Branding Three-step

Book marketing is one of the oddest, yet normal marketing jobs one can have (and this doesn’t include the rapidly evolving digital, post-book-store world Amazon created and dominates). Selling books is a good case study in the fundamentals of brand marketing. Awareness, belief and validation are all steps in the decision chain buyers have. With books, this plays out in a lot of uncommon ways, though the end goals remain the same. Starting with the author’s platform, the first step is to build awareness.  A great deal of typical PR goes into a publisher backed book, making the entire market aware that the book exists and has an alleged value or differentiation (that there is not a dimes worth of value or differentiation between typical romance novels shows that marketing can overcome reality). Pre-release excerpts from books create awareness, but also set the stage for the next mandatory book/brand market … Continue reading

Biz Book Bunk

The business book market is nearly as crazy as the rest of the book publishing industry. Business books are often one-off affairs by successful businessmen and women who want to share their thoughts on management and leadership with the world. There are many voracious readers of such books, mainly other people in management who constantly look to better their skills and learn from other peoples’ success (these books rarely talk about the mistakes made by the author). What makes modern book publishing peculiar are platforms. Publishers want authors to have pre-existing mass audiences to carry the book to success. If you fancy the old days when a brilliant writer lobbed a manuscript at a publisher, who then got many taste-maker reviewers to carry the book into public attention and generate vast wealth for the author … those days died decades ago. In the Internet age, authors are expected to have … Continue reading

Operational Marketing

Brand Delivery Fail

Lying on the floor while talking to my insurance company shows why marketing must be involved with operations. In the past week I did business with a bedding retailer, which indirectly led to filing an insurance claim on my car. The bedding company’s operations were a disaster – they got precisely 0% of our order correct, causing my wife and I to camp on surplus mattresses placed on the bedroom floor, checking The Sleep Guide’s mattress protectors tips. Their late-arriving truck hogged the street, causing a passing vehicle to clip my side-view mirror. Unlike the bedding retailer, the insurance company (Geico) executed perfectly, from a well-designed web claims form to nearly instant claims analysis, body shop appointments rental car reservations and more. The contrast is stark. The bedding company experience after the sale (and to a lesser degree, during the sale) was a study in manufacturing customer frustration. The salesmen … Continue reading

Complex Customers

Executive assistants have veto power over multi-million dollar software sales. Complex selling involves a lot of complexity, none more complex than having to deal with many different stakeholders with very different motivations. Once two or more people collaborate on a purchase decision, they raise questions, voice objections, derail progress and drag-out your sales cycle until the Second Coming. Sometimes the lowest caste can kill a sales single handedly. IT techies are the worst in many respects – having been one in a former career, I can attest to their ultimate veto power. Tell an avid Windows admin that you want to install a Linux infrastructure and you’ll meet a wall that howitzers couldn’t knock over. Techies know nothing happens without their expert participation, and they gladly use their veto power to guard their empires. Marketing and sales need to manage the sales cycle, engaging stakeholders at points in time when … Continue reading

Disruption Risk

Disrupting risk is a key element to disrupting markets, the national pastime here in Silicon Valley. Attend any VC pitch event, and the word “disruption” is tossed about as lightly as conjunctions, though few people truly understand what disruption is. Classically defined, disruption means “to destroy the normal continuance or unity.” Not cause a bump, waver or undulation, but to completely alter what has been. One good entrepreneurial practice is to look for stagnant industries, ones that have not materially changed for ages, and then figure out what customers what to change. Circuit City started that way, by examining what people hated about the consumer electronics industry and then engineering it out of their stores (an advantage management wizzed away out of competitive fear). Risk is an often overlooked element in creating disruption. Humans are risk managers. Perceived risk motivates action (and inaction). This is why politicians use the Lie … Continue reading

Wrong Research

The two biggest wastes of market research money are performing the wrong research, then performing research wrong. Market research doesn’t have to be expensive. Yet not performing research is more expensive because it leads to bad strategic business decisions, inappropriate campaign tactics, and your sales team compensating for poor marketing results via buying three martinis for every prospect they take to lunch. Given that everyone has to do market research, they most often waste their research budget studying the wrong thing, and then studying it incorrectly (or, upon occasion studying the right topic the wrong way). In either case it is pure waste – money spent for no meaningful result or, worse yet, guiding a company down the long, dark road to bankruptcy. Performing the wrong research comes in two flavors. First is the natural bias every human carries with them, seeing the world through their personal frame of reference. … Continue reading

Desirable Innovations

The missing Steve Jobs innovation decade at Apple

Innovation occurs at the intersection of the possible and desirable. (you better quote me when you repeat that) While filtering a thread concerning Apple and the missing Steve Jobs decade, the subject of innovation erupted. Though an incomplete assessment, it seems plain enough that one man can (and did) guide the innovative soul of an enterprise. Though some people like to anoint Jobs as the patron saint of innovation, he simply saw what was desirable and beautiful, and what was technically possible. He then bred the two. Minor innovation occurs daily here in Silicon Valley. People who twiddle bits and assemble breadboards, and who carry on conversations with customers, continually find and build innovations of the lesser variety. Small improvements in what people do and how they do it constantly reduce business overhead, ease production, or make consumer gizmos more usable. Yet minor innovations are the product of very specific … Continue reading