Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Madman, craftsman, critic

January 7, 2010

With more and more businesses participating in social media, the pressure to be creative is getting intense.  Now every tweet needs to be interesting.  Every blog post, a ‘wow’.  And so everybody wants to know: Does Robroy have a process for that?

Hold on, let me check.  Why, yes, here’s something.  I call it the Madman, Craftsman, Critic process.  Catchy name, I know.  You can use Madman, Craftsman, Critic (or Madwoman, Craftswoman, Critic) to develop everything from business growth strategies to sales presentations to marketing content, tweets, blogs and more.  It also works for paintings and poems and love songs.  And Robroy posts.  Anything creative.  But only if you are willing to concede that you have three strong-willed personalities within you who all want to dominate the creative process, and it’s your job to keep them in line.  They are:

1. The Madman

His cheeks are tight and bright from holding back gales of laughter while dashing around the room goosing people.  The Madman is you at your irrepressible best.  Your passion, your spark, your zest for life.  He loves what he does and is inspired by finding original ways to express it, regardless of what anybody else is doing.

2. The Craftsman

After the wild hilarity has blown over, enter the Craftsman.  This is your technical side.  Fastidious, skillful and proud, the Craftsman makes logical sense of what the Madman has left behind, which he measures, cuts, joins and assembles into something structurally sound and useful.

3. The Critic

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” says the Critic, peering over his glasses.  “Your masterpiece is stirring, indeed, but riddled with errors.  A detail is missing here and here.  And the surface must be rubbed, sealed and smoothly coated.  Really, gentlemen.   In the future, I insist we bring me in sooner.”

This is you and your high standards.  Ultimately accountable for whether the thing works or not, the Critic controls quality in matters large and small.  It would be a disaster to involve the Critic too soon in the creative process, as he would scold and nit-pick and criticize his brothers until they broke his glasses and made him cry.  Another common mistake is letting the Madman hang around so long that he burns it all down with his hair.  Finally, try not to allow the Craftsman to start or finish the project, as it will end up technically perfect, but emotionally stiff as a board.

Madman, Craftsman and Critic, in that order.

But, hey, you’re creative.  How does it happen for you?  Have your Madman/Madwoman leave a comment below.


Dangerous marketing

November 20, 2009

So-called marketing professionals!  Will you cool it already with the clean, slick, well mannered marketing campaigns?  You’re making a dangerous mistake.

Think about it.  When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?  If your best friends were anything like John Bertaux, Mike McCarthy and Bill Diehl, you set up plywood ramps for your bike.  You rode standing up, pumping your legs to build up speed.  When you hit the ramp, you launched yourself high into the sky … arms locked, knees shaking … and landed on the driveway, skidding to a stop.  The crowd went wild.  You were the man.

Now in our 40s, our generation is “the man” and “the woman” in a different way.  Many of us are responsible decision-makers in our companies.  We put out RFPs.  We hire vendors and sign purchasing orders.  Yet we’re still daredevils at heart, and we need to push ourselves to the limit from time to time, or life’s no fun.  If your marketing can’t spark our imagination, if your salespeople can’t rev the throttle and really get us fired up, you will fall short of your goal every time.  You’ll hit the front of the ramp and flip over your handlebars and break every bone in your body.

But at least it will be cool!

(Read more posts below.)

The f-bomb

November 6, 2009

The bomb theory, according to Alfred Hitchcock, says that if a bomb goes off under a table where two people have been idly chatting, that’s surprise.  If the audience knows there’s a bomb under the table, but the characters don’t, that’s suspense.  In film, suspense is better than surprise.

F-bomb graphic

In business, neither is good, as Robroy learned the hard way.  It happened several years ago, when I was trying to win an important partnership for my young creative company, Smith Content.  The meeting was with two somewhat intimidating advertising executives in their stainless steel office downtown.  Now, Robroy generally likes to keep it clean, but that day, in a pitiful attempt at bravado, I let fly with: “We know what the @#*! we’re doing.”

Yep.  The f-bomb.  The execs were clearly underwhelmed.  One cocked his eyebrow.  The other drummed her nails on the table.

If only it were a movie.  The director would have jumped up, waving his arms and yelling, “Cut!  Cut!  What were you thinking, Robroy?”  Then he would have given me a “take two.”

But this is real life.  I had one chance.  And I blew it.


How about you?  You’ve been sitting there so politely.  Have you ever been blown up by an f-bomb?  What happened?

The art of the foul-up

August 30, 2009

Robroy’s game is helping business owners and CEOs grow their companies.  That puts him in position to see really smart job applicants ruin their employment opportunities in really stupid ways every day.

Here’s how it usually plays out.  At the end of the interview, we tell them the next steps: We’ll finish our first round of interviews, and then, if everyone is still interested, we’ll all get back together for a second interview.

Then we wait.  We want to see one thing.  Will they follow up?

Most don’t.  In fact, even though they tell us they are passionate about building relationships, very few will do us the courtesy of sending a message or calling to say, ‘thank you for your time’ or ‘I enjoyed learning about the opportunity’ or ‘looking forward to our next conversation.’

Why not?  Laziness?  Ignorance?  They don’t care?  Shoes two sizes too small?

chicken jpeg

Whatever the reason, in this economy, who can afford the foul-up?

(Read more blog entries below.)

Have a nice trip next fall

March 8, 2009

In marketing, planning is an on-going process. It’s a controlled fall, the same way that walking is an on-going, controlled fall. You lean forward; take a step forward; prevent yourself from falling on your face. You know you want to go in a certain direction and get to a certain point in space, so you fall towards that goal, one foot in front of the other, until you arrive. And here are the footprints of an effective marketing program: plan/re-plan – plan/re-plan – plan/re-plan. It’s like walking downstairs. It’s easy when you break the journey into strategic steps. Without a structure for planning and re-planning, you’ll end up on the concrete with a broken leg. 

Almost perfect

February 26, 2009

Even in the worst economic times, everything can go right for a business. You can have a great Web site that generates a great lead, which becomes a great initial contact on the phone. You can have a great responsive salesperson who follows up on the lead, listens well, creates a great solution and cranks out a great proposal. You can get a great price, have a great roll-out and follow-up. But if your accounting department is obnoxious when collecting that first payment … Or if the tech treats them poorly when they first call for service … Or if they leave messages that go unreturned … Any one of these could kill the relationship. Hours and hours of hard work, not to mention the $50K you spent on the Web re-design, wasted. It all goes up in smoke.

There’s no such thing as perfect.  In business, that’s no excuse.

From a conversation with Creston Owen, CEO, Falcon Communications, January 2009

What would hip-huggers do?

January 27, 2009

Hot marketing experts have come out as one in their hip-huggers, shaggy cuts and t-shirts to tell corporate America to get into social networking or die.  So corporate America signed their people up for Facebook, paid trainers to show them how it works … and watched productivity take a plunge.

So it’s no wonder if corporate America is leery of the hip huggers’ new message: Get on Twitter or die.

This time, though, they might have a point.

Twitter is like Facebook – a real-time bulletin board that reaches audiences across the globe instantly.  But Twitter is different, or can be.

You can follow celebrities (Robroy doesn’t).  You can follow colleagues in business (Robroy does).  You can follow childhood friends (Robroy doesn’t).  You can use it to improve your craft (Robroy does).  The way I improve my craft as a business consultant and writer is by utilizing Twitter’s research and knowledge sharing aspect.  I approach Twitter like an informal lecture series on the sidewalk in front of the Student Union.  You can stop by for a few minutes between appointments and make your verse heard.  Or you can hang back and learn something.

Whether Twitter spells life or death for corporate America, we’ll find out.  Meanwhile, the hip-huggers are enjoying being “followed” in their tight jeans as they blog about it.