Challenging the Status Quo of Marketing Groupthink

Tony Compton, Managing Director


The average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is somewhat short. Two years, maybe three or four. It depends which study you reference. I thought I read it was getting better nowadays. But there’s a long way to go…

Even with the short tenures, CMOs still apply approaches that are:

Outdated. Passive. Common. Routine. Disconnected. Just Because.



of “Careful” Value.

I was going write of “Zero Value” – but that’s not true. There’s some value to what some are doing in marketing. But so much in marketing nowadays simply gets by. And there is value in simply getting by in:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Events and Trade Show Marketing
  • Content and Sales Enablement
  • Product Marketing
  • “Paint by Numbers” marketing leadership from CMOs.

…but simply getting by is not in my nature.

You see it everyday. Fill-in-the-blank marketing. The majority accept, and few challenge. Groupthink. Marketing Groupthink.

That’s how I view far too many approaches to marketing.

Here are five readily identifiable areas that demonstrate marketing groupthink:

1. Digital Marketing

Copy and paste each and every “Digital Marketing” job description easily found populating the ‘black hole’ career sections of corporate websites. And LinkedIn. And others. Digital Marketing has become what? Search engines, keywords, social media maintenance, websites, emails, some writing, some campaigns, some lead gen, some CRM system data upload, some reporting, etc… Your company does it. You do digital marketing the same as the next one, and the next… Why? I dunno. It’s become routine.

Want to challenge the digital status quo? Have your digital marketers put down the electronics and stand in front of the class and tell your corporate story. Or venture out with sales people to talk to customers. Don’t tell me those ideas to marketing groupthink won’t make your digital marketers better at what they do.

2. Events and Trade Show Marketing

Your marketing up to, during, and after your company’s events has become predictable. And safe. How so? Your BIG industry event is coming up. So you pepper your contact db with messages about your sponsored appearance. (So does everybody else.) You promote your event appearance and solicit on-site meetings to drive the appearance of after-show value with high-end opportunities. (So does everybody else.) A sponsored reception, party, or steak dinner may be in the offing. You have your booth. Your paint-by-numbers booth. And you may have a presentation. Or a seat on the ‘cure for insomnia’ panel discussion. Then you (hopefully) dissect your after-show contact spreadsheet to email, call, and solicit. Just like everybody else.

Am I close?

Want to challenge the status quo? Take a hard look at why your company does the events it does. Ask questions. Don’t just take another spot on the show floor and populate it with outdated collateral, spinning PPTs, a ‘cheap’ exhibit, and people who have zero personal communication game. You may also wish to prepare your company speakers before their next presentation. You may wish to turn off your mobile cameras before streaming live video without preparation. Negotiate with event vendors, save money. And leave some of your budget-busting staff at home.

Get serious – and creative – about your events strategy.

This one’s tough. But if you want to disrupt your trade show and event groupthink – you’ll break new ground.

3. Content and Sales Enablement

Content, content, content. Somedays that’s all you’ll read. But it’s the security blanket of the ill-prepared. For terrible slides for unprepared speakers. For endless, text-heavy case studies. For websites that could double as a maze in a corn field.

I’ve never said content isn’t important. But I’ve been around the block a few times in marketing. Content ends up residing on local laptops in all forms known to mankind. Or in a central repository which dates back to 2007. And once the content is retrieved, it’s deflates the person who found it because it’s the same thing Joe used for a presentation in Chicago last week. Outdated messaging and all.

And how exactly is producing all of this “content” enabling sales?

Besides the obvious groupthink approach that sales needs content to be effective?

Want to challenge the status quo? Make sure that those that produce the content can actually use their content. Have them present it as a sales person would: on the phone, on a webinar, in a boardroom, on-stage, and on-camera. It’ll make them better content producers if they experience first-hand how it’s used.

More, it’s wise to make sure that those who are using the content can demonstrate that they, too, know how to use it in multichannel scenarios. (That’s means your inside sales reps and your external business developers. Your marketers, customer service agents, and partners. And your executives.) Be sure to make sure that those who use the content, can use the content.

Because the marketing groupthink approach to content and sales enablement simply dictates creation. And dumping of content. And freelancing of usage.

Of course I’m familiar with sales enablement technology that catalogues content. Customizes content. And delivers content. But that doesn’t mean the end-user in the field can use and present the content. (And those vendors will never tell you that.)

4. Product Marketing

I’ve written about how product marketing could be on the verge of automation. About how it’s become a cookie-cutter endeavor at so many tech companies. I know it’s supposed to be this strategic, go-to-market leadership function, but it isn’t. Not anymore. Not at the companies who copy and paste their product marketing requirements just like the vendor next door.

Follow-me, again, to be sure I got this job’s requirements down: product marketing is to develop strategy, go-to-market messaging, value props, and unique differentiators, have it’s ear to the market, the trends, the competitive landscape, the alliance partners…

Product marketing is to develop content. Draw up battle cards. Unveil material to support business growth. To forecast opportunity. To interface with industry analysts. Understand the buyers. Some subject matter expertise and some public speaking and presentation work.

Toss in a product launch, event, campaign, and marcom support, some sales enablement, with financial and technical expertise, and you’ve got the product marketing picture.

And so does every other company housing one or more product marketers.

Challenging the product marketing status quo is easy. And damn sure should be required.

Last I checked, there are ~5000 MarTech vendors, spanning all imaginable industry sectors. How in the world are you going to break out in that landscape if your product marketing approach is the same as every single competitor? And for those not in the MarTech 5000 – the same question applies. What are you doing differently?

Ideas on how to do so? Sure…

Let me start by saying I’ve seen the problem. Your go-to-market problem. You’ve got good people doing good work with great technology. But where product marketing is supposed to lead, it time and again drops the ball. Change it by:

Preparing your product marketers to regularly visit, present, and interact with customers, prospects, analysts, and the media. Prepare for interactions across all formats. Remote, and in-person. On-camera, on-webinars, and in-person. You’re likely not doing this today. I know because I pay attention. It’s easy to spot. To hear. To see. To read. Get your product marketing communication game tight.

Prepare your product marketing leadership skills. I once sat in on a presentation from one BIG Tech company that was unbearable. They were so proud of a 100+ slide deck but forgot to tell the six remote presenters on a web-conference call how to organize and make sense of it amongst themselves and for the audience. Product marketing is in the leadership role, and took none.

Add creativity. Real creativity. Turn product marketing into storytellers. Stop doing the same events, the same panel discussions, the same public-facing tasks… create a brand for product marketing by doing things differently: creating your own events, podcasts, webinars, videos… separate from the field of product marketing clones. Attack your target audience outside the standard methods of outdated product marketing groupthink.

5. Marketing Leadership

Or should the section be called the “be quiet, accept the marketing groupthink, and just do your job…

It’s the biggest “paint-by-number” and “color between the lines” area of marketing groupthink.

Marketing strategy? There’s a template for that.

The marketing plan? There’s a template for that.

The marketing budget? There’s a template for that.

The approach to events? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly marketing ops report? There’s a template for that.

The quarterly product marketing report? There should be a template for that.

To marketing videos? Stare into the camera, off-set right, ask softball questions, and overlay graphics.

The approach to webinars and other recorded audio material? Overdo the content, and add one ill-prepared voiceover. Record ‘good enough’ sound to give the impression of using a tin can in a cavernous concrete room.

The leadership approach applied to marketing? So common that you don’t need a template.

Here, I’m busted. You need a marketing strategy, plan, and budget. And you have to report on marketing activities. Those are the current table stakes.

But I’ve sat in those rooms with marketing leaders.

They’re the same leaders who copy and paste last year’s approach to this year’s plan.

The ones who won’t hear of true sales enablement, innovative approaches to content, sales-oriented management styles, and creative, groundbreaking marketing.

Who nod, shake their heads, and clap politely when the next expert dumps useless but feel-good information on them.

Marketing leaders who won’t deviate from standard operating procedure.

Who’ve become infamous for low average #CMO tenures.

This article is over, but I’m just getting warmed up.

I want you to exercise your marketing creativity. Your marketing passion.

And not let it be held captive by a Xeroxed job description or outdated approaches to marketing management.

There are those who accept marketing groupthink. Who want to accept marketing groupthink. No challenges to their way of business thinking allowed.

So you can either smile and go back to your cube, or you can challenge the stats quo.

Challenging means creating.

