Online Marketing: Like Going Down a Rabbit Hole

If you’re looking to learn about social media and online marketing, you’ll find there are plenty of courses to choose from. Many focus on specific aspects of social media or online marketing so you can pick and choose the courses you want.

That’s great. But there’s one drawback….it’s all piece meal. You learn about landing pages from one source and Facebook marketing from another. You get tips on building your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles from another. You can even take courses about content marketing and get tips on blogging. It’s overwhelming.

How do you know what’s right for you and your circumstances?

Just because someone is having tremendous success with Facebook doesn’t mean you will….not if your ideal customers are spending the bulk of their time on another platform like LinkedIn or Google+.

So you have choices to make. You can try to figure it out on your own, enrolling in many of the excellent courses by the various online marketing gurus, or paying $30 a month on for thousands of different courses. Or you can try out my course at

I’ve utilized a systems thinking approach® to marketing that starts with where you want your business to be at some future date and why you chose to be in business, rather than just how to do various online marketing projects. I’ve also incorporated best practices from the online marketing gurus, and applied them to a specific focus – helping entrepreneurs, consultants and solopreneurs put together a marketing program that works for them. The focus is on using LinkedIn, Twitter, landing pages, email marketing, and content generation as the tools to attract your target audience, your ideal prospects, and eventually convert them into clients.

It’s comprehensive, targeted, and has step-by-step explanations of what you need to do to create and implement your social media marketing plan. I also provide resources that I’ve found very helpful that are either free or affordable to help you implement each phase of the marketing plan.

online marketing is like going down a rabit holeWith online marketing it’s easy to get drawn down a rabbit hole

But I’m the kind of person who needs to see the big picture first, to know what I want to accomplish, identify the steps to get there, and then set them in motion. In my years of doing online marketing, I’ve found how easy it is to get drawn down a rabbit hole and lose track of what you were trying to do in the first place.

Here’s an example:
Let’s say you need to create a landing page. So you set up an account on leadpages or Instapage and choose one of their templates. You start customizing it, and then you realize, “oh wait. I need to provide a lead magnet people can download.” (That’s the free item you offer in exchange for the visitor’s contact information). But guess what? You haven’t created it yet. Crap! You now need to get out of the program, and go record a video or write an article or an eBook, or find something else of value that’s relevant to your target audience.

So you get that done, and you get back into the program, and you realize, you don’t have any custom images. Crap again! You need to go find some images you can use (by paying for them or using a site like where you can download them free), or create your own. And you’ll need to resize them and make sure they’re the right resolution for online vs. print. Then you need to upload those images first before you get back into designing your landing page. “Why were you doing this you ask yourself? Oh, that’s right, it’s step one of my plan to attract a certain prospect and build my list. Hmmm….I need to make sure the images, video, ebook, article are the right ones for this target audience.”

Ok, so now you’ve got it all completed. You need to decide how you’re going to promote the page. Are you going to embed it on your website or use the landing page host? Darn. You need a custom domain, if you’re going to embed it or add it as a page on your website. Now you have to log into GoDaddy or some other platform to buy a custom domain. Of course you want to use key search terms that your ideal customer would use to search, but guess what, you haven’t done the keyword research yet. So first you need to do that. Then make a list of keywords you might use. Then check to see if they’re available as a custom domain (which they probably aren’t if they’re very popular). Wait. Why are you doing all this? Oh, right! You need this in order to put the landing page on your website!

See what I mean? It’s an endless rabbit hole, and sometimes, one thing leads to another, which leads to another, to the point where you just want to throw up your hands and say, “Get me outta here!”

That’s where online marketing consultants come in. I’ve tried to make this process simple in the course. No, I haven’t spelled out step-by-step examples like the one above because I don’t know what your business is, who your ideal client is, and what platforms you should use. I’ve had to generalize because there are so many options. If I tried to cover them all, the course would never be finished. What I’ve done is to create worksheets you fill out that cover the key questions you need to answer. Then give you the tools to focus on the primary platforms that make sense for consultants and solopreneurs. I’ve created my own videos that walk you through the process of filling out each worksheet. I’ve also demonstrated how to perfect and tweak your LinkedIn profile. And I’ve included videos by others who demonstrate how to do things like customize your Twitter profile.

