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Yesterday’s video with innovation gurus Stone Payton and Todd Schnick was shot last Wednesday night at #InnobeerATL, a get together planned for the original #Innochat innovation guys along with friends from Atlanta and some of the AMA Marketing Research Conference and social media team.

#Innobeer is the moniker for in real life meetings among those participating in #Innochat. It was originally coined by some of the new innovators behind #Innochat, but when getting together with Stone and Todd, it seemed quite obvious that the descriptor was a great name for our event.

Among the great friends joining us was Lynn Keenum, a former sales VP at Yellow Transportation, where I worked for many years. Lynn, quite frankly, is not only one of the funniest people I know, in “retirement,” he is reaching out to combine his love of horses with providing therapy for young people with learning and developmental challenges. It’s truly a wonderful calling, and Lynn is the perfect person to be at the center of it.

While he was at #InnobeerATL, Lynn told one of my two favorite stories of his – recounting his take on Tom Peters speaking to the first Yellow Transportation customer conference in 2000. Peter’s speaking approach and atypical use of Powerpoint (big words, lots of color) prompted a big revision in my own Powerpoint presentation style.

Nonetheless, Lynn’s take on the presentation, recounted in this video, is the memorable image which most sticks with me from Tom Peters’ speech more than 10 years ago. Enjoy! – Mike Brown

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When I decided to chair the American Marketing Association Marketing Research Conference a second year, I was excited by the opportunity to get back to Atlanta for several days. It had been years since I’d spent any amount of time in Atlanta, and it was an opportunity to get together with a variety of folks I hadn’t seen for a while, or had never met.

In the latter category were Stone Payton and Todd Schnick, the founders of #Innochat on Twitter. #Innochat is a weekly innovation strategy discussion they started in early 2009. It’s since moved on to new curators, but it was great after all this time to finally meet Stone and Todd in person. Here’s a video recap of the origins of #Innochat and an update on what they are up to now.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.  To learn how we can structure a strategy to keep you ahead of your customers, email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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What a week last week!

First of all, thanks to Barrett Sydnor for keeping the Brainzooming blog active with book reviews on some fundamental strategy books for marketers.

For most of the week, I was chairing the 2010 American Marketing Association Marketing Research Conference in Atlanta for the second year in a row. There was tremendous strategic content on business, marketing, and market research from outstanding speakers. But since my focus for the marketing research conference was on emceeing the general sessions and helping produce the conference, I didn’t take the typical copious notes I usually would.

So as I pull my thoughts together into a future blog post, here’s a video recap of the American Marketing Association marketing research conference from Jeffrey Henning of Vovici. Jeffrey Henning has been on the AMA Marketing Research Conference social media team two years in a row, and this year, he wrote 13 blog posts across the marketing research conference which ran from September 26 to September 29, 2010.

Beyond Jeffrey’s take, we’ll have several other videos and reflections from in and around the conference this week. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make mart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Besides being researched based, another common characteristic of the books I’ve covered this week is they are provocative. Not provocative in the Lindsay Lohan or Glenn Beck sense, where people do or say outrageous things to get attention that leads to, well, more attention (and, seemingly inevitably more money).

Instead they are provocative in the positive sense. They provoke thought, provoke more informed conversation, and provoke changes in behavior.

Communicating Change, Winning Employee Support for New Business Goals, by TJ Larkin and Sandar Larkin is the most provocative of the lot. It is also the most challenging to fully embrace.

In many large organizations there are two givens when it comes to communicating with front-line employees. The first is that the people in charge of that communications are professionals in execution. They have strong skills in writing, editing, producing videos, laying out publications, etc. The second is that corporate leadership doesn’t really trust anyone but itself to own the message, particularly when it is a message about important changes in the organization.

The result is that most employee communications is slick in execution and top-down and one-way in presentation. It is also, if you believe the research and conclusions in the Larkins’ book, mostly ineffective and at odds with what employees want and value in terms of communications. To quote from the book’s major premise:

“Frontline employees distrust information from senior managers, don’t believe employee publications, hate watching executives on video, and have little or no interest in corporatewide topics. The boundary of the frontline worker’s world is his or her local work area. If the communication doesn’t break through this boundary, it is wasted.”

That’s hard for those of us who value our skills and abilities as communicators to accept. It’s a tough message for senior manager’s who are sure that all workers are awaiting the latest quarterly results and next year’s strategic plan with the same level of anticipation that they are. Particularly if they, the senior managers, are delivering it ex-cathedra.

In point of fact, the Larkins say that type of communication is not only suboptimal, it is counter productive. They present, with excellent sourcing and well-designed studies, what they call the three facts about the best ways to communicate change to employees in large companies. 1) Communicate directly to supervisors, 2) Have those supervisors use informal face-to-face communication with frontline workers, and 3) Communicate relative performance of the local work area.

The other, overriding message of Communicating Change is that all communication should change behavior in a positive, immediate, and measurable way. That’s not a bad mantra to keep in mind whether you are communicating with frontline employees, putting together an ad campaign, or making a sales call. I think Ogilvy, Cialdini, and Rackham would agree.  – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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When I began in sales, the training/teaching in the field was dominated by the Zig Ziglars, Earl Nightengales, and Tom Hopkins of the world. The answers to the “Why?” and “How do you know?” questions were all rooted in their specific experience and preconceived notions of what went into a successful sales approach.

