Mentor Moment #7: Inspect what you Expect


Leaders develop vision for their business and plans to make those visions a reality. You have spent a considerable amount of thought time on that vision, you developed a road map on how to get there, you wrote a plan, and now you have asked your team to execute. Why do CEO’s list; “finding out months latter my team was not following the plan” as one of their top five concerns? Because they failed to: inspect what they expect to happen.

What I am saying is communicate the vision and the plan and establish key performance indicators that your team reports on frequently. What I am not saying is Micro manage your team. (You will just drive them nuts and the good ones will join another team)jump ship

When you inspect what you expect, you know quickly who is on board, who is trying to get on board and who fell overboard and you lost them (with time to still recue them).

I’ve fallen into the leadership trap of thinking once I set a course like Captain Picard on Star Trek and say “make it so” that everyone immediately falls inline and starts executing. About six months into serving a new company I had a rude awakening that 50% of my team had not executed the strategy we launched months ago and upon further investigation one of the leading reasons why is they did not fully understand it, and more important did not see the map to commissions that other activates they were currently doing much more clearly presented. I was new to this team, and I later learned that the management team at this organization had a history of kicking off initiatives and if they failed to stick moved on to the next one(s). So this team was trained to; wait and see if this imitative sticks before acting.

Once we established key performance indicators that tied to initiatives, I no longer had the surprises that team members were not on board, and I had time to pull team members back quickly when they started to veer off course or pull them back in if they fell overboard.

Today you can even buy software that does what I described above. I recently attended a webinar by a company; Keyne Insight that has developed performance execution software that provides leaders and managers up to the minute snap shots of activities their team is doing or not doing so you are equipped to inspect what you expect. I am sure there are others in this space too, but I was intrigued by how far technology has come to help leaders insure the road maps they took so much thought developing are being executed.

How do you insure your team is following the plan?

Do you have KPI’s that tie to your vision and plan?

As a leader have you ever “Launched” only to find mid voyage you left your team on the dock?


It’s an Epidemic! …Poorly executed Email Marketing Campaigns


Executing a poor Email Marketing campaign can not only black list you as a spammer, but send your targeted customers running to your competitor.

Your actions speak much louder than your message!

When I posted; Is your Email Marketing sending business to your Competitors? I was concerned how this salesperson, at this particular company that provides email marketing lists for business development did a number of things wrong. Not picking on this particular person, but my desire was to illustrate what not to do in email marketing, and then I received this;



Hi Steve, [my name is Mark! I am already not impressed!]

Are you looking to acquire a fresh-targeted email contact list? [Actually yes, I am]  Would you like to update missing data to your old database? [Yes that sounds good too, bugs me you did not use your own product to find my right name, but I will read on]

Set1[what’s a set?]: List Acquisition:  We assist Companies to acquire business list specific to their target audience with contact name, business name, job title, mailing address, telephone number, fax number, website URL, SIC codes, employee size, revenue size, Industry type and contact person deliverable email address. Companies can choose from the following selects: [again, sounds good, but if you are as good as you say why you got my name wrong?]

· Vertical Market (SIC) 

· Company Size by Employee 

· Company Size by Sales Revenue 

· Fortune 1000 Companies 

· Job Function, Title & Seniority Level 

· Geographic Location

Set 2[ there’s that word again; set, it may be something your developers use, but as a buyer this is not may language]: Appending: We can work with your existing in-house database which includes de-duping and providing only unique records. Following are the services includes in first set of solution. This solution is related to working with your existing in-house database.[ok, but what problem are you solving for me, and again, call me crazy but how can I trust you with my data when you can’t even get my name right? I feel working with you may be risky, I don’t know….]

  • Email appending – Appending missing emails for existing contact [sounds good]
  • Multiple contacts appending – appending multiple contacts irrelevant for list of companies [huh?]
  • Decision makers appending – Appending C-level, V-level and Director level decision makers for existing list of companies
  • Target title appending – Appending [appending? This is not how I talk, I can figure out what it means but you really do not know me do you?] contacts based on your job title specifications
  • Data appending – Appending any missing information other than emails

We would like to offer you free append test [really? Why are we talking price? How did you know I wasn’t ready to buy?]for 25/50 business records/consumer records to just test our quality of services.[ do I need to test your quality, yah, after you got my name wrong I do not feel all that warm and fuzzy]

Please let me know your thoughts. If there is someone else in your organization that I need to speak with please let me know or forward this email.[ oh, so again you don’t know me, you are not sure what I do, my title, and I should send you to someone else to do your job for you? Maybe you should buy a list of executives with their title, email, NAME,…oh that’s right that’s what you do?]


[Name removed]

Business Development [how’s that working for you?]

