I’m not sure how much longer people can keep continuing to write the same articles, about the same topics, saying the same things, predicting the same “changes”, and expect anything to fundamentally change. I’m referring to an article published in Advertising Age called “The New Normal for CMOs” ironically under the column called CMO Strategy.

Simply regurgitating the same information that has prevailed the past several years is not strategic, and surely won’t help CMOs. Listing what the prevailing market conditions are, rather than offering new ideas for CMOs on how to deal with prevailing market conditions, is not strategic – it is informational. Plus, the information provided most of the time, or at least in this piece, is not new.

If a particular mindset has been in place for years or even decades, it should already be normal.

To paraphrase the main points in the article referenced above, each of which the author points out as “changes” or shifts for 2011:

* Your media mix is probably changing.

* LTV and customer loyalty is crucial, rather than a churn and burn strategy.

* Marketing and customer engagement is better when rooted in analytics.

* Marketing is no longer siloed and close partnerships with Finance is necessary.

* Performance-based procurement partnerships will become prevalent.

* Niche, creative expertise replaces one-size-fits-all agencies.

* Production and creative will decouple for efficiency’s sake.

* Consumers are tough to reach; agency compensation models will change accordingly.

* Minorities, and minority buying power, are significant, too.

* CMOs need to have a diverse skill set.

Summary: CMOs will be asked to do more with less.

Really? Which one of those have you not heard of before? Some of this is so basic and fundamental to what a CMO should have been thinking about for year that if you’re not thinking about them now, you shouldn’t be a CMO.

Everyone knows about the allure of social media. Everyone knows a 30-second spot won’t blanket your target audience anymore. So what can CMOs do, what should their new reality be? CMOs and top marketing executives need some new thinking or alternate points of view. I will give you two:

1) CMOs need to stop talking about shrinking budgets; everyone’s budget is tight and everything is fundamentally related to the recessionary times we live in. At some point, the more CMOs talk about their budgets shrinking, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, it is tougher to reach consumers than ever before, and CMOs have to “do more with less”, but when has that not been the case?

If your partnership with the CFO is as strong as the author in the Ad Age piece says it should be, and your marketing is rooted in analytics and ROI as the Ad Age piece says it should be, then why is your budget shrinking? Why not work to get your budget larger at the expense of another non-revenue producing, unproven, less impactful area? You can fix your shrinking budget, trust me.

2) Why do you think audiences are so fragmented nowadays versus, say, 10 years ago? Because they have thousands of places to get and receive content, and communicate. Content includes communication, but also includes websites, forums, social networks, and blogs. Why aren’t CMOs focusing on creating content for themselves or their brand and build their own communities that way? It is great to rely on Facebook and Twitter as communication mechanisms and platforms, but why not own your own real estate rather than renting? Have the conversation on your own (branded) terms. Then it becomes a lot easier to engage your target audience.

I think this should be *the* trend for 2011. By “creating content”, I’m not solely talking about having a Facebook page. I’m talking about creating your own forums, blogs, mini-sites and the like. Let your target audience and potential consumers talk about your brand and your product on your platform or your site where you can be a lot more creative and interactive. It is cheap, free, easy and efficient.

I wanted to pass along a great piece penned by the COO of Epic Media Group, Charlie Nowaczek. It builds upon much of what I’ve written and covered in both Winning the Web Magazine, iMedia Connection, and this blog.

No matter what industry you work in, or company you work for, your day to day efficiency can be dramatically affected by the environment you’re in. If you’re in a positive, happy, upbeat environment surrounded by colleagues you respect, it is likely you will be efficient and you will also have a better chance to succeed. If you’re in a negative, destructive environment, you will have much lower chances of success and ultimately happiness.

Most of us are products of our environment.

This is why my company’s latest honor is so important and why I, along with my executive team, take such pride in these things. I found out that our company was named to the Crain’s New York “Best Places to Work” list. The list, as well as our exact ranking, will be unveiled in December. Last year, in 2009, we also made the list and most recently we made a similar list of best places to work in marketing and media conducted by Advertising Age.

