For years, I observed with great internal humor co-workers attempting to be more than they really were. In a Fortune 100 corporate environment, that's not too surprising as everyone seems to be vying for position and using every political maneuver known to man to make their special mark. What humored me was to watch well-educated, talented and skilled people take on the persona of something they were not.

As in many big corporations, executive management level personnel like to wear the standard issue navy blazer when it comes time for client meetings, internal departmental meetings, special events, etc. This became increasingly popular when the casual attire rules became wide spread and ties were no longer required. We've all seen them. Executive VP's would drop in from corporate headquarters adorned in their special navy blazer to check on the worker bees.

Why? Well, you have to set yourself apart somehow to demonstrate your authority over others. I guess a title and hefty salary aren't enough.

The sad truth to this is that those who thought they were executives did the same thing - wearing the navy jacket to meetings. It seemed that if you had anyone that worked under you, then you must put on the special coat. Not everyone played this game - including myself.

Part of this story works - setting yourself apart in business from competitors is a must. You certainly want to distinguish your services, solutions, products, people, etc. from all the rest.

However, it is the other half of the story that can bite you on the backside. If in your attempts to be singled out or distinguished means looking like everyone else or doing what others are already doing, you haven't accomplished anything.

That's what happened with the navy jacket scenario - the wanna-be's wore them too which degraded the purpose of the coat. I even had a colleague who was new to the company, asked me about the jacket situation, then decided to wear one himself to a group meeting - as a joke. Turns out that none of our executive management members wore theirs! Purpose defeated.

And that's the point - have purpose to your efforts to stand out. Create value distinctives that are unique to your business. Develop a company snapshot that no one else can claim. Plan to succeed with a strategic roadmap that specifies where you need to focus your marketing efforts. Be creative, noticeable and attractive to your intended market. Leave the navy jacket at home.

It's been said that 'strategy is everything'. There are certainly good arguments to support that statement especially those that pertain to your business.

Most people wouldn't dream of taking a road trip without a map. But many businesses feel they can 'fly by the seat of their pants' and do just fine. No plan, no map, no strategy and no real direction. Where does that usually take you? In most cases, the land of frustration which is full of shattered dreams, missed opportunities and plenty of headaches.

Your remedy? A well defined plan. If you are expecting great results from your business efforts, you have to put a plan in place to indicate where you are going to go. Because your marketing is the primary driver behind your sales efforts, you must put a strategic roadmap in place that defines where you want to go, why you should go there, what opportunities there are, what you can expect to achieve, how you will conquer and who you will win.

Your strategic marketing roadmap becomes the guide that answers the logical who, what, where, when, how and why questions. It includes a schedule, time line, resources required and budget needed to meet that revenue bogey that you established.

Knowing which pathways to take and include within your roadmap are key. And, knowing which 'vehicles' to use is equally important. You'll also want to be certain that your tactics are prioritized and are in logical sequence.

Capture results and measure the effectiveness of your plan. Simply having a plan doesn't guarantee anything. It is how you put your roadmap together, execute and manage it that will determine its effectiveness.

Go out there and enjoy your revenue-seeking travels...and be sure you know where you're headed!

Who doesn't remember the 1979 Coke commercial featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers 'Mean Joe Greene'? Yeah, the one where he guzzles a Coke and in appreciation (instead of a major burp) tosses the kid his game jersey to the line of 'Hey kid, catch'. Oh how this delighted TV viewing audiences for what seemed like forever. The commercial won all kind of awards and is noted as one of the most popular television commercials of all time.

So how successful was this commercial? The creative guys and ad agencies would all quickly thump their chests and proclaim this a heart warming moment where 'football giant makes happiest day of small boy's life.' And in the center of the spotlight is our favorite soft drink brand - Coke. Ahh. How nice. Hey, I'm not knocking it. This remains a fantastic commercial memory.

But did you know Coke jerked that commercial off the air the moment it failed to produce additional sales? They didn't keep it aired just to satisfy consumer fluffiness. No sir. Instead, they took a business approach and determined based on measurement and ROI that the commercial had run its course in driving additional revenue for Coke. Sergio Zyman - then Chief Marketing Officer for Coke - now head of Zyman Group - pulled the plug.

How many of us would have been that bold? How many of us have been guilty of wasteful marketing spending?

Think about that. Unless your marketing dollars - - whether advertising or other - - are tied to new business and additional revenue, it's probably a really good idea to scrutinize what those dollars are accomplishing for you.

Marketing is an investment. And, investments are supposed to yield favorable returns. Mean Joe Greene turned 'softee' in that famous Coke commercial for just a few seconds. In reality, it was the Coca Cola Company who avoided the trap and made the right business decision to move on.

Have you ever attended a trade show that was just absolutely 'over the top'? I still recall a show in Las Vegas several years ago that was undeniably first rate. It was actually a software company's annual conference, but it included numerous exhibitors and some of the normal trade show flair. The event included very well done exhibits, excellent conference sessions, plenty of food, entertainment - the list goes on. They even brought in the famed Doobie Brothers for two free concerts at the Hard Rock Cafe. Can't beat that.

While discussing the event with a colleague after returning from the conference, neither of us could find the right word to describe it. Finally, he nailed it - Galactic! Bigger and almost better than life.

Even though you may not be able to influence your next trade show beyond your company's exhibit, you can make your visitor's experience 'galactic'. Focus on doing everything right from your booth design to those who will be in your booth interacting with visitors.

You may also benefit from engaging the services of a trade show expert like Julia O'Connor. She provides
online trade show training to ensure you maximize your show experience. This takes into account all of the components from pre-show planning to post-show follow-up - - and the all-important in-between tactics that need to be organized, planned and properly executed.

And, ensuring that your exhibit provides an engaging message to show attendees is critical toward your success.
Skyline Exhibits & Design does an excellent job at determining what kind of exhibit is right for your company and then designing that exhibit for your display needs.

Don't cut corners and fail to plan for your trade show marketing. Simply showing up in your booth and watching aisle traffic will result in nothing more than disappointment. You can have a galactic experience with your next trade show if you plan, strategize and execute well. And, you'll be very pleased with the ROI.

More than ever, it seems, marketing has come under the scrutiny of company CFO's who want to know where that ROI exists. They are completely justified in doing so. In the old days, marketers would often hide behind ambiguous things like 'market exposure', 'awareness campaigns', 'brand education', etc. No more. If marketing doesn't help drive revenue opportunities, the ROI is zero.

Just this week, Ginger Colon, Editor-in-Chief at 1to1 Media for the Peppers & Rogers Group, posed the question about how finance and marketing get along and on the same page for addressing money issues - and the all important bottom line.

We participated. You can see our response by visiting the 1to1 blog.

How well does your automobile run without gas? OK, it doesn't - - duh! So, let's say your car doesn't have any gas but you still expect it to provide your transportation needs even though you don't plan to add any gas to it. Hmmm. Crazy, huh?

Well, many businesses do the same thing. When revenue drops, guess what gets cut? You got it - marketing and sales. But wait - - are those not the two very areas that will generate revenue for the business? Then, let's only cut back on marketing. Uh, oh. You just cut off the fuel that is supplying your sales engine. Can you already hear the sputtering noise of a struggling sales team?

"Even worse, marketing and communications are often cut more than other areas. Our work is sometimes perceived as being expendable, rather than recognized as a critical means of generating revenue, raising awareness, etc." - Nancy Schwartz & Company

It's a tough business decision when things are not going according to plan, but to slam the door on your marketing efforts, initiatives and proactive efforts doesn't help. Think back to the dot com days when in 2001, the dot com bust all but killed advertising, trade shows, etc. The smart companies took advantage of this and invested in their marketing. They didn't run and bury their heads in the sand. Vonage is struggling with this very aspect and it seems 'doing anything' to recognize profitability. It will be more than interesting to see how (or if) they recover.

This isn't to suggest you ignore poor business performance and allow the bleeding to continue. Great company leaders understand there are plenty of overhead areas that can be reduced before shutting off their sales fuel. And, making the right adjustments to your sales and marketing efforts during these times will eventually pay off for you. Otherwise, you're going to be expecting the improbable and likely the impossible.

Fuel-up and go get those deals!

As someoneone who has spent many years in numerous marketing roles with small to Fortune-level corporations, I've heard plenty of misconceptions about the terms 'marketing' and 'sales'. Like me, I'm sure you've heard people say they are one in the same. Sometimes the terminology is even interchangeable. For instance, one will say they are looking for an individual who can 'market' their offering when in essence, they are looking for a sales person.

Obviously sales drives the business - how else do we derive revenue? But, a clear distinction between sales and marketing can often help companies understand these roles and make the most of them.

Breaking it down, marketing takes the responsibility of educating potential buyers of your existence in the marketplace. This includes anything that helps create awareness that you are a potential source for a sought after solution. Marketing creates all the tools and support functions to help make sales successful.

Sales builds rapport with prospects by establishing personal relationships, negotiating and finalizing the deal.

Think of of it this way: marketing informs and sales closes.

But, the two work hand-in-hand to persuade prospects that will eventually become customers. The two cannot successfully exist in their own silos. Collaboration is the key.

So, the next time you hear these terms being referenced as one in the same, you'll know that's simply not the case. Properly unified, sales and marketing will drive business growth.

When Zack Johnson landed his tee shot on the 16th green in the third round of the Masters, he was thinking possible birdie; par worse case. Three putts later, the golf professional left with a shocking bogey. Johnson could have made a huge issue out of this mental lapse, but instead he forged ahead.

Then, in the final round, Johnson found himself atop the leaderboard. He had to be thinking 'man, I was just a visitor here a few years ago...now look...' Lurking just a few holes behind him was the number one golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, who is known for snatching victory out of the hands of the lesser knowns. Johnson would have none of that as his steely eyes maintained a constant focus on playing his game.

After slipping on the coveted green jacket, reality set in for Johnson - he had just staged off his competition to win one of the golf's most prestigious events.

In business, we often need to have a focus like Zack Johnson demonstrated in his victory at Augusta. If we lose sight of our objective for a moment, we too, may walk away from a certain opportunity with utter disappointment. It can happen fast and sometimes before we recognize it.

Competitors can be vicious and stealth-like. Take Zack Johnson's example and keep your eye on winning the prize. No doubt, that green jacket must have felt great.

Like many of you, I've been amazed to watch customer service drop to all time low levels over the past 20 years. Back in the day when I was bagging groceries to cover my expenses, we were taught that the customer is always right. Always? Yep. Don't question it. Try that today. In fact, it's nearly the opposite where businesses somehow think they are right - no matter what.

Have businesses forgotten where their revenues come from? Here's a hint: the customer. OK, that was a big hint. But, walk into a retail establishment and it seems half the time one is left feeling they were a bother to the employees of the business. How dare a willing spender of cash think for a second that they are to be dealt with in a respectful, friendly and courteous manner!

And it isn't limited to the consumer market. Nope. Many corporations struggle with delivering meaningful exchanges with clients - that is, paying clients. It is amazing that one has to really dig around and look under a few layers before finding a business that really seems to care about their customers.

Could this be why so many businesses fail? Is the customer, in fact, always right? They may not be, but ignoring or mistreating them will surely cost you. Simply making them feel like they are always right will score points for your business.


Patty Seybold does a masterful job addressing this very issue in her book The Customer Revolution. Visit her blog for discussion points around creating great customer experiences, measure customer value and more.



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