Meaningless Marketing

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

If your company name and tagline could mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people, it’s meaningless.

  • Global Technical Solutions – Where Technology Drives Customer Value. Meaningless.
  • Dwilgoq – It’s on!! Meaningless.
  • The Robert Higgins Group – We mean business. Meaningless.

In the FogTake a stand! You can’t do everything for everyone, so define your niche and project a clear message. Get out of the fog.

I do realize that it is a challenge in this URL-crowded era to find a unique name. But at least try to have a descriptor – a verbal business card – that tells us what you’re about.

I interacted this week with Marc Pitman. His title: The Fundraising Coach. The summary he gives of himself on Google+: Committed to making it ridiculously easy for people to find fundraising training.

Bingo. I know EXACTLY where to put Marc in the universe of suppliers. But if, instead, his title was: The Business Coach – well, then I’d be unable to place him in memory. If his verbal business card was: I help people find what they need to succeed – despite the cute rhyme, he’d be another MBE (meaningless business entity).

It may help you in business to have your MBA. But if you’re working on your MBE, you’re making life far more difficult than it should be – for your customers, and ultimately, for you. You need to Claim Your Market[place].

If you think you’ve got a case of MBE, let’s talk. Maybe a dose of Clarity Therapy is just what you need to get more meaningful.

Ping me at: steve at stevewoodruff dot com.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

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ROS – Return on SOBCon

I’ll be Chicago again this May to attend my fourth SOBCon conference. If you haven’t gone before, and if you’re a high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward person, I hope you’ll join us.

Why the italics above? Because that’s what I think about when I contemplate SOBCon. The incredible people I’ve met – people who’ve become long-term friends and collaborators.

People like:

  • Lisa Petrilli – with whom I co-launched LeadershipChat after we met at SOBCon and began our years of brainstorming and collaborating. She is a dear friend.
  • Sean McGinnis – with whom I had lunch and immediately built a deep bond that continues to this day.
  • Justin McCullough – a spur-of-the-moment branding discussion (including Drew McLellan) during a SOBCon social gathering led to valuable ongoing back-and-forth over recent years.
  • Carol Roth – who greeted me with a bright smile at the evening event kicking off the meeting and has remained a valued colleague ever since (& congrats on the big news this week, Carol!)
  • Anthony Iannarino – a rock of friendship and encouragement since the day we met in the room at SOBCon several years back.

Yes, the content and discussions at SOBCon are valuable. But what stands out to me is the people who come together to learn, and grow, and challenge one another. People I now interact with on a regular basis, such as Lisa DiomedeBecky McCraySheila ScarboroughShashi BellamkondaAmber ClevelandMolly Cantrell-KraigMarla SchulmanJustin LevyDarrell DeRochierPhil GerbyshakLiz MarshallSarah RobinsonBrian MoranJesse PetersenChris Brogan, Jon Swanson, Alli Worthington, Angela Maiers, Lou Imbriano, Judy Martin, Geoff Livingston, Tim Sanders, Darrell Derochier, Fred McClimans, Danielle Smith, Chris Garrett … and undoubtedly others I’m failing to bring to mind at the moment.

Special thanks, of course, to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. They are the heart and soul of SOBCon.

You want return on investment? Just look a the list above. All high-quality, collaborative, smart, pay-it-forward people.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like a family of networking professionals. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

The Lazy Social Networker

AppleOrchard

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

The lazy social networker opens a Twitter account, throws up a few inspirational tweets and a bunch of RTs, and expects the world to roll out a red carpet and hand over an Oscar for Best Performance. This year.

The lazy social networker buys into the notion that more hashtags will mean more followers, which will mean a bigger reputation, which will somehow lead to more fame and riches. Quickly.

The lazy social networker follows all the advice about writing blogs with Top 10 lists and newsjacking topics, contributing to the tsunami of noise without producing any valuable signal.

The lazy social networker then gives up when it doesn’t “work.” Little effort did not produce the anticipated big return.

Be prepared to spread a lot of useful seed, in the form of thoughtful content. Be prepared to water that effort with purposeful and caring relationship-cultivation. Be prepared to rinse and repeat for the long haul, and experience the outflow of a lot of effort with, perhaps, a good bit less return than you ever anticipated.

