Short Stories

A page of short stories
by Grant Lee, Chartered Professional Marketer

Transferrable competencies for marketing careers

Like a sparrow is to a crow, a dog is not to a rose. What I am saying is that a job is not a career although a career can be a job. If this is not opaque enough, when I read a little to clarify my thoughts on “career,” I learned that there is no defined average period for a career in North America. The U.S. Department of Labour estimates that a person may change their career 3 to 7 times. The same person may have several jobs before exiting the workforce. In my life, I changed careers three times and passed through a couple more. In doing so I learned first-hand that there are competencies that can be transferred to marketing professionals from other “careers.”

In an article by Diffen Recruiting a career is defined as “the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progression towards lifelong goals. A job is an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange of payment.” Many times, I have reasoned with professors and industry/professional association leaders that focusing heavily on graduating students to build professional ranks and memberships is wasted time and resources. I expect that most graduates are seeking jobs first and careers second.

Academia uses the measurement of how many of their graduates from a program gain employment immediately upon graduation or soon thereafter. That is a questionable dataset spawning false hope because life itself is a gamechanger and as time passes, economies change, careers are defined and redefined, personal interests and competencies wane, doubt and despair may prevail, and people wander job to job instead of building career paths or living with purpose.

I was there. I know that play from act one to the final curtain. I have managed associations and know who joins and why. There are well-defined careers that are in fact “callings” (a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation – Wikipedia). When I think of careers with a calling, I think of registered nurses, teachers, journalists, medical doctors, engineers, architects, land surveyors, most faith leaders, and a handful of others including artists. Many careers, including marketing in my opinion, are not a calling. They are professions with graduates of university programs who passed professional exams, had their on-the-job experience audited, and then became licenced through professional exams by a governing body recognized by government. They have chosen a career path that promises wealth, prosperity, and various perceptions of freedom.

Marketing is a profession that shares skills and competencies with others. The profession specializes in some competencies and develops them into very high levels of wisdom that trained and experienced marketers apply best to business situations.

Analysis of metrics, social media insights, information generated by surveys, and data collected from secondary and tertiary sources are not unique to marketing for marketers. Marketers and social scientists use SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) for complex statistical data analysis. Marketers share many skills and competencies of social scientists like geographers, economists, and sociologists. Basic math used in marketing is the same as that applied by engineers, surveyors, economists, accountants, and architects, but none that I know is unique to marketers.

Marketers are highly trained in story telling through words, graphics, sound, and video. Some of the apps and software they use are designed for their purposes, but other professions may play in their sandbox. I am thinking about advertising copy and imagery, and the technology used (media) for spreading messages among targeted audiences. Even knowledge of how colours affect people and human behaviour are shared by psychologists, political scientists, and other social scientists and marketers. Knowledge of human behaviour is a must-know for marketers and social scientists.

Marketers have high skill sets and competencies in drafting strategy for businesses expressed through marketing plans and implementing strategy through tactics. Believe it or not, there are numerous publications how marketers borrow from famous military generals in planning strategy to capture market share and aggressively attack competitors on behalf of a client or employer.

This is a short essay that may encourage people in other professions to consider career shifts into professional marketing. Like I inferred earlier, my career in marketing evolved through consulting engineering/planning and surveying, through management of industry and professional associations, to a consulting professional marketer with his own business spanning 23 years. I was once a general labourer and union guy in industry and conservation bouncing from job to job wherever the pay and opportunity for employment was best. I was a farm hand working for several farmers in two countries learning animal husbandry on the job, and an academic that had no interest in teaching, yet gravitated through life toward mentoring and coaching others in practical marketing.

The marketing profession is a welcoming option for professionals in other careers looking for a career change or dual career. There are academic programs, and industry and professional associations to assist in career development and enhancement of skills. Marketers share competencies with other professions and take some competencies to levels that only experienced professional marketers can apply best.

How to make metrics effective in marketing for small/micro businesses

Many owners of small businesses especially micro, probably overlook or don’t consider the use of metrics to increase sales. Information generated by metrics associated with websites, social media pages, Google My Business, and newsletter email marketing campaigns should be used to help make marketing, sales, and business development decisions. Quantitative information can be blended with anecdotal accounts and experience for tactics and strategy.

Here’s how metrics can work for a small business.

It can be expected that start-ups and small businesses that have survived 24 months will promote their products and services on a Facebook Business Page (and Instagram), and a LinkedIn Company Page. When entrepreneurs launch a website, it is likely that they will also create a Google-My-Business Page. At minimum, there is a cost for websites associated with domain registration and hosting service if the site is not an extension of a free basic website or blog service. Regardless of the cost of the website, Google-My-Business will help promote the business and its website. There are services to build free newsletters and distribute through email databases, but paid email marketing platforms provide metrics in greater detail.

Websites | Google My Business | Facebook | LinkedIn | E-Newsletters

There are many analytical tools for websites. My preference is Google Analytics. The information that I find useful is:

  • Organic searches (not influenced by paid advertising)
  • Demographics of visitors (age | gender)
  • Location (where visitors are located by country, province/state, and city)
  • Top 10 pages frequently visited
  • Social media pages used to enter the website
  • The nature of content in contact forms placed on selected pages on the website

Google My Business pushes visitors to a website, lists products and services, facilitates contact by phone or email, posts business reviews, shows prospects how to find a business on a map, and allows posts of articles and photos that give insight into the nature of a business. Google collects data and reports them as information.

Facebook business pages work to build a network of clients, friends, vendors, business partners and prospects. Insights provide an ongoing count of followers. When posted articles and photos have a strong personal element the reach increases significantly. Data suggests that followers and others who follow hashtags respond very well to posts about newsletters and actions of people. Followers do visit websites linked to articles.

LinkedIn company pages build a network CEOs, presidents of organizations, marketers, engineers, salespeople, and HR professionals among many others. Analytics of free accounts show the number of people who have seen articles and the nature of interactions, where they are located, and employment. Paid accounts show much more information.

Newsletter email marketing campaigns are worth the cost of a paid account, although free accounts with major companies provide useful information. Paid accounts generate information in greater detail and more of it. Among other things, paid accounts:

  • Show the number of people who open the newsletter email
  • Show the number of people who click on a link
  • Can resend the newsletter to people who did not open the email in the first distribution
  • Allow more than one email database for segmenting campaigns
  • Show benchmarked information to measure performance
  • Give the names and email addresses of people who open the newsletter
  • Give the names and email addresses of people who click on a link
  • Show the files that people opened and their names and addresses
  • List links most frequently opened

Making sense of the metrics

How can information be analyzed to provide knowledge for making decisions?

  • Information about the demographics of people visiting a website and social media pages reveals the generations and gender mix interested in a business, products, and services. This helps determine content of articles, language nuances, and information for social media pages, websites, and e-newsletters that result in leads, prospects, and sales
  • Clicks on links provide insight into the interest in video and photos
  • Website analytics show an increase/decrease in visitors from geographic areas, and urban centres to help shape marketing campaigns for direct sales and tactics
  • The popularity of articles, photos and video give direction on the content that is of interest to clients and prospects
  • The rate of increase of followers on social media platforms opens opportunity for advertising and messaging more prospects and clients
  • Monitoring trends of engagement with newsletters indicate when communications by newsletter is most effective. This helps maximize return on investment in email marketing campaigns
  • Metrics suggest the type of content for a monthly social media calendar guide for relevant posts
  • The strength of engagement with an e-newsletter suggests frequency of email database updates
  • Activity associated with Google My Business indicates the level of content management needed to keep the site effective
  • Website analytics show the effectiveness of a blog page
  • Social media page insights suggest action to build an engaged network

Small businesses should not overlook the value of taking metrics into consideration when developing strategic plans and marketing tactics to generate leads, attract clients, and increase sales. Use of data for generating information that leads to knowledge is critical to the success of small and micro businesses.

I am a ghost
Whispers from a ghostwriter

Words passing through space and time without being spoken in the moment are the most powerful force known to humankind. Words in any language cause actions to be taken. Spoken words can generate immediate action. When written, there is time for pause and critical thought before a response that may or may not be taken. Ghostwriters are the specters that generate the words that create ideas shared with others on behalf of an individual or organization. Like all specters, the memories that they leave in the minds of those who read the words can be beneficial or detrimental and portray its host as a respected authority or shunned for all time. Ghosts fade away into the great unknown, forgotten, and untouchable. Authors face the consequences.

I am a ghostwriter. I became a “words spirit” following graduate school in 1981, and when I realized that the ideas and accomplishments of remarkable engineers were passing into history without acknowledgement. Back then, “The Sons of Martha” (Rudyard Kipling) were stoically silent about their calling. Working as the marketing guy in a large multidisciplinary consulting engineering company, I knew it was important to tell the story of the company’s champions to draw attention to the competencies of the firm. And I knew it was even more important for the stories to come from the voices of the engineers themselves to make the stories credible. After all, they had taken an oath to protect the public.

It was not easy to befriend many of the champions because they were of a single mindset that marketing was unprofessional and that their prospects for new projects were as good as their last job and the favour of their existing beneficiaries (clients).

I did gain their trust and their stories began to be published in leading technical magazines under their byline. Their stories were read by thousands and photos coloured the theatres of the mind. I told their stories in their own words and tone showing how infrastructure projects resulted in safe and healthy communities that could grow and prosper. Their names were attached to articles about building a better society. I knew that their stories must be respectful of their calling and that the stories once published were embedded for all time in local and regional history. The stories had to be more than an advertorial for the company.

Time passed and I moved from employment in the corporate world to employment with industry and professional associations. I continued to apply my skill as a technical ghostwriter, always seeking the champion engineers and technical people as authors willing to tell stories of applying engineered products and the projects that help build communities. Their stories collectively became the history of industries, associations, and the member companies of those associations.

While I was enjoying multiple careers, Generation X and Millennials became of age and the leaders of industry. Many trusted my marketing notions and understood that their stories had to be told. Some have become wonderful story tellers making use of Internet technology and social media platforms to publish their work, technical opinions, and share knowledge.

Marketing is no longer considered unprofessional by business leaders, and it is not hard to find graduates of marketing programs who hold professional credentials and certifications to validate their work and opinions.

I am a ghostwriter skilled in telling stories of professional people who do not have the writing skills and time to write and publish stories of their own. I have written millions of words and helped publish volumes of technical essays and short stories by some of the brightest minds of our time. Although I have published countless articles under my own byline and a couple of books, I am a ghost that still whispers through the words of the children of Martha.

Essential marketing communications technology for a small business

There are essential marketing communications “must-haves” for small businesses to manageAGL website communications and relationships with clients and prospects. These include a website, certain social media pages and accounts, and an email database for email marketing campaigns. With these essentials, small businesses are enabled to survive and thrive in economic environments that have been forever altered by the lessons learned from epidemics and pandemics like COVID-19 and periodic recessions.
Websites for small businesses have the routine pages as most sites including information about the company and its owners/mangers; a page detailing products and services; a blog page that archives articles and opinions about the company and its products, along with a newsletters and bulletins library; and contact information on every page. The enterprise with products for sale may have a sales room on their website where products can be viewed, compared, and purchased. There could be accommodation for shipping through a third party or direct delivery service in a local community. In addition, the website would have a page dedicated to corporate social responsibility to tell its story about its integration into community social, economic, and environmental fabric. If the enterprise is dependent upon skilled employees, it would have a career page to attract candidates for employment.
Small businesses must have a Facebook Business Page and a LinkedIn Company Page to build social networks and post time-sensitive information to social networks. These sites drive traffic to the website and long-lasting information that helps build a relationship with the brand of the business. Other effective social media pages for small businesses include Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Activity on these pages is largely dependent upon the products and services of the enterprise, and the activity of its employees.
Email databases are essential for all small businesses so they can stay in touch with clients, prospects, suppliers, and friends to differentiate their brand from competitors. Using email marketing campaign software, the company can send direct messages to the entire database or segment it for targeted messaging. It is no longer possible to link  with large numbers of clients at in-person trade shows, conferences, and special events. Meeting online through online seminars, webinars and general meetings is now routine. Email databases accommodate modern methods of constantly staying in touch to inform and educate about products, services, and corporate activity.
Small businesses must take every opportunity to have an online presence to enhance sales to new and repeat customers and long-term clients. Online transactions are now commonplace as opportunities for offline sales are becoming harder to find and increasingly expensive and time consuming. Websites, social media networks, and email databases are modern business essentials.

Marketing technology and knowledge of generations help consulting marketers with business development

(3 minutes) Consulting marketers in Canada are working with Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Gen Z Cyborg

Millennials. But there is a new kid on the block – IGens also known as Generation Z. GenZ is now entering the workforce. They were born between 1997 and 2012/15 with the oldest cohort aged 23. This generation is different from those who are now influencing markets, and geopolitics. It is important for brands to introduce themselves and compete for their attention and products/services needs.

There are touch points with Gen Z that are already apparent and more that have no

t yet evolved. For now, it is clear that Gen Z customer became aware of their environments through hand-held mobile devices, not television and radio. Their mobile devices are their lines of communications with peers and brands, and they are big on “cancelling” (boycotting) brands, generations and people that do not meet their interests or standards.

Generation Z is very conscious about environmental issues, health and safety and

 I expect that the COVID pandemic will leave an indelible mark on their memories as was the Cuban Missile Crisis and moon landing on Baby Boomers, 9/11 and employment hardships on Generation X, and family insecurities on Millennials.

The Internet Generation will impact small businesses like no other generation. It is embracing virtual reality, augmented reality, and technology to slow or mitigate the damage done to the environment characterized by climate change and catastrophic weather. Brands of small
 businesses would do well to understand VR, AR and what they can do to contribute to CSR (corporate social responsibility. Then small business entrepreneurs will be prepared for the next generation of customers and clients who in themselves will be the influencers of change.

OK Boomer – Reality Bites

(3 minutes)  The dynamics of any market is in continuous flux. The Western World’s Baby Boomer generation remains powerful in terms of disposable income and influence on prices and socio-economic policy, but the fact is that its power is waning, and in some markets more quickly than others. That generation will not “go gentle into that good night (Thomas 1914-53)”. As it completes it life cycle, it opens new markets and opportunities for business along the way, because it has enormous wealth and the wealth will not vanish. It will change ownership and manifest in other ways. Lexicon of Gen Z includes the dismissive phrase, “OK Boomer.” Be careful, Boomers are bent on leaving a legacy that will last longer than the life span of the youngest Gen Z and Millennial, and will extend well into the generations that follow.

Here is a partial list of the Boomer legacies that are not going away anytime soon. The markets created around these inventions and events turned out to be enormous, creating great wealth and at the same time great misery for many.


  • Safe driving
  • Ethernet and internet
  • Personal computers (Apple II)
  • Universal serial bus port
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
  • Gender equality and LGBTQIA rights
  • Environmental activism
  • Forensics for health care and criminal justice including DNA testing
  • Increase in life expectancy
  • Viagra
  • Space technology triggered by the moon missions
  • Technology generated by regional wars and arms races
  • Scanning tunneling microscope to visualize atoms
  • Jarvik 7 implantable artificial heart
  • Portable dialysis machine
  • Optical character recognition and text-to-speech technology
  • Kurzweil 250 musical synthesizer
  • Flex-foot prosthesis
  • Controlled drug release technology
  • Synthetic skin
  • CMOS active pixel image sensor for cell phones to take pictures
  • Automated external defibrillator
  • Disposable cell phone
  • Housing, storm water management, water treatment, and waste management technology

Markets benefitting from the aging Boomers are anything associated with health care and extended life including end-of-life services and products, leisure and travel, fashion, beauty products, education, communications technology, gardening and music, personal fitness, and supplying small businesses created by entrepreneurial Boomers.

When we hear or see the dismissive retort OK Boomer along with rolled eyes and a shrug, it may be directed at you. The messenger is perceiving you as narrow-minded, outdated, negatively judgmental, or condescending. If you are a Boomer and feel slighted, know that there is nothing that the messenger can do about your legacy. Reality bites.

Social Media Content Calendars for small businesses and associations
Stay away from silly posts and fake sentiments

Many people responsible for corporate communications using social media networks are tugging on the threads of responsible behaviour of many small businesses. You could say that the original sin of social media is a betrayal of sharing the experiences of something that goes on among individuals wishing to be social over the internet. As soon as the revelation occurred that such interaction could be monetized, it wasn’t long before social media networks became a marketing tool and businesses struggled to learn how to leverage social media networks for profit. Sharing experiences over the ‘net solely for fun was betrayed.

For small businesses and most small-scale professional and trade associations, the struggle to be relevant on social media is real. Shove is coming from youth, customers, and influential members to innovate, adapt and prevail with social media in a tightly contested marketplace. Managers/employers who tend to be aging Gen Xers and Boomers resist, questioning value and purpose.

One of the easiest ways to achieve buy-in from corporate management is to manage social media content with a “Social Media Content Calendar (SMCC).” For many a small business, there is no time to plan a full complement of about 20 messages over a 30 – day period. Some are unsure if they can pay the rent in 30 days. For them, an SMCC makes little sense, and the world will not stop if they post information occasionally but consistently on their social media pages and sites. Larger small enterprises may hire someone to periodically update their pages. The problem however does not end with a hire or contract. The fun runs out in about 60 or 90 days.

In the beginning it is exciting to engage with creating a calendar and thinking about content, especially if the company has the standard Facebook Business Page and LinkedIn Company Page. Many will go only with Facebook and plot a month of posts. All businesses realize that keeping content fresh on websites and social media pages reflects positively on their brand and business development tactics. The silliness and disingenuous messaging will begin; it is a matter of time.

The hire or consultant who may not come from your industry will begin grasping at straws for content. Email will fill management’s inbox for ideas for content and what is on management’s plate that can become a post in a few days or a week. When that happens, followers unfollow or hide a company’s posts and articles. Companies start “talking to the hand” without knowing it. Management will look for someone to blame. So where are we going wrong and how can we be better at using social media for marketing communications?

Look at many Facebook posts of corporates and what is the pattern? Monday Motivation; Tuesday Tip; Wednesday Wisdom; Throwback Thursday (widely used); Fun Friday (widely used). Heck, we are all using the same song sheet. Using the same song sheet is not effective for differentiating a brand or reinforcing a brand promise. The worst thing that a company can do is hammer its products and services on the noggins of people in a social media network. Social media is about being social, but the questions arise on how long will it take before Fun Friday becomes Frivolous Friday and Tuesday Tips become irrelevant Tuesday Tidbits? When do wishes of Happy Holidays and “Happy every conceivable holiday of the year” become baseless internet noise uttered by a business? Pause and ask the person(s) in charge of marketing communications, “What are you doing?”

Silence has a powerful impact in marketing communications. It can work well with small businesses when their networks are looking for a message worth reading or listening to when it arrives. An SMCC can be designed for more than one social media page and more than one audience, so messages are paced to various audiences and timed for relevant information. Information about products and services can be included in a story. Telling stories in words, images, audio/video, and virtual that include how products and services are effective and the people using them will hold the attention of followers and fans.

Most people have friends and family that share humour, entertainment, empathy, and holiday greetings. Agreed, that it is important to have a level of entertainment on corporate social media networks, but it is dangerous business if assumptions are made that all audiences share the same brand of entertainment and that they must be entertained or “educated” 5 days a week.

Social Media Content Calendars are effective marketing communications tools. Used smartly and effectively, they can work with social media networks to help reinforce a corporate brand and motivate contact that can lead to a change in mindset. It is time for many organizations to give their social media marketing communications a headshake and avoid silly posts and fake sentiments. No-one wants to talk to the hand.

Corporate bafflegab: Is anybody reading that stuff?

(3 minutes)  You don’t need to look far to find an example of corporate bafflegab. We have it on our own websites, but hopefully so little that eyes pass over it quickly and visitors find what they really want. Bafflegab is incomprehensible or pretentious language, especially bureaucratic jargon. This artform of unintentionally numbing an audience is no longer the purview of politicians and bankers. Many people claiming expertise in marketing communications have become culprits to this unnecessary violation of rational thought. Just pause for a moment and think what you are saying.

Websites have become the notorious victim of bafflegab. How many times have you read about a company executive that might read like this: …is the agile leader going forward in a deep dive with ninja-like focus to find the state-of-the art solution. Ugh! It almost sounds believable.

For reasons unknown, the About page, Team page, and Client page are notorious for using words and phrases that are guaranteed to leave doubt about being truthful. Superlatives are often tossed like a salad. The colours are there but the message is mixed. If honesty ruled, it is highly likely that a client was served well and whatever was promised was delivered. Where does privilege and honour enter the discussion of a client? Is it honestly believed that a client would perform cartwheels at the sight of such words associated with the company name? The contact person for the company may not be there and the company sold, yet the same bafflegab remains on the website. My goodness, such words almost paint a picture of something spiritual.

The success of effective corporate marketing communications lies in straight talk, not street or casual talk, but well-written language with beauty in its simplicity. Give readers a chance to quickly understand what is being communicated. Let readers visualize the core messages in rich vibrant colours. When the plain truth is needed, paint the words in black and white.

There is no need for bafflegab in marketing communications. Help is at the fingertips to access a thesaurus, and limited research is available in minutes through Google searches to find synonyms and true meanings of words being considered. There are numerous articles and lists detailing jargon and wordy phrases. Use the resources and improve communications by  avoiding bafflegab.

“Great” has become meaningless

(3 minutes) If you were to believe everything that anyone has said to you over the past day or week, let alone years, everything we do is great! According to the English language, we are all the same in actions and deeds. We have been assured by friends, family, colleagues and employers that all we do is bathed in greatness. We must all be great. I must be great; and, so must my work.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, the adjective great suggests great work is above average and of superior quality, and I am an important, distinguished and superior person.

Remarkable, perhaps the next step is divinity, immortality is assured!

Professional marketers and marketing communications specialists take much care in crafting copy that is meaningful, reflecting truth and ethics. Words matter. Why is it then that words do not matter in our everyday communications? As leaders, employers, colleagues and mentors, why have we become lazy in expressing what we really mean? If a body of work has value and is expressing creativity that has lasting value, can we not express it so? Must we relegate the value to being great? I tend to believe we have become lethargic in expressing our senses and knowledge.

And being described as a great gal or guy should be an assessment of a collective in the context of time. Mother Teresa is considered a great person: historians have recorded Alexander as great; and Richard Branson probably is a great entrepreneur. The lifetime accomplishments of most pale in comparison to history’s Greats. Occasionally, we produce valuable work that may have outstanding value, but is it great, truthfully?

Online marketing communications technology for MSMEs

(4 minutes) There is no need for owner(s) of micro and small to medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to believe that because they are small with no or limited funds for marketing, that online marketing communications technology is out of reach. There should be no obstacles in the way of an MSME to implement a marketing program for business development. In fact, any MSME that is trying to establish itself without online (or offline) marketing is doomed.

There are fundamental assumptions for a MSME to engage in online marketing. It is assumed that the enterprise has a computer, the owner/partner(s) have a working knowledge of word software, connection to the Internet, and is familiar with email.

The first hurdle to clear is to set up an email database. These can be as simple as a group archived on an email program such as MS Outlook. There are, however, free email marketing automation platforms with limited service like Mailchimp. The free accounts that include a database file for email and a few newsletter templates are good enough to start an email marketing campaign to prospects and clients. In addition, the campaign will generate basic metrics.

Client surveys are easy and free, if an MSME were to set up a SurveyMonkey account. Again, the service is limited, but with a few questions and automated analysis of the returned data, much can be learned and turned into information and then knowledge that can be used in a marketing tactic.

There are free accounts for a Facebook business site and, of course, personal accounts. Facebook can serve as a website for a micro or small business while funds are secured to build a standard business website and/or blog. LinkedIn offers free company pages and group pages, and marketing tactics options work well with an integrated online presence using Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook and LinkedIn free sites do generate metrics that when combined with data from client surveys can assist with business decisions.

WordPress offers free sites, but there is a cost for hosting services and registering a website name and URL that may impact the decision to engage in online marketing. There are other options if one were to take the time for researching the possibilities of an online presence.

With Facebook and LinkedIn, an entrepreneur can link a newsletter URL to posts and discussions, show photos and video, record and post live chats and then once posted, link posts that might appeal to prospects and clients in the next newsletter. A free Twitter account can expand the communications network of a micro or small to medium sized enterprise even further.

Marketing is competitive when played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, and being in the right place at the right time. Building networks online does not have to deplete limited resources and can be accomplished with basic equipment and skills. Marketing communications technology is available to all MSMEs who really want it.

Marketing to Boomers (1946-1964)

Demographics and Mind Games

(3 minutes) Consulting marketers often take the path of experience and preference when developing creative design, tactics and strategy. They may default to opinions and recommendations that once worked well, and expected to work again given similar circumstances, or experience with a past client. Business environments change and so do audiences. Perhaps an industry once dominated by Baby Boomer owners and senior managers has shifted to ownership and management of Generation X. There is a high likelihood that promotions that once worked well, will not resonate a second time.

Because Generation X is quickly moving into voids left by retiring and passing Boomers, marketing to the Baby Boomer Generation is being overlooked in favour of Generations X and Y. Boomers are still influencers in business and the consumer marketplace. The challenge is how to penetrate markets frequented by Boomers and effect sales of products and services. This is not easy and a complex process of mind association and making sense of what “the numbers” can tell the marketer.

To take personal/team subjectivity and emotional reaction out of marketing assignments, marketers must first undertake research that will generate statistical data that can be transcribed into information, then knowledge – and if the research is good enough – an element of wisdom. In the case of working with a Boomer target audience, a first level of data collection might be local demographics to determine the size of the target audience, its level of disposable income and capability to purchase a service or product. A very basic study of the Town of Halton Hills in Ontario suggests that Boomers are now aged 72 to 54. In a 2011 population of 59,000, there were approximately 10,500 Boomers or 18% of the population (1/5 people). In 2010, one in ten non-family seniors lived in low income, suggesting that there were approximately 9,000 Boomers with disposable income. Now the marketer is on her/his way to craft a marketing strategy and series of tactics. But there is much more to do, like answering where are they (geographic nodes); what are they buying (products/services); where do they buy (place); how much do they spend on a specific purchase (price); and what attracts them to make a purchase (promotion)?

One way of understanding these questions is to understand what it is that would trigger an emotional appeal that would connect to a product or service offering. A beginning might be to understand life-defining events that would trigger an emotion through a memory that only a Boomer could have. These would include such memories as parent/grandparent stories of the Great Depression and WWII; the Suez crisis; the Cold War and Cuba Missile Crisis; the JFK assassination; the Vietnam War; Expo 67; the young Pierre Trudeau years; FLQ crisis; rock’n roll (Elvis and the Beatles); civil rights; and recession of early 1980s with 18/20% mortgage rates. All of these trigger some level of latent emotion in Boomers. The challenge is how to harness emotions to build a trusting relationship prior to effecting a sale.

And there is the goal of the Boomer Generation that the marketer must not forget. The Boomer Generation wants to leave their stamp on things. They want to be remembered.  

Be careful with SOCMED marketing tactics – audiences have expiration dates and comprise four generations

(4 minutes) A trap that many marketers and owners of small businesses can fall into is ignoring the life cycle of generations X, Y and Boomers and the entry of the igen into the marketplace. As people age, among many other things, they tend to carry comfort items with them, including relationships, ways to communicate, habits, opinions, and the vernacular of their generation. Gauging the wants and needs of individuals as they move through careers and life cycle, and how they receive and store information that will trigger a decision are modern challenges for marketers. Marketers are foolish if they think that a single strategy and handful of tactics will generate significant results on social media.

By 2020, it is expected that approximately 70% of all humans will own a smartphone.

Generation X spends more time on social media than Gen Y, and Gen X has a very high rate of brand loyalty. To many people, mobile devices are now integrated into life styles, family networks and business practices.

Gen Y tends to ignore advertising in magazines or on television and expects to be able to seamlessly move across digital channels. That means live chat on websites, Facebook Messenger, Tweets, GIfs and video, and click-to-message options on digital ads to provide a consistent experience. It is already “old school” thinking to believe that keeping a social media fresh with weekly posts of products and applications will be enough to generate interest in an organization. Offline and online communications must be integrated to accommodate seamless movement across digital channels. And, if you think that is going to be challenging, consider the technology that is being introduced to connect groups of organizations on social media platforms to integrate communications worldwide.

Marketers must be tech savvy and CEOs/owners, managers, all senior executives must embrace communications technology and understand how it works to lead their organizations into new markets and to grab market share in mature markets. Marketing is a contact sport and needs a strong team to score big wins in the marketplace.

Most organizations managed by Boomers and Gen Xers have probably overlooked the next wave entering the marketplace and how they receive messaging at the junior level in their careers. Enter the igen, or frivolously referenced as Gen Z. This generation is forming its values and life markers in the virtual world. Consider these characteristics and how to plan a communications strategy and tactics to trigger a decision. They tend to be blended in race and gender, tech innate, communicate through images, and have a collective consciousness. Born after 1996, igens are graduating from high school/college and entering the workplace.

Audiences on social media have expiration dates and they are not homogeneous. A big mistake is being made if you believe a calendar of posts will be enough to grow a presence on social media. Technology must be employed to engage four different generations in the workforce. Complacency with social media strategy and tactics will doom a business’s socmed communications.

Girls and boys seeking more than a job should consider land surveying in Ontario for a career

By Grant Lee, Chartered Professional Marketer (CIMMO)
AGL Marketing Limited
Associate Member, Association of Ontario Land Surveyors

One of Canada’s oldest professions is also one of Canada’s most exciting careers awaiting graduates of applied science and technical programs of universities and colleges. Girls and boys in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning paths may find that land surveying is the purpose in life that they are seeking.

Surveying combines knowledge of math, geography, history, computers, science, planning and law. And when girls and boys achieve competency in these fields of interest, opportunities open that are incredible. On one day, a land surveyor could be working in an office environment discussing land-related issues with engineers and other professionals. The next day, the surveyor could be on site in work boots and a hard hat supervising a crew on a major project in the same community where the office is located or hours away by air travel.

Surveyors are engaged in building the infrastructure of the future that includes superhighways, underwater tunnels, massive skyscrapers, residential subdivisions, and just about every other project involving the measurement of land. In addition, surveyors assist researchers, police services and many more professions in mapping and preparing reports. Equipment and software used for data collection and mapping is used to generate a wide range of professional opinions from traditional plans of survey to 3-D and virtual experiences. Surveyors explore and map uncharted places, like the ocean floor or moon’s surface.

The services of land surveyors are in demand in all countries, and they work in a variety of environments and cultures, in Canada and abroad. They are often stationed in places where few others get to travel.

What can a land surveyor expect?  Surveyors settle boundary disputes between neighbours by finding evidence to prove who owns the land. GPS, aerial photos, maps, old deeds, and plans are used to determine the boundary. Lawyers and landowners settle their disputes based on the professional opinion of the professional land surveyor. The professional opinions of land surveyors are used in court as expert testimony to make decisions that impact businesses and land owners.

Another work example may be construction of a major 120km gas line to transport fuel to new markets. Using satellites and computer software, surveyors make sure that the gas line is built exactly on the planned alignment.

A land surveyor may be engaged in a project where a prominent developer is building a new shopping mall in an empty field. The surveyor determines exactly where the foundations will go and ensures that structures are positioned correctly during construction.

The Canadian Government may need a record of the polar ice caps to make ocean travel safe. Land surveyors may work from a plane or boat to measure the changes and chart the ice movements to assist shipping of all sorts.

And what can a newly-minted land surveyor expect to earn? Since licenced land surveyors have a rare and highly respected skill, $60,000 to $140,000 or more per year can be expected, and if a young entrepreneur who is a licensed surveyor starts a business with a land surveying as the core service, earning potential is unlimited.

Shopping for cabbages and peddling golf balls

An engineer once told me that he didn’t like marketing because the word reminded him of going shopping for cabbages. I guess he didn’t like cabbages.

The same engineer was respected in his community for the work his office did. Like many other post-war small business entrepreneurs, he had to compete for new work as he completed the work he had. He knew that his next project depended on how well his office performed on existing assignments. The scope of work and fees for service were negotiated when it was his turn to get an assignment. Sounds like an ideal situation for an entrepreneur. This was the way clients once approached professional businesses for services.

The “new economy” of 1998 promised exciting times for many small businesses. Inadequate funding of projects, low bidding between professionals to get work, and keeping skilled staff and offices functioning with fast changing technologies were not easy challenges to meet. Founding principals, with large share holdings in firms with declining revenues and profits, took the decision to retire while their firms faced these challenges. This sometimes resulted in strained cash resources for normal operations, after large share purchases by the firms. And don’t forget the baby boomers, moving into the professions, opening new businesses and competing for fewer dollars and fewer clients with shovel-ready projects. Throughout all of this, a major recession struck hard at Canadians.

So, what’s this got to do cabbages and professional services? And where do golf balls enter into the picture? Survival, that’s what. Just as the noble cabbage has nourished humankind throughout four millennia, carefully planned marketing will carry professional service businesses through this time of transition to a new knowledge-driven economy.

As with business, the cabbage has short – and long-term aspirations. It forms cabbage heads one year, and flowers the next. Left unharvested, the cabbage will bolt into and extended flowering stalk the second year. Some can be harvested for immediate nutrition, but some must be left to provide seed for future plantings. Like small businesses, the cabbage should be grown in fertile ground and tended with care.

Golf became a booming industry, supported by merchandising and high profile promotion, new golf course development, and the boomers and their offspring (Gen X) who raised the sport to one of high social esteem. Golf holds lessons to be learned by young entrepreneurs. Looking back over forty years at the success of a little boy selling golf balls in a growth market in the book Cabbages and Golf Balls, helps illustrate the techniques to successfully market a small professional business.

Marketing now is considered by many businesses to be as important as the very technology, or service that defines the operation. The shopping trip to the marketplace might seem to be a regular visit to sell quality cabbages.

If we think cabbages and golf balls, marketing can be fun, and definitely rewarding. Marketing generates new business, and reminds clients of past performance. Marketing is as enjoyable as the sweetest cabbage recipe. Cabbages and Golf Balls, is a philosophy of effective marketing techniques for small professional business when the Internet was in its infancy, there were no smart phones, and  social media was in the minds of very few. The book makes no attempt to define “small,” because the term is relative to the economy and region within which businesses are operating. 

The book makes the reader think about cabbages and golf balls when someone mentions marketing. By the way, in the late eighties, both the old engineer and his office passed painfully into history. To the very end, the engineer disliked cabbage. But, he did leave lessons to be learned.