I've written before about MindShare, the group that fosters entrepreneurship by providing a CEO-classroom-like setting to regional CEOs that are building the next generation of companies.
I try to make every class, but I missed the October meeting, which I understand was lively and informative and on the topic of marketing. Right up our alley! But I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the moderator of the marketing panel, Kristi Hedges, Managing Partner at Element North and founder and principal of The Hedges Company. She also happens to be my co-founder and former partner at SpeakerBox Communications, where we worked together for nine years before she spun off her own executive coaching business.
She moderated a panel that included MindShare alums Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy Labs, Michele Perry, VP of Marketing and Strategy at Orchestro and principal at MBP Strategies, LLC, and Kevin Alansky, Chief Marketing Officer at SocialRadar.
Michele Perry, Peter Corbett and Kevin Alansky speak to MindShare on the topic of marketing
Kristi graciously allowed me to interview her on her key takeaways on the session, and lessons learned. Some of the highlights:
- On content: Be creative with your content and take chances! But take them strategically. Each speaker provided examples of situations where a great piece of content could catch fire, but not necessarily drive a business outcome for the company. That being said, some of the best pieces of content (videos, webinars, infographics, white papers, blog posts, for example) were the ones that caught fire and might have been considered risky for the company. Content should take a stand in the industry, and be sure to "stand out."
- On digital strategy: digitial strategy does not define your brand, but rather, the digital strategy should defend the brand. And one should think twice about initiating a digital strategy unless your brand is really clear, current and correct.
- On hiring an agency: it's too early to outsource marketing/PR/digital strategy until you have a defendable brand that represents who you are, your values, etc. Make sure you don't point people to your site, your brand, to you, until you know you are ready to let them see who you really are, and you are represented digitally in that light.
- On hiring resources in the company: at an early stage, talent may be hard to find, and finding the right person is not easy. The wrong hires are expensive. More importantly, you will need different talent in your organization at different times, so be creative about when and how you find talent. This is where MindShare can com in: use the listserv to inquire about freelancers, agencies, and then FTEs when the time is right. And enable your marketing team to evolve when and if it's the right time. The person with whom you start out with may not be the same person you'll need in two years.
Then I saw that Peter Corbett posted on the alumni listserv that several questions came up about how to find the right agency, including issuing RFPs. He wrote a thoughtful blog post on the very topic that could help you get started. My observation, however, shared with Peter, is that many agencies, especially the ones that are selective about their clients, may not respond to RFPs, and thus, you may find yourself cutting out the one agency that might be the right one!
MindShare held their November meeting last night on executing an effective exit strategy, which I will recap for everyone next week. The panelists were MindShare alums who had sold their companies and various stages, and it was a fascinating conversation! Now that the 2013 MindShare classes are over, we get to look forward to the Graduation Ceremony in December where the current class will receive their plaques for completion, and will get to mingle with other alums.
in December we start the nomination process of hand-picking up-and-coming CEOs who will make up the 2014 class, so if you are interested, or know of a CEO who might be intrigued to learn more, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. It has been a great year for me, SpeakerBox and MindShare, and I'm very proud to be a part of this growing organization!
-Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea @speakerbox
Anyone who has worked in the enterprise technology space has had this happen to them: You kick off with a new client, say a data center automation company. Everything is going smoothly between the two teams, but then the VP of Marketing, the VP of Sales or the even the CEO breezes into the room, smartphone in hand, for a quick check-in with the new vendor team.
He/she sits down, and the first thing out of their mouth is: “So, when can you get us in [insert consumer technology blog/publication here]?”
An awkward silence fills the room, the client team looks shamefully at their feet, and your PR team has to try and explain something that comes up all too often: Enterprise technology and consumer technology public relations are alike in name only.
It seems obvious enough, but the key differences between the public relations practices driving enterprise and consumer technology campaigns can be lost on those not familiar with either process. Rather than scream at the ignorant lump (don't ever use that term) who just smeared verbal excrement (or this one) over your carefully crafted meeting, here are a few handy questions to quickly defuse the enterprise vs. consumer PR debate (that I have actually used):
Who Are Your Buyers?
This is the first question that is often used to help differentiate the consumer and enterprise technology spaces: who is actually buying a company's technology, either illustrated by anecdotes or buyer personas? This puts the enterprise and consumer worlds in much sharper focus – CIOs and network engineers are a far different category than gadget-mongers and tech-savvy, stay-at-home moms.
Is Your Price Point Relevant for the Consumer Market?
If the first question wasn't a wake up call, this one should shake some reality into the room. Consumer technologies are typically at a far, far lower price point than enterprise solutions – we're talking exponentially. Most enterprise-class systems will, to a degree, cost more than the average car.
Where Do You Want to Be a Leader?
Finally, the last question should center on where the dissenter wants their company to be a leader. Sure, it'd be sexy to be on the front page of Mashable or above the fold on USA Today. But would that drive more leads than a feature in InformationWeek or Network World for their enterprise product? Does being read by millions of uninterested consumers mean more to them than getting a poignant message in front of an audience of key buyers only?
The consumer/enterprise debate comes up far more than it should – to be honest, many technology blogs and publications stand in both arenas. Outlets like Wired and Mashable cover enterprise and consumer technology interchangeably, but at the end of the day, common sense needs to rule:
Should hundreds of thousands of dollars be spent on a vanity project? Or should that money go towards actually driving sales?
Once money enters the picture, the debate should settle itself.
Tuesday night marked the beginning of MindShare's 17th year, and we held the annual kickoff meeting at the Verizon Center, with a special pre-Wizards game reception with Ted Leonsis. I felt honored as a newly inducted board member, and I'm excited to be involved.
Ok, before I get started...here is the press release on new members, also highlighting the board members that support the program each year.
And, just because we love the media..thank you Allyson Jacob of ElevationDC, for showing up, leaving your kids with your husband, so you could file this article....and to Tania Anderson of Bisnow for also highlighting the evening in this article. As I met with some of the incoming class, there was a lot of buzz as to what this "MindShare" concept is all about. I heard some folks compare it to a super-secret-handshake club, and some felt like they were "rushing" a fraternity or sorority as they worked the room. One CEO likened it to "CEO school," and he was excited about that, actually, a humble statement for a man, but one who recognizes the value in the learning experience.
So, I asked co-chair and co-founder of the organization April Young, what the organization looks for...
"We look people whose dreams are close enough to reality that they might become companies, and who have something that is loosely called a ‘product' rather than a service. I love the ‘CEO school' comment – I usually describe it as a kind of YPO, except you don’t have to be young, and you do not have to be CEO or founder."
She adds that you need to be a CEO of a company with proprietary technology or be internet focused.
Since I run a services business, I've never been a candidate for MindShare, so I've always kinda watched from the outside. This year I'll be able to participate on the organizing committee, and be able to see even more what it's all about. I can't wait…
I heard many people say what an honor it was to be not only nominated for inclusion, but then accepted and invited into the incoming class.
Everyone was hand-picked to be there, and yet the criteria for being involved is really no more than "be a first-time CEO for an emerging product company who wants to build a scalable company, and will take advantage of the powerful ecosystem that MindShare has to offer." There are (of course), hundreds of CEOs who fit that description in this region, and yet only 60 get in each year.
The intent of MindShare was never to be exclusive, per se, and it has operated in relative stealth mode since it was founded in 1997 by a group of industry visionaries. But it's become exclusive, and that's what makes it powerful. The members there last night saw the value in so many CEOs being together in the same place, with often times, similar issues that might keep them up at night: how to patent-protect your technology, how to raise money, how to build a strong management team, how to scale, how to build a business model that is ahead of its time, etc.
Members also got to rub shoulders with the some key "players" in this market. Gaining access to some of the most influential people in this ecosystem--Mike Lincoln, April Young, Harry Glazer, Gene Reichers, Steve Balisteri (the co-chairs, founders and executive committee members)--can often time take years without a channel like MindShare.
(Photo Courtesy of Anne Lord Photography): Pictured: Board Members Mark Esposito, April Young, Ted Leonsis, Mike Lincoln and Steve Balistreri)
Here's how the model works: CEOs are nominated by other CEO groups, past alumni, board members, and the like. Some self-nominate. The board meets several times to research and identify who will be a part of the incoming class. Invitations are extended and members accept or decline. The expectation is that each year, the class members will show up, engage, and then hopefully "graduate" at year's end.
MindShare holds 8-10 "classes" each year which deal with topics such as the ones outlined above. Experts are brought in to teach and educate in an informal manner, and the members are able to network with their peers before and after. The camaraderie that is developed is invaluable.
Assuming a member's attendance record is strong (they keep track!), he or she will "graduate." Then they become a part of the powerful alumni organization, where it all comes together: they are now part of a 660+ strong group of some of the most powerful leaders and technology CEOs in the region. To make my case, past graduates of MindShare include some household names in this region's technology sector:
- Joe Payne of Eloqua (2012 IPO and acquired by Oracle for $871M);
- Tim O’Shaughnessy of LivingSocial (raised over $180M in 2010);
- Reggie Aggarwal of Cvent (raised $136M in one of the largest Series A rounds on record in 2011);
- Rick Rudman of Vocus (2005 IPO);
- Hemant Kanakia of Torrent Networking Technologies (acquired by Ericsson for $450M);
- Phillip Merrick of webMethods (the most successful first day software IPO ever).
I know I speak for the other committee and board members when I say that MindShare just gets better every year. I've already had the chance to hear Ted Leonsis speak in a private setting, and that sets the bar. I have my pencil sharpened and I'm ready to go to class…here's to the 17th year of MindShare!
-- Elizabeth Shea @eliz2shea
Our inbound marketing webinar is just four days away,
I'm toiling on the content so we'll have smart things to say.
I'm joined by my fun colleagues, Matt Howard and D.P.,
Who will have a lot more to add than just little ol' me.
What's inbound marketing, you ask? Oh geez, oh no!
It's the way to attract customers these days…say it isn't so.
Give them something valuable, something they can use,
To make their job easier, walk a mile in their shoes.
My friends D.P. and Matt are pretty funny guys,
You'll enjoy the conversation, thinking: "my how the time flies!"
Matt says inbound marketing is like going to the gym,
It's a consistent level of effort, it can't be just a whim.
D.P.'s company is ten years old, and it's really hit its stride,
He's getting to the next level with inbound marketing at his side.
Below are some great links we've found to get you in the mood:
Think of Inbound Marketing as a "New Attitude."
So come join us now on Wednesday, we'll give it all we've got,
To make sure you walk away with something really, really hot!
Thank you, I'm here all week.
--Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea
Register for the webinar if you'd like to come:
Wednesday, August 29th, 2:00 pm Eastern Time
D.P. Venkatesh, Founder and CEO, mPortal
Matt Howard, Co-founder and CEO, ZoomSafer
Elizabeth Shea, CEO, SpeakerBox Communications
Resources I enjoyed reading (feel free to add your own!):
72 Fascinating Social Media Facts and Statistics for 2012: By Tom Pick, Business2Community, July 23, 2012.
The Most Important Customer Review of HubSpot You'll Ever Read: By Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion.
Generate More Leads with B2B Social Media: By Jeffrey Cohen, Social Media B2B, March 29, 2012.
Conferences I found centered on Inbound Marketing Strategies (please add your own!):
Content Marketing World 2012 (Cleveland): Sep. 4-5-6
Inbound 2012 (Boston): Aug. 27-30
Inbound Marketing Summit (Boston): Oct. 23-24
Inbound Marketing Summit (New York): Feb 2013
Online Marketing Summit (Santa Clara): Oct 22-25
We like to turn the camera around, so to speak, from time to time and conduct our own interviews with the movers, shakers and influencers in our community.
This Ask the Influencers interview is with Glen Hellman, a notable force in the DC community as well as on a national stage supporting entrepreneurism. He was recently profiled in the Washington Business Journal in Bill Flook's column (requires subscription) with the title: Mr. Cranky: Glen Hellman
SBX: You are an entrepreneur, an executive coach, an angel investor, and a vocal contributor in the DC tech scene. What drives you every day? What do you enjoy the most?
HELLMAN: I love what I do because it has a purpose. I’m an advocate of entrepreneurs, I’m an advocate of DC, and I love real life puzzles or problem solving. Every day I have a new challenge and whether it’s with a client, a portfolio company, or volunteer work, I get to solve puzzles that help entrepreneurs build a better DC business ecosystem.
There’s a Vistage Chair I’ve met, Pat Hyndman. He’s been doing this for 50 years. He’s in his 90s and his mind is a quick, sharp and facile as any 40 year old. That’s because our minds are a muscle and Pat has been giving his mind a strenuous mental work out every time he meets with a client. I’d love to be able to be like Pat Hyndman when I’m 90. I’d love to look back at 50 years of helping great CEOs be better CEOs while keeping myself in the game.
I can’t think of anything else I could do that has this much pay back.
SBX: What do you see for the just-starting out entrepreneur in today's world? Any advice you can share?
HELLMAN: It’s Okay to be smart. It’s not okay to think you have all the answers. Always get opinions, always continue to learn. read, debate, seek peer advice and then don’t get paralyzed by all the different inputs. Use the inputs, be decisive and move forward.
SBX: You believe DC can make its own mark in the technology scene, and that we should be blazing our own trail. How do you think we can do that?
HELLMAN: I think we would be best served if we took advantage of our strengths. We’re a data enriched town…… focus on Big Data. We have some momentum in education technology which is getting big, and healthcare/biotech. Focus on the few industries where we have a competitive advantage and dense centers of excellence.
Let New York focus on Media, and Financial Apps, they have the Subject Matter Experts and Density to do that. Let’s not try to be all things to all people. Let’s not try to take on Silicon Valley on all fronts. Let’s pick a few sectors where we have an advantage and then let’s build up the density and mass required to be excellent.
SBX: You have many opinions on what makes a company great, or "AMAZING" as noted in this blog post. Are there companies locally you've seen be just AMAZING?
HELLMAN: You know there are many of them. That blog just flowed. When I get riled up or passionate about something, I can knock out a blog in 20 minutes. This was a blog with two inspirations. The first one was Dan Berger, CEO of Social Tables. Dan is a brilliant guy. Passionate, knowledgeable, strategic, like most good CEOs. What makes Dan a great CEO is that he’s also a bulldog. He’ll do the ugly stuff, the heavy lifting. He doesn’t understand the word no and he’s not afraid to hear no. It’s like no, is a good thing because it gets him 3 or 4 nos away from a yes.
On the other side, there are a few folks who I’d rather not expose that drive me nuts. They’re all about the trappings of being an entrepreneur and a CEO but unlike Dan, you won’t see them shoveling poop.
-- Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea
What are you doing on March 7th at 1:00 EST?
If your business goals include a capital raise, future acquisitions, or a successful exit, you should join SBX’s Elizabeth Shea and Clearsight Advisors’ Gretchen Guandolo for a webinar on PR and marketing activities that can enhance value for future capital raises or M&A activities.
Elizabeth and Gretchen will cover:
- How to land on the radar screen of the future investors and buyers of your business
- How to leverage communications to gain the most traction and exposure around a transaction
- What buyers seek in considering technologies and how your public persona can help put your best foot forward
- How PR is critical for capital raises, and when and when not to engage in PR
- What buyers look for when starting the due diligence process and how a company's presence affects that process.
- Strategic identification of select targets (investors and/or strategic buyers) and strategies for “creating buzz” within those segments
To learn more about the webinar and sign up please follow the link below.
After being gone for most of last week and finally sifting through the last of my RSS feed, I came across the cold-hearted smackdown
that Steve Jobs administered to a Long Island University student
. While Jobs isn’t known for being overly “pleasant
,” this was honestly overkill – the CEO of a multi-billion dollar technology powerhouse deeming it necessary to browbeat a college senior for no apparent reason.
So what does this have to do with PR? Besides the obvious spin that Apple may-or-may not deem appropriate to rectify this issue, it has to do with how your clients communicate with their audiences, whether directly to their consumers or through intermediaries like bloggers, journalists or analysts. Acting like, well, a jackass doesn’t exactly endear you to your audiences.
For Jobs, it doesn’t matter – both of his brands (personal and Apple) are unbelievably powerful and he will stay relevant no matter what he says or whom he says it to. My clients (and yours’ too, probably) don’t exist at the level of Steve Jobs – what they say (and how they say it) dramatically influences how their audiences perceive them. So my advice in this regard? Be nice.
Don’t encourage your client CEOs to be simpering fops – far from it. They need to act knowledgeable and in command of an interview, without acting like overbearing know-it-alls. There’s never room for profanity, unless the occasion calls for it (believe me, you’ll know), but never directed at your audience. And even if the interview takes a turn for the worse, don’t let your client lose his or her cool – stay cordial, stay on message and get off the line as soon as possible.
Oh, and if a college kid emails you at a bad time? Try this – DON’T RESPOND.
About six months ago I was invited to speak to The Presidents' Forum
, a group of Washington, DC-based CEOs for companies ranging from $3M to $10M. I spoke on the topic of "The Social CEO"
and frankly, presented some ideas for CEOs to ease
into the social media scene without feeling like they have to run for the door with all there is to do.
As I work with CEOs every day, I've heard all the pushback, the doubt, the disbelief, and the endless tantrums of "you seriously want me to add MORE to my role everyday?"
I can say until I'm blue in the face: social networks, social media, online branding, Web2.0, pick a buzz word, are NOT fads, and I still get the straight-faced CEO who says, "yeah, but it's not for me, I have enough on my plate." This isn't related to age, gender, or industry. It's related to being the CEO.
My pitch usually makes them feel like they are off the hook except for some little things: "Just use some tools to listen," I say. "Never before have you had this chance to hear directly from customers." Or I plead: "think about using social networks with your partners: they are there!" or to "engage with your most important customers who would love to feel your support."
Well conversations are carrying on about social media and CEOs: There is a conversation on LinkedIn
where folks are placing odds on whether key leadership will ever become engaged. Charlene Li just published a book Open Leadership
, pleading with leaders to consider our new world of being open and transparent, and and using it to build better businesses. Mashable
and Forrester Research
CEO George Colony had a conversation just a few months ago in a post
reflecting on why there aren't more engaged CEOs. Jeff Pullas writes often about CEOs and social media, with posts that offer up and more explanations
.Wired wrote an article on "CEOs as Social Media Slackers"
based on a research study
last year conducted by UberCEO.com.
Most CEOs I know are pretty smart. that's why they are the CEO. Most CEOs i know want to do what's best for their company. That's why they are the CEO. Most CEOs I know want to take advantage of every competitive opportunity they can to stand out, be relevant, and be current
. That's why they are the CEO.
Ironically, CEOs are typically the best communicators in their business. They supply vision every day. They inspire confidence within their customer base. They hold ultimate accountability for being the person to drive change, hope and innovation. They encourage partners to do business with them. They are masters at establishing, nurturing and managing relationships.
I'm here to ask us communicators and marketers, to think about the role of the CEO, and frankly, to help him or her navigate this new world. The old way isn't broken, there are just some new tools and new rules, and CEOs might just need our help.
Don't get me wrong, there are
CEOs that are there. But for those that are leading with all their might and energy and yet haven't had time to incorporate social media into their everyday job, I think we should help make it easy, and understand all that the CEO has on his or her plate. CEOs always
want to listen, so help build them a dashboard. CEOs always
want to relate to customers; so help them identify who's actively engaged. Help to educate them on what really matters, and how to navigate in an efficient way. Share the highlights of the conversations that are happening that will help them plan a change of course, if necessary. Pluck out the places where customers are congregating and let him or her know you're paying attention.
Despite all being said to the contrary, I personally believe that sooner or later, the CEO will get there. He or she has to...they are typically social by nature...maybe that's why they're the CEO.- Elizabeth Shea (@eliz2shea)