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by April Dunford

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I’m Kind of a Big Deal in Canada

01/12/2009

Nobody likes awards more than I do.  I like giving people awards so much that at pretty much every company I have ever worked at I have started some sort of award or recognition program.  Why?  Because, everyone likes to get an award for pete’s sake, even if the contest is sort of narrow or kludgy or fixed or whatever.

So imagine my great excitement to see that I made it into the top 10 Most Influential Women in Social Media in Canada!!  It’s amazing! It’s fantastic!  I’m on the same list as real famous people like Amber MacArthur and super-duper bloggers like Kate Trogvac and the person I personally nominated, Jacqui Murphy (because my definition of “influential” means “controls the cash”).
You might be wondering how did I get on this list?  What is the secret to my amazing “influence”.  I will share my secret with you dear readers.
Fertility.
Yep.  I’ve got a very big family and that includes a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins, each with internet access and a vested interest in elevating the visibility of the Dunford family name.  Yes, my friends got out and voted for me when I bribed them with beer.  Even a few of you lovely readers got in on the voting action.  But what really separated the good from the great was a massive gene pool and the tempting prospect of taking credit for propelling one of their own into geographically constrained internet semi-stardom when we talk about this at the family get-together at Easter.
So you want to be internet famous?  Do what comes naturally and start working on a big family of your own.  If that doesn’t work out for you (hey, don’t tell me you didn’t having fun trying), find a big family (with internet access, this is important) and get them to adopt you.  Next thing you know, you will be rolling in awards and you will have me to thank for it.

Seth Godin is Right, “Good” Products Suck

01/08/2009

Seth Godin wrote a blog post a week or so ago that has some product management bloggers buzzing.  Seth is the master of the teeny weeny blog post, so here’s the whole thing for your reading pleasure:

Was Jackson Pollock a good painter? The critics at the time certainly didn’t think so.
Twyla Tharp’s London debut was panned.
The Prius was largely ignored by car magazines, mostly because it wasn’t a very good car.
If we define ‘good’ as showing reasonable skill in the expected areas of performance, then good is not only useless, it’s dangerous. Good authors rarely change minds. Good politicians rarely get elected.
The worst thing you can be given as a marketer is a good product to sell.

That last bit got some folks a bit riled.  Ethan over at On Product Management disagrees in this post and says:

The worst thing you can be given as a marketer is a crappy product because no one is going to buy it. I like Seth Godin a lot, but really. There’s being contrarian and there’s being stupid.

Paul Young over at Product Beautiful got in on the discussion with this thoughtful post where he ponders:

This is a great interaction because it illustrates the rift between marketing and product management.  First, I suspect that Godin isn’t really saying that for any given company it is better to have an inferior product.  He’s saying that for a marketer it is better.

He then talks about how for products in a commodity market, the difference between products often comes down to Marketing and Product Management becomes less relevant:

There are lots of products where the baseline has risen to “good enough” and the differentiating features either aren’t compelling enough to justify paying for them, or customers just don’t care.  On the cost side, we’re squeezed by free and open source products.  What role does the product manager play in a commodity product?  I hypothesize that the markets where companies need product managers will shrink at roughly the rate that those markets commoditize.

What do you think – are we entering the post-Product Management economy?

I’m going to take Seth’s side on this one.

But first let me explain that I read his post in a completely different way.  What I was read in his post was that in each of his examples if you evaluated the product against the mainstream of a given market, they didn’t measure up.  However, each of them went on to define a new category within which they were a leader.

I’ll give you a classic business school example, plus one tech example from my own personal experience.

Example 1 – Toothpaste

Yep folks, it doesn’t get more commodity than that.  It’s been around forever.  For years (decades probably) the job of toothpaste was to fight cavities.  In 2005, Proctor and Gamble decided Crest wasn’t about toothpaste any more.  It was about “Oral Care”.  Oral care is about much more than just fighting cavities, it’s about “healthy looking, beautiful smiles for life.” This was a new place to be and certainly not a commodity market.  A slew of new products followed including not just new non-toothpaste products like floss and Whitestrips but also new toothpaste for a whiter smile or better-smelling breath.  The result was dramatic growth for a product that was a “commodity” (at least that’s what they told me in the marketing class I took at Kellogg recently).

Example 2 – A Not so Hot Database

My first marketing job ever was with a startup called Watcom.  They started out making compilers including the super-successful Watcom C.  Around the time that I joined them, they had started selling a relational database called Watcom SQL.  As a run of the mill database, Watcom SQL wasn’t all that great.  It couldn’t store as much data as Oracle or Sybase and certainly couldn’t handle the number of concurrent users that they could.  These were two key features that relational databases “had to have”.  What Watcom SQL did have was an extremely small footprint, full SQL functionality, and the ability to run on Windows.

At around time when the product was being launched (1993), the laptop business was starting to take off.  Companies were starting to think about how applications that ran inside the company were going to be able to run on people’s mobile machines and devices.  Watcom SQL was the perfect answer to that problem.  It ran on Windows, took up very little space on cramped laptop or device hard drives and unlike other Windows databases like Access, it was fully SQL so could handle things like row level locking that enterprise application developers needed.  As a database it wasn’t that hot, but as a mobile/embedded database it was extremely hot.  The product became Sybase SQL Anywhere (after a couple of acquisitions) and Sybase completely dominates the market for not just mobile databases but middleware in general for mobile platforms.

In my opinion great marketers are not just taking me-too products and trying to trick people into buying them with flashy advertising.  Instead they’re looking for ways to match unmet market needs to solutions.  If there’s no way to beat the other folks at the game you’re playing, it’s time to change the game.

Startup Marketing 10 New Year’s Resolutions

01/06/2009

I read this post from Gopal Shenoy on 5 Suggestions product managers can adopt in the new year, which got me thinking about my marketing new year’s resolutions.  I have 10 of them and here they are:

1.  Make this the year you track ROI on everything – Now that we’re trudging through a recession, it’s time to make sure you can justify every single penny in that budget of yours because you know it is going to get hacked by the end of Q1.  We all say we are tracking ROI on everything but I know there are a couple of little tactics that you’ve been hiding in there.  Chances are you have classed them as “branding” hoping that nobody will notice that you have no clue what sort of results you are driving with that bucket of money.  Make this the year you drop your “branding” crutches and run, Forrest, run!
2.  Hang out with customers more – You know you want to do it but all that marketing work gets in the way.  Set a goal, be it one sales call per week or per month but set it and schedule it and make it happen.  Deep customer knowledge is the only thing that gives you credibility.  Invest in that.
3.  Do something once a quarter to make your sales force love you – Did you know that research shows that sales professionals consider up to 90 percent of sales materials created by marketing as valueless?  Resolve to do one thing a quarter that you know your sales team will love. How will you know that they will love it?  You do talk to those folks, don’t you?
4.  Stop writing boring press releases – Seriously!  Just stop it!  If your press releases look more or less the way they did a few years ago, you’re doing it wrong!  Experiment with social media, get some multimedia into your press releases, make a headline that doesn’t put people to sleep.  Anything.  Just, please for the love of Pete, no more boring press releases.
5.  Drop your 3 worst performing generation activities – there’s that tradeshow you’ve been doing every year that doesn’t deliver any leads but “customers will wonder if we don’t show up”.  Well folks, this year they won’t because chances are they are at home due to travel restrictions.  The ones that do show won’t wonder why you didn’t show up this year.  They read the news just like the rest of us.
6.  Try 3 lead generation tactics you’ve never tried before – Never tried a podcast before?  This is the year!  Have you been toying with the idea of offering a free trial?  Launching a blog?  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of running the same lead generation tactics over and over again.  Make sure to try a few new things this year.
7.  Start/Improve your Customer Advisory Council – I’ve been running a Customer Advisory Council and it has been one of the most valuable marketing things I’ve done in past year.  If you don’t have one, now is the time to start.  If you are already running one, think about how you can make it better this year.
8.  Make a list of people you want to develop a relationship with and build a plan to make it happen – Maybe there is an analyst that you’ve briefed once but you didn’t really click.  Maybe there is a hot shot VP of marketing in your city whose brain you would like to pick.  Maybe there are a couple of journalists or bloggers that you admire (or who write about your competition more than you would like).  Make a list and figure out how you are going to get to know them better this year.
9.  Hire an intern – You had no experience once and someone gave you a break.  The next time you are complaining about your latest budget cuts, think about the folks trying to get a bit of experience on their resume’s so that they have some sort of hope of finding a job when they graduate in this lousy economy.  You are short of people at the moment, aren’t you?
10.  Be a mentor – I personally have been a bit of a networking maniac for the past year but I will be the first to admit that I spent more time meeting with folks at my level or more senior than me, than I did with folks that were more junior.  This year I’m thinking about how I can help junior marketing folks get where they want to go, in much the same way I was fortunate enough to be helped along when I was a little marketing sprite.

First time reader?  Why not subscribe or follow me on Twitter?

    The Risks of a Low Cost Provider Strategy, Even in a Recession

    01/04/2009

    We’re in the middle of a recession and suddenly all of the smaller companies I’m talking to are concerned about whether or not they should be dropping their prices.  The thinking is that in times of tighter budgets, the lowest cost provider has a market advantage.  Is that really true?  And if it is, are there longer-term risks to such a strategy?

    I don’t usually go all marketing scholar on this blog but this is one that deserves a look at some first principle marketing thinking.
    The Godfather of competitive strategy is Harvard professor Michael Porter.  Most of what is taught about competitive strategy is based on the foundations that he laid in a book called “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors”. This book is now in it’s 60th printing (yeah, you read that right, that’s six zero) which gives you an indication of how often it is used in marketing classes.
    PortersGenericStrategies
    Diagram from Wikipedia
    Porter argues that one of the major factors that determine the success of a company (after the attractiveness of the industry the company is in) is how the company positioned itself within that industry.  He argues that there were only three major types of strategies with respect to positioning.
    Differentiation – this is where the company goes after the entire market but positions itself as clearly differentiated from other players in the market.  This is usually pursued by companies that are doing highly innovative things and whose products are generally high quality.  Customers will pay a premium for these types of products because of their perceived greater value.
    Cost Leadership – like it sounds, this is where the main differentiator is the lower price for the product.  These companies have figured out a way to produce and/or sell their products for lower costs and can then sell them for less with the same profit as competitors or for a lower margin to simply gain market share.
    Segmentation (sometimes called Focus) – a segmentation strategy is where the company focuses on a target segment and then adopts either a Differentiation strategy or a Cost Leadership strategy within that particular segment.
    Where things get really ugly, according to Porter, is where companies try to mix these strategies together.  He refers to this problem as “Stuck in the Middle”.  Now, you and I have both seen Resevoir Dogs and we know when we hear “Stuck in the Middle”, bad things happen.  Porter stressed that he saw too many companies that were essentially getting beat by their competition both in terms of Differentiation as well as Cost.
    So let’s go back to the original problem.  Now that we are in a recession, should you drop your prices to be the lowest cost option in your market?  Really the question is bigger and more complicated than that, unfortunately.  The question is actually – Should you change your strategy to compete on price rather than differentiation?  This mean you have to go back to your original Value Chain Analysis and figure out where you are going to cut some costs.  Can you stop selling direct?  By how much can you reduce your staff?  Can you significantly reduce your cost of service?  If you catch yourself saying “Yeah, but we will still do all the cool stuff we are doing today, we’ll just reduce the price!”, you just might be kidding yourself.
    Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t going to be price pressure on software vendors over the next 12 months.  There sure as heck will be.  Smaller companies in particular will be forced to be more flexible on price than they have ever been before.  Short-term dealmaking does not represent a shift in strategy however, and any company that decides that they will now compete primarily on price should take a long hard look at what that means for their overall business.

