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Integrated Marketing vs “Marketing Popcorn” October 20, 2014

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Leadership, Marketing Persona.
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I have a pet peeve, and it’s marketing popcorn. No, not the marketing of popcorn. “Marketing popcorn.” This is the exact opposite of truly effective integrated marketing. (more…)

Irate customers? Don’t let them stew. Check out how Dell approached it’s Customer Advisory Panel July 27, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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A friend of mine just passed me a link to this great blog post on Dell’s recent Customer Advisory Panel meeting.  There are a couple of things that are noteworthy here:

* Talking with angry customers can be a challenge for anyone.  Human nature inclines us to seek shelter in friendly surroundings.  But, as Dell found out, avoiding irate customers and letting customers stew in disappointment and frustration can be bad for business.  They chose to meet the challenge head-on with a Customer Advisory Panel.  How they did this was very creative: two groups of bloggers/customers, divided based on their affinity towards Dell.  Each discussion moderated by a “graphical facilitator” who captured comments and feedback graphically.  Check out the pictures.

* Graphical facilitators are superstars when it comes to capturing notes and turning them into instant illustrations that communicate with a punch.  It’s an engaging technique that can be used to create an aura of creativity and fun, despite the obvious tension that commonly accompanies dissatisfied customers.  While this technique will not work for all audiences, it seems to have worked well for Dell based on the photos shared in one of the accompanying links.

* What impresses me most about Dell is that they opened their kimono to use the Customer Advisory Panel as 1) an opportunity to collect customer feedback AND 2) as a public relations platform.  Notice that several of the bloggers have already posted comments relating to the event.  It’s a PR/Customer Support strategy that makes a whole lot of sense in today’s social media world.

As Susan Payton says in her blog, the proof of Dell’s actions will be in what they do with the information they’ve collected.  While I’m sure this was not an easy pill for the leaders at Dell to swallow , I applaud them for taking action, and frankly the risk.  We live in a world where the customer is king, and Dell is taking note.

The confusion surrounding the word “campaign” July 20, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Lead Gen, Marketing Operations.
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I often ask marketers to tell me about the integrated marketing campaigns they are running.  Here are a few common responses:

  • We’ve been running a Google Adwords campaign for the past 2 years.
  • We’ve got a new PR campaign kicking off next week.
  • Our print advertising campaign has been reduced to 3 insertions due to budge cuts.

These answers highlight a common misunderstanding of the word “campaign.”  Is the “campaign” a singular tactic?  Or, is it something more?   Are there lots of campaigns, or only a few?  When it comes to integrated marketing, there are strategic as well as tactical connotations concerning this key word.  When the context of the word “campaign” is misunderstood, it can lead to some heartburn.

The strategic “Campaign”

If I were to use a military analogy, the general would direct his troops in a Campaign (with a big “C”).  “Troops!” he’d say, “I want you to take that hill.  Figure out how we can do it.”  In this context, the strategic implication is regarding a central objective — a major initiative; a big deal with a lot at stake.  To achieve the objective a variety of tools and actions need to be coordinated and executed.  All of the activities and actions ultimately add up to accomplishing this central objective. Overlaying our marketing framework to this analogy, our integrated marketing “Campaigns” are driven by key sales and marketing objectives, such as capturing market share, squashing a competitor, establishing a foothold in a new market. The marketing activities and offers are then coordinated and timed so they reflect a common/consistent set of messaging that engages prospects in the desired dialog as they move through our sales process.

The tactical “campaign”

Unfortunately, to complicate matters, marketing automation tools like Eloqua and Marketo use a more tactical definition for the word “campaign” (small “c”).  So does Salesforce.com. In fact, Google Adwords can be mapped as a “campaign” into these, and other tools.  This is unfortunate because it may suggest to some that isolated, random tactics can be effective without understanding their role in the larger marcom mix (i.e. the strategic “Campaign”).  When marketers fall into the trap of silo’d thinking, we lose sight of the larger Campaign.  Tools like Eloqua and Salesforce.com are incredibly important to our marketing efforts — but they are tools to help us execute the tactics, not for driving strategy.

To avoid unnecessary confusion, here are a few tips:

  1. Create a marketing glossary, defining key words like Campaigns, Programs, Activities, and Offers.
  2. In practical terms, the use of the word “campaign” (small “c”) will continue to be used in Eloqua, Salesforce.com, etc.  We can’t change that.  So, when speaking with executive management regarding  the big picture, use the word “Campaign” in the strategic sense.  Don’t confuse it by including the word “campaign” as a tactical element.  (In other words, if you tell your CEO you’re running a Google Adwords “campaign”, you’ll likely confuse her.  She thought the “Campaign” as about squashing competitor X.)
  3. The reverse is true when communicating to the rank and file.  In the context of Eloqua or Salesforce.com, it is appropriate to use the “campaign” (small “c”) word in a tactical sense.  However, make sure to acknowledge how each “campaign” adds up to reach the “Campaign” (big “C”) objective.

