The End Of Mad(men)ness

May 30, 2012


Maybe the popularity of the television show Mad Men will finally kill off the bad idea that business can find one big marketing idea and hit the jackpot. Maybe we love Don Draper because, like Superman, he doesn’t really exist and never did.

Underneath advertising and public relations and product development, marketing is the name for figuring out how high your price can go above and beyond the cost to do whatever it is you’re doing.

Not a particularly good word, “marketing.” It’s like calling seeking out the right path “pathing” or thinking of new ideas “ideating.” (Don’t you hate that word? It fits brainstorming like a bad toupee.)

Many businesses are stuck in the world of cost reduction. As if deciding to get healthy by drinking cheaper and cheaper sodas, it’s a bit insane. Usually, these companies don’t have much in the way of a marketing program. They are too busy driving to navigate. Too busy drowning to find a life preserver.

Other businesses are stuck on the treadmill of the three pronged marketing approach:

Increase sales
Decrease Marketing Costs
Increase sales

These companies use marketing as a handmaiden to the sales department, carpet bombing with brochures, emails, sales promises, under-the-tent rhetoric, and other likeminded chatter. They draw up plays for long shots and lose, instead of taking the small shots needed to succeed.

Other businesses have a huge divide between their engineering department and the marketing department.

Instead of the two camps meeting in product research, the engineers assume marketers work in marketing—”whatever that is”—because they aren’t good at engineering. Marketers, in turn, assume engineers are the sort of meritocratic cranks who would think such a thing! The truth is we can learn from our engineering compatriots across the divide. How we build better products today is different. And how we market is different as well because, like the engineers have figured out, there are different requirements for bringing our work to market.

Marketing deserves some of that animosity. Call it the Don Draper effect: The myth of a singular marketing maverick who “gets it,” flouts all the rules, takes a pause for a midday cocktail, and reveals his genius at the big unveiling in the conference room.

Only, this is not how things work. It’s just a story.

In reality, people resent the hubris, even if backed with talent. People resent the risk, especially when coupled with an “all or nothing” mandate. More importantly, people don’t buy it.
That’s probably why Mad Men is so popular. It’s a compelling historical fiction, and the complete opposite of what’s required today.

What is required? To borrow from the world of software development, let’s restate a term that will pop up more and more over the next few years—”agile marketing.”


Between Minds: An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics

May 3, 2012


Repost from the Mindjet Blog

Between your weekday project team and your weekend softball league, you’re likely bombarded with messages reinforcing the importance of teamwork. Consider the motivational posters tacked up around your office or locker room:

  • “There is No ‘I’ in ‘Team”
  • “Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”
  • “Share victory. Share defeat”

You may wonder if these wordsmiths have actually met the people you work with. Crazy Larry from the graphic design department. Carla the cat lady at the front desk. George from tech support, who hasn’t said five words to you in the eight months he’s been here. Sometimes you wonder how your office manages to clean out the fridge once a month, let alone deliver a project by deadline.

Yet team synergy can be something more than a buzzword: An effective team can carry a project through from inception to completion with a minimal amount of external supervision. Members understand and fulfill their roles, important information is communicated quickly through the chain of command, and updates and comments are posted frequently.

When a team doesn’t function this effectively, it could be that members are tasked assignments that don’t play to their strengths. Recognizing different team member personalities and work styles will help you better understand their distinct skills and tendencies, and better position them to succeed.

For example, Crazy Larry isn’t really crazy, he’s just right brain dominant and chooses tasks according to whatever is in front of him. Give him a daily planner and he’ll be much more efficient.

Carla may seem aloof sometimes, but sometimes cat people are like that. Ask her about Tigger’s latest vet appointment and she’ll talk to you for hours. And George from tech support just happens to be an introvert. He likes it down there in the basement with the servers. Just send him an email with your password problems and he’ll be happy to assist.

To help you better understand the Larrys, Carlas and Georges of your office, we present:  “Between Minds: An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics.” This series of infographics will present a detailed breakdown of office personalities and team member attributes. We’ll consider “optimists vs. pessimists,” “pragmatists vs. activists,” “L.A. vs. New York” and all archetypes in between.

Click here to see if you are a thought leader vs. a do leader

Between Minds An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics=

First up: thought leaders vs. do leaders.

