The Obliteration of B2B Tech’s Product Marketing Playbook

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Quick, somebody sell me a pen! There’s a phone number on my TV screen. It’s in a commercial – RIGHT NOW – and I need to write down the number before the 60 second spot is over. I need a pen!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the film The Wolf of Wall Street and pay attention to the diner scene about 30-40 minutes into the movie. Stick around to the end as the “pen selling” subject pops up for a second time when Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a sales seminar. DiCaprio’s character patiently uses the “sell me this pen” line and holds a pen upright as a prop. After the movie, dig up the handful of articles on this subject circulating on LinkedIn and read about the various perspectives on the subject.

As you’ve noticed, I added a little twist to the “sell me this pen” line. Nothing major, I’m still sticking with the original premise which challenges somebody to sell me a pen. Except I’ve admitted the urgent need for a pen. I need one, and want one, now. Yes, for that cheesy, ridiculous reason of writing down that telephone number on my TV. I don’t care the color of the ink. I don’t care if it’s a plastic or metal pen. Don’t care which company made it, or who their competitors are. Don’t care how big or small the pen is. Heck, I don’t care if the ink-filled instrument from inside the shell of a pen has a case. As long it works. Now. A pencil won’t do, I need ink. I don’t have a piece of paper. Just try writing a phone number on the palm of your hand in pencil.

And I’ll pay.

This article’s for those in sales, marketing, and the executive ranks from the ~ 4,900 companies listed in the latest the Martech 5000. (There are 4,891 companies represented in the graphic, with a total of 5,381 marketing solutions.) I’ve seen the graphic in my LinkedIn feed these past several days, along with a number of innocuous comments from my network about the sheer number of companies and solutions represented in the grouping. It’s truly impressive work to gather and produce that visual.

But now, for those in the Martech 5000 mix, try standing out in that crowd. Yes, the graphic is segmented. But even the individual segments are crowded. So, try standing out in your segmented crowd. And competing in it. And selling your software and services. And winning.

The new Martech 5000 graphic was released on May 10, 2017.

For those among the 5000, your current product marketing playbook became obsoletethat very same day.

Here’s why:

1. Yesterday’s Product Marketing Strategic Requirements Are Now Table Stakes

In the arena of B2B marketing technology, the product marketing function behind selling those technologies has become commoditized. Almost something that could be automated. (I wrote an article about it here.) Job description to job description, all those in search of product marketers use the same language to list the standard requirements of the position: technical aptitude, market experience, competitive knowledge, content creation, industry fluency, sales enabler, analyst whisperer, etc. Cookie-cutter product marketing career listings, all. That’s great, except who has time to spend on activities reminiscent of an academic think-tank than an active, aggressive, product marketing effort supporting a daily revenue-generating machine?

In a former product marketing life, I led a global market assessment for my business unit to support strategic marketing plans for an upcoming fiscal year. It was co-managed with an outstanding colleague in product management. Together, we dug into the business unit with our worldwide team from every possible angle, then presented our work and strategic recommendations to executive leadership. When we undertook the effort, we took a year’s worth of fiscal due diligence and made it happen in 90 days. Today, the business of product marketing in B2B technology is moving too fast, too quickly to wait a year. Or 90 days. Instead of a 12-month effort, I’m suggesting that the effort of knowing everything about the marketing technology arena – and the part your company plays in it – is a day-in and day-out ruthless business effort. Not 12 months, not 90-days, but every single day. For those first time product marketers new to a company, I’d allow three months of market and business orientation to get up and running. To fluently know everything that’s required from product marketing to checkoff that commoditized list. Then it’s time to move on to more pressing matters…

2. Launching, Getting to Market, and Differentiating

These performance areas are now squarely on the shoulders of product marketing. It must take the leadership role of setting the strategic direction for marketing, sales support and enablement, possibly the entire company. These deliverables won’t come out of marketing communication. They’re too busy designing websites, printing brochures, and making sure the corporate logo is being used properly. Digital marketing won’t do it. They’re too busy worrying about search engines, keywords, and social media. And the Corporate Marketing VP is knee-deep organizing a customer conference which looks, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels like every other industry gathering since before Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie burst onto the scene in 1979.

Time and again, yesterday’s B2B tech product marketers have notoriously limped across the go-to-market/product launch finish line. The result is that they find themselves adrift – anonymously lost in an expanding ocean of technology vendors. In the same way I can close my eyes and envision the repetitive product marketing job descriptions, and I can close my eyes and replay the countless number of product marketing-led launches and by-the-numbers offerings that bleed together and fade into the background noise of the industry landscape. It’s unfortunate. Product marketers who know they have good technology, who are well-versed in the feature/functionality of their products, who can provide a roadmap in the blink of an eye and relay stories about the delivery models at their disposal, but – when the time comes to go-to-market – the routine falls flat. The ability to crush the last mile to the market escapes them. Yesterday’s product marketers all employ the same set of activities: boring launch decks, text-heavy webpages, routine road shows, run-of-the-mill webinars, overview demos, predictable content, minimal sales enablement… It’s all driven by the outdated product marketing playbook and its strategy of May 9, 2017. That leads us to…

3. When Marketing Leads are in Stage 31a of the Pipeline, Sales Couldn’t Care Less.

I hope that section title captures the spirit of this section. Because while product marketing obsesses over which marketing lead is in which pipeline stage, and whether or not the lead is being subjected to the correct piece of product marketing-generated content, and if that content is being delivered by the mandatory piece of non-integrated CRM or marketing automation technology… By the time you try to explain all that to sales, they’ve disconnected. Long ago.

Forget that. Sales has to sell. It wants Product Marketing to get to work and do something to help. Anything, meaningful, that helps beat the competition — today.

