Build Relationships with R.E.S.P.E.C.T.


However you define success, achieving that success generally requires the ability to build relationships. Talent and hard work can give you a leg up but to achieve high levels of success requires the help, support and cooperation of others.

You’ve heard the adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to your success, it’s more about who is willing to help you.

Building relationships means investing in others consistently with a giving attitude unhindered by the expectation of getting something in return. Sow enough seeds and you’ll grow mutually beneficial relationships with the right people.

Consider my R.E.S.P.E.C.T. formula for acting in ways that build the right relationships. More than just an acronym, the overarching theme embedded in this approach is to give respect.

R: Reliability

I have great news for you. One of the most important elements of building relationships also happens to be one of the easiest. Be reliable. Others love it and so do you. The bar is set pretty low in this regard so you can easily stand out simply by responding to communications promptly, doing what you say you’ll do and showing up on time. Reliability builds trust, an essential ingredient in the best relationships.

E: Engagement

Don’t wait for good things to happen, make them happen by reaching out and creating opportunities to move your relationships forward. Be the one who initiates. Just like being reliable, simply keeping in touch is another easy way to stand out.

S: Simplification

There are people who have a knack for simplifying things and making problems go away. Then there are those who make things more complicated and create problems. Whose company would you rather keep? Solve problems and create value. Eliminate sources of irritation, don’t be one!

P: Promotion

Embrace opportunities to do things that promote the interests of others. Make introductions, provide counsel and insights, share useful information, do favours and make yourself available to those who need your help.

E: Enthusiasm

There are two levels of enthusiasm, internal and external. Internal enthusiasm feeds your energy to do the things you need to do. External enthusiasm is about how you express it. Channel that inner enthusiasm towards things that are beneficial to building your relationships and share your enthusiasm so others feel it. Enthusiasm is contagious!

C: Communication

Good communication means clearly expressing perspectives, needs and expectations. Whether speaking or writing, choose unambiguous language and avoid jargon. Great communication requires listening. Don’t deliver a monologue, engage in a dialogue. Listen actively, ask good questions and confirm you’ve reached a shared understanding of your discussion.

T: Thankfulness

Last but not least, be appreciative. Don’t take the time, support and opportunity others give you for granted. Express your thanks in words and in actions by reciprocating when you can. The best relationships are a two-way street.

I haven’t suggested anything you don’t already know. The challenge is to practice these habits consistently and to live up to our own standards. Invest in your success with R.E.S.P.E.C.T., your seven point plan for building relationships!

What do you feel are the key ingredients in building relationships? Would you add anything to the seven elements I’ve suggested?

8 Thoughts on Thought Leadership


This month’s post was inspired by a conversation with my physiotherapist regarding content marketing and what constitutes good thought leadership. I have my point of view; what’s yours?


I have a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder. Apparently, I’m not alone. I’ve read that by the age of 60, nearly 80% of us will have some degree of a rotator cuff tear. Perhaps our shoulders are not meant to do what we make them do!

At the frequent physio sessions where my ex-rugby playing physiotherapist tortures me to build up my shoulder muscles, we have plenty of time to talk. One recent conversation turned to content marketing and thought leadership, something we both do in support of our business development efforts.

There are many good reasons to create your own content. If you engage in content marketing, it’s likely that you do this primarily to achieve a position of thought leadership in your industry, and ultimately to drive revenue growth.

One reason to create content is to be perceived by your target market as a thought leader, but that doesn’t make it easy to do well. Over the years, I’ve written many thought leadership pieces for my employer, my clients and my own consultancy. That repetitive exercising of my writing muscles has helped me to develop my skills and also a point of view on the principles that underpin good thought leadership content. I’ll share eight of these principles below.

1. Strategy First

Strategy should always lead tactics. Thought leadership, like all marketing communications, should be guided by your marketing plan and content strategy. Identify the differentiating characteristics of your brand, how you wish to position it to your target market segments, and the key messages you will hammer home repeatedly through your thought leadership efforts. Be clear on such things before you start developing content.

2. Stand Somewhere

Take a stand, not just anywhere but somewhere quite deliberate. Stand in a place you know well, with a credible point of view. Stand in alignment with your strategic objectives, with messaging that resonates with your target market.

3. Stand Somewhere Different

Stand somewhere that differentiates you from the pack, like that one bird in the image below standing on two legs. Stand so you can be noticed and remembered for your differences. It is hard to be a thought leader by standing where everybody else is standing. Thought followers get lost in the crowd, in a sea of voices with safe and similar messages. Thought leaders provoke thought and discussion, often by being different.

Can you spot the thought leader? Hint, it's the only one standing on two legs!

Can you spot the thought leader? Hint, it’s the only one standing on two legs!

