Dec 08

Closing the gap between marketing and sales

Guest Post by Deborah Brown, Peppercom

December 8 - gap Years ago, I remember the marking manager of a client desperately ask, “Can Peppercom please help us? I don’t know how to get marketing and sales aligned. There’s virtually no communication and sales is off saying what they want to customers, while marketing is trying to instill consistency with our messages.  What do we do?” Several weeks later, with a sales consultant, Peppercom developed “Pain –Based Selling,” a program that aligns marketing and sales and closes the gap between what salespeople believe is keeping their customers up at night and what actually is. And, about a year later, co-founder Steve Cody co-authored a book on the topic entitled “What’s Keeping Your Customers Up At Night?”

Now, fast forward about seven years. And, guess what? Sadly, very little has changed. To be fair, there is some alignment in certain companies, but from my experience, it’s still very limited or – in other companies – doesn’t even exist. It seems absurd when the two disciplines can greatly benefit from one another. At Peppercom, we try to go on sales calls with clients so that we can understand how messages are resonating with key audiences and get feedback from customers and prospects. Even this is often challenging to schedule. Yet, when we do go on sales calls, we can immediately uncover important information that can further strengthen existing marketing and communications programs or give us ideas for future ones.

I’d like to pose this question to you:  Can your company survive if sales and marketing are on different teams? 

That’s the focus of a FREE webinar from Peppercom this Wednesday, December 9th , from 1pm-2pm EST.  “Coach Nick” Papadopoulos, Sky’s The Limit Corporation Founder and author of the sales book “Championship Selling,” Steve Cody, Co-Founder of strategic communications firm Peppercom, and Matt Schwartzberg, President of A-1 First Class Viking Moving & Storage will discuss this question and the formula for success in 2010. The panel will be moderated by Sam Ford, Peppercom’s Direct of Customer Insights and research affiliate with the Convergence Culture Consortium. The panel will discuss proven strategies for breaking down the walls, how to take advantage of the first signs of economic recovery, the difference alignment has made for A-1 First Class Viking Moving & Storage, and much more.

Please click here for more details.

It’s critical for marketing and sales to understand each others' role and value. Bridge the gap….before it’s so wide that your company falls through it into oblivion.

Nov 09

Talk about the client from hell

How'd you like the task of rehabilitating Joseph Stalin's image and reputation? Well, 
according to O’Dwyer’s, Russian Information Agency Novosti is searching for an international PR firm to do just that.Stalin

According to the report, the goal is to re-position the Soviet despot who, some historians say, may be responsible for more than 30 million deaths and, instead, highlight his role in defeating Nazi Germany and rebuilding the Soviet Union into a super power.

This is so wrong but, in a perverse way, kind of hilarious as well.

Can you imagine media training the lead 'Stalin' spokesperson?

Agency trainer: “Sergei, baby, you need to stay focused. Put the vodka down. Now, you need to be mindful of negative or irrelevant questions in an actual interview and 'bridge' to the talking points we just developed. Let's practice. Let's say I'm a Reuters reporter and ask you this question: ‘Sergei, how can you possibly call one of history's greatest mass murderers one of Russia's greatest leaders instead?’ ”

Sergei (downs a shot of Stoli): “On the contrary, we're saying Comrade Stalin saved hundreds of millions of lives by defeating the Nazis. Imagine how many Russians might have died if Hitler had won?”

Agency trainer: “Nice Sergei. OK, question number two: ‘How do you explain the way in which Stalin's rivals such as Leon Trotsky not only disappeared, but were air brushed out of official state photographs? Is that the way a great leader behaves?' ”

Sergei (pops another shot): “On the contrary, comrade reporter. We've done some homework and discovered that Trotsky, Molotov and others who you Western media types said were murdered simply took extended sabbaticals. They asked that their likenesses be removed. They'd had enough of the limelight.”

Agency trainer: “Smooth Sergei. Very smooth. One more toughie: 'How do justify the gulags?' ”
Sergei: “How do you justify Gitmo?”

Agency trainer: “You are so ready Sergei! After we're done, the Western press will be listing Stalin right alongside Alexander the Great and Caesar.”

If the chosen agency succeeds with the Stalin image program, I could see them building an entire practice around the emerging discipline. Were we were to do it, we'd call it PepperDespot and probably market it on our Website with such wording as:

“Are you the brand manager of a former Soviet Republic? Or maybe the CMO of an erstwhile member of the Axis Powers? Do you need to burnish the reputation of your local Mussolini, Hitler or Tojo?”

PepperDespot can help. Our efforts saved Joseph Stalin's name from the scrapheap of history (link to AP story: 'Stalin described as warm and fuzzy in new poll.'). And, we can do it for you as well. Just think of the tourism dollars that will accrue to your beleaguered brand once consumers understand the softer, human side of your dead despot.  ‘PepperDespot: Making yesterday's scum tomorrow's rock stars.’ "

Oct 09

A miniature statue of a 5th Century Greek boy? Sure. It’s right by gate 124.

Met I've seen some questionable business decisions in my life, but none quite as perplexing as the sight of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Store right smack in the middle of Terminal C at Newark's Liberty International Airport.

The store features everything from Egyptian cat bookmarks (now there's a perfect stocking stuffer) to busts and miniatures of ancient heroes ('Honey, let's pick up that figurine of Herodotus before we board.'). There are also books on Cleopatra and 2010 calendars featuring the works of Monet and Winslow Homer.

And, of course, the store is completely deserted.

I like to think I appreciate finer things in life and I really enjoyed strolling through the Classic artifacts and facsimiles thereof. But, an art store at Newark? That's like having a Bentley dealership in South Central L.A. It's laudable, but makes no sense whatsoever from an image, reputation or target audience standpoint.

The average Newark Airport visitor appears to be harried, hurried and much more interested in a quick Sbarro pizza slice than a Degas pastel of some South Sea island.

I'm not sure what Met executive made the daffy decision to situate a high-end boutique in the midst of a déclassé thoroughfare like Terminal C, but I'm guessing his or her career will soon be experiencing its own version of 476 AD.

Sep 21

Survey Says: Paul Is Still the Cute One

By Guest Blogger, Julie Farin ( http://twitter.com/JulieFarin) PR pro and Beatlemaniac – not necessarily in that order.

EdSullivanbeatles64_2

Who is your favorite Beatle?  That seems like a question one might have been asked on February 10, 1964, the day after the four lads from Liverpool first performed on The Ed Sullivan Show to more than 70 million viewers across America, officially pulling the trigger on The British Invasion. 

But with months of multimedia marketing leading up to the 09/09/09 release of The Beatles Rock Band video game along with the release of digitally remastered “boxed sets” of the Fab 4’s historic music catalogue, it seems like just about everyone is climbing aboard the Beatlemania Reloaded bandwagon.

It comes as no surprise that Zogby International recently decided to poll Americans and ask them which of the Mop Tops – John, Paul, George or Ringo – they like best. “Paul was always more popular than the rest of us,” John Lennon once told Tom Snyder in a 1975 interview.  Well, Lennon would not be surprised to learn that Sir Paul McCartney continues his 45-year reign as the most popular Beatle with 27 percent naming him their favorite, Lennon taking a distant second at 16 percent, George Harrison coming in a dark horse at 10 percent, and Ringo Starr an even darker one at 9 percent.

What surprises me most about this seemingly unscientific survey is the admission that nearly a quarter of those polled said they didn’t even like the Beatles, while three percent said they weren’t familiar enough with the band’s music to make an informed decision.

“It must be the crazy love songs and ‘Yesterday’,” said John Zogby, the CEO of the firm that conducted the poll.  He attributed McCartney’s popularity to his looks (Paul was always considered The Cute One), and his longevity (he’s 67-years old and is still releasing albums and selling out concert tours).  Zogby adds, “Interestingly, John is the main answer for people who never go to church.”  That seems too convenient a statistic to associate with an outspoken man who once infamously proclaimed, “We’re more popular than Jesus” and who also considered himself “basically a Zen pagan.”

It also seems a little unfair to compare the two Beatles who are still living, performing, and releasing albums, with the two who have been dead for many years.  Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me how well McCartney topped this poll.  [Disclosure:  John Lennon has always been my favorite Beatle, and yes, I do go to church and consider myself a spiritual person.] 

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Paul is fab and quite gear after all these years.  In fact, my good friend Michael Starr (no relation to Ringo) has nicknamed me “Lady Macca” because I never miss a McCartney concert when he comes to my town (New York City).  The results of this survey seem as irrelevant and invalid as asking a card-carrying Beatlemaniac to name his or her favorite Beatles song.  That’s “Something” I can never “Imagine” doing.

Sep 18

The dangers of inside-out marketing

September 18 - Jesus Freak 2 Those of us who suffer the daily indignities of the 7:27am New Jersey Transit ride to Manhattan are periodically subjected to old-time Bible thumping by a dyed-in-the-wool, certifiable Jesus Freak. The guy sets up shop directly across the tracks from us, cites a Bible passage or two and then warns us to abandon our wicked and wanton ways before heading into the latter-day version of Sodom & Gomorrah.

