We Are All Mockingjays – But Resist the Temptation

mockingjayI had lots of different titles in my head for this post: Top 10 Most Abused Words in Business; Your BS Business Bingo Card Would Have These Words On It; Stop All the Bruises – Top 10 Words You Should Use Sparingly.

Instead I decided to make an analogy – Yes, I admit it is a Hunger Games reference, but I think one we can all relate to. And no, I am not using the popular reference to boost my short-term rankings or relevancy.

If you are in sales, it is actually a taught strategy, “parrot your prospect’s language.”  If you are in marketing, you are taught this same thing, it’s called, “speak the language of the customer.” If you are in SEO, you are taught this as well, “find high traffic keywords and repeat them often.” But now that anyone can communicate anything, it seems to all be running together.

Instead of a top 10 list, I thought I would share a story. No names are included to protect the guilty.

I got another pitch for a marketing technology. I swear before I was even able to let the person know that I was not the buyer for this product, they were well into their speech. I decided for fun to listen. I kid you not, in the first 30 seconds I heard the following:

  • Big Data
  • Measurable Media
  • Optimize
  • Conversation tracking
  • Real-time
  • Conversion
  • Content Marketing
  • Synergistic

I am sure there were more strung together… I can’t remember the order, but honestly, I had a moment of knowing what the Google algorithm must feel like (if it could feel that is 😉 ). We are conditioned these days to repeat. Almost blind mockingjays, mimicking and repeating the popular words to make our product or service relevant.

My point is this… choose wisely. Of course all these words are relevant in many circumstances, but avoid the keyword vomit. It makes all the words you say irrelevant and have no meaning at all.

My advice – choose one key thing your product and service does the best. Use real-people language to describe it and avoid all the additives.

Break free from the mockingjay cycle, and stand out.  I promise it is far more powerful than the most popular words on Google or hash-tags on twitter.

Want to save hours by taming your inbox? Unroll.me Tool Tip

cc_online_media_email_211013_16x9_1600My inbox was bringing me down. I had tried many solutions, e.g. a junk email address, inbox rules, unsubscribing…old fashion ignoring…nothing seemed to work systematically. Sometimes I want to see some of my favorite brands’ emails, sales, special offers, information, but email was getting out of hand. (BTW – email is not dead. Frankly, most people B2C and B2B still use email to do daily transitions.)


I credit my rockstar assistant Angela for finding this jewel – Unroll.me. You sign up with your email address and then decide to unsubscribe all unwanted email lists at once or add all your emails into a daily roll-up. Genius! I had 143 subscriptions for just one email addy.


Now I can quickly review the daily roll up and see if there is anything I might miss, otherwise I don’t have to delete, flag or file. It is done automatically. It takes less than 10 minutes to set up and saves hours of time and attention, which we all could use more of.


Give it try, and tame that inbox without even breaking a sweat.


Marketing is Moving from Second Class to First

Astore_Marketing_PlanAnyone that has worked in marketing within at least the last 20 years knows what I am talking about…Usually sales and product/engineering rule the roost. Marketing as a function has been treated as the “necessary evil,” and since it is seen as a cost center, often, it is perceived as a second class function.

These previous priorities made sense when 1:1 relationships were the key to closing deals. Of course sales were the heroes, these people brought in the cash that paid your budget and your staff.

And who would ever argue against the fact that your product must be top-notch and constantly evolving. No one.

This unique business environment requires focus on all the functions to prevail in the highly competitive marketplace of today. But I would throw out that marketing has increased in value with the uber noisy communication environment. According to Yankelvich Research, we see anywhere from 3,000-20,000 messages a day.

Have I made my case yet? Not yet…try this…we see at least 247 images a day. Neurologically our brains can’t process all these message attacks and, in fact, there is plenty of research that suggests these constant messages, aka distractions, are fundamentally changing our cellular brain makeup to no good end.

Enough philosophizing and back to brass tacks—too many messages, means you must figure out a way to segment, target and break through the clutter. What function does that best? Marketing, hence, its rise to the top.

Once you have the attention of the prospect, sales can handle the close mostly with its eyes shut. But finding, engaging and delivering a viable lead is increasingly harder. So cheers to the new status for marketing…but note: not all marketeers are the same. My advice—look for those that are adaptive…this environment isn’t going to settle any time soon and the willingness to bend is far more important than your educational or professional pedigree.

Hot Week for Triangle Creatives & Entrepreneurs: Sept 8-12

be-creativeNot sure if it is because the weather is cooling or just serendipity, but the week of September 8-14 is packed full of events for your inner creative or entrepreneur. Don’t miss out on these activities many free, most under $20!

Forward Triangle, formerly known as Triangle Entrepreneurs Week, starts on Monday, September 8 and ends September 12.

Want to get your mad networking on? LinkedIn Live is coming to town on September 9 from 8:00am – 4:30pm.

Want to add your innovative spin to Raleigh? Check out Innovate Raleigh on September 10. I went to this last year and found it very inspiring.

SparkCon – kicks off September 11 and ends September 14. A wild time in store for sure.

