Book Excerpt: Pick the problem you want to solve

red question markThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

The problem most companies have is that they have more ideas than they have resources (money or people) to implement them. You can’t solve everything all at once, so you have to pick the problem you want to solve today. There will always be problems to solve. The important thing is to know what the problems are. Then you can prioritize which to tackle first and which to put off until next quarter (or the following quarter, or the next year…).

Prioritizing activities is difficult for most marketers because it means that something won’t get done. By your very nature, you want to do everything you can to make your company or your product successful. The hard, cold fact is there usually isn’t enough time, money or people to do everything you want to do—right now.

To get beyond this sometimes emotional reaction, ask yourself or your organization a very simple question; “If you can only do one thing—what would it be?”

The answer is your priority. It sets the context for evaluating other options. Which option helps you reach the objective…

  • Faster?
  • For less money?
  • With better results?

Prioritization doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Try following these simple steps next time you’re faced with a difficult prioritization challenge.

  • Brainstorm a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in order to achieve your objectives.
  • Outline the potential impact of each activity on the business objective.
  • Estimate the cost of each activity (time, money and resources).
  • Evaluate the likelihood of success.
  • Identify the activities that provide the biggest return on investment (ROI).
  • Prioritize the activities according to their ROI.

Armed with this information, you are better prepared for the inevitable budget discussions. Depending on the available budget, there is a point at which you will probably run out of money. By evaluating the ROI for each activity, you can determine how far your budget will actually take you. At this point, draw a line. The activities that have been prioritized above the line get done, and things below the line get done later. These are the problems you will solve another day.

Prioritization can get tricky, and sometimes political. This is especially true when the review and approval process involves multiple businesses, decision-makers and executives. People have opinions. Sometimes you agree with them and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you don’t get to vote. The key to effectively navigate these waters is to be clear in your approach:

  • These are the objectives.
  • This is how these strategies support the objective.
  • This is how much money we have to spend.
  • This is the return on investment for each strategy.

Having laid out an articulate, well thought out assessment of the options, you have done everything in your power to help the organization pick the problem they want to solve. Rest assured—there will always be more problems to solve. Can you think back to a situation where prioritization would have helped you more effectively achieve your objective? I know I can.

Book Excerpt: Plan a little so you can do a lot more

42_rules_marketing_3d1The following is an excerpt from the Amazon bestseller 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

After much observation and questioning, I have come to classify marketing people into two groups: Planners and Doers. This may seem a stereotype, and it probably is, but bear with me.  Most people I talk to can definitely place themselves into either one camp or the other.

The Planners: You know these folks. They are endearing for their need to always “have a plan.” They think, analyze, request more data and then reassess their assessment. Then something changes—ugh! After a moment of panic and deep breathing, they get to work. They go back to the plan and test their assumptions, review their contingencies and are quite proud to report that the plan is still workable “with a few tweaks.”

These folks plan and plan and plan but actually  don’t do very much. Planners are important and we need them. Without them the Doers would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off! Remember the hit series Friends? The character Monica, played by Courtney Cox, was the epitome of a Planner. She had her life planned out from the time she was 12 years old.  Not only did she plan her life, but her friends’ lives as well. Everyone loved Monica because she was practical and you could always count on her to “have a plan.”

The Doers: These folks, on the other hand, must be doing something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they are “moving the needle” and “making progress.” They have great ideas, and are excited and energetic. They are generally fun to be around. Because of the infectious spirit of the Doers, others jump on the bandwagon and everyone starts doing things.

The issue is whether the Doers are doing the right things. Are they consistent with the strategy and business objectives? Are they integrating with other activities going on? Are their activities repeatable? Can they grow over time? Back to the Friends example—Phoebe, as opposed to Monica was the quintessential Doer. She did whatever came to mind, whenever it came to mind. Everyone loved Phoebe because she was spontaneous and full of energy.

The point is, you need both Planners and Doers in order to get things done. Not everyone can walk the tightrope between planning and doing. And that’s the biggest issue—the lack of balance between strategy and tactics. Thanks to the Planners, companies can develop brilliant strategies— on paper at least.

Thanks to the Doers, companies can spend a lot of time and money without much to show for it. What the lucky ones quickly learn is that developing a strategy is very different from executing one.

When companies try to implement their strategies, they run into obstacles such as channels, partners, technology, infrastructure, competition, or lack of resources. The reverse is also true. Companies can spend so much time executing that they lose sight of the business objective.For example, they might end up with an awesome website, but no incremental sales (See Rule 2.) To be valuable, strategy must be practical, and tactics must be integrated.

