18 Jan

Marketing Manifesto – #5: You have to do marketing

I recently saw the delightful movie “Up in the Air” (2009), starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga. The story line revolves around the firing of employees in the current economic recession. Clooney’s character is hired to go into an organization and fire people, ostensibly because their bosses are too afraid to do the firing themselves.

Anna Kendrick plays the new college graduate who wants to change the firing process – from face-to-face interactions to firings done over the internet by video conferencing. The process of firing is mechanical and can be made a technical exercise, she believes. 80% savings on travel expenses is the payoff, in her view.

Clooney knows that firing people remotely via video conferencing won’t be as effective as doing so in-person. The core value of hiring a “firing professional” is their ability to carefully move a person from complete shock at the news of being fired to some form of stability and ultimately hope – a win for the firing organization and a win for the employee. To do this kind of work requires direct, interpersonal interaction and a very, very careful mixing of tried-and-true script, improvisation, a lot of compassion, and skill gained through practice. Clearly not a mechanical process.

Clooney takes Kendrick on the road to learn this reality. And learn it she does…the hard way.

What has this to do with marketing?

Marketing is often viewed as a science and something that can be studied and learned academically, much like Kendrick thought that firing someone can be made into a mechanical process and still be effective.

But marketing is all about people, who are anything but mechanical. And every marketing campaign is unique, requiring insight, life experience, an understanding of human emotions (Marketing Manifesto Principles 1 and 2), and figuring out the right questions to ask at the right time (Principle 4).

Which of course leads to my next Marketing Manifesto Principle…

A Marketing Manifesto

10 principles and practices of great marketing:

#5: Marketing is a practice. You do marketing.


Like walking or riding a bicycle, the real learning of marketing takes place in the doing of it, not in the talking about or studying of it. If you want to get really good at marketing, practice it.

When my son, Alex, was 8 years old he decided to run a cookie and lemonade stand out front of our home.  His mother bought lots of frozen pink lemonade concentrate and helped him bake a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for sale.

Lemonade Stand

The quintessential lemonade stand: Learning marketing by actually doing it!

Alex set up a table with a sign on the sidewalk in front of our house and began selling.  This was a busy Saturday in the summer and lots of traffic came by. He made a few sales in the first bit of time, but not much. I suggested to Alex that he make a big sign and go up to the street corner and stand there to catch drivers’ attention as they turned the corner and came down our street, giving them time to decide to stop before they drove on past.

Being a true showman and totally enthusiastic about his business, he made up a big sign, skateboarded up to the corner and began directly encouraging drivers to buy his lemonade and cookies by joyfully hollering at them as they turned the corner.

Well, his lemonade and cookie stand was quite a hit. Alex had to hire two friends to work his lemonade table and kept his mother busy with lemonade and cookie production while he went and did the marketing.

3 hours later he closed the business due to lack of supplies.  The result?  He met some new people, felt fabulous about himself, and made money. A few dollars you might think?  Heck no! He grossed $37 from 3 hours of selling lemonade and cookies (prep time excluded).  After paying his mother for the supplies and his employee-friends for their efforts, he walked away with a tidy sum and a big grin on his face.

The lesson?  He did marketing. He went out and made it happen. He didn’t sit behind his table, safely shielded emotionally, waiting for some hidden marketing process to kick in and deliver him sales success. He latched on to the idea that he was the marketing, and went and made it happen with a big sign and his skateboard. Loudly and enthusiastically.

“So, sitting in a classroom, safely behind a desk, with a textbook in hand isn’t really learning to do marketing?”

Most of my students, consulting clients, and job seekers I mentor have never done any marketing. They come to my classes, workshops, and meetings to learn it for the first time.  They come to study marketing, like you would study an instruction manual on how to ride a bicycle.

Do they learn something from my work with them? I hope so, and regularly hear from them that they did. And I hope it is because I insist on making them do marketing. I require my students, for example, to do lots of case studies, create marketing campaigns for real products, and even demand at times that they start a micro-marketing businesses for real, right in the course.That’s right: Actually sell stuff.

Doing marketing is not for everyone.

Being a mix of a goal oriented and relationship oriented kind of person and one who is very visual and kinesthetic, I love getting to the heart of things, understanding how people think, and practicing marketing by creating physical things…preferably with my own hands.  I love sitting in a cafe and observing human behavior, learning how people think and behave. Facilitating a focus group is career nirvana for me. Crafting a creative ad that delivers an emotional message is an exciting challenge for me.