Food Truck Rodeo anyone? September 12 at Research Triangle Foundation. Here is the link for the food lineup at the Rodeo.

Want to get your data pitch on? Then head over to NC DataPalooza on September 12 from 9am-11am at Red Hat in downtown Raleigh.

Calling all code geeks – NCDevCon is Sept 13-14…North Carolina’s Premier Web & Mobile Conference.

And if that week of activities isn’t enough, put on your calendar for the next Exit Event Social on Monday, September 15, at 6:30pm at American Underground at Main. Entrepreneurs only BTW, so you have to be a verified entrepreneur for entry… well worth the time.

I am tired just thinking about this hot bed of innovation activity. Hope to see you at a few of these events – tweet me if you want to connect at an event @kmelissakennedy

The Importance of the F — Word

f word picThe word for the year is FOCUS. And if you’re thinking—Hey, that sounds like a New Years’ post and it’s June already—you’re right. It took me a while to figure it out because, frankly, I was NOT focused.

It happens. women are so good at multi-tasking that it’s easy to overdo. We answer email while making dinner and doing laundry. We write proposals, blog posts, and take calls while walking the dog.

In my first two years at the top of my company, Ester Mae Marketing, I became so good at multi-tasking that my work brain was hardly ever turned OFF.

And that’s not good. Even Superman’s younger cousin Supergirl couldn’t be in two places at once. (And she was just a teenager without bills to pay and a comic book character to boot.) So I’ve decided to stop dividing my time and energy every waking moment of every day.

Here are 4 ways I’m sharpening my focus in 2014:

  1. Create a reasonable to-do list: My friend Ivy has a unique way of doing this. She writes each job on a sticky note and posts them en-mass. Seeing all my tasks clustered that way is a fresh way to visualize my day and week at FULL vs OVERFULL. Plus, pulling each accomplished sticky task off the wall is great fun. Or try a new school tactic – Wunderlist app Make a list, share a list and complete list – all from your phone.
  2. Celebrate Single Tasking: If it feels weird, and it will at first, try setting a timer. Sit down and tell yourself, for the next 60 minutes I will focus only on____________. I was amazed by how much I actually get done.
  3. Unclutter my in-box: (and my life when possible): Clutter is overwhelming and when you work with social media as much as I do, there will always be clutter. I found dumping my in-box of old and unread messages incredibly freeing. Delete unread messages. No one can read all of it. Give yourself permission to pick and choose.
  4. Create some ME time: In my business fresh eyes are important and it’s hard to have them if you’re totally worn out. I had to realize that my energy is a valuable and finite resource and commit to time everyday for a recharge. Again the timer was my friend, and I started small–unwired, unplugged and focusing on my garden or a novel for 60 minutes at a time.

I’ve focused this way for several weeks now, and I’m glad to report that’s it not just good for the work, it’s good for the woman, too. I’m happier, healthier, and less vulnerable to fatigue (which has always been my own personal kryptonite).

So what do you do when you lose focus?  Comment below I’d love to hear some new tricks.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter over to your right.  I promise that I will send you ideas that will foster innovation.

Have a great week!

Want to Engage Your Audience? Look To General Electric for Some Tips.

resize_GE logoApprovedI don’t normally rave about brands for the most part but this is worth the mention.  General Electric (GE) exemplifies what it means to be social.  All it takes is one quick Google search to see.

Not only is their stock up but you will see highlights of their social media efforts from Forbes, Entrepreneur Mag, McKinsey and Ad Week just to name a few.

GE has always positioned itself as an innovative company and this campaign delivers.

A couple of weeks ago for fun’s sake I decided to take part in GE’s version of “spring break.”


It was a clever idea to have people engage with the brand by pushing their super materials to the limit. By means of smashing, crushing or blasting they headed to the internet and asked whoever was listening to Tweet a request using the hashtag #SpringBreakIt.

Take a look.

It gets better!  GE was then sending out videos of the request.

Can you guess what I chose?


Awesome CRUSHING power!!

I would have been happy with that engagement alone, but GE decided to take it a step further. I got a reply asking for a DM (direct message).  I was very interested.  Once I replied with the DM GE thanked me for participating, asked for my address and let me know they would be sending me a gift.  Ohhhh.  I wonder what it will be?!?

Moral of the story is this – Engage your audience, exceed their expectations and don’t be afraid of innovation. Why?  Time spent making them feel special will pay dividends and your innovation will cut through the clutter.  Next time I am looking to buying an appliance; I will have this fantastic memory of how GE “made me feel.”  How do I feel? AWESOME!

When was the last time a company made you feel awesome?

Learn 6 Business and Marketing Lessons From My Garden

Marketing Social GardenIt is no secret that I love to garden.

It all started when I was interviewing for a job — you know that question, what is something you are improving about yourself.…the dreaded, no right answer question. I never had a non-cheesy answer.  The answer was right in front of me…my number one weakness – patience.  What better way to learn the value and rewards of this weakness than growing a garden. Think about it…you have to work hard, plant and nurture and WAIT to be rewarded.

Plus, when you think for a living, it is hard to end your day knowing what you produced.  Gardening is extremely tangible and surprisingly, an amazing resource of wisdom even for your business and marketing activities.

Here are 6 things tending a garden will teach you about your marketing plan.

  1. Magic is in  the balance. Water is necessary for all plants — the trick is just the right amount. Communicating with your customers is good business, but think about the balance of too much or too little. Consider your audience, the relevance of your message and choose wisely so not to overwhelm.  **Don’t drown your customers in one directional message blasting**
  2. A little pruning goes a long way. Makes sense that a plant dedicates more nutrition to its ailing parts — trying to heal itself. Every good gardner monitors plants and tries to ensure it uses its finite energy well. Businesses must do the same.  Take a step back from your day-to-day and review how your resources are being used. Prune old and ineffective methods to free up your resources and build new growth.
  3. Organic Is Always Better. Nature knows best. All natural usually means slower  sometimes physically uglier plants, but if you dump chemicals on your plants, the consequences can be toxic fruit or death all together. As with your marketing efforts, always remember that it is the slow organic growth that is is genuine and sustainable. <…see that patience theme tricking in 😉 >
  4. Don’t Grow Too Much of One Thing. While I love a good tomato, one can’t live by tomatoes alone. My old southern roots teach us that crop rotation prevents depleting the soil’s nutrients. Too much of one effort is not only tiresome, but it gets old quick. Stay fresh, try new things and don’t waste all your resources all in one place.
  5. Fertilizing = healthy. Often novice gardeners plant and forget. They forget that after a season the plant has used up all its food.  You must fertilize in order to keep them healthy.  The same goes with your customers. You can’t just acquire and forget them.  You must communicate and nurture them along the way.  Feeding them value-added education and content is key for long-term loyalty and health.
  6. Create an Easy Path and Prevent a Muddy Mess. I had an area in my yard where nothing grew. Mostly due to a massive maple tree that sucked all the moisture out of the ground and flung its roots everywhere – so basically no decent plant would live near it. Anyway, to keep a mudslide free backyard I laid mulch down and created a path. Your customers need a clear easy path to your product. Your message should explain a clear path to your product or service and in doing so you will prevent a chaotic mess.

In a world of nonstop marketing ploys, what your customers really want is some insight. Customers want you to nurture them and through this you will grow their trust. Treat your business and marketing plan like a garden, embrace your new found patience and watch your business tangibly flourish.


Risk Management & Innovative Marketing – 3 Questions I Ask Every Client

Looking in a bowlLooking for innovative digital marketing? I suggest checking your risk tolerance first.  Seriously!

It is a lot like a trip to the financial planner. Pick a number between 1 and 10 that best describes your risk tolerance and matching it to your marketing plan.

Just saying “innovation” is easy.

Everyone wants the big hit, the video that goes viral, millions of hits, and a call from a network morning news show.

Unfortunately it is just not that simple.  Not everyone wants to go viral rapping in their Christmas jammies like local news anchor Penn Holderness did when he announced his new job.

Still kudos to Penn for taking the risk!

Putting your time and money into an innovative, out-of-the-box marketing plan that tests uncharted waters is not easy. It’s just like investing money. Risk equals reward, and risk is a nerve-wracking proposition.

So I always ask these 3 questions before designing a marketing plan- 

  1. Is your business or non-profit progressive? Think of your audience, their behavior and the goals for your marketing effort.  For example trying to make a major gain, or out flank a giant competitor requires more risk than merely evolving your brand.
  2. Are the bosses really on board with innovation?  Talk with the internal stakeholders and make sure the risk/reward position is clear and expectations are in-line with reality.
  3. Finally – how well do your customers, staff and management tolerate change?

Don’t get me wrong – innovation is the hallmark of my company, Ester Mae Marketing. I am always in favor of marketing that cuts through the noise. But with more than 15 years in this crazy world of digital marketing, I have become a realist.

Buy-in is critical to any marketing effort, and risk tolerance is huge part of the equation.

My best advice for clients?  Borrow a page from the financial planner, pick a number between 1 and 10 and do some honest soul-searching about your risk tolerance. It will not only save a lot of time and frustration but in the long run it will save you money!  (And that is always a 10!)

Sales vs. Marketing: The Original Game of Thrones

Iron Throne_Don DraperA Game of Thrones-like struggle for power and recognition exists in many offices. It’s a little well-known fact that  sales and marketing have had a long-standing power struggle. Often the two departments have different goals, motivations, and tools that align a company’s long and short-term goals. With each staking their claim to different areas of the business process, it can be hard to find any common ground with which to bring them together.


As Pardot notes when sales and marketing work together to generate leads, nurture relationships, and close deals, a company can thrive. They have cleverly put together a fun and informative infographic to help find the pain points, mindsets, and opportunities for peace between these two departments.

Sales vs. Marketing: The Original Game of Thrones


Stop Telling Your Story – Show It!

 “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Effective Storytelling for B2B


Load more