As to my background and credentials as editor of this publication: I began my career as a sports journalist, where I worked closely with Sports Illustrated, and later as a reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer and as Weekend Night Sports Editor for the Cincinnati Post. I moved on to work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Union Central Life, then one of the top 50 insurance companies in the US. My next stint was as a Marketing Manager for KDI Corporation, a high-tech A&D conglomerate. From there I served for a couple of years as a writer and account executive at a promotion agency, working for Champion Spark Plugs, Owens-Corning and Jeep. I did a stint as editor of an international trade magazine and then made the jump to marketing management at a chemical company, and later at NuTone, a manufacturer of home building products. That’s when I made the big jump, opening a sales promotion agency with partners Richard Blumberg and Barron Krody. Over the next two decades we built the agency up to one of the 50 largest in the US, serving Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Florida Power & Light, 3M, Imation, Quaker State, Pillsbury, St. Paul Insurance, among others. I sold the agency to join Cincom Systems — the oldest software company still in existence — where I worked with a phenomenal group of marketers as Marketing Director for Manufacturing Customer Strategies and to manage marketing programs with Microsoft Dynamics, our primary business partner . I retired from Cincom at the end of 2015 to put renewed focus on this online magazine.

The axiom for changing the customer conversation

Conversations can be a lot like watching a game of soccer. Players on two teams run back and forth until someone finally scores. If you do not know the rules and the strategy, the game looks confusing and with no apparent rationale. Just a lot of running around.

When we are in a conversation with a segment of customers, we send messages out. Some break through and cause a response; others just ricochet into oblivion. Such conversations appear to be a lot of running around with no strategy to guide it in a purposeful direction.

A customer calls your customer service line and gets one answer and they go on your website and get an entirely different answer. You send them a statement that is confusing so they call your sales rep. He can’t help because he’s never seen the statement. The whole thing seems like an unmanageable, quagmire. Mostly when you talk to them, you hear nothing back. Sheer frustration.

It can be confusing until you understand one essential axiom for changing the conversation. The customer must do one of three things whenever you contact her.

Knowing this axiom gives you a means of managing the conversation.

  1. The customer can say “yes” and respond back to you.
  2. The customer can say “maybe” and send back an ambiguous response.
  3. The customer can say “no” and ignore the fact that you were even talking with her.

There’s great power in knowing this.

When you send an outbound message, the customer can only do one of three things. The customer must choose. Once chosen, you can then respond back with a pre-planned next step. This then, is the molecular structure for each conversation and it provides a pathway to a manageable process. No matter how the customer responds, you are ready to keep the longitudinal conversation going.

5 Steps to Operational Excellence; The Cornerstone to Customer Experience

Too much time spent around the water cooler talking about the boss?

A Franklin Covey Survey [1] confirms that most organizations suffer from major “execution gaps” that undermine the achievement of their highest priorities.

Overall, U.S. workers gave their organizations a score of 51 out of 100 for their collective lack of focus on and execution of truly important goals.

These execution gaps result from a combination of factors, including a lack of focus on key goals and a surprising lack of mutual accountability and follow-through.

For example, only 30% of workers plan with their workgroup how to support each other in agreed-upon goals and tasks, and just 19% say their organization helps them meet its most important goals by removing barriers.

Only 28% of U.S. workers say they decide with their manager what they need to do to achieve important goals, and just 46% hold each other accountable for doing what they commit to do.

1. Clarify the top goals of the organization. There is no more important activity than for leaders to establish clear, key goals and then communicate those goals to all levels of their organization. The reality is, most leaders haven’t clearly defined their top goals, have too many, haven’t prioritized them, and haven’t communicated their goals effectively when the front-line workers are clearly not aligned with them.

2. Translate top organizational goals into action. For organizations to be successful, workers at all levels must clearly see how their work aligns with the top goals. Great strategies that don’t include detailed tasks for the front-line workers are doomed to fail. As Peter Drucker said,“All good strategy eventually degenerates into work.”

3. Ensure buy-in and commitment to the top goals. Involving people in the formulation of the goals not only creates better goals, but also creates buy-in and commitment. Having people’s backs and hands in their work is fine, but having their hearts and minds passionately involved is where the real leverage lies.

4. Follow-through with discipline. It’s shocking how much time workers spend on things that are superficially important and urgent—needless interruptions by other people on minor issues, reports no one reads, unscheduled and unproductive meetings, or low-priority e-mail and voicemail messages. Every day people should think through their priorities, determine where they can contribute most, build a plan around their priorities, and then have the discipline to stick with their plan. The simple acts of individual workers and workgroup planning and coordination on a weekly and daily basis could solve many complex organizational problems.

5. Encourage workers to execute on top priorities together. Workers today spend far too much time in unproductive activities, such as infighting, politicking, and covering up. All of this is done because there is a lack of trust. Nothing works as fast as the speed of trust. When workers are committed to a common cause, they feel like they can contribute and trust the basic character and competence of one another. Then, true synergy takes place, leading to extraordinary results.

Lead Generation Calls for the Whole Iceberg; Not just the Tip

Any of us in marketing know how the proliferation of broadband and social media, and a whole host of other marketplace and cultural changes have dramatically altered how growing business is harder and harder. A one-medium campaign not likely to be successful. MarketingSherpa data indicates that buyers now find sellers 80% of the time. Buyers enter vendor searches in non-traditional media and sellers frequently do not even know that a particular company is looking for a solution that they provide.

30 years ago, the agency I once ran figured out that the  main reason marketing was getting 2% response rates was timing. The buyer was not yet in the market. If you are not in the market for a product, you will pay very little attention to the marketing. That is when we started using databases to keep track of prospects with longitudinal campaigns that nurtured the relationship until it was time to buy. The results for our clients jumped up dramatically.

Today, it is even more complicated. One medium campaigns now have to include multiple media. Every channel we use adds to the cost, even if only incrementally. But the companies who work the system are getting results. Design a differentiated, valued customer experience … a brand promise based on the value delivered to the customer is the first step of building an experience that pays off in generating loyal customers.

A survey by Rubicon Marketing Group cites that multi-media lead generation pays off.

  • 18% more revenue
  • 9.3% higher level of quota achievement for sales executives
  • 7% higher win rates
  • Nearly double the size of the deal closed

The “New Marketing” as I have posted on before, has become “Content Marketing” — it is through educational content that marketing contributes to the customer experience. In reality, marketing has become a publishing business. The reason is quite simple: all these new media demand content like a hungry lion hiding in the tall grass. Feed the beast or it will come out of the grass and get you.

Writers, story tellers have never been in more demand.

Graphic design has never been more important.

It is a great time to be a marketing strategist, writer or designer. Mastering these crafts is challenging, but great fun!