The Aids Epidemic 1985 and The Job That Made Me Face Death

SF Aids Foundation It wasn’t the sweat labor, working as a janitor for a local newspaper, on my hands and knees peeling pieces of glued copy paper from a wretched Berber carpet, scrubbing toilets, or removing the stale, dank food in the fridge on Sundays only to serve that “cuisine” to the homeless couple living on the roach infested couch in the back alley behind the building. And it wasn’t the preposterous gig delivering balloons, in an embarrassing clown suit, to couples in restaurants during my high school years.

The Darkest of Ages Before the Internet Circa 1985

Those were memorable, and completely humbling, jobs but not the types of jobs that make a mark on your life. No those were the type of jobs that reminded you that education is a good thing! The most impactful job I ever experienced? Territory Sales Representative for Moore Business Forms. Moore was my first job out of college in 1985, paying the kingly sum of $19,200 per year, and it was most certainly a crash course in life.

The setting, a simpler caveman like time of dark ages sales tactics and pressure, was a simple crash course in survival of the fittest. My job was to cold call door-to-door (15 times per day) to businesses in the San Francisco produce district, including Hunters Point and 3rd Street, all the way to Candlestick Park. No cell phone, no laptop, little communication. The level of rejection was epic and the dangers, sometimes imminent when gunshots would ring out on a lazy Friday afternoon deep into the Point, kept you on your toes.

A. . . B. . . C. . . Always Be Closing, Always Be Closing!

Many a Monday morning we endured a Glengarry Glen Ross style sales meeting where pressure was exerted, jobs were sometimes threatened, and laughter was a scarce commodity. In the end, we would huddle up for a pep talk that would somehow take the edge off the ass-chewing we had just received. Gender was not a shield as male as well as female reps were “called on the carpet” in front of their peers to “explain themselves” aka what the hell happened out there last week?

None of this would impact me as greatly as an assignment I was handed 3 months into my job on a manic Friday in the middle of summer. My assignment was to go out to a new account, for which I was being given the chance to manage, meet the principal and make a good impression. The business: The San Francisco AIDS Foundation in the heart of the Castro district.

My Life Was About to Change But I Didn’t Know It Yet

I had vaguely heard of AIDS but I was completely unaware of the magnitude of the epidemic that was about to slam into our country ferociously killing friends, family, and neighbors alike. Instead I was nervous, having been unabashedly ripped and teased by my colleagues, about heading into the Castro the preeminent gay neighborhood in America. And me  a straight kid with little experience or knowledge of what it meant to be gay. All we knew, and I am talking about the collection of friends and colleagues, was the paranoid stereotypes.

The life altering impact of my visit began as I opened the door and was greeted with the gaunt frailty and far-away stares of catastrophically sick men appearing more like Auschwitz victims than citizen of a vibrant growing San Francisco. The sight of open puss oozing sores, both dark and large, were visible on many of the men who were seated in the waiting room. The receptionist, seeing my innocence and shocked reaction, quickly ushered me into a separate room to wait on the office manager who would be my contact.

My contact greeted me with a kind smile and handshake of reassurance. He told me he greatly appreciated me visiting and he related how difficult it had been to get other vendors to service the account let alone visit their clinic. Prior to entering the building, I had experienced the first catcall I had ever received – by a man. It both scared me and acted as a reminder – I never catcalled a woman in my life. I thanked my new customer and assured him I would be visiting once a month to check on their printing needs.

I visited the AIDS Foundation offices throughout 1986. And each visit was a reminder of how lucky I was, the devastation I was seeing first hand, and the maturation process I was undergoing.

Today, having lost two friends to the AIDS virus, one gay man and one straight man, I look back on that job with Moore and rejoice in the lessons I learned, cringe at the abuse I endured, and marveled at the relationships I made.

Advertisements

Strategic Marketing Lessons from “The Profit”

blank billboard for advertisement on sky background

Marcus Lemonis, multimillionaire entrepreneur and star of the hit NBC show “The Profit”, has a formula for success. For Marcus, business success is based upon the simple principles of people, process, and product. These three hallmarks have helped the charismatic Lemonis grow his ultra-successful company Camping World. People, process, and product can be successfully applied to your company’s marketing program.

People

When building your marketing program in-house or hiring an agency look for the following:

  • Ownership: does each marketer possess the ownership “gene”? Do they treat your business as if it is their own?
  • Leadership: will your marketing personnel show their leadership skills when executing, formulating, or analyzing strategies? Are they proactive, take charge types?

Strategic Marketing Processes

What processes are in place to ensure your marketing team will continue to successfully grow your marketing program?

  • Content Creation: does your marketing team include Internet savvy writers that understand how to optimize content for search engines while creating content your consumers wish to read?
  • Distribution and Scale: are your marketing personnel familiar with how you want to distribute your content, where you want it published, how often you expect updates, and how to find a large audience suited for your messages?
  • Data Analysis: does each marketer understand how to analyze data that is a result of your online campaigns or ongoing messaging? Do they know how to “read” your data with an eye for potential new strategies, new campaign opportunities, or when to consider revamping or removing an ineffective online communication strategy?

Products and Services

You can’t successfully market or successfully sell a product or service if either is of substandard quality. When Mr. Lemonis is evaluating a business he looks for products that are undervalued, under-served, yet they are products that should provide value to customers.

Likewise, when digital marketing agencies, entrepreneurs, or small marketing consultancies begin to look for services to sell they need to be cautious and discerning when making their choices. The process of selecting which marketing services to offer your clientele should include:

  • Skill Sets: List the skills and aptitude you and your team as a beginning guide post. Look for strengths (services you should offer) and weaknesses (niches you should seek training)
  • Expertise: What is your expertise and that of your team? More importantly what is your aptitude if you don’t have the expertise in a particular service you wish to offer?
  • “Hot” Services: Like the old baseball adage: Some of the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make- just because a social network launches and has created buzz doesn’t mean you must build a service around that network.
  • Profitability: Calculate which services or products represent the highest profit margin
  • Passion: If you or your workforce do not have a passion for your services or products that lack of enthusiasm will sabotage your sales efforts and brand perception
  • Do Great Work: When you perform your work do it to the best of your abilities. Don’t cut corners, don’t give half effort, go all-in or don’t go at all!

Strategic Marketing Lessons

The old saying if you fail to plan plan to fail is very true when it comes to successful strategic marketing. To achieve business success you must lay the foundation for your business with a business plan. Research and market analysis will provide the backbone and road map for where and how you will proceed. The rest us simply a matter of effort and passionate belief in your journey! Good luck to you all.

 

Can You Find the Marketing Lesson?

marketingMarketers are always willing to test their skills at storytelling. Many have even tried their hand at writing a movie script. If you are like me you love Hollywood storytelling at its best. The following is a list with some of my favorite movies. Each movie tells a story and often includes a lesson that every marketer can use as a take away. What are the lessons? Think about it and tell me what your favorite movies might mean to marketing your product or service.

Marketing Lessons from Classic Movies

The following list is not in my order of preference because I love each one for what it brings to me – life lessons and marketing ideas.

  • Goodfellas: Loyalty
  • The Maltese Falcon: Suspense
  • Dark Passage: Adaptability
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Perseverance
  • Do The Right Thing: Diversity
  • The Godfather II: Betrayal
  • Tootsie: Surprise
  • The King of New York: Good vs Evil
  • Pulp Fiction: Sphere of influence
  • Reservoir Dogs: Trust
  • The English Patient: Beauty
  • Star Wars: Endless possibilities
  • Varsity Blues: Coming of age
  • Casino: Playing the odds
  • The Game: Self actualization
  • State of Grace: Redemption
  • Mrs. Doubtfire: Love
  • Scarface: Cautionary tale
  • Dirty Harry: Authority
  • Gravity: Sacrifice

3 Tips Sales Representatives Use to Win New Customers

sales representativesInsightSquared describes their company as “#1 in Salesforce Analytics for Sales and Marketing” that “delivers powerfully simple business analytics for companies of any size.” Their recently released one page research paper, “Should Your Sales Reps Keep Calling That Prospect”, includes important tips you can begin to utilize for your sales force.

InsightSquared’s Data

In a  three month period from June through August of 2013, InsightSquared studied over 21,000 sales calls in compiling their report that suggests three solid points for sales teams to consider:

Sales Call First Dial Importance

It appears that a sales person’s first call attempt is the best opportunity to reach a prospect as “connect rates drop 33% after the first dial.” Here are a few tips to make your representatives more effective:

  • Reps must be prepared and have their sales script polished and ready for the first opportunity to sell
  • Document and schedule the optimal time to call prospects
  • Make sure reps continue to follow-up on accounts when they have a decision maker’s contact number
  • Stop attempts to connect on weaker accounts after 6+ “touches” and return when lead flow is slow

How Many Times Do You Dial? 

According to InsightSquared the real gold is often found in the fact that “there are a lot of conversations buried in seemingly unreachable prospects.”Although it may seem incorrect to continue to call on a prospect after four or five attempts, according to their research, “even after 10 attempts, our reps were able to connect with their prospects almost 5% of the time.” Even though there is a rapid decline in “connect rates” at the beginning, there is a leveling off after the sixth dial.

Sales Call Organization

How many sales calls should you have your sales reps make on each prospective client? According to InsightSquared’s data the number of sales calls a rep makes to a particular client is “dependent upon your lead flow.” If your reps are working with an abundance of new leads then first contact calls should be the focus. Conversely, if the lead flow slows or is absent for the time being then representatives should spend the majority of their time trying to connect with old leads they have yet to contact.

Basic Google Analytics Guide for Small Business

builtvisible“Google Analytics is a digital analytics solution that collects data about your digital presence. How does it do this? Well at a high level you need to add the small snippet of code that contains your Unique ID pertaining to your specific GA property (UA-XXXXXX-X) on all your pages. This code collects information and sends it to the Analytics servers by attaching parameters to a single-pixel GIF image request.” –Kaitlin Ziessler

Google Analytics is a vital piece to understanding the data that represents your digital presence. If you are a beginner or interested in a refresher course on Google Analytics, I have a solid resource for you. In “Google Analytics Resource Guide of Epic Proportions” , author Kaitlin Ziessler of BuiltVisible.com presents a thorough but approachable guide. The guide is long but chock full of very useful information.

Learning Google Analytics

The following is the outline of subject matter covered in Ms. Ziessler’s work:

Types of Google Analytics Tracking

Basic Setup

What Are We Tracking?

Improving Google Analytics

Frequent Issues with Google Analytics

Help Yourself

Conclusion

There is a lot to absorb but it will be worth the effort. If you are grappling with understand where your traffic is originating, how it impacts your website statistics, and how to lead visitors to the land of conversion then this guide is for you.

Six Methods to Understanding Who Are Your Customers

Trail T CoveDo you want to understand how to connect with your current customer base, new prospective clients, and anyone looking for the products or services your firm offers? Seth Godin asks six questions in his post “Who are your customers?” that require us to connect with how in-touch we are with the people that help us thrive.

Seth Godin’s 6 Questions: Who Are Your Customers?

  • What do they believe?
  • Who do they trust?
  • What are they afraid of and who do they love?
  • What are they seeking?
  • Who are their friends?
  • What do they talk about?

If you can’t answer each question then some research is in order. Where do you begin to answer any of these questions?

6 Methods to Learn: Who Are Your Customers?

Finding answers is not always easy or an intuitive process. The following are some simple methods to get started in understanding who are your customers?

  • Survey: create a customer survey, add an incentive to increase your response rates, asking your customers the questions you need answered
  • Sales Department: poll your salesforce and provide incentives for everyone to ensure you receive the most accurate information. Concentrate on those employees in direct contact with your customers and customer service
  • Industry: attend industry conventions and events and listen for intelligence about your firm, product, and services
  • Offers: create a digital e-mailing, a post card campaign, or advertising campaign that provides value to your customer base for their intelligence about your brand in return
  • Monitor: identify and listen within the channels your customers use to talk about your products, services, and industry. Gather intelligence
  • Town Hall: provide a live town hall meeting where your customers can comfortably voice their feedback, solutions to possible problems, and opinions.

Essentially, the answers will come to the surface through your crowdsourcing efforts if you allow your customers and prospective customers to provide their feedback in an environment that encourages sharing.

Content Writing for the Non Writer

Writing ContentGoogle’s move away from old school link building as the cornerstone of search engine optimization, to a more content friendly algorithm, places the importance of content creation front and center for many companies. If you are a marketing consultant, work in a marketing department, or own a small business you must understand how to create the types of content that your clients will benefit from and continue to support. Here are some ideas that may help you.

Where do I start?

Blogging: Before you begin formulating your content, you must have a publishing platform that matches your goals. For people tasked with writing for their brand, a well positioned blog sitting on your website’s domain is the ultimate place to begin. Blogging software, most notably WordPress, provides marketers with the platform to begin creating messages (posts) that will support your product(s) and service(s).

Where do I create my content?

Setting: Many people will disagree with this statement but the fact is there is no correct setting, place, library, office, or dungeon that fits every person. If you need total silence and privacy you know a place that works best for you. On the other hand, if you thrive on social noise and chaos a local coffee house may suit your needs. Think about the most comfortable place you enjoy thinking; that may be your spot.

How do I get my ideas?

Dreaming: One of the best places I find ideas for content is while dreaming during a restful night’s sleep. I have  dreamed about writing ideas and acted upon them the next day. If you are passionate about your company, sleep is the perfect launching pad for ideas. An important tip is to keep a pad of paper and pen on your nightstand. If you awaken with an idea write down notes documenting your ideas.

Niche: Another place to research is your business niche. What is the latest news? Who are the most influential players? Why has the niche moved in a certain direction? Where is the next trend coming from in your niche? Look for evidence of something new or developing.

Experience: Detail your experience(s) that have an impact on your business. Tell a customer story that illustrates the impact your product or service plays in their life. Testimonials are great but you don’t necessarily need a testimonial to write a great piece of content

Social Media: Twitter is my leading idea engine! The shear volume of content I can tap into at any given moment is amazing. Whether mining my real time stream, my lists containing tweets from niche specific accounts, competitor’s lists, trending subjects, or hashtags, Twitter is the mainstay of fresh breaking news and information.

Events: Networking events, conferences, lunch and learns, business trips, and client meetings are some of the live in-person events you attend each year. Look for great stories to tell from your experiences.