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

In the Moog

Great things don’t die. Among musicians, Moog – the storied innovator and maker of synthesizers – is iconic. This despite the company having once been sold, the buyer disfranchising Moog’s engineering team, then going under, then being revived by the founder (Bob Moog) who later passed away. In an age where digital, software controlled synthesizers are much more versatile than Moog’s analog gear, Moog is growing. Mainstream musicians and Hollywood studios clamor for their products. It is a sign of coolness for a road musician to have at very least a Minimoog on stage. A brand based on somethings Key to Moog’s revival was … Continue reading

Plan to Scramble

Sadly, go-to-market strategy planning has fallen out of vogue in Silicon Valley, for all the rightly wrong reasons. The untempered M.O. of startups today is growth hacking. This is a work- and risk-intensive system that is, according to Wikipedia, “A process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.” The key word is “experimentation”. Experiments are conducted to discover the unknown. Hence, the goal of growth hacking is to discover the best way to grow your company when the path to growth is vague. The problem is that the right paths are often known, or at least 90% of the bad paths can be eliminated before the first marketing dollar is spent. Traditional strategy development never picks the perfect plan on the first try, but it does typically find a low-risk path with very probable results. Silicon Valley … 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

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

Sopped Sales

Apple has more to worry about than the FBI, courts and the government breaking Apple’s privacy engineering. Apple has a peaked market that appears to be limiting their growth. All markets eventually saturate. The smartphone market, in most first-world nations, is saturated, or nearly so. Thus, the number of people willing to pay a premium for Apple mobile devices is almost capped. iPhones – at least in their current incarnation – appear to have reached saturation. iPhones will not compete in second- and third-world markets against $4 Android phones. All markets are segmented. When the segment you dominate becomes saturated, you have to change something before revenue growth abates and stockholders call for your head. The question remains which action is correct. Apple has a brand built around the high-end of their market, so they are unlikely to trash their brand by dropping prices. Since this is basically a segmentation … Continue reading