Experienced inside sales people and external business developers have heard it all before from product marketing. Sales is grinding it out every hour of every day trying to hit their numbers and product marketing continues to preach of enablement, content, and technology from the ivory think tank. Yet after a decade of listening to the promises of all of the above, the song does remain the same. Content goes unused. Enablement sometimes can be nothing more than a stack of electronic stuff uploaded to an internal server. And while bought and paid for technology goes unintegrated, more and more and more vendors try to sell more and more software and services to an uninterested audience of skeptical buyers. Meanwhile, we see the competitive landscape growing.

Yesterday’s commoditized product marketing is in over its head. Sales knows this.

May 9th’s playbook is merely the opening chapter to May 10th’s revision.

Which means…

4. Yesterday’s Product Marketer Can’t Sell Me that Pen

Or software. Or professional services. Or managed services.

Even with an immediate need. Even with money on the table.

The creativity just isn’t there. It’s not there in mediocre presentations. It’s not there in road shows, events, and trade show booths that are long in the tooth with outdated messaging. It’s not there in illegible and outdated websites. In widespread poorly produced sales enablement content. In lackluster market launches lost in a congested world. In siloed, unused technology.

The sales grinder mentality isn’t there. When product marketing never accompanies sales to visit customers or prospects, the grinder mentality isn’t there. When product marketing is missing at the end of the quarter when contracts are due and revenue is counted, it’s not there. And when product marketing doesn’t participate in weekly sales meetings and doesn’t earn the immediate respect of the sales unit, it’s certainly not there.

The true enablers aren’t there. Content is only a modest piece of the sales enablement puzzle. Today’s overwhelming focus is on content, and the technology to delver that content. But can somebody tell me who is responsible for ensuring that the sales people who use the content are able to use the content? To communicate it effectively? To stand and deliver value props – without technology? To have and share a Point of View? To influence, motivate, and generate new business in front of a crowd? Or an executive boardroom?

The executive oversight isn’t there. I see too many corporate representatives (sales, marketing, executives) fumble their way onto the industry scene: poor stage presence at events, sleep-inducing webinars, mundane interviews, bad public speaking efforts. The other day I saw a video from a random trade show booth at a recent event. It was an interview. At least I think it was. Only I don’t think the interviewer or the person who was interviewed had ever done anything like that before. Product marketing should be on top of that before that ever happens. And so should executive management. It should be in the new playbook. Instead, the company will have to live with the filler-language filled interview with head-scratching content – forever.

I don’t remember the exhibitor’s name. I turned off the video after about 10 seconds. The participants didn’t appear as if they were happy to be there. Or really wanted to be there. Or knew what they were doing. Yet it was on-camera for all the world to see.

Why would anybody want to watch that? How was this acceptable to broadcast?

Yesterday’s product marketers could never sell me that pen. By the time they would finish showing me slides about the different colors of the pen and its various inks, and the comparison charts contrasting competing pens, they’d turn over the conversation to a salesperson enabled with case study content from 2013. Meanwhile, my TV commercial is over. Revenue lost.

Make no mistake about it, product marketing is responsible from breaking through and standing out in the sea of the Martech 5000. They, too, are also in sales whether they want to admit it or not.

The product marketer seeking to compete and win in all facets of the B2B tech game can’t be successful working off a playbook designed for a by-gone era. The new playbook must incorporate the old, while adding new game plans for true enablement, breakthrough product launches, sales toughness, revenue partnership, creative and effective personal communication, distinguished go-to-market efforts, and effective measurement.

Not only will today’s product marketers need to know how to effectively market and sell me that pen, they’ll also need to know how to cross-sell me on a blank sheet of paper. To do so, they’ll have to learn how to sit and interact with customers. And that’s not happening in the office.

The opportunity is outside, and so are those other 4,900 companies looking to put you out of business.

Get after it.

Movie Spoiler: Leonardo DiCaprio’s character doesn’t use any PowerPoint slides in The Wolf of Wall Street to help teach people how to sell that pen. At least not right away. Maybe he used some slides after the credits roll, but my guess he didn’t try to cram 100 proudly-developed, officially-sanctioned product marketing slides into a one-hour presentation.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

You Attend an Event, You Own It

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Ah, Springtime. Another week, another round of “gotta be here” industry events.

Finding the activity from these events is easy. Just find event Tweet streams by hashtag or look on your LinkedIn profile page and eventually you’ll see all kinds of evidence from shows which span the globe: pictures, quotes, comments, etc. from attendees on the scene. Smiling pictures of people at the event are the norm, but pictures of booth giveaways, convention food, and the host city from a hotel room view are also par for the course.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, the boss probably wants to know why you’re attending that event. I’m not talking about being an employee of a company sponsoring an event or a member of the corporate team producing the event. (Those attendees have their own separate challenges justifying their reasons for attending an event.) I’m talking about being a regular event attendee.

Oh, and let’s cut through the clutter about what an event is called. Trade Show, Convention, Conference, Summit, Workshop, Meeting, User Group… it’s all the same here. If you attend an event, you own your attendance.

So let’s get right to the point. The boss should want to know two things upon your arrival from your event attendance:

1. What did you learn at that event?

2. What were the business reasons you attended that event?

If I’m sitting in the boss’ chair, I’ll go one further:

3. Tell me what you learned, and show me the business reasons for attendance.

Do it without charts, a dashboard, slides, or electronics. And no paper printouts.

Go.

Note I wrote that the boss should want to know, vs. will want to know. Some just don’t give a damn. Bad boss, and maybe you should be the boss or your company should get another one who does give a damn. Or at least care enough to know why you attended that event, how much it cost, and what were the results.

But aside from a few platitudes, I wonder if many event-goers could articulate what they learned at an event, let alone speak intelligently about the business benefits, and results, shortly-after the conclusion of an event.

