Believe This

Try forcing a stranger to believe something they have never heard of before, or to abandon a belief they have held for years. Odds are you will fail at both. “Belief” is understanding without knowledge, facts or proof. Yet humans have many complex belief systems firmly rooted in air. This is not inherently bad. Beliefs guide actions, and if beliefs are noble, then good things occur. But beliefs are also firmly rooted in the mind – trying to uproot beliefs (at least in the short term) is like trying to pull a redwood tree out of the ground with your bare hands. Belief systems are important to humans and to marketers. For humans, belief systems are shortcuts to understanding life, the universe and everything. The belief doesn’t even have to be correct as long as it provides a person with a grasp on their perception of reality. This is one … Continue reading

Escalated Advertising Warfare

The gray puzzle piece on my screen is a sign of why marketers are their own worst enemy. The Chrome browser allows you to disable any automatically executing media it encounters. I enabled this feature after growing sick (and tired) of auto-playing videos on web pages I visited for text content. It is rather annoying when sitting alone in a quiet office, and focusing intently on the meaning within a paragraph, for a loud and often off-screen video to start playing, shattering the silence and destroying your concentration. Thanks to marketers who thought auto-playing videos were a smart idea, now all advertisers using playable media are banned from my laptop. It has been said that 99% of marketers give the other 1% a bad name. These ratios may be a bit off, but it illustrates the point that bad marketing practices cause marketing to fail. This has been the talk … Continue reading

Nothing’s Dead

“Trade shows are dead. Magazines are dead. Direct mail is dead.” Sometimes I think young marketers are dead, but only from the neck up. When I coach startups, I often hear their leaders and even their marketing staff push back on old school promotional channels. One outfit, with series-A funding even, was dead set on using only social media … to sell to a broad set of non-tech CxOs for a high dollar technology offering. When I mentioned these targeted CxOs might be more easily targeted and reached via direct mail the startup’s CEO came close to stroking-out on me … and he was only 30 years old. Trade shows aren’t dead, though they are still expensive. Magazines aren’t dead, though many are shifting to digital. Direct mail isn’t dead as my mailbox attests daily. The fact is all modes of reaching a prospect are valid. The choice falls to … Continue reading

Marketing Truthiness

Honesty is one of the better policies. While recently chatting with a legendary Silicon Valley CEO, we spoke about his company’s documented culture. The first two pillars of their shared ethics were honesty and integrity (which go hand-in-hand). In his semiconductor industry, honesty and integrity are occasionally vague terms, yet his company has thrived by dealing with employees, suppliers and customers with rather unshakable decency. More marketers should follow his example. Like politicians, some marketers have found creative ways of distorting the truth. Eschewing outright lies, they lean more heavily upon vague generalities, measured over-selling and promising support that never fully materializes. This short-sighted approach produces short-term results with long-term ruin. Marketing dishonesty can lift revenues. People will buy products on a false promise, but only once. If a marketer wants to bump this quarter’s numbers, inaccurate promotions can shift a few fence-sitting prospects into the “win” column. But the … Continue reading

Cost, Effective

What is effective may not be inexpensive. Then again it may be. I stumbled upon two marketing maven surveys, one that reported how effective some lead generation options were and another on how low cost they were. Coming from two different organizations, there were gaps in what was surveyed and reported, but there was enough connecting tissue to make an intelligent review of B2B promotional options. Before I ramble on too much about the details, what was striking is that options for lead generation in social media never scored in the top half of all options by effectiveness. This isn’t to say that social media is to be avoided, but that as a lead generation tool, it isn’t worth a lot of investment. This will shock many here in Silicon Valley because the endless local mantra is that everything is possible with social media. If it were, then social media … Continue reading

Cultural Connections

Culture determines how to market

“Donate tonight,” said the actress at a local community theater, using a shrill and fake British accent to warm-up the audience for the evening’s production of Spamalot. “After all, it is the arts. Our culture. Just the very basis of civilization as we know it!” As uncultured as advertising often is, it connects to culture or it fails (and if uncultured advertising works, then the culture needs an upgrade). The antiseptic dictionary definition of culture is “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.” It is the sum of the social fabric in which individuals wrap themselves, typically from indoctrination or attraction (the latter explaining why red-headed proto-yuppies sing gangsta rap tunes). Culture includes things that are familiar, and thus comfortable. Advertising that attaches to specific cultural beliefs is more rapidly accepted. It is little wonder that billboards for American political candidates are almost always … Continue reading

Focused Reception

Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett declared that the ability to focus was key to their success. Focus is also a key to success in marketing, but it is less about your focus and more about your customer’s. Every buyer, be they consumers or business buyers, has a focus. We all filter, and with the multitude of media options and an endless stream of marketing messages flooding them, people are creating more and better filters daily. Much has been written about getting “above the noise” just so you can be heard, and it is not unsound advice. However, it misses the sweeter approach of quietly standing directly in the field of your buyer’s focus. Take your standard IT geek (please). They tend to be insanely focused, driven by technical prowess, to dig deeply into a topic for days on end. Coders can program for 24 or more hours provided there … Continue reading