Marketing & Branding

How are your customers trying to reach you?

TweetDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Like much of central Iowa last week -- I was away on Spring Break. Our trip had a rocky start, to say the least. We get off the plane in Jamaica and head to the Sandals desk, assuming they're going to help us identify the bus that will take us to our selected resort so the fun can begin.

Instead, when we get to the desk we're told that they oversold our resort (the family one) and instead, we're going to be staying at the Couples Only resort.  

Now, when you're a dad who is traveling with his daughter and her boyfriend -- this is the definition of awkward.

They grab our luggage and put us on a van. Now what?

We're in a foreign country, in a moving vehicle, heading for a resort I do not want us at, I don't have the resort's phone number and I need some help sorting this mess out. And I don't really want to wait until we get to the wrong resort.

Fortunately -- the van has wifi. So I search for the Sandals twitter account and send them a couple tweets -- saying I am very unhappy about how this customer service issue is being handled.  

Voila....I get a tweet back, asking me to DM them.  (Which was smart -- demonstrate to everyone who is watching that you're listening but then move the complaint offline or to a more private venue).

Within a few tweets, the general manager has been alerted and will be waiting for me when we get off the van.

The story has a happy ending.  We're at the resort we originally booked and the weather and ocean are gorgeous... so all is well.

But, my story raises the question -- how are your customers reaching out to you and are you listening for them?  Sandals was clearly monitoring their account/Twitter and very quickly defused a problem.  

But so many organizations look at vehicles like Twitter and Facebook as a broadcast medium. They put their information out there like they're shouting through a bullhorn. But they don't bother to listen to see if anyone is talking back.

That's a dangerous practice. You need to be monitoring any social channels you're on in real time (you don't have to sit in front of your computer -- just use one of the many monitoring tools that send updates to your phone) so that when your customers use those tools to get your attention -- you're actually paying attention.

It used to be that if a customer had a question or complaint, they either sent a letter or called. Then, we added websites and suddenly they could communicate to us through contact forms or email addresses.  And now -- there's social channels.

When someone is having trouble -- they're going to use whichever tool they think will get the swiftest response from you. Which is why social is a natural choice. 

So what do you think it says to them if you're not listening.

What's your new business plan for today?

FoxHuntDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Most businesses really gear up their sales/new client hunt about the time their biggest client walks out the door. 

There’s a dangerous place for any business.  It’s called – just fine. That sense of complacency when things are good can lull a business leader into thinking that the “just fine” that exists today is a permanent condition. 

Which of course, it is not.

One of the fallouts from the recession is that decision makers (whether it’s a mom or a procurement officer) are saying yes much more slowly. We exist in a tentative world right now. Whatever your normal sales cycle – you’re probably experiencing at least a 25-40% delay in closing the deal.  All the more reason for every business out there to be trying to front load the sales funnel long before their sales start to slip. 

I can hear you now – but we network like crazy and we get lots of referrals.  All of that is great. And you should keep doing it. But it won’t be enough.  Most businesses grossly underestimate what it actually takes to get a client.

Sales and marketing are numbers games. But most businesses never bother to run the numbers. You need to understand your own sales cycle. How many presentations or inquiries do you need to move people to being a hot prospect?  What is your close rate?  How many months does it take to move someone from interesting to the point of purchase?

It will matter if your product or service is $10 or $10,000. Another factor would be the longevity of your product. Do I need one every week or every decade? Do you sell a niche product? Are you the market leader?

Regardless of the variables – I’m hoping the point hasn’t been lost. Even if the above equation isn’t precise, it does illustrate that you need to be chasing new business every day.

Even on the days you don’t need it.  That’s the only way it will be there on the days that you do.

Superbowl -- oh, is there a football game too?

SuperBowlXLIXLogoDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Sure, sure....those Seahawks played a great game and as always the Patriots will be tough to beat.  And who isn't excited to watch Idina Menzel sing the national anthem or Katy Perry shake up the halftime show?

But the real talk of the upcoming Superbowl is, as always, the commercials.

Companies spend millions, between the media buy and production, for a :30 second appearance and the national spotlight. Is it worth it?

In 2014, a 30-second spot was an staggering $4 million and if you wanted a full 60-second spot  -- make the check for $8 million. And then there's the cost of actually making the spot. Most Super Bowl spots cost between $1-3 million to make, although some thrifty advertisers came in under that.

Now add in the public's quick and critical reaction and the odds that in an effort to be funny your spot won't really be about driving sales.... and voila, a marketing mistake in the making?

As with all marketing questions, the answer is -- it depends. Many brands (Skechers, Audi, etc.) have seen double digit sales growth that was sparked by their Super Bowl spots. Other brands, like Bud, have become a game day staple, both at the parties and with their commercials.  For them, it's viewed as both a thank you for all that beer you've got in the fridge and a tradition.

For us -- they're entertainment to be enjoyed and shared. (Imagine the value of a popular Super Bowl spot today with social media versus 15 years ago).

To get your pump primed for the big game -- check out these Super Bowl classics.

Best animal Super Bowl commercials

Best animaled Super Bowl commercials

Most memorable Super Bowl commercials

Most expensive Super Bowl commercials

Best Super Bowl commercials of all time

You can watch all of the Super Bowls ads as they're released here.  Or you can wait until game day!

Oh yeah...and go Seahawks!

The entertainment factor isn't enough

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

We all love funny advertising.  Heck -- it's why have the country watches the Super Bowl. Surprisingly -- one of the companies that has produced some very memorable TV ads over the past couple years is Kmart.  

Based on their category and their financial woes, you wouldn't really expect Kmart to be all that funny, but's definitely been their goal.  Who can forget the infamous Ship My Pants spots?

Last Christmas, they brought us the Show Your Joe spot, which had boxer clad men ringing in the holiday cheer.  These spots have earned Kmart a lot of public exposure and conversation because while some think they're funny, others find them offensive.  

This year, Kmart continued the Joe Boxer spots with Jingle Bellies (below) and Santa Baby.


The spots are memborable, funny/offensive depending on your take, and clearly promoting a specific product.  But do they work?

"I want to be in the conversation," says Diane Vaccaro, chief marketing officer at Kmart Apparel. "I want to be part of the conversation in a disruptive and authentic way."

Last year's controversial spot "forced folks to consider Kmart," says Vaccaro. "A number told us that they hadn't been in Kmart for years but the ad made them go back. We struck a chord."

Most importantly, it boosted the store's Joe Boxer sales last year. Now the question is -- will it work again this year?  Kmart has had a terrible year and needs a huge uptick over the holiday season to try to balance those results.

These spots are a huge risk for Kmart...but if the results begin to heal their financial woes, it was a risk worth taking.

Here's the real (and only) question. Would these spots change your buying patterns?  Would you go to Kmart because of them?  If your answer is yes -- they win. If you're answer is no, then they just paid millions of dollars to make a non-customer laugh.

We market to sell.  That's it -- the only measure that truly matters is did the cash register ring.


Does your 2015 plan take the social compass into account?

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I'm hoping that you've started on your 2015 marketing plan. Brian Solis created a very interesting infographic to help marketers think through their communications strategy from a very different perspective.  

As Brian said on his own blog, "Inspired by a moral compass, The Social Compass serves as our value system when defining our program activities. It points a brand in a physical and experiential direction to genuinely and effectively connect with customers, peers, and influencers, where they interact and seek guidance online.

It was designed to guide us from the center outward. However, it can also impact how a business learns and adapts by reversing the process and listening to customers and influencers through each channel from the outside in."

Take a look at the infographic he created and use it to identify holes or missing pieces in your own plan for the upcoming year. While it's called a social marketing compass, it actually includes both on and offline elements.

This would also be a great tool to stimulate a brainstorming session for you and your team.




Make them run away, screaming

IdontwanttoeatthatDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

We each have one.  That one food that even if we just get a whiff of it, it turns your stomach.  

We can't help ourselves -- if we see it, smell it or even hear someone talking about it -- we make that scrunched up face.

You know the face I'm talking about.

Hold that thought for a minute.  Now... I want you to think of the client/customer that you could never make happy.  They were always complaining about something, disrespecting your team or having you do it over.  Again.

Those are the kinds of clients who suck the life out of us.  Who make us regret our career decision and wish we'd opted for something less stressful, like bull fighting.  

Those are the kinds of clients we need to repel in 2015.  We want them to make that run from us.  Why?  Besides their general unpleasantness, a bad fit customer costs you:

  • Time (They require so much hand holding, do over time, etc.)
  • Money (We are probably paying for the privilege of working for them, because they're such a pain)
  • Employees (our best ones will leave, not being willing to tolerate that sort of behavior/attitude)
  • Sleep/Peace of mind (W're always waiting for the other shoe to drop)
  • Our good customers (because we're so busy with the bad ones, we neglect the good ones)

So what can you do to repel them in 2015? 