    Messaging Botox – A Quick Fix for Saggy Messaging

    12/27/2008

    I’m back after a break for a couple of weeks to change jobs (more on that in a later post) visit my friends in New York and host a rather large group of folks including 4 kids under the age of 5 at my house of the holidays.  I now need a break from my break. Did you miss me?

    During the break I also got a chance to meet with a number of different startups that were interested in doing something about their messaging.  They all had similar problems.  When they had launched their product/services they had put a lot of time, effort and attention into primping their messaging to make it as attractive as possible.  But then time passed and that same messaging that was once so radiant started to droop.  By the time it becomes obvious that the messaging is getting a bit, shall we say, mature, the thought of investing the time and effort required to perform a messaging facelift was enough to scare these startups into doing nothing at all.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way!  What you need my friends is a quick shot of messaging botox. Unlike a full-blown messaging facelift which can take months a quick hit of messaging botox can be done in a couple of weeks.  Sure it won’t leave your messaging looking as spiffy as it did a couple of years ago, but it’s quick and painless and will make your messaging much more attractive.   Here’s how it works:

    1. Make sure you have a problem – Before you go under the needle it is important to make sure that things are as bad as you think.  Remember that you will get bored of your messaging well before anyone else will.  Don’t let the mirror play tricks on you and make sure you aren’t fixing something that isn’t broken.  If your messaging is starting to fade your sales folks and customers will let you know.
    2. Work on the most important areas first – There is a reason why people aren’t getting cosmetic surgery on their feet.  Focus on your lead moneymaking product or service and leave the rest for later.
    3. Determine your top 3 to 5 features from your customer’s point of view – You might think it’s your sense of humor that gets you dates but some honest feedback might tell you otherwise.  Spend a day or two talking to your sales folks, your customers, and your services folks.  Get a feel for what your strengths and weaknesses are from the customer’s point of view and list out the top 3 to 5 of them.  Don’t spend more than a couple of days on this.  Trust the feedback and don’t worry about capturing everything, just the top 3-5 things.
    4. Inject your new messaging into your critical parts – Refresh your home page, your key product/solution pages on your web site and your sales presentations.  You don’t need to re-write every piece of content you have and you don’t need to do a fresh rewrite from scratch.  Keep the 3-5 points you outlined in step 3 in mind and work those points in.  Get rid of the parts of your messaging that highlights things that may have been critical at one point but no longer make your top 5 list.  Remember this is a refresh and the alternative is to do nothing and leave it the way it is.  The goal is quick hit improvements and not perfection.
    5. Recover and update the rest when the opportunity arises – Yes I know there are other important pieces that you need to update, especially whitepapers.  In a perfect world you would update everything at the same time.  But unless you are Michael Jackson, you can’t afford to disappear for a few months while you get all that work done.  There are times when those pieces will naturally need to be updated (when there is a new release for example).  Wait until then and do the messaging update at the same time.
    6. Repeat for the other saggy parts – Once you have your key product/solution updated, move on to the next most important one when you have a couple of weeks with some spare time.

    That’s it.  Nothing beats doing a full-fledged messaging update but when you only have a couple of weeks, a quick fix is better than just letting yourself go.

    Networking for Marketers, Twitter and Ho Ho TO

    12/11/2008

    Ah the holiday season.  The decorations!  The music!  The crazy,
    stressed-out sprint to the end of the quarter!!!  This time of the year
    always gets me pondering why some people are so amazingly
    execution-oriented and others, well, let’s just say if these folks were
    in charge Mussolini probably could have gotten away with a stern
    talking to.

    I talked in my last post about how I thought small
    tech companies should hire a product marketer instead of a marketing
    communication person as their first marketing hire.  The idea was that
    if you have only a few headcount to work with, why wouldn’t you spend it
    on someone that could do analyst briefings, help set product strategy,
    create sales materials, do messaging and positioning, etc.

    Now
    that said, I’m not saying that Product Marketers know how to do
    everything.  They sure as heck don’t.  I personally am graphically
    challenged (my friend Georgina, who has a gift for non-verbal
    communication once described the look of this blog by sticking her
    tongue out and pointing a finger in her mouth).  Some can write well,
    others can’t.  Some have great relationships with analysts but lack
    press contacts.  You get the idea.

