Five Product Marketing Train Wrecks You’ll Want to Avoid

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I can’t quite completely close my eyes and write this article. I have to see my laptop and its keyboard to get the job done. I don’t employ any sort of speech-to-text technology, so it’s the traditional method of typing another post for me.

But I can close my eyes and envision the repetitive, copycat product marketing job descriptions plastered across Internet job sites and career centers – before writing my own generic summary of them. On average, those descriptions read something like… Product Marketing Help Wanted: candidates who have experience understanding market dynamics, setting #strategy, enabling #sales, forecasting accurately, being subject matter experts, displaying fluency in the competitive landscape, cobbling together a SWOT analysis, talking to analysts, supporting product launches, interacting with partners, supporting campaigns and lead generation efforts, writing and creating #content, recognizing opportunity, representing the company at major events, trade shows and conferences, running and delivering departmental reports…

Since my work has largely been in the B2B enterprise software and professional services space, I think I’m fairly close in my assessment of those one-size-fits-all product marketing job descriptions. Sure, you may add your own flavor to your own description, and add a bit about deep, deep, deep precise technical knowledge, the need to be a social media or SEO/SEM keyword rockstar, or know something about SaaS and other software delivery models, but my breakdown lands close to center.

But it’s what’s not included in those product marketing job descriptions that can – and has – led to disaster. Here are just five examples:

1. Nothing to Show for Product Marketing Efforts

For all of that fancy talk of marketing strategy this, and content creation that, if at the end of the next fiscal quarter product marketing can’t produce and deliver some form of measured economic value report, trouble is brewing. And I’m not talking about running some last-minute lead generation report off of a CRM or Marketing Automation system. Product Marketing must know why deals in each and every quarter were won or lost, the revenue gained or lost, why business events transpired the way they did, and what worked and didn’t work, in which regions, the content used, the communication skills deployed, the marketing channels engaged, and the corrective actions that will be taken.

2. It’s 1st and Goal from the 1, but Your Team Can’t Take the Field

Some product marketers can (seemingly) be very good at what they do. Astute market strategy, fantastic compilers of content, technically fluent, and all around good people. The problem lies in product marketing’s lack of ability to help get the team across the goal line. I’ve seen it before: good people, with good products and services. But they’re wholly ineffective at taking what they have to market, which leads to boatload of go-nowhere marketing clutter and terrible sales enablement. Their team can’t take the field, let along cross the goal line. This is far more common than you may realize.

3. Zero Personal or Team Presentation Skills

I’ve watched company presentations allegedly orchestrated by product marketing that have included everybody from product management, to executives, to sales engineers, to consultants, and beyond. (Sometimes I wonder what happened to the overnight security guard.) Product launches, corporate updates, etc… Far too many product marketers are consumed with helping create slide decks with over 100 slides that encompass everybody under the sun. Yes, over 100 slides. Then the attempt to cram that slide deck into a 55-minute presentation is even more amusing, especially when a group of colleagues each takes a piece of the presentation. What’s memorable about it (besides the mess left behind for the audience to decipher) — is nothing. Any product marketer with any sense of business presentation skill should know better than to go down the path of these types of presentations.

4. Inability to Inform, Train or Coach Colleagues

Let’s keep building on the sales partnership front. As a product marketer, I’ve had the task of working with global colleagues to introduce them to the latest on products, services, competitors, customers, etc. But I had to do in both in-person and virtual formats. Even on-camera. That means having the skill to seamlessly move from communication format to communication format to discuss all that was fit to share. It’s one thing to create strategy, plans, content, and recommendations and upload it to an internal portal or sales enablement tool and dump it on the team. It’s another ballgame to stand in front of your audience, introduce it, and work with them on its effective use. BTW – product marketing must do this constantly, and quickly. No more waiting around for the January sales kickoff or that mid-year company boondoggle where marketing gets 30 minutes on the corporate agenda.

5. Being Captain Obvious: One Step Away from Product Marketing Automation 

So product marketing must compile what those at Gartner, Forrester, and the rest have to say about the market? Take information and run reports off of the CRM system? The same for the marketing automation tool? To quote and use the Office Space line, “What would you say Product Marketing does here…” I can envision much of what product marketing does as becoming robotic — data to be inputted into standardized quarterly and annual reports that any stakeholder can see. The solution – product marketing should take everything into consideration and develop thoughts, opinions, and original strategies of its own. Things nobody will hear anyplace else. Product Marketing commoditization should be a thing of the past. Tell me (and every single audience) something I don’t already know and can’t get anywhere else.

For the CXOs Only: The Product Marketing Challenge

Here’s one rapid, sure-fire way to evaluate the communication skills of your product marketing team. Invite your product marketers to participate in a departmental challenge, one person at a time. You can either have them prepare for this, or it can be a complete surprise. Pick a topic central to their work, one that your product marketers should know inside and out and have them present it back to you – or any audience. The twist? Shortly before they begin their presentation, pull the plug. Meaning = they can’t use anything electronic to tell their story. No slides, no demos, no computer, laptop, videos, tablet, or smartphone. Flipchart, whiteboard, sure. If you wish, this can be done virtually with a laptop and an electronic napkin – but no webinar-type slides. See how everybody does. Product marketers should be able to fluently talk to their audiences about everything pertinent to the business, without the aid of electronic presentation crutches. If they can’t pass the simple product marketing test of personal business communication, the rest is inconsequential. Get back to basics and get to work.

At least that #productmarketing test is one train wreck you’ll see coming.

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

Hey [Voice Assistant]: Find Another Voice to Represent My Business

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

For those of us who remain connected to television programming via cable or satellite, it’s hard not to notice the former CBS-TV network comedy The King of Queens relentlessly being played over and over in syndication. Scroll the on-screen programming menu offered by any cable or satellite provider and you’re sure to find it. The show is on several channels, in the morning, afternoon, and night. It’s on seven days a week.

I never watched the show when it was in its first run on network television. Never. Not once. Nothing against the show, but I just never watched it. But it’s now on television with such frequency that I’ve landed on the show more than once via late-night channel surfing.

A moment from one particular episode caught my attention. One of the show’s characters owns and operates a Queens, New York pizza parlor, and there’s a scene in this restaurant when he’s working behind the counter and in the middle of an in-person conversation. The character talks in a no-accent, Middle America, vocal style. No New York City accent. No Italian accent. No Mid-Atlantic accent. Nothing. Just a straight-forward thirty-something male voice from most Anywhere, USA. But during this episode, that conversation he’s having is suddenly interrupted by the restaurant’s telephone ringing. It’s a wall phone from the 1980’s and somebody’s calling to place an order. But instead of answering the phone in a typical “Hello, How may I help you…” tone of voice, the owner answers in a quickly-fabricated heavy Italian accent. “Hello, Angelo’s Pizza, How may I help you…” (Apply your own interpretive accent to that quote.)

The pizza order is taken, he hangs up the phone, and then goes back to his normal #voice for the balance of the previous in-house conversation. The bit lasts 10-15 seconds, max. It’s an amusing, family-friendly, network tv line from a sitcom, but one that held more of a business lesson learned than the show’s producers, writers, or actors could have known at the time.

Your Voice Assistant Can’t Provide That #CustomerExperience

I’ve read about #Amazon’s Alexa and #Google Home’s ability to locally order pizza from two of the national chains, provided accounts are set-up in advance. (Bugs and shortcomings in the system notwithstanding.) So let’s stay with that example, and imagine if you owned a local pizza place or a chain of regional Italian restaurants. Your target #customer is lying on the couch, watching The King of Queens on late-night TV and gets hungry for pizza. Instead of moving his lazy body to dial for delivery, sit up to use an app, or get up to find his computer, he only has to talk to his voice-assist enabled device sitting on a table on the other side of the room. But instead of delivering a customized audible customer experience, the generic platform voice is the front person for all pizza places within the system. Nothing unique, no Angelo, no Tony, nothing differentiated in the sound of the interaction with the restaurants. Just a computerized voice providing options, and it’s a voice that sounds exactly the same from one pizza joint to the next. At the moment of truth for the vocal and audible customer experience, the interaction is watered down. Homogenized. And that #sales, #marketing, and #customerservice process is going to have to change. One generic voice assistant representing your business – and those of your competitors – can’t last. As nice and sophisticated as your chosen platform’s voice assistant may sound, you don’t necessarily want that male or female voice branding your restaurant – or your chosen line of business.

Three #CX Predictions

1. Across all #platforms, voice-enabled transactions in the next several years are expected to total in the billions of dollars. Given that market forecast, businesses will have to quickly learn how to connect their products and services to this new form of vocal customer interaction, experience, and relationship. They’ll have to do so in a differentiated way or miss out on that future spend. It’s interesting to note that the use of voice-enabled assistants can level the playing field for many smaller or regional businesses (think Pizza Hut and Domino’s vs. Angelo’s New York Pizza), but it’ll be the smaller businesses that are slow to react and invest that could be the most vulnerable.

2. The market should move quickly in a direction that will allow #technology to be developed such that the current platform assistants can connect to corporate-owned, individually-branded voice assistants that will deliver differentiated consumer interactions. This is not a replacement of the current set of computerized voice assistants, rather a connection to one or more voices that specifically represents a particular company, #brand, or business. #Alexa or #Siri could act as a virtual switchboard to route users to any one company’s ability to use voice-assist and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in creative ways their competitor’s could never imagine.

3. For all of the technology and #AI, actual human voices will continue to play a critical role throughout this voice and branding process. I know this seems as if it takes away from some of the futuristic HAL 2000 thinking, but no supercomputer could provide the actual voice used for Tony’s Pizza in Chicago. Or Angelo’s in Queens. Or Hunter’s chain of Western Wear Shops throughout the State of Texas. I wouldn’t want a supercomputer voice to brand my Chicagoland pizza parlors with an automated voice-assist that sounds like a Joe Pesci from Goodfellas ripoff. And just ask somebody from southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama if all southern United States accents sound the same. (They don’t.) Supercomputer voices have a long way to go to reflect the nuances in dialects, and that’s only considering the USA. (BTW, that includes anything uttered by #IBM’s Watson.) For the long foreseeable future, humans will be needed to provide voices for companies seeking to differentiate themselves in the voice-assistance world, and that should make those in the #voiceover industry jump for joy.

Of course the use of differentiated voices for company branding activities is nothing new. Companies have traditionally employed actors with the precise voices they want for everything from radio and television commercials, to Interactive Voice Response systems, to web and streaming media activities, to video games, to, well, computer-generated voice-enabled assistants. But it’s this still-developing link in the voice-assisted customer experience chain that provides the most excitement, and creative possibilities.

Linking AI, to customized voices and crafted sound experiences, through the in-home, in-auto, in-office, or handheld mobile device to represent your business has got to be compelling. Imagine the possibilities, and how your business can own that audible customer experience in ways your competitors could never imagine. I think I’ll stay up late, give some thought to how this economic and technology model can work, and order a pizza.

BTW, Chicago’s pizza is still better than New York’s.

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

10 Phone Interviews I’ll Never Forget

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I’ve had plenty of phone interviews over the years – on both sides of the #hiring and #employer conversation. As an interviewer, and as a job candidate. This post is about my Top 10 phone interview experiences as a candidate, and I’m happy to share some of my #lessonslearned from the not-so-enjoyable side of the rude, unprofessional, inconsiderate, time-wasting, and (fill in the blank with your own adjective) portion of the #hiring process.

