What Marketers can Learn from Chris Brogan’s “Next Media Company”

Chris Brogan is a social media marketing smarty-pants.  There are a lot of folks out there (in marketing especially) that bill themselves as "Social Media Experts" because, like, they use Facebook a lot, but Chris, my friends is the real deal.  If you don't read his blog you should and following him on Twitter is great because he interacts with everyone. His latest post "The Next Media Company" is a must-read for anyone thinking about what social media means for traditional media and communications in general and that mean YOU, dear marketing readers.  In it he outlines a set of characteristics that he believes the next generation of media companies should have. Here are a few points I have picked out that I think are really important for marketers to think about: Stories are points in time, but won’t end at publication. (Edits, updates, extensions are next.) Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc are a flow. Everything must be portable and mobile-ready. (Mobile devices need to evolve here, too). Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly. Contributors come in many shapes: onstaff, partner (how pros like TechCrunch link to Washington Post), guest (for love and glory only), and conversational come right to mind. Who else? Collaboration rules. Why should I pick the next cover? Why should my picture of the car crash be the best? Everything is modular and linkable. Everything is fluid. Meaning, if I want the publication to be a business periodical, then I don’t...

Product Launch: Wolfram|Alpha Lessons

You might not have heard of Wolfram|Alpha yet, but you will.  The purpose of this post isn’t to get into what it is or what it does.  Instead what I wanted to do is highlight a few things that I think that team is doing well from a Product Marketing perspective. They understand that positioning is everything – Is it a search engine?  No way!  Positioning is going to be the most important thing for the success of this product because nobody can successfully take on Google in search.  The team behind Wolfram|Alpha seem to understand this and they are very clear in their positioning that it is not a search engine.  It’s the first question they answer on the FAQ.  What they can do better than Google is answer certain kinds of questions.  Now, they could have easily gone down the road of Cuil and positioned themselves as something “like Google but better”, but instead they are a “computational knowledge engine”.  Now, I do have a complaint that the home page doesn’t really explain what the heck a computational knowledge engine is or does but it doesn’t matter all that much because…. Usage examples (and more) on the home page – New to Wolfram|Alpha?  No problem, just have a little look at the sidebar to the right and away you go!  Man, if every Web2.0 application had this, I personally would do a lot less clicking around trying to figure out what the heck I should be doing. The usage examples are cool and work – You might laugh at how obvious this is but I recently was...

A Product Marketing Case Study: Rypple

I had an interesting chat with a startup and I wanted to share their story because I think that it’s one that product marketers and product managers could learn a lot from. The founders of this company were founders of a successful company called Workbrain.  Workbrain provided solutions for workforce management and grew to close to $100 million in annual revenues before being acquired in 2006 by Infor. When thinking about their next venture they went back to the human capital management space looking for unmet needs.  They hit on the issue of performance reviews and how much people hate giving and receiving them.  One reason this is true is because the end users (employees and managers) have different goals than the folks that own the process and buy the tools (Human Resources). HR’s goals of determining pay increases, identifying top/bottom performers, promotion planning, etc, don’t line up with an employee’s wish to get some timely feedback or management’s desire to give it when it’s needed. So the idea for their new company, Rypple was born.  Rypple allows users to is a tool get feedback from managers, peers or anyone else whose opinion they trust.  This feedback can be about anything from a person’s performance, to opinions on an meeting or input from a team on working together.  It’s easy to use – just put in your question, choose whom you want to ask it to and away you go.  Rypple is as remarkable for what it doesn’t do as it is for what it does do.  It doesn’t constrain people to a set of pre-defined questions, nor does...

Is Facebook’s Zuckerberg Right? Sometimes Listening to Your Customers is “Stupid.”

There is a lot of talk this week about the new Facebook redesign and how much some users dislike it.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg allegedly said that “the most disruptive companies don’t listen to their customers.”  On the surface this sounds completely insane!  We’re supposed to listen to customers, aren’t we? Well, sort of, sometimes. There is an accepted wisdom in Product Marketing that asking users or customers what the next feature of a product should be almost never results in anything innovative.  The problem is that the answers you get will be bound by the users frame of reference and existing experiences.  For example when I worked at Siebel years ago and we asked customers about what new features they would like to see in a Customer Relationship Management system, not a single one of them said “Gee, I wish you guys would host this thing for me.” Robert Scoble makes this point with the following anecdote: My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say “well, they just designed a Volvo.” A better way of driving innovation is to focus on customer problems and desires.  The more deeply you understand those, the closer you will get to coming up with an innovative way of solving/meeting them that isn’t bound by what exists in the market today.  If back at Siebel, we had asked instead: “Why aren’t your sales folks currently using a Customer Relationship Management solution?” or even if...

10 Rules for Running a Customer Advisory Council

Why aren’t you running a customer advisory council?  A customer advisory board or council is a great way to gain market insight, attain feedback on strategy and direction as well as build deep relationships with key customers.  Here are some tips I wish someone had shared with me before I ran my first one: 1.  Pick your customers wisely – Go as senior as you can.  You want folks that are thinking strategically.  Get members that are at the same level.  They are as interested in networking with each other as they are in meeting with you.  Only have a couple of customers so far?  Work your network to get non-customers in the room.  Don’t be afraid to ask board members and investors to help you get advisers. 2.  Don’t cheap out on hotels and food – Do you want to spend a couple of nights in the Holiday Inn eating burgers?  Your customers are important and no, they don’t want fries with that. 3.  Limit the number of customers in the room to about a dozen (and execs from your company to half as many) – A customer advisory council meeting should be an interactive session.  That’s hard to do with too many people in the room.  The fewer attendees from your company, the more likely customers will dominate the conversation.  This is a good thing. 4.  Use an outside moderator – A moderator can more easily control the room if things get off-topic and experienced moderators can draw out quiet participants to ensure the conversation isn’t monopolized by your more outspoken advisers.  You don’t want your CEO...

Product Launches: Cuil vs. Chrome

I’ve found that in general for a V1/Beta launch, teams are too focused on technology and not focused enough on customer pain points, user experience and the market. Why? Because by definition, they don’t have much customer experience yet! If you don’t have any pre-launch customer experience then what makes you think you know anything about the market?  If you don’t know anything about the market then why launch now?  Seriously.  The more user-feedback can be heard and acted on before the product is launched the more you can plan for how the market will react to your strengths and weaknesses. This might seem obvious but many entrepreneurs in particular still hold onto the belief that the “big bang” launch comes first and working with customers comes later. The second thing is to set customer expectations at a level where you can meet them.  Again, a bit of pre-launch customer work goes a long way to helping you understand what those expectations will be.  Sounds easy right? If it was, I wouldn’t see so many hated, over-hyped products out there struggling to survive. Let’s compare two recent product launch examples: Cuil vs. Google’s Chrome. Cuil is a well-funded startup staffed with ex-Googlers with a search engine that “searches more pages on the Web than anyone else-three times as many as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft.” A better search engine than Google! Who doesn’t want to give that a try? The launch was massive. Hundreds of articles were written about Cuil in the run up to the release date including the New York Times, even though no media (or anyone...
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