A blog from SoloPortfolio about content marketing.

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Flipboard: Marketers Take Heed

January 5, 2011 1 Comment

This week I am guest blogging over at the Content Marketing Institute, giving you a round-up of the Top 9 apps for iPad (the “9” is really annoying you OCD/round number people… shake it off!). My top-pick among the group–and something every marketer needs to demo asap–is Flipboard. Sometimes called the social magazine, Flipboard aggregates content from your favorite sources, plus things your friends are reading, and puts it all together in a glossy magazine format. If you really want to understand how it works, watch the demo video.

When I first gave Flipboard a test run, I swear the Apple tagline echoed through my head: “This changes everything.” I say this because as practical as RSS feeds and listening posts may be, they are poorly designed and tend to suck the life out of content that is otherwise beautifully presented. Flipboard acts as a content aggregator, but manages to preserve the tactile feel of a magazine because photography, video and artwork are considered a critical part of the content experience. On the other hand, my Google Reader account reminds me of when I worked for a newspaper in Boston’s Chinatown as a teenager and I was asked to cut up articles and actually paste them (yes, with real glue) to a storyboard. The end result was messy, overstuffed pages.

Marketers: if you produce content as part of your marketing mix (9 out of 10 in B2B do it), are you paying enough attention to information design, graphic design, illustrations? We are crazy-bombarded with information every day, and I would argue that most of us are becoming experts at tuning things out. How many e-newsletters do you open from your email box? How often do you take the time to read a research report or a case study cover-to-cover? When researching a B2B company to hire for your business, how much time do you spend on their website gathering information? I would argue that great design is a lubricant: helping your customers/prospects to linger. And with apps such as Flipboard gaining in popularity, design becomes a crucial element of content creation.

What do you think? Does your organization value the role of design in content creation? Have you tried out Flipboard?

Lightbulbs, Darts and Compasses: The Ugly Manifesto

November 10, 2010 2 Comments

I am issuing an all-out ban on ridiculously campy images as metaphors for business acumen–starting with light bulbs, darts and compasses. And by “campy” I don’t mean cute-campy like when yuppersnappers go and collect vintage anatomical models, but seriously ugly-outdated campy. At the risk of offending many in one fell swoop, I hereby declare that I believe light bulbs, darts and compasses are visual cliches and should NEVER appear in anything, evermore.

No more brightly lit bulbs to suggest blinding brilliance (the effect is rather the opposite, i.m.o.).

No more dartboards that suggest, “I sure did nail that one… and while I’m at it, I’m drinking an import! What are you doing?

No more compasses that shout, “In the world of business, I’m an Eagle Scout.”

I also forever ban:

  • Disembodied arms engaging in firm handshakes
  • The clear-glass whiteboard (this addition compliments of Rochelle Seltzer)
  • Diversity as modeled by many-colored hands reaching to the sky
  • The fake business meeting, especially if it includes this guy below (who figures in 60% of all iStock faux-meetings).

In my next installment, I’ll be showing you some B2B images that are refreshing… dare I say artistic? But in the meantime, please share your favorite campy-means-ugly images with me! (And if you recently used an ugly image as mentioned above, I’m so sorry.)

Management Consultants and Marketing

January 23, 2009

Over the last few years I have helped a number of successful management consultants build stronger brands and more dynamic pitches. I have long wondered why professional consultants often have such a difficult time pitching their own services. I have come up with the following weak spots:

  1. It’s personal: Management consultants are pitching intellectual capital–their own intellectual capital, to be exact. Some feel awkward identifying their best traits… others just don’t know them. I find that a brand 360 helps to focus on key areas of value, as well as weaknesses. This means allowing a 3rd party to interview clients, prospects (particularly those who have been prospects for a long while w/o buying in), and colleagues. For a solo-consultant, the list does not have to be long… even 6-8 interviews will provide good clarity.
  2. Inventory marketing: There is an impulse to give a tour of what I’d like to call the “mechanical room.” The pitch will review theoretical frameworks and give an inventory of systematic approaches used to detect, diagnose, deliver, etc… The problem with this approach is that it is interesting to students of management consulting (who are few) but more often alienates listeners with it’s prognostication and spacecraft infographics. Plus, it’s completely undifferentiated. Unless you have a proprietary framework or system that delivers truly extraordinary value, you are fatally boring your prospects.
  3. A sticky story: Contrary to common belief, storytelling is a great way to explain your approach in a way that is clear, interesting, and memorable. I know a handful of consultants who are masters of storytelling, reviewing past successes in a way that shows off their niche area of expertise without gloating or sounding long-winded. (See Chip Heath interview about developing a sticky message.) Of course, you can’t just wing it… effective storytelling requires a planning and practice.
  4. Who do you want to be? There is a tendency among consultants to emphasize their versatility and adaptability. Surely, these are attractive qualities in a consultant… but as a differentiating characterstic, this approach is a big fat loser. Why? Prospects hire consultants for specialized expertise. Small firms in particular survive on their niche cunning. All management consultants are generalists to some degree… but that is not the quality that will attract attention. To stand out, smaller firms must drill down to focus on a particular industry (or limited industries) and/or niche expertise. They must have a strong, unique point of view.
  5. Spend money on graphic design. This is a big one… and terribly overlooked. Management consultants are by and large pitching their services to the C-suite—successful men and women accustomed to high-end pitches. In many cases, your audience are HNW individuals with the ability to appreciate good design. There is no bigger turn off than a dowdy-lo0king powerpoint presentation or business card. If you don’t have a strong eye for design, find someone who does. Look for an agency/designer with experience in the high net worth market or with high-end professional service firms.
  6. Customize your pitch. If you are pitching your firm to a medical device company, you better have some portion of your pitch touch on medical devices. Turnkey Powerpoint presentations are great, but reserve 2-3 slides to focus on particular industries and segments. You need not have experience with medical device companies to accomplish this customization. Conduct some preliminary Internet-based market research to uncover what are the competitive forces in that industry, areas of innovation, regulatory issues… something to illustrate to your prospect that you have done your homework and intend to be rigorous.

A slow economy is a perfect time to make improvements. You may have a lighter schedule and the luxury of some self-reflection.