4. Create, Don’t Regurgitate

One approach to content marketing is to curate and share the thoughts of others. While that is a way to provide useful information to your target market, true thought leadership comes from creating content you own, featuring your unique and valuable perspective and insights. You will add the most value to the conversation and to your target audience when you create rather than regurgitate.

5. Be Yourself, Be Authentic

Be true to yourself and your brand. Your point of view needs to be authentic. Be the type of thought leader that comes naturally. Are you an innovator? Do you challenge conventional thinking? Do you make sense of chaos? Are you humourous, serious or quirky? Speak your truth. Say what you believe, in your own voice. Let your personality shine through to help engage your readers.

6. Be Engaging

Your audience is busy. If you want them to consume your content, you have to engage them. Tell stories and think in terms of a narrative that runs through your content. Try to entertain in a way that comes naturally. Let a bit of yourself into your content. Help your readers to see themselves in your stories and connect to your content. The more they can identify with you and your stories, the more they’ll want to consume and share your content.

7. Help, Don’t Pitch

This is a big one. Your audience wants to learn. They don’t want to hear your pitch. Help them solve their problems. Trust your audience to ask for your pitch once they’ve learned to trust you through the thoughts you share in your content. Focus on helping your audience rather than trying to persuade them to buy from you. Your audience will value and share relevant and helpful content long before they share your pitch.

8. Keep It Coming

Strive to be more of a hit machine than a one hit wonder; more Beatles, Bowie or Beyonce than Brooklyn Bridge, Bobby Bloom or Blues Image. One great piece may get you some attention but before long, you’ll fall off the playlist. Keep cranking out the hits. You’ll reach a wider audience and be harder to forget.

In Closing…

Whether for my shoulder muscles or writing muscles, regular exercise is key. We can do the exercise on our own, or get expert help. Either way, it is important to have and follow a plan. If you don’t want to shoulder the exercise load on your own, seek out help both inside and outside of your organization.

I’ve found it useful to follow the above principles when creating thought leadership content and hope that you will, too. I’ll leave you with three questions and welcome your replies:

  1. Which of these eight principles do you find most important and why?
  2. Which principles would you add to this list?
  3. What are your favourite one-hit wonders?

Planning to Measure


Hi there, welcome to my first post of 2014, and best wishes for the new year!

When you develop a marketing plan, it’s easy to focus on the plan itself, and to think of measurement as something you’ll do later after executing the plan. The problem is, you also have to plan to measure and the first step in doing that is to set proper objectives in your marketing plan. Today’s post looks at how to embed measurement in your marketing planning process.



I’m an advisor to a social enterprise start-up called the Blooms of Joy Project. At our last advisory board meeting, we identified the need for a marketing planning process to help inform some decisions that the founder, Karen, needs to make.

Fortunately, I had recently completed the first draft of a new marketing planning process. I suggested to Karen that working through this process would solve her problem. She’d get a marketing plan out of it, and I’d be able to test my new process with her, get some feedback and learn how to improve my template.

Last week, as we walked through the process together on a Skype call, I found a problem. My new marketing planning process wasn’t making it easy enough to measure properly. Let me explain.

A marketer’s first responsibility requires answering the question “What should we do?” You have a budget and you need to spend it well in your efforts to attract customers, sell products and grow your businesses. That is the focus of a marketing plan, and it was my focus as I developed my process. However, having a good marketing plan isn’t enough.

With the responsibility of spending a marketing budget comes the accountability for spending it wisely. The follow up question to “What should we do?” is “Did it work?” An effective marketing process has to address and connect both questions so that you can continuously improve your effectiveness.

After executing the programs in your plan, you need to measure your results to see whether you achieved the objectives you set in your plan. That last part of that sentence is the key and where I found the problem.

One of the biggest roadblocks to measuring marketing properly is the lack of well-defined objectives. You can’t measure the success of your marketing programs if you don’t first clearly set measurable objectives.

With that in mind, I went back to the drawing board to embed objective setting into key elements of the planning process. Here are the sections of the plan where I did it, and where you should, too.

The Business

A marketing plan should include clearly stated objectives for the key performance indicators in your business, for each source of revenue that you want to affect with your marketing plan. Many of these objectives will roll up into your financial plan for the total business. Examples might include things like revenue, profit, customer counts, transactions, price per transaction and market share.

The Customer

Within this section, there is a Segmentation sub-section that helps you to be clear on who you are targeting. The Profitable Customer Behaviour sub-section is for defining what you want those targeted customers to do and for identifying Characteristics of Ideal Customers. For each product you offer, and for each market segment in which you compete, this section helps you to be clear on whom you want to communicate with through your marketing efforts, and what you want to persuade them to do.

