Behr Strategies Merges with Creative Producers Group

I am pleased to announce that Behr Strategies has merged with Creative Producers Group. Behr Strategies has enjoyed great success over the past two years in working with CEO’s, entrepreneurs and business leaders to align vision and strategy with marketing and branding to fuel growth and change within numerous organizations. Creative Producers Group (CPG) has enjoyed over two decades of success working with business and organizational leaders on engaging audiences and getting them to act. They focus on B2i, or Business to internal, building brands from the inside out. They help companies, franchises, and not-for-profits tell their stories through integrated marketing, communications and events focused on internal audiences such as employees, sales forces, investors, and franchisees. Clients include industry leaders such as BMW, Panara Bread, H&R Block and Curves.

I began conversations with Keith Alper (CPG’s co-founder and CEO) several months ago and felt the merger would be a great marriage and good strategic move for both companies. I am now part of CPG’s management team and lead strategy and business development efforts focused on B2i. The Behr Strategies brand will not carry forward but the Big Picture Thinking approached which I have developed and utilized with numerous clients for strategic planning around marketing initiatives will be incorporated at CPG.

For me, I now have access to an incredible team of producers, writers, designers, developers, and project managers that I did not have access to before and limited the growth potential of my company. CPG gets a proven strategic planning methodology for marketing initiatives and brand platforms, an expanded network of resource partners, and the talents and contacts that I bring to the agency.

One thing that helped influence my decision to merge with CPG was their track record of creating and investing in innovative ways to reach and engage audiences through storytelling. Technology and how we communicate has changed dramatically over the years and CPG has always been ahead of the curve. The most recent example is Vidzu, a turn-key web based TV platform for corporations. Check it out at Vidzu.tv. Also check out CPG at getcreative.com

My new contact information is:


Cutomer Service and WOM

Not too long ago, I wrote a post called WOM Worthy? I was eating lunch at my desk and reading Twitter when I can across a great headline which caught me attention and took me to a blog called think B.I.G. Blogger Ken Peters had a great post about customer service and talked at length about an exchange he witnessed at the Wendy's drive through which he used as an example of a company doing it right.

So back to WOM, if you read Ken's post you'll realize that exceptional customer service will also drive WOM. I'm sure the woman highlighted will tell a handful of people about her positive experience at Wendy's.

Speaking of great service, I was in Nordrom's in St. Louis over the weekend getting some new pants after my wife informed me that I needed to "retire" some of my existing dress slacks. The team in the Men's department there is always excellent. My wife went online to Nordstrom.com a week earlier to order a couple more pairs of pants that she just got for me in the past. They had an option to ship them directly to a store location and not have to pay any shipping charges. We were heading into the store over the coming weekend anyway to get some slack my wife picked the previous week altered so she chose that option. As I was getting fitted for the alterations, the sales associate working with us, who through conversation knew that we had ordered some pants online and that they were upstairs in customer service, offered to go up to customer service and retrieved them for us so. He saved us about 10 minutes of time and an extra trip (we were in a hurry).

I've explored other specialty stores and department stores for my clothes and always end up back in the men's department at Nordstroms. Better selection and far far better service. So Nordstroms gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me on being WOM worthy. After all, I'm writing this post.

Wendy's has a real opportunity to be the Norstroms of fast food if they can truly build it into their DNA in the same way. I wonder if the manger discussed in Ken's post had a chance to share this experience internally and was recognized for it?

Customer service rant over. Check out Ken's blog.


Change is in the air!

After two successful years working with business owners and leaders on strategic initiatives involving marketing and branding under the umbrella of Behr Strategies, I've decided to make a major change. I'm off on a week long vacation with the family to rest and recharge. After my return the week of July 13th, I'll be working on transitioning into a new role and will be announcing this change in a couple weeks.

I will not be making any additions to this blog for a couple weeks. Please revisit the week of July 20th for an announcement and more posts.



WOM Worthy?

Over the past month I've been intensely researching and discussion WOM Marketing. What are the key ingredients to a great WOM Marketing program? I believe that you must first evaluate the foundation of what you are planning to market. You can try to build in a WOM program into just about any marketing campaign but should you? What is clear to me is that certain products and services, and in some cases specific brands or causes, lend themselves better than others for WOM. So when you are engaged in your strategic planning efforts for your product launch or campaign, you have to start with the question "Is this WOM worthy?"

What makes something WOM worthy?

1. I would argue that the first criteria that MUST be met is that you have a great product or service. If it sucks, you'll get WOM but not the kind you want.

2. Does your product (or service or cause) do something for people? What do I mean. Here are some examples. Could someone say "Your product is something I _______"
- enjoy
- appreciate
- need
- fixed or solved my problem
- enabled them to accomplish something that I could not otherwise
- want
- love
You get the idea.

3. Is your product something people will openly talk about with others? Chances are that if its something very personal, like medicine for hemorrhoids for example, you probably won't go out of your way to tell others unless they are very close to you. If you discover a great restaurant or new show, you are much more likely to tell those you interact with. Now that doesn't mean you can't create buzz about hemorrhoid cream but it doesn't naturally lend itself to WOM so some serious creativity needs to come into play. Here is Gillette's attempt at something like that with this viral video. Not something guys walk around and talk about but the humor and creativity behind this will have pass along value. As of today the video had over 1.2 million views.

I would argue that if you hit these three points: great product, people enjoy it or find it useful, and its something people would openly talk about, then you probably have something WOM worthy. Once you've determined that your product is WOM worth, then you can work a WOM strategy into your overall marketing planning and get creative with it. Integrate WOM with other more traditional marketing components such as advertising, sales promotion and PR and you have all the key ingredients for a very successful launch or promotion.


Value of brands - article from Business Week

This if right in line from my previous post. Note this particular excerpt.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?
Ask yourself, what does my brand stand for? Try to answer it in one sentence without using the name of the product your company sells. Legendary entrepreneur Richard Branson was once asked, "What does Virgin stand for?" He could have answered "a great music store" or "a great airline," but instead he answered with one word—"fun." By focusing on fun from his earliest days as an entrepreneur, Branson's vision allowed him the flexibility to move beyond a single product. Today the Virgin empire spans some 360 companies. Branson instinctively knew how to differentiate his brand. Branson was able to adapt, change, and take advantage of new opportunities because he sold an experience.

Notice that having an aspirational brand core purpose and values can open thinking up to many business opportunities outside of your current industry.

How to Sell More Than a Product (full article)
In a coffee showdown with McDonald's, Starbucks' tried—and—true strategy has a lesson for entrepreneurs: Don't sell products. Sell an "experience"
By Carmine Gallo


Strategic Planning and Brand Strategy: Can you do one without the other?

Does your corporate brand influence and inform your strategic planning efforts? If your answer is NO then in my opinion, have a major opportunity in front of you. If you want to align your organization, create clear focus, and open up your team to a new platform that will generate innovative ideas, then take the time and effort to establish a corporate brand platform.

A corporate brand should align your entire organization around a common core purpose and set of values. To take Jim Collin’s lessons a step further it should also help you develop your organization BHAG and thus lead to a strategic plan around growth or change (Yes I really drank the ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ Kool Aid).

In every strategic planning engagement I undertake in my practice we always start with getting the leadership team to clearly define the company as they see it today being as specific as possible. We’ll outline # of employees, revenue, client mix, products & services, position in the market, competitors and so on. Then they are charged to define the ideal vision of the company in 5 or 10 years in very broad terms followed by those same measures we outlined in the today version of the company. Once we have defined a clear picture of the organization today and a clear ideal future I then ask “Now what is the core purpose of your organization; your North Star or guiding principal that informs everything to decide to do as an organization. I’m surprised at how often I either hear silence or several different answers from the team.

How can you define your strategy for growth or change without basing it on the organizations fundamental reason for existence. At that point, if its clear we don’t have an agreed upon corporate brand strategy, we back up a step and change our focus on defining a clear purpose, outlining the company's core values, their differentiators and brand promise. I do this “backwards” approach deliberately. The reason is that many business, not-for-profit and regional leaders do not see the many business and cultural benefits of a corporate brand and this helps to bring them into the right frame of mind. Most senior marketing execs get it but often the other leaders in the organization do not so we have to put it into a context they understand – strategic business terms. Just because you have a logo and tagline, doesn’t mean you have a brand.

Once you have that clear core purpose and values, its amazing how it can create a platform for better and more focused strategic planning. The mission (or core purpose) of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) for example is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Knowing this gives them a clear barometer for whether or not they should do or not do some major initiative. The question that Arnold Donald (former President & CEO of JDRF) used to always ask was “Does this get us closer to a cure?” It made it much easier to make strategic decisions with that simple question in mind. It also helped to inform the entire staff and board and keep everyone focused on the same over arching objective in everything that they did.

Also, if a clear core purpose is defined in a way that it outside of typical corporate speak, it opens minds up to more innovative ways to achieve that clear purpose. Do you think your employees are motivated and inspired by “creating shareholder value?” UPS shifted from delivery company to a global logistics company. Do you think they would have made that strategic shift if their mission was to be the best delivery company? The client centric “What can Brown do for you?” would have never been born.

So can you develop strategies without a solid brand platform? Sure but I think that is one of the differentiators between average and exceptional and inspired organizations.

I could go on also about the BHAG and infuse some thinking from Dan and Chip Heath who wrote “Made to Stick” but I’ll save that for another post.


Perfect Your Sales Pitch Workshop June 30th.

The highly focused workshop that re-energizes and re-aligns your sales pitch. Right before your eyes.

Despite recession, despite resistance, you CAN ignite sales again. IF you make re-imagining your sales pitch your personal Job One. Now more than ever, it needs to be perfect: fine-tuned, superbly strategic, and – dare we say it? – a little bit sexy. Our offer: we'll do that FOR you. Right before your eyes.

Commit to just one highly-focused “Perfect Your Sales Pitch" workshop. You’ll spend a morning with just five of your small-business-leader peers, and session leaders Mike Behr and Walt Jaschek, marketing gurus. Mike and Walt will double-team the white board to guide the group through energized reconstructions of elevator speeches that sell. We’ll focus on three key area of your pitch: the value you offer to your customers, differentiation from competitors, and creating urgency to advance the sales process. You will leave the room with a customized, re-engineered sales pitch, yours to propagate and prosper from.

