Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Ready Fire Aim in an Entrepreneurial World

July 8, 2011

Now that I’m helping build a new business from the ground up I’ve got my entrepreneurial spirit back on over-charge. So when my friend Carlin tweeted this recent article in Inc.com it caught my attention.

It talks a lot about how entrepreneurs think differently, act differently, plan differently than people who excel is large corporate environments. It’s not necessarily saying one is better than the other. Just that the approaches are quite different.

Having lived successfully in both worlds, I agree. I love the quote of one entrepreneur in the article in particular. He/she said “I always live by the motto of ‘Ready, fire, aim.’ I think if you spend too much time doing ‘Ready, aim, aim, aim,’ you’re never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it.”

And permeating the whole article is a theme I swear by. Keep in constant touch with your customers. Whether you do it via fancy research projects (as you are aiming and re-aiming) or rather ad hoc, keep you hand on the pulse of real, live paying customers. You’ll be glad you did.

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Marketing on an Airplane

April 25, 2011

Last week I took my children to Florida for spring break. We had a splendid time, albeit the six hour delay getting there, compliments of our friends at Delta Airlines. The extra airplane and airport time got me thinking. Some of my thoughts should not be repeated nor written down relative to Delta. But it also got me thinking about who should market on airlines. My conclusion: it comes down to two specific and reachable target audiences.

1. Families travelling with small children: I am lucky. My children are of the age that they are easy and pleasant to travel with at this stage. With each flight I am reminded of how difficult it was when they were active toddlers, when they wore diapers, when they were babies and inevitably caught colds when on an airplane. I would have gladly paid money for a product or person that could have helped me figure out a better way to change a diaper on an airplane – a cleaner, more convenient way. Or, I would have gladly paid money for an activity kit to keep my children occupied while on the plane. Or, if someone had rented a DVD machine with Disney videos as I was about to step onto the plane – would have paid a pretty penny. Parents of small children have a high degree of pain on an airplane trip and are likely willing to pay big bucks to relieve some of this pain.

2. Business travelers: The second audience of note is the business traveler group. Because I’m one of these people I instinctively get them. First, they don’t really want to be on the plane. They either want to be getting their business done or they want to be home with their loved ones. Every hour on the plane is a wasted hour. And it’s also an hour when they are a captive audience. If you have a product geared for a business traveler, an airplane might be just the place to find them. You might advertise in the airline publication, on a sign in the airport or in some other clever way.

This may sound a little narrow minded. There are certainly more people on airplanes than business travelers and travelling parents but I choose these two audiences because, for one, they are captive and easily targeted audiences and secondly, they have clearly defined pain points.

Good luck and happy flying.

Hybrid Marketing and Fostering “Super Fans”

March 25, 2011

I love to find a smallish business doing a kick-butt job at marketing. And indeed I did find one (actually several) while at SXSW in Austin. I found Heyday Footwear who does a spectacular job of blending online marketing, social media, event marketing and good old fashioned face-to-face meetings to develop their following. At the end of the day, what do they have? A strong following of brand ambassadors they refer to as “Super Fans” who help passionately spread the word about the cool footwear from Heyday.

This article from MOO sums it up nicely.

How about you? Know any cool businesses using a full array of marketing approaches to build their brand? If so, let us know.

Will I attend next year? Perspective of a SXSW first-timer

March 19, 2011

I should’ve clued in sooner. About a week before SXSW I reached out to several former colleagues in Silicon Valley to see if they would be at SXSW. All of them said something to the effect of “never in a million years would you find me there.” I’ll circle back to this point of view at the end of the post.

Will I attend another SXSW? Perhaps. Whether or not I do will depend on whether I think it’s worth the investment (of time, money and energy.) So, before this year’s experience gets completely foggy, here are some observations of my first trip to the heartland of geekery.

1. You need a year to learn the ropes. I was in Austin only from Friday night until Monday morning. I felt it took me that long to just learn the ropes – where to get the shuttle, how to navigate the Convention Center and various venues, what parties were worth attending, etc. Although I had received good advice before going, you really have to live it to learn it.

2. If you go, stay at a hotel within easy walking distance to the Austin Convention Center. This was probably the biggest frustration of the experinece. I stayed at a hotel aboout 10-12 minutes from the Convention Center by shuttle but these 10-12 minutes made it near impossible to drop stuff off or pick stuff up, to take a short rest, to change clothes before an evening event, etc. Kudos to the shuttle company – they did a great job keeping the route moving and all the various drivers I met were friendly, great Texans. But still, the distant hotel location makes for a tough visit. (PS I still think buying a shuttle pass beats the option of renting a car.)

3. Bring lots of vitamins (Richard was right.) I talked about this in my “pre SXSW” post. I was warned people get sick at SXSW. And they do. You run yourself ragged, eat enough bacon and pork and beef products to last a year and then chase it down with vast amounts of alcohol. Not the most healthy atmosphere. Bring vitamins. I did and I managed to stay healthy. Yay.

