Posts on Digital Marketing

Digital Transformation is Cultural Transformation

Posted on 05/13/2015

Studio shot of butterfly over digital tabletAsk any group of CMOs, CEOs, CIOs or CDOs (Chief Digital Officers) what they think is most important in the digital transformation of a company and you get a range of answers… Choose the best technologies…  Make sure you have the right talent… Most of us overlook that a digital transformation is first and foremost a cultural transformation long before it is a technology or HR change.

Transforming culture is hard. You and your organization live in the current culture all day – this is how you work, how you communicate and much more.  Inc. defines corporate culture as “…the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.”

As an executive you often inherit a corporate culture.  CMOs or Chief Digital Officers are often brought in from the outside specifically to drive digital transformation. Being new to the company, they are not jaded by the current culture; yet have to work within it to transform it. This takes finesse, diligence and a lot of data. Assessing talent for the ability to successfully change their capabilities and the culture is a critical task that you end up doing this a few times throughout the transformation.  This assessment is defined by someone’s willingness and ability to acquire or exercise the needed capabilities in the timeframe required.

Over the years, I’ve built a simple model to do this assessment. It can be used in any company or industry. Before you start, you must get to know your people – what are they good at; what do they like to do; what do they want to do; what do they not want to do; etc. You need to build an org chart with empty boxes.  That’s right – not a single name, totally empty.  The org chart should have functional descriptions and key capabilities including soft skills in each box. Think holistically about what and how you need your organization to be, do, think and interact.

Then use this simple model to plot the people in your organization. The model has two dimensions – willingness and ability. Willingness is someone’s desire and motivation to add new or exercise digital skills and to embrace cultural change. People are either willing or they’re not – it is that simple. Willingness is driven by motivation so you need to know what motivates each person – do not assume all motivations are the same or that they are static for any individual over time. You and/or your direct reports have to get to know them to make the call on this because if you ask them directly, you’re unlikely to get any answer other than “of course I’m willing to do this” because large-scale change breeds fear of layoffs therefore this is the only answer you’ll hear.

Ability is whether the person has the know-how to add digital skills and change their behavior to the new culture in the time you have to make this transformation happen. Know-how does not mean they have to do this change solo. Know-how is a combination of being a self-starter, self-learner as well as an ability to take experiential or classroom learning and apply it to their role and team.  You must add the time dimension to this assessment. Open-ended transformations rarely go well. You have business metrics to deliver on, customers to serve, boards to answer to – you are operating on a timeline and your organization’s digital and cultural abilities must align to your timeline.  Assessing someone’s ability to add capabilities and change culturally has to have a time element that aligns to your business goals. Do you have six months or maybe a year to do a full-scale transformation? If so, then the ability assessment needs to include that timeline.

Time to plot out everyone in your organization. Stay objective and do not let yourself be clouded by how long or how well you know your colleagues.


The Stars:  These individuals express both a high degree of ability and willingness to add needed digital capabilities as well as to embrace and lead a cultural change. These are the keepers and will be the backbone of your new organization. Place them in their preferred roles first, compensate them well with the things that motivate them and take care not to burn them out during the transformation.

The Skeptics: These people have all the abilities but for some reason seem to waver on or lack the willingness to make a digital transformation a reality. Try to get to the bottom of the lack of willingness and resort them in to either the Stars or Dead-Weight category. Perhaps they need more information or clarification on what the organization will look like after the transformation; perhaps they don’t agree with the need to transform; Perhaps they need more compensation or recognition to embrace this change; Perhaps it is something else all together. Skeptics and Dead Weights will derail your transformation the fastest. It is important to identify them early.

The Dead Weight: These people have neither the ability nor the willingness to make this journey of transformation. It does not mean they are bad people, it just means they are not the people for the next phase of your organization. Eliminate the Dead Weight early, cleanly and succinctly. Not only does this send a clear message that the digital transformation is real, it frees up valuable space to bring in new talent that has the willingness and abilities you need.

The Wanna-Be’s: Most people are in the Wanna-Be category because they don’t appear to be able to build the needed capabilities in the time required. The Wanna-Be’s will be the trickiest to deal with – they will tug at your heart with their enthusiasm for the digital transformation yet they simply won’t have the capabilities you need fast enough. So, if you have some more junior roles that will allow them to grow then that is an option for them or perhaps they would be better suited in a different organization in your company. If neither of these choices are an option, then they will need to move on from the company in a reasonable time frame.

