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Marketing is in the Middle: Marty Thompson

The number 3 participant in this second round of Marketing is in the Middle is Marty Thompson.  So Marty is a guy that I’ve been lucky enough to get insights from him for over a decade.  He just one of those B2B marketing consultants whose insights help provide clarity for a business.

So here is Marty’s take:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I’ve worked primarily in marketing and product marketing management within several arenas, including CRM, eCommerce,  Knowledge Management.

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

I wouldn’t say it relates to activities, per se. I’ve gotten the most satisfaction from working with companies that are at a crossroads. Whether they are a start up, a well known company that is in acquisition mode, or one that has made the jump into uncharted waters, they tend to be willing to completely rethink their marketing efforts. This environment is not for the thin skinned, but it can be exhilarating, and marketers can see their efforts play into major successes.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?

Believe it or not, sound email marketing tactics are not going away. Tweeking SEO, creating sound content, are some of the most basic foundational activities that still matter. Anyone who says direct mail is dead better understand where their company exists in the food chain. Activity driven ROI depends on understanding what works. It’s that simple. But what I am also seeing out their is a willingness, and a slow evolution, of how organizations are using social as a springboard to finally transform their organization internally. 99% of all the advice out their regarding social media, whether it relates to policy, internal processes, readiness, etc, are missing the real point of what I think is happening when companies embrace social. The ones that end up using it well are the ones that have transformed their employees. The frightening aspect of this is that organizations are achieving various levels of success without any understanding of this internal transformation process. …and of course failures happen along the way too – learn from it and improve.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

The most successful marketers understand that they are one part of a very large team. I tell junior marketers to interview a prospective employer very critically. Don’t waste your time with a Bill Lumbergh. The precursor to being successful in any marketing role is to be sure that it is a good fit. Be sure the executive team “gets” you. Are they excited about what they are doing? Does it show? They need to understand what you think the challenges for the organization are…now, and in the future. You should be in agreement with your understanding of the marketplace, your goods or services, etc. They need to understand that failure is a part of this business, and that marketers in particular are in a position to learn from them. All the best technologies out there will not guarantee success. Talk to everyone on the team, and also try to chat with others in the company. Customer support, product management, anyone you will be interacting with in a marketing capacity. Read their tweets, their blogs, anything to better understand them.

How have you seen organizations change in the last 3-5 years to better support the needs of product marketers, product managers and communications teams?

A couple of things come to mind. first off, in at least two of my previous gigs, the CMO understood the value of the pragmatic model, and had embraced it as part of their raison d’etre. The second change is a bit tougher to find, even in the over saturated “social” environment. And that is a fundamental understanding that social technologies are on the one hand yet another channel, but more importantly, can be transformational. I like to call it socialized commerce, but of course that is nothing but a lovely generalization.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

One of the most valuable things any marketer can do is spend time with their sales team. Go out in the field with them. Walk a mile in their moccasins. Believe it or not, they really want you to help them be more successful. And they spend more time talking with customers and prospects, more than most marketers do now. Spend time with your customers, even the ones who are unhappy. Get out there.  If you are working in a company that has embraced their customers, using social technologies, and is attempting to build out a vibrant community, by all means be in the thick of it. And don’t try so hard that you stop listening.

How far is this from reality?

I would hope that almost every marketer out there is working in an environment that is getting close to this. If there is a major gap, it may fall back on the notion that they may be fighting an uphill battle.  In that case, stop thinking about tactics and technologies. Start having the tough conversations with your CMO.

So what’s next?

I hope that this year we’ll see much of the dialog about social media move away from the same conversations we all had about CRM, marketing automation, and other things. I believe the real tsunami behind social technology is how for some organizations it was the internal transformational catalyst to change the way people think, how they interact, how they work together.

We’ll also see a huge shift to further understand the behavior of the consumer. How we make the leap from intent, whether implied or implicit, to accurately predicting behavior, this will be hotly pursued. However, we will as marketers come up against barriers, and perhaps rightly so. With the ability to dial in personalized data, from Facebook to device fingerprinting, many people are becoming increasingly sensitive to their behavior profiles. If your are under 20 years old, you are more likely to text than use email. Even though our world is becoming increasingly interconnected, we are beginning to see a backlash.


A strategic approach to marketing and engagement requires a holistic examination of your process, touch points and customer transactions. Email is still a relevant part of the mix for B2B marketing.  Yup, Marty is spot on with email and engagement.    Thanks man.

