Tragically, no more Hip

Gord Downie, the amazing front man and lead singer for The Tragically Hip lost his battle with brain cancer last week. It was a sad day for family and fans. He fought through surgery, radiation and recovery to do one final tour last year. What a memorable final concert from the band’s hometown of Kingston.

He was a great Canadian. I am a huge fan of the band. I have seen them 10 times, including 4 with my oldest son who is also a huge fan. Tylar and I saw the Winnipeg concert on their final tour thanks to a great friend who got us into his suite. Thanks Kevin.

But this post is not about my life as a fan or about the life of the band. This post is about how the band were a well-led and well-run organization and how they were astute marketers.

One of the first decisions the band made was about song credits. Every band member got equal credit for every song the band published.

Now think of your business. Do people fight over credit for IP and other improvements? Do managers and supervisors understand that it is the employees doing the work that should receive a large part of the credit?

Battles over song credits have destroyed many bands, friendships and careers. How is the battle for credit in your organization tearing you apart or building you up?

The boys in the band checked their ego at the door and did what was best for the collective not the individual. In fact, even if a member didn’t write the lyrics, until they put their stamp on the song (guitars, base or drums), it wasn’t a Tragically Hip song. In reality, everyone did have an important part of the overall value of the song.

Their road crew and security were with the band almost from the beginning. Imagine, when you treat people with respect and ask for and act on their inputs and ideas, they become engaged and are lifelong advocates for your organization.

Do you appreciate all the things that your employees do that puts a stamp, no matter how big or small, on your product or service? Do you tell them?

The Hip wrote about mostly Canadian things. Not always high profile things either. I never heard of the town of Bobcaygeon before the album Phantom Power. What was a 50 mission cap? Although a team mate in hockey over 20 years ago had an actual 50 mission cap – that was cool!

How did this focus on Canadiana fit with the band? The whole band was on the same page relative to their purpose, areas of interest for their songs and knowledge about their primary customers – Canadians. Even “occasional” fans could relate to the words of certain songs and this broadened the total customer base.

They had some success in the U.S.. I remember their first appearance on SNL. Dan Akroyd introduced the band and they opened with Grace, too. The show was outstanding.

They never tried to over commercialize and sell out just to get a bigger market share of the U. S.. They were comfortable with their level of success and where they achieved it.

How do you relate to your customers? Do you really know them well enough that you could write a song about them? Or at least a song that would interest them?

The Hip’s knack for introducing new topics for their songs and new approaches to their music was a way that they innovated for continued growth. Peter Drucker said businesses have to focus on marketing and innovation to be successful. How about you?Are you growing or standing still?

Or is your company like the song Boots or Hearts that features the lyrics “cause when they start to fall apart, they really fall apart“? If you don’t have values and goals to share, if you only have fingers and toes in common, then chances are you won’t have the long term success that the Tragically Hip worked hard to achieve.

And hard work and respect for each other were hallmarks of the band’s approach to life.

There is clearly a lesson for all of us, personally and in our business, about strong values, and a commitment to ourselves, family, friends and co-workers. We can enjoy our time together and achieve something that will be appreciated by those we have a relationship with.

Be like Gord and demonstrate “Courage”. And whatever you do, do it “Fully Completely”.




No Time…

The Guess Who wrote a song “No Time” that featured the lyrics “On my way to better things“.

Monty Python wrote a sketch where a person was being taught to be more assertive by learning the phrase “There’s no time to lose“.

If you kept track of your time on a weekly basis (more than just filling a timesheet with your billable hours being tracked) you will see where you spend your time and this provides an insight into “What You Think is Important”.

A couple of weeks ago I stated that if you show me where you spend your money I will tell you what your priorities are. If you show me where you spend your time I will also tell you what your priorities are. This also extends beyond your 9 to 5 work day to your personal time as well.

If you are spending too much time surfing the web or checking cat videos on “Farcebook” then you are wasting time.  Zig Ziglar stated “Remember, you can earn more money, but when time is spent it is gone forever“.

The great basketball coach, John Wooden, built a Pyramid of Success, that captured his essence of what it takes to be successful. One of the foundational cornerstones is industriousness – success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.

All these points reinforce that if you want to do something, you will find the time to do it.

If you want to return that cold call – you will do it.

You are busy – we are all busy. Some people respond to every contact, it is just what they do. Others only reply selectively and they tell you this is how they operate. I can appreciate both perspectives and approaches. The solution needs to be right for you and the type of brand you are creating about yourself.

I have tried to respond to some of the email requests I get by clearly describing why I downloaded that whitepaper and that as a sole practitioner I am not their target. I typically downloaded something industry specific that is related to a client engagement.

How much time do you dedicate to responding to emails or voice mails and how do select which ones to respond to? Your call; but whatever amount of time and priority-setting you use will answer the questions about what you deem to be important.

If you want that cold call returned – you might have to revisit your messaging to ensure there is value for the person you are leaving the message for.

If you want to get better at the latter you will have to invest some of your own personal time to get better. Instead of watching Netflix watch a webinar on selling by sales experts like Jeffrey Gitomer or Anthony Iannarino.

Or you can look beyond your current vocation to another area and seek inspiration from a different type of expert. Study behavioural psychology or behavioural economics. Try and learn what makes people make certain decisions and how you may adjust your approach to cause the right type of reaction.

If improving your sales ability is important to you then you will invest extra time to learn something that you can put into practice. You can also dedicate evaluation time with your sales leader to gain more of their time. guess what, sales leaders like to spend time with those that are going to exceed the targets and make them look good. In almost every case the sales leader will willingly provide the coaching or guidance that you need. You are already motivated so it is an easy allocation of their time.

These simple examples are only scratching the surface of assessing the time you are spending and what the correlation is to the achievement of your objectives and priorities. And just like any other audit process you have to be accurate and honest with your assessment.

Back in my BComm days at the U of Manitoba, I was taking a course on Management Decision-Making. Part of the course was to spend a day with 3 different managers and track their time and then assess it according to some early theories from Dr. Mintzberg. In every case the executives said “wow, I never knew I spent so much time on that”. Only then can you determine if you are properly allocating your time to the most important items.

When you do your personal audit of where your time is spent what surprises will you uncover?

If you want to improve your current state, there really is “no time to lose”. And making good choices will also help you get “on my way to better things”.



Why do I need to plan?

There is often a discussion and debate about what is more important planning or execution. the answer is – they are both important. Today I will focus on the planning aspect.

Scrambling and reacting and putting out fires is no way to run a business with a goal of long term success.

You have heard me talk a lot about a customer focus for your business. Without a customer you have no business. The most important aspect of a business plan is the marketing plan. Authors such as Alan Dib (The One Page Marketing Plan), Linda Popky (Marketing Above The Noise) and Carolyn Tate (Conscious Marketing) all land in the same place on the topic of customer centricity. The marketing plan is the core of the business plan because it focuses on the customer.

Putting numbers in columns in spreadsheets is great for bankers or financial officers, but no one can predict the future. How strong is your faith in these projections unless you know a lot about the customer and the likelihood they will buy your product or service. After all, your competitors are going through the same process to know the customer to increase their share of wallet. So now there is more pressure on you.

Great advertising starts with a creative brief that describes…drum roll…the customer!

Think of your customer as the ultimate destination for your company’s product or service. Your product or service may go through several steps and channels before arriving at your customer. You need to know a lot about your customer to be able to ensure safe, accurate and timely delivery.

Now think of taking a trip. Without a map you will not know how to get to your destination, if you have even selected one. You need to know a lot about your destination to determine the safest and timely route.

Planning is a structured approach to determining how your resources will applied to deliver value to your customers. There is a saying “failing to plan is planning to fail”. I would add that it must be a structured plan that focuses on knowing customers so you can gain them and keep them.

Here is a summary list of key marketing planning activities:

  • review what worked and what didn’t work in the past year.
  • look at your customers from different angles. Gain insights from each department that has contact with a customer.  And yes, talk to your customers as well.
  •  build a deep understanding of how your product or service helps solve some business problem. Are you higher quality (prove it), create less machine breakdowns, make it easy for your customer’s staff to use your software, or help your customers sell more of their product or service?
  • you don’t sell to everyone. Build a profile of your ideal customer and use this laser focus to be the supplier of choice for your most profitable customers. Creating buyer personas and using customer journey maps are good tools to help you.
  • zero base your marketing tactic budget. Once you have a firm understanding of what the data you collected in the first three steps can do then you must build a plan from the ground up to determine how your message will be delivered. What media, sales channel and actual messaging is required to reach your target customer?
  • analyze the sales funnel to determine things like leakage and conversion to determine how many customers you need to reach at the top of the funnel to have a certain number of customers at the end. If you just apply a CAGR to last year’s results you really don’t need to spend any marketing money since you already know how many customers you will have. Think about this.
  • if you are big use a good agency to help with the media plan. If you are smaller, dominate one or two media with a lot of frequency of messaging. Note that I have not said “traditional or digital” yet. Your customers will tell you how they consume the messaging and that will drive your media plan.
  • analyze results throughout the year to determine if changes need to be made. Don’t react quickly to results that may be slightly less than you planned for. Some programs just take time. Be aware of the typical buying cycle for your product or service and ensure you have accounted for this.
  • celebrate your success!

This is a high level approach to developing your marketing plan. There are many other tools and techniques that can be applied depending on the complexity of your customer base, your company and the industry you compete in. Send me a note if you want to discuss these tools.

Good planning is insightful and can lead to an increased level of accountability and commitment with your employees. And make sure you treat your employees the right way. Plan on it.