Tag Archives: Marketing

Missing the Most Important “Why”

Simon Sinek’s golden circle and starting with “why” has been a popular framework for a few years now. I enjoy the TED Talk and have try to apply it as much as I can, in a broad sense. Though recent discussions, however, I’ve come to start thinking that while it is a very inspiring talk, and I’m sure his blog gets many more hits than mine, Mr. Sinek may be falling into the trap of reverse-engineering.

It’s easy to cherry-pick great leaders and success stories and point out that they spoke about “why” and not “what” or “how”. His evidence is very hard to refute. All I’m saying is that it’s easy to start at the end and know that those stories are worth telling. The true test is, however, how accurate this theory can be at predicting success.

I would suggest that it’s lacking.

Starting with why is great and all, but when push comes to shove if no one can relate to your why, then it’s worthless. In other words, if you let your freak-flag-fly and no one is saluting, how could you truly be a great leader or a great company? You won’t have anyone selling or buying.

Nope, the first why isn’t why you do things, but rather why those who believe in you (customers, subordinates, on-looking well-wishers) are attracted to you in the first place. That is the single most important message you can broadcast.

Not only this, but a company or leader who is aware of what draws customers / followers in is one of the best predictors of success that I can think of. I’m all about self-awareness and understanding motivations of others, but you have to be prepared for what you find out.

You may have one idea as to why people choose your business over the competitions and hearing something else can be tough. Especially when you own the business. That’s the one think that Mad Men really go right in my eyes; the scenes where clients were told something that is true, but they can’t get past their emotions and egos to use the knowledge to their advantage.

If you can embrace why your loyal fans have chosen you, however, you have the power to keep them and grow. So rather than starting with the “why” from within, it’s likely better to understand the “why” according to others.

Driving Offline Action

This is actually something that I’ve written about before and I’m still on board with what I said, more or less. My thoughts are now just a little more refined, especially since I’ve been having conversations / reading about this idea in different contexts pretty consistently the past little while.

I have said, and will continue to say, that start-ups that aim to rely on the “find a user-base and then advertise to them” revenue model have a very steep uphill battle ahead of them. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work for some companies, but being successful at it is definitely the exception, and not the norm.

By virtue of that, the business idea development process of “Here’s a cool app, we’ll get a lot of people using it then sell advertising,” should be dying much quicker than it is. It’s likely better to rethink your idea or come up with something better than chase that unicorn. To reiterate, I’m not saying that there isn’t success out there, but to paraphrase from He’s Just Not That Into You (great chick flick, def in my top 5) it’s a crime when people cling on to the hope of being like the exception and not the rule.

To put it a little less 17-year-old-girl, the premise of Blue Ocean Strategy is basically that instead of trying to enter the shark-infested “red oceans” where there is huge competition, go where there is no competition. A “blue ocean” if you will. Side note: I know that’s a huge simplification of what is actually going on in that book, but this isn’t an essay about why Blue Ocean Strategy is awesome. I would suggest picking up a copy.

Where I truly think that the opportunity lays with all the online connection tools that we have is the intersection between where social technology influences or even facilitates our future decision and actions. No longer will it be able documenting what we have done online, but meaningful interaction will be taken based on information that we didn’t have before.

It’s important not to confuse this with the internet as an advertising medium. I know that technically the marketing that we see on an every day basis has the opportunity to influence us, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about meaningful, online interaction resulting in real-world outcomes that would not have happened otherwise.

When thinking of an example of what I mean, I am honestly hard-pressed to think of a better one than online dating.

Before the internet, dating was fairly limited to your immediate network and lucky timing. Either you met someone through someone else or you happened to be at the right place at the right time to meet someone.

With online dating those barriers are broken. You don’t need to know anyone in order to participate and since profiles are 24/7, you are literally actively dating in your sleep. And every other time of the day for that matter.

Not only that, but the level of online dating is growing in sophistication. If you can believe the ads you see, they have systems running that help match you to more comparable people. That sounds way more efficient than starting the relationship with, “You like this bar? I also like this bar!” or based on what shared interests your aunt thinks you have.

The genius of online dating is that it didn’t just take something existing in the offline world and move it to the internet. Rather, it uses the technology to expand and enhance the experience. That’s what companies should be aiming for when developing their products.

