Monday, January 2, 2017

Planning to Officially Break up with a Client this New Year?

The New Year always bring about change, renewed resolutions and the feeling of starting over.  So
when one of my clients said his company intended to break up with a challenging customer, I incredulously balked at the mere suggestion that he would no longer market to them. What was he thinking? It is one thing to break off the relationship, but quite another to stop marketing to past clients. But it did cause me to wonder. At what point is it appropriate to break up with a client and stop talking to them…forever?

No more sales letters. No more slick newsletters, email blasts or fancy event invitations. The client would no longer be privy to your creative genius or amazing sales offers. Nada. It’s over, and there’s nothing left to say.

Of course, who doesn’t re-evaluate client relations at the beginning of every year? Truth be told, I’ve had a few clients throughout the years who were such a pain to deal with that I have personally felt justified in terminating the relationships and giving them the silent treatment – sometimes not even waiting until the beginning of the year. So I understood my client’s position.

And when your company decides to sever the connection with the client from hell, usually it’s because things are dysfunctional or toxic – or worst yet, you’re losing money or your creative mojo. These are circumstances when stopping all communication is permitted. In those cases, it’s better to rip off the Band-Aid, end things abruptly, and not ever look back.

As marketers, it is important that we speak to all our stakeholders on a consistent basis. This includes prospects, past clients, end-users, vendors, suppliers, even industry influencers.  True, individual marketing campaigns require creating tailored marketing messages aimed at different audiences. But the extra effort is worth it.

But is it good business etiquette or even a smart use of time to continue to flaunt your value proposition in a customer’s face once it’s over? Well, as any woman will tell you, seeing her ex when she looks fabulous on the arm of another man, is almost euphoric. However, ultimately this little game of “see what you’re missing” does nothing for her unless she wants him back.

You’ll need to decide if you ever want to work with this particular customer again.

Conversely, at some point during our tenure, we’ve all had a client dump us. Whether we think it is warranted or not, the client simply says “no thanks” to our offer. Usually, when that happens, my first inclination is to say, goodbye, good riddance, and I’m no longer interested in a dialogue with you either. Hmph!

However, when I do that, I pass up an opportunity to analyze why things went wrong or understand where I can make improvements. More importantly, when we stop marketing to or communicating with a customer or stakeholder, we impede their path back to us. Why? Because people often have buyer’s remorse, which means it’s never over until it’s over.

Most of us have experienced buyer’s remorse, especially when it’s a costly purchase or when we have a major switch in brands. We have feelings of guilt, regret or second thoughts – all stemming from the psychology of conflicting thoughts or cognitive dissonance. If you’re like me, not only do you sometimes regret your choice, but wish you could just press the reset button and put things back the way they were.

Many clients who have “let you go” many times wish they could take you back.

In the case of ‘greener grass’ regret, you want to ensure you provide a worn brown path of return to you. Your continued communication allows past clients to save face, forgive misunderstandings, correct mistakes – and of course, it gives them time to miss you.  This path is easier for customers to find when you remain top of mind and continue to demonstrate value even when the relationship is over.

In other words, maintaining communications is important to both you and your past client.

Naturally, you don’t want to bombard a customer fresh from a break up (especially if the client feels wounded or betrayed) with a barrage of self-promoting messages. It’s probably wise to wait at least 90-days before you reach out with your first non-sales message. But without question, you should stay in touch.

Here’s how:

Start by asking for feedback – conduct a brief survey to learn more about why the relationship went south. Again, this is assuming you want to re-engage. Be sure to clearly articulate that you realize that they are no longer a client and that your communication was not sent in error, but is one of genuine curiosity.

Next, begin a specialized “woo” campaign with a series of slow, soft touches. Maybe send a copy of your newsletter, email a relevant content marketing article or link to a white paper. The point is to demonstrate your value and woo the client back with non-sales collateral.

Finally, never assume that past clients are not interested in your message or that they won’t refer business – even if it appears things didn’t work out between you. Let them tell you they no longer want to hear from you.