It can be a bit tricky, but it’s nothing marketers can’t handle.  After all, we’re messaging experts.

My favorite guerilla lead gen program aimed at CEOs July 15, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Lead Gen.
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One of my most favorite lead gen programs I worked on was about 10 years ago when I was VP of marketing for a knowledge management start-up.  This was during the early days of online search.  Using today’s terms, we offered a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product/service that allowed users to get immediate answers to their questions. What was unique at the time was that our engine was very advanced and would offer up correct and relevant answers as opposed to a laundry list of links.

Since we were a start-up, our marketing budget was non-existent.  Our objective was to seed our sales pipeline quickly with a dozen well-qualified, brand name customers that we could eventually use as public references. Our only choice was to approach this project as a guerilla (see Jay Levinson’s many books on Guerilla Marketing).  So, we got creative.

  • We built our own list of target companies. We carefully matched our product strategy with a prioritized set of target segments.  Rather than blanketing all potential audiences, we produced a list 500 target companies. We needed wins quickly, and we felt we had a good story to tell.  So, with a laser-focused ambition, we set our sites and did not waiver from them.

  • We researched each company to confirm the name of their CEO and to obtain his/her email address and an issue they were facing that was relevant to our product. How did we do this?  We were blessed to have one of the most savvy executive admins around.  She called into each company and navigated to her counterpart – the CEO’s executive admin.  Calling on behalf of our CEO, she explained that we wanted to share some information that her CEO would find interesting, based on an issue his/her company was wresting with, as noted in the news, their website, etc.  She asked for his direct email address so she could send our information on behalf of our CEO.  (This approached worked exceptionally well for several reasons: this was not a telemarketing call — it was exec admin to exec admin; we were not selling anything; we were honest, forthright, and polite.  To our delight, we captured and verified 80% of the CEO email addresses this way.)
  • We created a standard email for this program, then tailored it for each CEO. Our email (ghost written for our CEO) was one paragraph in length and included a mocked-up screen shot of how our product would look on the target’s website, under their brand.  So, while the data in the screen shot was bogus, their company logo, homepage design was obvious.  Several energetic souls in our support team built these screen shots for us.
  • The call to action was personalized by our CEO. It may seem ironic, but our goal was not to sell our product.  At least not at first.  Instead, the text of the email illustrated our idea/value proposition.  We showed the mocked-up screenshot to show how our product/service might look on their home page.  Using regular language (not jargon or energized marketing-speak), we asked them if they thought this was a crazy idea.  In closing, we asked them to contact our CEO to provide us with some feedback.  The telephone number we provided was to a new line that that marketing team would answer as if we were the CEO’s office.
  • We created a separate email mailbox for our CEO and distributed these emails from that account. Twenty emails were developed and dropped each week.  (Remember, we had no budget to outsource any of this work.)  It took time to tailor each email, but we didn’t want to wait for all 500 to be ready.  Also, by staggering the drop, we could learn how effective we were being by watching our response rates.

We successfully ran the program for 6 weeks before we claimed victory.  We received a 12% response rate and won audiences with a number of brand-name customers.  My personal favorite was an email response we received from Michael Eisner (then the head of Disney) who directed us to follow-up with his VPs of marketing and support.  Everyone was copied on his response; the skids had been greased; we were in business!

Have a creative lead gen story to share?  I’d love to hear it!

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 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.

Features versus Benefits December 10, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Positioning.
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A common mistake made by many marketers is the confusion between features and benefits.  When developing a positioning statement, one of the key ingredients is in identifying the most compelling benefit relevant to the target audience or persona.  Features are related to product attributes: it comes in blue; it’s round; it prints 3 pages per minute.  Benefits answer the “so what?” question.  Benefit statement may be about saving time, improving productivity, achieving higher levels of measureable success.

Here are five criteria that can help you articulate a good, meaningful benefit.  Failure to meet any of these criteria should challenge you to rethink your options.

1) Is the benefit singular and specific?

Many marketers try to “be all things to all people” and in doing so, they confuse the marketplace.  It’s better to be focused. 

2) Is it relevant?

Just because a benefit is true to you (the manufacturer), it may not be relevant to the target audience.   Challenge your assumptions.

3) Is it sustainable?

Is this something you can claim for very long?  A benefit related to speed and productivity is only valid until the competition does it faster.

4) Is it believable?

Will the target audience believe your company’s ability to deliver the benefit?  How does this compare against current perceptions about your company?

5) Is it substantiable?

Avoid producing marketing hype.  Make sure you have data and evidence to support any claims you make.

Content & the Buying Process November 5, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing.
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Last week I attended the  TechTarget Online ROI Summit ’09 West.  For me, the highlights included a wonderful panel of CIOs providing insight and perspectives on a) how they search for information, and b) how their purchase decisions are made.  Also of interest was a Google/TechTarget Behavioral Research Project that mapped search terms to content types at each stage of the buying process.  I’ve paraphrased here three of the key take-aways, but you can find more detailed information on the TechTarget presentations here.

Mapping Content to the Buying Cycle

This graphic shows what content types are most valued at each phase in the buying process.

1) Marketers should review their campaigns and leverage title/topic, media type, and search by buying cycle results

 In other words, success with marketing campaigns is all about matching the right content to the right stage of the buying process.  The graphic illustrates the point.  The Google/TechTarget Research study confirmed that certain types of content are more valuable in certain stages of the buying cycle.   Makes sense.  However, I was a bit surprised to learn that CIOs and other decision makers are keenly interested in “Comparison Review” data — data provided by vendors or other sources that provide side-by-side solution comparisons.  I’ve always been a bit leery of this — after all, why should a vendor promote a competitor’s product?  However, the CIOs told us that they would like to see some honest comparisons by key vendors.  As was described to me by a CIO, “the IT team will ultimately discover the good/bad/ugly, so vendors can do themselves a favor by being straightforward and honest.”  Another CIO told me that if a vendor slams the competition or their assessment appears too heavily one-sided, they will discount the value/honesty of that assessment as well as the sponsoring vendor.  On the flip side, vendors who show integrity by showing a few blemishes gain credibility in his book.

2) “Top” placement doesn’t equal clicks — but page 1 of SERPS is key for campaigns


Bottom line here is that the #1 organic search link (and even the #1 paid search link) do not necessarily yield the highest traffic.  It appears that most searchers will peruse a few pages of search results.  However, the determination of what they click on is directly tied to the title/description of the searched item.  As an example, CIOs told us that they were more likely to click on a whitepaper with a solutions orientation (e.g. “CIO Strategies: How a Hosted Platform for Unified Communciations Could Save you Millions”) versus a branded whitepaper with a vague description (e.g. “Vendor X Strategies”).

3) Content targeted to the Consideration Phase gets most use across all buying cycle phases


Simply put, if your marketing resources are in short supply and you can only produce a few pieces of relevant content, aim for the considersation phase — as opposed to general awareness or final decision.  Assets targeting the consideration phase seem to get passed around the most during the buying process.

Want more info?  Check out these additional resources on content marketing:

Your “Customer Advisory Board” (CAB) Resource Center October 26, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards.
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2013 Update: Visit my new blog focused on Customer Advisory Boards, including two new guidebooks that unlocks the secrets to harnessing the power of this executive group.

The Dow is flirting around 14,000 and many expect signs of recovery to continue to blossom in 2013.  Kicking off or rejuvinating your company’s CAB (or Customer Advisory Council – CAC) program is an excellent way to strengthen customer loyalty and ensure you are on the right (roadmap) track for 2013 and beyond.

I’ve been facilitating CABs and other executive summits and offsites for more than 10 years.   Here is a collection of articles that offer insights, tips, and best practices that will help optimize your program and build stronger executive relationships.

Social Media & the Marcom Mix September 8, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Social Media.
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I have a hard cold truth for marketers: we are no longer in complete control of driving the lead funnel! 

As recently as a couple of years ago, marketers were.  The lead funnel was driven by our pushing messages out to our target audiences.  We controlled the message, the media, and the timing.  Social media has changed the dynamics.  People are finding out about our companies and products before they even get on our radar screen.  Some sources even estimate that 90% of the customer’s buying process takes place without the aid of a sales rep!  This has huge implications for our marcom mix.

The upshot: we must help our companies become “findable” in a marketing landscape we no longer control.

Being “findable” is not just about having a decent website.  It’s about having relevant, meaningful content available that addresses the topics buyers are interested in.  And, it’s about having this content posted in places where buyers look.  In fact, we shouldn’t be talking about social media as if it were another marketing silo.  Instead, we should focus on “content marketing” — providing information and experiences that buyers are looking for.  More than that, we can better establish and nurture a dialog with a prospect if we think about how to provide meaningful content that can be:

  • Captured = easy-to-read content posted in a friendly format that can be cut-n-pasted and downloaded, and . . .
  • Stored = easy to tag, sort, and file in electronic or printed format
  • Forwarded = easy to pass-along and share with others, both formally (i.e. cut-n-pasted into a presentation) and informally (i.e. sharing a link via Twitter)
  • Repurposed = content that can be annotated and adapted by the reader to fit their unique decision-making process

Including Social Media in a Marketing Blueprint

Integrating social media in the marcom mix

Integrating social media in the marcom mix

Today’s lead gen programs can produce higher ROI if they combine elements of both traditional “push” marketing (where you control the message) and “pull” marketing (where we offer information on non-corporate sites and we  listen to and monitor the discussion around us).  The example shown in the above illustration is based on a real marketing blueprint being executed today by a local hi-tech company.

There’s more to the story, of course.  But this gives you a flavor on how and where social media is being used to complement traditional outbound marketing activities.   How will all this play out?  I’ll let you know when the campaign concludes in November!

How are you using social media?  I’d love to hear your stories.