The first workshop will be June 30th from 8:30 until noon, followed by lunch, where you’ll have the opportunity to network with your peers and practice your revised pitch. To make your reservation, contact Mike Behr at (314) 361-9804 x111. Workshop cost: $500 per person (limited to six people total).

P.S. Interested in a dedicated workshop just for you and your sales and marketing team? Contact Mike and we’ll schedule and plan a workshop around your specific needs. To find out more about Mike and Walt, visit the Behr Strategies website team page at : http://www.behrstrategies.com/team.php or find them on LinkedIn.


Finding a Hook: Uncovering Powerful Insights that Differentiate and Deepen Brand Connections

By guest blogger Sarah Dow

Anyone with responsibility in sales or marketing has extensive knowledge of customer wants and needs. Ultimately, are you leveraging that knowledge to connect with them better than your competitor? The deeper the connection, the more valuable they are to your brand, as a repeat buyer or advocate to others. Typically we develop a target profile, listing relevant facts and concluding why this type of customer buys our product or service. This is all great. However, whether your brand is new, young or mature, you can take further steps to uncover a compelling, leveragable insight that can dramatically deepen the connection with your target.

I love learning about niche industries, and this is one I had not given much thought to. Elevator interior companies fabricate and install anything from wood, steel, or glass into an OEM cab shell, made by Otis, Schindler or Kone to name a few. These custom materials are installed in new building cabs or remodeled ones, for a cost of roughly $15,000 to $100,000+ per elevator.

When I first began working with Travertine Elevator Interiors, it was clear the owners were already focused on good service. It would have been legitimate and easy to recommend a “good service” positioning and immediately begin to develop communications material. I asked to conduct one hour long phone interviews with several OEM customers (such as Otis or Schindler) who were already fans of Travertine. I heard a lot of great, passionate responses about the sales people, the responsive service, the high quality products, etc. But I needed a way to differentiate Travertine from the other companies who I was told also provided good service. I needed a hook to make a deeper connection.

During one interview I uncovered a key fact. Installing the elevator interiors was the very LAST item to be completed in a new or remodeled building. The building owners were essentially using them as freight elevators, literally hours or minutes before the scheduled "grand" (re)opening. So for many projects, sometimes requiring months or years in the sale process, Travertine's installation timeline was often the victim of typical construction delay after delay. This put Travertine and its' OEM customer in the risky position of holding up the building opening. Countless instances of great performance could be erased just one foot from the finish line.

Yet time and time again, Travertine delivered and never missed one of these make or break deadlines. This insight held all the tension, magic and emotion Travertine needed to distinguish itself among others. It beautifully answered the one question customers inherently ask when evaluating brands - - - "what's in it for me?" A Travertine Never Misses A Deadline positioning was also the kind of bold, raise the bar idea the owners longed for, and, it was relevant for every stage of the buying process, from initial estimate to schematic drawings to installation. In addition, it gave every member of the organization a role in fulfilling this promise, and a clear goal to live up to.

The tagline Travertine's agency developed was "Consider It Done", giving OEM customers the peace of mind that only comes with hiring Travertine.

Every brand communication implicitly has an insight, but the question is whether it’s has the power to deepen bonds with customers. It’s always a good time to uncover a powerful insight.

Sarah Dow is an indepenent marketing and brand strategist


Who packaged my cheese?

My wife recently purchased a great new brand of packaged, pre-sliced cheese. The brand name is Dofino and the parent company is Arla. It looks very upscale - a white waxed paper like packaging with nice design on it. It was hard to open though- no obvious "tear here" marking. And it is resealable, which you wouldn't know the first time you opened one. The resealable strip doesn't work very well so I found myself putting the entire package in a larger zip lock bag for storage after use. Another interesting point about the packaging, you can't see the cheese inside, just the name "Gouda" on the front with a picture of a a very tantalizing deli sandwich that obviously has a slice of that particular kind of cheese on it. So you can see I've pointed out a few criticism's with the packaging.

It makes me wonder if they just designed the packaging to look more upscale/prestige and didn't really think about how well the packaging functioned for the end consumer. My wife told me that she picked up a couple packages of this brand because they were half price. Ahhh - apparently the packaging isn't helping sales. Unless you are a cheese fanatic, you might have to see the cheese and not not recognize by name the difference between Havarti and Gouda.

I did go the the website by the way and after taking a few minutes to find the cheese we bought, see that the packaging looks like its been updated on the Havarti but not the Gouda. Arla, your cheese is very good by the way. I wonder what it cost you to repackage it all though, both in terms of hard cost and also in terms of new customers who tried it and won't buy again for the reasons I mentioned here.


Corprorate Social Responsiblity and Brand

Great post I discovered by Jennifer Rice, originally through the FutureLab blog. She does a great job of laying out some brand strategies as it relates to corporate social responsibility.

