If Your Message Works, Don’t Tinker With It

Al Ries published a great article in AdAge yesterday talking how a perfectly good message and value proposition can be ruined by too much “tinkering”.  The essence of his point is that when companies have a great message that’s working, there is always pressure to abandon that for something that sounds fresher.  He says: Common sense says that marketing messages have to constantly change in order to stay in tune with the times. Marketing sense says that’s nonsense. The way to build a brand is with a consistent message over an extended period of time. ….They tinker with new ideas when they should be hammering the ideas that already exist in consumers’ minds. Once a brand is established with a clearly defined marketing position, the brand’s owner should ask a fundamental question before making any significant changes. Why tinker with success? I see this a lot.  There is an almost irresistible urge to change the core messaging as often as we roll out new campaigns.   The reality is that often we are changing course just when the message is starting to resonate with the market and we lose the momentum we just started to build. Why do we do it?  Because we get bored.  Because we have seen it so many times it’s hard for us to believe that the entire world hasn’t seen it (even when our budgets are microscopic, interestingly enough). The reality is that we aren’t getting our messages in front of customers as much as we think we are (particularly when we are talking about small companies with limited budgets) and even if we were,...

The Dangers of Outsourcing Content Creation

You want to create some whitepapers, an e-book or maybe a brochure but none of your great product people are great writers.  No problem, you think to yourself, we can just hire some outside folks to write them for us.  You can, but it won’t be as easy as you think. Your Writing Probably Sucks (not that there’s anything wrong with that) Not everyone is a great writer even if they write a lot.  My writing is a perfect example of what a typical product marketer’s writing looks like.  People tell me my writing is “fine” but I know my grammar is lousy and I’m prone to using sentence structure that could politely be described as “creative” (hey, I’m an engineer by training and that English class I took in grade 12 is only going to take me so far).  I know this because I’ve had professional writers edit my work.  if you’ve never had a professional edit yours you might be shocked at how bad your “fine” writing is. But my lack of writing skill hasn’t stopped me from writing dozens of whitepapers, brochures and articles and literally hundreds of pages of web content (not to mention 156 blog posts).  Most of the time good enough is good enough, particularly if you’re a cash-strapped startup. But sometimes you will have some content that you know you are going to use like crazy in various forms and you don’t have the skills in-house.  Here are some tips on what to be careful about: Decide Why before Who – You might be launching a new product and need someone to...

Come See Me at ProductCamp Amsterdam or Entrepreneur Week in Waterloo

I’m pretty excited, no wait, I’m MEGA-EXCITED to be keynoting this year’s ProductCamp Amsterdam on Sunday Nov. 14th.  I’m a big fan of ProductCamp – I’ve been to a couple here in Toronto as well as one in New York – and I’ve found that these events really are the ultimate gathering of Product Marketing and Product Management professionals.  I also like the unconference format where the attendees get to set the agenda and the sessions are for the most part, more interactive and 2-way than what you get at your standard you-sit-there-while-I-talk-at-you conferences. Lately I’ve been speaking and writing a lot about the changing nature of marketing.  For this talk I am going to focus on how the landscape for marketing is changing, and how Product Marketing is emerging as more important than it’s ever been.   This is a talk I’ve been dying to give to an audience of product people so I’m really excited that I finally get to do it. If, unlike me, you won’t be taking a 5 hour flight to spend the weekend in Amsterdam, don’t worry, I’ll be posting the slides here in all of their glory for folks to enjoy. If you haven’t registered already, you should do it now because it’s going to be GREAT. But wait, that’s not all!! I’ll also be speaking at Communitech’s annual Entrepreneur Week in Waterloo on November 10th.  Communitech is a not for profit organization that is dedicated to supporting technology startups on the Waterloo area.  The is the 5th year that they have run Entrepreneur Week and every year it gets bigger and more impressive....

Should Your Startup Take on the Big Guns?

I was lucky enough to be part of a startup marketing panel at Startup Weekend Toronto (an awesome event) a few weeks back and someone asked if a startup could be successful going head to head against a larger competitor in an established market.   My response was that startups can compete by focusing on an under-served niche to establish a beach-head and then they can go after adjacent niches. One of my co-panelists, Mike McDerment, offered his take on it based on his experience as the co-founder of successful Toronto startup Freshbooks.  He reasoned that the existence of a big competitor proves there’s money being spent there and therefore makes it attractive.  Big companies, he argued often become slow and stupid, leaving the door open for smart nimble companies and startups shouldn’t be afraid to take them head-on.   “Find a big competitor and drive straight at them.” was his advice. We all know the stories of how Apple/Google/Facebook took on big competitors in established markets successfully.   We can also recite lists of companies that have attempted to take on Apple/Google/Facebook head-on and have failed.  The answer to whether your startup should do it is likely the same as the answer to most of life’s difficult questions: it depends. The reasons why you might not want to do it are obvious (they have more resources, a more feature-rich product, brand recognition, more/better sales channels, etc.), but here are 4 reasons you might want to take the ‘drive straight at them’ approach, based on my experience working at both startups and at larger companies: 1/ Established Products Get Bloated – What once may have...

Brand Marketing has Left the Building

Last week I attended Marketo’s User Conference and I had a great time being elbow-to-elbow with 600 other hard-core marketing folk (if you don’t know them, Marketo provides a marketing automation tool that helps marketers automate lead generation campaigns).  One of the themes of the conference was around the transformation of marketing from a cost center to a revenue driver.  Phil Fernandez, Marketo’s CEO had this to say in a recent blog post: In today’s “buyer’s in control” market, traditional marketing and sales approaches have become grossly inefficient and outdated. By relying on antiquated strategies and ineffective methods, organizations find that 80% of leads and 50% of the sales team time is wasted. This misalignment adds up quickly and creates significant revenue leaking points across the organization. The solution to this “revenue leakage” requires a shift in thinking about marketing’s fundamental role in the business.  This shift moves marketing further and further away from doing more traditional “branding” style activities, toward campaigns and tactics where there is a direct line of sight to revenue. Why is this shift from brand marketing to revenue marketing happening in the first place? Digital makes measurement possible – Digital marketing has made it possible for marketers to measure more of what we do. 10 years ago when I was spending my money on print advertising, traditional PR and events it was hard to track the amount of revenue I influenced.  Because it was hard to measure we often allocated marketing spend across tactics based on anecdotal information.  We took a guess at what worked based on how many people we got in front...
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