The “Grumpy” Poet – Why Should Agencies Pay for Their Clients Internal Mismanagement?

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“Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives. Ninety percent of the time you haven’t.” Peter Drucker

Everybody makes mistakes, agencies, clients, vendors, etc. What’s important is how a mistake is handled and how many mistakes have been made. As an agency we cannot afford to allow mismanagement, in particular, to lead to mistakes. Look, mistakes happen. Sometimes the wrong file gets delivered, the wrong point of contact gets emails, there’s a bug in the code, etc. These are human mistakes that can happen and can be easily dealt with. If dealt with appropriately clients will usually understand – they make mistakes too!

Mismanagement, however, is a very different beast. We’re not talking about a developer introducing a bug, a designer using the wrong hex colour, or a writer making a typo – granted these are sloppy mistakes, but not necessarily contract killers – we’re talking about management level flaws! What is not acceptable in business, of any kind, is sloppy management of project deliverables,  missed deadlines, poor communication internally and externally, missed objectives, and most importantly not sticking to the scope (basically the agreed upon contract).

I’ll be honest, in the early days of Brendan & Brendan we were not perfectly managed internally. We had our flaws and made mistakes, some of which we paid for. But we learned from these mistakes. We spent the last year re-structuring our internal processes and are continuing to do so for 2014 – and we’re better for it.

That being said, we can’t always control how our clients manage their businesses internally. We trust that when we deliver an approved project and close a contract that the client “knows” what to do next. They have a plan and process internally to manage it. Not always true – unfortunately.

Who should pay for mismanagement?

At the end of the day all parties pay for mismanagement – no one wins! The client is un-happy and may blame the agency, the agency is un-happy and may blame the client, or both parties look inward and blame their employees. Either way, it takes the FUN out of Keep Marketing Fun (yes I had to throw that in there :) ).

But here’s the thing. As an agency we cannot be held responsible for our clients internal workings. We have a single point of contact, we have a signed contract, a list of approved deliverables and deliverable schedule, as long as we stick to the “plan” we are providing the service paid for. That’s the basics of it. I’ll give you a common example that ALL agencies have succumb to:

  • Agency X is commissioned to produce a social content calendar for Facebook – not execution just the calendar.
  • The content contained within this calendar is a combination of marketing and community pieces.
  • All content in the calendar has been approved.
  • All items in the calendar have a specific date/time to be published.
  • Some items in the calendar directly correspond to other time sensitive marketing initiatives.

Enter mismanagement! The calendar has been approved, paid for, and delivered to the client. What happens next is way too common. After many conversations, planning, etc., the client does not follow through with the content calendar plan. Items either don’t get posted, get posted at the wrong time, or get posted with the wrong content. The CEO of the company notices this on Facebook and Agency X gets a call. Of course the Agency gets a call, as it can’t possibly be the company’s social team that made a mistake. I think you get the point and can guess the numerous ways this situation plays out.

A good CEO or business owner should be aware of their business is being managed. What relationships they have with service providers and what they are responsible and liable for. And, most importantly have and understanding of what they are paying for.

Point is, when mismanagement is at fault, and you can trace any mistake back to its root, it needs to be dealt with internally.

Here are a few ways to potentially prevent a clients mismanagement or vice versa becoming an issue:

  • Prior to any contractual agreement ensure that both parties understand their roles and responsibilities for a given project(s).
  • Make sure a deadline has been agreed to.
  • Collaboratively map out a calendar/schedule of deliverables, milestones, etc. and attach owners to each.
  • Write up a contract with all the above fact finding information and add any conditions that may apply – be sure to be explicit with conditions i.e. “All feedback per deliverable must be received within 24-48hrs from client in order to ensure project timeline. If feedback is received beyond the 48hr mark Agency X will not be held accountable for project timeline and deadline changes.”
  • When the scope and/or deliverables become a point of question always refer to the agreed upon contract or any other forms of milestone approvals.
  • Most importantly, have an internal process to handle the management and execution of the project and ensure the individuals working on or leading the project have the required skill set to do so.

There are many ways to help guide internal management. Tools and apps, models and philosophies, and of course choosing the right client, choosing the right agency, and making wise hires.

