Business Management

Tribute to a Great Strategist: My Mentor, John Walsh

Posted on November 1, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Leadership, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

John Walsh Words Music Piano

Colgate Dinah Shore Winner's Circle Ad

A print ad for the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle Golf Tournament – With Arnie Palmer. I was there when it was shot.

Today is four years since my dear mentor and stepfather John R. Walsh died. Two years ago I wrote a post about him that will give you some of his and our background.

What I’d like to share with you in this post is some of his brilliant thinking and the lessons we can take  in a Web 2.0 world from his ability to strategize before the Internet/World Wide Web.

Next time you watch women’s golf and tennis think of John Walsh. Back in the 1970’s women’s sports had almost no corporate sponsorship. With no big money prizes and TV contracts there was very little interest. It occurred to John that this represented an opportunity for consumer products companies whose primary purchasing public was almost wholly women.

He pitched the idea to Colgate-Palmolive CEO-at-the-time David Foster, who passed away recently. Foster, who happened to really like women and golf, thought it was a great idea and the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle Golf Classic was born. Foster even bought it a home – the Mission Hills Golf Course in Palm Springs. Its success also helped to increase sponsorship of women’s tennis.

Walsh and Foster boosted the careers of LPGA Hall of Famers JoAnne Carner, Nancy Lopez and Amy Alcott among many others. The two pretty much put the sport on the map. The fabulous PR strategy still puts Colgate-Palmolive in a positive spotlight today.

John’s big strategic idea: Great opportunities are out there. Look for an audience that can get behind something that already exists and is just waiting for support from a logical booster.

He did the same thing with Cutty Sark Scots Whisky, selling its global distributor and the Men’s Fashion Association to collaborate on a men’s fashion awards program at a time when there was no recognition for menswear designers. The Cutty Awards ran for years, garnering untold media attention for all and boosting the early careers of such fashion icons as Gianni Versace, Alexander Julian and many others.

In the days of Web 2.0 and online search, it’s actually much easier to come up with winning matches like these.

If you click the link at the top of this post it should bring up your audio player and a music file of John singing and playing one of his own compositions, “I’m In Love With San Francisco.” As I explained in my 2009 post, John played a mean piano – in the key of C only – and composed some wonderful songs. A man of words, he was his own lyricist.

Unfortunately, John’s songs remain unknown. I’m happy to give one of them some airtime here.  The song was recorded to digital from an old cassette tape using an iPhone 4s so the quality isn’t great, but it’ll give you a peek at one other part of his creative heart and mind.

Here’s to one of the greatest winners I’ve ever known. Love you and miss you, John.

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A Relationship Between Labor Day and Education

Posted on September 5, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Education, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

 

 
Labor and Education

President David Dubinsky discusses workers' education at an ILGWU luncheon for students and teachers at the Center Hotel, April 10, 1937.

Two thinkers who I respect blogged about some aspect of education in the past couple of days. Seth Godin offered a rather chilling history of how our modern education system is tied to the workforce and capitalism. It’s a must read: http://bit.ly/rmdTYh

A new friend and fellow Philadelphia native – marketing consultant Jim Matorin – @cannes53 – wrote about the new classroom. http://bit.ly/obPWbN

I commented on Jim’s blog that what education needs to focus on is what students need to learn in order to score one of the rare jobs available these days that will contribute to the future of work.

To synthesize the two posts – and I encourage you to read both of them – in order to positively influence the future of a global economy, education must foster tech-aware and savvy practitioners who feel empowered to trust their own knowledge and intellects.

I don’t think that’s where education is at the moment. And I believe that’s where it must go.

Image from Kheel Center, Cornell University under Creative Commons license.

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Smaller Companies: Keep Marketing Through Adversity

Posted on August 11, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Communications, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Small Business, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

 

Keep Your Marketing Engines Running

Keep Your Marketing Engines Running!

 

Every time we hit a moment when the stock market crashes – or worse, fluctuates wildly – it’s predictable that smaller businesses will instantly turn off their marketing engines.

This is just as short sighted as selling off stocks the day of the crash and similarly forfeits the upside. The smartest investors and financial advisors, like my networking partner Pat Morrow, who runs a private wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, are exploring the current landscape for opportunities for their clients. And they’re finding them, too.

