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It’s time for a marketing assessment — here’s what you need to know January 16, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations, Marketing Persona, Messaging.
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January is the perfect time to conduct a marketing assessment. Take a moment to look back at last year’s plan.  How well did your marketing campaigns work last year? What worked well? Where were your surprises? What elements of planning and execution require improvement? Whether you decide to conduct your own assessment or hire an outside expert to facilitate the process, here are a few tips to get you started.

Tips to energize your marketing team June 24, 2012

Posted by Mike Gospe in Just for Campaign Managers, Leadership, Marketing Operations.
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Summer is the time for reflection and assessment. As many marketers will soon be embarking on offsites and exercises to plan for the next fiscal year, I wanted to know what best practices my readers might share in how they’ve been able to accelerate their planning process and energize their team. Here are just a few of their insights. (more…)

More on marketing best practices September 29, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Leadership.
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With the launch of The Marketing High Ground, I was interviewed by the editors of DemandGen Report. Our discussion covered a variety of topics. I’ve captured excerpts of the interview based on specific topics of interest and thought I would pass them along. (more…)

Say no to “marketing popcorn” June 16, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Operations.
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I have a pet peeve, and it’s marketing popcorn.  No, not the marketing of popcorn. “Marketing popcorn.” (more…)

Preview “The Marketing High Ground” March 23, 2011

Posted by Mike Gospe in Marketing Persona, Messaging, Positioning.
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Download an excerpt — The Marketing High Ground

If you are interested in the best practices surrounding persona development, drafting crisp positioning statements, and crafting messages that are relevant and meaningful to your persona, you’ll want to read The Marketing High Ground. Available in May 2011 on Amazon.com, this book is the essential playbook for B2B marketing practitioners.

The role of the product launch boss in the NPI process August 23, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Marketing Operations.
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What is the role of the launch boss in the new product introduction (NPI) process?

This is a good question.  One that can lead to confusion and consternation if the role isn’t clearly defined at the outset.  I had the opportunity to attend a conference hosted by the Product Realization Group last week.  Often, but not always, this role falls on the shoulders of someone in product management or product marketing. Rob Bisaillon, director of new product introduction at Verigy Memory and Application Specific Test Systems Division, offered a few success factors regarding the NPI process, and insights into the most effective product launch bosses.

Rob’s list of Key Success Factors included:

  • Team formation & kick-off: define the team, name all active team members and communicate their involvement to the rest of the organization beginning with a kick-off meeting to align participants and set expectations.
  • Set clear goals and deliverables: time tables often change, so adopt a discipline of setting and communicating goals often.  Whether deliverables are engineering-, production-, or marketing/sales-related, make a point to include a short one-line description of each regarding the who/what/when/where/why associated with any/all deliverables.  This helps to avoid any confusion down the road.
  • Action tracking and reviews: be formal about tracking the status of open action items.  Many teams use the red-yellow-green color scheme to highlight status.  Microsoft Project(TM) is an example of a good tool to use.
  • Timely resolution of issues: when open issues are not resolved quickly, they fester.  A good launch boss will grab the bull by the horns to wrestle the issue to resolution.  Effective launch bosses are always diplomatic, but they are not afraid to to tackle sticky issues and bring them before a steering committee for a final resolution.
  • Check point reviews with executive management: the effective NPI team will have structured review meetings with upper management.  These meetings are sometimes referred to as “Gate” meetings.  When differences in opinions arise (and they will), the NPI leader’s role is not to dictate the final answer. Instead, the effective product launch boss will bring the issue, with a recommendation, to the steering committee for them to vote on or resolve.
  • Executive sponsorship: a bottoms-up approach to product launches only works so far.  Without executive sponsorship to guide and direct decisions and team behavior, the NPI will suffer and frustration levels will rise.

With these six key points in mind, Rob went further to offer that while product experience is important, the most important characteristics of an effective launch boss are their temperament, attitude, and ability to clearly communicate with team members.  In fact, product knowledge and technical expertise are usually in great supply; whereas, the ability to navigate politics, soothe feathers, and guide a cross-functional team to success is not quite as common.

Adding my own thoughts to Rob’s, I believe the single hardest thing for a launch boss (or integrated campaign manager!) to do is to get team members to take action when, in fact, they don’t report to you.  When the launch boss resorts to dictatorial action, the risk of failure increases.  But, when team leaders leave their egos at the door, invite cross-functional participation and leadership, and focuses on managing the process not the outcome, teammates will recognize and favor the launch boss’ value-add.