But all these things are not as interesting to most people.  Particularly if they are more process oriented, auditory, and reading kind of people – which is what most students in universities are today. The goal and primarily relationship oriented students get too frustrated and either never start university or leave before they complete their under-graduate degree. The visual-kinesthetic ones never graduate high school. Seriously – typical high schools deliver a process orientation so strongly that the profile of a majority of drop-outs includes “kinesthetic”.

Where does this lead us to?  Well, marketing is a messy, messy business and requires a fully fleshed, well-rounded, eyes-open kind of person who wants to make things happen and is ready to take action to learn marketing by doing it.  Some characteristics of a person who will do well in marketing is someone who..

  • …has a high tolerance for uncertainty.
  • …wants to continually explore human behavior by observing and considering it.
  • …is not afraid of talking to people – better still, enjoys talking to people.
  • …is goal and at least partly relationship oriented (how else will they like talking to people?).
  • …has a high level of self-confidence and a secure self-image.
  • …is able to communicate at a highly skilled level, including very acute listening skills.
  • …learns independently.
  • …is active and proactive and likes making things happen..

I always add to such a list that it is not a prescriptive list.  Many people who are excellent at marketing do not have all the characteristics listed. But most great marketers have many of these characteristics.

In summary, you have to want to do marketing, must develop or already have an active attitude toward achieving goals, and enjoy working and learning from people.

Success Orientations

Success Orientations - one way of considering how people go about achieving success...

(An aside:  I used the terms “goal orientation”, “process orientation”, and “relationship orientation” above. They are from my Success Orientations behavioral model – http://successorientations.com.  I also used “visual”, “auditory”, and “kinesthetic”, which are from the Neuro-Linguistic Programming VAK model. “NLP” was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.)

OK, so I want to learn to do really excellent marketing…how do I start? A lemonade stand?!?!?

Ha, ha!  No, you don’t need to run a lemonade stand to become excellent at marketing. But yes, you need to start doing it on a regular basis – practicing it and getting more and more understanding of the richness and depth of skills and attitudes you need to develop.

There are many easy and fun ways to get started doing marketing.  Some ideas:

  • When students leave university in June they sell their books, furniture, cars, computers and other belongings cheaply. They are desperate to get rid of them at the last minute. Ask around to see which items, specifically, will be in demand later by incoming students.When you find bargains, buy a few of them yourself.  Store these items until August 15th. Then post them for sale at higher prices on bulletin boards, online want-ads such as Craigslist, and through email to incoming students arriving at the end of the summer.This game takes very little money and is a fabulous, low-capital way to do marketing. Learn what advertising works. Learn how people bargain and how to interact with them to close a sale. Learn what is more in demand and what is harder to sell. Practice listening carefully to people and learning how they think. And make a profit doing so.
  • Stuff for sale

    Sell stuff...and practice marketing by doing so!

    Sell off anything you don’t want anymore through similar systems as the first example. Find things at garage sales and sell them for higher prices. Or bundle them together with similar items and charge a much higher price. From this exercise, learn how customers define the “value” of what you are offering. For example, I recently put up for sale on Craigslist a Nintendo Entertainment system, TV, and portable DVD player which my sons no longer needed. I had offers for the whole bundle for $40. Most queries, however, were for the NES system, which we subsequently sold alone for $50. Other calls were for the portable DVD player, which we have yet to sell. The TV may not sell at all. More marketing learning – some bundles work; others do not.

  • When you travel, bring a few things back you think you could sell to people in the area where you live.  Try selling them.
  • As a part-time business, offer some form of service…translation, custom cooking, walking dogs, …anything. Learn how to offer your services to people, how to price effectively, how to invoice people, how to generate word of mouth advertising, and how to close your business down when you have learned all you feel you can learn (and your customers are satisfied, of course!)
  • Volunteer to help a non-profit, charity, or community group with their marketing.  Listen, learn, and do marketing with them. No cost to you or them and lots of side benefits, like making new friends building your network for career reasons.

Get the idea?  It doesn’t take a lot to start practicing marketing.

But it does take a lot of practicing to become really good at marketing.

22 Jun

Success Orientations and brain hemispheres

I am working through a book called “Unleashing Your Brilliance” by Brian E Wash and ran across a page comparing the traits of the opposing brain hemispheres. The right hemisphere has interesting traits as “recall’s people’s faces”, “people-oriented”, and “seeks similarities”, among others. The left hemisphere has traits such as as “recall’s people’s names”, “structure-oriented”, and “seeks differences”.

Sound familiar?

Quite clearly there is a big crossover between how the different hemispheres of the brain look at the world and success orientations. Left-brained people – those who look at the world through a logical, organized view seem to line up quite nicely with process-oriented individuals and right-brained with relationship oriented people.

