Lack of Lead Gen is a Symptom, Not a Disease

You're interviewing for a VP Marketing gig, and you're asked the question "Do You Do Lead Gen"?  And you begin to suspect that 1)this job is more low-level than it sounds and 2)yikes!this company does not value branding or marketing strategy.Content Messaging 
The suspicion may well be false.  Because in the overall scheme of marketing life, lack of lead gen is just a headache.  It's not a disease, it's a symptom of something much bigger.

The roundabout route that many Lead Gen discussions take is that there are little/no marketing programs in place, the sales team isn't armed and there's no way to measure the marketing to sales cycle.  Which can also mean: No clear, compelling value proposition, and no educational (vs. promotional) content. 

So there's no need to run when the lead gen question comes up.  It's part of a much bigger story and a much meatier assignment. 

And if Lead Gen is not part of your repertoire, you may miss the strategic conversation all together.

Making Services Tangible: "Out-of-the-Box" Lessons from Non-Profits

Non-profit marketers are very inventive.  (Perhaps it’s because they have the most constrained budgets of all).  We can take a few pages from their playbook on making services more tangible, and more desirable by potential buyers.

Donating to charity makes us feel good.  But it’s an intangible "feel good".  Short of reading annual reports from cover to cover, we really don’t know where the money is going.   Unless the charity makes their services into products.

Shelterbox Shelterbox2does a brilliant job of making the intangible tangible.  Instead of asking donors to fund "humanitarian relief services", they ask them to buy a box (or a portion of a box) which contains a weatherproof tent, blankets, cooking supplies, a water purifier, etc, to provide a temporary home for a displaced family.  And the "box" you donate can be tracked online, so you know it’s been received by those in need. 

WorldVision Chicks makes contributions tangible with a gift catalog of farm animals, to donate to families around the world.   My 12-yr old was motivated to donate rabbits and chicks for Easter this year, and we plan to make it an annual tradition.

88Bikes Bicycle was founded by two brothers who visited Cambodia and offered to provide a few bicycles for a local orphanage.  Once they found out the school had eighty-eight children, they got organized.  Now 88bikes enables donors to give bicycles (which lead to schooling, better opportunities and a better quality of life) around the world. 


Every single animal, shelter, bicycle makes a difference.  For the recipient, and the donor.

Product management never has enough money or time to please all stakeholders.  As I’ve developed product strategy and launch plans over the years, I’ve often turned a product into a service to get it to market faster.  Or turned a service into a product to drive sales volume.   Thinking of  "out of the box" concepts like Shelterbox reminds me of how many options are really out there.

Is your product recession-proof?

Depends on what product category it's in, and whether you're leading with brand reputation or value.

Whether you're a B2C or B2B marketer (and I've mostly been the latter) there are many brand cues to take from CPGs and Retailers – after all, they’re the companies who spend the most on branding.

The October 08 issue of CPG Matters cites a recent consumer study by Unilever:  Winning Shoppers in Turbulent Times  detailing which Consumer Product categories are more vulnerable during an economic slump.  

According to the study:

(To save money) the top dozen categories shoppers will not abandon preferred brands (for a generic brand) include:

  • anti-perspirant and deodorant
  • batteries
  • canned vegetables
  • fresh meat and seafood
  • hair care
  • household cleanser
  • laundry detergents
  • margarine
  • pain relievers and cold medicines
  • personal wash
  • pet food
  • tissues and toilet paper

The top five categories where shoppers would reduce spending if the economy continues to struggle (…going to a private-label or generic brand) include:

  • air fresheners
  • cookies
  • beer/wine
  • frozen dinners
  • soda/pop 

So is your product laundry detergent, or cookies?    Are you a brand leader, or a value leader?  

A great primer on the competitive dynamic between consumer goods companies and retailers, which I recently re-read is Private Label Strategy by Nirmalya Kumar and Jan-Benedict Steenkamp.  It is a fast read that describes the power shift from brands to private label goods and the underlying dynamics of establishing value for consumers.


Food for thought for B2B and B2C marketers alike…

Marketers: Are You a Newscaster or a Reporter?

Newscaster_2 About 15 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson:  Marketers are either Newscasters or Reporters.   I hate to think in black and white terms, but this theory has held up for the past decade and a half, without exceptions.   To clarify,  a Newscaster is most comfortable reading from a telepromter, comes across as incredibly savvy, but has difficulty coming up with their own material.   A Reporter is most comfortable in the field, collecting information and putting it to work.  But they have to clean up for the camera.  Both roles have their strengths and weaknesses, but understanding them well has helped me make better hiring decisions, and challenge myself as well.

The incident that formed this theory was recruiting a well-respected marketer in my organization, whom I admired greatly,  for a product launch.  To be honest, I was a bit intimidated by her, and wanted to make sure she had ownership in the project.  So I walked through the key ideas and asked her to prepare the slide deck for the launch (I had witnessed this marketer deliver dozens of presentations, flawlessly).   

Two days later, I checked in, and the PowerPoint had not been started.  I inquired whether there was a problem using the program (not everyone knew how to use it in 1993...).   But the problem was, according to this superstar marketer, as follows:  "I know how to use PowerPoint, but I don't know what to put in it!".   I was shocked that a fellow marketer with 10+ years more seniority and experience couldn't tell a story.   But she was a Newscaster -- and a darn good one, at that.    So in the end,  I wrote the story, and she delivered it -- together, we hit a home run. 

Reporter I am, by nature, a reporter (and I do clean up good..),  but I'm uncomfortable reading canned speeches unless I make them my own, with anecdotes and stories.   And when I do need to present someone else's work,   I need to practice extra hard to get it right.   That said, I get involved in the work I'm doing that I have no trouble presenting "on-the-fly", because I know the material so well.   

I strive to be a better Newscaster, so I won't have to spend endless hours memorizing someone else's Power Point deck, and worrying less about the lighting of the stage and the position of the podium than I have to!    And I'm still in touch with the Newscaster I mentioned in the story.  Last time I checked in, she had taken on more "Reporter" challenges, and had earned my admiration once again.