Here are some reasons why:

The Inactive Event Learning Experience

Go back to that event Tweet stream or review your LinkedIn profile and look at those event pictures. What do you see? Attendees sitting in sessions from keynotes to track breakouts. Some watch. Some listen. Many are playing on their electronic devices. Few learn little of anything. And when one session ends, it’s on to the next. Rinse and repeat. If an attendee has stuck around long enough for the last session on the last day, chances are they’re part of the dwindling group. Many others have left for the airport before the event concludes. It’s standard practice for the conference and trade show industry to conduct “educational” sessions this way. Tidbits are gained, and stories are told. But two or three days worth of cramming an information overload in this type of event format down the throats of stagnant audiences isn’t conducive to effective learning. I know ‘cause I’ve been there, done that…

Speaking of Keynotes…

So you’re an attendee sitting in Row 49 in the back of a crammed ballroom attempting to watch a keynote speaker. The speaker seems to be genuinely interested in delivering a good performance but is somebody using eye-chart graphics worthy of inclusion in the Ophthalmology Hall of Fame. More, the keynote session is wrapped around with cornball entertainment meant for others who clearly don’t get out of the house often enough. Exactly what would you say is of value in that cheesy and cramped ballroom setting?

Shopping, Anyone?

Are you attending an event to wander the exhibit hall and go shopping for your next piece of technology? Newsflash: you don’t have to. Vendors will come to you, at no cost to you. But hey, if getting endless sales pitches and gathering trade show junk that will go from a vendor’s booth, to your bag, to the nearest garbage can is worth your time and investment, have at it. But what are you learning from that exercise? And why are you paying for it?

Ill-Prepared Presenters

There are some phenomenal public speakers in business. But they are in the minority. Most speakers are more worried about the content of their presentation vs. their ability to communicate their content. They’re more concerned with slick slides than audience value, and the learning experience. The end result is a poor attendee experience where little is gained.

I’m all-too-aware that most speakers don’t prepare or adequately practice before their presentations. Heck, most don’t practice their communication skills at all – ever. Either out of fear, or arrogance, or laziness. And most companies do little or nothing to help. But you, the attendee, are still paying thousands to sit in those sessions and learn nothing. Nothing you can deliver with confidence back in the office.

You Attend, You Own It

So be prepared to answer what you learned, and describe in detail the business benefits of your attendance. Because all of that vendor stuff you brought back with you on the plane doesn’t count. Neither does your electronic file of endless slides. Nobody is going to read those. Those pictures of smiling people at the registration counter don’t count. And that smartphone video of the entertainment act is worthless.

If I’m the boss, and you just spent four days out-of-the-office attending an event to the tune of thousands of dollars, you’d better come prepared on Monday morning with clear, concise, concrete answers about your attendance. But taking a look at what I’m seeing on these Tweet streams, what’s going to be learned is that event attendees aren’t really learning anything useful at all – except how to spend money and create excuses for being OOO.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Exposing a CMO’s Worst Fears

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I can’t sing. Not yet, anyway. I suppose if I apply myself to a few singing lessons, I may be able to work my way through a few tunes. Country music, or tunes with a lot of Issac Hayes-type soul, perhaps… Sure, I can sing along in my car to my favorite songs from The Police to The Monkees, and I even mouthed along to an all-too-appropriate Tom Petty song while driving on a sunburnt Interstate 75 in Northern Florida yesterday afternoon, but still, I’m challenged in the singing department. For now.

A few years back, my then-girlfriend and I caught a New York City Broadway performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. (The famous 70’s club has been converted into a theater.) As expected, it was a outstanding production, and the performances were phenomenal. What struck me the most is how the actors could voice an appropriate British-accent (they’re not all the same, you know) and sing at the same time. And not just sing, sing well. Broadway performance in Midtown Manhattan well.

Days after the show, I mentioned this to friends when one innocently stopped me and said “That’s what Broadway actors do. They’re trained. They practice and prepare for their performances.” A spot-on observation, and I applied that to the working world of marketing.

Because so much is expected out of marketing, yet so little is done to ensure a world-class, top caliber performance in each and every aspect of the department. And exposing this is exposing a marketing leader’s worst fears.

Broadway actors are never, ever, just thrown out on the stage, yet it’s done to marketers all the time. In more ways than one:

1. Public Speaking and Presentations

Ok, way too obvious, but this topic works in the lead-off spot. Chief Marketing Officers are so damned worried about digital this, and content that… That the key element of a marketer’s ability to stand and deliver messages and value props – without electronics – is never coached, trained, or nurtured. Yet all are expected to deliver world-class audience grabbing performances when they take stage. Any stage. But without adequate practice and preparation, how is this supposed to happen?

By the way, the power went out at 7:00 am in my Central Alabama business class hotel this morning, It was out for over an hour. If your marketers had a meeting with a prospect or customer this morning at 8:00 and had to present in a dimly sunlit room with no slides, tablet, smartphone or laptop, what would they do? How effective would they be on their own – on the fly? Would they bag their performance, use the obvious excuse, or still nail it?

2. Voice and Video Production

You read about the dominance of video marketing and hear about it every day. And now you’re treated to the daily drip of stories that highlight how ‘voice’ is the new User Interface.

I don’t have to look, and I can cover my ears to know that your marketing leadership and your internal teams are totally unprepared for either.

Somehow, somewhere, amateur hour has taken over and it that reminds some of the way Kinescope was used in the early days of television.

In plain language… It’s unacceptable to thrown garbage in, and expect an audience-grabbing, lead-generating, groundbreaking programming to come out on the other side. No, it’s not acceptable to put two people in an echoing back office and stick them on camera. No, it’s not acceptable to put a boring four-person panel discussion on a streaming media feed and expect people to watch. No, it’s not acceptable to throw digital marketers at a problem when they’re concerned with keywords and search engines and have zero experience coaching talent.