    This is why your network is so important.  Your
    CEO would laugh you out of her office if you asked to hire a full time
    graphics person but you might have budget for a few weeks worth of
    contract work.  If you have a great network you might be able to barter
    some of your time in exchange for some of theirs.  Even if you can’t
    get folks to do the actual work, having the advice of someone who is
    more skilled than you at something is pretty darn valuable.  My network works well on the beer barter system.  Hey, I’m Canadian.

    As far
    as tools go, I am a big fan of LinkedIn, mainly because my contacts and
    I tend to move around a lot so it is great for keeping track of folks
    that I know.  But lately my favorite tool for finding new folks that know
    something about a particular topic is, by far, Twitter.

    Here’s my amazing example of Twitter networking that I have watched come together over
    the past couple of weeks.  Some folks in Toronto decided they wanted to
    hold a holiday charity event in Toronto in support of our local food bank, The Daily Bread Food Bank.
    In short order a group formed, a face to face
    meeting happened and the next day I see a Tweet asking if anyone wanted
    to help out.  I sent my email address in and the next thing you know I
    am part of this execution MACHINE called Ho Ho To.

    There is a person who knows how to build websites.  The site is up in a few hours.  Someone designs a logo.  Then another.  There are event management people organizing volunteers.  Someone knows someone at a venue (the Mod Club) and convinces them to give it to us.  For free.  With cheap drinks.  Someone else knows a caterer and they give us food.  At cost.  There is a graphics guru who sorts out formatting sponsor logos for the web and other places.  A photographer is taking pictures.  A PR person is drafting a press release and gets it on the wire for free.  Someone
    decides that it is too tricky for the Food Bank to pick up the bin at
    the end of the night so calls in some friends from the army to pick up
    the bin.  The frikkin’ ARMY.  Everyone reaches out to their network for
    sponsorships and the
    next thing you know it’s a week into the project and there are 27
    sponsors and the group has raised over $13,000 for the food bank,
    effectively making it one of their top fund raising events for the
    entire year.  And the news is
    all over town.  I’m not even mentioning half of the stuff going on.  In
    a week.  What the heck!?  Did I mention that I have never met a single
    person on the team face to face?

    Dear readers, if I had to
    design a logo, do you know how long it would take me?  Ages.  And would
    people be doing the universal gesture for throwing up when they saw
    it?  You can bet money on that.

    So what have I learned from
    all of this?  Some folks on Twitter are pretty amazing at what they
    do.  If you’re looking for them, or if they are looking for you, it’s a neat way to connect. If you want to work together you can do truly
    amazing things.  Yes, I know that running a project for a company is
    different from running one for charity.  You might have to pay.  It
    might be in beer.  But trust me, there are superstar people out there
    that you can help and that can help you back.

    First time reader?  Why not subscribe or follow me on Twitter?

    Product Marketing vs. Marketing Communications (and MarComm Must Die)

    12/07/2008

    Traditionally really small software companies have Development, Marketing, Sales and that’s about it (Ok I am generalizing here – there might be a lawyer, a finance person or two, possibly an IT person, work with me on this one, ok?).

    Once the organization has landed a customer or two, and have started thinking beyond release 1 and basic survival, they typically start thinking about forming a real product management group.  The idea is that these folks will focus on the product roadmap and future releases, competitive analysis and they will also do things like product demos, and a lot of more technical sales support.

    Meanwhile there is the “Marketing” department which is really pure marketing communications and is focused on things like building the website, maybe creating a brochure, and writing press releases.  They might book an analyst meeting or set up press interviews but they would rarely be the spokesperson.

    This set up is broken for lots of reasons but the main one is that there is this idea that marketing doesn’t need to understand the product.  In some cases, I have heard folks argue that it is better if marketing doesn’t get “bogged down” in product details and stays “creative”.

    If I look at the Pragmatic Marketing Framework (you product management types will know this thing by heart.) where they break down the responsibilities of product managers/marketers and recommend something called “The Product Management Triad” to cover the larger product management and product marketing functions.

