Starting Couch to 5K Program Again

Decided on a whim to restart the Couch to 5K program again today. This will be the 3rd attempt for me, after starting for the first time in May of 2015 and restarting again in September. I stopped the first time because I had a minor knee injury playing hockey. For the life of me though, I can't remember why I stopped the second time. Probably intimidated by the weather. Although, come to think of it, it may be a result of getting "busy" at work. I know things started to ramp up around that point so I can believe that might have discouraged me from taking extra time in the mornings to run.

Of course, that seems like a terrible decision in hindsight. Why, if things are getting busy at work, would I skip the part of the day that affords you quiet time to think and generates energy to take on the rest of the day? That's actually why I decided to run today. I was tired in the afternoon and was considering a nap on the couch but I remembered that kicking out a run would probably spike my energy a bit. So, I found Robert Ullrey's Couch to 5K mp3s I downloaded last year, threw in my Plantronics BackBeat Go2 bluetooth earbuds and laced up my Brooks Glycerin G12 size 14s to give it another shot.

And, since no life event is complete without a corresponding mobile app, I logged into my Strava profile and recorded my activity. If you're a runner as well, I encourage connections there. Makes me feel a little less alone on this one.

I added the full 9 weeks to my outlook calendar just now. I can see now that I'll have finished the program as of July 14th. That sounds promising.

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5 Keys to Building a Marketing Vision

miles looking through binoculars

I was recently asked to come up with a vision for what I expect a marketing department to be. To describe my vision for the marketing department, I chose to use a few (hopefully memorable) words where I can point in the days to come and confirm whether the direction is aligned.

I'll start by describing my vision in a conceptual way but I will also offer examples of how that concept is executed on a day to day basis. The first word I want to start with is:

Selective

There's no hiding the size of your company. When you work in a small company, going head to head with competitors that are staffed differently, you structure your marketing department differently. When you can't specialize in specific areas of marketing because of low staff numbers, you must be selective in terms of the projects you undertake.

Selective means you do not spread yourselves too thin or take on projects that, even when successful, deliver minimal impact. You cannot realistically blog twice a day (or probably even twice a week) and you can't develop new print collateral every month. Instead, small marketing departments focus on projects that deliver maximum impact. To be selective, you must be strategic.

To put that conceptual guideline of being "strategic" into practice, I introduced a method by which my marketing department creates a project statement called a V2MOM*. As an example, I created one for the talk I was asked to give regarding our vision (very meta stuff):

Vision: The stakeholders listen to me to speak freely about how I believe our department can/should run.
Value: Transparency and understanding of our vision relieves concerns about our work direction and affords all stakeholders an opportunity to make objections/suggestions/corrections as needed. It established trust that we are all working hard and rowing in the same direction.
Method: I'll sit at a table and my stakeholders will look at me. They will start by asking what he wants me to say, I'll give this talk and we will discuss my thoughts with questions and answers. 
Obstacles: I may talk too fast. I may talk too much and drown out the purpose of the meeting with a flood of ideas. I may speak too conceptually when they want concrete game plans / play books. We may suffer from divided attentions.
Measurement: When asked, do all parties agree to some vision statement that can be memorialized? Do we agree to an action plan to follow through afterwards?

Comprehensive

Despite being selective about the kinds of projects we do, we will not ignore all the major food groups that make up a marketing department. We develop content for inbound efforts but we also build email campaigns for outbound. We spread the word about local networking events, we investigate sponsorship opportunities, we maintain print, web, and multimedia collateral, we handle logistics for out of town conferences, we maintain our customer database and we measure campaign performance with analytics shared during mom meetings and whenever requested.

Objective

That's in both the noun and adjective form. We measure our work with numbers. We don't simply set goals, we aim for measurable objectives. Just as developers do in the agile framework, we quantify our work output. We do not allow our preconceived notions about what will work interfere with trying a variety of strategies to achieve our objectives. We experiment with campaign types and measure the results. We are optimistic about our product and company and we are open-minded about ways to do our jobs. 

Rhythm to our Rituals

The most important thing I learned from the development team's embrace of the agile methodology is the concept of rhythm to your rituals. That means, bring predictability to how we do business with recurring events. Monday morning Sales and marketing meeting means all hands on deck. Tues - Friday, daily standups at the beginning of the day. Tuesday at 11 we have an opportunity to involve the next level of hierarchy for projects that need approval/input. Monthly, we have a meeting with all partners to review/preview projects and measure our performance. 

