5 Slides.

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5 SlidesI’ve been working with clients on a new strategy for engaging clients on sales calls and navigating them through complex programs and offerings.  From introduction to agreement in 5 slides.

If you’re like many digital publishers, ad tech companies or other sales organizations, you’re probably a little intrigued by the idea.  You’ve probably seen first-hand the emotional and human cost of a PowerPoint culture run amok.  Your marketing and product people labor over the perfect company narrative, generating dozens of detailed slides containing heavy images and intricate builds and animations.  Your sales people feel the pressure to show all these slides to customers who not-so-surreptitiously check their phones and look at their watches.  Wasted opportunity follows wasted opportunity. And the worst thing happens:  nothing.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. Join AppNexus at this year’s Yield Executive Summit, taking place on Wednesday, September 28, in New York City.  We look forward to an exclusive day of discussions and presentations with top influencers in digital advertising as we examine the essential tools that every publisher must have for successful monetization and digital acceleration.

So here’s the radical idea:  run the entire sales call with 5 simple slides.

Slide 1:  The Phrase Cloud.  This is a technique I’ve been teaching over the last 4-5 years.  Research the client’s business online and put up 5-10 phrases (headlines, blurbs, quotes) that relate to important business and marketing issues they may have in mind.  Your PC doesn’t have to be perfect or even mostly correct.  It just needs to be a credible effort at some homework. Let the client read the slide while you sit quietly.  Then ask them what they found most interesting and valuable.

Slide 2: The Challenge.  Write out a brief statement that answers the question “Why are we here today?”  This is the moment where you clearly call out the unsolved problem you are prepared to tackle for the customer.  Ask them how important they think this issue is and what other detail they’d like to offer.  Listen to what they tell you.

Slide 3: Process and Values.  On this slide are several statements and headlines that detail the process and values your company will employ as you work for the customer.  You’re establishing how it will be to work together before you tell them what they should buy from you.

Slide 4: The Solution Placemat.  This is a simple schematic that visually depicts the elements of your proposed solution.  Screen shots of products, phrases and numbers representing audiences and scope, visuals illustrating thematic ideas.  (If the client’s feedback on slides 1 and 2 changed things, you can simply cross out or add elements to this page.)  This allows the rep to conversationally talk through the different parts of the recommendation without a lengthy trail of slides. (And if something needs immediate elaboration, you can take a detour for an additional slide or trip to the site.)

Slide 5:  The Close.    On this slide the rep notes the initial price estimate and specific ask of the client.  “If we can execute this program and help you solve problem X, will you recommend/budget/green-light $X over the next X months?”  (Tip:  Many sellers are scared to death of such a direct question, but it’s the only way to truly qualify the opportunity — and the decision maker — and shorten the sales cycle.)  Be sure to include both a number and a verb on this slide.

If you’re thinking “but what about my company introduction?” don’t bother.  Your sales people will define themselves and your company much more effectively by getting down to business and solving problems collaboratively with your customers.  These 5 slides may be just the vehicle to let them do so.

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All of Us.

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All of UsI know nothing about diversity or gender equity.

How could I?  As a 50-something white male with an Anglo-Saxon last name, how could I ever truly understand what’s going on inside the head of an African American job candidate as he completes a round of meetings with interviewers who look nothing like him?  How could someone with my life experience really get what it means to be the only woman in a leadership meeting, with all the consciousness and calibration that goes with it?

The truth is, I can’t possibly get it.  Not completely, anyway.  So I’m an imperfect messenger on the subject of diversity in our industry.  I may be the wrong person to talk about the role of women in the digital advertising and marketing world.  But I’m here and I’m paying attention and I’m going to talk about it.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. Join AppNexus at this year’s Yield Executive Summit, taking place on Wednesday, September 28, in New York City.  We look forward to an exclusive day of discussions and presentations with top influencers in digital advertising as we examine the essential tools that every publisher must have for successful monetization and digital acceleration.

Possibly the only thing that makes my point of view relevant is the field of vision I have access to.  Over the past two decades I’ve worked with a few hundred companies and a few thousand sales people.  I meet them in large groups and also speak with them individually by phone or in person.  Here is what I see and hear.

  • As I look across the population of digital sellers, account managers and operations people, I see so few African Americans that I end up remembering most of them by name.
  • The same women executives who are willing to challenge and share strong points of view in one-on-one conversation still subtly recede in large group settings. The first and loudest voices are always male, and I often need to actively pursue women for comment and participation.
  • Latino and Hispanic executives tend not to emphasize cultural identity within their largely non-Hispanic teams.
  • Digital publishing/media/marketing has an “NFL Head Coach” problem. Women make up a big share of the outstanding “players” in the league, and are reasonably well represented in the ranks of assistant coaches (regional managers).  But when it comes to the head coaching spots – the CRO jobs – there are just not enough female faces.  And the portion of minority candidates who end up in those top spots is negligible.

So I don’t get it.  But I want to.  It seems to me that with the constant talent shortage in our industry, we cannot afford for a huge portion of our workforce to feel less than empowered and included.  It also becomes apparent that the older white dudes like me need to open the lens much wider.  I know my own peer group, and I honestly believe there’s very little overt bias or bad intention.  We just need to see all this with a fresh set of eyes and a new urgency.

Diversity is one of the leadership issues we’ll be discussing at the Seller Forum on September 14th in New York.  We’ve invited Karen Watai, and expert facilitator on the subject, to come in and challenge our beliefs and practices.  Certainly that won’t be the end of the discussion.  But it might be a new beginning.

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Authenticity…Again

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Authenticity AgainAs content and influencer marketing continue to spiral up, this post from 2015 may be even more relevant today.

Over the last decade the digital marketing business has lived through a personality crisis. On the one hand there’s the relentless march of programmatic automation. On the other, native advertising — or sponsored content or branded entertainment or whatever else we’re calling the opposite of commoditization. Throughout this whole tedious game of semantic Twister, we’ve ignored the quality we should all be striving to embody; a quality that strengthens customer commitment, forges employee loyalty and gets us all closer to purpose-driven business marketing.

The quality – and the word – we’ve been grasping for is authenticity.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. Join AppNexus at this year’s Yield Executive Summit, taking place on Wednesday, September 28, in New York City.  We look forward to an exclusive day of discussions and presentations with top influencers in digital advertising as we examine the essential tools that every publisher must have for successful monetization and digital acceleration.

What we all do for a living may remain ridiculously complicated, but the answer may be just this simple. What consumers want from their bourbon, their coffee houses, their granola and their politicians – authenticity – may be exactly what marketers and agencies and publishers desperately crave in our world.

Whether you make blue jeans or offer DMP services, being authentic doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who makes what you make or does what you do. It means being clear and open about your process, your motivations, your beliefs. No matter how right or left brain your company is, there is something authentic and genuine about how you build your product or deliver your service; why you’re in business at all; and in what you believe as a company. Or at least there should be.

Look at two of the world’s most powerful technology companies – Apple and Google. Despite hugely complicated technology stacks and a sometimes confusing morass of products (most of which, in the case of Apple, are mass produced overseas), both companies still seem authentic to the customer. “Don’t’ Be Evil.” “Think Different.” “Designed by Apple in California.” Should any of our companies aim for less?

The thing about authenticity is that you can’t outsource it. Too often the world-class engineers who invented your product or the visionary CEO who got the company funded simply hand off the job to the marketing professionals, the copywriters or the ad agency. Too often those who sell to and service our customers are given talking points or white papers and left to fend for themselves.

Authentic isn’t what you say. It’s who you are. So who are you, then?

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State of Leadership.

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State of LeadershipAs we continue our preparation for the Fall Seller Forum on September 14th, (“Beyond the Org Chart: The Maturing of Digital Sales Leadership”) I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership within and across the dozens of companies I’ve worked with over the past several years.  A single disruptive idea keeps coming back to me:

Leadership isn’t a set of actions by the leader.  It’s a state of being for the organization.

In this age of strong-man leaders and celebrity CEOs, we tend to individualize leadership and celebrate the speeches and the big “leadership moves” of the individual leader.  But from all I can tell, those victories are pyrrhic and their effects ephemeral.  The truly great leaders know that leadership isn’t about what you do or fix; it’s about what you tend and sustain.  It’s not the next hill to be taken, but the ecosystem to be developed and supported.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. The AppNexus Publisher Suite helps maximize monetization for Publishers today with tomorrow’s technology through integrated, intelligent, and open ad serving and programmatic selling solutions.

In my opinion, great organizational leaders (whether they are leading an entire company or a sales organization) should be focused on the questions behind three overlapping and interdependent ecosystems:  Talent, Incubation and Culture.

How might we attract, filter and secure the talent we need and deserve?

How might we better incubate and assimilate that talent into our organization during the critical first two years after hiring?

How might we foster and maintain an attractive, supportive culture based on employee engagement?

Great leaders keep asking their managers these questions and weigh each big decision or program against the scrutiny these questions create.  And they force their managers and teams to examine the overlap and codependence of these concerns.  Without an attractive culture, how can a company attract great talent?  Without a focus on incubating new talent, what is the point of securing those hires in the first place?  Unless we engage our employees, new and experienced, in caring for and teaching each other, how would we ever hope to create an attractive culture?

I look forward to fleshing these concepts out further at the Seller Forum and in discussions with customers in the coming months and years.  If you’d like to be part of the immediate discussion – and if you lead a media sales organization – reach out to secure your seat for the Fall Forum.

Great leadership isn’t about you.  It’s about your organizational focus and values. But you need to start that conversation.

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Asking Y!

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Asking YI try not to spend too much time looking back at history in The Drift (unless you count the arcane references to jazz legends and ex-presidents).  But this week I want to use the space talking about the period of time during which Yahoo! ruled our world:  not out of a sense of gauzy nostalgia, but rather because the history illuminates very current truths about our business today and tomorrow.

I’m now in my 23rd year in the digital advertising and marketing business: I sold my first web ads the year Yahoo! was born but before it actually launched as a website.  So I’ve gotten to watch lots of cycles unfold, many companies rise and fall.  Those whose perceptions of Yahoo! were shaped during the Marissa Meyer era can’t imagine the sheer domination that the company once enjoyed.  Watching Yahoo! compete back then with the likes of MSN and a pre-Armstrong AOL was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters dismantle the Washington Generals for the umpteenth time.  (Yes, Yahoo! was at the same time providing a cozy incubator for Google’s nascent search business, but few in the business really imagined Google as a threat to Yahoo! at that point.)  Yahoo! was the center of gravity, the single most heavily trafficked page on the web.  It was hegemony writ large.  So what happened?

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. The AppNexus Publisher Suite helps maximize monetization for Publishers today with tomorrow’s technology through integrated, intelligent, and open ad serving and programmatic selling solutions.

Books have been written (and more surely will be) about the rise and demise of Yahoo!  So here, during the week of Yahoo’s fire-sale to Verizon, just a few thoughts.

The Founders Chose to Live in Middle Earth.  Jerry Yang and David Filo – but mostly Jerry Yang – neither fully committed to running the company forever (like Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook) nor ceded real control of the business operation to a competent outsider (as Sergey and Larry did with Eric Schmidt at Google.) This prevented the company from ever forming a real vision and started a parade of half-empowered CEOs and ambivalent decision making.

They Watched the Money and Not the Consumer.  In terms of advertising revenue, Yahoo! crushed it year after year.  This gave senior management too much freedom to muse and obsess about pet projects and the now-lost search battle with an emergent Google.  Had the company been under existential financial pressure, perhaps they would have gotten closer to their consumers and where they were really going in the near future.  A good crisis might have really helped.

Yahoo! Believed Tomorrow Would be a Bigger Version of Today.   Each generation thinks the next will be a slightly different version of their own:  a little more entitled, a little better with tech, a little less respectful, yada yada.  And at the height of its dominance during a business era, it’s natural for a company to see the future as a little more mobile, a little more social, a little more video-driven, yada yada.  Perhaps Yahoo! saw things this way? Perhaps they never considered a radically different world that ignored desktops and page views?

Yahoo! is now, in almost every sense, history.  But in its wake, let’s consider whether our own companies might be unwittingly walking the same path.

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