I want you to think of the most effective marketing tool that you have.  Your website? An ad in a trade pub? A radio spot?  It doesn't matter what it is -- just that you have one.

Now, I want you to modify that marketing tool by writing and designing it in a way that would totally turn off that bad client.  Make every word and visual emphasize something they would hate. Now - actually use it.

Why?  You're going to kill two birds with one stone.  First, it will repel those bad fit customers who drain your organization of all your mojo.  Second, it will help you attact the absolute opposite of your worst customer -- your best fit customer.

Marketing materials are often too generic, too "all things are possible" because the creator doesn't want to offend or turn off anyone.  I think that's crazy. You want your marketing to offend those who aren't a great fit.  You want your marketing to clearly spell out what value you deliver and what matters to you. And you want your marketing to push away those prospects that you could never make happy to begin with.

Go on, give it a try.  Write an absoltutely repulsive ad and see what it attracts!


~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Negative political ads - do they work?


Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I don't know about you, but I am about ready to abandon TV for the next few weeks.  It's Netflix and DVDs for me until November 5th.

I’ve yet to hear anyone say “man, I sure love political ads,” as they watch the fourth spot in a row. In Iowa, we get more than our fair share of political ads so we know all too well how negative they are. If the race is tight — they’re ugly. If the candidate is behind in the polls by double digits — they’re nasty. As the election grows closer — they're vicious. And no matter what -- they're painfully plentiful.

So if we all react so badly to them, why do all of the candidates use these tactics? Odds are, considering the millions of dollars spent — it’s because they work. In fact, Kantar Media CMAG found spending on negative ads outpaced spending on positive ads 15-1 since 2010.

They do work but only in specific ways. They don’t get non voters to vote. They don’t change the opinion of someone who has already strongly aligned with a candidate. But they do influence voters with weak or no allegiance to a specific candidate.

Negative ads trigger an emotional response from us, especially if the topic is a hot button issue for the viewer. When someone sees an ad that frightens them, they get worried. As they worry, they start to investigate to see if the allegations are true.

The ads stir up the margins…the people who are undecided or a little wishy-washy in their decision about who should get their vote. Today, because most races are reasonably tight — influencing a few might make a difference.

It’s also why most negative ads are squarely aimed at emotionally charged issues. They want us to see red and to have a visceral reaction.

“One reason that negative messages are so compelling is that we are emotional creatures, wired to pay attention to harmful information,” said Joel Weinberger, a psychologist at Adelphi University in New York and owner of Implicit Strategies, a consulting firm that investigates unconscious influences on behavior. "Think of our ancestors on the African savannah," he said. "If you miss a leopard, it's over for you. If you miss a deer, oh well, you're hungry. People are more focused on negative information. People stop for a car wreck, but there are no traffic jams for beautiful flowers."

"In negative ads, they make a narrative for you that is supposed to brand the person," he added. "People say, 'I hate negative ads, they do nothing for me,' while unconsciously processing them. Emotion trumps cognition."

I think the escalation is partially our fault. Look at your Facebook feed or listen to your friends talk politics. We're just as bad as the candidates, only probably less informed.  It's probbly a chicken and an egg situation -- but we are just fanning the flames.

Sadly this has been a problem for a long time, as the CNN video above proves out.

Until we as a state and ultimately, as a country, demand that we, our family and friends and the politicians stick to the issues and their plans for making things better and do it with a civil tongue, showing their opponent and their constituents some respect --  nothing is going to change.

Until then, thank goodness for Netflix.


DrewTop Dog at McLellan Marketing Group


How do you talk to your employees?

Treasure-Map_optDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Do you know where you want your company to be in five years?  If I asked you to describe it in detail -- could you?

(If you can't -- you need to spend a little time creating that vision.  Read this Inc. article for the 8 steps to get it done)

Let's assume that you've already done that work and you have a clear picture in your head.  How often do you get it out of your own head and share it with your team?

Every day you ask them to work hard. Do they understand why and what your ultimate destination is?  

You don't get to a five year destination without stopping along the way. Do they even understand the journey itself?  That this year's goals get you a little closer to that big, hairy, audacious goal that you've set?

Business owners and leaders need to remember that they can't be the only keeper of the vision. The truth is -- you can't get there without your team, whether you have five employees or 500.  And to help you get there -- they need to be constantly reminded.  You can't just tell them once and then assume they'll keep it top of mind.

Like you -- your team has plenty on their plate and it's tough to keep the big picture front and center.  That's your job. You need to find ways to get your crew excited about where you're going.  You need to create milestones for them to shoot for and celebrations for when they do.

Your job -- your responsibility is to be both aspirational and inspirational.  I know you have to spend a lot of your day just getting the work done.  But make sure that's not the only thing you're talking to them about.

Why not schedule an all company meeting to remind them where you're heading and why it matters?

~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group



Brand versus branding

DisneyBrandsDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I attended the Disney Institute's workshop (thanks to the local chapter of the Association of Talent Development for bringing it here) this week and there were a lot of takeaways as we talked about how one of the world's most iconic and profitable brands does business. 

Looking at the graphic to the right, considering all of the incredible brands that are under the Disney Companies umbrella -- they know a thing or two about the subject.

One of the great disctinctions that they talked about was the difference between brand and branding.  Here's how they described it:

Brand is the perceptions and substantive experience that consumers have with your company, product, service or people.

Branding is the activities and tactics you undertake to affect the stories, experiences, and perceptions that consumers have with your company, product, service or people.

In other words -- brand is what you and your team bring to life every day.  The other is how you communicate the promise of what that experience will be like.  Sadly, what most organizations do is branding.  But they don't invest the time and resources into making sure that the brand actually matches the branding.

When that doesn't happen (think of all the times you'd have bad or mediocre service from a company who promised you were their #1 priority) to the consumer, it feels like you've been lying to them and worse -- they were a fool for believing you.

One of the key elements in gaining/keeping someone's trust is making a promise and repeatedly keeping that promise. That's what initially gets you a new customer and eventually turns that customer into a brand zealot.

Undrstanding the symbiosis of brand and branding and doing whatever needs to be done (training, secret shopping, employee rewards based on customer satisfaction, etc.) to make sure that the brand experience lives up to the promise is what allows Disney, Apple and Harley Davidson to all charge a premium.

We'll pay more for the brands we love because they keep their promises to us.

I challenge all of you to look at what you promise and make sure it's actually what you consistently deliver.  If not -- it's time to invest in that brand.


DrewTop Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

It should convert or why bother?

SalesFunnel_optDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

It's not very often that I disagree with Seth Godin. But in his blog post on Friday, he was talking about websites and said "but don't beat yourself up that it's not converting. By real-life definitions, nothing online converts."

Boy, when Seth gets it wrong, he gets it really wrong. One of the best things about the web is it's measurable.  Finally -- we marketing types can measure our work and can tell what's working and what isn't.  

We can literally calculate the sales results based on a simple equation and then triggering certain marketing tactics that influence those results.

Whether you actually sell something online or not -- your website can and should lead to sales.  You just have to understand how people move through your sales cycle and then build the site to be sales funnel shaped... making it easy for people to find the information they need to make a purchase.

Now -- there are some exceptions to this rule.  Some people, consciously or not, have decided they don't want their site to sell.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this decision. It's just a different choice.

Are you one of those people? You might recognize yourself if you...

Built your site to showcase your work visually and have very little text: In today's search driven rule, a photo heavy site has a tough time competing with a site with lots of SEO enhanced text.

Never change or add to the content on your site: Stale content doesn't bring people back or keep their interest for long.

Your site doesn't help web visitors: Using your expertise to both help the visitor and demonstrate your knowledge is a smart way to keep them coming back for more and sooner or later, some of them will be ready to buy.

Aren't driving people back to your core site with your social media efforts: Are you a frequent re-tweeter but rarely share your own helpful content? Are your social posts stand alone efforts?

Again -- it's absolutely fine to opt for a site that doesn't sell.  Just make sure it's a choice, not a mistake.


~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group



ALS ice bucket challenge brings out the best and worst in social media


Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

If you haven't heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge, you have clearly been living in a cave or hibernating.

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness.  People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.

Beverly, Mass. resident Pete Frates, along with his family, helped to make the “Ice Bucket Challenge” go viral on the social sites Facebook and Twitter.  Frates, 29, has lived with ALS since 2012, and he has worked with The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter.  A former Division 1 college athlete with Boston College Baseball, Frates tirelessly spreads awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

This viral sensation, which has used the hash tag #IceBucketChallenge, has attracted thousands of followers, including Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, who willingly dropped frozen ice on themselves and issued the challenge to others.

On Wednesday, former President George W. Bush joined thousands of others who got doused for a good cause. He challenged Bill Clinton to do the same.  

Now that's going viral.  On top of the crazy videos being posted every few seconds -- ALS has raised more than $31 million dollars, as of 8/20/2014.

Hard to argue with the success of this home-grown promotion.  Along with the $31 million in donations and videos of everyone from Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik to Michael Jordan to Bill Gates and even Oprah Winfrey, the campaign has brought out the worst and best of social media.

The worst -- many so-called social media experts and jealous non-profits are complaining about the campaign, saying everything from 'you are wasting water' to 'someone is going to have a heart attack' from how cold the water is.

Others are upset because the campaign is working so well that they think everyone is forgetting about all the other non-profits out there.  Interestingly, people who have ALS are also demanding (some more rudely than others) documentation on where the donated funds are being spent.  

As with any successful endeavor, it brings out people who want to take the discussion to all sorts of sidebar issues.

Lots of sour grapes, some legitimate questions and people trying to steal a little of the spotlight.  

On the flip side -- this is one of those crazy, luck-of-the-draw situations that is putting ALS on everyone's lips and wallets.  It's also a great study in why viral can't be contrived or orchestrated.  

If I'd said to you -- do you think we can get everyone from President Bush to Oprah to all videotape themselves being doused with a bucket of ice cold water and share it online -- what would you have said?  It's tough to get people to click LIKE or share a story, let alone go to the elaborate measures that some of the bucket challenge participants have undertaken.

I'm sure that the folks at ALS had absolutely NO idea this was going to get so big, so successful and so out of their control.  While I am sure they're thrilled, they must also be a little freaked out.

They're doing a great job of fielding questions, keeping the spotlight on the families who are dealing with ALS and using the global stage to educate people about ALS and their fight for a cure.  They're not allowing all of the negative buzz to pull them off message.

They are creating specific web pages to deal with some of the common topics like "you're wasting water" to "where is the money going" and everytime someone repeats the same issue -- they point to the same resource. 

A huge hat tip to the ALS Association for handling this uproar in a best practices sort of way.  They are:

  • Staying true to their mission
  • Educating and advocating
  • Being consistent in all their messaging
  • Not letting the naysayers derail their efforts
  • Grabbing the tiger by the tail and promoting the famous and not-so-famous as they take the challenge
  • Looking ahead and planning for what's next

Whether your own marketing/social efforts go this big or deliver a more modest rush of attention -- these best practices will still serve you well.


~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group



B2B marketers say content marketing isn't working

Screenshot 2014-08-07 23.25.00Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

A recent study conducted by Integrated Marketing Summit and Starfleet Media offers some interesting food for thought. 

More than a third of the B2B marketers say that their content marketing efforts have not been successful. After reading through the survey results -- I think I can understand why.

They're treating content marketing like traditional marketing: Buy an ad, get a customer.  Share an ebook, get a customer.  That' not how content works.  Content is about building trust and value.  It's a long tail strategy, not a turn and burn effort.  If you think someone is going to share your infographic and immediately go to your website to buy something -- you are going to be disappointed.

They're chasing new customers and ignoring their best customers: This isn't just a content marketing issue, it's a generic marketing issue.  Most businesses are so eager to get a new customer that they neglect their existing customers.  Sadly, this is short-sighted.  Your best bet for a new sale is your existing customers.  Your content should serve them.

They think it's about selling, not helping: Look at the chart to the right.  Look how selfish their goals are -- know me better, get more leads, etc.  It's not that those goals are not worthwhile but content marketing is all about being useful. Their #1 goal should be to be a go to resource/subject matter expert. (which is the goal that got the least response) By being that subject matter expert -- you will get brand awareness, leads and sales.  But it doesn't happen over night.

They're holding their content hostage: The best content marketing sites share a lot of their content for free and without a firewall or gated page (requiring a registration to access the information) first and then add some premium content that they'll swap for an email address. Again -- teach me, help  me and eventually I will trust you with my email address.

They didn't know what to do next: Content marketing is all about creating a tribe of people who value you and what you do. But from there, you do need to move some of them into the actual sales funnel.  Most B2B companies haven't mapped out the entire process from first website visit to first sale. So they create the interest but there's no easy bridge from fan to customer.  

Don't get me wrong -- ALL marketing is about selling more stuff.  But you need to understand the sales funnel process of what you're doing.  Content marketing is about building relationships and being a trusted source first and eventually making the sale as a result.  That path needs to be designed and communicated clearly or else you'll be one of those B2B marketers who is frustrated by the results of your efforts.

You have to set realistic expectations for yourself, your team and the C-suite. You need to measure the right things and have the patience to create real value, real relationships and real trust.  Then and only then will you earn real sales.


You can download a copy of the study here.


~ Drew 

How are you building your loyal community?

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Long before there was all this talk about building a tribe or "viral buzz," there was the recognition that:

  1. There is value in existing customers because they're your most likely sale (resale)
  2. If they love you, they'll tell their friends and family and that endorsement lowers buying resistance
  3. People want a sense of belonging and exclusivity and you earn increased loyalty when you can create those things for them

So the idea of rewards or loyalty programs have been around forever. But honestly, most companies just call it in. They offer a few measly perks but it really just turns into a frequent buyers discount. There's nothing wrong with that.... but it can be so much more.

One of the best examples of how to make it more is Maker's Mark Straight Bourbon Handmade Whisky (I think it should have an 'e' too, but that's how they spell it.)

I joined their Ambassadors program several years ago and I continue to be impressed with how they court their loyalists. Every holiday season, there's a clever gift (gift bags for your whisky bottle gifts, fun gift tags, etc.) and throughout the year, they connect and share with their ambassadors in a way that feels very exclusive and privileged.

Earlier this week, I got a mailing that announced that the barrel with my name engraved on the name plate (a perk of becoming an ambassador) was finally ready.

Whenever they send something -- it's done with a lot of class. No cutting corners or plain jane communications here. (Think they're trying to remind us of their values -- handmade whisky). The stock is heavy, the photography is gorgeous and the message is very "you're the few and the privileged" kind of copy.







The final photo shows you the purpose of their mailing. My barrel is ready (note how I am already thinking of it as my barrel) and this is my golden ticket. Now I can visit their distillery and purchase/personally hand dip my very own bottles from my very own barrel.

And, they've created a special label for the bottles so everyone will know that the bourbon came from my own personalized barrel batch.

But if I don't visit by March 31, 2015 -- they will have to release whatever bourbon from my barrel that is left (insert gasp here) to the masses.  

Brilliant. I have no idea how many people actually make the pilgrammage to get their bottles (which you have to buy -- it's not like they're going to give it to you) but I am so tempted to find a reason to be in Kentucky just so I can make the trip.

If they go to incredible lengths by mail and email -- imagine what they might do if you showed up in person.

There's a lot for us to learn from Maker's Mark. Could they do it even better?  Sure... but they do it far better than most.

When I was writing this post, I wanted to find a list of the Ambassador perks. So I tried to log into the Ambassadors only section of their website, but I couldn't remember my log in stuff. (Note to self... for your password tool to work, you have to enter the password). I must have entered something incorrectly (I'm guessing zip code) and I got this message:

Screenshot 2014-07-24 10.50.21

Read the message. I love the fact that Jenny, not one of our customer service representatives, is going to contact me. So personal -- and again, makes me feel like I matter.  

What are your takeaways from Maker's Mark?  How could you either improve your existing customer loyalty program or create something that makes your best customers feel like they are vital to your success and you want them to be a part of a very exclusive club?


 ~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group



Marketing conferences -- which ones are for you?

Event BadgeDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I'm often asked which marketing conferences I recommend and I have to say, the list is pretty short.  

It seems like most conferences hire the same 8-10 speakers we've all seen over and over again or else they bring in brand managers from places like Coke or Harley.

Don't get me wrong -- I love listening to those speakers. But, they don't live in the same world as we do.  

As an agency, we deal with small to mid-sized ($20 million in revenue and below) companies and they definitely do not have a Coke or Harley marketing budget.

If I'm going to spend the money and time to actually attend a conference, I want to leave with a notebook full of ideas I can think about and implement right away.  

I want tangible examples that I can relate to because they're right sized for my agency and our clients.

Given that criteria, here are some of my favorite conferences:

BOLO Conference in Scottsdale, AZ in October

BOLO /boh-loh/, v. 1. Be On the Look Out. 2. Digital marketing conference in Scottsdale, AZ. BOLO brings together the thought-leaders and change-makers of the agency world. Experience authentic connections, audacious speakers, actionable ideas, and a helluva good time. BOLO 2014 is shaping up to be our best event yet. We like to keep things meaningful, so we allow just 250 of our friends to register before the doors close. Be on the lookout for additional information arriving soon!

Drew's note -- this is for agency folks, so if you're a CMO, this probably is not the right choice for you.  But if you work for an agency -- you will love this one!

Content Marketing World in Cleveland, OH in September

Content Marketing World is the one event where you can learn and network with the best and the brightest in the content marketing industry. You will leave with all the materials you need to take a content marketing strategy back to your team – and – to implement a content marketing plan that will grow your business and inspire your audience.

Drew's note -- this one is packed with speakers who will talk about budgets way beyond yours like Kraft Foods and SAP but because they're still trying to figure out content too -- it's relevant, no matter the size of your budget.

Marketing Profs B2B Forum in Boston in October

Are you armed and ready to meet the marketing challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond? With technology and the way we live changing rapidly, B2B marketers have so many options and tools that it can be overwhelming. At the 2014 B2B Marketing Forum we will have inspirational speakers presenting on the hottest, smartest topics—giving you the knowledge you need to thrive in 2014, 2015 and beyond. Get ready to bullet-proof your marketing for the future and come out a modern marketing rockstar!

Drew's note -- This is a smaller conference (unlike CMW above) so you'll have lots of access to the speakers (most of them stay for the whole conference, so they're around and accessible) and networking.

And.... one of the best of all is right here in Iowa.  Yup, I said Iowa.

Social Brand 2014 in Coralville in September

The Social Brand Forum, a top 10 social media conference, again brings national social media and digital marketing thought leaders to Iowa for two days of impactful keynotes and interactive discussions. Social Brand 2014 is designed to help marketers at organizations small and large build better brands online through social media content, conversations, and community.

Drew's note -- This is a fantastic conference (created by Iowa's Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital) that has been designed to give attendees incredible access to top notch speakers, built in networking opportunities and lots of tangible, use it now content.

So here is my challenge for you. Pick one and register this week. Surely you believe in lifelong learning right?

If you decide that Iowa's own Social Brand 2014 is the right one for you -- use the coupon code DREW and you can save a few bucks. (I don't get anything if you register other than the satisfaction that you're going to love it.) 

Attending one of these conferences this fall is the perfect appetizer to working on your 2015 marketing budget.

Go on -- get even smarter!

~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group


The customer experience doesn't just happen

DisneyapologyDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

There is not a business in existance today that does not want to deliver an incredible customer experience. And with good reason -- when a customer has an extraordinary interaction with your organization, some pretty cool stuff happens.

  • They spend more money
  • They come back more often
  • They tell other people and generate new customers for you
  • They share their experiences on social media

Here's the rub.  We all want it but very few companies actively train for it.  We tell our employees that we want them to treat our customers well.  We very well might set a good example by demonstrating it in their presence.  

But it's a rare business who regularly and actively teaches excellence when it comes to dealing with your clientele.

We just assume (and we know what that creates) that everyone who works for us magically knows what amazing customer care looks like.  But you are all consumers.  How often do you get that kind of service?  Don't you think the places you frequent (grocery store, restaurants, retail establishments, etc.) want great customer service too?

But just like you -- they assume their people get it.  And from our experiences in their establishments -- we know they do not.

No one gets customer service and business excellence better than Disney.  They get it because they've perfected it and they actively teach it/train it every day.  The picture in this blog post is what was delivered to our room at Walt Disney World because it wasn't ready on time.  Do you think they pulled that out of left field?  No -- it was planned and trained so that when they needed it -- it was easy.

No matter what kind of business you run -- you can deliver that same level of business excellence and it starts with learning Disney's tricks.

Lucky for you -- the folks at ATD (formerly ASTD) are bringing Disney's Approach to Business Excellence workshop right here to Central Iowa on September 16th. It will be taught by Disney Institute cast members and will be an entire day of learning and exploring how you can bring Disney's level of quality to everything you do -- earning Disney-like brand loyalty from your customers.

If you hurry -- you can grab the early bird discount.  And if you use the coupon code MMG (we're helping to sponsor the event) , you can get an additional discount on top of that.

You and your team can learn from the world class Disney organization's playbook. If you want to be a world class organization -- you have to teach your people what that looks like and how you can do it together.

Here's the perfect opportunity to do just that.  I hope to see you there!


~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group


Do you have an ebook in you?

BooksOnlineDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Ebooks are smart marketing. Here are some of the benefits of creating one:

  • Attract prospects
  • Share your expertise
  • Builds a mailing list
  • Establish your thought leadership
  • Help potential and existing customers
  • Stand out from your competitors
  • Generate word of mouth marketing

And the best news is…. if you want to, you can create it completely on your own. Many companies use their ebook as a lead generation tool, trading helpful content for a prospect’s email address. Others will sell their ebook on their own website or places like Amazon.

Whether you give it away or sell it, the key is creating something of value. Here are some tips for making that happen.

Write what you know: The whole point of creating an ebook is to share what you know to demonstrate your expertise. So don’t stray from your expertise. Pick a topic that is in your sweet spot.

Don’t be stingy with the insights: I know it goes against your grain to give away what you sell but I promise, they’ll still come to buy even if you give away the goods. But if you don’t give away the goods, your ebook will be a flop.

Make it pretty: One of the things that separates a good ebook from a white paper or just a plain old PDF report is how it looks. Use visuals and a sense of design to lay out the book so it reflects your company’s brand and the content. Don’t forget how many of us are visual learners so infographics, charts and other visual teaching tools are a nice addition.

Break it up: If the idea of writing a book is daunting (remember, an ebook can be any length) then break it up. Write the sections or chapters as blog posts or stand alone articles and then weave them together. Or assign different people in your organization to write different sections.

Maybe it’s already written: You’ve probably written many reports, proposals, blog posts and presentations. It could be that the germ or most of the contents of your ebook are in one or more of them. Re-purposing content is a great way to save time and emphasize some of your time-honored wisdom.

Promote it and promote it some more: The internet is definitely not a world where if you build it, they will come. Once you have the ebook online and available for download or purchase — you need to tell the world. Use both digital and traditional methods of driving traffic to your masterpiece.

I know there's an ebook or two in you.  Why not start it today?


~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group




Is advertising becoming just a punchline?

Screenshot 2014-05-21 22.48.28Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

JDate, the Jewish dating service, has a new ad campaign running and they launched it with billboards in Tme Square.  

The headline reads "Find Mr. Right to Left" as the company shifts its messaging away from "someone else's romantic success stories" to more of a "me right now" vibe that's aimed at millennials.

The next two ads in the series will feature headlines like "Because Dating Shouldn't Be as Hard As Parting the Red Sea" and "Matzah Ball Recipes Don’t Survive on Their Own."

What most people will find interesting about this campaign is that JDate didn't hire an agency to create this campaign -- they crowdsourced the lines. At this point in time, I find the crowdsourcing angle to be old news -- seems like half the SuperBowl ads were crowdsourced over the past couple years.

Here's what has my attention and concern. Good, effective advertising used to be well crafted from a strategy that made sense in every medium and to each of your key target audiences. But as our attention spans shorten and companies like JDate take short cuts to creating their campaigns -- everything is reduced to a funny bit or clever punchline.

In some ways, that works for the bigger consumer products. We don't really have to be told how they work or why they're useful -- we know what beer does ("Bud" "Weiser" frogs). We get what a Wendy's hamburger is for (Where's the beef?"). And no one has to think too hard to figure out why someone would go on JDate's website.

But for most businesses -- that method does not work. You're not a household name and what you sell isn't as obvious as beer, burgers or insurance. Your marketing needs to be built around a strategically sound plan that moves a prospect through the necessary steps of the know • like • trust = sales model that we've talked about before.

You can't rely on a funny line or sight gag to actually get someone to want to learn more or to wonder if they need what you sell. 

Don't get fooled by all these punchline ads all around you. You're going to actually have to do the hard work of understanding your customers and why they would be interested in what you have to say.

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

There's a bargain and then there's...


As you might imagine -- good marketing is all about walking that fine line.

If your customer base is cost conscious, one of the ways you can make them feel like they're not only getting a good deal but that they're also in control of their buying decision is to give them choices.

The key is knowing when you've stomped all over the fine line.

I thought Allegiant went too far when they announced they were going to start charging for sodas. But Frontier Airline makes that foolishness look like reasoned thinking with their announcement today that they're going to start charging for the overhead bin space.

Depending on when you book your overhead bin space -- it could cost you anywhere from $25-$50 per bag.  Add to that -- if you want to actually select your seat (meaning anything but the middle seat) you'll have to pay for that too.  $3 for reserving a seat in advance if you do it while booking online and $8 if you choose it at the airport.

Most people already feel like they're part of a cattle herd when they fly. These additional fees and changes continue to de-value the experience and make the customers feel less valued and less important.  That's not exactly marketing 101.

In fact, there's a few marketing caveats that seem in danger here.

Don't give someone too many choices:  It's been proven that too many choices can actually paralyze a buyer -- leaving their wallet frozen in place.  While consumer do like to feel in control, they don't like to feel overwhelmed.

Economical is one thing, cheap is another: Most people enjoy saving money but they also want to believe they are spending their money on something of value.  You don't want your customers to feel nickeled and dimed on their way to saving a couple pennies.

Understand your reputation: If you're in an industry that consumers are already pretty disgusted with -- you might want to keep your eye on the customer service aspect of your choices. In fact, out of 43 industries, airlines rank 40th in terms of satisfaction (the only industries consumers hate more are Internet service providers, Internet social media companies, and subscription TV services), according to data released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Serve your best customers best:  I think these airlines are aiming for the occasional budget conscious flier, not a frequent traveler. I'm not so sure it makes a lot of sense to build your product to capture your least frequent customers.

Only time will tell if airlines like Frontier and Allegiant are making a smart play or if it's going to cost them marketshare. But they are certainly playing with fire.  

Would these new changes and charges influence your buying decision one way or the other?

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group



Is your website built to be a marketing tool?

Bigstock-Technology-Internet-Websites-R-7414239Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Back when websites first came into being, they were little more than a digital brochure with some photos and text that validated your business' existance.

Today -- if your website isn't one of your most useful marketing/sales workhorses -- you're missing the boat. Want to know if you're maximizing the potential of your website?  

I can't do justice to that question here, but I can give you some food for thought. Answer these five questions to get an idea if your site is really serving you well.

Do you have a call to action "above the fold" on your website? In other words, without any scrolling? The Google algorithym gives priority to content above the fold. Don’t waste this valuable space on just a large header or image on pages within your site or blog articles. 

Do you talk about yourself all over your site or use the space to make your visitor smarter? Today's buyers do 60-70% of their shopping online, before they ever shoot you an email, pick up the phone or visit your store. They're coming to your site to learn and see if you're a good fit. Make them smarter by teaching them something useful to show them what it would be like to work with you.

Your goal is to get permission to stay in touch. How are you doing that? Most web visitors are potential customers. But they may not be ready to buy today. So you need to stay in touch until they are. How are you capturing their email address and what value are you offering for it?

What do your analytics tell you? Pay attention to the pages your visitors are spending time on. That should help you decide what to highlight on your home page and core navigation. It's clearly what they want to know more about.

Who are your voices of reason? People are skeptical and hate being sold to so why not use some testimonials from happy clients to reassure them that you're the real deal. Ideally those testimonials would be specific and give details about the value you brought.

So how'd you do?  Is your website doing all it should for you and your business?

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog of McLellan Marketing Group


What happens when a brand gets perspective

I love it when a brand develops enough confidence to stand for something bigger and more important than whatever it is they sell.

That sort of self-understanding and clear vision on who their audience is and how they can truly help them is rare. And it is branding at it's finest.

Check out this TV spot from Dove.  They've figured out that their brand is all about women and celebrating a woman's beauty -- true beauty.


Notice that you did not see or hear one Dove product's name or even its product category.  

When you can do this for your audience -- your brand has grown up and is really ready to own the marketplace.  

When you don't think your audience won't get it unless you club them over the head.  When you stop worrying about how many times you mention your product or show it within 30 seconds.  When you finally understand what it is you sell -- bravo, your brand is ready and so are you.


~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog


In PR — make it personal

RosenDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I receive a lot of email pitches from people who want me to write about some product, service, app, or book on my blog.

I can’t even imagine what journalists and popular blogs like the Huffington Post must get.

Most of them get a form “thank you but no” email from me. They haven’t done their research, don’t know what I write about and many times — it’s a form letter that I know I received along with about 200 other marketing bloggers. Many times, they don’t even address me by name.

But every once in awhile, someone does it well. Emanuel Rosen, who I’ve never met in person but we’ve interacted for a few years in social media circles, has written a new book called Absolute Value. He sent me a message on Facebook about his book, asking if he could send me a copy.

When I received the book, I saw that Emanuel took the time to jot me a note on the inside, even referencing that he knew I lived in Iowa. Now I am not suggesting that I was the only person he sent a book to or even the only one to receive a personalized copy. I know better. But he did invest some time and effort — which makes me much more likely to notice or want to be helpful.

Usually when I get a book in the mail, I had no idea it was coming and there’s nothing but a promotional flier inside. So I don’t even know if the publisher or author sent it. I’m a fast reader but there’s no way I could read them all. So I have to choose.

Emanuel’s book went to the top of my pile because he bothered to make a personal connection and demonstrate that I wasn’t just the 150th person on some list. In fairness, it also went to the top of my pile because his earlier book, The Anatomy of Buzz, was a great read so I was confident that his new book would be as well.

Turns out, I was right. It was very thought-provoking and raised some serious questions about how the power of branding may be shifting, which is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I wrote a review (read it here) and encouraged my blog readers to check it out.

So let’s look at the recipe card for how Emanuel got the results he wanted, because they’re the same steps you should take if you’re trying to get the media’s attention.

  • He established the connection between us before he needed to ask for the review
  • He stayed in touch periodically to keep the connection open (we’d occasionally comment on each other’s FB posts etc)
  • When he wanted me to help him promote his book, he made a personal ask
  • He made it easy for me — he sent me a copy of his book
  • He let me know I wasn’t just a cog in the wheel by personalizing the signature in the book
  • When I sent him an email saying that I liked the book and was going to write about it, he was genuinely appreciative
  • No doubt eventually he will comment on the blog post or shoot me a thank you on FB (I just posted the review tonight, so I am guessing on this one, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet)
  • He will promote the blog post — giving me some exposure to his list of contacts

That, my friends, is how it should be done. It’s not complicated, but it is human to human, not PR machine to the masses. And being the guy on the receiving end — I can tell you, that’s a difference you can feel.


~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

Content marketing at a glance

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

You can't read a marketing article or book without bumping into the phrase "content marketing." The truth is -- content marketing isn't new.  See if any of these marketing tactics look familiar:

  • Open a community forum
  • Generate a cause marketing effort
  • Encourage customer reviews
  • Give a keynote speech
  • Write a blog
  • Write an ebook
  • Publish some articles
  • Create an infographic
  • Generate media releases
  • Create guides or how to documents
  • Produce trend reports
  • Record a podcast
  • Send out an enewsletter
  • Host an event
  • Create some interactive demos
  • Put on a webinar
  • Create useful calculators or checklists
  • Share some case studies

See -- you've already been creating content, you just called it something different. But have you been doing it well?

Check out this infographic that the CMO Council created to make sure your efforts are well received.  (click on it to see a larger size.)



The truth is -- the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to content marketing is not do it at all. With the tips on this infographic -- you can dodge the big mistakes and deliver content that delivers new customers!

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

Would your movie be all about you?

FBmovieDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In celebration of their 10-year anniversary, Facebook surprised its users this week by allowing each user to create a one minute movie that looked back on their Facebook presence. It grabbed photos and status updates that had received a lot of likes and everyone has been sharing them in the newsfeed.

(To the right, you can see a screenshot of me sharing my movie with my FB friends)

It's been fun to look back at other people's public facing life and what they've shared.

Watching all of the videos got me thinking about how business Facebook pages would fare if we used the same app on them.  

If we did some sort of composite of the entries on your company's Facebook page -- what would we see?  Would we see you talking about your stuff, your sale, your awards and your employees?

I doubt it. You see -- the way the app selected what to show in the movie was based on how many likes and comments each entry received. So it wasn't what I, Drew McLellan, thought was most interesting or important -- it was what my friends took the time to enjoy.

So if your business page is littered with stuff about your company and it's more sales or self oriented... your movie might have been blank. (Wouldn't that have been embarrassing?)  

Seems like this movie gift was a very good reminder to all of us that Facebook (whether it is our personal page or a business page) is all about the audience and what they care about. As you put together your editorial calendar for Facebook (you have one, right?) ask yourself -- would this item show up in my movie because it engaged my page's audience or would they ignore this?

Be more purposeful about what goes on your page... and avoid sharing content that wouldn't make your movie.

 ~ Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group 

How was your marketing in 2013?

A+You survived another year, the holidays have whizzed by and now everyone is ready to get back to work.

2014.  So many opportunities.  

But before we think about that, we need to make the time to look back on the last 12 months.

Pull out your marketing plan for ’13.  If you didn't have one, at least think through your marketing efforts.

  • What actually got done?
  • What worked?
  • Did you try to do too much and stretch yourself too thin?
  • Did you start off great but as soon as you got busy, your marketing efforts died on the vine?
  • Are you guilty of trying something once or twice and then declaring it a failure without giving it the time and room to bloom?
  • What never got off the ground? Is it still a viable idea or has its time passed?
  • What is the one thing that you’d planned on doing that you most regret not getting to? Is the opportunity still there?

Overall, what letter grade would you give your marketing efforts this year?

  • Did you meet your own objectives?
  • Did you protect your brand?
  • Did you build in marketing efforts that continued no matter how busy or overcommitted you became?

