Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WebInno, the PR Panel, Recap and Some Thoughts

Glad I could make it to the Web Innovation Forum last night. Couple of interesting companies presenting as main dishes - missed most of BatchBook, but found Epernicus and Book of Odds quite fascinating (Book of Odds is sill under private beta, but those who attended the webinno, we got a special access code - sorry, can't share it, was asked not to).

The PR panel was hosted by Mike Troiano (who I am thrilled to have as one of the panel experts at the MIT Forum concept clinic I am organizing on October 15 - hope to see you there!) and had Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe, Wade Roush from Xconomy, Peter Kafka from AllThingsD, and Bob Brown of Network World. All in all, the panel agreed PR agencies are overrated. Kafka, sounding a lot like Joe Wilson, said a few times that if PR people tell you this, they lie.

Best way to get journalists' attention? Seek and get a personal referral - otherwise whether you do it or your agency does it for you, your pitch will go unnoticed. Then try and meet these journalists in person and tell them your story. Got the impression that journalists are looking for the raw material, that more often than not, they avoid media-trained people. Because they are after the juicy details, the things people don't tell you - so the more authentic, first-hand info they can get, the better the chance that they will listen to your story.

Biggest take-aways:
1. There are no rules on how to do pr anymore - whether you do it yourself or hire an agency to do it for you. Each reporter is different - Peter Kafka said that if you have big news, don't give him embargoes, exclusives, sneak previews - just publish it on your blog and get all the media to get the news at the same time. That may work for Peter, but does not work for 99% of the journalists out there.

2. PR is not a wholesale game - it is a retail game, to quote Scott. You have to pick a handful of media outlets that you find important and work with them. Newswire services like PR Newswire were frowned upon. I say use them when you have exhausted your top 3-5 media list - posting on Newswire services helps you with second and third-tier publications, which, if nothing else, boosts your SEO ranking. And btw, reporters do use them to do background research. So don't take anything one reporter tells you for granted.

3. Don't try to be smart - don't tell reporters you have no competition, that you are the first, the best, the leader - these are labels that remain in the domain of good, investigative journalism. Reporters won't take words for granted anyway - they will call their VC contacts, and they will get the scoop on who's doing what, who's doing well and who's floundering. Avoid using embargoes, exclusives, if you don't know the reporter well - Peter Kafka was proud he tweeted a press release yesterday that was sent to him under embargo. I guess he can afford to do that. Most of us would do (almost) anything to be in AllThingsD - I am jealous he can afford it, really.

When asked if they use HARO, none of the panelists raised their hands. Well, as an entrepreneur, you should. Even if some of the top guns in the business are not using it, there are plenty of reporters who use services like HARO to get their stories, information, and the expertise they need this way.

One final piece of advice from the panel - if you want a reporter to cover you, read their stories. And comment on them. Evidently all good reporters read and respond to readers' comments. Good luck with it - it turns out, you the entrepreneur, do need a 48 day, 8-10 hours of which dedicated to reading the press, commenting, and telling them your won story.

To follow the panel on Twitter, @pkafka, @scottkirsner, @wroush @miketrap (did not catch Bob's handle)
Yours on scratching on the subject of good pr,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MIT Forum Concept Clinic October 15: The Start-up Candidates

I am thrilled to be organizing the MIT Forum of Cambridge’s concept clinic on October 15th. The concept clinic is designed to be like a workshop in which experts and audience deep dive on one partially-baked business idea and really help the entrepreneur sort out what their key issues are, whether they really have a business, and if they do, what are the key actions/strategies to move it forward. I posted about the format of the concept clinic a few days ago - .

I felt privileged (and conflicted at the same) to get a number of great companies interested in participating in the October 15 clinic. 8 companies, 8 very interesting ideas, with potential and with as intriguing and diverse challenges one could possibly imagine. Very hard to zero in on one – see for yourselves:
1. Klick Mobile : integrated mobile solution offering a bundle of an iPhone application and a mobile-optimized website. Built Klick, a Flickr app, BlackBook Local Search, a number of magazine and slideshow applications, plus an auto insurance app in the works.
2. BIM Stream : BIM Stream: 'Google of interior space' digitally documenting interior space and making it available to various end-users via the iPhone platform.
3. Cadio Mobile: - mobile consumer analytics, using GPS data from individual consumers to provide consumer insight and lifestyle-relevant offers.
4. site where employers can post jobs directly to a community of student job-seekers. Facebook meets Craigslist.
5. Leotus Home Cooling : came out of this summer's Betaspring Program; redesigning the window-box air conditioner
6. StoeLiving : smart furniture for small spaces – created an ultra-comfortable bed that, when stowed away, reveals a compact 4" profile showcasing artwork.
7. WaySavvy : built prototype for a highly personalized travel engine, which offers exact travel itineraries to travelers.
8. : built prototype helping people find events and local businesses through the latest buzz on Twitter, in private beta

As hard as it is to choose, early next week, I will be announcing the one company that will share their idea with everyone who is interested in tackling a good, start-up challenge and will be present at the clinic on October 15th. In the meantime, feel free to check the other Forum events - the Forum organizes over 70 events/ year, all open to the public.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to Use Facebook if You Are a Brand: Quick Review of Facebook Profiles, Fan Pages, and Groups

I have had to look at and use Facebook for a few of my clients and thought I would share what I have found and learned so far. There is really no clear answer as to what brands and businesses should set up on Facebook – as usual, it all depends on what a company is trying to achieve. It can be prostrating when you start on a path to only figure there was a better way of doing things.

When to use Profile Pages, Fan Pages and Groups:
- Personal profile pages are for individual users (no brainer for me now but hindsight is always 20/20). Not that they are that different from Fan pages – it’s just those little differences. Profile pages can grow to 5,000 friends only (there is conflicting data on that subject)– at least that is the limit that seems to have be set to date. Profile pages don’t offer discussion modules either, which is a bummer when you want to engage your community.
- Group pages are great for promoting causes, events, and specific discussions and they have the best viral elements – you can bulk invite people to join your group and in turn people can bulk invite their friends to join a group.
- Fan pages are aimed at longer-term engagement and a great for SEO purposes as these are the only pages on Facebook that get indexed by the search engines such as Google and Bing.
Here are there great posts on the subject –
one by Ann Smarty, one by Leslie, and one on Mashable.

Brands with engaging Facebook fan and group pages – search for, Starbucks, and Ben and Jerry’s as a start.

What’s your experience on Facebook? What has worked? What has not? Thanks for sharing,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New MIT Forum Concept Clinic: October 15

It is true what they say - better write again than never. It has been a while for me - busy summer, helping a few great start-ups, including my favorite
- the first place where traders of foreign currencies connect and collaborate based on their real trades. But it is that time again - I am organizing the next MIT Forum concept clinic on October 15.