I don’t know what the specific applications are, but this is something that is always top of mind for me. I just hope that I can come up with a great idea before the next guy!

What Could Be Done Better

So like anyone who wrote something that received any higher-than-usual level of attention, I’m going to be riding on the coat-tails of last week’s post.

There were some comments on Facebook, which usually means it’s something that is top of mind for a lot of people. When it comes to winters, weather, driving conditions and government in Winnipeg, top of mind may be the largest understatement ever. Asking for an opinion on those is like shooting apples in a barrel (who would want to shoot fish?).

Being the narcissist that I am, I was thinking about my post over the weekend and got to thinking what could be done to better calm people down. Like it or not, even our mighty municipal government can’t control the weather and unfortunately that means it will likely snow again. And then the streets likely won’t be instantly cleared. And then citizens will get upset. And, more importantly, I’ll be reduced to yelling at my radio on the drive in again.

What it comes down to, as far as I can see, is nothing novel. In fact, I’ve been told this in essentially every job that I’ve held: Be proactive in communications, rather than reactive.

It’s simple. Imagine this scenario…

Mayor Katz calls a press conference. He says that the forecast is calling for extremely cold temperatures and a lot of snow. City crews are going to be out day and night clearing streets, but they can’t be all places at all times, so he and the rest of the City would appreciate citizen’s patience. In the mean-time, keep warm, stay safe and if you need to get somewhere give yourself a little extra time if possible.

How reasonable is all of that? Doesn’t happen, though.

What actually happens, as far as I can tell, City Hall gets the news that there’s going to be lots of snow and cold and then starts praying. Praying that the weather is wrong. That the snow clearing does happen instantly, regardless of what resources they have. That, and this is my favourite one, the people of Winnipeg will be reasonable, patient and forgiving.

Doesn’t happen though. The City instead sits on their hands waiting until Winnipeg has worked itself into a blind rage and then goes on the defensive. It’s plain to see at this point they have already lost.

So be a little more proactive next time. Worst case scenario is that things do work out perfectly and there was a little worrying about nothing. In that case, the City would be seen as the hero. Peoples’ expectations would have been brought down, only to be exceeded. Score one for the mayor’s popularity.

Cornelia Bean

My family is all about the tea and I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t do the coffee thing too often, but do enjoy a warm drink, especially in the winter. Tea is the logical step and with the huge number of flavours out there, the possibilities are endless.

My favourite local place to get tea is Cornelia Bean. Not only because it was close to me when I lived in River Heights and isn’t too far still, but because it was a product of theirs that opened my eyes to the wide world of tea available to me.

For the longest time I was an earl grey and green tea kind of guy, never really venturing too far from those. Then I received the Cornelia Bean screened tea mug as a gift. Thanks to this product I was no longer confined to the tea bags that I had grown tired of.

Going into their shop and seeing the volume of product they have on display is awesome. Not only that, but you’re able to take a look and smell of what you’re considering before you buy it, giving you some peace of mind before you make a purchase.

One of the major reasons I like this shop is that it has got me out of a gift buying pickle more than once. Knowing that what they sell is quality and the service is great makes it an easy no-brainer if I’m out of ideas for a birthday or other holiday. So thank you for that!

True North Sports & Entertainment

Well, going to start off the month with one that very few people will have any sort of issue with. The local company that brought back our beloved Jets, which now that I’ve mentioned that’s all I’m going to say about the hockey club.

It wouldn’t be much of a post and there are thousands of people who could write it better than me. I’m also a huge fan of True North as a company for more reasons than just them bringing professional hockey back to the city, including what they did leading up and the process they went through in order to reach their goals.

The first thing that I’ve wanted to say, but haven’t had a post to do it before is that how much does every marketing / brand person watching a game salivate every time the crowd shouts “TRUE NORTH!” during the national anthem. I sure don’t remember that happening in Moose games, and while I can’t imagine a situation where when naming the company this possibility came up as a real consideration, it’s still pretty sweet.

Accidental branding perks aside, the lead up to getting the Jets back is what I like most about them. TNSE knew that there would have to be baby steps and waiting, as well as learning from the past Jets owners’s mistakes.

