Archive for January, 2013

The Art and Science of Marketing

January 30, 2013

MarketingConsultingHistorically, marketing has always involved statistics and facts, but there have been a larger range of how much statistics and numbers are used, and how data drives the marketing strategy. But in an age where personalization becomes key, and data is plentiful, the most successful marketers will be able to efficiently view and interpret data and create plans to meet the demanding needs of niche clients, and measure their impact and progress. Below are the top ten rules for doing so.

1. Know your solution and why you are delivering it, why there is an opportunity.

The science is to be able to explain the solution in a detailed manner, and speak about the ROI and potential market size using charts and numbers. The art is explaining it verbally, graphically, and contextually in a way where management, partners and customers would buy into it.

2. Know your audience and why your solution is relevant for each niche audience.

Set up a matrix and map out your target audiences, quantifying numbers, passion, costs, etc., Based on the matrix, and the input of key stakeholders, establish a strategy for delivering a solution to initial and secondary audiences. Go back to the numbers to evaluate your progress and re-assess your strategy based on your performance.

3. Request feedback and input from all stakeholders to supplement information provided by reports.

The numbers and the reports will give you a view of your business, its offerings and impact, as will the interviews with customers and other stakeholders. However, the art of it is to figure out what the numbers and people are telling you and what to do about it.

4. Know what to measure and what each measurement means.

Measurements and reports and numbers are great, but they won’t dictate whether your company will succeed. Deciding what to measure, what the measurements mean and what to do about it will more closely map to your company’s success.

5. Integrate the data and feedback to constantly improve your offerings.

Constantly consider the data and verbal feedback as you community, connect, and build your business.

6. Categorize your types of feedback to help prioritize features.

Notice patterns of feedback from multiple sources: charts, focus groups, phone calls, management meetings, etc. Decide what these patterns mean, and how you can revise communications and strategy so address the feedback and suggestions given. Are there opportunities in the feedback?

7. Address the needs of your most active niche clients and strive to deliver exceptional, customized service to them.

Weight your feedback based on who is most engaged with your business. Strategize on how to find and engage people and companies with profiles similar to your best customers and referrers.

8. It takes someone disciplined and thorough to oversee the science of marketing.

9. It takes an experienced and creative marketing leader to connect the dots, think outside the box, and see the opportunities presented by the data.

10. Integrating the art-side and the science-side of marketing will be the cornerstone of all marketing plans.

The bottom line is that leaders need to oversee the science and data side as well as the art, creative and innovative side of marketing to ensure the ongoing success of an organization. It might be easier to find someone skilled at managing the data side, but more difficult to find someone who can do the creative side, and also know how to integrate the available science and numbers to deliver customized solutions that serve customers, and build forward momentum for the company.


Who’s on the Bus?

January 30, 2013


In his epic business books including Good to Great, Jim Collins states eloquently the importance of ‘having the right people on the bus’, and how critical that is to the success of any venture. But how do you know whether a person, team or organization is hitting inevitable obstacles and challenges of doing business, if he/she/they/it just needs more time and resources, if it’s just a bad idea and would never work no matter who is on the bus? Below are top ten thoughts for leaders to consider as they evaluate who’s on the bus, who can get on the bus, who can’t get from here to there, and whether it’s worth getting on the bus.

Who’s On the Bus

1. Who are all the stakeholders on your team – from your staff to your customers, investors and partners? What are you requirements and needs and how does each person measure up to these needs?

  • Try creating a grid of what you need vs what you’re getting so that you can clearly see who’s missing and who’s not measuring up.

2. Who is passionate about what they are doing? Who is creative about getting it done? Who is inclusive, collaborative and easy to work with?

  • Looking beyond the work that’s getting done, see the impact of the person doing the work. Are they passionate and creative? Are they positive and supportive? Do they bring good energy to people around them, the room and company overall?

3. Who else should be on the bus and what value-add would they have to help the people already engaged?

  • Looking at your grid, who’s missing, why do you need them, and how would you recruit him/her?

4. Who are *you* and how do you fit on the bus? What are you doing well, and where do you need support? Are you the right person to get on the bus and/or drive the bus? How will you decide this, and what’s the plan to make changes if you’re not the right person in the right role?

  • It’s very important to consider where you fit within the organization, and an interesting thing to look at after you put the other players into the mix. From the perspective of the company, where do you best fit and why? How will you validate your assessment? How do you navigate to be in that place, assuming that’s what you want to do?