    Here is what that looks like (here’s me crossing my fingers it is ok for me to reproduce this here – let me know Pragmatic Marketing folks if I’m breaking the law.  Click for a larger image):

    Product management triad

    Here’s the thing that I keep thinking every time I come across the Product Management/Marketing Communications setup.  Why wouldn’t you start with Product Marketing and add a marketing communications person later?

    If I look at the boxes under Product Marketing – what else is left to do?  A solid product marketing person can do all of the stuff in the Product Marketing Manager boxes (a senior one can cover product strategy too) and probably most of the communications stuff too.  Can they write press releases and brochures?  Sure they can.  They are going to outsource graphics (or hire a graphics person), the same way the marketing communications person did.  Sure when you get big enough maybe you can afford to hire a person that just worries about the look and feel of the website but this person shouldn’t be the first marketing person you hire.  The first marketing person you hire should have a solid product background (or the ability to pick it up quickly) so that they brief analysts, build presentations, write white papers, do a competitive write-up as well as manage the vendor building the web site and execute a lead gen program.

    Let’s face it, we are way past the days where the first marketing thing a company had to worry about was advertising.  Why are we still building companies that way?

    Winning is Fun – Why Companies Should Give Awards

    11/30/2008

    Participating isn’t fun.  You know what’s fun?  Winning is fun.  Telling your friends you won is fun.  Being recognized for doing something very well is fun but you know, beating other people who are clearly better than you is really fun too.

    This time of year there are a lot of awards being handed out.  Sure, people might make fun of them, particularly the folks that don’t have a chance of winning but seriously, I don’t believe anyone dislikes getting an award. I don’t understand why more people aren’t giving out awards.  In particular, I don’t understand why more companies don’t give awards to their customers and partners.  It’s such a cheap, simple, easy way to make your customers happy – why wouldn’t you do it?

    Top 5 Reasons Your Company Should Give Out Some Awards to Customers and Partners:

    1. Winning Makes Winners Happy – Seriously, you do all sorts of other things because you want to keep your customers or partners happy, don’t you?  Why not recognize your best ones with a trophy?  You’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars taking them out to dinner but they can’t display dinner on their wall and trust me, everyone wants a wall full of trophies.
    2. Winners Talk About It – I was chatting with a CEO of a mid-sized company last week and he showed me an award that they had won from Microsoft.  They got to meet some senior folks from Microsoft, they put out a press release, they talked about it on their web site.  They didn’t know exactly why they had won but as he said, “Getting an award is cool.”  OK, so getting an award from your little company may not warrant a press release but I bet it still makes it into the display case and I bet they still talk about it.
    3. Award-Givers Get to Talk About it Too – I mentioned this in an earlier post but the neat thing about giving a great customer an award is that you get to highlight in public that the award winner is a great customer of yours.  They may not admit in public how much they love you but once you admit how much you love them you are officially dating.
    4. Account Champions are People too – There is a person in every account that stuck her neck out for you or fought like heck to make sure your software didn’t get thrown out.  Say “thank-you and please do that again sometime” by letting them put “IT Rock Star of the Year Winner” on their resume.
    5. It’s a Good Excuse for a Party (and to get employees talking to customers) – Developers complaining that they never get to talk to any customers?  Feeling like the company could be more customer-oriented?  Fine, your holiday party just became a customer awards celebration with tinsel.  Seat a set of customers at every table and watch what happens.  You can’t afford to fly everyone in your company out to talk to customers but you can bring a few customers in to talk to your folks.  Tell those customers they are getting an award at a party held in their honor and they might even show up.


    And One More Thing (aka The Part Where I Ask You to Vote
    )

    First of all, due to some sort of MASSIVE oversight on the part of the folks that run the Canadian Blog Awards, I have not been nominated but I am pleased to say that my pals at On Product Management have been so please CLICK HERE right now and vote for them.  You don’t have to be Canadian, OK, this isn’t the Oscars.

