Do you know why you’re hiring?

Gecko Jones 127An association asked a C-level marketing professional to consider joining their Board and serve as their Director of Marketing (both volunteer positions). He met with several Board members and, though they suggested no precise goals, he knew quickly what his initial goals would be:

  1. Double membership within 6 months
  2. Double average meeting attendance within 6 months
  3. Eliminate the horrible mistakes they were making in email announcements (two different meeting dates listed in the subject and body copy, poor wording, etc.)

In the interview process, it became apparent they had one or two other candidates. Both were quite junior and unlikely to provide any real leadership, or have proven skills.

Ridiculously, the Executive Director sent an email to each, mentioning a bit of work that was needed immediately. Was that a test to see who would grab it? What if all ran with it? That would be a waste of redundant effort. Regardless, what would this actually prove?

The executive withdrew from the silly competition and they signed up one of the junior alternatives. Guess what happened next? Subsequent mass emails promoting upcoming events were poorly written. And, I suspect they have made no progress in driving new membership or boosting conference attendance.

If you’re looking for leadership, hire a leader. If you trivialize the hiring process, it’s very possible you don’t know how to screen and hire for the job that’s open. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing who to hire, based on what you want to accomplish.

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    When business goals work against you

    Gecko Jones 126Raising the bar by establishing aggressive goals for each department, and the company overall, is more than just wishful thinking.

    It’s a way CEOs can get their teams to step up their productivity and creativity for the betterment of the business.

    Increases in revenues, for example, might be expected to reach 10% per year in some industries, or 100% in others. There’s no one right answer and the team in place is as much a factor in what’s attainable as the market, your competition, etc.

    However, in one company, I continuously saw the CEO set goals that went beyond reasonable. The sales team constantly hit between 80% and 95% of the objectives, but the goals were not logical. The CEO would chide his very capable VP Sales by introducing him as “Mr. 95%”.

    It served to demoralize the executive and embarrass those reporting to him (as they felt responsible for missing his assigned targets). Even without using the ridiculous nickname, the CEO had set goals that were not attainable. They served to discourage instead of motivate the company.

    I’ve seen some objectives that were so silly, the entire company walked out of annual kick-off meetings rolling their eyes and ignoring discussion. Are your goals high, but sane?

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      Your company may face challenges similar to the Seattle Seahawks & the Denver Broncos

      Gecko Jones 125
      You don’t have to be a sports fan to know the Seahawks and Broncos dominated pro football last season. They could continue that success this year, but not without increased challenges.


      Successful companies are like winning sports teams. They attract attention and they face stiffer competition. Here’s how:

      1. No more sneaking up on teams (other companies in your industry). Competitors know you exist and what you can/can’t do well.
      2. You won business because you were better (people, tactics, product/service) than others. But, they now know they have to “step up their game”, whether it means improving their talent level, tactics or product/service. You’ll have a tougher challenge in the new season (year).
      3. Some of the things you did to defeat competitors have now been exposed. Many will start doing exactly what you did (similar marketing, expanded focus into channels and distribution, product/service attributes, etc.). It will be harder for you to stand out in the market place.

      That means changes are necessary and making further improvements in all aspects of your company is vital. Anytime your team looks to you like it’s coasting, you can be sure that other vendors are gaining ground.

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        Two problems with frequent buyer programs

        Gecko Jones 124Have you been asked to consider implementing a frequent buyer program in your company? Be aware of these points:

        1. Your regular customers are the most likely to sign up, so benefits you offer will cost you money without giving you a return on your investment.
        2. Most B2B purchases (except for supplies) don’t happen often enough to motivate non-customers to sign up and help make your program pay off for you.

        Unlike Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes, customers are not going to buy products they don’t like just so they get a bad product for free.

        Airlines are an exception, as they surely maintain loyalty when a flyer is halfway toward a major benefit. However, airlines are raising the requirements to qualify for benefits and reducing what they offer. Whether it’s on purpose or through mismanagement, their programs are weakening.

        I’ve written before about keeping an open mind when you revisit previous things your company has done that may not have worked. However, it was a no-brainer to ignore resurrecting a frequent buyer program that one CEO asked me, as his new head of marketing, to do. It hadn’t worked before and wasn’t going to work then.

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          How your products and services must evolve

          Gecko Jones 123It isn’t only new products and services that are needed to breathe life into your company and extend the upside of the business. Existing ones need to be enhanced. Let’s look at two real world examples:

          Case One – Product – Online Storage

          We’re not talking about online backup, where data folders are automatically backed up in case a server or workstation fails. We’re talking about the many online storage providers who want you to consider their cloud-based repositories to be active, external hard drives for your computer.

          Originally, these vendors let individuals (often consumers who didn’t want to buy and learn to install new physical devices on their PCs) store and archive files for which there was inadequate space on the user’s device.

          Then, there was the ability to share files with friends, relatives or co-workers. Access was assigned by the original file owner.

          Suddenly, security became a major issue. There was intellectual property to protect, as well as industry secrets. HIPAA guidelines for medical records and others (like financial institutions) who had to ensure their customers could trust that personal information was safe.

          Today, there are significant next enhancements that are “needed” by customers and will soon become “must offer” features from vendors. (We’ll see which vendors figure this out first.)

          Case Two – Service – Streaming Music

          Initially, the Internet began delivering streaming music by having radio stations post “Listen Now” links on their websites. Before long, non-traditional stations (with no ground antennas serving local markets) appeared.

          The market place advanced (iHeart, Pandora, Groove Shark, etc.) to sites/services offering songs by genre (jazz, classic rock, gospel, etc.). Along the way, these streams were delivered not only by HTML browser, but also by smartphone/tablet apps.

          Even these services are losing their appeal to repeat users. I personally like the tweet from one customer who asked “What do I do once I’ve listened 10 times to songs I remembered liking years ago?”

          Current services have expanded their options for that type of listener, playing songs that are from artists whose music is similar to other performers whose recordings you previously preferred.

          Now, we have companies, such as Spotify, who can help set moods for you with channels like “Summer Party”, “Workout” and “Your Favorite Coffee House” (my personal favorite).

          Bottom Line

          Never assume your product or service is maxed out, or that current market niche leaders can’t be defeated with innovative thinking.

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