Know Your Goals: Takeaways from SXSW

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Zayo recently hosted a series of events at South By Southwest (SXSW), a music, movie and interactive festival held in Austin each year.  SXSW is an over-the-top event, that genuinely takes over the city.

While I was there I wanted to explore the expo floor.  My purpose?  To understand what types of organizations exhibit at SXSW, their goals and if it might be a good option for my organization in the future.

Who was there:

Image result for sxsw expoTo say it was a hodgepodge would be an understatement.  The expo floor contained everything from well-known brands like Lockheed Martin and no-name startups looking to attract investors, to cities and countries trying to attract businesses to move and stand-up desk manufacturers.

My plan of attack:

I worked my way from booth to booth asking if there was a representative from marketing present – which there usually was.  I needed to talk to people who spoke my language and knew where I was coming from.  As Anne Handley would say, “My People”.

I introduced myself and told them why I was there.  Then asked a simple question.  “What is your goal for SXSW?  How do you know if you this event was a success?”

My Shock:

Image result for sxsw expoI spoke to 30 marketers in total.  Of them, only 2 could clearly tell me how they would measure success.  Some were even outraged by the question, citing that hosting a booth with measurable financial goals is ridiculous.

To say the least, I was shocked.  In a decade of marketing, I’ve never seen such disregard for ROI-based metrics.  I honestly have no idea how I would do my job without them.

This is the reason marketers have a bad rap and people think we just spend money.  (see earlier post on topic) A campaign without goals is just work.  At that point you’re just collecting a paycheck to look busy.  What’s the point?!

It my not-so-humble opinion that all marketers should know their metrics inside and out, upside down and backwards.  We should recite our ROI metrics in our sleep.  This is how you earn the trust and respect of an organization.  Not by throwing epic parties, but by explaining why.

I have previously written about the 3 metrics every marketer should know (post).  These metrics will help you answer the “why” question and will earn the respect of the most staunch financier.  Otherwise, don’t learn them and risk getting sideways looks from those that operate the budgets the rest of your career.

Your choice.

Virtual Reality & Marketing: Lessons Learned

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I’m a huge proponent of the power of video for marketing, especially B2B.  It has the power to transport prospects seamlessly, explain complicated concepts simply and introduce information in an engaging way.  Virtual realty (or VR) takes this to another level.

HIMSS is the quintessential healthcare technology conference held in spring each year.  My company supports over 500 healthcare organizations globally, so it was a clear spot for us to have a booth and host meetings.  This year we debuted our virtual reality experience for HIMSS attendees, showcasing our Network Control Center, our Ashburn data center and taking guests on a journey through the internet itself.

Given that VR is a new conversation for most of us in B2B marketing, I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned going through the process of developing and launching our experience.

1. Define the problem you’re looking to solve upfront

When we decided to explore a VR strategy, it was in response to two very real challenges we were facing as marketers.

First, we provide fiber routes and data centers around the world.  You can tour our data centers, but you have to travel to see them.  You can understand a fiber route, but you would never dig up a line to look at it.  How do I sell products I can’t show?

My team is responsible for planning and executing over 100 events per year, ranging from small 20-person sports suites to 40,000 person conferences.  How do we create consistent messaging and experiences across all our events, regardless of format?

The answer to both of these issues for us was video.  But no one is going to stop watching a football game to watch a sales video.  If we could make it engaging and unique, we would be able to solve both problems while ensuring our events remained fun.  That’s where VR came in.  From there, we had a very clear parameter within which to build a script and storyboard.

2. Watch Your Runtime

Like any good video, runtime is critical for VR.  If you’re planning to use it as part of an events strategy, I recommend creating two versions.  The first version for smaller, less fast-passed events should run less than 3.5 minutes.  We’re assuming someone will sit down and enjoy the experience for about the same amount of time they will watch a YouTube video.

The second version should run less than 1.5 minutes.  This is for your tradeshow booths, kiosks and other environment where people are on the move.  The VR experience is a draw, but it has to fit into your 5 minute booth flow.  Keep that in mind when you’re writing the script in the first place.  How could you re-edit this to be shorter if needed?

3. Invest in animation

Animation will be the difference between a boring informational video and a memorable experience.  Build this into your budget on the front end.  Lean on any videography group you use to include this in their proposal.  Then add 10% contingency to that.  Once you get into editing, you may find that you need to up the animation budget to ensure the experience stays cool and fun.  If not, great!  You’re under budget.

4. Show it on the big screen

Although we all knew VR was cool, most people at the convention had never done it before.  What’s more, they had no desire to try it until they saw someone else doing it.  When we displayed our experience on the large TV behind people’s heads, crowds gathered to watch – taking video and photos of others taking part.  I was a huge draw.  So show it off!

And now for your viewing pleasure…

I’ve Missed You Guys

Hello everyone,

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA since October.  I haven’t been sleeping, that’s for sure.  In October, I began a new position as Director of Global Field Marketing for Zayo Group.  Since then I’ve been busy hiring, on-boarding, training, traveling and managing.  It’s been a wild 6 months!  I’ve got a ton of ideas for new posts based on all the lessons I’ve learned over the last half year.

Stay Tuned.


Team Building According to Coach K

I recently attended MarketingProf’s Annual Conference and wanted to share some of my insights from this event – which I highly recommend.

On-the-Edge-SM_11151One of the keynotes was Alison Levine, the Captain of the First All-Women Mount Everest Expedition.  The story was incredible, and I encourage everyone to read the book, but I want to focus on only one story.  Alison was tasked with building a team of five women to hike to the highest point on Earth without dying.  How do you do that?

She called her friend, Coach Krzyzewski, the legendary Head Coach of Duke’s Basketball team and the USA Olympic Basketball team.  He said he looks for 1 thing when building a team – Ego.