Though there’s really no way to be completely guard against it, but I hope that I never again have the pleasure of interviewing over the phone with:

1. The Unprepared, Uninterested, and Arrogant

I recently had the “pleasure” of a conversation with a hiring manager who asked a total of three questions during the phone interview, only one of which had any substance. The other two were of the “tell me about yourself” variety. After a total of 11 minutes of conversation I was asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?” (That’s never a good sign.) After more chit-chat and back and forth I was told about how they’re going to keep “going through resumes” for another two weeks, how the company has to “get it right” and how they even left one (or more) senior-level positions open for a year. Yep, a year. Is that something you really want to tell candidates, or are you intentionally trying to push them away? Business moves at a lightning pace, but apparently not at that company. I think they’re still looking… While they look, I’ll move on with the rest of the business world.

2. Everybody (Employed at the Hiring Company)

Not too long ago, one of my job pursuits was with one of the Big Shot global consulting firms. One of those that advertises in airports and is easily recognizable to anybody in business. (That’s as far as I’ll go to identify the company.) After some initial positive vibes with a point person in the hiring process, I was sent on a global telephonic journey to have conversations with multiple people scattered about Planet Earth. Paris, London, etc. Last count I had was eight hour-long phone interviews. The only person left untapped for an interview was the overnight security guard. Nevertheless, after investing in hours of phone interviews (which I thought went well) with good people in different time zones, I was eventually informed of the decision to go with an internal candidate. And I was only told that because I asked. Big Shot consulting firm took no initiative to let me know of their decision. Do the math around this exercise in futility and you’ll understand why this was an experience I’ll never forget.

3. The Checklister

Interviewing with #HR reps or corporate #recruiters who know nothing about a specific opportunity don’t really qualify as interviews. They’re more like one-sided phone conversations that only benefit the hiring company’s information gathering system. These conversations are easy to decipher shortly after the call begins. The tone of voice of the interviwer, the pause between scripted questions, the typing of answers… they’re all dead giveaways. What makes matters worse is when I was asked to “officially and formally” apply in the hiring company’s system. Being told that I would not be considered for an opportunity unless I spent an hour with the black-hole application on a #career website has been never produced a positive outcome. For those who employ this tactic, allow me to recap: I spend 30 minutes on a phone interview with somebody reading off a checklist of questions. There’s a 99% chance my answers will never see the light of day. Then I’m told I have to apply through your career website because I have to in order to be considered. Lastly, I get no response from you. No status check. No updates. Nothing. Yeah…ummm…No thanks.

4. The (Allegedly) Date and Time Challenged

I’m starting to run out of fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve waited by the phone waiting for an interviewer to call. 10, 15, 20 minutes go by. Sometimes the phone never rings as scheduled. Meanwhile, I’m confused as to why those who schedule phone interviews fail to understand that it’s not just the 30 or 60 minutes of scheduled time, it’s the prep work that goes into getting ready for the call. The research, homework, and securing the environment to have a productive call. Not to mention that time is an asset that I wish to use wisely, not sitting around waiting for somebody to call. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. If you’re going to demand that candidates respect the process, so should interviewers and hiring managers.

5. The 12th Player on the Bench

The 12th player is a basketball reference. It’s the last player on the bench. They’re on the team, but they’re the last player a coach would use in a game. They’re also the last to know anything. The answers commonly repeated by 12th players (some recruiters/ interviewers) to questions about a job or the status of a hiring process is “I don’t know” and “Let me find out.” Of course, they never, ever come up with helpful answers. It’s usually a strung out series of quick phone interactions culminating in “I don’t know what’s going on, I haven’t heard anything. I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Time flies, the process ages, and we only get older. I think I’m still waiting on some people from 10 years ago to get back with me with new information on job applications.

6. The Blabbermouth

There’s a questionable rule of thumb that if a hiring manager goes on and on about the company, the job, and themselves, let them talk. They’re supposed to feel good about themselves, and the interview. But I’m not so sure. In my experience, some phone interviewers go into a history about the company, and themselves. It usually happens when they haven’t prepped for the interview. To compensate, they fill the time with an endless string of long-winded statements. While there can be some value in that, and some information may be gathered, by the time some blabbermouths keep quiet they’ll say “It’s three minutes to the top of the hour and I have a hard stop. What questions can I answer for you?” Instead of having a conversation, candidates are treated to a phone speech. Then jamming poignant questions into three minutes. Oh, BTW, there is no next step in this “hiring” process.

7. The Send Me Your Stuff-ers

You have a good phone interview, and it concludes with the request for work samples. My initial answer is to Google my name and any one of a number of other keywords that will instantly provide a number of publicly-available examples. Or just look at my LinkedIn profile. Some stuff is there, too. Quick, simple, and easy. You’ll find enough of what you’re looking for, but I’ll provide more if what you see isn’t what you want. But nope, that doesn’t seem to work. So time is spent gathering specific examples of relevant material and sending (emailing) them. Material that won’t ever returned. But how do the “Send Me Your Stuff-ers” usually reciprocate? With silence…

8. The Repeat Offender

A distant relative of The Date and Time challenged, these interviewers are in a league all their own. Scheduling mishaps occur. I get it. They’re a part of corporate life. Things happen. Schedules change. No problem. I’m a good natured, understanding, easy-going guy. But beyond waiting by the phone for one scheduled call from a hiring manager that never comes, is a willingness to be scheduled for a phone interview with an interviewer multiple times. And still they don’t show. This happened not too long ago when I was scheduled for call that never came. The call was reset, but that date and time also came and went. So I spoke up and expressed my displeasure. The apologetic response (from the person doing the scheduling) was that the blown off phone calls were not indicative of the person’s character, nor the corporate culture. So I acquiesced and set a third call. That never came.

9. The Unexplainable

I was going to entitle this section “The Angry” but that would seem overly harsh. But I’ll never forget one 30 minute call I had with a VP that seemed too busy, too tired, too angry, too jet lagged for the call. By the end of the call I’d swear I was hung up on. It was like hearing “Gotta Go, Bye…click…” I didn’t know this person. Never met. No previous interaction of any kind, ever. Of course, my follow-up inquiries were met with silence until one day I emailed the recruiter and shared that my personal travels are bringing me close to their corporate hometown, and I would welcome the chance to introduce myself in-person. Lo and behold the recruiter quickly responded to that email to tell me they had gone in another direction. Again, imagine if the “having a bad day” shoe was on the other foot and candidates started to hang up the phone on hiring managers the end of calls. The candidates wouldn’t stand a chance.

10. The Unappreciative

Nobody likes to lose out on a good job, but it happens and I understand that hiring decisions won’t always go my way. But I’ve learned (especially in my more recent years) to always say “thank you” to those who have taken the time to show interest in a position, and a company. The investment candidates make goes way beyond the time spent on a phone interview. The work before, during, and after call quickly adds up. The investment in time, energy and resources is substantial. I don’t care if a recruiter, interviewer, or hiring manager is busy. Everybody is. Nothing substitutes for courtesy, respect, and appreciation of a candidate’s time – even if it is “just a phone interview” to some.

I recently wrote (an unexpectedly popular) post on things companies must do to improve the overall hiring process. Some of that is reflected in this post, but sharing the stories behind bad phone interviews deserved its own article. No doubt you’ve had your share of challenging phone interviews, including the ones that were scheduled but never actually occurred. Please pop over to LinkedIn to comment and share your experiences. There’s nothing more valuable to the audience than to learn about real-life situations, especially in the #employment world of #recruiting, #interviewing, and #hiring!

Putting Your Sales Team, and Your Enablement Program, into the Presentation Gauntlet

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Here’s something you don’t see everyday: a post that combines Marcus Lemonis and Bruce Lee.

Last week, I wrote about how Mr. Lemonis debuted his CNBC TV show The Partner, and quickly put 10 experienced job candidates through an initial test: an impromptu, solo #presentation task two-and-a-half minutes in length in front of an unexpected conference room filled with several dozen well-dressed extras to go with bright lights, at least one television camera, and one senior-level decision maker. 10 candidates entered the room. All good people with solid, professional credentials. A few did alright, but most did not fare well. As executives, all should have been able to handle the task, but it was clear that there was presentation work to be done across the board.

In the third act of Bruce Lee’s unfinished 1972 film The Game of Death, Bruce’s character enters a pagoda with two associates in an attempt to fight their way up the building to the top floor. Standing in the group’s way is a martial arts expert on each floor. For Bruce and his friends, the object is simple: fight and defeat the bad guy on one floor, and move on to the next until they reached the top – where an indoor sunglasses-wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar waits in a dimly lit attic. Defeat Kareem, and it’s mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, Bruce died in 1973 before he could finish his movie, but material found over 10 years ago reveals about 40 minutes of footage unseen for 30 years. It shows how Bruce is the only one out of his trio capable of defeating the bad guys. His associates try to fight, but they’re no match for the pagoda inhabitants. In fact, at times they’re used as comic relief. On the #sales and #marketing front, this footage reminded me of how a senior-level account executive will take junior sales and marketing reps on visits to customer sites. The junior reps would stand no chance at closing a deal with major league decision makers – some arrogant enough to claim they eat salespeople for breakfast. But a more seasoned rep will walk out of these meetings with a signed contract.

Now combine observations and lessons learned from Bruce Lee’s film and Marcus Lemonis’ TV show.

I appreciated Mr. Lemonis putting the candidates through the presentation challenge, but the reality is that challenge was basic. Barely table stakes for any business leader. If executive-level candidates have trouble handling a short, surprise, professional presentation situation, they’ll have little chance of walking into and orchestrating any presentation scenario – planned or unplanned. No matter how good their sales enablement content is.

Now back to Bruce.

His Game of Death character was able to fight and defeat all pagoda opponents, no matter the fighting style or weapons they used. He was experienced, and prepared. His associates were not. No matter the style of opponent, Bruce’s friends couldn’t win. It was up to Bruce to save the day.

Now to your sales team, your sales enablement program, and the presentation gauntlet.

I view the premier episode of The Partner as an example of the senior-level presentation deficiencies which run rampant throughout the corporate world. I also draw upon my experience watching presentations of all shapes and sizes over the past 30 years. Early on in my professional life I used to be surprised at what I saw on the trade show, conference, webinar, and corporate event circuit. Not anymore. What I saw on The Partner confirmed my observations, and the same observations certainly shared by many of you reading this article. People need help in this area of professional development, and many companies either overlook it, don’t care, don’t want to spend the money or shortchange it, feel as if it’s not important, or leave it up to individual employees to fend for themselves. The real-world results speak for themselves.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin: salespeople (and marketers, and customer service reps, and executives, and IT pros, and numerous other departmental staff) who crave the help, practice, coaching, and continual improvement they need and want in their presentation game. Like the candidates on TV, and similar to those who benefit from content-rich support: your colleagues – at this very moment – are seeking options to improve their skills to better communicate and interact with audiences across multiple channels because the market demands it. The business world demands it from them, they need the skills to do their job, yet help is hard to find – if it’s available at all.

Your sales team equals the candidates on a TV show, working through a surprise presentation challenge in order to compete, and win.

Your sales team also equals Bruce Lee and his associates on a raid of a sales pagoda having to conquer different presentation formats and styles on each floor.

You, as an enabler, have to equip your people with #content and personal performance skills to succeed, and pass, every test. To advance, and win business.

My presentation gauntlet for your sales team is simple: a series of presentation challenges throughout the business day, using various styles and formats, incorporating sales enablement content made available to them. If I looked at a typical Outlook calendar day for a typical salesperson, I’d expect to see conference calls, in-person sales presentations, a webinar or virtual session, various internal and external #meetings, product #demos, partner activities, and on-camera, #video meetings. Maybe some booth duty at a trade show or even an interview with an industry reporter. Not only is it reasonable to expect that these type activities would fill the average day of the typical salesperson, it’s mandatory to see this on a regular basis.

