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Ted Matthews Interview : The Real Meaning of ‘Brand’ is Outstanding Culture

Ted Matthews - Culture

At the back of John Warrillow’s Built to Sell, I saw a book mentioned as a must read. That book is Brand : It ain’t the logo*. The asterisk stands for “It’s what people think of you.”

This perspective matches and aligns with my own views quite closely. After a short chat with Ted Matthews via email, a copy of the book arrived and I was reading away.

Why is branding not a creative logo? What is it really?

Branding is the managed care and nurturing of the culture of an organization- building a brand must start, take hold, connect first on the inside, with internal stakeholders- employees and partners and then through osmosis it connects to external stakeholders- customers and critically important future employees.

The logo leads in the visual identity of an organization- important because humans are very visual beings, as Malcolm Gladwell popularized, we recognize images in a ‘blink’ vs recognizing spoken or typeset names. And in this hyper-messaging world nanosecond recognition is the Brander’s key objective.

What are the three primary tools of branding? Why are these overlooked?

Everybody who comes out of business school, knows there are strictly followed tools and rules for the financial discipline- the value protector – managed by the ‘important’ financial department. While there have never been tools or rules, or never a department, for managing the culture/brand discipline- the greatest value creator! There are now…
Tool #1 Be remark-able; have a product or service so good, so unique that people talk about it, publicizing and recommending for you. Jeff Bezos has said “Advertising is the penalty you pay for having an unremarkable product.” Honda has a new feature in their van for the young families who still buy vans- a vacuum for all the crumbs and crushed Cheerios! There, I’ve ‘remarked’ for Honda, no advertising required.
Tool #2 Own a position; a Brand must have a unique and ownable point of difference. If you are not different then you are the same, and same dies away. Volvo owns ‘safety’. Staples owns ‘easy’.
Tool #3 Build you Brand with experiences; Surround your offering with positive experiences, people never forget how you make them feel! AltlasCare, a home heating and air conditioning provider, trains their service people on every detail of experience- like where to stand and how to address people at their front door.

So if it is true that culture is the brand, why do so many companies give this so little attention while giving so much attention to creative services?

Hey, the creative part is fun, involves new ideas, working with crazy fun people, maybe a bit of Hollywood- shooting commercials, seeing your ‘creativity’ on TV. But as for culture, it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff, relationship-stuff, stuff never taught in business schools.
Founding entrepreneurs create culture instinctively- usually around their own personalities, character and their vision for something better. But as organizations grow, they outgrow their founder’s skill set or interest. BlackBerry is an example, two guys change the way the whole world communicates and then loose interest, ‘cause it’s (vision) done- they had moved onto other things that now challenge them.
This is when firms get turned over to professional managers who know how to run businesses at scale BUT, this gets back to our systemic problem, these biz grads never learned about culture nurturing or anything about brand beyond- it’s marketing’s function. Full stop!

You state that if the culture is right, everything falls into place. How should corporations deal with the fact that most of them do not have the culture right and likely not even be able to know it?

Every organization needs a surrogate for the entrepreneur. First, in this broader definition of brand- what people think of you – the CEO needs to assume the role of CBO- chief brand officer. They need to capture their guiding principles in a brand foundation- the carved-in-stone, 7-commandments that guide the organization in everything they say and do. Their core purpose- why they exist, their vision- where they are going and how they will know when they arrive. The mission- what they have to do consistently EVERY day to get there. Their values- who they are as people, their principles. Their position- as I said, how they are different. And their character- their image, their voice. Then the CBO needs to relentlessly remind people of these guiding principles and that everyone has a role in building their brand- consistency is the #1 rule of branding.

You mention an interesting quote at the start of the chapter on “Evolution, not Revolution” by Charles Kettering: “We have a lot of people revolutionizing the world because they’ve never had to present a working model.” Please discuss what that quote means to you.

Kettering was an interesting guy- inventor, businessman, a serial entrepreneur with over 180 patents. In the mid 1800’s he invented the electric starter for gas engines- started Delco- part of GM today.
For me, his quote is about all the people who think innovation and change are easy. While discounting the contribution of our ‘wacky’ entrepreneurs, impatient investors push and merge organizations destroying what made them successful in the first place- my own 30-year, 80-person firm, was deconstructed in 28 months after a merger- another unmanaged clash of cultures. Change must happen, but it must evolve, retaining the brand equity- what an organization is known for. Look, in the news recently- J C Penny is now apologizing for the rush to change by their last board appointed CEO. GAP stirred up a hornet’s nest among their stakeholders with a wholesale identity change that was also reversed. A company does not ‘own’ its brand, it’s owned by the stakeholders who love it.

What events typically precede an organization being ready for change in their culture and why is this so hard to recognize?

It becomes increasingly difficult to retain the best people and impossible to attract new stars.
This flesh-eating disease is hard to recognize, because it sneaks up slowly and is only diagnosed and reported by an under-respected department in North American organizations – HR.
And this is the root of the most critical issue of our day.
Fouled by our leaders’ misunderstanding of brand, their default positioning is ‘cheap’. Then, to ‘sell-for-cheap’ we have given away our former well-paying production jobs to Asia and now, to employ our neighbors so they CAN buy from us, we need to invent all new jobs and do it with a dwindling workforce. 70 million boomers readying to retire, only 30 million young people (not all of them stars) available to replace them.
This startling truth has been disguised by the years of recession- firms watching costs so not hiring, boomers hanging on to jobs in fear their investments won’t support them, young folks (therefore), not seeing the openings and at the same time being a generation that wants a job with meaning, a job with a organization with a core purpose.

It is time for America (and the world) to understand brand, to understand it’s a compelling culture they need.

Again that book is Brand : It ain’t the logo*. The asterisk stands for “It’s what people think of you.”

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When the Best Infographics Are No Infographic at All?

I’m continually amazed by the number of people who skip text and bypass words and text altogether. I came across an amazing inadvertent and automated example on the National Weather Service Chicago website regarding this Sunday’s weather forecast.








As you can see the graphical representation says Sunday will have freezing rain and it will be 43 degrees. Say what? Then it says on Sunday night it there will be rain and the low will be 33 degrees. Huh? This make no sense. For my metric friends, zero Centigrade equals 32 degrees Fahrenheit so it appears that freezing rain will occur while it is above freezing, a highly unlikely occurrence.

The actual text of the forecast is as follows:

  • Saturday Night   Partly cloudy, with a low around 28. South southeast wind around 10 mph.
  • Sunday  A chance of rain or freezing rain before noon, then rain showers. High near 44. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
  • Sunday Night    A 50 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 35.

With complete text information we can now see that the temperature will be below freezing on Saturday night and that there is a possibility of freezing rain Sunday morning.

But remember this simple example the next time you are watching a mind-numbing Powerpoint presentation on some esoteric subject.  Ask yourself, does this make complete sense? Is proper acumen and judgment being applied?

Frequently it is not. But if human judgment is not actively present and questioning the presentation of certain graphics, they can lead to misapplication of resources and priorities.

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Jeffrey Hayzlett Book Interview – Running the Gauntlet : Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits

Jeffrey Hayzlett - Running the Gauntlet : Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits In the highly anticipated follow up to The Mirror Test, Jeffrey Hayzlett now brings us Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits due from McGraw-Hill in January 2012. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know Jeffrey, he’s certainly a unique bird. He’s engaged me not only on stage buy off with invites to special events at conferences, restaurants and has already introduced me to many interesting people I never would have met otherwise. I can only imagine what lies ahead! The mutual lifelong learning and fun back and forth is awesome. Jeffrey was kind enough to grant us one of the first reads of the book and interviews. Let’s get to it!

Q: You mention Henry Ford creating the assembly line: “Productivity was so astounding that Ford stopped measuring it. By 1914, other companies needed for five times as many workers to build the same hundreds of thousands of cars as Ford.” Henry Ford was also known for paying workers well. It seems the best way to improve standards of living is large productivity gains?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: That’s one way, I don’t know if it’s the only way or the best way.  It’s more of a philosophy, give people what they want and get the things you want.  Provide a great product or service, of high quality, and there will be consumers.  The same theory can be applied to anything you are advertising, marketing or promoting.  For example, use the workers in Henry Ford’s plant and productivity. In Ford’s plants they became so good they stopped measuring.  It was about not only paying workers a fair wage – a good wage – but about offering them other things, enticing them, so they could buy the product they made, have pride in ownership, pride in building the products they created.  There are lots of different ways to go about getting the things you want.  Money may not always be the greatest incentive when gaining productivity or motivation.  Again, find out what people want and then give it to them.  Motivating my salespeople isn’t always about making good money – it can be a way to keep “score” – but sometimes it can be offering incentives such as golf balls, trips, even cowboy boots to get the team excited to want to go out and do more on the company’s behalf.

Q: Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but didn’t launch it back then……why?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Their success led to their own demise.  Because they were trying to protect the great margins film had – you had a product that was 70, 80 even as high as 90% in terms of profitability.  They were doing everything they could to keep that alive for as long as they could.  The problem became they forgot what type of company they were.  They started to believe they were a film company rather than a company that would help people make images and move information, a company focused on innovation, a company providing emotional technology.  They had the only product people would actually run into a burning building to save, yet they focused on being a film company rather than a company that can innovate and recreate itself again and again and again.  If we look at the most successful companies, whether it be IBM, Apple or a host of others it’s about being able to reinvent yourself as well as remembering at the core of it all who you really are.

Q: You suggest a fear of change and that this can inhibit healthy debate with those that disagree with us. What is the best way to create culture that can thrive on healthy debate, starting with how we pick a new breed of leaders?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: We all know that leadership starts at the top but is also reinforced and thrives at the bottom.  So across the organization if you don’t have leaders at the top of the org that are willing to not only to create tension but take it as well then you are not going to get the give and take that you want at an organization.  You won’t be able to encourage innovation, encourage change and encourage growth because everybody will be looking out after themselves because they are afraid of what they might say because the boss might have retribution.  So the key is to create an organization where people can stand up and question things.  By standing up and questioning things you create the tension in the system and you get something better than you first started with.  If I start with item A and someone starts with item Z and we start creating so much friction back and forth and this friction creates a fire of new ideas somehow we’ll go one way or the other to move the new idea to a better place.  I think that’s what great leaders try to do.

Q: When I worked at BlackRock(BLK) there was discipline around process, but it was flexible to allow breakthrough ideas. In Chapter 14 you wrote “Some people get caught up in the idea rather than the process, but I think the process leads to the idea.” Please elaborate on this concept…

Jeffrey Hayzlett: It’s a little bit of both in this particular case.  Certainly you can have a great idea but if you can’t get it out and get it through the process it will never see itself through fruition – it will never make it to market.  I can remember one time sitting in a meeting with a chief technology officer – one of the smartest guys in the world that I had ever met.  He said, “Jeff, you realize because I make this product, I create this software program – if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have a job.”  I had to remind him that it could be the greatest product in the world but if it weren’t for me selling it and marketing it – getting it out through the process and to the customers’ hands that he wouldn’t have anything.  So that’s what I’m talking about the process leads to the idea.  By having great processes and great systems set up then you can try to push things through to allow things to be able to win. If you don’t have a great process, even the greatest ideas will lose before they begin.

Q: So when done right, this can allow a company to focus on the future more effectively?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Absolutely, by having a great system, a great process, a great way of channeling greatness then you’re going to be able to look for more things to put through to your following.  Look at the greatest sports teams in the world, it is those that focus on the fundamentals of having great athletes – not just one great player or two and then try to build the team around them but yet having a great team made up of different people and that’s what process does for us.