Concept clinics focus on start-ups who have not yet been funded (can be angel funded but no institutional funding yet). Usually these are start-ups with a winning idea/ good potential, but not a fully baked their business plan and execution yet. The goal of the concept clinic is to help these entrepreneurs get feedback from a panel of qualified participants so they can finalize their business plan and shop it for funding.

One company presents for the night - 6:30 to 8:30. Based on the needs of the company, the Forum helps bring together 3-4 experts. We break the room into 3-4 groups - each expert is then in charge of moderating an interactive discussion with their group around a question that is critical to the entrepreneur's success. We work with the entrepreneurs to come up with the discussion questions so experts know in advance what subject area they are covering (usually within their area of expertise).

The benefit for the start-ups - they gain exposure for their idea not only among the attendees, but among the Forum members (the MIT Forum promotes these events via member emails, their web site, etc. - here's a link to the Forum's web site) and the broader start-up and investment community in Boston. They also get great, actionable feedback, which helps them to finalize their business plans for funding. There are no restrictions on industries/types of start-ups.

I got some great start-up suggestions already - stay tuned - I will be sharing those with you over the weekend - and will need your vote on which stat-up to choose. Feel free to check the other Forum events, including the next start-up clinic where two cool new start-ups will present their challenges.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Paradox of Choice: How We as Marketers Can Help People Choose Better

I came across
Barry Schwartz’s
book The Paradox of Choice
recently and decided to buy it. I made a good decision. The premise behind the book is that too much choice (as we have it in modern affluent societies) is really not that good and is actually counter-productive – it makes people make worse choices, if they make them at all.

It turns out that too much choice produces paralysis. And when we manage to make a choice, we end up being less satisfied with it. It is easy to image that we could have made a better choice even if we did make a good decision. I am sure most of us have experienced this regretful emotion not one but many times and in different situations. I remember when I first came to the US and went into a supermarket to buy some essentials. My expectation was that essentials should be easy to buy – after all, it is essentials we are talking about. Little did I know that I would face two isles of breads, infinite varieties of flour, flavors, and preparations. I just wanted bread that I liked – and I was beyond overwhelmed. After facing myriad of choices on an hour-by-hour basis for a few days, I was ready to head back home where choice, albeit more limited, was manageable.

I didn’t know that living in a world of unlimited choice and opportunity would turn out to be a challenge – that when choosing one thing, I would feel I was giving up something else. More importantly, that the presence of these various choices would make me less satisfied with my original picks.

Barry Schwartz says that evidently nobody in the world of marketing knows this – he implies that we are part of the problem. Well, most of us don’t. Most companies believe that launching just one more brand extension, one more flavor, or one more bundle, would capture us more market share. Everywhere you turn – from SaaS companies, to mutual funds, to medical services, to retailers, to supermarkets, to social networks – it is all about the next flavor we sure will be gobbling up. What we fail to realize as marketers is that offering so many options to our customers makes them not only more confused and unsatisfied, but makes people feel like they are a failure. If we only had one option to choose from, it is the company, not us, who’s to blame if the choice turns out bad. But with thousands of options out there, we are know that there must be at least one alternative that is perfect – and if we don’t pick it, it is us who are responsible for the failure.

There is a lesson to be learned from companies like Twitter and Apple – simplify the choices we face. Keep them to a minimum. Don’t inundate me with product flavors, options, or customization boxes. Tell me what’s good enough. Give me an easy guidepost for making decisions.

I yet agree with Barry Schwartz: the secret to life is low expectations.

You can listen to Barry’s TED review of his book


Wishing us all to be living in the moment,

Monday, June 1, 2009

Service vs. Price: Service Matters

Long time, no post – got distracted by lots of travel and the wedding of my of my best friends (if you cared to, you can see the party pics here

So to the point – came across a great article on CNN living - Customer service 'vigilantes' target executives
, thanks to the weekly OMMA newsletter. I have always been of the mind that you either offer customer service or you don’t – there is no in between. I recently tried to cancel my premium subscription on LinkedIn – it took me a while to figure out how to do it. I had to browse through multiple pages of unrelated content and then why I finally got to the instructions, they made little sense so I had to reread them a few times. There was no human I could speak to, no live chat option. And although I still use LinkedIn pretty religiously, I am no longer as impressed by them as I used to be.

I am even less impressed by – their cancellation policies are inconsistent from one booking to the next, and they do little to warn their customers of the potential losses. I had to learn the hard way – when I called their customer service line, I had an agent who kept reading from their web site a few lines of copy that clearly did not make any sense. The rep even asked me to recreate the booking so I could see that the coy was there. Very helpful indeed.

I had to sync my iPod with my new Mac a few months ago (was proudly switching from a PC). When I got to Apples customer care rep, he advised me that he could help me but it would cost me $25. The alternative was to search through Apple forums for my answer. In then turned out that he could help me for free, he just did not get why I was calling in the first place. What is wrong with that picture?

If we live in tough times, shouldn’t each customer and each interaction matter? Shouldn’t each brand experience we have be thought through? Do we really need to resort to finding top execs at companies so we can be listened to?

Companies and brand will have to get it that we do live in a new culture – a convergence culture. A culture where customers will not only have a voice, but will shape who makes it and who does not. Watch this video on Scott Kirsner’s blog
on Henry Jenkins’ take on convergence culture.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The New Marketing Mix: Marketing in today’s Social Age

Scott Kirsner recently wrote in his Innovation Economy column - Increasingly, marketing isn't just one-way street
, about the ways marketing and advertising are changing in the new social era we face today. The idea behind the new trend is that, instead of interrupting people, you get them to discover your product or services – as a conversation.

There is no denying that social media, like Twitter, Facebook, BzzAgent and LinkedIn, have changed the way we discover new products. Now more than ever customers have a voice in what companies do and how they market to them…or do they?

If you are a big brand, with a big budget, you have a lot of options – you can buy media, and continue to interrupt people. You probably need to do that because if you need to reach a lot of consumers, fast, social media is not the answer. It just doesn’t scale as you can scale a media campaign. Then, not all of your customers want to participate in a conversation. Then there is the noise level – big brands need to interrupt as we simply can’t process everything that is coming at us. We know that whoever screams the loudest the longest must have something to say. Expensive you say? You bet.

As any new start-up, aiming to conquer the consumer mainstream for the first time, finds soon enough, getting people to notice you costs a lot of money. Usually over $100 cost per customer acquisition. Well, at least initially.

At a recent MITX mobile event, Brad Rosen shared his not-so-favorite ad campaign outcome he had for his iPhone Drync app during MacWorld. He spent $2,500 in banner ads and discovered that his cost per acquisition is well over $100. He says he much prefers chatting with people directly on Twitter – he not only gets a conversation going, but also paying customers for (almost) no money.

Although I agree with Brand that bootstrapping a start-up is the way to go these days, I have to warn entrepreneurs that the secret to marketing lies in its mix – there is no one way, or one channel you can use to build a business. You need a social media and an ad mix – and you can be creative and not pay through the nose for that. Then for media buys to make sense and have a reasonable ROI, you need to think about two things – frequency and reach. Media buys are not short stunts – they require commitment over time so you can reach enough people enough times so they notice you. If you are seen one, you are not seen at all. You are seen twice, you are not seen at all. If you are seen three or more time, you are now on people’s radar. Then set your expectations – it will take longer that you expect to build your business – it always does.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Raise Money from VCs and Investmet Banks

Attended ENET’s Raising Money from VC's and Private Equity
this past week too. Three companies presented: Sole Envie
, a site where you can custom design your own shoes, RedStart Systems
, a speech interface technology, and JumpToGreen
, providing interactive green labeling system for those who want to buy green. Sole Envie and RedStart were looking for money, Jump to Green – for partners. After their short pitches, Dayna Grayson, Principal, North Bridge Venture Partners
, Nia Stefany, Managing Partner,
, and Peter van der Meulen, Founder and Chairman, BlueShift™ Technologies
, each gave their take on how to raise money.

Dayna talked about what makes a good pitch for seed funding. Her advice:
1. Always start with the team (not sure I agree – it is better to start with her #2 if you ask me).
2. Then go into your idea/ elevator pitch. An elevator pitch sounds like this: “this service will be for this market, the current alternative is…we are better because…”
3. Next, identify the market pain and what is also known as total addressable market or TAM. TAM is a number that your team needs to arrive at based on the % of the total market you can defensibly get. E.g.: this is a problem in a market that is this big.
4. Go into the solution – share use cases and examples but don’t go overboard with the slides – a couple of slides should do it.
5. Then go into how you are going to make money
6. You also need a slide on the competition
7. And, finally define your go-to-market approach – or what you would do next once you get the seed money.

Nia represented investment banks, which usually get engaged with Series A and B companies, mostly revenue-generating (especially biotech). From her perspective here’s what investors expect:
1. Great management teams – people who will know what to do with the money – people who know how to build a good product, and team with a strong CFO.
2. Skin in the game from the management team – they want to see that the initial round of investing was partially subsidized by the management team.
3. Companies with strong barriers to entry and competitive advantages – companies with defensible patents, customers and relationships.
4. Wise spend – no high salaries, not a lot of money on marketing, with well-defined use of proceeds.
5. Achievable ROI
6. Businesses with strong growth potential and scalability
7. A good CFO
8. And reasonable valuation

Next meeting: Tuesday, May 5, 2009, Investor Guidance on Business Plans
. Hope to see you there.

Twitter: @ScratchMM

Mobile Shakings in New England: (an April) week in review

This week was packed with mobile and start-up events and meet-ups. I attended Momo Boston’s event
- great panel from uLocate
, Google
(Rich Miner, who is now heading up their new start-up investment fund), SkyHook
, Enpocket
(Now Nokia Advertising),and Apperian

Ton of good discussions and data – here are some highlights:
• There are 25,000 iPhone apps on the iTunes stores (and counting). Google’s marketplace is nascent in comparison with 3,000 apps. The iPhone is now in over 80 countries – impressive! Apple launched a new web site counting the number of actual downloads from its store
- downloads are very, very close to a billion! (Here’s the NYT blogpost
where I found the link - - thanks, Jenna Wortham)
• As opposed to the iTunes’s process, Google does not vet apps uploaded to its store – it is counting on crowd ratings. This has got to be dangerous – there are a not of hackers who would love that challenge, I bet.
• Most of the app innovation is coming from North America, even though one new store provider, Nokia Ovi
, is someone to watch – Nokia is the largest phone manufacturer in the world
• Key question asked was: how does an app get noticed? Or how does an app become a top 25/50/100 in the iTunes store? Evidently the jury is still out on this one but it seems that consumers in developing markets may be the right answer for a lot of brands.
• Another question: How do big brands deal with fragmentation? Apperian (full disclosure: I am working with them now) says big brands get their butts kicked by small developers – the Lose it app is very popular, so where is Weight Watchers? Very good point – inaction, big brands, may not be the smart reaction – by the time Gillette is ready we may be past shaving… That is all well – but the reality is that the iPhone and all the rest of the app stores are still a gamer utility. Well, at least until someone shakes the ground.
• Yet another question (I know it seems more questions were asked than answered – but then think early Internet days – it is refreshing we don’t hear some many grand predictions these days): What about the Enterprise? Android can become a work-flow tool, databases are moving into the cloud, computing is advancing, empowering out-of-office experiences, so it’ll happen. But unfortunately there are no good cross-platform tools t=yet.
• Note on SkyHook, which is a fascinating company providing location enablement – they made a deal with Apple to offer their technology to iPhone developers for free – hence we are seeing over 1,500 location-aware apps in the iTunes store. Besides GPS signals they use wi-fi to secure location – it turns out SkyHook has 500 reps mapping out wi-fi (much like Google's approach).

Next, must-attend Momo Boston event: April 27, 2009, Fairmont Copley Plaza, at 5:30 with featured speaker Governor Deval Patrick. A diverse set of mobile companies - Apperian, eInk, Geocade, Locale, Mobile Ed, Olin College, TripChill, Viximo, Valtus Mobile, will deliver rapid-fire, 5 min. presentations on their business models, apps, and products. Registration starts at 5:30 – click here to register

Another great event, the Xconomy Xconomy Forum: The Future of Mobile Innovation in New England
was sold out – a bunch of tweeted throughout the event – use #xconmobile to read about it.


Monday, April 6, 2009

iPhone/ SmartPhone Apps: Data, Market Successes, What’s Next

You won’t be surprised if I told you that there are no established authorities on the subject (yet). There are no clear do's and don’ts. I came across an interesting industry report The Apps Store is Born: Smartphones Enable New Marketing and Advertising Opportunities Worldwide
by David Chamberlain from In Stat
. It goes for $2,495 unfortunately, but fortunately there are a few articles quoting stats from it.

Smartphone App Use Set to Quadruple
by Michelle Megna is one of them. Chamberlain is projecting the number of devices supporting mobile applications to hit over 140 million by 2013. Even more intriguing is that mobile app-centric smartphones – such as the iPhone and Android-based handsets, will reach more than 30% of the global smartphone market. No wonder some established brands are entering the smart phone app markets will great apps. Take the Virtual Zippo Lighter
, which got over 3 million iPhone downloads
since last October. The app was developed by Moderati
. According to TMC Net
, most apps have a shelf life of thirty days in the Top 40, so Zippo’s top 40 position for the last five months make it really impressive. Why is the app so popular? It seems because it captures the “Zippo Encore Moment” and lets concert-goers customize its design. How did it get so popular? Well, this is a trickier question – my guess is, mostly word of month. It is easy to find the app in the app store, so it is easy to spread. If you don’t have a brand like Zippo, try embedding links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, so people can easily promote your app. This is precisely what Smule

Zippo also did quite a bit of publicizing the app – they had a strong PR campaign, hitting legit app review outlets such as CNET, TMCNet, ZDNet, TechRepublic, and a lot of bloggers. Then Adweek
picked it up. (According to AdWeek, most brand applications failed on Facebook because brands need to compete with “armies of scrappy developers building apps for nearly every conceivable need”. Coca-Cola, for example, is competing with a dozen apps, all spin-offs of the spin the bottle game Coke chose for its own app in January.)