And, no, you’re not going to want Siri, or Alexa, or whatever generic voice Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, or Facebook offer to vocally represent your business.

Sticking somebody from your marketing team in the back office with a smartphone camera and its microphone headset won’t cut it. It never did, and it never will.

Video and voice are here to stay at the center of your marketing efforts. They impact everything from Product Information Management to the Customer Experience; from branding, lead generation, data gathering and usage, to marketing, communication, service, and customer loyalty; and from strategic investments, to financial management, to corporate profitability.

3. Sales Enablement

Instead of “Love and Marriage” Frank Sinatra could have sung an updated version of his Married with Children theme song using “Marketing and Sales Enablement”. (Although the syllables are way off. I can’t get it to work with the music in my head.) But you get my point. How are marketers expected to enable sales without understanding what salespeople need and want to be enabled, efficient, and effective? Meaning… marketers aren’t spending time with salespeople in the field. Hell, they hardly spend time with them in the office. And if the entire operation if virtual, forget it. Disconnected marketers sitting in a room somewhere cut-off from the daily sales efforts of people grinding it out is a recipe for disaster. Yet, marketers are supposed to be great sales enablers? How? When exactly does this transformation take place? Again, marketers are thrown ‘out there’ and into sales enablement with unrealistic expectations.

4. Digital Marketing

This one I’ll take in reverse. Just as you’ve seen widely-used, common job descriptions for ‘product marketing’ positions, and the often-published stories of video and voice dominance, now comes the onslaught of ‘digital marketing’ careers. But there are two problems with this. One, digital marketing positions usually aren’t just digital marketing positions, and two, if any positions are truly just digital marketing positions, those people are in trouble. Big trouble.

In my experience, ‘digital’ marketing will inevitably include some, if not all of: lead and revenue generation, creative writing, sales enablement, managing trade shows and events, managing marketing automation, social media and CRM systems, leading internal meetings, staff supervision, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and coaching, content production, public speaking, financial management, departmental strategy, product launches, media and analyst relations, etc… Of course nobody is preparing digital marketers to handle much of that list – one that barely scrapes the surface.

Calling somebody a digital marketer nowadays is largely inaccurate. Their work will encompass more than heads-down Internet and social media work on a laptop. But it seems as if labeling marketing positions as merely ‘digital’ is the new hip comfort zone of HR everywhere.

They’re wrong. And preparing nobody for all that those ‘digital’ positions require.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. The many discrepancies in how marketing is being handled today don’t really need to be pointed out to expose a CMO’s worst fears. It’s not that the marketing team hasn’t been prepared to be public speakers or outstanding presenters, or that they’re not up to the physical, creative, or technical demands of streaming video production, event management, and vocal user experiences. It’s not the unreasonable expectation that marketers are automatically supposed to be sales enablers in a vacuum or that digital marketing is more of a title-in-name-only function.

I think exposing a CMO’s worst fear would be to secure a speaking spot on a Broadway stage and ask for a two hour performance, without the opportunity to rehearse. No prep, practice, rehearsal before going on stage. In fact, this is a good way to expose the worst fear of most anybody on the executive, board of directors, and investment teams.

After all, if a marketer can be thrown into any one of a number of situations without adequate preparation, practice, coaching, training, rehearsal, or resources before being expected to crush a task or performance, why shouldn’t senior leadership be expected to do the same?

Somethings can be outsourced, but marketers are being sorely short-changed by companies when its employees are not afforded the investment and opportunity to do their jobs well.

No Broadway actor would take the stage and sing without daily hard work and preparation.

No senior-level executive would give a speech or presentation without practice and rehearsal.

But marketing is expected to perform at equally high levels with little or no help, across-the-board, in numerous assignments.

While you think about that, I have to hit the road. It’s a beautiful day in the Southern USA, and it’s time for the open road and some traveling music.

And another chance to work on my singing voice…

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

The CEO-CMO 1:1 Post-Event Stress Test

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

One business week after any trade show, conference, or regional event concludes, a 60-minute 1:1 meeting between the CEO and CMO should be held. Not a 61-minute meeting, or 90, or 120. 60 minutes, and a not one second more.

Of course, the CMO can (and should) prepare for this meeting and have notes, but no slides, computers, or mobile devices. No technology whatsoever. A whiteboard or a flip chart with markers is acceptable.

During that meeting, the CEO should ask the CMO:

  • All-in, what did it cost us to do that event?
  • How do those costs breakdown?

…tell me about our sponsorships, exhibits, travel, marketing, content, and event technology.

  • What quantifiable business benefits did we get out of that event, for that investment?
  • How many qualified business opportunities were sourced from that investment?

…tell me about them: by industry, region, products, services of interest…

  • What are those revenue opportunities worth?
  • Who is following up on those opportunities?

…how and when?

  • How many qualified business opportunities were helped by that event?
  • Who is following up on those opportunities?

…how and when?

  • How many leads were sourced from that investment?
  • Who is following up on those leads?

…how and when?

  • Which accounts and customers did we strengthen – and protect – by attending?
  • What’s the economic value of those accounts?

—————

  • Are all of the event leads, opportunities, and new contacts in our CRM/CX/Marketing/Customer Service tools?

…including all relevant individual contact and account information?

—————

  • What was our partner involvement in the event?

—————

  • Do we have the content and technology to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in follow-up?
  • Can those in sales and marketing pursuits effectively communicate, and close business?

…without using technology?

  • If not, what do we need, why, and how much will it cost?
  • What will sales say about what you just told me about the business benefits of that event?

—————

  • How effective was our exhibit hall booth, and other branded/supporting locations on-site?

…how do you know?