Web: Two Bananas Marketing

Twitter: @freighter

Marketing is in the Middle: Jay Baer

This is the second one and I have really been impressed with the different approaches to the questions from the participants so far.  I’m also encouraged by many of the answers I’m seeing in the responses on how businesses developing more strategic marketing organizations in many sectors.

Jay Baer was kind enough to participate in the Marketing is in the Middle series.  I’m super thankful that since I’ve been reading Jay’s blog for several years now (Convince and Convert). It was one of those random word of mouth things…   Dave Daniels tuned me in to Jay who then was in Phoenix and who now is in Indiana doing consulting work all over the place.  I think Jay just might live in airports.

If you haven’t read/ran into Jay yet, he is real pragmatic in his approach –  actionable strategies, tools and real-world use cases on how you can increase your operational effectiveness with social processes. Jay just co-authored a book which spoke to 7 critical shifts businesses just need to make when thinking socially.

So here’s Jay’s take on the questions:
What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I started as a PR intern in Phoenix. I was then a political campaign manager in Arizona for a few years, before moving to the client side as a marketer for Waste Management, Inc. in AZ and Southern California. I then was briefly the spokesman for a state agency before getting involved in online marketing in 1994. I was VP/Marketing at Internet Direct (the world’s first hosting company); co-founder at; Senior Director at; and founder of digital agency Mighty Interactive – all of those in Phoenix.   Most recently in 2008 I started my Convince & Convert social strategy consultancy.   I now live in Bloomington, Indiana but have clients everywhere.

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

Adoption curves repeat themselves. The questions we’re asking and answering about social media today are very similar to those we dealt with regarding email a few years ago, and websites a few years before that. We’ve seen this movie before.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?
Anything that combines direct communication, opt-in, and relevancy. Email and search are the most noteworthy examples, and I hope social will continue to progress so that we can have the same potential successes.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?
Cultural support for change, and a belief that the customer experience is paramount.

How have you seen organizations change in the last 3-5 years to better support the needs of product marketers, product managers and communications teams?
Much smarter about getting marketing involved earlier in the process, combined with a recognition that marketing is about more than a launch.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

Allowing marketing to be as close as possible to product and customer support makes for the best environment. I also prefer it when companies embrace a spirit of testing and trial. Three years ago, suggesting that social would be a meaningful part of the marketing plan was crazy talk for most companies. And look at it now. Marketing must be fluid, because customer dynamics and expectations are fluid.

How far is this from reality?

Fortunately, it’s reality today in some companies, although they tend to be mid-market. Enough resources to try stuff, but unburdened by corporate process.

So what’s next?

I really, really hope we stop (at least for this year) talking about the hot new thing, and instead turn our attention to doing the current things better. Social media optimization and integration would be a good start.  Social is an ingredient, not an entree.


I’ve been using the ingredient quote for a while now.  Social media for B2B marketing isn’t a pure play effort for most businesses, it requires an integrated and managed approach across the business – support, marketing,  pr…  Social processes should make your business more efficient and improve your customer’s experience.

Again, I am most appreciative of Jay taking the time to participate.

Blog: Convince and Convert

Twitter:@ jaybaer

Book: The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter & More Social

Marketing is in the Middle: Mike Troiano

It’s time for input from other people again here at SR.  So I decide to dust off a series I start a while back call Marketing is in the Middle.  The last time I did this I got some really good responses from a host of folks:

I’m kicking off this round with Mike Troiano.  So who’s MJ?  I’ve just recently started reading his stuff in last in 90 days or so and he has a straightforward approach to most everything he posts.    For an introduction to his efforts, I would take a look at his how to sell post.    Mike Troiano is currently a Principal at Holland-Mark in Boston. His blog, Scalable Intimacy, also provides a lens into agencies as well, not just marketing insights.   Mike has had a bunch of leadership roles across multiple functional groups throughout his career.  I suspect his insight into multiple groups was key to him being the founding CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Interactive.

So here’s Mike’s take on Marketing Being in the Middle:

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

I was a brand guy at McCann, an interactive guy at Ogilvy, a mobile guy at m-Qube, and a social guy at Holland-Mark.

When you look at your career in marketing, what activities have you found most interesting/challenging?

There’s something I find interesting at the intersection of marketing and new technology, so that’s pretty much where I’ve focused my career.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?
That’s a pretty broad question, and I don’t think there’s a single tactical answer that applies in every case. Speaking generally… I believe in the power of brands, and the common thread across all of my digital marketing work is that it was about leveraging new media to seed, cultivate and harvest relationships.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

I’d have to say quality of execution. I think the age of “easy” marketing is over, and the marketing that works today invariably has a lot of moving parts and details to get right coordinate. Managing those details effectively is what it’s all about.

How have you seen organizations change in the last 3-5 years to better support the needs of product marketers, product managers and communications teams?

No, I really haven’t. I think most brands are still trying to figure out what do with the social stuff, for example. Very few have determined how to re-align themselves to take full advantage of that opportunity. I’m sure it will happen, but with notable exceptions, I don’t think it has yet.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

Great marketing organizations have CEO’s that support them, leaders with the courage to take risks, ground troops who focus on quality of execution, systems to measure results and iterate, and passion for real business results.

How far is this from reality?

Pretty far.  I think most marketing organizations have 1 or 2 of those things, really good ones have 3 or 4, and only the rock star teams have them all.

So what’s next?

I think what’s next is companies starting to make the structural, systemic and procedural changes necessary to take advantage of social media. It’s one thing to hire some college kid to tweet on behalf your brand, for example… quite another to inform your product development and other marketing priorities with the insights you’re gleaning on an ongoing basis through Twitter. Sometimes I think most marketing people are still trying to make social media go away, trying to either outsource it or put it in a box at the margin of the business. I think this year we’ll start to see companies really start to view the social stuff as a mechanism to connect with the external reality, and taking full advantage of that potential will require more fundamental changes.


Blog: Scalable Intimacy

Twitter: @miketrap


Many thanks for Mike’s willingness to kick off this series with some clarity from the field!!

Stuck in the Middle: The Cold Reader

So I’m glad to be back from a 18 day run in Europe and I finally have a little “down time” to finish a post which has been in the drafts status since early August.  With the end of quarter crunch that is all too common in software, I decided that I needed to move this post from draft to published now!

So I was listening to The Bert Show about a month or so ago and they had some clips on a debunked psychic which was fairly entertaining and I realized this could be a fairly interesting way to look at leadership.   Ultimately this is a continuation of a series on Leadership personas which began two years ago – Stuck in the Middle.   The series started mainly out of a series of observations from folks I had worked with over the years and a couple of traits I saw in myself even made into a couple of the personas.

Over the course of the Stuck in the Middle series I  have examined a handful of leadership personas which I have encountered in software product management: The Geologist, The Collaborator, The Visualist, Management By In Flight Magazine, The Amoeba, Napoleon and the fence mender.  Their is always something you can learn from someone – sometimes good things and sometimes not so good things and that’s what the series is about – more the not so good things in reality.

The latest persona, The Colder Reader, is one of those people you run into who skeptics, such as myself, just kind of sit back, shake your head and generally ignore, but that is not the reaction for everyone. Everyone has a dream and a soft spot and the Cold Reader is good at sifting through his or her laundry list of generalizations to figure these out.

Where some people wish for things to be different and long for a different reality in an organization, the Cold Reader is a great novelty for an organization – at least for the first 9 months in a role, even for the skeptics – it provides for great “can you believe X thinks this is a good idea” discussions and provides for an interesting betting pool on “When are they going to fire the Cold Reader”.

HINT: It’s always longer than you think, because people generally always want to be doing something different and there is always someone misdirect blame to.

So what is cold reading anyhow:

Cold reading is a series of techniques used by mentalists, illusionists, fortune tellers, psychics, and mediums to determine or express details about another person, often in order to convince them that the reader knows much more about a subject than they actually do. Without prior knowledge of a person, a practiced cold reader can still quickly obtain a great deal of information about the subject by analyzing the person’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, etc. Cold readers commonly employ high probability guesses about the subject, quickly picking up on signals from their subjects as to whether their guesses are in the right direction or not, and then emphasizing and reinforcing any chance connections the subjects acknowledge while quickly moving on from missed guesses.

So just like psychics who engage in a “vague but true” series of assertions and follow up tactics so does the Cold Reader.


If you spend enough time with generalities with a person/individual contributor/fellow executive they will give tells/queues for when your on the right track.   The Cold Reader is a leader who uses career aspiration queues, optimistic short comings and people’s plain desire for something to be true to his or her advantage through a series of quick spun powerpoint decks and point quotes from analyst to validate their assertions and directional strategies.

CEO’s, VP, Directors and just about every station in corporations have folks looking for a little insight and are more than receptive to provide personal directional goals and organizational challenges in fairly short order – after all, that is how people collaboratively problems solve.

Executive Cold Readers often leverage small focus groups of smart folks in the organization to gain content, input and new slides which are then played back over time to slightly larger groups until he or she thinks they have the story right.   Ultimately every one wants a good story and wants to be part of the solution – right? Plus the Cold Ready is always up for a roadshow, who doesn’t want a couple of days in SFO and Southern Cali after all.

