Why I quit Services for Strategy.

So, when I started out in this big, bold world of marketing and digital, I focused on the tactics, the services.  I wanted to relieve the burden of my client.  The “I’ll take care of that for you!” girl.  It was awesome.  In the early days of digital marketing, websites and marketing, clients were convinced all this “web stuff” was magic.  And me, a magician.  The more clients I had, the larger the economies of scale, the broader my talent grew.  Over the years I grew a wide repertoire in the space.  I gained invaluable tools that allowed me good judgement for clients’ tactical needs.  I experimented, I developed Best Practices.  I grew.  I made mistakes.  The saying is true:

Good judgement comes from experience.  And, experience, that mostly comes from bad judgement.

Having been blessed to work with great companies that afforded me multi-level work with lots of clients, patterns emerged.  Not just the tactical patterns, strategic observations.  Then, self-serve services came to pass.  I gravitated towards speaking about this time, and did less “doing the what” and inspiring the “why”.  It was advantageous for me, personally, because I had done the “what”, my advice carried a authenticity to it that few other competitors could relate.  More and more, my role became the strategist, the chick that pointed a program in the direction of unique, albeit, predictable success.  I wanted a pure strategy company, a think tank.  The problem?  As I peddled strategy, the clients still wanted the work done for them.  That’s cool, I can do that blindfolded.  And, hey it’s their money.  For 8 years I ran my own services company.  A cracker-jack team of smart marketers, we saw explosive success.  I still yearned for the pure strategy position.  It was a hard sale.  Though, there was no shortage of good business, I was a boutique firm, and lacked the impressive staff numbers to sell strategy to the “vanity” clients.

Eventually, I closed my service business and said goodbye to the staff who had become family.  It’s gratifying to watch how their careers have taken wings, and I hope that in some small part, I was a part of that trajectory.  Flying solo, and digging deeper into what “strategy” meant, I realized I was not alone.  All of a sudden, everyone was a strategist, a guru, a maven.  Relentless in my pursuit to be the stand out, I’ve come to know there are a handful of important habits the really incredible strategist does.  When cultivating these, I felt I had read my palm, my destiny stared back at me with glaring apparence.

Great Strategy  makes you care.

Motivation is like bathing, it’s a habit.  Whatever the goal might be, great strategy makes you want to do more than ‘keep your job”.  I’ve always said, “Every cause needs a rebel”.  Good strategy turns goals into causes.  It permeates the organization from top-down, bottom-to-top.  This thing, it gets a hold of you and becomes part of your DNA until accomplished.  Great strategy doesn’t just identify the prescription, it creates the drug that propels you to do the thing at all costs.  Check out my post on motivation.

Great Strategy breaks the system.

If you are playing catch up with the competition, why not imagine something better?  It takes the same effort, the same resources to leapfrog past status quo and “break the system” to create a wholly new thing to exceed goals.  Great strategists don’t see roadblocks, they know that resourcefulness is the best resource, and they partner with you to become the insurgent brand that gets you there. They don’t reinvent the wheel, that bores them.  They create self-driving cars.

Great Strategy digs in.

So many strategists “should” all over a client.  Creating fancy PowerPoints and leaving  you scratching your head is the hallmark of the average, IMO.  Great strategists are great partners and coaches.  They’ve lived in the tactical, and they know exactly what has to be performed.  If they haven’t done it, how will you?  Great strategists identify and remove roadblocks, inspire action and see it through. When I create strategy for a client, I’m their “ride or die” girl.  What needs to be done, will be done.

Great Strategy is difficult to copy.

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery.  Great strategy should be so groundbreaking that it’s near impossible to duplicate.  The problem with using a “campaign idea” as strategy is that’s only advertising.  It’s cheap, replicatable and end the end, drains your pocketbook with placement battles.  Don’t outspend your competition, outsmart them.  Campaigns aren’t strategy, they are vehicles.  That is not a big idea, that’s lazy.


I still do the tactical thing, when called for, but there’s a new feeling associated with it.  It’s inspired action instead of checking off boxes and time sheets.  Being a strategist is a noble profession for me.  It challenges my best and uses my “failures” as fuel.

I hope sharing my story has inspired you to recognize great strategy, and if you are unclear about yours…you know where I am. (^^,)


The Inbound Marketing Dilemma

Pop marketing terms confuse and irritate those who are not on this side of the marketing equation, inbound marketing being one.  Often, when auditing a client’s performance, inbound marketing means email and Google Ads.  Well, that’s what their agencies tell them, anyway.  Let’s get real a second.  If you (or your PR firm/media rep/SEOM company) create an inbound plan that only includes strategies sold to you, you’ll miss the magic spot of organic inbound development.

