site optimized for search. Remember, a lot of search engines really look at content these days, so make sure your content is solid.

There are some great WordPress hosting companies out there such as Bluehost. You will also need a URL and DNS that points to your server. URLs and DNS will often come with hosting packages or you can get them from the likes of www.godaddy.com or similar services.

Setup and Deployment

  • Build local. You can build on your local machine using a system like MAMP on Mac or WAMP on Windows.
  • Push to Dev. Make sure to have a dev. Server for both now and later, you will want it to make major updates down the road before you go live.
  • Push to live – see article here

Select a baseline OS/Browser combo: for example Chrome on Mac. Do your functional testing – do all the links work, buttons, forms, dropdowns, etc… Then do any additional browser compatibility that you need – does it work in IE8, 9, 10, compatibility mode, Firefox, etc…

Responsive web
Test on a baseline mobile configuration: for example iOS8 on an iPhone 6 running Safari. Do all of your main testing, then run compatibility tests on other devices you think your users may have (if you have a current website, figure out what these are using your analytics).

Launch checklist
Before you launch, create a checklist of everything you can think of (and ask the internets for website launch checklist ideas) and conduct a final checklist before and after you launch to make sure everything is complete.

A few ideas to get you started

  • QA final and passed?
  • All test data (including user accounts) removed?
  • Is analytics reporting traffic?
  • Is form data getting saved properly?
  • Adwords pointing to live URL?
  • Are emails sending properly?

Patience and Determination
As a first time experience this can seem quite daunting and like a lot of work. The key is to be patient, stick with it, get good at searching google, and break it down into manageable tasks to keep you going. There are libraries of content on the internets to help you on this journey for everything else there are consultants (like myself) and dev. shops to help knock down any questions or roadblocks.


Personal Development

It’s about priority, not time

Today, a good deal of people feel crunched and always ‘on’. There is always something. Technology has made people too connected, too accessible, and constantly engaged. It makes us feel like we don’t have enough time for everything.

We all share the same 24 hours in a day, and lead very different lives. Though time is a constant, it feels different based on our situation. If your kid is screaming at the doctors office, 10 minutes feels like a year. If you are enjoying your favorite beer with friends over a campfire 10 minutes feels like seconds. Time is relative and we all feel like there is not enough of it.

We can’t control time, but we can control how we assign priority to what we perceive as important. A few simple steps can help to make you feel like you have time again.

First, you have to define what it is you need to and want to do. Assessing something and putting it into a category makes it easier to do it, assign it to someone else, or let it go. A great way to evaluate priority is the Eisenhower Decision matrix. Be realistic. You can’t do everything. Think about what is important and build your life around those priorities. If fishing is what helps center you, make sure it is a priority. If spending time with your kids is important, make it happen, consistently.

Be Consistent
As with all things, the key to success here is consistency. Set up an alert, write it on a post-it, do whatever you have to do to be consistent in making the important a priority. Promise yourself to do it 7 times. They say 7 times makes a habit. Try it out.

Own it
Nobody else on this planet can tell you what you feel is important. You make the decision on what is important and where you spend your time. You can change it tomorrow. It’s hard to let some things go, and it’s difficult to maintain discipline to be consistent, but it’s worth it.

If you feel overwhelmed, as a lot of people do, it may be time to make a change. It’s not complicated, you just need to own it, evaluate, and repeat.



Leadership Through Messaging

It starts with buy-in.

You and your team have just been dropped into the Pacific Ocean. They are looking to you for leadership and vision. They need to know that someone has a plan and things are going to be ok.

Achieving goals truly consistent with vision is a very real challenge. It takes repetition, discipline, and leadership. The team must see the island and be rowing in the same direction to succeed. The key to unlocking this potential is in messaging.

First things first
Define the vision. They need to know which way gives them the best chance and which direction to row. Make the best judgement you can and point to an island and get all of your people rowing in the right direction.

Messaging from day 1
Preach the vision with conviction. Speak to the vision from day 1 – from top leadership to everyone that a new hire will come in contact with. Be consistent from the start.

Messaging daily
7 times. People finally start to come around after hearing or seeing something 7 times. Repetition is key. In meetings, on projects, in email, in a hello and goodbye, make your culture, values, and goals a consistent part of every day.

Messaging by example
People appreciate fairness. They will not feel part of something greater if there is inconsistency in messaging from the top of the mountain. Walk the talk. Show the team that the values start with you. Focus on motivating the team, but when it’s needed, pick up an oar.

Messaging through tough decisions
If anyone is rowing in the wrong direction, the whole team suffers. Think of the core, if the core is unhappy at others performance, your business will suffer. Work with this person and have the team work with this person, but if it doesn’t work, show the rest of your team that you are making the right decision for the team.

Once the team is rowing in the same direction, things get done. You reach the island, you set up camp, you build a village, aqueducts, and communication towers. Based on this core vision, communicated through consistent messaging people will work together towards the greater goals of the organization. Things get done and the team will take pride in achieving a goal and contributing to something great.


Discover, Explore, Validate

In an age of ever-increasing products, services, and competition it is not only important to stand out, but to properly convert buyers into customers. Whether in-person, on the web, or on the phone, there exists a basic structure by which a buyer will learn about your product or service and become a customer.

Buyers need to discover your product or service and the relevant features. This generally comes in 1-3 sentences explaining what this is and how it impacts me. This is your elevator pitch for each product or service. The hook is in the water and this easy-to-understand string of words is the bait. Carving your product/service down to three sentences can be very difficult, but first and foremost buyers need convincing that they should want more information and they need it quickly. In as few words as possible, get across to the buyer three things – what is it, how does it work, how does it affect them.

Once the buyer has successfully gone through discovering the product/service/feature they are  interested, it’s time to set the hook. You have a captive audience – how do you keep them moving forward on their journey to being a customer? Give them more information – a full web page, infographic, white paper, on-demand video, podcast – something with substance. The user will explore your product not only within the world you create for them, but they will read reviews online, talk with other customers and research how your product stacks up to others.

Once the buyer has explored the product/service/feature they are ready to validate. Based on the product/service/features this could mean a variety of things – a demo, a free trial, or a small initial purchase. In a service, it could mean the buyer becomes a customer and it’s your opportunity to ensure he/she will stay one. The important thing is to help them feel comfortable with their decision. They are not just buying your product/service/feature, they are buying into you.

Not only is content a critical component of the sales process, but where that content is disclosed is just as important. If all goes well, the buyer will successfully move through each of these stages of the sales cycle and you will have a customer that is comfortable with their decision to buy from you. Happy customers tell others about their experience and the cycle will repeat.