[quote style=”boxed”]There are three kinds of people in this world: people who watch things happen; people that make things happen; and people that wonder what happened. Successful entrepreneurs need to have a vision and be passionate about driving that vision to fruition.[/quote]
Ken Adams is a senior partner and co-founder of Marketing Team Houston. This on-demand marketing consulting firm leverages over 100 years of combined experience from world-class corporations such as Texas Instruments, HP, and Digital Equipment Corporation, to bring a wealth of marketing expertise to help mid-market companies in Houston bring their visions for growth to reality.
His marketing and business development career started with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Ken’s role in developing winning strategies and driving marketing programs was instrumental in landing enterprise-wide engagements with Fortune 500 clients such as Dow Chemical, Chevron, BP, and Shell Oil. A key ingredient in these marketing programs was a compelling storyline that focused on the prospect’s business problems in the context of real-world situations and positioned DEC’s products and services as the clear and obvious choice. For the success of his marketing programs, Ken was awarded the prestigious “Wizard” award by the National Sales Director.
He later brought his sales lead generation and qualification skills to Intergraph Corporation where he doubled the sales close ratio for the Systems Integration Division in ten months. At the corporate level, Ken launched and managed the implementation of marketing programs across nine profit centers, which covered vertical markets ranging from mechanical design, process plant design, oil and gas reservoir modeling, architectural CADD, to special effects video applications for the motion picture industry.
Combining his video production expertise with his marketing savvy, Ken developed an interactive video marketing tool for the Decatur, Morgan County Alabama Chamber of Commerce. This high-tech sales collateral focused on recruiting industry to Decatur’s new world-class industrial park. The videos overcame the stereotypical preconception of backwoods hillbillies and promoted the modern amenities, attractive lifestyle, and educated workforce Decatur has to offer. Success was realized when Boeing was recruited, building a new manufacturing plant and creating 500 new jobs for the city.
Moving to an Internet focus, Mr. Adams propelled DXP Enterprises’ Internet sales initiative to the industry leadership position two years ahead of the competition. In addition, Ken enhanced client retention and increased sales via DXP’s website by providing on-line applications that solved everyday problems for DXP clients. These apps became valuable tools in the clients’ day-to-day workflow, and integrated into DXP’s on-line offerings for easy product selection. DXP suppliers, like 3M, quickly saw the value of these apps in promoting their products and funded the software development.
Ken’s passion is video production. His clients realize immediate results because his strategy and approach is built around effectively communicating their value proposition. He takes the time to understand his client’s products or services from their prospects’ perspective. This solid strategic approach makes that vital emotional connection and converts more prospects into customers, and more customers into advocates.
Marketing Team Houston’s video productions span a wide range of vertical markets such as manufacturing, financial planning services, oil and gas well technologies, medical devices, credit card processing services, bio fuels, and retail product promotion.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently multitasking, as usual, on a broad range of projects and client engagements.
We just finished a video studio session with one of our clients that provide financial planning services. They have been so pleased with the lead generation our website sales funnel strategy has delivered for them; they went on camera and gave us some terrific client testimonials. Our sales funnel strategy uses a series of videos to engage their website visitors, convert them to sales leads, and nurture those leads to become clients.
I’m also currently producing a virtual tour video for a local manufacturing facility that cuts steel in precise intricate shapes with numerically controlled torches, water jets, and under water plasma cutters.
Plus, I’m working with a bookkeeping firm to: re-brand their company; sharpen their value proposition; design new sales collateral; and develop their Internet marketing strategy, which includes a complete overhaul of their website, SEO, and launching an on-going content marketing campaign.
In my spare time, I’m working on expanding our strategic alliances. We have alliances with many entrepreneurs in the Houston business community who share our target market and provide non-competitive services that complement our services offering. We identify larger business opportunities, and bundle our alliance partners’ services with ours to deliver a comprehensive solution for our clients. We are currently forming a strategic alliance with one of Houston’s most successful business growth consultants.
Where did the idea for Marketing Team Houston come from?
Over the course of my 25+ year marketing career I’ve worked in a variety of different sized corporations. I’ve had the good fortune to work at some world-class corporations such as Digital Equipment Corporation and Intergraph Corporation. My experience helping mid-sized companies like DXP Enterprises and small companies succeed has also been rewarding.
I’ve always had an independent entrepreneurial attitude. Even in larger corporate environments I found ways to organize my contributions with an entrepreneurial approach. I really enjoyed working in mid-sized and smaller companies where I could make the biggest impact on growing the business. I looked forward to getting up in the morning and making a difference in the success of the organization. I soon realized that while I got a lot of satisfaction and could more directly influence business growth working in small to mid-sized companies, most could not afford an experienced executive level marketer on a full-time basis.