Solopreneurs widgetSo now it’s up to you.

There is a huge amount of content built upon my years of learning and perfecting for our own practice. I hope you find it useful.  As a special promotion, I’m giving a 30% discount to the first 100 people who sign up for the course. There are still opportunities available, if you act quickly.  Just use the coupon code 30percent on the checkout page. There’s a link under the full price which says, “Have a coupon?”  Click that and enter the code 30percent, and you’ll get the discounted price.

Once you’ve completed the course, I’d love your feedback about its usefulness and ways it can be improved. Just fill out the survey at the end, or drop me a line at jeri at dennergroup dot com.

How Does Systems Thinking Improve Organizational Agility?

Systems Thinking offers simplicity, and therefore the possibility for agility both in the development and the implementation of strategies. Looking at an organization as a group of systems within a series of external systems is clearly a good start for creating agile strategies.

Further, applying a practiced evaluation of the organization by identifying INPUTS-THROUGHPUTS-OUTPUTS with a FEEDBACK LOOP, we can speed up the process of strategy development, and the creation of specific actions to implement the strategies.

Developing strategies and implementing them has been a focus of businesses for many decades and improving the processes is an ongoing conversation. In recent years, applying Agile concepts and techniques is getting more and more attention. It has even been questioned as to whether applying Agile techniques is even worthwhile. This has even been discussed on forums on startups with divergent conclusions on how effective this might be.

Using Agile techniques means that those strategies are more likely to be able to be adjusted quickly and effectively through their implementation. Systems Thinking brings a simple, reliable and repeatable rigor to strategy creation and implementation thereby offering a higher level of agility, admittedly a desirable attribute for reaching an organization’s desired outcomes more quickly and completely.

If Agility means getting things done faster, being more flexible in adjusting to changes, then Systems Thinking can help make these things occur. “Begin with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey said, is one key element both in Systems Thinking and in ensuring we are more easily able to keep focused on the long term while we adjust to the short term. This simple concept makes a huge difference to ensure we actually reach our objectives.

Fleshing out how Systems Thinking increases an organization’s strategic agility, we can consider the external environment, a natural factor in any system. The value of conducting a rigorous scan of the FUTURE environment of the organization lies largely in the relatively quick and easy identification of Opportunities and Threats. This effort results in intelligence that greatly enhances an organizations anticipation of what to capitalize on and what to prepare to overcome. Being more prepared certainly improves the organization’s Agility.

Agile Strategic Thinking Template
Using Systems Thinking, this template improves agile strategy creation and implementation

A tool we use for creating strategies is the framework “Agile Strategic Thinking Template” adapted from the Haines Centre for Strategic Management’s Systems Thinking Template

Managing the structures and processes created by the strategic initiatives is a challenge that grows in correlation to the size of the organization. Larger firms will naturally seek software to help with this and there are some out there.

Another tool we use for implementing and managing strategic initiatives is the Agile Strategy Manager SaaS at .

Please share your thoughts and reasoning about why and how Systems Thinking improves the Agility of organizations in developing and executing strategic initiatives. Also, will you share with us any Systems Thinking tools you use that make organizations more Agile?

Applying lean agile techniques

The growing popularity in Lean Agile techniques compel us to reassess how we can use the various tools presented by these relatively recent additions to our “management toolboxes.”

In today’s world of nearly “instant” everything, we tend to drive decisions based on “gut feelings”, or simply in reaction to requests or directives. Too often we are forced to do this due to external forces we don’t control, regardless of the impact those decisions may have.

This approach can derail our intentions to reach longer-term strategic objectives.

Use lean agile techniques to drive sprint decisionsFor example, the Agile Strategy Execution Framework presented by mentions two key processes that help drive more “agility” into achieving strategic success. Those are “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives”.

Both of these processes utilize the collaboration of cross-functional groups in achieving their respective goals.

Systems Thinking supports lean agile techniques

It is valuable to note that ensuring the right type of “thinking” needs to be practiced throughout the framework model, and that means using “Systems Thinking”.  This “systemic”, or “holistic”, approach to applying this framework is part of the “secret sauce” to being effective and successful in reaching your strategic objectives.

