Impatient Ideas

concept acceptance over time - adapted from Seth Godin

Clarke’s Law of Great Ideas eloquently summarizes the four phases your boss passes through after you insert a novel new idea into his alleged mind: It is impossible – don’t waste my time. It is possible, but it is not worth doing. I said it was a good idea all along. Members of the board, here is my idea. But it isn’t just your boss. It is your market that goes from utter disbelief to passionate involvement over time. Marketing’s job it to short circuit the disbelief/belief gap and reduce the time to mass market acceptance. It ain’t easy. If it was, then anyone could do it. Seth Godin recently opined on the topic, and provided a graph (we prettied it up) which shows that in the short-run, ideas are not warmly met by everyone. Yes, a small set of early adopters “gets it”, but most of the market fails … Continue reading

Startup Marketing Mistakes

Guy Smith speaking at Draper University on the marketing mistakes that kill startups

How do founders kill their companies? Most often by not understanding the basics of marketing strategy. I spent a pleasent hour at Draper University speaking to students about the top three ways Silicon Valley startup founders crash their own companies. Draper kindly provided video from the event, and you can watch the whole presentation.   For a full course on the basics of marketing strategy, get a copy of our book The Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual at (if you have technical difficulties watching the embeded video above, it is available at YouTube at … 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

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

Computers vs Congress

Apple and McDonalds are doing far better than Congress and insurance companies. Gallup poll last summer gathered public perceptions of various industries and agencies, and asked people to score them as either generally positive or negative. All the sectors that scored positive were in the private sector, with even airlines and banks scooting in under the wire. Every government sector and a few industries closely intertwined with federal protections and regulations scored underwater. This isn’t to say that everything government touches is lousy. That’s just the way people perceive it. In all exchanges – voluntary or otherwise – value is largely based on the desirability of the outcome versus the cost. If the cost is zero, nobody expects much and nobody cares about the brand. If it cost a bundle – be it an iPhone or the IRS – people either see great value and award a great brand score … Continue reading

Innovation, Disruption and Groundbreaking

“Our technology is disruptive” said every founder at a recent venture capital pitch fest. If that had been the case, it would have been a wonderful evening. As it turned out, not a single deal was discussed after the last slide deck reached its end. All said, the words innovative, disruptive and groundbreaking were frequently used and never accurate. I have seen the same with marketers. As with startup founders, if you don’t understand the difference between these concepts, or you buy your own hype and assume your product is in a status it isn’t, you are unlikely to be profitable. Innovation: To innovate is to make changes in anything established (things that are disruptive are innovations as well, but of a different caste). If you devise a small enhancement to a product category that creates a minor but marketable advantage, you have an innovation. Likewise, if you overhaul your … Continue reading

Handling Influencers

A guest post by David Greer and excerpted in part from his book Wind In Your Sails. Buying power has shifted from companies to purchasers. There is too much information available today on the Internet for anyone to think they can hide information from buyers. While buyers always had a process, in the past marketers could get away without knowing those processes in exacting detail. Today you cannot market and sell without knowing how your prospects buy and what are the key drivers for them to make a change. In the middle of the sales process, strategic thinking has an incredibly important part to play. In order to understand a prospect’s buying process, you must start with the numerous stakeholders. Many of them have veto power in the process. In my book, Wind In Your Sails: Vital Strategies That Accelerate Your Entrepreneurial Success I feature the strategies that Guy Smith (head … Continue reading