In today’s global business environment, we are all ultimately connected. Yesterday’s stakeholders (including vendors, suppliers and influencers) are tomorrow’s clients or at a minimum they can be evangelists for new business. A stakeholder who perhaps loved your service or product, but might have been overruled in an earlier decision-making process, could seek you out at a later time. Your name could come up in an entirely unrelated conversation because of your holiday eCard. Or a simple social media post could be shared and seen by a potential client outside your sphere of influence.

And it goes without saying that current customers should be recommending you. If they are not, you are either not providing a strong referral channel to make it easy for them to talk about you or the client is not crazy in love with you or your service.

So in 2017, if your business is planning to break up with a client or stakeholder, remember, marketing to past customers, is smart and requires a little finesse.  Keep in mind that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

4 Reasons Why Events Really Work (and can make your customers fall in love with your brand)!

Back in medieval times before Event Planning was an official job description, I landed a great job coordinating events and conferences. I wasn’t called an event manager or anything fancy like that. I was simply a marketing assistant tasked with coordinating a myriad of details for corporate events across the country. I thought, not bad for a pretty young thing with no experience!

I remember calling my mother, giddy with excitement, to share the news.

But like any loving parent concerned for her child’s financial future and perhaps lack of good judgment, she said, “Oh, honey, you might want to look for something else. I mean, how much money can there be in throwing parties.”

Well, we now know that the events and meeting planning industry contributes over $395 billion dollars to GDP totals and requires advanced management skills equal to an engineering project manager.

Sorry mom, but special events today are nothing like the swanky little soirees that you and dad use to throw for your friends.

Don’t get me wrong, my parent’s den parties were pretty epic. Lots of dancing, drinking, and tasty hors d'oeuvres which my mom spent all afternoon making. But if you share my mother’s belief that events are just about throwing parties with fancy finger foods, you’re ignoring one of the most powerful marketing tools on the shelf.

Events are one of the best marketing channels to reach your target audience.

In this impersonal digital age where customers are demanding more authentic connections, here are four reasons why event marketing works and should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list:
  1.  A well-produced event allows your brand to get intimate with customers and create moments. There is nothing more impactful than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a client, as they experience your product or service or talk with you one-on-one. This is a chance to engage with clients and share details and insight that you couldn’t possibly do online. The bonus is you usually reach more than one client at a time.
  2. Special events provide a stage for telling your story and a place to demonstrate what the brand stands for and let people know the people behind the brand. There is no better platform for telling the “why” of your business and to create unbreakable bonds than breaking bread together. Remember, facts tell, but stories sell – and this alone can grow your business.
  3. If branding is the sum total of the customers’ experience, and it is, then events are an essential key to branding. Immerse your customers in unique and transformative experiences, and they will remember your brand forever.  People are no longer coming out for long presentations with wine & cheese. By invoking all five of a customer’s senses, you’re guaranteed to receive, ‘thank you from the bottom of my heart’ responses – these moments cannot be duplicated in a print ad or digital medium. Engaged customers will post, share and talk about their experience with others.
  4. Events are the perfect binding energy for people to coalesce around – creating an ideal environment for collaboration with others. The gathering of a cool brand, customers, and a worthy cause will spark conversations and create synergy. I often partner my event with a charity to create a buzz that also attracts media attention – a win-win for everyone involved.

Even if you produce just one or two stellar events a year, this can intensify the effectiveness of your marketing – increase your SEO and boost your social media presence. Special events should be part of every savvy marketer’s integrated marketing strategy, complete with targeted goals and sophisticated messaging.

The people of Spain have a beautiful, almost untranslatable word called, sombremesa. This word embodies the concept of lingering table talk after a meal, digesting and savoring both the food and the friendship. My parents were the experts at excusing the kids and creating an atmosphere for adults to connect after dinner. And in dating, as in business, this intimate time is where the ‘make or break’ of the relationship is determined.

 If you want to cut through the noise in a crowded marketplace, gather people together for an event and entice them to stay for a little la sombremesa.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

5 Ridiculously Simple Cures for Your Boss’s Marketing ADHD

Here’s how it typically goes. First, there’s a vital targeted email that must go out. This is quickly outranked by an important digital letter addressing global news.  Then invitations to an impromptu top client event take priority, just as you realize that you have a great idea for your next blog post, which by the way, needs to go out immediately.  When will you write content for your website or newsletter? Which project is more important today?

