Do you know what makes you great?

It’s an easy question to ask but it’s very hard to answer. Do you know what makes you great? Do you know what you do differently when you win versus when you foul up? Other than the outcome, can you identify what you do or did different.

My golf game is full of that question. I have enjoyed rounds in the 70’s…but I have also had rounds well over 100. As far as I know, I do everything exactly the same. Should I blame the ball, course…or marketplace?

Each of us has special gifts. It’s been my experience that those most in touch with their gifts make the most of their careers and lives. They invest energy in learning, as all of us should, but they double down where they’re strong. Doing so makes them efficient, successful…unstoppable.

I’ve spent my career in sales. I’ve worked with sales managers and I’ve been one. Likewise, I’ve studied with sales trainers and been one of them too. It’s space full of people that don’t know what makes them great. It’s space full of recipes, spreadsheets, formulas…and lots of misinformation.

Sales management isn’t score keeping. It isn’t reports at the end of the month. It isn’t shifting accounts around and adjusting commissions. Those things are outcomes. They’re the golf score.

Sales management = sales coaching. It’s situational guidance. It’s helping reps with the issue in front of them while leveraging their special gifts. It’s helping reps get in touch with what makes them great and showing them how to leverage their strengths on behalf of their clients, employer and personal goals.

When you help a candidate get in touch with what makes them great, you set them up for an exciting career that requires little of your time. You’ll get asked to make calls with them, but that’s the fun part. You’ll see them grow right in front of you and go home confident that the client and your company are in good hands. You won’t be sitting with them cutting compensation or pulling accounts. They’ll gravitate toward markets that suit them and the finances will be on autopilot.

Now I’m not saying sales management or sales managers are bad. I’m simply saying that much of it is really sales meddling. We get hung up in the weeds and lose sight of the value each individual perspective can bring to our organization. We focus on machines, specs, prices and margins. Doing so can prevent us from seeing solutions that make all of those things take care of themselves.

Focusing on gifts and why they matter changes your company culture. The environment goes from one of pressure to one of possibilities. Excitement replaces anxiety. Success takes over and growth is inevitable. Clients really will beat a path to your door and they’ll pay your price to do business with YOU!

Recently, a client in our resource center said, “this is a special place.” I responded that we had worked hard to keep up with technology. She responded, “it isn’t that. Lots of people have Indigos. Even more have presses. I’ve seen all of those before. It’s your spirit. It’s your manner. That’s what makes this a special place.”

She was 100% right. Focusing on what makes us great on a company and individual level shows. It’s infectious. Our client, one with lots of contacts in our industry, saw the difference. It shows in our work and in our explosive growth.

What makes you great? You owe it to yourself to find out. You owe it to yourself and to your future to leverage those gifts. You owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people that help you be the best you can be. It isn’t score keeping. It’s coaching. The score will take care of itself.

recognition awards

A Big Idea!

It probably goes without saying that we’d all love to be one of those people with a big idea.  The kind that rivals Steve Jobs’ IPhone, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

Some of us would even settle for a mid-sized idea that would impact both the company’s bottom line and our personal bank account.  But it seems like there is a widespread belief that big ideas are relegated to a few and mostly the by-product of luck.

The fact is, though, big ideas aren’t hatched by a rare breed of luck entrepreneurs.  Instead, they come from regular people who are willing to ask the right questions and stay open to new ways of looking at the world.  To believe that serious creativity doesn’t live within all of us is a cop out.

Leaders are driven by asking the questions that others have not.  They don’t buy into the concept of the status quo and they’re inspired to question age old assumptions.  Finding the next big idea is about fostering a culture of questioning.  The truth is that each of us can open our minds to the possibilities of innovation.

The biggest difference between Steve Jobs and the rest of us is that he was willing to question generally accepted truths and test his beliefs.  There are plenty of people who think the ROI on social marketing is remarkable and that print is tired.  But there are some pretty forward thinking people who would argue that print is the most intimate way to engage outside of human contact.

So, whether we’re inventing the next disruptive business model or utilizing the haptics of print, we’re allowed to challenge assumptions.  We can examine the importance of asking what’s next and decide to broaden our perspectives.

As we begin to turn the page on 2017, we hope to help you ask more questions.  At Bennett, we say that “the best ideas begin with questions.”  We think that “What IF” moment might be the start of something very special.

The Future Is Now!

Automation has disrupted a great deal of the manufacturing world.  That’s a fairly obvious trend.  But what may be a little less clear is that automation is already upending the “knowledge economy,” too.  A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute looked at seven categories of high-end knowledge workers – doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, teachers etc. – and found large portions of their roles susceptible to displacement by machines as well.

The study shows that knowledge work automation tools and systems could take on tasks that would be equal to the output of 110 million to 140 million “full-time” workers.  It highlights the idea that the rate at which we are digitizing commerce makes this a remarkably critical time in our history.

It’s becoming apparent that we can no longer rely on one job, one company or even one industry to carry us for our careers.  In turn, a commitment to reinvention and constant learning will be required for sustainability.

While the economy demands a community of lifelong learners, some would argue that the combination of automation and wealth are giving rise to idle hands.  Therefore, we need an emerging group of nimble and gritty workers to thrive in the new landscape.  We need people who are aware of their past, have clear ambition and the willingness to take the pain to get there.

The bottom line is that the future is now, and probably every day from here on out.  The value of what we all provide constantly will be challenged.  So, the only way to rise above the smothering present is to push yourself to be a better version of you each and every day.  It’s a scary time, but the marketer who embraces the uniqueness of the period and continues to learn will win.

Our current issue of Connect Magazine is headed to the post office now.  Our cover article, “Dirty Work,” highlights the power of grit and shows why work ethic may be a lost art.  We examine the attributes that make up grit and provide some ideas of how to develop it within the world of business.

Our second feature, “Intimacy Doesn’t Scale,” champions the concept that to have great empathy and trust, you must be close to people to develop it.  The article discusses how to get close when people may not want you to try.

All in all, we love this issue and hope readers will digest it and share it with their peers.  If you would like to receive Connect, you can subscribe free on our website or you can email

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

You are the brand!

I’m on my soap box again.  I have suffered through another customer service disaster.  I actually paid a restaurant for an order I didn’t place and abysmal service.  I only have myself to blame.  I made the choice to go inside.

This morning I couldn’t sleep.  I finally gave up the ghost at 4:30, got up, showered and dressed.  I packed for work and headed to the local “always open” greasy spoon.  I wanted a hot breakfast and I wanted table service.

The place was almost empty.  I like that.  It usually ensures good service along with some peace and quiet.  It allows you to eat slowly and have a second cup of coffee.  The lack of noise makes it possible to think and organize things in your mind.  Once again…I like that.

What I got, instead, was a waitress that couldn’t wait for the day shift to arrive.  Our introduction started with her plight.  She asked me to be patient while she totaled the ticket for the only other person in the restaurant.  Ten minutes later she returned pad in hand.

I placed my order.  She turned to the cook and recited some dialect I didn’t recognize.  It sounded something like “cheese two all, out with bacon, raisin on one.” The kid with the spatula corrected her instructions.  They argued and she walked to the back.  I never saw her again.

About that time, a whole crew of employees entered.  There were two managers, a new cook and four waitresses.  If you include the original two there were nine employees in the restaurant.  None of them seemed to notice the other customer and myself.

My coffee never came.  Neither did my ice water.  All of the seven reporting to work poured themselves coffee.  But mine…it just didn’t seem important.

The cook finished my order.  He shouted some code language to the loitering employees but nobody seemed to react.  I’m sure it was intended to let them know my food was ready.

Finally, one of the waitresses picked up the plate.  “Who does this belong to,” she asked.  I raised my hand.  I was the only customer in the restaurant by this time so I’m confused by the question.

The order was wrong.  I took it anyway and was glad to get it.  My coffee never came.  I drank water and told myself I was being healthy.  I ate as fast as I could, paid and left immediately after my last bite.

I never expect stellar service from this chain of restaurants.  I eat there, on occasion, when I want a specific type of food or convenience.  There is one of these establishments on every expressway exit.

When I decide to go there I accept the fact that the food will be pretty good, mostly what I ordered with “colorful” service.  In other words, I prepare myself for the experience in advance.  I lower my expectations in some areas before I ever enter the restaurant.

What does that have to do with us?  Why is Bill making fun of a national favorite?  What does this have to do with what we do?

Here goes!  What do customers do before they call you?  Do they lower their expectations or do they expect more because it’s you?  Do they take a Valium before they give you an order or do they relax because they know they have the best there is on the job?  Which is it?

You see, the answer tells us everything.  If they are making a sacrifice when they dial your number you can bet they are beating a deal out of you on price.  If they cringe every time they have to talk to you, you’re are on borrowed time.  They will replace you with a better and more service focused supplier as soon as they can.

Everything you do communicates the brand that is you…personally.  If you’re prompt with responses, the client knows you’re paying attention.  If your facts are correct, you won’t put them in the position of backtracking in their own communications.  If your work is first class, they will never have to explain their decision to hire you.

It goes the other way if you’re casual.  It doesn’t matter how loveable you might be.  If you’re late to appointments, arrive with portions of what you promised and sloppy with facts, you’re making extra work for the customer.  If you expect them to forgive mistakes because you and your company are good people, you’re fooling yourself.  They know they’re taking on a measure of risk every time they dial your number…assuming they dial your number.

People don’t lower their standards or expectations for long.  Think about your own buying behavior.  You eat at the restaurant along the freeway when it is the only choice or when you’re in the mood for a very specific thing.

Most days you prefer better.  You make it yourself or you patronize a more service focused establishment.  You buy where you get your money’s worth.

Excited and committed people deliver exceptional service.  Excited and committed people are also where the best ideas come from.  These employees care about what they are doing and truly want to make a difference.  They want to learn and they want to help every tool succeed.  They don’t spend time complaining and waiting on the “day shift” to arrive.  They help.  They’re easy to work with too.  Excited people excite customers.  Let me say that again…EXCITED PEOPLE EXCITE CUSTOMERS!

The people at the restaurant with questionable service were all tolerating work.  It showed.  I will certainly go back…but not for a while.  Most of the time, I insist on better.  I gladly pay more to get better service.  I want my dining experience to be about me and my meal…not about some unhappy waitress.

The same thing goes for your clients…you can bet on it!  Think about that and remember, you are the brand!



Customer Focus (#39) Customer Focus Series by Bill Gillespie 2007, All Rights Reserved.



Some words from our friends at MLT Creative

How can you make digital B2B Marketing Touchpoints truly sensational?

See (and feel) SenseAtional for yourself.

We recently were awarded the opportunity to conceive and design a printed “kit” to demonstrate, explore and showcase an amazing new printing technique for one of our long-time partners, Bennett Graphics in Atlanta.

The technique is called “SenseAtional, ” and it is that and more. It consists of tactile enhancements and foils that are applied to digitally printed designs. They’re polymers that are applied in various thicknesses from super glossy to differently textured enhancements in ways you have never seen, or felt, before. Both the gold and silver foils are elegant, versatile and can achieve effects that would have been too cost restrictive in the past even to consider.

SenseAtional logo

We designed a wish book “kit” that would push this technology to the limits of its capabilities and get the creative wheels turning for Bennett’s audience of designers, marketers and communication departments. The kit has a combination of various style images and graphics along with some of my personal photography work to help illustrate the wide range of endless possibilities this technology offers. Bennett’s team are thrilled with the final piece and the many new opportunities and interest it has already delivered.

Describing it is tough, so we included a few photographs and detail images to try and give a better sense of the experience. The only true way to “get it” is to see and feel it first hand, but more about that later.

Add a SenseAtional Splash to Drip Campaigns, Sales Collateral, Digital Direct Mail, and Event Marketing materials

The big news is what this means for using print to reach your audience in new ways that will gain attention immediately. The ability to digitally enhance and personalize your design with foil accents and tactile expressions, quickly and in small quantities, is a game-changer. It tangibly demonstrates how print is not dead and can still be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. Using print that grabs attention in this way, paired with sound marketing outreach in other areas, offers a creative method to reach and captivate an audience with your message.

SenseAtional Savannah flyer header

If you have a new service or product that needs a creative focus or custom B2B photography to tell its story, contact us for a no-obligation discussion.

If you’re interested in learning more about SenseAtional and how it could “elevate” your marketing program’s printed outreach, contact Bill Gillespie at Bennett Graphics for all of the details and samples.


Vanity Matters

Scott Stratten, bestselling author of “Unmarketing” recently told a story during the United Marketing Conference in Nashville, Tenn., about metrics that really matter.  The general gist was that many of the metrics of a video he created were not only misleading, but distracting from what really mattered.

Stratten saw remarkable click rates, views and “likes.”  He was able to go even deeper into the analytics and determine that his overall “vanity” metrics were pretty high.  But he also noticed that he never received a spike in sales or inquiries from his speaking.

Vanity metrics are driven by the need to validate.  Whether it’s the CFO who wants to confirm that every dollar spent turns into something greater than a dollar, or the Millennial marketing coordinator who wants to prove a level of intelligence, validating existence plays a major role in marketing today.

This really is one of the best times to be in marketing.  Technology, tools data, information, ideas and innovation abound.  But as a result, prospects and customers are feeling a massive overload.  The vanity metrics matter less and less each day, and the world craves to connect on a deeper level.  This may mean doing things that simply do not scale, being more vulnerable and doing some real soul searching around what really matters to move the needle.

Marketing must be more than a series of e-blasts married to an automated drip campaign that most of us can smell a mile away.  Marketers need to harness all the available tools to optimize efficiency, but also be able to directly engage with people to seek an understanding and trust that traditional marketing practices don’t allow.

Due to noise within the channels, people don’t necessarily want to be marketed to anymore.  Therefore, brands are desperate to determine how to create engagement and conversations at every consumer touch point.  Buyers have all the control today.

This month’s Connect Magazine speaks to that very point in the cover story “Orchestrating Business.”  The second piece “Touchy Feely” speaks to customer intimacy and reminds us of the ownership people take when sensing things through touch.

The magazine is a must read for marketers, this month.  The current economic climate is such that people want more connection to one another and print is still a great example of developing intimacy.  Dr. David Eagleman’s work on the neuroscience of touch supports both pieces.

If you don’t receive Connect Magazine and would like to, please let us know.  You can subscribe on our website or call Bennett Graphics and ask for Connect.  It’s free and we want you on board.



Print Still Matters in the Digital Age!

We’re pleased to share the following contribution from our friend Mark, Semmelmayer Co-President of BMA’s Atlanta Chapter. Bennett Graphics is proud to be associated with BMA and with Mark, personally.

Using the best of both is a powerful 1-2 marketing punch
A colleague in the Business Marketing Association (BMA) recently pointed me to an article that surprised a bit. Published in April 2016, titled “Why Some Publishers are Going Back to Print”, it’s available online in the Recruitment ADVisor.

So, there’s new thinking in the halls of trade publishing houses, with implications for B2B marketers. Not just in print advertising, but in all manner of printed marketing materials. Fundamentally, the post lists three reasons for this newer line of thinking (paraphrasing here):

Emphasis on editorial -A digital publication can morph into many things beyond the intended core content. This split focus can take away from communication and the perceived value of the written word.

Premium product –The best designed online publication is just a disembodied experience. By contrast, a printed material has a physical presence that lends both a tactile experience and a sense of genuine gravitas to the content.

Communications impact – Readers of online publications tend to have their attention batted around by ads, links, and other distraction. The print environment offers a deeper, more focused experience.

When it comes to digital, don’t let age fool you
In an article in the Washington Post , February 2016, Michael Rosenwald, dispelled the myth of preference for digital information by those he called “digital natives”…college students and others under the age of 25. “Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises, given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally.”

What print does that digital alone can’t
In an article, published April, 2013 in the Scientific American, Ferris Jabr states it bluntly: “Evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss. More importantly, they prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.”

Print marketing is alive and well. So is digital. Make them work together
There are many ways to do it and here are just a couple. In a post written for Online Marketing Insights, Larry Alton, a business consultant specializing in social media, posited 3 ways to combine print and digital to a greater effect than either used alone.

1. Use digital opt-ins for direct mailings
There’s much exchange between digital media and direct mailings. Learning how to maximize these interchanges can elevate the return from both. Get people to opt-in to receive your direct mail with digital campaign, and then use the predictability of direct mail to further drive your online campaign

2. Use QR codes and personalized URLs
QR codes— along with personalized URLs specific to an ad or printed piece— can complement specific campaign goals. QR codes and personalized URLs provide actionable insights into who your customers are and where they’re engaging with your print materials.

3. Combine social media and in-store or trade show displays
In-person events are big for brick and mortars and brands with physical presence. During events, you can distribute print materials and have one-on-one conversations, but you should also look for ways to bring offline customers online. Try a touch that encourages people to follow you on Facebook or Twitter in return for the chance to win a prize.

Insight: Marketing needs to think more inclusively
An open mind about your marketing “vehicles” is of great importance. The marketing process starts with understanding what your customer needs…not what you’re selling…and then creating brand-consistent messages, delivered where, when and how the customer wants them. It’s the foundation of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). In fact, the Atlanta Chapter of BMA recently hosted a luncheon featuring Dr. Bob Lauterborn, one of the co-authors of the book,” Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It All Together”.

If you’re hungry for new ideas, thought leadership and peer-to-peer networking, I’d encourage you to visit the BMA ATL website,, to learn more about BMA and get details on our next event, “The Search for B2B Brand Intimacy”, on April 20.

MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA), Co-President of BMA’s Atlanta Chapter, Recipient of the 2015 G. D Crain Award from BMA and an Inductee in the Business Marketing Hall of Fame. Mark’s a 40-year B2B marketing veteran, including 32-years with Kimberly-Clark. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.

Potentially Yours!

Our instincts tell us that when we’re selling ourselves, we should focus our pitch on achievement. In other words, we seem to emphasize the programs we launched, the deals we completed and the awards we’ve won. But what we accomplished is not necessarily the most attractive thing about us.

In 2012, a couple of Stanford men, Zakary Tormala and Jason Jia, combined their efforts with Michael Norton of Harvard to write a paper about where our real focus should be. They found that what really matters when selling yourself is potential – not accomplishment.

People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because it’s more uncertain. That uncertainty can lead people to think more deeply about the person they’re evaluating and the more intensive the processing, the better the choice.

So, the next time you’re selling yourself, don’t only fixate on what you achieved yesterday. Emphasize the promise of what you could accomplish tomorrow.

Would you rather be told you “could” be the next big thing or that you “are” the next big thing? “Could” provides you with remarkable opportunities and eliminates pressure. In contrast, being told you “are” the next big thing brings enormous pressure and provides limits.

Marketing our business is no different than selling ourselves. We don’t need to focus on what we’ve accomplished, nor do we need to tell our clients the absolutes of our products and services. Our focus should be on the potential within them and how our offerings “could” catapult them to greater heights. Potential provides us hope internally and ambition to our clients.

Our next edition of Connect includes a cover article titled “Shaping Markets.” It discusses the inner lives of markets. Economists no longer study markets. They shape them. See what happens when you shape your market.

Our second feature, “In Perfect Harmony,” shows why data and sales are the emerging roles over the next five years and why you should make changes now to take advantage of this relationship.

If you don’t receive Connect and would like to, please let your rep know or subscribe on our site. It’s free and full of good content for marketers.

Embrace the Negative.

Every year we tell ourselves we just want to be happy, build great relationships and make lots of money. But the problem is not that we all want the same things; it’s that we’re asking the wrong questions. Consider the great Charlie Chaplin, who once said, “to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” So as a new year begins, perhaps our resolutions need to change from wanting the positive to embracing the negative.

Certainly, a new year brings hope, and we all strive for a great attitude. But the more compelling question may be, what pain are we willing to take in order to achieve our objectives? In other words, what sacrifices are required to make our dreams a reality?

Business objectives are no different than personal goals. We must decide what kind of pain we are willing to take to build our brand and carry our overall strategy. More specifically, can we let go of the immediate gratification that dominates our culture and stay the course through adversity?

Every year begs the question about what we want to have in our business. And the realities of our individual lives are that whatever we wanted to attain soon will be the thing that causes us the pain. The ones we love will be the ones we fight with the most. The dream job we landed will be the one we stress over the most. So it is in business too. The strategies that catapult us to new heights soon will be the ones that no longer have merit and weigh us down.

Accepting the never ending journey of ups and downs in our personal world is human. Similarly, it makes sense to embrace the struggles in business that offer opportunities for growth. Acceptance of challenges is the first step to making the progress we desire.

Joy doesn’t just sprout out of the ground like daisies and rainbows, it grows from problems. And business success is generated from the acceptance and active engagement of negative experiences and challenges…not the avoidance of them.

In our first issue of Connect Magazine (first of the year and on press now), we’re proud to bring you our cover article “20/20 Vision.” The story delves into the major challenge of our business lives-what the future job market looks like. Our second article, “Balancing Act,” examines how to manage our needs along with those of others-a key component to any great company.

If you receive Connect, keep an eye on your mailbox. If you would like to receive Connect, you can subscribe on our website and it’s completely free.

We wish each of you a year full of challenge and growth, and look forward to developing along with you.

The Revolution!

In August, analysts at Morgan Stanley using data from an Oxford University study predicted that nearly half of U.S. jobs will be replaced by robots over the next two decades. It’s said we will have cars that drive themselves, waiters we won’t need to pay and personalized butlers. Looks like we’re moving rapidly toward a future without actual jobs.

According to a 2013 Stanford University study, some manufacturing robots now cost the equivalent of about $4 per hour – and they keep getting cheaper and better. We even have robots that think. Editors at the Associated Press claim robots write thousands of articles a year for them. It would seem as if the dream of living a WALL-E-type existence, where we float around in auto-piloted chairs, sip on a liquid turkey dinner and stay glued to the attached monitors may become a reality.

Not So Fast! While it certainly seems like we’re headed toward a scary and confusing robot revolution, it is best to remember that technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. Progress creates angst, but it’s still progress. And this time will be no different. Consider that computers destroyed a great deal of manufacturing jobs, but enabled hundreds of millions of new jobs. The reality is that technology augments humans, rather than replaces them.

We don’t need to fear the robots, but we do need to understand that the jobs robots can replace aren’t good jobs in the first place. As humans, we climb the ladder of success using our brains. So we must tap into the greatest computer inside of us, embrace a strategic mindset and start anticipating the kinds of jobs that will emerge over the next 20 years.

Leadership is not about getting people to work harder. In fact, it’s about discovering new paths and new ideas, and incubating the skills needed to sustain us in the future. Leadership is about identifying markets that are important and providing that community a competitive advantage. The future is bright, and while we can all concern ourselves with the changing job climate, take solace in the fact that history proves progress is good.

This month’s Connect Magazine has a cover story titled “The Great Escape.” We discuss some of the strategies and marketing ideas that will gain momentum next year an over the next several years. A second article speaks to how your employees are your best branding asset.

Both are compelling articles that remind us where our focus should remain. If you would like to receive a copy of Connect Magazine please let us know. You can subscribe on our website and it’s completely free.