Books and Brain Busting

The phrase “post-literary” scares me. It is a real term, bandied about by the intelligentsia, and speculates that people are not reading books these days. There is no question that the book market is a horrid place, one where the major publishers treat writers like chattel, only big names make big bucks, and where being a touring musician looks appealing by comparison (a common joke in the music business is that a touring musician is the only job that pays less than being homeless). Which makes the book industry a wonderful model for discussing marketing of difficult products, changing channels, and general business dystopia. Changes … bloody changes The book market has changed, but not just because Amazon said so. In North America and many industrialized nations, readership is falling. Pew Research said that in 2011, about 79% of the adult population had read a book – or at least … Continue reading

Swift Sales

Can’t say I care for Taylor Swift’s music, but her marketing skills have me tapping my toes. News broke that her latest album sold more copies in four days that Ed Sheehan’s latest album sold in seven months. Swift has, over time, amassed a large and borderline rabid fan base, who would likely buy her album in droves. Many musicians have loyal followings. Songwriter Tom Waits, who in his experimental phase was nearly unlistenable, still sold records to his very loyal fans (I have a complete collection). But Swift, understanding better than most how social media and the streaming music markets work, leveraged them all to sell over a million albums in less than a week. Some of it was traditional marketing strategy and some was exploiting new channels to drive demand. Stream not my love Swift’s fans … Continue reading

When Marketing Misfires

Marketers are not perfect. We just have great PR. The fact is that no marketing plan is bullet proof. Even a great go-to-market strategy will eventually become useless as markets and competitors change. Yet some marketers stubbornly adhere to their plans right down to the last nickel from company coffers. But by that time, it is too late. Marketing Stall Horns My friend Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley, talks often about CEOs needing financial stall horns. Like those in airplanes, stall horns alert dozing pilots about impending crashes. Marketing executives need stall horns as well, but not all CMOs bother. They do rely on periodic reporting, but rarely engineer triggers to alert them when a trend on a metric is sinking and not showing signs of recovery. The constant question is what metrics matters? The answer is that they all do, but for different reasons in … Continue reading

Hierarchy Hell

The seven level hierarchy of marketing strategy stack

While contemplating the content for my upcoming lecture at Draper University (April 20, 2016 at 1PM for any interested Silicon Valley types) I thought long and hard about covering the entire marketing strategy hierarchy. It is essential for startups (and you can learn more about them in the Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual) but a bit too meaty for that crowd. Why hierarchies are hip The concept is simple, the application rigorous, and the outcomes always positive. This is why most startups crash. They don’t do the Tough Things First and build their marketing strategy from ground-up. They instead assemble them sideways, beginning with their native knowledge of a market, and trying to slide a foundation in under a clapboard shed of a marketing plan. There exist seven layers in the marketing strategy stack. The end goal of marketing is to … Continue reading

Branding Positions

Branding and positioning during the bowling alley effect

“Branding is making the market think and feel what you want them to think and feel about you and your products.”© We are currently mentoring a London client as they work through their go-to-market strategy. Ground-up strategy development is not a simple process even for well-defined markets. These chaps are in an early adopter arena, and likely in a specific niche. Knowing their product category has been a challenge as even the analyst groups have not yet bothered to classify the space our client is staking out. Yet they are already mapping their next segments to achieve the Bowling Alley effect described in Crossing The Chasm. This situation has brought their branding mission to the fore because of the difficulty of branding a product in an undefined space, and branding it for a larger set of market segments. In a word … messy. As you no doubt recall, market dominance … Continue reading

Startup Kick-start

Launching a startup is like flying a small turbocharged airplane … blindfolded. Frankly, I am surprised that more founders have not ripped out their hair by the roots, which would be an unfortunate fashion choice for the growing set of female entrepreneurs. Starting a company, creating new markets, pushing viable yet brain-bending differentiations into the market can be perilous. Since marketing strategy is the topic most entrepreneurs understand the least, it is the one place they need the most help. This is why I wrote the Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual, to provide entrepreneurs with a leg-up – to make them as smart on go-to-market strategy as they can rightfully be. I was surprised by the personal feedback I received. Though the book generated compliments, and the real-world examples in the book helped many, there is that disconnect that comes from monologue and not tying the lessons to the project at … Continue reading

Marketing Fail

Marketing jobs have the shelf life of milk. In the tech industry, marketing people move around a lot. Unlike code cutters, their skills can be well used up to the limits of their experience, then they see little incremental improvement from their activities. Seeing the end of a good run, they look for other companies – smaller in size, with new products, or just something exciting. Other times they get fired. Marketing can fail. What confounds many in management is which part of marketing failed and why. Marketing is both strategy and execution, and are typically carried-out by different people or teams. When sales are slow, management wants to know why and occasionally even marketing cannot (or will not) clearly identify what is not working. Obfuscating marketing malfunctions has become more difficult in the digital age because we can measure what is and is not succeeding, at least at the … Continue reading