    Secondly, I am very pleased to have bribed my way into being nominated for been nominated for (turning on the echo machine) Canada’s Most Influential Woman in Social Media!!!!! (turning off the echo machine).  OK, so the other gals here look hard to beat because some of them have like, professional photographs and all that but trust me, I am super influential.  Just yesterday I convinced a guy at work to buy me a coffee simply by saying I didn’t have any cash on me.  Don’t think about it.  Just click here and vote for me so that I can win that sucker and put whatever it is they are handing out in my trophy case right next to my award for being the most popular female marketing blogger in Toronto with brown hair and big boots.

    Innovating Through Recession

    11/24/2008

    Paul Dunay at Buzz Marketing writes a post here pointing to a research paper by Andrew Razeghi from the Kellogg School of Management on Innovating Through Recession.

    Andrew makes 7 great points in this paper but I love the first one where he states:

    Listen to the market. It’s quieter when it’s less crowded. Unmet needs abound.

    And here is the quote I love the most in that section:

    During difficult economic times, market needs are more exposed than they are during an economic boom when the market is saturated with everyone’s “great idea” – many of which are chasing needs that have already been satisfied. When markets turn south, it’s easier to discern what the market needs precisely because the market is thinking more about what it needs and why it needs it. We are simply more thoughtful, more aware, and more focused during economic downturns.

    I think it is hard for companies to stay focused on customers when they have their own economic problems to deal with.  During tough economic times, a focus on innovation is more important than ever.  Innovation thrives on constraints.  What is a recession other than a time of great constraint?

    Customers are trying to do more with less.  Enterprises are looking for ways to decrease their cost of sales, shorten their sales cycles, reduce costs associated with business travel, decrease their need for physical real estate, improve their time to market, reach more customers while spending less – the list goes on and on.  What a perfect time for great product managers and marketers to take a step back and listen to their customers.

    Your Company Can Ignore Social Media but You Can’t

    11/24/2008

    I am not a Social Media Marketer.  I am a Product Marketer.  I’ve worked on products where we’ve done a lot of social media related things and others where we have done almost nothing.  In my mind, that is perfectly OK.  As a marketer however, I think it is essential that I’m participating in social media, even for no other reason than just to understand what the heck is going on.

    There are lots of growing, successful businesses that ignore social media for the most part.  I can name a dozen startups that don’t blog, don’t Twitter, don’t have a facebook page, etc. and are doing just fine.  In almost every example, these folks are selling fairly big-ticket software to large businesses where the key decision makers aren’t big social media consumers.  Yes, these decision makers are likely influenced by folks that DO consume a lot of social media but for these startups, influencing this second tier is a much lower priority than building better product demos, running a better advisory council or doing a better job of managing their relationships with industry analysts.  Could they see benefits from participating more in social media?  Absolutely!  But marketing is a game of making the most with scarce resources and sometimes it isn’t at the top of the list.

    My point here (you were wondering if there was ever going to be one, I know) is that there is a difference between making a decision as a company or related to a particular product, to prioritize social media participation lower on the list and not putting social media on the list at all because you’ve never really participated in it and therefore don’t have a clue about it.

    I’m tired of marketers asking me why Twitter is important.  They should already know about Dell and Comcast and Zappos.  They should have already figured out that they key industry analysts are out there talking about them or their competitors on Twitter.  These stories have been told over and over.  I can’t believe it when I come across a marketing exec with 2 connections on LinkedIn.  I am shocked when I’m questioned by a marketing person about something I’ve written here or something someone on my team has written elsewhere on a blog.  Any decent marketer out there is keeping on top of this stuff and at a minimum playing around with it to make up their own minds whether or not it’s important.  In my opinion, the best ones understand that the world has changed and are diving into it as deeply as they can.

    I don’t understand the marketers that don’t think social media is interesting enough to even dip a toe in the water.  Maybe they are too busy buying print ads and booking big trade shows and scheduling meetings with executives trapped on boats.  Who knows?  All I know is that things are changing quickly and it’s my job to keep up.  I hope I have the good sense to retire or change careers the minute I catch myself blocking anyone else from doing that too.

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