Business Inspiration for the New Year

January 5, 2009

As I was catching up on my RSS reading, two posts by Seth Godin and Fred Wilson really caught my attention as inspiration for the New Year.

In the first, Seth Godin posed the question, “Do ads work?” In particular, Seth is asking about digital ads where he feels the mindset of marketers should be “We have an unlimited budget for ads that work.”  In his own words:

Digital ads are different (or they should be). You should know cost per click and revenue per click and be able to make a smart guess about lifetime value of a click. And if that’s positive, buy, buy, buy.  And if you don’t know those things, why are you buying digital ads?

Seth goes on to give the example of Amazon during the Dot Com boom of the late ’90’s.  He says that during this time, the mantra at Amazon was $33. “They would buy unlimited ads, of any kind, as long as they generated new customers for $33 or less each.” Was $33 too high of a number to be sustainable?  Possibly.  But their internal ROI showed that $33 was the magic number and there was unlimited money to buy ads under that figure.

In other words, don’t use the excuse that you don’t have the budget.

Any idea that you have proven will build your sales and share should be invested in…and it should be invested in at the expense of ads that aren’t proven.

In the second thought-provoking post, Fred Wilson talked about creating a great business team in “Putting the Band Back Together.” Fred has noticed that as times get tough, many successful serial entrepreneurs are rejoining people they have worked with in the past.  Or as he puts it, “they are getting the band back together for awhile.”  Fred sees this as an encouraging sign because:

Teams that have worked together successfully before know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and they know how to get along, make hard decisions, and move the ball forward each and every day.

I think this is a brilliant insight and one that most businesses don’t think about often enough.  Think about your own brand team at work.  How long has the most junior person been on the team?  Or how long have the most senior members worked together?  What about your agency?  Have the same people been on the account as long as the Brand Manager or Marketing Director?  I’d be willing to bet that there has been considerable change over on both sides.

I think more brands need to follow the advice of Fred and “get the band back together.” 

If you have a successful brand and agency team, then practice continuity and keep them working together.

Business is a game of teamwork and it takes time to develop good working relationships.  In sports, All Star games are boring because the best players don’t practice together every day.  So when you throw them together, they don’t know how to work together.  Just look at what happened to the USA “Dream Team” in 2002 – 2004 when we lost to teams that had played together for years.

The same thing might be happening to your brand when you change the players every year.

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Seth Godin: The Marketer’s Attitude

November 12, 2008

Seth Godin remains one of my favorite writers.  He was the first “marketer” I ever read and I have promo copies of both Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside sitting on my desk at work.  Needless to say, I’m a big fan.  His latest post was one I had to share in its entirety. The bolds are the parts I liked the most.  I wish more marketers thought this way.

Here’s what I’d want if I were hiring a marketer:

You’re relentlessly positive. You can visualize complex projects and imagine alternative possible outcomes. It’s one thing to talk about thinking outside the box, it’s quite another to have a long history of doing it successfully. You can ride a unicycle, or can read ancient Greek.

Show me that you’ve taken on and completed audacious projects, and run them as the lead, not as a hanger on. I’m interested in whether you’ve become the best in the world at something, and completely unimpressed that you are good at following instructions (playing Little League baseball is worth far less than organizing a non-profit organization).

You have charisma in that you easily engage with strangers and actually enjoy selling ideas to others. You are comfortable with ambiguity, and rarely ask for detail or permission. Test, measure, repeat and go work just fine for you.

You like to tell stories and you’re good at it. You’re good at listening to stories, and using them to change your mind.

I’d prefer to hire someone who is largely self-motivated, who finds satisfaction in reaching self-imposed goals, and is willing to regularly raise the bar on those goals.

You’re intellectually restless. You care enough about new ideas to read plenty of blogs and books, and you’re curious enough about your own ideas that you blog or publish your thoughts for others to react to. You’re an engaging writer and speaker and you can demonstrate how the right visuals can change your story.

And you understand that the system is intertwined, that your actions have side effects and you not only care about them but work to make those side effects good ones.

The cool thing about this list is that it’s not dependent on what you were born with or who you know. Or how much you can lift.

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Why I’m Loving the new LinkedIn Applications

November 3, 2008

I have been a big fan of LinkedIn for a long time.  But its never been one of those social networking sites that I visit every day or spend much time on.  Instead, I would bounce onto the site when I needed to add a new business connection or update my profile.

But that might just change thanks to the new LinkedIn Applications that were launched last week.  While they only have a handful of applications right now, I am already finding them tremendously useful for tapping into information about my business network.  While they have similarities to what you might find on Facebook, the real difference is the type of network you are tapping into.  Each and every application on LinkedIn is extremely relevent to my business network.  Take for instance the following:

SlideShare: If you are regular reader of Hard Knox Life, you know I love presentations.  Now, thanks to the LinkedIn App, I can see when my network posts a new presentation.  Why is this so important?  Despite my heavy use of SlideShare, I don’t follow many people on the site, which means I miss new presentations from friends.  That’s all going to change now.

Reading List by Amazon: I’m a big reader and I’m always looking for recommendations from friends.  But I’ve found most of the recommendations happen face to face, which means I end up reading what every P&G’er is reading.  Now I can get the opinion of all my friends to see if that new Seth Godin book is worth the time.

My Travel by TripIt: I started using Upcoming a few months ago to track my business travel.  So I was a little disappointed to see TripIt as the travel app on LinkedIn.  But I still see a huge value of being able to see who else might be where I’m traveling, especially since the new job means my travel will be increasing quite a bit.  We’ll see if TripIt wins me over.

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Godin – why bother having a resume?

March 18, 2008

Catching up on my RSS reading after the weekend in Chicago and I came across a pretty interesting posting that Seth Godin made about resumes.  In typical Godin fashion, he makes the thought-provoking statement “you probably shouldn’t have a resume at all.”  Of course, what Seth was really stating is that if you are “remarkable, amazing, or just plain spectacular” you shouldn’t need a resume.  In other words, if you have the skills, your actions and reputation are going to speak louder than any words you can put on paper.

 Frankly I think Godin is dead on with this one and it applies to professionals at all levels of their career.  When you are a newly minted college grad, your resume isnt going to say much.  Sure it will show your school and the activities you were involved with but any job application is probably going to show those as well.  A resume will not show the skills that are most important for new graduates, especially those skills that will help a recent grad excel in the new world of marketing.  It won’t show your passion, it wont show your ability to connect dots, and it probably wont show your power of agility in a constantly changing world.  Likewise is you are a professional with 5, 10 or 15 years experience, your reputation is hopefully more powerful than your resume.  If you are a rock-star, then there should be plenty of people out there willing to vouch for you and your abilities.  And your reputation has likely been cemented because of the public face your put forward on your blog or other forum.  After all, great talent doesnt stay in the box that is outlined for them.

Controversial thinking for sure but the man has a point.