Archives for August 2006

The Call For Project Management

It’s rare that I see a marketing team value project management as much as an IT or software development team. And to be honest, I’m not sure why. I think it’s just a cultural thing. But here are the facts, marketing projects have deadlines, they have delicate interdependencies, they have budgets, they have multiple teams involved, they have stakeholders, and they definitely have an audience (which is not an internal person by the way). So they have all of the ingredients for successfully managing each project.

It seems like most marketing teams thrive on fire drills instead of planned activities. A lot of teams rarely see a planned activity; it’s always the task-du-jour or the whim of some executive. If I’m the marketing VP, that would scare the heck out of me. There is no good plan to grow your business or improve your skills if you simply putting out one fire after the next.

Even though I’ve been in the marketing and creative space for almost 15 years, I’m also wired to think logically or in order. A few years back I became a Certified Project Manager. It was one of the best professional development choices I’ve made. It gave me a system to use with my clients (both as an internal marketing manager and as an outside consultant). Project management is simply a thought process that is backed up by documentation and assignments. And obviously it takes different techniques to manage marketing projects than it does for software development; but you may be surprised at how similar they are.

The foundation of my system is a project brief that goes into details about who the target audience is, what they need, why this project is needed, what the goals are, offers, budget and timeline. These questions need to be answered for before any work is done. They will influence the research, the creative, the strategy, everything. It’s critical to have solid answers before you put resources on the project. And by the way, don’t try to cop out with crappy answers like audience = customers. That doesn’t fly. You need to give details that describe the audience from a demographic, psychographic, and needs point of view. Without detailed specifics, the campaign or project will be too broad, too vague and appeal to no one. Once you truly know your audience, you’ll be able to craft a message and offer that speak to their needs (not your features).

Once the project brief is written, and agreed upon by all parties involved (including stakeholders), then you can begin assigning tasks and due dates. There are tools that help you manage the process. Microsoft Project is probably the best recognized. I’ve personally used AceProject for over four years with three separate vendors with much success. BaseCamp is getting a lot of good press but it’s not as fully featured as I’d like at this point, but I’m keeping my eye on it. AceProject is nice because it has about 90% of the feature of Microsoft – the features you’ll use most of the time like Gantt charts, user workload, built-in discussion threads, templates, and a ton of reporting options. Its web based, updated regularly, and priced right.

But just like installing Salesforce.com for CRM or JD Edwards for accounting, simply having a project management system and tool in place will do nothing but cause headaches if you do not change the culture to take advantage and value what good project management brings to the table. And that’s accountability, measurement, and collaboration.

Nick Rice

Creative Leadership: Juicy Food for the Brand Soul

Recently stumbled upon a fantastic article. In The Artist, by Tom Heuerman, Ph.D. with Diane Olson, Ph.D., I found comfort in the story of Kinji Akagawa, an artist from Japan in the 1950’s. 22 year-old Kinji, journeyed to the U.S. seeking education and the American dream. He wanted to go home many times but he didn’t. He said: “It was life I was learning, you know.” Kinji went through his fear and humiliation:

“The other side of fear is courage. Courage is the basis of creativity. It is scary to face the white canvas, to uproot the clay, which you have to mold into something. When I sculpt, I know the context I am working with, but I cannot see the end. Those who are courageous enough will discover their creation and that gives more courage. Fear is there but out of it we discover courage. Going through this fear is real courage.”

As a young solo-preneur, I can relate. I often walk the line between, “I LOVE this stuff!” and “Maybe I’m completely crazy!”. At this phase of our business journey when we’re the only one answering e-mails, invoicing, tracking expenses, building brand identity and awareness, creating buzz and evolving as a “creative” all at once – it can become quite overwhelming. It’s also easy to slip out of “creative” mode and into “worker bee” mode. And let’s face it, we hate worker bee mode, that’s why we wanna quit workin’ for the man in the first place.

As I chewed on this tasty tid-bit, I was reminded yet again, of why I chose to take those first scary steps last January and why others before me must have felt so inclined to do the same…

“People are born to create. Creativity may be the core dynamic of life. Artist leaders understand that everyone has creative potential, and the leader creates the conditions for creativity to emerge throughout the enterprise: freedom, great goals, information, immediate feedback, no fear of failure, and skills equal to the challenge.