If the term “Systems Thinking” sounds new to you, be assured it is not. Peter Drucker’s mentors in Vienna, Austria are considered to have shepherded Systems Thinking from the physical sciences into business management. Drucker then refined and articulated its applications. Many of the greatest organizations and businesses of today have been practicing Systems Thinking and teaching it for decades. For a brief overview, click here for an article about it.

Both the “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives” outlined by can benefit from the organization and facilitation techniques drawn from General Electric’s “Work Out” concepts. Whether teams are working on problems in design, process, operational, behavioral or cultural issues, their solutions will be more clearly articulated, more effectively measured and adjusted to with greater agility.

By working out issues in the collaborative, cross-functional teams, both deep dive activities and small bets can produce solutions that are better aligned with longer term objectives and create greater value for the customer and the business.

A lean agile techniques we use is what we call “Sprint Workouts.” These cross-functional team meetings are half to one or two full days in length. The meetings are focused on specific outcomes and support at least one strategic initiative whose results can be measured and communicated quickly and effectively. The stakeholders are clearly identified prior to the meeting and informed of the intent of the Sprint Workout. This produces buy-in and stay-in for quick solutions.

3 Tips: Making Strategic Planning Agile

Creating and managing change is in the pressure cooker! The 2001 introduction of the “Agile Manifesto” by a consortium of thought leaders of the software development industry has now spilled over into nearly, if not all, aspects of managing organizations of all types. This includes strategic planning.

First and foremost, let us accept that Strategic Planning is necessary and requires time, diligence and innovation. Nevertheless, there are tools you can use to make strategic planning agile, speeding up the planning process and achieving the same, and often better, results. Agile is one of those.

Here are three ways you can make Strategic Planning agile

  1. Run your planning retreat in a manner that includes breaking into teams that operate in SCRUMS. The teams, each led by a facilitator, follow the iterative process in a very compressed time frame of 15 to 45 minutes (see SCRUMS) to achieve relatively small, discreet goals. These group collaborations, when facilitated using some key Lean Six Sigma tools, will more rapidly create the results you need in assembling your Strategic Plan.
  2. Apply Systems, or Strategic, Thinking rigorously to maintain an “outcome-based”, or “future-oriented” focus on the planning and implementation of the strategic initiatives. This ensures you concentrate your thought processes and behaviors on evaluating the entire organization as a “living system,” and includes considering the overall environment the business operates in. This helps to make strategic planning agile.
  3. Create the structures, processes and culture that ensure everyone in the organization understands their role in making the business a success. This may include deploying a proven tool, like the Agile Strategy Manager, that aids you in tracking, managing and adjusting your desired goals as everyone does their job to reach them.

Agile Decision Making Framework makes Strategic Planning AgileUse a proven framework for planning. It helps drive the use of a common language for communicating, following, measuring and managing plans throughout the organization. Applying Systems Thinking also ensures the outcomes you identify are creating value for your customer. And don’t forget the importance of providing your people with the best tools available to track and report progress. This also helps to make your strategic planning agile.

Practicing “Agile” techniques, beginning with the Strategic Planning process, will permeate the Strategic Management process. Your organization’s various teams will implement the broader strategic initiatives and their respective tactical tasks. Keeping those tasks aligned with the organization’s strategic initiatives will help the teams adjust and innovate in a much more “Agile” manner.

Celebrating your and your people’s successes will be so much more impactful when everyone realizes that being AGILE and COMPREHENSIVE are not mutually exclusive endeavors.

Systems thinking could yield different outcomes

Let’s talk about justifying the recent Baltimore looting and violence.  I pose the following example of not using Systems Thinking, and invite your remarks.

While listening to the news about the Baltimore looting, I caught a piece where an African-American man was interviewed about the looting. This situation was triggered by the suspicious death of a young man who appeared to have been injured while incarcerated.

