What have you done lately that’s truly remarkable?

Posted on May 4, 2010

You probably aren't asking this question often enough, unless you can answer it quickly and concisely.

And I'm not just talking about your professional life.  I try to apply this same question to my personal goals and to my role as a father and husband.

It can be a scary thing to do, but it's also very rewarding when you get focused.

Before I was a parent, I laughed at the people who told me to cherish every day because before I knew it my girls would be leaving for college. Now that my girls are in junior high, I wish I'd taken that friendly advice a little more seriously.

It's not that I think I've been a poor father. I just know that time is running out for me to answer the question "What did I do for her that was truly remarkable?" when each is walking across that high school graduation stage in a few years. Right now, I can think of a million little things - and maybe in the end, it's the sum of those that mean the most - but pinpointing the remarkable is difficult.

My guess is many of us struggle the same way in our professional lives.

A lot of people in marketing departments are in it because it's a job.  They do what they're asked to do one task at a time, day by day, week by week.  Before they realize it, years have passed by and they realize they've never gone above and beyond what was asked of them.

Being a leader in your organization requires more than proper execution.  You also need to think outside the box, challenge existing processes and be bold enough to share your opinion.

Here's a question: Does your hospital host a community health fair each year?  My guess is most of you are nodding your heads.  When December rolls around, will you look back at that event and say "Wow, that really was remarkable?" I doubt it.

But what if you had made that health fair one piece of a community relations program that really changed the way people look at your organization? I guarantee you will feel better and you will be more impactful if you can build a handful of marketing tactics that define you, your organization and your brand instead of doing the same 20 things that everyone else does.

Anyone can shuffle work through a department, but few can truly do remarkable things. If you challenge yourself to list the three things you did this week, month and year that truly made a difference, it will change those results the next time you ask.

So what are you most proud of these days?  Please share your thoughts.

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Mission: Impossible? I don’t think so.

Posted on May 10, 2010

The situation:  Your competition continues to launch advertising campaigns, expand service lines and enter new markets. Your leadership team is trying to plan its next move. Your mission (should you choose to accept it, of course): Acquire your competitors' strategic plan.

OK, so you might not be able to get your hands on a physical copy of such a document.  That shouldn't dissuade you from trying to recreate it by working backwards.

That's right - instead of starting with goals, track your competitions' tactics and see what it is you believe they are trying to accomplish. You should be able to make an educated guess by doing a full competitive analysis that includes studying and comparing service lines, market share, perceptions and advertising messages/strategies.

This process will include some fairly simple tasks - closely watching all advertising tactics, news releases and community efforts.  What are they saying? Who are they saying it to?

Then take a deeper look:  Is there a cycle? For example, see if they spend their whole marketing budget at the same time every year. Determine if there are programs that you can take advantage of.

When you're done, prepare a report and use it as a tool for prioritizing your marketing strategies.

By challenging yourself to think outside of your own organization, you will likely uncover trends and opportunities that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. That doesn't mean you have to change your plan based on what others are doing - just allow yourself the flexibility to quickly react.

My guess is that if you watch your competitor closely enough, you'll probably find out that you can ascertain enough about their plan from their behavior - which certainly doesn't sound like an impossible mission.

Now, I hope you absorbed everything you just read as this blog will self-destruct in five seconds…

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Even a toddler knows a thing or two about branding.

Posted on May 18, 2010

A friend of mine recently shared with me the horror he experienced when his 21-month-old son matter-of-factly pointed to the golden arches and babbled "McDonald's" as they sped past one of the fast food chains' restaurants.

After I kindly suggested he might not have wanted to introduce his toddler to greasy fries and nuggets made of anything but chicken at such an early age, I quickly put my business hat on and wondered if there was a more powerful brand.

It turns out there are at least five, according to one expert.

Millward Brown - which studies 50,000+ international brands and has issued its annual BrandZ top 100 list for the past five years - puts McBrand at #6 with a value of $66 billion.

Now while I'm not suggesting you or I will ever need to worry about our company making this list, it is a reminder to routinely monitor your brand and measure it against your competition's brand.

Here are Millward Brown's entire top 10 North America brands for 2010, which was released last month:

  1. Google                                 $114 billion
  2. IBM                                      $86.3 billion
  3. Apple                                   $83.1 billion
  4. Microsoft                            $76.3 billion
  5. Coca-Cola                           $67.9 billion
  6. McDonald's                        $66.0 billion
  7. Marlboro                             $57.0 billion
  8. General Electric               $45.1 billion
  9. Hewlett Packard               $39.7 billion
  10. Wal-Mart                            $39.4 billion

Any surprises here for you?

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Without veterans, there’d be no entrepreneurs.

Posted on May 31, 2010

If it weren't for veterans, there might not be any entrepreneurs.

When you think of an entrepreneur, what qualities come to mind?  Risk taker?  Aggressive?  Resists the status quo?  Doesn't take "no" for an answer?

All true, I would argue.  And if it weren't for the many veterans who fought for our freedom to think and behave like entrepreneurs, where would our country be?

As we reflect on this Memorial Day, let's keep this entrepreneurial spirit alive in your companies.  Remember, being an entrepreneur is not limited to start-up companies.  Being an entrepreneur is more of a spirit and culture, rather than labeling a person.

Before I started up Legato, I did the corporate gig, mainly serving in senior leadership and marketing positions.  I'm grateful for these opportunities, because they equipped me with many of the experiences I have now.

But what I also learned is what kind of behaviors and attitudes I'll avoid when I start up my own shop.  For instance, how often do you sit in a managers meeting and wonder "Why are we talking about this?"  You continue though, because it's what's expected, and, it's your job.

You see, instead of always playing it safe, I believe we should all adopt an entrepreneurial spirit and culture within our companies - whether you're in health care, banking, manufacturing, retail or a service industry like ours.

A company with an entrepreneurial culture encourages employees to question activities that don't appear to add value, or contribute to the bottom line.  A company with an entrepreneurial culture rewards employees for taking calculated risks, seeking solutions to problems, and focusing on tangible results - rather than rewarding the norm.

True entrepreneurs see challenges as opportunities. They take action to identify solutions to those problems. And they implement them.

Entrepreneurs can help prevent your organization from becoming complacent. They bring added value through innovative ideas. That's why it makes sense to identify individuals who can employ new thinking to expand your services or help improve performance. Implement ways to not only motivate these talented individuals but also reward them before they become restless or decide that the grass is greener somewhere else. Leverage their talent and you'll discover it's a win/win for everyone.

One of my greatest motivators is someone telling me that I can't do something, or that it's been tried before and it didn't work.  Encourage yourself and your employees to have an attitude of an entrepreneur, and to not accept mediocrity.

After all, it's a privilege that didn't come to us without the many sacrifices of the veterans of this great nation.  Let's honor their memories.

Happy Memorial Day!

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