Knocking over the (marketing) dominos

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I started my career in professional marketing over 30 years ago — even to me that sounds like a long time. I’m sure many will read that and assume I’m old school, stuck in my way, don’t understand, can’t grasp new concepts, and on and on and on.

None of that is true. What is true is that as we explore the edges of marketing trends and technologies; the rise and fall of various methods and techniques; and the overwhelming changes happening every day in our field — it becomes evident to me, that what’s old becomes new. The cycles are just fast today and the investment is much smaller. (more…)

4 Universal Laws of Successful Product Launches

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How to successfully launch a new product

I’ve been asked, “What does it take to launch a service (product)?”  If I’m being asked that questions, I assume at least two things …. (1) there is a product, beyond the “idea” phase and potentially in development and (2) you haven’t launched yet, allowing time to create a launch plan. If the first isn’t true, fine, but if the second is – you’re in trouble and you’ll make bigger mistakes (which you can overcome).  In general, it’s best to be thinking through “how to launch” during the development cycle. (more…)

Most of the time I don’t know

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I’ve come to the conclusion, I don’t know anything. Every time the pieces seem to be fitting together, I find a new piece, which doesn’t appear to fit anywhere. There are times, I truly wish I “knew”, it’s tiresome search that elusive piece of “knowing”. 

I woke up very early this morning, when I do, my mind has a tendency to wander (or is it wonder) about a variety of topics. I’m not focused on being right or wrong; finding my next gig (or job); paying bills; being a master at anything. I get to let myself just ponder things, at my own pace, with absolutely no goal in mind.

So, as early morning musings goes, the above question came into my mind …

What if I’m wrong about everything?

What if I’m wrong about how business works? What if I’m wrong about marketing products/services or how money is made? What if I’m wrong about why people hire other people or look for contractors or consultants? What if what I think I know, is not how things really work?

In reality, those could cause a tailspin into a personal pit of despair and depression. It could, but it doesn’t. Mostly because I question myself all the time, my experience, my knowledge, my ability, my mental capacity. And because I question myself, I get to do two things (1) gain knowledge and experience and (2) understand “not knowing” is not the problem, it’s not wanting to know or learn that causes most (if not all) problems.

Over the past few months, I have read hundreds of articles, dozens of books, talked to people, asked questions, provide my personal/professional observations, etc and so on. And the one thing I’ve come to realize, we are living at a time of both chaos and experiment. The “rules” of our society are changing, and with it, how we live and conduct business are changing also.

I wrote the article about Frictionless Transactions and while thinking about the third law of Motion (All forces exist in pairs and the two forces are equal and opposite) I began thinking about why “sales” is such a struggle, why “buyers” just really hate the buying process, why some of the most powerful sales books have been about “dealing with objections and rejection”, and generally why is it so hard? It’s because the law of motion – there is “friction” within all transactions, and it needs to be overcome.

Think about this … as a buyer, why is buying a car such an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience for many people? Why is dropping $700 on a new phone almost an impulse buy? We can say, one is a “big” expense and the other is not – that money leaving our pockets is an issue; or the risk involved in making a wrong decision is much higher in one instance than another; or no one really understands the car buying process, and it involves not just the decision on which car, but how to finance it, and an ordinary person doesn’t really know how that works, they are black holes; or it could be that we’ve been told by other people (including our parents) about how terrible and horrible it is to deal with car salesman.

It isn’t always about the money … I’ve seen people that buy their “dream home” – which represents the single biggest expense in their lives – totally enjoy the process. And I’ve seen people agonize over the bread or eggs they purchase. I don’t know why and that’s the point, there are people that do know, or think they know. They can show studies and cite reports and we believe them.

Once again, what if they are just speaking from their limited knowledge, and what if their observations are wrong – suffering from the observer’s paradox?

I’m going to close out this article with a few sources, that may or may not make you question what you know – they made me question what I thought I knew …

What are your thoughts? Do you wonder if everything you know could be wrong?

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/7219484292/

Why PokemonGo is historic & how to use it to market you business or product

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Pokemon Go (PoGo for short) has done something historic and with its rocketship like popularity, there is a 100% possibility will mimic it, utilizing the same type of gameplay — one foot in the virtual world and one foot in the real. Augmented Reality Mobile games are going to be big, but before we lose interest in PoGo, let’s take a look at how businesses and marketers might leverage it as to increase business today. (more…)

Is Your Leadership Any Good? Five Ways You Can Be Certain

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If you Google “Great Leadership” you will get over more results than you can filter through – I actually find that fascinating. So much knowledge to be had at our fingertips and so many people writing about the topic of Leadership, yet we complain about the lack of leadership (within our companies, communities, government) on a daily basis. How can we have all these ideas and opinions about what makes a great leader, yet perceive a serious lack of it?

I decided to do a little research on the subject, just enough to get a feel for the overall thoughts of what makes a great leaders and why we believe there aren’t any out there. In my own completely unscientific approach, I read the top 10 search results for two search phrases: (1) Lack of Leadership and (2) Great Leadership. The following is a summary of what I found – click on the terms above to see what I saw – it’s a fascinating view of our world.

Lack of Leadership – key themes

Just because someone has a title, a corner office, or millions (billions) of dollars, does not necessarily make them a great leader. Here are 5 themes I picked up from reading about poor leadership.

1. Loving the title, not the team: As I read several articles about bad leadership, one theme that kept coming back (in various phrases and words) was the concept that many people in leadership positions start to love “how other people perceive them” (i.e. suckups or strangers), more than how their team perceives them.

2. Managing UP: An area of great concern, to those being lead, is whether a leader is more concerned with their own career or how they look to the organization, than individuals within the team. If your leader is more concerned with making a show of what “they’ve done” rather than what the team or individuals have accomplished – it is a signal to you as a team member about the value to you bring to the table. Poor leaders make sure they get the credit, but never the blame.

3. Poor leaders beget poor leaders: It may not come as a surprise, but poor leaders usually hire poor leaders. Regardless of who is doing the hiring, all the things that make up great leaders, will be the exact things that turn off a poor leader – and one of the hallmarks of poor leadership is not allowing someone else to be in the spotlight.

4. Decisions … poor leaders can’t make them: A ripple effect of the list of poor leadership traits in most, if not all, poor leaders is their inability to make a definitive decision by themselves. They are caught in the cross-hairs of their own personality – on that razor’s edge of Success and Failure – when this one decision can make or break their standing within the organization. It’s a tough place to be, but this one thing is a tell-tale sign of bad leadership.

5. All Talk, No Action: On the heels of #4 above, is another easy sign of who is the real leader and who isn’t. There is a saying “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” – roughly that translates to … you sound very good when you talk, you know all the words, the catchy phrases, the industry jargon, but can you really put it together and make things happen? Poor leaders may be great talkers – either one-on-one, in team meetings, or standing at a podium – but that does not equate to being able to actually lead anyone and get the right things done, at the right time.

Great Leadership – key themes

It has been said Great Leaders are not made, they are born. That may or may not be true, maybe there is a genetic disposition to being a great leader – I’ll let those genetic engineers figure that one out. What I do know, you can spot the real leader in most groups – but being a leader and also being great are two different things. The following 5 themes seem to crop up in most discussions about great leaders and leadership.

1. Know the difference between Management and Leadership: Great leaders may or may not be great managers – which is why there are positions such as “Chief of Staff”, “Chief Operating Officers” and any number of similar roles. Great leaders are notoriously poor administrators. They hate the paperwork and established processes. They are doers, and those just get in the way of doing. That being said, they understand the importance of administration, process, coloring between the lines – so many will demand their teams follow those same things they dislike.

2. Want to work with great people, which translates to hiring great people: Great leaders are not afraid to hire talented people, even if those people could be great leaders themselves. I was looking for a quote to go along with this one. What I found out, is that those people who are successful and recognized leaders, will always talk about hiring great and talented people. The flip side of that coin is they also don’t want to work for poor leaders themselves. They have an innate ability to recognize poor leadership and understand how it will affect them (and their teams).

3. Provide vision, then get out of the way: One of the key attributes of a great leaders is their ability to either create or translate a vision into “what it means” to the people who will actually do the heavy lifting. They are there to facilitate and motivate their teams, that starts with having a vision – without it, a leader will be just another corporate-drone, repeating what they are told. How the work gets done is not as important as getting it done. Everyone has goals and timelines – great leadership help to position those as motivators, rather than detractors. Making a push for year-end numbers is a fact of life in business, but having the sales leader “whip” his sales people to perform doesn’t need to be part of it.

4. They’re just good people: This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Think about all those “bad” bosses you’ve had in the past – what names would attribute to them. Now, think of all those wonderful bosses (or other people that lead something which you were involved) and what names would attributed to them. We are all human, but a really great leaders is a “people person” they care about you, they care about what they are doing and how they spend their time, they care about hitting the numbers or goals set in front of them – in general they care. And that caring nature is one of the things that pushes them into the great category.

5. Lead from the front: This is my catch-all theme. But if your leaders isn’t willing to get their hands dirty, roll-up their sleeves and just help “get it done”, they won’t be around when things go wrong. You can tell a great leaders by two things (1) the quality of the people that follow them and (2) the number of leaders they “create”. Trust, Faith, Belief are all words that a great leader will inspire – and in most cases, that means when times are bad, they help, they assume responsibility, and provide the necessarily guidance to move through it. Great leaders may have failures, and when you talk to them, some of their most animated stories will be about those failures – but they are not defined by the failure, rather they are defined by what happened next. You can always tell great leaders, they stand tall and proud, up front and center.

Sometimes all you have is a gut feeling about one person versus another. Whether you are hiring them, or they are hiring you – eventually, you will know what kind of leaders they are. No one can hide their true selves forever. There are times when you just know, because they have that “It” factor, you just want to be around them. If you find someone like that, count your blessings. It’s much more rare than we would like to believe.

Modern gamification rules to up your customer engagement

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More than 50% of Organizations that Manage Information Processes Will Gamify Those Processes” Gartner, Inc (2011)

I have to admit it, the internet is a wonderful thing, especially when you are just meandering along, following random links, not specifically looking for anything. And BOOM, you see something that looks interesting, and you get sucked into a subject, you had not expected to be sucked into. That happened to me this morning – all of a sudden, I was sucked into reading about Gamification of business (both in the world external marketing and internal support). I was fascinated – I remember reading about game theory a few years back and now here was this information about using the idea of “games” to engage our customers and employees. I guess at the end of the day, all of us are “gamers”.

First a definition and background …

Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. Gamification taps into the basic desires and needs of the users impulses which revolve around the idea of Status and Achievement. Source: http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification

Gamification was a term that was first coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling, but did not gain popularity until 2010. The term gamification began to gather interest and a following in 2010 when companies such as Badgeville started using it to describe their behavior platforms. In 2011, more companies started developing gamification platforms as they became more popular. Source: http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification

What makes up gamification? Well think of any game, from physical games to online games – what are the characteristics that make up your favorite games?

1. Rewards – we all like to be rewarded. Some games are either “win or lose” type games, others include points, some include badges or new abilities – but rewarding someone for something is key element in the use of games (and in gamification).

2. Competition – at our core, we like to compete. Games give us that competitive feeling, and in some games, we not only compete against someone (or something) but we also compete with the clock, creating a sense of urgency along with the sense of competitiveness.

3. Increase Difficulty – humans like rewards, we like competition – but we also get bored easily. Games (especially computer/video/mobile/online games) give us new experiences, harder challenges, and of course, better rewards and bragging rights. All to keep us engaged.

4. Feedback – the best games keep us informed of our progress – what we have done, where we have been, and more importantly, where we might be headed (but only a glimpse). Feedback, whether is through menus, onscreen dashboards, auditory – is an important aspect of gaming to keep the player pushing forward and not giving up too soon.

5. Social – as we have seen over the past few years, providing a social element is critical to the success of games – and it is critical to the success of gamification. Since we are not so connected to our social media, the success of Facebook and mobile games have proven that we humans like to brag about our experiences – especially when we are winning.

But how are Businesses using gamification?

The following are examples I have found (with links provided) to companies and organizations utilizing games, gamification, and gaming theory to engage their customers and/or their employees.

FoldItProblem solving applied to protein molecules. Result: over 240,000 players registered for the game and competing viciously against each other. A solution to the structure of the M-PMV was found in 10 days, creating a major breakthrough in the AIDS research field.

Recyclebank – Rewards users for doing everyday things that are good for the environment, such as learning how to cut back on water consumption or purchasing greener products – specifically, those with the Recyclebank logo.

Slalom Consulting – Seattle-based Slalom Consulting had 2,000 employees in offices around the United States. To improve internal communications, the company decided to create a mobile application that would help employees learn the names and faces of their colleagues. To encourage participation, the application included a “leaderboard” showing who had the highest scores, says CEO Brad Jackson. The tactic backfired. “We found that only 5% of the people truly cared about being at the top of the leaderboard,” he says. The prizes – gift cards – weren’t enough, either. One tweek, creating “teams” to compete – made all the difference. Participation went up to 90%.

There are any number of ways to apply it to your business – only your imagination is the limit. Here are links to three resources I found (but do a Google search to find your own).

So what are your thoughts? Let me know below in the comments.

5 key activities every Product Marketing Professional must master

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When you say you’re a Product Marketing professional, do people ask you what that is? Or possibly confuse it with Product Management? How about those people that don’t understand where the lines between the traditional marketing function, sales and creative/promotions begin or end.

I’ve been in this game for years, have seen it from multiple angles and there are five distinct activities a Product Marketing professional much master to become successful. Now my background is primarily in IT Services (managed services, outsourcing services, consulting, advisory, etc.), so when I’m saying “product”, I’m really talking about services – regardless, the five activities are the same for any product or service – high tech or low tech – it’s merely the nuances of the particular “thing” being marketed.

Key Activity 1: Market Analysis

If you don’t know your target, then anywhere you shot will hit the mark. The first key activity is Market Analysis – and it’s more than just doing a quick internet search or making a bunch of assumptions. It is a systematic process of determining where to spend a limited budget (even big budgets have limits) to do two things:
(1) expand your market, revenue and client base and
(2) deepen your existing client relationships.

As a Product Marketing professional, it’s your job to understand the market – past, present and future. Domain knowledge is helps, but more important is having the mindset of a treasure hunter, looking for opportunities to solve problems.

Get this one right, and your job is much easier with the other activities.

Key Activity 2: Service Strategy

Through your Market Analysis, you’ve discovered market areas matching your service criteria. Moving that analysis to the next phase, requires understanding how these opportunities can propel your organization towards it’s goals. Translating a big number such as the total value of the market to what is available to your company, taking that available market and matching it to your company’s financial goals, understanding if you can credibly enter the market or if your sales teams can be trained and motivated, are all part of the overall strategy of the service.

Key Activity 3: Service Planning

Service planning is where the “rubber meets the road”. As a Product Marketing professional, you know the market, the competition, how those match to your specific company and now it is time to start planning the service for release to the market. Working hand-in-hand with Product Management, you start putting together what features, functions and capabilities are included. Working with sales, you determine the best positioning and what value will resonate with clients. Other key areas of involvement come from engineering, delivery and operations. Service Planning is that key activity where managing relationships and working with cross-functional teams will be the driving force of success or failure.

Key Activity 4: Marketing Programs

As marketing professionals, this is where most of us shine. Taking something from an idea to market, seeing it mature into a real product, is exciting. Now it’s time to talk about it; using a variety of tactics, from traditional “push” advertising to engagement and social media. We match our messages to our audience, we tell the story of the service, we begin the process of gaining trust with those mostly likely to purchase. One of the areas which gets overlooked by many companies, especially in the service industry, is “testing, testing, testing”. At the point of introduction, although we believe we have designed the right “plan” – it is merely an assumption until we release it. Once released, the Product Marketing professional has to be willing to follow the path of least resistance, and change course as required. I believe we only have ownership of the end goal, the path is dictated by too many forces to control, flexibility is the watchword as we manage our services.

Key Activity 5: Sales Readiness

In my background, the route to market was through a sales force – the problem is, a sales force only gets excited after the first “win” – it gets easier with each successive win. They have limited time to sell, are compensated for closed sales and want their lives to be as easy as possible. Our jobs as Product Marketing professionals eliminate as much “friction” in the transaction as possible – make it to engage clients and close the sale. To do that, we also have to ensure our clients understand the service, the benefits and how to purchase. If there are no sales, you don’t have a real product – it’s still just an idea.

There you have it, the five keys of to being a successful Product Marketing professional. You may love one or two, but you’ve got to master all of them to be successful.

What are you thoughts? Do you have any good or bad examples? How do you do it for your company? I’m interested in hearing what you have to say. And if you liked this article, do not hesitate to Like It and Share It.

Stop Content Marketing and Start Product Marketing

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It’s all the rage … you know, the terms we use in marketing:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Infuencer Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

It would be hard to read any marketing related article or book, without someone telling you which of the above is the one to focus your efforts.  

I’m not going to argue the tactic – each and every one of those marketing areas needs some level of mastering in our world of always on, always available, anywhere, anytime.  We are a mobile world, we are highly connected, and as Gordon Geko said “Money Never Sleeps”.

But don’t start telling me to replace my profession of Product Marketing, with a tactical implement of Content Marketing.  I wonder how many customers are buying your content?  Has one customer come to you and asked to purchase your lastest white paper?  Maybe they want to bundle up and all your blog articles, and they offered you a handsome sum of money?  Does the revenue received from getting a quote from a Gartner analyst buy anything for your company?  Or pay someone’s salary? How about all those tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram photos or LinkedIn updates?  Did it pay the light bills last month?

Now, how about your products?  How many of those did you sell last year?  How much revenue did they generate? How many salaries, vendors, community projects, families did the actual sales of products produce?

Your customer’s are not buying your content.  They are buying your products.  If my professional peers focused more on Product Marketing – I’m talking the full spectrum of Product Marketing from identification and definition of markets, through the sales cycle, all the way to having happy customers – there would be much less debate about the “best” tactics, and more energy put towards the “right” tactics to product more sales and generate more revenue.

I love my profession.  I love being a “product marketing guy”.  I love new ideas, being technical, understanding how to research, how to analyze, how to translate, how to write, how to talk business, technical or operations.  It’s fun to test new marketing tactics – but believing those tactics are more important that the “product” is completely foolish.  

So go ahead, you market your content – I’m going to be over here marketing my product.  Let’s see who makes the cash register ring.

Contact Me Today! Let's solve your Product Marketing problems.

Lee Iacocca – The 9 C’s of Leadership

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OK, this is an excerpt from two sources: First – Lee Iacocca’s new book “Where Have all the Leaders Gone” co-written with Catherine Whitney and a book excerpt from USA Today. I’m trying to be a good citizen and give credit where credit is due. I read this and had to share…

The Test of a Leader

I’ve never been Commander in Chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I’ve figured out nine points—not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine Cs of Leadership.”  
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What is a Critical Assumption?

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I published the following on my initial blog, called Critical Assumptions.  It was on Blogger and until recently, if you typed in the URL, you could see all 388 articles dating back to 2006.  This one, published about 10 years ago, still is in the top 5 Google results when you type the keyword phrase “critical assumption”.  I’m putting it here, because it still have value – and much of it is timeless.  Enjoy!  AM

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I named this blog critical assumption for one simple fact, everyone makes assumptions every hour of every day. We make hundreds of then – from assuming you will wake up in the morning to the car will start to that Starbuck’s coffee will taste good to my paycheck will clear to {you get the picture}.
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