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April 2012

Cropped 2011 head shotEnd of the First Quarter 


It's hard to believe, but the first quarter of 2012 is over. At ADM Marketing, it was a very, very busy quarter, which means there was a lot of pressure to complete everything on time, but it's awfully nice when the checks come in!


Wishing everyone a happy holiday season (whichever one you celebrate)! And if you have kids on spring break--I hope you all survive it!

Personal Branding

Where The Company Ends and You BeginJon Bassist 


As you may know, I am a big believer in branding. With one word or phrase, an effective brand conveys product, personality, relevance, and accessibility. What does your name convey? How can you steer your own success by communicating:

  • Your knowledge and expertise
  • Your value to employers/clients
  • Your leadership abilities 

Most of us spend the better parts of our days crafting, communicating, and managing other brands: those of our employers and/or clients. Yet, even if we are effective, if the company or client is mismanaged, or makes poor business decisions, or is sold, we might be getting our resumes in order. How can we avoid (even preclude) being victims of other people's actions?


Today on "Morning Joe" I heard Stedman Graham talk about his new book "Identity," which answers this last question.  Aside from exhorting people not to let others define them (by race, gender, affluence, or anything else), he challenges people to steer their own destinies by creating their own personal brands. He explained that, aside from the facts of our lives (that is, the things, above, that can define us), the playing field is levelled because we ALL have only 24 hours in a day. The question is, how do we use it to create and enhance our personal brands and achieve success (however we choose to define that)? His answers coincide nicely with some things I've written about in the past:

  • Lifelong learning: This is really a critical part of our personal brands--what kind of work we decide to pursue, how we remain current in that work and enhance our value to employers, clients, and most of all, to ourselves.
  • Leadership skills:  By stepping up to leadership opportunities, we challenge our personal power to make things happen. In the process, we increase our visability and self-confidence, and demonstrate our true value.
  • Self-determination: In a way, this is the very essence of "personal brand," and the most challenging. Who are you, and where do you want to go? It reminds me of Joseph Campbell's famous "Follow your bliss." Some people misinterpreted that quote as meaning "do whatever you feel like doing." In fact, it is followed by the challenge: But first find what your bliss is, and doors will open for you that you didn't even know were there.

When I think of these things, I am reminded of my son, who is a musician. He knew what his bliss was when he was 13, and has pursued it ever since. He has formed two bands (Leadership) and plays a major role in his current band. He earned a degree in Jazz and Commercial Music, and now has plans to achieve a Masters degree. He knows WHO he is, and consequently, he is the COOLEST person I know. He is not rich (an understatement, to be sure), nor famous (well, maybe in Reno), but he is comfortable in his skin and he knows what he wants. He will ultimately achieve what he wants because he is so focused.


You can create your personal brand by knowing what you want, learning what you need to achieve it, continue learning to stay current, taking risks by accepting leadership opportunities, and not allowing anyone to rain on your parade. The trick is really the first part: knowing what you want. Sometimes it's not what you THINK you want, not what someone else directed you to want. But if you try to live someone else's dream, that is not a recipe for success.

Girl Scout Cookies

Lessons In Customer Focus and Sales From a 10-Year-Old


Girl Scout cookiesI just needed a couple of things from the supermarket, and there they were--about six enthusiastic Girl Scouts (chaperoned by a few Moms) and a table of their eponymous snacks. I quickly entered the store, carefully avoiding their adorableness and the delicious products. But then, I finished my shopping and exited through a different door. And there she was. Waiting. For me.


She approached, politely, and asked, assertively, "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?" Am I a Grinch? Am I a heartless, miserly grouch? No. So I said, "Sure."


My Girl Scout led me to the table of delights, just a few feet away. She carefully showed me all her products, told me what was in each one (was I allergic to coconut or peanuts?), explained that each box was $4, regardless of flavor, and asked which one I wanted and how many boxes. Of course I bought one box (I felt bad about not buying more, but I knew they'd be gone by the time I got home!). More to the point, I was impressed by her technique.


Far be it from me to tread on the feet of real sales training professionals like Adrian Miller, but here are some things I think my Girl Scout got right, and some lessons we can all take from her, regardless of whether we are selling cookies or marketing research services:

  • She positioned herself strategically to catch people on their way OUT of the store, when they might have more time, or, at least, have fewer excuses for turning her down.
  • She positioned herself apart from her colleagues, thereby carving out her own territory. Why be in the same space as several other people selling the same thing?
  • She knew her stock; what was in each one (chocolate, coconut, peanut butter, none of the above), and what the unique selling proposition for each one was (flavor, texture, no-frills cookie, combinations of flavors).
  • She spoke only to me, looking for clues and cues as to what I might like, and then showed me the ones I clearly preferred, again.
  • She closed the sale, with a smile.
  • She made sure her colleague gave me the correct change.
  • She thanked me. In fact, they all thanked me, in chorus.

I would have hired her right then and there, but there ARE child labor laws (those darn REGULATIONS!). I don't know if someone "trained" her, or whether she's just a smart kid who figured it out by observation and experience, but she's got a real future in sales, if she wants it (please see the first article).


The take-away from this experience, for me (aside from being so obviously impressed), is the importance of customer focus and differentiation. Find out what the customer needs and wants, and figure out how to make your product or service different from everyone else's. We all sell, at one point or another, whether we do it professionally, or for charity, or whether we're just asking someone for their time. When the customer believes that the salesperson cares about solving a problem or fulfilling a need more than making a buck, it is much easier to close the deal.


 Upcoming Events
April 13, 7:30am-4:30pm


SMPS Foundation Think Tank is presenting an all day conference on "Bridging the Gap Between Management and Marketing" in New York. For those who are interested in, or who work in the Architecture/Engineering/Contracting industries, this is an important and worthwhile program to attend. It will be held at McGraw Hill, and you can find out more about it by clicking here

April 18 , 11:30am-1:30pm 


IABC/LI is hosting "Assessing the ROI on Your Communications," featuring Angela Sinickas, ABC, IABC Fellow, and President of Sinickas Communications. If you've ever been asked by your employer or client to justify the communications budget, this meeting is a MUST for you. Not only is the topic relevant, the speaker is nationally known and IABC is really lucky to have her. The meeting is at FOUR Food Studios in Melville. Click above to pre-register through PayPal, or register by email and pay at the door.


April 23, 12:00 noon-2:00pm 


Women In Communications, New York (WICI) presents its annual Matrix Awards at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. This star-studded event recognizes accomplished women from business, the arts, journalism and the not-for-profit world. Click here for more details.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman