Top 5 Tips for Collaborating with C-Level Executives

How to Approach C-Level Executives
I’m often asked to walk into a room of CEOs, CTOs, etc… and ask for money or time or decisions.  I enjoy the privilege/challenge of working with folks at this level and over the years, I have realized a few things.

10:1 Rule
Perhaps the best tip I ever received was the 10:1 rule.  For every 1 minute I plan to spend with a C-Level person, I will spend 10 minutes in preparation.  I will try to anticipate their questions and to boil everything down into the most concise information possible.  There are a few other things I would suggest you follow if you’re going to walk into your CEO’s office tomorrow:

Top 5 Tips for Collaborating with C-Level Executives

  1. Prepare – Bring e’thing necessary to the table.  As mentioned above, follow the 10:1 rule.  Anticipate, bring only the necessary information and make sure this isn’t / wasn’t a problem you could have solved yourself.
  2. Yes/No – See if you can boil down any question to a “yes/no” answer.  If your CEO can simply look at your data set and provide a “yes” or “no,” or pick from 1 of 3 options, they’ll love you forever and perhaps name their first-born son after you.
  3. DIY – See if you can accomplish the task yourself.  Perhaps you are smart enough to figure it out on your own. Also, it may be something you’re willing to ask for forgiveness later vs. getting permission up front. (I don’t recommend this as a frequent practice.  But, once in a while, it just makes sense to get it done.)
  4. Heads up – Drive by conversations aren’t a great idea.  Send them or their assistant an email with a brief over view of your needs and ask for a good time to meet. (for “emergencies,” even an IM is a good idea)
  5. Deadline – Let them know what you need and when you need an answer.

Those few tips will earn you the respect of your superiors and they won’t mind when they see an email from your or when you walk into the room.  They’ll know that you understand that time is valuable and efficiency is key.

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How to Market a City

With a job change in Spring and a move to Phoenix, AZ from St. Louis, MO, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Since most of my follows consist of my wife and I, I’ll say welcome back Tom.  Thanks Tom.

Downtown Living

Since moving to Phoenix, I have become very interested in the option of living in downtown phoenix / a more “urban/pedestrian” style of living.  It has been something I’ve craved and have often admired when visiting successful urban living cities.

Are you Crazy?

As I inquired about living in downtown Phoenix, I was met with negative feedback left and right.  “Why would you live downtown?  It’s boring, ugly and there’s no where to live, nothing to do, no good restaurants, no entertainment.  Plus, you’ve got crime and no schools nearby, etc..”  Nearly every one I asked said that same thing.

No, I’m new here.

However, coming from St. Louis, I thought people simply didn’t know what they had here.  It seems like every city but the one you live in is cool.  My view of downtown is through a new set of eyes/new transplant perception.  Downtown Phoenix is unbelievably clean and beautiful.  It is small, but you don’t have all the old junk and old streets/abandoned buildings, etc.. that you might find in older cities.  I also happen to know that the crime rate is incredibly low, in fact lower than all of the seemingly “safe” cities such as Scottsdale and Chandler.

Why Not?

So, my wife and I got to talking about why we don’t live downtown.  (We moved to Chandler, mostly because of this wonderful, little school hidden smack dab in the middle of a park-ridden neighborhood with cute homes and quiet streets.  These were very basic reasons why we moved where we did vs. downtown.  Being a marketing geek, I thought that I needed quick focus group on this topic.  So, I called a few friends to get their take on suburban living vs. urban living.


Why choose the suburbs?

  1. No / low crime
  2. Good schools
  3. Green space, parks nearby / many kids parks for playing
  4. Quiet neighborhood
  5. Grocery stores/farmers markets
  6. Newer home with modern amenities: 2 car garage, big closets, backyard

What they did NOT like about the suburbs:

  1. Long commute
  2. A little too boring
  3. Neighbors never come out of their house / ghost town
  4. Houses all look the same
  5. Price of homes can be high
  6. Not enough farmers markets,
  7. Have to drive everywhere
  8. Not enough community events

Urban City

What would it take to move to the city?