Alison assumed he meant lack of ego, but he corrected her.  He wants two types of ego.

  1. Performance Ego – You want people who can walk on the court and have believe they have what it takes to win. You don’t want folks who are filled with self-doubt and question themselves constantly… Especially on a mountain.
  2. Team Ego – You want someone who is proud to be part of something collectively bigger than themselves.  They have to be happy in the team’s victory, even if they get none of the glory.

Maybe you’re building a marketing department for the first time.  Maybe you’re trying to find slot players to fill gaps.  For those of us who have been individual contributors for years and are not used to a “team” mentality, this can be difficult.  I have recently been promoted to run field marketing across all our regions.  The idea of building a team from scratch was an incredible opportunity, but I did wonder if I had what it takes to build the right one.

As we look for talent and encounter opportunities for growth I think we should challenge ourselves to follow Coach K’s advice.  Do we walk on the court and believe we have what it takes, while celebrating the successes of our team members?  Are we hiring team members who do the same?  I challenge you, and myself, to look for ego when hiring, but the right kind.

Thanks Coach.

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B2B Marketers must become “marketing technologists” in preparation for machine learning

Earlier this month I attended MarketingProf’s annual conference in Boston for the 2nd time.  While there I sat through 5 keynote presentations and 12 deep-dive breakout sessions.  I met with 29 vendors and networked with hundreds of people.  It was YUGE!

I wanted to take a moment to step back and share my top takeaways.  First – B2B Marketers must become “marketing technologists” in preparation for machine learning.


Machine learning and artificial intelligence was all anyone could talk about at the conference.  Normally I would say it’s a new, shiny fad, but I already have machine learning running my house.  This is very real.  In my estimation, predictions about machine learning today are what marketing automation was 10 years ago.

Christopher S. Penn, an acclaimed author and VP of Marketing Technology at Shift Communications, did not mense words while speaking on the topic.  “There will be two types of workers in the near future.  Those who tell the machines what to do and those who do what the machines tell them. And those who direct the machines will have much better qualities of life.”

I spoke with many vendors in the market who are actively weaving machine learning into their product releases over the next 5 years – including HubSpot.  This is not a movie.  AI is here.

Penn states that all marketers must become “marketing technologists” to remain relevant.  We should educate ourselves on algorithmic thinking.

In order to remain relevant as new dynamics in marketing take center stage, I intend to learn to code.  10 years ago the common base requirement to work in marketing was HTML.  In 10 years we will all need to know how to code or be promoted far enough that it doesn’t matter.  I’ll hedge my bets.

What are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?

The Anti-Resume Every Marketer Should Make Immediately

Recently, as part of Zayo’s Coffee Club program, I met with a marketing professional named Karen Sutherland.  While meeting we discussed her marketing background and traded stories.  She then handed me a document I’ve been fawning over every since.

Below is Karen’s “Strategic Plan”, the quintessential “anti-resume” and it’s a project every marketer should take on immediately.  In it she summarizes all her experience, differentiators and objectives in an easy-to-consume and compelling format.  I’m blown away and can’t wait to make my own.

Strategic Plan

I’m sure this is meant to be a way to help plan your career with a more targeted and strategic approach.  In my opinion this is also the perfect way to introduce yourself on paper.  Resumes are detailed, bulleted and sometimes overwhelming.  You’re including dates and awards and metrics and publications and on and on.  This document drills down to everything a hiring manager or recruiter actually wants to know.

  • What do you want to do?
  • What do you know how to do?
  • Where do you want to do it?

Once the conversation has started your resume can fill in any timeline or metric gaps.

How to format your personal strategic plan:

  1. Name, contact info, URL at the top – just like a resume.

Don’t slouch on this section.  It doesn’t need to be professionally designed, but this is literally your first impression.  Make it count.  Maybe include a headshot or a special logo.  Maybe just play with the formatting or layout.  Use this to disclose your talent or personal brand without saying it outright.

  1. Professional Objective

I like what Karen did here.  Get to the point and tell the reader exactly what you’re looking for.  Don’t write a complete sentence, but make it skim-worthy.

  1. Positioning Statement

Now you can write in complete sentences.  Write a paragraph on what makes you different, skilled or the best choice – just like if you were describing a product.  Maybe play with the title by doing something fun like “The Pitch” or “In a Nutshell” – if you’re feeling adventurous.

  1. Competencies

I love that Karen broke this into three sections – skills she has, marketing specializations, and who she is.

  1. Target

I really like that she’s broken this down so well.  If you were marketing a product, you would clearly state what your target market looks like.  Why not do that for yourself?

Answer the following questions:

  • Where do you want to work geographically?
  • What type of industries do you prefer?
  • What size company do you prefer?
  • What is your ideal culture?

You may worry that this limits your ability to find work, but we all know the key to proper marketing is segmentation and targeting.  Don’t be afraid to be niche.

Now, do your research.  Which companies fit these parameters?  Which companies complement these parameters?  Now, go hunting.

In summary, stop what you’re doing and make your own strategic plan.  It may be a little tough at first, but zeroing in on your target market and treating yourself like the amazing product you are is the best free thing you can do to market yourself right now.

Why Video is the New Sales Slick

I’ve spent a lot of time researching video marketing in preparation for my next marketing plan.  There is a wealth of information on the trends and stats surrounding video marketing.  Ultimately I’ve decided, after all this research, that video is replacing the classic one-page sales slick as the go-to-source for B2B marketers to decimate information to the market.

  1. Video marketing is everywhere, just like your classic sales slick.
  2. They’re more engaging than a static piece of paper with a ton of words.
  3. They produce a better conversion than a one-sheeter.

I believe this so much, that I created a video about it.  (Very meta)