In other words, be prepared to work. Just like every other worthy endeavor. There may be a lot of effort with little return – for a season.

That’s how agriculture works. That’s how business works. That’s how life works.

The lazy social networker will fade off. As for you, be in it for the long haul. You’re building relationships and adding value, not grasping at some cheap short-term applause.

You’re growing an orchard, not inflating a balloon. The fruit comes in abundance — over time.

The Now and the Not Yet

One of the great mysteries in this drama called life is the tension between the Now and the Not Yet.

There are times when we need to act now, and delay means a loss of opportunity. It may even display cowardice. Yet there are other aspects of our life that are on long simmer – we’re made for this, but…not yet.

It’s tricky, on a given day, month, year, or decade, to know what is now, and what is not yet. When do we seize the day, and when do we need more seasoning in our own character and experience?

As parents, we yearn for our kids to get their act together and be gold-medal human beings by the time they reach 20. But people – especially young people – don’t often seem to follow our script. The long haul of the not yet is the constant (sometimes painful) companion of everyone who joins the adventure of shaping a new generation.

Several things are coalescing in my life right now that lead me to believe that it’s time. For instance, I’ve known since my late teens that I was destined to write books. Yet only now, in my 50’s, do I feel like I’ve developed the message and the “voice” and the direction and the platform to start long-form writing. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and writing and learning all along – I have – but there was a not-yet doorstop in my soul for decades as I slowly developed.

Some, however, end up successfully launching businesses or books or speaking careers or multimedia fame in their 20’s. The now came early. How can you program (or predict) all that?

You can’t. But sometimes we can help other people decide between the now and the not yet by providing an objective voice. Don’t underestimate the importance of a pointed encouragement forward, or a cautious word of wisdom to wait.

I’ve got no answers – just that we have to be ready for now each day, and be patient about the not yet even when it seems to make no sense to wait.

How do you live with this tension?

Training to Communicate

Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a passion for writing – in fact, it’s really a passion for all things communication (including speaking, video, social media, etc.). As a blogger, I traffic in a lot of written material. Much of what I see is, quite frankly, pretty amateurish.

ID-10087526Writing clearly and succinctly is crucial to work effectiveness. And it’s a rarely-trained skill. It doesn’t matter what position people occupy in their profession. Everyone from the newly-hired salesperson to the CEO needs to sharpen communication skills, if they want to be viewed as professionals (see this recent post by Dave Kerpen).

If people are spending an average of 28% of their time dealing with e-mail – then just improving that one area of business writing can return a lot of potential productivity gains!

In the past month, I’ve sat down with a couple of great providers who do corporate training on communications/writing skills. I found myself nodding so vigorously during discussions that it’s a wonder I didn’t end up at the chiropractor’s office! As I underscore in my Vendor/Project Success workshops, the basic principles of project and vendor management will be used in all future career areas – just like learning to drive a car, it’s an “evergreen” skill set. Writing and communicating clearly? –even more so.

Clear communications lead to clear actions. Foggy communications lead to misunderstandings, back-and-forth clarifications, and frustration.

Let’s train ourselves and our people how to effectively move thoughts to the keyboard and beyond (and if you need a communications training vendor/provider recommendation, just let me know – steve [at] connectionagent dot com). It can never be wrong to sharpen this skill!

10 steps to successful business writing jack e-appleman-paperback-cover-artAlso, here’s a book recommendation for you. 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing* (by Jack Appleman) is a compact, simple-to-absorb volume that gives practical, step-by-step advice on how to write more clearly.

The opening paragraph in the introduction says it all:

Successful business writing starts with simplicity. The beauty of simplicity is that it can produce results faster.

With chapters like Know Where You’re Taking Your Readers; Be Explicit, Clear, and Concise; Grab Your Readers’ Attention; and Master The Documents You Use Most Often; this book dives immediately into straightforward advice with plenty of practical application.

I’ve spent a good bit of time with Jack lately (we have a common bond in the realms of clarity and training!), and he has shared with me how he can also partner with corporations and provide valuable training for employees. If you’re interested in Jack’s services, let me know and I’ll make the connection.

*Amazon affiliate link

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Postscript: Just saw this nice summary about how to write effective e-mails that people won’t ignore, by Bryan Garner via HBR blog.

