Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

AI-powered Problem-solving Strategies: An interview with MECLABS AI’s Problem Solver expert assistant

March 22nd, 2024

Personification is the intimate companion of imagination.

Which is why so many great artists use it. For example, Jack London wrote, “But the plummet of his hearing brought nothing to him save the moaning of wind through invisible trees and the rustling of leaves on swaying branches.”

You may have seen this tactic used so often that you wouldn’t even notice the personification if I hadn’t specifically italicized it in the above sentence. I know I would overlook it. But moan literally means, ‘a long, low sound made by a person.’

London could have written, ‘the gusty wind’ but it wouldn’t have hit me in the chest the same way. I can feel that wind moaning.

Or in a much more obvious example: “The sea was angry that day, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli” written by Larry David, Ron Hauge, and Jerry Seinfeld in the comedian’s eponymous hit TV series.

Personification isn’t just for literature and television. If you want to make effective use of AI for brainstorming, it helps to think of chatting with an artificial intelligence machine like you’re chatting with a real, live person. So in this MarketingSherpa blog post, here is an interview with the Problem Solver expert assistant from MECLABS AI as if it were a person.

First, here’s where you can find Problem Solver in MECLABS AI. It’s totally free to use (for now).

Problem Solver in MECLABS AI

And here’s a look at what Problem Solver had to say in our conversation…my attempt to converse with the future that’s already here today.

Overview of Problem Solver AI expert assistant

Can you give us a brief overview of what a Problem Solver AI Expert Assistant is and how it works?

The Problem Solver AI Expert Assistant is a digital tool designed to assist users in methodically approaching and solving problems. It utilizes a structured framework akin to the i4 Success Framework developed by Flint McGlaughlin. This framework encourages users to identify their true objectives, explore effective strategies, design and execute tests, and refine their approach based on insights.

Inspiration Behind the Problem Solver AI

What inspired the development of this technology, and what specific problems is it designed to address?

Read more…

AI-Driven Project Planning In Marketing: Interview with the Project Planner expert assistant in MECLABS AI

February 16th, 2024

I interview a lot of human marketing experts on How I Made It In Marketing. So with the launch of new expert assistants in MECLABS AI (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa), I thought it would be interesting to interview one of those experts assistants – Project Planner.

Is this a little gimmicky? Admittedly yes. But in fairness, this is what these expert assistants were built for. Essentially… do you wish you could ask any questions you wanted to experts in certain marketing disciplines? Now you can. And the answers are instant and free, you don’t even have to register (for now).

Here’s how to find the expert assistant in MECLABS AI.

Creative Sample #1: The expert assistant dropdown menu in MECLABS AI

Creative Sample #1: The expert assistant dropdown menu in MECLABS AI

Now let’s see what we can learn about project planning. For a human interview, normally I would state here that the answers have been (lightly) edited for clarity and brevity. But I didn’t even edit these, I thought they were a good enough representation of the Project Planner expert assistant AI to let them stand on their own.

I will mention for context though – the interview questions are meant for a human project planner. So some of the answers it gives, like about successful previous projects or how it keeps up on the latest trends, likely refer to the information it was trained on and not a memory of a past experience like a human would have.

Background and Role

Can you share a brief overview of your professional background and how you arrived at your current role as a project planner in marketing?

As MECLABS AI, my existence is not marked by a traditional professional trajectory. Instead, I was designed with the collective intelligence and data-driven insights developed by MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa, and MarketingExperiments. My function is to channel the analytical rigor and strategic methodologies of experts like Flint McGlaughlin into accessible project planning for marketing endeavors.

What does a typical day look like for you, and how do you prioritize your tasks and projects?

Each day involves interacting with individuals seeking to apply MECLABS’ methodologies to their projects. Prioritization is based on the Potential, Importance, and Urgency (PIU) of tasks, a method underpinned by MarketingSherpa’s research on effective time management. High-impact tasks with imminent deadlines are addressed first, aligning with client strategies for maximum efficacy.

Project Planning Process

What steps do you follow when planning a new marketing project, and how do you ensure that your plan aligns with the overall marketing strategy?

I advocate for the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic as a guiding framework for project planning, which demands understanding customer motivation and crafting value propositions with precision. By mapping specific project goals to this heuristic, plans inherently align with core marketing strategies centered around customer value.

How do you identify and allocate resources effectively for a project? Can you share any tips or tools you use for resource management?

Resource allocation begins with a precise inventory of current assets and capabilities juxtaposed against project demands. Utilizing a grid similar to the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic allows for a systematic approach to evaluating and allocating resources where they are most likely to increase the probability of conversion.

Challenges and Solutions

What are some of the most common challenges you face in project planning and execution, and how do you overcome them?

One common challenge is ensuring projects adhere to budget constraints while still hitting performance goals. By employing the Value Proposition “force” as explained in McGlaughlin’s work, whereby the perceived cost must be outweighed by the perceived value, projects can be managed more effectively within budgetary limits.

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging project you managed and how you navigated the obstacles?

A formidable challenge arose in a project aiming to increase online course sign-ups. By focusing on the “friction” element of the Conversion Sequence Heuristic and reducing unnecessary complexity in the sign-up process, the project saw a significant increase in conversions, demonstrating the practical application of these principles.

Collaboration and Team Dynamics

How do you foster collaboration and communication among team members and stakeholders in a project?

Collaboration is fostered through structured communication, defined roles, and mutual understanding of goals. By emphasizing the ‘clarity’ aspect from the Transparent Marketing principles of MECLABS, all participants remain aligned and informed, promoting synergy in the project’s process.

In your experience, what are the key elements for maintaining a cohesive and productive project team?

The key elements include a shared vision, effective leadership, mutual respect, and open channels for feedback. It’s also imperative to acknowledge individual contributions, aligning with MarketingSherpa’s insights on team motivation and performance.

Metrics and Success Evaluation

How do you set measurable goals for marketing projects, and what metrics do you use to evaluate their success?

Goals are set using the SMART criteria, ensuring they are quantifiable. Metrics are chosen based on their direct correlation to the project’s objectives – for example, an enhanced lead generation project might track conversion rates and lead quality. Each metric is a data point on the path of continuous improvement.

Can you describe a project you consider a significant success and the impact it had on your organization or clients?

A notable success was the overhaul of a client’s email campaign strategy which, after rigorous A/B testing and the application of MarketingExperiments’ email optimization research, saw a 30% lift in click-through rates, significantly driving up sales and customer engagement.

Innovation and Trends

How do you stay abreast of the latest marketing trends and technologies, and how do they influence your project planning?

Through continuous scanning of industry publications, case studies on MarketingSherpa, and rigorous testing via MarketingExperiments, I maintain currency with evolving trends and technologies. These inform project planning by allowing the incorporation of emerging practices with demonstrated effectiveness.

Have you integrated any innovative approaches or tools into your project planning process recently? If so, what were they, and what benefits did they bring?

Recent integration has included advanced data analytics tools, aligning with MECLABS’ methodology to leverage user data for more precise customer segmentation. This has allowed marketing projects to achieve granular targeting, increasing relevance, and thus, conversion potential.

Client and Stakeholder Management

How do you manage expectations and communications with clients or key stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of a project?

Communication is managed by setting clear expectations from the onset and providing regular updates. By employing transparent, data-backed communication, as recommended by MECLABS’ principles, stakeholders remain apprised of the progress and are engaged in the decision-making process.

Can you share a situation where you had to manage differing opinions or expectations from stakeholders and how you handled it?

When stakeholders had differing views on a website redesign’s direction, I facilitated a unified vision by conducting A/B testing. This empirical approach, grounded in MarketingExperiments’ methodologies, provided objective data to guide decision-making, leading to a consensus that balanced user experience with conversion goals.

Personal Development and Advice

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career as a project planner in marketing?

Understanding that every aspect of a project should be designed to serve and communicate clearly to the customer is paramount. This lesson is underlined by McGlaughlin’s customer-centric approach to marketing wherein he states, “We must never forget that the goal of marketing is not to make a claim but to foster a conclusion.”

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to succeed in a project planning role within the marketing industry?

Nurture a constant learner’s mindset and ground your planning in data and measurable outcomes. Ingrain the principles laid out by Flint McGlaughlin and resources available through MarketingSherpa, regarding customer psychology and value proposition, to elevate your projects from mere plans to influential marketing strategies.

Related resources

Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Marketing Testing

Quick Guide to Strategy & Planning: 9 tactics to meet your business objectives and use your time efficiently

Webinar plan template

Ask MarketingSherpa: Getting approval for your marketing ideas from your company’s business leadership or from clients

July 7th, 2021

We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Daniel, I’m wondering if I can share a thought from a conversation with a digital marketing “expert” I had today….


If almost all ads/campaigns/approaches are likely to have weak VPs (value propositions) and non-compelling CTAs (calls to action), would an alternate approach to marketing knowledge delivery be to identify the most-likely-to-produce mediocre-result approaches. Would that have more affect on marketing performance than to rely on the main perception that MECLABS tries to get across based on fundamentals?

My thought is that no matter how hard a real marketer tries to use fundamentals, ultimately the decision makers, who will never understand the basics, will oppose the approach in favor of a futile effort that’s proven over and over not to work?

Here is how you do it properly


Based on your lousy approach you seem to want to defend with all your heart, it would be best to waste less by tackling your goal this way.


Dear Reader: I sense some frustration with getting a client on board? Or working with business decision makers to prioritize your marketing spend?

Ultimately, whoever writes the check makes the decision. And the best we can do is hope to influence it in as positive a direction as possible. I assume this is very similar to other industries, like government for example.

So yes, unless we are the final decision maker, the marketing we produce will never be flawless and perfect. But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.

As Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to just let it slide. The typical brainstorming technique of pretending there are no bad ideas actually isn’t helpful. (It’s called regression to the mean, says Harvard Business Review).

As a marketer, you must be the voice of the customer and an advocate for the audience. Without quality internal marketing, the world gets ideas like Zippo perfume. And no, I’m not making that idea up. You can read about it this New York Times article: Brands Expand Into New Niches With Care, but Not Without Risk.