Starting years before the team was a possibility TNSE set the goal of getting professional hockey back and knew that they would need a facility. Enter the MTS Centre. Owning the building that the team would play in was a big lesson that they had learned.

Unfortunately, Winnipeg isn’t anywhere near wherever Field of Dreams is set, because once it was built it would be a while before it would come. So in the mean time the Moose were acquired and run with a great level of professionalism. Using the NHL’s farm system to show they had what it took to operate a pro sports team, like with players they hoped that it showed they had the skills to make it to the big leagues.

Not only that, since the Moose wasn’t enough of a draw to keep the MTS Centre profitable, True North worked to make it the busiest venue in North America. Acts which likely would have been passing Winnipeg over before were now selling out arena shows, and as a music fan I got to be one of the many to reap the benefits. It was of particular satisfaction when friends from other markets travelled into town to see an act they weren’t getting.

By proving that they could run a hockey club and could keep cash flows positive without relying on huge team revenue, True North Sports & Entertainment brought back the NHL in a very “Winnipeg” way: By quietly being better than anyone expected, waiting patiently and positioning themselves as the clear choice for the next opportunity to relocate a team.

Not only all of this, but the TNSE leadership seems to have always seen the best in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg the rest of us want our city to be. For that I salute them the most.

How Not to Ask For a Favour

I wrote a post for today, wanting to link to this article, but I realized it was on my old blog. It’s pretty good, so I decided to repost and save the new one for next week!

I am not ashamed of saying I’ve ask (and received) what I would assume is more than the average number of favours in my life. Through volunteering and working for charities, along with having a support network of people with many more skills than I have, I am never afraid to ask for something.

Conversely I have been asked to perform many favours, which have had varying levels of success. Owning a pretty cool service business and being known as someone who volunteers a fair amount has apparently allowed people to feel as though approaching me may benefit them one way or another. I always appreciate the interest, regardless of whether or not I help out, and make my appreciation clear to the asker.

Usually whether I am asking or being asked there is a mutual level of respect and if the answer is “yes” or “no” we part ways with pretty much the same relationship we had before. However, in the past couple weeks there have been a couple instances where I have really not appreciated the way which I was asked to do a favour. Here’s some background and a recount of them:


Operating a business focused on events leaves the door open to a fair number of charitable asks for in-kind service donations. It’s my policy that I will support one charity per year (the slot is filled and I don’t see it opening). It’s not like I’m not open to helping anything else out, but it would have to be something very dear to me.
I thought this was a good policy and have told other charities something to this effect, adding I will keep their information on file and contact them if anything changes, which I honestly will. Most seemed understanding of this and having worked in the industry (charity) I can assure you it’s not an uncommon response to get, if not on the polite side.

Recently I was approached by an individual from an event committee about doing an event. I sent them the above response and took down their information for my files. A week or so later I get a follow-up email asking if I would reconsider, thank you for asking, but no. This is when it got squirely.

The next message I had articles attached and a link to a video showing (without giving too much away) how much the people this charity supports needs the charity. I responded back saying that I never thought the cause wasn’t a good one, but I am currently not looking for any other cause to support. I can honestly say I did my best to be polite.

While I appreciate the passion for the cause, I don’t appreciate being harassed. If another message comes back I think that I’m forced to find a supervisor or someone else at the charity to bring into the situation, hoping they can mitigate it.

Personal Favours

A shorter story, again about the business, I was approached by someone I know to see if I would work an event for them. I want to point out that this is a for-profit event, where they are making money. Also I don’t know this person very well and haven’t spoken to them in months.

They asked (via text) if I would be willing to donate the photo booth for this event. I responded thanking them for the interest but declining, to which I received NOTHING. No, “Thanks anyway!” or “Oh well, hope you can still make it out,” or “K.” Complete radio silence.

This I find even more annoying than the previous situation, because at least charity lady proved that she is legitimately interested in my product. The no response proves to me that my decision was right, as they were just trying to use me.

As a somewhat related note, don’t try and sell me on setting up an event for free because it will be “good exposure.” Do you know what else is good exposure? Events that people pay me for.

I’m going to end this saying that 99.9% of the time when someone asks me for help it’s very nice, respectful and considerate. I appreciate it and get good feeling knowing I can provide some sort of benefit to a fellow human. I just wanted to throw these two stories out there to see if anyone else has had a similar experience and as a cautionary tale.

Don’t Hate on Multi-Level Marketing

… so long as it’s being done right.

I don’t know the reason, but it seems like I talk about multi-level marketing once a week. When I say “talk about” I mean on a higher, structural level. This is not including the countless Facebook posts and tweets promoting the many product lines that employ the strategy.

From what I gather from my conversations, not many people like multi-level marketing. They don’t like being pitched by friends and don’t think that the products are too good. In fact, there seems to be a wide level of scepticism of everything that is distributed this way. I don’t think that this distrust is completely founded.

From what I can understand, there are many quality products that are sold through these channels. I have friends and family who have bought them and I have yet to hear a specific, product-related complaint. I actually know many who have turned into repeat customers, so there has to be a product quality at least similar to what is available through more traditional channels.

It’s my opinion that when people are sceptical about product quality, the real reason they are being hesitant is that the distribution of the product is coming from someone they know. Not only that, but it is likely that they have at least been aware of (if not pitched) how to join the company as a sales rep. It may be their own narrow definition of how companies should be run that is holding them back. To me, 90% of what is done in a multi-level marketing system is happening in most other companies out there, you just don’t know as much about these companies because they are less front-and-centre.

When you boil it down, what I think the real problem people have with it is that it is selling based on personal relationships, which is an issue you have with a person, not the company. If you know someone who has signed on to be a rep and that’s all they can talk about, I will agree that it gets tiring. Conversely, you probably have friends doing something like this that you would never guess was involved. It is all about the choices of the individual.

People working at “reputable” companies can behave the same way. I really comes down to the discretion of the person doing the selling. I encourage any of my friends who want to try their hand at this particular form of business, but just remember: no means no.

Miley Marketing

That’s right, I’m writing a post about Miley’s performance at the VMAs. Everyone else on the internet is, why not me?

The disclaimer is that I honestly haven’t watched the performance from front to back, but I believe that I have seen enough news clips and memes to get the general picture.

To get it out there, I don’t think that anyone would disagree that what was done was pretty trashy and not the sort of thing that teen girls should be seeing. First off, the fact that a woman who is/was a role model to girls would perform that Robin Thicke song (which I hate and is the absolute wrong message that any little girl or boy should be hearing) is a tell-tale sign of what sort of statement is going to be made here.

Putting aside the actual content of the performance, though, it is hard to argue that it wasn’t effective. Here we are three days later and it’s still being talked about on news sites, social media and over water coolers. In the age where things are old news in roughly an hour, that is quite the feat.

Not only this, but the story has transcended channels, showing up not just as entertainment news, but a leading story. It was on the home page of CNN.com, for goodness’ sake. The same space that is used to announce Presidents, report tragedies and inform the world had Miley twerking on it.

As they say, though, sometimes the ends justify the means and this was a marketing success. We’re the ones that stay interested, so the entertainment world is going to keep giving us what we (apparently) want. No press is bad press and it would be hard to argue that with that performance Miley reached out to a new fan base, beyond teenage girls.

I fully realize that this is a small contribution to the problem. I’m just calling it as I see it, though, and from a purely marketing standpoint it’s hard to say that there wasn’t a level of success. Her having to deal with the fallout of being in what is basically an internationally broadcast strip show is a completely different matter.

So again, you may be like me and don’t personally agree with the style of performance or what this supposed “role model” is doing, but damn sure we’re all going to be watching to see what she does next.

Social Media Strategy

On to day two of my social media rampage…

Last post I wrote about deciding whether or not your company should engage on social media. Now assuming the decision has been made to have your brand on social media, the question is what should you be posting about? While some may subscribe to the “no press is bad press” mentality and post everything they can, I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours.

Like all marketing and communications, anything posted online should be:

  • On brand
  • Relavent
  • Timely
  • Meaningful

Because of this, there is a certain amount of planning that should go into the process. Determining the brand’s tone and personality will go a long way to helping coming up with appropriate content that is going to enhance your customers’ view of your company, rather than just be noise that is lost in the sea of other worthless posts.