Think of the air miles one can garner with new slides every quarter, million miler baby!

So at the end of the day everyone does like a good story, right up until the story is all about investment and patience…..  The typical types of discussions:

Scenario 1: VP of Sales is not getting the traction in the marketplace with the story and the Cold Reader is the Marketing Executive.

Cold Reader: So what is the biggest challenge with moving these deals through the pipeline?

VP of Sales: The story is just isn’t resonating with the reps or the prospects.

Cold Reader: Are there any reps which are seeing traction?

VP of Sales: Yeah, Geoffry and Augustine are moving things forward on several big deals.

Cold Reader: I’ve always liked Geoff and Augustine, strategic salespeople who understand solutions our solutions.  Well, should we focus on training and skills for the rest?

VP of Sales: Sure we need more training and there are upgrade opportunities in the staff, but we really need something different that scales in the field and resonates with prospects who have problems and buy products.

Cold Reader: I hear you on building a more strategic sales force, rather than trying to train up the more tactical team members who don’t get it.   I’ll put together a project on packaging with everyone and we may still want to consider upgrading the team to be more stategic.

Result: VP of Sales leaves the meeting thinking the colder reader has an action plan and everything is going right way, but in fact the Cold Reader goes to edit PowerPoints based on the discussion and begins socializing the latest version of the PowerPoint strategy.

Scenario 2: The CEO and the Cold Reader are having an ad-hoc discussion on the business, project status and general how are you doing stuff.  The Cold Reader in this scenario is a development executive.

CEO: So what’s going on? We’ve missed another launch date and can’t seem to get traction with our products lately, thoughts?

Cold Reader: Well we are producing really solid technology and I’m not quite sure about market uptake on the products, but the pipeline appears strong.  Things are going great in my group right now, we’ve implemented new processes and are improving our delivery cadence which will clearly help the product management team in release planning.

CEO: I know we have done a bunch of work in improving our processes, but that doesn’t mean shit if we aren’t moving product that sells.  I’m very cool with improvements, but processes aren’t driving revenue and it appears that it is actually increasing costs according Kevin’s analysis.

Cold Reader: Kevin’s analysis while interesting doesn’t take into account the increased development velocity and quality, but that’s not what we have CFO’s for anywho.  Ultimately we should look at prioritizing our development efforts against emerging opportunities and the current backlog of stuff per my team is mainly focused on improving our existing customers profitability, minimizing attrition, and add-on transactions which aren’t really going to grow the company.

CEO: Dude your right, we need think about growing the company by doing other stuff.  This marketplace is more or less steady state and all we are doing is carving out customers from competitors.  I like a good fight, but it gets old after awhile being a commodity.

Cold Reader: My team has seen some interesting trends around SOA and Analytics in the space which could generate some upside, but these aren’t the requirements we are getting to work on.

CEO: Yeah what we need is some sizzle and new acronyms.  I read about SOA on the plane the other day and it seems like the newest cool shit faster, so you might have something here.  Analytics will provide a little sizzle too.

Cold Reader: We have some items in the backlog, but the product group is prioritizing some product add-ons which are focused on incremental revenue and competitiveness in our current segment higher.  If we could align our backlog to your vision we might be able to make some hay in the marketplace.  I also read something somewhere about these technologies being differentiators and high growth market segments which could really change the company like you want to.

Result: CEO has a summit with the marketing group and recommends they look at re-prioritizing some of their items around this SOA stuff and Analytics sizzle that would make the company more relevant and key revenue wedge items are discarded.

So the Cold Reader in the right corporate environment can have a good time, hell some psychics even get their own TV shows, so there something to be said about that.  In principle, a Colder Reader’s answer after listening and leading the folks being read is “put me in charge” and just with any new gig there are always low hanging fruit to address and declare a victory that’s why you should bet 24 months or greater typically in the executive dead pool.

The Cold Reader kinda starts to see his or her future in a mid-year Ops review which goes a little like the video below…

…and the person is just a little amazed it’s not working and that they don’t have an angle play.  At the end of the day, you can’t think ill of those that want to believe in something better…

Let me see if I can do some cold reading…

Dear Cold Reader,

I’m thinking you recently updated your LinkedIn Profile with inaccurate information/titles. Something about COO/CIO… I’m sensing a “somewhat outmoded” executive team will received a full bonus payout and I’m going to get a bunch of $5 dollar payments in the mail or free lunches over the next quarter.