Who Can Get On the Bus

5. Not everyone is an ace in all situations, but you want to have a majority of the people on your team as A players. Some B players are OK, if they have the ability, desire, means and support to step up and become A players.

  • One of the greatest measures of a leader is what he/she does when someone is not performing. Your superstars will not be impressed unless you take action to address non-performers, time-suckers and egotists, but will respect you if you help those-with-promise step it up.

6. In fact, encouraging everyone to be aware of their strengths and leverage their strengths in the day-to-day work will be well recognized. Deliberately recruiting team members with complementary skills and passions, and then providing training and support to help the team integrate and accept and leverage all will help foster a culture of growth and transparency, so all are encouraged to ‘get on the bus’, and go places together.

  • Direct and transparent communication, especially when the conversations are painful, will help the right people get on and stay on the bus.

Who Can’t Get From Here to There

7. Stop making excuses for C players, for if you do, the A and B players will become disengaged, and the C and even D players will take over.

  • Many leaders take too much responsibility and then make excuses too many times for C players, people who, for whatever reason, can’t get from here to there. While it’s important to be supportive and compassionate, it’s much more compassionate to have a clear line and stick to it, rather than continue to make exceptions and excuses and lowering the bar for all.

8. If you have a B player, or even an A player, no matter how exceptional he/she is in doing tasks, but are egotistical, self-serving, and otherwise counter-productive to the culture of the team or organization, call this out and make their continued employment conditional on their positive, constructive attitude. Too many times we make exceptions for prima donnas who think that their work stands for themselves, and their toxic energy counteracts the effectiveness of what they deliver, dis-empowers and frustrates their team mates and zaps the energy of the team and the project.

  • Sometimes your best performers bring negative energy to the project and team, and you must weigh the pros – the work they deliver, and cons – the energy they emit. If you’re tossing a coin, lean toward hiring 1.5-2.0 people with positive energy than retaining someone who comes with negative baggage.

Is It Worth Getting on the Bus

9. Running a growing and successful business is tough. Being engaged in challenges day-to-day can be overwhelming, and often it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But as a leader, you must always be sure that what you’re doing makes sense: that there’s a market and customer base for what you deliver, and a business model which can ensure that your company can profitably and sustainably deliver it.

  • Passion is a hallmark of a successful leader, but sometimes commitment to a cause means that we’re blind to all the signs that tell us that we need to pivot. So always have your finger on the pulse of the customer, and have your personal board of directors let you know if you are deviating from the course.

10. And if you know that the customer base and revenue model is not there, manage and lead a pivot to ensure that it is there.

  • If and when you are ever told that a pivot is necessary, proactively and transparently manage that pivot. It takes courage, strength and energy, but is necessary.

We hope that your journey is productive and serves the needs of the people on your route, and in your bus, and that you manage the bus and the people on it so that all enjoy the ride.


About FountainBlue and The Top Ten Leadership Tips for ‘Who Gets On the Bus’

FountainBlue’s monthly leadership blog is about connections in thoughts, people, ideas and things – life-changing conversations made at a crossroads. In general, it’s the path often taken, one that is known and predictable and has led to many successes, and the other more mysterious, more precarious, but perhaps more auspicious.

Launched in December 2012, this leadership blog is a compilation of dozens of stories we’ve heard and lived, involving leaders from a vast range of varied backgrounds and believe that every conversation, every fork-in-the-road matters. We have organized our monthly blog into a top-ten format, for easy digestion and take-away, and hope that the content in this blog will help you think more deeply about the current fork in the road. This month’s top-ten-leadership rules is on ‘Who Gets On the Bus’.

We invite your questions and comments about your marketing and leadership successes and challenges.

Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority

January 22, 2013

FountainBlue’s January 18 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on our panel, and that our panelists shared their insights, suggestions and advice with poignant humor and candor. Their comments and suggestions ranged from social media to global teams to business development and conversations at the table, but their insights and suggestions reflected what exceptional leaders they are.

All of our panelists have been immersed in the technology sector for at least a decade, and they have learned how to gain influence with tech-savvy engineers, and make an impact in tech-driven corporate cultures. Whether they were technologists who transitioned to business operations and management, or marketing and business professionals who worked within and across tech companies to facilitate connections and create momentum, our panelists are people who have been-there, done-that, seen and addressed the problems and opportunities inherent in being women in corporate tech cultures, and creating and leveraging the influence needed to connect with people, and to achieve forward momentum, delivering results on designated goals. Below are some thoughts and advice they shared about leveraging influence.

