Saturday, 25 September 2010

Marketing - Don't forget the Basics!

Last week I chaired a seminar on marketing; one of a series of seminars that are held on a regular basis by one of Prague’s business associations, the International Business Forum. The seminar was focused on how marketing has changed and developed out of all recognition over the past few years, and I must say that after listening to the expert speaker on ‘social media’ I wanted to immediately rush back to my office and to start setting up microsites, vlogs, new blogs and all sorts of other things!

The audience was a mixture of experienced marketing people and bosses of companies of various sizes; those from SMEs were probably there to pick up as much information as possible in order to go off and try and do whatever they could themselves; those from the bigger companies were more likely there to learn more, in order to see whether their own marketing people were doing their job.

What was clear from the discussions that followed is that the main marketing questions are still being forgotten – i.e. ‘what are we trying to achieve with our marketing’ and ‘who are we targeting’ (and I am afraid that this is nothing new – I always ask a new client, and I am often met with a blank stare!). Now that might sound daft, especially to an experienced marketing person’s ears, but in a country that is still fairly new to sales and marketing, and where the people responsible for doing the work are often very inexperienced (or who hold a completely different role in the company and are just ‘doing the marketing because they can’) there is a huge risk of hours and hours being spent on ‘new marketing’, but with a very poor end result.

Some random questions/comments raised yesterday:

• A great video (I am not clear on who actually made it, but it wasn’t Coke) posted on a blog, showing the effect that placing a ‘Mentos mint’ has on an open bottle of Diet Coke – don’t try it at home!! This video has, apparently, been viewed by millions of people, and the audience yesterday tended to feel that the Coke marketing people must have loved it… so much free advertising for them. But would they really love it? Is it ‘effective’ advertising just because it shows the brand to millions of people (even if, to my mind, it could actually put you off drinking Diet Coke forever!)? Should we all rush off and post videos of our companies on blogs and microsites and then just sit back and watch the work roll in? Is it really as easy to advertise as that?!

• A question; ‘how often would the panel recommend that a new blog is posted in order to achieve a successful result?’ Without any mention of what the purpose was of having the blog in the first place – was it to gain new friends, get interest from customers, entertain the writer? Without knowing why you are writing it and what you want to achieve from it, then how can you define whether it is successful?

• A comment: ‘50% of my time is spent during the working day on Facebook and, as a marketing person, I consider that to be part of my job’….and another, on a similar subject: ‘my colleague has more than 7,000 contacts through Linked-in, but when I ask him how many of them actually relate to new business brought in, he can’t answer it…. ‘ Is building a network of contacts really as easy as that? And by doing it will it bring in lots of new sales and business? Or is networking and building a contact base just a little more difficult?

Whilst I am definitely sold on social media (why else would I be writing this!) I think that we could run the risk of forgeting the real skill that is involved in successfully promoting a company. Social media makes it easy for everyone to get networking, to post information, images, adverts, make contacts… but if we all forget the basics of marketing then all of this time spent may not actually work … and us wise old birds will be back to sitting with clients who want to tell us that ‘marketing doesn’t work’ or ‘marketing doesn’t work for my type of company’….. and how many times have we marketing people heard that!


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Few Tips for Women in Business

1.  In the early 90s, before we boring westerners had had too much influence, Czech ladies liked to wear very little when they came to the office.  One morning I arranged to meet the senior account manager for an important client in their reception so that she could come there straight from home.  We were presenting our marketing strategy to the whole board and she arrived wearing what appeared to be a tissue.   After the meeting, I said that I thought it went very well, and her reaction was 'I didn't like it - half of them spent the whole meeting staring at my boobs.'  My answer: if you want to be treated like a serious business woman, then you need to look like one!

2.  That doesn't mean that we can't all look great!   When I started life in a law firm in London, it was generally thought that any successful woman had to look 'butch' and be as hard as nails.  Not so!   I am afraid that all those men out there who say that we women like to 'use' our good looks and charm to get our own way are right!!

3.  Stolen from a very good friend: men like to think that the problem with women in business is that we all talk too much (Ha!!  Should I name and shame some of those men?!!).  But, it is true, that is what they think.    And, as another good friend told me (a banker...) - the best way to win an argument is to say nothing.   Try it!   Don't play into all of their hands by doing exactly what they think we do and talking too much.

4.  Accept that men and women ARE different, especially in business.  So if you know how they will behave, then don't be surprised (annoyed, disappointed, upset) if they behave exactly like you expected!  Forwarned is forearmed.

5.  Know who your real friends are.  What does it matter if someone that you don't know, or you don't actually like yourself, doesn't like you.   Treat it as a form of flattery - the "Tall Poppy Syndrome".   People like to shoot at those that they perceive as successful.   They don't bother if you are no threat.  And as a successful woman; well, they love to have a pop! 

6.  Keep the emotion out of it; unfortunately (fortunately?), we ladies are able to get more emotional than most men and it really isn't a good one to cry or get upset.... if that looks on the cards, then find a way to make your getaway, at least for a while.   And if you have to do something difficult (firing, making redundant) JUST DO IT - don't try to be 'nice' or 'sympathetic'.. the person you are firing/whatever will appreciate you more if you just cut to the chase (this has also been stolen from a friend of mine, who has had to bolster me on several occasions when I have wanted to back out of such a situation!).

7.   An old saying, but probably true; women have to work harder and be better than most men in order to get on.  Revel in that thought but don't try to prove it all the time - women know it already... and most men suspect it!

8.  Build that suit of armour so that every time someone chucks something at you, it bounces off.  And remember, there are more ways of chucking things at someone than hurling it straight back at them. 

What did I say... women talk too much.  Oh dear.  I seem to have gone on a bit....


Friday, 10 September 2010

Being a woman in business and the need for bullet proofing!

A very long time ago, I was persuaded by a friend to join a pistol shooting club in London - this was in the days when such things were allowed!   My friend persuaded me by telling me that 'they are new and they don't have any lady members... probably because women are too scared to hold a gun!'  Of course, this was a calculated comment that had the desired effect, and I soon became a regular and, in time, a crack shot (also helped by the fact that the instructors were devilishly good looking which encouraged me to practice!)  

My ability to jump in where others have feared to tread, whilst sometimes mad, has put me in good stead as I have made my way up the 'woman in business ladder', and particularly the PR world (and, actually, there have been several occasions where I have thought about a bit of target practice along the way...!).   However, whilst being able to take out an enemy at 100 paces might be useful in my own head, it is the need to wear a bullet proof vest that has been one of the biggest lessons to learn.

The Czech Republic has never been an easy place to start up a business... there are all sorts of reasons for that which I wont even go into here.  But for a woman, in such a male chauvanistic world, it definitely helps to find a way to grow a thick skin (or suit of armour) as, as my own mentor told me a long time ago, the minute you are perceived as being successful, there will be people out there who will want to attack you, even if they don't know you... and how right he was.

Of course men get attacked as well but in a very different way.   There are not many days that go by without my saying (or thinking) 'would they have said that/done that if I was a grown up, suited up, reasonably successful business man in this same position?'.  Probably not.   So what can we do?

Well, first of all, it is always useful to have a lawyer as a partner!   That tends to work when things get really nasty!    But, otherwise... I think I might just write my best ten tips in another Blog...



Saturday, 4 September 2010

Marathon Running and CVs

JWA is the agency for the company that organises the Prague International Marathon, amongst other races, and, since most of the people working for us like sport, or have been involve in it in some way, this is, of course, an exciting client for us to have. 

It may surprise people from the UK and other established 'marathon nations' that not all the publicity around the Prague marathon has been positive - looking back to a few years ago, I think it would be fair to say that most of the coverage that the race received in its early years verged on the negative - so one of our ongoing jobs is to look at ways and new initiatives that can build the positive side of marathon running; the health benefits that running brings, the money that people raise for charity by running in races, the amount of income that a marathon creates for a city, and so on.  

Something that we talked about recently was a survey in a running magazine, where it had asked a number of HR managers how many of them viewed a candidate that had run a marathon in a positive light, and it was more or less 100%.   One or two of the team didn't quite believe this, but I have to say it struck a real chord with me; I have always favoured people who have some sort of sporting background when I look at CVs and carry out interviews, for a number of reasons:

*  First, of course, because I want people who work for the agency to get on with each other and with me, and if we all have a common interest, that makes for some lively discussions and interaction!

*  Second, and more importantly, I know from my own past that taking part in some form of sport helps to train a number of skills that are really useful in business (and, particularly, in the stressful environment of a PR agency!) - the ability to work in a team, confidence and toughness, the ability to pick oneself up and 'get back on the horse' when things have gone a bit wrong, the discipline of training every day, even when you are not feeling so good or don't really want to do it, and so on.

It doesn't get much tougher than training for and running in a marathon (although I would suggest that maybe racing a horse over fences at speed, particularly when the horse falls and lands on top of you, probably just has the edge!).   And, at the end of the day, the best people in business usually have to be pretty tough.  Something that is not always easy to learn.

Which leads me nicely into my next blog - Women in Business! Coming soon.