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Presenting Your Big Idea is Easy As Pie


Presentations can be easy as pieLast weekend we celebrated Pi Day, which happens to also be Albert Einstein’s birthday. I took this picture of our Pi/Birthday celebration pie last Saturday at 9:00pm as the time/date numbers lined up to be 3.14159, which is the first part of the intriguing, never-ending number . Though Einstein was not the one who developed Pi, he was brilliant about translating complex theories into simple statements that others could understand. His thoughts on communications and presenting information are summed up in this famous quote of his.

“If you don’t understand it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Einstein’s point is spot on. If you have an opportunity to prepare a presentation, whether to a small group or a large audience, make sure you can communicate your message simply. If you find that you struggle to get your point across within the timeframe that has been provided, then chances are you do not have a strong enough understanding of your message. I have found many presenters in our industry show up to conferences or product reviews with 30-50 slides for a one-hour presentation and spray their audience with data; forcing them to make sense of a large amount of information. What the audience needs is not a lot of data, but for the presenter to boil down the data to meaningful ideas and recommend something we can do with the idea. If you have an opportunity to present, whether to a small group or large audience, start by doing the following.

Ask yourself,

“What is the big idea?” The answer to this question is your point of view and your presentation’s Primary Message. It is the single biggest thing you want them to remember when they walk away from your presentation.

“What am I asking the audience to do?” This is your Call-To-Action. It is what you are asking your audience to do or change. If possible, make your request specific by assigning a deadline and a way of measuring their success in taking action.

Once you can clearly explain your message in a simple, concise way, then building your supporting points, benefits and examples will be easy. Get your point of view clear before you start developing the visuals of how to present (for example, storyboard for a small group, Power Point slides, hand-outs, posters and pictures for larger groups).

When you are asked to present, please be respectful to your audience and to yourself. Take a moment to make sure you can explain your big idea simply and know what you are asking from the audience before you take the steps to develop the presentation. Imagine how challenging it was for Einstein to boil down his point of view and explain complex ideas like E=MC2!

And now back to pie, because my flaky-crust apple cinnamon variety is very simple to understand!

Technology "and Stuff"

Kudo’s to General Motors for doing the right thing for what could have been a disastrous moment for their Chevrolet brand. After the San Francisco Giants won baseball’s World Series last month, Regional Zone Manager Rikk Wilde was on hand to present the latest Chevrolet truck to MVP winner Madison Bumgarner. It was obvious that Mr. Wilde was either not prepared for his speech or that the magnitude of the number of eyeballs on him at one time took him by surprise because he really messed up! It was so shocking that someone called to handle such an important presentation for this company did not have his “game on.” Personally, it was an incredibly painful thing to watch. You can see the clip in the video on the right.

Technology and Stuff in USA Today AdvertisementThe next morning, the story of his speech received higher billing with the press than the announcement of the Giant’s win! Not only that, but when I read the USA Today newspaper, I found a full-page advertisement for the truck with the header, “Technology and Stuff.” I’m sure the marketing team for the brand scurried after his presentation to figure out how to offset his mistake. The ad was a brilliant play and I commend the leader of their product line for approving the decision. Most managers wouldn’t approve it for fear of “looking stupid,” but instead they leveraged it. The ad helped the incident become a “human” event and probably pulled even more people into feeling good about the Chevrolet brand.

So what have we learned? Consider these two things;

1. Preparation is key. Not only does the speaker have to be well practiced and prepared, but pick the speaker who is right for the audience. This is brand representation, and not only does the content of the speech need to support the personality of your brand, but also the person standing in front of the audience (whether your audience is two people or tens of thousands of people) needs to be right.

2. Be on the offense when something bad happens. Most companies with a challenge like this point to the speaker as if he/she was the problem, but instead GM owned it and made light of it. Media, customers, and competitors… they all come after you when you are not being forthright, so own your mistakes, apologize, and move forward. It will give you and your company a stronger brand presence.

One last comment… I’m thinking the stock price and sales revenue for Chevy will go up. What do you think?

How To Kill A Great Campaign

Who owns your packaging and advertising content in your company? When it comes to packaging, advertising and promotional material, most managers involved can agree that a single-focused message would be most effective. Apple, for example is BRILLIANT at executing effective clear and simple marketing pieces. But watch this short video and you’ll see an example of what happens in many organizations.

