Category Archives: Strategy

The Pressure To Get In The Game. You Have Too Many Options And No Honest Goals.

I have been golfing the same way since I was 16. If I tried to drive the hell out of the ball, I would get myself in the worst situations, and become frustrated.

I have learned over the years that when I use exactly the right effort I hit the best shots. I am not going to be qualifying for the PGA long drive competition any time soon, but I can shoot 90 with a 20 year old set of Canadian Tire irons. And that is all I am looking for as a golfer. I see some guys buy these huge expensive drivers with adjustable weights and iPhone applications so they can track their shots and get that extra 10 yards closer to what Daly could hit. And apart from the truly gifted golfer, these folks rage on with a frustration filled game and a hefty credit card bill.

For my personal golf game I know what I need to do, to do what I want to do.

I work with clients in a wide range of industries, and while they shouldn’t occupy certain media forums with their communication presence, they are affected by EVERY SINGLE OPTION, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

The problem is that because of this pressure, businesses and brands spend all their time focused on what is POSSIBLE TO DO, not on what they NEED TO DO based on their goals as a company. I get that we have hundreds of media vehicles available to use. Everything from branded giveaways to 50 shades of social media sites and tools. But they probably don’t need to be everywhere at all times. Most businesses certainly don’t have the resources to properly support that anyway.

But these clients rarely want to work backwards from their honest goal for their company and look at, regardless that the competitor has snapchat, what they actually need to use to reach their goals.

I say this because a huge amount of effort is put in by marketing firms, ad agencies, and client side marketing teams to “get in the game” and exist in every possible place at once.

The challenge is that most business owners don’t share their actual goals with the people they are entrusting their communication needs with. Not many company representatives at the highest level share their “I just want a nice straight shot and a double digit score” moment with their communications team.

I would like to think that happens because at a business ownership level there is also a huge push to “get in the game” and go for world domination out of the gate. If we took the time to work backwards from honest goals, include our agencies and marketing teams in these goal discussions, and then actually put our efforts where they NEED to be and not just could be, we might find that marketing be an effective means of getting a brand’s story out there.

That is all I have at the moment.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Simplify Your Message, Or Else We Won’t Listen

If you have spent any time online in the last couple years, you are aware of the limited space people have for new content and communication.

As professional communicators, this ultimately leads to needing to pair down what we tell an audience.

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In the world of content creation, and specifically story telling, there is an unofficial “Rule of Three”. It applied to blind mice, bears with houses, and strategic communication. How do you get all of your first contact information across to an audience in just three pieces of information.

To note: you will have more time with them later if you are lucky and the content is interesting to your audience. But for now this is all about what you need to tell your audience now.

When we think of sending a message in a bottle on the tiny scroll of paper, you can imagine how important getting the right information across would be. The reality is we are very limited as to what we can say.


In terms of your brand or service, let’s say you are speaking to an audience that has never heard of you. They understand the product category that you are representing and have a general comprehension around how your service or product works.

Can you tell your story to them in five statements? How about three? In the PR world this three to five statement brief about a brand is called a boilerplate. In the start-up world it is often called the “elevator pitch”.

Ambitiously Verbose
I have rarely met a client that doesn’t start with too much to say.

The ultimate goal of this boilerplate or elevator pitch is to get enough information to this audience that they can make the next move.

Breaking down content into three statements from an audience’s point of view:

  • What do I really need to know about your business right now?
  • What do you make that I can buy, use, interact with, or ultimately make mine?
  • How will this thing and your business add value for me?

All of this needs to be stated using words that resonate with your audience, based on what they know, and how they prefer to be communicated with.

If you are having a challenge getting what you think is your required message down to three things, try taking a much larger list of say ten things and then logically group similar concepts together:

  • Operational statements (what we do)
  • Product or service statements (what we sell)
  • Value statements (why we are rad)

Then test, observe, adjust, and retest.

Actuality vs. Opinion

We can sometimes get caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid. We lose the perspective of the person who has no experience with our company, brand, or approach to fulfilling a specific need.

Sadly sticking with just the actuality of a statement can sound very clinical and potentially boring.

Going heavy on sharing your opinion in your statements can sound disingenuous or “used car salesman-like”.

All of your statements need to add up to creating an opportunity for this audience to trust you.

The next post will be about the order of importance and putting your refined statements into a logical hierarchy for delivery.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

If the Mission Statement Fits, Wear It. But What Happens When It Doesn’t Fit?

If you are having a hard time explaining what your business is to anyone from potential customer to potential investors or money lent, you are not alone.

Many large companies and high potential start ups pay huge money to marketing firms to develop cutting edge communication tools, utilizing the most relevant social media infrastructure. This is fine, and we all really like the work we get to do.

The problem lies in the fact that all of these cool tools, slick campaigns, and clever slogans start from an explanation given by the owners of the business to the staff, communication partners, and customers. And if this story doesn’t make sense or is no longer relevant, developing the next best use for snapchat as a marketing tool will not help your business at its potential.

When my agency, Momentum Visual needed to supply a corporate mission statement for an RFP we were responding to, I dusted off the one I wrote at the start of 2012, which was for all intents and purposes, the same thing we said in 2008.

And it didn’t fit at all. It spoke to some of our services, but not to our evolution as providers of strategic thinking around someone else’s business and goals.

 

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I found that trying to market ourselves based on this out-dated mission statement was highly challenging. Nothing fit right. Any efforts were falling short of telling enough of our story.

The efforts, regardless of how clever,  were not accurately representing the business we were operating, let alone the one we were aspiring to be.

So we approached it based on what we were doing, and what we wanted to be doing for the foreseeable future.

By updating our mission we not only changed how we handle our marketing efforts and business development, but how our operational and collaborative company dynamic worked.

Expressing our company’s mission clearly and accurately raised the bar for our own quality and thoughtfulness as a team, because everyone understood what we stood for.

My agency provides this for many of our clients we have the pleasure of working with. But it required a lot of open communication and egos flexible enough to take the backseat at times.

The value in keeping your story current, accurate, and aspirational is highly important and hugely overlooked.

Does your mission still fit?

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

What We Are Really Saying When Negotiating A Budget

My goal with this post is to add an additional perspective to your day. How do you value your organization’s time and work effort?

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Like George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”, I have a number in mind.

This number represents the least amount my company needs to get paid by the hour, per employee, in order to sustain my business.

In large organizations this number can vary dramatically depending on the person and skill set utilized.

In small organizations like a boutique marketing agency, they sometimes use a blanket rate or range. This can be the minimum hour per person divided by the cost to run the business. Business owners who crunch numbers for fun will have complex formulas to find this number.

The next number I have in mind is the market valuation for my services. That number is significantly higher (hopefully) than aforementioned number. Organizations like the RGD and Marketing Magazine love publishing lists of going rates for talent or services.

The number to consider after that is the value of my company’s to a specific client. When you spend years getting to know them, you understand the processes, you build things the way they want them built. That has a value, which is not unlike “shadow equity”, meaning it exists while you are there only. Some clients believe that the longer they work with you, the less things should cost. Which is strange. Imagine if the brands we purchased priced their goods based on long term undivided loyalty. (ie. the longer you buy Tide, the cheaper it gets)

As a marketer, I spend a lot of time negotiating for the value of my time. I have some clients who they feel that work should cost less depending on what they paid in the past for seemingly similar work. Or their interpretations of what our skilled work efforts should cost. We have other clients who are happy to pay whatever we charge because they know they get the value for work done. They are unicorn clients and we service the hell out of them.

Now when a negotiation happens between a customer and a supplier a few things are said:

The supplier says: this is how much we want you to pay us to get the work done properly.

Hopefully that supplier has their pricing at a level where they are billing for the value of the work keeping sustainability and growth a priority.

The client then can come back and say: well this is how much we want to pay to get the work done properly.

They will layer their negotiations with things like well there’s no budget for it, or this is a very quick project, not many people will see it, it’s just quick update of something you’ve done before... they will find an excuse to get the price down.

As a business owner I have to decide how much I want this business, and deal with the compromising value in order to keep the business long-term with this client. Just charging your clients what it cost you to operate your business doesn’t leave you room for when things are quiet. It’s also hard to grow your business without money in the bank.

Let’s state the obvious for fun. Your client’s business is also a business just like yours. They have the same interesting value scale with their customers. So technically, they speak a similar language in regards to cost/value of services.

What a client is actually saying when they cut the price down is this is how valuableI feel your work is and I am willing to pay this much for it. This is fine and that’s their prerogative. They can say “it’s not personal and we just can’t afford that” but in reality if something incredibly pressing was needed to be purchased, they would pay whatever the seller told them it would cost.

As a supplier we’re saying when we acquiesce to a negotiated price reduction, this is the minimum I value my work effort. Receiving any less than this will be considered undervalued and not acceptable. I know this sounds a little harsh but it is a reality. If that number is the first number or lower you will run into challenges keeping your business afloat, let alone in a position for growth.

The frustrating thing for new businesses, and small businesses, is we often undervalue our time. We will do things cheap and do things for free. We have no problem making these compromises in the short term. In reality if we were to look at a decision made, scaled out based on a five-year impact, and see that it actually would put the business out of business would we still make the decision to let our work be undervalued?

I have spent the last 15 years professionally valuing my time and having to put a price on every minute of it. I’m at a point now where the value of my time includes the growth that I need, and undervaluing my time will not make my business succeed. I’m not willing to make that compromise so my shop ends up being more expensive than a lot of competitive shops.

The challenge is walking away from business. That is hard to do and I am not saying there aren’t times we take work at a discounted rate. It doesn’t feel great and it is really hard to get excited about the work. What ultimately gets compromised is our time. We are also teaching people how to treat us when we do this.

Here is an example in action:

Your client needs a brochure. It will be 16 pages, require photography, a pleasing layout, and absolute accuracy around getting all of the content correctly utilized. Based on the collaborative style of the client, the layers of approvals, the billable resources needed, the non-billable resources needed; the project will require a specific amount of time to complete. That will not change. It will take as long as it takes to make. The sliding scale in this case is the value of this time to the company procuring it vs the company producing it. When these two values matchup, the work can begin.

But when a client doesn’t want to pay what your time is worth, why does the negotiation need to scale back only in their favour? If the project should cost $2,000 and they can afford only $1,500, how can they provide the difference to your company to make sure the value is met? If they don’t actually believe the work is worth $2,000, that is one thing and they may have to go elsewhere to get their price. But assuming they do agree the work has a $2,000 value but don’t have the capital to cover the cost, are their other options for compensation. Product? Equity in their business? Barter?

Budgets seem tighter than ever before, and when we negotiate around them we set a tone for the relationship with our clients. I believe that there are a huge amount of opportunities to set a new precedent for compensation in lieu of flush budgets. As suppliers of ideas we need to lead this charge.

 

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Taking Distractions Into Account

I went through a massive communication detox a while back. All of the push notifications on my phone had been reset, and for a couple weeks I was shaken by the consistency and sheer amount of interruptions there were.

Breaking down the list of distractions that affected my train of thought over the course of the day went as followed (and each one had a beep, buzz, ding, or on screen message)

  • Google daily agenda at 5am
  • Text from early rising friends
  • Morning Facebook posts
  • Morning Instagram posts
  • Morning emails
  • CP24 news alert
  • CBC news alert of cp24 news
  • Twitter posts about cp24 news
  • LinkedIn alerts
  • Midday social
  • Email alerts
  • Text messages
  • Gchat messages
  • Skype messages
  • iMessages
  • Afternoon recap on morning news
  • Tweets about recap
  • Repeat

It never really ended.

These are just the notifications on my phone from things that I have chosen to receive. Add in-person conversations, external media, other people’s devices, social responsibilities, family responsibilities, and professional responsibilities, it’s amazing we bother trying to add more influence to a person’s day.

This is the reality though. I am a pretty normal example of a connected person and I have little to no room for anymore noise. I can’t imagine what a person with young children has time for.

But these are often the “target audience” when we are crafting communication plans. We speak about the “overworked parent” or “busy professional” , but we still try to cram our message, slogan, offer, or jingle down their throat.

Effective non-selfish communication planning takes a few things into consideration:

  • How much free time does my audience have for what I want to share with them?
  • In knowing that they probably don’t have free time, what time/task in their day can I replace with what I want them to know and care about?
  • Knowing that I am probably asking them to give something up in order to make time for my communication, is what I am sharing compelling or “worth it” for this audience?

The presence of distractions will change the value of your messaging. We are interrupting people and we should treat the situation accordingly.

In my next post I will be talking about “engagement threshold” or how much we can ram in a person’s head before they stop taking information in, or worse, forget something critical we originally told them.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

We Are Selfish Communicators

The entire professional world is made up of people trying to validate their education, training, experience, and abilities, but trying to “over confuse” their consumers and then ask to get paid for their alchemy.

The problem is that our survival, and our prosperity in everything from our professions, to our sex lives is tied to the quality of our communications with others.

Where this has shown up prevalently in marketing is the sales presentation or creative pitch. We throw as much jargon at our clients as possible as if they will love us more when they are confused.

The reality is that this confusion gets passed down the line through internal sales presentations, to training materials, to sales material, to ultimately disconnected customers. Great customer focused brands get this because they personally understand their core competencies and consumer offering, in the same way the customer would best understand and connect with it.

So how do we make this madness stop?

We need to do two three things,

  • Understand who our audience is
  • Understand what our message truly is
  • Live by and present ourselves to our audience based on this new understanding.

Easy eh?

I will be breaking this down in a series of posts.

This series is based on a lecture given at Social Capital 2014, in Ottawa which was based on a 6 week coaching series that Momentum Visual created on behalf of a client.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Why The Hell Are We Doing This? And Other Questions We Ask.

Our work as marketers is not very gratifying much of the time. We are not painters, or gardeners, or doctors, or any profession where there is a high daily possibility of seeing gratification at that absolute edge of our original goal, for us it’s the consumer.

Sure we have clients that are happy and pay us, and we give and get awards for being the cleverest kittens in the class, BUT not alot of our time is spent in witness of the actual end consumer, connecting with what we create.

Over a rocks glass of wine last night I replaced the battered covers of the custom designed and built menus for The Roxton, a restaurant client of Momentum’s. In looking at this pile of tattered covers, beaten up by excited patrons to the restaurant, looking to be fed. These menu covers embody the actual connection with the people we were hoping to connect with when we designed the menus.

It’s great to see, and I find that bringing pieces like that back to the team show that our work can be very gratifying and we can connect with actual people.

If you are reading this, I would love to know how you find proof of work effort. Where do you seek that moment of gratification that keeps you going?

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth.