The lessons learned from my 9-year tenure at MCI–2 in sales, 7 in
As an aside, I recently had the pleasure of explaining what
MCI was to a Gen-Y (or perhaps Gen-Z or AAA or whatever comes next) business
professional who had never heard of the company–and perhaps had never used
One of my favorite MCI lessons, which I still use with clients today, was
“management by press release.” I call it the “Headline
Test.” When developing a new product, offer, line
of business, start-up company, or even refining an existing offering, try
writing the press release FIRST. This process will force you to take a
market-focused view at the beginning of the product development cycle, which
achieves several important benefits:
Requires you to crisply articulate the market problem you are solving, which
I call the Customer Elevator Rant (i.e. “To address
the rising challenge of XXXXXX in the XXXXX marketplace, NewCo today
Forces you to think about and define the high level messaging and distill it
into succinct language (i.e. the headline, subhead and lead paragraph). (i.e.
NewCo today announced the first XXXXXX product that delivers XXXXXX”)
Enables you to clarify the positioning of the product or business vs.
competitors, substitutes and alternatives in the marketplace. (i.e.
“Unlike other products, NewCo’s solution enables…”)
Perhaps most importantly, the Headline Test is a tool for eliciting feedback
and, ultimately, gaining consensus among the executive team–based on their
understanding of the market, research, customer interviews, etc.–before
the major investments are made in product development.
Of course, the Headline Test doesn’t in an of itself validate a new
product or business idea. But when you sit down to write your press release,
if it “writes itself,” then the product or business has a good
starting point: some intuitive appeal and the ability to be quickly understood
by the target audience.
I’ve used the Headline Test in client engagements many times over the
years, and it has achieved the above benefits every time. Clients have
appreciated the test as an exercise that helps them refine their initiative.
Next time you’re starting the process of launching a new business or
product, don’t wait until you’re ready to launch to write the press
release. Try the Headline Test at the beginning. It shouldn’t take
more than an hour; if it does, you might have to revisit the core value
proposition and positioning.
Bob London is President of London, Ink, a marketing and communications
consulting firm based in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Why do most creative agencies’ web sites look eerily
like? Should a creative shop treat itself like a client?”
“This is a great question. The answers are that (a) agencies are
following each other instead of the market; and (b) agencies need to do a better
job of looking at their businesses through the clients’ (and prospective
clients’) eyes instead of indulging their creative/artistic fantasies.
Ever notice how so many agencies’ sites start with a long/pointless flash
intro? That is a good example of not recognizing that site visitors want to
locate info not be shown a short film.”
Why am I posting this now? Because, while the problem has gotten a bit
better, I notice that all to often it still exists. So next time you see a
useless flash intro that is preventing you from getting to the content you want,
contact the site’s owner, publisher, webmaster (whatever happened to that
title anyway?) and make your feelings known!
Bob London is President of London, Ink, a B2B marketing and
communications consulting firm based in the Washington, DC area. He can be
reached at bob (at) londonink (dot) com.
London, Ink isn’t a PR firm but in order to help clients prioritize
marketing/comm initiatives it’s a necessity to be familiar with a wide
range of marketing tools, services, agencies, etc. I’m also always
looking for creative ways to promote London, Ink in cost-effective, targeted
For those reasons, last year I started using the Vocus
Small Business Edition (aka SBE–a version of PRWeb), an online pr
management tool that is a scaled down version of Vocus’ widely-used
flagship platform. My hypothesis was that, without much investment in time or
money, sending out a series of releases on London, Ink news (client
announcements, speaking engagements, new hires) would increase the number of
quality mentions of “London, Ink” across the web and of course
quality (in the eyes of Google’s algorithm) inbound links to my site.
(A side note: I don’t rely on SEO for inbound lead gen, but ever since
Discovery launched the hit tattoo/reality program called “London
Ink,” my links have been pushed way down.)
Each release took a few minutes to queue up–Vocus allowed me to target
by geography, topic of the release, type of reporter and name of media outlet. I
was also able to incorporate a video interview I participated in with Shashi
Bellamkonda, Network Solutions’ Social Swami. I was able to easily
link the releases to my various online channels, including LinkedIn, Facebook,
Twitter and, of course, my site.
My hypothesis turned out to be correct. After my second Vocus release, the
search engine rankings for London, Ink improved and they continued to do so as I
sent out more releases.
Now for the over-deliver part. As I mentioned, London, Ink doesn’t
typically provide PR services, but I did support a significant announcement by
one of my client’s by doing some basic outreach to my media contacts and
distributing the release via my Vocus SBE account.
My expectation was that the media contacts I selected may or may not actually
receive the release; may or may not see it among the blizzard of releases they
get each day; and/or won’t respond to it. I’m pleased to report that
the client received several great media inquiries, including one from the major
daily paper in their market and another from a key vertical news outlet. Both of
these inquiries resulted in excellent print coverage, which the client of course
So for resource-strapped organizations that need a cost-effective news
distribution platform, check out Vocus SBE.
Veteran marketer and
entrepreneur Chris Jacobs joins London, Ink
Potomac, MD – September, 2009, London, Ink, a marketing and
communications consulting and services firm headquartered outside of Washington, DC, announced the
addition of Christina Jacobs to its team of marketing consultants and project
managers to meet the demands of the company’s growing client base.
Jacobs, whose background includes marketing management
posts at Nextel, MCI and CoStar Group and AMS, is also
co-founder of Girls in the Know, the popular and fast-growing online service
that provides subscribers with exclusive offers from premier spas, salons,
restaurants, designers and events.
“Chris has been a great addition to the London, Ink team,” said London, Ink founder and President Bob London.“Not
many people combine such deep practical marketing experience and expertise with
an entrepreneur’s sense of innovation and resourcefulness.”
Jacobs provides on-demand marketing consulting, project
management and implementation for a range of London, Ink clients—which supports the company’s lean,
on-demand business model and enables clients to receive top-notch,
cost-effective marketing support.
“Working with London, Ink
gives me a combination of an interesting and engaging work experience with a
high degree of flexibility, schedule-wise,” said Jacobs.“It’s clear that the on-demand model works for clients as well to
help them focus their budgets on the right priorities.”
“London, Ink is already
known for pioneering the ‘Virtual VP of Marketing’ concept which provides
experienced project-based resources on-demand for organizations that need an
injection of strategic marketing horsepower,” continued Bob London.“Having more consultants like Chris means that London, Ink can serve a broader range of client needs with various
levels, areas of specialization and price points.”
About London, Ink
London, Ink (http://www.londonink.com) is a marketing
and communications consulting firm that helps early-stage and established
organizations define and prioritize their products, services and marketing
initiatives based on what the market needs–or doesn’t need.
In pioneering the Virtual VP of Marketing concept, London,
Ink president and founder Bob London works with companies who aren’t ready
for the cost and commitment of a full-time marketing executive to assess their
market opportunity, determine the strategic options and develop a practical
go-to-market plan, including market awareness, customer acquisition and
retention, prospect “nurture” campaigns and targeted education programs.
Bob London has successfully managed marketing initiatives
with annual budgets ranging from the $150 million network television launch of
MCI Friends & Family (back when network tv really meant something) to under
$25,000.His work and writing has been profiled or covered by the
Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, USA Today and
Marketing News (the AMA’s flagship magazine).Bob recently
spoke at the nationwide Unintentional Entrepreneur series.
This week another one of my ideas came to life in the form of Wedding Futures
(http://www.weddingfutures.com), a site that “enables couples to quickly
and easily select and register for stocks and mutual funds as wedding
I love the idea and want to state that I’m not claiming that I was the
first to have it–or that someone beat me to it. But in the course of
pursuing my hobby of humor writing, one of my jokes (in the form of liner notes
made over the years that could some day turn into essays) was about couples
being able to register for a CD at SunTrust or to have wedding guests make a
payment towards the couple’s cable bill.
This is not the first time that one of my humorous, improv-type or
’stranger than fiction’ concepts has turned into reality.
I’ve written about black box recording devices for automobile (since
announced in NYC taxis) and professional sports franchises allowing sponsors to
name the teams (subsequently a soccer team was christened the New York Red
The point is that buried amidst the out of the box, mix and match, sometimes
obtuse thinking are genuinely valuable ideas. I’m not one for typical
brainstorming sessions, but would venture to say that taking a humorous or
even exaggerated view of a problem could result in a viable solution.
Bob London is president of London,
Ink, a Washington-DC-based marketing and communications consulting firm and
writes business-related humor on the side at B0b-servations.com
I’m amazed and disappointed at the breathless coverage and even more
misguided buzz/spread regarding Charlene Li’s recent report correlating
big brands’ “social engagement” with “financial
results.” I am not a research guru but here is my take from the
perspective of a business owner and consumer of business media and social
At the heart of the issue is that so many readers/bloggers, eager to find
proof that social media strategies have an actual return on investment (ROI),
have circulated, shared, posted, tweeted about the study as though it proves a
causal effect between more engagement and improved financial results. It does
But I can understand why people read (or scanned) the report this way,
because while Ms. Li did include the disclaimer that there is no causal
relationship between more engagement and improved financial results, she
certainly positioned that point as an afterthought or aside. Taken as a whole,
the entire report is written and packaged in a way that I find very
The report states there is no causal relationship; you just have to read it
The word “causal” appears only three times throughout the
original material, and in each case it is used as a disclaimer to indicate that
there is not a causal relationship, meaning that more engagement
leads to improved financial results.
Note that we are not claiming a causal
On page 7:
While these findings do not necessarily imply a causal
And on page 15:
While (Senior VP of SAP Community Network Mark) Yolton can’t
yet prove a measurable causal relationship between customer engagement and the
company’s financial performance…
There is some major conclusion jumping going on here.
But looking at context of each excerpt above, Ms. Li jumps to a pretty big
conclusion by saying there is a correlationship (ok, I’ll agree that there
might be one), but that–and here’s where I take issue–what
that correlationship is about.
Ms. Li’s correlationship examples:
Note that we are not claiming a causal
relationship (rest of excerpt) but there is clearly a correlation and
connection. For example, a company mindset that allows a company to be broadly
engage with customers on the whole probably performs better because the company
is more focused on companies than the competition.
While these findings do not necessarily imply a causal relationship,
(rest of excerpt) they still hold powerful implications. Social
media engagement and financial success work together to perpetuate a healthy
business cycle: a customer oriented mindset stemming from deep social
interaction allows a company to identify and meet customer needs in the
marketplace, generating superior profits.
(rest of excerpt) One of the newest channels SAP is using is
Twitter.com/saplistens, a channel where SAP invites consumers to “Talk with
us. We want to learn.” (Senior VP of SAP Community Network Mark) Yolton
emphasized that this reflects the overall culture of the company, one that
values the ability to listen well. While Yolton can’t yet prove a
measurable causal relationship between customer engagement and the company’s
financial performance, (rest of excerpt) he believes there is a correlation.
“It’s more like branding— our activities reflect an attitude of the
company that is more engaged, a company that values the opinions and viewpoints
of the many different voices of customers and suppliers.
This is a surprisingly incomplete consideration of all possible reasons
behind any such correlation. Ms. Li is way to quick to focus exclusively on
highly speculative point: engagement indicates customer focus; customer focus is
a characteristic of successful companies. A good research report will examine
as many such points as possible and make the case for the one they believe is
Many other possible correlations/causes not examined in the report.
But there are many other reasons behind such a correlation. Here are just a
Financially successful companies have more profits with which to experiment
with social media investments.
Because they are financially successful, these companies have the management
latitude (i.e. permission) to make these experimental investments.
Financially successful companies are more confident about their better
balance sheets and income statements and, therefore, more confident putting
themselves out into the social media for reactions/response.
As pointed out by Ben Kunzin a comment on the Altimeter site,
“9 of the 11 companies mentioned as mavens are technology-driven
companies, prone to engaging with customers online. To use them as exemplary
case studies may bias the findings.”
There are many other possible types of correlationships, but the point is
that when you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The source
of such a report and those who propagate its findings across the web need to be
taken into account as they have reasons to believe the correlation between more
social engagement and improved financial success.
Bob London, president of London, Ink, serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing
for organizations that need hands-on, interim leadership in marketing strategy,
planning and execution. London, Ink is a full-service, on-demand marketing and
communications consulting firm based in the Washington, DC metro area, that
develops and implements marketing and communications programs for mid-size and
growing businesses and non-profit organizations. For more on London, Ink
please visit www.londonink.com or
contact Bob London at 240 994 7644 or email@example.com.
(Or the art of throwing the previous regime under
By Bob London
We all know about the so-called honeymoon period in business: the time at the
beginning of a new job when an executive can sit back and absorb and assess the
way things work, who the power players are and where the bodies are
buried–without being expected to make any great decisions or
pronouncements. It’s a no-fault grace period which can last as long as
several months depending on the role and company.
But there’s another less-talked about phase executives can leverage to
their advantage: the Blame Window. This is the period during which you can
hold your predecessor responsible for the challenges you are now facing.
One might naturally ask, as I did, how long after you’ve assumed a new
role can you blame your predecessor? And how would one go about throwing him
or her under the bus?
My research yielded no credible answers to these questions, so I developed
the following handy formula (Fig. 1) to help executives calculate their
available Blame Window:
Here is a fictitious example to show how the formula works. Let’s say
Bill S. takes over as CFO of a venture-backed start-up which has already raised
two rounds of funding and is burning $75,000 per month with profitability two
years away, soonest. After 6.5 weeks on the job, Bill discovers a serious flaw
in the company’s pricing model that requires redoing the model–and
therefore the business plan–from scratch. Bill’s predecessor held
the CFO post for 2.5 years.
Q: Can Bill blame his predecessor? A: Absolutely! Using the former CFO’s tenure
of 30 months, divided by 2 equals 15, which is then divided by the 6.5 weeks of
Bill’s tenure and multiplied by a Problem Magnitude Rating of 5. The
result is a Blame Window of 11.4 weeks. Since Bill discovered the error in under
seven weeks, he can throw the former CFO right under the old Greyhound.
Caution: this formula can be dangerous if not used judiciously. Here are
some important tips to remember:
First, make sure you get the math right. There is
nothing more embarrassing than miscalculating the Blame Window and having the
whole situation blow up in your face. Set some reminders in Outlook 90, 60, 30
and 7 days prior to the expiration of the Blame Window so you will know when to
stop blaming your predecessor.
Second, do your homework before you start laying on the
criticism. Was your predecessor
revered or scorned? Respected or tolerated? Make sure to get these and other
data points before you start spraying around accusations. The last thing you
want to do is tear into someone who is a company legend or, worse, someone who
Third, make sure to select the right way of broaching the subject
with your superiors. Here are some preambles to get you
Jocular: “Gee, if I’d known all this before I
would have asked for a lot more money, ha-ha-ha!”
Nothing Personal, Just Business: “I’m sure
<name of predecessor> was a good guy, but…”
Delicate but Direct: “I don’t want to
cast aspersions on anyone, but now that I’ve gotten my feet
Mildly Annoyed: “I have to tell you I’m not
sure what I’ve gotten myself into here…”
Threatening: “If you think I’m going to take
the fall for any of this, you can just find yourself another CFO.”
(Why Would Investment
Bankers Embrace Social
Media During a Downturn?)
By Brad Fleisher, Managing Director, Focus
The recession has hit nearly all industries across the economy and investment
banking, leading the pack, has certainly not escaped the grief. What used to be
the largest and most profitable group of investment banks on Wall Street,
commonly referred to as the bulge bracket, is now the busted
bracket, consisting of just two bank holding companies - Goldman Sachs and
Although the consensus among mainstream economists is that we’re in the
trough and will see positive growth in Q1-2009, albeit probably mild, M&A (a
lagging indicator) is still weak because of ongoing discrepancies in middle
market valuations Buyers are fishing for distressed deals, and sellers still
have the misconception that an offer should start at 8x EBITDA (and be increased
for average performance) rather than 5x, which is the long-term, broad economy
Taking a page from Rahm Emanuel’s book, and not wanting to waste a good
crisis, a few partners and I took advantage of the slow down to re-think and
execute a new business strategy. We’re seeking to capitalize on three long
term trends in the economy.
Social Media Marketing v. Traditional Media Marketing. While
there is still no more effective way to reach 90 million potential customers in
30 seconds than through a Super Bowl advertisement, there is no better way to
communicate an esoteric point on intellectual property valuation to 140
professionals who are seeking this information than through LinkedIn, Facebook
or Twitter. You don’t have to “tweet” every hour to take
advantage of social networks. And the trend has just begun. Social networks are
becoming platforms to distribute customized services to highly fragmented
communities rather than just a vehicle for information exchange.
Applying these trends to investment banking, the hypothesis for our practice
group at Focus is that we can build our brand and grow our business quicker by
leveraging the Internet and social media than through placing traditional
tombstone advertisements in industry magazines and attending industry and
That’s why, earlier this year we launched Intangible Insights
(www.intangibleinsights.com), which is our online Community of Practice where we
blog, podcast, conduct surveys, publish research, and otherwise communicate with
and expand our target market. We’re even discussing strategies for
streaming video to micro-niche audiences through a branded Internet TV channel,
which may be a number of years out, but is certainly on its way.
Intangible v. Tangible Assets. There currently is an
enthusiastic debate within the Intangible Asset professional community whether
intangible assets compose “upwards of 80% of listed companies’
values” (according to a Brookings Institute report), or just under 50%.
For us, the point is this: Intangible property accounts for a significant
amount of a company’s valuation.
This is a long term trend, if not a permanent change,that will accelerate in
the post-recession economy as developing countries use labor advantages and
decreasing communication costs to offshore commoditized tasks, both
manufacturing and informational. In order to compete, the U.S. will have to
enhance its intangible asset capabilities through R&D, workforce
productivity, distribution networks, and stretch its tangible resources, which
will further diminish the reliance and value of hard assets
Intangible assets compose the largest share of value, by far, in
Internet-reliant companies. Of course, there is significant value in the
intellectual property assets of the knowledge economy company — the
patents, copyrights trademarks, and trade secrets — but the real value
resides at the next layer, in the methodologies that convert the intangible
assets into revenue — culturally-ingrained process to attract and retain
talent, strategic measurement and execution processes, brands, databases, social
networks. Our group is working on a valuation rating system for these intangible
assets so our clients can better understand the intrinsic value of their company
and their acquisition targets. Just identifying and analyzing these assets, not
to mention exploiting them, will help our clients with post-transaction
integration plans or accelerated growth, which is the arbiter of a successful
Generalist vs. Specialist. Since its inception in 1982,
FOCUS Bankers has been a middle market, generalist investment bank and has long
debated the generalist v. specialist strategy. There are benefits and drawbacks
to each, but it’s difficult to toe the middle line. During my five year
tenure at the firm, I’ve worked on deals in industries ranging from
highly-engineered manufactured products, transportation and logistics, and
electronic parts distribution to the information industries, including software,
Internet, IT, and digital media, which is where most of my career experience has
The recession gave us the opportunity to transition into one carefully
defined market: the Internet-Reliant Industry with a focus on intangible assets,
and start a practice group within the firm. The key was to define the space
large enough to have an active and growing marketplace, but small enough to have
end-to-end domain expertise. That it’s highly dynamic, indispensable to
information industries, full of cutting-edge growth opportunities, and just a
lot of fun, doesn’t hurt our commitment.
The silver lining in this recession for us is that we took the opportunity
for introspection and execution. Our strategy is fluid, but our practice group
has staked its future on these trends, which we believe will shape future
markets and US competitiveness.
About Brad Fleisher
Brad Fleisher is a Managing Director at FOCUS Investment Banking in Washington, DC and publisher
of Intangible Insights. Brad is an experienced investment banker, entrepreneur
and attorney with over 15 years M&A, corporate finance, and business
development and advisory experience in the Internet, software & information
technology, media, and education industries. Contact Brad at
Great info from destinationCRM.com and supports why companies should consider
solutions like e.SSENTIALS from London, Ink, a fixed-price bundle of
online/social marketing programs. See e.ssentials.net for more info.
Given the state of the economy, Lamba writes that
social networking is a relatively low cost solution that could help in
fostering, “steady communication with existing partners, and clients as
well as incubating new relationships” — a function both desired by
consumers networking with friends and with employees in the workplace. The
aforementioned IDC social networking survey, in fact, indicates that the
majority of social networking users list communication as their number one
reason for usage of such sites.
Announcing e.SSENTIALS, from London, Ink: A new, fixed-price online
marketing program including development of five essential initiatives: marketing
database, e-newsletter, Google AdWords, search engine optimization & social
Potomac, MD, December 11, 2008-London, Ink, (www.londonink.com) a full-service,
on-demand marketing and communications firm, today launched e.SSENTIALS, a
fixed-price program of online marketing services for small- and mid-size
businesses and non-profit organizations.
Designed to meet the budgeting predictability requirements of small- and
mid-size organizations, the London, Ink e.SSENTIALS program includes the
development and execution of five essential online marketing deliverables for
one fixed price.
The London, Ink e.SSENTIALS Program Includes:
Marketing Database: Compilation of an organization’s
key contacts, including prospective, nurture (long-term), and existing
customers/clients and partners. Regularly communicating to a house list can be
the most cost-effective way to for an organization to maintain or increase
mindshare-a critical step towards being “short-listed” when
prospects are ready to buy.
E-Newsletter: Development of a web-based newsletter
template that will be emailed to one or more segments of the Marketing Database,
plus execution of one prototype e-newsletter.
Google AdWords/Analytics Test: Development of a test of
the Google AdWords pay-per-click online advertising program, the world’s
leading online advertising platform.
Web Site Search Engine Optimization Audit: Assessment of
content, page titles and other factors for search engine
“friendliness” and recommendations for immediate enhancements.
Introductory Social Marketing Program: Development and
implementation of a program that leverages free distribution of an
organization’s message, via at least one of the following tactics:
company/product blog or leading social networking sites.
“Running any business today without online marketing tools such as
database marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and
basic social marketing, is like making an omelet without eggs,” said
London, Ink president, Bob London. “These tools are lower cost and
easier to measure than traditional marketing tactics, but too often they fall
off the priority list due to a lack of resources and expertise to properly plan,
implement and maintain them.”
“Now with e.SSENTIALS, London, Ink provides small- and mid-size
organizations with a practical, cost-effective and low-risk way to implement
these fundamental programs as they enter 2009.”
What about Content?
The e.SSENTIALS program leverages an organization’s existing content,
such as news releases, white papers, articles and other subject matter or
thought leadership content. New or additional content can be created for an
How is the e.SSENTIALS Program Priced?
The fixed-price, all-inclusive cost of the London, Ink e.SSENTIALS program is
based on the size of the organization by annual revenue. Please contact
London, Ink at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240 994
7644 for more details. The cost of the program is billed monthly in five equal
“Teaching Organizations to Fish”
In addition to the development and execution of the above programs, for an
additional fee London, Ink will provide training for managers and staff on how
to continue to leverage and maximize the above tools.
Additional details are available at e.ssentials.net. To sign up for this
program or to learn more, please contact Bob London, president of London, Ink at
About London, Ink
London, Ink is a full-service, on-demand marketing and communications firm
based in the Washington, DC metro area, that develops and implements marketing
and communications programs for mid-size and growing businesses and non-profit
Bob London, president of London, Ink, serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for
organizations that need hands-on, interim leadership in marketing strategy,
planning and execution. For more on London, Ink please visit www.londonink.com or contact Bob London at
240 994 7644 or email@example.com.