Guest Post: Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations

November 15, 2010

This post is part of a continuing series of guest posts. Diane DiResta is CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact.

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Having coached a number of marketers on their presentations, it’s come to my attention that when delivering presentations even the most creative marketing professionals may be sabotaging their success. The reason many marketing ideas are rejected by management is not because of the quality of the idea. It’s more often because of the way the idea is presented.

Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations

 

Here are five presentation myths that marketers need to dispel:

1. It’s about the numbers. I’ve seen marketing clients who believe that if the numbers back up their idea, it will sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers fall in love with the numbers and make this the focal point of the presentation. Then they’re shocked when senior management isn’t excited about their new product launch.

Reality: It’s passion that sells. I had one client who was shot down after presenting a new product. The reason was not because it wasn’t a good product. It was because it wasn’t a compelling presentation. The feedback her manager gave me was that she presented the facts but there was no enthusiasm. Tell the story behind the numbers. Senior management needs to be sold in the same way the consumer needs to be sold.

Marketers, Take Note: Passion Sells

 

2. Defend your position. One client got into hot water because of a need to defend his idea. When you’re wedded to your way of thinking you can alienate your boss and your supporters.

Reality:  Defending a position may actually backfire on you. Some marketers believe if it isn’t invented here, it doesn’t count. Being flexible and open to other ideas will up the ante on your presentation. Listening and questioning are the keys to success in selling your idea. If you don’t know the answer admit it and offer to get back to the questioner.  “Fake it til you make it” does not apply here. You’ll gain more credibility if you’re honest.

3. Tell them everything you know. Some marketers do a data dump, believing the listeners should be information rich.

Reality:   Good speaking like good marketing gets to the point. When pitching a product or concept if you give too many details, the listeners tune out.  Tell them what they need to know – not everything you know. When it comes to delivery, less is more.

Effective Public Speaking for Marketers

 

4. Keep Talking. Some marketers believe that by dominating the conversation they’ll push through their ideas. The squeaky wheel may get the grease but it won’t necessarily get you the business.

Reality: Know when to shut up. A running faucet will eventually flood a room. Don’t drown in your own verbiage. Come up for air. Master the pause.

5. The Company Knows Best. Departments  have their own culture. Expectations may range from using  a standard version of a PowerPoint template to having a tradition of all presenters being seated.

Reality: Tradition doesn’t have to reign. Breaking the rules can be used to your advantage. A text-only deck is not as impactful as slides that contain a few visuals. Just because presenters traditionally speak while seated in a boardroom, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand. Effective presenters know how to stand out and blend in. You can respect company culture and also infuse your personal brand.

To give a good presentation remember the three  Cs – clear, concise, and compelling.

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Diane DiResta is CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform.  DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses. http://www.diresta.com

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Guest Post: Rude Awakening— Only 15% of Word of Mouth Marketing Campaigns Show Positive Results

October 18, 2010

This post is part of a continuing series of guest posts and was originally posted on MENG BLEND. Christopher S. Rollyson is founder of CSRA, Inc., Architect of The Social Network Roadmap(sm) & Managing Editor at the Global Human Capital Journal.

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Word of mouth marketing is seen by many marketers as the economic engine of social business (or media) because people recommend products and services to each other: all marketers have to do is give them the right information to share and make it easy for them to recommend things, right? Wrong.

Rude Awakening— Only 15% of Word of Mouth Marketing Campaigns Show Positive Results

Or, in popular parlance, “It’s complicated.”

Here, I’ll identify some of the flawed concepts that underlie word of mouth marketing (WOMM), so you can avoid being part of its 85% casualty rate. I’ll show in general how you can tweak the idea and succeed with social business initiatives more often.

Word of Mouth Marketing Is Flawed

At Alterian’s user conference, Don Peppers shared this arresting statistic in his keynote:  only 15% of WOMM initiatives show positive ROI. Shocking—at least until you start thinking about it. Loosely speaking, WOM (sans “marketing”) happens when a trusted and relatively unbiased “friend” shares her experience with a product/service with someone close to her. “Someone like me” who isn’t tainted by sales commissions or quarterly revenue targets.

Marketing, on the other hand, is generally about creating need or driving sales. Do you see the problem?

In this context, WOM and marketing are mutually exclusive: the latter’s purpose is to serve the company by moving product; the former serves the person first. It’s a conflict of interest, and it will rarely work. Ever.

93% of Word of Mouth Is Offline

In a second data point, Keller Fay Group’s latest TalkTrack study revealed that the overwhelming majority of WOM (as defined by them) takes place offline and face to face (via e-consultancy and @stefanw), not online through social business. This is not surprising when you stop to think about what traditional WOM is, largely a conversation between family or close friends. Tight ties. However, neither of these references dives into WOM or WOMM deeply enough to understand why and how they can work or not.

WOM among Loose Ties

Digital communications significantly reduce the cost of many kinds of interaction, so WOM among loose ties will continue to grow. However, marketers should recognize that loose ties and tight ties have important differences because the motivations and level of trust are different.

Loose ties are not just inferior tight ties; people form loose ties for many reasons, but the online many-to-many environment enables people to manage their reputations and influence by leveraging the network effect. Tight tie relationships are limited in number, multidimensional and high investment.

How Marketers Can Succeed with Word of Mouth

Having led marketing for several firms, I can appreciate why marketers would love the concept of word of mouth marketing. Given that they are in conflict, it’s important to focus on WOM while avoiding WOMM. I’ll wager that the majority of the 85% of failures result from not understanding and honoring their differences. The good news is, WOM drives sales—when companies honor and nurture it. Here’s how:

  • First—and this is a leap of faith—accept that WOM serves the customer, not you. Trust that, if you don’t interfere, positive results will often result. There is no halfway here, intent and honesty are WOM’s key differentiators. Don Peppers shared Staples’ “Speak Easy” fiasco as a warning (“sponsored” tweets and bloggers are other traps). All companies say that they put the customer first, but many aren’t being honest with themselves or their customers.
  • Second, the company must put itself first to be congruent with itself as a business. It shouldn’t try to do WOM. But the company, acting in its self-interest, can support WOM. Marketers must safeguard these boundaries if they want to succeed because they form the foundation of trust among the three principal actors: company, friend and customer.
  • Third, accept that your products and services are not a great fit for most people. In a pervasive transparent network, the market will figure out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t try to “make markets” by convincing people to buy unless you have a valid value proposition for them. Focus on serving people for whom you have a superior value proposition. This is the key to thriving in a transparent environment.
  • Fourth, trust customers’ friends to engage with WOM—for their own motivations. Remember, they are there to serve their friend, not to move your product. WOM is their role, not yours. Campaigns like Staples’ fail because marketers don’t understand their role and unknowingly turn WOM into shilling. Sorry.

Remember Miracle on 34th Street? It was breakthrough to send customers to other stores when they had a better value proposition for the customer. It increased WOM because it surprised people and exceeded expectations. But it was Kris Kringle (a “friend”) who started it based on his personal integrity. Later Macy’s turned it into a tactic, but Kris never did.

Accepting WOM transparency is difficult because it requires significant culture change. Firms that don’t accept this new reality will fight and lose. The market will expose them in the end.

On the other hand, those that take this road will be more successful because they will be aligned with customers and their friends. Moreover, focusing on valid value propositions and customers will tend to lead the company to innovate more successfully.

Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments…

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Christopher S. Rollyson has been a marketing and technology pioneer for over twenty years. As a consultant and marketing executive, he has had a leading role in launching such game-changers as: Java with Sun Microsystems, e-business strategy with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting Services, and SOA, Web services and architecture solutions with nVISIA and IBM. He can be found on Twitter as @CSRollyson.

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