  • What did we do to drive show attendance, and promote our appearance at this event?
  • How was traffic in our company locations, and the number of visitors?
  • What were there job titles? …from which companies, in which regions, in which industries?
  • Which days and what hours did you work staffing the booth?
  • Which show provider shipped, installed, dismantled, returned, and is storing the physical elements we used?
  • Who from our team helped them before, during, and after the show?
  • Is that company doing a good job?
  • Do we need any additional external event professionals to help produce our next event appearance?

—————

  • How many staff members did we send to that event?
  • What were their specific, individual, on-site responsibilities?
  • Did any of our people speak or present at the event?

…about what topic and with whom?

  • What did their session evaluations reveal?
  • Did you attend our sessions?
  • How many general attendees were in attendance in their sessions?
  • What questions did they ask our presenters?
  • How did our presenters prepare for their sessions?
  • Were our session attendees welcomed at the door by our staff?
  • What did those interactions reveal, and what intel did we gain?
  • What additional market, prospect, customer and competitive intelligence was gathered at the event? …how did you gather that information?

—————

  • What did you personally learn about our industry/marketing/other business areas?
  • Which members of the media did you meet on-site?
  • Did you meet with any industry analysts at the event?

—————

  • What worked and what didn’t work for us at this event?
  • How about for the event itself?
  • Could we have achieved similar results by just sending one or two people to attend?

—————

  • When is next year’s event and where is it being held?
  • Did you sign a contract for next year’s event?
  • Why, and how much will that cost, and when is the first payment due?

—————

  • When is your next meeting with sales about following-up on this show’s activity?
  • Which customers and prospects from the show will you be seeing first, and when?

—————

  • When will you share these event results with the sales, marketing, executive, and general company teams?
  • How are you going to do that?
  • How are you thanking each of your event team members for their personal contributions?

—————

  • If you could brag about any of your colleagues, customers, vendors, or partners who helped to produce and deliver a successful event, what would you say?

Time’s up.

This is a general list that I broke up into sections on the fly that assumes the CEO didn’t attend the most recent corporate event. Not a big deal. There are a few other assumptions, too. But it really doesn’t matter. As you read through this list, you can modify the wording if the CEO did attend the event and make any necessary adjustments in the line of questioning. And if the CMO didn’t attend the most recent event, bigger problems may exist. I would expect most any CMO to attend major company events.

That’s enough for a rapid fire, post-event, 60-minute stress test meeting between a CEO and a CMO. Yes, this back and forth can be achieved in an hour. It’s one hell of a stress test.

The Chief Marketing Officer needs to know the answers to those questions well beforethis meeting. If the CMO doesn’t, or doesn’t want to know, get a new CMO. The Chief Executive Officer should want to know the answers to each and every one of those questions. If the CEO doesn’t want to know, get a new CEO. And if sales doesn’t want to cooperate with marketing (and vice versa) find new business leaders who will implement the lead and revenue-generating processes required for success. You know the process, where sales and marketing actually work together.

I’m sure #sales, #marketing, and #event professionals can add to the list I provided. While you do that, I’ll work on a rapid-fire list of questions investors can ask CEOs about their marketing and event activities, and a third list of questions sales leaders can ask marketers about business development, #content, #communication, and enabling #technology at the end of any quarter.

Oh, and if it looks as if marketers are being given the excessive third degree about the business results of their activities, damn right. They should be.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Your Words, Your Voice, Your (Lack of) Credibility

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

#Content isn’t the most important part of your next presentation. It’s how you look, and it’s how you sound. Not how your slides look. Not how your handouts look. Not how your pre-recorded demo sounds. And it’s certainly not the furniture selection for your next six-person sleep-inducing panel discussion.

Yes, content is important. But it’s how you look and sound as a presenter that makes the difference.

It’s the how you sound portion that’s the focus of attention in this post.

When I hear a somebody in a presentation, video, podcast, or interview who employs poor speech habits and a substandard vocabulary, bad impressions are made. Impressions of not being prepared, of not being well versed in content, of being evasive, uncertain, and uncaring. Uncaring to give an audience the best possible effort in being ready for a business appearance.

Say these, and risk your #business credibility:

1. Filler Words

You’ve read about filler words. You’ve also heard them, and about them, for as long as you can remember. The global epidemic of their usage continues, so here’s more ammunition for the professional bombardment asking, begging, and telling people to stop, breathe, and think before uttering another filler word.

Filler words are the “umms, uhhs, I mean, I think, well, look, and you knows” which permeate the vast majority of the spoken part of presentations, webinars, demos, corporate videos, sales pitches, panel discussions, speeches, meetings, interviews, conference calls, and regular old business conversations each of us experiences every day. Filler words are worthless.

How to get rid of them? Before you say anything, breathe deeply and think. Think about what you’re going to say. Then crank up the volume of your voice. Speak with volume, emphasis, and conviction. (I’m not taking about yelling.) When you do these things, your filler words will disappear. Try it. Bob and Eileen Parkinson taught me this years ago. Still works today. It’ll always work – no matter the venue, format, or environment of your next presentation, speech, conference call, or meeting. Practicing this vocal technique will serve you well.

Want to have some fun with this one? Here’s what I do… Count the number of times a presenter uses filler words during a presentation. Silently count on your fingers and toes. Chances are good you’ll run out of appendages within four or five minutes. It may take longer, but I’ve seen and heard filler words accumulate much, much faster.

Even more fun would be to take any recorded business presentation and edit out the legitimate corporate content. Leave the filler words and run them together in one long voice track. Over the course of a 60 minute presentation the net result may be several minutes of filler language that did nothing for the audience. Look at it as several minutes that could’ve been better spent delivering value to an audience.

2. Go and Like

The word is said. Not go – or went.

As in “…and then I go, You should be more careful when you cross the street…”

Or “… and then I went, You should be more careful…”

Or “…then he goes, We should get a bigger boat…”

You didn’t go anywhere. He didn’t go anywhere. You said something.

Same for the word “like” in conversation.

