Road Trip 2019


As each year ends and we plan for the next, we try to start with an idea – a belief, actually – that will inform our work going forward:  Seller Forum discussions, The Drift, workshops, coaching conversations…everything.  So with one of our final posts of 2018, I want to be clear about what we believe here at Upstream Group.

We believe that the future for publishers and agencies is diversified.  Anybody relying on one product or one channel can start numbering their days.

We believe that marketers have finally chosen to believe their media agencies.  You’ve been telling them media is a commodity for 15 years and now they’re on board.  Media is a cost center now…we know the rest.

We believe there is no silver bullet.  Only more bullets.

We believe that it’s all strategy now.  Those who focus only on execution and tactics are the unskilled labor force of the next 20 years.

But we also believe that those who believe strategy is about a future that’s months or years away will fail.  We believe the immediate future will be won by those who can live well in the moment.

We believe that pivoting is not just for companies.  It’s one of the most critical personal skills any of us can possess.

We believe that success in our business is not a destination.  It’s an endless journey, a perpetual road trip.  Stop building your dream home and start thinking about what you’ll have room for in your car.  Those who keep moving, changing and experiencing will define success.

We believe that any good road trip depends on knowing the terrain, packing the right cargo, keeping the right fuel in the tank and choosing your passengers well.

It’s with these beliefs in mind that we are devoting our entire 2019 Seller Forum series to one single theme: “On the Road:  Marketing Navigation in a World of Perpetual Change.”  Though we’ll work to deliver a great standalone experience at each Forum, we’re thinking in terms of stages in the same uninterrupted journey.  Part One: Departure on March 6th… Part Two: Acceleration on June 5th… and Part Three: A New Gear on October 23rd.

Maybe you and your company have been part of the Seller Forum community in 2018 or for many years before that.  Maybe you’ve never experienced it.  But if you’re a qualified sales leader who wants to invest in yourself and your most valuable team members – your most critical passengers – we’d love to have you in the car with us.

Reach out to us if you’d like to know more or go to www.thesellerforum.com.

We look forward to riding with you.


Don’t Just Say Thanks.


Veterans Day 2018 brought familiar reminders to those of us in the general public – non-veterans – of the service of others.  Who can miss those Camo’/faux-military hats and warm up jackets on the sideline of NFL games?  And then there are the military themed TV ad campaigns and the reminders that this retail chain or this coffee company proudly hire veterans.  And all over social media and – sometimes – in person, we say Thank you for your service.

Nothing particularly wrong with any of that.  Except that quite often saying thank you is all we end up doing.  I recently saw an interview with Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, former helicopter pilot who lost both legs in a crash in Iraq.  She said near the end of the segment that what veterans like her really want to hear — far more than Thank you for your service — is the simple phrase Never forget.

Never forget is more than a feel-good catch phrase. It’s a challenge. Far too many veterans do feel forgotten for much of the year.  And those who probably feel it most are our wounded warriors and their families and the kids and spouses of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice – Gold Star families.

As we all break for Thanksgiving, I’d like to appeal to those of you who read The Drift to not only Never forget, but to act on that value right now.  For the past 12 years I’ve been involved with The TD Foundation, a 100% volunteer group that gives 100% of the funds we collect to the families of those veterans who can least afford to be forgotten. We help make mortgage payments, have car engines rebuilt, send children to camp, buy soccer equipment. Sometimes these small acts of support are enough to keep a family from losing their home;  other times they just make a kid with a wounded or missing parent feel like – a kid.

On Thursday evening December 6th, near the World Trade Center site in New York, we’ll be hosting our annual fundraising event.  Click here to go on our website and buy your ticket.  Even if you can’t attend, go ahead and make the donation.  You can do it on the same page.

Yes, there are many people in the world and in our own country who need our help.  But I’m asking your help for a particular group of Americans that should never be forgotten but who too often are.

I thank you for your generosity and wish you and your families a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Never forget.


I’m Writing You Because…


For something we use every single day, most of us really end up sucking at email.

It’s not that we’re not all really articulate – we’ve got some really brilliant writers in our ranks.  It’s not that we have nothing to say – most of our companies really are doing terrific things that create real value for clients and agencies.

No, our emails suck for one very simple and pedestrian reason:  We don’t know how to start them.

We’re asking for your support for the family of our great friend and digital advertising pioneer Joe Gallagher, who we lost tragically and unexpectedly this summer. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page to raise scholarship funds for Joe’s kids. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated and 100% will go to the Gallagher family. Thank you for your generosity.

There are whole books and business articles and classes devoted to the use of email.  Recently, Robert Glazer celebrated the joy of brevity in his ‘Friday Forward’ post.  Brief, well-structured – check, check.  But none of that matters if you don’t – first – get to the point!

Consider that your customers read and edit much of their email on the screen of a mobile phone.  A quick swipe of the thumb and your email is gone and forgotten.  Whether or not that thumb goes left is based on (1) whether you have an existing personal or business relationship – odds are that you don’t;  (2) the subject line; and (3) the first two lines of copy.  Yet despite the critical importance of points 2 and 3, sellers waste this precious real estate every day.

For lack of consideration (or maybe lack of any real reason for writing), we carelessly stick the client’s company name “X” our company name in the subject line.  Perhaps because we want to appear folksy and nonthreatening, we start with something inane like “Hope you had a great weekend!” or “I’ll only take a minute of your time.”

Your subject line is nothing less than the headline for the story you’re writing.  It should speak directly to the core value you hope to deliver.  “3.5 Million Incremental Shoppers for Your Holiday Push” or “High Income Millennials are Not Hearing Your Core Story” would be good examples.

And when it comes to the opening sentence of your email, here’s the best one I’ve ever seen:  I’m writing you because… This simple phrase forces you to speak immediately and directly to the reason why your customer should spend even another second reading.  If you haven’t got a good reason, it will become immediately apparent to you, and you can go back to the drawing board.

It’s time to start thinking, acting and writing intentionally.  Drop the shallow chumminess and stop clearing your throat.  Respect is the new friendship, and if you respect your client’s time by getting to the point you’ll be rewarded with their most precious currency:  attention.


When Nobody is Watching.


What if there were no bosses? If there were no office hours, no vacation policy, how would the people make decisions? If there were no one watching, what would lead them to make good decisions that cared for the business and your customers? What if the ultimate responsibility were theirs?

This may sound Utopian – or foolish, depending on your perspective. But it’s increasingly the reality of business. In our industry, it’s here.

We’re asking for your support for the family of our great friend and digital advertising pioneer Joe Gallagher, who we lost tragically and unexpectedly this summer. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page to raise scholarship funds for Joe’s kids. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated and 100% will go to the Gallagher family. Thank you for your generosity.

The combination of big territories, big employee-to-manager ratios, distributed locations and the raw speed of business means that employees are making their own decisions much of the time. Your policies and caps and meetings and policy reviews simply can’t keep up with the pace of business. Control-based top-down rules and approvals end up looking foolish and bureaucratic.

So, what then?

This is not to say that policies and rules are obsolete (a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, for example, is an excellent one). But regardless of how much you elaborate on the rules, you need your employees to make judgments… sound, moral, positive judgments. And the only way to get there is to establish a culture of values. Here are the four values that I recommend to my customers; each is personally controllable by the individual and helps him/her make better decisions both internally (with team members) and externally with clients. Share them, talk about them.

Be Curious. Healthy, appropriate curiosity leads one to ask more and better questions of customers and coworkers. It generates true empathy. It builds trust and connection. Curious people want to know how things work, more about the customer’s business…more about their co-worker’s role and queue.

Be Generous. Those who are generous don’t keep score. They continue to treat customers like customers even when there’s no big jackpot in front of them. They give coworkers the benefit of the doubt. They don’t infer motives that are not there. They help others.  They focus on making a difference while also making a profit.

Be Tenacious. Tenacious employees go the extra mile for customers and coworkers. They don’t accept the easy, obvious answer.  They stay with the conversation, the project or the problem – that much longer. They take the time to examine the situation fully.

Be Worthy. Worthiness is about the journey, not the destination; about the quality and excellence of work and effort, not just about the score. It’s not about getting… it’s about deserving. Deserving the customer’s trust, deserving the best efforts of your coworkers, deserving the job you have and the success you crave. As John Adams said, We cannot assure success. We can only deserve it.

If you want your team to thrive, let them make the decisions within a culture where values are the dominant drivers. Then get out of the way.


Closer.


The reason your sales calls aren’t turning into sales may have nothing to do with preparation, content, fit or numbers. They might just be too big. Repeat after me:

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

It’s counterintuitive, but very true. Many of us grew up doing classroom presentations, went on to practice doing the company pitch in front of our peers at sales conferences, and probably dream of someday doing our own TED Talk. So it’s understandable that we crave the spotlight that goes with a crowd. But in reality those presentations are not moving the ball down the field. And they never will.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

When you get a group of 3, 4, 5 or more people together in a conference room, the politics get bigger and the opportunities get smaller. People don’t share in large rooms. They are less curious, more guarded, less honest. People don’t surface real objections in a crowd. They may listen to you, but they don’t work with you. Collaboration never gets started. Everyone is polite (well, except those jerk-offs checking email on their phones of course) but no one is truly engaged.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Salesforce DMP. Salesforce DMP allows you to capture, unify, and activate your data to strengthen consumer relationships across every touchpoint. Find out more here.

In workshops with digital sellers, I preach the value of the intimate, collaborative, one-on-one or one-on-two meeting. With the right decision maker of course. You’d be better off having five small meetings on the phone with key customers than ten big lunch-and-learns. In small meeting about the right things, customers lean in, they share, they object, they tell you the truth…and they collaborate. It doesn’t just happen of course…you’ve still got to earn the opportunity and execute it well. If you go in and turn on the lawn sprinkler of PowerPoint and company bullshit, you’ll still get a bad outcome in a small meeting. But if you prepare and plan and focus on doing good things for the client’s business, your meeting will stand out like a candle in the darkness.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

Marketing departments, stop cranking out newer and slicker versions of “the company story.” Nobody wants to hear them. Start helping your sellers tell the customer’s story and the heroic role your company can play in it. Sales managers, stop confusing activity with progress. Counting the number of rooms filled with warm bodies is a fool’s errand. Sellers, focus on really deserving the meeting with the CMO or Product Manager or Group VP and you will get more of them.

And for God sake, keep ‘em small. Intimacy is the new power.

This post was first distributed in May 2016.  Rumor has it that there are still too many big meetings taking place.