As a CEO, CMO or Chief Digital Officer, a big part of one’s job is to parse talent, deliver today, build for tomorrow and ensure the company has the needed capabilities to deliver successfully on its strategy for the long term.  This framework has worked well for me for many years across different industries. I hope you find it helpful as well.  Please add your own learnings and ideas to the comments below.

3 Steps to Being Today’s Digital Executive

Posted on 03/08/2015

Digital people network82% of people are more likely to trust a company if the CEO is active online, particularly in social media according Adweek. Per Brandfog, in the US 80% of survey respondents said active engagement in social media enhances the image and reputation of c-suite executives as forward-thinking, trend setting leaders. In the same research, 77% of respondents agreed that social media was a powerful tool to build thought leadership and c-suite credibility with stakeholders including the press and media.

This data all makes sense when you consider over 52% of online adults regularly use 2 or more social media channels and fully half of college-educated online adults are on LinkedIn per Pew Research. And, Americans tend to follow news on 4 different devices or channels. The devices of choice are laptops at 69%, mobile phones at 55% and tablets at about 28% as noted by the American Press Institute.

As an executive who no doubt values the brand of your company, you are doing yourself and your company a disservice if you do not actively create and manage your digital presence. Your career and indeed your company’s future depend on it. While your marketing and PR teams can help, authentic engagement done yourself is the most powerful differentiator you can have in the digital ecosystem.

The good news is that this is really easy to do.  As an executive you should at a minimum have well-done and active profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. Beyond that, depending on your business, you may go to Instagram, guest blog posts, LinkedIn posts, Tumblr, Pinterest or any number of other sites whose followers mirror your customers and key influencers. You should also actively curate your PR presence to include significant mention in digital publications whether the digital version of traditionally print publications (such as the WSJ or NYT) or fully digital journals such as the Huffington Post or any number of trade news sites. Make sure your PR team has top-notch digital and social media skills so your placements and mentions have deliberate digital weighting.

As for the content you share on these channels, similar to a solid PR strategy for any executive, you should pick 3 pillars of focus. Only do 3 so your message has some cohesion and you become increasingly known for these 3 areas. Choose your 3 as follows:

  1. Key topic for your industry – If you’re the CEO of an oil company, then a particular trend or overall momentum of the oil industry is a good place to start.
  2. Differentiation topic for your company – Keeping with the oil company CEO example, let’s say your company is investing significant time and resources to minimize the company’s impact on the environment. Talking about the technologies and processes that let your company do this along with general innovation in this area could be your differentiation theme.  Another may be investment in alternative fuels or partnerships and industry groups that collectively make energy more efficient.
  3. Theme or topic that has personal significance to you – Still as that oil company CEO, perhaps creating the next generation of leading edge engineers is a passion of yours or maybe mentoring kids is something close to your heart. Whatever it is, this is the theme that will humanize your voice and presence in the digital ecosystem. If you skip this third pillar, you risk looking like you outsourced your whole digital presence to your PR team or some agency. You will loose the authenticity advantage and the negative blowback could be significant.

After you’ve chosen your 3 pillars, simply go about your business. As you read things, share them. Love that NYT article on green technology innovation? Well click on the share by Twitter icon and tweet it. Finished a keynote at a major event? Once your marketing team has the presentation and/or press about this posted on your website then share the content on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write a great guest post? Click share from the post to let you network know so they can read it as well.

All this takes actually very little time and the impact is significant as the long-term benefits for you, your company and your network are huge. As the Borenstein Group accurately stated “Personal is the new corporate”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Good luck and I’ll see you online.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for new posts or visit my website for more information.

I Couldn’t Do It and Neither Should You

Posted on 02/02/2015

matches sparkingIt is now February and I just couldn’t do it again. Really, I couldn’t. Every year I update my resume, bios, etc. in February. Whether I’m looking for a new job or not, I update everything so it is current and fresh with my most recent work. I use this information for speaking references, article bios, organization bios and a host of other things besides simply looking for a job. I am a firm believer in the saying luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So each February I sure up my odds of good luck.

What I couldn’t do this year was write yet another bulleted listed resume of stuff I’ve done. Yes, I’ve had an impressive career and for the last many years that has had a heavy digital bent on top of tech industry experience. So why would I use a very old-fashioned resume to showcase my skills? Seems like a dated approach and I couldn’t do it again. So… what to do instead?

