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

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

Distilled Desires

“Our software is the greatest thing ever. It is disruptive and something that will make your employees happy!” That is not an exact quote, but darn close to the opening paragraph of every landing page created by newly minted marketers at Silicon Valley startups. Like most web fodder from such shops, it communicates nothing. In our infobesity age, humans have learned to scan at a nearly subconscious level. Gone are the days when a one-pager would actually be read by a prospect. People glean information based on gut-level reaction to keywords, images, colors and social indicators. In short, they read headlines. Hence, if your headline does not grab the reader’s attention in the first five seconds, the odds of them investigating further approaches zero. That headline value propositions are hugely important is not new, nor are the steps to creating them. But the urgency has multiplied. Ignoring the process for … 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

Maddening Messages

Want to drive your competitors insane (assuming they are not already)? A recent thread exploded on a CMO web site asking the basic question “What do you do that drives your competitors crazy?” Most of the answers were pap, lazily resting on vague superlatives such as “listen to our customers” and “being honest”. I chimed in (of course) with my favorite “poisoning the well”, which does not imply spiking competitor water coolers with toxic substances. Marketers tend to focus on one key customer stakeholder persona. They put 80% or more of their effort into recruiting the job title they believe will cause a company to buy their product. This is not a bad strategy, but when you have two or more competitors grooming the same stakeholder, getting their attention becomes increasingly impossible. If you are coming from behind, it may be useless. The counter strategy (and a good primary strategy … 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

Marketing Expectations

Marketing sets expectations, creating a gap between customer desire and results

Your customers expect what you tell them to expect, and what you don’t tell them to. Outbound marketing is largely about setting customer expectations, which we do through branding, messaging, feeds-and-speeds lists, pricing and so much more. After encountering a product, customers have gut-level sets of expectations. Drive past a posh French restaurant and a dirty taco truck, and you have two completely different expectations concerning your culinary experience. Where bad and good buzz begins is when you set one expectation and deliver another. Set expectations low and deliver high, then people sing your praises everywhere. Invert the expectations and results and you likewise invert a customer’s public reaction. Marketing is responsible for defining those expectations, and presenting most of them (every employee who interacts with customers is also responsible, and great CEOs make sure they all set the right expectations). Marketing defines the brand – a primary expectation-setting tool … Continue reading