The gentleman being interviewed was vocal about the looting “being perhaps not the best way to express frustration, but still justified”. He was referring to an Asian-owned store that was seriously vandalized during the recent rioting. The Asian-owned store was across the street from another establishment owned by African-Americans. That store, after having their glass front broken down, was defended by other African-Americans from further looting and vandalizing. The Asian-owned store was not similarly defended. Once the glass front was breached, the store suffered complete destruction of its contents. None of the neighborhood residents defended the store as they had the African American-owned store across the street.

The African-American interviewee shared a recent experience with the reporter. The Asian store owner turned him down when he requested one week’s credit to pay for a shirt he needed for a job he had just landed. He had made a case to the Asian store owner that he was a regular patron at the store, and that the store owner regularly saw him around the neighborhood because he lived there. But his request was refused. Because of that, the African-American man said he felt the vandalism the Asian store owner suffered was, and I paraphrase from memory, “somewhat justified”.

There are arguably moral arguments to discuss on both sides, particularly if we look at the situation strictly from an analytical standpoint as opposed to a systemic standpoint. Also, we don’t know any details of the neighbors’ relationships which could color this further.

systems Thinking might have produced different results

However, if we consider a Systems Thinking approach to this matter, there is one thing that stands out for me. If the Asian store owner had looked at the larger picture, he might have considered that his potential loss by granting his customer credit for a shirt might be less than $20.00. On the other hand, the goodwill and relationship-building that might have occurred could have actually produced a much different outcome for the Asian-owned store. And that is assuming the African-American gentleman reneged on his promise to pay later that same week. I expect he would have been true to his word, as he told the reporter.

Neighborhoods everywhere thrive or suffer on the relationships of their residents. People are naturally helpful and generous. We see this time and time again, in close-knit neighborhoods and in far flung relationships. An example is the global support for Nepal as it recovers from a devastating earthquake.

Simple understanding of the broader effects of relationships can help prevent most of the negative actions that too many people suffer from daily.

If the Asian store owner had taken a step back to consider all the angles and possible outcomes, he might have come to a different conclusion. Quite possibly, his store might have been equally defended by the neighborhood residents. Down the road, he might have also seen an increase in store sales because of the actions he took to “help” a frequent customer. And he might have solidified his relationships with neighborhood residents as a result, becoming more a part of the fabric of the neighborhood. But we’ll never know.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts.

The Future of Strategic Management

Staying in touch with developments in Strategic Management inevitably requires reading books, articles, blogs and viewing videos delivered by fellow practitioners of this discipline. Perhaps the greatest value in doing this is the constant reminder that the way to seek improvement in managing strategy is by implementing change, and in fact, accelerating change – and it keeps us sharp. It keeps us thinking. And it keeps us innovating.

Rick SmithTwo recent articles bring up topics related to improving strategy that address some fundamental issues we should keep in mind. One is titled Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons the Answer is Yes, by Rick Smith (, 9/22/2014).

SusanSmithThe other is Why I Think Change Management is Broken, by Susan Smith (, 9/29/2014).

The first article cites the compressed time frames in which strategies must be created, planned, implemented and evaluated. It offers these seven reasons with supporting descriptions for the premise that strategy is dead:
1.    Incrementalism has been disrupted by disruption.
2.    Innovation is occurring with high variance outcomes.
3.    The past is no longer a good predictor of the future.
4.    Competitive lines have dissolved completely.
5.    Information has gone from scarcity to abundancy. (I will add indigestion.)
6.    It is very difficult to forecast option values.
7.    Large scale execution is trumped by rapid transactional learning.

The article concludes by stating: “The language of Strategy may be alive and well within the musings of corporate planners and external consultants. Unfortunately, the marketplace is no longer paying attention.”

Some interesting comments on the LinkedIn Group – Strategic Management Forum-Global by Tim MacDonald about this article say: “They want different outcomes. But not a different system.” And: “One challenge for Strategy is to come to grips with the letting go.”

Certainly, when we plan anything, we are creating change and therefore presumably preparing to let go of something. Aren’t we? So we must know that embracing the change and following through with it is the key. Doing so with the clarity of purpose when applying Systems Thinking, supports us in the adjustments that we must make to our strategies along the way.

So, what is your take on this? Is strategy really dead, or is our approach to strategy in need of some applied change management?

The second article also addresses the constantly increasing pace of change and the pressure on strategy and strategic plans to adapt to a “new normal”. Evidently there is a McKinsey survey that “demonstrates that 30% of Change Programs are still ineffective spanning a decade-long assessment”.

This article goes on to elegantly articulate the value of Systems Thinking as “providing the ‘final’ answer to a more effective framework to manage change regardless of its complexity or velocity, embedding it into our daily routines for profitable and sustainable results.” Susan reminds us we simply cannot “opt out” of the set of natural laws that make up Systems Thinking.

She adds that most people have not heard of Systems Thinking because they have not been introduced to it by its proper name. I would add those people have neither been given a clear definition, nor some good and simple examples of it. Once they have learned the definition, they almost always become avid students and practitioners of Systems Thinking, embracing its simplicity.

Susan continues with a conversation about the importance of using all of the Systems Thinking building blocks and not taking short cuts by only adopting one or two a-la-carte style. When you try these short cuts, your Change Program will most likely fail.

So, do you think Change Management is Broken? If so, what will you do to help fix it?

I offer you this bonus topic prompted by a post from Paul Barnett  where he asks the question: “…could this, and should this, happen to the teaching of Strategic Management?  I would argue that it could, and should.” His question in turn is prompted by the Financial Times article published on 9/22/14 titled, Universities to Revamp Economics Courses by Clare Jones.

In a nutshell, university students worldwide recently complained bitterly that economics, as it is taught today, is completely disconnected from reality and today’s economic issues. This has caused universities around the world to collectively begin to adjust their curricula to address this matter.

I find it fascinating how today’s technology can unite a group of seemingly unconnected stakeholders to create massive global change. One would think that continuously applying Systems Thinking to this singular course of education could have caused this change to be more organic and timely, and that it could certainly help in implementing the coming changes.

So, in terms of educating our future Strategic Planners and Managers, I find these threads of thought to be compelling, in particular about Systems Thinking:

If teaching economics at the university level needs some major change, what about strategic planning and strategic management? Should we be exploring what we need to change to address the “new normal”?

And what about addressing not just what is taught, but also teaching how to learn? My greatest takeaway from the years I spent in classrooms all the way through university, is that in addition to learning facts, figures and how to do things, I was also learning how to learn. Recognizing this made my graduate work so much richer.

What can we practitioners of strategic planning and management do to ensure future practitioners are being guided toward the most effective application of their craft and successful careers? Toward continuing to innovate and change how things are done in the world of strategy?

I would start with a good foundation in Systems Thinking. Illustrating how it can become a habit and just as importantly, how to distinguish it and complement it with tactical or analytic thinking. We know that Systems Thinking is not the exclusive solution to strategy and solving problems, we know that it is inclusive of other types of thinking because it is holistic in its process.

If you would like to further explore the topics of ttrategic thinking, strategic management and managing change, please contact me at eric[at]

Managing Change for Every Type of Organization

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International   November 2013

Takeaways: An overview of managing change. What small organizations can do to leverage related skills. Three tips for applying some best practices for any size organization.\

How has your business changed recently, or how do you expect it to change in the near future? All businesses, large and small eventually undergo a major change and this is much more common and sometimes seemingly constant. They are also often undergoing small changes on a regular basis. Employee turnover, rapid adjustments in local market conditions, disasters, new market players disrupting the playing field and shifts in leadership are all common causes of organizations undergoing change.

Managing any organization has always involved managing change, large or tiny, whether it is a manufacturing or professional services enterprise, a non-profit, a school or a government entity. What has occurred over the past 50 years, particularly influenced by the continually increasing sharing of all types of information, is not necessarily that things are changing more or faster. It is really that we are able to predict and create or control change more effectively. We now have more timely information within our reach.

Paradigm Shift in management techniques

This paradigm shift has produced new techniques in management which are now generally referred to as Change Management. A number of individuals, mostly executives at large companies, are credited with leading the development of these techniques. They in turn, have generously credited various other people, employees, consultants and academics, who have greatly contributed to those development efforts. Significantly, those techniques are being widely shared as the thought leaders in management write books and give speeches, and consultants take those “best practices” to their clients.

Perhaps the most common issue I encounter is that small businesses, non-profits and even medium-size companies feel it is beyond them to even consider learning about and using these techniques. I also find that some very forward-thinking small enterprises, eagerly adopt many of these techniques and their level of success is exponentially greater than that of the ones that say “we are too small for that”.

What can an organization of any size do to acquire some of that knowledge or expertise and effectively apply it in their organization? A great first step is to accept that managing change must become a proactive behavior in leading an organization or a team of people. Learning to think about the organization in the context of the whole environment in which it exists is the next most valuable step a manager can take. This is part of what is called Systems or Strategic Thinking.

Additionally, following are some key concepts that, again, any organization, can use to help manage change more effectively:

  • Continually scan the FUTURE environment of your organization by considering how each of your stakeholders will be affecting the organization at a defined point in time in the future. Document what you come up with when discussing this with your colleagues and use the results to define the changes you feel will be needed. Be sure to also document the outcomes that you desire from those changes and make sure you have agreement among those of you responsible for implementing the change.
  • Create a clear plan for the change. Think of it as a discreet project but one that will affect other parties. Then list the parties that will be affected and decide how you will inform or involve them in making sure the change occurs and sticks. Also have a plan for how you will coach your direct reports about how they can assist in making the change happen.
  • Make sure you link your desired outcomes to measures that will help you track your progress toward those outcomes and document your quick successes, as these will help to maintain excitement about the change and its positive effects.

Essentially, stay focused on the fact that you will be moving from your current state to a future state. You need to manage the transition between the two and if you don’t make sure the people affected by the change are involved from the beginning and coached through the process, you are not likely to create a successful, lasting change and achieve the outcomes you desire.

2 Key Strategies to Conquer Chaos

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   5/17/2012

Takeaways: Two strategies are key to ensuring entrepreneurs and business owners are successful. They are Mindset and Systems Strategies. Having the right mindset helps to set the vision and purpose of the business. Setting up and following the right systems ensures the needed actions occur.

Conquer the ChaosMindset Strategies and Systems Strategies are the two proven methods all entrepreneurs and business owners should embrace in order to ensure future growth. They work together, building upon one another over time – if you find the proper balance and strength to follow them.

According to Clate Mask and Scott Martineau, founders of Infusionsoft, “Mindset strategies are your preparation for owning, managing, and controlling your business. They give you the capacity to grow your business without being consumed by it. “Systems strategies are more tangible – they are the processes and tools you implement to grow your business and keep it running smoothly and profitably.”

In their book, Conquer the Chaos, How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy, Mask and Martineau identify the three areas of Mindset Strategies and of Systems Strategies that business owners need to develop.

Mindset Strategies:
1) Emotional Capital
2) Disciplined Optimism
3) Entrepreneurial Independence

Systems Strategies

1) Centralize
2) Follow-Up
3) Automate

Mindset Strategies

Emotional Capital is hard to put your finger on. Basically, it has to do with how you feel. Are you energized each day or do you feel yourself dragging? Do you wake up excited to take on the day or worried, anxious, and nervous? You need to honestly evaluate where your emotional capital stands and what actions you can take to refill the emotional bank account if it’s nearly depleted.

Disciplined Optimism is divided into three components:
an underlying belief that your small business will achieve the success you envision confronting the brutal facts of your current reality attacking those brutal facts because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to.

Having a clearly stated vision is a step in the right direction – but stating a 10-year plan for your business is even more liberating and focusing, according to the authors. They recommend writing it down, posting it on your desk or wall so you see it every day, sharing it with firends and colleagues, and re-visiting it often.  Thoughts become words. Word become beliefs. Beliefs create action.

Entrepreneurial Independence requires that you take full responsibility for your actions. You decide the fate of your business. You need to clearly define success – what it looks like, smells like, feels like so you have a sense of recognition when you get there. You need to believe in your decisions, following through whole-heartedly despite the limited data to back them up. Conviction is essential to making things happen.

Systems Strategies

Centralize. As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats – you are the boss, the sales team, the HR department, tech support, customer service and even the janitor. Unless you’re really well organized, you’ve got reports, statements, records and information everywhere. You need to centralize all that into one database of information which you can access at any time.

Follow-Up. This is perhaps the one greatest fault of most entrepreneurs – lack of follow-up. Whether it’s because you feel you’re being a pest if you call more than three times, or you simply forget after trying once or twice, follow-up is critical to finding your freedom as an entrepreneur. Consider this:

  • Only 2 % of sales close on the first contact
  • 3 % close on the second contact
  • 4% close on the third contact
  • 10% close on the fourth contact
  • 81% close on or after the fifth contact!

(source: Sales and Marketing Executives Club of Los Angeles)

Yet 48% of businesses quit following up after the first call and 24% quit after the second.

Automate. The key to lack of follow-up is automation say the authors – automating those repetitive tasks that involve following up with prospects. With the right tools, this can be done and at a relatively affordable cost. Automated follow-up keeps you top of mind with your prospects and helps to build relationships. With the right tools, automation can cover nearly every aspect of your business from lead capture to billing and collections and even workflow.

This frees you up to do what you do best – lead the company, focus on its future direction, adjust for changes in the marketplace, and make time to spend with your family.

Right-Brain Thinking Increasingly Needed

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International  11/18/2011

Takeaways: Right-brain thinking is increasingly required as the world moves from the information age into the conceptual age.

The world is transitioning from the information age to the conceptual age. This means that left brain (predominantly analytical) thinking alone is no longer sufficient by itself to successfully grow a business.

A Whole New MindWhat is needed now is what Daniel Pink calls “right brain skills, like artistry, empathy, and big-picture thinking.”

Daniel Pink, a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, and a noted author and speaker, shares his philosophy in his book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. You may purchase it from our store at the same price as you would on

What he’s talking about is a whole brain approach to management – a systems thinking approach®. While the left brain skills of analysis, linear and logical thinking are still necessary, the world is evolving into a need for a more holistic approach, one that addresses not just product and price but contribution to society, design in terms of lifestyle and value, and emotional engagement.

Consider the Whole Customer

This means thinking about the whole person you serve as your customer – not just their pocket book. Whole Foods continues to do this successfully by focusing on whole health, organic products, delighting customers, supporting happy employees, and caring about the environment.

According to Pink, others like GM are beginning to do this as well, recognizing that creative input with an emphasis on world class design is necessary for future growth and success. Finding and hiring people who are motivated by their ability to create, by their desire to be part of a larger purpose, and not by money alone, will be the key as we transition from the information age to a conceptual one.

Companies that empower the artistic and creative talents in people will be more successful than those who only reward the routine analytical work of number-crunching, analysis, and jobs that don’t offer opportunities for independent thinking. Much of those analytical skills have been and will continue to be outsourced.

It’s the right-brain skills of design – be it industrial, graphic, environmental or even fashion design – that are becoming increasingly needed in organizations. Consultants will need to become literate in these skills in order to guide organizations as they reinvent themselves. Productivity in the workplace is increasingly impacted by workspace design and employee emotional engagement. This requires right-brain thinking to implement well.

Strategic Management Building Blocks

 By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 1/30/2013 

Takeaways: Strategic Management building blocks include Leadership, thinking, planning, and action. They each deserve study, practice and mastery particularly if you strive to become a highly effective manager or executive.

Lead, Think, Plan and Act are the natural building blocks of sound and effective strategic strategic management building blocksmanagement. Simply put, looking back on nearly 30 years engaged in business planning, we recognize that it is a well-accepted best practice to be disciplined in using this structure in tackling virtually every life or business challenge that presents itself, but particularly those that have long-term horizons. And, yes, it works!

There is, of course, a lot of sub-text to each element of Lead, Think, Plan and Act. In other words they each deserve study, practice and mastery particularly if you strive to become a highly effective manager or executive, or even to create a fuller, healthier and happier life for yourself and your family. There is good reason the Association for Strategic Planning has adopted “Lead-Think-Plan-Act” as its motto, to reinforce this simple but comprehensive set of principles for successful management of long-term initiatives.