Thought leaders are big-picture thinkers able to look beyond current projects and deadlines and sketch out a blueprint for the future. Thought leaders can shift both corporate perspectives and institutional capabilities to bring about game-changing outcomes for their organizations.

Do leaders are detail-oriented planners. They have the ability to meticulously and relentlessly push a project to completion. Do leaders can instinctively identify risks and devise mitigation plans. They set firm goals and can be intensely focused on getting to the next objective.

The thought leaders / do leaders dichotomy is, of course, not the whole picture. Few people fall exclusively into one camp or the other, and sometimes the split is as much situational as it is personality-driven. Sometimes a project leader will don the thought leader cap and throw out big ideas to a team capable of translating and implementing them. Other times that same project leader might have to take abstract ideas from creatives in the graphics department and flip them into something concrete and actionable.

But several real-world examples suggest that some people really do work best in one role or the other. And when an inventive thought leader is paired with an efficient do leader, the result is far greater than the sum of its parts. Recent history provides some great examples of this: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis, Pinky and the Brain.

But no two business relationships better epitomize the thought leader / do leader synergy than Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Gates, of course,  was Microsoft’s tech visionary and market strategist during the company’s ascendence to global empire in the 1980s and 1990s. But Steve Ballmer was the company’s top tactician, responsible for everything from shipping the first operating systems to hiring the best personnel. Ballmer dropped out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business to join Microsoft in 1980. Gates would identify new markets for Microsoft’s software, but it was Ballmer who plotted strategies to seize and occupy them.

Like Gates, Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs was a visionary capable of presaging major shifts in the consumer tech landscape. But Jobs’ success wouldn’t have happened without tactician / do leader Steve Wozniak, a skilled engineer with a penchant for tinkering. The pair blended Wozniak’s tech acumen and Jobs’ marketing genius to build the first Apple computer in Jobs’ family garage in 1976.

The Gates/Ballmer, Jobs/Wozniak pairings succeeded because their relationships were complementary. As a project manager, you can harness the strengths of both personalities through effective communication, project planning, and assignment delegation. But you also have to recognize potential weaknesses and try to mitigate.

For instance, thought leaders often become emotionally involved with projects, especially those that they have “personalized” with their brand. But they can quickly become disengaged if they sense they’ve lost creative control. It’s important to keep thought leaders focused on creative, active projects, especially when old projects are lost in management feedback purgatory.

Do leaders are great at putting their nose to the grindstone, but sometimes they become so focused on task details they forget big picture goals. They’re not myopic, necessarily, just preoccupied. Make sure that when do leaders provide you with their daily status updates, you, in turn, explain to them how the project is perceived by the brass upstairs, and how it fits in with a larger management agenda.

Have any other examples of successful thought leader / do leader pairings? Recognize any personality dichotomies in your office? Wonder what happened to Carla’s cat Tigger at the vet? Let us know in the comment section.


Ready to get started as an Agile Marketing team? Here are some tips.

April 18, 2012


Too many businesses are ill-equipped to handle change. The problem is not the people in the organization—it’s the process.

Many organizations are too rigid and their approach is too focused on the long term to swiftly take advantage of marketplace opportunities. Teams then have only one shot to “get it right.” And if they fail, widespread frustration ensues, creating potentially serious repercussions throughout the entire company.

Marketers often find themselves on the front lines, fighting the battle to keep pace with rapidly evolving product offerings, communication channels, and business software—while stuck with time-consuming processes and procedures.

Make the Move to Agile

I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working with software developers who have taught me the ins and outs of their Agile development process. Agile lets developers receive instant feedback from customers, so developers can make immediate changes. The method breaks tasks into small increments, with incremental successes building into high-level milestones. The goal is to minimize the overall risk by allowing the project to adapt rapidly.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a marketing methodology that borrows heavily from that process. When applied to marketing, Agile principles provide short-program “sprints” that act as a feedback loop, which enables fast experimentation, learning and adaption. Ideas are improved upon or discarded as to iteratively improve performance.

Here are a few things that I’ve focused on as I built out my Agile marketing team.

1. People. Consider hiring agency veterans. They have an advantage over internal creative types because they are used to a rapid pace, can focus on many priorities in short bursts of time, and operate in an environment of high expectations.

