Concentrating Resources

August 17, 2017

If marketing activities aren’t complementary, they can’t be effective.


A recent article identified 120 different marketing channels to manage in 2017.

The big question must then be: How do you manage these channels to ensure ROI?

The answer is, of course, you can’t.

At 14 years old, Arnold Schwarzenegger took on weightlifting.

He didn’t like football like the rest of his friends so he dedicated his time to bodybuilding.

He broke into his local gym on weekends when it was closed.

He later moved to America to pursue his bodybuilding career.

And at 23, after nearly ten years of training, he won his first Mr. Olympia title.

Arnie knew he had a unique product that could work well in action movies.

In the early stages of his acting career, he was told that he had no chance of making it.

Casting people said his body was weird and his accent funny.

They even wanted to change his name, deemed too long.

He hired a dialect coach to help smooth his accent and took four-hour acting classes three days a week alongside daily private tuition.

Twelve years after his first acting role, he starred in Conan the Barbarian and went on to be one of the highest grossing movie stars of all time.

A resident of Los Angeles, a registered Republican, he believed politics was the natural progression.

People knew him from his 33-year movie career.

And he knew that the state of California needed shaking up.

In 2003, he announced his candidacy in the California recall election for Governor of California.

Later that year, he was elected Governor in his first of two terms in that position.

Yes, Arnie has a will to win in everything he does.

But he’s smart. He didn’t just pick any old career that came along.

He started a strong teenager who could build on his natural ability.

His physical strength was perfect for male characters in action movies.

His celebrity status could be utilised in election campaigns.

Many believe that marketing is about maximum exposure.

Where the more you expose your brand, the more likely you are to generate more business.

But you’re very unlikely to see real results.

You’ll never do it efficiently; you’ll be wasting a lot of your time and investment.

So, it’s better to focus.

My agency focusses on thought-leadership.

We create content we can publish via whitepapers, which we can use for blogging, which we can use for speaking gigs that get covered by the media.

An approach we’ve taken as our product is our people and our service is our people’s creative thinking and execution.

(We also do this within a single industry sector.)

We could have focussed on experimental R&D, and then present this through videos and then via podcasts and webinars.

But we’re not realistically going to do it alongside what we’re already doing.

Because we can’t do it all well.

Marketing efforts must always support each other.

If marketing activities aren’t complementary then they can’t be effective.

We’ll never really own the environment we position our brands.

We’d be spreading ourselves too thin and won’t come over as authentic.

Be aware of falling into this trap.

You can spot yourself falling into this trap when you see rivals gaining success using a particular marketing channel… and then copying them.

And if you’re not sure of what type of marketing to focus on you need to go back to the beginning and assess your market position.

Find out where your audiences are and what influences their buying decisions where this influencing happens.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.”

He had a vision. He had his own formula for success and he focussed.

He looked to do one thing well and built upon it with something complementary.

Like successful marketers. The ones who concentrate resources on specific channels and activities.

In the past 50 years, he won Mr. Olympia seven times, is one of the highest grossing movie stars of all time and was a Republican Governor in a Democratic US state for two terms.

By progressing through positions and phases that work in harmony.

Doing things set up by other things.

Increasing the chances of those things happening and being successful.

And he’ll be back…

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Show Customers Customers

July 19, 2017

People think like other people so customers think like other customers.


A psychological phenomenon takes place when we make decisions.

In any such situation, we determine what’s right or wrong for us.

We look for answers to give us confidence in our decision-making and we usually look at the actions and experiences of others.

Others who have been in similar situations to those we find ourselves in.

Vlad Tepes was Prince of Wallachia in the 15th century.

He ruled the regions of the Southern Carpathians and the Danube in modern day Romania.

During three reigns he fought battles against the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

In 1462, Sultan Mehmed II and his Ottoman army advanced on Wallachia.

As they arrived, they were met by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses.

Vlad had impaled the torsos of his defeated enemies with stakes, erecting them in the ground for all to see.

It was an atrocious sight and was enough for the Ottoman army to flee.

Vlad’s fortress, Targoviste Castle, is known for having its surrounding grounds littered with impaled corpses.

Showing everyone who he’s defeated, that tried to defeat him.

Sending out a clear message for all to see – those who come into contact with Vlad’s armies will end up the same.

So he doesn’t need to say anything. He lets his work do the talking.

Typically, organisations can focus their efforts on inbound or outbound new business activities.

They can adopt an aggressive sales approach.

Or they can adopt a more reserved marketing approach.

I think the best way to attract customers is to show them other people (like them) who are already customers.

People conform to the actions of others and believe that those actions represent correct behaviour.

Herd mentality. Social proof. Social comparison. Group thinking. Whatever you want to call it…

If you can show off those who you’ve worked with, you’ll attract more like them.

You also won’t need to adopt an aggressive sales approach.

Because your work will also do the talking.

You may think that it’s not as easy as including case studies and testimonials in your marketing.

And you’re right it isn’t.

But there are creative ways of using your customers or your past relationships or your experiences.

A famous BMW advert read: “You know you’re not the first, but do you really care?”

The ad also features an attractive woman representative of a used BMW car. This is a sexist ad, I don’t disagree.

But the concept is good, as the ad — and BMW — need say no more. Certainly nothing about their cars.

The ad is saying that there’s nothing wrong with a used BMW car. It’s still a great car.

Aston Martin also ran this kind of advert in the past because this type of association with current or previous users of a product can work wonders.

If people think like other people, then customers think like other customers.

Vlad Tepes’ methods are extreme.

Upper limits of Vlad’s combined executions put the death toll at around 100,000.

But this is a violent period in history. Executions were common around the world.

Vlad Tepes just found a way to for his executions to go further so the actions of others were made clear for everyone to see.

Which would of course then influence their next move.

It earned him the nickname Vlad the Impaler.

And stories spread about his cruelty that put fear in minds of those who opposed him – in most cases, opposition with bigger armies and better resources.

Which is exactly what he wanted.

People got the message.

Without a message even needing to be delivered.

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Execution Is Hard To Execute

June 26, 2017

Marketers get hung up on ideas. But it’s not ideas we should be getting hung up on.


Ideas shouldn’t be celebrated.

Björn Ironsides was a famous 9th century Viking leader.

He and his General Hastein were known for their ruthless raids on foreign cities and they had their sights set on Rome.

Arriving at the legendary city, they realised that they weren’t going to penetrate the walls by brute force.

They needed to get creative to gain access.

So Hastein came up with an idea.

He sent his emissaries towards the Romans to say they were exiles seeking supplies for their leader who was taken ill.

A day later they returned carrying Hastein inside a coffin requesting a Christian burial, to which was accepted.

Fifty of his cloaked men attended the burial with swords hidden under their robes.

During the burial, Hasten leapt out of his coffin, killed the unsuspecting Bishop and surrounding Romans with his accompanying Vikings.

Then they raided everything.

Hastein’s brilliant idea allowed them to achieve what they thought was otherwise impossible.

Rome was taken.

But, actually, they hadn’t taken Rome. They were far from it.

250 miles away, in fact.

They had mistaken Rome for the town of Luna.

I’ve read that ideas are everything. And I don’t doubt that creative ideas can differentiate products and brands from others.

But if you can’t execute those ideas, they’re useless.

If they’re unsuitable for the environment they’re expected to impact then they’re also useless.

How many times have you gone into a meeting and thought of lots of great ideas? And then got excited by it all?!

Probably, lots. Because it’s sexy and it gives you a newfound energy source.

But when it comes to the planning and successful execution of those ideas, it’s far from sexy.

It’s hard work.

Any inventor or product creator will tell you that.

That’s why many of the big ideas from such meetings haven’t turned into big successes. Innovation is hard because executing an idea or concept is hard.

Execution is hard to execute. And without it we have nothing.

Product creators will tell you that too. But the process of executing ideas can be straightforward… On paper at least.

You set objectives knowing that too many objectives will slow you down. So you focus.

You then watch progress by setting KPIs knowing that if they’re too high or the outcomes too few there’s a problem. You analyse – which Hastein didn’t do.

You knuckle down and get into the nitty-gritty and carry out the tasks knowing that times will get hard. You persevere.

You then keep up the momentum by continually discussing progress knowing that collaboration and encouragement is a daily thing. You communicate.

You thereafter evaluate the idea to see whether it’s working or going to work long term. You reflect.

(Which incidentally looks very much like a marketer’s job description.)

Life is full of ideas and we need them to stay alive.

The problem we have is we get hung up on some of our ideas that aren’t worth executing.

Hastein had a great idea.

But his execution of the idea was terrible.

That idea was too good for his situation. It was unnecessary.

So it was, really, a terrible idea.

He should have abandoned it.

And he was so distraught that he ordered the massacre of Luna’s entire male population and burned the city to the ground.

That’s why we shouldn’t celebrate an idea or get hung up on creative ideas or concepts.

Just the successful execution of the idea.

And that isn’t easy.

Getting On The Inside

May 22, 2017 – 2 Comments 

The key to new business wins isn’t bribery. But the answer isn’t a million miles away.


B2B markets are competitive.

Organisations must go through bidding/tendering processes to win new contracts.

It involves a number of people and can take years. And then you still only have an equal chance as the rival bidder to win.

Gaining a competitive advantage is difficult.

Getting on the inside of the process, however, isn’t so hard.

Rolls-Royce is one of the UK’s most recognised brands. Building aeroplane engines and luxury cars since the early 1900s.

Recently selling their automotive offering, they now focus on selling turbines and engines for passenger and military jets.

And in the last 28 years they’ve been superbly effective at winning contracts across the globe.

The product, the service, the brand was immaculate.

But something was working in the background to achieve this.

Now, Rolls-Royce has been ordered to pay £671m in settlements.

Because they were hiring “middlemen” to deliver money and gifts to key decision makers. Giving them bags of cash and designer clothes and brand new cars.

They were bribing clients to win contracts.

They were gaining an advantage by getting on the inside of the bidding process.

So these decision makers wouldn’t buy from rival organisations even if there was a business case to do so.

Corruption exists in more places than we expect.

Be it in sport, government or business – people find ways of gaining an advantage by means of bribery.

And they’re mostly caught out.

But there are other ways of gaining an advantage during such a process.

That may be via competitors (focussing on a strength that highlight’s a competitor’s weakness) or through innovation (showcasing examples where you have adapted to difficult and unforeseen scenarios in the past) for example.

It could be even simpler.

And it does involve the decision maker within the organisation you are targeting.

What we’re looking to do is break away from the win-or-lose bidding situation and add something more meaningful to the decision-maker within this process.

Not gifts but experiences. With you always at the centre to create conversations and collaborations within those forming B2B relationships.

1) Identify the person’s goals and values. Can you find something in common? A hobby or even a vulnerability to connect and move the relationship forward.

2) Show that you have that person’s back. Introducing the decision-maker to your friends, family and colleagues works – offer that person more than a transaction.

3) Then provide something meaningful that’s fun and personal. It can be as simple as taking clients for food or on golfing days or sports matches on an ongoing basis.

4) Listen, help and be generous. Proactively doing this works wonders and will get you on the inside track.

But this isn’t a day out.

Organisations should never forget that this is a sales process where all the staff are salespeople.

Who must always look to get on the inside of a potential client if they are to do their jobs as salespeople.

Otherwise, it’s anyone’s game.

Rolls-Royce was gaining an advantage by getting on the inside.

They knew that written bids and presentations didn’t convert.

They had to do more.

They were hiring people external to their organisation, knowing too well that this sort of bribery transaction needed to be dealt with by other people. Because it was illegal.

But gaining an inside track isn’t illegal.

Doing so this way is less democratic and is a little unstable. But that’s the world we live in.

There are other means of getting on the inside of a bidding process by influencing the decision maker ethically.

And doing it in a way that isn’t illegal can reap huge rewards.

Similar to the rewards Rolls-Royce were reaping in.

What is Customer Experience?

May 03, 2017

Begin to understand what customer experience really means to customers.


Customer experience is hailed as the new marketing.

It’s something we desire as buyers; something we like to provide as sellers.

But what is it?

A recent Econsultancy APAC survey asked marketers what the biggest barriers were to their understanding of the customer experience.

Some of the answers:

Complexity of the customer experience (44%)
Difficulty unifying different sources of data (34%)
Silo-based organisational structure (34%)
Lack of sharing between departments (28%)
IT bottlenecks (26%)
Lack of leadership (21%)
Insufficient budget (12%)
Competition between channels/company culture (10%)
[Insert any other general excuse]

Traditionally, products and services have been able to sell themselves – at least to some extent.

But as markets become even more competitive, with customer power increasing, brands need to offer more.

So the trend is to “provide great customer experiences.”

Working to shape customer perception in the way they’re treated, rather than how the product of service might help.

And it’s a plausible idea: produce memories that create experiences that build trust and loyalty.

Making people like you, so they buy from you.

But the study also reveals that (in their own opinions) just 11% of marketers have a well-developed customer experience strategy. That’s 1 in 10.

So even though we’re all talking about delivering good customer experiences, we have no real idea what it is and how to do it. (We certainly don’t know how to do it for the long term – most clients and customers go elsewhere eventually.)

But we could be looking in the wrong places.

Banking firm TD Canada placed a live human inside one of their ATM machines to interact with people as they approach the ATM.

A baseball fan was given a cap and jersey, then surprised by one of his favourite players.

A mother of two was surprised with free tickets to Disneyworld for her and her kids.

A mother of a daughter with cancer was surprised with two plane tickets to Trinidad to visit her daughter.

These were experiences that really hit home.

TD Canada knew that to give their customers a good experience they had to do something special.

To make sure it was an experience that lasted.

Creating touching stories talked about and watched again and again on the internet. Because it was personal.

And more than anything, an act of kindness that took the customer by surprise which made it memorable.

It’s also really simple – something we need if the stats above is anything to go by.

Gaining this in-depth knowledge about customers isn’t something that just happens, though.

It’s about generating valuable insights so people actually feel a good experience with the product seller or service provider.

Elements of marketing plans do cross-over here.

For example, we can rethink our channels (how our emails are sent and how we use our CRM) or improve our internal collaborations (how marketing teams work with design or how we handle data).

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in – improving the experience for your customers is key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales.

But it isn’t the new marketing. It’s not a trend either.

Think back to a time when you had a memorable experience with a brand – think also about a bad experience. Based on this experience, craft your own for your customers and look for that one-off meaningful interaction that’ll last a lifetime.

Look to surprise.

It’s probably the only thing we can do to guarantee customer experience results.

At least until we begin to understand customer experiences to the full.

Brand Authenticity

March 14, 2017

What happens if your brand story and character isn’t real… like haunted houses.


In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his entire family inside their home in Amityville.

He claimed he was possessed by Satan and heard voices plotting against him.

A year later, George Lutz moved into the house with his family.

They heard voices, saw windows and doors opening and closing on their own and discovered cold spots throughout the house.

They saw hooded figures, experienced personality changes… the telephone service was even affected!

The Amityville house received attention from across the world and was considered the most haunted house in America.

But it wasn’t.

Stories of ghosts and haunted houses fascinate me. They fascinate me because I don’t know enough about them. And we generally fear what we don’t fully understand.

But they’re also intriguing which make them entertaining so they make headlines. Making them a marketer’s dream.

Which is why the DeFeo possession caught on.

In the case of the Amityville Horror, however, it was all a lie.

The Lutz family had conspired with DeFeo’s legal team and manufactured a hoax so Ronald DeFeo could be trialled again.

There was no problem with their telephone service.

He didn’t get to trial again though because of the inconsistencies in his story. It wasn’t authentic nor was it logical.

But the basis of the Amityville story has now gone on to sell millions of books and movies worldwide.

The rumours and spectacular version of events caught the imagination. It spread.

It’s these types of stories we must be careful about, even though, as a guerilla, we may use them to differentiate our brand stories from those of our competitors.

Customers make their purchasing decisions based on the brand stories we tell.

A brand that is truthful with its messaging and positioning will far outlast those that make a one-off headline.

It won’t need to sell its products; the products will sell themselves.

As this product keeps delivering the brand will grow. Because honesty goes a million miles – a characteristic that people look for when parting with time and money.

Present your product in a way that’s original and natural. Be cautious with your approach and strive for authenticity.

Create a culture around your brand and people that help fulfil the needs and wants of our customers in a way that’s real. One that can deliver the promises you make. Like Adidas, Amazon, Microsoft, BMW and Disney.

This is a common problem, however – we’re all guilty of it. What we believe about ourselves sometimes isn’t true. We see ourselves how we want to see ourselves.

We make things up. We say we’re better than what we are and we can do more than we can. Just like we can’t help pretending our products do things they don’t.

But all it needs is one small inaccuracy or mismatch with the story and reality.

People will then ask questions and the entire brand will come under scrutiny.

Like the Amityville possession, a fictional ghost story, it got found out.

Old houses usually have damp spots, with structural conditions that make creaking sounds and have rats living in the walls – which incidentally, can chew through telephone cables.

As a child, Ronald DeFeo had a troubled relationship with his father. He was also a persistent drug taker and had an antisocial personality disorder.

We know houses aren’t really haunted – people give them this character. And they only work because of the intrigue created.

Don’t give your brand a character as it’ll never work the same way.

Make it last.

Let the product determine the character and its story.

Because that’s what a brand really is.

And it’s also how to be authentic as a brand. Without having to say the brand is authentic.

That is, of course, unless the product is a haunted house.

Controversy Sells

February 13, 2017

In a connected age, there’s a strategy proven to capture attention and get people talking.


“I have no intention of running for president.”

That’s what Donald Trump said in Time Magazine back in 1987.

Now, a controversial statement.

But that’s not such a bad thing.

The Trump University opened in 2005.

Much of the students that enrolled would do so initially via a series of free seminars and webinars. By definition, it wasn’t a University.

Set up to teach real-estate secrets, students would pay as much as $35,000 to join.

Yet, they wouldn’t even get a glimpse of Trump – he had nothing to do with the scheme.

Alongside the university, the Trump Institute opened which also had nothing to do with him.

It contained dubious material (notice a pattern?) that was packaged and sold off the back of his time on the American Apprentice TV show.

He simply licenced his name to position himself and make more money. To put his name out there.

More recently, on the run-up to the election, and probably using much of the same material, he released his book: Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.

Using donor campaign money, he spent upwards of $55,000 buying this book back – then profiting from the sales.

These instances are part of a string of dubious occurrences that have been happening since the 1970s.

Controversial marketing, and therefore unorthodox marketing – what Trump is doing, doesn’t happen by chance.

It follows four key ingredients: intelligence, surprise, relationships, and propaganda.

Many of the stories discussed on this blog over the years like The Blair Witch Project and are great examples.

Where a different type of promotion worked seriously well even if it didn’t appeal to everyone.

A style adopted by many small and cult brands. Guerrilla brands.

Which may not be bullet proof. But that’s okay.

If it’s how we want our brands to be perceived – if we’ve already established who our customers are – so be it. We don’t need to be relevant to those outside our target market.

To do it successfully is to affect people on an emotional level.

And to do that you need to create an argument where people can absolutely agree or disagree with something.

And to do that you can either target people’s beliefs and philosophies, people’s actions and behaviours, or people’s feeling of belonging.

Trump knew that his policies and radical ideas would appeal to some Americans.

In the states where it really mattered.

The last year of social media has consisted of pretty much just Donald Trump.

The inauguration of Trump as US President generated 15 million engagements.

Engagement peaked when Barak Obama and his wife met Donald Trump and his wife.

A moment famous for Michelle Obama’s awkward reaction towards whatever was inside the Tiffany box given to her as a gift.

To me, that just confirms what he’s all about.

He creates a stir. He gets people talking. His name has taken on a life of its own because of it.

In 1987, Trump’s estimated worth was believed to be $1 billion.

Now he’s the most powerful man in the world.

So it shows that controversy does sell.

Because you can’t get away from it. You don’t even want to.

A Shift In Mindset

December 22, 2016 – 2 Comments

Changing the way you approach marketing – and life – for the better.


What if I told you, you could transform everything just by focussing on one principle?

(No, this isn’t snake oil. This is the real thing.)

A shift in mindset that can transform your organisation’s marketing activities.

And the shift is seriously simple.

Previously a spy, Oskar Schindler was an industrial entrepreneur. He was also a member of the Nazi Party.

In 1939 he acquired a factory that produced materials and military equipment for the German army.

At a time where the Jewish people were massacred in death camps.

He decided to employ Jews to work in his factory and profit from the low cost of their services. But as he got to know his workers, he grew fond of them.

He cared about them and wanted to help them.

And he did everything he could, including paying off the SS and risking his life countless times to keep, and to employ more Jews at his factory.

The millions he earned was spent on bribing Nazi officials.

Until he had no money left.

At the end of the war, he managed to save 1,200 Jews. And the Jewish people supported Schindler, in tough financial times, throughout the rest of his life.

After his death, he was buried in the holy grounds of Mount Zion, Jerusalem.

The only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way.

As marketers, we shouldn’t see helping and giving as part of a public relations or social responsibility manifesto. (Like most of us do.)

Too many of us focus on intelligent systems, automated processes and sophisticated analysis.

Everything is complex.

Everything is coordinated and integrated based on cold or big or small data. Working to place messages everywhere and trying to empower users.

But what marketers are actually doing is overwhelming them.

It shouldn’t be like this.

By talking compassionately to our customers we can begin to understand the problems they face.

To then find a solution that will fix this problem and make their lives better.

We need to look to make a difference rather than make a lot of money – like Oskar Schindler learnt during the holocaust.

Because giving generously without hope of reciprocation is rewarding.

By helping others you’re actually helping yourself lead a happier life. Not to mention a more successful career.

Successful start-ups are driven by entrepreneurs who are hell-bent on making a positive change. For some reason, after establishing themselves, that mindset shifts to wanting to make more money – then comes the trouble. Because the purpose of that business has changed.

The Bible is a book based on the truths of everyday life which Jews and Christians believe to be of divine inspiration.

A passage in the Gospel of Luke (6.38) perfectly captures how helping inspires:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

If you want to be successful in marketing, practice the art of helping others. It should be part of our everyday lives, just as it should in our marketing plans. Really.

Share knowledge. Share resources. Share contacts. Share yourself and your services.


Everything will come together thereafter.