800-708-xxxx [good, you gave me your phone number, what about email? I guess if I am interested I could hit reply…but if you used one of those mass email services so I can’t black list you, you will never receive it…]


[Shame on you! You work in the space of email marketing and no opt out? Your company must not do much business,… I think I’ll pass]



How about your company, are you sending email marketing out like the above? You sure?


What could this guy have done better? ( I need experts in the space of email marketing to chime in, I know this feels wrong, but I am no expert, I am just a buyer, who has unresolved problems and I look forward to giving money to those that solve them.


Are you blindly sending out emails to your targeted accounts…hoping they will stick like the guy above?


Can your targeted key new business accounts hear your message over your actions?

Is your Email Marketing sending business to your Competitors?


If you feel a poorly executed email marketing campaign is better than no email marketing at all; you are wrong!

Email marketing if properly executed helps buyers buy and can reinforce your message with prospective buyers for future purchases. If poorly executed you will also make an impression, a negative one that will not only last, but spread.

I can tell when the end of the month is approaching by the amount of email spam I receive. Below is an email I received today that illustrates a number of mistakes you must avoid in email marketing.

Dear Customer,

We are dominant player in the Business List Industry with over 40 Million B2B contacts and 200 Million B2C contacts. We have all varieties of business records that come with complete contact details including working business email addresses.

We can assist you in reaching out to your target audience in multiple ways. We can provide you with updated information such as contact name, email address, phone number, fax number, mailing address, job title, etc…

Job Title Scope: Reach top-level executives like CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, COOs, CIOs, Presidents, Chairman’s, GMs, Mid level Managers, Sales and Marketing Managers, HR, Managers, Finance Managers. 

Our products and services are:
Email Appending, Email List Acquisition, Email Blast, Email Lead Generation, Data Appending etc.

If the in-house database that you has information that has gone bad or is incomplete, we can update it with the above mentioned fields. Let us know the criteria for your target audience and a sample file will be mailed. Can you give me some specifics regarding your target audience? 

Example: In business, are you interested in only a certain type of business?  Are the gross revenues of the company important? Do you prefer to target companies with a particular employee size? Do you need the contact name and title of someone at the business you wish to target?  If consumers, do you want to target people with a certain income level, occupation, children at home, etc.

If you would prefer to advise me of your requirements via email, my email address is XXXXXX

Please let me know of a convenient time for a quick call, looking to talking to you soon.


[I removed the name]

Business Development Manager

We respect your privacy. If you want to stop receiving emails from us, please send a reply with the email subject line as “Leave out”.


My thoughts;

· First, I am not your “customer”, I do not know you and to use a generic “Dear Customer” quite frankly is insulting. What it means is you have no clue who I am and you have already lost me. You do not know me, care about me or my needs.

· Next, as I read through your message you provide, sell; email contact information, and you go on to say you have a core competency in reaching top executives…Really? If your product is so good, why didn’t you use it when trying to engage with me?

· “Email Appending, Email List Acquisition, Email Blast, Email Lead Generation, Data Appending etc.” …OK you have explained “what” you do, but what problem do you solve for me? Oh I get it; I am supposed to figure that out on my own…

· “Are you interested in only a certain type of business? “ OK, yes, I am interested in certain types of businesses, again if you have a competency in this area why didn’t you demonstrate your knowledge in my type of business?

· “Are the gross revenues of the company important?” Are you kidding me? Now you are insulting me again. I also reflect; what if I asked the CEO of one of the companies I would like to help this question, it would be a disqualifier.

· You did provide your email that I X’d out in case the CEO of your company is reading this post, but you failed to provide your phone number?

· Good job you did do one thing right that I will use; “We respect your privacy. If you want to stop receiving emails from us, please send a reply with the email subject line as “Leave out”.´

· And to add insult to injury when I try to close this message I am prompted that you want to know if I read this? NO! Shame on you!

After receiving this message I will never buy from this company, never! Not only will I not buy, I am so shocked by this poorly executed message I will tell a number of those in my network this story and I am sure they too will not want to partner with you.

If you are using email marketing, learn from the mistakes in the above and;

· If you do not know a contact name, title, do not send

· “eat your own dog food”, in this example, if you sell contact names for email marketing you had best demonstrate a competency in the space you play

· Give me an opportunity to opt out

· Know something about your customer, their industry, and more importantly know your market and it’s most pervasive problems.

· Once you know those problems, share how your product or service solves them

· Don’t ask questions that insult my intelligence

· Provide your phone number, what if I did want to call you?


How about your company?

Are you participating in email marketing? If so share best practices.

Would you buy from this vendor?

Mentor Moment #6, Seek Significance Not Success


Far too many leaders are chasing the brass ring of success and when they finally grasp it they realize how cold and shallow it truly is. The secret is to seek significance and success will come.

So what’s the difference?



1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

brass ring

3. a successful performance or achievement: The play was an instant success.
4. a person or thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show.



1. importance; consequence: the significance of the new treaty.
2. meaning; import: The familiar place had a new significance for her.
3. the quality of being significant or having a meaning: to give significance to dull chores.


If you have read my blog, you know I go to the Bible when I am trying to understand something, in Samuel we learn;


“Do not turn aside for then you would rather go after empty things, which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing?


I have helped many “successful” people over the years but those who sought out to be significant were the happiest. Success, and more importantly your definition of success may be a lonely empty thing once you achieve it. When I was very young, success was tied to money in the bank. Work hard, make money. Work harder make more money. I share how I feel today, (now sneaking up on 50 years old) in my post: What Jimmy Buffet and Bruce Cockburn can teach Marketers about Nailing a Persona? I also discuss how young managers, some soon to be leaders get it wrong when they feel they have to be a Prick –ly person to get ahead in this world.


Chasing the wrong goal turns you into someone you were not designed to be and leaves you feeling empty.( been there, done that…have the t-shirt)


How about you?

Are you still reaching for the brass ring of success?

Have you achieved success and you think I am full of it?

Are you on a quest for significance? If so tell me about it..

The Expression of Joy Ad campaign by BMW; May be an Expression of Big Money Wasted


Companies spend millions and often billions to advertise their products in their marketplace however the effort to be creative often results in a dilution of their message. When your message lacks clarity, it requires an interpreter…and the variability of the individual interpreters’ ability (your salespeople) to articulate your value is not something market leading companies leave to chance today.


When its 114 degrees in Scottsdale Arizona there is not much to do on weekends unless you head for the higher elevations to escape the heat. As I said when I wrote: Are interruptions “transforming “your customers into shoppers again? I like to go to movies. Now that we are into the hottest part of our summer I am seeing a number of movies.

Is it me or are the ads prior to the movies getting longer? Do they really need to advertise TV series in movie theaters? Recently, I observed something interesting, the “Expression of Joy ad” by BMW. The ad starts out with a Z4 driving through paint and painting the surface like it were a huge canvas, with just one problem…when the ad came on the audience in the theater verbally groaned. So I’m not the only one who has seen this ad and hates it? Is it the music or is it because the ad feels like “the never ending ad?”

Personally I think BMW’s make amazing vehicles, and I get what they were trying to do with this ad; however the audience I shared the theater with not only failed to appreciate this ad’s artistic expression, but verbally groaned when the ad started.

I hear comments in front of me sharing their disdain for this ad. Now mind you, there were a number of other ads from an air conditioned indoor storage facility to a counter top manufacturer who supplies four different surfaces based on your needs, budget, and overall design objectives. None of the other ads caused a group audience response like the BMW ad, again…interesting.

Did BMW test this ad prior to its release? I am curious what the total cost of this ad was and is it driving the desired sales revenues, or just another Addy award for the creative team that developed and produced this masterpiece?

To me this ad says: our cars have so much margin in them we can afford to produce ads like this… 

The reason for this post is not to bash BMW, as I said they engineer amazing driving machines, their fit and finish is best in class, but more so to challenge everyone reading this to listen to the responses your market is making to your advertising. Are you listening? Is your advertising about driving revenue, adding value to your bottom line, or helping your ad firm win another award to dust on a shelf before their next new account pitch? As I discussed in my post: 88% of Those Surveyed Said Advertising Services Have Become Commoditized? Ad Firms Heal Thy Self! I discuss how ad firms must fight the perception their services have become commoditized. Perhaps the firm that created the BMW Z4 ad swung the pendulum too far in the creative direction? At the end of the day, my single opinion does not mean much, but an audience of consumers in north Scottsdale Arizona, groaning when your ad comes on should get BMW’s attention.

Are you listening to the response or lack of response to your advertising?

Have you tested your soon to be released creative in your market?

When you developed the creative, did you do so with a specific buyer persona in mind?

Or do you think I am just a ROI Neanderthal who lacks an appreciation for artistic expression?


Market leading companies create messages that resonate not repulse their market.

Mentor Moment #5: Brand with Intention or the Market will “Brand you by Default”


The reason I wrote my first book in 2007 was to solve a problem a number of businesses had; they did not intentionally brand their product or service in the minds of those in their market(s) and the net result was the market” branded them by default”.Branding_Backwards_-_thumb

After I workout in the morning I like to relax in the steam room. Today I entered the misty dim lit room to wind down after my workout and noticed someone else sitting in the far corner. We exchanged pleasantries and very quickly he asked the common question; “So what do you do for a living?” I answered as I have done for years and then it was my turn…”what do you do?” His answer was symptomatic of why I wrote my first book titled: Branding Backwards; a Brand’s Odyssey Toward Self-Discovery. He stated … “I am in real-estate” and he stopped there. I try not to engage in what could be long conversations in the steam room, particularly days like today when someone had jimmied the thermostat and it was excessively hot.