It means professional #leadership.

It means taking ownership in the business.

Seeing that talent is nurtured.

For ensuring success.

For acting on the need to bring marketing innovation – and professional disruption.

In technology and business practices.

For breaking the business mold and doing something that stands out in the crowded marketing landscape.

To strive for excellence in yourself and those around you.


For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

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

Tony Compton, Managing Director

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.

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Stopping The Invasion of the Public Speaking Body Snatchers

Tony Compton, Managing Director

In the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Donald Sutherland’s San Francisco city health inspector character tries to fight off gelatinous botanical creatures from outer space. The alien creatures replace human beings with exact duplicates while people sleep, but the copies have no human emotion.

In the film:

  • Donald Sutherland’s character eventually loses his fight.
  • Leonard Nimoy’s character is not to be trusted.
  • Veronica Cartwright’s character may have lived to tell her story for another day,
    but I’d very impressed if she stayed awake for the last 37 years.

That leads me to only one conclusion.
The Invasion continues, and I’ve seen it.
But this is no movie.

Real-Life Evidence

I just watched a business video which featured an interview with an executive from a high-profile, well-known global company. When asked to introduce herself, the exec did so with an emotionless face and monotone voice. To complicate matters, she went on to say that she was “happy to be there” but didn’t smile. How could this be?
I understood the language, but her nonverbal communication was speaking louder than her voice. (This short story has been slightly altered to protect the innocent.)

Confused, I applied deep thought and further analysis to this dilemma.

As a producer and attendee of corporate events, trade shows, business conferences, and internal meetings for over 25 years, I’ve watched one too many deliver an emotionless, robotic presentation. I’ve also worked extensively in the broadcast industry, and I’ve seen and heard programming which has featured people who should’ve been telling emotion-filled stories, only to lose their vibrancy when they’re in front of a camera or confronted with a microphone.

The plot thickens.

The central question I keep asking myself is: “How could so many business people – human beings otherwise filled with emotion – take center stage and deliver expressionless performances?” After all, these are people who claim they care deeply about their products, services, and revenue performance, and hold their colleagues to very high standards, but they don’t seem to care about they way they come across on stage, during a webinar, or on a conference call? In a meeting room, or on video or audio? Even worse, there’s a prevailing attitude among bad communicators and their inner-circles that the way they deliver their material is more than professionally acceptable. Is that even possible? How can somebody care deeply about so many facets of corporate performance, but disregard how they and their company representatives look and sound in numerous channels of corporate communication?

It has to be The Invasion of the Public Speaking Body Snatchers.

Inexplicably, too many people transform moments before they have to deliver a performance.

Inform some people that they have to deliver a presentation, and they become almost unrecognizable with fear. Or overconfident with a nonchalant attitude. Place some people in front of a camera and they suddenly become robotic and lifeless. Sit some people in front of a microphone, ask them to converse, and they choke up and are unable to speak. As a producer of numerous forums I’ve often wondered where the spirits of some people go just before a performance, who has taken over their bodies, and why don’t they care that this happens to them and to many around them?

Lastly, why do so many in the audience commend presenters for substandard performances? Have they been compromised by The Invasion? It’s possible that they’re seeking to gain favor with the boss by telling him what he wants to hear, or avoiding a confrontation with an event sponsor-turned-presenter who has paid their way onto the stage. Either way, it’s very suspicious.

The Resistance, and Stopping The Invasion

The good news is that not everybody has been compromised by public speaking body-snatching aliens. More and more material has become available which details the significance of breakthrough business storytelling, and increasing numbers are starting to take notice. People are awake and alert to this trend in business communication. Employees (especially millennials) are no longer falling asleep on this aspect of their careers, and rightfully so. Those who possess the ability to tell engaging stories across numerous channels of interactive communication hold a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.

By definition, those who remain awake and tuned into the importance of delivering outstanding personal performances will not fall prey to The Invasion.

We’re now living in a dynamic, interactive, and social business world. Live video is storming the global marketing scene. Presentations, podcasts, interviews, and videos are now produced all the time, by everybody, everywhere. There’s no more hiding behind computer screens and monitors. The ability of a company’s public-facing team to step into the spotlight and tell great stories is having a measurable impact on branding, awareness, demand generation, and securing net-new closed business.
Tune out this revolutionary wave of business communication at your own risk.