Authentic expression is the artist’s goal, and the artist leader treats everyone as if they can do great things. Importing creativity from outside the organization may provide an innovation quick fix, but the leader understands that sustainability depends on creating conditions for the inherent creativity of employees to emerge on a daily basis.

In chaotic times the best artistry and the best leadership may well come from outside the established structures: the management hierarchy, the consulting organizations, and traditional academic institutions. Pay attention and look behind positional titles, the slick presentations, the marketing machines, and the over-intellectualization of matters not that difficult.”

Did that get you like it got me? It brought me right back to the core of WHY I do what I do. For the creativity. For the passion. For how revved up my engine gets just by getting back to what wakes me up at 5 am in the first place. Back to the heart of the matter.

We can get tripped up in the high gloss shine of presentations and marketing machines, but what’s the price we pay when we get side tracked with over-intellectualized and over-sexified, shiny, too perfect displays of brand marketing? How much is too much over-analyzation of research marketing? Do we know when to say when to the buffing and shining and strategizing?

“Robert Greenleaf wrote that we have too many critics and experts with too much intellectual wheel spinning, too much retreating into research, too little preparation for and willingness to go into the guts of an organization and undertake the hard and high risk tasks of building great organizations in an imperfect world.

Observe what people live and what they do rather than what they profess and exercise your judgment in choosing your prophets. The world (and organizations) will be changed by the countless solitary and anonymous artists who get their hands dirty expanding the boundaries of the possible, not by those who spend their time pontificating.”

Right on! Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in. Let’s get down and dirty and lean and mean. Let’s strip away the unnecessary BS and get back to raw & gritty, less is more, lean and mean, core values and visions.

If you’ve lost sight of your creative vision, how might you spit shine and polish your brand back to the basics? All that glitters isn’t gold. Have you replaced the sparkle in your brand’s eye with the shimmer of excess glitter and too much flash and cash? Sometimes a beer at a dive bar and a kiss on the forehead is a lot more effective than a flashy sports car, too much cologne and VIP velvet ropes.

Are you leading creatively and artistically, yet still owning up to your roots? Or are you waving your awards and forgetting where you came from? This article was an excellent reminder, that as I evolve and my business grows, to stay true to my heart, follow my basic instincts, maintain my integrity and keep Midwestern roots even as I climb through these urban and online jungles.

How do you stay true to your creative vision? What foundation are you laying today to walk the path tomorrow?

Create your boldest visions with passion & purpose,
Kammie K.

Why It Pays To Be Narrow Minded In Business

“Wow! The business is really taking off! God, Himself, couldn’t piece together a better operation! The sky is the freakin’ limit here, and I think it’s about time to capitalize on all of our insane success! Hmmm… I know what this store needs! We need to sell more kinds of stuff! Yea… That’s it! If we sell a wider assortment of stuff, we’ll make more money, and eventually take over the world!”

WRONG!!!

Yea, things are going pretty good for the biz, but let’s not get crazy here. Obviously, your current operation is working pretty well at the moment, so why try and fix something that’s not broken?

If you want to capitalize on your business’s success, the last thing you want to do is start expanding your line of products or services into different categories. If you’re in the business of selling hamburgers, don’t try to expand by throwing washing machines on the menu (I know that’s a stretch, but you get my point). Remember, the strongest element of your growing empire is its brand. Therefore, you must never make any moves that will compromise or complicate your brand’s focus. A narrow-minded brand is a brand that has a greater chance for long-term success.

In a world where narrow-mindedness is frowned upon, let’s take a look at a list of narrow-minded businesses that have made their owners smile from ear to ear…

Starbucks – These bastards are responsible for raising coffee prices from a nickel all the way up to around 4 bucks a cup!
Motorola – Cell phones are now freakin’ fashion accessories thanks to these guys.
Marlboro – Who would’ve thought that cancer would be such a big seller?
Ikea – They are the KING of cheaply made, yet attractive, furniture.
Subway – That fat-ass, Jared, has turned the sub sandwich into a whole-wheat treadmill.
Oreck – Their vacuums truly suck. (Sorry, that was too easy)

How were these brands successfully narrow-minded? …They focused their company’s vision on only ONE type of product. It may be fun to sleep around with several kinds of products in your inventory, but true happiness comes from settling down with that one very special product.