Planners and Doers tend to have difficulty connecting the dots between their plans (strategies, objectives, etc.) and their actions (tactics or activities). Lots of time, resources and money get wasted. This is a luxury of days gone by and one that business today can’t afford.

My Mom used to tell me “if you slow down, you’ll go faster” and she was right. How many times do you wish you’d just taken a minute to think something through before you jumped in? How about you? Are you a planner or a doer or maybe a little of both?

Book Excerpt: Social Media for Small Business

The following is an excerpt from42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business by Jennifer L. Jacobson.  To get your copy, visit:

Rule 20:  Know Your Social Media Platforms
You don’t have to know all of them, just the right ones.

While it is not necessary to memorize and keep track of every new social media platform available, it is essential that you have a fundamental
understanding of the types of social media platforms you can use for your business.

Social Networking

Audiences of the social networking sites vary from quilters, pet owners, teens, and tweens, to die-hard musicians, writers, and physicists. The MySpaces of the world where all the cool kids hang out, have evolved into sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Today there are many hybrids where grownups can blog, connect with their colleagues, see pictures of what their friends had for lunch, and buy their buddies a “virtual beer.”

The features and interactivity of these social networks change weekly. Your job is to establish yourself on a site that meets your needs while learning what that social network does well. Some sites have great community forums where people of a certain interest talk about their experiences and share what they know.

Blogging and Web Publishing Services

Use a blogging platform that makes it easy for your customers to find you. Some sites, like Facebook, require anyone viewing your site to have their own Facebook account, and nothing turns a customer off more than having to give Web companies their personal information to view a page. Find a service that you can easily use. Read the company’s about us page. Make sure they are not one of the “fly by night” dotcoms that may be gone tomorrow, taking your
hard-earned blog with them.

In-House and Independent Forums

Chances are you already have a company website and, if this is the
case, your in-house Web guru should be able to add a “blog” section
to your existing web page. If they are really good, they will be able to
have a section where your customers can discuss their thoughts in an
open forum. If you do not have an in-house forum, there are plenty of
online forums already in existence that should be appropriate to your
business’s area of interest. Depending on the type of company you
have, and your closeness with your customers, a forum can be a
wonderful thing. Many of your die-hard-loyal customers may be thrilled
to spend lots of time on your forum, answering questions for you and
raving about your products and services. These types of fans are worth
their weight in gold because they’re writing for the “love of the sport”
not because they are a paid viral marketer (but we’ll get to that later).

Photo Sharing

Depending on they type of business you run, this may be a great option
for you. Artists and comic book writers love this option because it gives
their fans a place to rant and rave about their work, and it establishes
them as a force to be reckoned with in their field. While a photo sharing
service may not be suitable for businesses selling accounting services,
they work well for businesses that sell specific, one-of-a-kind products.

Audio and Video Sharing

If your company has commercials that have aired on television, it might
be worth it to digitize the tape and upload the footage to YouTube. You
can then embed your YouTube video into your website for your
customers to watch. Be sure to customize your video or audio sharing
account with descriptions about your business, pictures, and other
videos, when appropriate. YouTube has a good variety of community
features, including the ability to subscribe to other people’s video
channels. Remember—only upload music and videos that you have
the rights to.

Seth Godin has rules too.

I first saw this video of Seth Godin last year at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference, and it made its way to me again today. If you’re interested in branding and marketing, it’s worth 30 mins of your time…believe me.

Seth Godin has rules too

After re-watching it, I realized how right on track we are with 42 Rules. 42 Rules is about helping people get their ideas out of theirs heads and out into the world in a variety of formats – books, webcasts, blogs, videos, etc. Here’s is what I took away from Seth’s rules as it relates to 42 Rules:

  • We are doing the right things – just not enough of them
  • We invite readers to participate in the conversation – These Are My Rules…What Are Yours?
  • We give away content – via Get 5 Rules
  • We are strictly permission based

What can you do to apply Seth’s rules to your marketing efforts? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have permission to talk with your audience? Or do you just think you do and are hoping for the best…
  • Are your ideas worth sharing? Are they the words you hope your audience cares about, or, are they the ideas your audience cares about in your words?
  • Why are you doing what you do? Because you’re passionate about it, or, because you hope to make money at it?

The key is to understand yourself, understand your audience and identify where the two intersect. That is how you build your brand and your business.