Archive for the ‘Planning’ 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 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.

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.

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, 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.

Marketing is a Team Sport

March 4, 2009

Guest post: Susan Andrews, a Silicon Valley marketing executive, provides us with her perspective on why Marketing is a Team Sport. Susan has worked for companies big and small, and in capacities such as channel marketing, marketing programs and sales.

Q. What do you mean by Marketing is a Team Sport?
A. To execute outstanding marketing programs you need to leverage the expertise across the organization. You must work with a cross-functional team involved from inception of the idea, as you develop the plan and all the way through execution and results. It is important to share results with the cross-functional team.

Q. How do you go about sharing the results?
A. It is vitally important to recognize each individuals’ contribution. In tech, everything moves at such a fast pace I often use an email to share results. Later we may do a post mortem to go through the program – what worked, what didn’t, how it can be better next time.

Q. On these cross-functional teams what functions have you found are most critical to include?
A. Sales strategy, finance, marketing communications or brand management and people who are on the front line dealing with customers (e.g. sales or call center).

Q. How is this concept of “team sport” different in small and big companies?
A. It’s equally important in both environments.

In a small company individuals wear many hats. A cross-functional team may be smaller and some people may represent multiple points of view. Team members may be from outside the company, like an agency. And you may want to open up the team and include executives in the brainstorming.

In a larger company it’s important to get and keep the team focused. Your team may be an extended team and it could be more difficult to get something done. It’s important to identify your advocates who will move the ball forward. You can also have status meetings with the boundary group. A boundary group may include people interested in the program and the outcome, but who are involved on the periphery. As an example, a boundary group may include representatives from legal or call center operations.

Thank you Susan Andrews for sharing your views, experiences and perspective!

Marketing Plans: Don’t fail to plan

February 20, 2009

There’s an adage that if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. I wholeheartedly support this point of view when it comes to marketing plans.

Why? Because without a marketing plan and without marketing goals you are 100% assured you will be investing your time (and perhaps a lot of money) in random acts of marketing.

True confessions. There have been times in my career when I didn’t do the marketing planning I needed to. Why? No doubt there are many lame excuses… too busy, nobody else saw the value in it, too early in my career to know better, and on and on.

I have worked for companies big and small and what I’ve learned along the way is that you must have a marketing plan. The plan needs to have measurable goals. And the strategies and activities in the plan should focus on accomplishing the goals. If you follow this formula you will make wiser investments with your marketing resources (both money and people.)

So what lessons have I learned along the way that are worth sharing?

  • Take time to build a marketing plan.
  • Before creating your plan make sure you’ve done your market intelligence. What are the current dynamics in your market? What is the competition doing? How have customer needs evolved? What are industry experts predicting?
  • Include clear, measurable goals/objectives in your plan. Associate metrics with the goals and monitor the metrics on a frequent basis.
  • Be sure your plan and goals are aligned with the overall business objectives as well as any plans and goals that your sales, engineering, finance and other teams have created.
  • The repository of your plan can take many forms. I’ve seen PowerPoint, Word and Excel all used effectively. And there are many off-the-shelf planning tools that can also be of help.
  • Socialize your plans with key stakeholders as it is being built (not after it’s completed.) You want their input. Make them part of the planning process rather than an audience.
  • If your company is a larger company with many products or divisions make sure the plans somehow connect and flow up into a master plan.
  • In a larger company there often can be an “infrastructure” of meetings or processes meant to build cross-functional alignment. If your company has one of these infrastructures, make sure the active use of your marketing plan is part of this process.

The timing of your marketing planning is a topic in itself. I’ll leave it for another post, but let me point out that if you plan on a calendar year and it’s mid-February and you still don’t have a plan, you’re not headed in the right direction. It’s time for a course correction.

Now, here’s the $64,000 advice. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of creating and then using your marketing plan throughout the year is the need to keep it current. The market in which you compete is dynamic and so should be your marketing plan. I have seen too many situations where a plan is created in Q4, approved in January, and then sits on a shelf for the next 11 months and is largely ignored. This again results in random acts of marketing and leads to frustration by all involved. As part of your plan, make sure you have a built-in mechanism for keeping your plan updated throughout the year as you execute on it.

Don’t fail to plan. Make this a good year with your best, most dynamic marketing plan yet.