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Unique Selling Propositions Are a Myth

September 8, 2014

My friend Sam was recently turfed out of his cushy corporate job and is currently spending his days taking unemployment lessons at an outplacement firm. Inspired by the session on entrepreneurship, he’s decided to start up a lawn care company and called me for help with his homework. “I need a unique selling proposition”, he said. “Why?” I said. “It’s the second box on page three”, he replied. “I mean, why do you need a USP?” He didn’t know and neither did I.

We talked through how his company was going to be unique: were they cutting the grass with scissors? No. Deploying sheep? No. Mowing naked? Certainly not. “I  sort of think I would like really unique trucks. You know, the kind that stand out so people notice them”, Sam offered.  “Are you planning on giving a brightly coloured truck to each customer? Because if you aren’t, it’s not really a selling proposition, it’s a branding element,” I suggested. We poured more wine. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Hidden Costs of Content Marketing

September 2, 2014

Hey kids, want to shoot your leads right to the bottom of the funnel just like that? Tired of whiny sales people who don’t know how to close? And what about the mess and expense of those darn client events? Well put that behind you and mix up a big ol’ batch of content batter. But wait, there’s more. If you order today we’ll throw in the Infographic-a-matic for free. That’s right, for free. Why, that’s a $27 saving just for ordering your Easy Bake Content Machine today.

Just in case you are thinking the Slap Chop folks are moving in on your sweet B2B gig, this notion of the content machine isn’t new. Marketo, Hubspot and Eloqua have been making noises about them for years. The idea is pretty compelling. If we accept that content is key to marketing and sales, and we want to sell lots and lots of stuff then it follows that we need lots and lots of content, and a quick, cost-effective way to crank it out like Play-Doh through a star-shaped extruder. There is no shortage of people like me and companies like those willing to take your money in exchange for a bunch of words and some pretty pictures. Some of it will probably be pretty darn good, much of it will look like it was baked with a 40-watt bulb. Read the rest of this entry »

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Six Great (and brief) B2B Reads for Labour Day

August 25, 2014

At some point this week, a few parents will discover the remains of the final school lunch from last June deep in the bottom of a backpack. They will also find an invitation to a birthday party on July 31st, four socks they’ve never seen before and a handful of gravel.  Thus begins another academic year. To get you started, or to give you a wee break from the backpack archaeology, I offer the following:

Fixing Broken Stuff including Your Creativity
If you haven’t been following MIX (Management Innovation Exchange) it’s time, even if you don’t quite get the acronym. This is a wonderful project dedicated to removing BS and making management actually do stuff that matters. This blog post by Jeff DeGraff  is one I have come back to a few times since it was published last year. Partly because it is a bit too long for my limited attention span and also because it requires thinking about. If Become Creative Genius is one of your performance objectives for this year, or if you think it might be a fun thing to try, here is where to start. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Revenge of the Content Monster

August 11, 2014

I think it is fair to say that marketers have unleashed some pretty horrible things on the world over the years. New Coke, plug-in air fresheners, negative option billing, scent strips, greeting cards that make noise and those little family icons on the backs of cars come immediately to mind.

It’s time, I believe, we added content to that list. Content is a monster. It wasn’t always a monster; it was once upon a time a peaceful and useful part of the marketing arsenal. It closed deals, it explained complicated things, it educated, it built credibility. Sure, it killed a few trees, but it kept the writers and the designers off the streets, and placated the P-CubersRead the rest of this entry »

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Your Customers Want to Talk to You

July 23, 2014

Last week we looked at the Customer Service Theatre that follows a hyper-vigilant Seal Team Six intervention on social media. This week, we should look at the much more pernicious problem of Customer Hide and Seek.

We all know this game because we all play this game. It goes something like this: I have a question/problem/complaint and I would like to share that with the company that sold me the product. So I’m going to visit the website. And I’m going to look for an email or a toll-free number.

If you are like most companies, you will fail to provide that information. So I will either go rooting around on your Investor Relations page to find a contact email, or I will head to social media and try to get Seal Team Six to respond. Read the rest of this entry »

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There Are No Emergencies in Marketing

July 17, 2014

Joan is frequently late for lunch, which has a fair bit to do with her busy job managing social media for a large bank.  There are a lot of urgent things in social media. On a recent day, she huffed into the room looking more frazzled than usual. “Sorry, had a Code Red on Twitter,” she said.

It would seem that a customer had tweeted that she liked the food at a recent commercial banking customer event.  Well we certainly can’t be having that. “What did you do? Call in her line of credit? Take back the swell calendar you sent her?”, I asked.  It turns out the urgent thing was the bit of the tweet where she noted the room was stuffy.

“Stuffy is a very emotionally charged word,” Joan explained. Not really, but it was ambiguous enough to deploy Seal Team Six. Every company has one. In the case of marketing’s urgent things they involve the usual Hand-wringers (lawyers, corporate communications, human resources), a collection of consultants and a project manager to write things down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Should You Centralize or Decentralize Your B2B Marketing? Yes You Should.

July 2, 2014
This was originally published on February 12th, 2014 on the Canadian Marketing Association blog. That’s why it seems so familiar.

As the local marketer at the far end of this well-meant scheme I invested countless hours figuring out how to get around the stuff I didn’t like and how to get someone else to pay for the bits that were helpful. I’m sure that wasn’t what my corporate overlords had in mind, but that is the sad reality of a highly centralized marketing structure. Read the rest of this entry »

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