As in “…I was like, You really needed a bigger boat.”

Nobody was like anything. Somebody said something.

You may have to verbalize those lines in your head in your favorite ‘daydreamer’ accent, but you’ll get the drift. Eliminate the annoying misuses of the words go, like, and their derivates.

If you said something, say that you said something.

Or it’ll be, like, whatever

3. Amazing

The award for the most annoying overused word in the English language goes to the word amazing. Dinner was amazing. The performance was amazing. The interior of that refurbished house is amazing. We had an amazing time. It all turned out to be amazing. The word has been overused to the extent that it’s lost all meaning. Pull up your thesaurus and find an alternate.

4. Going Forward

This short phrase is gaining traction, and that’s not a good thing. Remember the next time you are treated to something along the lines of, “Going forward, our new CEO will seek to grow the business.” Or, “Going forward, the new coach will take the team in a new and exciting direction.”

Going forward? As opposed to what? Going backward? Or sideways? Unless a time machine is hanging out in the office, you’re always going to be going forward.

5. Background, History, Review, Overview, Timeline…

Your company’s Founder may have been a nice, no-nonsense business person born in the late 1800’s. And I’m sure times were tough when your company’s first product was launched in 1901. But nobody is attending your presentation to see black and white pictures of your company history, a timeline of the last 100 years, pretty pictures of your corporate campus, or anything that has anything to do with sleep-inducing topics entitled background, review, history, and the rest… If you want to get an audience to tune out and drop out from the jump, include the words Summary and Review with those already listed and you’ll be on your way to nap time.

Here’s one tip for today: Record your next presentation, speech, or webinar, and hear what your audiences hear. Listen to yourself.

I once worked with a VP who was a bright, articulate, and experienced executive. But his continual usage of the phrase “you know” during his presentations severely undercut his credibility. I also worked with another senior executive who liberally used a variety of filler words during an interview. It didn’t help that the interviewer didn’t prepare his communication skills, either. If only these former colleagues could hear what the rest of the world could hear, maybe they would’ve prepared for their vocal skills for their future business presentations. Why they didn’t take their vocal skills seriously remains puzzling.

So record yourself, listen, and analyze. You’ll start to notice where you can improve your vocal skills, credibility, and overall communication abilities. Most people don’t do this. It’s either out of fear, arrogance, or pure laziness that they don’t. Enjoy knowing that when you record and improve your vocabulary and vocal skills, you’re strengthening a significant business advantage for yourself.

Here’s a bonus tip about what not to do, and what not to say. If you’re giving a presentation or speech in a setting where you’re wearing a wireless microphone, remember when you have that microphone on your person. In the aftermath of a presentation, a couple of speakers have forgotten that they’re still wearing a microphone. Some have been known to trash talk other presenters while still wearing a microphone. One story even recalls how a presenter took a live wireless microphone into the men’s bathroom after a presentation. I don’t know if any of that was recorded, but it might’ve been.

Always know where the microphones are, promptly remove any microphone from your person after a presentation, and always treat any microphone as if it’s turned on.

In public speaking, presentations, and event management, there’s no substitute for experience.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

The damage is done.

United’s brand and reputation have been irreparably harmed for a generation, at minimum.

Once upon a time I was a #United frequent flyer. I think I have over 400k lifetime miles on the airline. I’m not 100% certain of that number because I haven’t flown United since last summer, and I just don’t feel like checking my UA frequent flyer account. And for this #Chicago born and raised traveler, I can’t say I was totally surprised to learn about what had happened with one of their passengers. Shocked, angry, disgusted… yep. Surprised? Not really.

The world now knows what far too many ORD flyers have known about United for years: the airline is – to say the least – operationally challenged. The way it has served its customers has been deteriorating for years and I’d given up on United, flying them only when absolutely necessary.

Then this incident in Chicago happened.

No doubt you’ve heard about the firestorm that has engulfed United Airlines this past week. But this post isn’t a rehash of the events that transpired this past Sunday. It’s an article that examines one specific element within the sequence of events that got the airline to where it finds itself today. One particular business aspect of the rotten customer experience that United executives and investors surely wish they could get back. It’s one that was controllable, would have made economic sense, and one that United CEO Oscar Munoz would go back in time to retrieve if given the opportunity. But that ship sailed on Sunday, and now it’s too late.

I’m talking about the $800 (USD) ceiling that was the cutoff between the final offer from the airline to entice volunteers to stay the night in Chicago and the start of the passenger selection and eviction process which led to the physical incident with Dr. David Dao. The compensatory offers from the airline to the passengers on that Chicago to Louisville flight should’ve increased. Eventually some passengers would’ve taken a higher amount to give up their seats. Even if they had to get to their final destination, a few may have (or should have) put on their thinking caps and ran the numbers: $800 (or more) minus a one-day car rental to Louisville – minus gas – equals profit for themselves. Even if that profit came in the form of a voucher for future United travel. The drive from Chicago-O’Hare to Louisville is only five hours, and I’ve driven it many, many times. It’s a piece of cake. But I digress…

The point is that United played it cheap with its passenger offers, and it’ll cost the airline exponentially more than the small amount of extra funds it would’ve taken to get one of its Louisville-bound customers to accept an offer for their seat. Sad part about it is United isn’t alone in playing it cheap. Far from it. They have plenty of company across all industries in the form of other organizations which think it’s either perfectly acceptable to gamble with certain business situations, not invest in critical areas of their business, remain ignorant or stubborn in their corporate arrogance, and conduct business as usual with their heads in the clouds.

Until it’s too late.

