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Archive for September, 2011

Helping Hand

As part of our company’s United Way campaign this year, we’re using the theme “Helping Hands” and we wanted to do something clever.  Well, my friend Mike (who is our campaign artist) found a Hamburger Helper hat @ http://www.costumeshopper.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?store_code=costumes&screen=PROD&product_code=rtp1927 and I just bought one to use in our campaign.

It’s going to be a fun addition to the campaign and CostumeShopper (http://costumeshopper.com) was really easy to deal with so check them out if you’re looking for some fun additions to your campaign.

To learn more about how United Way of Greater Kansas City provides a helping hand to the community, please watch this year’s campaign video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5YIZt6cLNU

And if you’d like to see a video from India that really embraces the idea of helping hands, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLnDwLmVIyY&feature=player_embedded

Thank you for lending a Helping Hand!

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All about M.A.R.K. (reflections from Labor Day)

Over Labor Day weekend, I thought about where I’ve been and where I’m going.  It’s almost time for the annual review which means I’ll continue my practice of updating my resume when I do my self-appraisal.  However, before I get to that, I’ve been reflecting about how my focus/emphasis at work has changed through the years.  I realized that it fits neatly into four categories that, by coincidence, spell out my name:

M stands for Marketing.  When you are involved in Marketing, you are the voice of the customer as well as being the voice to the customer.  I’m amazed by how many people think they can do marketing yet don’t understand what it really means.  Advertising, Communications, Community Relations, Promotions, Public Relations, Research, Sales, … so many terms but really all of these are elements of Marketing.  Of course, you don’t have to control it all and try to juggle it all on your own.  I’m amazed by the power of letting great people do what they do best.  Each week, my company’s Marketing Department meets with our Creative Services Manager and let him know what we’re trying to accomplish and we end up haivng much greater success when we give him a general idea than when we are too specific.  By not limiting him, we get much better results than what we would’ve come up with on our own.  We’ve also already seen success with talking to our new Social Media Coordinator.  By just letting her know what we’re trying to accomplish, she comes up with creative ways to help us meet our goals.  The same goes for working with an online programmer.  If instead of saying what I need for him to do, I say what I’m trying to accomplish, he can come up with a better method of achieving it.  

Ultimately, we need to do what is best for our customers, both internal and external.  Quite frankly, I don’t care whose idea was used or who gets credit; if the customer is happy, we all win.

A stands for Analytics.  With the growth of the Internet, Marketing people have a whole new area to explore.  We can track how many people clicked on a link.  We can make comparisons between how many people scanned a QR code or clicked a link on a Facebook page or in an email or on a webpage.  Each of these reaches a different audience and knowing the effectiveness of each helps us to better understand how to use them to get our message to the right marketplace. 

Earlier this year, I completed a Web Analytics course as well as a Social Media class (both of those were available through the Johnson County Community College but I’m sure others are available elsewhere) and it helped me better understand how it all fits together.

R stands for Research.  While most people stumble into the world of Marketing Research, I actually chose it as a Senior in High School.  I had taken some aptitude tests and didn’t think Actuary or Engineer sounded right for me but the idea of Market Research was worth exploring.   I enjoy both Quantitative (surveys) and Qualitative (Discussion groups) plus I’ve used a variety of methodologies such as mail, telephone, and more recently internet research.  Plus, I’ve even done good old-fashioned in-person intercept interviews.   A lot of research is actually analysis of what the numbers mean (however, I’ve already used “A”) and sometimes you have to find “the story” in a sea of numbers (like something from “The Matrix”) because ultimately research isn’t relevant (another “R” word) unless it helps people to make decisions.

My first job in research was a summer in Georgia as a Survey Editor for the USDA Forestry Services.  I also spent time at Worlds of Fun as their Survey Team Leader.  Plus, I served as the research guy in the Strategic Planning Department at The Ohio State University Medical Center.   All of that helped prepare me for the research I did when I returned to Kansas City which brings us to …

K stands for Kansas City.  Except for the first 4 years of my life (which were spent in St. Louis) and the time spent in school (4 years in Springfield at what’s now known as Missouri State and a summer @ the University of Georgia plus 2 at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio) I’ve lived in Kansas City for my entire life.   I didn’t expect that to happen. 

After graduating from college, I discovered that the major companies in Kansas City (Hallmark, Sprint and American Century) all had a hiring freeze for marketing research positions so I decided to pursue an MBA.  I looked at a variety of programs including the University of Texas.  I loved the school and the city of Austin but on my campus visit immediately knew it wasn’t the place for me.  I’d applied to Duke and Virginia as well but when I visited Ohio State, I fell in love with the school, the town, and most important the MBA program.  My undergraduate advisor had told me that Ohio State was a strong school and that there were lots of companies headquartered in Ohio which would give me exposure to a variety of business models.  He was right; I had a class taught by a VP @ Borden; we had opportunities to hear first hand about Wendy’s and White Castle as well as The Limited and consulting companies like Anderson Consulting or Ernst & Young; now, those names might be more associated with Accounting but they each hired quite a few MBA’s.  Of course, the king of Consumer Packaged Goods is P&G and they’re in Cincinatti, Ohio.   When you’re powerful enough to create an entire TV genre (the soap opera) just to sell your products to housewives, you must be an influential company.

Enough of the tangent about why I went to Ohio State (go Bucks!) … when I left KC, I didn’t expect to return but 2 years later, I ended up getting hired by Elrick & Lavidge to join their brand new Kansas City office.  And who did I end up working with in their new office?  Well, my main clients were Hallmark, Sprint and American Century (plus a few others) before moving onto Intertec Publishing, The Kansas City Star, Decision Insight and back to The Kansas City Star. 

With most of my life in Kansas City and a large portion of my career (over 10 years) at The Kansas City Star, this city has really become a part of me.  Not only do I love it for its BBQ, Jazz, Fountains, Steaks, and sports (I was 2 months old when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl but I keep hoping for a repeat) but there are some great people here (including my family) plus it’s fun to look into all of the statistics about this town.  Depending on your perspective, Kansas City has 33 counties (DMA or Designated Market Area which is the TV market) or 15 counties (CBSA or Core Based Statistical Area which is a government defiintion) or 10 counties (Arbitron / radio) or even 5 counties (Circulation NDM or Newspaper Designated Market where the majority of the newspaper’s copies are sold which is Johnson and Wyandotte on the Kansas side of the state line and Jackson, Clay and Platte in Missouri) so if there’s some information you would like to know about Kansas City (or elsewhere in the Midwest) just let me know.

So, that’s a quick overview of who I am and what I do. 

  • Marketing
  • Analytics
  • Research
  • Kansas City

I’ve also benefitted greatly from speaking with some great minds outside of my company.  I try to seek out people that can help me learn more about Marketing, Analytics, Research and even Kansas City.  My interaction with them hopefully helps them as much (or more) as they have helped me.   And those interactions take place in a variety of setttings. 

Some of the greatest people I know are those that I’ve met through involvement with charitable organizations although that’s not why I’m involved with those groups.  I love getting involved in the community and helping people.  In fact, an earlier draft of this blog was going to be about the MARCH through your career and look at Charities and Helping others; however MARCH didn’t sound as clever to me as MARK and besides I end up using my marketing skills in those organizations so it all works out anyway.

How has your career changed through the years?  Post a comment (either here at Word Press or through Social Media on my Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages) and let me know how your path has evolved or if you strongly agree or disagree with anything I’ve said today.