On a final note, as a business owner I find time, every day if possible, but always each week to do some internal fact finding (I consider it my duty). I want to know what everyone is working on. Where we’re at with certain projects. The current state of clients in regards to our services. Office morale. Etc. Without any understanding of how my (our) business is running daily there’s no way for me (us) to achieve success and prevent failure for us and our clients.

I’ll leave you with this (swap species for business) …

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin

Thoughts on the Twitter Redesign

Twitter’s refreshing immediacy and brevity solidified its position as the unique and successful social media platform it is today. But does its recent redesign compromise the platform’s distinctive appeal?

image: Twitter

Twitter’s Unique Appeal

At first blush, the concept of Twitter sounded ridiculous and even a little narcissistic. Why should the Internet care about what you want to say at this very instant in 140 characters? But soon it morphed into something more.

Twitter came to create its own category of interaction. It was a new forum for breaking news. Journalists, and perhaps more importantly citizens, could now live-tweet what was happening on the ground. The hashtag system meant you could easily access all of the developments and talking points at conferences and events. Twitter also opened to the door to mass online discussions about current cultural topics or television shows.

The Redesign

Twitter stood apart because its simplicity was able to create complex and meaningful new ways of interacting with content. It is perhaps for this reason that so many are critical of its redesign. Many are likening it to Facebook, an interface which seems to grow more and more bloated and tangled with each new iteration. But if you look beyond the banner image similarity, there are other things to consider.

Aesthetically, the new profile page retains the defining vertical scrolling (although it seems they have also experimented with a tile-based layout). A container around each tweet breaks the continuous and compact feed dynamic. Tweet font sizes now vary based on an algorithm that emphasizes more popular posts.

Functionally, the new feed will ping the Twitter servers for automatic updates. Users can now choose to pin a tweet to the top of their feed and there is the option of toggling between three different views: just tweets, tweets with replies, and posts featuring image or video.

Whereas previously the appeal of Twitter lay in the global news feed, the designers seem to want to emphasize individual profile pages more. According to David Bellona, design lead on the project, this caters to visitors that are more interested in individual personalities.

When you look at the old profile, it’s basically a glorified stream with a header on top [...] How do we slowly shift the boat to be able to make Twitter a little bit more understandable to the rest of us? –David Bellona quoted in Wired.

The redesign actually addresses many functional issues that have bothered me, personally. I’ve found myself trying, with difficulty, to follow Twitter conversations. I’ve also felt hampered when I wanted to continue tweeting but wanted a previous tweet to take precedence. The current Twitter is in some ways more intuitive.

Whether the changes feel useful or forced will probably depend on your tweeting habits. One thing’s for sure, we’ll have to familiarize ourselves with these new functionalities to best leverage them for marketing purposes.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Video of the Week – Doritos is Nailing It, BIG TIME!

I’ve mentioned it in many a post “some brands get it, some brands don’t!” 

No, it’s not the most original quote, but it’s true. And if you want to make ripples in this industry (marketing) you better pay to attention to the brands that are doing right. If you’re a regular Keep Marketing Fun reader you know some of my favourite brands: Coca-Cola, Oreo, Beats by Dre., evian, etc. What these brands all have in common is their unique, creative, and engaging marketing strategies – they are truly defining the rules and are successfully building community around their brands.

So, what does this have to do with the Video of the Week post? Over the past year or so Doritos has strategically elevated its brand to more than just a “chip” company. Ok, it’s actually a frito-lay brand but they have built an entire “brand personality” around Doritos, most consumers don’t associate Doritos with frito-lay – anymore.

Doritos, more than just a flavoured-corn-chip, is walking the path of user engagement and community building as way to identify itself with its consumers. Similar to brands like Coca-Cola or Red Bull, Doritos has evolved its image beyond just a consumable product.

Take a look at these ads/memes for example:

doritos-memes

But, this is a video post! Since 2011 Doritos has been winning awards for its creative Super Bowl commercials and this year was no let down. Not only did produce some of the best Super Bowl ads of 2014 they ran a slew of commercials leading up to and handful since.

I really love this ads – here’s a great compilation of the best Doritos ads of 2014 (so far)

Recently Doritos launched it’s “Jacked Street Race” campaign and following very closely in the foot steps of brands like Red Bull, this new campaign is targeted at extreme sport “Moped Cars” street racing. A style of street racing cars from Denmark. They recently filmed this mini-movie commercial in the Netherlands featuring well known Dutch rappers Mr. Polska, Jebroer and Skinto - take a look>

Make sure to check out the official Doritos YouTube page, they have some great content including an epic SXSW campaign.