Q: In the 1993 classic book, Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and John Champy they mention that executives are “frighteningly unfamiliar” with three forces, separately and in combination: Customers, Competition and Change. You actively did this in those retail stores. Given the popularity of that book almost two decades ago, why do you think companies are still so unable to focus on these basics?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: I think so many companies focus on the next big thing, the big peel, the magic peel.  I think especially in the US we look to that one big thing that will do it for us rather than again getting back to that process, getting back to good and hard work.  If it was easy anyone could do it – it’s not supposed to be easy.  Therefore, the focus on competition, the focus on customers, the focus on change are just as good today as they were decades before.  It’s important for us to be able to take a look at how we implement change, look at customer and competitors to be able to drive and channel the forces behind being successful.

Q: “Radical transparency is not a one-way street of engagement.” Why do people have such a hard time developing a 2-way mindset in search marketing and social media?

Jeffrey Hayzlett: Inherently, I think it’s because people are scared.  Most people don’t like to get feedback.  I was one time in a phase in my life where I wore all black all the time.  Someone asked me why and I said because it makes you look slimmer.  The person turned back to me and said, well it’s not working.  I think a lot of people are afraid to hear that feedback sometimes and it takes a very strong leader and a strong person to get into that 2-way mindset, that it’s ok to get feedback – both positive and negative.  By the way, look at the negatives as a gift because that’s a way for you to be able to change, to turn around that potential customer or that person who’s had a negative experience.  I’ve heard from brand leaders and internal departments (HR, Legal) where they want to try to control the situation but you can’t control the situation. When it comes to brands especially, you can’t control it because a brand is nothing but a promise delivered.  It’s about delivering a promise and when you deliver that promise or opportunity up to the customer it’s going to be interpreted in different ways.  Sometimes that’s positive and many times its also negative.  Yet you should be strong enough in your leadership abilities, strong enough in your offering to be able to understand that this will come with everything.  There’s going to be a good, a bad and an ugly but the good should always outweigh the other two.

For more information, please visit Thank you!

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Alan Weiss Interview – Million Dollar Referrals Book

Alan Weiss Million Dollar Referrals
Bestselling Author Alan Weiss

Alan Weiss has written over 45 books. Absorb that for a minute. That is a heck of alot of books.

His latest is Million Dollar Referrals (McGraw- Hill). A timely title about one of the most unique marketing art forms, referrals. Why timely? With constant changes in media and the rise of new channels such as social media, referrals can make or break many kinds of businesses. It is certainly an under-managed areas of marketing strategy in most organizations that has potential to improve business results. Like most marketing it requires your value proposition to be crystal clear as you are asking someone else to explain it to someone else. I can say from experience that many people skip this step.

Million Dollar Referrals is a clearly written, thought provoking read. The kind folks at McGraw-Hill were kind enough to set up an interview with Alan Weiss, the conversation is below….

The opening chapter discusses “Business Relationships are a Process, Not an Event”. You could replace the word relationships with many other concepts. Making that switch requires changing personal habits and or corporate culture. What is the best way to create this behavior change?

Alan Weiss: It merely requires educating your buyer and client. Culture change is a rubric, signifying less than nothing these days. Demonstrate to the client the nature of the relationship and partnership in terms of ongoing interaction and support.

What are the typical issues that can lead to a consulting provider being replaced? Can referrals be used effectively to ignite that need for a change in provider?

Alan Weiss: Trust that is violated. It’s very difficult to replace a highly respected consultant in a client. You can use referrals to become an additional resource as opposed to a replacement.

If you were starting a new consulting company from scratch today what areas would you take extra care to distinguish unique value in today’s highly competitive and global landscape?

Alan Weiss: Responsiveness; intellectual property; testimonials; global applicability; thought leadership; contrarianism.

You discuss that for referrals to be successful, clear communication of both targets and mutual benefit need to be present. What is the hardest part about consistently achieving this?

Alan Weiss: Being afraid to ask, failing to follow up, taking “no” too readily, not adequately demonstrating the win/win/win nature.

The are many new areas of strategic consulting involving technology convergence, search marketing, mobile, etc. What is the best way to convey certain value for new services where the price is not well established?