That approach largely focused on creating good first impressions, learning a myriad of ways of handling objections, and mastering and continually using very specific (and often deceptive) closing techniques.

It was all very rote. You would ask A, the prospect would respond B, you said C, and they said D. That was great if the prospect indeed said B and D, but if they said 7, you were on your own. SPIN Selling changed that.

I was introduced to SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham at a DMA conference in Washington, D.C. I remember the author, Neil Rackham, standing beside an overhead projector with a stack of transparencies in his hand—yes, before PowerPoint—describing the sales approach that the Huthwaite Corporation had developed. Light bulbs went on for me.

He described an approach also based on experience. But it was experience gleaned from the systematic observation of 35,000 in-person sales calls. Rackman and his colleagues had gone along on those calls and had tracked what types of questions and behaviors resulted in positive outcomes and what types of questions and behaviors resulted in negative outcomes.

That observation, categorization, and insight, i.e. that research, determined that successful sales indeed was the result of asking questions. But not the objection handling and closing questions of Ziglar and Hopkins. Rather, questions with specific intent and customer focus. Specifically: Situation Questions, Problem Questions, Implication Questions, and Need-Payoff Questions. Thus the S, P, I, and N of SPIN.

I bought SPIN Selling within a week of seeing Rackham present. I’ve read it—or later editions and iterations—at least a half a dozen times in the intervening years. I’ve taught it to hundreds of college students.

Oh, by the way, Rackham found that: 1) first impressions aren’t particularly important, 2) if you are generating objections you are probably already in trouble whether you know 16 ways to overcome them or not, and 3) the earlier and more often you try to close, the more likely the sales call is to end in failure. That’s real Why? and How do you know?   – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Oh, you mean I need to include a call to action?

Amazingly one of the things we often forget in marketing and marketing communications is that in the end we have to persuade someone to do something. We develop good products, use effective sales and distribution channels, understand what media reaches our target most effectively, write witty headlines and use imaginative images to catch their attention.

But we forget to persuade them.

Robert Cialdini’s Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion will make that much harder for you to do. Based upon literally hundreds of research studies, the book organizes persuasion into what Cialdini describes as six weapons of influence, though I’ve always preferred to think of them as tools.

The Weapon/Tool My shorthand way of remembering
Reciprocity When I take a free sample at Costco, I feel an something of an obligation to buy the four pound package of the stuff—even if I have no idea how and when I will consume that much.
Commitment
and consistency
My Mother told me to always keep my word (be consistent) and that’s what I’m going to do. Besides if I’m not true to my favorite brand, how will I ever choose among the 100s of drink options at the convenience store. Huge time saver.
Social Proof Some of you figured this out in high school, some of us didn’t. If everyone else is doing it, it is the right,or at least the safest,thing to do—particularly if we don’t want to be a social outcast.
Liking This one works both ways. We evaluate the message based on whether we like the messenger, rather than whether we believe the content. Also, if someone likes us, that shows their good judgment and makes them an obviously credible source—in other words, “Flattery will get you somewhere.”
Authority They didn’t call the show Father Knows Best for nothing.
Scarcity We always want what we can’t have. Make information seem privileged or items seem rare and that watch the perceived value increase.

After you read the book you will notice that effective ads and marketing communication vehicles have something in common. Nearly every one will incorporate one or more of these tools. You will also notice something about the ones that aren’t effective. They don’t use any of these tools. Read your organization’s sales materials, look at your ads, watch your videos. Are you using the tools?  – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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If you regularly watch—or as I am, are addicted to—the television show Mad Men you will have heard passing references to David Ogilvy.

I tell students in advertising or marketing (or anyone else in the fields that will listen) that if you are only going to read one book on the subject, it has to be Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy.

Now it was written nearly 30 years ago. Some of the styles are quaint, products unusual and brands long vanished. You won’t find one reference to the Internet. But it is hands down the single best book on advertising ever written.

It is well organized, hansomely illustrated, and Ogilvy is a great copywriter and a natural story teller. Additionally, the book has a wonderful Reading List that will introduce you to other gems that you may not be familiar with.

But a huge part of what makes the book valuable is that so much of what it contains is research based. Ogilvy recognizes that advertising is both science and art, but that without the science you will only be successful if your art is both good and lucky. He attributes this point of view to his background working for the Gallup organization.

The book is a bit of a Rorschach test for people who work in marketing communications. Those who find it hard to live with the fact that advertising is about selling stuff, lots of stuff, are stifled by Ogilvy’s lists and guidelines and how-to’s. Those who are able to recognize that they are using their skills at innovative thinking, creativity and strategy to reach sales goals find those same lists, guidelines and how-to’s freeing.

After all, if you don’t have to worry about what typeface to use in the brochure (according to Ogilvy serif fonts will greatly increase readership in print), you can spend that time and effort—and creative energy—on how to engage the reader and convince her to buy what you are selling.  – Barrett Sydnor

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you. 

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