From a #sales, #marketing, #technology, and #socialmedia perspective, here’s how:

1. Professional Development

Employees are continuously asked to write, present, and communicate. Market, sell, and service customers. To organize and run meetings, lead teams, resolve problems, and perform at a high level. But when it comes to provide professional business coaching for any of the above, most companies fall short or offer their employees nothing at all. Yet employees are thrown into situations when they’re either not equipped for success or nothing has been done to maintain and upgrade their skills. And for those who claim that employees should have certain professional skills when they’re hired and that they don’t need to provide additional support… I’m certain Michael Jordan knew how to play basketball before joining the Chicago Bulls. Tiger Woods knew how to play golf before and after he won his first Masters tournament. Yet they always had coaches to improve their games. They were at the top of their games and still needed coaching and practice. All companies should do the same for their employees. (And no, those once-a-year two day cookie cutter training sessions don’t suffice.)

When is it too late? Every time a speaker is ill-prepared for a presentation, a rep isn’t prepped for a customer interaction, a webinar unfolds with a lackluster approach, a time-wasting team meeting is held, a company’s brand and reputation are damaged.

2. Trade Show Sponsorships and Exhibits

A juicy Silver-level sponsorship at the next industry event is secured. Not platinum, nor Gold, but it includes a 10’ x 10’ booth location in a decent, but not great, area within the exhibit hall. But beyond the initial sponsorship investment, not much is done by the sponsoring company to succeed at the event. A homemade booth, constructed by a combination of sales, marketing, and office staff who should be doing something far more productive occupies the exhibit space. Poor exhibit messaging, no staff preparation, and five-figures of investment flushed down the toilet. And the sponsoring company wonders why the attendee world didn’t come running to their exhibit? Corporate damage at an event, complete.

When is it too late? Most likely weeks or months before an events starts, but certainly one minute after the exhibit hall doors open.

3. Live from… Trade Shows, Conferences, and Events

The ongoing frustration with inept speakers giving bad, text-and-tech heavy presentations has been a cross-industry plague for decades. Today, lousy presenters aren’t confined to the ballroom. Everybody walks the convention hall and its exhibit hall floor with a video camera and mobile TV studio in their pockets. Show attendees will put your naive employees on live television on a moment’s notice – with disastrous results. I’ve seen it happen and that content lasts forever. If each and every one of your event-bound staff are not fully prepared for how they will be seen and heard on-camera, a company is gambling with its brand and reputation.

When is it too late? As soon as somebody hits that camera button on their smartphone or tablet and streams live, from your booth, demo, or event session.

4. Voice, Video, and Media

Some companies place little value in the voice of their corporate content. I’m talking about the actual voice that is used to voiceover company productions that can range from ebooks, to demos, to radio and TV commercials, to event videos. More, some companies place little value in the video and voice of their corporate content. About that, I’m talking about the notion that turning on a smartphone camera is all it takes to produce compelling, thought-provoking, lead generating content that will attract and hold an audience. And what about simply transferring bad presentations into streaming media, thinking that will do the trick?

When is it too late? The moment somebody sees and hears your employees or multimedia content and realizes your prep and production values are garbage. Then hits the off button and tells two friends, who tell two friends…

5. Technology, Across-the-Board

Still running your Commodore 64 corporate laptops on IE7? Using software that’s outdated, not integrated, not maintained, nor supported? Still too cheap to consider the tech tools that can actually make your team more efficient and much more effective in their pursuit of identifying new customers, enabling sales, servicing customers, and winning new business?

The year is 2017, not 2009. The recession is long over and it’s the employees holding the job market cards, not the companies. The time for employees to accept less-than-minimal tech support from companies because of tough economic times and fear of job acquisition or loss is over.

When is it too late? The moment a company starts losing the competitive recruiting and turnover battle for talent.

It’s possible to extensively extend this list and go even further. Chances are that you’re aware of many situations where a company is being cheap at its own risk. Some executives turn away from the business suggestions and pleas from its employees, customers, and partners in order to short-sightedly save a buck or two. Some succeed at getting away with it. Others get away with it until something goes wrong, but then it’s too late and very costly.

Unfortunately, there are those who will only take action when something goes terribly wrong.

United investors and executives had every opportunity to listen and handle their business differently, but they chose another path – no matter what the slick on-board pre-departure videos produced over the years said. Their public relations failed. Their corporate #communications failed. Their #customer relations failed. And yes, they were cheap and arrogant about the whole damn thing.

Play it cheap, and gamble with your own business at your own risk.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

10 Reasons Not to Worry About Being a Good Public Speaker

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Next time you’ve logged onto LinkedIn (or any social business site) – scroll down. Scroll, scroll, scroll until you reach the first picture you see from a recent industry event. Don’t worry, it’s in there. A picture that shows the audience at the latest “can’t miss, we’re so happy to be here!” event in front of a formulaic stage set-up that’s been employed in hotel and #convention ballrooms worldwide since the 1970s.

It’s the picture you’ll see where the audience is:

Pre-occupied.

On their laptops.

Holding tablets.

And their phones.

Doing something else – other than paying attention to their surroundings, and the presenter(s).

You read about it and hear about it everyday. People are most afraid of public speaking. But fear no more, the business world has now evolved to such a state that the fear of public speaking has become outdated. Irrelevant. Why? Here are 10 reasons:

1. Few Are Paying Attention

Just look at that posted, boastful picture of the last great industry event. I’ve seen that picture and I’ve attended that event. There used to be a time when event presenters actually had to connect with audiences and deliver value for the time and monetary investment. Not anymore. With the onset of multiple mobile devices, most in the audience find it perfectly acceptable to show up, but tune into something else during presentations. Yes, it’s rude, inconsiderate, and a complete waste of time. But who cares? It happens everyday, at every event, and nothing is done about it. Don’t worry about your next presentation, most aren’t watching or listening. And when it’s done, rest assured you’ll receive a pleasant, gratifying round of applause.