I’ve said many times that your resume is more than a piece of paper or PDF. Your resume is first and foremost your digital footprint – your LinkedIn profile, first few pages of search results on your name and any press or writing you have done. That’s all the public content of your career and it is what everyone sees first. The deeper details and specifics are often housed in a need-to-know format like a PDF or word doc that you send someone as needed. This is usually the bulleted list resume that frankly all look pretty much the same.

Regardless of your industry or functional working area, you can make yourself stand out more with a little creativity. Below are a few ideas that I’ve seen work well. Please add your ideas and experiences to the comments section. Together, let’s reinvent what a “resume” is.

  1. Create an infographic style summary of your career. Use color, iconography, etc. to show the highlights of what you’ve accomplished.
  2. Build a pull-quote kudos slide. Create a PowerPoint slide with recommendations and kudos in a pull-quote style. Vary the size and position of the quotes. Make sure the people you quote are ok with your using their name; otherwise you can use their title without a name.
  3. Do a video resume. Create a video summary of your experience that also showcases some of what you stand for and your perspectives on the area in which you work.  Build a short list of questions and answer them in a way that it looks like you’re being interviewed.
  4. Add to your LinkedIn profile. You can add external presentations, videos, etc. that showcase your work directly to your LinkedIn profile. Make sure the content is cleared for public view and not confidential. This adds context and depth to what someone reads in your profile.
  5. Consider a reference video as well. If people in your network are willing – either with an actual video of them or their picture and text overlay – have them describe your value in 3 words or 5 words or whatever makes sense.
  6. Make a catalogue of results-by-the-numbers. If you could list 3-5 major accomplishments or business impact you had in each job what would they be? Keep a running list to use as needed either in conversation or in written form so make sure it is visually done in an interesting way like a catalogue or ecommerce layout. Essentially you’re letting someone “shop” your skills for what they need.

So this February I’m off to build myself a more creative marketing package. What other ideas do you have or that you’ve seen work well?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for new posts or visit my website for more information.

5 Ways to Go Digital as a CMO in 2015

Posted on 01/19/2015

Lightbulb modernWhether your title is officially CMO or you run a marketing organization of some flavor, 2015 is the year digital will be mainstream in your role if it isn’t already.  Understanding the digital space and opportunities can be daunting so here are a few suggestions (and please add your own in the comments) to go digital in 2015:

1.  Get mesmerized by mobile: While much of what is written about mobile centers on mobile commerce, if your focus is more content marketing you still need a solid mobile strategy. Email is opened first on a mobile device more than 65% of the time; mobile optimized websites are increasingly important for search rankings and mobile advertising is now over $43B in spend due in large part to mobile. Mobile is no longer on the fringe of your marketing strategy; it is part of the core.

2.  Engage the influencers: Influencers are people in-the-know who may not be official press but who write, comment and otherwise drive what is news. Their opinions shape perceptions of your customers, analysts and broader press. Challenge your PR team to come up with a tiered structure for influencers – market-wide, product area specific and industry-based, as an example. Follow and engage these people online. If you need a primer on influencer marketing, WOMMA wrote a guidebook that is excellent.

3.  Stop being a Twitter twerp: You can, should and I would argue must be on Twitter if you are a CMO. Whether you post often or primarily lurk, Twitter is your most current, in the moment source of news affecting your industry and brand. So set up your profile, get yourself a dashboard, make lists for news, influencers and your brand and READ. No more being the “I-don’t-have-time-for-that” kind of Twitter twerp.

4.  Join or form a mentoring group for CMOs: Join and participate in an organization focused on advancing the role and capabilities of the CMO. Digital will be a frequent topic in these groups and it is an excellent way to learn. Personally I belong to The CMO Club and have found it invaluable. From this group, a small number of women marketing executives have formed a dinner group and we meet every 6 weeks or so to talk through ideas, ask each other advice and have a good laugh. Digital is frequently a topic for us. These two things have been the most valuable investments I’ve made in my career in recent years. So go join an organization or set up a small group for drinks or a good meal and talk.

5.  Make one strategic digital bet this year:  Pilot a brand ambassador program with your employees; run a series of influencer campaigns; try out content syndication… pick something outside your brand comfort zone in digital and go for it. Worst case you’ll learn a lot about your brand and your customers. Best case, you’ll show impact in brand perception and revenue that you can scale further.

These five things will give you momentum in digital and the organizational confidence to expand further. compare hotel prices If however, like many of us, you’re still catching up on goals from 2014, you also may enjoy my 14 Digital Imperatives for 2014 post.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for new posts or visit my website for more information.

The End of the Line…

Posted on 08/03/2014

Woman shopping in cityFirst customization blurred the marketing premise of “above the line” broad awareness marketing and “below the line” transactional or promotional marketing. Now the combination of personalization plus customization has removed the theoretical line and replaced it with a unique, personal line for each potential consumer.

Customization allows customers to state their preferences and configure, if you will, the product choice that suits their needs. Personalization uses a combination of explicit and implicit data to present a potential consumer with a most-likely-to-meet-your-needs proposed solution up front, thereby minimizing the customization work required by the consumer. Personalization saves consumers time, which is why people generally like personalization, as long as it doesn’t go over the creepy line.

Per eMarketer, 56% of brand marketers said personalization improved response rates in marketing and created stronger brand perceptions. Agency decision makers saw personalization even more favorably with 70% saying it improved response rates and 63% saying it improved brand perceptions.

Whether you believe the brand or agency view, personalization is here to stay and for good reason. In our ever more information-cluttered lives, personalization gives brands an opportunity to connect through the noise uniquely with a current or potential customer. Generally consumers, particularly younger consumers, tune out the formerly known as “above the line” marketing because it sounds too fluffy and esoteric to be useful and it requires them to do some work to figure out how the brand and product will fit their lives. Instead, they want to know what the brand promise is for them and them specifically. This is both the opportunity and challenge for brands in the digital era.

So if the line doesn’t exist, what do you do as a CMO? Marketing has always been about telling stories – stories of possibility, stories of fear alleviated, stories of happiness and joy… all stories of life as we’d prefer it.  Personalization, as the end of the line, simply means your stories multiple endings, depending on the person you’re reaching and what is important to them. Personalization is about seeding possibilities and letting people build their own connected story as a conversation with your brand. ask jud You may seed these stories through TV, web, apps, social media, events, print and any combination of marketing tactics. The end game is to spark an interest, start a dialogue and build a connected story that is personalized, relevant to the individual, authentic and human.

Personalization via digital marketing may be the end of the marketing line as we’ve known it but it is the beginning of a new era of highly personalized, connected marketing and that has huge potential for a digitally savvy CMO.

Meet the Mobile Generation: Millennials

Posted on 03/15/2014

This was a fun post to write and originally appeared as a guest post for Benchmark. Hope you enjoy it.

Millennials seem to be a puzzle for most brands. Born between 1982 and 2000 and numbering 78M, Millennials came of age together with the Internet and mobile phones. Technology to them is no big deal and is a helpful rather than frustrating component to getting things done and being entertained.  

According to eMarketer, 72% of Millennials have a smartphone, more than any other age group. 29% of them own an iPhone; 20% own a Samsung; and 35% own either an LG, Motorola or HTC phone meaning Android and Apple platforms reign supreme with this group. Millennials also have the highest app usage on phones and tablets.

In fact, MediaBistro says 53% of Millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their technology.  Wow.

When it comes to mobile, Millennials’ mindset and activities tell us a lot (great Infographic from Badgeville with more):

89% prefer to choose when and where they work – so mobile technology must allow them to work from and be connected from anywhere via voice, email, social media and other apps

41% (and growing) rely solely on their mobile phones for telephone connectivity

58% of mobile shoppers are Millennials; 41% of whom have made a purchase via their smartphone – clearly they like to shop when and where they want as well

50% use their smartphone to research purchases – search and show-rooming are big with them

So as a brand, how do you tap into this mobile Millennial mayhem?

Well, if you’re selling consumer products you need to make sure you have a high quality, seamless mobile commerce experience. Mobile commerce should have fast search, good prices, integration of promotions including social media promos and be secure. You should blend the physical and virtual shopping experience so they get the most out of your mobile experience, however they choose to shop. User reviews are important to Millennials as they expect to be able to read about others’ experience with your products and to be able to share their experiences as well. Your website should have social sharing built in throughout the experience so Millennials can ask their friends about your products in advance of purchase and share their excitement when a purchase is made. Mobile apps are important for consumer services from banking , to parking meters, to all sorts of travel related services and more.

If you are selling business products or services, you want to enable as much self-service and ease of information gathering as possible. You need a phenomenal SEO strategy so your product information, reviews, articles and blogs by influencers rank high. You also should enable mobile commerce as much as possible. If you’re selling repeat value services, a mobile app strategy may be the way to go, but at a minimum you need a responsive design website that renders well on smartphones and tablets.

Mobile support is critical for all brands. No one wants to use up their battery waiting on hold with your call center. Mobile Twitter support via smartphones and tablets is a good alternative avenue for support and one Millennials in particular will gravitate to. Email support that is mobile optimized is a must-have too.

So in the end, the mobile experience of your brand isn’t an add-on experience for Millennials, it is THE experience. So put mobile at the center of your strategy if this generation is key to your success and they’re likely to reward you with engagement and repeat purchase.

14 Digital Imperatives for 2014

Posted on 01/01/2014

Slide1Welcome to 2014! This is the year to go “all-in” with digital marketing both as a marketing executive and for your company. As the saying goes, you can’t learn to swim if you don’t get in the water so let’s dive in.

Here are 14 things to do in 2014 – some are for your personal brand as it reflects on your company and some are for your company overall:

  • 1. Claim some LinkedIn Limelight. LinkedIn is your virtual resume, your professional credential and a key part of your personal brand that reflects directly on your company. Spiff it up, add presentations, recommendations, etc. to showcase your amazing talents.
  • 2. Go SEO yourself. Google your name and various combinations of your name, title and company. What do you find? Is this the brand you want others to see? Your search results plus your LinkedIn profile are your digital calling card as an executive so time to craft a good showing.
  • 3. Give a Tweet about Twitter.  Set up your personal profile, add some lists and get active. Really, there are no more excuse on this one.
  • 4. Get Some Digital Cred. Just like you check your credit score regularly (if not, that’s another resolution list), check your digital influence score with sites like Klout, Kred and others. They are directional but often used as screens by media and analysts for credibility.
  • 5. Measure, Monitor, Modify. Take a look at your company’s metrics and related monitoring processes and modify as needed for your current business landscape and goals. If this gets out of sync, you’re set up for a potential customer service or other digital disaster.
  • 6. Do a Social Media Check-up.  Social media trends, best practices and related laws move quickly and your policies should be updated frequently. Make sure you have good legal support here too, especially if your company operates in multiple countries. Need help? Read Cheryl Burgess and Mark Burgess’ book The Social Employee – it’s a great book.
  • 7. Clean out the Content Closet. When was the last time you did a sweeping archive of your corporate website? Many companies have years of old content, microsites and other orphaned landing pages clogging up user experience and search results. domain name tech info . Time to archive.
  • 8. Build Communities… for Real. Every CMO or marketing executive worries about press, analyst, media coverage, etc. Do you manage these influential people as a community? Do you engage them or react to them? Digital marketing can help you build more meaningful and collaborative relationships here. For inspiration, read Ted Rubin and Kathryn Rose’s book Return on Relationship
  • 9. Break Bread with your CIO. Get out of the office on a regular basis and go have a meal. Talk. Discuss strategy and trends. Get past the mutual functional frustrations and create some joint-wins. Best case you’ll have some fantastic results in 2014. Worst case you’ll have several good meals, so basically you can’t lose.
  • 10. Smile and Engage. Pick an executive professional network or charitable organization (why not both?) you love and jump in. Go to the events. Talk to people. Follow on social media. Be inspired. Be helpful. Make a difference.
  • 11. Clear the Mental Cobwebs. Go to at least one event this year, or better yet two, that forces you to talk to people you don’t know and to think about things in new ways. Some great events to try are: SXSW, iStrategy, LeWeb
  • 12. Squirm and Grow. Pilot a few new channels, new media formats or new storytelling styles with your branded content. Video, mobile, Snapchat… take a look at the broad landscape of opportunity. Yes, this will make your company squirm but trying new things, thoughtfully and strategically, makes a brand healthier. Just make sure you have goals up front, monitoring in place and a deliberate way to incorporate insights back in to your brand strategy.
  • 13. Read Online and Share. If for some reason you don’t already own an iPad or Kindle go buy one. Download the apps for your favorite publications or create a web folder of Daily Reads with links to some great sites. Read and share what you like on Twitter (see #3 above). It’s easy, just click on the Twitter share icon and you’re done. You can often share on LinkedIn too.
  • 14. Inspire Your Team. A team is only as good as its leader enables it to be. So be grateful for the people who make your company great; set big, bold goals then get out of the way and let them do their magic; be a champion for new learning; foster talent for today and tomorrow. You can follow some inspirational people online as well. Try @LollyDaskal and @MeghanMBiro on Twitter and on LinkedIn you can follow all sorts of thought leaders from Richard Branson to Deepak Chopra.

Here’s to a great 2014!  #14for2014

Meet the Ultimate Digital Team

Posted on 10/02/2013


I love my day job running the digital organization for a large and well respected brand, Accenture. Often I’m asked about the changing role of the CMO and the rise of the new kid on the C-suite block, the Chief Digital Officer or CDO. This usually leads to a conversation on what skills make up a good digital organization. Today, you need a very different set of talent versus a few years ago.. You need a mix of generations, of men and women, of different life experiences and languages. You need people who see the world from any number of different points of view and who wake up every day curious as to what the world can and will do next. Beyond that, for a great digital team you need:

The Creative Mastermind: People who can dream up all kinds of ideas, but mostly who can dream up amazing and engaging experiences. Whether you are reaching consumers or businesses is irrelevant – you’re reaching people. These folks don’t just think outside the box, they won’t be bound by even the existence of the box.

The Data Guru: These people are happiest living in the big sand box of big data. Nothing gets them more jazzed than terabytes of data to elegantly organize in agile, fast databases accessed through the romance language of data, the query.

The Foundational Analyst: They are the data guru’s best friends. These people who don’t just see a bunch of numbers, but rather see trends, see spots where there should be trends but aren’t. They are always asking “what would happen if we sliced the data like this…”

The Integration Maven: If the creative mastermind dreams up amazing possibilities, the integration mavens sew together these dreams into pragmatic, compelling real world experiences. They artfully create ways to surround an audience with information, conversation and a reason to continually engage.

The Amplification Ninja: They are the day-traders of data, the ones who can see the small and large opportunities flying by in the world of real-time analytics and immediately engage to grow your results. They are very good at amplification plans, but don’t expect them to only go by the plan. Their secret sauce is knowing when and how to tweak plans in real time; to look for the opportunities and go for it.

The Big Thinker: These individuals have the gift of making the seemingly impossible possible. They live out on the edge of what will be next, shaping new ideas, programs, channels, experiences, partnerships, you name it. Big Thinkers are your masterminds of market differentiation.

The Conversationalist: The human voice of your brand, the emotional connectors, the story-tellers, the empathizers… conversationalists bring to life the story of your company, products, customers and employees and most importantly they share these stories and look for new ones as well.

The Travel Guide: Able to create multitudes of unique journeys in a single campaign, your travel guides let your customers feel like they are getting unique, personally relevant engagement without breaking the marketing bank. They know how to build, scale and tailor programs and campaigns to deliver on results that feed the big data beast.

If you lead a marketing organization and especially if your mix is heavily digital, you need a new blend of creative and quantitative skills – you need the mad-men plus math-men dream team. If you can find these skills mixed with the other characteristics mentioned above you’ll not only create fantastic results, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot and have a bunch of fun along the way.

Secrets of Being a Fierce Presenter

Posted on 05/06/2013

Fierce… the urban slang term meaning not just seriously on your game but seriously reinventing the game in real time by setting a new, very high bar. Being fierce implies a sense of style, presence and authority that draws people in. Being fierce means being consistently exceptional. 

I do many industry presentations and keynotes each year. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Where else can you meet so many interesting people; get outside the bubble of your day job; and learn in real time? Working in the digital arena, presenting at these live events is the ultimate test – does your digital brand match how you show up in real life? If not, trust me you’ll get called on the mats in no time. So don’t let that happen. Instead, be fierce.

So how exactly does one go about being fierce? Well, I won’t say I have all the answers, but here’s what has worked for me and garnered me a few “You are fierce!” remarks along the way – which I have to say always make me smile.

Being fierce has some intangible qualities. These are hard to teach, but can be developed with focus and time.


Trite as it may sound, people have a radar that detects confidence or lack thereof.  Confidence is a mix of stature, speech and presence. You need to stand, sit, walk, speak and listen like you mean it. Not in a condescending way, but in an authentic and engaging way. Show an ounce of timidity on stage and you’re toast.


No one knows everything and everyone knows that. So know what you know, talk about that and understand the limits of your knowledge. Continue to learn and always work on growing your expertise. Evolve your story so each time people see you speak, they learn more and offer more to you in return.


Being gracious requires an authentic curiosity of and appreciation for a very diverse world mixed with a healthy respect for others. Being gracious is being respectful and at the same time, holding true to your values so respect is returned. Being gracious on stage is difficult at times but practice will make it easier and you’ll build a stash of ways to shut down hecklers, deal with very rude questions, convert or at least quiet the haters and respectfully engage the over-zealous.  

And being fierce has some practical components too:

Twisted Relevance:

Or – relevance with a twist. No one wants to pay a large ticket price for you to tell them things they’ve heard before or could find in a simple Google search. No one wants to hear you do exactly the same presentation at multiple events. Instead speak about things that are relevant and timely, but put a new twist on them. Bring in your point of view or connect data points for new insights. Twist around common information to provide a new perspective that is relevant to the audience. Be fresh. Attending the opening party of an event is a great way to get spin, perspective and examples to weave in to your talk track. Listen more than you talk at these parties and you’ll gain valuable insights into the audience that will hear you speak. These insights mixed with a few connection points to sessions before yours can bring new life to a presentation you’ve done before.

Help People Engage:

This is the practical side of being gracious. People really do want to hear what you say or they wouldn’t bother to attend the event. So help them help you. Simple but highly effective things to help people engage include putting your Twitter handle (make sure you have one, but that’s another post) and the event hashtag in the footer of all your slides. Make sure your slides are legible, the images you use are appropriate and any multi-media is tested and tested again. Include content snacks, easy to type and tweet highlights, in your talk track. Schedule tweets in advance that are timed roughly with your presentation that include your key points so people can retweet directly from you and also add their own tweets.

Show a Little Appreciation:

After your presentation, answer questions; talk to the people who come up to you; be gracious and listen to what people have to say. Also go through the Twitter stream from your keynote and retweet, reply and thank people who engaged during your talk. Continue to scan the feed and do the same over the next day. Always do a shout-out thank you during your presentation for being invited to the event and also via Twitter to the event sponsors. Saying thank you in an authentic way is one of the most powerful things you can do as a presenter.

You can be a fierce presenter with a little practice and determination. Enjoy the journey!

You’re Never At the First Meeting

Posted on 04/14/2013

You’re never at the first meeting.

You’re never at the second meeting.

You’re rarely at the third meeting.

In fact, you may not be at several more meetings.

Then, if all these previous meetings go well, you are invited to meet with a potential customer. How can this be? Because your potential customers are meeting your company, brand, products, other clients and even your employees digitally long before they actually meet you in person.

Consider these statistics from Explore B2B:

93% of B2B purchases begin with an Internet search.

Sales reps used to get involved with a prospect about 30% of the way through the sales process. Now the sales rep gets involved when the prospect is 70% through the sales process.

And these statistics from SiriusDecisions which found that most C-level executives rely on general perceptions and influence of others (essentially word-of-mouth, usually delivered digitally) the vast majority of the time in validating purchase decisions. In fact, the combination of brand perceptions without previous brand experience; customer references and testimonials; and internal or external colleagues opinions account for the following amount of influence in the purchase process:

CFOs   67%    Chief Financial Officers

CSOs   64%    Chief Sales Officers

CEOs   54%    Chief Executive Officers

CMOs  50%    Chief Marketing Officers

CIOs    47%    Chief Information Officers / Chief Technology Officers CTOs

It should be noted that CIOs and CMOs seemed least likely to try a vendor they had not used before, hence the lower impact of non-brand generated influence.

The simple math shows that all brands need to actively manage their digital presence, engage in digital conversations to understand and steer influence or perceptions and recognize that they are dealing with far more informed prospects than ever before.

This is a big challenge for CMOs who often receive the brunt of the impact from this shift. CMOs need a solid relationship with their CIO so that monitoring, measurement and engagement technologies can be put in place. CMOs also need a new mix of talent in their organizations as the traditional push-marketing or advertising has been replaced by conversational marketing and engagement over time but build positive influence. The ripple effects in brand positioning, messaging and campaign design are huge. This also means CMOs need to be aware that influence plays a larger role in how their peers, and their boss, will interpret the effectiveness of a CMO’s strategy than perhaps the CMO realized.

CMOs in fact have to place the digital presence of their company, brand and products at the forefront of their marketing strategy. This is the only way to make sure those first series of meetings do in fact go well so you get invited to a real meeting down the line.