Why are these lists so important? Well, for one, they’re not rigged. A majority of the criteria for these lists come from confidential employee surveys never shown to an employer. Is it possible for employers to brainwash an entire company into grading them positively in the surveys? Probably not, unless you’re a very small business (we’re obviously not).

I’ve long believed that the environment you create in the workplace for your associates and coworkers is directly correlated to performance. It made me think about an entire issue in Winning the Web magazine devoted to corporate culture including a feature interview we did with Zappos, a company long believed to be a pioneer in corporate culture. It harkened me back to a blog post I did for iMedia Connection on the very same topic. Some employers or small businesses brush this theme to the side in favor of maniacal focus on growing bottom line profits; if they would only understand that there is evidence out there that the culture you create and bottom line profits are indeed at a minimum loosely tied, perhaps there would be more success stories in the world.

The environment you put employees in, as well as the environment you choose to put yourself in, is not just critical for one’s happiness, it is critical in efficiency and a helpful barometer of success. Give some thought about your own surroundings each day and perhaps a few of the links above will help shed some light on what some entities are getting right.

Birthday Musings and Goal Setting

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Goal Setting
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Today is a day that happens every year, yet you can’t hardly imagine that a whole year has gone by since the last one. Another day, another year older (on paper). I always believe that a birthday is a good time for reflection, but also to look forward. In short, it is the best time for goal-setting (as opposed to the New Year when everybody is goal-setting and then subsequently breaking their resolutions). Birthdays are unique, as are people’s own goals, hence the great timing.

I’ll save you my own personal reflection over the last year and talk about goals. This is a topic I will cover in detail at my talk during the Elite Retreat in December.

Any good goal is something that is rooted in process, not towards a particular outcome. Any good goal is not monetarily-based. In other words, I can’t say “by this time next year, I want to make $5 million.” That statement is an outcome, not a goal. Goals need to be much more process-oriented. In other words, if you want to make a lot more money in the next year, there has to be a process by which you can envision going through to get there. That process is the foundation for your goals. The money is the outcome, or a byproduct, as is fame or notoriety – but it is not a goal.

For instance, I could say “I want to be a more well-known business person who is able to lead my company’s marketing activities as well as share his insight with others”. That’s a good goal and one I will work on. However, there are other short term, more specific goals, that would lead me to that ultimate one. I have always done well by setting one ultimate target, backed up by shorter-term targets that act as barometers towards the ultimate destination. Perhaps if I’m dealing with a one year time frame as the ultimate finish line before my next birthday, I’ve got 6 or 12 shorter steps I need to accomplish. If I hit those shorter steps, I will have reached all my goals in the next year without necessarily harping on the long-term scary one, but just by focusing on more achievable shorter term stuff.

This process works very well for athletes, as well as corporations and entrepreneurs. For athletes, it is the reason why there are seasons and specifically off-seasons. It is a time to reflect and reset targets for the following year. For companies, it is the reason why there are monthly or quarterly board meetings or earnings calls. For entrepreneurs, it is how you check your progress in being successful; you can’t get to being an individual success running your business without reaching the goal of building infrastructure and setting up a few processes along the way as a few examples. A restaurant owner can’t say “I want to have the most successful restaurant in the Lower East Side” without several smaller milestones along the way.

Incidentally, the setting of short and long-term goals works equally well personally. The toughest part of goal-setting is envisioning the individual steps along the way towards obtaining your ultimate goal. Having a dream isn’t the holy grail, because lots of people have dreams; being able to see the steps needed to reach your dream is the tough part. I’ve long believed that people who fail (yours truly included) didn’t fail because their dreams were off-kilter or unreachable, they failed because they didn’t identify the shorter-term goals necessary to make their longer-term goals a reality. You need to achieve short-term goals to give yourself a chance, and the confidence, at larger more profound things.