Today’s business environment is increasingly composed of small and mid-sized businesses. And most are struggling with inadequate sales lead generation, poor sales close ratios, websites that fail to generate revenue, and a lack of time, skills and resources to plan and implement effective marketing. With 70% of new business endeavors failing each year, the need for effective marketing and business development is obvious.
Like any good marketers, my business partner and I identified the market niche and designed the best competitive solution. Just imagine the growth potential for these resource strapped small and mid-sized companies if they could leverage seasoned marketing expertise from world-class corporations on an as needed basis, with an approach designed to fit their budget. With this on-demand approach, marketing experts stay focused on the key strategic marketing initiatives without the distractions of fighting the day-to-day grass fires that divert the client’s resources. And when the engagement is over, there’s no ongoing expense or overhead. We simply take the marketing worries off our clients’ plate so they have more time take care of their customers and run their business. That’s what Marketing Team Houston is all about.
How do you make money?
We have an agile business model. Our consulting team is composed of independent consultants who we have worked with over the years, and have experienced their expertise and quality of work first hand. People we know and trust. We tailor project teams from this talent pool by matching the right skill sets, vertical market expertise, personalities, and price points with the client’s objectives and budget. This low overhead, flexible business model enables us to bring world-class marketing expertise within reach for Houston’s mid-sized business.
Since it costs five times more to gain a new client compared to keeping an existing client we treat our clients fairly and cultivate ongoing and mutually beneficial relationships. This not only reduces our cost of sale, it also builds business through referrals. We can toot our own horn all day long and no one will listen, but when our clients spread the word for us that’s golden!
What does your typical day look like?
Typical day? Don’t seem to remember one of those lately. I spend a lot of time networking with business development professionals and other entrepreneurs via the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) and partners of our Lead Referral Program. I’m always looking for ways to pay-it-forward in my networking by introducing colleagues to potential alliances and prospects.
Because our team of consultants is spread all over Houston we have a virtual office. This makes more effective use of our time, and with today’s on-line technologies it makes no sense to have the overhead of a brick and mortar office. So there’s a lot of email, video Skype, on-the-go cell phone conversations and texting (not while driving), and collaboration via Google Drive and Docs.
When I’m not driving around town to client meetings, networking events, or meeting with alliance partners, I’m working out of the video studio.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As you might have guessed with my passion for video production, I am a very visual person. Typically when I’m working on a concept or strategy I’m sketching diagrams or storyboards. Once these are to a point where my colleagues can make sense of them, we’ll brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. I’m also very detail oriented and once the conceptual sketches have gelled sufficiently I start on a bullet point outline that grows in detail as the concept evolves.
A critical success factor in bring an idea to life is including the team that will bring it to reality. I get our project’s consulting team involved during the planning so they can buy into the concept and take ownership of it. I then encourage them to tweak and grow the plan to achieve the client’s objectives. We look at where we are, where we need be, plus how and why we’re going to get there. When you have a talented team of professionals it’s fun to see them expand the concept and drive it through to delivery.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The exciting trend I see in the marketplace is business executives realizing the cost and operating efficiencies of focusing their internal resources on their company’s core competencies and outsourcing everything else. This model is producing small and mid-sized businesses that are more agile, resilient, and competitive. I see businesses becoming more specialized entities that operate in alliances to team up and go after business together, each bringing a specific skill set to address the client’s needs. The configuration of these alliances will adjust to meet the requirements of the business opportunity. The origin of the business opportunity, and preexisting business relationships with the prospect, are key factors that determine which alliance entity will be the prime and which will be the sub-contractors. With this trend, 1099s will out number W2s. This model promotes quality performances by the alliance members and requires honesty and trust among the participants. With their ability to turn on a dime, they can run rings around the corporate giants.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I guess I’ve been fortunate in never having a bad job. I’ve always had the mind set that I’m in charge of my own destiny. So when my job situation has been less that optimal, I’ve been able to redefine the scope of the job and reshape it so I could bring more value to the endeavor. That said, I have had some crummy bosses that lacked the professionalism to take a project through to its full potential. And I’ve been in environments where the boss lacked leadership skills and the team was so competitive with each other that they pulled apart instead of together. And I’ve had some situations where the boss knew what he wanted, but could never communicate it effectively to the team.
The lesson I’ve learned from these experiences is the importance of having a vision, communicating that vision effectively, involving the team in the planning so they can buy-in, take ownership, modify and grow the plan to achieve the client’s objectives, and drive the implementation.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Hindsight is always 20/20, but life is a learning process. One key practice that has served me well over the years is developing what I call a board of advocates. These are people who are smarter than I am and share common interest and goals. We advise each other in reaching our goals and hold each other accountable for progress towards those achievements. Having people around you who have a negative attitude and tell you why you can’t succeed is a choice. Choose instead to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and support your success. I guess if I were to start over, I would adopt this practice as early as possible in life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
You’ll be surprised how much you can learn when you ask questions and listen. This is applicable at many levels. Asking probing questions of prospects, instead of assuming they have the same motivations as your other clients, will help you uncover insights to their true needs and what incentives will appeal to them – insights your competitors have overlooked.
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, both inside and outside your business. To paraphrase John Maxwell, if you’re the smartest person in the room all the time you’re not growing, you and your business will stagnate. This is one of the key traits we look for in prospective team members. To function as a team and create truly game changing marketing strategies requires very smart people with inquisitive minds.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
That which does not kill me only serves to make me stronger. Well, I guess I ought be one of the strongest people around. I’ve got a lot of failures under my belt. During the early years of my marketing career, especially in large complex marketing campaigns for launching new services with Digital Equipment Corporation and Intergraph Corporation, it was a learning cycle of trying, failing, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, learning from the experience, getting back on that horse, and not making the same mistake twice. In order to succeed and enjoy that environment I learned to focus like a laser on the direct path to the end goal. This developed a vision where all the other elements of the engagement would fall into place to support the main objective. It’s important to hold on tight to your vision, be persistent, but be flexible and allow your vision to evolve and grow.
There are three kinds of people in this world: people who watch things happen; people that make things happen; and people that wonder what happened. Successful entrepreneurs need to have a vision and be passionate about driving that vision to fruition. You need to have the determination to knock down any obstacles in order to reach your objectives. While at the same time, you need to empower your team mates to help shape and grow the vision.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The global marketplace is growing and reaching past China and Mexico. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cross-cultural communication is creating a growing need for translators. With the broadening of international business relations and growth in the number of non-English speakers in the United States the translation profession is projected to increase by 22%. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs who can bring foreign-language speakers together with the businesses community.
This services based business can operate via a virtual office over the Internet. Translators can be hired on an as needed basis, or on retainer, via a 1099 instead of a W2. This model reduces overhead and removes geographical boundaries. With no geographical limits the business can recruit translators and clients from around the globe. Naturally services contracts for both contractors and clients would need to be developed with careful planning of the business process.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
The world can be unfair, and it really bothers me when I see these inequities impact children. Children are dependent upon their parents and adults in the community. Kids are not equipped to take charge of their own destiny. This can tear at the very roots of less fortunate families as parents are challenged to give their children hope for a brighter future. This frustration mounts around Christmas time, which ought to be a season of hope and joy.
That’s why Marketing Team Houston donates our time, money, and elbow grease to make Toys for Tots a success in our community. The Toys for Tots campaign of the Sgt. J. R. Tijerina Detachment 1295 of the Marine Corps League serves less fortunate children in Harris, Fort Bend and Waller counties. Last year more than 23,000 toys were distributed in our community to over 7,000 children in need. Numerous local charities receive their toys for Christmas via this Toys for Tots campaign.
One of the many things that impresses me about Toys for Tots is that 97% of your donation goes to our mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children. The 3% spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses – not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs. We are 100% volunteer driven.
So what can you do? Get involved. At the very least offer an incentive to your prospects and clients to donate toys or money to this great cause. Or volunteer your time to help collect, sort and distribute the tens of thousands toys that will bring joy to less fortunate children on Christmas morning.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was serving as a Boy Scout leader. My wife and I mentored a group of eight boys from Wolf in Cub Scouts, into Webelos, and through their first two years of Boy Scouts. They became a tight knit group with strong friendships. They looked out for each other as though they were all brothers. Watching these young boys grow into confident, mature, smart and ethical young men was an experience we’ll never forget.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
My most favorite tool is actually for getting online. It’s my mobile wireless hot spot. It keeps me productive no matter where I am. I simply pull out my Macbook Air and my virtual office is at my fingertips with a secure connection. When I’m running around town I don’t have to waste time hunting for a coffee shop with Wi-Fi, or worry about viruses, hackers, or identity theft. It helps me get things done.
Google Drive is another one of my favorite online tools. It provides a shared document repository for our whole team. We store all our documents we want to share such as proposal templates and PDF brochures so every one on the team is using the most up-to-date version. Google Docs is also a great collaboration tool.