Part of the problem is that most app are not that useful - according to Pinch Media, an iPhone analytics company, less than 5 percent of downloaded iPhone applications are kept longer than a month. You can’t market a flash in the pan – and if you tried, you would only get a flash in the pan adoption results.

I also connected with Mike Alvarez from Avantar
- they have two popular apps - Showtime
and Yellow Pages
, which according to Mike have jointly got hundreds of thousands of downloads. Mike says a few techniques have helped him and his team promote the apps - banner swaps with other iPhone developers, reviews by legit iPhone review sites such as
, as well as posting a press release for under $50 to PRMac
. Check this list out as well -
9 Places To Publicize Your iPhone App

(thanks for the tip to Kevin from

What’s next?
1. A lot more apps and a lot more competition – from scrappy developers to established brands, vying for our attention.
2. A lot more bloggers and media reviewing apps – and perhaps a new independent apps monitoring body that will help establish and regulate some meaningful measurement standards.
3. A lot more analytics – apps will come in with built-in analytics – it is a way to measure usefulness, adoption, snatches with the apps, and ultimately ROI.
4. A lot more mobile advertising – which of course will make the effectiveness or the usefulness factor of app go down.
5. More money behind marketing apps – no longer just the meeting ground for scrappy developers, apps and app stores will be serviced by a growing ecosystem – of brands, marketers, digital agencies, PR agencies, social media mavens, development shops, consulting companies. Yup, it will be more expensive to be successful, the barriers would be higher – except for the occasional brilliant app that will defy all laws.

Have more iPhone/smart phone marketing tips or thoughts? Leave me a comment or reach me on Twitter @sallyswimsalot


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Zip Car – wheels when you want them: fascinating marketing success still in the making

If you want to know how Zipcar
became a brand and a business, you have to read NYT’s article - Share my Ride
by Mike Levine (Btw, it really irks me that you have to sign up for the Times before you can read an article – the sign-up process is just too sales/add-driven and it takes away from the reputation of the paper.) It follows the truly fascinating story of building a business from the ground up, with the trade-offs, challenges, difficulties, stamina, ups and downs all start-ups go through in the process of becoming a business, so rarely seen by us innocent outside observers.

8 Things I love about Zipcar:
1. The idea was solid – it was done in Europe before, so it could work in the US. It just needed time – Zipcar started in year 1999. According to official stats, today, in year 2009, the company has 300,000 customers and is still not profitable overall. The company has raised over $40 million in funds and has been brilliant in its branding and marketing execution.

2. Zipcar is not in the car-sharing business, it is in the freedom business. Brilliant! Zipcar is not a utility, it is a lifestyle, a personal statement. All strong, meaningful brands become symbols for who we are and how people think of us.

3. Zipcar has a powerful message - Zipcar doesn’t tell people not to drive - it urges them not to own. What’s more, Zipcar is on its way to redefining the meaning of car ownership (thanks in huge part to Zipcar’s visionary CEO Scott Griffith)– car sharing is “clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern; owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward”. Zipcar is creating a dissonance in our minds and offers an alternative – touched by the Zipcar message, you can’t help but think that if not today, then one day you will be a Zipcar member.

4. Zipcar’s marketing approach is fascinating for two reasons – Zipcar understands that brands and experiences are built over time - long time, folks (Twitter is 3 years old and is still not used by 95% of the internet population). And that it takes high touch. Zipcar has been 9 years in the making and has not made it big yet – it does not have a following in the millions (yet). Although it has been a media darling since it started, Zipcar has fought an uphill battle, city by city, neighborhood by neighborhood to become the new cool.

5. Zipcar cares about its members and every touchpoint of their experience with the brand. It started with the founder Robin Chase (who was forced out of the company after 3 years of running it) who threw potluck parties, mixers, and even a swim at Walden Pond for its members. Zipcar membership is becoming almost cultist – Zipsters are cool, hip, educated, smart consumers, one of the most powerful recruiting vehicles for the company.

6. Zipcar is a local brand marketer – they focus on local businesses, events, feet-on-the-street promotions, which they call hyper-local marketing. Market by market. Their marketing techniques include curbside demonstrations of Zipcar’s technology, Zipcar ads in bus shelters and free membership for merchants who prominently displayed Zipcar pamphlets. They work with universities and local charities too to get their message out and gain better distribution and scale.

7. Zipcar partnered with Starbucks for a social experiment called the "Low Car Diet" where the Zipcar team asked consumers to try out a car-free lifestyle. And it worked - 58% of people who participated said they would not go back to their cars, citing feeling healthier, and enjoying walking and biking more, according to an interview with ZipCar’s new VP of Marketing Victoria Godfrey
for AdAge. To be successful in building a long-term business, you have to connect with people on an emotional level. Otherwise you are bound to be a commodity. One idea or one promotion does not cut it either – the Low Car Diet now is a theme for the company, that has legs.

8. It is all about access: According to Victoria, Zipcar is at the “right time, with a number of global trends setting the table: increasing urbanization, increasing use of transit, ... and an age quickly becoming focused on access vs. ownership”. Love the access vs. ownership idea – rather than buying books, we can now access them via the Amazon Kindle or our iPhone, rather than buying maps, we call our Google Maps to get directions when we need them. Ownership is so passé, access is it, folks.

Yours truly in scratching on brilliant marketing ideas,

Twitter Marketing Tips and Thoughts

Came across Don Dodge's post on The Next Big Thing, which in this case happens to be on Twitter Tips and Tricks from Guy Kawasaki
. Much like Don I agree with some of the tips, and then disagree with others.

I do think that we, the small start-ups, should forget about the A-Listers like TechCrunch
and GigaOm
- we should feel lucky that we can follow them. I kind of agree that Twitter is a numbers game - but I tend to think that it is a quality game first. It takes a while for folks and businesses to find their Twitter voice - so as we are exploring, it is more about establishing who we are and the kinds of things we want to say rather then thinking about building a large Twitter following.

This is why I disagree that we should follow everyone who follows us - it just does not make sense - I only have time to read some of the tweets, and try my best to read @replies to me, or direct messages (DM). Even there I am falling short (and now I think I am starting to develop this anxiety around what I might be missing...especially since I came across a post from @ScottKisrner
about another breakfast he is putting together for consumer-tech-oriented entrepreneurs in the Boston area, on April 17th. I jumped on that one but now I worry more and more about what else is out there that I should know about.)

