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Hitting the Books: 6 Resources To Keep Your Marketing Skills Fresh

The season may not be over quite yet (it’s still sweltering  where I live), but for all intents and purposes, Summer is over, and it’s time to hit the books again.  All over the country kids and college students are headed back to school. Even my wife has signed up for a couple of courses.  I can’t help but be a little jealous.  I really enjoyed school – the wide range of topics, the chance to learn something new, the variety of instructors and classmates. The day-to-day grind just doesn’t provide that same kind opportunity for learning and growth.

That said, part of a marketer’s job has to include learning and growth.  The tools and trends in marketing continue to change and evolve at a dizzying pace.  How do you keep up with it all?  I have some favorite resources I turn to regularly for information, education, and marketing inspiration.

  1. Seth Godin – this marketing guru has written more than a few books on marketing and writes a marketing blog on which he has posted every day for at least the past 7 YEARS. Definitely worth a follow.
  2. – research, insight, and intelligence. Lots of useful and interesting information for marketers.
  3. MediaPost – a wealth of articles and opinion on online, email, mobile, social, search, and TV media and marketing.
  4. – Adobe’s site dedicated to providing info and expertise to senior marketing leaders.
  5. MarketingProfs – includes articles, reports, tutorials, tools, and more for marketers.
  6. Advertising Age – creativity, opinion, data and more on the latest in fields of marketing and advertising.

So where do you turn when you need to hit the marketing books?


Go Big or Go Home

If you look back through history, there are plenty of momentous occasions of greatness that were achieved in the month of August.  Just to name a few: in 1908 the first massed produced car (the Ford Model T) went on sale, in 1919 daily flights between London and Paris began commencing the first international air service, and in 1960 the first communications satellite (Echo 1) was launched from Cape Canaveral.  Of course there have been greater achievements than these throughout history and even recently, but nevertheless these are pretty big deals. And I’m sure there were many at the times these achievements occurred that never believed such things were possible.  I mean, humans had gone thousands of years of just using the ground and water as their means of transportation and without any hint of motors or the complex machinery that now gets us from point A to point B. And what about communication? In 1960 could people even imagine the means and ease of communication we have just in the palm of our hands?

My point to all of this is, it’s ok to dream big and, even more importantly, to act on those dreams.

Go big or go home, right?

Sure, there may be, and there probably will be, naysayers along the way, but don’t let that stop you, even if, so far, you’ve been the naysayer.

Thomas A Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Could you imagine how different our lives would be if people like Edison and Ford or the Wright brothers would have given up? We all know their inventions failed more times than they succeeded, but unlike so many of us, they didn’t give up.

Sure, not many of us will ever achieve the kind of publicly lauded greatness of those mentioned above, but we can all achieve greatness. We can all try one more time and when that doesn’t work, we can try again and again.

So what are some of your dreams that you are willing to try one more time to accomplish?

Let’s Talk About Baseball

With baseball season in full swing, I thought it would be fitting to reiterate some advice from one of the legends of the sport; and there was no one better, in my opinion, for the task than the “Great Bambino” or maybe you like the “Sultan of Swat”. Either way, Babe Ruth was a pretty smart guy or, at the very least, inspirational.

Let’s start with, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Hopefully the person you are competing with most frequently, or always, is yourself. And hopefully you aren’t beating yourself up, but just trying to be a little better every day. But not giving up is the first step. One of the greatest attributes of the most successful was not the lack of obstacles, but their tenacity to overcome them.

Next in the lineup is, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” This, of course, just goes right along with the first quote. If you want to hit a home run, you’ve got to keep on showing up to the plate. It’s important to realize that even the greatest players strike out and maybe they even strike out more because they listened to the first quote of never giving up or maybe the third one.

Which brings us to my favorite, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Fear is a vital response. It can keep us safe from real threats, but most of the time it keeps us from what we perceive to be threats or possible unpleasant situations. But let’s be honest with ourselves, fear can also keep us from a lot of terrific things. Sure, we may have to strike out a few, or several, times before we even make it on base or cross home plate, but it’s better than just sitting in the dugout and watching everyone else play the game. Again, it’s not that successful people aren’t afraid. They, like everyone else, shake in their boots once in a while, but they know the best way to get past fear is to confront it.

So step up to the plate.

And, by the way, go Rockies!

3 Ways to Enjoy Summer (Work)Days

Growing up there was almost nothing more exciting than the last day of school and the anticipation of endless summer days.  Summer meant freedom. I can remember riding bikes with my brother and cousins all over the small town we lived in. On particularly windy days the 2-mile ride back to our house on the outskirts of town was slow and painful, but the freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted was worth it.  And it was needed. Summer vacation provided a necessary break from the daily school routine as well as time and space to get motivated for the next school year.

When you are all grown up summer days are a lot more like every other day.  But with kids of my own, I still see their excitement and enjoyment at the freedom they have to do what they want when they want, and it rubs off on me.  I find myself with more desire to be outdoors, to play, to let loose a little more.

And I think that is a good thing.  As a professional creative, I need to stay inspired and motivated, and sitting at a desk all day is not the most conducive environment for that.  So here are 3 ways to get more inspiration – and enjoyment – out of your summer (work)days.

  1. Ride a bike! Live close enough to the office?  Try riding to work. If you are not close enough, bring your bike and take a ride at lunch.  Or take a day off and hit the trails.  It’s good exercise and a great way to see the world from a different perspective.
  2. Take a walk! Maybe biking is not your cup of tea, but getting outdoors in any fashion is a wonderful way to break up the day.  Fast or slow, close or far, just get out and move around.  Get away from that computer screen and see what’s around you.
  3. Look to others!  Sometimes you simply cannot get out, and that is not the only way to get inspired.  There are countless individuals out there doing amazing things and sharing them online.  In the creative world in particular, here are a few of my current favorites:
  • Colossal: A site devoted to art, design, photography, video, music, even science gets in there sometimes. If you have never been to this site, then stop reading this and go now.
  • DANGERDUST: this anonymous duo takes inspirational quotes and turns them into exquisite designs using chalk and a chalkboard.
  • The Art of Non-Conformity: Chris Guillebeau visited every country in the world (literally). Careful – he might inspire you to quit your job.

What are your favorite summer memories, and where do you get inspiration?

BONUS:  Music! Music is a huge inspiration when I am working, so here is a summer-themed playlist for your listening pleasure.

Aim High and Over-deliver

Have you ever quoted a job but found when you actually got into the work that you had significantly underestimated?  That can be a painful predicament (and do it too often and you’ll put yourself out of business!)  You might be tempted to go back on your quote, or worse – take shortcuts or skimp on the work.  It may lead you to adopt the mindset to always under-promise to ensure you don’t get in over your head again.

I prefer to aim high.  Promise as much as you can and then give a little bit more.  It takes extra effort and sacrifice to get it done right, but it provides a great opportunity to deliver on your promise.  That will build trust.  Trust is the most valuable currency you can acquire these days, and there is no better way to build trust than by delivering on your word.  Even better – over-deliver.  Give more.  Do more.  Surprise and delight your customer.  Give them a reason to brag about you to their friends.  Sometimes you will fall short, but you will come out a winner in the end.


“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” -Vince Lombardi

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” -Lyndon B. Johnson 

“No matter if you win or lose, the most important thing in life is to enjoy what you have.” -Dong Dong

“Win or lose, do it fairly.” -Knute Rockne

The above quotes seemed fitting as we are in the middle of World Cup frenzy and let’s not forget Wimbledon and of course our own rat races. The real question is, though, does winning really matter? For me, I think it’s situational and for so much of life, there’s no clear win or lose scenario.

Take your job for instance. What are you winning? Hopefully a paycheck, but beyond that, what else? A promotion, perhaps? Or do you just consider yourself a winner when you bite your tongue or grin and bear it? Or maybe you consider yourself a winner because of the experience and skills you are gaining.

What about your personal life? What does winning mean there? Is it finding your soul mate? Or perhaps losing weight? Or maybe that you just were able to put one foot in front of the other and breathe?

I’m sure at different times in your life, what it means to win changes significantly based on situation and circumstance. Perhaps it would be best to take a step back and look at the current state of our lives, whether personal or business or both, and look at the whole situation before we judge whether we are winning or losing.

And if all else fails- “Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.” -Imelda Marcos

Triple Crown

It’s that time of year again. I’m not talking about summer, even though that is fabulous news, especially considering the brutal winter most of us experienced. No, I’m talking about horse racing. Yep, a week from this Saturday will be the final leg of the Triple Crown Series, The Belmont Stakes. What makes it even more exciting this year is that California Chrome has won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and is favored to win The Belmont Stakes, and thus the Triple Crown. It has been thirty six years since Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner, took that honor. There have been eleven other horses since then that have won the first two races but failed at Belmont.

I find it interesting that in all the articles I’ve read about the race, they don’t mention any of the previous eleven contenders by name. And if California Chrome loses, he will just become the twelfth, no name, just a number. I get that it would be probably a waste of time and space to name each of the previous contenders, but it’s kind of sad that though they won two great races, they are unworthy of mention by name because they failed in that third and final race.

As people, that’s how we think though. We are only as good as our last race or perhaps our last accomplishment. That would be really depressing if that were true. Just like in horse racing, there are many factors at play other than our skills and abilities. Many horse racing experts are saying if California Chrome doesn’t win, it will be because he was unlucky. He currently outshines his competition and if he runs like he has the ability to, he will win. But if he loses, he will rarely be mentioned as a double stakes winner, he will be known as the twelfth loser that has come up short since 1978.

Believe me, I’m all for being a winner whenever possible, but sometimes there are factors out of our control and it doesn’t mean we’re losers just because we can’t win every race. Case in point, my daughter who was a straight A student in high school just finished her freshman year at one of the most difficult and prestigious universities in the nation. She felt like a failure for the straight B’s she brought home, where her dad and I couldn’t have been prouder of her. She did her best and she gained not only knowledge, but experience that will be valuable to her as she continues her education and as she makes her way through life.

So, best wishes to California Chrome and congratulations on your Double Stakes win. And just for fun, here is a list of those eleven previous Double Stakes winners since 1978.

  • Spectacular Bid
  • Pleasant Colony
  • Alysheba
  • Sunday Silence
  • Silver Charm
  • Real Quiet
  • Charismatic
  • War Emblem
  • Funny Cide
  • Smarty Jones
  • Big Brown

Why do you race?

May is a month of races.  Horse races (two thirds of the Triple Crown happened this month – go California Chrome!), car races (the 98th Indianapolis 500 took place over Memorial Day weekend with an American winning for the first time since 2006), and running races.  The 35th annual Cotton Row Run took place this week right here in Huntsville, and I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the 10K race.

Did I win? Nope. Did I have a chance? Not even close.  It was humid, it was crowded, at times it was painful, and in the end I lost not only to all the pro runners that came but also to an 8-year-old girl. So why race?

The race was not with the 8-year-old or anyone else in the crowd.  The race was with myself.

I ran my first 10K in May 2013. I trained for that race for 4 months and ended up with my fastest recorded time for that distance and 1st place in my age group.  When I ran my next 10K in August that year, it was a bigger race, I had not trained as well, it was a hotter day, and I ran significantly slower (and subsequently did not place).  But did I give up racing? No way!  It took a little longer to get ready for the next one, but this week I ran in my third 10K.  I still am not back to the speed of that first race, but I accomplished my goal for this race: to beat my last 10K time and leave it all on the course.  Mission accomplished!

With customers I think a similar mindset is helpful.  Yes, you have to compete with others out there vying for your customers’ and potential customers’ business the same as you are.  The great advantage you have with your customers is just that: they are already your customers.  They have already picked you. So in the race to keep your current customers, the goal is less about beating out the competition as it is about beating yourself – giving more than you gave last time, offering a better deal, a better rate, better service; in short, delivering an experience/product/service as good as or better than you did previously.  With that kind of attitude and effort you are bound to win in the end!

So why do you race?

Finding Your Target Audience

It is easy to understand that when you make the right offer to the right person at the right time, you’re going to get a sale—and thus it stands to reason that if you can avoid making an offer to the wrong person or at the wrong time, you will save effort and money. This is why effective targeting is the holy grail of marketing.

But there are many marketers who have not been convinced of the power of targeting, mostly because they haven’t seen it done effectively.

Effective targeting is much like anything else in life: you get out of it what you put into it. There are easy ways to target, but they are almost always much less effective. Proper targeting takes effort and often money as well.

If you have a brick and mortar presence as a part of your product offering, then the first thing you should consider is where people live in relation to your locations. Even if you already have a relationship with the individual, their proximity to your establishment should be a factor in any marketing messages you present to them—no matter which channel. To do this, you will need their address. With this you can get a distance calculation. Some are comfortable getting a straight line distance, one that tells you how far they live from your nearest location, as the crow flies. Often this is enough. However, for some, getting a driving distance can actually make a difference. The driving distance may be miles further than a straight line distance would indicate.

Then you need to know your products and the people who buy them. Will your given product appeal best to a younger audience or an older one? The easy way is to make this decision yourself, but if it’s a product you’ve had for a while, or comparable to one you’ve had for a while, then if you have age information on your customers, you can do a deeper analysis and either confirm or reject your gut based determination. Using additional demographic information such as educational level, income level, household makeup (married, single, children present, etc.) and others can fine tune your demographic based targeting.

Another method you can use to find your target audience is to look at the products they’ve bought in the past. Doing an analysis of all your purchasers and all of their products can give you a “people who bought this also bought that”. Look for people who have similar purchase histories but are missing the product you’re looking to market, and market it to them.

And last, but not least, sometimes it’s best to ask them what they’d be interested in. Ask them a question, perhaps through an online interaction or perhaps a full-fledged survey. Find out which products they’re interested in now and which they may be interested in in the near future. Tailor your marketing, and the timing, based on their responses.

Finding your target audience takes effort and money, but in the end, it will help you gain more business and more loyalty. Effective targeting really is a gold mine—at least for those with the courage and initiative to grasp it.

Nice guys finish last? I don’t think so!

At least not according to data compiled by AYTM Market Research.  According to a recent article by eMarketer, AYTM’s report shows that over 52% of internet users prefer small businesses to large companies because of “Personal Service”.  Additional surveys by and Toluna done last August found that the top three most important factors consumers consider when choosing small businesses are: 1) customer service, customer-focused (86%), 2) personal, intimate, human, face-to-face (84%), and 3) knows customers and their needs (84%).   Not surprisingly, 84% of US consumers associate customer service and customer-focus with small businesses.  The eMarketer article also notes that “61.2% of respondents [to the AYTM study] said they would pay higher prices to support small businesses.”

All of those numbers can make a great case for small business, but that is a post for another time.  My take away is this: large business or small, people value superior customer service.  Human beings expect to be treated like human beings, and if you can give them personal and personalized service, they are willing to pay for it.  Give your customers a remarkable experience and they will remark about it…to their family, their friends, their acquaintances, even perfect strangers! Give them a reason to come back and they might just bring the neighborhood with them.

So consider this: if you were receiving the kind of customer service you currently provide to your customers, would you continue doing business with your company?  Would you tell your friends? If you don’t immediately think “Yes!” then something needs to change.  Nice guys finish last?  Not in this connected economy!