United Has Plenty of Company in Playing it Cheap

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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

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

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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

Embracing Marketing’s Higher-Frequency Shifts in Audience Interactions

Tony Compton, Managing Director

If you know how to work a radio, you’ll enjoy reading this post.

And I know you know how to work a radio.

I grew up with the family radio over the kitchen sink tuned to a specific news, traffic, and weather station in the morning, and a sports talk station at night. Your home may have the same setup where the family radio in the kitchen or living room hasn’t moved in decades. And I’ll bet that radio still works.

Conversely, if you consider yourself hip and cool and don’t actually have a radio, I know you still have a device which allows you to access radio stations and podcasts on the web, and programming through any one of a number of apps.

Either way, the point remains the same: when you turn on your radio, you usually know where you want to go for music, news, traffic, weather, sports, talk, community, or religious programming. When you surf the web, or use an app to hop around to various programs or audio services, you generally know what you want to hear, and from whom you’ll get your programming.

Like a Radio Station, Your Marketing Has a Format

Though some radio stations share formats, even stations with the same formats don’t precisely mimic one another. Those who own and operate radio stations would never want to sound exactly like their competitors. Stations may sound similar, but they’re never going to be exactly the same.

Now add your marketing department to this mix.

The commoditization of worldwide marketing content and its pedestrian presentation overwhelms the masses, and numbs their souls. (Credit Gerry Goffin and Carole King with that last phrase from the lyrics to The Monkees’ Pleasant Valley Sunday.)

Today’s prevailing marketing mindset is to churn out generic looking and text-heavy content that actually mirrors much of the competitive field. Sure, logos will differ, colors palettes may differ, and company personnel are exclusive, but what else? There’s already a commoditization in so many technology and service offerings, but now it seems as if we can add the knee-deep commoditization in what’s produced by milk toast marketing departments:

  • Events, and their formats? The same since the beginning of time.
  • Trade show exhibits? Many commonplace, tired, worn, cheap, cookie-cutter appearances.
  • Presentations? Little has changed in the overdose of text-heavy, incomprehensible slides.
  • Presenters? The avoidance of personal communication preparation continues.
  • Corporate videos? An abundance of the pedestrian, slapped-together, and homemade.
  • Live streaming? Only a few brave men and women apply sound broadcast techniques.
  • Robust marketing campaigns? Need now. May have in 2018. Creative execution circa 1995.
  • In-person sales enablement and marketing alignment? Once a year. Twice a year, maybe.

It’s just more and more two-dimensional business content without personality, character, or any life. And in today’s world of vanilla content overload, more is needed for differentiation.

When Your Marketing ‘Radio Station’ Looks, Sounds, and Acts Like Everybody Else

You settle.

Whenever you surf the radio dial, you’ll inevitably run into numerous stations that offer the same type of programming. In most every city, audiences are able to tune into a number of news radio stations. But come ratings time, only one or two of these stations stand out high above the rest. Why? It’s generally the same news. But it’s exactly the same weather. And precisely the same traffic. One could even argue that it’s virtually the same content.

But it’s not just the content that drives ratings and builds an audience. It’s the content, plus the people, and all that goes into the on-air sound, presentation, image, talent and preparedness.

Again, add what we see today from global marketing departments to the mix:

  • Bland content and its cookie cutter presentation? Everywhere.
  • Distinction? Hard to find in websites that double as outdated corporate brochures.
  • Storytellers? Great writers exist, but compelling personal communicators are largely absent.
  • Lip service to the call for radical marketing innovation? All day, everyday.
  • Practitioners of the same? Some, but not many.

The Work, Production, and Outcomes of a Great Marketing Program Director

Let’s get on the same page with our marketing terminology. When you think of a marketing program director, you probably think of somebody who executes marketing campaigns. Somebody who writes well, produces various pieces of email, web, and short and long-form content, and proficiently handles website, CRM, social, and marketing automation technologies. These program directors itemize activities around scheduled campaigns, pop all of the proactive and reactive elements into the system, and go… Whew! That is a lot of respectable work. For the executives and the marketing illiterate, it’s tangible activity that’s easily explained. For sales, leads and opportunities should appear. For the outdated CMOs, they proudly report middle-of-the-road campaign results with the same bravado that Signor Roberto displayed when he told Don Corleone in The Godfather Part II that the widow’s “rent stays like before” … Only the outdated CMO now needs to see a reaction similar to the reaction in DeNiro’s smiling face that nonverbally informed Roberto just how out of touch he was with the realities of the housing – and who controls the power in the neighborhood – situation.

The “marketing stays like before” – indeed.

The (New) Marketing Program Director vs. The (Outdated) CMO

The stat thrown around about 10 years ago was that the average lifespan of a CMO was roughly two years. According to a Wall Street Journal blog in 2014, that lifespan went up to 45 months. But looking forward, I think that the new marketing program directors will shorten that timeframe for outdated CMOs, and lengthen their own tenures.

You see, at a radio station the program director is seen as more than somebody who randomly allows disparate bits of uncoordinated and homogenized content on the air, hosted by ill prepared talent. A radio station program director is somebody who cares deeply about creating a unique image and sound for their station. A radio program director is somebody who will work with their talent on a regular basis to ensure that a high-level of communication proficiency is continually offered to the audience. The audience they are attempting build and maintain.

Applying those same techniques has become critical to any modern marketing operation.

CMOs now have to program audio, video, and written content, and address worldwide audiences in a real-time manner.

CMOs must embrace those real-time interactions, and realize that creative personnel with developed communication talent is needed to work with produced content in front of live, multichannel audiences.

CMOs must lead the creative effort to breakout of the commonplace content framework, and into radical – if not revolutionary – branding, awareness, and execution tactics.

Because for those outdated CMOs don’t understand that, aggressive, sales-oriented global marketing program directors certainly do.

They’ll produce in 24 months what some will never produce, even in 45.

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