Process and relationship orientations are not by any stretch of the imagination new or terribly unique. They do, however, provide a new and particularly useful perspective when used in conjunction with the goal orientation. Everyone wants to achieve success. How they do so, with their particular mix of relationship, process, and goal, makes them come at challenges in different ways with very different side-effects and outcomes.

Studying left and right hemisphere traits, and learning to use both together, is really fascinating and useful stuff. Check out Brian’s excellent book for more on how the brain works.

24 Oct

Another perfect fit!

patisserieAnother perfect fit! My teenage son went to work for a bakery recently. Being a process-goal mix, he latched onto baking in a Patisserie – AKA a fancy French bakery making everything from bread to quiches to muffins and wedding cakes – as the perfect job. His brother, when visiting him at the bakery said:

“I have never seen him so happy!”

A bakery is a perfect job for a process-goal mix person. Why? You have to follow a variety of recipes (set processes) , you get to work on batches of goods (repeating processes) and you get to achieve goals “It is so cool seeing 400 muffins come out of the oven – and you made them!”. There is enough repetitive process to allow you to feel grounded, but enough variety in the different processes to keep you from getting bored…and of course, lots of goals every day to fulfill.

Other perfect jobs for process-goal oriented people?

patisserie2

07 Oct

Aligning yourself with the best organizational culture…for you.

universityYou would think I would know this stuff, right? Here I am, stressing over whether I should leave my (now past) employer and step into the unknown. Did I once include my natural success orientation mix into the decision? Did I relate my uncertainty and stress back to who I am and what the organzation I had been working for was like, and what they were transforming into?

Heck no. All I thought about was my loss of financial security and my stress as I tried to continue to fit into what was getting to be a harder and harder institution to work for.

Ack. It was definitely time for an epiphany. And it came: My employer was now more process oriented than relationship oriented and shifting rapidly even more so. What had been a small, community focused institution with a strong relationship oriented leadership was now transforming into a larger, process oriented one. Now, the new hires, mostly PhD process oriented academics, were pushing hard to get rid of the relationship aspect and force a new, more predictable (read: process oriented) structure into place. Don’t get me wrong: Bad things happen when institutions grow and they are trying to be run on relationship alone. But education as a whole, particularly at the post-secondary level which on the surface espouses departure from the norms (‘process”), should not be about process, but about achieving goals and doing so while learning what processes work and don’t work, and learning to get along with peers and build relationships across boundaries.

So, here I was, a strong relationship and goal oriented person, becoming increasingly more uncomfortable as the symptoms of this change were becoming more painful for me: I would be almost in tears when I heard things from my peers like “the student used a non-standard font in the footer of her paper” and “the standard structure for the thesis was not followed” (with marks deducted for both). Needless to say, there is no “standard font” and the whole concept of forcing a student into a “standard structure” is so scary to me that I almost gagged when I heard it for the umpteenth time. Where was the “relationship” or the “human development” in this picture?

Well, I got the message and not long ago I left the security of a predictable paycheck and started in a new city at a new instition to me. “As one door closes another opens” is an old saying. Well it was true: The new institution is very relationship oriented, with people-centred communication, relaxing staff social events, and a real focus on getting to know students (read: relationships and human development).

Big sigh of relief for me.

And a wry shake of my head: I should have known better. I work with this stuff all the time. Align your success orientation mix with a job and an organizational orientation mix that matches yours and you will be a MUCH happier. Period.

02 Dec

Bikram Hot Yoga – wow!

I had the interesting experience of trying out something new the other day: Bikram Hot Yoga. Essentially, you are in a room that is set to about 100-120 degrees Farienheit (39-45 Celsius) for 90 minutes. In this room they have an “instructor” at the front who talks loudly into a microphone at you for essentially the whole time. You are expected to work through a whole series of quite challenging yoga moves, one after another in rapid succession to the tune of “PUSH-HARDER!!-REACH FURTHER!!-HOLD-FOR-5-MORE-SECONDS!!!-FOUR-THREE-…”.

For 90 minutes this went on, move after move, the largely out of shape participants mechanically working through the moves in this glaringly flourescent lit room in a mess of sweat and toil. After about 30 minutes I gave up and because the leader asked us to stay in the room for the whole time, even if we didn’t follow the moves, I stayed in the room, stretching, breathing, and just working hard…to get the instructor’s loud voice out of my head!

East meets west: What is Bikram Hot Yoga? In the incarnation I experienced it is yoga translated by the goal oriented mind. From what I could tell, this was not the yoga method as I had learned it, but more a yoga workout, for the achievement of a goal.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that some people won’t really get a lot out of it. Heck, a workout is a workout and if you sweat some crap out of your system when you do it then good for you.  But this was not yoga – it was a goal-oriented boot camp.