Do I tell him that what he just said really does not help me understand the problems he solves? Ah …what the heck (I did bring my water bottle)…. So I asked some additional questions and found he was not someone who helped homeowners sell their personal property, but someone who owned a real-estate development company that develops commercial real-estate throughout North America in a very specific niche.

This quick conversation reminded me how critical it is for businesses to clearly articulate their brand, and the problems they solve for their market. (Even more so in this economic climate) Fail to do so and the market will “brand you by default”, and there is a high probability they will get it wrong.

As in this example, very quickly when he said he was in real-estate, I mentally branded him as someone who helps consumers sell their personal property. I mentally logged his name in my referral database in the event someone I know may need that service. It was not until after my additional questions I understood what his company does.

I offer 10 tips to avoid Branding Backwards in my book,  the first is;

“If you do not state who you are, others in the marketplace will create a mental image of how you may or may not be able to meet their needs”

If you would like to download a free copy of my book you can do so here.

(I want to warn you, I wrote it in the form of a story. I find stories seem to stick with people much more than just stating facts.)

How about your company? Can your targeted new customers and or existing customers clearly articulate the problems your product or service can solve for them, or are you branding by default? Over the years I have found it disturbing when I engage with a new sales team how quickly and concisely the salespeople can explain what problems their competitors products solve and do not solve, and yet when asked to describe the products that fill their own commission rice bowls each week they ramble on and on with features, benefits, and how their company is the market leader…and better than….that is not what I asked!

Is your company Branding with intention, or by default?

If I were to ask one of your customers what problems you solve, would they get it right? Would they clearly understand all you solve?

Ask your one of your salespeople today; “What problem does our competitor ________’s product solve for our customers? “

Now ask them “what problem do our products solve?”

Ask people in your market you have never sold to tell you what problems they think you solve…what did they say?

Can you afford for your market to get what problems your company or its specific products and or services solve for them?

Mentor Moment #4: When tempers flare, Ask yourself…”Is this the Hill you want to die on”?

family pics 046

When winning the discussion is more important that the business outcome of what you are discussing it is time to ask yourself…”Is this the Hill you want to die on?”

I was a young VP of Sales and we were in heated senior management meeting and tempers were strained. Our CFO made a comment that was not only wrong but I found it insulting to me and my team and I began to fire back. The discussion escalated and our corporate consultant observing this behavior recommended we take a break. So as we left the meeting the consultant said “let’s go for a walk Mark and get some air.”

We walked outside and he said; “you know, I know, and I even think the CFO knows you are right Mark, but is this hill you want to die on?’” I never heard this phrase before and it gave me pause.At that moment I realized this discussion was more about me winning, about defending my team, my silo, my ego, and not about what added the most value to our companies’ bottom line. Was I wrong to defend my team under attacks from the CFO? No. Was it wrong for him to blame-storm the sales team when purchasing ( his silo)  had as big a contribution if not greater in the poor quarterly performance? Yes.But this was not the hill I wanted to die on. This discussion would be much better served one on one than with the entire senior team looking on.

So we returned to the meeting and the other department heads expected me to be my Prick -ly self and instead I apologized for losing my temper, and I asked the CFO if we could meet after the meeting to discuss his perception that the sale team’s matching competitive bids was the main cause of our poor quarterly financial performance. (When we both knew the dramatic rise in raw material costs played a bigger role)

Market leading teams discuss what matters. They focus on the problems and broken processes and not people. Market leading teams discuss roadblocks to the entire team’s success and do not attack or defend silos.

Should discussions escalate and feel like they are getting personal, you need to ask yourself; “is this a hill I am willing to die on?” This quick gut check will often stop those CAM’s (Career Altering Moves) when we feel attacked and tempers flare.

There are hills you may want to die on; those that involve the safety of team members, issues that may open the organization to litigation, behaviors of team members in violation of your corporate values and mission, and or being asked to do something that violates your personal values.

Remember, it’s about adding value to the bottom line of the organization, and not about you, your ego, or you winning. You can’t win as a team if you win and another team member looses.

What do you think?

What hills are you willing to die on? Not willing to die on?

Have you found yourself in a heated discussion that was more about protecting your kingdom and or ego, than it was about adding value to the business? What caused your discussion and how did it turn out?

Do you have other questions like; is this a hill you want to die on, that you use? What are they?