Below are my favourite types of posts:

  • The fun update. If your company, some employees, one of your clients, etc. has something fun and exciting going on, post about it. It’s the most “human” interaction you’re going to get with your followers, because it isn’t usually driven by an agenda and it will be relate-able.
  • Industry news. Posting information related to your industry which your clients would find relevent. This shows that you care about keeping them informed and positions your company as an expert in the field, without having to create any content on your own.
  • Event reminders (sparingly). If you have a big event coming up (holding a conference, Boxing Day Sale, etc.) then using social media to promote is a natural. Just don’t be using it too much, because you could end up burning out your list and having people unsubscribe from your updates.
  • Brand-enhancing randomness. This one is a little tricky, but could be a good filler post. Depending on what your brand is and stands for, some random internet posts could be a good thing. If your a pet groomer and see a funny cat video, why not post it? If your a financial services firm, maybe not. Up to you, but be careful.
  • Created content. I (as a blogger) would rank this as one of the most powerful. If you are able to generate content about your industry internally or through the use of a ghost writer, this is the best kind of post. Drives people to your website, shows you know what you’re talking about, all those good things.

There are also some things on social media that I can’t stand. This is obviously just my opinion, but I can’t really see this doing anything for the companies that put it out:

  • Share / like / retweet contests. This is bad for at least two reasons.
    1. If you think you’re “tricking” people into following you, they’re not the right people. They will unfollow you as soon as you’re not offering anything and won’t have meaningful engagement with your brand. If they don’t like you in real life, it doesn’t really matter if they like you on Facebook. They’re not going to buy.
    2. This is the equivalent of couponing. You’re going to attract price sensitive consumers who are only loyal to who is giving the best deal. I always think of my mom, who only has a Facebook account to enter contests. Hasn’t even friended me yet and never goes on for any other reason.
  • Constant product profiles. If all you’re doing is showcasing your product, people will get annoyed and not pay attention to any of your ads. The occasional product profile is ok, but there needs to be meaningful content along with it.
  • Nothing. If you’re not doing anything, for the love of all is good, close down the page. I would say if you’re not posting something at least once a month, there is little to no use for you to be on social media, so get off.

When coming up with your strategy, just remember it isn’t about posting the most or having the highest number of followers. It’s about meaningfully engaging those who want to be associated with your brand and strengthening your image with them. If you are doing that, then you will continue to attract and engage the right audience.


Scary Social Media

Mainstream social media has been around for a few years and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. Like all new communication mediums, there is both excitement and anxiety about your company marketing along this new channel. It’s best to step back, take a breath and tell yourself it’s all going to be ok.

First, although it is something new and different, the basic principles of selecting advertising mediums still apply. Every time there is a revolution in information consumption, there are marketing opportunities close behind. In that sense, the recent boom of social media can be likened to the first online advertising, television, radio and even print media. Social media is just the latest in a long line of innovations, but it’s not likely to be the last.

While there may be “marketers” out there using scare tactics to try and make business owners and marketing managers believe that if their company is not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. they are dead in the water, in many (or even most) cases that simply isn’t true. It all comes down to whether or not your customers are using the medium or not.

To put it another way, if the customers you are targeting aren’t going to engage with your company on social media, it doesn’t really matter if you are on it or not. The same way a company doesn’t have to advertise on tv, or in the newspaper, or on the radio, and on and on. It’s that simple.

The thing that sucks people into thinking they need social media, if I were to take a guess, is two things:

  1. The fact it’s free, and;
  2. The fact your customers have the chance to interact with you.

Neither or those are particularly true, nor are they necessarily appealing as they seem.

First, posting online may be free in terms of dollars (though Facebook is trying hard to change this), but there is always a time cost associated with everything that you do as a business owner. If you’re taking the time to come up with meaningful posts, that is time taken away from other tasks, usually in the middle of the day. This time adds up and if none of your clients are on social media, it’s spinning your creative wheels while getting nowhere.

The second fallacy is customer interaction. While it may be true, unfortunately the interaction is usually negative. Few people will take the time to say something positive on a company’s Facebook page, but everyone will post a complaint. This is a public venue and you will want to deal with it quickly, taking up more time in your day.

At the end of they day you need to decide if social media is right for your brand. If you truly thing you will win loyal customers from it, then all the power to you. If you doubt that your market is even paying attention, focus on other efforts and don’t let some marketer bully you into it.