If you want your business to control its industry, you will focus your brand on only one niche line of products. Here’s how to develop a narrow-minded brand that will dominate its product category…

1. Your company shouldn’t be a jack of all trades – It needs to be a one trick pony. When you narrow the focus of your brand, you will become the “Go-to business” for the product you specialize in.
2. If you are itching to expand your product selection so badly, then expand via variations of your specialized product. (Example: Make different kinds of lamps – Don’t sell lamps and then expand into the ceiling fan business.)
3. Buy enormous amounts of your product so you can get your costs down.
4. Sell enormous amounts of your products CHEAPLY so you can get your profits up.
5. Finally… Rock on and dominate your category so your brand can be known as the top dog of the industry!

The formula is quite simple, but the process in implementing it can be rough. If you want the process to be seamless, you’ll make sure to baby your brand in every conceivable way. Don’t let anything harm it. You must have the best specialized products, with the best service, and a trusted brand in order to pull this off. I have a feeling that you bizMAVERICKS can make it happen!

Wishing You Continued Success…

…bizMAVERICK…
Brad Williamson

Become a Friend on the bizMAVERICKS MySpace page!

Small Business Branding Joins Marketing & Advertising Feedburner Group

Marketing.FM announced the creation of a new Feedburner Top level group for blogs on Marketing and Advertising. Here at Small Business Branding we are proud to be part of the founding members of this group, which includes such fantastic blogs as:

For readers interested in these topic areas you can subscribe to all of these blogs using just a single feed –

http://feeds.feedburner.com/MarketingAndAdvertising

For advertisers wanting to reach all the readers of these blogs – currently over 45,000 daily readers – you can find sponsorship opportunities via Feedburner.

Marketing.FM has this to say about the launch:

It is our goal to provide a unified source while maintaining a diverse perspective and voice on the evolving Media, Advertising, and Marketing landscape. The M&A network is set up through feedburner to ensure reliable service and support.

Read More…

All Customers Are Liars!

Often times, when we’re looking for feedback on our products and services, we go to our trusted customers for opinions on what we’re doing right and wrong. Market research has always been dependable… Right?

Well, I’ve got some advice for you…

STOP always trusting your customer’s insight because, more often than not, they are flat-out lying to you! I know that sounds nuts, but it’s true. And unlike your customers, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about why.

To understand why your customers would want to spit lies at you, we must take a moment to analyze the customer/human psyche. What you will gather from this analysis is quite upsetting because it proves that a few of us, as customers, are a sad bunch of pathetic posers. Here is just one example of how customers roll over us business owners with their ridiculous lies when approached with a situation of market research…

Envision a customer who walks into a liquor store, shopping for a bottle of vodka, and the owner approaches him for some small talk and a casual observation of his buying habits. The customer believes that vodka is a tasteless/odorless drink – So he’s come into the store to simply pick up a cheap $10 bottle of McCormicks Vodka; because after all, he’s just going to mix it into a few cans of Red Bull and will never really taste the vodka anyway. His thought is… “Why buy the premium stuff, when the dirty stuff will do the same trick for half the price?”

Well, that was the plan until the store’s owner approached him in an attempt to gather some valuable market research on his customers. He thinks he’s about to really figure this customer out from the questions and observations he’s about to make. Unfortunately, the poor guy doesn’t even know what’s about to hit him… He’s about to be knocked on his ass by a big fat lie, straight out of the patron’s deceptive mouth!

The manager approaches the shopper before he has picked up his bottle of McCormicks. He wishes the customer a “Good evening,” and begins to try and figure him out with some vodka small talk. He asks the customer which of his vodkas he likes the most…

“Hello… Are we looking for some vodka tonight? Which one is your favorite?”

The customer is thinking… “Oh crap… I can’t admit that I came in here for the cheap stuff! I gotta sound like a person of sophistication! I also don’t want to offend this man by purchasing his least expensive product! What should I say!?”