Use the following for criteria: effectiveness, consistency, frequency, and ROI. Then, average the grades. How’d you do?

Don’t get discouraged if you couldn’t give yourself an A or even a passing grade. The good news is, there is time to make an improvement as we look the new year. But I'm betting there are some insights on how you should move forward based on last year's performance.

Why not get out of the gate in the right direction by taking a glance backwards?

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

Marketing lessons from Rudolph

Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeerDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Sure, it's a Christmas classic… but have you really considered what marketing messages are woven into the classic Christmas story — Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

I didn't think so. Let's fix that mistake right now.

Marketing lesson #1:  You can't hide the truth.

Rudolph did not embrace the fact that he was different from all the other reindeer. He just wanted to have a cute little black nose and the chance to play some reindeer games.

You can fool people for a little while, but if you cannot walk the talk…don't say it in the first place. Your consumers know you're not perfect. They just want you to be straight about it.

Marketing lesson #2:  Never make assumptions about how your consumers feel.  Far better to ask directly.

One of the main reasons Rudolph took a hike was because he assumed Clarice wouldn't love him now that his nose so bright was common knowledge. Think of the grief he could have saved everyone if he had just checked in with her.

You are going to be hard pressed to find a more insightful marketing tool than a customer survey. Sometimes the news is tough to hear, but I guarantee you — you can make some simple changes to significantly increase your customer loyalty and retention.

Marketing lesson #3:  Your worst enemy can turn into your greatest ally.

Sure, the Abominable SnowMonster (or "The Bumble" as Yukon Cornelius called him) tried to eat his girlfriend, but Rudolph came to see him as a buddy — even letting him put the star atop the Christmas tree. All it took was someone (Hermey the elf) listening to the Bumble and finding his pain (tooth ache) to turn the grumbling beast into a helpful and happy pal.

When someone clearly dislikes or even hates your company, product or services' shortcomings, listen. If you really work towards understanding their perspective — you can not only save the relationship but you can turn that negative word of mouth risk into an advocate.

Marketing lesson #4:  Create raving fans and a community by giving first.

Rudolph didn't have to promise the Misfit Toys anything. At that moment, they couldn't help him. But with a generous heart, he promised them he'd try to find them good homes with children who would love them.

When you do something without regard for "re-payment" of any kind, you create value. When you create value, people keep coming back. When they do that, you begin to build a relationship and a sense of loyalty and no one has even tried to buy or sell yet. Which makes the selling a whole lot easier.

Marketing lesson #5:  When you find what makes you unique, it can be your ticket to new heights.

When Rudolph began to see his nose as an asset and recognized it was what set him apart from all the other reindeer, he suddenly got asked by Santa to take a leadership position.  From then on, it was his calling card. People told others about his nose and pretty soon, he was known from coast to coast. That's branding!

Companies like Apple and Disney rise to the top because they are proud of what makes them different. They don't try to be everything to everyone. They recognize that having a niche means you can create brand loyalty as opposed to being lost in a sea of sameness.

From all of us at McLellan Marketing Group -- wishing you a very happy holiday season!

~ Drew

How do you build a brand?

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I've had the good fortune, over my 25+ year career, to help many companies build their brand. Of course, that's just step one. Building a brand is the initial effort and in many ways the easiest effort. After all, you can say you are whatever you'd like to be.

The difficult part is actually becoming it.

That takes years of commitment and focus. Which is why most companies don't do it well. They start out great but when they have to actually live their brand and make the tough decisions that come along with that commitment -- their entusiasm wanes.

I get it -- the creating the brand is the fun part. But don't get so caught up in the fun that you forget there's a lot of work that is coming right behind it. And actually for me, that's really the fun stuff. To help bring a brand to life and to watch as an organization absorbs the brand into the very fiber of its culture and decisions is pretty cool stuff.

Want a peek at some of the fun of the early stages? Check out this infographic by the Palmer Agency. While it's a simplistic approach, it does point out some of the key ingredients. It's Friday -- why not pull together your team and see how you'd answer these questions?

~ Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group's Top Dog

Branding questionaire

Is your audience on 24/7?

TimemovementWhen I was growing up, my dad would get home from work around 6:00 pm.  He’d be carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit.  That was work dad. Once he walked in the door, he’d say hello and chat for a minute and then head upstairs to change.  When he came back downstairs in his jeans and casual shirt, he was home dad.  And for the most part, the two didn’t blend. 

There were no home computers back then and the only phone we owned had a really, really long cord so you might have a decent shot of having a private conversation if you stretched it as far as it would go.   Social norms dictated that my dad’s employees or boss didn’t call him at home unless there was a genuine emergency, so as a result, he rarely got work calls.

From what I could tell, that wasn’t unique to our house.  It was just how it was.

Contrast that with the results of a recent study done by Forbes (April 2012) that found that among senior decision makers the line between work and non-work time has all but been blurred away.

  • 52% say they receive information related to business decisions around-the-clock, including weekends.
  • 63% check work-related email every 1-2 hours during non-work hours.
  • 53% step away from dinner to deal with work-related issues.
  • 98% send work-related emails during the weekends or at night.

Only 3% of those surveyed said they did not interact with work-related email or have business conversations (via email, text or phone) while enjoying their vacation.

One fact that the study uncovered which gave me great hope -- there’s one period of time that most executives still protect and keep business from intruding.  Dinnertime with their families.

Interestingly, with execs staying connected throughout the workday, evening and weekends – they’re reporting that many business decisions are being made outside of business hours and outside the office.  59% of executives make 50% or more of their decisions at home or while traveling.

What I found most surprising about this study is that when asked how this uber connectivity made them feel, the executives overwhelmingly reacted in a positive way.  The word they used to describe how they felt about it was “empowered.”  They feel more in control and better prepared.

Today, professionals “toggle” between their personal and professional lives.   It’s not just a one-way street.  While they’re making business decisions from home, they’re also making personal decisions while at work.

What’s the takeaway from all of this for us, as marketers?

Work is no longer a nine to five proposition and we’ve got to factor that into how we communicate with our customers and prospects.   Today, work is more of a state of mind, rather than a state of time or place.

So timing your marketing efforts to coincide with the 9-5 workday is actually shortsighted. You are choosing the most crowded time for no real reason.  Your audience is connected and working pretty much all the time.

Even if you choose a less crowded time – you still have more competition than ever before.  Today, your target is not just doing one thing.   People have become master multitaskers.  We’re going to have to work harder to actually capture someone’s full attention.

This is another reason content marketing, social media and other “providing helpful information” marketing is rising to the top.  It also means that timely response has taken on a whole new meaning.  If they’re working on Saturday afternoon, do you think a reply by noon on Monday feels responsive?

You see – it’s not just “them” who is connected and working 24/7. It better be us too.


~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog



How will you say thanks?


Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I just saw a meme on Facebook that said there were eight or nine Saturdays until Christmas. Yikes. It's hard to believe the holiday season is practically on top of us.

In the business world, the holiday season means client gift giving season. Most businesses start thinking about this honored tradition around December 1 -- when it's too late to get creative or do something special.

But it's only October 15th. You have a choice.  

Are you going to resort to the expected -- you know, a poinsetta, or a basket of fresh fruit or maybe some chocolates, or are you going to do something memorable that would stand out from all the other fruit baskets, chocolates and plants?

Don't get me wrong -- if you've been sending poinsettas for 20 years, you should keep doing it. Now, it's part of your brand's DNA and your client's expectations. There's nothing wrong with a more traditional gift, if it fits your brand. My point is -- actually give it some thought.

This isn't about the cost or the extravagence -- it's really about being memorable. What could you give your clients that would make them stop and take notice. What would capture the spirit of your relationship and the work you do together? What would tell them that you truly appreciate the opportunity to work with them?

The perfect gift could be anything from a charitable donation to a self-published book to anything in between. You'll know it when you think of it.

And that's my suggestion. Take the time to think of it.

~ Drew, MMG's Top Dog



Are you leaving your mark?


Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I'm working on a column about the importance of leveraging your charitable activity and recognizing that it's a marketing effort. So I thought I would pose a few questions for you to ponder this week.

Does your company give anything to charity (money, time, in kind donations)?

If I surveyed your customers -- do they know you're doing this charitable work?

If your customers and prospects knew you were involved in the charities you serve -- would it matter to them?

Do the charities your support align with both your customer and employee base? Is it something they care about?

Are you one of a bazillion who serve this charity or do you "own" some aspect of their event, services etc.? (Are you one of 20 logos on the back of a t-shirt or is your involvement prominent?)

How could you better connect your charitable efforts to your customers and employees?How could they participate? How could they share ownership with you?

Are you using marketing dollars/time to create even a bigger bang for both the charity and your business?

Being involved in our community is the responsibility of every citizen and company. But it's also a marketing opportunity. You don't have to be overly promotional or taint your efforts. But you can leverage your good works.

The question is -- are you?  Keep an eye out for my column in this week's Business Record for more on this topic.

~ Drew

Content marketing - is the greater good also great for business?

Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group.

Here are two givens in today's marketing world.  

  1. Content matters. Content marketing has been around for a long time -- and it's not going anywhere.
  2. Prospects want to know what your company stands for -- beyond making money.

Perhaps the question is -- can you blend the two givens to provide some direction for your marketing efforts. I think you can. This infographic outlines the value and initial steps of blending your marketing content with your bigger purpose.

What do you think? Could this attract new customers and reinforce the buying decision of your current ones?


Creating a Purpose Driven Content Engine


~ Drew McLellan

Infographic is from

Facebook changes the rules!


Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

Whether you knew it or not -- or chose to obey it or not -- until this past week it was against Facebook's terms and conditions for businesses to run contests on their own timelines, unless they used a third party app like Shortstack.

You can now invite Facebook users to like, comment or even create a post on your page as a way to vote or enter a contest. 

I know many of you are thinking… "I've been doing that for years!" Well, now you can do it legally.

You still need to have:

  • Official rules, outlining the contest and how you will select the winners (including terms and eligibility requirements)
  • A notice that states that Facebook is in no way sponsoring, endorsing or administering your contest or promotion.

If you're thinking about running a contest for your Facebook page, be sure to read Facebook’s promotional guidelines, found in Section E, here.

All of that is well and good. But keep in mind, you still need to apply some marketing sensibility to your contest. If it isn't relevant and of value to your Facebook page fans -- it's not going to work.

Follow these simple rules for creating a Facebook contest that will actually accomplish what you want.

Have specific outcome goals: Why are you running the contest? What will success look like?

How will you monitor contest: What if your contest garners way more attention than you anticipated? Who is overseeing the page and how will you handle the increased traffic?

Think bigger picture: Great -- you now have all these new FB fans. What are you going to do with them? What happens over the next few weeks and months to keep them engaged and connected to you?

Teach them about your brand: Your contest should help the FB user get to know your brand and product/service better. Make sure the contest itself and the prizes reflect what you're all about.

(Check out these successful FB contests for some ideas)

Facebook contests probably fall under the "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" maxim. Don't get me wrong. They can be an incredible opportunity to bring your brand zealots closer to you, get connected with some of your customers who are still holding you at arm's length and introduce you to a whole new group of people.

But remember that Facebook is permission-based. So if you are annoying or worse -- boring -- you're going to shorten your friend list and your influence.

Go forth and give things away. But make sure you follow the rules. (Mine and Facebook's!)

 ~ Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group's Top Dog

Can you tell me about your brand?


Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

At McLellan Marketing Group, we often get to help new companies create their brand and existing companies discover their brand. That may sound ridiculous -- surely a company should understand it's own brand, right?

Not really.

Many companies can't articulate how their company is different from their competitors. They talk about product features or unique service offerings but they never dig down deep enough to truly identify how or why they are different in a way that matters to their customers.

Your brand isn't about what you do or sell. It's about why your company exists and how the world would be a different place if it didn't.

Let's say you sell a widget that helps me use a GPS locator to find my pet if he/she ever got lost. You don't sell the widget. You sell peace of mind. You sell furry families. You sell protection of one of the most coveted bonds on this planet -- a person and their beloved pet.

Why do you make that widget? Maybe you're a huge dog lover and you've experienced the heartbreak of having a dog get loose and never knowing what happened to him. You don't want some other kid to ever go to bed crying like you did.

That's your why.

That's the essence of your brand… and it has nothing to do with GPS technology or the fact that I can buy your widget in pink, blue or chartreuse. And before you say it -- yes, this applies as much (if not more) to B2B companies.

Wondering what your brand is all about? Try answering these questions - but the answer can never be the product or service you sell.

  • Beyond profitability, what is the mission of your company?
  • If your company were to leave a legacy, what would it be?
  • How does your organization make the world a better place?
  • If firm disappeared tomorrow, what would be missed most of all?
  • What is the single most-important aspect of your company?
  • With regard to your organization, what do you feel passionate about? 
  • What business is your company in? 
  • What business is your company not in? 
  • Which three adjectives best describe your organization? 
  • Who (customer) would love your company the most? 
  • How do you prioritize your customers? If you had to allocate 100 points between the different customers segments or types (in terms of importance), how would you do so? 
  • What customer need does your product/service fulfill? Why does your target customer need or want you sell? 
  • What emotion(s) do you most closely associate with your product or service? 
  • How will your organization change your industry? 
  • How will your company change the world? 

 And some fun ones to really get you thinking differently:

  • If your company was a shape, what would it be?
  • If your organization was a texture, what would it be?
  • If your firm was a mood or feeling, what would it be?
  • If company was something from nature, what would it be?

Don't be one of those companies that doesn't have any idea how to answer these questions, or worse -- doesn't understand why you should bother. In a world where everyone has competition and it's so easy to become a commodity -- don't underestimate the power of understanding your brand and beginning to explore how you can bring that brand to life for your customers.

~ Drew McLellan, McLellan Marketing Group's Top Dog

Email marketing: Are you missing out?

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Did you know that for every $1 spent on e-mail marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25? (Source: Experian). Our clients are always asking us what their expected ROI will be, no matter what type of advertising we’re talking about. Usually, of course, we can only give estimates, and even though this is somewhat the same case – this is a very high ROI for such a small investment. Why, then, aren’t you utilizing e-mail marketing? Or maybe you are, but it doesn’t look like the image you truly want to be presenting for your brand.

Here are some tips of how to get started or improve your current situation: 

1)   It all starts with the top: Make sure you’re using a strong copywriter to put together your e-mails from the subject line, all the way to the bottom. If you’re subject line isn’t catchy, you’re strongly reducing the chance of people opening the e-mail you just paid to send.

2)   Make sure the e-mail looks as professional as you are:  You’re working everyday to make sure the job you do or your company is the best it can be, right? So make sure you’re not sending out something that reflects anything less. If you’re sending out something that is misaligned, not really the same colors as your logo, or looks like it’s from the 1980s – it probably is not giving people your best impression. It’s so inexpensive to get a nice template designed for you, so spend the money (remember that amazing ROI?!) to do it right.

3)   Database building is key:  Usually when we start working with clients on e-mail marketing they ask about purchasing lists. (Similar to what you would do for direct mail). Unfortunately for advertisers (fortunately for consumers) e-mail databases aren’t truly for sale. You normally have to send your e-mails to a 3rd party to send it out for you and therefore lose a lot of the control. Really though, wouldn’t you want to personally be reaching people who have shown interest in your business? Just make sure you come up with a process to constantly be building your database. If you host an event, have a sign-up. If you start working with a new client, make sure to add them so they stay in the loop, etc!

4)   Get creative: Last Thursday I went to Legally Blonde at the Des Moines Community Playhouse (which was awesome by the way!). Then, Friday morning I received an e-mail from them asking if I enjoyed the show and asking that if I did, to please tweet and/or Facebook about it. What a fantastic idea! There is no cheaper way to grow ticket sales than with free testimonials, I suspect. Their e-mail was personalized to me, they wanted to make sure I had a good experience, and then reminded me to take a few seconds to tell my friends.

If you’re still not convinced, check out “25 Mind Blowing Facts about E-mail Marketing".

Where does your e-mail marketing stand? E-mail me at!  And sign up for the Happy Medium e-mails. (See what I did there? You can do it too!)


AdAge Power 150 powers down

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 1.34.10 AMAs 2006 wound down, a marketing professional named Todd Andrlik created the Marketing Power 150 which was (at the time) a very all-inclusive list of the top marketing blogs in the world.

Back then blogging was just beginning and it was a huge thrill just to get a few hundred readers or a comment here or there.  I launched my own blog, Drew's Marketing Minute in 2006 so I was elated to hear I'd been included in Todd's original list of the best marketing blogs.  

The list enjoyed early success, quickly rising to become the most comprehensive and definitive barometer of industry blogs. It was widely cited in books, bios, blogs and mainstream media, including Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal. It also inspired dozens of similar lists across numerous industries.

When Todd ran the list, it was 150 blogs and no more.  You either made the list or you didn't.  But late in 2007, Todd sold the list to AdAge and as you'd expect, they made some changes.  They continued to call the list the Power 150 but the list grew exponentially - ranking over 1100 blogs as they shut it down earlier this month.

What makes the powering down important to any of us is that it signifies how quickly the social media landscape is shifting.

In the post announcing the decision, AdAge said "Why are we shutting it down? Since we took over the list from Todd Andrlik in 2007, conversations on marketing have broadened their reach well beyond personal blogs to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other places. If blogging lowered the barrier to entry, social media obliterated it."

Does that mean blogging is dead?  Despite some people suggesting that's the case -- I don't think so. It just means that digital marketing isn't so linear today.  Before the barrier to entry was a blog.  But today, you can jump into social media via Pinterest, Twitter, a blog or Google+.  Blogs are no longer the only way people can or do share content. 

If I were a betting man, I'd say the other reason AdAge decided to freeze the Power150 (the list still exists -- they just aren't updating it any more) was the sheer volume of marketing blogs out there.  Their list is currently over 1100 blogs and I'm sure they were being barraged by new marketing blog authors every day.  Back when Todd started the list -- it was manageable and scalable.  But today the volume of potential entries and the time it would take to review all the prospective sites couldn't be sustained.

Whatever the reason, the Power150 was iconic in both marking the launch of social media/blogging and the moment when the list couldn't keep up any more.




Consistency isn't optional

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 8.16.28 AM

Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

Think of some of the most famous and recognizable advertising marks. How about McDonald’s golden arches? Or Coca Cola’s logo.

Now, imagine for a minute how the golden arches would look if they were blue. Or the Coke logo on a green can. (This blue M outside a McDonald's is in Sedona, AZ)

It’s just wrong, isn’t it?

Companies invest a significant amount of money and effort into creating a brand. A big part of brand awareness and recognition is the visual cues, like color.

If McDonalds and Coke don’t mess with theirs, why in the world would you ever consider changing your logo colors on a whim? Or use different fonts every time you communicate with your key audiences?

And yet businesses and nonprofits do it all the time. If you're guilty -- stop.

Next time you get bored with the look of your company’s identity, put a can of Coke on your desk, or drive by those golden arches.

Then, just leave everything be. Every single time!

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

A look at Word of Mouth's payoff

Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

Everyone loves getting a referral and many businesses live and die by them. And yet, most businesses do not have anything in place to encourage word of mouth -- other than doing a good job and hoping their customers will brag about them.

Hardly a marketing strategy. Should you do a good job? Sure. But there's so much more you can do. Don't want to expend the energy? Hopefully this infographic from Noble Imaging will change your tune. Look at the impact word of mouth can have and how that translates to some serious impressions/cash for you.

In my next post, I'll dig into some specific ways you can generate buzz that brings in business. (If you want to see a larger version of the infographic, just click on it and you can download one.)



So what do you say -- are you ready to put in some sweat equity and maybe a little cash to get your customers buzzing about you?

~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

How do you know what to deliver if you never take the order?

Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

In general, we assume too much. In marketing we assume WAY TOO much. I was reminded of this truth when I was reading the new study done by Pivot about the social landscape and how it is evolving.

Here's part of their intro: "Each year, the Pivot team studies the evolving social landscape. For our 2012 -2013 "State of Social Marketing" report, we surveyed social marketers and digital strategists who represent agencies and brands. What we learned is that the fundamental drivers for social media have radically transformed."

They go on to explore all the ways people's use and perceptions of social media has shifted over the past year. But the two questions/graphs that really struck me were these:

The first question -- do you know who is accessing your social media content/connecting with you there?

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 12.17.11 AM

Amazingly -- 38% of these professionals said no, they don't.  That begs the question...why.  Well, here's why.


Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 12.17.35 AM

The reason they don't know who they're talking to is because they aren't even talking to them enough to find out why they're there.  

Why? (I'm sure you're asking yourself that as you read this)

I think there are a few reasons.

We are still using social media as a one way communication tool: Rather than recognizing that social is a dialogue, most marketers are still treating it like a monologue. Since we think we're supposed to do all the talking, we don't bother finding out who we're talking to or what they need.

We're afraid to ask: This isn't just a problem in social media - it's true in general. You've heard the expression "don't ask a question if you don't want to hear the answer." Well, unfortunately, marketers, business owners and leaders have taken that to heart. They're so afraid of the feedback they might get, they shut down the opportunity.

We don't actually believe it matters: Of the three, this is the most dangerous. It means you're just going through the motions but you don't  believe social media can actually impact your business. If you are just going through the motions -- stop. All you're going to do is damage your brand and alienate your customers. It's better to stop doing it than do it badly or without sincerity.

While this study was focused on social marketing -- the insight is broader. Without understanding who you're talking to and what matters to them -- you'll never connect with your customers or prospects.

 ~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Raise your stinking gate!


Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group

It's 9:50 am. I'm in the mall, standing at a store's entrance, peering in through the gate that locks the store for the night. The employee is inside, chatting on the phone and sipping a soda. The marketing message I got by being kept waiting until exactly 10 a.m.?

My business was not all that important to her.

While I was pacing and making mental note to never visit this store again, it occurred to me that many of us do the same thing to our clients/customers. Now, you might not have a gate that keeps clients from entering your front door, but think about other "barriers" that might be in the way.

You can advertise "customer friendly" all you want, but if they stumble over obstacles when they come to buy, your clients will quickly get the "your business is not important to me" message.

Here are some of the places we might be slamming the gate down on our own customers:

Hours of operation. Are they convenient for you or for your customer?
Access. How well does your e-mail, website, phone system etc. work?  If a client is in a jam -- do they know how to get a hold of you this very second?
Promptness in returning calls. A client phone call is an order/sale waiting for confirmation.
Clarity in pricing and products/services. Do your customers know what you sell and how much it will cost? Does it actually cost them that much or are your invoices a little surprise?
Willingness to listen. When your client has an issue with you or your product, do you attempt to make adjustments or changes that demonstrate that you listened? Or do they get "reasons" why it has to be that way?

Want to really check? Call a couple clients that you've lost. Have a frank conversation. My bet is that somehow they could not get past a gate. Maybe it's a gate you don't even see. 

~ Drew, MMG's Top Dog

What's your rubber duck?

DuckiowabizYesterday I read an interesting article in USA Today about how boutique hotels are trying to differentiate themselves and create "an experience" for their guests. Being able to call down to the front desk for a fish or having a Bose iPod player in the room is old news.

Now, you might find themed rubber ducks in your mini bar. There's a DC hotel that even offers electronic cigarettes. And if you're ever in Denver, check out the Sky Hotel in Aspen. They offer mini oxygen tanks in case you need a little boost.

Not all of the examples in the article were whimsical. In Chicago at the Hard Rock Hotel, you can request the nursing mom package (fridge, breast pump, extra bottles, etc.) be sent to your room. Worried you'll have a wardrobe malfunction like Janet Jackson did a few years ago? No worries if you're staying at one of the Morgan Hotels. They have an emergency kit that includes double-sided tape to prevent any accidental malfunctions.

While all of these examples sound a little off the beaten path -- that's sort of the point. A little something extra to create some buzz or even to get you to choose one hotel over the other. It's a good reminder to all of us that our consumers are hungry for more and that more doesn't have to be a big deal. Sometimes something small can be a big deal.

And a big deal means that in today's wired world -- their duck or wardrobe malfunction kit will get plenty of attention on Facebook, Instagram, Vine or Twitter.

That sort of buzz can't be bought. It can only be inspired by something out of the ordinary. 

Stan Phelps wrote about this concept in his book, What's Your Purple Goldfish? How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth. Stan's premise is that compannies who do something a little extra get noticed. His book is living proof -- example after example of organizations that inspire word of mouth, the best marketing you can possibly earn.

Marketing is about being so remarkable that people can't help but talk about you. That if you absolutely delight someone - they will not only come back but they'll bring friends. They become your sales force. 

So -- what do you do for your customers that would get them talking? What's your rubber duck?

~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

LinkedIn gets into the game

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 10.45.31 PM
LinkedIn has always been social media's red headed stepchild.  Few people use it well and for most of its users -- it's an electronic rolodex.

LinkedIn just announced the launch of their new LinkedIn Contacts.  Their teaser copy says:

Introducing the new LinkedIn Contacts. A smarter way to stay in touch.

All your contacts in one place. LinkedIn Contacts brings together all your address books, emails, and calendars, and keeps them up to date in one place.

Never miss an opportunity to say hello. Get alerted on job changes and birthdays in your network, a perfect opportunity to say hello.

Take it on your mobile device. Stay connected on the go. LinkedIn Contacts is available on iPhone, so you can stay in touch with your contacts wherever you are.

This may be a way to add that "real time touch" that we always talk about in marketing and sales plans.  You can connect and react to any news or updates your contacts post to their account right when they make the change.  It's also a great way to track when a prospect makes a key personnel change that might be a game changer for you.

LinkedIn is rolling this out on a limited basis.  To get on the waiting list (I don't know how long the wait is -- they just announced this last week) click here

Maybe this will be the trick to make LinkedIn the social media superstar for business leaders. Today, it's underutilized and hopefully this will change how users interact with it because I think it can be a very useful utility tool, if you learn how to mine the data it holds.

~ Drew McLellan


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