I ordinarily tune him out as quickly as I'm tuning in Pink Floyd, Ziggy Marley or Luigi Bocarini on my iPod. Today, though, the Jesus Freak got my attention with a particularly nasty assault on the evils of Islam. How insensitive, I thought. Hasn't he factored in the Muslim commuters on the platform? Or, doesn't he care? It also occurred to me that I was sharing the platform with any number of commuters who were looking forward to the Jewish high holidays. Hmmm. Another target audience down the tubes.

And, then it dawned on me. The bible thumper was making a classic inside-out marketing mistake. He wasn't thinking about his audience. He wasn't taking the time to figure out who they were, what sort of information they'd like to hear and where they'd be most open to engaging him in conversation. Instead, the sermon on the platform was all about him and his views.

I see inside-out marketing coming from some of the allegedly best and brightest brands in Corporate America. Alongside the amazingly dysfunctional internal operations at many of these companies, inside-out marketing is one of business and industry's better-kept, dirty little secrets.

Despite all the hoopla and posturing about social media and best practices for reaching the newly-empowered consumer, inside-out marketing still ricochets through the hallways of America's best companies like some sort of rampant, mutant H1N1 virus.

NJT's resident Jesus Freak is obviously oblivious to inside-out marketing (he's most likely oblivious to most things in life). But, there's no excuse for highly-paid, uber powerful marketers who keep making the same mistake 'He' does.

Wise up, Corporate America. It's later than you think. And, speaking of thinking, it's no longer about you or what you think. It's all about what we the consumers (and commuters) think.

All aboard!

Jun 17

It’s Time to Reinvent the Cold Call

Guest Post by Melissa Vigue

June 17 I was recently reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld method of dealing with unsolicited sales calls – ask for their number to call them back – when a prospective vendor called my cell phone after hours on a Friday night. While I did not resort to that – and was afraid the vendor might oblige – this did spark heated discussion at the agency and we did a bit of research.

According to the National Sales Executive Association, 80 percent of sales occur between the fifth through 12th contact.  So it’s no wonder that as the AOR for a number of Fortune 500 clients, we receive an inordinate number of cold calls and emails each week from newswire, database, monitoring, and tchotchkes vendors, among others. Yet being on the receiving end of these calls has made us wonder… is there a better way?   

The issue at hand is that many of these are not targeted directly to our or our client’s needs.  Many are very aggressive, and in some recent cases, contain errors in the communication, such as the names of other agencies they have sent the same email to.  Here are just a few recent examples of how these types of communications alienate and infuriate the very account managers companies are trying to sell to.

  • One contact calls the same two people (who sit next to each other!) each week on the same day at the same time with the same pitch – and gets the same result. “Thanks, we’re all set.”  It is important to note that most of us have been receiving calls from this contact for nearly 10 years. A most recent gaffe involved referencing a past project that happened to be a fiasco and almost resulted in litigation. Does anyone wonder why we don’t engage in his pitch?
  • A production company specializing in video news releases, satellite media tours, etc. was recently asked to no longer contact our staff. Why?  Because in addition to making broad assumptions about shrinking budgets, he was calling every Friday from different phone numbers to lure unsuspecting account people into picking up the phone.
  • A recent email from another distribution outfit opened with, “Pardon me for being so direct…” Need I say more?

Is this really how these vendors want to be perceived? In order to succeed on behalf of their clients, agencies need partners, not vendors. We get it, we really do. Targeting potential clients for new business and pitching a story to an editor requires that initial call too.  Here are a few things we try to consider before a pitch, cold call, follow-up call, etc.:

  • Be courteous and respectful of the recipients’ time. Ask if it’s a good time before launching into a pitch.
  • If they say “No, thanks. We’ll call you if a need arises,” they probably don’t have a current need. But if you respect it, they will really call if the need arises!
  • Do the research first.  Learn about the company and person you are calling, and think about how you can add value.
  • Be a resource and be able to offer insight into the industry landscape and trends.
  • Uncover the pain. What unmet need does your prospect have?
  • Bring some ideas to the table (or at least offer to try), not just “We provide XYZ.”

Finally, in a slumping economy – or for that matter any economy – we all need each other.  It is crucial that we forge win-win relationships and work together to provide solutions; otherwise you might be on call 112 before you realize it’s just not working.

