Take this quiz on which font best represents you. PBS aired a documentary on the Helvetica font last night on its Independent Lens program. It was a pretty interesting show on why marketers love the popular sans serif font ...
Q: Do sales and marketing really clash or butt heads?
A: Yes, most of the time. Even when sales and marketing is one organization, there is plenty friction. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth. Is it ever avoidable? Yes, absolutely. Having a shared goal helps but it won’t ever completely eliminate the friction. Knowing that friction exists is not enough. It’s pretty important to understand why the friction exists. Then, you will understand that the problem can be avoided by making sure that two people are not in the same seat at the same place at the wrong time.
Think about a senior in high school who wants to become a doctor. He needs to figure out what kind of specialty he’s interested in. He needs to think about medical school, SAT/ACTs, MCATs, grade point average, extra curricular activities, how to pay for tuition, undergraduate major, student loans, and so on. He also needs to worry about getting an ‘A’ on the history final exam this Thursday. Marketing is the former and sales the latter. Sales looks at marketing and wonders, “none of what you’re doing matters if I don’t do well on Thursday’s exam.” Marketing looks at sales and says, “no matter how well you do on that single exam, if we do not plan properly and know exactly what must be done overall … we can kiss medical school and being a doctor goodbye.”
Q: What kind of technology company is ideal for an entry-level person?
A: This one is pretty easy to answer. There is no such thing as an ideal entry-level job. Get whatever job you can get and stay in it until you feel that nothing more can be wringed out of it. Don’t move on because some other “great” opportunity comes along. Move on when you no longer feel that the job returns as much value as you put into it but the company cannot offer any other opportunities for growth. So, my best advice is to try to join a big company at the outset since they will afford more growth opportunities.
However, getting a job at a larger company is pretty hard overall. It’s actually easier to put in 6-8 years somewhere else then “downgrade” to a larger company. I don’t mean downgrade in a negative way. It’s not uncommon to see many senior marketers run their own function or department at startups or small companies then take on a role at a large corporation which is a level (or even two levels) below their prior positions.
I am totally opposed to the current government bailout of U.S. automakers. I’m against it because the government is not forcing these manufacturers to make any meaningful changes. A lot of the media coverage centers around the labor costs, design, and even healthcare issues but not enough attention is being placed on the real problem. The real problem is that U.S. automakers are asking customers to make a very bad choice. The problem stems from decades of mismanagement around business and marketing strategy – or lack of it. Bean counters and financial types have run U.S. automakers into the ground. Now, we’re hoping that bean counters will rescue the automakers?
They say “if GM fails, the economy will go down with it.” Really? I don’t buy it for a second. I’d only believe the argument if there was a persuasive case made for how the current bailout will ensure that GM won’t fail in the future. But, I haven’t heard any compelling argument other than some sweeping generalizations loaded with threats of doom. I have a feeling that we’re head down the road of government subsidizing the U.S. auto industry or prolonging the inevitable Chapter 11 anyway. If it’s Chapter 11, we’re basically burning money. If it’s subsidized, I can’t envision a future where the companies are incented to become competitive – so, money is being wasted in this scenario, as well.
Every good marketer talks about their products in terms of benefits. Every good sales pro sells benefits - not the product's features. Then, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty.
In order to create demand for a product, it is true that you must seek to solve customer problems through their eyes. Thus, you have to speak in the language of "acquiring benefits." Where most startups trip up is in the actual carrying out of that chore. You see ... most sales and marketing people have a habit of drawing up the benefits themselves and thrusting it upon the customer. This is a common pitfall.
Q: Should I specialize in any one marketing function over another?
A: Warren Buffet says that Wall Street votes in the short-term but it weighs you in the long-term. If you’re short-term focused, go ahead and specialize as long as you can in one thing. Someone will always want you. If you’re long-term focused, specialize in a bunch of things and get “heavy.” It really depends on your career goal.
A: Well, education (i.e., degree) definitely helps to get a job. A degree is not needed to do the job. But, since you need to get a job in order to do the job, everyone should aim to get a degree – not because your parents demand it or society expects it but because (quite frankly) what else would you rather do than meet new friends, learn cool stuff, engage in fascinating discussions (about quantum physics or American Idol), eat cheap ramen noodles, and be on par with your competition for a job when your parents stop giving you money?