Another Kawasaki tip that rubbed me the wrong way - be an unabashed copycat on Twitter. See what popular folks talk about and start tweeting about these things too. What if people don't like what we have to say? Well, UFM then. Unfollow me. Now, that goes against the grain of effective communications - the more subjects you talk about, the less effective you are. I personally skim Guy's posts these days and am considering UFing him - he adds no value for me - I don't know what he talks about half of the time. And I am pretty sure it is not him tweeting for the most part anyway. So my bet is - he will lose his followers soon - a lot of them. You have to be real on Twitter or sooner or later people will stop caring/following.

Your best bet on Twitter is to find who you are and what you want to say and stick with it - and pls don't say anything if you have nothing to say. Resist the temptation to tweet for twitter sake. It is a lot harder to become a favorite when you have only a 140 characters to say it with. Use those characters wisely. And have fun while at it - like the Guardian did today
(thanks @TimOReily
for the link!)- love it!
Twitter: @sallyswimsalot

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

iPhone App/ Developers’ Meeting in Boston

Went to a local iPhne-developers’ meeting last night (March 30, 2009), which I found on Gary’s Guide
- a great resource for meet-ups, conferences, networking opps in the Boston area (oddly enough the iPhone meet-up is no longer listed on the site). The event was organized by Raizlabs
, a small dev firm in Brookline. It was great to connect with different folks at the event and look at a few interesting apps.

Raizlabs has one popular one – Tip Calculator
– what’s neat about it is that it lets a group of friends calculate their individual tip amount based on how much each one ate or drank (we all know such a tool comes in handy, especially after a few drinks…).
Another good app is talkFree
– which let’s AT&T subscribers talk for free (wish this app was available for international calls☺). Durga, the developer behind the app, even contacted AT&T to acquire the app, but they politely declined...wonder why:) There was a really neat app that I saw by Andy Nalband, but promised to keep it on the DL until he is ready to wow us all (and he will). Of course, I showed the OurStage app
to a few folks, including Wade from Xconomy
– a must read publication covering start-up activity in New England.

A lot of folks were interested in learning how to market their apps. Durga figured if he released new additions to the app every once in a while, he would get recurring top listings in the store. Others shared that tweaking the app description could help. If you have suggestions, pls leave me a comment – would love to comply the best ideas in a subsequent blog.

Yours in scratching

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fans, Friends, and Followers – A Must Read for Entrepreneurs and Artists Alike

Welcome to the era of digital creativity – building an audience and a creative career in the digital age. The era of digital creativity is a term coined by Scott Kirsner in his new book Fans, Friends, and Followers - Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age
. The premise behind this new, intriguing book is that the old promotional machine is dead – labels, movie studios, and publishing houses no longer have the clout to make or break artists’ careers.

Consider this: In 2000, 973 full-length films were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. By 2008, that number had risen to 3,624. (Just 121 were accepted.) Apparently there 50 FM radio stations in LA – so what is a struggling band to do? Read Fans, Friends, and Followers.

The book
not only offers a slew of ideas of how to build a career DIY, it contains interviews and tried-and-true advice from 32 real, genuine, authentic artists who made it in this new era – ground-breaking filmmakers like M dot Strange, musicians like Ok Go, and comedians like Mark Day.

Scott shares a set of successful strategies used by most of these artists – strategies that apply not only to developing artists’ careers, but also to emerging businesses who are looking for ways to build a strong brand. Example: create opportunities for participation. Everyone online, says Scott, craves recognition and connection – and I could not agree more – this is precisely the premise behind OurStage
– the biggest online community for new and emerging music. People today want to have a say – as they did in campaigns we at OurStage did with T-Pain
and John Legend

Even the language artists use in this new era of digital creativity is different –Scott found most artists don’t talk about “audiences” – they talk about building communities, a fan base, co-conspirators. Yup, they are absolutely right.

You can buy the book here

I religiously follow Scott – his blog
, and his Innovation Economy
column in the Globe. I suggest you do that too.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest Marketing Award Goes to Kodak Gallery

Kodak Gallery, the online photo storage sharing service that I have been using since 2005, then known as Ofoto, advised me this morning:

“To store photos at the Gallery, members with photo storage of more than 2 gigabytes (GB) must make annual minimum purchases totaling at least $19.99.** Failure to meet this requirement may result in your photos being deleted from the Gallery.” Here’s the link to the html view of the email

I am one of Kodak Gallery’s heaviest users – I resisted opening a Flickr account or using Google Picasa because I was entrenched – I have been a digital billboard for this service every time I send pictures to my friends and family. That list kept growing, and I have helped not one of my buddies join the service – because it is great. Was.

So for being one of their best customers, Kodak decides to penalize me. Why? Because they have to monetize their Ofoto acquisition – this unit needs to show money. What Kodak does not get is that I do have a ton more choices today – and so do they. Enter a slew of online back-up services – Carbonite
, Mozy
, iDrive
. All Kodak had to do is partner with one of these companies to offer their best customers more space, AND thus increase their reach. Or maybe they could have looked at the cloud and made a deal with But I bet Kodak’s corporate culture is just so introverted, with so many departments needing to have a say – legal, compliance, sales, purchasing, finance – that a creative solution to their storage issues was not possible.

I suppose I could have even sympathized with Kodak had they thought about how to communicate this term of change to me. Had they been more caring, more human... Oh, but I am sure those corporate politics got in the way yet again – so marketing there had to leave it to legal and finance.

The Kodak brand is tarnished for me – and from this moment on, I will grant my loyalties to another file share site – one that gets that in this flat world we live in it is all about relationships. I will go out of my way to avoid purchasing anything with Kodak on it. Once you screw that up, there is no turning back.

Monday, March 23, 2009

(So Much for) Trusted Carbonite: Loses Customer Data

Today TechCrunch
, and The Globe over the weekend
exposed a rather ugly lawsuit filed by Carbonite against Promise Technology Inc. The Globe quotes: "Carbonite lost the backups of over 7,500 customers in a number of separate incidents, causing serious damage to Carbonite's business and to its reputation as a reliable source for backup data service."

One of the comments on the Globe’s web site reads: “I think it's about time someone takes to task the bloated claims of an industry inundated with false promises, slick marketing and shoddy "high-failure rate" acceptance. Too many of today's technology players rely on smoke and mirrors to lull their customers into a false sense of security”.
Another one chimes in: Promise Technologies reported sales of $300k according to hoovers. Carbonite trusted 7500 customer to an start up. Good luck getting any judge in Massachusetts to hear your case. IDS is just a sandwich between two very stupid group of managers. Carbonite you made $200K in sales, in a $1.2 trillion dollar industy. Grow up...the courts is not the way.”

This from a company that built their marketing on: How will you survive a computer disaster….It turns out this data loss occurred in 2007 – after the Carbonite CEO weighs in on TechCrunch. But has the damage been done?

Curiously enough the comment posts on both TechCrunch and the Globe are devoid of comments from Carbonite – not a single post from the company. So is this an opportunity for the company – who’s CEO in an interview with Scott Kirsner
later last year said that the thing that sells online backup for Carbonite is fear – fear of losing your data?

I hope that Carbonite subscribes to one of the online social media research services (like Crimson Hexagon), who can tell them precisely the damage they have done with not addressing this issue head on.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MITX User Experience Series: Notes from How it’s Changed and Why it’s Important

Made it to the MITX User Experience event - MITX User Experience event
this morning. Panelists included Kerry Bodine, Hill Holiday
, Adamaya Ashk, Usability at Staples
, Toby Bottorf, WGBH Interactive
, Alex Jenkins, Microsoft Start-up Labs, Fred Leichter, Fidelity Investments, and Chauncey Wilson, Autodesk
. You can find the Twitter event feed here

The discussion started around defining what good user experience is and how it is mastered at the companies the panelists represented. Even though there was general agreement that there are many ways to describe it, the general consensus was that a good user experience should exceed expectations. Chauncey had a way of describing user experience as a triangle – at the bottom of it is useful design, followed by comfortable experiences and at the top – user delight and pleasure. One way to measure how good your design is is to think of it as a continuum – rangng from extreme frustration on one end to extreme delight on the other.

It was refreshing to hear that good user design is much more than web design – since now we all are in the relationship business, designing with the user in mind means we need to look at all touch points – offline and online, and exceed expectations at the points where the customers derive the most value of what we offer them.

Then the panel talked about the evolution of delight and the fluidity of the concept – what is delighting today usually becomes the must-have feature of tomorrow.

Good user design is not with its challenges – Adamaya described home page designs in particular as a political exercise. Alex mentioned Ray Ozzie’s cookie licking analogy – business units claiming ownership over certain concepts or product ideas stalling work on these until they are ready. You got it, if you licked the cookie, nobody else would want it – this is why Microsoft launched the Microsoft Start-up Labs
as a way to force rapid innovation, with the end user in mind.

I particularly loved the way Alex and his team at the Microsoft Start-ups Labs approach new product development – they seem to religiously test with real-world humans at every step of the way – starting with simple white-board sketches. Interesting enough, involving customers at Microsoft does not mean letting them design your product – customers get engaged for product and feature validation, but the concept and its eventual design still remain in the hands of those who know how to do the job.

It was also stimulating to hear about what has changed in user experience since it first hit the ground running. A lot of things have changed, it seems, but the four big buckets that were shared were a) customer expectations, b) customers’ tendency to multi-task in proportions never seen before, and the growing challenge in keeping customer attention focused, c) more advanced technology (which doesn’t mean that it has gotten easier), and d) companies now being (or need to be) more transparent and honest in their interactions with their customers. Fidelity had a good case in point – they recently redesigned their web site
to make it more of a news portal rather than simply a channel for Findelity’s marketing messaging (it turns out Fidelity’s chairman is not a huge fans of marketing, but stands behind the ease of use of their web site). One of the impetuses behind their site redesign came from their UI team’s constant monitoring of how customers interact with their products (they even offer free lunches to customers so they can observe how their users interact with their product on a daily basis) – what the Fidelity UI’s team discovered was that their customers needed unbiased industry news – and how they were meeting that need before the Fidelity’s site redesign was by having Yahoo Finance and Fidelity on two screens next to each all the time.

If you are wondering if you are designing with your customer in mind, all you have to do is ask yourself this simple question (as Toby advised us): When was the last tine you’ve watched your customers using your product?

If the answer is – well, we do it all the time, because we have domain experts who we run everything by, then you are wrong. All panelists agreed that domain experts run their course pretty fast – they become so ingrained in the product, they no longer provide valid feedback for its real-world usage and experience. I cannot agree with this more – we all often fall into the trap of thinking of ourselves as domain experts – just so we are proven wrong. Even though there are folks, like Malcolm Galdwell, who say you need to rely on your instincts (check out his book Blink
, they also agree that you need to know when to discount your intuition because you are plain wrong. We are not as rational and objective as we want to be – I wrote about the concept of predictive irrationality by Dan Ariely in this blog post
. Rather than guess, just test. With actual users.

How do you know you are on the right path? You have to know why you are doing something – Fred says that in most cases, in his over 12 years of leading UI at Fidelity, people usually can’t answer why they want to do something. Unless you know where you are going, you will never know if you missed your arrival point. It may sound trite to state that every UI initiative should have business goals attached to it, but let’s face it – more often than not, we deal with leaders who viscerally know this or that course of action is the right one. Again, it is encouraging to see that big business now gets it and empowers their UI folks to accomplish their mandate.

At the end, the old adage still applies: “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Create a baseline – track yourself relative to yourself and your competitors – which is precisely what Fidelity is doing. And I would add – measure not only satisfaction, but the organic growth of your business. If you get increased number of referrals, if more people buy more from you, you are on the right track. If these growth indicators are flat, you are measuring/focusing on the wrong thing.

How to you “socialize” UI within a business? The panelists were unanimous that people don’t read - some detailed product specs is not the way to go. Try to present new ideas and features in a visual format - social media design patterns
is a good starting point.

Then Kerry (who did a great job getting the right insights from the presenters, so kudos to her) asked each panel participant to share top books and blogs they recommend to the group. I am sure I missed a few, but here’s what I got:
1. Don’t Make Me Think

2. Groundswell

3. Everything Is Miscellaneous

4. Paradox of Choice

5. The Tipping Point
(read my blog
on Duncan Watts too – he is someone to watch!)
6. Visual Explanations

7. Timeless Way of Building

8. The User Is Always Right

9. Neuro Web Design

1. A list apart

2. Joel On Software

3. TechCrunch (my favorite too)

4. Mashable

5. Boxes and Arrows

6. UX Matters

Now you are faced with a few options: a) take a sabbatical and read, read, read, b) focus on the blogs, c) share the kernels from each book/blog you read with the rest of us – via twitter, blogging, Facebook, (name your own social here☺)


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Product Success: Influencers vs. Spreaders

For a long time, we marketers have trusted the age-old maxim: get your message to the right folks, who then will spread it to the rest/masses. These folks, affectionately called many names, including influencials, brand evangelists, information mavens, bloggers, among others, we believe, possess the power to infect the others and make them really passionate about an idea, service or a product. The idea that influencials have the power to make or break our business is so ingrained in our minds – after all, it intuitively makes sense on so many levels, that it has given rise to a plethora of new marketing services – mostly known as social media marketing. The logic is – influencials are now online – if you find them, and then convince them to endorse your product, you will be all set – organic demand and growth for your goodies will naturally follow.