On the marketing side, I’m similarly engaged. In this environment, it makes sense that if our competitors panic and stop promoting their businesses, we stand to pick up market share.

The reason that I like Inbound Marketing is that it’s possible to create great efficiencies. Does it take time and money resources? Of course. But if cash flow becomes a problem, or if business slows down a bit, it gives you time to take on some of the marketing tasks that you might otherwise outsource. Pay only for what you can’t do yourself.

Even though I sell marketing services to businesses like yours, I can empathize with you. I’m in the same small business boat. Limited time. Limited resources. But today I took some time to build an email marketing campaign to my opt-in list giving them some reasons to consider Inbound Marketing and my services in an uncertain economy.

My Hubspot content management system allowed me to do this without any assistance. As far as I’m concerned it was a cost effective use of my time. When I got back from some meetings late this afternoon, I sat down and wrote this blog post, which will bring traffic to my site and help me engage with my audiences.

I have no intention of cutting back my marketing efforts. I’m happy to invest  to get my company in front of opportunities that will help me build through these uncertain economic times. And I don’t mind putting in some sweat equity.

What can you contribute to your own marketing efforts? Farm out less. But don’t stop marketing.

Image by Nathan E Photography Under Creative Commons License

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Competition and Other Annoying Business Realities

Posted on August 4, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, News, Online Marketing, Small Business | Tags: , , , , |

Business Competition

We can be our own competitive edge!!

The Dow fell more than 500 points today. Bad news was exuding from every media outlet. I had an opportunity to get some perspective on it in my weekly networking group meeting from members who are highly sophisticated financial experts.

Then I came home, shared some conversation with my neighbor on her garden swing, pulled a bunch of weeds that have been bothering me while thinkingabout what my blog topic would be for today. Relaxing and getting still allowed me to realize what was concerning me – and probably you, too.

When markets go crazy and economies are shaky and there’s less business to go around, we can’t help but think about how we’ll compete for what business there is. This has been on my mind for some time and brought to the forefront by today’s events.

Bottom line, I’ve decided not to worry about who else is competing for a piece of the online/inbound marketing pie. Instead, I’m working on my own story. Thinking harder about what I bring to the table that will have value for my clients and that I can speak powerfully about to prospects. I’m thinking about my strengths – what I really do better than anyone I’ve encountered.

Then I’m evaluating my lighter abilities — what I fully understand but need partners to execute well.

And I’m working on my messaging so that I can communicate clearly and effectively. That includes listening and testing… talking to as many people as I can find who are willing to offer feedback as I hone my messages.

I’m asking myself:

  • Are my offerings aligned with the needs of my client/prospect?
  • Is my language completely understandable, or too jargon-y?
  • Am I creating enough curiosity that people will be willing to stick around and learn more?
  • Am I explaining my services so that the benefits and value come through loud and clear?
  • Am I being human enough to connect and credible enough to build trust?

I believe that refocusing my energies on being as meaningful as possible to my market is my competitive edge.

How are you dealing with the competitive and business realities of the current economic environment?

Image from tableatny under Creative Commons license.

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Learning and Teaching: Do Both for a Dynamic Career

Posted on July 27, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Communications, Education, Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Learning and Teaching a Dynamic Lifelong Cycle

Both learning and teaching contribute to a dynamic career

I’ve been thinking about the learning and teaching cycle.

When I first started this blog, I was an inbound marketing neophyte, just starting to transition my communications practice from traditional PR to an array of online services. At the time I was acutely aware of being a student and sought teachers and mentors.

Ironically, I was moving from a place where I was highly competent and knowledgeable and where I was teacher and mentor to interns who sought me out and went on to make it in the business. Stepping into their shoes turned out to be an exciting and energizing experience.

Today, I’m still a student because there’s always something new to learn. And I love being engaged in learning. It’s stimulating. But almost three years into this transition, with a body of good work to point to in my new service areas, I’ve begun to feel credible as a teacher again – even moreso with my new knowledge and skills integrated into my earlier experience.

It’s a good thing, too, because businesses still need a great deal of education in order to begin taking advantage of the powerful marketing tools available to them. Teaching is so gratifying because it reveals to us just how much we’ve learned and can apply to helping our clients. It also clearly points the direction to our next student stint.

The cycle of knowing and needing to learn keeps us moving productively into the future. What are you learning and teaching?

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Inbound Marketing Education is in Middle School

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Content, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

HubSpot Inbound Marketing System

HubSpot Developed an Efficient System for Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has been around for several years now. It’s the subject of bestselling books by David Meerman Scott and HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In fact, HubSpot has surpassed the 5000-customer mark for the Internet-based content management system they invented to put all of the pieces of inbound marketing together.

Yet, when I sit in a roomful of business owners and ask how many people know what inbound marketing is, frequently all hands stay down. Or a hand will shoot up and the eager contributor will say, “Social Media.”

It’s clear to me that we inbound marketers have a lot more work to do educating the marketplace about the approach. Yes, social media is a component of inbound marketing, but it’s only one.

There seems to be pretty widespread awareness of other inbound marketing components, too, like SEO, blogging and email marketing. Yet there’s little awareness of how all of these efforts can coalesce in an effective and measurable process. This post is one of a number I’ve written to help flesh out the process in a way that’s meaningful to business people.

At heart, inbound marketing is just marketing updated to reach our potential customers where they are – online – then to get their interest and win their trust so that when they buy, they buy from us. These days, it’s harder, if not impossible, to find our prospects by advertising in newspapers (why they’re shrinking), by telemarketing (think voicemail), on TV (thanks to TiVo and DVR) and other traditional channels. But future buyers are almost all online – at least enough of them to keep our businesses growing.

Business owners and managers I speak with will often say, “Well, we’re driving lots of traffic to our website, but we’re not sure what it’s getting us.” Then I ask, “What’s your bounce rate? And what are you doing to convert traffic to leads?”

They begin to understand inbound marketing when I explain how it serves as a lead generation and lead nurturing system. When they realize that inbound marketing can be planned and implemented with the objective of helping them reach revenue goals, it becomes a much more interesting idea to explore. It becomes a compelling idea when they recognize that analytics can be integrated and success measured.

There are a lot of steps to inbound marketing. It can seem daunting at first. It does take some re-thinking about how you do marketing. And it does take an investment of time, staff resources and budget. But, properly done, it works and pays big dividends.

I use HubSpot’s content management system for my own company’s inbound marketing. There are other ways to approach and handle inbound marketing using multiple sources. But for me, HubSpot offers the best system, education and support – especially for small to mid-sized companies I work with.

As the product matures, there’s now a developer’s marketplace growing up around HubSpot that’s yielding and will continue to produce plug-ins, variations and customization for the original software, similar to WordPress. They’ve also made some recent acquisitions that will beef up various aspects of the product – including middle-of-the-funnel and larger enterprise functionality.

At minimum, HubSpot walks the walk regarding sharing useful information. The company is a virtual content factory and you can immerse in free educational downloads, blogs and other information, free webinars and a free trial to get a good feel for how inbound marketing works.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a HubSpot Value Added Reseller in addition to being a user. But I don’t mean this post to be a commercial. I became a VAR because HubSpot is the most intelligent and efficient inbound marketing system I’ve found. It can help my clients to grow their businesses and I can help clients to better utilize the system from the VAR position.

Have you learned enough about inbound marketing to begin implementing it in some form?

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Put Your Company First This Week to Drive Client Success

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Marketing is a small business priority

Make Marketing a Business Priority

Welcome to Monday. After a very lovely weekend break – my darling Jeff and I jumped on the Harley and did 150 miles each way on an overnite to the Berkshires – I’m back with my nose to the grindstone. First on my agenda is how do I move my business ahead this week? I consider this a fundamental focus for getting better results for my clients.

Following is my list – in priority order – for today. You’ll notice that before I implement one client project, I’m focused on my own marketing. If I don’t ensure that I can keep my company moving forward, I can help no one else. And then my company has no reason to exist. After Monday I spend more daily time on client projects, but I dedicate time each day to my own marketing — and so should you.

Monday morning:

  • Write a blog post for publicizing and publicizing later in the day. (This is the one for Monday)
  • Check my website and blog stats and see what’s resonating with my audiences. Based on that, establish marketing objectives for the near and longer term.
  • Read and comment on trade blogs and news to keep abreast of market developments.
  • Write/Edit my co-authored column for theFairfieldand Westchester County Business Journals.
  • Write collaborative letter for joint marketing affiliation.
  • Spend time on my Hubspot content management system to plan traffic and lead generation and lead-nurturing campaigns.
  • Touch base with affiliates and networking groups and set personal get-togethers for the week.
  • Work on responding to requests for proposals.

Afternoon:

  • Read and reply to imperative client emails.
  • Review projects and create client to-do list for the week.
  • Work on strategies to meet client objectives.
  • Research, write, review, edit, publish client content and perform SEO activities as required by online project timelines.
  • Email clients to obtain sign-offs on previously submitted concepts and content to move projects forward.
  • Make calls to clients to expedite project issues that are better served by phone that email.

Although the list seems longer for a.m. activities, there are far more moving parts in implementing successfully for clients.

The point of this post…Our clients are our primary focus, but if we don’t put our own businesses first for at least a morning a week – and for some concerted time each day, we’re abdicating our ability to remain successful contributors to the business world.

Image by Banalities under Creative Commons license.

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Online Lessons from My Offline Networking Group

Posted on July 14, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Business Management, Communications, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I belong to a networking group that I experience as exceptional. We’re all in service businesses. Some of us are business owners. Some of us work for companies. But we’re all entrepreneurial at heart.

Business Networking

Not! Networking Takes Time!!

We’re all competent at our businesses. We share high ethical standards and values. We found each other in the wider world through introductions, networking events introductions from other trusted connections. We identified each other as people that we want to ‘follow’ – to borrow the online concept.

Our group is not about trading leads. It’s a longer term play. It’s about getting to know one another. It’s about building confidence and trust. It’s about learning enough about each other that we can recognize good opportunities for other group members when confronted with them.

We span demographics of age and gender. We maintain decorum but are comfortable enough with one another that we can let down our guard and be human. We exist to help one another, understanding that the sharing will help our individual businesses.

When I build online communities for myself and for my clients, I think about the principles behind my offline network and try to approach online community building with the same sense of shared interest and generosity.

You can learn more about our group model at www.ctconnected.org. Feel free to borrow. It works.

Do you have an offline networking group? Tell us about it and how it helps you to build your business.

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Online Marketing for Small Business: Helping a Diverse, Ill-Defined Group

Posted on July 13, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Nonprofit, Not-for-profit, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Online Marketing for Small Business

Regardless of definition, small businesses need help putting it all together online.

Because I write for this blog for small businesses – a very ill-defined segment –I’ve decided to talk today about who you are from my perspective. You’re a group that ‘s quite misunderstood in terms of your diverse human characteristics – everywhere from government statistics to media coverage. Truth is, you’re not a monolithic group, but you do face similar marketing issues.

Although I keep up with the latest advances in web technology on your behalf, as I speak with you, I know that’s not necessarily what’s top of mind for you. Most of the companies I’m working with – or who are calling me in to help them get to the next level online — are very savvy. They have an earlier generation website, they have social media channels going, they’ve set up an ecommerce store, they’re doing email campaigns, have attended LinkedIn seminars. They know that online is where the world is and will continue to go. They’ve done the best they can.

But they need help figuring out how to make it all pay off for their businesses and how to organize online marketing into a manageable system. Time and limited resources are the enemy.

I can also tell you that small businesses defy easy categorization. We all see references to SMSB – Small to Mid-Sized Businesses. But the definitions of who they are and how small/large these companies are is all over the map. Attempts are made to define them by revenue, number of employees and other metrics. But in my experience, that’s not enough. So who are they?

Here are some of the varied characteristics of small businesses I’ve worked with:

  • Main Street mom-and-pop bricks-and-mortar stores marketing locally.
  • Start-ups with great ideas or products and bootstrap budgets.
  • Established businesses with a few employees that market nationally or even globally.
  • Growing regional companies building infrastructure.
  • Exciting businesses – and nonprofits, too — transitioning from the original entrepreneurial founders to management with next-stage experience.
  • Established bricks-and-mortars launching ecommerce divisions.
  • Start-ups with angel funding.
  • Divisions of larger companies with Round ‘A’ venture funding.
  • Entrepreneurships with varying levels of experience and previous success.
  • Billion dollar enterprises with three employees looking for the right kind of strategic marketing help.
  • Manufacturing and service companies with revenues up to 150 million dollars.
  • Established innovators ripe for acquisition with the right positioning and visibility.
  • Any and all of the above trying to gain recognition for any number of strategic and tactical reasons.

What you and the aforementioned small business types share is that you need scalable help making the web work for you. Regardless of revenues or budgets, you have limited time, staff and/or budget resources and need to get effective and efficient outside advice and/or implementation help.

The objective of this blog is to help you understand the current and emerging environment, for sure, but at a level that does not forsake the practical advice that will help you make the best use of what you have available.

Conversation is part of the equation, so please continue to send your comments, questions and ideas.

Image from deanmeyersnet under Creative Commons license.

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Getting Started With Inbound Marketing: Take Small Bites of the Basics

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Blogs, Business Management, Communications, Content, Facebook, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Orleans Music - Inbound Marketing Basics

New Orleans Music - Inbound Marketing Basics

Today I’m blogging to music provided in the latest post of a very interesting person and ethnomusicologist (Google it. I did.) whose blog is called SocioSound. We ‘met’ through our blogs. Anyhow – SocioSound just shared five favorite New Orleans tunes. Two of them are also faves of mine by the Rebirth Brass Band.

I happen to have the album in my collection. So I’m going to share one of the tunes – Feel Like Funkin’ It Up — here and pass along an upbeat experience to boost you into the weekend. Of course, you control the play button so only listen if you want to.

All week I’ve been thinking that although social media and other online and inbound marketing techniques have been widely accepted and as they say, “…are here to stay,” there’s still a lot of learning to be done about the basics.

This morning I read a really interesting post about how people are using QR (Quick Response) codes in their marketing. I agree that the ability to help people connect with your website and various marketing offers by scanning QR codes with their mobile phones is very cool. But, for many, that would be running before walking.

Case in point: A bit later I had lunch with a newspaper editor friend of mine who scheduled a Twitter tutorial with me because she still hasn’t gotten up to speed. And Twitter is a particularly good tool for journalists. Plenty of people are still catching up with basic tools that have been around for awhile.

As I started to explore in yesterday’s post, there’s something new to learn virtually every day in online marketing and it’s truly difficult to keep up, even if it’s your profession. That’s why I’m recommending to many companies that they not worry about every new thing coming down the pike until they get the basics in place.

To me, the basics still begin with figuring out what you want to accomplish in your business. How many new customers to generate how much new revenue in what period of time? Once you know that, there’s existing technology to help you build and utilize a web presence to achieve at least some, if not all, of your objectives.

From what I can see, among smaller and mid-sized companies, very few are really using the web effectively for business development. Even though some studies show smaller businesses building Facebook pages at a pretty impressive clip, that’s only one small piece of a well-constructed online marketing program. And if you sell B2B, you may not want to be on Facebook at all.

It helps to take a look at the big picture first and then determine a logical plan for your company. If there’s a move afoot to update your website, you’ll get more bang for the buck if you take the opportunity to review your overall marketing.

Yes, your site is a central focus of online marketing. So explore what kind of site with what capabilities will contribute to success of the overall plan. Have the plan first. I still see lots of new sites with no SEO and people are till putting up sites built all in Flash, which search engines simply don’t see. So they can’t accomplish even the first step in inbound marketing – getting found.

Recently, I was speaking to a marketing director for an area business about inbound marketing and how it could be used in his industry. He was interested and requested that I get back in touch in a month. They were redoing their website, he said, and couldn’t undertake any other marketing until that was complete.

I suggested that a great time to begin developing an effective online plan is during the website redesign process. It would be unfortunate to invest in a website and then learn a month later that you should have gone in a different direction.

If you have a small company, invest an hour or two with a consultant who can give you a clear overview of the inbound marketing process — from making sure you can be found online right through closed loop analytics to assess the ROI of your efforts and improve where necessary.

Then you can begin to identify effective steps that are realistic for your company to accomplish. You don’t have to have the whole meal at one swallow. It may go down easier with everyone in your company if you take it one bite, then one course at a time, finally enjoying the fruits of your labors for dessert.

It must be the New Orleans music that made me finish with food metaphors. Have a tasty weekend!

Poster image by dingler1109 under Creative Commons license. I chose this image because it’s about a fundraiser to help the reconstruction of New Orleans and it also supported childhood learning – a concept not at odds with our learning the basics of Inbound Marketing.

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