Finally, in desperation for a rebuttal that comforts his ego, and flatters the manager’s inventory, he says… “I prefer DIAKA Vodka.” …He’s only saying this because the bottle, that he saw on the shelf out of the corner of his eye, looks expensive and fancy. He takes a closer look at the bottle and notices some additional information on the product…

Looking suave he says to the manager… “Did you know that DIAKA uses a diamond filtration process? I’ve made a pact with myself to never drink AAAAANYTHING that hasn’t been filtered by the kiss of a diamond.”

Are you listening to this guy!? He is completely out of his normal character! What about this situation makes him feel like he should compromise who he is as a person? He is screwing up this guys research! Not only did the customer not originally know that it was possible to filter vodka with diamonds, but the only way he can afford a bottle of the gimmicky swill is if he spends 4 days of his salary on it! A simple study of this individual’s buying habits has now turned into a sad display of someone who has no confidence in himself.

So the manager says… “Hmmm, that’s very interesting. Do you drink DIAKA often?”

And the dumbass says… “Oh yea! All the time! My friends go through a bottle of it every weekend!”

…So the manager is now thinking that he has found out some golden insight on DIAKA Vodka from this trusted customer…

“Not only does this customer enjoy DIAKA, but he also has many friends that drink it every weekend. The store currently only stocks 10 bottles of it at a time – I might want to consider ordering a larger quantity due to the explosion of popularity the drink could potentially experience.”

So the next day, the manager orders 5 times what he normally purchases. The customer, who truthfully only wanted a cheap bottle of McCormicks, has lied to a store manager about a product because he couldn’t bear to admit that he was a simpleton who doesn’t buy top shelf liquor. This lie that he told will result in the store having a surplus of a drink that probably won’t sell very well due to its expensive price.

The manager was initially proud of himself for the market research he had performed. He thought that he was dealing with a high profile customer who had an exquisite taste in vodka – So he believed every damn word that came out of the customer’s lying mouth. Don’t you feel bad for the guy? He just lost a lot of money because he believed what he thought was truthful insight from an affluent customer.

The point of all this is that there is an infinite amount of situations where a customer would lie to you during market research. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t even realize that they are lying. It has become “Normal” for people to try and say the “Right” things when partaking in this type of conversation. These attempts to cater to other people’s emotions, as well as an unwillingness to look bad in front of other people, unfortunately result in instances of MRM (Market Research Miscommunication). The lesson to be learned here is that the next time you ask your customer for an opinion, make sure to think twice about what they tell you. Don’t focus so much on the surface of what they have to say… Dig deep into their thought process, and find out WHY they said what they said.

Wishing You Continued Success…

…bizMAVERICK…
Brad Williamson

Become a Friend on the bizMAVERICKS MySpace profile!

What Is The Essence of Branding?

I’ve had the wonderful experience of spending a lot of time recently with successful entrepreneurs. They have a lot in common. First off, there is an undeniable passion for their business. Next the uncanny ability to not only spot a new opportunity but to jump on it with little to no hesitation. And lastly they also tend to think of branding as something that just happens by doing a good job.

If you are the only employee, that might be okay because you control everything. But if you have a staff, your brand is bigger than just you and the value you bring to the table. Because you cannot control every interaction between employees, suppliers, and customers; you cannot totally control your brand.

Gut Feelings

I define brand as the gut feeling of those people that has been exposed to your company and/or products and services. Since you cannot control individual gut feelings, you cannot control your brand. You can, however, influence it. You have a vision for the type of company/products that you want to known for. If your desired brand image is out of alignment with your customers, employees, suppliers, and any one else that is aware of you, you have a problem. Good branding is alignment between your promises and their experiences. If you can reliably delight those people, you’re brand will grow.

The discipline of branding is simply taking proactive steps to ensure that alignment with your vision. These steps can take many forms, here are a few:

  • improved company image (logo, letterhead, advertising, marketing communications, packaging, etc…)
  • improved products
  • better customer service
  • improved accounting processes

Obviously, some of these things are easier to implement than others. It’s easy to get a fresh look and feel for your marketing and advertising materials – though it may not be cheap. Others will take intense cultural changes throughout the entire company to see the benefits. The better you understand your unique value, your vision, and the desires of your customers, the better you can build your brand.

Branding Is Not Optional

Branding is happening whether you are driving it or not. Every interaction with your company creates an impression in that person. And it doesn’t even have to be directly with you. How many times have you steered clear of a product or service based on the advice of a friend? In that case, you never get the chance to make a positive impression. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is because they’ll never get that far. That’s why the old adage of “one satisfied customer is worth ten” still rings true.

Entrepreneurs like to steer clear of branding because it forces them to put a stake in the ground. That’s scary because they’re comfortable pursuing every opportunity that looks beneficial – regardless of how it affects the current setup. It’s a fine line to walk. You need to be known as the best in some space. Customers aren’t looking for the next tool that slices, dices, and juliennes. They want the best slicer on the market. It’s very much the Long Tail theory.

To really be a powerful brand, you must have alignment between your vision and those gut feelings. In a commodity market, brand is the primary driver of purchase. People are loyal to brands – though that’s waning with increasing selection and standardization. A strong brand today has to be unique. It has to stand heads and shoulders above the competition. A strong brand doesn’t compete in markets, it defines markets.

The tip of the iceberg is focusing on brand alignment. The harder part is creating alignment. It’s making the changes in your organization that affect employee/supplier/customer experiences. A lower price is just one option – and usually not the best one.

If you view branding as an expense or a necessary evil, you’re already behind the curve.

Nick Rice

Savvy Marketing or Sour Grapes?

Being the solo-female voice at SBB, I thought I’d go ahead and get my first chic article out of the way. Michele Miller, (genius marketer, who happens to be female) recently commented on Brown-Forman’s Little Black Dress campaign, a collection of wines targeting women.

BF’s Little Black Dress is three “feminine favorites” (their words) – Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Chardonnay. According to Laura Webb, director of new products commercialization for Brown-Forman,

“Every woman has a little black dress, or three, or four. What could be better than to create a wine that women can relate to in that way?”

Miller’s response to that is pretty similar to my own…

“How about a wine that just tastes awesome for a ridiculously inexpensive price?”

She shares her thoughts on the desire for a bottle of inexpensive, great tasting wine, like Yellow Tail. A brand that until recently didn’t advertise at all. Much less create an entire campaign designed to lure in “Little Black Dress” wearing, wine enthusiasts. Michele ends her mini-rant curiously inquiring,

“What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think about wine marketing and if Brown-Forman’s “feminine” ideas are worthy or just a bunch of sour grapes.”

My thoughts? Having worked in this industry on the event marketing side (I promoted Schieffelin & Somerset brands), I can tell you that targeted marketing like the LBD promo, can often come across as trite to consumers. The best S&S wine promotions I ran, targeted savvy, smart and cost-conscious consumers – period. While S&S brands focused on white tablecloth restaurants and their patrons, we still mentioned the competitive price point.

Promos like the LBD promo can seem gimmick-y and often reflect a lack of true understanding for the targeted consumers. Since the popularity of the HBO hit, Sex and the City , and the rise of “chic-lit” novels like Bridget Jones’s Diary, a number of brands have tried to jump on the “sassy, urban, witty, hip-chic” bandwagon. But S&C worked because it was authentic. Same goes for Ms. Jones. Those that try to model the trend often appear to be trying too hard.

Niche marketing can be tricky. There’s a fine line between reaching women that wear little black dresses and out and out screaming for their attention. Cable has only one Carrie Bradshaw, and she’s in syndication now. I’d encourage marketers to be unique and tap into the heart of the consumers they are trying to target.

How do women that wear LBD’s experience wine? What emotions strike a cord causing them to order/purchase/consume wine? Do they drink wine chilling on the couch, watching “chic” flicks? Or are they sharing a bottle with a girlfriend or two rapping about men, the kids, relationships or future dreams and aspirations?

My issue with campaigns like LBD is that they don’t give women enough credit. Yes, I might wear a LBD. I might even drink wine while I’m wearing it. But I choose to drink wine for many reasons. In many different scenarios. And choose my wine based on my many colored moods. Cab Sav, fits my mellow philosophical side. Pinot Grigio is yummy on a hot summer day while noshing at an outdoor café. Shiraz finds me feeling sassy.

Let’s not put women in a box – although some do drink wine from a box…now that’s really cost conscious! Because while I do own a little black dress, I don’t associate all of my wine drinking memories with it.

Are you putting your target market in a box or uncorking your brand creativity and allowing it to breathe?

Cheers to your brand success,

Kammie K.

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