If you have an example of an exceptional launch boss, or a poor one, I’d love to hear your story.

A practical table of contents for a streamlined go-to-market plan June 29, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Marketing Operations.
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Lately, I’ve been asked for recommendations for a streamlined go-to-market plan template.  This is a great request because I continue to see a lot of marketing teams get wrapped around the axle of a “10-step marketing plan” or some other beastly exercise.  Now, please don’t mis-understand me: marketing planning is a serious, critical, and worthwhile exercise.  Comprehensive planning exercises can be of great value.  Yet, sometimes, a short-cut is needed.

Here’s the punch line:

Table of Contents for a Streamlined Integrated Marketing Plan

  1. Marketing strategy overview
  2. Marketing objectives (With focus on the next 6 months)
  3. Target market prioritization (Prioritizing where the pro-active marketing investment will be)
  4. Personas (Creating an illustration of target buyers that we can empathize with)
  5. Positioning statement (Articulating our value and why we’re better than competing alternatives)
  6. Core messaging via “The Message Box(Crafting our story/elevator pitch)
  7. Identifying key content (Listing & prioritizing resources and deliverables that prospects will value)
  8. Marketing blueprint(s) (A flow chart of lead-gen activities and offers to engage prospects)
  9. Campaign calendar (A roadmap to guide execution)
  10. Budget estimate (For execution of identified blueprints)

Looking for more info?  Readers of the book can now download a  ** new! ** PDF of a streamlined marketing plan (visit the Marketing Campaign Development download page), complete with additional examples of personas, positioning statements, message box, and blueprints.  I share this for illustration purposes only.  Your mileage will differ, as the saying goes.

Don’t yet have the book?  No problem.  You can purchase the paperback here, or the eBook here.

A CAB case study . . . June 29, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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Customer Advisory Board programs come in all shapes and sizes, yet some key success factors apply to them all.  NFI is a 75 year old distribution, transportation, and logistics company.  Upon first glance, you might think that a CAB program wouldn’t apply to their business.  Aren’t CABs reserved for hi-tech, enterprise, business-to-business companies?  Not at all.  CABs are a dynamic tool that can be applied to any business (B2B, B2C, even non-profit) that wishes to build or strengthen their connection to their best customers.  They allowed me to document their story, which you can read here: CAB case study.

A tale of 2 CABs: feedback from the front lines May 13, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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Last week, I concluded working on 2 CABs – one in the pharmaceutical space, the other in logistics and transportation.  While both businesses are about as different as you can get, both were holding their inaugural CAB meeting and used an agenda based on the best practice agenda I shared in a prior blog post.  I facilitated one of the events; in the other, I coached the executive team to design their CAB and prepare one of their own executives to facilitate the session.  In each case the agenda worked very, very well.  Here are a few insights I learned along the way.

  • CAB customers highly value networking with their peers: Attendees included senior decision makers who were eager to compare notes with their peers.  In fact, a majority of attendees knew the other participants either personally, or at least by reputation.
  • Set ground rules early to keep the meeting on track: By setting ground rules upfront (prior to the event, and during the introductory remarks), the discussion was kept at a strategic level.  At no time did either meeting degrade into a  “complaint session.”

  • Customers don’t want to be lectured: Each agenda was purposely light on presentation.  We wanted the customers to do 80% of the talking.  And they did.  Slides were used to set up a discussion topic, then the customers responded, offering some keen perspective that triggered comments from their peers.

  • Take care to focus on topics relevant to all attendees: Customers who attended the logistics and transportation CAB represented a variety of industries: food & beverage, construction, retail, manufacturing.  While this diversity was wonderful for broad supply-chain-related topics, the same diversity hindered discussion on topics that proved relevant for only one or two of the industries.  This became apparent when the host company was exploring potential future services.

  • Always be flexible: Flexibility is key to a successful CAB.  A case in point is how we handled #4.  The team had not anticipated this.  Yet, even when (especially when!) customers find a topic uninteresting, it can be incredibly insightful to understand why.  So, that’s what we did.  We spent a few minutes to understand, then we quickly, smoothly moved on to the next topic.

CAB meetings are unlike any other meeting you will run.  Finesse is required to design the agenda, produce and share content that sets up discussion without leading the customers to a pre-ordained conclusion,  engage both customers and executives in a positive, constructive, and rewarding CAB program.  Both companies leveraged this agenda format to great success, with all customers eager to return for the next CAB meeting!

Looking for more information on CABs?  Visit my CAB Resources blog post. Or, contact me for more information.  Whether you are looking for a CAB planner and facilitator, or just a sounding board or coach, I have more information to share.

A CAB agenda to engage customers April 21, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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Lately, I’ve received many calls from executives looking to start up a customer advisory board program for their company.  Inaugural CAB meetings are especially important because it marks the first opportunity to not only introduce your CAB program, but to also put your best foot forward and make a good impression.

I’ve been running CAB programs for clients for 10 years, and I have played with a variety of agenda models.  For running a first CAB meeting, I’ve found the following type of agenda to be the most effective.  (Other agenda models are used for successive CAB meetings.)  This article concludes with 3 rules for your CAB agenda.

DAY 1:

  • Afternoon arrival
  • Informal event (golf, tour of customer facility, etc) — optional
  • Reception
  • Informal dinner

(Use this time to make introductions so you don’t have to spend agenda time on this on the following day)

DAY 2:

  • 7:30 am – breakfast
  • 8:30 – Welcome and CAB overview
  • 8:45 – Discussion topic #1 (i.e. how customers see their world)
  • 10:15 – Break
  • 10:30 – Host company overview (a la a “fireside chat” works best, not a corporate pitch)
  • 11:00 – Discussion topic #2 (i.e. an investigation of possible investment opportunities)
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 1:00 – Discussion topic #3 (i.e. a timely “hot topic” as defined by customers)
  • 2:15 – Break
  • 2:30 – Customer prioritization (i.e. a ranking of the most important issues and opportunities raised today; how would customers like the host company to spend their money?)
  • 2:45 – Closing comments
  • 3:00 – Adjourn


Rule 1: the agenda is all about the customer, not the host company!

Customers attend CAB meetings because they are eager to network with their peers and to discuss key drivers, trends, and issues that shape their business.   Executives have few opportunities to do this, and vendors who take the time to build an agenda around customer-facing issues will be rewarded with high attendance.  With that said, customers want to talk.  They don’t want to be lectured.

Discussion topic #1 should be focused squarely on the customer.  What are the trends shaping their business?  What do they care about?  What keeps them up at night?  Share a slide summarizing recent trends or analyst predictions.  Ask the customers to respond to them.  Do they see the world as analysts and press describe?  Or, do they see something different?

Company overview: Since this is the first CAB meeting, it is safe to assume that the attending customers may not share a common appreciation to the value offered by the host company.  Customers also appreciate having some one-on-one time with the CEO.  Have the CEO provide a 20 minute “fireside chat” company overview.  This is a presentation with only a few slides (3-4!) where the CEO  talks about how he/she sees the industry growing/changing and how the company relates.

Topics #2 and #3 will be specific to each company.  However, they usually encompass an exploration of potential new investment/service/product offerings.  While it is NOT appropriate to focus on specific tactical features, it is appropriate to ask customers how they view and prioritize various problem statements that the host company might choose to address with new product/service options.

Customer prioritization: Imagine a meeting room surrounded by annotated flip chart sheets taped to the walls.  A lot of information and ideas have been covered.  If we leave the meeting now, the host company may have trouble separating out the most important opportunities.  Conclude the meeting with a prioritization and ranking discussion with the customers.  Of all the ideas covered, how would they like the host company to spend their money?

Rule 2: allowing time for “aha!” moments

As good as our agenda is (and it is very good!), often times the most interesting “aha” moments come during the breaks and over lunch.  That’s why lunch is never a working meeting.

Rule 3: An agenda that respects the customers’ time

Why does the agenda end at 3 pm?  Shouldn’t we go until 6 pm or even extend another day?  Good questions.  Answer: no.  The higher the seniority of the attending customers, they less time they have in their schedules to offer you.  There is nothing worse than having one or two customers leave in the middle of a discussion to catch a plane.  It’s disruptive and awkward for the remaining customers who will then start looking at their watches.

For the first showing, have the meeting end at 3 pm so their is ample time for them to catch a flight back home.  The best feedback I’ve received in many of my CAB evaluation forms is, “I wish we had more time!”  Always leave them wanting more.  This is a testament to an engaging agenda that customers want to participate in.  This is also an open invitation for marketing and sales folks to follow-up with CAB members to continue the dialog long after the CAB meeting has adjourned.

These are just a few tips for setting up a world-class inaugural CAB agenda.  For more information, or to ask a question, please drop me an email at mikeg@kickstartall.com.

For more on CABs, check out my CAB Resources blog post.