2. You’re Given Little to No Help

Your company would never spend a dime on helping you improve your presentation skills, so you have the perfect excuse for another poor, nerve-wracking performance. Despite your best efforts and pleas for help, your corporate leaders don’t feel as if your professional development is worth the time or the money. They’ll sweat you about that $50 you spent because you took a more convenient nonstop flight to get home to your family, and they’ll throw away thousands on marketing programs that don’t payoff, but any request for presentation help is ignored. Again, don’t be afraid. They certainly can’t blame you for another poor performance if they won’t help.

3. Mediocrity Rules

It’s not just mediocrity, it’s simply getting through a presentation and hoping nobody says anything or does anything about it. Example: the build-up to your next webinar is tremendous. Hundreds register – and actually turn up. Your webinar technology rocks. Your mind-numbing slides are in place. And while you go on and on and on for 58 minutes of your allotted hour, the audience multi-tasks. (Kinda like point #1.) When you finish, that’s it. The reviews are in. The performance was ok. The report is filed away, any sponsorship checks have been cashed, and it’s on to the next thing. Audiences have been so used to accepting watered down performances that it’s become routine. Don’t worry if your next presentation is nothing special. You’ll fit right in.

4. Everybody Rocks!

Not only do some of your colleagues and company big shots think they’re great presenters, but they’ll be the first to tell you that whatever they do easily transfers to other forms of media: video, ebooks, podcasting, interviews, etc. This means anything goes – consistent, developed talent or not. So even if you can’t stand in front of an audience, it doesn’t matter. Neither can they. Oh sure, they may be magnanimous and say they can use some help here and there, but they’ll never give it any more than a passing thought. And if they don’t need public speaking coaching and practice, neither do you. Just follow their example of self-absorbed communication performance and you’ll be on your way.

5. Panel Discussion? Just show up for those…

I never heard anybody say, “Gee, I wish this convention had more panel discussions. I just love sitting in cavernous ballrooms watching six people on stage drone on about software…” Rest easy, if you’re on a panel discussion all you have to do is show up. You should only get one or two questions. You’ll have a few minutes to provide some nonsensical answer about a mundane topic. Kinda like those political tv talk shows with eight guests – and a host. Each person only gets a few minutes to say what they have to say. Relax, you’ll be in and out of that panel discussion before you know it.

6. Who Cares? It’s a One-Time Assignment

You’re a digital marketer. A damn good one. Your company doesn’t care whether or not you can stand up and tell a story. Or influence an audience. Or motivate your customers. Your job is heads down on your laptop all day. But some genius thought it’d be a good idea for everybody to present at the next departmental meeting, so you have to do it. But it’ll all be over in an instant. You don’t have to make a good impression on sales, or the C-suite, or partners, or your marketing colleagues. Get through it and go back to your desk. It’s not worth worrying about. Or caring about. Or applying any energy, thought, or passion. Dumb assignment, anyway.

7. Your Slides (or Demo, or Video) Will Do the Talking

Yes, yes, yes — your presentation is coming up but you’re clever enough to not have to practice, prepare, or even give a damn. That’s because you have an ace up your sleeve. The “this presentation has already been given, and I have the slides” trick. Good for you. That’s a great way to beat the system. And you’re correct in assuming that nobody will notice that you’re reading somebody else’s presentation. Ot that’s it’s outdated. But it’s a tremendous way to not worry about being a good presenter – and it’s an even better way to cheat the audience.

8. You’re Only Presenting for 5, 10, or 15 Minutes

You have that all-important 30 minute presentation that your company sponsored, but you’re only speaking for 15 minutes. That analyst (customer, vendor, academic, etc. ) is speaking for the other half. All you have to do is cobble together five or six slides and talk about a company history, roadmap, or filler content, then turn it over to the next speaker. A few planted questions and answers at the end of it all and you’re home free. Nothing to fear, except that somebody paid $15,000 to sponsor that presentation. Whatever.

9. Forget About the Audience

Who cares about them? Why bother? They’re not spending their money going to Las Vegas to attend that show, it’s their company’s money. So why bother putting in the extra effort in your presentation? Boring panel discussions are perfectly acceptable to most. So are text-filled slides presented by sleep-inducing speakers. Chances are you won’t draw much of a crowd anyway, so it’s not worth putting in the extra effort. Just sit there, shut up, and speak when spoken to. Don’t rock the boat and be a hero by putting on a performance that stands out in the crowd of sessions. In fact, you’ve spoken a dozen times to other groups about the same subject. You’ve put in your time, the audience doesn’t care, so don’t worry about having to give that 13th performance. You’ve done it plenty, and I’m sure your sick of it by now.

10. You’re Just Not a Public Speaker

Nobody is going to blame you for not being able to deliver a good presentation. It’s not who you are and you never have to worry about how you look and sound in front of an audience. You’ll never be called into action, so it should be the furthest thing from your mind. Look at where you work! Nobody at your company takes presentation skills seriously, especially at the executive level. If they don’t care about things like that, somebody like you shouldn’t care – let alone worry. You’re simply not a public speaker, and you never will be.

#sarcasm

Absurd? You bet. But the vast majority deliver presentation performances and event experiences that demonstrate otherwise. And I refuse to accept mediocrity, not to mention subpar personal communication performances.

What’s really riding on your next public speaking performance?

  • Your business communication ability to connect with distracted audiences.
  • Your ability to perform, with little to no corporate help.
  • Your company’s investment in the event sponsorship, but not your professional development.
  • Sales.
  • Jobs.
  • Your professional reputation.

If you don’t think your business #communication, #presentation ability, or impromptu public speaking skill set will ever come into play, read this. But for those who recognize and put into practice skills and techniques to handle any pubic speaking and presentation opportunity, you’ll have an arrow in your quiver that’ll rock your competition. They’ll not only fear competing with you, and they’ll still fear having to give that competing presentation.

And that’s your winning combination.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com