How to transform your product by giving it context

How to transform your product by giving it context

No product exists in isolation. Every offering is presented to potential customers within a context or a frame of reference, whether we set one deliberately or not. That context helps them understand what it is, who it is for and why they should care. A great product, presented within a context that highlights it’s strengths is unstoppable. However even a world-class product can be completely undone by a context that does the opposite. Here’s a simple non-startup example that illustrates what I mean. Context: An Experiment In 2007 the Washington Post conducted what they described as an experiment in “context, perception and priorities”. The idea was that they would take a professional musician and have him play in the plaza outside of a busy Washington Metro station and see what would happen. The musician they chose was Joshua Bell — arguably the best violinist in the world at the time. He was a former child prodigy and regularly sold out concert halls with ticket prices of $100 a pop. A bio of Joshua Bell in Interview magazine stated that his playing “does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” The morning commuters of Washington were about to be exposed to a potentially life-affirming experience. Would they notice? And can a virtuoso make a decent living as a street performer? In a word — no. 1070 people passed Joshua while he played in the plaza. 7 paused to listen to him play. He made $32.17. When I first read about this the result didn’t surprise me too much. Maybe that’s because I take the subway to work and I’m usually...
What The Heck Is Your Product Really?

What The Heck Is Your Product Really?

I was one of the judges in a pitch contest last week (thanks for having me Innovate Manitoba) and listening to the pitches it struck me how for most products, the answer to the question, “What are you?” could be answered in multiple different ways. It also struck me that how you answer that question changes a lot more than just your marketing – it changes your vision of what your company could become in the future. An Example: One Product, Two Frames Here’s an example. One of the companies pitching (I’ll leave their name out of it since I haven’t run this piece past them), has a gizmo that sits the on the dash of your car and lights up when you are approaching a speed trap, a red light camera or a reduced speed zone. The value proposition is “Save money on tickets”. What do they do? They help you get fewer tickets. Or put another way, they are in the ticket avoidance business. But it struck me that they could be in other businesses. Instead of being the thing that helps you save money on tickets for example, it could be the thing that helps you drive more safely. Instead of being in the ticket avoidance business, they could be in the driver safety business. Changing the Frame Changes the Future Is one way of thinking about it better than the other? Probably, but I have no clue which one – I have no background or experience in their business. (Aside – pitch contests drive me a bit batty for this reason. My opinion is likely wrong about...
If you think Positioning is a marketing exercise – you’re doing it wrong

If you think Positioning is a marketing exercise – you’re doing it wrong

Positioning a product today is radically different from what it was when the concept was first introduced. Anyone who has read Ries and Trout’s “Positioning – the Battle for Your Mind”, would be understandably left thinking that Positioning is an exercise completed by the marketing department (or marketing agencies) for the marketing department. The examples we have studied to learn positioning generally involve marketing teams coming up with creative ways to position products in advertising campaigns through the use of slogans or taglines or creative branding. Staking a claim to a market position, is merely a matter of telling the world about it (or so we have been taught). But things in the real world have dramatically changed. The first change is that Madison Avenue no longer controls the way customers perceive products. Buyers now have the means to research products themselves, and they do. Buyers are not only adept at ignoring (or simply blocking) most of the ads directed at them, they’re heavily skeptical of the few that do manage to break through. It may have once been possible to simply tell people what your product positioning was all about and have prospects believe you, that’s no longer the case. We’ve been lied to and we’re skeptical of what brands have to say about themselves. Advertising-saturated, noisy markets mean that positioning a product so that customers can understand it quickly is more important than ever. However, expressing that positioning to jaded, attention-deficient, skeptical markets is going to take more than just, well, more advertising. This is particularly true for new companies that don’t have the budget to even attempt to win...
Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love

Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love

The past 8 months has been a whirlwind of action for me. In October I acquired Sprintly – an agile project management tool for startups, along with the original founder, Joe Stump. It’s been an incredible experience so far and definitely the most fun project I have worked on in my career yet. As part of getting Sprintly re-started, I’ve been out doing some talks and podcasts about my experience in running the business so far and I thought I should share those here for folks that have been wondering what’s new. A few weeks back I gave a talk at TechTO called Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love – it’s a quick talk on what I’ve been focused on in the early days of running Sprintly. TechTO is a really fun event and part of what makes it so interesting is that the speakers only get 5 minutes to present. I cannot do anything in 5 minutes. I went a weeny bit over (ok, ok it was 6:30 and I spoke as fast as a chipmunk) but it was a hoot.  Here’s the video. I also did an interview with the folks at Funnelcake where I talked a bit about Sprintly stuff, positioning and other startup marketing things. It was a fun discussion. You can check out the transcript of our discussion here and if you haven’t been reading their blog, it’s a great resource for marketers of all stripes – check it out here – April Dunford on Positioning.    ...

Marketing Strategy Hacks Presentation

I gave a talk at the Unbounce Conversion Road Trip this week. It was an awesome event with amazing speakers. I decided to go a bit deeper into my thinking around how you would test the underlying assumptions in your marketing strategy, in particular which buyers you are targeting and what market you are positioned in. There is a bunch of new content here that I’ll blog about in the future but in the meantime, here’s the deck. Marketing Strategy Hacks from April...
Startup Marketing in New Vs. Established Markets

Startup Marketing in New Vs. Established Markets

Established markets and new markets are not the same so the way that you market and sell to them is different. For startups, it’s really important to know the difference. For each type of market are using different marketing tactics, executed in different ways with different expected results. New versus Established Markets – The Problem Gap In an established market, there are prospects out there that understand that they have a problem that needs to be solved. There will also be prospects actively in the process of learning about, shopping for and purchasing solutions. In new markets, prospects are blissfully unaware that they even have a problem. They aren’t researching solutions or shopping for solutions to a problem that they don’t know they have. If we think about a typical buyer journey we can see that in new markets, the bulk of buyers are starting at a different starting point than the buyers in a more established markets.   Creating Demand VS. Capturing Demand So how are the marketing tactics different for these different markets? For new markets the first job of marketing is to educate your target segment that there is a problem to be solved in the first place. This is counterintuitive for many startup who would rather jump in and talk about why their solution is better than other solutions. Until prospects believe they have a problem to solve, efforts to market solutions will be really ineffective. Why should I care about your solution? I don’t even have that problem! When there is no demand for your solution, tactics that we typically use to capture existing demand are ineffective. People...
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