Leading is a Skill

Leading is not just about being the boss or leading one or more people in a particular direction. It’s about mastering leadership skills. These include leading yourself. You might notice that people that stand out as leaders demonstrate that they are exceptionally capable at self-discipline and demonstrate a high skill level in the activity they are engaged in. It could be sales, it could be public speaking, it could be solving complex math problems or it could be communicating with children. Those leaders have first mastered personal skills, thus gaining credibility and then they have mastered skills to lead others. They do this by demonstrating how to do things, by teaching, by facilitating, and just as importantly, by coaching. These folks also generally stand out as good communicators. They have developed good public speaking skills and the ability to put forth thoughtful but brief written communications. They have also learned to distinguish the key roles of those involved in planning and change management to effectively leverage them in achieving the desired outcomes.

Therefore, leadership is really a fairly broad combination of skills, practiced and implemented in concert with one another or by themselves, and mostly focused in the outcomes desired by others. At the highest level of performance, leaders help create shared desired outcomes and facilitate the achievement of those outcomes.

Thinking is both strategic and analytical

Thinking cannot be pigeonholed into brief expressions like “outside the box” or a higher level or being philosophical. In reality, Thinking is also about mastering a set of skills.

Today, the business world looks at thinking in two styles, both equally important. One is tactical or analytical thinking. The other is strategic or systemic/systems thinking. One way to consider the distinction between these two styles of thinking is that tactical or analytical thinking focuses on breaking a problem down into its parts and then solving for each of the parts, thus making the parts the priority. This is valuable because it is highly effective for short term solutions and it helps to remove possibly critical problems. When working on long-term horizons, we need to recognize an important paradigm of analytic thinking, which is the tendency to ignore whole overarching sets of issues that may lead to some avoidable unintended consequences.

Strategic or systems (systemic) thinking on the other hand, focuses on solving for the whole and the overarching set of issues; therefore, the whole is primary and the parts are secondary. The skill set here includes using a combination of the many structures and procedures that the business community has developed to maintain discipline and focus on those long-term objectives, create change and manage it, and often to leverage the collaboration of varied and geographically-dispersed groups of people.

Planning Processes

Planning may at first glance tease us into considering long-held beliefs about planning exercises and how they are conducted. In fact, the skill sets for planning have benefited from substantial innovation in process and constantly improving sets of tools, including SAS tools that must be practiced and added to the tool box of every manager and executive. The structures provided by disciplines in project management and the Balanced Scorecard ® system are often integrated into a broader strategic management system to ensure the common clarity of purpose individuals and teams must have to execute day-to-day tasks in concert with the long term objectives. It is not simply coincidence that high-performing organizations have adopted and adapted these skill sets with careful attention to molding them to their culture, and more importantly, making constant adjustments with a focus on the future.

There is a wealth of sharing going on in the business world about how planning is being conducted and how organizations have met their specific challenges. This being the case, getting up to speed is a bit easier than 20 years ago, but it still takes concentrated work and vigilance to craft plans that will succeed and have useful metrics to gauge progress and trigger the need for changes.

Action – getting things done

Acting is generally considered to be about getting things done, right? But let’s understand it better in the context of strategic planning and strategic management, neither of which is really linear in nature, but actually cyclical. This means that long-term planning and managing long-term objectives must be conducted in cycles that fit the time horizons of the projects or initiatives that we have at hand.

Act is also in fact the final building block to be addressed in the cycle. Note here the emphasis on the concept of cycle. There is in fact no single ending act that puts a ribbon on any project or initiative, but instead each project or initiative that ends leads to either another stage or a new project or initiative that builds upon the prior one. The coordination and risk management to ensure high performance of the actions being taken are the responsibility of top executives and strategy practitioners.

Act includes consistent tracking of the key success measures of the initiatives and projects and coordinating appropriate reactions to reinforce the positive outcomes and adjust those that are not measuring up.  The skill sets required include a clear understanding of the roles of the various players in the process, organizational structures and cultures (most businesses have more than one of each), and diligent tracking of the progress of the initiatives. Act also involves skills in facilitation, coaching, conflict resolution and the use of the best tools available to track progress and keep all the stakeholders informed.

Each of these strategic management building blocks of effective long-term planning deserves substantially more conversation, and we explore them in more detail in our daily work. If you would like to learn more about this, please visit our website for more information on consulting or training engagements and upcoming webinars.