So this year, I will do the same as last year – I will set personal and professional goals for 365 days from now, and 6 shorter term goals for every 2 months. We’ll see if I do as well this year as I did over the last year, perhaps on your next birthday you can do the same.

Me, Keynote, Elite Retreat 7.

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Speaking
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A few days ago, I was humbled and honored to accept the invitation to keynote at this year’s Elite Retreat in San Francisco. It is a show that a good personal friend of mine, Shoemoney, throws every year. The show attracts the best of the best in the interactive marketing space, and the host couldn’t be any more accomplished in my opinion. For those who haven’t heard of it, and are involved in anything related to online marketing, direct marketing, or anything tabbed “interactive”, you should brush up and read some testimonials of this show.

As for me, it is always humbling when other people think you have accomplished something. I guess I don’t think of it that way, and maybe that is what I will talk about. But I need to keep some secrets or else my audience will be disappointed! I’m really looking forward to it. I mean, maybe even as much as a few of my old professional tennis matches back in the day – which is saying something (for me). Ironically, I used to do way more speaking BEFORE becoming a CMO – now I do more writing. But this is really something that has me so energized, I can’t wait until December. Can’t wait.

I’m really proud to follow in the footsteps of some great past keynoters including Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki. I promise I will continue carrying the torch forward!

Last week, I wrote a piece about extending one’s core business. One recent and very high profile example of this is Facebook’s “Places” application. To review, it is a Foursquare-like “check in” service so that users can let their friends know where they are at any given time by checking in to a location. For users, it lets them broadcast (or brag) to their friends where they are and what they are doing. For Facebook, it gives them geographic data to challenge Foursquare and puts them squarely into the local advertising game along with Yelp and Google.

Most everyone knows Facebook and uses it. I do. I think it is a great way to keep in touch with friends and to find old friends. I use it passively and would never be considered a power-user. There are actually days that go by when I don’t check it, and I have very few mobile alerts activated (only when someone posts on my Wall). Of the 500 million active users in Facebook, I am probably in their bottom 5% in terms of what they would consider a valuable user from a business standpoint.

When they announced Places, I did a little head scratching. Part of the reason was because they launched it right around the time when the great privacy debates began happening. Facebook was in the line of fire on their privacy policies in a very public way, putting their CEO on the defensive, and then seemingly days later they launched this service. The first things I thought were: “Why?” and “Why now?”

I’ve been in the advertising and marketing businesses for well over a decade, so I get why. When you wrap data, targeting and local advertising together, it becomes a potentially powerful mix for any merchant; and it allows Facebook to leverage their huge audience by putting them squarely into the growing local advertising business.

However, given the timing – where privacy concerns, tracking, cookies and the like are front page news – I’m not sure this was a prudent move for them now. Since I know the business well and understand exactly what information I give Facebook and how they’re using it, I probably have a higher tolerance than most. But “Places” even gave me a little bit of pause.

All of these points are probably moot if a huge swath of people used the service, so I wanted to wait to write about this to see if users would adopt it in masses. I, for one, disabled the “Places” function right away but wanted to see if others would too. It looks like I’m not alone.

When evaluating your core business, it is important to consider not only the business model behind it, but the timing and overall media climate since what the media covers informs the general public. Most importantly, though, you need to have reliable data or market research that suggests usage by your core customers. If a business tries to extend too aggressively they risk alienating their core users. I’m not saying this will happen to Facebook. But why didn’t they focus group this more? Why didn’t they ask their users if they would use such a utility?

Maybe a lot of people I don’t know are using Places, in which case I’ll be the first to say I’m wrong. But the bottom line for me is two-fold: Do people really care where I am and what I’m doing all the time? Do I really care to let people know where I am and what I’m doing all the time?

Even my very best friends would answer “no” to the first one. And I would answer “no” for the second one.

Epic Media Group Named by Ad Age

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Awards
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Some great news from Advertising Age this morning for my company, Epic Media Group. We were named one of the 30 “Best Places to Work in Marketing & Media” in the United States.

We have racked up some really nice accolades the last 2 years or so, which is a great tribute to our employees and overall success.

You can read more about it here.

A recent article in Advertising Age brings to light the qualities of a new breed of CMO. Gone are the days of more style than substance, more flair than foundation, more flamboyance than “meat”. In other words, we’re in the post-rock-star CMO era.

There is something to this, trust me. A CMO has two major constituencies: internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. Internally, with more and more CMO’s having a stronger voice around Board tables, the onus is on them to show actual results rather than be a cheerleader. Externally, in trying economic times, people don’t really want to hear a lot of talk and promises. They want to be impressed, and it is a CMO’s job to have their business stand out, but it is increasingly important to achieve this through tangible action.

One quality mentioned in the Ad Age piece is humility and a “team first” mentality. Nowadays if you’re a CMO, I don’t know how you survive without these two things. Hopefully you’re on an executive team, like I am fortunate enough to be, that if anyone gets too much of an ego or “me first” mentality, they get brought back down to earth immediately.

*****

A few quick words of thanks to John Chow, Shoemoney, DK and Bevo Media for their shout-outs and compliments relating to our company’s party at the Playboy Mansion. As a lot of you know, it was our 2nd year doing the Epic Publisher Challenge, which was a 6 month competition for our web publishers culminating in an expenses paid weekend in LA and a party at the Playboy Mansion for the 50 or so top performers. Beyond the great time had by all, the competition itself and the formula we used throughout the 6-month competition could really be a business school case study in how to do event marketing and have what is seemingly a large expense become a major revenue producer and brand tent pole. I’ll be doing an entire series of posts in the future in which I will detail the thinking and rationale behind how I view incentives and event marketing and why they go together. I feel this is an important topic that a lot of companies or businesses can use if they know their target audience(s).

*****

My colleagues at Advantage Media launched a new series called “Author Advantage TV”. My friend Adam Witty, CEO of Advantage Media, is the host of this weekly show. Keep an eye on them in the coming months and you might see a familiar face or two.

*****

Finally, a piece I wrote early in 2010 for iMedia Connection about the importance of corporate culture, which tied in at the time with a theme I covered in depth in Winning the Web magazine, has gotten a lot of positive reaction and significant pass-around as of late. More and more, in these trying economic times, corporate culture is potentially THE most important element in a company’s success. People usually perform better when they are interested, passionate and having fun. As I pointed out, part of a strong culture is about communication. Whether from the top down, or across departments, making sure employees feel not only in the loop but as having a say-so in things is a huge factor to a company’s short and long-term success. Also be sure to check out Advertising Age on Monday, September 20th for a list of the best company’s to work for in Media and Marketing.

Early in my tennis career, I had a terrible temper. One of the first times I stepped on a tennis court with my Dad as a 9 year old, I threw my racquet after a series of missed shots. My Dad immediately stopped, walked over to my side of the court, took the racquet out of my hand and calmly said “you will not play tennis ever again if you throw your racquet”. We got in the car and drove home.

At the time, I didn’t really understand the lesson I learned that day. I was embarrassed and vowed to not ever again throw a tantrum in competition, and save a few fits of relatively mild frustration over the next 12 years, never did and was all the better for it. Instead, I learned how to have composure in times of panic or crisis when the easy thing to do was to lose my cool. Entering my business career, I vowed to transfer this overall mantra since it had become habitual for me for over a decade.

I was reminded of this after reading CMO Frances Allen’s article in Adweek called “The Lessons of Losing It”, which is a fine piece written from the aspect of understanding consumers fears and uncertainties during these trying economic times. The article urges business people and marketers to keep people’s concerns top of mind when marketing and interacting with consumers. The author cited some people’s “good for you!” reaction to the infamous JetBlue pilot’s actions several weeks ago as proof of the general public’s unease and frustration. In other times, the acts of the pilot that day may not have been celebrated but during these times, there was a segment of the population who applauded his acts seemingly because there are a lot of people who would love to “lose it” on the job like that pilot did.

While the conclusions drawn in the article are accurate, I want to offer a different approach and focus more on why composure is important inside actual businesses encompassing everyday business dealings, whether you’re an entrepreneur, an executive, an employee or dealing with a client.

Big business, and especially small business, is a lot like professional sports. You win some, you lose some. During the course of a day, things go your way and things don’t. There are “teammates” you really like, others maybe not quite as much. There are also dozens of decisions made within the span of a game or match; in business, it is the same thing in the course of a single day, so lucid thinking and an ability to act and react quickly is crucial.

Most people, but not all mind you, tend to perform better when their mind is clear and not bottled up in negative emotion. The best analogy is an athlete who is “in the zone” where he or she is letting the game come to them and reacting based on their training and expertise often without realizing they actually are “thinking” with no raw negative emotion. Listen to any interview of an athlete or business person or speaker who claims they were “in the zone” and they will all say “it felt like I wasn’t thinking out there, I was letting things happen.”

This notion translates perfectly to business. Calm and collected people tend to work with other people or with a team better than abrasive ones. They tend to make smarter less reactive decisions. They tend to be better role models to coworkers. They tend to be better prepared. And importantly, they tend to provide better customer and client service. How often have you called a customer service person at a business and had them totally get frustrated and be snippy? I bet they came across as out of control, uninformed and generally unhappy – and likely unable to resolve questions!

People – and business people – are defined by how they handle adversity. This can be during the course of a day, week, quarter or year. The saying really does ring true: success is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you handle it. Both personally and with others I’ve looked up to professionally, I’ve found that those who handle issues or problems with poise and composure often resolve the issues or problems better than people who fly off the handle and “lose it”.

Does this mean I’m saying that everyone should be emotionless as it relates to their business or daily lives? Certainly not. Everyone needs to blow off steam eventually and even if you keep your composure, things might still not have the outcome you desire. I’m suggesting the calm, cool ones have a better chance at the desired outcome though. There are countless examples to combat this notion – from leaders to executives to athletes to entrepreneurs – people who feed off raw, negative emotion as a means to drive them towards success. Those that succeed in this way are an exception; most of the people I know or watch who have accomplished great things are able to quietly shine in the moments of greatest pressure and stress, and emit those virtues to others around them.

There was some very interesting research released from eMarketer based on a study done by ExactTarget entitled “Subscribers, Fans & Followers”. The study aimed to quantify the differences for marketers between email, Facebook and Twitter. There are two charts of interest, here’s the first:

Basically, this tells us that Twitter followers of a brand were the most loyal and most likely to purchase, followed by email subscribers, followed by Facebook subscribers – in percentage terms (see below, that’s important).

The second chart varies a little bit in terms of which constituency is more likely to recommend a brand:

On the surface, the results look similar in terms of which group is more apt to recommend a brand.

I draw one conclusion and one major caveat. First, these results are fairly intuitive. Twitter is arguably the most mobile and most real-time. To follow a brand in real-time, you presumably are as passionate about that brand as you are your friends. If I’m following JetBlue via Twitter in addition to a few hundred friends, that is likely my airline of choice and one that I’d recommend to other friends. If I “like” JetBlue on Facebook, it is probably a feeling that is less passionate.

The major caveat I have though is that this study was done in percentage terms. Let’s not forget the behemoth Facebook has become in terms of whole numbers (the latest count is 500 million users), while Twitter is still relatively small in terms of usage. Everyone I know is on Facebook; only a handful actively use Twitter.

The big winner in this study in my opinion? Good “old” email. Even more so than Facebook, everyone uses email. Over the last few years, people have become increasingly cognizant of spam and email overload leading them to try and limit the volume of email they receive. Therefore, nowadays, if you’re subscribing to a brand or newsletter via email, you probably have thought long and hard about it.