All projects, tasks and communication for our tasks is done through our department planning tool (asana). There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing you have an appropriate amount of work "on your plate." Plus, you're never more than a few days from having a scheduled time on your boss's calendar to get feedback or an approval.

Education, Experience, Empowered

We stay educated and involved in the product development process as well as the sales process to make ourselves most valuable in our development of promotional materials. We can't sell stuff we don't understand to people we don't know. 

When we do all these things, we score. SCORE. get it?

*Of course, a hat tip to Marc Benioff of salesforce.com for the V2MOM concept. There are plenty of ways to structure a project mission statement, I just happen to like his. 

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On Interrupting Someone at Work

I tweeted out this picture last week about interruptions at work. I'm reading Remote by 37Signals co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and I came across this great quote. 

interruptions

This may read as, "Miles doesn't want to be interrupted at work," but it's just as much of a reminder to myself not to interrupt others.

When I'm in a design mindset, I occasionally seek the reassurance that a work in progress is heading in the right direction. On occasion, I've caught myself waiting at the door of a colleague for an opinion that I could probably continue working without. And yes, part of my appreciation for the quote is recalling the times when we all suffer a cognitive stumble or loss of momentum after a needless interruption.

Leaning Towards Asynchronous Communication

Technology has advanced beyond in-person meetings and telelphone calls. Asynchronous communication is completely possible and growing in acceptance for internal purposes and client communications.

Whether we choose to call (completely real time communication), text message, chat or IM (semi-real time communication) or email (or communicate using other non-real time communication), we need to remind ourselves that we have a decision to make.

When something needs an answer now, we should indeed call or stop by for an interruption. If, however, we have no need for an immediate answer other than it is OUR priority, it may be more respectful and efficient to send the issue into their queue to deal with when they are in the proper mindset to give it their full attention.

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Whenever I Get Into the Weeds on Marketing Metrics

what can be counted

I spent the last week assembling my end-of-year marketing department report at work. Throughout that process, I was constantly reminded that the discipline of marketing is one that should be driven by metrics. That's not necessarily a problem. I'm actually proud of our ability to deliver quantitative measurement of our performance. When the board room asks to compare campaigns effectiveness, I'm eager to show the charts and reports with numbers of leads, the lead status and stage and the percentages converted to opportunities. Metrics guide our department into making intelligent decisions.

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Read more: Whenever I Get Into the Weeds on Marketing Metrics

Happy New Year 2015

As it is every "on again, off again" blogger's ritual, the turning of the calendar to a new year means re-dedication to more steady and meaningful writing and publishing. It is a sad cliché but I'll admit that I'm no different as of today. And just as I've fallen into the common blogging no-no of failing to post regularly, I'm going to break another rule and lay out the plans I have for the foreseeable blogging future. 

New Categories for the Blog

I'm not someone who lacks for ideas. The hardest part of my day is not finding the desire or the energy to do big things. Whether I'm pursuing the knowledge and skills of programming, sales & marketing, music, photography, video, or refining my abilities with language and people, there is always much to keep me inspired. The challenge has always been to narrow focus into priorities and follow through amid external (and internal) skepticism. By creating a blog structure using these new categories, I'll be able to satisfy my curiosities for different pursuits while also focusing on a consistent and repeating process to keep me on track. 

The first new category is Use it or Lose It. The idea for Use it or Lose It is that I use the blog to explore and apply lessons learned in training sessions, online classes, reading books, web articles and blogs. 

The second new category is Unsolicited Testimonials. Just like it sounds, this category contains articles about the tools and services I use from brands I trust. I want to share these as recommendations for people looking to solve process problems and give a hat tip to these companies that deserve some recognition. 

The third new category is Not Bad (But Not a Customer). I often enounter products or services from brands that impress me but, for some reason, I don't actually become a customer. Whether I don't need their product (yet), the price doesn't make sense for me or I'm not their ideal customer, I thought it best to separate any product/service/brand reviews by whether I am actually a customer versus not. 

Ok, that's it for now. Next week's blog will be another in the One Week series where I explore a new musical instrument for the first time. Check back on January 11th to read how my exploration into the world of the Tin Whistle goes. 

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Subcategories

One Week In the Life

a category for content related to trying somethign outside of my comfort zone for a week's time.

Unsolicited Testimonials

These blog posts review a product or service I like and own, license or have paid for at some point.

The Me I Want to See

Category of blog posts about life and being the best version of myself.