Silicon Valley – Weekly TV Show Commentary

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Richard: What they have is like Pied Piper but not as good. People will see that.
Dinesh: Not if they get to market before us!

Season 1 Episode 3 : Articles of Incorporation

Perception can really shape the fate of a startup. A company must be aware of how their customers, investors, and public perceive them. At times, reputation can have as much impact as real operational factors.

In “Articles of Incorporation”, we see the fall out from the perception others have of Richard’s fledgling startup and learn that we see that the eccentric billionaire investor, Peter Gregory, is up to more than meets the eye.

At the start of the episode, Gavin Belson releases a very early, very cliché advertisement for the algorithm, dubbed ‘Nucleus’, that Hooli will try to copy from Pied Piper.

If we can make your audio and video files smaller, that means we can make cancer smaller… and hunger… and AIDS. –Gavin Belson

The move is obviously calculated to supplant Richard’s claim to his idea in the public eye, so the team is pretty worried. Dinesh remarks that inferior products can win out thanks to perception.

This leads to a discussion about the company’s name, ‘Pied Piper’. Turns out Richard is the only one who doesn’t hate it.

That’s not really our logo is it? It looks like a guy sucking a dick and he’s got another dick tucked behind his ear for later, like a snack dick. –Dinesh

I’ve looked it up, it’s about a predatory flautist who murders children in a cave. –Jared

What are we, an Irish pornography company? –Erlich

These are all valid and important observations. A name can give people a lasting perception of a company, so the legality and cultural significance it has can’t be overlooked. At Brendan & Brendan, finding a name for a company is often a huge production, taking hours of teamwork and research.

This episode showcases Richard’s growth as a leader. Despite his team’s repeated criticisms (and taunts), he decides to go find the owner of the sprinkler company ‘Pied Piper Irrigation Systems’ and negotiate purchasing the name rights.

Empathising with Richard’s drive to build a company from scratch, Arnold offers Richard a great deal: $1000 for the ‘Pied Piper’ name. However, it’s not long before Erlich throws a wrench in the gears. Before the anything is settled, he starts bragging to media outlets about the startup and an article on recode.net ends up seriously overrepresenting the money they have at their disposal. So, Arnold calls Richard, furious and thinking he’s been played by a tech billionaire, revokes the deal and threatens to come and “kick his ass”. How’s that for the real business impact of public perception of a company?

Store worker: My last company was genius, You ever been lost in a parking lot before? See my app would do is use existing AVL technology, so you would just type in the VIN number, you would just type in what section of the parking lot you’re in like P3 or Ground 7.
Richard: So… you just write down what section of the parking lot you’re in? Why do you need an app for that?
Store worker: So you can remember where you parked!
Richard: Yea but… why don’t you just write it down on a piece of paper?
Store worker: But… this is for your phone!
Richard: So it’s like Notepad…
Store worker: Exactly! See! You get it!

It doesn’t end there. After a liquor store worker gives Richard a long description of a pretty ill-conceived and pointless app idea, our protagonist makes a passing comment that it seems like a good idea. He didn’t count on that same employee reading the Recode article and convincing his mom to get a reverse mortgage on her home so he can pursue a pretty terrible idea. This perfectly illustrates how when people think someone is a thought leader, they’ll follow. Regardless of whether it has any real chops, and perhaps even until it’s too late to turn back.

While Richard is busy negotiating the name rights for ‘Pied Piper’, Jared, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle figure out another legal issues at home: procuring a visa for one of their foreign employees. To Jared and perhaps many viewers’ surprise, no, it’s not Dinesh, the dark-skinned programmer who speaks with a slight accent, it’s actually Gilfoyle, the white Laveyan Satanist who is not American, he’s Canadian. In a small way, Silicon Valley again reminds us that our conceptions are based on many ineffable social signals, not just reality.

In a tastefully appointed office somewhere, VC Peter Gregory receives entrepreneurs in need of an emergency injection of capital. But instead of giving them the help they expected, he goes an eccentric, protracted, hysterical exposition about Burger King.