This is precisely the premise behind The Tipping Point - How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
. Gladwell
presents a rather compelling take on how to induce change and start your small epidemic (it got me so revved up that I ultimately negotiated the publishing rights a few years ago and helped publish the book in Bulgaria about a year ago). One of the premises in the book is that ideas can spread like epidemics – you just need to know how to start one. And you guessed it right – a key ingredient in starting an epidemic lies in the hands and behavior of influentials – like the cool, hip folks in NYC who started the Hush Puppies epidemic for example. The power of influencials was harnessed by a cool new site called CoolSpotters
– which offers celebrity product choices spotted and exposed by hordes of avid followers.

Then, out of nowhere, enters in Duncan Watts
, whose new trend philosophy gets exposed in a very interesting piece by Clive Thompson in Fast Company
. Duncan Watts says that “to succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood.” He is quoted to go even further saying that “any attempt to engineer success through Influentials…is almost certainly doomed to failure”. Because, he found through multiple, large-scale tests, that influentials don't govern person-to-person communication - we all do.

According to Watts, a product’s or an idea’s bright future is contingent on how susceptible we all are to that product, idea, or trend - “not how persuasive the early adopter is, but whether everyone else is easily persuaded”. Then he says trends occur at random – they cannot be predicted or engineered. (That article has a very interesting bit on what makes some music tracks hits - in essence, he says, hits are created randomly. What we know for sure, the article points, is that hits are heavily influenced by our social interactions - the more people rate a song highly, the higher our individual propensity to rate it higher too. But this group pressure is not enough to make a hit hit.)

So then Clive Thompson asks - what's a poor marketer to do??? Well, I have a few ideas:
1. Gauge how ready the market is for your idea – a few years back, I was part of a team who started a business offering automated travel advice to online travel providers – to be precise, we started that business in 1999 – it was too early. Online booking was nascent, trusted online advice was s stretch concept. People were not ready as they are today. There are a number of new market research companies who can help you there – my favorite ones are the ones that use the semantic web – like Crimson Hexagon
2. Start small and test it – see if people get your message right away. My friends at Propel Consulting
, are really great at helping companies validate their ideas. Hey, while you are at it, keep testing – build your product in a way that facilitates learning. And if you are New England-based, graduating or recent graduate, and are looking for seed money to start, check out this piece in the MHT
, which lists Business plan contests in the area
3. No matter if you are in front of the curve, or if you are riding it, map our your eco-system – there are probably a plethora of partners who will benefit from your service. Use them, leverage their brand power, trust and relationship with customers to build your position in the human mind.
4. Build your product with “spreadable” as one of your top core product/service features. Come up with your spreadability index scorecard – include things like person-to-person (email, easily embeddable code), social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, news aggregators, RSS, etc. – be religious about making easy, simple and intuitive for everyone to spread your idea. Measure what works, adandom what does not.
5. And then last but not least, look for those influencers– they may not influence person-to-person communications, but they do validate your idea. They alone may not start your epidemic, but without them, it will take you a while (and definitely more money) to infect a large following.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do Over Day: Social (Marketing) Ideas at Their Best

February 26 is Do Over Day
- a better, funnier, more genuine holiday that Valentine's Day or Family Day. Righting the wrong, reliving the right. Picked up by bloggers, general media, and everyday folks, including a Toronto teacher who gave her students a Do Over Day project. A great phenomenon, that caught on like wild fire, that legitimized the need for everyone to openly and honestly revisit what we love most in our lives and what we, if given the chance, would simply do over.

Never heard of Do Over Day
? It is time you caught on - Google has 234,000,000 listing for it (well, ok, maybe not all of them are for that same Do Over Day, but you get the point). So let me tell you about it - Do Over Day aims to answer this one simple question: What would you do over? Right now, today, tomorrow, next month, next year.

It started, just before the holidays, with a few creative minds
up in Toronto who were tired of sending their clients the same old gift baskets and holiday cards each year. So they asked a simple question: what can we do different? They kicked around a few ideas and checked what was available - apparently Super Hero Day
and Jump in a Puddle and Splash a Friend Day
were taken. Then someone said: what about a Do Over Day? What if, instead of traditional gifts and well wishes, the team could send cards to all their clients asking them to save the date, the date being February 26th.

The idea was the right one - totally inoffensive, funny, cheeky, with global appeal - for young and old, for churchgoers, and hipsters. The timing was right - past Valentine's day, new US President just elected, symbolic for hope, nothing else really going on for Canadians, who despite what you might think, really don't like long winters.

The team went on and developed the Do Over Day web site
. Which kicked some serious gear into motion - the design came from Mssngr
, and the writing - from Paul Fenn
- two creative geniuses (and yes, I have worked with them in the past many times - but you would too if you knew them). Next came the gift baskets for their clients - in there were funny t-shirts (one read: In your case I guess it is going to be more like a Hair-Do Over Day), and Do Over kits with 5 different pads with 5 different Do Over sayings on them, Do Over pencils, and Do Over erasers.

But then the team felt they were onto something - something much bigger than a clever thank you campaign for their clients for the Holiday Season. So they enlisted the help of other creative minds - Lifecapture
- helped the chat rooms and forums get started, a PR partner helped get the media interested. Now the goal was to legitimize Do Over Day. The focus was to create a fun project that made a difference - not some marketing scam. The team then launched a Twitter account
, a YouTube channel, and a Facebook fan club
. They went on a commissioned an Ipsos Reid study to find out what Canadians would mostly want to do over. All this with no money spent – the only paid media was a printed insert of the eCards in the Toronto Metro newspaper, which people could cut out, fill in the back, and send to friends.

February 26th rolled around and all major Toronto TV and radio stations picked up the holiday. CityTV was out on the streets interviewing people, the new Virgin radio station had people calling in with their Do Over wishes, the web site was getting record hits, the posts on the site were coming in – video and text responses from people from all walks of live. The reaction from all levels – from the general public, the media, and the clients of these same creative minds, was of total acceptance. Do Over Day was a legitimate holiday, with a viral following, much bigger than how it started.

Missed Do Over Day this year? You have nothing to worry about – there’s always next year. Consider yourself lucky – now you have almost a year to make your Do Over wish list to share.

As for the folks behind the idea – they sure boosted their reputation – their clients now come to them and ask for a Do Over Day-like campaign for their brands. You can do it too – you just have to commit to do over the Do Over Day success. Good luck!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Social Media: Social Rewards for Building Lasting Online Communities

I came across a brilliant book, thanks to Kevin Rose
, founder of Digg, Predictably Irrational
. The premise in one of the chapters is that we are happy to do things, but not when we are paid to do them. Here's how it works according to Dan Ariely

We may intuitively know that basing a relationship on social norms and exchanges is more lasting and more powerful than when we get paid to do something. What we don't usually know is when to cross the line between social and into market (or money) exchanges and what effect that transition has on the relationship longer term. Dan conducted a number of experiments and discovered that people are willing to work for free or for a reasonable wage - but when you offer them a small amount, they usually walk away. Dan points to open source software where people contribute their free time to develop projects or fix bugs on collaborative platforms - if these same engineers were to paid for the work, they would command high wages - yet, they are willing to do it for free. Why? Because social rewards and social reputation can be enormous behavioral motivators.