  • To command influence, you must have a solid foundation – Be self-aware enough to know who you are, what you stand for, where your skills are, where your passion lies, and how you are coming across. Self-reflection, mentors, and a personal board of developers can help you embrace who you are, and effectively communicate that in person and in writing, and in social media channels.
    • Everyone has influence whether they are consciously or unconsciously trying to influence others. But those who are confident in who they are and how they are communicating will have more influence and more likely be a positive influence than those who don’t.
    • Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Leverage your strengths to your best advantage. Shore up your weaknesses by engaging people better and smarter than you are, and leveraging resources and support.
    • Stand by your principles and values. Know where you can’t compromise.
    • Passion is a great leadership quality, but over-emoting is not. Be self-aware enough to know the difference, and manage toward the passion end of the spectrum, bringing energy into a project, rather than letting emotions fog your judgment, and speak words and/or conduct actions counter-productive to your cause.
    • Enlisting the right people to support your personal and professional development to help ensure both your success and theirs.
    • Mentoring and supporting the growth of others will pay back in dividends, for yourself, your team and your organization.
    • Invest in yourself – find the right way to replenish your energy, strength and focus, and the right people to support you in your personal and professional growth.
  • Once you know who you are, what your value is, and what you stand for, it’s a matter of being strategic about what you want to do about it.
    • Purposefully choose where you’d like to have influence: at work/home, within a particular company or industry, within a particular role, across different roles, at different levels of an organization. Be open to reviewing your choices and making changes as you get more data – know when you need to leave your role or company or project, for example.
    • When addressing a conversation, project, or challenge, set your intentions first, and plan for the right people and groups to engage with you to meet common objectives.
    • Leverage your influence to achieve a specific goal, and strategically enlist the right people and network to collaborate in achieving that goal. Adopt a ‘what’s in it for them’ perspective when considering who can assist you in achieving the goal, and engage them in the project speaking their language, and motivating them based on their stated needs.
    • Strategically engaging the right senior executive(s) or the right person for a project will help ensure its success.
    • When you’re working with people, teams and organizations in conflict, take the time to understand the perspectives of all, open up the communication channels, and find that middle ground where you can work transparently on shared intentions which meet corporate goals.
    • The adage is true that you must have the courage to change things you can change, the serenity to accept the things that you can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Next, communicating crisply and on-message to targeted audiences is important, whether you’re in the boardroom or the bathroom, whether you’re in person or online, regardless of your role, level, experience, gender, culture.
    • Know and speak your story – what brought you to where you are today, what you’d like to do for tomorrow, who can help you make it happen, and how you hope that things will unfold.
    • Engaging key stakeholders and regularly communicating measurable forward progress will help advance a project and expand your personal influence and that of the team/people/project.
    • Speak with a positive message rather than a must-do/company-mandate/or-else place of fear. Extend an invitation to participate and empower people who participate to both connect with others and succeed as a group.
    • Influential communicators often serve as translators between groups, to enlist and engage both parties to work together towards common goals.
  • Nobody has all the answers, but those with influence will continue to learn and grow and expand their knowledge, their network, and their comfort zone.
    • Genuinely care about others and build relationships based on trust. This is not easy in today’s world, when most of us work with people we may not have worked with before, people who work remotely, people who are not the same as we are. But it’s worth taking the time to build relationships at all levels, and asking about motivations and interests outside work, including vacation interests, will help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
    • Having a contrarian and someone-who-doesn’t-think-like-you are both useful people to have in your inner circle, as they invite you to embrace the other perspective, and to stretch and grow.
    • As managers and leaders who successfully help clients and teams to embrace change, and feel more comfortable with change will gather more credit and influence. But complacency is rampant, and it’s no easy task to inspire and engage key stakeholders to embrace change, and to enlist their support in shifting a team, product line, organization, etc. And ensuring that everyone’s influence expands following a successful project will help you manage future projects towards success.
    • Facilitating change involves understanding the conditions where change will be embraced, and creating those conditions so that the team can succeed. Often, this means that you need to manage individuals and teams beyond their comfort zone, and ensuring that people who engage in the process learn and grow while succeeding and achieving results.
    • Successfully engaging people and teams across roles, platforms and initiatives will help them understand the motivations of others, work toward a common goal, and be more open to collaborating with others for future projects. An added benefit is that exposure to the thinking and perspective of people-not-like-them will help people, teams, projects and companies be more open to different, novel and diverse ideas which would have business and personal benefits.
    • Stand behind your team. Don’t throw them under the bus when things don’t go well, but do communicate what you learn at every juncture and ensure that your team has the support they need to learn and succeed. With that said, know when you need to switch out team members and even entire teams. If you must do this, do it with transparent communication and support them as people.
    • Be open to leveraging social media to communicate and expand your influence, but take the time to know the tools, the audience, and the intent of your communication. LinkedIn might be for more professional networks and connections, and FaceBook might be more for your friends, with the content being what you might say to them at a backyard BBQ. Follow the corporate social media policies, but remember that you are people first, employees second.

Our conclusion from this conversation is that the most influential people are authentic, genuine and human. They are transparent in their communications, committed to the motivations of others, and although strategic about being connected to influential others, they are not ‘one of those people’ who do it to be self-serving. They are people you can trust, and who will grow and expand who they are, and ensure that those around them will grow alongside them. We hope that the conversation and the notes will have you thinking about your circle of influence, and working to expand your influence, for the benefit of all.



Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s January 18 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority, and our hosts at UCSC Extension:

Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching

Panelist Michelle Nix, Relationship Leader, Information Risk Management, PayPal

Panelist Preethy Padmanabhan, Sr. Mgr. Solutions Marketing, Dell

Panelist Shalika Pargal, Product Manager, Cisco

Panelist Kelly Ripley Feller, Director of Social Media & Community Marketing, Citrix

Panelist Eileen Sullivan, Director – Professional Practice, Tectura

For more information about the series, and for a link to our next event, visit

Ten Truths about the New Sales Professionals

January 1, 2013

The sales heroes of the 80s and 90s often left me with a sense of oil and grease – to me, they were people who were more slick and connected wheeler-dealers than consultative, customer-oriented providers. No longer are we in an age of buying-what-you-don’t-need, with money-you-don’t-have, to impress people-who-don’t-care.

The economic meltdown precipitated both the aftermath of Y2K (no disaster, reduced IT spending) and 9/11 (which created a global culture of suspicion and caution) coupled with the empowerment of the user (through Google and Yahoo with its search, through Oracle and IBM and its big data solutions, through FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter with social media, through consumer-based e-commerce solutions like Amazon and eBay) is driving the age of personalization, and revolutionizing the sales process.

As marketing professionals and leaders, we need to understand and support the next generation of successful sales professionals:

They will be more customer-oriented, so help them profile their customers and prospects, and communicate with the team in delivering what the customers want.

1.   The new breed of sales professionals will truly and genuinely understand the current and anticipated needs of the customer, and great leaders will reward them for doing so.

2.   Indeed, they will consider the needs-of-the-customer above their own immediate needs, even if it means walking away from a sale or even directing them to another, even competitive solution. The old type of successful sales professional will have a difficult time adapting to the concept, and the new sales professionals will not look and feel the same as successful sales professionals of the past.

They will be more tech-savvy, so develop the tools to help them do their job well.

3.   The new generation of sales leaders will increasingly better understand enough about databases and software to know what can be efficiently customized.

4.   Indeed, they will understand the types of solutions which can leverage technology to be personalized, and the types which would be difficult to make efficient, seeking scalable, customizable solutions for their customers. They may be a current sales professional who sees things differently, or someone from another field who gets-the-tech, and wants to apply it to address specific customer problems.

They will astutely leverage social media to spread the word and reputation, and it will take a successful partnership between sales and marketing to make this work!

5.   The new sales professionals will proactively leverage social media and reputation management solutions to credibly spread the word about company offerings.

6.   Indeed, the more experienced and savvy professionals will recruit and incentivize ambassadors to spread the word to identified niche audiences.

They will be more collaborative, at least the successful ones will be, and it’s a great opportunity for marketing and sales to bury the hatchet and find a path forward, together.

7.   The new sales professionals will work with product marketing, development and marketing to ensure that the company understands and delivers precisely what the customer needs in the short term, and even anticipates what the customer will need in the longer term.

8.   In fact, they would willingly mentor others sales people to better deliver solutions to customers, and understand the value of doing just that. This is a new-world-order way of looking at sales, and goes against the grain of sales-professionals-of-the-past, who covet and protect their leads, their territory, their knowledge and skills so that they can reap rewards beyond their peers.

They will be more proactive, and let’s hope partnering with marketing leaders to deliver all of the above.

9.   The new sales professionals will follow the trends and manage and even anticipate the evolving needs of the customer, and proactive approach customers about how trends would impact their business and offerings and what they can do to address these shifts.

10.  Indeed, they will learn from the needs and deliverables for one customer/company/industry, and be able to generalize offerings to others while optimizing customization and while conducting business at the most ethical levels.

The bottom line is that the new successful sales person is someone who is intelligent, articulate, genuine, collaborative, informed, proactive and tech-savvy, and they may or may not be in sales now. They are someone you would trust implicitly to put your company first. Where do you think we should find them? How can we groom them? Your thoughts are welcome. E-mail us at

This blog is part of FountainBlue’s Marketing Leadership in an Age of Personalization Series and is copyrighted 2013. All rights are reserved.

The Top Ten Tips for Sharing Your Stories

January 1, 2013


The Top Ten Tips for Sharing Your Stories

Part of FountainBlue’s Leadership Blog

Every leader has seen and felt this, the desire to share a story in response to a query from another – the look and sound of ‘oh good, a s-t-o-r-y’ from eager eyes and ears crosses all ages, genders, and cultures. And the leader feels the pull, the urgency of the problem, situation or scenario, reflects on why it may be more relevant than the immediate need, contemplates what he or she may share that might be helpful (or who might be more supportive and experienced to address the need), the consequences – good and bad – of doing the sharing, and dives in to tell the tale.

If you buy into the benefits for you and others around you, have seen the growth and benefits and rewards appear before your eyes, and if you’d like to do more story-telling, consider some of the Top Ten guidelines below.

Reflect On Why There’s a Need, and Why Now

1. When someone approaches you and values your input and advice, ask yourself who is this person, what does she/he know about me and my background, why is she/he approaching me now, am I the right person to support this person, and if so, do I have a tale to tell?

2. Be generous with your time, but only if you think through #1 above, and it makes sense to share with this person, and others they will touch. Think that it’s just as much for your own benefit than it is for theirs, and even when it’s not, it’s a task worth doing, an investment worth making.

Make It Feel Real, But Not Personal

3. Your story must be heart-felt, hard-earned, relevant, and personal, even if it did not happen directly to you.

4. Bring your story alive with your non-verbal clues from inflections to gestures, from phrasing to idioms, while being sensitive to the needs of your audience.

Connect the Dots, Without Hitting Them Over the Head

5. Everyone hates a know-it-all, especially if the speaker doesn’t know it all. Remember this especially when you’re sharing a tale. Nobody wants to be preached to, especially by a know-it-all wannabe! (Not that I’m referring to *you* specifically, or anyone else you know.)

6. The best leadership tales help listeners connect the dots between disparate, previously unconnected people, ideas, things. They address the in-your-face issue of today, and generalize to anticipated, expected or desired opportunities of tomorrow. So walk the right balance between helping listeners make the connections and spelling out what the lessons-learned should be, as the best listeners will see far beyond where you think it could go, and could benefit the story-teller in ways unimaginable.

Be Humble and Even Self-Deprecating When Sharing Your Tale

7. We connect with people who are successful *and* human. Someone is reaching out to you out of respect for who and what you are, and think that you have something to share with them. If you are humble, and share your humanness, rather than pointing to your credentials (which is unnecessary in their eyes), they would be more likely to be responsive to your tale.

8. In fact, when you collect a series of tales-to-tell, start with times that you’ve been at your worst. The tales will be the most engaging, humorous *and* healing for you.

Offer Follow-Up and Resources and Support

9. You’ve told a tale. It has sunk in. The other is joyous, pleased, energetic. But don’t stop there. Be there for her or him to follow up and support their journey, from the immediate need, to the path well beyond that.

10. Share resources beyond yourself who could address themes, concerns, networks, and other anticipated interests of the listener, so that your gift keeps on giving, and you’re less likely to be the only avenue of support.

Make a new year’s resolution, a gift to yourself. Tell a tale to someone who needs one, ask for a tale from someone you respect, to address a need that keeps coming back!