Specifically, make an internal event out of the presentation gauntlet for a day or two. Imagine, one conference room in your office is set for your salespeople to conduct individual, executive-level sales pitches, the next, a webinar. On another floor, a larger room doubles as your trade show booth, while still another houses a laptop camera to mimic a video conference call. Employees play the part of the audience, and judges. Put your colleagues through the gauntlet of different presentation styles and formats. Score the performances. Mix it up and make it a competition. Have fun.

Prepare everybody, throw curve balls and surprises throughout the exercise, customize the activity, and practice the #communication techniques and personal skills needed to succeed in any format, in front of any #audience, with or without content, computer, and modern-day presentation crutches.

To be certain, while some high-performing closers will do well in an area or two, ways to improvement performances for all will undoubtedly present themselves. For others outside of #business development and not used to #publicspeaking, my prediction is that the gauntlet results will be even more revealing.

The other day, my friend and communication expert Bob Parkinson said something apropos on the subject of business presentations, a presenter’s physical and vocal skills, and communication effectiveness: “If it was all about content, we’d all be Shakespearean actors.”

The point is clear. Shakespeare’s content has been available to all for hundreds of years. Yet only coached and experienced actors can deliver a performance worthy of the material. Because it’s the skill of presenter, working with the content, that makes for an effective performance. Getting to that high-level of performance doesn’t just happen overnight, and the process of practicing, staying sharp, and improving performance never stops. Now more than ever, this applies to professional performance in the business world.

Just ask Marcus Lemonis about the ability to present yourself, your story, your brand, and your message. Then imagine what Bruce Lee would say about what it takes to prepare for competition, and to succeed and win.

Or maybe you could ask Michael Jordan, who was the first one to practice in the morning and the last one to leave at night – even while he was at the top of his game.

So now if you’re really enabling your sales team for success, and preparing them for any given situation, in front of any type of an audience, sign yourself and your team up for your internal presentation gauntlet. Observe the performances, measure the results, and improve. Because most aren’t doing this, and you’ll have a communication advantage over so many who are lacking.

Your team will love it.

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

The Trade Show Picture Worth 1,000 Words – of Waste

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I’m not crazy about the new LinkedIn. The new User Interface is S-L-O-W. Some of the publishing and networking stats that I valued in the past have completely disappeared. And the mobile experience of trying to access LinkedIn’s website leaves a lot to be desired. I admit I had higher expectations from LinkedIn after it was acquired by Microsoft last year for $26 billion (USD). I also know that I’m not alone in expressing my displeasure with the new LinkedIn.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the endless stream of trade show pictures that clog my LinkedIn feed. Pictures of smiling staff, proudly standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside their company’s respective trade show booths. Across industries, from shows spanning the globe, these pictures look the same. Can’t say that I necessarily blame anybody in these photos. Heck, I’ve even been some of them. But one recent “smiling staff in a booth” trade show picture got me to look at it – and all the rest of these event photographs – in a fiscally responsible way.

Instead of wearing my marketing/creative/event/happy to be at the show of the year hat, I put on my CEO/VC/Investor/Owner hat. It made all the difference in the world.

The trade show picture that made me stop was simple enough: six people smiling for the camera in a nearly completed 10’ x 10’ trade show booth situated somewhere deep inside a cavernous convention hall. Proud employees eagerly awaiting the start of a convention. All happy to be there. And judging from the size of the convention hall, I got the feeling it was one of those multi-day events where the exhibit hall is open from 10:00 – 5:00pm everyday for three, maybe four days.

But it’s what I also saw in the picture that made me stop, stare, do the math, and hope that the company’s CEO didn’t see this picture. Or their investors. Or competitors. It was evidence that could be used against the person who made the decision to exhibit at the event, and spend the money and resources the way they were spent. Yes, when a person has been around the trade show and marketing block a few times, this type of information can be gathered just from looking at one photograph.

In addition to the pleasantries above, here’s what I also saw in the picture:

1. Stacks of paper brochures in neat piles on the booth table. 

Survey says that over 80% of this paper collateral junk at trade shows is bound for garbage cans and area landfills. Yet there they still are in this day and age. In booth after trade show booth. Literature rack after lit rack. Two, four, and eight page four color brochures that cost money to write, produce, layout, edit, revise, print, store, ship, distribute, and return to storage after the show. More and more printed collateral that goes from company, to staff, to show floor attendees, to hotel room waste baskets as travelers lighten the load for the trip home. Printed material is largely useless, costs thousands to have on hand, and expires quickly. Too many marketers, salespeople, and executives love the tangibility of printed material at trade shows because you have to have something… The reality is that there are better ways to move your target audience to electronic forms of communication and save the money on stuff that’ll never get read in the first place.

2. The terrible booth location.

I mentioned that cavernous convention hall, and it’ll have been a miracle if anybody found the postage stamp-size booth. They were lost in the wilderness. I’m sure some knew where they were, but most attendees probably found their way to their location by accident wandering the exhibit hall on Day Two or Day Three of the event. After they’ve seen the big players, and those with far more advantageous positions on the show floor. Helpful tip: if you can’t get a good location on the exhibit hall floor, don’t exhibit. You can still attend the show, and your money will be better spent on other marketing activities which don’t place you in the back of the room for a week. (And no, just because you don’t exhibit, the market won’t think you’re out of business.)

3. I couldn’t tell you the exhibiting company name – even if I wanted to.

That’s because the exhibitor’s name was invisible in the picture, even in a nearly completed booth. It’s possible that a magical sign or expertly branded backdrop had yet to be erected – but I doubt it. Consider, do you notice the backdrops now employed at almost every press conference you see? Notice the way the branding is done on those backdrops? Simple, bold, clear, not crowded with illegible text? Yet trade show attendees are treated to signage which says nothing, or far too much. Get your signage act together, and remember that all attendees carry cameras and the ability to live stream from your location, ready or not.

4. The Expense: Personnel and Budget.

The picture I’m thinking about for this post had six people in it. Some booth pictures have 10, 20, or more people standing around posing for the camera. Then I start doing the math any CEO, owner, or investor would do in their heads. Time for each out of the office. Time spent in a booth. Time away from customers. Travel and entertainment. Booth space rental. The cost to put something in the booth space – whether it’s in the back of the hall or not. The cost of paper, pens, giveaways, shirts, etc. The list goes on and on.

You may say that’s the cost of doing business at a trade show. I would say nope – not anymore. I’d have a small, elite, multi-functional group of employees on hand. Only a small, very select handful of company employees would be at any given trade show and that’s it. Event costs have been ballooning out of control for years, and somebody has to answer for it in the weeks after an event. Especially if there’s no return on investment.

5. What I thought about.

Who constructed the booth? Who will tear it down and ship it back? I would never want employees crawling around on the floor and chasing boxes. They have better things to do with their time.

How many more employees were in town for this event? Were there more than six people attending, what were their business reasons for being in the booth, and how much did they expense as part of this endeavor? Was the booth used as luggage storage – yet again?

…and who took the picture?

From the minimum buy-in of $5,000, $10,000 and up for booth space rental at industry shows and conventions, to the five, six-, and seven-figure costs of putting something in the booth space – the trade show math has been adding up for years for CEOs, owners, and investors. They’re catching on. The trade show industry has quickly gained a reputation for growing long in the tooth and is in desperate need of innovation, if not reinvention.

It may be perfectly acceptable for some to treat a wasted outing at a trade show as an annual standard operating procedure, but those days are quickly coming to end. It’s evidenced by the steady stream of pictures of smiling people at trade show booths spending a company’s money and not thinking twice of the business benefits.

And if I’m thinking about what I see and don’t see in your exhibit hall photos, you’d better believe your boss is also thinking about it. Don’t be surprised if somebody, somewhere, in one of your executive conference rooms asks: “How much did that show cost?” “And what did we get out of it?”

And don’t assume you’ll be there to answer, or defend yourself.

Now smile, and say cheese!

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

Forget Enabling Sales. Or Anything Else. Enable Your Presentation Skills First.

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

It’s about time somebody credibly demonstrated the importance of personal #presentation skills and put it on full display for the global business world to see. During this week’s premier of his new television show The Partner on #CNBC, entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis did just that.

For the past several years, Mr. Lemonis has been the host and business expert on another CNBC show named The Profit. On that show, Marcus documents his attempts to help failing businesses across the USA. Most of the companies featured on The Profit are on the smaller-to-medium size: local and regional organizations across industries that have gone astray with failing business models. More often than not, Marcus ends up investing in the failing businesses featured on his show, and assumes full control of all turnaround efforts. On occasion, Marcus walks away from difficult or reluctant owners, and businesses with seemingly little chance of survival. But to date, he has invested tens of millions of dollars in dozens of businesses across the country. As a result of his investments and increased demands on his time, Marcus Lemonis is in need of executive help. Thus, the search for, and a new TV show named, The Partner.

This week’s premier featured 10 candidates brought to downtown Chicago to start the process of competing for the opportunity to become Mr. Lemonis’ new business partner. 10 outstanding candidates with impressive, executive-level job titles from all walks of life. (On a personal note, the first episode show was set at The Drake hotel, blocks from where I studied for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and minutes from where I’ve lived for most of the past 25 years. Very familiar home territory.)

Each Partner candidate had been successful in the professional world, brought stellar credentials to the show, survived the audition process, and had a great story to tell. Problem was, most couldn’t effectively stand and deliver their story or their messages when it mattered the most: under pressure, on the first show, in the first round, in a surprise business #communication situation many were clearly not equipped to handle.

The setup was this: each candidate was told that they were to be given two-and-a-half minutes to present their case as to why they were the best person for the job. Next, Mr. Lemonis told the candidates he was going to set up for the presentations in a nearby conference room. One-by-one, the candidates made their way to the meeting room expecting a traditional job interview setting. It was anything but.

Unknown to the candidates, a surprise awaited them. Marcus had intentionally filled the meeting room with a large group of business people. There were well-dressed professionals sitting around the conference room table and standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the room behind the table. I estimate the meeting room size was 15’ x 25’ – maybe 375-400 square feet. The number of people in the room was 30-40. Several brights lights from the back of the room illuminated the candidates as they each stood alone in front of the room, and at least one TV camera in the back was visible. The object was to (professionally) intimidate each candidate.

I watched as the candidates opened the conference room door. The solo reactions were priceless. From the footage shown, two or three of the candidates did an okay-to-decent job of handling the impromptu task. Most did not.

It bears repeating. All 10 candidates were stellar, executive-level candidates and have something to offer any business or professional organization. All very good people. But when it came to the first business communication challenge on the show, in this competition, most of candidates fell short of expectations. In fact, some of results were disastrous.

Here’s what I saw: one candidate walked in the room, then out, and quickly back in. Another appeared shocked. Few smiled, or even gave the impression that they were enjoying the moment. In the individual attempts to tell the group why they were the best candidate, many didn’t organize their thoughts and stumbled over their words. One looked away and employed a low vocal volume. Still another complained about the bright lights, and when asked what she would do if she was at an event representing the company in a similar meeting situation, her response was “I don’t know.” (She didn’t advance to the next round.)

It also bears mentioning that the candidates didn’t have the use of PowerPoint slides for these presentations. No slides. No props. No smartphones, computers, or laptops. Just the candidates themselves, standing at the front of the room facing the crowd, the lights, the camera, and the hiring manager – the decision maker – Marcus Lemonis.