This example is a dramatization, but often the people involved in finalizing a marketing piece will get into heated disagreements on content and design as the deadline nears. The result becomes a massive compromise that will sometimes do more damage than good. For example, an advertisement may have a single-focused message of “speed”, as the machine cranks out the most widgets per minute. The ad design reflects a captivating tie to speed and the simple content tickles interest and leads the viewer to engage in learning more about the fast machine. That’s a pretty straightforward process, but then more stakeholders get involved… Management insists an ad promote the company with its “years of experience” using words to show the industry that we are “leaders” and “innovators”. Engineering becomes adamant that if you don’t show the gear that makes the machine so fast, the viewer won’t be interested and Product Management won’t approve the ad unless you change the words on the tagline and add 4 bullet points so that readers can understand why the product is fast. Does this scenario sound familiar? Is it painful? It’s painful to everyone and it is common scenario.

The challenge comes from leadership not integrating “brand presence and marketing communications” into their long-term or even annual strategy and then having the backbone to back it up when executed. The reason various messages get piggybacked onto one marketing piece is because the stakeholders don’t feel their messages are coming across. With a long-term plan that is backed by company leadership, the individual marketing materials can tie to an overarching strategy. Each communication item can maintain its own effective single-focused message and serve its purpose. Leaders need to have a solid, well-communicated strategy and be steadfast in sticking to it.

3 Final Tips for Effective Online Ads

A/B Split Test Results for an Online Marketing Campaign Marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the past 50, 76 percent of marketers surveyed said in a recent Adobe study. And while my personal journey with developing online advertising strategies started over 15 years ago, the trick to success is still trial and error. As this blog discussion of Online Advertising comes to a close, I would like to leave you with some final tips for your own success.

  • Test at Least Two Concepts; initially run two or more creative concepts in your first test to understand the relative performance between them.
  • Show Brand Prominently on all Frames. Always remember your primary purpose of advertisement; a common primary objective is to elevate your brand awareness and secondary to drive interest in the form of contact information for leads.
  • Consider What Happens After the First Click. This tip is probably the biggest offense in online display advertisement. Think about being the viewer… becoming enticed enough to click on a display ad and then merely land on a home page of a company with no direction. What happens is a feeling about your brand that YOU are lost or not smart enough to lead the viewer to the next step of product or service information to capture your prospect.
  • And a bonus tip - make sure you stand for something. Don’t be tempted to tell all, stick to single-focused messages on your ads.

So move forward bravely and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Luckily, online advertisement is fairly inexpensive, easily changeable and extremely measureable. So change it up and keep on top of the progress.

May success in online advertisement be in your future!

Words Matter - Online Advertising Copy

Once you’ve nailed the visual part of your ad, the text or “copy” becomes the key to success for your online advertising investment. The text commonly has two objectives.

  1. Provide a clear direction telling the customer what will happen if they click on your ad.
  2. Give the potential customer a take away from your message if they choose not to click on it.

Just remember to focus on one benefit and get your offer/brand message across. Messages with multiple ideas, benefits or features lists may confuse the consumer or make them work too hard to get your concept.

If you’ve accomplished the creative design part of the online ad correctly, then you have the opportunity to pull your viewer in with the copy. Sell them on your product or service with few words and earn their click (or time in reading your message). To write effective ad copy, I recommend using the famous copywriting formula AIDA.

(A)ttention: While your image/design will grab initial attention, you need an attention-grabbing headline to pull them in. A strong headline or provocative question will capture attention and boost response.

(I)nterest: Use your primary benefit to get the user interested. It takes a lot of time to write only a few words that pull potential customers into your ad. The text you write should be very authentic, clear and targeted to the demographic of the website that is displaying your ad. ?

(D)esire: The copy is where you create a desire for the viewer to have an immediate interest in learning more so provide a discount or offer (case study download, extended warranty). Be straightforward and clear about what you are offering… While vague copy may increase your response rate, it could negatively impact both your conversion rates and your brand.

?(A)ction: If you have created the correct desire, the user will want to take action. This is your big opportunity to provide them with a path to take action… a click to provide their information, a phone number to call, a website to visit. Please, please, please create a special web/landing page for your viewer to land on. So many companies simply direct their ads to their homepage and completely lose the opportunity to capture a new prospect. It’s disappointing to the potential customer and tragic for your ROI of your ad!

You probably have a lot that you want to fit into the small space of an ad, but keep writing it out until you find a succinct message that ties with the imagery. Just remember to focus on one benefit and get your offer/brand message across. Messages with multiple ideas, benefits or features lists may confuse the consumer or make them work too hard to get your concept. Keep it simple, be clear and lead them to action.

Online Advertising Design

To continue our series on effective online advertising, let’s talk about creative. In the manufacturing industry, this is an oft-overlooked (and undervalued) part of the equation. Get it right, and you get even more leverage out of your marketing investment. Get it wrong, and you may as well not run the ad at all.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that there are very few marketing communications designers in our industry so it is highly recommended that you outsource your creative, but provide strong guidance. Unless you can collaborate on this effectively, you will either have a great message and content without captivating imagery OR have a beautifully designed ad that does nothing to connect the reader to your message (both scenarios will undermine your attempts to capture more business).

Here are some quick tips you can use for your creative.

Images - Use bright, clear images. Be careful when using stock photography as it could be used too often online and not be unique to you. Or worse, be so bland that it’s not meaningful at all (cue the photo of a nice man answering the phone or shaking a hand at a trade show). Also, make sure you have the copyright authorization for any photos or artwork you use. The images you select will represent you and your brand so make sure the they connect with what you are trying to accomplish and is cohesive with other visuals in your current campaigns.

Text - Your text should be large enough to quickly read and to the point. We’ll cover this in more detail next month, but here’s a quick tip: Use the great advice of Mark Twain who said “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Take the time to make sure you are saying what you need to, then cut the available words in half and rewrite.

Color - As for color and animation, please always consider the environment. A little animation is great but if there are a lot of other ads on the same page with animation, the page becomes irritating for the viewer and all of the messages become ‘noise’ (think Las Vegas slot machines). In this case, a simple, solid ad could be the difference that sets you apart from the other ads begging for your prospects attention.

Size - The size of your ad is very important as the more advertising space you take, the more likely it will be seen but you can still get a lot of exposure by placing small ads. Even a well-designed thumbnail ad placed in a strategic location on a web page that your target audience reads is going to get good exposure for your brand. One big warning though is to make sure your ad is designed for the space in which it will be placed. Have you ever seen an ad that is not centered or has text that ‘disappears’ at the bottom?

Ideally your campaign should have two or three ads with similar messages targeting your audience. Don’t run them all at the same time in the same environment but filter them through and then track your results and evaluate which ones provide the most impressions or clicks (depending on what you are measuring). If you are measuring clicks and have a captivating image with a powerful message and enticing call-to-action then you should aim for around 0.05% of impressions.

Stay tuned for the next online advertising topic about how to write the text for your online ads.

How To Get More Clicks With Online Advertising

More clicks with effective online advertisingSome businesses are not getting strong results with online advertising because either their message is not a good fit for the audience visiting the webpage OR the design and content of the ad is not connecting with the reader. A solid advertising strategy considers both the environment of the ads placed as well as what is being displaying in each of those ads. For example, you wouldn’t want to advertise your process machine products on a machine builder association website, but a well-designed ad presenting a newly launched machine in a trade publication (such as the one you are reading) would be an excellent message in a well-matched environment.


I need to back up on this topic of online advertising before getting into the details on how to get better results. You see, most businesses should be using online ads as part of their marketing strategy, but I have seen a very big disconnect in what their expectations are and the effort they put into getting the anticipated results. First, most online ads should be viewed more like display ads. They should be used to generate interest and grow brand awareness, not create an immediate sales lead to place an order. Readers to most online content are there to find news and trends in their industry, not necessarily to find products to buy at that moment.


In moving forward, I recommend that you first align your expectations with your executive staff after you have done the research with your online advertising vendors. In doing your research, garner audience information and extract data about other advertisers expectations and results. Will your expectation be to get eyeballs on your message (branding) or to get clicks on the ad (direct marketing)? Next, think through the entire advertising campaign with the end-in-mind (expected outcome). I recommend having more than one ad for your campaign to cycle through different pages and test what connects with the reader. Your ads should be creative enough to draw attention to your message without annoying the reader. You also need to reflect your campaign in other messages to customers. I suggest having similar design elements and messages on your website, at trade shows, inserted into invoices and on the footers of your emails.


If your expectation is to measure online advertising based on clicks, then you will need to engage the reader enough to interact with your ad by providing an enticing offer in exchange for their click/effort. Most online users want low-risk interactions, so stick to simple conversions like signing up for your newsletter, sampling a trial service of yours, watching an educational video or offering their email to be first on the list for a new product launch.


It takes time to not only develop a strategy for online advertising but also to execute the design, offer, and message in a way that connects with the readers. There will be two additional posts about this topic. The next one will be on how to develop the design (online ad creative) and the third will be about creating the content (online ad copy). But first take the time upfront to define your realistic expectations by doing the research and collaborating with the website company to set goals and establish a thorough campaign that will properly represent your brand and connect with your prospects.

Marketing to Engineers

Developing marketing communications messages for industrial manufacturing engineers is different from other demographics. But not that different.


Industrial Manufacturing EngineerFor years, marketers in the industrial manufacturing world have debated about how to best communicate their product/service information their primary target; engineers. The most argued position is that an engineer “wants product information presented to them as simple clear facts” and that clever or tricky marketing design concepts are “a put-off” or “make our company look silly”. The point of this side of the debate is that the engineer is so left-brained and logical that they would not engage in an entertaining design concept (whether print, online, direct mail, or trade show messages) to communicate a market message. This position didn’t make sense to me. Why would the engineers in this industry be so different from other industries? I had to figure this out, so I did a bunch of research.


What became evident is that the position of how to market was extracted from history. Manufacturers had become accustomed to ‘marketing’ to engineers by delivering extensive product catalogs and showing product information at every communication point. I was there in early 2000 looking at different advertisements, trade show signs, and direct mail pieces and consistently seeing a bland sea of blue, black, and grey machines and components photos with small font in bullet points listing features. No one stood out. Engineers absolutely need product specifications to do their job, and the primary responsibility of marketing is to engage them in the first place so in the past, details about equipment were used at every communication point because it was more challenging to gather details. Now that engineers can access extensive product information with keyword search whenever they want, the requirements of marketing is much more expansive. The objective of marketing is basically two-fold.


First, you must get the engineer’s attention (most likely by using an entertaining design concept) and deliver a primary message that ties them to understanding your brand attributes. That way, when they do their keyword searches in their hunt to specify products, they will subconsciously think, “Oh, that’s a good/familiar brand”… and off they go into the sales cycle. Why would they consider your company if they are completely unfamiliar with your brand? Your next job as a marketer is to give them the details when they engage with your brand. Optimize your website and plug all kinds of online directories and search engines with links and information to get your website found. Arm your inside and outside sales people with tools to provide details. Don’t confuse the message by trying to dump the details into the advertisement. Keep only a primary message in the ad, and then provide all of the detail in web/product material.


The marketing process was much more single-focused in the past, as it was a point where customers collected data in addition to retain your brand message. But the Internet has changed things, and that is why the debate remains. Both positions are critical and necessary. If your organization is only focused on the data entry part, you are missing out on the biggest opportunity to gain (or even maintain) market share. If you can drop the debate and take on a strategy of brand marketing supported by a dedication to provide easy-to-find product and support information online, then you are properly marketing to the engineer.

Get Out of the Way of Design

When too many people try to drive your marketing designs it can be like you're a passenger of a teenager driving an old car with manual steering and a stick shift!

I find that when most CEOs, Product Managers, Sales Managers. and even Engineers initially work with marketing communications, they have a tendency to try to drive the design concepts. Often when these ‘internal customers’ get involved with a campaign or marketing project, they have a tendency to insert their opinion on the design to communicate the ‘big idea.’ Sometimes their involvement can feel like you are the passenger with a 15year-old kid driving a '57 Chevy with a stick shift and manual steering racing down Mulholland Drive… It just always ends badly.


The internal customer’s leverage can be paralyzing to the process. For example, I’ve had a CEO tell me to run his design concept or I might lose my job. I’ve had a Product Manager demand we run the picture of his product or he would pull the whole campaign. And I’ve had a Sales Manager practically bully some of my staff members trying to push his marketing concepts. It’s quite natural for product and sales owners to want to be involved as developing concepts is one of the most exciting parts of being in marketing. After decades of experience, however, I have found the best way to connect the message with the design is to give designers solid demographic details, strong market messages, and possibly an experience with the product or service, and then just get out of the way.


The silver lining if you do find yourself wedged between an internal customer trying to steer and a designer spinning from too much direction is that there is some good that comes from everyone involved. Mistakes can be a very healthy way to learn that each player in the process has a specific role to make the marketing campaign effective. The Engineer needs to develop a product the market will desire; the Product Manager needs to tap the voice of the customer and be clear in communicating which differentiating features and benefits to promote that will best connect with the customer. The Marketing Manager needs to package a design brief that clearly outlines all aspects of the communication plan, coupled with the Product Manager’s information. The CEO and executive staff must clearly outline the financial resources and expected outcomes. And finally, the Designer must develop concepts that will be visually arresting and effectively communicate the core benefit to the target demographic. When members of the team overstep their bounds or fail to deliver their part, the process suffers.


If you find yourself playing a role in this marketing process as an internal customer, I encourage you to step back from your expectations, and let the process drive the result. While the outcome may surprise you, it will most likely give you the biggest bang for your buck. If too many people try to grab the wheel and drive the design, you will end up with a massive compromise. In the short-term compromise will satisfy internal customers but do nothing to connect with your external one and that will result in a tragic crash of your marketing investment.



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