Monday, June 30, 2008

Sales Guy vs. Web Dude

Over the weekend I came across this video on posted on TechCrunch -- I found it hilarious. On the heels of my recent post about the struggle between marketing and IS, this seems like a fair rebuttal. Well, not really, but it's pretty funny.

FYI, if you're behind the work firewall, depending on you or your businesses sensibilities, you may find some of this content NSFW. There's a lot of language that some places might find offensive, and there's an image near the end of the movie that also might not go over well. Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's All About The Ideal

"But what you're describing, that's the ideal situation. In reality, things don't work that way."

This was just a casual comment in a recent conversation, but something about it struck me and really resonated with me. The Ideal Situation. It's easy to rule out ideas and concepts when you hang this tag on them. The underlying message is that you are crazy or unreasonable because you aren't willing to accept the status quo.

But The Ideal Situation is all about envisioning a better system and trying to move reality closer to the ideal. It's Plato's forms, the object in itself, and reaching for better grasp of where things should be. The Ideal is where innovation occurs, where we define a target and start building a roadmap to get there.

Silicon Valley is all about the Ideal Situation -- about start-ups with a lot of crazy ideas about where things should be and what the barriers to getting there have been. It's about hundreds of micro-experiments, shifting and pulling to a new space that brings us one step closer to ideal.

Does anyone remember what the first company was that gave away juice and soft drinks to it's employees? Or the first company to provide dinner for them every night? Thiry years ago, it would have been inconceivable to have day-care on site. Or laundry. Fifteen years ago, the idea of spending 20% of your work time focused on some pursuit that you're interested would have seemed outlandish -- but this is yet another benefit/experiment in the working environment at Google.

It may be that envisioning The Ideal Situation makes me unreasonable or puts me on track for some unrealistic expectations, but regardless, I expect that tomorrow I will continue to dream of, look for, and believe in the ideal situation. And I hope that you will too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Marketing to a 'Spare the Air' day

Today is another 'Spare the Air' day here in the valley. For those of you that don't know what a Spare the Air day is, it's when the climate (temperature, wind, etc) factors are expected to combine with human-caused activities to make the air quality really crappy. On Spare the Air days, they recommend that you don't drive, don't run your appliances during the day, don't cook on the BBQ grill -- those kinds of things. They also urge you to take public transportation.

Last year, BART let people ride for free on the first Spare the Air day of the year. While a lot of companies offer incentive programs for their employees to take public transportation or commute, I find is surprising that you don't see more companies promoting their own initiatives to help Spare The Air -- particularly in these days of $4+ per gallon gas.

From a PR standpoint, the nice thing about Spare the Air days is that they happen with some frequency, and while the old focus of getting things published used to drive PR, you could continue to drive the message with each Spare the Air day.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I just realized that when I was setting up Marketing to Me, I overlooked providing a method for you to contact me other than publishing comments on specific posts. I've updated the blog, so now you can contact me directly. I've also updated my profile.

So if you had a specific comment about something I've published but you didn't want to post a comment, you know have a way to provide feedback.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marketing Quackery - Sneaking in through the back door

Don't you just find this kind of thing aggravating -- some senior exec in the organization approaches you and says, "I just got this call about this interesting marketing opportunity and I was curious what you think." Of course, a lot of times it isn't a call, it's an email, and the opportunity could be anything from being included in a magazine story or a video, participating in some exclusive executive conference, or maybe even advertising on the side of a race car.

It's not the just the "this is a big waste of time and money" advertising program that's annoying, it's the selling approach. What could be more annoying than the salesperson who's entire methodology revolves around bypassing the established marketing strategy/spending decision process in an attempt to sell their program. Could anything scream "scam" any louder?

Just for fun, let's dissect this. Consider the established company with the established marketing strategy, budget and programs. The odds are pretty good that, in going through the preparation to develop their marketing plan, they've probably identified their program strategies, targets, and commitments. Assuming that this "new marketing opportunity that just came up" was really something that matched an existing strategy, the marketing group within the organization would probably already be pursuing it. If not, the contact points within the marketing vehicle would probably approach the organization's marketing person -- for example, the opportunity for a last minute distressed ad placement in a target pub.

Instead, these borderline (some are way past the border) scammers reach out to the CEO, the president, or any other senior contact that they can get into their system. Their goal is to bypass the normal process for reviewing marketing opportunities and instead work "other channels of influence." They are looking for a mark. Selling isn't really about the opportunity, it's about playing the mark -- playing on their vanity, their fear, or some marginally uninformed or overly simplified perception perception of advertising and PR, and twisting it in such a way that it sounds like a good idea.

Vanity is a powerful driver on a personal level, but it has a terrible effect on marketing strategy and program ROI. Vanity marketing is all about making some individual or group within the organization feel important by spending their way into something that they associate with prestige. Big buildings, big tradeshow booths, billboards, Superbowl ads, airline videos, or even the top paid position for a keyword in a search -- there are reasonable strategies behind all of these programs, but they're also tempting ego-snacks. To me, the funniest thing about vanity as a marketing driver is how normally level-headed, analytical people can get sucked into it.