May 21

Because I said so, that’s why.

Guest Post by Maggie O’Neill

May 22 - mommy blogger Because I said so, that’s why. An iconic Mom-phrase that resonates with most of us but is taking on new meaning in the marketing world today.  The power of what Mom says – and even the word Mom itself – is quickly becoming the industry’s hottest new ticket, despite the fact that Moms have been around and influencing purchasing since the beginning of time. Eve…Apple?

From terms like Mamaste to Momosphere, the Power Moms, identified by Nielsen  as ages 25-54 with at least one child, have a voice that is $2 trillion dollars strong for US brands* and make up  20 percent of today’s  online population.  And the group itself is becoming more diverse year after year, demanding targeted marketing to their definition of “mom.”

With all this buzz and promise, a misstep or two by the marketing industry and we could be headed for a “mom-com” bust.  One mom told me that she complained about the benefits of a face care product online.  She got an email back and a Tweet apologizing that they fell short and that they were sending her a free sample of the exact same product.  Great opportunity, completely blown. 

Why?  The almost automated response and one way conversation from the company , plus the fact that they sent what the mom considered a bad product back to her, not only pushed her away, but you know she told a million people about it by now.  What should they have done?   The face care company had a perfect opportunity to engage this mom in a dialogue and find out what the issues were and if another product might make more sense for her.  Did her friends have similar issues?  Could they provide another recommendation, coupons to one of their other product lines for her family?  Simply asking what they could do rather than pushing back a bad solution would have helped them not only win back this mom, but remain a recommended brand to her network and influencers.

Continue reading

Apr 16

We are now engaged in a great Civil War

I often think of those words from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address when I read Ad Age. April 16 - lincoln-gettysburg-banner

Since the market
meltdown, the publication has become a horrified witness to the advertising
versions of Antietam, Shiloh and, yes, Gettysburg itself. Every week, one advertising expert will bemoan the industry's plight
while another guru pushes back and says, 'No, these are great times for
advertising.'

And, it's set
against articles announcing yet another major marketer's decision to decouple
its ad budgets and spend the dollars in other, more cost-effective, one-to-one
ways.

The ad industry is
in a state of turmoil akin to the 1917 Russian Revolution. And, social media is
this revolution's Lenin. Long-standing traditions, icons and business practices
are being swept aside as marketers take a deep pause and ask, 'Why am I
advertising in the first place?'

The big holding
companies are desperately retrofitting their broken models as they're being
squeezed by their owners to make Draconian cuts, freeze all salary raises and
bonuses and bill, bill, bill. It must make for great workplace environments.

Ad Age reflects
this angst and uncertainty. And, you can tell that marketers aren't sure what's
appropriate in this chaotic, cataclysmic era either. Nationwide Insurance, for
example, is shelling out $178 million for a traditional campaign that revives
its old 'Nationwide is on your side' theme. They think it will 'comfort'
current and prospective policyholders. Yeah, sure. Give me $178 million and
I'll show you 178 million better ways to engage in a dialogue with your
audience.

Then there's
Brink's Home Security, which is playing on people's fears and, in the process,
increasing alarm system sales by 10 percent. Their spots show a scared woman
all alone in a house that's about to be broken into until, bam, the Brink’s
alarm system screams out with the same deafening sounds of a 747 's engines and
the scoundrel scampers off into the darkness. Talk about taking advantage of
people's deepest, darkest fears. 

Ad Age's editorial
pages are ground zero for the meltdown. A newspaper publisher penned a letter
to the editor likening himself to one of the musicians on the Titanic and
vowing, as they did, to go down with his ship. An op-ed warns big agencies that
smarter, swifter and smaller shops are gaining in popularity with clients. Then
there's a cool profile of a magazine called Vice that, perhaps not so
surprisingly considering its name and content, is thriving as other media
properties go belly up.

Advertising is
engaged in a great civil war. Traditionalists still believe the old model works
(and companies like Nationwide reinforce such antiquated thinking with their
new campaign). At the same time, the digital/social media types are gaining
more and more business. And, smaller shops are springing up faster than dandelions
in May. Most in the industry seem shell-shocked, unsure of their fate and
uncertain what, exactly, they should do.

It all makes for
great reading and is akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion. It's also
very cool to be a PR guy reading all this stuff. Along with digital and
word-of-mouth firms, we're beautifully positioned to fill the massive gaps that
are now appearing.

To close the loop
on the Civil War analogy, I'm afraid Appomatox Court House is on the horizon
for the many advertising types who can't adapt fast enough.