Sound familiar?

If you find you or your team jumping from one “critical” marketing campaign to another or trying to accomplish too many initiatives, across too many verticals at one time, you could be suffering from what I call, MADHD or Marketing Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The Attention Span of an 8-year-old

My oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD when she was younger. Extremely bright and bored by routine unchallenging work, she would bounce around the class, interrupting the teacher and students alike. As her parents, we had to find creative ways to harness her boundless energy so that she could focus and be successful. Business leaders can experience the same familiar symptoms as my unruly third grader, including hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, and even anxiety.

While MADHD may not be a board certified clinical diagnosis, it is a real psychological disorder none the less. And based on my conversations with small business owners, it is the result of having an agglomerate of creative ideas, that keeps them hopping from one marketing campaign to another. A costly distraction that could keep a business from reaching their goals.

In fact, author Gary Keller said, “success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”
Very often, it is in reaction to simple things like poor online engagement or slightly off open rates that can have a company chasing an extensive marketing wish list. But be aware that this can cause MADHD to show up as anger and frustration with the team, difficulty identifying systemic problems and without question, the inability of a leader to recognize opportunities.

Here are 5 simple things MADHD suffers can do to ease compulsive behavior:

  • First, prepare a real marketing strategy. Creating a comprehensive plan of the, who, what, when, how, and especially why, will prevent distraction. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding that your why should be the governing impetus behind everything you do.
  • Create an “Idea or Creativity Box” (either virtual or hard copy).  Often a brain dump (brainstorm) provides relief from feeling compelled to implement everything that runs through your imagination. Some ideas might be good, but just not for right now – put those in the box for later!
  • Measure every marketing campaign by your goals. Will doing this one thing count toward achieving one of your marketing goals? And if so, how? If the idea won’t yield quantifiable results, drop it in the Idea Box or toss the concept completely.
  • Get laser focused on your customers’ top three or four challenges – then go about addressing one intentional solution at a time. Concentrating efforts on improving brand performance could reveal opportunities. This is also the perfect time to determine which social media platforms are right for you – your brand does not have to be on every single one of them.
  • Let’s face it, everything cannot be a priority. Don’t drag your team on an MADHD roller coaster ride where the priority of every campaign rises and falls based on emotion, anxiety or impulsiveness. This type of ineffective hyperactivity leaves everyone spent and stressed out.

As someone who thrives on producing a plethora of unique and innovative ideas, I know how easy it is to become a bit harebrained when so many creative ideas are swirling around in your head. Just know that MADHD is not code for multitasking or efficiency, but rather a sign that a leader lacks strategy and direction in their marketing, and perhaps their business. However, the way I see it, by concentrating on a well thought-out marketing strategy you won’t be pulled in every direction by every new idea or shiny object. Remember the ancient proverb, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Should Your Brand Talk About Race?

In the early 80s, most of my girlfriends and I smoked cigarettes – Newport to be exact. Their slogan, “Bold. Cold. Newport,” somehow resonated with us as bold, young African American women. We were taking charge and awakening our ethnic pride. Smoking cigarettes was a cool part of the journey; black pride and big afros were even cooler. The Newport brand had found a way to tap into how we were feeling.

Certainly, R.J. Reynolds wasn’t supporting the Black Pride Movement, but by using “Blaxploitation” themes and images, they were leveraging the Civil Rights Movement and the changing attitude on being black in America to enhance their brand. And they were not alone.

Race in advertising is not new. Most will remember the old United Colors of Benetton ads that set the tone for diversity back in the 90s. For years, companies have stood on various social platforms to sell their products. But in light of recent racially-charged tragedies, is it fair to ask your brand to tackle the potentially divisive topic of race relations in your advertising and marketing?

Should your brand talk about race?

Any brand worth their weight in salt has clearly identified consumer demographics. Therefore, it stands to reason that brands try to meet those market segments where they live. But as brands engage with consumers, and consumers with each other, customers have come to expect their favorite brands to care about what they care about. Why? Because candid dialogue shows that brands are connected to the hearts and minds of its customers. Brands that embrace social issues become part of the larger conversation and therefore an integral part of their consumer’s lives.

