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?

What do you do?

doing-it-wrong-ballAs you may know, I’m a HUGE fan of Seth Godin.  The guy’s just plain brilliant, in a practical, no-nonsense, direct and to-the-point kind of way.  There are so many things that I’ve learned from Seth over the years, but the one that keeps coming up is the idea of Talking vs. Doing…Thinking vs. Planning.  Seth has a great blog post on the topic – and the best part of it is, the post is less than 100 words (98 to be exact).

Marketing is about ideas, creativity and finding ways to get people to listen to what you have to say.  But the point of the matter is that ultimately, you need to do something that makes people want to listen to you.  You can talk and talk and talk, but if what you have to say isn’t interesting, compelling or relevant, no one is going to listen.  If they don’t listen, then you have failed in your job as a marketer.  Our job as marketers is to convince people to buy more of our stuff – whatever that stuff is.  That’s it.  Now there are lots of ways to do that – that’s where the ideas, creativity and such come in.

Where I see entrepreneurs getting into trouble is that they talk, and plan and think…and never do anything.  What do you do?

Gobbledygook Manifesto – the what?

The following is an excerpt from the Gobbledygook Manifesto, by David Meerman Scott.

Oh jeez, not another flexible, scalable, groundbreaking,  industry-standard, cutting-edge product from a market-leading, well positioned company! Ugh.  I think I’m gonna puke! Just like with a teenager’s use of catch phrases, I notice the same words cropping up again and again in Web sites and news releases—so much so that the gobbledygook grates against my nerves and many other people’s, too. Well, duh. Like, companies just totally  don’t communicate very well, you know?

So few marketing and PR people write well. Many of the thousands of Web sites I’ve analyzed over  the years and the hundred or so news releases I receive each week from well- meaning PR people are laden with these gobbledygook adjectives. So I wanted to see exactly how many of these words are being used, and created an analysis to do so.

First, I selected words and phrases that are overused in news releases by polling select PR people and journalists to get a list of gobbledygook phrases. Then I turned to Factiva from Dow Jones  for help with my analysis. The folks at the Factiva Reputation Lab used text mining tools to analyze news releases sent by companies in north America. Factiva analyzed each release in its database  that had been sent to one of the north American news release wires it distributes for the period from January 1, 2006, to September 30, 2006. The news release wires included in the analysis were Business Wire, Canada newsWire, CCnMatthews,, Market Wire, Moody’s, PR newswire, and Primezone Media network. The results were staggering. The news release wires collectively distributed just over 388,000 news releases in the nine-month period, and just over 74,000 of them mentioned at least one of the Gobbledygook phrases. the winner was “next generation,” with 9,895 uses. There were over 5,000 uses of each of the following words and phrases: “flexible,” “robust,” “world class,” “scalable,” and “easy to use.” Other notably overused phrases with between 2,000 and 5,000 uses included “cutting edge,” “mission critical,” “market leading,” “industry standard,” “turnkey,” and “groundbreaking.”  Oh and don’t forget “interoperable,” “best of breed,” and “user friendly,” each with over 1,000 uses  in news releases.

Read the rest of David’s manifesto here…

Just Say NO to Jargon

The following is an excerpt from “42 Rules of Marketing” by yours truly

NOTThis rule will empower you to leverage your thinking and step outside the box so that you can help customers find solutions to their problems. Huh?  In an effort to sound smart, different and credible,  the language of corporate marketing has taken a  turn for the worse. Complete websites,  brochures and datasheets are written that don’t mean a darn thing. We understand all the words, but when they are put together we don’t know what it means. What, for example does “we provide technical solutions for progressive companies” mean? How about; “technical innovation is the foundation of our best-in-class industry leading solutions that exceeds customers’ expectations.” What in the world does this actually mean?

This type of corporate gobbledygook is not helpful. In fact, it has just the opposite affect. Customers read your brochure (or website or white paper) and are left with more questions than answers. Since it would require effort on their part to figure out what you do, they move on to the next guy – and you’ve lost a potential customer.

It isn’t very often that a customer says to themselves, “I need an innovative solution to exceed my expectations.” They probably think “I’ve been trying really hard to solve this problem and I just can’t – maybe someone else can help.”