The problem with these marketing scams isn't that you can't debunk them, it's the time that it takes to run them down and debunk them -- and the potential for political "ill will" that you might develop with their mark. And that's a big part of why they target who they do.

I must say that in trying to develop a tip list for addressing one of these situations, it's hard to take an objective point of view. I find the people who market this way equivalent to those robocalls that crawl phone numbers pumping mortgages or some other crap -- the same ones that invariably wind up calling your cell phone. You keep hoping that some aspect of the legal system will track them down and drop the hammer on them so that no one would ever consider doing it again. Unfortunately, in the world of marketing quackery, that probably isn't going to happen. But ultimately, that's why it's so important that these people, the ones that sell marketing services outside of the proper channel, are not rewarded for their efforts.

We may not be able to make them stop, but we can try to take away their customer base, one mark at a time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Another Great Quote from "Inside Steve's Brain"

I found some time to read this morning and I came across this excellent quote about creativity from Inside Steve's Brain.

"Creativity is just connecting things," Jobs told Wired magazine. "When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things..."

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Changing Face of Tradeshow Marketing

Silicon Valley got it's name from the material used to manufacture semiconductor ICs, and the semiconductor industry's roots in the valley run very deep. The semiconductor industry still lives here in the valley, but a lot of the actual manufacturing has shifted to other parts of the world. In the era of Internet time, many of the relationships in the semiconductor manufacturing industry span decades and generations, and the marketing and sales processes are shaped by those long term relationships.

Semicon is a cornerstone of outbound marketing within the semiconductor manufacturing industry. There are Semicon shows in all regions of the world, but for Silicon Valley, the show is Semicon West, held in July at Moscone in San Francisco. In contrast to tradeshows across other industries, one unique aspect of Semicon is how little things change. Companies exhibit in the same locations with the same space, there are the same meetings between corporate execs, the same corporate events -- it's very predictable.

This is probably why I found it surprising, in looking at a map of the show floor, to see a couple of big changes for 2008. The most obvious, and possibly the most interesting from an emerging markets standpoint, is the explosion of solar and photovoltaic manufacturing. Everybody knows that it's big, but how big is it? Semicon West has added an entire floor devoted to PV in Moscone West, and some of the reports that I've seen indicate that it's nearly full.

The other big change -- one of the large semiconductor equipment manufacturers has radically scaled down the size of their booth. In the past, they've had one of those huge, show landmark style booths. In contrast, if you were calculating statistics, their booth size is probably more inline with the median.

Why is that? Well, one explanation might be a tightening up in the market for semiconductor manufacturing equipment, but I really doubt that. My expectation for Semicon West 2008 is that attendance will be similar to last year if not greater, and that number of companies participating will be similar to last year if not greater (don't forget the growth in solar). Equally, this really isn't a situation where, financially, the company is on the ropes. I think that it's much more a function of the changing landscape of the outbound marketing program mix.

Across the landscape of marketing tools, it's getting easier and easier to track customers from contact through purchase and to measure ROI. In the old days, an advertising campaign might run for a year across multiple publications and the connection between customer contact and revenue wasn't very tangible. A one year advertising campaign might run between $60K and $100K per pub, so spending $500K to $1M wasn't out of line for the annual event. But things are changing in the marketing program mix. For a B2B company, you can reach a larger part of your target audience on the Internet for the cost of one print publication -- and track, analyze, and measure your results more directly. And as the landscape of the sales cycle is being mapped more closely, there is a lot of pressure to connect dollars spent in each program segment directly to revenue.

There is some marketing quackery connected to the 'I have a big booth too' mentality. Vanity, egos, and people with lots of influence but little understanding of the mechanics of marketing have been driving some of these decisions for years. It goes without saying that most of us like the idea of being a part of the big show. But modern marketing is all about benchmarks, establishing goals, measuring based on goals, and spending only as can be justified. And as marketing increasingly modernizes and becomes more metrics-focused, the historical oases of marketing extravagance and the slush-funds of frivolous spending are drying up in the harsh light of ROI.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Politics, The Long Tail, Branding, and the Passion of The Niche

Politics isn't usually a good topic for business discussions -- like those other third-rail topics, people can get so passionate about their personal beliefs that the analysis itself becomes shaded. However, I came across an interesting post from the political blogs over the weekend, and it really connected with some of the things that I've been thinking about with respect to branding, passionate customer bases, and The Long Tail.

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton conceded to Barack Obama. On Sunday, The Daily Kos held a blog symposium of essays on "Why Clinton Lost (and Obama Won)". In this post, Why Clinton Lost, Hunter presents the idea that Clinton lost because she didn't campaign, but instead pursued a strategy of trying not to offend any specific niche demographic.
...the age-old Democratic mandate for running campaigns has been one of excruciating timidity. The goal of most recent high-profile elections, the Kerry campaign included, the Gore campaign included, and several dozen other campaigns besides, has not been to win, but to simply avoid losing.

Towards that end, no large issues are addressed with too much passion, and no stances are taken with too much vigor, and for the love of God nobody is made to feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. It is playing to the middle writ large, and in crayon, and with big block letters. The goal is to assemble the broadest coalition possible -- by saying nothing that could possibly offend anyone. The premise is to appeal to "independents", and "centrists", and most of all the "undecided", that group of people so uninterested in politics that they cannot fathom the difference between the parties, but who allegedly can be mobilized into action if only you do absolutely nothing that will get them the slightest bit worked up. It is a cynical, wretched excuse for leadership, but more to the point it provides absolutely no room for error: it is an all-defensive strategy.
The problem with the broad, all-encompassing strategy is that it doesn't connect with the passion of the niche. The very nature of the idea, the sort of "well I guess I'm okay with that" approach simply doesn't connect with any energy or emotion. It doesn't drive people into action. It's easy to see in politics -- when politicians connect with fringe elements and special causes, like when the Republicans connect with the radical right, the reach a passionate audience of activists. These people at the fringes are passionate. They are the people that will get off their asses and engage the system.

Consider the word Genuine. When candidates or products approach identity, part of what they are expressing are those core values that segment an audience and establish a position. When Obama says that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that it should end, he has defined a value. It may be a value that some people won't like, but it stakes out a segment. And within the audience that connects with to that aspect, the connection is strong.

How about you? Do you often find your products and your marketing being dumbed down with some vague goal of broader acceptance? Or perhaps it's the addition of features and concessions in order to address "gaps" or "concerns". Remember, some broad brush inclusions are an effort to sweep up more, but they're driven from a lack of understanding of the design, the message, and the focus. Do you connect with the Passion of the Niche?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Marketing vs IS - Why is there such a conflict?

I started this thread with Prelude to a Post. This is part 1 or part 2, depending upon how you look at, exploring the background and some of the foundation issues in the conflict between Marketing and IS.


In the days before the web, marketing and the IS group had little interaction. Back in those days, about the most interaction that took place between the two organizations was with software licenses on PCs, or any technical support across system platforms. There was no real animosity, no territories to protect, no feuds, and no conflicts. But the web changed all of that.

In the early days of the web, there really wasn’t much substance to it, other than the technical potential and the promises. Back in the early 1990s, the Internet was really an exploratory platform, and there wasn’t a clear roadmap for it would fit in the business architecture. In the organization that I was working for at the time, we were going to use the Internet as another platform to supply all of our technical documentation, but even that looked like it would be technically challenging. In that mix, with the Internet as a bit player in the marketing toolbox and the technical challenges being outside the traditional marketing set, it was perfectly logical for the IS group to support the technical side of the web.

Over the years, as the web started to evolve and web content started to develop structure, the IS group started to take a step back from the web. Depending on where you were, there were probably a host of reasons: maybe their team got burned by management (“you put WHAT on the web site?”); maybe they got tired of the hassle of “publishing” content; or maybe the tools for publishing started to streamline some of the “technical challenges” of publishing and bring publishing closer to the designers. Whatever the event or series of events, more and more of the web started to fall under the domain of marketing -- and marketing discovered that they needed to learn more and more about the technology of marketing in order to execute on the things that they would like to do.

Over the years, the line between what is a marketing function, managing the content of the web, managing customer analysis, segmentation, and market research, managing the product, what it is, the go-to-market strategies and how it’s monetized, have all become intertwined with the web and web technologies. Add to this something that a Director of IS told me back in 2000, “the web is changing, and things are moving away from html files. Web sites are going to be built with databases and content assembled dynamically.” While I had a difficult time understanding it at the time, it’s not only common today, this blog is built on that exact type of engine. But more importantly, what it’s meant for marketing, is that the web -- and a host of marketing tools -- are built on a foundation of software development.

Now, when you are designing an outbound marketing campaign, you need to understand a complex geography of programs and software. And when you build a web component for that campaign, you may be designing a web application, complete with functional requirements, if-then statements, and e-commerce tie-ins that connect to the order-processing accounting-engine of the organization. And now you are tied into some of the core, operational components of the business.

In this mix, there are a new set of questions:
  • Who’s owns what domain?
  • Who’s decision does the organization listen to?
  • Who’s experts and consultants drive what?
Add in to all of that that you’re probably taking the organization in new directions, and new directions may be counter to that other core IS principle of keeping things operating stably.

As this post is starting to run on, I’ll continue on this thread in a future post.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Prelude to a post - Marketing vs IS

Maybe it's just me, but I'm seeing a common thread across a number of businesses -- their internal organizations are in conflict, with marketing and IS going head-to-head. Don't get me wrong, I've been battling with the IS group since that first day when I said that I needed a Mac... but this goes beyond that.

Since the introduction of the web site and it's associated server, we marketers crossed the line -- and the feud is on. We're in their space now, and they hate Macs, and they're pissed about that web site/web server thing, and worst of all -- they know we don't get it.

Anyway, this is just a teaser. I've been mashing through some thoughts because I don't think that it's just me. I think that this disconnect between marketing and IS is just going to get worse as the Internet and network technology plays an increasing role in the marketing mix.