11 Things To Do in Your 40’s

I posted this on LInkedIn last month. Surprised by the response, so I thought I’d share it here.

One day you wake up and you’re 50. You’re the old guy you used make fun of because of his lack of fashion sense, various hair issues/challenges, and “dad bod” …before it became cool. What you may have lost in physical prowess you can more than make up with life experiences (the reason I’m given 11 not 10 tips, old guys can do that). Now that I’m that “guy,” here’s a list of the things I wish someone would of told me when I was in my 40’s. I’m no expert, just the guy with the dad bod who has learned some important lessons after the fact.

  1. Focus on your fitness – fat and happy, you betcha! Men, the years of feeling like you have to eat what’s left over on the kid’s plate are over. Your job, lifestyle, and offspring have helped you pack on an extra 10-20 pounds (or more) over the last decade. Hit the gym, or the road with your feet or bike. Ladies, it’s time to put the focus back on you. You gave your time, energy and focus to the little ones, but now they’re in school…reserve some time for yourself. Head to the gym, outdoors or both.
  2. Reconnect with your significant other – kids can suck the energy out of a relationship, and as good parents, you’re willing let them. You went from “us” to “them” in a flash; make an effort to bring sexy back. Put some intimacy back in the relationship by finding time to reignite the flames that drew you together. Yes, the kids will get in the way, but that can be exciting, find ways to sneak in your “special time.” Think back to your teenage days when Mom and Dad were upstairs.
  3. Be who you are – Men, you know who you are now so it’s time to accept it. Embrace your “suckiness” be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Ladies – we love you for who you are, and not who you think we want you to be. Be comfortable in your skin, it’s a turn on.
  4. Be completely honest – you’re a grown ass man/woman now, if you have bad news to deliver don’t sugar coat it, get to it. In business, stop telling clients what you thing they want to hear, and tell them the truth. By this point, you’re established in your career and should have the confidence to stop caring about how others feel about you. You might just find that they like you better when you’re giving it to them straight. This is the same on the home front, stop BS’ing and get to the point. It may get uncomfortable, but you’re old enough to handle it the truth.
  5. Grow something – it’s time to work the soil. Get out in the yard and put down roots. Use the same nurturing instinct that you’ve developed to bear fruit, literally. Try eating something that you grow everyday in the summer. The satisfaction you’ll feel is well worth the fights you have with deer, chipmunks, and bugs of every variety.
  6. See the world – spend your money on travel, and not “things.” There is a diaper load of research that proves the pleasure and satisfaction you’ll get out of travel trumps that of physical things, and it grows in value over the years. Expose your children to the world. You’ll plant the seeds of discovery and exploration that will grow as they do.
  7. Eat dinner together as a family – teach your children how to cook, and the art of the conversation. They will understand the value of togetherness, if you make the time. Explore new food, cuisines and culture. If they only want to eat pizza and chicken nuggets – it’s not just because they like it, it’s because you let them.
  8. Plan for college now! – even though they may still be in diapers they grow up extremely fast, but not as fast as the cost of tuition. Save now, and plan on saving more than you ever expected. College comes quickly and it doesn’t come cheap.
  9. Live beneath your means – the thirties to mid-forties you are typically the “golden years” of income acceleration. As you climb the career ladder, the number of high paying jobs gets smaller, and the pool of available candidates grows. Keep the pace of spending below the pay percentage increase. As your children get older, they become more expensive…travel sports, camps, private schools, etc. Save, save, save…
  10. Stay connected – you had college friends, single friends, couple friends, and now friends with kids. Each phase of your life brings with it new friends and a struggle to keep connected with the old ones. Making things more complicated, your work and family schedules will never be busier which means keeping in touch even with family members will be a challenge. You’ve been warned, social media is a nice surrogate, but it’s not a substitute for a phone call…as your Mom will tell you.
  11. Teach your child to sell – it could be Girl Scout cookies, a raffle for school or a donation for the fun run, kids need to know that Mom and Dad aren’t going to do everything for them. It helps them learn self-confidence, determination and that rejection is a part of life. Don’t shelter them from hearing “no” it’s an important opportunity to teach them resilience

I’d love to hear what you would add, especially any advice for a guy with hair issues on what to do when he hits the 50’s.

Why We Are Ripe For AI

It’s coming, the “futurists” are saying that the hype about Artificial Intelligence is real. The reason according to Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu, is that AI is no long a “magical thing” but is now creating real value for companies, like Google and Baidu. Companies are now finding “pockets of opportunity” to invest in AI. But there is also something else at play that is also making the timing right for AI.

Americans are now living in highly polarized political environment. We’ve seen it play out in TV commercials, “resistance movements,” and daily news coverage.

At the same time, researchers have recently shown that it’s more than a person’s mindset that determines their political beliefs; it’s their actual mind itself. More specifically, the physical structure of the brain of those people on the ”right” and the “left” are different, and it impacts how information is interpreted, decision are made and how you see the world.

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People who describe themselves as “liberals” tend to have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, the area that is responsible for taking in new information and that impact of the new information on decision-making. Meanwhile, “conservatives” tend to have a larger right amygdala being a deeper brain structure that processes more emotional information, in particular, fear-based information.

As a result, the adult world is made up of, to a certain degree, two hard-wired types of people, who see and interpret the world differently. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center there has been a dramatic political polarization of Americans over the last 20 years (see the graph below).

Put it all together and you have a perfect scenario for AI machine learning. Machines look for consistency in patterns to make predictions, and apparently we have become more predictable than ever before. Using psychographic segmentation along with online research tools, machines can more accurate and effective target and message to unique audience segments.

Our minds are already predisposed to interpret information differently. Layer on that our opinions and beliefs are becoming more distinctly aligned with other like individuals and you’re seeing the “middle” is disappear.

These distinct groups also use unique channels for information and communication that reinforce their beliefs and opinions, making it easier to find and message to them. In the end, the target, channel and message are all becoming increasingly more defined as a result.

While polarization is making it more difficult for one group to understand the other, it is making humans a lot easier for machines to understand.

CEB Challenger Marketing Webcast – March 8th

Last September, Pat Spenner, co-author of The Challenger Customer and I presented a webcast entitled Lessons from the Challenger Marketing Trenches. During the webcast Pat and I shared our key learnings on executing Challenger across a multitude of marketing activities: customer understanding, marketing messaging, content strategy development, content and sales tool production, and lead generation.

On March 8th at 11 am (EST) Jessica Cash and I will be presenting Using B2B Content to Drive Alignment & Accountability, details on the event and registration below.

Overview: With increased budgets comes increased calls for accountability. Today’s top marketers are using Commercial Insight, personal value, and help from peers to craft content strategies that result in more than just customer engagement. Learn best practices and ways to avoid common pitfalls that often leave marketers struggling to improve lead quality.

Join Jessica Cash, Head of Sales and Marketing Solutions Product Development at CEB, and Scott Gillum, President of gyro in Washington, D.C. as they answer questions, such as:

  • How can marketers avoid always defining their business solely from the legacy perspective?
  • How does redefining themselves allow for better alignment with customers?
  • How can value drive customer action?

Jessica and Scott will be holding up the mirror in order to show how CEB is applying these best practices and principles in their own marketing efforts, so come ready with questions!

When: Wednesday, March 8 at 11 am (EST)

Click here to register

A Breakdown of the Strategy Behind Bud’s Controversial Super Bowl Ad

We are emotional creatures living in a highly emotional world as recent events have shown. It’s a time when people often act, or react first without having any, or all, of the facts. And the media may (or may not) be reading more into things than are actually there.

Take for example, Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” Super Bowl ad. It tells the story of Adolphus Busch’s journey from Germany. The ad, released last Tuesday hit the air at the height of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s travel ban. The 60-second ad starts with a shot of Busch and a voice in the distance saying “You don’t look like you’re from around here.” Whether it’s intentional or not, the immigration themed ad struck a cord with many.

Although Anheuser-Busch InBev denies any political connections, others have used it as rallying cry. As an ad, it ‘s well done and hits many of the important elements of quality advertising. It’s an authentic (despite being somewhat fictionalized) story of the American success story told through the founder’s journey to St. Louis as a German immigrant.

The challenge is that it may not connect with its audience. More bluntly, it may have pissed off a lot of Bud drinkers. Here’s what the agency strategists and A-B InBev may have missed during the creative concept process.

Overlay the map below with 2016 Presidential election results map (by country) above and you will see that of the 13 states where Bud Light is the most popular beer, Trump won 9, and of the remaining four, Trump won the rural vote. In fact, the profile of a Bud drinker is almost identical to a Trump voter.

The risk for Budweiser, in its desire to reach and connect with Millennials (77% drink something other than Bud), is that they may have alienated and/or offended traditional Bud drinkers. The day before the Super Bowl saw a ground swell loyalists threatening to #boycottbudwiser (yes, spelled incorrectly). The hashtag trended the night of the Super Bowl and the following day after. Once corrected, the hashtag became a lightening rod for comments both supportive and critical of the theme. Bud fans seemingly upset at what they see as Budweiser making a political statement.

It’s a classic big company conundrum. In order to ensure growth, Bud had to swift its messaging towards a younger audience at the risk of alienating its loyal customer base. The question for Budweiser now is did the ad do its job. It was voted as one of the “Winners” of the evening but did it convert non-Bud drinkers? And in this highly competitive marketplace, will the ad be effective in bringing new younger buyers to the brand at a rate to cover the loss of consumers who may be switching their allegiance because of their outrage over its political overtone?

The takeaway for agencies: We now have to consider the potential for ads to be “hijacked” by a political controversy. As a result of the polarization of America, agencies and companies may know have to consider how their audience voted (see the campaign map) when crafted campaigns. The other insight is that we may have found a new way to use emotions to trigger action, for better…or worse.

10 Tips for Fixing Your Conversion Problem — Permantly

The organization has a short-term ‘sales culture’ so almost everything marketing does is oriented to creating a lead. You know that there are larger system/infrastructure issues that are impacting performance but you can’t anyone to invest/focus on them. You’re on a trend mill running as fast as you can, but going nowhere.

It’s a nightmare thousand of marketers are living everyday, so let’s get to fixing this issue, permanently. The problem, at its core, is money. Yes, resources and time are also issue but the bigger challenge is that you have is a budget loaded with program dollars intended to be spent on media, events and other lead generating activities. Unfortunately, little are earmarked to fix the web infrastructure, navigation and content issues that are keeping leads from converting. You have a system problem, without system dollars to fix it.

Step one in the process is to get a capex budget. Just like the one used to build the corporate website. And get a big one, depending on size of the website you’ll need at least $500K, and perhaps over $1M, to build a “system” that will improve conversion rates. Here’s how you’re going to spend it.

  1. Assessing Search – does the organization know what it wants to be known for (what topics, products, solutions) and how audiences search for those items? If not, pull together a top 10 list and get to work finding out. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz Open Site Explorer and Moz Keyword Explorer to gauge popularity and set priorities from your existing website.
  2. Increasing SEM spend – after assessing your top 10 priorities you’ll most likely find you need to increase your spend to improve your position. Determine how much, and for how long.
  3. Inventorying & Assessing Content – while your marketing dollars are working to help audience find you, the next step is to help visitors find the information they are looking for quickly. Assess the content on the following criteria: relevance (is it current, audience aligned, and insightful), accessibility (clicks and public view), and scanablity (ease of assessing key points)
  4. Evaluating Readability – time to take a hard look at the content you’re producing. Is it written in the audience language or your engineers? Is it compelling, will it engage audiences. Use tools like Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease and the Gunning Fog Index to help score content.
  5. Modifying Content – this could be painful. Try to leverage existing material. If you have videos, carve them up into 2 minute or less “snackable” insights. Long form content like white papers, etc., do the same. Chunk content into smaller more digestible bits. Next, create templates and guidelines for producers to follow so they know the type of content that will work best for marketing needs.
  6. Investing in UX – find out how visitors really navigate your site. You may be shocked by their lack of sophistication, and patience. Use tools like Validately to help assess users experience with your web properties.
  7. Optimization Everything – create pilot pages based on the UX findings and watch how visitors navigate and consume content. Use tools like Hot Jar to help track visitor clicks. Set performance metrics for bounce rates, time on page and conversion rates. Performance optimization is an ongoing effort so become comfortable with constant experimentation.
  8. Training Everyone – to produce the right content, invest the time and resources to train on how to use the new templates — product marketers on how to produce audience focused content, marketing folks on how to write ad copy that’s compelling, etc. Use insights gathered in steps 5 and 7 to convince folks to get onboard.
  9. Hiring an advisor – if this sounds like a lot of work, it is. If you don’t have the staff, the time, or the desire to take it on get someone to help you. You have a day job producing leads so put someone else on a parallel path of improving the process and performance. Chunk up the work plan mentioned above into quarters, align it to the marketing and the organizations priorities and set reasonable expectation on making progress.

Inbound marketing, content marketing, digital marketing, whatever you want to call it is not a marketing “tactic,” it is an ecosystem built from the outside in and requires a system thinking approach. The steps above will help you pinpoint issues within the system. “Digitalizing” an organization starts with audience facing sites so try to align this effort with any organizational effort related to digital transformation.

Getting the funding, use data points to prove the value of building a robust inbound lead generation capability. According to CEB, 71% of buyers start their purchase journey on the web. Build a market visibility index using your pipeline/waterfall metrics and market share. Reverse the numbers and find out what percent of the total opportunities available are in your pipeline. If you need more benchmarks, download Hubspot latest report on inbound marketing.

Need a case study? The process I just describe was implemented at a client this year. The results of the investment and effort have produced a 95% increased in MQL’s and an improvement in conversion rates by 65%. Inbound is now the top lead source in volume and performance. This organization has a hardcore outbound sales culture…which now, believes in the power of inbound marketing.