I’m certain each had great personal and professional content, but only a fraction of the group had any skill or proven process to communicate it.

And for those who haven’t taken the time to properly enable themselves to use their own content to be effective in such a challenging situation, how could they (or anybody else for that matter) who takes a similar lackluster approach to presentation skills and personal business presence be expected to properly enable sales? Or marketing? Or customer service? Or any area of any business?

I smirk at the current deluge of ‘content, content, content’ without those who order or produce such content understanding how it’s effectively used by those in sales, marketing, service, and front-line executives when they face prospects, clients, partners, and investors in highly-competitive situations. After all, it’s not just the content, nor its delivery model that will win the day. It’s a professional’s ability to stand, deliver, and be heard first – then the quality of the content, second.

One issue is that of straightforward sales enablement. So many alleged sales enablers claim they provide meaningful content to salespeople, via innovative technology, in order to produce increased corporate revenues. But if these ‘enablers’ can’t handle a situation where they have to stand and deliver their own impromptu story to a business group, how can they call themselves sales enablers? Maybe they should enable themselves first with the personal communication skills they need to present their ideas to any audience put in front of them. Then they’ll have a genuine understanding of enabling others to be successful in front any audience, in any given situation, planned or unplanned. It’s only at that time that content – or more content – can be introduced.

Another presentation and enablement issue goes up to the executive ranks. In nearly 30 years of watching executive presentations given by CEOs, VPs, Directors, etc. I can safely say far too many of the presentations are sub-par. Below expectations. Hard to watch. Not engaging. Inexcusable. Good people, great content. Rotten presentation skills. To make matters worse, audiences are now treated to video and audio versions of sleep-inducing presentations, ebooks, and all sorts of amateurish multimedia content that clog social media feeds.

If executives won’t enable themselves to possess outstanding presentation skills, how can they assess any form of personal communication, sales effort, or team enablement via content production alone? If they can’t stand, deliver, and present themselves without the crutches of modern-day slide decks and electronics, how will they really know what works and what doesn’t in front of an audience? And what presentation support or professional development in this situation should their employees expect? (None.)

Just because somebody has a spiffy sounding executive title doesn’t mean they can effectively present. And if that’s the case, don’t talk to me about enabling anybody else. Enable yourself, first.

The ability to pass the tough presentation test put forth on The Partner requires more than a one-off, two-day generic presentation skills course taught once a year at corporate headquarters for the fortunate dozen who are able to attend. It takes continual communication practice to individually prepare for the presentation challenges of executive meetings, sales pursuits, webinars, on-camera appearances, media interviews, conference sessions, industry speeches, trade show duties, product briefings, and traditional conference calls. Lest we forget that everybody has a camera in their pocket and can live stream from any one of your corporate activities on a moment’s notice, whether or not you’re prepared, ready, willing, and able.

I know first hand that many companies won’t take the time or spend the money to effectively develop this area of employee communication performance. First, you have to know what you’re doing in this area, and today’s marketers (digital and otherwise) simply don’t know what to do. Nor do human resources departments lost in the 1980s. Some think the responsibility of presentation coaching falls to product marketing. That’s even worse. Before you know it, employees look outside the organization for presentation help, on their own time and on their own dime, because their employer has nothing to offer in this respect.

Yet we now see just how important this facet of the individual professional game is.

More, for all you Digital Marketers out there… or those that emphasize digital this, and digital that, as the opening for what’s important to lead generation, sales, and marketing, and your business in general, please take note. The candidates were not asked to keyword their way into the interview. Nor were they asked to demonstrate how well they use their Facebook skills. Not yet, anyway. They weren’t asked to Snapchat, Tweet, or show they’re chops on LinkedIn. The opening challenge wasn’t an exercise in SEO and SEM or compiling a text-heavy incomprehensible slide deck. It’s was a test to immediately put their personal communication and business presentation skills on the line, and do so in the a surprise, intimidating environment. Damn right. Pull your collective noses out of your mobile screens and pay attention to the business world around you and what it takes to personally communicate with your target audience – and your sales team.

Finally, some may ask what I would’ve done in a similar situation.

If given 2:30 to present, I would have prepared two short, scripted statements: one opening and one closing. Those statements would work, no matter the size of the audience. I would have physically prepared by breathing, relaxing, and preparing my voice. Again, these tactics work no matter the size of the audience. I’d have water available. Upon entering the room, I would have smiled. I’d smile, and stay in control and in charge of the situation. If possible, I’d introduce myself to as many in the room as possible before starting. I’d organize my thoughts, and do an amped-up voice check so that the very last person in the back of room can hear me – loudly and clearly. I’d gain my balance, establish my stance, pick the first person to look in the eyes and deliver my opening statement.

And I would only start speaking when I’m ready to start. Not one moment sooner.

I’d finish with a call to action, and with a statement with what I want the audience to do.

If you want more ideas about preparing for a planned presentation, webinar, or on-camera appearance, you’ll find them here.

But what I want you to do now is watch the premiere episode of The Partner on CNBC’s website, and share your thoughts on Marcus Lemonis’ presentation challenge.

Then consider what you’ll do to prepare yourself to meet the communication challenges of similar presentation situations. Only then should we talk about comprehensive team sales enablement – and the proper incorporation and usage of content.

Again, that’s only after are personal presentation skills are up to a sufficient level of performance and you’ve demonstrated the ability to pass any presentation test.

I’m looking forward to the next episodes of The Partner, and I hope Mr. Lemonis stays the course with emphasizing outstanding presentation skills from all of his #executive candidates, and the business leaders working within his portfolio of companies.