As a marketing pro you may feel powerless to make a difference, yet almost compelled to say something, because you feel so strongly about what is happening in our society today. This is might be especially true if you market to a specific ethnic customer. Perhaps now is the right time for your brand to make a public statement and become part of a national conversation. However, before you run off to buy dashikis for your entire executive staff, leaders should decide if their brand is ready for this new found social responsibility. Here are a few things to consider before your brand leaps into the calescent waters of race relations.

·       Is this social campaign a fit for your brand?
Savvy marketers have discovered that branding is more than just the company logo, colors, and icons. Your brand is the sum total of the customer experience, in addition to those graphic components. It is what customers say about you to each other that determines your brand. Will your social message fit if the brand is fun, playful or a little left of center? What about if your brand is centered on customer care? Or could your advertisement shake your brand’s foundation because it is so far removed from what you stand for? Know thyself before you embark on swaying others.

·       Do your core values align with your public voice against racism or violence?
You are probably thinking a fight against racism or violence should be part of every company’s core values. Not necessarily. If your brand has never addressed social issues before, or if it leans toward a conservative, predominately white old-guard customer base, customers may have little to no comprehension of a racial divide. They may wonder what has gotten into you or what on earth you are talking about. Make sure your brand’s social narrative matches the company’s values. Otherwise, it could be difficult to demonstrate a genuine desire to improve race relations or the brand’s position against violence. You may need to start slowly with education first.

Starbucks was able to successfully initiate “Race Together” because the campaign is aligned with their corporate values of care, warmth, and belonging. And while writing about race on coffee cups wasn’t embraced by everyone, we witnessed a company willing to risk criticism in an effort to start an authentic dialogue about race in America. It would seem that CEO, Howard Schultz is still very much committed to making a difference and ushering in change through candid conversations, one cup at a time.

·       What is your goal for stating your brand’s social position?
This is where you must carefully examine your intentions. What are your motivations for injecting your brand into this controversial issue? Are you simply trying to sell more product?  Is this just a PSA? Are you attempting to be seen riding the wave of a trending hot topic? Or are you trying to show empathy or perhaps demonstrate a commitment to a specific segment of your market? Is your brand taking a stance or choosing a side? And yes, there is a difference. Before you go public, make sure you understand the WHY of your brand’s decision.

This is also where marketers should set important outcome goals? For example, if you are hoping your social marketing will gain online followers or customers, how many do you hope to gain and within what time frame? Carefully consider, what is the point of playing 'the race card’ because you will need to weigh the cost.

·       Do not create your social marketing campaign in a bubble or ivory tower.
It is imperative that you connect with those on the front lines, conduct focus groups, and talk to people to gain valuable insight into this very complicated issue. How can you talk about changing belief systems when you don’t know what those beliefs and perceptions are? You will want to have many candid interviews with a diverse group of customers about their experiences and their opinions about race relations, especially as it relates to your brand. Do not assume you know or understand cultural norms.

The Old Spice ad featuring the shirtless black man on a horse was a huge hit for Procter & Gamble. But many critics were quick to point out that the ads were reminiscent of the “Mandingo-stud” ads of the 70s. The same can be said about the new Allstate commercials featuring actress/comedian Leslie Jones. The 30-second spots have sparked controversy and debate about the perceived image of black women as being over-sexualized, aggressive and masculine looking. Brands need “straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth” feedback and guidance on the best language and images to use to express their position. You don’t want your good intentions to be misconstrued, or worst, insulting.

·       Are you prepared to deal with and manage consumer push-back?
Three years ago General Mills tried a subtle approach to diversity with their Cheerios brand cereal. The commercials showing an interracial couple (with a biracial child) got people talking about race. In fact, the Internet was all abuzz. Unfortunately, some of the online comments were rude, racists and downright hateful. Later, a few pundits questioned if GM might have planted the controversial posts themselves in order to gain public support for their bravery—although that is highly doubtful.