4. Pick your parties wisely. There are parties everywhere and all hours of the day in Austin. It’s crazy. Frat party for geeks.

By far the party I enjoyed the most was the Small Business Web party – great venue, fun people and good food and drink. The venue allowed for a variety of activities and it was a nice mix of fun and business. I did not attend parties until the wee hours, but it’s my hunch and observation that it’s best to ferret out and get invited to some of these “offsite” parties to avoid the ridiculous crowds at the main SXSW events. I heard some friends of mine from MA stood in line for parties they never got in. That can’t be fun.

5. Dedicate time before you go to figuring out what sessions look appealing. Then plan strategically. I could ramble on for a long time on this topic. But I won’t. Summarize it to say the sessions were mostly packed and for some, if you didn’t get there early (sometimes an entire session early) you didn’t get in. This was highly frustrating, given what you pay for a ticket. SXSW could and should do better.

I was busy starting a new job before I left for SXSW so I didn’t study the schedule carefully. And once I got there I was busy from morning to night – again, no time to study carefully. So I felt I was winging it the whole time so the sessions I attended were hit or miss.

In particular I found it frustrating when some panelists (example: the authors of Content Rules) totally “winged it” and used their session to take questions from the audience. This was lame. One of the best moderated panels I attended was a session on Sunday on female entrepreneurs. It was moderated by Jessica Vascellaro of the Wall St Journal and all the panelists brought a helpful, engaging perspective to the session. Kudos also go to Seth Priebatsch of SCAVNGR who delivered an excellent keynote on Saturday that was a perfect blend of vision, geekery and story-telling. Very compelling.

6. Don’t miss an opportunity to eat Amy’s ice cream. Especially mexican vanilla. Enough said.

So back to my Silicon Valley colleagues and they’re snarky attitude about going to SXSW. My conclusion is they don’t really need to go to SXSW because they live in a SXSW-type atmosphere 12 months in a year. For the rest of us, it’s a good place to go, drink from the fire hydrant and take in a good dose of geekiness, industry trends and forward-thinking idea sharing.

So will I go next year? Time will tell.

Not bad at all!

February 17, 2011

Three posts since my declaration of intent on January 27. Not bad if I do say so myself.

This self-congratulation now comes to an end. Feel free to resume your surfing the net.

Taking Advantage of a Blizzard or Holiday

February 17, 2011

Want a good tip that can last all year long? Be on the lookout for opportunistic times to market your business. They’re all around us. Sometimes they are as simple as a holiday (even an artificial one like Valentine’s day) or they can present themselves as a a nasty snowstorm or other natural disaster.

To see how a couple of businesses have done just this, look no further than these blog posts:

A salon in the Philadelphia area offered discounts to fill appointments on snowy days in late January. Read about it in this post on the MarketingSherpa blog.

And my new favorite company, MOO.com did a great job of marketing “Love Cheques” for Valentines day. They motivated me to buy some and they were a big hit with my valentine. You can customize these cheques in any way you would like and MOO will print them to your specification. MOO caught my attention with this offer in a newsletter they sent me and they also talk about them in this recent blog post.

So put on your thinking cap and get creative. Those opportunities are all around us.

Back at it!

January 27, 2011

While I’m not a gal who sets resolutions for the new year, now that January is coming to a close and the non-stop snowstorms in New England are giving me a chance to reflect, I am commiting to blogging more regularly. My goal is once a week for the rest of 2011.

There I said it. Now I have to do it.

I started this blog about two years ago. Soon thereafter I started a new job that, coupled with an extreme commute, has pretty much consumed me since that time. When I started this blog, “it” was all new. First time blogger. New to Facebook and Twitter. Social media was new on the scene.

Now, two years later, I’m smarter, more experienced and more relaxed about the whole thing. This shouldn’t be stressful. It should not be hard to post once a week. Surely I have some new nugget of marketing insight to share. One thing you’ll notice is the tone of my posts will be a bit more casual. I used to be somewhat uptight about what I posted. I felt my post needed to say something meaty. Needed to be some incredible insight or piece of advice. But really, is that all you want in a blog? I don’t think so.

Sure, people read blogs for advice and insight. But they also read them for entertainment. For a quick snippet. For a reflection on a news trend. For a bite-size tip. For some personality.

They say if you commit to a new habit in public it’s more likely to stick. So this is my public statement of intent. Being back at it is good. Now I need to stick to it!

4 Reasons to Start Your Own Blog

September 21, 2010

This post is focused on why an individual may want to start a blog. I will follow with another post on why a company may want to start a blog. The comparison is pretty interesting.

Reason 1: Learn a new skill

The first reason to start a new blog is that you will learn a ton in the process of doing it. Today those learnings are quite valuable. The world of online communities and opinion sharing have become a new way of life. A way to make connections, become educated and make decisions. Blogging has become a valued skill in the professional world and building your skills with a personal blog is a good place to start.

Reason 2: It’s easy to get started

There are many popular blog platforms. Two that I recommend are WordPress and Blogger (now owned by Google.) Both are free and both can be up and running within an hour or so. For some valuable advice on blog platforms check this post by Problogger.

Reason 3: It focuses your thoughts

The third reason to start a blog is that it forces you to take time to bring your thoughts together in a cohesive manner. In today’s frenzied world, having some disciplined time for focusing our thoughts is a win-win, and another reason to start blogging.

Reason 4: Shares your personality with the world

The fourth reason to start a blog is that your blog becomes a centerpiece for sharing your personality and point of view with the world. Sure, you can do this on Twitter in small bites of 140 characters, or you can do it on Facebook, but this is often only shared with people who you personally know. By comparison, a blog enables you to to share your point of view with the world as robustly or succinctly as you would like, and you will be exposed to people you otherwise don’t know and may never meet.

Extra/Bonus Reason: It’s not hard to decide what to write about

Don’t overthink what your blog should focus on. You can write about work or a professional topic or you can write about a personal topic – your family, a hobby, etc. A friend of mine is living through a medical emergency right now and her blog is one that I visit most frequently. It’s personal, it’s filled with her personality and it comes from her heart. Perfect ingredients for a compelling blog.

In conclusion my advice is don’t overthink it. Get with the program and join the blogosphere!

Lucky me! I’m a Customer Detective

May 31, 2009

I’m about to go visit Texas where I will spend time with customers and prospects of my new employer. Now that I work for a company that caters to small businesses and non-profits I am given opportunities to interact with customers or prospects almost every day.

Take yesterday for example. It was a Saturday, and here in my hometown I went to the local YMCA to exercise, went to my hair salon, the local hardware store and out to a small Mexican restaurant for dinner. Every one of these establishments is or could be a customer of ours.

What this means is I am constantly thinking of ways small businesses can benefit from using our solutions. I’m constantly asking them questions. I’m always trying to understand what is on their mind from a business perspective, even if it has nothing to do with the services we offer them today. It’s fascinating. I feel like a detective out solving the latest small business marketing mystery. I love it!

It brings me to the point of this post. If you are a marketing professional in a high tech or low tech company. If you’re a person responsible for designing, building or marketing solutions the best way you can spend your time is with customers. Go see them. Invite them to come see you. Meet up with them at conferences. Do it casually or do it formally. But above all, make sure you do it.

More than once in my career I can remember joining a new team and asking the existing folk when was the last time they talked with customers. Or I would ask how, when and where they talked with customers. If I was greeted with a blank stare or a roll of the eyes I knew I was in for a challenge. There are many marketers who do not have regular interaction with customers. And if you don’t have this regular interaction you’re never going to be as good at your job as you could be or as you may want to be.

You may be reading this with a smug look on your face, thinking, “we conduct research studies from time to time so I rely on those to understand our customers.” I argue that research reports while necessary are not sufficient.

You need to be able to go out where the customers live. Where they work every day. Where they service their customers and where they are faced with their toughest challenges and opportunities. And you need to watch them, talk with them and take it all in. Because this is where you will find the golden nuggets. This is where you will find the small, subtle clues that will help you solve the mystery.

I feel fortunate to be working for a company focused on small businesses. I’m interacting with our customers and potential customers every day. Lucky me!

Know Your Audience and Your WIIFY

May 24, 2009

Today I am reflecting back on a tried and true lesson I’ve learned through the years. One that is important to any person in a marketing role within any size company, big or small.

When you are selling an idea to an audience, know who’s out there. Know who your audience is. Know what they are thinking, and where they are coming from.

Why is this critical? Because it is critical when preparing an important pitch or presentation that you must focus on a WIIFY – What’s in it for you (the audience.) I learned this lesson from a book that I have relied on time and time again in my career – titled Presenting to Win and written by Jerry Weissman.

By understanding your WIIFY, and understanding where your audience is when they enter the room (Point A), and understanding where you want them to be at the end of your pitch (Point B) you can create and deliver an outstanding presentation.

A few important take-aways from this book:

  • Only include topics in your presentation that are mandatory to get your audience to Point B. For example, there are times when you’ve done a lot of background work to prepare for your presentation or recommendation. While this work was critical to you (and sometimes painful and sometimes veryyyyy time consuming), the details of this work may not need to be included in your actual report-out or presentation.
  • To get the audience to act, the motivation must be from their perspective – not yours (the presenter).
  • Continously bring your audience back to the WIIFY by using WIIFY triggers such as “why am I telling you this” and “this is important to you because”.
  • Grab them from the first slide and the first words out of your mouth.  Use a question, a fact, an anecdote, a famous quote or whatever else can capture their attention and get them focused on moving from Point A to Point B.
  • Schedule time to practice.  Even if it’s a presentation to be used internally within your company, plan time to practice your pitch, what you will say on each slide, which WIIFY triggers you will use, etc.

Know your audience. Know what’s in it for them. And stay laser focused on moving them from Point A to Point B. Happy presenting!