This is part 1 in many. I don’t know how many but it’s definitely more than one. I wrote it a while ago but never finished writing it. Each part will be published every few days. I get some emails from total strangers who like reading our entries. Many of them have questions about getting into marketing, what it’s like, etc. Most often, they ask about tech marketing or Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is a unique beast that deserves its own 100-part series but the tech marketing questions are fairly easy to tackle.
Whenever I’ve been asked this question (“What is tech marketing like?” or “Is tech marketing something I should get into?”), I start asking the individual a bunch of my own questions. It usually starts with a line of questioning that has nothing to do with marketing. My questions are always about their personalities, strengths, interests, and curiosities. Then, I’d give the person a snapshot, or glimpse, into what marketing is like at various stages of a “marketing” career. I don’t sugarcoat anything. I tell them the pains of the job and field just as much as I share the joyous aspects. Writing the same things over and over gets to be tough especially if you’re a new father to a beautiful little girl. So, here we are.
Understanding and shaping perception is the first step to building a successful reputation and you must do everything in your power to build, control, and stimulate it. The need for positive perception is very pronounced for a technology startup. You want to be perceived as being successful before you actually are successful. Success can be communicated through three forms: inferred, referred, and proven.
The first step to building a perception of success is to strengthen your startup’s inferred reputation for success. Inferred methods involve affiliation, association, and attraction. The affiliation alone says everything. For example, the fact that a star engineer was recruited to your startup says it all. Or, top tier investors backed you with enthusiasm. Who did you attract to your Board of Directors? You have an all-star advisory board? Your focus here is to promote the very act that led to the affiliation. You’re marketing the founders, management talent, engineering wizards, financial backers, relationships with industry partners, and so on.
In technology marketing, switching costs are a big barrier for startups. A customer will make drastic changes to their existing infrastructure … very rarely. Most often, customers will make incremental improvements to their infrastructure to support its business.
Due to this reality, startups run into a steep hill when it tries to sell to customers without an in-depth understanding of switching costs. This is why low TCO (total cost of ownership) and “transparency” have been effective themes for B2B technology marketing. Transparency just refers to changing what goes on internally (e.g., how data is treated inside a box) without changing what a user or customer perceives externally.
Switching costs rarely get a lot of attention by vendors and customers alike when times are good. When the focus is on top line growth, customers assume that the downside of making a change (or, switch) is dwarfed by the upside of the new product. When the focus is overly placed on the bottom line (as it is during bad times), customers exaggerate the downside of making anything but a mandatory change and, thus, high switching costs become anticipated and feared.
Startups must incorporate a way to minimize the burdens of switching costs. That’s not a job you should let customers figure out. Do it for them. They’ll appreciate you for it. It’s no different than pleasing your boss. The more you can anticipate and do for them, the better off both of you will be.
Almost all startups understand the importance of forging value propositions. Most startups do not understand the importance of proactively marketing, or projecting, complete value propositions out to customers. This happens because they get stuck in the product. Product value is always important in any environment but customers also seek vendor value during tough times. During bad economic times, as we are clearly in now, the notion of positioning comprehensive value to customers is going to be a critical endeavor.
Simply put, value is the sum of all things that a startup will promise to a customer in exchange for a sum of money. If you leave it up to the customer to figure out the value equation, you are almost certain to end up shortchanging yourself.
Somewhere between facts and hype sits persuasion. Hype alone is not credible. Lost credibility is impossible to gain back. Facts alone are meaningless. Facts need to be meaningful by addressing customer realities head on. Tech marketing is oftentimes a large dose of both hype and facts. You should not try to support the hype with facts nor attempt to make facts more meaningful or exciting with hype.
Understand customer realities then work back to why and how your facts are meaningful to that customer. Then, you'll feel no shame hyping it up. This is a good way to get on course to truly persuading your future customers.
KFC is running a great promo right now called the "$10 Challenge." You may have seen the television commercial (click here for the video).
Excerpt from their site:
"KFC challenges Americans to see if they can create a family meal for less than $10. With Colonel Sanders’ secret herbs and spices, KFC knows families can’t recreate this delicious meal for any price. For busy families on a budget, KFC’s 7-Piece Value Meal is the only value offer that is a real family meal for less than $10 as it includes chicken, a side and biscuits for $9.99."
Kudos to KFC. They make great fried chicken and understand the art and science (math?) of persuasion.