Apr 13

I was never sympatico with Enfatico

WPP announced Friday it was folding its much-heralded, one-stop shop called Enfatico into its Young & Rubicam Brands unit. The move comes as absolutely no surprise and means that Enfatico is now just part of a larger ad agency.

In case you don't recall, Enfatico was created by WPP in the midst of a titanic, new business struggle between the holding companies for the once massive Dell Computer account. It was WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell's brainchild and positioned as the 'ideal' solution to Dell's stated desire for a fully-integrated parter. Rather than having a single WPP agency such as JWT or Ogilvy pitch Dell, Sir Martin instead forged an entirely new entity called Enfatico. It was led by executives from WPP's best and brightest advertising, public relations, digital and research units, and it won the day.  Even so, Enfatico seemed to many industry observers at the time as a house of cards.
Enfatico
Enfatico just might have worked if the economy hadn't headed south and their 'rabbi' at Dell, Mark Jarvis, hadn't left the client organization. But, when you mix a horrific economy with a change in chief marketing officers, it almost always spells doom.

Since Enfatico won the business, Dell's spending has dropped from just under $800 million to $379 million. Ouch! And, Enfatico has been unable to attract other clients to its roster. End result: bye-bye autonomy and hello subservient Y&R subsidiary.

I'll bet the Enfatico brand name disappears entirely in a year or so. Integrated marketing is a flawed concept. First, it assumes that one can assemble the very best advertising, PR, digital and research talent in the industry and create a super agency. Second, it assumes these ego-driven personalities could co-exist in the same office.

I worked for two 'fully-integrated agencies in the 1990s. Neither one is still around. They didn't work because the best PR people didn't like being treated as second-class citizens by their advertising brethen. And clients weren't very keen on the various disciplines bickering over how best to spend the budget.

Despite its obvious failure, high profile 'solutions' such as Enfatico will emerge again in the future. Why? Because there will always be a new Mark Jarvis type who comes along believing that a super, integrated agency will make him a rock star. And, because there will always be a Sir Martin type who will be ready, willing and able to take another stab at a broken model.
 
For now, Enfatico will continue to do work for Dell as part of Y&R. But, I sense an account review in the very near future. And, don't be surprised if the new powers-that-be at Dell say they believe working with separate agencies is the smarter way to go. Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da. Life goes on.

Apr 09

We have no intention of becoming PR’s version of the Packard

Al Ries, marketing, branding and positioning guru
extraordinaire, has penned a most fascinating opinion piece in a recent Ad Age. April 9 - Packard

The Ries piece (I couldn't resist) warns such marketers as
Starbucks and Cadillac to stop cheapening their brand before it's too late.
Ries says the long lost Packard automobile did just that and died as a result.

Prior to The Great Depression, says Ries, Packard totally
dominated the U.S.
luxury car market. In fact, Cadillac was little more than a distant blip in
Packard's rear view mirror. But, when the downturn came, Packard developed a
much lower cost alternative. The cars sold well. But, when the economy
rebounded, newly affluent Americans went with Cadillac, which had remained true
to its high-priced, high-quality roots throughout the Depression. Packard never
recovered and eventually disappeared altogether in 1957.

Now, fast forward to today. I see lots of commentary in the
PR and advertising trades from agency leaders who are suggesting that others
follow their lead in cutting billing rates to 'ensure ongoing business and
demonstrate value.' I see other 'leaders' offering 'lite' versions of their
positioning, media training and media relations services or charging $500 per
press release. I think such 'strategies' scream desperation and cheapen an
agency's brand.

I think, instead, we should be providing additional value by
being more creative, getting closer to our clients' customers and helping our
clients fight the good fight when their purchasing, finance or legal
departments suggest wholesale marketing cuts.

Cheapening your brand by lowering your billing rates or
giving away your services in "a la carte" menu style will cause you
huge headaches when the economy rebounds. And good luck convincing your clients
that you deserve a rate increase just because other vendors have increased
theirs.

We all have to endure budget cuts. They're a fact of life.
But offering the PR version of instant coffee a la Starbucks or a Cimarron a la Cadillac is a penny-wise, pound-foolish
strategy. (And Cadillac's mistake of the 1980s was all the more dumbfounding,
considering that it defied the very strategy that made them a big name brand
coming out of the Depression.)

The good times will return. Maintaining one's position as a
high quality service provider during the downturn will ensure a swifter return
to heady profits in the days to come. We, for one, have no interest in
becoming our industry's version of the Packard.