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As a leader, where are you going? Who are you taking there?

20 Oct

Update:  I thought I’d dust off, update and share a previously unpublished article I wrote on Leadership Positioning … you can download it as a convenient PDF file here. Let me know what you think. Thanks!



Invest In the Upswing #4

People buy from leaders. It’s natural. Whether you’re buying for yourself, or for your business, you want to some kind of validation that you’re choice is one that others will approve of, or the trendsetter that puts you out in front.

It’s pretty common for executives to look around at aggressive goals or sluggish sales (or >gulp< both) and determine that the company needs to be seen as a leader. And then they look at marketing.

Now, it’s easy to challenge the desire to be seen as a leader with a challenge: What are you doing to act like a leader? It’s often a legitimate challenge: For many companies, having a better product may just be enough; others want to be seen as leaders, but do little actual leading.

But a more important, and useful, question is this:

Who do you want to lead? And where do you want to lead them?

The answer take can take you directly to strategies that position you as the leader you want to be.
For example, if you’re in technology, do you want to lead your industry toward open standards, or toward greater interoperability?

Or do you want to lead your customers toward greater success, serving as a ‘community organizer’ among like-minded users, and an advocate for their cause?

Or do you want to lead your target customer toward more fun, more hipness, more coolness … toward a greater sense of individuality, or belonging?

And consider … if your customer finds an advocate, innovator and a leader during a down market, where will they turn when they’re ready to invest in the upswing?


“Recession Proof” SEO Tips

15 Oct

Invest in the Upswing #3

A post at the Top Rank Marketing blog that’s worth a read.  The emphasis here is on tactics for promoting the content you publish online.  Use blogs, media relations, social media participation with search engine optimization to bring your content to people, and people to your content.


Marketing as Journalism

15 Oct

Invest in the Upswing #2

When I talk to clients about managing communications and marketing planning, I like to have them imagine those old movies about TV networks, where executives sit in their fancy offices adding and erasing programs from the big schedule board. The point:  every day, every week, every month, you need to decide how marketing will facilitate interaction with the market — online, offline, in social media, with bloggers, with professional reporters, at trade shows, on the website. As many have remarked, the newsroom model is a good place to start.  Every day, the news organization must determine its top stories, and how it’s going to tell those stories.

Albert Maruggi does a nice nine-minute podcast this morning with new media PR guru David Meerman Scott about viewing your marketing department as a newsroom.  It’s worth a listen.  Maruggi says that (transcribed as accurately as I could), “marketing as a mouthpiece for all that is good within a company is being viewed cynically.” Instead, he says, “look at trends in an industry and where your company fits in that trend line …news within a company and how it impacts trends and social communities.”

Meerman Scott cites the idea some have called “brand journalism,” noting that where the traditional advertising and direct marketing model interrupts its audience, the future is in publishing “information, multimedia…that your audience wants to consume.”

Organizations looking to invest in the upswing can look to this model as a place to start.  Rather than creating new advertising to build mass awareness, consider find out where the conversations are happening today – Facebook, MySpace, online forums, media websites, blogs – see if there’s a contribution you can make.  Invest in content — video, audio, photos, articles, speeches, news — that engages your market online.

Marketing in a Downturn: Invest in the Upswing

14 Oct

My son just finished ‘book the 13th’ of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Figuring I’ll never have time to continue past the few chapters I’ve skimmed, I asked him how it ended … did our fair Baudelaire children get a “happily ever after” ending after all?

He wouldn’t tell me directly, but he did describe a Lemony Snicket-ish metaphor from the books. He said that the story is like peeling back the layers of an onion. The more you peel, the more you cry.

Which brings us to the financial crisis.

Maybe you’ve read about this, but it bears repeating…here’s how I understand what’s happening:

  • Mortgages are defaulting, causing anything mortgage backed to default as well.
  • Banks now doubt each others’ credit, and won’t lend to each other.
  • Banks, in turn, are less likely to lend to businesses – and when they do, it will be at a higher cost.
  • Many businesses will postpone or cancel technology upgrades, equipment purchases, and expansion, freeze hiring and salaries, and reduce headcount.
  • Consumers will face job loss and lower wages.

Business-to-business concerns will find their customers cutting back orders. Marketers of high value, complex purchases like technology will be faced with longer sales cycles.

A slideshow by blue-chip venture capital firm Sequoia Capital is getting a lot of attention right now. Their advice tech startup executives: batten down the edges. Cut to the bone. Focus on revenue. Pay reps on their sales. Measure your marketing and only do what works.

During the tech bust starting in 2001, you saw a lot of this. From my standpoint, marketing and PR agency budgets were slashed or dropped altogether – even by large companies with stable revenue.

Decent advice. But as you do this, I’d like to suggest alternate point of view: Invest in the upswing.

What if, instead of across-the-board cuts, you took the downturn as an opportunity to reshape, refine and streamline your communications and marketing for the turnaround? There is no magic message or marketing trick to loosen corporate purse strings. Instead, position yourself to be the one they turn to when they’re ready. You could:

1) Revisit the message – Is the story you tell today getting you closer to the sale? Is it getting you there fast enough?

2) Reshape the strategy – Is your marketing built around what influences your prospects? Cut the marketing communications vehicles that are running fumes. Fix those that aren’t working like they should – is it time to incorporate social media into your website so your fans can share what you have to sell? Focus on reaching prospects where they are – through the web, via the media and in their communities both online and off.

3) Invest in relationships that matter – Every market is a community. Are you engaged? If you “go dark” in PR and marketing, will key consultants, editors, analysts, gurus reporters and influencers remember you when you return? Participate in communities, network with influencers, contribute to discussions through speeches, blogs and articles.

I’d like to start a conversation here if I can. I’m going to spend the next few weeks writing about marketing during the downturn – what’s going to work, what’s not going to work, what companies are doing well and not so well today. And I’d love to share your stories – post them here or email me at

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