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

Sales & Marketing Quotes I Didn’t Hear in 2016, and Shouldn’t in 2017

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

The opportunity to immediately possess sales, marketing, trade show, online, business #communication, and social #media competitive differentiators exists. I’ve itemized a number of these problems that are just waiting for you (and me) to solve them. For one lazy reason or another, these problems are tolerated by many and lackadaisically accepted by others. They persist. But if you can solve any one of them, the business opportunities are endless.

Over 25 years of experience allows one to see and separate #marketing fiction, wishful thinking, #sales bravado, and wasteful corporate spending from smart business investments, real lead generation results, and the economic value and opportunities offered by improving functional areas of sales and marketing performance. To me, problems are hiding in plain sight and I’m not surprised I haven’t heard anybody say any of the following quotes in 2016.

Allow me to present a handful of evasive quotes, and allow them to describe the problems and opportunities:

1. “Wow. That seven-person panel discussion was AMAZING!”

First, I detest the overuse of the word “amazing” but felt it appropriate here. Second, I’ve seen pictures from recent panel discussions where three to six people are on stage sitting in chairs or on stools. I’m sure you’ve seen many of the same photos. All share the same slumped drooping body language of panelists with microphones in hand, often wearing the same business casual attire. No positive body movement on stage, no physical presentation energy. The audience sits, stares, and strains to listen. With the demand for more memorable event experiences, why do event producers still employ near-valueless panel discussions? It’s an educational session format relic from a long-gone event era. There are so many better ways to actively engage event audiences. (By the way, posting pictures of these panel discussions doesn’t help.)

2. “Our postage-stamp size exhibit with cheap misfit filler pieces DOMINATED!” 

If you’re going to exhibit at an event, own the event. Just securing a undersized booth space in the back of the convention hall and cobbling together a cheap presence with misfit equipment and misaligned messaging won’t cut it. If all you’re doing is throwing together an ineffective trade show presence, don’t. You’ll get the more value from just attending, shaking hands and making the rounds versus waiting for attendees to wander to the back of the hall to find you.

3. “That team was AWESOME jamming 100 slides into an incomprehensible 60 minutes!”

Make that an incomprehensible 55 minutes. Maybe even shorter. Whether its an online conference call or in-person presentation, an audience deserves better than a crush of unreadable sides while uncoordinated, multiple presenters with various levels of communication skill and preparation “pass the ball” around the virtual conference room. Worse is when 60 minutes are scheduled, but the presentation leader doesn’t show up until five minutes after the top of the hour to start the show. As if you’ll get through all of those slides anyway.

4. “The lackluster monotone #presentation of your media content is INSPIRING!”

It’s all about #content, isn’t it? But effectively communicating content doesn’t seem to matter to some. The predisposition to overworking mind-numbing text and slides is common, but spending quality time on the #audio or #video portion that accompanies web and #mobile material nowadays is frequently short-changed by poor production values. It’s easy to find business material produced by somebody using a cheap smartphone, camera, or microphone in a back office or spare room to simply “get it done”. Content is important, but presenting it involves how a person looks and sounds. When amateur efforts are employed and development is rushed, your content, and marketing, sales, and branding efforts will suffer in this new era of dynamic media.

5. “Video Marketing is EASY! All I have to do is turn on my smartphone!”

The way some go about #video marketing today is reminiscent of the way kinescope was first used in the 1940s. There’s a new wave of video #technology that’s hot and trending today, just as it was 70 years ago. But somebody needs to remind people that an audience still needs to find what’s being produced as interesting, entertaining, and informative. Nobody is going to care if your video is in HD, in 4K, and was brought to us via your smartphone and selfie stick if it’s not capable of holding an audience’s attention. There’s more to video marketing than simply turning on your camera, sticking somebody in front of it, and posting a video on Facebook.

6. “It was worth it to send our team to the good-time trade show and get NO ROI!”

Similar to the first quote, I recently saw two more social-media-circulated #convention pictures of healthy teams of people gathered in their company’s respective trade show booths. Happy. Smiling. Enjoying themselves. Displaying great forms of teamwork. Duly noted.

What I also saw in one picture were stacks of garbage-bound paper brochures sitting on a counter. Pens and other assorted giveaways that will go from the company, to the attendees, and to the dumpster. In my mind I also saw the expense reports for each of the on-site staff members and the invoices for the company premiums. What I didn’t see was bold and effective messaging in the booths. I also saw one booth’s position on the show floor. A wide-angle shot was needed to get everybody in that particular picture frame, and it’s safe to say that it would be an accomplishment if a healthy percentage of attendees eventually found their way to that company’s hideout (exhibit) on the show floor. Meanwhile, back at HQ, those event invoices, expense reports, event sales, marketing summaries, and staff pictures will be reviewed by somebody in charge. I’m glad everybody enjoyed their exhibit space, but I sure hope they brought home some return on that event and booth investment and minimized the waste.

7. “I’m glad marketing had NOTHING to do with our January sales kickoff!”

For those who need reminding that sales and marketing teams are disconnected, at best, and adversarial, at worst – here it is again. Marketing must produce economic value to sales, and the organization. To think that marketing can survive disconnected from sales and stay heads down on electronic devices is absurd. Marketing can and should play a #leadership role in sales kickoff activities. And they should hit the road with salespeople to see what works in front of prospects and customers and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that marketing may get one half of one chance to earn the respect of the sales team. And now is the time of the year to do just that.

8. “For inappropriately inserting POLITICS into your business, event, presentation, or #workplace environment so that half of your attendees/customers/employees feel uncomfortable and unwelcome… THANK YOU!” 

No explanation needed. Enough said on that one.

Each one of these unheard of quotes represents an opportunity for sales and marketing performance improvement. Even the last quote. I also realize that most marketers, business developers, conference producers, webinars hosts, and trade show managers have to work within the confines of constrained #budgets and limited resources, and that the vast majority do the best they can with the hand they’re dealt.

But these problems are all too common, and chronic, and they continue to persist to this very day. Present solutions for any or all of the above, and the business opportunities will present themselves to you.

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