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)


  1. Great list, especially relate to this point: "eliminate features that are of little value to your customers." I think there is a stat suggesting 90% customers use only 20% of features and 10% of customers are super users who use about 50%. Or maybe I just made that up. Either way, over engineering, product or service, is a pitfall to avoid! Love the post.

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