2. Atmosphere. Eliminate fear. Hire smart people, and let them take risks. Create an environment that’s conducive to experimentation and open to failing—but never in the same way twice.

3. Time. Forget the old set-it-and-forget-it attitude or arcane processes of big presentations and sign-offs. Instead, create time-based problems to solve (e.g., in the next two weeks, we must identify how to integrate Facebook into our website) and use daily scrum check-ins to share ideas and progress against priorities, face to face.

4. Tools. Allow the team to focus on the task at hand by using collaboration tools that promote and dynamically capture the group’s thinking and plans. Ensure that your tools are flexible and user-friendly, so all team members can participate—regardless of platform, device, or location.

5. Leadership. Consistently guide and encourage members to make decisions and execute them while watching the metrics to guide future iterations. I believe in a “get it right, not perfect” approach, which allows for flexibility without obsession and offers the ability to double-down on efforts that are producing results.

How Agile Improves Your Marketing

Marketing teams are no strangers to being asked to do more with less. Through Agile practices, however, marketing teams have a clearer focus and a better vision into potential issues and opportunities, which they can then report with greater transparency to the rest of organization. Working within the Agile marketing model means understanding the scope of work, confining it to a specific time frame, and ensuring that all team members know their respective roles in making it happen.

While real-time reprioritization sacrifices marketing perfection, the tradeoff is worth it. In getting deliverables in front of stakeholders more quickly and incorporating their feedback dynamically throughout a project cycle, you ensure that the most important work gets done first. The end result is compounding successes and course corrections that also foster happier, more engaged employees.

Marketers who embrace Agile and its iterative processes are better able to react and engage. Rather than queuing “to dos” for an initiative six months in the future, teams can better focus on near-term deliverables that make the most impact on customers and the business. This iterative approach can produce smart, fast and flexible marketing in today’s ever-accelerating, ever-changing business environment.


From Cartography to Card Catalogs [Infographic]

March 28, 2012


This post originally appeared on the Mindjet Blog

In today’s information age, we enjoy all but instant digital access to the world’s collected knowledge. Consider:

• Wikipedia contains more than 19 million articles in some 270 languages.
• Google aims to catalog the world’s supply of printed knowledge by scanning all of the estimated 130 million books published in modern history.
• And the world wide web itself contains more than 7 billion pages.

But unfiltered access to unlimited sources is useless if you can’t find what you need. The development of sophisticated systems of organization—helping us retrieve the one piece of information we need from the endless expanse of data—is one of humanity’s most significant accomplishments (con’d after graphic.)

Click here to see how info has been organized throughout the ages

The History of Information Organization

But it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, and very few of us are concerned with the complex algorithms employed by modern search engines. We just want simple search terms (“Pizza + my place + now”) to deliver desired results.

At Mindjet, we also find ourselves wrestling with issues of when did the pizza guy say he would be here, and where is the pizza, and why hasn’t the pizza guy arrived—but we’re also interested in how and why the organization of information, now and throughout history.

One of these things is not like the other

The concept of information organization is simple: bringing like things together and differentiating among them. We do this with all kinds of information: first we organize information cognitively and then systematically so that it can be easily collected, processed, analyzed, identified, recorded, retrieved and rearranged.

The leap between processing this information and presenting it to others is an important one. It is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication—including signs, symbols and language-—that allows us to represent abstract concepts of organization in physical form.

One of the earliest forms of organizing symbols was cartography: the construction and production of maps. Maps developed as intuitive representations of our observed physical surroundings, including overheard descriptions of mountain ranges, traced outlines of creek beds, and collective wisdom about fertile hunting grounds.

But maps didn’t just highlight key geographic and physical features—they also filtered out less essential information. Early cartographers were more concerned with functional rather than physical truth. For example, the Roman Empire didn’t employ geographic maps at all. Travelers instead used an itinerarium—a listing of all of the cities and notable destinations along a particular road network and the distances between them.

Even today, multiple maps of the same physical terrain can look completely different depending upon their intended functional purpose: compare a highway map with a topographic maps, for example. If an interstate traveler and a geologist accidentally switched maps at a roadside pizza stand both would be equally lost.

The science of shelving

Like maps, bibliographies and card catalogs were developed as functional guides to navigate users towards specific destinations via the shortest possible routes.

The most basic bibliographies delineated sources by author, title and subject, and were usually kept in book form until the development of card catalogs. Card catalogs not only outlined basic bibliographic information, but also provided filing locations using the Dewey Decimal System and later the Library of Congress system. This was a critical improvement for both the librarians who sorted and shelved texts and the readers who sought particular information from books and articles.

The rapid expansion of computer memory capacity has meant that more and more information is stored digitally on computer servers and online networks. Lexis-Nexis was introduced in libraries in the early 1980s, providing access to global news sources and government records. JSTOR performed the same function for scholarly journals in the 1990s.

These days, hyperlinks allow immediate access to referenced information, all but eliminating the distance between citation and source.

The optimization of search engines

The rapid expansion of websites on the world wide web in the 1990s provided lots of accessible information but little initial organization.

The Yahoo! search engine was developed in 1994 by two Ph.D. candidates at Stanford named Jerry and David. It was originally a categorized compilation of the students’ favorite websites, organized in a hierarchy rather than as a searchable index of pages.

The biggest innovations in search engine technology came from two more Stanford Ph.D. students, this time named Larry and Sergey. Google was formally launched in 1998 using a search algorithm called “PageRank” that gave numerical weight to pages that were frequently linked to by other pages. The result was a more “relevant” search return that prioritized popularity over prevalence.

As frustrating as web searches can be sometimes, trying to sort through the entire Internet for information without them would simply be unfathomable.

Online storage and delivery in 15 seconds or it’s free

Today’s information age presents an industrial revolution-sized leap in data storage and retrieval. The world’s technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 exabytes (a unit of computer storage equal to one quintillion bytes) in 1986 to to 295 exabytes in 2007. The ability to transfer and access information freely and instantly presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses and agencies—not least including the learning of new words to describe more and more information (brace yourself for zettabytes).

At Mindjet, we develop software that enables better Information Organization, Idea Collaboration, as well as Personal Empowerment, and Project and Task Management. We want to provide users with a flexible set of tools that can quickly transform brainstorming sessions into detailed action plans, and allow for intuitive and functional organization of data and deadlines.

How do you approach information organization? What tools and software would be most useful for filtering the critical information from endless chatter? Please let us know in the comments section—and hey, the pizza’s here.


Information overload

February 3, 2012


We all deal with too much information (personally and professionally). Here is a great collaboration between @Mindjet & @JESS3 discussing some coping strategies.


The best of the top X lists for 2011

December 22, 2011


You can’t open Mashable, Techcrunch, GigaOm, RWW with being barraged by some sort of wrap-up/list of 2011. Here is my list of best of the best lists for 2011. Meta. I’ll keep building on this list over the next week.

Fast Company: A Mega Meta Mash Up Of The Best And Worst Of 2011
Forbes: 4 Mega Trends In Social Business


Mindjet & Me

October 18, 2011


For the past 5 years I’ve been searching for the perfect software to help my marketing teams manage their planning through to execution and optimization in an agile model. It hasn’t existed. I’ve used Jira, Pivotal Tracker, Asana and more but none deliver on what I, and we, need.

Today i’m excited to announce that i’m joining Mindjet as Chief Marketing Officer and that we will deliver that software. From our base of experience and innovation in visual mapping, our Connect collaboration service and with the addition of cohuman we will provide the full solution to help a team be agile, more productive and more successful.

This move for me is both exciting professionally and personally as the Mindjet team and products are innovative and well respected in the industries we compete in. I’m fortunate to get to work with such a great team and with such powerful products and i’m very excited to share our journey and success here at marketingiteration.

Check back soon!



The ‘Practical’ Semantic Web

September 23, 2011


While Tim Berners-Lee may have described the semantic web to be drawn from artificial intelligence it’s nonetheless impressive that Facebook, the four year old social network, has put many of the pieces in place to make it a practical reality…using, not machines, but People.

As my colleague and friend Noah Horton points out in his blog post Since Berners-Lee posed the Semantic Web, dozens of technologies have proposed how to solve the problem, but none succeeded. Why? No one could think of a use that would drive enough value to put in the cost and effort. And he’s right. The practical application of the Semantic Web hasn’t been here, until now.

At Facebook’s annual developer conference, f8, they introduced a slew of new features that not only demonstrate that as a company they are fierce competitors but that they believe the world is ready for the Semantic Web. Nearly 18 months ago introduced the Like button. When you, or I, press it on an article, a place, a band, a song, etc. and an explicit endorsement takes place.

you Like CNN

But that explicit endorsement had become a constraint. Most of us don’t just Like we Watch, or Read, or Eat, or ____ (No MySpace pun intended). Facebook recognized this and developed a way to “express lightweight activity” and they introduced it to the world today. By enabling developers to create additional Verbs (other than Like) Facebook has just extended their open graph to better capture all of the potential serendipitous connections we might be able to make. This addition of new verbs allows Facebook’s open graph to push out into the promise of the Semantic Web.

“Today we’re making it possible to create a whole new class of apps and change industries at the same time,” Zuckerberg stated. It’s unchartered territory, technically exciting, and practically amazing.


Sales & Marketing Alignment In Social Media: Dreamforce

September 7, 2011


—Note: This is a repost from a blog I wrote for the Involver Blog —
Dreamforce 2011 - The Cloud Computing Event of the Year held their annual customer conference, Dreamforce, the week of August 29th and I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at Eloqua’s Super Session along side Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua and Christine Heckart, CMO of NetApp. Our session focused on driving revenue growth with sales and marketing; my focus was specifically on how Involver has grown at the speed we have during the past year. The punch line? We did it one step at a time and optimized our business processes so they could be supported by technology (in our case and Eloqua). Joe summed up the practicality of making a business successful in a recent blog post and I’ve pulled a poignant piece from that below:

“While the history of business is no doubt full of “eureka” moments, the reality is that successful, disruptive organizations are built not just on one great idea, but rather on the continuous improvement of small ideas that result in one big important result: continual, sustainable revenue growth.” – Joe Payne

And Joe is right, success is a process of continual improvement.

I’m always struck at the limited adoption marketing automation and RPM have overall (in the 5% range). However, the value I’ve seen in the businesses I’ve run show me data that would suggest every marketer in the world should be using these tools and methodologies. Speaking at large events like Dreamforce remind me how overwhelming it can be to get started so I focused much of my time speaking about just that. How to get started.

Business Process Alignment:

Regardless the software you choose to support your business the single most important step in driving success with marketing automation and RPM is finding common ground and common language between your sales

and marketing teams. I’ve done this in multiple companies now and consider the initial investment in the sales and marketing funnel design to be step one. To help spur ideas I’ve included our funnel at Involver below.

I’m a believer in marketing automation and RPM. How does the social world relate to me?

We have a fairly unique perspective about the evolution of marketing automation and RPM because of our scale as a platform (over 500,000 customers) and our expertise using tool sets to optimize our own business. In the Dreamforce Super Session yesterday we shared four best practices in relating marketing automation and RPM to social. Here they are:

Make Cupcakes, not Whole Cakes

Marketing has been disrupted by social in a substantial way, more-so than anytime in our history as marketers. The content we produce and the interactions we have with our customers happen faster than ever before. As opposed to creating huge campaign ideas and running them to conclusion with the hope they are successful we recommend borrowing from the agile development methodologies to create smaller, fully formed, concepts to test and iterate from.

Nurture Your Sales Team

In a quickly changing market where your customers, prospects and sales team all need the same information at the same time, consider applying the same techniques you do with your primary nurture programs to your internal teams. Use your tools and business processes to identify who is most engaged with the right content on your sales team.

Be Where Your Customers Are

You may have more control over the flow of information and funnel optimization on your website and landing pages, but your customers and prospects are everywhere! Use tools like those we’ve created at Involver to bring your core business to where your customers are.

Qualify With Social

The preeminent social networks allow for more than merely two way call and response communications; they support rich interactions with polls, videos and much, much more. Put in place tactics that help you draw a stronger correlation with the key activities you want your prospects to interact with.

A member of our team captured my keynote on her point and shoot. It has a bit of a paparazzi feel to it however we put it on YouTube anyway in case you’d like to watch the full 15 min. Enjoy.


Customer Lifetime Value

August 19, 2011


The KISSmetrics blog is full of great content. I highly recommend subscribing if you haven’t already. This morning they posted a great infographic highlighting a calculation for customer lifetime value. Check it out below:

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
How To Calculate Customer Lifetime Value
Source: How To Calculate Lifetime Value


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