My World Right Now

About a year ago, I wrote a post called Cataloging Time. It’s that time again in my world of retail marketing. Once again, I have to ask whether or not catalogs are a marketing tactic that is past its prime.

As the retail marketing person for a consumer goods company, I am responsible for making sure our product pages are prepared for any number of retailer catalogs being published for 2011. This can be master catalogs or supplements for specific categories, each one requiring a great deal of time and resource allocation to complete. I can only imagine the efforts by our retail partners who are receiving and compiling dozens and dozens of pages from product manufacturers around the world. What a task!

As a consumer and marketing professional, I receive catalogs and look through each and every one of them for ideas and creative brainstorming. I have to wonder how many other people do the same? Is the practice of reading catalogs still a common practice?

I especially ask this in today’s world of social media. Twitter accounts like Walmart direct consumers to websites for new product information on a regular basis. More and more time is spent fine-tuning and tweaking those same sites to ensure the right information is presented for consumers to make purchasing decisions. Product comparisons, search filters and so much more is made available online that cannot be easily handled in print catalogs.

While I’m spending a lot of time on those printed catalogs pages, another current project is implementing an e-commerce solution for our company where we can easily sell our products online to our BtoB customers as well as consumers. I wonder whether or not this is a better use of our time and resources?

We as a manufacturer have a gentleman’s agreement with our retail partners that we will only sell certain accessories directly to consumers. Everything else is pushed to retailers and consumers are directed to find a local store in which to make their purchase. Does this make sense in today’s business environment?

This is where my head is right now. Any thoughts?

Event ROI: To Attend or Not to Attend?

I am constantly reminded of the need for strong planning on the front end of any project. A colleague of mine calls the opposite “stream of consciousness planning”. It’s amazing to me how many times programs, campaigns and projects are put into place without a rhyme or reason as to why it’s going to be done in the first place except to increase sales. While I understand that is an important reason, the question remains, “How exactly are you going to increase sales simply by attending that trade show?”.

Nothing should ever be implemented without a clear strategy being discussed and laid out first.

From a communications perspective, I’ve learned quite a bit in the past few years about measuring return on investment against the activities in which your organization chooses to participate.

The most recent examples I’ve got in my head pertain to trade shows. Those pesky industry and association events we all feel we must attend each year. But my question is whether or not you have set up a way to measure your attendance and determine whether the show is truly valuable? I’ve had many people tell me over the years that companies should attend particular shows simply because it’s always been done, but I have a really difficult time accepting that as a valid reason to continue attending. In my view, it’s critically important to gather information, such as revenue targets, to determine whether or not the show makes financial sense. Companies should not make an assumption about the value of a show simply based on history.

While I understand there is a brand awareness being built through attendance at these shows and events, it’s still possible to develop an ROI plan around awareness. It’s our job as marketing professionals to figure out the right metrics for our organization to make the most of the dollars we’ve been given to manage.

What are your thoughts?

Making a List, Checking it Twice

A few weeks ago, I asked readers of this blog and contacts on Twitter for input on time management techniques. The overwhelming majority of responses indicate most people best manage their time on a daily basis by making lists. I too am a big fan of making lists. I feel a great deal of accomplishment at the end of the day when I look at my list and see check marks or crossed off items on that piece of paper.

I also find that making a list each day or week to indicate what I need to get done is a good way of decluttering my life. Much like clutter on my desk creates chaos in my mind, not having a clear direction to follow for projects decreases my productivity.

A tip someone shared with me years ago to help with decluttering my workspace was intended to help clear stacks of paper off my desk. Every time you move a piece of paper, make a small “X” in the corner. If you get to three “Xs” on the paper, force yourself to do something with it — whether that be trashing it or placing it in a file. If you don’t act, then you’ll simply continue moving it from stack to stack.

What other decluttering tips do you have? Would love to hear them.

Grad Degrees: To Do or Not to Do?

Last night, a group of my PRSA Tulsa colleagues and I made the short trek to Stillwater to participate in a panel discussion for the OSU PRSSA chapter. It was an educational experience for me. The turnout was fantastic and the group asked some smart, insightful questions. But, as with any opportunity to speak with the next generation of PR professionals, it made me start thinking.

The question came up about whether a masters’ degree is needed in the business world, and, if so, which degree program is the best. I’m just one person with an opinion but here are my thoughts. As an MBA student, I highly recommend pursuing an advanced degree. However, which path you choose depends entirely on your career goals.

Initially I began a masters’ program in Mass Communication because I believed that was the right path for me as a PR professional. After several semesters of studying communication theories and integrated marketing strategies, I realized that my career goals actually made more sense for an MBA. With an undergrad degree in Journalism, the lack of finance and business classes left me lacking in my ability to communicate with CEOs and other senior management colleagues.

I challenge anyone considering a masters’ program to seriously think about where you want your career to be five, 10 years down the road. Do you see yourself teaching communication classes at a local university? Or do you see yourself as VP at a PR firm or corporation? That plays a big part in which degree program makes the most sense in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Words or Outcomes: Which is Most Important?

Today’s announcement of President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize took me and many other people by surprise. Historically, most of us believed that this was an award of accomplishment, recognizing tangible outcomes in the world’s peace movements. In this case, it appears to have been awarded based on promises and words instead.

Now this is not a post about political viewpoints. Instead the announcement made me start thinking about the business world and how recognition occurs for many of us in corporate jobs. I’m not alone in finding that there are times when words and promises become far more important than outcomes, am I? This bothers me. I’m amazed at how many organizations don’t have the right metrics in place to determine the success or failure of marketing campaigns, product launches or productivity initiatives. There might be revenue targets associated with products or productivity but not much more. What tracking mechanisms are in place to determine progress being made? Are there gates in place where the company does a check and correct, adjusting mid-course if necessary to ensure that the programs are successful?

Am I wrong in believing that outcomes should be the ultimate goal? Or do I need to change my opinion and begin thinking in terms of words and promises? What do you think?

It’s All About Timing

stop-watchI’m learning a valuable lesson lately about time management. I like being busy but it’s very easy to stretch myself too thin and I’m reaching that point … very quickly. I’m realizing that it really is OK to say “no” if necessary. Between a full-time job, numerous volunteer projects, freelance work, family life and more, there are times when I just don’t have time to actually get anything done. The ability to manage my time and focus on the areas that need to be handled on a given day are critical for my success personally and professionally.

Time management is a skill that I’ve worked on my entire life, but have yet to master. I would love to hear your time management tips. What advice would you give to someone trying to juggle many projects at once?