So, what the hell does that mean, Jennifer?!? Look at the picture above, there is a layer missing between the tactics and the website.  It’s the possible actions taken by your visitors after contrived content and before they decide to buy, influence or share.  They aren’t 100% your actions, can you really plan them in the cycle?  Um…yea!  Interpersonal communications are actually pretty predictable.  Pixel tracking in paid and distributed promotion can help validate or tweak this fluid strategy.

True inbound strategy and execution can feel daunting and never ending.  It is.  As long as we continue to create ways to communicate with each other, it will grow at the speed of the Internet.

How much is enough?  It really depends on several factors.  Do you clearly have the tools to understand how much market share you have in niche areas?  If the answer is no, I’m going to challenge you to tell me how you set goals.

One quick addition to your inbound marketing can make a major impact on both numbers and insight, programmatic media is the answer to pinpoint marketing.  Interrupt  the buying process, woo the unwooable and find more customers “just like that”.  This does not mean you don’t have to have a thorough strategy.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Impressions are cheap and “eyeballs” mean nothing unless you can correlate a message that captures hearts and minds.

Content development and strategy is the King of Inbound.

Create good stuff.  Get it out.  Simple a that.

If you find yourself  “contextually inadequate”, shift the content to purely serving your audiences’ interests over yours.  Give them tools to use (recipes, how-tos, convenient lists) that have NO underlying sales message.  Seems counter-intuitive, but it’s the psychological way to activate advocates.  Remember to end your pieces “sponsored by”, and people will appreciate the gift.  And, everyone remembers a brand with presents.  Social Quizzes are a great go-to gimme promo.

Lastly, it can be argued that a DMO doesn’t need, say, a podcast.  Okay.  But, what existing podcasts have your exact audience and you can guest spot?  Go down the inbound list of “I can’t do that” and challenge your perception of that media source.

Expand and challenge your definition of inbound marketing, it should be a daily topic.

And, Never. Stop. Innovating.



You missed the exit.

Dear friends, the shift has hit the fan.

And, your proverbial ass is on the proverbial line.

While you were attending board meetings, tending to operations and only buying media that pitched to you….well, this happened.  We have officially gone past the tipping point in omnichannel communications.  Search has been revolutionized, some even say it’s dead.  Swipe has replaced clicks, as once again the romance industry tells us what’s up.  Banking on your smart phone has increased a bazillion percent (OK, actually 560%, but who’s counting).  Big data has mystified the most seasoned marketers.  Ad agencies are closing doors faster than you can say, “But, the client said…”

So, you didn’t see this coming so fast, you still rely on your cousin/friend/dog sitter because they are “techy”.  Pull up your big girl panties, because I’m about to tell you how to pull this s*** show back on the rails in three (not so easy) steps.

  1. Ruthless Accountability.  You know why it’s easier to sell painkillers than vitamins?  We are quick to go to the doctor when it hurts, but we are (mostly) negligent in preventative care.  You buy into new concepts IF a sales person calls on you, and you make large commitments to the “it” thing.  That doesn’t make you hip.  That makes you lazy.  But, it’s OK.  A little marketing exercise will get you back to Olympian status.  Here’s the straight dope:  You need data-driven decisions. Google Analytics is anecdotal.  Your site traffic is anecdotal. Social listening is anecdotal.  Know what’s not?  Live studies (dare I say Big Data again) that cultivate possibilities instead of history reports.  Stop doing what doesn’t interest anyone.  Start doing what scares you. Kill that crappy site; use Facebook, Pinterest  even SnapChat as brand/store fronts.  The Internet is addicting because it’s fun.  Sales suck because we know you want our money.  Get the data right, give yourself a break then do the thing that scares you the most….breakup with your questionable vendors. Every. Single. One.
  2. Take back control.  Marketing was so much easier when the channels were finite.  Those damn kids have ensured that new marketing channels are infinite.  Television, movies, radio and print have forever changed.  So, how do you control media when the outlets grow an exponential percentage daily.  Yes, yes I said daily.  And, even that is slow as hell in communication that never sleeps.  Hire the smartest people you can find.  Hire them, make them happy, challenged and keep them!  Bring it all in house. Tap into SMEs (subject matter experts) to guide your team, go through them like tissue paper to stay fresh.  The secret to control is marketing that’s not marketing.  Put the trends first, sales second.  When you commit to this strategy, the magic happens.  Taking major risk leaps in media has a payoff either way.  Either you succeed or you learn.  Executing a tactic once or twice and scrapping it because it didn’t impress your boss, isn’t prudent…it’s a lack of faith.  My mentor used to say, either it’s a competency or commitment problem. 
  3. Hyper-responsive is the new snooze.  It’s not enough to “answer” your customers or follow your competition.  Being responsive in marketing is no longer doing your job.  All the while you are building database driven websites, you’re waiting for that brand audit and tweaking your PPC, someone is revolutionizing your industry.

You see, responding to trends isn’t good enough.  Creating trends is your only chance for survival.

OK, so if you have a large enough budget, you’ve probably fooled yourself into thinking you are doing omnichannel media.  Betcha’ a nickel, I can find 10 holes in 15 seconds flat.  Because it’s never “done”, it can’t be done because innovation will never be done.

This may turn some of you off, you might think it’s “preachy”, I prefer to call it persuasive.  I’m that good friend that tells you that you do, indeed, look fat in those jeans.  But, I’ll also shop all day with you and a bottle of good cab stashed in my bag to help you find the ultimate look.


Destination NOW: When “content” planning steals the magic

I’m a big planner, my lists have lists.  I like to know what I’m doing and the warm feeling of predictability.  I frequently speak and coach on the power of storytelling and encourage my clients to think forward.  Recently, I have discovered how damn wrong I’ve been. Don’t get me wrong, you can plan around events, happenings and themes (like Holidays), but pre-writing social posts for a month (as some clients ask agencies to do) steals the authentic communication between you and consumers.  Social Media experts may have guidelines to promote a product, but you can’t predict brand banter, fan shares or – God forbid – crisis communication.

The power of NOW is the key to engagement.

The Internet moves as fast as the Internet.  If your content planner can accurately predict a month out what’s hot online; please have them call me – I’d like lotto numbers.

You need hyper-reactive master communicators to really glean the best interaction with your followers/fans/friends.  A bit of a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.

WHAT YOU CAN PLAN:  Blog posts, press releases, events, special deals and offers, campaign themes

WHAT YOU CAN’T PLAN:  trending hashtags, news stories, daily banter, fan shares, anything that needs authenticity

Getting into the Now of communication is the key to dating your audience.

And, that’s what you need – someone excellent at dating:  listening, flirting and closing the deal.  A measure of trust is required, because you aren’t 100% sure what’s going to post next.

Down the line of dating, think back (if you’re my age) – you know where you are going and how you are going to dress – but I know you haven’t planned out the conversation like a script.  If you have, please get help.

“Content”, which is such  boring word, should be natural, curious and respond to your audience.  Think Journalism vs novels.  Journalists respond and listen, novels are a one-way communicator.

So, before you buy a “pack of 50 social posts” from a vendor, ask yourself what you are really paying for?  Stop buying yesterday and invest in now.  Let your fan base guide your process.  Stay curious, keep listening, joke, play and respond until they let you put a ring on it – aka – convert to buyers.

Motivation reality check.


Should is the antithesis of motivation.   How many times have you tried to get motivated by telling yourself you “should” do something?  I should rebuild my sales strategy.  I should develop an exit plan.  I should adopt new strategies to compete in a crowded marketplace.

Should is intrinsically linked to failure.  No one is motivated by what they “should” do.  It’s akin to eating vegetables.

No life, no motivation…just a big pile of shame.

You know what you need to do, what the next step needs to be.  How do you turn this around before the “should” hits the fan??

You change your dialogue from should to must.  You re-identify your standards to include this “thing” in your self-identification. Some examples:

“I am the kind of person who takes the risk for the bigger payoff”

“I always have a leg up on the competition.”

“I am the first to market on every value-add available to my clients”

“I don’t settle for status quo”

These self-identifying mantras shift from should to must, because it defines how you see yourself.  If we raise our standards, things stop being “optional”.  It’s who we are, it becomes part of our DNA.

To get unstuck in whatever your business challenges are, you have to eliminate the excuses and self-imposed limitations.  “I don’t  have the resources.” is an excuse.  Resourcefulness is the ultimate resource.

If you think self-talk has nothing to do with business success, then you are gullible, lazy and prone to losing.  Real talk.

Make a list of the things you have been saying “should” be done.  Go through the list and identify what impact there would be if these came to fruition.  I bet the results of this exercise help redefine your leadership style.  Try this:  just own the first three.  Those three “shoulds” become the story that defines you, your company and your sales strategy.  When you identify your own standards, turning “shoulds” into musts; you no longer accept excuses.

“Should never could and can’t never can.”

If you find that your “should” list isn’t imperative to success, then congratulations on mastering business improvement.  But, I bet you dollars to donuts, there’s growth opportunity.  Your 20% ROI could be 70%.  Your 70% occupancy could be 90%.  Your company could be the market leader.  You could have more leisure time.  You could sell your company for 10x valuation.

How you self-identify dictates your business success.  You know it, I know it.  I am just the little “goal digger” on your shoulder reminding  you that you want more, and you are making excuses.

Have a wonderful and prosperous week!!