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...
How product framing can help grow your startup (or kill it)

How product framing can help grow your startup (or kill it)

I frequently talk to startup founders with innovative products that struggle to explain why their offering is really exciting. I frequently think the problem is really one of improper context setting or framing as I like to call it. What’s framing and why should you care? Framing is the act of providing context to help prospects understand what you are and why they should care. It works much like the opening scene in a movies does. In the opening scene of Apocalypse Now we see Martin Sheen punching a mirror in in filthy hotel room full of empty booze bottles and we have a pretty good idea about his emotional state of mind before we’ve heard a word of dialogue. Framing helps audiences quickly get oriented so that they can understand what’s going on and focus their attention on the action. New prospects are like people watching a movie. If we don’t let them in on where we are, who we are, and what we are about to show them, they might be left feeling confused, or worse incorrectly guess the answers to those questions. In general, startups are bad at framing. In some cases they don’t provide a frame at all, instead focusing on features or technology before they give prospects a clue about what they are in a broader since. More frequently however, I see startups provide a frame, just not a very good one. Startups will often place their products within a frame that fails to highlight their strengths and often puts their competitors at an advantage. This weak framing is often done unconsciously because they believe that there is only...
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.    ...
Your B2B Startup Needs a Buyer’s Guide

Your B2B Startup Needs a Buyer’s Guide

One of the big differences between selling to businesses vs selling to consumers is the buying process. Most Consumer products are lower priced and purchased quickly because if you make a poor choice, you aren’t out much more than beer money. In B2B not only is there more money on the line, buyers often have to justify a purchase to their boss. A poor choice can cost the company big dollars and (often more importantly) damage the buyer’s reputation. This is precisely why a Buyer’s Guide is such a powerful piece of marketing content. It is designed specifically to meed the needs of a prospect that has been tasked with making a purchase decision. It’s a piece of marketing content aimed directly at the hottest prospects in your pipeline. The Buyer’s Guide is Targeted at a Critical Stage in the B2B Buying Process For B2B purchases, the buying process usually includes a stage where prospects try to figure out what their options are and which ones are best suited to them. For startups selling to businesses, this stage is particularly important. Often the solution is in a new or shifting market space and figuring out the competitive alternatives is a task in itself, nevermind trying to figure out which option offers the best combination of functionality, features, support, community, etc. For enterprise products, the evaluation phase might be a months-long process that includes a formal RFP process and/or a Proof of Concept. However for many lower-priced B2B solutions, the evaluation process is much more informal and looks more like a manager saying “Go figure out what we should buy and come back...

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...
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