The Key to Marketing Success for Generation G

In looking at generation g (g = generosity), I am so thankful to be living in this opportunistic, good triumphs over evil, anything is possible culture

I am finding that my motto to “be you” is prevalent.  We need to be authentic, tear down the dry wall to expose the brick and succeed within the realms and endless possibilities of our DNA.  People want to deal with people.  The Internet first cast a veil over the faces of every player. Anonymity was both fantastic and detrimental.  People could say things in an IM or blog they never would in person.  Anybody could be anybody.  You had no way of knowing who they really were or what they stood for.  Just watch “Catfish,” the movie.  What a horrible truth about our time, what people perceive as relationships and what nightmares are possible with Internet personas.   

And now here we are full circle.  We’re back to the good ol’ days of a handshake at Roy’s Bait Shop, where you could sample his latest beef jerky.  Jean, his wife, runs the register and Crazy Charlie can tell you anything you want to know about the latest flywheel assembly.

But wait, we still want all the advantages of technology, social media, instant messaging and instant response.  We still want to shop in our PJs and many times, we’d rather deal with a web site versus a snobby store clerk.  We want authenticity and technology.  How do we get and benefit from both?  Easy.

Be who you are in an email, a chat, a tweet, a logo, a slideshare, a proposal, an invoice, a vlog, etc… Write how you talk.  Be someone who cares, who gives his time and knowledge, who shares passion and who loves your work/art/life so much that you shout it to the whole world…in a friendly, digestible format, with bullet points and bolded text of course. In short, read CRUSH IT! And see how Gary did it.

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Starbucks Brand Gets Authentic

Local.  Authentic.  Community. Peeling back the structure.

This describes the latest in Starbuck’s transition of it’s brand to a new locally driven flavor.  You’d think they read my last post on authenticity.  Of course, I am just the millionth person to beg for authenticity when shopping, dining, playing or reading.

Give me something real.  You know I love authenticity. The irony is that Starbucks will package this authenticity and ship it worldwide as a commodity, but at least the idea is right.   And, of course they have the money and recognizable brand name to succeed with.

I personally think it’s a great strategy, especially the incorporation of regional and local flavors, artist, beer and wine.  Starbucks kills it with the morning and lunch crowd, but why would you ever go there after work?

I’ve seen similar restaurants who were focused on breakfast and lunch go this same route.  It’s not a new idea, but one that I think will put Starbucks back on the map as a “great local joint.”

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How to Fire Someone

So I had to fire Peterson today.  He’s been with us a few years and he’s had his chances, but it was clearly time to go.  At one point in my career, I felt like the “terminator.”  I was firing people right and left.  They all deserved it, but still I worried about the team’s perception.

However, a wise mentor once told me that “people terminate themselves.” I think that’s true as long as you’ve done some key things as a leader right from the start.  Over the years I’ve developed what I think is the best way to fire people.  Much of it starts the day you hire someone.  No, there is no good way, but I think the following process leads to the least amount of pain.

Before you let the axe fall, make sure you’ve been a good leader:

  1. Be a servant leader.
  2. Communicate your vision.  Outline your goals and vision clearly.
  3. Be transparent. Outline your expectations of your team and individuals.
  4. No surprises.  Your team should never be negatively shocked by your actions, only pleasantly surprised by your interest in them.
  5. Do the grunt work.
  6. Earn their trust.  Make sure they know you’ve got their back.
  7. Give them a break when a break is needed.  Death in the family, new baby, sick kid, 60 hour work week, etc… People have a life.  Let them live it.  They’ll work harder for you if you let them be a big boy or girl.
  8. Help people solve their own problems.  Teach them how to identify a problem AND a solution.  You can’t do it alone.
  9. Take a stance.  Make sure your team knows what you stand for.
    A manager was once asked, “What do you stand for?”
    He replied, “Whatever my boss wants me to stand for.”
    WRONG answer.
    And when that boss is gone, does he stand for the next guy’s opinion? And what about his next job?  Don’t be that guy.  What can your people get behind?
  10. Let them know your firing process. Put this in your employee handbook and talk about it openly in your town hall/all employee meetings.  It’s an uncomfortable subject, so make it more comfortable by letting everyone know exactly how it happens.

If you’re doing 1 thru 10, and several other things you’ve found in great leadership books or learned from great mentors, then I contend that the firing process will be less dreadful.

And what does it look like?  Here is my “How to Fire Someone 101.”

  1. Have a 60 day period that lasts from the first issue to the final termination.
  2. Opportunity #1 – If someone is not getting it done, send them a calendar invite with Opportunity #1 as the subject line.  This is indeed a meeting invite to their first warning.
    a. This gives them the opportunity to soil their drawers in private. Otherwise, they’ll be walking into a meeting on a “project update” or some fake subect, only to be ambushed by the news of their wake up call.
    b. Be positive in the meeting.
    c. Set a 30-day plan in motion for them.
    d. Identify areas where they need improvement and set clear goals to achieve.
    e. Let them know they have 30 days to get their act together or you’ll move the bar to defcon 2.
  3. Opportunity #2 – If Opportunity #1 didn’t take and 30 days have passed with no signs of improvement, send them their second meeting invite with Opportunity #2 as the subject line.
    a. Again, they have a chance to freak privately.  Let them do it at their desk with what little dignity they have left.  Then watch closely how they enter that meeting.  Their body language will tell you if they’re defeated or eager to try, try again.
    b. Be more direct.  Their job is on the line.  Make sure everyone in the room knows that.
    c. You want them to succeed.  There are costs involved in training, turnover and morale.
    d. Let them know they have 30 days.
    e. List very clear objectives and metrics.  There is no room to be willy-nilly here.
  4. Day 61. Escort them out the door
    a. If they are a good person and there are no hard feelings, then wish them well.  Review their resume.  Call a buddy where you know they might be a better fit.  (Do be careful about your words and recommendation letters.  You may be bit by a snake unless you really know this guy.)
    b. If they are the demon seed, then wish them well and lock the door behind them.