What was also interesting was that people who got paid reasonably to do a job were motivated to do almost as good of a job almost as those who did it for free, but they tended to avoid collaboration. Apparently, thinking about money made people more self-reliant and less willing to ask for help. What's more important, I think, is that once we move away from a social exchange into a market exchange, we are governed by the market forces for a long time - you ask a friend for a favor, maybe a free yoga session, and she gladly helps. She does it a couple of times - then, you offer to pay. The friend takes the money - and the friend now expects to be paid each time.

So does this mean for us, social media marketers?
1. People will work for free - they will gladly volunteer their time - in exchange for the right social rewards. Social reputation is a huge motivator - so whether you are running a for-profit social network, an online community, or a non-profit initiative, make sure that you recognize and thank your volunteers.
2. Recognize your volunteers contributions - on your home page, in your newsletters, Twitter feeds, or Facebook account. Make them the stars of your community - give them special status, offer them exclusives, make them part of your business decision-making process. People don't just work for free.
3. Offer them symbolic gifts - a thank you card personally signed by everyone on the team, a virtual hug, a t-shift - for each of their meaningful contributions. Don't ever forget that in social relationships you are always exchanging social currency - it is a give and take. Every time. I recently attended a meeting of marketers to help a non-profit organization - I spent two hours there, contributed and did not hear back. A simple thank you in most cases would do.
4. Be clear about the norms for your community - what you consider social and what you consider market. And don't mix the two. American Express Platinum Card is known for its exceptional Cardmember customer service - you get a very special treatment when you call. Only a select group of people get the privilege to carry one - yet, for a bounced check or a later payment, Platinum customers get the same monetary penalties as everybody else.

As Dan Ariely says, "If you want a social relationship, go for it, but remember that you have to maintain it under all circumstances."


Monday, March 2, 2009

Brand Momentum: Start-up Marketing Thoughts

Once I first came across the book, I envisioned that at some point I would revisit Momentum by Ron Ricci (Oracle) and John Volkmann (AMD). What I did not know is how often I would do that in my life as a marketer. Last week I attended my first MIT Forum Concept Clinic on - and as all of us attending the session tried to impart our life-long learnings about what makes concepts and companies succeed, I went back to the simple truths I first discoverer in the book.

But before I share these, I wanted to revisit another take on the evolution of marketing I discovered in that brilliant book - what made marketing marketing up to the early 80-ies, between the 80-ies and mid 90-ies, and then the mid 90-ies and beyond. I hope that this perspective will help young and established entrepreneurs market their ideas, products and services better and with higher impact.

See, marketing up to the early 80-ies was all about the past - about selling predictability - you walk into a McDonald's and you know exactly what you'll get and how it'll taste. Marketing up to 1980ies = Predictability + Tradition.

Then came the 198o's and in came the era of now - the more a company could show, the better off it was. The more features, functions, bells and whistles you could brag about, the stronger the product you were selling. You get a laundry list of product attributes...and that's not all:) The early 80-ies to mid 90-ies were the Golden Age of the marketing brochure - the more pages it had, the happier the CEO, and (supposedly) the company's customers - now they had all the info they needed to make that first purchase and keep coming back...right?

Not so fast guys, not so fast - in came the Internet in all (well, some) of its glory. It was going to change the way we think about things, marketing included... but how? Well, it was about the future, it was about possibilities and ideas. Enter the new era of marketing - the marketing of the future.

What makes marketing of the future different from its previous reincarnations are two fundamentals, outlined in Momentum:
1. Digital products and services are never finished.
2. Digital products and services never stand alone.

Simple. And brilliant. And it turned everything, marketing included, on its head. It shifted the power from what you did to who you did it with - today who you partner with sends a more powerful message about who you are than what you sell. Marketing of the future is dynamic - no competitive audit is ever current, no brochure or web site is ever up to date, no sales deck is every finished. Entire marketing departments becoming obsolete, rationalized, globalized in our fight to adapt to a world of possibilities.

What, then, is a start-up to do? What do's and don'ts do we offer in this new marketing order?
1. Own one meaningful thing in the minds of your prospective customers. Business success comes from creating strong perception, NOT products.
2. Focus on the benefits of your service or product - both present but preferably future (You won't fail tomorrow but hiring us today). Forget about features - eliminate features that are of little value to your customers.
3. Work with your customers - make them part of your dynamic product development process - yeah, that product, the one that's never finished, always being improved. Think Gmail - it is still in Beta.
4. Build a strong net of like-minded partners - they will provide a launching pad and a safety net for your product.
5. Don't sell your customers' data - sell them offerings from your partners that they value - protect their privacy by opening up your ecosystem to like-minded partners who value your customers privacy and understand that helping you protect it protects them.
6. Don't market to the masses - there is no such thing as "the masses" - there are customer segments that influence those around them. My bet is that will succumb to - no one wants to be old, everyone wants to be young at heart.

Feel free to agree and disagree with me - on this blog, on Twitter - @sallyswimsalot, or Facebook.

Scratch (aka Lora K)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scratches on Marketing born

Yeah, finally. It is intimidating and a relief to start my own blog. So here I am.
Scratches on Marketing = scratches on broad and narrow marketing stuff I care about... the how's of branding and positioning, the what's of go-to-market and product launches, the who's in services (oh, there are so many providers these days that it certainly makes sense for someone to try and define the categories of marketing vendors available and what they offer), the when's - marketing and tech events in the Boston area, networks and groups, and then the why's.

Plan for the better times ahead...Why?
Because people are not buying. Not that they are not buying from you. They simply are not buying. And it will probably get worse until it gets better. I am least likely to predict when this recession is going to be over - I leave that to smart folks like Michael Mandel @BusinessWeek - Economics Unbound. All I know is that they will be. No matter what we do to try and generate demand for our products, services, and saas's, we will not change the buyer's mind. To buy now that is. But we can change the buyer's mind to buy tomorrow. We can use this downtime to plan and build our reputation (read brand). We will likely not have such a luxury any time soon. So let's use this time and opportunity wisely.
1. Build a network of supporters for your brand - by standing for something meaningful they care about.
2. Plant your message now - be vocal about your category.
3. Educate - tell people what they need to know not only about your product or service, but about your category you. Take your time telling them. Use whatever means you deem appropriate - blogs, white papers, videos, tweets.
4. Make it easy for them to share your content - invest all your time and energy in building your sales pipeline.
Lora K (aka Scratch)