Alan Weiss: Price has nothing to do with it. The key is to show the value in terms of the buyer personal needs as well as the organizational need. Every client knows what he wants; few know what the need. Consultants should identify the needs.

Is there any way to create referrals when you are working with a client under a non-disclosure agreement?

Alan Weiss: Sure. You can be referred outside the industry, or without regard to the nature of the work, and without revealing that the source was a client.

Is there any major issues you think people over look with referrals?

Alan Weiss: They don’t prepare their clients or the environment, and fail to consistently ask because they are embarrassed.

I understand you occasionally put on some unique seminars? Is anything upcoming?

Alan Weiss: Just finished Thought Leadership at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Million Collar Consulting® College next week. Australia speaking tour after that. The Art of the Referral Workshop in Newport on Nov. 30.





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No Amount Of Paid Lobbyist Dollars Can Prevent Content Revolution

Brian Solis checked in with a guest post on TechCrunch this morning regarding the disclosure debate.

To be clear, it’s a thoughtful post and I don’t disagree with anything materially in what was said. So why write about this? I find the entire conversation to be 100% completely unnecessary.

First a story. When I was a teenager, I saw in ad in the back of a magazine, it stated to send $1 and a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to receive information on a tried and proven money making business strategy. It sounded good so I sent it in. A few weeks later I got a my envelope in the mail. It contained a small note that contained a message like this:

A proven way to make money:

– Open a post office box

– Place a small ad in the back of a magazine asking for $1 and a SASE to “learn a proven way to make money”

– Put your $1 bills in the bank and send notes like this one

Yes, I was scammed. But being scammed was an important event in making me a more careful and better consumer. I learned. It was necessary for me to grow. Did the magazine know the ad was a scam? Probably. Did that stop them from publishing it? No. Consumers need to judge each situation for themselves based on the data available and make the best decision.

So Dave why is this potential FTC regulation unnecessary (and possibly quite harmful)?

  1. The content revolution is not well enough defined to regulate it – It’s changing all of the time, if businesses and individuals still have trouble understanding it’s implications on our society. How can a group of elder statespeople in our government know what is right? Simple answer. They can’t. As traditional media loses relevancy/power content will increasingly be created by the masses. It’s a simple fact. Get used to it, in the long run, it may actually lead to the removal of the abuse of monopoly power.
  2. Traditional advertising is not generally marked in the manner the FTC is suggesting – When you watch TV, ADVERTISING is not in giant letters on the commercial during the program is it? No. It’s not on outdoor billboards. It’s not in newspapers, magazines or the majority of web site banner ads. Why? Because it’s obvious to those who look closely. Creating a double standard here is just plain silly and it’s insulting to people’s intelligence.
  3. Previous FTC measures have proven to be massive failures – The FTC instituted the Do Not Call List Registry and the CAN-SPAM  Act several years ago. Yet I get numerous unsolicited commercial calls to numbers I’ve registered on the list. I get tons of spam from email lists that I have NEVER signed up for on a daily basis. Regulation without enforcement results in selective usage of the law. This is not good and can be abused on both sides. The FTC has a proven history of failure and should go fix it’s previous messes before creating unnecessary new ones.
  4. Social media platforms should do everything possible to prevent fraudulent usages – I see tons of fraudulent Twitter users emerging daily. Twitter should be creating validation of each and every user which would lead to an immediate reduction in questionable activity. Why aren’t they? Because it would put holes and raise questions about Twitter’s “growth story” and that with no revenue model in sight would lead to lower valuations and less money being pumped into the company. Twitter has a responsibility here and I don’t see it doing everything it can to eliminate questionable activity on the platforms. If the social media platforms acted responsibly – unnecessary legislation could be avoided.
  5. The traditional advertising industry is apparently using lobby influence dollars to try to maintain it’s declining monopoly power via regulation – Content is taking over the economy as search allows people to find it and social media networks allow it’s distribution.  This is similar to how the printing press once revolutionized content distribution. We are living in something like this again now.  Yes there will be pain. But regulations in the middle of the content revolution will hinder commerce and slow the process of replacing business models that are no longer highly relevant. Do we legislate against fuel efficient vehicles in favor of gas guzzlers? No, of course we don’t – why create unnecessary legislation that harms new forms of efficiency? yes, this really is this unnecessary. 
  6. “All Marketers Are Liars” – This famous book by Seth Godin indicates that deceptive advertising has always been a part of society and likely always will be. This is NOT new. Don’t we respect people enough to make their own judgments? I do. Why then act like it’s new? It’s not.

Look at the facts of history, the proposed FTC regulations will solve nothing and do nothing besides place a greater burden on commerce in an already struggling economy. We can prevent this grave mistake. Now let’s go do it.

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David Meerman Scott – BMA B2B UNLEARN Conference 2009

Before David’s talk today, I had the opportunity to chat with him for a while. We had been talking in backchannels for quite some time and it was great to finally connect in person. I learned throughout our conversation that we have similar backgrounds in financial services, data products and negative events in both of our lives have served as motivators.  He also gave some customized advice on how he thought I should proceed in my journey to transform companies marketing.

After lunch he gave a highly intense 50 minute speech. He talks fast (as do I) so I think I missed a little bit of the talk in this blog post, but I hope that you are still able to glean the vlaue out of it that I did, seeing him live brought his ideas to a new level for me. He’s done a fantastic job of simplifying the complex, we shoudl all learn from his example.

Without further delay, here is my live blog post of his talk (please forgive brevity and language errors):

In the past 30 to 60 days have you used or replied to the following media:
Direct mail – 3% replied
Mainstream Media – 22% replied
Print Yellow Pages – 3% replied
Google, etc 100% replied
Tapped peer to peer network to get URL 80%

Why are we still focused on the 2-3% methods rather than the 80% and 100% methods?

Cindy Gordon at Universal Orlando told 7 just people the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Mainstream media and other people followed – when 7 = 350,000,000 million

What are we after? Attention. Cindy Gordon earned that attention via a Midnight conference call with 7 people.

David Meerman Scott – in 2002 he was fired laid off from Thomson for practicing cutting edge marketing. People are afraid of content based marketing. They are still afraid of it. THis fear is harmful in a multitude of ways.

Dentist in Boston. Started a blog. Wrote “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex” a free ebook. The ADA hated it. Her business is now doing $1 million dollars a year.

“You must unlearn what you have learned.” –Yoda

Prospects. Tell your story to an interested market.

Every hotel web site is the same. Boring, product focused.

Imagine a hotel website that was customized for each buyer? Businessperson, corporate travel manager, family choosing a vacation spot, wedding planning, event planner, etc

Who are your buyer personas?

What do you want your buyer personas to believe?

You can…
Buy attention…TV attention (talked about how silly CPM banners are would you like to buy space on the back of his laptop?)
Beg for attention…
Bug for attention…
Earn Attention…the best way…in the new rules!!!

Example: Approva
Internal Auditors….
Videos on Youtube “Happy Birthday Sarbanes Oxley”

On the web, you are what you publish…

It’s all about people…and some people aren’t playing nice on social media…

He put 14,000 post it notes on Jaguar, 3M liked it and contacted him. He asked for $2,000 for more notes. They said no. They got slammed and destroyed a positive thing.

If your mother would say it wrong, it probably is.

Encourage sharing…

Why do people use this Gobbledygook? 350 most overused phrases. Then counted the number of times this was used. The Gobbledygook Manifest.

Visual Gobbledygook – don’t do it.

Parents against reprehensible metal music…was a bait and switch – Toyota Matrix 2009

Causes this  “You are trapped on this website, you are screwed” syndrome

The back button is the 3rd most used web feature. (Sad isn’t it?)

You must lose control of your marketing!!!

The Grateful Dead allows bootlegging of their concerts and  music. Millions of people download it and adore the music. Lose control of your marketing… (I’d like to point out that this is not a new concept great to see an old school example)

Example: Mailer Mailer – made a whitepaper totally free – created a 20x increase in downloads – all for abandoning the email address! A good trade you should all make.

Put down roots – be where your audience is.

Kadient – The new rules of sales enablement – landscape rather than portrait, color rather than black and white.

Point the world to your virtual doorstep! Queensland, Australia had a contest, 34,000 entries and one guy creating content once he won.

FEAR – You have to unlearn what you learned

We want 330,000 people to be in Public Affairs.  In a world where people block social media, the Air Force promotes and social media.

I can’t do this…I’ve heard every excuse in the world…if a B2B German Toilet company can do it, you can.


David like my recent post about VP of Communications at Universities enough to tweet it, check it out!

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TECH cocktail CONFERENCE Chicago – Creating Change For The Future

Wow! That was tiring, I stepped on the L at 7:30AM and didn’t get home until 1:30AM the next morning! 18 hours of pure madness! Most people noticed the great speeches by Gary Vee from Wine Library TV and Dick Costolo (aka ask the wizard) and others. But what I really appreciated was the other things that the day brought to me. When Frank Gruber and Eric started TECH cocktail, one of the goals was to enable the interaction of people and removing barriers between entrepreneurs, funding sources and removing the boundaries between Chicago and the rest of the world.

When I sit at the first TECH cocktail CONFERENCE Chicago watching great speeches and meeting people from startups from both the east and west coasts while talking, playfully joking about Internet concepts and trading ideas with a local Chicago angel investor in the back of the room for hours on end – it’s at that moment one can clearly perceive a vision is starting to become reality…

For a first conference, it was very well run. There were those little things with a venue that didn’t go quite right with the elevators and not having enough power outlets (but you could say that about any conference) but those were out of their direct control. You could see that Eric and Frank went out of their way to challenge the audience about topics that too often go ignored at startups, like how to set up a corporate entity properly, partnerships and most of these challenges and experiments went well.

So what’s next? I’d like to challenge each and every person in TECH cocktail community to take things to the next level by taking the following actions:

1. Follow Up – People need to work to get to know each other better and learn to leverage each person’s special gifts and talents and realize that 1 + 1 > 2 when we behave in this manner. For me, I know that creating new business partners while listening to help iterate the product, data model or service is my area of strength.

2. Change TECH cocktail from an event to an everyday process on your own – a three month cycle time is not sufficient to build relationships to the next level – it’s everyone’s responsibility to make an hour here and there to sit down with someone, learn about what they are doing, give them a fresh perspective and potential assistance. Don’t wait for the next TECH cocktail event. If this means you need to organize your contact info, make that important time investment.

3. Listen to what Dick Costolo had to say about Internet company NDAs and then change your behavior accordingly (where is the video of that speech anyway?)Stop sending people NDAs that serve no purpose other than to destroy your access to people who are the most qualified to help you. Ideas are a dime a dozen, assembling the right people with the current knowledge and future potential to create that reality is what matters.

4. Go beyond lurking, participate!!! During the conference, I had at least 10 people talk to me about a blog post of mine in detail, yet they’ve never left a comment on my blog. That’s sad. Leaving a comment leaves you a hyperlink back to your business or blog and allows distribution of one’s business network organically removing them as the bottleneck, please use this viral tool.

5. Learn to hire people for their current knowledge, network, blogs and future potential – not legacy job titles and brands – this takes work, research and being involved in the community, but it is how you’ll find the breakthrough thought leaders and future superstars.

6. Become an ambassador to expanding the understanding of the tools we all use and expand our base of understanding to new people outside our core – If you have a client or operate a service do they understand what Internet advertising, blogs, rss, social media, twitter, etc do? If they do is their organizational culture and structure set up to handle it to serve a customer’s needs? Many people know there is a problem but do not know where to start to fix it – I want to help those people as it will ease the adoption and enhance demand for disruptive new Internet services. I’m planning a series of future posts on this important, yet highly untouched topic. If you have examples of success stories or learnings in this area, I’d love to hear from you.

What else would you add to this list? I look forward to your contributions.