Your Internal Wiring: Strategic, or Tactical?

I’ve been theorizing here at Connection Agent about how our internal “wiring” shapes our workstyle. I do believe that we all have a level of malleability – that is, we can learn new skills outside of our comfort zone. But I’m thinking that also have baked-in orientations, or preferences, that shape how we best work.

So far, we’ve looked at the following ideas on the workstyle spectrum:

Introversion – – vs  – – Extroversion

Me-working – – vs – – Team-working

Now let’s take a look at another (proposed) scale: Strategic thinking vs Tactical thinking

StrategicTactical Scale

Someone with a more Tactical orientation really just wants to get it done – their mindset is less on the big picture, and more on the short-term execution. They prefer to implement, not plan.

On the other hand, those with a Strategic orientation always tend to see the bigger picture – how the pieces fit into a larger plan, and how to go about the work with a longer-term blueprint.

This isn’t a matter of intelligence or performance. It’s simply an orientation. And someone with a strategic mindset who is stuck in a tactical job will quickly become dissatisfied – do you agree?

However, I confess to being a little bit torn on this scale, because I wonder if it shouldn’t be three fold: Tactical—-Strategic—-Visionary. Is visionary a workstyle? Or is it a leadership style? Not sure about that. I know that my mentality is very much on the visionary/strategic level – I can do implementation, but I prefer not to be in the weeds of details. Where do you see yourself?

So – do you think this a valid distinction as proposed, or should the labels be something different? I know there’s truth here, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the labels of the spectrum nailed accurately.

>> And just what is the purpose of this whole exercise, anyway? Actually, it is part of a big-picture approach I’m working on – how to help people find their best professional “fit” as far as job/role. I believe that we have wired orientations, and that by becoming aware of our preferred workstyles, we can make much more intelligent career choices. My vision is seeing thousands of people and companies doing far more effective work because they start with a “you-based business” approach.

The New Intermediation: Specialized Domains

If you have been in a business domain for a long time, acquiring a deep knowledge and broad network, you may well have an opportunity to carve out a unique (you-based) business role for your future. Of all people, you can be one of the new intermediaries.

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

Just yesterday, I was handed a brand-new business card by someone I’d spent a few hours with several weeks back. This experienced professional was being laid off – there are always ups and downs in the pharma/biotech realm, and some great folks lose positions regularly because of factors having nothing to do with their performance.

Anyway, this person had a deep area of domain expertise, able to fill an information and business-building need that few could touch. I encouraged them to launch a consultancy (they did), and yesterday, I got the news that their first client had signed up for a 6-month engagement!

How awesome is that? From corporate dependence to carving out your own path – isn’t that what so many should be doing right now?

Another friend is steadily positioning himself for a unique intermediary role in his industry (agriculture-related) due to his immense knowledge and hard-won reputation as a very knowledgeable guide for both growers and producers. Make no mistake, however – his reputation as a value-creator is based on incredibly hard work in a specialized domain. This role is not for kids fresh out of college.

Just saw this post by Rohit Bhargava, who is taking on the role of a Marketing Concierge. What is that? An expert who comes alongside the client, and makes relationships and workflow better with their agencies. Read the post and you’ll see why he can do this – deep domain experience. He’s a new intermediary. My friend Tom Martin serves as a digital adviser for higher-level marketers, who cannot possibly keep up with all the digital ferment. Tom is immersed in digital AND knows what agencies/marketers need. He’s a new intermediary.

In each case, people pay their dues for years working for others (building up domain knowledge and reputation), then get to a position when it’s time to be an intermediary. If you’re in your 40’s and 50’s and wondering if you’re being bypassed – if you’re all washed up – think again. This is prime time to be a value-creator by having a foot firmly planted in two realms.

I find that people with this type of depth and track record generally need a gentle push – a little outside permission-giving. “This is your sweet spot. You’re ready now. No-one else can do this like you can. Here’s your market[place]. Go!

Think beyond the next job title in someone else’s hierarchy. Build toward your unique place of adding value “in the middle.” Maybe you should be one of the new intermediaries!

Previous Connection Agent posts on The New Intermediation:

The New Intermediation in Publishing

The New Intermediation: Curation

The New Intermediation: Matchmaking

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation