Let’s Hear It for Failure!

There’s a story from the early days of IBM and its legendary CEO and founder, Tom Watson, which offers an instructive lesson about failure.  According to company accounts, one of the senior vice-presidents made a mistake in his department that cost the company a huge amount of money.  When the summons came for a meeting in Watson’s office, the VP was so sure of the outcome that he wrote his letter of resignation before going to the meeting.  Imagine his surprise when Watson did not chew him out, but instead simply asked him for his version of what had happened.
Greatly relieved, the man confessed that he had expected to be fired because his mistake had cost the company 10 million dollars. Watson’s response was a laugh and the quip, “Are you serious?  The last thing I’d do is fire you for an honest mistake, and besides, I just invested 10 million dollars in your education!”
Unfortunately, most bosses today would find it very difficult to forgive such a mistake.  We live in an era that demands perfection from business leaders and employees, politicians, celebrities, sports stars, family members, friends and neighbors, etc.  No one wants to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes – often lots of them – and that there’s real value in those failures if we learn from them.  The general rule seems to be that, especially in business, we get paid to succeed not fail.
But think about it.  What if we lived and worked in an environment where we could actually step back and take a thorough look at our failures – and ask ourselves “How could I have done this better?”  Look it up, most research on the subject of failure actually shows that it can be a key factor in personal growth.  When we stop and take a look at an experience, it often leads to a change in the way we view the world, and most often that change is positive.
Business research also finds that when companies put too much emphasis on goals, it can actually entice employees to cut corners and reduce the quality of products and services in order to look good in the eyes of their superiors.  Unfortunately, those same decisions tend to have exactly the opposite effect in the eyes of the business’s customers, since they are the ones who get the final results of those decisions.  And the resulting problems are harder to correct too because any meaningful discussion about the situation will now take place in hidden corners and behind closed doors.
It often takes heroic effort to get our mistakes and failures out in the open where everyone can work together to fully examine them and extract the nuggets of learning they can offer.  Sure, it seems that people are really hard on each other these days and quite often looking for somewhere else to place the blame when they are stinging from a failure.  But social media and reviews are showing us each day that we are also pretty quick to forgive each other when someone owns up to his failures and makes an honest attempt to correct the misstep.
If others are willing to forgive, shouldn’t we then be quicker to forgive ourselves and move on?  If we don’t, we most certainly risk falling into a consistent pattern where we become unwilling to take chances and grow.


Ahhh, The Glamorous Life.

How would you like to be famous? Go ahead, pick your particular celebrity idol. Whether it’s a movie star, a sports hero, a musical superstar, or a billionaire businessperson, wouldn’t it be nice to be in their shoes for a day?
Well, the truth is – maybe, maybe not. While it seems like it might solve all of your problems if you had their lifestyle, notoriety, (and especially their money), if you look closely enough, there might be a few downsides to that image of fame and fortune.
Let’s consider a list of potential issues that a famous person might have to deal with that ordinary people never have to think about:
1. This first one’s a biggie – Lack of privacy.
Being from Chicago, I remember the days when Michael Jordan owned the town. (Heck, a significant case could be made that he owned the world, but then Kobie Bryant and Le Bron James fans might have a differing opinion.) Michael couldn’t walk down any street, anywhere, without being mobbed by fans. It could get really annoying, really fast, if you couldn’t enjoy a meal in your favorite restaurant, go to movie, or spend a day at the park with your kids without being continually accosted by fans, even when most are well-meaning.
2. How do you know who your real friends are?
When you’re famous (and rich), long lost relatives suddenly show up at your door, on the telephone, or wherever you happen to be. Believe it or not, you are the only one who can help them with their money problems, lack of a job, or just about any other problem they have. It doesn’t matter that you have your own set of problems – and your own life – you are now the answer to their prayers.
3. The pressure to always perform.
Didn’t think about this one, did you? Have you ever sat in a major league ballpark or sports stadium and really watched fan behavior? It isn’t always adoring. Sure, it’s all good when you hit a homerun that wins the game, or sink the championship winning basket. But, how about when you’re batting under .200 and haven’t had a hit in five straight games? How would you handle the string of insults directed your way by those same fans that were cheering you last week? How many of us are under that kind of pressure in our everyday lives and jobs? Sports heroes make the money they do because they can do what they do, day in and day out. Do you really want that kind of pressure every minute of your life?
And that leads us to…
4. Learning to live a normal life.
Now here’s where the rest of us often have an advantage. After all, is anything in the life of a celebrity really normal? By the very fact that they have the fame that they do, and have the money they do, they never get to experience a lot of what we consider everyday normal activity. Most of us don’t get the same kind of forgiveness for making life’s mistakes. We aren’t held up on a pedestal and given special treatment. We, unlike them, learn quickly that there’s no such thing as  for anything and everything we decide we want to do. And that, my friends, can lead to some potentially rough experiences when our hero meets a barrier that his status will not transport him over.
So take another look at this very brief list of celebrity perks. Then ask yourself, are they really better than the life I already have? You just might surprise yourself at how blessed you already are!


Some Random Thoughts on Work

While I was stuck in traffic en-route to work the other day, I found myself daydreaming about what I liked and didn’t like about my day-to-day existence in the world of work. That mental exercise led to me asking myself some “ivory tower” questions about our marketing and advertising world;

  • Wouldn’t it be great if you could spend as much time as you thought was necessary to ensure that the project you were currently working on was perfectly executed?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know that a customer was willing to grant you whatever budget you believed was necessary to complete their marketing campaign?
  • What if every day that you went to work you knew that you could throw yourself wholeheartedly into completing that particular day’s plan – without having to interrupt yourself to deal with unanticipated issues? (Yeah, like that would ever happen!)
  • How would it feel to know that every vendor you dealt with was every bit as committed to solving your customers’ problems as you are?
  • What if you could always furnish your customers with a hard and fast completion date for every advertising/marketing project?
  • What if everyone in the business world treated others the way they want to be treated?
  • Is it even possible to completely tap into everything we know about marketing and advertising as we work on any given campaign? (Or do we have to live with the fact that we’re only human, and that frailty makes us overlook or forget things?)

I know that this “perfect world” will never actually exist. But I like to think that I do my best to answer a lot of these questions in the affirmative. Somehow though, outside events seem to be a constant impediment to getting everything right, but hopefully they always drive us in the direction of doing the best that we can with the time, budget, and talent allotted to us. That is really all that we can ask for…and all that we can ask of our colleagues. For me, getting close to that standard is usually more than enough and very satisfying indeed.


In Hot Pursuit of Quality

You would have had to be on a remote island somewhere in the last couple of weeks to have escaped the launch of the latest technological marvel – the iPhone 5.  In fact, it’s been downright difficult to turn on the TV, computer, or radio and not be immediately besieged with the latest updates on sales or the current lengths of the lines outside of Apple stores.  It seems as though we just can’t get enough of whatever device the largest company on the worldwide stock exchange is currently offering.
Have you ever stopped to think about why this is happening?  What is it that makes these hand-held multi-media wonders so incredibly appealing?
Now I know the obvious answer will be that it’s “staying in touch with my friends and my work,” but surely there’s more to it than that.  After all, a simple “no feature” phone with messaging capability will handle 99.9 % of those communications issues, and no one has to stand in lines for two days and two nights to get one of those.
Maybe you’d say it’s about being first to have all of the new features and the bragging rights associated with that score.  OK, that’s somewhat understandable. But wait a minute!  Isn’t Apple itself saying that there isn’t all that much that’s different about this new phone? It’s just that it supposedly does everything better!  Again, that might be a drawing point for a lot of people, but how do you “brag” about that?  “Dude, isn’t it awesome how paying for my Starbucks Latte looks on a ½” longer screen?”
No, I definitely think there’s something deeper behind all of this. I’m not trying to speak for all of you “First Adopters” out there, but I do think you might be onto something that DOES make these technological wonders so popular – even if you’re not thinking about it at the moment of purchase.  It’s the fact that these devices are so incredibly simple to operate, and they look so elegant as they go through their paces.  In other words they are “beautiful in their simplicity.”
From my point of view, just maybe this is part of what makes them so darn appealing. Not unlike a trip to McDonalds, where you know that what kind of quality you are getting, no matter which store you go into, and you can depend on the product to consistently please you.  Plus, your current wants are satisfied in a clean and dependable environment.
With that premise comes another speculation – is simple becoming the new quality in our minds?  It sure seems like anything that delivers our “desire of the moment,” in both a fast and trouble-free way, seems to find the quickest pathway into some special place in our hearts and minds.  Consider for a moment how many of us are still recording our favorite TV shows on a VCR?  I think I can safely say that the DVR just might end up being considered the “product of the century” for a large portion of the population.
So Apple lovers, this last two weeks has been about as good as it gets in your world.  For the rest of you out there, what product or service scores this high on your Quality Meter?  Give us your thoughts, then….


Do Your Facebook Fans Really Like You That Much?

Day after day, in discussions about Facebook and other such social community sites, one recurring theme keeps popping to the surface.  The pronouncement, usually delivered with near- panic emphasis, sounds something like this: “we’ve got to increase our number of Facebook “Likes”! I sometimes wonder what the speaker thinks might happen if they didn’t accomplish that goal.
Apparently, the almost universal assumption is that once a person “likes” your page, they are going to keep returning again and again to discover what kind of vital information you will be imparting to them next.  Is anything any of us says or writes on a regular basis ever quite THAT important?  And the real truth is that a “like” on a page doesn’t guarantee that the new fan will ever come back to that page and participate, or even read any of your updates. In fact, statistics show that it’s usually not the case at all.  A recent AdAge article cited a study that demonstrated that only 1% of fans on the biggest brand pages actually engage with the brand at all.  Similar studies have indicated that as few as .5% of those who “Like” a page will even take the time to return to that page – ever!
Now I don’t want to insinuate that “Likes” are never important.  It’s obviously true that the more Likes you have, the more people your message is reaching.  But it’s really only part of the equation.  What difference does it make, for instance, if you’ve accumulated hundreds or even thousands of Likes for your brand page and very few of them are the right target audience?  And if they are the proper community of advocates, are you sure they are engaging with your regular message and passing that message on to their peers?  If they aren’t, the real value of a “Like’ is somewhat limited.
So then what causes someone to ‘Like’ something in the first place? The answer seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?  They ‘Like’ it because they like it. Believe it or not, they might even agree with what you are saying. It may be an exciting piece of news that they latch on to.  Maybe it’s a subject they want to know more about. Or, maybe they want to get the FREE stuff you’re offering, win your contests, support your social agenda, or just lend you, their friend, some   well-deserved support. In other words, they found something that attracted them to your page and then made the decision to acknowledge they had visited.  They did NOT, however, pledge their binding commitment to you for eternity!
What we’re really looking to keep is plenty of continued engagement.  Did your reader leave a comment?  Did they return once the contest or promotion was over? Did they purchase, lease, or express further interest in your product or service?  Are you continuing to provide them with great content that will draw them, and possibly their friend, to your page again?
The bottom line is…Don’t just become a collector of fans and likes.  Help your new community accomplish something together!  They’ve already taken an important step and acknowledged they are now a part of your group.  To some degree, they’re now waiting for you to continually define what the next steps should be in your relationship.  Make sure you let them know what those steps should be.  Make sure they know they are always cared for and appreciated, as well as “Liked.” Make those Likes actually mean something!


Teamwork – Always a Reliable Business Practice

We KNOW that the year is 2012 and we KNOW that the marketing and advertising sites are filled with blogs and articles about all the latest social media technology, tools, tips, and strategies.  But we also believe that it often pays to get “back to the basics,” when marketing your company, products or services.  Let’s talk about one of those key “basics” today – teamwork.
One of the attributes we pride ourselves on is a sense of teamwork.  For us, it means utilizing the skills of every member of our firm to help our customers, no matter what service we are performing for them.  We make it a daily practice to bounce our ideas off one another.  We find that any marketing strategy can benefit from effective examination through the eyes of a diverse group of people.
Within our group, everyone knows each other well and can always feel comfortable seeking out the unique perspective that every member brings to the table.   We’re not saying that these discussions always lead to a breathtaking “aha” moment, but we firmly believe that this day-to-day practice provides substantial benefit to our customers.
One recent example of our team’s effective teamwork is the redesigning of our own website.  Initial ideas for the structure and design were created by our Art Department.  Those designs were explained, reviewed, and “story-boarded” with colleagues who worked in much different departments, i.e. analytics, on-line ad posting, and blog writing.  Each of those colleagues contributed critical pieces of the site’s content, after which further revisions were made.  When all of the pieces came together into a cohesive whole, the project was placed back into the hands of the web designers and developers to refine the technical aspects of the finished site.  Just before the new site launched, we conducted another review of the complete concept by all of our staff, resulting in further “tweaks” to communicate key ideas.
We are admittedly biased, but we believe that our newly completed web presence more clearly conveys what we want it to say, thanks to the honesty, candor and originality of our team members.
Teamwork may not be one of today’s “high-tech” concepts, but we are firm believers in its value.  While we believe in staying close to the cutting edge of technology, we know that our day to day work benefits from blending technology with tried and true methods, such as teamwork.  We are convinced of the intrinsic value of every member of our devoted and enthusiastic staff and regularly invite them to contribute their talents and energy to everyproject that we take on.


“Strategery”*For Keeping Things Simple

It seems like every time we sit down with a new client or prospect these days, one of the first questions to come up is “do we have to do all of these things at once?”  Now in truth, this usually surfaces in reference to embracing the world of Social Media, but it applies just as well to almost every phase of marketing.  However, it might be the wrong question to ask out of the starting gate.  In fact, where you begin with any marketing program is usually less important than having a good idea of where it is you want to go.  When we begin by trying to measure our efforts against everything we read and hear about, i.e. – The 10 Best Ways to approach any marketing effort – the task can quickly become overwhelming if you believe you have to do it all immediately.  So, let’s step back for a moment and take a clear look at how we might move forward simply, and with a dash of confidence.
Where Are You Going?
This task can focus around as few as three main elements:

  1. Who is it you want to talk to?  (Target Audience)
  2. What do you want to say to them? (The Message)
  3. How can you talk to as many of them as possible? (Exposure)

That’s it, and it didn’t hurt a bit, did it?  Sure we could throw you a whole lot of marketingspeak at this point but then we violate our premise…remember?  Keep it simple!
How Do You Get There?
Today’s marketing tools give all a new advantage in our messaging efforts. Most of the time we can focus better, target better, analyze better and do it all at warp speed compared to just a couple of decades ago.  Some may argue that we can even do things with a lot more flair, a lot more fun and far less human resources than past efforts required.  However, that last one could prompt a whole other discussion, so we’ll save that topic for another day.
 Plenty of Help Available
The good news is that most of these campaigns and programs aren’t rocket science, and there’s plenty of expertise out there to keep you pointed in the right direction, and hopefully offer a little creativity along the way.  (We modestly mention ourselves at this juncture!) But that’s one of the nice things about today’s marketing, you probably don’t need groups like us all of the time, but we’re there if you need us.  We’re kind of like your GPS – programmed to keep you on track.
Keep Your Eye on Your Goals
So the key takeaway here is to make sure (with or without help) that you have a clear vision of where you’re going and what you want to accomplish in the end.  By simply honing that clarity of focus, you can then efficiently align your various marketing activities for maximum results.
Now our “Strategery”* is to use this space going forward to discuss everything from marketing pain points to the best of the current crop of great restaurants, movies, tunes and possibly even the meaning of life as we know it.  We hope you’ll spend a little time with us on the journey…we’d love the companionship, and would love to hear your end of the discussions.
*Our thanks to Will Ferrell for this wonderfully descriptive term turned icon.