So what is a marketer to do? Well, some clever folks at Deloitte Consulting took it upon themselves to create “BullFighter” – a clever piece of software that looks at all your copy and identifies all the “bull words.”  The software plugs in to Microsoft Word and works much like spell-check or grammar-check. You select “Bullfighter” and it finds “bull words” and suggests alternatives. Just for fun, I did a before and after test of several phrases. This is what I got:

Stakeholder: Alternative words were vampire slayer, victim and forks.  “Overused to the point of pain by consultants.”

First-Mover: “Battle cry from the first Internet boom-bust, one with little remaining credibility.”

Empower: “A grandiose word…solidly enshrined in the Consulting Cliché Hall of Fame.”

Hatsize Learning Corporation took this lesson to heart when they revised their corporate positioning and messages. Initially their top three messages were: optimize resources & hardware; reduce delivery costs; and increase training revenue. After much discussion the team found the underlying benefits and got straight to the point. Their new message is: more revenue, higher margins through increased product knowledge. The impact was to get away from buzz-words that mean nothing and say what you really want to say.

The point is, make sure what you write actually means something. Make sure it means something to someone who doesn’t work for your company. Make sure it means something to your customers and potential customers. How do you know? Just ask them.

10 Ways to Build Your Business (without spending a penny)


Listen to the recording of my Teleseminar (recording available until April 14, 2010)

Playback Dial-in Number:    1-213-289-0503
Playback Access Code:    218888

You’re here to learn the 10 Ways to Build your Business without spending a penny….and so you will.  I’m going to give you specific things that you can start doing today to build your business and your brand without spending any money.  You will have to put in some time and effort, but it will definitely be worth it.  What is the purpose of the exercise?  To show you how to market your business without spending a fortune so you can you achieve your business goals – whatever they are.  In most cases it is either to attract more of the right kind of customers, or to generate more revenue.

Before we jump in, let me lay the foundation. After years of helping companies and entrepreneurs build their brands and their businesses, I have developed a methodology I call THINK.PLAN.ACT. You can use it at a high level to develop strategic marketing plans.  And you can also use it at a very tactical level.  For example, every morning I spend 30 minutes thinking, planning and acting.  I think about what I want to accomplish during my day.  I plan out my time, meetings, work time, driving, errands, whatever.  Then I take the last 20 minutes or so and complete a task – usually it’s something that I need to do so that other people on my staff can be productive.  Think. Plan. Act.

Successful marketing is all about balance.  If you spend too much time planning and not acting, then you don’t get results.  If you start acting but aren’t focused, then you don’t get results.  If you launch your website, but no one knows, then who cares.  If you start publishing articles, but the topics aren’t relevant to your target audience, then they aren’t going to care.   If you get interviewed for an industry publication, but it isn’t one of your target industries, it’s not going to help you build your business.  Most people jump right to the 10 Ways without thinking about what they want to accomplish, without a plan for how to get it done and without the skill needed to act on any of their ideas.  So bear with me…

When you THINK about your brand and your business…start with what you want to accomplish – your business objectives.  Then work to understand your customers and the problems they are trying to solve.  Next, take a look outside and see what the others guys are doing.  This isn’t rocket science.  It’s stuff you probably know you should be doing…but it doesn’t mean you always do it.

When you PLAN to build your business you identify what you’re going to do, when & where you’re going to do it.  These are the actual detailed tactics of your plan. Usually, when it comes to marketing, the biggest challenge most of us have isn’t a lack of ideas. In fact, I’m going to give you 10 ideas today that will lead you to come up with more ideas.  The biggest challenge is selecting the most effective things to do based on what your customers want, what you like to do and what will help you achieve your objectives.

Now, we have thought about what we want to accomplish and what our customers need, we’ve built a plan of detailing what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it.  The next thing is to ACT on it.  The key to doing anything consistently is to make it a habit – you need to create a marketing habit.  For some people, they take the first hour of every day and work on networking.  For others, they spend 30 or 40 minutes blogging – writing in theirs and commenting on others.  I spend 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon on social media – chatting with my networks, catching up with the communities I’m apart of and engaging in conversations where I have an interest or can add value.  The point is to make it a daily habit.  Then you can consistently do it everyday – which is what it will take. To build your business you need to market it everyday.

Here is your list of “10 Ways to Build Your Business (without spending a penny)”. You can click on each one to get more details and links to relevant resources.

  1. Call your existing customers
  2. Join an Affiliate Marketing program
  3. Launch an E-zine
  4. Use your email signature line
  5. Give something away for free
  6. Use social media
  7. Start a blog
  8. Publish articles online
  9. Create a video
  10. Get free publicity