Archive for September, 2013

Ah, football season.  The sun is spending less and less time overhead, the leaves are turning different shades of orange and brown, and “cool” fronts (or what passes for  cool fronts in southeast Texas) are lumbering their way south to give us respite from the oppressive summer heat.  Football season also brings us that gridiron institution that rewards us for making it through the first work day of the week: Monday Night Football.

This past Monday’s match-up saw the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos taking on the Toilet Bowl-bound Oakland Raiders.  ‘Match-up’ might be too strong a term for this episode; it was a match-up like an armless man boxing an in-his-prime Mike Tyson is a match-up.  He sliced the black and silver’s defense like a master surgeon performing a routine appendectomy.  Manning and his receivers worked together like Duane Allman and Dicky Betts trading licks and locking into a shared vibe during a live performance of “Whipping Post” back in the day.

Peyton Manning.  You remember him, right?  The NFL’s and the Indianapolis Colts’ #1 draft pick from the University of Tennessee back in the 1998 draft?  Arguably the best quarterback of the last 20 years and one of the all-time greats?  The guy who is that rare breed that never stops learning, never stops trying to improve himself, and never stops enjoying what he does? 

During the aforementioned Monday Night Football contest, a one-on-one interview with Manning was broadcast.  He credited his success to his family, coaches, friends, and the cast around him on the field, past and present.  On the field and off the field, he’s a leader.  So how does he prepare himself for each contest?  He does what he’s always done: He mixes it up and he keeps it fun.

  •  Fancy footwork

Manning uses a particular drill to hone his footwork and to keep his football instincts sharp while his focus remains on what’s happening in the field of play.  Snaking in an out of what looks like foam speed bumps, Manning averts his gaze to an imaginary play developing down field.  His attention is up and out, not down.  This drill may seem a bit silly to some, but tell that to Peyton and he’ll point to his four MVP awards and his Super Bowl ring.  (And since he’s a nice guy, he’ll let you slink away without further shame.)  In sales, you must be able to do three things: sell, sell, and think on your feet.  Focus on what’s happening in the bigger picture in front of you, not what is happening in the background.

  •  Stay in the pocket under pressure

When you’re the most marked man on the field, you better have the trust and the support of your teammates around you, particularly the five bulls on the offensive line.  As quarterback, Peyton has 11 guys gunning to ruin his day on every play.  Blocks must be executed, holes opened, passes caught— all while several wrecking balls have you as the building they are dying to take down.  Manning has absolute confidence in those around him.  He knows they have his back, just as he has theirs.  How?  He never takes a practice off.  He never misses a meeting.  He never gives less than his all on every play, from a 3rd and Forever to a kneel down.  He leads by example because, when it comes down to it, he has to be able to depend on others to help him do his job.  And when you see a guy busting his ass day in and day out, you can’t help but want to go to war with them.  During my time as a sales manager, this was crucial.  I had to focus on the task at hand and eliminate the peripheral stuff.  I had to be there for my sales team, encouraging them, coaching them, and celebrating with them.  I had to show them that I was willing to do whatever it took for the team to succeed.  After all, if I don’t have their backs, why should they have mine?

  •  Change Up

Having a game plan is great; it helps you focus on what you need to do to complete a task.  But in life, as in football, sometimes you have to deviate from the x’s and o’s you drew up during the week leading up to the big game.  Manning is famous for his ability to change a play at the line of scrimmage or simply call an audible to change the play up.  He might as well be the offensive coordinator for his team.  And why not?  He has mastered the art of situational play calling based on what the defense is showing— his conversion rates after calling an audible are legendary.  The guy knows the playbook, but he also knows how to use it.  He knows, as you should, that one has to be willing to adapt to an ever-changing climate.  If something isn’t working or if you notice something could be done better, change your play.  Call an audible.

Many a writer has made football an analogy for life, with its highs and lows, touchdowns and knockdowns, and endless learning and preparation.  Sales and football also seem to be inextricably linked in many ways as well.  Football is a grueling, winner-take-all battle; sales is a cutthroat exercise in forming partnerships and winning over clients.  Some games you blow out your opponent, some games you’re on the wrong end of the final box score tally.  But with the right focus and the right preparation, you and your team can hold court in your profession and maybe even achieve the equivalent accolades of one future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback  named Peyton Manning— and have a little fun along the way, too.

You can re-visit all of the basics by viewing my Sales 101 blog.

It’s Friday, so Apple must have released a new gadget or a new operating system.  With its latest unveiling, the iconic fruit has given Applephiles an almost new device, from new colors and fonts to its feel as you navigate around its mazes of technical wizardry.

With a new operating system comes new challenges: learning the basics, navigating through the various menus, adjusting settings, etc.  As a service to you, we’ve taken the highlights from this update and have compiled a list of the basics and a few surprises contained within iOS 7.

What Has Changed

Much has changed, in fact.  With the iOS 7 update, you basically have a new phone without having to sign a new contract or without having to leave your home or office.  Samantha Murphy Kelly, on Mashable.com, provides us with a nice overview of what to expect from this new OS.  Below are the highlights from her highlights, highlighted for you.

1.     The overall look

New colors, new fonts, new sounds, and a new feel— all have changed to make a “cleaner, sleaker (operation)… Just about every nook and cranny in the whole house has been renovated.”

2.     The control center

You wanted a hub where everything could be easily accessed, and Apple has given it to you.  From music settings to alarm settings and back through to Airplane mode and beyond, the common stuff is here— and it can be accessed when the lock screen is activated.

3.     Gestures, slide to unlock

More gesture-focused than ever, the iOS 7 has taken some of the mundane and tedious tasks and made them easier and, well, more fun.  For instance, no longer does the user have to slide their finger across the bar at the bottom of the screen to unlock the phone.  Just swipe it!

4.     Wallpapers

Apple has opened the vaults and is offering plenty of new and vivid pictures for your phone’s backdrop.

5.     Photo organization

With phones becoming the depositories for photos that boxes and plastic tubs used to be (and with no tangible product to develop and store, we take more pics than ever), organization is a key issue that Apple has tackled and, it would seem, done a swell job at making the process easy and, well, easy.  With pics and videos placed into groups based on time and place, accessing the 983 pics and the 45 minute video you took at your child’s first school play are easily accessed and enjoyed with family and friends near and far.

6.     New ringtones

According to Ms. Kelly (and more than a few Apple users I know), the iWhatever is not known for its plethora of catchy and memorable ringtones.  No longer.  Apple has consulted with someone who understands that ringtones and wallpaper are the two most important features on any phone.

Hidden Features

More than once in my life, I have accidentally pressed a button or by dumb luck just happened to pick the right combination of buttons only to have a new feature or a once unknown shortcut revealed to me on my phone or on my remote control.  We’ve all done this at one time, as Aaron Souppouris of theverge.com  notes in his article about the hidden gems contained in the new iOS 7.  Here are a few he found by accident on purpose.  Or was it on purpose by accident?

1.     Know when that message was sent

No longer will the exact time a message was sent be a mystery.  The sleuths at Apple have allotted you an easy way to know exactly when your husband sent that text saying he would LOVE to go see the latest romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock simply by swiping the message bubbles to the left.

2.     Take control of your apps

iOS 7 has given your iGadget the ability to download updates in the background while you play another level of Candy Crush, ensuring that your apps are always up-to-date and ready to go.  And given that it’s useful but not particularly data friendly, as Aaron notes, Apple allows you to pick and choose which apps you wish to be updated in the background.

3.     Always be updating

Tired of trudging to your virtual car, driving to the virtual Apple store, and manually updating your apps?  Apple feels your pain and no longer do you have to exert 5 calories to do this every time an app gets an itch for an update.  Your new iOS will now automatically update every app, and you can switch this feature off when you’re using cellular data.

Stop them watching

While it may seem strange that a marketing company would reveal a way to STOP receiving messages, we wish to remind you that we’re consumers, too, and we, too, tire of ads for “enhancement” pills and “this weird old trick” that will save you millions on your auto insurance.  Under the Privacy tab, this feature can be activated and enjoyed with the lack of ads you’ll receive.

With 200+ changes to the old operating system, the iOS 7 gives you, in essence, a new phone.  Improvements to old features mixed with new and more easily accessed features make this a welcome update that is sure to satiate the rabid appetites of the fans of all things Apple.

And it’s free.

 

Usually an evening spent with new friends at a wine tasting event isn’t material for my blog, but there’s always an exception.  And this is one of them.

Our guests at that wine tasting are neighbors that lived next door to us before moving a few streets down.  Prior to getting to know them at a birthday party after they moved, I saw them on occasion, gave them the courtesy ‘hi’ when I saw them, and went about my business, never bothering to get to know them because of that ‘guilt by association thing’.  Not that I had been directly affected by them or their ‘friends’ alleged transgressions; I simply chose (and choose) not to associate with people like that.  However, at the party, we found out that we shared similar preconceived notions of one another.  They heard I was this, I heard they were that, and we both avoided each other based on rumor and innuendo.  We also discovered the source of these misconceptions: a gossipy neighbor with control issues.

We all know or have known this person, the person that knows everything, knows everyone, and insists you know she knows it.  (A blowhard, to put it mildly.)  This neighbor of ours loves to gossip the same way some people love to take in oxygen to help themselves stay alive.  She stirs pots like she’s Wolfgang Puck on a coke binge.  All this hides, I believe, a deep-seeded insecurity and a need to control all that she comes in contact with.

This neighbor was no stranger to me.  After living across from her for just a week, my Spidey sense was tingling more than if I had attached myself to a paint can shaker, telling me to watch my back and keep to predefined boundaries with this woman so as to hopefully avoid her radar.  I had little to no contact with her.  And I was fine with that.  The less ammo I gave her, the less chance I had of taking a bullet to my backside.  Or so I thought.

She had to invent untruths and spread rumors in order to satiate her twisted idea of making friends and playing them as if they were marionettes on the end of her demented strings.  To others, I was a bad person, someone to avoid.  In reality, I’m a nice guy to people who show me the same courtesy, and I love making friends.  (I couldn’t be where I am in life if I didn’t possess some semblance of people skills at some point during my day.)  Now that my neighbors are seeing who I really am, her contrived world constructed of lies and meanness are crumbling like a tree house designed by a 5-year-old.  I’m winning, she’s losing.