It suprises me how many small to mid size businesses really don't appreciate how powerful a brand can be for their company. It's a huge opportunity for those that decide to make the concerted effort to manage their brand. I see branding opportunities everywhere - not-for-profits, cities and regions, b2b companies, cause-related efforts and so on. Unfortunately in my experience, putting resources towards branding, except for those marketing savvy b2c companies, is often seen as a luxury as opposed to a fundamental function that drives long term business growth. An unfortunate mistake.


Arlan River: company to watch

Just wanted to brag a bit about one of the Behr Strategies clients, Arlan River. An exciting new exploration company based here in St. Louis and diggin' for gold (actually copper) in Utah. Keep and eye on these guys, mainly the principals Cris Cristea and Corey Tolle, as a major success story in the not so distant future.

Check out the new Arlan River site. PR efforts kicked in today so hopefully you'll be hearing much more about these guys.



This post is the presentation that I just gave, along with Jon Franko from Gorilla76, to a group of internal and external communicators within Ag Biotech giant Monsanto. I'm sorry I couldn't figure out how to add in the visuals from the presentation file.

Dating back to the earliest recordings of man, storytelling and dialogue have been at the core of howwe communicate with one another. So why is it that this natural form of communication, so fundamentallyhuman, seems so unnatural and is so rare in corporate communication?

Most corporations spew out facts and data without weaving in the human story. Additionally, theytend to talk at their audiences, opposed to talking with them – chiefly because such communicationwas difficult to conduct. Now, however, all thanks to the Web, we have new tools popping up daily thatprovide for real dialogue in a mass setting.

So what opportunities does this create for corporate communicators and marketers?

Let’s explore.

Why should we strive to use storytelling in communication?
• Memorable
• Personal
• Puts things in context
• Root of human communication

Some examples:
• Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last)
• Steve Jobs (Macworld)
• Sesame Street (fun learning vs. institutionalized)
• Best teachers we had in school

Another example:
Coconut oil in movie popcorn from Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s really, really good.

"Art Silverman stared at a bag of movie popcorn. It looked out of place sitting on his desk. Hisoffice had long since filled up with fake-butter fumes. Silverman knew, because of his organization’sresearch, that the popcorn on his desk was unhealthy. Shockingly unhealthy, in fact.His job was to figure out a way to communicate this message to the unsuspecting moviegoers ofAmerica.

Silverman worked for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit group thateducates the public about nutrition. The CSPI sent bags of movie popcorn from a dozen theatersin three major cities to a lab for nutritional analysis. The results surprised everyone.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a normal diet containno more than 20 grams of saturated fat each day. According to the lab results, the typical bag ofpopcorn had 37 grams. The culprit was coconut oil, which theaters used to pop their popcorn. Coconut oil had some big advantages over other oils. It gave the popcorn a nice, silky texture, and released a more pleasant
and natural aroma than the alternative oils. Unfortunately, as the lab results showed, coconut oil was also brimming with saturated fat.

The single serving of popcorn on Silverman’s desk — a snack someone might scarf down betweenmeals — had nearly two days’ worth of saturated fat. And those 37 grams of saturated fat were packed into a medium-sized serving of popcorn. No doubt a decent sized bucket could have cleared triple digits.

The challenge, Silverman realized, was that few people know what “37 grams of saturated fat” means. Most of us don’t memorize the USDA’s daily nutrition recommendations. Is 37 grams good or bad? And even if we have an intuition that it’s bad, we’d wonder if it was “bad bad” (like cigarettes) or “normal bad” (like a cookie or a milk shake). Even the phrase “37 grams of saturated fat” by itself was enough to cause most people’s eyes to glaze over. “Saturated fat has zero appeal,” Silverman says. “It’s dry, it’s academic, who cares?”

Silverman could have created some kind of visual comparison-perhaps an advertisement comparing the amount of saturated fat in the popcorn with the USDA’s recommended daily allowance. Think of a bar graph, with one of the bars stretching twice as high as the other.

But that was too scientific somehow. Too rational. The amount of fat in this popcorn was, in some sense, not rational. It was ludicrous. The CSPI needed a way to shape the message in a way that fully communicated this ludicrousness.

Silverman came up with a solution. CSPI called a press conference on September 27, 1992. Here’s the message it presented: “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined!”

The folks at CSPI didn’t neglect the visuals — they laid out the full buffet of greasy food for the television cameras. An entire day’s worth of unhealthy eating, displayed on a table. All that saturated fat stuffed into a single bag of popcorn. The story was an immediate sensation, featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. It made the
front pages of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post’s Style section. Leno and Letterman cracked jokes about fat-soaked popcorn, and headline writers trotted out some doozies: “Popcorn Gets an ‘R’ Rating,” “Lights, Action, Cholesterol!” “Theater Popcorn is Double Feature of Fat.”

The idea stuck. Moviegoers, repulsed by these findings, avoided popcorn in droves. Sales plunged. The service staff at movie houses grew accustomed to fielding questions about whether the popcorn was popped in the “bad” oil. Soon after, most of the nation’s biggest theater chains — including United Artists, AMC, and Loews-announced that they would stop using coconut oil."

This is a great example of how to take relevant “data” and convey it in a way that is simple, unexpected,relevant, easy to identify with and creative so that the message “sticks.” After all, our ultimate goal as communicators is to positively influence our audiences.

• Who are your audiences?
• Why is your topic important to connect with them?
• What do you want them to do and what perception do you want them to have regarding Monsanto?
• What opportunities are there to tell stories?
• What other influencers are there that could tell stories (trusted 3rd party institutions like CSPI)?

At Monsanto, a big challenge exists due to your history, complex science and personal nature of your product – altering food!

Aim to make a connection that is human vs. corporate.

Communication is no longer one-way – like it or not. The Internet has armed anyone who wants a voice with a microphone. So how can you capitalize on this and embrace it?

We should embrace and encourage dialogue because:
• Two-way communication allows us to learn and react
• Opportunity to engage our audience and get them more vested in our story
• Allows us to get smarter about what audiences think, perceive and do

Perceptions and opinions will be formed by:
• Skeptics
• Fanatics
• Disgruntled customers and employees

Do you want these people on stage telling YOUR STORY?

Help guide the conversation:
• Dispel myths
• Establish credibility
• Positively impact perception
• Call out positive things vs. playing defense

Tools for such engagement include:
• Facebook & MySpace:
• YouTube:
• Twitter
• Ning:
• LinkedIn:
• Blogs
• Flickr

Use traditional media to drive people to engage, then react, learn and weave into future communications. Don’t think in terms of “campaigns” but ther “conversations.” Not a clear beginning and end – continuously evolving.

Obama example from Fast Company:

"His key tool was MyBarackObama.com, or MyBO for short, a surprisingly intuitive and funto-use networking Web site that allowed Obama supporters to create groups, plan events, raise funds, download tools, and connect with one another -- not unlike a more focused, activist Facebook.

MyBO also let the campaign reach its most passionate supporters cheaply and effectively.By the time the campaign was over, volunteers had created more than 2 million profiles on the site, planned 200,000 offline events, formed 35,000 groups, posted 400,000 blogs, and raised $30 million on 70,000 personal fund-raising pages.

There is no beginning and there is no end to storytelling and dialogue. It is an ongoing cycle that an organization must commit resources to. Adapt what you say, how you say it and what means you use to communicate it. All these are interwoven making it challenging for large organizations with many departments to stay on story.

Therefore – come up with theme guidelines that inform everyone who may be communicating. It creates commonality and a sense of order. Be sure marketing, sales, public relations, corporate communications all are cued in. Does each group
have a social networking coordinator? Are you evaluating how you can make your communication more story-like and facilitate and enable dialogue? Have you clearly answered the question of who are you talking to and what do you hope to achieve before jumping in to the blogosphere and world of Twitter and Facebook?

Find ways to tell positive stories and engage your audiences. Then listen and react.

Ad Age Digital
Business Week Exchange

Taking your brand viral - As easy as 1 - 2 -3

Nice post from friends at Gorilla 76 who co-presented with me today to a group of communcators at Ag Biotech giant Monsanto.


Success through Measurement

By guest blogger Chris Hackney from WebMD

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” - John Wanamaker

Although the words above were first uttered over a century ago, for many brand managers they still represent one of the key marketing challenges faced today. The tools at our disposal are more advanced, but more often than not they are still limited. With the downturn in the economy we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the marketing strategies of the biggest marketing companies in the country (Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Coca-Cola to name a few) as well as smaller players that we work with. Many are freezing or cutting budgets, while some are charging ahead in a play for market share. None are standing still and all of them are applying greater scrutiny to each line item of their budgets.
In general terms we are seeing the proverbial hatchet being taken to two broader categories of spending. High profile partnerships (entertainment integration or stadium naming rights for example) are the first and represent a large line item in many marketing budgets. On the other end of the spectrum, experimental programs (like in-game advertising) are also seeing pullbacks. While disparate in nature, both share a common issue: they are among the most difficult marketing vehicles to measure actual return on investment. Many high-profile events raise a brand’s awareness, but how does that translate into sales? And what exactly does it mean to my business that ten thousand people have “friended” me on Facebook? While this issue is most evident for these spending categories, in varying degrees the same point confronts every other marketing component.

In the majority of my recent client discussions with brand managers and agencies they have reiterated the following theme consistently - Marketing initiatives that can demonstrate measurable success will move forward. All others will fall out of the plan. Even though current economic conditions are driving the urgency behind this message, it’s not a bad philosophy if employed strategically.

In looking to properly institute this approach in evaluating your marketing plan, the three principles below should serve as a strategic foundation for your efforts:

- Objectives Point the Way – Do Not Deviate: The funny thing about strategies is that everyone has one, but few execute them well. Some of this owes to the fact that managers love the front-end of strategy development – ideation, brainstorming, & big pronouncements - but the real work is done in the trenches over the long-haul. Once a strategy is set each prospective initiative must be evaluated against the strategic objectives and judged accordingly. This requires rigor, but if applied consistently can be of great value. The shifting nature of your competitive landscape will always require course corrections, but it’s important to remember that a course correction should simply act as a detour towards the same destination (too often it unintentionally leads to a destination far removed from the original strategy). Adhering to this principle not only keeps you on the right path, but also gives you a long-term roadmap to measure the relative success of marketing efforts.

- Goals Dictate Measurement – Match Accordingly: Once initiatives have been green-lighted based on your strategic filter, then what you measure should be directly aligned to determine if the initiative succeeded in helping you achieve your strategic goals. In an ideal world all tactics could be directly traced to sales impact, but in reality this is rarely possible. Either a direct cause-effect link doesn’t exist or untangling the effect of various initiatives is too complex. In the absence of such a direct link marketers do have powerful tools at their disposal to measure the relative effectiveness of a campaign. In the digital world, much of the focus has centered on click through rates (CTRs) and related measures of action. Reliance on CTRs is a legacy of the early beginnings of online media and often is a misguided measurement for a program’s success. While actual sales data is usually unavailable there are plenty of measures that can be used much like guideposts to determine sales impact. Depending on the strategic emphasis of the campaign, measures such as awareness, brand equity levels and finally purchase intent can provide good direction. In addition, in the past year new measurement platforms, such as Nielsen NetEffect, have been developed that allow retail transaction level impact to be measured against individual online campaigns. Regardless of the measurement device employed, the key is to map out the goal first and then determine the proper means of measurement.

- Never Forget That The Whole Can Be Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts : In recent years the idea of an “integrated marketing campaign” has gotten plenty of buzz by marketers, but few have put together campaigns that are truly integrated. On the most basic level an integrated campaign should accomplish two things: (1) the campaign should convey consistent messaging (look & feel) across all consumer touch-points; and (2) it should embed hand-off points across the campaign elements that helps accelerate a consumer’s product adoption curve. An example of this second point is worth looking at:

- To properly employ point #2 you first need to know how consumers use media in evaluating your respective category (for example, the brand adoption curve and information sources employed is very different in considered purchase categories such as automotive versus a common staple category such as breakfast cereals). This knowledge will give you the guidance you need to build the proper hand-off points. Various media vehicles, in broad terms, have different strengths when it comes to consumer marketing. In general terms research shows us that TV and Print are strong awareness generators. Meanwhile, many consumers now research purchase decisions and rely primarily on Online for this information. Finally, there still is no better venue to close the deal on a purchase than Retail itself (via in-store messaging and packaging on shelf). With this knowledge in hand you can then construct a TV campaign that directs consumers Online to learn more and then an Online portal that helps consumers locate a Retail location for your product. This also should serve as a two-way street – your Retail messaging can be utilized to drive consumers Online for additional information or tangential value.

If an integrated campaign accomplishes both of these objectives then it will benefit from the fact that each element has a distinct purpose that ties each together. In our work with consumer companies we’ve seen this consistently borne out in the program results recorded – in effect the impact of each consumer touch-point is amplified and works to drive the consumer through the product adoption process at an accelerated rate.

While we still live in a world where marketing can still be as much of an art as science, following the advice above can help improve your decision making process and give you a competitive edge in your consumer messaging campaigns. In tough times such advantages can make all the difference in the world.

Chris Hackney is Senior Director of Strategic Development at WebMD where he oversees the development of the company’s CPG portfolio, partnerships & internal strategy. He previously worked at The Coca-Cola Company as Brand Manager for the Coca-Cola brands. In this capacity he set brand strategy and key activation, including retail marketing and brand integration with American Idol and the Olympic games.


Social Networking for Corporations: Make it Personal

The new era of social media has made communication more personal than ever before possible. With tools like Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Linked In and many more to come, it is so easy to create a very personal dialogue with many many people. This is complete white space for corporations looking to find ways to use these mediums to connect with their customers. Unfortunately many companies jump into these waters and just try to be cool or just start spewing off press releases. What companies need to do is think through what kind of dialogue they are trying to establish. My former partner at bigwidesky, Eliot Frick, used to preach this all the time. Don't talk at people, talk to them - and listen. Listen to what they are saying and respond.

Ask yourself the question, what am I trying to communicate and why should people care? Don't move forward until you understand this. Also, how can I make this more personal and come across more human vs. corporate?

To me, these social networking tools are a prime way to get a sense of what your customers really care about. Where else can you get this kind of information without spending tons of money on market research, focus groups and other more traditional means. You can also use it to attract more attention to issues that are important to you and your organization. Everything is connected these days to a quick sentence and link on twitter, can direct someone to a more extended blog post that may allow people to learn more from a media article or something on a website. Additionally its a great way to humanize your company. Show that there are real passionate and good people behind that logo of yours.

If this plays out like most things in marketing, the big B2C companies will throw a good deal of money at this and experiment, some success stories will surface and others will follow the lead. Eventually the B2B companies will start to experiment as well. Any B2B companies that do jump into this early may really discover a real competitive advantage.

I've been experimenting with Twitter now for a couple weeks. I found an interesting post called 5 reasons why people won't follow you on Twitter. Its a good set of guidelines on what to do as well as the common pitfalls.

Are there any B2B companies out there using social media very effectively? Please share if you know - send me a link or catch me on Twitter if you don't want to post here.


Not for profit fundraising: the Obama lesson

Its a very tough time for not-for-profits here in St. Louis and everywhere. Due to the uncertaintly of the economy and stocks at their lowest rates in decades, companies and wealthy individuals have pulled back on their support of the organizations that do the most for thier communities. That is not a good thing. These groups do good work for people in need and the betterment of society. They tend to work with slim budgets and have many people working for much less than they could earn in a for-profit entity. So budget cuts mean staffing cuts, and program and services cuts.

In my experience, most development executives at these not-for-profits focus most of thier time on those individuals and organizations the give the most. Remember that 80/20 rule? Well in these uncertain times, it may make sense to reverse those figures for the next twelve months of so. Go after the 80% that historically gives 20%. Its time to try to get a small amount from many vs much from few.

Look at what Obama accomplished in his run for President. It was the most successful fundraising campaign in history. And the kicker is that a huge percentage (I don't recall the exact percent) was from donations of less than $1,000 and many of those at less that $100. He accomplished much of this by using internet strategies focused on social networking and providing tools and guidance to many organizers spread throughout the country.

I think it boils down to this. Someone that my have give an annual check for $25,000 that has their assets tied up in investments can probably only give a fraction of that until the market and economy recovers. However, someone that gave nothing or maybe $25 as part of their annual membership fee, may very likely give another $25 if they were told how much it was needed and asked. If your own budget is tight and a relative or friend asked you to give them $5,000 you would likely say no. But if you knew they really needed it and they asked you if you could give $50 you probably would. There is much less sacrifice there and you feel good about helping out.

I'm not saying to give up on the big doners but am saying that with today's communication technology it is feasible to reach thousands very easy. Those that embrace this philosophy and make a concerted effort to set up programs to reach new members and small donors will find a new revenue stream that helps them get buy in tough times and really thrive when the economy recovers and those big donations start coming in again.

Check out the feature story in this months issue of Fast Company and learn how Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook helped Obama do it.


You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression.

Remember that great ad slogan? Ironically I remember the slogan but not the campaign. Was it mouthwash? Anyway, a quick point I wanted to make, especially to young companies seeking early stage customers or investors, is that you need to take your pitch & presentation very seriously. I work with quite a few early stage companies, many in the tech fields, and have typically found that the pitch, key messages and presentation format is a last minute detail that is usually short-changed and poorly done. Unfortunately, the result is a lack of interest from those early stage customers or investors that they have worked so hard to get in front of. Customers don’t really care about how great your product or technology is and everything that went into making it. What they do care about is why it’s relevant to them and their business. How will this make my company or people more efficient, more competitive, drive more sales, etc…. How is this different that what I’m already doing and how are you different than the resource we are already working with? And on top of that, investors will want to know how you are going to make money, and ultimately, make them money.

If you can’t address those issues in the first five minutes, you’re dead! Sorry to be dramatic but its true. NOT ENOUGH TIME AND EFFORT IS PUT INTO EFFECTIVELY PACKAGING YOUR COMPANY AND OFFERINGS IN A WAY THAT IS RELEVANT TO YOUR AUDIENCES. You can have the greatest product in the world but if the people who make the buying or investing decision don’t get it, and see the value, it doesn’t matter. Think about it. With as much time, money and effort you have put into creating your company and your products, why wouldn’t you make sure you have your presentation as good as it can be for those very important meetings and sales efforts? Why wouldn't you be confident that you can grab their interest and attention right from the start.

Anyone out there been pitched to and thought after two minutes “Oh my God, How long is this going to take?” If you have any horror stories, please share.

And for you Mr. or Mrs. Entrepreneur, do this right. Don’t shortchange the effort, and get some outside professional help if you are about to pitch investors or early stage customers.

Insert self serving plug here: Because I’ve seen this over and over again over the years, I’ve created a one day workshop with a colleague of mine designed to help you nail down your elevator speech and key messages for the purpose of a sales or investor pitch. For more info look at our Perfect Your Pitch workshop.

Also, a great blog that focuses exclusively on presentations is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

And lastly, here is a link to some good basic tips:
Marketing Smart – How to Create a Winning Presentation


Emerge Bigger, Better, Stronger

Remember the bionic man? In a fatal crash that should have killed him, he survived. And the key to his survival – technology. Technology may also allow you to become bigger, better and stronger in this extremely difficult economy. If you haven’t looked at how technology can help you be more impactful in your marketing efforts, now would be a good time to evaluate just that. Internet based marketing efforts, be it a website, blog, social network, email marketing, online advertising, search engine optimization, pay-per-click, viral or any of the other internet marketing means, can give you a boost when traditional means have maxed out or proven less than effective. It’s cost effective, measurable, and best of all, can be truly “inter-active.” One of the main reasons that the new wave of web based communication platforms have taken off so quickly is because it’s the only means that allow you to converse with your customers. Want to learn what they think of your product, service or company? Ask them. And then listen, respond and react, even if you don’t like what you hear. Integrate technology into your overall marketing efforts. You’ll wonder why you didn’t sooner.

Connecting with your customers and clients, and understanding and addressing their ‘wants and needs’ is critical when times are tough, budgets are tight, and spending is extremely discretionary. Those who build client loyalty will survive, and thrive. Those who do not connect with their customers will be weeded out. In this kind of market, Darwinian principals are extremely evident. Just watch CNN for a couple hours and see just how quickly a corporation can fall apart.

Don’t be paralyzed. Keep moving. Use this challenging economy to strengthen your organization. When times are great, mistakes and weaknesses are masked. When times are tough, they are magnified. Now more than ever you need to have the right people, focused on the right things, utilizing the right resources. Right? If your executive team is out of alignment, time to get them working together or make some changes. Have some product lines or services that aren’t building customer loyalty or driving profit, may be time to shift those resources elsewhere. Make the tough choices that you know are right. If you don’t have the right talent, there has probably never been a better time to get it. In a down market, talent is abundant if you can go out and get it. If you need a fresh perspective, go to someone on your board or outside the organization completely to work with you on evaluating effectiveness of your team, your operations, and your marketing.

Identify areas of weakness and opportunity and react appropriately and aggressively.
Those who do will come out ahead. Those who do not may not survive.

If you want an objective perspective on how to strengthen both your marketing efforts and relationship with your customers, give me a call.

Seven Things You Should Never Say in a Branding Brainstorm

By Walt Jaschek, Branding Brainstormer and Guest Blogger

Branding brainstorms. Mike and I love 'em and lead 'em, for clients large and small, often together, in the form of one-day Perfect Your Pitch sessions. ("Perfect Your Pitch: it's not about baseball.") As in any brainstorm, participation is encouraged; there are no bad ideas; and NOTHING YOU CAN SAY IS WRONG. Well, almost nothing. There are seven exceptions.

1. "Sorry I'm late: I had to catch the end of Regis and Kelly."

(Come on, WE were all there on time, even though we were in our car, glued to the NPR pledge drive. Don't make us repeat the situation analysis; it was agonizing enough the first time.)

2. "Can we work the word 'excellence' in here somewhere?"

(No. 'Excellence' is one of the empty words now bankrupt from overuse, like quality, integrity and choco-licious.)

3. "I agree with everything our CEO is saying in this meeting."

(Most of the CEOs we work with prefer authentic reactions and well-reasoned push-back. Needless pandering is unnecessary. By the way, these CEOs are quite charismatic and handsome.)

4. "If my brand was a tree, what would it be?"

(This question didn't make sense when Barbara Walters invented it, and it still doesn't make sense. Everybody knows you'd be a sturdy, mature oak with beautiful fall foliage.)

5. "These are juicy, original concepts. I like them, I'm excited by them, but our audience will never get it. We should do something safer."

(This is the ubiquitous, idea-killing double standard: assuming the audience won't share the same delight as you in the authentically new, different and involving.)

5. "I'll take these ideas home and run them past my spouse."

(Please don't. Your spouse doesn't have the context, probably isn't the target audience, and will have a looooong memory if his/her favorite ideas don't end up on the website. Yeah. You know what I'm talking about.)

7. "The logo is too big."

(Well, that's just crazy. As we all know: the LOGO IS NEVER TOO BIG.)

Everything else, you CAN say in a branding brainstorm. So we'll see you in the conference room at 9 a.m. sharp. We'll be there early, sniffing the markers! Dibs on the red one.


Behr Strategies: A Look Back at 2008

How quickly a year goes by. 2008 was a very good year for Behr Strategies. The biggest highlight was the culmination of a 15 month effort with the Saint Louis Science Center called SciFest 08. It is a 3+ year BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal as defined by Jim Collins) meant to change the perception of the Science Center as far more than just a great place for kids, bring the science community and the public together in an innovative way, and raise the visibility of St. Louis as a global center of excellence in science and technology. It started as a vision and ended up as a 5 day International Science Festival with over 20,000 attendees from 19 states, nearly 100 presenters from all over the U.S. and U.K. and an international partnerships with Cheltenham Festivals of England. Doug King, CEO of the Science Center described the festival as “A home run” to the media. And oh yes, there will be a SciFest 09 and beyond.
Read more about this in the December 2008 issue of St. Louis Commerce Magazine

Another highlight was developing a brand and putting together a marketing plan for a new bank called Parkside Financial Bank and Trust. My talented partners on the project were Walt Jaschek of WaltNow, Michael Kilfoy of Studio X and John Edwards of EZ Email Marketing. I also had the opportunity to lead a two day strategic workshop on a go-to-market strategy for an innovative new product introduction for Nestle. The cross function team included executives from California, New Jersey and Switzerland.

Other projects included some branding and key messaging work for the St. Louis IT Coalition and Innovate St. Louis, a strategic plan for a bold and exciting new initiative at KETC – Channel 9, and the development of a new marketing agency business model for the CEO of a public holding company. And lastly, we started and continue to work with an entrepreneurial St. Louis based exploration company called Arlan River, on marketing strategy, branding, Public and Investor Relations, and the development of a website and blog. It was a busy but very fulfilling and productive year.

A special thank you to my wife and business partner Cynthia Behr, who is VP, Finance and Operations. I could not have been as focused and effective on the client engagements if she wasn’t able to manage every other aspect of our small but growing company.