Have your HR person in the room with you and make sure you comply with all laws and regulations that your organization has in place.  The above works for me and my company, but it may not work for you.

Lastly, remember that people terminate themselves.  If you do steps 1 through 10, you have nothing to feel bad about when it comes time to let someone go.  Oh, and be prepared.  Things may go well, or…they may go something like…

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Marketing Authenticity

Is anyone else tired of fake?  There’s nothing like an authentic pleather sofa or some fresh-baked bread direct from an oven in another city.  The one trend in marketing and advertising that I am elated to see is the consumer’s desire for authenticity.

I’d write a book about it, but someone already has. James Gilmore’s Authenticity, is a  sweet embrace of discovering why consumers are now purchasing on the basis of who they are and the authenticity of experience.  In summary, people are tired of crap.  In another great book, Rework, the 37Signals founders describe this as “at home good.”  People are tired of buying the pretty picture only to unwrap their widget at home and discover it’s not as advertised.

Gilmore states that “people want real offerings from genuinely transparent sources.” So, how can you be authentic in your brand strategy and marketing?

Tired of fake products

  1. Listen to your customers.  Engage with them via all the social media tools, but the key is to actually “engage.”
  2. Don’t sell on Twitter. Social Media is about a conversation, not a vaccuum cleaner demonstration. Don’t just put up a Facebook page if there’s not going to be anyone on the other side of those customer posts and inquiries.
  3. Be you.  Spin is dead. Tell your story in your voice.  Don’t be a pretender.  If you’re a small company, be a small company and indicate why you believe it’s better to do business with a small business.  If you’re a giant, then throw your weight around about why you’re so darn successful.
  4. Smack of assurance and success. (IBM motto) Branding is about the customer experience.  Look at every customer touch point and make sure it smacks of assurance and success.
  5. Sell something real.  Don’t produce, offer or manufacture something useless.  Help the rest of us by keeping the clutter to your Mom’s basement.
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Marketing Undercover

As I watched one of my favorite shows last night, Undercover Boss, I couldn’t help but wonder why these leaders weren’t doing these types of things daily.

Undercover Boss - A Marketing InvestigationFor me it all goes back to marketing.  Marketing is not a department. Marketing is your sales rep, your invoice, your call center, your delivery van driver and more. It’s all marketing.  How so?  It’s all about the customer experience.  This show peels back that cover week in and week out.

Looking for a new marketing campaign?  The very first thing I would suggest is to go under cover on a discovery exercise to see where your company is failing or succeeding in your customer touch points.  Are you listening to your customers or your shareholders?  You need to focus on people first and profits will follow.  Marketing strategy should not be about creating a veneer of what should be, but about creating a reflection of what is.

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Why 37Signals.com Redesign is Flawed and Why it Doesn’t Matter

37signals.com just gave their main site a face lift.  I love the remarks in their blog post on the what, why and how but I can’t say that it’s what I expected.  It definitely fits their philosophy, culture, products, personality, office space, etc… but it seems to go against the grain of what “feels right” to me.  I assume that they’re absolutely okay with that and will somehow survive.

37Signals RedesignI know no one pays attention to this anymore, but here are the few things I don’t like:

  1. The use of red as their accent color.  I happen to have a few color-blind friends who think this site is all black text.  Is Jakob still listing this as a must-not?
  2. Their badge” touting millions of users doesn’t carry any weight for me.  It looks like one of those badges I’d make up to establish credibility for a site with no credibility.  Why don’t they just have a live “ticker” for their actual number of users?  I know they have millions.  Go ahead and put a number on there.
  3. The copy. I’ve often admired 37Sigals for their copy, but is anyone else getting tongue-tied on their headings; “We built the company that we’d want to do business with. We hope you do too.” What?  Hope that we built a company or that we want to do business with you.  Or, how about, “A better way to work with the people you work with every day.”  I feel like I’m reading one of those “Paris in the the Spring” expectations studies.
  4. The footer.  The last nitpick is that their footer is gay.  If any designer showed this to a prospective client, they’d look sideways at you.

Now, why it doesn’t matter:

It doesn’t matter for the same reason it didn’t matter that Amazon.com never followed all the usability best practices — because it works.  Their site works just fine.  It’s clean, easy to follow, easy to digest, and because they’re wildly successful.  They now have the permission to do whatever the John Wayne they want.

p.s. I never thought I’d write anything that critiques these guys.  They are  my heroes and “Rework” is my bible.  I’ll continue to steal the other 95% of their ideas that I love.  I just had to jot down this 5% that was middling.

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