Gossipy people are unavoidable.  It’s inevitable you will run into one of these wannabe paparazzis who thrive on control and the misery of others.  In the end, people like me enjoy pleasant evenings with friends, both new and old, while the National Enquirer across the street sits at home, drowning in the sadness and loneliness constructed from her own blueprints.  I’m sure my neighbor will catch wind of this post, just as she seems to come across all other bits and pieces of neighborly news.  I hope she does, and I hope she knows that my wife and I have plans this weekend.

Content Marketing World is to marketing trade shows what Metallica is to a rock band.  The movers, the shakers, the sales record breakers— they all converge on this annual event as a sort of instinctual pilgrimage to refuel themselves with marketing knowledge and to get a heads-up on what’s coming down the pipe.  If you’re in marketing, you want to be here.

This year’s convention was a whirlwind of energy emanating from some of the most knowledgeable speakers and marketing geniuses  in the industry.  I spent my time doing my best impression of a sea sponge, soaking in all the Awesome and Hell Yeah that I could.  I was shaking hands, making friends, starting relationships— you know, a typical day in the Life of Brian.

Here’s just a sampling of what I feasted on at this marketing smorgasbord.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Execution

Sometimes the best advice comes in the form of a criticism.  Such was the case when I heard from more than one attendee that their marketing approach was, for the most part, “okay” but other items were not.  I asked them what parts were sub par, and they singled out their plan and their execution.

Ouch.

Always Be Executing

Planning is wonderful.  Planning is necessary.  But planning is not the end of the trail, pardner.  Simply saddling up to team of planners is like making a grocery list, going to the store, and staring at the produce.  Doesn’t make much sense to make a list, much less travel to the store, if your aim isn’t to purchase the items you’ve deemed to be needed, does it?  Of course not.  You have to execute your plan to make your efforts worthwhile.

Just Put It Off For Another Week

Would you buy athletic apparel from a company that incorporated that as their slogan?  If you would, I’d like to talk to you about some discounted tickets I have to the Winter Olympics to be held in Houston in 2022.   By now, everyone and their pet rock knows who is behind the tagline “Just do it,” three words that have become such a part of our lexicon that it is impossible not to have visions of the famous ‘Swoosh’ logo in your head when you see/hear it.  Your marketing plan should pay attention to these three words.  Don’t get caught up in lamenting a lack of resources or a plan or an endgame.  Just get off your ass, start chugging along, and see where your efforts take you.  You know more about what you want and how to get there than you think you do.  Trust me.  And if you spend too much time planning, chances are you’ll never leave the starting gate.

It’s Story Time

Remember when you were a kid and reading for fun was better than reading for a test?  Think of your marketing in the same way.  Make your marketing a “Choose Your Own Adventure” that will keep your audience coming back to find out what happens next.  Give your brand a back story.  Give it a face, a name, likes/dislikes— make it something that others will feel an emotional bond with.  Too many brands are vomiting out material that only help their targets pass some imaginary test.  Their marketing feels more like a necessary evil than something you would ever give even the slightest crap about.  Give your audience a means to form their own mental movie, and watch the results swing your way.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Unless you’re a shrink, your customers don’t need a steady flow of advice from you.  To me, that conduit is sterile and boring.  I hate antiseptic, hospital-esque relationships.  The tide has turned toward the shores of interpersonal relationships between brand and consumer.  Consumers want a brand they believe in, one that they know what to expect when they utilize it.  They want to feel a part of its evolution and of its success.  They want to KNOW your brand.  So what do you do to slake this thirst?  Pour them tall glasses of experiences.  Serve them stories and observations in both your fine crystal and your plastic iced tea cups.  Provide case studies of others’ experiences with your brand.  Talk TO your audience, not AT them.

Puttin’ On The Ritz

Recently, I sent out a tweet while flying from New York to Cleveland expressing my looking forward to a pleasant stay at the Ritz-Carlton in the latter city.  Without a hint of seriousness, I mentioned that it would be awesome to have a cold orange Sunkist waiting for me in my room.  Well, when I arrived in my home away from home at the Ritz, there wasn’t an orange Sunkist.

There were FOUR orange Sunkists, on ice and beggin’ me to imbibe.  Turns out my tweet from 30,000 feet ended up in a corporate executive’s lap, and they notified the Cleveland Ritz about it, since the latter did not have their own Twitter account.  (You better believe they do now.)  To say I was pleased is putting it mildly.  The Ritz-Carlton NAILED engagement, and I was lucky enough to witness it firsthand.

Tweet Your Tweets On Twitter And Show Your Face On Facebook

Social media is the greatest thing to happen to marketing since the internet.  Never before has it been so easy to communicate with consumers, whether it be informing them of an offer, alert them to a new product, or to just keep in touch.  Hell, start conversations with people.  Get to know them, and have them get to know you.  Remember, it’s about RELATIONSHIPS now so if you’re not engaging your audience in a dialogue, you’re enjoying my backside as we sprint toward to the marketing success finish line.