  1. Nice, clean, quiet neighborhood
  2. Not being scared/crime rate
  3. Schools nearby
  4. Grocery store nearby
  5. Lots of parks/places for kids to play, ride bikes

Love the Urban Feel

When I asked about the “urban/pedestrian” feel, they all love it.  They all love the benefits of a pedestrian walking city and the urban look and feel.  They ALL said if downtown was a huge Kierland commons style place but with more residential and offices, they’d live there in a heartbeat.


There is a perception issue…along with a bit of truth with the empty parking lots, homeless people walking around, etc…

Everyone loves the idea of an urban, pedestrian, sidewalk cafes, 5-story loft buildings, etc…
They all “get” that style of living and crave it.  The problem is the list above.  They want good schools, parks and conveniences nearby that LOOK AND FEEL NICE AND QUIET.

From my bike ride on my way to work this morning, I believe that right now, there’s a chance to change minds. I’m guessing in 10 years, it will be 100% easier to change minds and in 20 years, people will be scratching and clawing to live downtown (or nearby).

Marketing is the Answer

I think that good marketing is half the answer to all the main issues.  The other half is to get the right developers to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown with good mixed-use developments, canal-focused developments, and dense housing.

In general there are 3 keys to marketing.
I believe if carried out properly, these keys could unlock the poor stereotype that is pervasive in the minds of all those suburbanites  out there, including me.

1. CREATE AWARENESS (of your product)
I think we need to create more awareness of all the fantastic things that currently exist downtown.  The problem here is that no one lives downtown.  So, no one (relatively speaking) will come downtown for a fantastic event at the Orpheum Theater or at a park, etc…  For, example, I get off work and catch the next bus out of here.  By the time I am home, it is after 6pm, followed by dinner and baths.  Then I put my daughters to bed and the night is over.  There is no way I’ll do anything during the week downtown.

Once we find a way to tell people about the great things in downtown, we have to put our best foot forward and indicate why downtown is great, and perhaps even better than a suburb.

This is the most crucial and hardest part.  We need to answer the “why.”  Why should I leave my current comfort of suburbia to move downtown.  Let’s pretend that downtown has good schools, low crime, parks nearby, grocery stores down the street, quiet neighborhoods and good housing.  So, now we’re on equal ground.  But why not stay where I am?

Why Not Stay Where I’m At?
This is the root behavior that could solve the “problem.” There are actually many economic, social and cultural reasons to live in a densely populated area vs. the suburban sprawlarific trend.  We weaken our economy the more we spread out. We increase chances for businesses failing, restaurants going under, corporations dying due to a lack of talented job pools, etc..  A primary city is the key to success for the greater Maricopa County/Phoenix metro area.

Imagine a technology-laden city with intelligent, forward-thinking people dying to move there.  Combine a rich, culturally diverse people with great businesses and thriving retail, mixed with arts, renowned chefs, entertainment, music and more.  Who wouldn’t want to help their city grow, which would in turn help their business, their home value, their environment, etc…?

There are many levels to my naive utopia view of how the world should and could be run, but I believe it can happen.  It just has to start with me.

Posted in City of Phoenix, Marketing | Leave a comment

Top 15 Digital Marketing Tactics

I hear and read so much about how digital marketing is taking over and how agencies and companies are scrambling to figure out the new age of media.  I suppose those incumbents and traditional agencies are having some issues making the switch, but I honestly don’t see the need for panic.  In the first place, if you’ve hired smart people, it shouldn’t matter what the new flavor of the day is. I had a great manager who always said,

“just get the right people on the bus and the rest will take care of itself.” – VP at Federal Reserve Bank

I think the agency world and the rest of us will figure this out in 2011.  Because the changes in medium and ROI, metrics, finding what works, what doesn’t, etc… will all eventually come back to the same principles that drove traditional marketing and direct mail marketing; having a great brand message that connects with the consumer.

At this point I could list 100 quotes from Leo Burnett, Rosser Reeves, Bill Bernbach, Ogilvy and other giants.  Just like with everything else, we need to stick to the basics and keep it simple.

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” – Leo Burnett

Okay, so I got a bit off topic.  The question is, What are Digital Marketing tactics?  What is the difference between traditional and digital.  Well in my mind, here is where a digital marketing strategist works:

  1. SEO/SEM
  2. online advertising (banner ads, Google Display Network)
  3. affiliate marketing
  4. email marketing
  5. social media
  6. mobile marketing
  7. SMS
  8. LBS (FourSquare)
  9. ad networks
  10. comparison shopping engines
  11. behavioral targeting / re-targeting / re-marketing
  12. blogging
  13. content syndication (RSS)
  14. online collaboration & community
  15. web analytics

You can also throw in gaming and interactive TV if you like.  Heck, you can throw in the kitchen sink practically.  We’re a digital society and soon, “digital” marketing will mean the same thing as “marketing,” …whatever that means.

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PR #TimetoShine via @SocialMedia

I’ve been wondering why questions pondering “who’s job is social media?” pop up in articles left and right.  Social Media is Public Relations at it’s finest.  PR agencies should and are stepping into this role like a tiger takes to eating Siegfried or Roy.  It’s just natural.

Andy Polansky, Chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms (And Weber Shandwick President) highlighted this fact in the Nov 29 issue of AdAge.

“As brands try different ways to influence the conversation, they are finding the ideal partner in today’s public relations firms.”

What can be said of Social Media can be said of Public Relations.  Both are about:Social Media is Public Relations

  • Word of mouth
  • Amplifying brands
  • Keeping your finger on the pulse of trends
  • Personal connections with your customers/audience
  • Creating conversations
  • Authenticity
  • Integration with other marketing programs
  • Being in touch with the world of popular culture
  • Being in touch with people’s lifestyles
  • Protecting your brand
  • Talking on your feet
  • Reacting to criticism
  • Clear communication
  • …Need I go on?

Social Media Role

Social Media isn’t a new way to market your brand. It’s a new avenue and platform for communication.  If anything, it equips PR firms with previously unavailable or scarce tools and information.  Instead of having to dig, scratch and claw to discover what 100 people in a focus group are thinking about your latest corporate disaster, you’ve got 3,500 fans, followers or connections providing daily insight into the most important thing in your world: your brand.

Dear Social Media,
Thank you!
-Public Relations

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ROI of Usability and What it Can Teach a Salesman

Why Usability has Adoption Issues
I often wonder why it is companies don’t embrace usability as the key ingredient to success of their web site, product or app. For some reason the UX practitioner is often tasked with more time spent proving ROI versus improving the product.

Why?  I know the answer and you do too.  It’s because usability adds time to the project.  Right?  NO.  Sorry.  Actually, it doesn’t.  Usability is a HUGE time-saver.

Poor product designThe problem is that the time is saved on the back-end.  The time is saved when you don’t have 100 revisions.  The time is saved when you don’t have to be shocked that your users hate your web site , which is then followed by a complete redesign.  The time is saved in the long-run, but how boring is that?  However,  would you rather plan ahead or produce junk that results in an angry customer, a damaged reputation and a product that’s lost its value?

So, why doesn’t Usability get the love it deserves?  Usability doesn’t afford instant gratification.  It takes thinking, planning and forethought!  I know some folks have never heard of planning, much less budgeting time and money for it.  But you should try it some time.  It’s fantastic!

I have literally seen two similar projects with similar requirements end up with a final budget that was 500 hours  and $650,000 different.  What was the one difference?  Usability practices were implemented in one, but not the other.  One project stretched on for 18 months and the other was done in 5 months.  Usability is the key ingredient to the success of web sites, products and apps.

But how does this extremely short Usability soap box relate to Sales?
Glad you asked.

How does a typical sales guy tackle an opportunity/project?Bad Sales Approach
Peterson is our new sales guy.  Peterson wants to sell Steve, the VP at WorldCom, a startling, new pen.  He starts out parleying features, benefits, the ability to write upside down, the colors and fancy graphic on the side, etc…  That’s all well and good, but he forgot one thing: the customer’s point of  view.

Here are 3 mistakes Salesmen (and business owners) make:

  1. Wrong assumptions.
  2. Wrong approach.
  3. Wrong messenger.

1. Peterson made some wrong assumptions.
Peterson forgot to ask Steve and WorldCom how they feel about pens.

  • Does WorldCom like pens?
  • Does Steve know how to use a pen?
  • Does WorldCom use pens in their company?

2. Peterson also took the wrong approach.
Why not ask Steve questions instead of taking the used car salesman approach.

  • How has Steve’s past experiences with pens been?
  • Is there any way Steve feels the pen can be improved?
  • When writing with the pen, does it feel comfortable in his hand?
  • If Steve needs to click the pen to start writing, does he know how?
  • Does he know what the clip on the side of the pen is used for?

3. Lastly, Peterson may have been the wrong messenger.
Too often we get in the way of a sale or a user’s progress.

Many times just the fact that a usability practitioner is in the room is going to taint the user experience.  It may be better to use a lab with little or no guidance to the user.  The same goes true for a car.  Just let the driver get in and take a spin.  Then ask him about his experience.  Sometimes, the customer simply may not like the sales person.  Don’t take is personally.  Perhaps you’re too new to understand this long-time customer, too clean cut to sell Harleys, too _____ to sell _____.

My advice: Listen

Usability - iPhoneIn the end, it’s all very simple no matter what line of work you’re in.  Listen to the customer.  Discover their needs before you go planning, designing, building, and selling a product that’s not useful or needed.  Time is so valuable.  Spend a little on the front-end to save an abundance of time on the back-end.   Why not avoid an angry customer, a damaged reputation and a product with no value?

Do it right and you may end up with a revolutionary product.

Posted in Usability | Leave a comment

Drink Deeply from Good Books

What’s the easiest tool to get ahead in this world?  What separates you from the pack?  How can you get ahead in your career?

Did you know

  • 25% of adults (over 25) did not read a book last year
  • 50% of people never read a book after finishing school

Benefits of ReadingWhat are the benefits of reading?

  1. It is exercise for your brain and improves your memory
  2. It prevents Alzthiemers
  3. Improves your vocabulary
  4. Makes you more interesting, gives you something to talk about
  5. Improves concentration and focus
  6. Improves creativity
  7. Builds your expertise
  8. It can change your life
  9. Reduces stress
  10. It can be done anywhere
  11. It’s cheap

If you read an hour a day, you’ll finish a book/week.   That’s 52 books/year.

  • The average person doesn’t read a book after high school.
  • 85% of books are purchased by women.
  • Only 5% will ever walk into a book store.

Want to become a subject matter expert? It’s easy:

  • If you read 5 books on one subject, you are considered a subject matter expert.
  • You can typically read 5 books on 10 subjects in one year.
  • You could be a subject matter expert on 100 subjects 10 years from today.

Want to stand out in a crow?  Crack open that first book.  If you need some suggestions, I’ve got a reading list to get you started.

Most stats came from Pat Williams, VP of Orlando Magic – and – Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, Yale University

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Why Usability loves Social Media

There’s nothing like a good love story.  Misery loves company and Usability loves Social Media.  Why?  Usability is no longer the step-child of budget cuts and “how do we get ROI out of this” blabber.

Usability and Social Media

Usability Professionals, Do any of these questions sound familiar?

  • How do we pay for this?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Do we really need it?
  • Can’t we just cut this for now?
  • How do we measure it?
  • Didn’t Jenkins once build a web site for his nephew?
  • Where’s the ROI?
  • Why don’t we just revisit that later?
  • Who do we hire to do it?
  • Do we just take our marketing director and put them in charge?
  • and on and on.

Yes, now there’s a bit of company in the misery.  But is there more to it than that?  Yes!  In fact Usability may get an additional boost in the “no, you can’t ignore usability you cotton-headed-ninny-muggins” argument.  (apologies for the strong language)

Where do you think all that social media points to as a hub?

Yes, your web site.  Now your web site has become even more important since you’re socializing with thousands of potential new clients.  As Jeffrey Rubin, Jared Spool, Gary Vaynerchuk and other bright individuals have stated, your web site is one area where you want to spend a ton of cash.  This is your 24/7 brick and mortar store.  You need to realize there is architecture, structure, planning, design and so much more that leads to the creation of a successful web site.

My advice: hire these 3 people:

  1. A great UX/UI analyst/designer/architect (yes, all to often this is all one person)
  2. A great Social Media communicator
  3. A great Copywriter.

That’s a great start.  Then you won’t have to look like this:

Posted in Social Media, Usability | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment