Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Stage and Off Stage

The garbage that comes out of marketing organizations never ceases to amaze me. Not all organizations, but many.

And I am not talking about the content. Content is much harder to nail. Is it the right message for the right audience? Is the content rich enough to get their attention, but not too rich that the audience has no need to contact you?

What I am talking about is the plain and simple stuff. They say the devil is in the details. And spell checking and proofreading is, I thought, the most basic of tasks.

Andy Astor, CEO at EnterpriseDB, uses the terms 'on stage" and "off stage". This is similar to the sayings "inside the box" and "outside the box". But, Andy's terms are more accurate.

After all, you can never really think outside of the box. You are ALWAYS inside a box. This is not a revelation. Others have said this and I am just reiterating it. (I would tell you where I heard this, but I can't remember.) Follow me...

A box has four walls. When you are told to think outside the box, you are being told to be creative, but you must still be "in the box". Why? Well, you have customers who expect something from you. Regardless of what it is, whether it is a certain quality of service, a pricing model, whatever. There are existing expectations. That is Side 1. Side 2 is the market as a whole. Now, you can argue that you can remove this barrier or alter its parameters, but the market as a whole perceives you in a certain light. They also have placed expectations on you. Side 3 is your inside team. You only have so many people with so much talent. You must work within those confines or change the team. And changing the team puts up against the fourth side of your box: time. Time and money combine for the fourth wall. Every company has limited time and money. You have to learn to work inside this box.

So, being "on stage" is more accurate. It is Andy's mantra. Whenever you do anything that will be seen outside of the company, that is "on stage". Whether it is sending an email or conducting a webcast, or simply giving your elevator pitch to an acquaintance, you are "on stage".

But, in the last three weeks, I have seen (and honestly, been a part of) so many "on stage" screw-ups that it gives me pause. Are we moving too fast? Is there no attention to detail? Or, are we becoming so dependent on spell checkers that we don't read the words to make sure they are accurate.

Some are just dumb. Today, I received an email from, of all places, a marketing services company. The subject line of the email read "Invite - Arpil 30". Come on people. That is the subject line for crying out loud!

Last week, I received a post card in the mail from a financial services company that was inviting me to a free gourmet meal at a local restaurant for listening to their pitch on IRAs and retirement planning. On the back of the postcard were all the details and fine print of the free meal at the Brickside Grille (a very good restaurant with a great raw bar) located in Eagle, PA. But, on the front the advertisement read: FREE Gourmet Dinner at the Backside Grille. Now, seriously. Do you think I want to eat dinner at the Ass Grille?

My advice is proof read and spell check, people.

You are "on stage".

Have a grate day.


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