Peter: Do you see this?
Assistant: … the Junior Whopper?
Peter: No, not the sandwich, this seed, atop the breading.
Asssitant: Those are sesame seeds.
Peter: A high number of these breadings have sesame seeds on them… billions of breadings… sesame seeds.

It looks as if he is disregarding them totally, until it is revealed he actually has quite a well-thought out plan for securing the necessary funds.

silicon-valley-episode-3-burgerEventually, the name issue is ironed out as Arnold pays Richard a visit and sees they are in fact a young struggling company. The deal is back on. However, it could easily have turned out otherwise. Because of the power of perception, Arnold could have simply withdrawn from the deal and Richard would have been forced to pick a different name.

While it is important to try and control how you are perceived, who you really are, is also undeniably important. Time and again in this episode, it is shown that those initial perceptions can be wrong and misleading, so remember to be wary of appearances. Whether you are an investor, an entrepreneur, or a consumer, remember to dig deeper.

Our Thoughts

Leila I find the protagonist, Richard, very hard to identify and empathize with. This show gives me anxiety watching them bumble through basic business transactions like incorporating. For him, every little move is like pulling teeth, and so far I’ve seen him curled up in bed on far too many occasions. The fetal position solves nothing, and while I do recognize that he’s growing, he still has his work cut out for him in terms of leading and basic business sense. It makes me feel so damned sorry for him.

Cyril Therien, Co-Founder at Telephonly - Who cares what the company is called, really. A stupid name is bad, but almost any name that isn’t horrible is good enough if you have an awesome product. Just ask Twitter. It is important to keep in mind that the name has no market value yet, the brand doesn’t exist and, for all intents and purposes, neither does the company “Pied Piper”. I think the lesson here was meant to be, “Fight for what you want”, but the takeaway is: “I confused things with their names: That is belief.” – Jean Paul Sartre.

Got something to say? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re a startup and would like to weigh in on the commentary for a following episode let us know.

What Does Easter Have To Do With It?

Once upon a time, according to Christianity, Jesus was reincarnated. And what does that mean for us now?

Eggs
Rabbits
Chocolate

More specifically: chocolate eggs handed out by grown-ass men in rabbit costumes. Or at least it used to be that way, until the Mass Commercialization of Easter (MCoE) happened. Now we must buy almost as many presents for kids as we do during Christmas, and there must be a chocolate version of everything. Case in point:

Rabbits love carrots, so we must feed them chocolate carrots?
chocolate-carrotsRabbits also apparently don’t hop fast enough, so they must ride vehicles?

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Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head are now a part of the Witness Protection Program as Mr. & Mrs. Egg Head. Just in time for Easter!

mr-mrs-potato-headThere’s also a hedgehog involved in Easter? This is news to me.

spike the hedgehog

In a galaxy far, far away, there are also Storm Trooper Easter bunnies

star wars easterOne could argue that “everything is awesome” when you have Lego in your Easter basket:

legoeasterAnd the pièce de resistance: for all the terrible vegans in your life

easter-avocadoSo what’s the weirdest Easter chocolate you’ve seen? Send us pics!

SEO Traffic: A Reminder

Credit: Paul Couture

Credit: Paul Couture

Full Disclosure: I’m a professional SEO who has a heavily vested interest in companies investing in, well, SEO so that I can carve out my own little slice of the American Dream.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let me get to the point as quickly as possible: SEO represents the most targeted source of traffic online.

Why? Well, because search engines send you users who are (1) already interested in your products or services, and (2) they’re already looking to buy. In other words, they are already one step down the conversion funnel. You don’t have to convince them to buy. You just have to convince them to buy from you, and if you’ve done your job, they’re already on your website.

Social traffic is great for brand visibility, but not so much for driving sales. I mean, sure, you can target people by interests and social graph and all other kinds of creepy data sets. But when people log on to Facebook or Twitter, they’re there to hangout and talk sh*t. They’re not there go shopping.

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Even if you use a killer piece of content to drive them back to your site, there’s no guarantee that they’re in the mood to make a purchasing decision, or even in the market for whatever it is you’re trying to sell them. In fact, they’re probably not even going to look at your products or service pages. They’re just gonna consume your content, share it (which is great), and then move on.

With search engines, though, you can get in front of users who are actively shopping around, and when you do, its your products or service pages that they’re looking at.