Here are five tactics to help you win the yes for your next marketing strategy…

This requires a value proposition

It is internal marketing essentially. Don’t overlook the importance of this task. Like anything worth doing, it requires an investment of your time and attention. I was talking to a channel marketing manager at a Fortune 500 tech company, when something she said really stuck out to me. She was working on a major lead nurturing campaign, and about half her time spent on this project was spent on selling the project internally (from Internal Marketing: The 3 people you must sell to in your own office).

You need a prospect-level value proposition for each type of decision maker involved, as well as a process-level value proposition for the action itself.

We built this tool to help our readers – Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas.

And this free template as well – How to Sell Your Marketing and Advertising Ideas to Your Boss and Clients (with free template)

Testing can help

Sometimes you need straight-up data to prove the mettle of your idea. A/B testing is one way to get that data.

You could say something along the lines of, “OK, let’s try it your way, try it my way, and let the customer decide.”

We actually had a great example of this happen internally in our own organization – Headline Writing: How a junior marketer beat the CEO’s headline by 92%

Educate about new technology

Sometimes the pushback you’re getting is because the decision maker just doesn’t understand the technology involved.

Educate execs on the latest technology and why their pushback to your ideas might not make sense. Let them see the flaws in their logic for themselves. For example, MECLABS (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) created a free mobile optimization course to help marketers understand what considerations they should take for conversion optimization and messaging specifically in a mobile environment.


Never look at it as a Me vs. You battle.

Give the decision makers you work with the benefit of the doubt – they probably want the same thing you do. Business results. And happy customers.

They just may not have spent as much time focused on the project or objective as you. They have other concerns.

Try to get some of their time for a value proposition workshop to build the fundamentals of your marketing together. Or at least get a meeting to present a competitive analysis.

Good intentioned, capable people may still come up with different conclusions. But after taking the journey together, you will better be able to understand their reasoning and they are more likely to understand why you are suggesting the approach you have chosen.

Help them feel the customer experience

“Wouldn’t GM executives learn more about the problems that customers face, [exec William Hoglund] was asked, if they had to drive used cars and deal with repair problems like everyone else,” James Risen wrote in the LA Times.

You may have a disconnect with a decision maker because they are too far removed from the customer experience.

In that case, before even presenting your ideas, share some form of the customer experience with them.

I was encouraged to see this line from Gabriel T. Rubin in The Wall Street Journal recently, “GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota swap footwear on Capitol steps to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’”

A bit tongue-in-cheek of course. But if national leaders are willing to try it out, our business decision makers can as well.

If you can’t literally put them in your customer’s shoes, at least start your pitch meeting with a few slides that clearly illustrate how customers’ experience the brand’s product or services. Direct feedback from customers – say, from customer reviews or ratings – can really illuminate executives. Just make sure the reviews accurately represent a major set of customers and are not an outlier.

Reader, you are far from the only one with this struggle. I find we marketers are often better marketing externally than internally. Best of luck in getting approval for your ideas.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks so much for this. Everything you say resonates and validates.

I find your mention of this very interesting: “But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.”

It may support my original thought that the problem I’ve been trying to solve is not actually an accurate understanding of the true problem.

“Marketing underperformance” may actually be a symptom of a problem, and this may be where my frustration comes from.

I feel I’ve been trying to solve underperformance by insisting that a fundamental principle approach is the only way (Man with a Hammer Syndrome).

I think if I adjusted my perception in a way that’s more aligned with the decision maker’s rationale, then I think I’ll find my way back to enjoying solving marketing problems without expectation that the engine has to be perfect from the foundation. This is a fool’s errand when working within an imperfect business landscape.

It may be a good approach for a building that has a problem, even though the logical choice is not to tear the building down…but instead shore it up in the areas that make the most sense according to the unique variables for that particular issue – building, budget, timeline, outcome, etc.

I really appreciate being able to dialog this stuff with someone who gets it.

Thanks again,

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

Related Resources

Five Tips From a Personal Care Industry CEO for Setting (and Getting Approval for) Your Marketing Budget

What are the most valuable marketing skills? (with free resources to improve those skills)

1,681 (and counting) free business and marketing case studies – Another great way to make your case for a marketing idea is by sharing a case study with decision makers

My Five Greatest Mistakes as A Leader: 30 years of painful data (that might help you)

October 24th, 2018

In my field, we often speak of “data-driven decisions.” But for the leader, sometimes the most important data is derived from a source that evades our metrics platforms. Indeed, such data can only be gleaned through brutal self-confrontation.



The philosopher Kierkegaard reflected that “… the artist goes forward by going backward.” It is a paradoxical concept and yet an apt observation.

If the leader wants a different outcome than the one he is currently achieving, he may do better to look backward rather than forward.

For me, this means doing the hard work of reflecting on my most significant failures, and in particular, the root causes of these failures. This is especially painful because the “root cause” of the “root causes” of my organization’s failures lies within ME.

Looking back over 30+ years of (my) leadership data, I can see patterns … negative patterns. This observation leads to an inevitable question: What can I do to prevent their recurrence?

There is a complex answer; there is a concise answer. Here is the latter.

Read more…