SMART USE OF LINKEDIN

Leave it to experts in internet marketing to practice what they preach. I’m connected on LinkedIn to Michael Stebbins, the Founder and CEO of Market Motive, a provider of internet marketing certification courses.

Last week he offered his LinkedIn followers a free month of the service, a $299 value. I decided to take him up on the offer and am brushing up my social media marketing skills.  I can now see why major universities are licensing this content for their MBA programs.  While there are a lot of good sources for learning online marketing, Market Motive seems to be the first to curate a huge wealth of current and authoritative  knowledge into an ordered and structured curriculum. The content is EXCELLENT.

As I’m building out my new managed marketing operations business I will be eying their graduates for recruitment as I know what their baseline knowledge and abilities are. Further, I will clearly be putting my employees through their courses to keep their knowledge and skills on the cutting edge.

Those caught in the mire of this recession should also investigate them. Their master course is eligible to be paid 100%  by US Government for qualified unemployed. Internet marketing is a market that has legs. If you are ready for a career change this may be an excellent opportunity.

Bill Ross
CEO
Latro Bellum Corporation

A Fool With a Tool is Still A Fool

I was reminded of this quote that was on a whiteboard at our office at International Network Services back in the early 90’s. One of our network architects wrote it because he was frustrated that one of our clients thought all of their network problems would be solved by using a Sniffer from Network General. This morning I had an email exchange with a former colleague informing me that his company elected to license a social media marketing tool to manage, publish and analyze their social media interactions. It will of course fail.

Tools bring efficiency and leverage to a defined process. A process isn’t useful or meaningful unless it is defined as a facet of a strategic initiative tied to a business objective. My former colleague’s company has a weak pipeline in a highly competitive market. Implementing a tool will give his colleagues some short-term gratification, but without a definitive plan it will ultimately fall into disuse and end up being a complete waste of time effort and money.

Imagine a scenario where there are two piles of building materials with each having everything needed to erect a small house, including lumber, hammers, nails, saws, etc. Then, get a monkey and a journeyman carpenter and tell them each to create a house from each pile. The monkey will start hammering away on everything, make a lot of noise and create a lot of damage. The first thing the carpenter will do, if he/she is any good, is ask where the plans are.

A good carpenter can build a house without plans, but it likely will not fulfill the requirements of the homeowner. So, if you hire someone that has good technical skills, expect him to build something really solid; it may not, however, be what you need. That is what an architect is for. If you ask an architect to design a home for you, the first thing he/she will do is ask you a bunch of questions, for example:

1)      Is this your primary residence or a vacation home?

2)      What neighborhood is it in?

3)      How many people are in your family?

4)      What are the ages and gender of your children?

5)      What general style of house appeals to you?

6)      Do you do a lot of entertaining?

7)      What is your budget?

8)      Etc.

Using this information, prior knowledge and experience, the architect will design a home that is suited to your needs and your budget. It will also take into consideration different rules, regulations, codes and best practices.

Building a cost-effective, executable, measurable marketing plan is not unlike having a custom home built. There are many materials to pick from and many tools available. However, without a credible, detailed plan correlated to specific business objectives you will build a (what may be an attractive on the surface) house on a shaky foundation that will certainly collapse in the first storm. This is particularly true now of social media marketing. There is a lot of noise in the space with many tool vendors claiming to have the answers to the problems. For most companies, the questions have not been formulated so there are no answers, yet.

Architects design. Carpenters build. Monkeys play and make a lot of noise.

We help companies plan, design, manage, analyze and optimize social media marketing plans. We have cost-effective 3-month and 6-month starter programs to help companies optimize their time, budgets and resources. Our specialty is with B2B companies with a complex sale. Contact me to see if we can help architect and build a meaningful social media presence for your company.

Bill at thruthenoise dot com
(408) 827-8484

Business Lessons Learned from Emptying the Trash and Frying Eggs

What does mopping floors, emptying trash and frying eggs have to do with marketing? Probably nothing, but two lessons learned while doing it has a lot to do with it.

My first job back in the early 70’s was at Marty’s Luncheonette in Bergenfield, NJ. Marty was a real entrepreneur and supported his family by operating a very busy ‘breakfast and lunch’ restaurant. He did everything from cooking, cleaning, ordering supplies, advertising and waiting on his loyal customers. He did this six days a week from 6 AM to 5 PM.

I would show up for work after school. When I started there I cleaned. Then I graduated from cleaning to waiting on the counter as well. From there I graduated to actually being a (novice) short-order cook. This was all before my 16th birthday. Unknowingly at the time I learned a lot about business from Marty. As I reflect back there are two lessons he taught me that are universal to any business.

One day while busily emptying a trash can or something like that, Marty pulled me aside and pointed to someone waiting impatiently at the counter. He told me, “Bill, when someone sits down at the counter immediately pour them a cup of coffee. They will then know that you know they’re their. They’ll read the paper, look at the menu or chat with other customers. The key thing is that you will have bought yourself some time and the customer will be content.” The lesson learned here is that when someone has taken the time to enquire about your business and has reached out, immediately engage them; don’t make them wait. When I was the VP of Sales and Marketing at Golden-Gate Technologies (a CRM systems integrator) we used this analogy internally. All sales people were directed to engage IMMEDIATELY and all projects managers needed to incorporate “coffee time” into their project plans. The project managers had to account for the fact that at any time they could be pulled away for a day to meet with a potential new client. IBM Global Services became our largest client because the entire company bought into the concept of “coffee time” and my many competitors did not.

On another occasion Marty pulled me aside again. He motioned to someone standing and waiting at the cash register. He then told me, “When someone is at the cash register waiting to pay, drop what you’re doing and take their money. Nobody should ever have to wait to pay.” And you know, he was right. The universal translation of this lesson is: Be easy to do business with. Adapt to your sales processes to your customers’ buying processes. If somebody wants to buy your product or service, make it real easy for them to get it.

My temptation now is to rant about how annoying t is when I’m seated at a restaurant table and the host doesn’t immediately take my drink order (lost revenue), or when the meal is done how long it takes to pay, but that is off-topic. Just remember Marty’s two lessons:

1)      Engage immediately when you’ve got a ‘live one’

2)      Be easy to do business with by adapting to your customers’ buying processes

ThruTheNoise at gmail do com

C-Level Meeting Services are Like Annoying Time-Share Pitches

When my wife and I were in Maui last time we got roped into one of those time-share pitches. The offer was just too good to avoid: Suffer through a time-share pitch and get tickets to one of the shows going on at one of the hotels. As we knew the tickets were hard to get we decided to “suck it up” and go.

We don’t fit the profile for time-shares. We have young children and pets. Our ‘vacations’ are limited to weekend escapes. This didn’t matter to the sales guy, he put us right into his high-pressure canned pitch anyway. We suffered through it and got vouchers for our tickets. We swore we’d never do it again.

Those services where your company gets matched with C-Level executives at a resort are very similar to time-share pitches. The service provider gets executives from large companies to show up at a resort for a few days at no cost to them. They get free transportation, lodging, meals, golf, etc. In return they need to suffer through a series of 15-minute pitches from the CEOs and VPs of Sales from desperate emerging companies. These C-Level executives are essentially like my wife and I suffering through the time-share pitch to get our vouchers.

The desperate entrepreneurs feel great because they have spent one-on-one time with C-Level executives that are seemingly impossible to reach. The prospects are always polite and professional and make the entrepreneurs feel ‘swell.’ However, at roughly $5,000 / meeting, these are mostly just a waste of time, effort and money. They rarely turn into business. The only ones that make out are the service providers and the executives that get free 5-Star vacations.

You can get meetings with C-Level executives without being desperate and wasting money. In fact, I wrote about how to do it here: http://bit.ly/d6wFJY. Avoid these C-Level matchmaking services. There are alternatives with much better ROIs.

Going to Market is Like Going to War

ThruTheNoise at gmail dot com

Emerging B2B Companies Cannot Cost-Justify a VP of Marketing

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

The average tenure of a CMO is about two years…”
Marketing Sherpa in 2008

“CMO tenure is a problem that only gets worse as company size decreases.”
Bob Van Rossum, MarketPro


Let’s focus on Van Rossum’s quote in the context of Einstein’s quote. In the past two months I’ve met with 5 CEOs of emerging VC-funded companies. They ran the gamut from genomics through managed services. What they had in common was they had all recently fired their VP’s of Marketing and decided to postpone filling the position.

Their reasoning is the same: they recognized that the first thing the VP of Marketing would do is recruit marketing firms to execute tactics for them. Further these VP’s would be merely acting as an intermediary between the sales and product teams, and the agency(s). For these companies it is too early to “hand over the keys” of strategy and vision to a marketing person. In Silicon Valley the burdened cost for a good B2B VP of Marketing is between $220K and $250K / year, plus equity. This is a very expensive fee to pay for someone to facilitate meetings. The companies I met with are hiring less-seasoned (and less expensive) candidates to manage these relationships.

Until a B2B company gains traction, it makes more sense to partner with a firm that can provide both strategic and tactical marketing on a managed services basis. The result is that for less than the cost of a VP of Marketing you get a complete marketing team. This partner can take on the burden of extracting and synthesizing information from the executive team and executing it through various measurable, tactical programs.

If you are an emerging B2B company and are about to recruit a very expensive marketing resource, consider the alternative. It isn’t that who you recruit won’t be talented; there are simply too many skills and tasks required to make this an effective investment. Statistics on the tenure of marketing professionals in emerging B2B companies support my stance.

Care to discuss the alternative? Give me a call: 408-827-8484
ThruTheNoise at gmail dot com

Going to Market is Like Going to War

Entrepreneurs are Eccentrics by Definition

ec·cen·tric

a : deviating from an established or usual pattern or style
Merriam-Webster

I have a neighbor that not only takes her chickens for walks, she talks to them as if they were her children too. I gather that for a living she writes romance novels: no kidding. For exercise, her husband, all 250+ pounds of him, rides his bicycle up and down a level and tiny street at barely a walking pace, dressed in overall shorts. This couple is REALLY eccentric.

While we live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we’re not exactly in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we’re less than 19 miles from the airport in San Jose. Their behavior is odd even for where we live…

Entrepreneurs are eccentric too. Successful ones however, are just eccentric enough. They see and behave in ways that are unusual and it is a good thing that they do. The economic underpinnings of the United States is based upon eccentrics, er, entrepreneurs, seeing and doing things differently, and having the force of will to alter the behaviors and actions of others. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison are all eccentrics that have made fortunes for themselves as well as millions of others. David Segal published an article in the New York Times recently on the subject: http://nyti.ms/9xVVpx.

Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was an eccentric and brilliant general whose death many believe led to the South ultimately losing the civil war. At first, the focus was on his eccentricities. When Jackson starting winning battles against armies with considerably more resources he quickly morphed into a brilliant strategist and tactician. Oh, and he did this without the internet or a PR machine; imagine how he would have been perceived today.

Likewise, successful entrepreneurs all appear to undergo the same amazing and rapid metamorphosis. When their visions become valuable to someone else they suddenly transform from crackpots into visionaries. When fighting an unconventional war, eccentrics often make the best generals.

Going to Market is Like Going to War

ThruTheNoise@gmail.com

Start-Ups Should NOT Hire Business Development People

In start-up companies the CEO should foster the vision, however, if it is all about the CEO’s knowledge and experience and it cannot be ‘extracted’ and leveraged, you basically have a one-person company with a support team. The challenge is in finding the first sales people that can leverage the CEO’s vision. Steven Blank (author of “ Four Steps to an Epiphany” ) coined the expression “customer development” to address this. Sales people with this ability are very rare.

When I am recruiting sales people and they tell me they have done or want to do ‘business development’ I run. In my experience ‘business development’ translates into, “I want all the glamour and fun of sales with none of the accountability.” In other words try to give a bus dev person a quota and they will quickly move on to the next sucker silly enough to give them a salary…

A background in consulting is ideal for startups. I’ve been [primarily] in sales for over 25 years. With a couple of stints at Fortune 500, most of this time has been with early stage startups. I’ve learned that at least in tech, there are three primary offerings: hardware, software and services.

• Selling hardware is relatively easy; it either meets the spec or it doesn’t.

• Selling software is more difficult as it is somewhat ‘mutable’ and different scenarios can make this complex.

• Selling services is essentially matching somewhat nebulously defined assets and capabilities, with somewhat nebulously defined requirements and resources. This requires “out of the box” thinking AND business acumen.

The best sales-oriented customer development team member should have a services background. Essentially, their job is to match the start-up’s loosely defined assets and capabilities with a hypothetical and probably equally ill-defined customer need. The result should be that the company makes money and the customer perceives value for the money spent. The real bonus is when after doing a post mortem on the deal it is determined that the deal is replicable.

Towards that end, I have been in three startups (Boston-based, DC-based, Silicon Valley-based) that thought they had it nailed after closing their first deal and built the company around it. They all failed. Interestingly enough, one of them was a former employee of Steve Blank’s and highly touted the customer development approach: he then went on to break all of the rules… In fairness to him, when he gave me Steve’s book he said something to the effect, “Bill, you really don’t need to read this. You already get it.” So I guess he wasn’t all bad…

Going to Market is Like Going to War: Click here to find out how.

ThruTheNoise@gmail.com

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