Of course, there are some inconvenient truths about SEO, like how it’s not a quick fix. In fact, it’s something you have to actually invest in over time. You’re going to need to do things like create killer content and build an ongoing keyword narrative.

But the investment is going to be worth it. That is, of course, as long as you’re selling something that actually offers value and you’re not a complete jerk to your customers.

But, seriously, think about it. If you don’t believe me, just dive in to your Google Analytics and compare the average conversion rate of your organic search traffic with your other traffic sources. The numbers don’t lie

The “Grumpy” Poet – Blog Frequently or Don’t Blog at All!

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The “Grumpy” poet has once again moved to a new spot from Monday to Wednesday to make room for our new weekly feature the “Silicon Valley – Weekly TV Show Commentary“.

This column started on Wednesday, so it only makes sense to move it back, and besides hump day is the best day to be grumpy!

This move gives me the opportunity to discuss another subject that really makes my blood curdle – inconsistent blogging!

Here on Keep Marketing Fun we manage to post daily, well 5 times a week Mon-Fri. It is very important for us to develop a frequent and consistent blogging schedule. Since we began this blog just over a year ago, we have reaped the benefits of staying on schedule. Our search ranking and traffic has steadily increased, our followers continue to grow, shares, comments, and likes are up and most importantly we have reached prospects and converted them into clients.

We all know “Content is King” but I’d rather not debate that, personally I think the phrase is exhausted and oversimplifies the issue at hand. Do you want to build a community? Do you want to be seen as an expert in your field? Do you want to attract leads? Etc. Then producing quality content is key and doing it once a quarter just doesn’t cut it!

If you’re running a business and you have a blog you need to actually use it. Don’t blog once a day for 4 weeks then pause for 6 weeks. That kind of inconsistency kills traffic and deters repeat readers. You need to sit down with your team, put together a schedule, and stick to it.

If I come across a post I like, I’ll revisit that site. If after a few times I realize there is no new content, I get bored! I won’t sign up to your newsletter and I’ll forget that your blog exists. You’ve lost me as a reader and any potential that I might share it with my network. Why should I or anyone waste time checking a stagnant blog?

Frequency vs Consistency

I’ve been throwing the words consistency and frequency around a lot. Let’s quickly discuss the differences between them and how they add up to good blogging.

Frequency is the rate at which you publish new content. Get a schedule together and have your team stick to it. 1 post a week, bi-weekly downloads, monthly case study, etc. Whatever the frequency you can manage.

Consistency is about sticking to the strategy you have mapped out. Again, don’t publish once a day for 4 weeks and pause for 6 weeks. Stick to your schedule. Both visitors and search engines will notice the inconsistency.

Still not drinking my Kool-Aid?

Here are a few more reasons why I’ll-blog-when-I have-time won’t work:

  • Google looks for fresh content. If you’re publishing frequently your blog will be crawled and indexed frequently.
  • The better your content and the more frequently you publish it, the more important Google considers your blog, hence better rankings and traffic – see last point.
  • Frequent content leads to repeat traffic/readers. You’re creating anticipation. Readers will come back more often and share your content with their networks.
  • The more content you produce the more inbound links you get. With frequent content you’re giving other blogs and websites a reason to link back to you – Google likes this.
  • More traffic means more opportunity to capture leads: get newsletter subscriptions, blog subscriptions, Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, etc.
  • You can nurture leads and qualify them. With a dedicated following you or your sales team can reach out to prospects. Respond to comments on your blog or comments on inbound links.

Put yourself in the readers’ shoes. Think about the blogs you regularly follow and why you follow them and why you signed up for their newsletter? Chances are they publish often.

Case in point

Last summer we started aggressively blogging. We began receiving both emails and phone calls from potential clients. When asked “how did you find us?” we were surprised at the answer “I just finished reading your blog post on…”.  Traffic was up on Keep Marketing Fun (in fact it was higher, and continues to remain higher than our corporate portal), we were getting more social juice and linkbacks. All was good in the world of words.

With this sudden influx of work, we started getting lazy with the blog. Well, to be honest we didn’t have the bandwidth, but that should not have been an excuse, especially when the blog proved to be a major sales channel. Blogging became less frequent and both traffic and leads dropped.

From that point on we made the decision to blog 5 days a week no matter what. We created a basic content calendar to start and strategized on content verticals. Since then we have not seen a drop, only a lift.