How to evaluate the value of your marketing partners

Engaging marketing partners to help shape the success of your brand is an investment in your business. Talent and expertise come at a cost, and that cost should carry a return. So how do you know if the time, energy and money that you’re investing in your partners are worth it?

Ask yourself these six questions:

1.  Do they ask questions that challenge your thinking?

There is power in asking thought-provoking questions. Because good answers start with good questions, be sure your partners are asking a lot of them. It’s ok if you don’t know the answers.

2.  Do they effectively balance brand and promotion?

Both are necessary to create long-term value in the marketplace, and ensuring that brand and promotion work well together is critical for short-term results. Elegance isn’t always impactful but, when done right, it is.

3.  Are their recommendations right for the situation?

Ideas are everywhere. Do they bring the ones that are on strategy, on budget and in line with what you can—and should—do to make the desired impact? Simple ideas exquisitely executed can yield bragging-rights results.

4.  Does their work better your personal brand?

Whether you’ve engaged your marketing partners in strategy, execution or analysis, they should be able to accomplish more than you could do alone—and deliver it at a higher level of quality, too. So ask yourself: How is your work being elevated as a result of their involvement?

5.  What have you learned from them?

Are you smarter today as a result of working with your marketing partners? If they are generous with their expertise—and you gain knowledge that otherwise would have required a longer learning curve—they are valued partners.

6.  Do they share the story behind the numbers?

Dashboards and presentations with charts and graphs are certainly nice, but they lose their power without context. Do you know what you’re seeing and why? It’s important to provide metrics with meaning.

The value of your marketing partners can sometimes be hard to quantify, but it should never be hard to evaluate. You should feel like each of your marketing partners is a vital part of your team and a key contributor to your success. When they are, you can be confident recommending them to colleagues and friends.


This post first appeared on the Elevation blog at

Powerful marketing presentations tell a story

Twenty slides into a 100-slide marketing presentation, the VP you’ve been waiting weeks to meet with starts checking his phone and a few slides later announces, “I’ve got another meeting that starts in 15 minutes. How much more do you have to cover?”

Awesome. All eyes are on you. Do you reschedule or skip to the end? Instead, you call an audible and cherry-pick the handful of slides that are critical to the conversation. Relying more on your voice than your visuals, this forced focus has just made you a better presenter.

The good news is that your presentations can—and should—be that focused every time.

If you start with PowerPoint, you have forgotten the cardinal rule of presenting: you are the presentation. Slides are visual aids to help the audience better understand what you are saying. As such, slides should be developed after you know the story you want/need to tell. There are few instances where 100+ slides improve the outcome.

When you leverage storytelling techniques, your delivery will be more effective and memorable. Use this simple 4-step process to design a more powerful presentation:

1. Plan your strategy

If you need to go to Philadelphia, do you just get in the car and drive? No, you consider the purpose/timing/duration of your trip, your starting point and who is traveling with you and how they feel about travel. You map your route and consider major checkpoints along the way, considering whether flying provides a better travel experience. It’s the same with presentation planning. Depending on the audience and context of the meeting, you may decide that a traditional marketing deck is not the best way to deliver your message.

2. Craft your narrative

Use elements of storytelling when developing your presentation. Situation, conflict, resolution. A hero (this is not you). And a rise and/or fall. Draw your audience into the emotion of the narrative. After all, it’s their story. Your program delivered the results, but your audience had the wisdom to back your recommendation and champion it internally. Keep the story tight, relatable and repeatable.

3. Enhance your storytelling

Remember your purpose and the change in attitude or behavior that you want to see as a result of your presentation. Do you have a compelling story? Is there anything that could detract from the message and distract the audience? Does every visual advance the story in a meaningful way? If not, should you improve your visual or remove it? What additional data and details could strengthen your narrative? Is there another flow that would more clearly and concisely take the audience from point A (the situation) to point B (the resolution)?

4. Polish your presentation

Once you have your story down and visuals designed, it’s time to practice your delivery. No matter how long you’ve been doing presentations, practice makes professional. No reading slides. Or reciting a script. Show respect for the audience by being fully prepared and passionate. It will set you up to better connect with your audience and sell your idea.

Make every presentation count

The power of focus can make a good marketer great. So tell it well. When your presentation has both interest and intrigue, people are more likely to follow along to find out what happens next. And when you make it their story, you invite the audience to work with you to create a happy ending.


This post first appeared on the Elevation blog at

How to lead with less: marketing plans that work

Marketing budget cuts are never really a surprise. Along the way, there were signs. Missed sales goals. New data analysis and lead generation projects. Reactive decision-making. Unrest among the leadership team. Requests for spending updates. Calls to buckle down for now, whether now is the rest of the quarter or the year.

When a temporary cut becomes the new normal for your marketing plans and budget, it’s an opportunity—an opportunity for you to demonstrate your marketing leadership in a challenging business environment

Prepare now to use that heightened fiscal focus to your advantage. Here are three behaviors you need to lead and succeed:

Be proactive

  1. Ask the hard questions before others do
  2. Review yesterday’s plan in light of today
  3. Ensure your strategy is aligned with sales

Be decisive

  1. Evaluate your executions using the right KPIs
  2. Value outcomes over activity
  3. Practice ruthless exclusion

Be bold

  1. First prove, then improve
  2. Go where you know the why
  3. Identify risks worth taking

Once you’ve mastered these three behaviors, talk about the marketing results you’re seeing in a concise and compelling way. In the boardroom and the break room, connect the dots for people. Help them see marketing’s impact on the revenue steam, tailoring the message to your audience. This will increase your credibility throughout the organization and position marketing as an important investment going forward.

Even though you’re working with a smaller marketing budget today, it’s a cycle. The business will turn around and additional resources will free up. And that will present a new challenge—another one we’d be happy to help you with.


This post first appeared on the Elevation blog at