Earlier this year, Old Navy sauntered down the racial acceptance aisle with another ad featuring an interracial couple and biracial child. However, again, there was public backlash with some very ugly comments – one Twitter user went so far as to accuse Old Navy of “supporting the genocide of the white race!”
Most recently in response to the tragic and senseless deaths in Dallas, Falcon Heights and Baton Rouge, music streaming giant, Pandora tweeted a sympathetic message that said, “Our hearts ache for all those who unfairly lost their lives.” The public response was swift, abundant, and sometimes heartbreaking to read. Hundreds vowed to cancel their Pandora subscriptions or boycott the service simply because the company included the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter.  The core message of #Blacklivesmatters is that the lives of African Americans matter as MUCH as the lives of others – not MORE than. And unequivocally and without question, does it remotely imply that Blue lives matter least of all. But this meaning often gets lost. 

Is your brand prepared to deal with customers who won’t like the stance you’ve taken or misunderstand your narrative? Leaders better have a contingency plan for addressing negativity because it will surely come. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in and also why these discussions are so critically important.

Race in America is a very large and complex hairy beast that is more arduous to tame than say, Saving the Whales or Feeding The Homeless. Conversations about race, or lack thereof, expose the underbelly of our most righteous and most wretched core values, then feasts on our sacredly held beliefs. For this reason alone you may decide that the topic is far too heavy for your brand to bear. No one would find fault with your decision. Racism is the last frontier of human cataclysm that won’t be solved by one ad, one commercial or one post. But it’s a start.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


If you’ve ever sat anxiously in a meeting amongst your peers, each of you doodling crop circles and flowers on a yellow note pad, or if a blinking cursor on a clean white screen sends you day-dreaming about your vacation or what you’re having for lunch, then you know getting those creative juices flowing takes a tremendous amount of energy. What sounds like child’s play is really an acquired ability to push boundaries and work hard at break-away thinking.

Ambitious new ideas, not just a re-hashed modified version of last year’s concepts, mean using imagination for real innovation. Creativity is being able to see what could be and not what is.

Here are three approaches to the question I get asked the most, so how do you create ‘creativity’?

1. Let go of the need to be right. True invention is neither right nor wrong it just is – usually left to the interpretation of the end user. In fact, most visionary ideas are never politically correct – after all, who would pay for a drink of water? Or pay an entrance fee into a retail store? Is there a realtor willing to donate a percentage of proceeds to a buyer/seller’s charity in order to sell more houses? This is the basis for my mantra, “Don’t compete, create!” Stop copying your competitors or coloring within the lines of industry standards. Start focusing on creating something new – let go of the need to be correct or proper. Then you’ll be competing with your own ability to ideate – instead of appearing lazy or worst yet, conforming to mediocrity because you duplicated someone else’s creativity.

2. Be absolutely fearless! Fearless in your thinking, fearless in your capacity to make mistakes and absolutely fearless that no idea is too radical. Without the willingness to look foolish, it’s hard to break idea barriers. Don’t be afraid to explore the ridiculous, the outrageous, or the unknown. Before you declare “it won’t work,” “we can’t do that,” or “it will never fly,” examine it through the lens of “what if.” Apply cross-over concepts from other (non-competing) businesses. Case in point, if hand-held POS check-out works for car rentals, why aren’t they used in department stores? And if I can test a new lipstick or test drive a car, why isn’t there a method to test the acuity of a doctor or lawyer? No, not every idea will be a new iPad®, but can you imagine what Apple's brainstorming sessions were like when someone first suggested this new application? A new idea should make your palms sweat, your stomach churn, cause dizziness and/or insomnia; otherwise you’re probably playing it too safe.

3. Write down all the assumptions you have and throw them in the trash. No, wait! Maybe not in the trash just yet, because you can use them to spawn new ideas. Who said a restaurant’s price point should be based on food cost – suppose it was calculated on time? If I can ride standing on a bus or train, why can’t I ride standing in an airplane? And shouldn’t the price of a movie ticket cost less for a film that’s been on ‘the shelf’ for a month and more for a block buster new release? Or better yet, when will a savvy movie theatre introduce a VIP section (with reserved seating and table service)? Genuine creativity demands that you challenge all assumptions in order to discover great ideas.

Ideate real creativity to set you and your brand apart. By continually looking for new ideas and innovation, everywhere, all the time, you’ll build your creative muscle and break idea barriers. Don’t compete, create!

Friday, April 30, 2010

It is EASY!

Three Easy "Must-Do" Ideas to Effectively Market to Women!

"Femarketing" (our coined catch-phrase) no longer refers to a sub-category, but is a concentration on an emerging dominate market valued at over $5 Trillion...and growing. Gone are the days of powder puffs, froufrou, pink hearts and old-fashioned notions about femininity when it comes to marketing to women. Female marketing is big business.

Case in point, women brush their teeth much the same way men do. In fact, women use most products and services the same way men do. Smart businesses know they can no longer just paint their existing brand pink when marketing to women. Meaning over-using a misguided "for women" focus or a non-existent female benefit.

There are endless methods businesses can incorporate to engage women, and profit from this new marketplace. Here are three ideas your business should use to create real female-centric marketing that reaches the mammoth eighty percent of U.S. households where women are making the buying decisions:

Include women on your team
This doesn't mean simply hiring more women executives, HR managers or administrative assistants. Try building a team of investigators that will touch/feel/experience your brand in the real world; then make sure women are on that team! The feedback and contrasting viewpoints women bring to design and development is critical to the success of your brand. Women will help you identify and attend to important details that make a difference in how she perceives your business. Make sure her voice is heard before you attempt to sell to her.

Incorporate images of real every day women in your ad campaigns and marketing collateral.
"...Are they serious?" This is the question women ask when it comes to many ad campaigns. For example, women are turning the pages with barely a glance at premium liquor or the glossy 4-color car ads. Why? Because most of the time the gorgeous 22-yr old babe model provocatively dressed, doesn't look like her or any of her friends; but instead is some man's fantasy. Be careful that your marketing is not alienating – or worse yet, condescending! The success of the Dove soap campaign for Real Beauty is anchored in the ability of women to globally relate and identify with the images. Make sure she can clearly see herself in your marketing.

Create a platform for women to share and form spontaneous communities.
In today's new 'word-of-mouth' marketing, social media has become the Queen (and hub) of what women have loved doing for years. Connecting. Now the ability for women to share ideas, feelings, dreams, fears and more importantly, information is happening at light speed. Research shows social media among women almost doubled over last year. Providing her a way to talk about the pleasures she found around your product appeals to her sense of community, and helps her find points of commonality and affiliation. Make sure your brand connects her to your product as well as to other women.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It Is Here!

My top seven event marketing trends for 2010 are here! And even if you don’t know the difference between a tweet and a yelp, understand that the educated, informed and active consumer is alive and well, and traditional marketing channels have passed away. Marketers will discover that to stay in the game in 2010 will require, more than ever, agility and a willingness to venture into uncharted waters with new and adaptive innovations. The time has come to explore, ideate and gamble – to tear down the walls that separate people from each other and their views about your product. Here is one of my top seven event marketing trends for 2010. Businesses should note the emergence of a ‘transparency and honesty’ theme that is rising to the top.

1. Social, Media, Networking…Oh, My!

No longer considered a tween fad (think Myspace) or a place for grandma to post pictures, social media will effortlessly meld personal and professional, online with brick & mortar and provide cohesion between brands and their customers. This trend to build customer-centric communities that incorporate internal collaboration, extending a company’s tentacles out into their customer and partner networks, will continue to grow and up the ante in 2010 [btw, according to eMarketer U.S. ad spending on social networks will show a 7 percent increase in 2010, to $1.3 billion]. Savvy marketers can stay ahead of the curve next year by introducing events + video into their social media efforts. This trinity marriage should result in more engaging content, a dynamic way to hear and interact with customers, and produce ‘infections messaging’ that travel faster than ever before. Social media might well become the base in the marketing mix topped off with the event experience, and the spice of video, as brands remove the layers between themselves and the customer. In 2010, custom created events using branded social networking will be the norm for persuasion through organically fitting into the consumer’s social sphere – developing, connecting and engaging loyal fans and customers.

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