Prezi is a marvelous tool for the visualization of information. It helps us stand out from the competition and better engage our audience. Our clients and colleagues have all seen countless mind-numbing PowerPoints. Prezi’s zooming canvas allows us to present the big picture goals and then zoom in to reveal the important details. We pride ourselves on having original ideas, and this new presentation medium reinforces that originality.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey has been around for a long time, but is still a must read. Covey’s principal-centered approach to solving personal and professional problems will help you balance your life with fairness, honesty, integrity and dignity. These principals will provide you with the security and confidence needed to adapt to change, and give you the foresight to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Brian Halligan, CEO, HubSpot
Brian Halligan is one of the super stars of in-bound marketing with valuable insights about what’s working and what’s coming on the radar.
Guy Kawasaki, Former chief evangelist for Apple Computer
Guy Kawasaki’s tweets range from funny to useful, and make great conversation starters to break the ice at networking events.
John Maxwell, Leadership Consulting Authority
John Maxwell is one of the worlds leading leadership consultants. If you’re leading a team or a business John’s tweets (and books) are a must read.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night I needed to unwind so I brought up my comedy playlist on my iPhone and listened to Jerry Clower, one of my favorite comedians. His stories about small town life in rural Mississippi and the Ledbetters had me laughing so hard my face hurt.
Who is your hero?
My dad has always been, and still is, my hero. He was as a square shooter in his dealings with everyone, he had a strong work ethic, was loyal to friends and family, and consistently just did the right thing (even when no one was watching). He was always looking out for the less fortunate and keeping his good deeds quiet. Some folks weren’t too sure how to take is dry sense of humor. He had a typical Texan attitude towards life … You can accomplish anything you think you’re big enough to do, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.
With a strong commitment to the Boy Scouts, he organized and brought many of our scout troop’s activities to reality. He put his time, money, and sweat into what he believed in and refused publicity. I can recall when one of the scouts couldn’t fulfill the swimming test requirements for the rank of First Class, because of his fear of the water. Dad found alternative skills for him to master so he could advance and continue in the scouting program. This caused quite a controversy with some of the leaders. I remember dad taking up the cause for the young scout and being tough as nails, but diplomatic, to get the rank awarded.
As a young boy, and on into my adult life, he was always there to support me in whatever endeavor I attempted. And when I fell he was there to help me back up, get me on my feet and give me the encouragement I needed to take on life’s challenges. And when I succeeded he was there to cheer me on. Today I strive to follow his example with my own son.
During WWII he served in the war crimes division in Germany and prepared many cases for the Nuremberg trials. He was there for the liberation of the Nazis’ Dachau death camp. He took a direct interest in one of the camp’s survivors. The man was literally skin and bones. Dad personally got him food and followed up frequently to ensure he had the medical attention he needed. When this refugee regained his strength he sketched my dad’s portrait as his way of saying thank you. Today that portrait hangs in my office as a reminder of his faith in me, and as inspiration to live up to his values.
What value does Marketing Team Houston provide for their clients?
Marketing Team Houston clients benefit in the following ways:
- More Qualified Sales Leads – Marketing Team Houston lead generation and lead management strategies deliver the right number of leads to your sales team based upon your value proposition and target markets.
- Higher Close Sales Ratios – Close more sales, win more business, with Marketing Team Houston’s business development strategies and sales tools.
- Investing In Profitability – Maximize your company’s profitability by investing in proven marketing strategies and the best marketing priorities.
- Brand Ownership – Establish your brand, in your target markets, as the market leader. Leverage your successes to demonstrate your market dominance in your selected market.
- Save Time and Money – By clearly defining your marketing strategy upfront and doing it right the first time. We create deliverables that are effective and save our clients’ time and money by doing it right the very first time.
- Only Pay For What You Use – Our clients receive the benefit of on-demand marketing expertise. Only pay for what you need and use. No wasted overhead by having underutilized marketing staffs or resources. Our clients’ hire us when they have a major project, product launch or promotion, and when it is over, there are no additional expenses. No long-term contract requirements and no minimum fees per month.
What’s on your playlist?
I enjoy a wide range or music genres. For Jazz I like artists like Boney James, Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Joyce Cooling, Euge Groove, and the Rippingtons. When I’m in the mood for Country I like artist like George Strait, Bob Wills, Alan Jackson, and Asleep At The Wheel. When I need to get fired up I switch to Rock and Roll with artists like The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Boston. I guess that Rock and Roll list kinda dates me.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.