The Plan

When setting objectives for specific marketing programs, it can be very helpful to ask four simple questions:

  1. Who are we targeting? (Target Segments & Ideal Customers)
  2. What exactly do we want them to do or buy? (Ideal Customer Behaviour)
  3. By when do we want them to do that? (To meet your Business Objectives)
  4. How much of that activity do we want them to do? (To meet your Business Objectives)

The Results

This section highlights the need to measure and suggests addressing questions like:

  1. What will your measurement process be?
  2. Who will be responsible?
  3. Where will the data come from?
  4. When will we measure?

The marketing plan is not the place to do all that work, but it is the time to recognize the need for it, to plan for it and to be setting objectives properly so that measurement will even be possible.

This section also addresses Lessons Learned, which is a critical step in optimizing your marketing effectiveness. The lessons you learn from measurement will include identifying the programs that performed best and worst at meeting their specific program objectives, and in helping you to meet your overall business objectives.

We all know that planning and measurement are important, but do we do these things as well as we should? It is equally important to recognize that we need to link them. You can’t measure well without setting proper objectives in the planning process and you can’t improve your next round of planning without measuring how well you did the last time around. Plan to measure, so you can measure your plan!

Stealth Benefits


You know how when you take a vacation there are usually certain things you must see or do at your chosen destination? For example, when you go to Greece, you have to go to Athens to see the Parthenon. While it’s one of the great and obvious things to see in Athens, I find it interesting how your vacation highlights may well end up being about the unexpected pleasures, like a beautiful scene in the countryside or a chat with a complete stranger at a café.

It turns out that networking and marketing measurement are much the same. Both are well worth doing for all the obvious reasons, but it’s the unexpected stealth benefits that may well end up being the most important.


Two days ago, I was drinking tea at Starbucks with a consultant I met in February and her business partner. We were enjoying a fun and productive conversation when it suddenly hit me. I love networking.

I know that love is probably too strong a word for my feelings about networking. Still, now that I’ve fully embraced networking as an integral part of building my own business, I can’t imagine my working life without it.

The ParthenonWhen I took my first tentative steps into the world of networking, my dual objectives were to expand my network and find clients, the obvious reasons for networking. While networking has proven to be beneficial on both counts, it has been the other unexpected benefits that I’ve enjoyed the most.

  • I’ve made great friends
  • I’ve built relationships with talented people I’d be happy to employ, work for or with, or recommend.
  • I’ve learned a lot and broadened my perspective.
  • I’ve become a connector, introducing people who could benefit from knowing each other.
  • I’ve become a mentor to students and an advisor to start-ups, and was thrilled to learn last week that the Ryerson DMZ is adding me to their roster of advisors.

I didn’t set out to make any of these things happen, but they did. While less obvious than growing my network and finding clients, these unexpected benefits are important and impactful, both personally and professionally. I call them stealth benefits because they sneak up on you. Without warning and undetected, they just happen.

In that respect, marketing measurement is a lot like networking. There are obvious benefits from measurement, and there is at least one multifaceted stealth benefit. The obvious benefits include:

  • Finding out which marketing programs work or don’t work.
  • Knowing where to cut budgets or where to invest more
  • Improving overall marketing effectiveness
  • Driving better business results

Delphi CountrysideMarketing measurement also delivers the very powerful, and perhaps unexpected stealth benefit of bringing more discipline to the marketing function and the broader organization. Here are three facets of this stealth benefit:


1. You will set better marketing objectives.

Good measurement requires first setting clear and measurable objectives for your marketing programs. If you don’t know precisely what you want your marketing to do for you, then how will you know if it worked? As they say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?”

To measure marketing properly, you have to set proper objectives. Without clear objectives, you won’t know what to measure or if your results are any good. You’ll also run the risk that your measurement might really just be counting, as I wrote about here.


2. Marketing will align properly with your whole business.

Your company’s strategic planning and budget setting should guide the setting of marketing objectives. Marketing helps to deliver against the budgeted revenue and profit objectives. When you plan specific marketing programs, set objectives that align with and roll up to those company objectives committed to in the budget.

Measurement is most effective when the whole organization commits to it. This brings the right people from different functional areas to the same table to agree on what marketing success means for the whole business and what to measure. Measurement helps to get everyone on the same page.

3. Your marketing programs will focus more on the right things.

The best marketing delivers more of what I call “Profitable Customer Behaviour”. What, when, where, how much and how often they buy, how and how much they pay, whether they are costly to manage or service, whether they refer new customers, etc. all impact the profitability of each customer and the overall business.

To uncover what Profitable Customer Behaviour means for your organization, ask people in different functional areas to complete the following statement:

We’d make more money if more of our customers (did this): (fill in the blank) .

Clearly defining profitable customer behaviour helps to clarify what marketing needs to achieve in order to create the most value for the business. Those clear definitions also force everyone to focus on the impact that various types of customer behaviour have on their part of the organization, and how that affects the bottom line.


Measurement brings additional discipline to marketing decision making, and that can only be a good thing. It may not be the first benefit you think of when you commit to measuring marketing, but the stealth benefit of that increased discipline will happen, whether or not you see it coming.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sneak up on some more networking opportunities!

Predictions and Marketing Knowledge Succession

On January 15th, I attended Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2013. The presentation was delivered at The Carlu in Toronto by Duncan Stewart, Deloitte Canada’s Director of Research.

I enjoy attending events like this for two main reasons. The first is for the content, as it helps me to stay on top developments and trends that impact my clients and the environment in which they operate.

The second reason is for the networking and to possibly meet new people or bump into a familiar face or two. One of the familiar faces I saw after the event belonged to my friend and fellow consultant, Rob Coatsworth. After a quick hello, we decided to go chat over a coffee.

One topic of our conversation was knowledge succession, which is one of Rob’s areas of expertise. Knowledge succession helps organizations to capture, retain and pass on the experience-based knowledge that individual employees accumulate, rather than have the knowledge leave when employees leave the organization.

While knowledge succession is hardly a new challenge, I found our conversation thought provoking because I think the challenge is now greater than ever, and I believe this is especially true for marketers. Here are some reasons why:

General Environmental Factors

Multiple Jobs Per Career. The days of working for one company your whole career and getting the gold watch upon retirement are long gone. Employer/employee relationships are less loyal and have evolved from being career-long marriages to serially monogamous relationships. At some point, either or both parties decide that it’s time to move on and try something new.

Short-Term Financial Pressures. The financial markets exert tremendous pressure on publicly traded companies to hit their quarterly financial targets. Senior executives whose compensation is tied to hitting those financial targets often reduce headcount and salary expense in order to hit those targets. Well paid long service employees, who generally have accumulated the most knowledge are attractive targets to be let go for the expense that can be saved.

Aging Baby Boomers Will Retire. While the impact of this has been delayed by the volatility in financial markets, a large number of highly experienced and long service employees are at an age where they would like to retire if they could, and will when they can, taking their knowledge with them.

Marketing Environmental Factors

Marketers Change Jobs Frequently. Employers value marketers with a range of experiences working on different brands in different categories for different companies. That encourages marketers to keep changing jobs to drive up their marketability and market value.

Accelerating Marketing Complexity and Speed. Marketing is changing rapidly, with innovation, technology and media fragmentation driving much of that change. There are more ways to communicate with consumers and many more touch points along the path to purchase. The pace at which marketers have to execute campaigns leaves them little time between campaigns to measure and learn from past efforts.

Measurement and Marketing Knowledge Succession

Organizations that want to improve their marketing effectiveness need to learn from their successes and failures. That means they need to measure and learn which campaigns are most and least effective, so they can adjust their strategies going forward.

Without an organizational approach to capturing and retaining the lessons learned, it is left to individual marketers to do their own learning. So long as they stay, the organization will benefit but if they decide to leave, the knowledge will leave with them.

The reality is that employees leave and unless companies find ways to learn along with the employees, they are just training their competitors’ future marketing talent. A big step in the right direction is to measure all marketing.

Here’s a five step plan for Marketing Knowledge Succession:

  1. Commit to learning. Broaden your focus on executing marketing programs efficiently and effectively to also include learning from those programs to enhance future strategies and tactics.
  2. Embrace measurement as the key to learning what works and what doesn’t for your brands. Track your success at meeting each campaign’s objectives.
  3. Adopt a measurement methodology that can be applied consistently across brands, programs and time. A consistent methodology will give you benchmarks and a basis for rating and ranking programs.
  4. Measure the things that matter. Choose metrics that indicate whether your marketing is driving profitable customer behaviour and creating value for your business. Keep in mind those Key Performance Indicators that matter to financial markets, owners, investors and business managers and find a way to connect your marketing measurement to the health of the business.
  5. Keep good records. Make sure you have a way to securely collect, store and share the results of your measurement efforts. You’ll be building a knowledge data base that current and future marketers in your organization can use to refine their strategies and execute more effective programs.

Knowledge succession has a medium to long term focus, but committing to it also provides short-term benefits. To be able to aggregate and pass knowledge along, you first have to capture it.

To learn what works and doesn’t work in marketing, you have to measure it, and what you learn can pay dividends on your very next campaign. That will benefit both marketers and their employers, today and in the future.

This is not a prediction, unlike those presented by Deloitte, but I do firmly believe that organizations who commit to marketing measurement and knowledge succession will have a brighter future.