For I now understand why so many presenters induce sleep during their talks, and why so many “yes” people remain emotionless, silent, and accepting throughout the tired process of acquiescing to mediocre performances. It’s all being done on purpose.

Just more evidence of The Invasion.

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Now We’re All Entrepreneurs in the Live Television Business

With the 2015 debut of live video apps Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab, marketing as you knew it just ran its course. This is the social media tipping point that has caught many CEOs, CMOs, owners, and investors by surprise, ratcheted up the competition, and reengineered the way marketing, sales, product management, and customer service interacts with audiences.

Social media’s live streaming video apps are game changers.

You’re now able to turn on an Apple TV and watch a Periscope feed just as you would watch any other video feed. Consider the power and potential in that. You’re only limited by the reach of your own imagination, your company’s social media policy, and the terms and conditions of using the apps. But the challenge is that the majority of marketers (and corporate staff in general) are not broadcasters, and will either downplay this newly-dominant communication channel, ignore it, or run the other way. Understandable sentiment and attitude, but the direction of video app technology now says otherwise.

All are now in the live television business. If you don’t want to be, you’ll find sympathy between regatta and synchronicity in the dictionary. Not here.

What you will find are some of the keys to the rapid-response marketing vehicle:

  • Instead of flying to a customer roundtable, get immediately interactive on a live video feed.
  • Instead of surveying your users with an email, go live and take their pulse before dinner.
  • Replace impersonal newsletters with talented staff who can carry live video conversations.
  • Involve global sponsors and partners companies in compelling, interactive broadcasts.
  • Ditch text-heavy case studies, and promote lessons learned with live personality.
  • Develop extraordinary communicators, presenters, and on-camera talent.
  • Instead of fighting with mobile devices for attention, embed, and become a valued part of it.
  • Unveil exceptional social media experiences for your audience, and employees.

The sentiment of resistance to the live video apps must be similar to the tone of voice typewriter manufacturers used when computers came on the scene as Ash was fighting the Evil Dead for the first time. On the other hand, some marketers think that they’re broadcasters just because they’ll turn on their smartphone camera as needed and wing it with streaming media content. It’s going to take a lot more than that to compete for – and hold – live audiences.

Looking at live video apps as just another marketing tool is misguided. They’re transformative. The apps provide the ability to create and grow exclusive audiences. Talent and content developed for live streaming initiatives will take center stage, and personal communication skills are now becoming paramount. But it’s not just storytelling. It’s not just regurgitating bland cookie cutter marketing content across multiple channels. It’s understanding the fundamental shifts in business practice that we’re undergoing. We’re all now competing for live audiences, and the rules to effectively to run that new breed of marketing department are foreign and frightening to most.

Whether you’re using Periscope, Meerkat, or Blab, there’s no doubt that the use of live video apps for social media marketing and demand generation has started to create a tectonic shift in go-to-market activity. Creative marketers and seriousexecutives will understand that effectively using these apps is not a simple matter of turning on a cell phone camera, but a thorough understanding of audience building, customer interaction, data mining, information gathering, communication coaching, sales enablement, and broadcast excellence. There can be newly-formed multiple revenue streams attached to the way a company creatively embraces its content on streaming video apps, and the process of embracing this social media will transform marketing departments everywhere.

Conversely, if you surf today’s content on live video apps, you may come away scratching your head. Some companies currently engaging in this social media are simply turning on their mobile device cameras and are “getting away with it.” Too many CEOs, CMOs, and stakeholders must be unaware of the poor content being presented by their teams, don’t know any better, or simply don’t care. For some unknown reason, pedestrian-quality video content has become professionally acceptable. Any marketer who is passionate about leading the live video effort will know that offering substandard content is disastrous. Unappealing content won’t attract an audience, opens the door to the competition, undercuts credibility, and torpedoes any respectable effort to making inroads into this new interactive landscape.

All corporate stakeholders and investors must sit up, take notice, and ask how their portfolio companies are handling the opportunities presented by live video apps.

It’s worth repeating. Traditional marketing efforts just won’t suffice. Not anymore. We’re all in the television business now. And we’re all competing for the attention of live, engaged, smart, and sophisticated global audiences.

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