Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clouds, Gold Rushes, Motorcades and Why I Love Infrastructure Technologies

As President Obama's motorcade made its way through the San Francisco Peninsula yesterday, the first fundraising stop was at the Atherton home of Douglas and Lisa Goldman, who are very well known and respected philanthropists.   I was a bit curious.  With very minimal effort, I learned that M. Goldman is actually Dr. Goldman, a retired physician, apparently a big Obama backer, and most interestingly an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune. 

With my 4th grade daughter deep into the California Gold Rush unit at school, I found it fascinating that the President was NOT visiting a miner's house, but was visiting the home of their tailor!  If there are two fortunes and legacies that I associate with the Gold rush, they are Stanford and Levi's, railroads and blue jeans.   I quickly went to see if I could find the legacy of the people who actually mined the gold, but the only trail I could find are the 49ers, the football mascot, not the people still living in mansions.  I am sure they exist, but they are not easy to find. 

This made me think of today's "Cloud Rush", and where the winners will be 5, 10 and even 30 years from now.  Not who will be the next Mark Z and Facebook, who have certainly hit a vein of rich gold, but who is the next Larry Ellison and Oracle.   For 35 yrs (yes check that number out!) Oracle has been providing the technological equivalent of railroads and blue jeans to 3+ waves of technology disruption, minicomputer, client server, Web and maybe cloud.

I LOVE infrastructure solutions because while not sexy like gold, they work everyday like blue jeans and railroads, and are often some of the most overlooked opportunities by the strike it rich miners.   In today's "Cloud rush",  there is a LOT of money to be made by enabling the mining of Cloud gold, scaling, managing, securing, enabling, optimizing,  that's where I want to work!!!!  So let the 20 somethings pull on their new jeans, fire up their Amazon instances and pan for gold.  May many of them strike it rich  Give me a great infrastructure idea that I can sell to all of them any day and I'll put my money there.

When my daughter writes about the 54th president visiting the home of someone 30 years from now, which legacy will that harken back to?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Demise of Marketers, the Rise of Coders - Eh, I think NOT!

Andrew Chen's recent blog post entitled - Growth Hacker is the New VP of Marketing certainly got my attention and was one of the most intriguing post I've read in months.  Andrew essentially writes an obituary for Marketers, saying they are going the way of the dinosaur to be replaced by a new and more evolved species he calls the Growth Hacker.  Do I agree, NO!  But that doesn't mean that this isn't a very important post that bears attention and response.

I recently spent an hour with my daughter's 4th grade class teaching them - "What is Marketing" for a business simulation unit they are doing.  In it I told them that "Marketing is fun, because you get to be part artist, part scientist and part poet."   Andrew argues that I was wrong on 2.5 of these, and that Marketing is now fun because you get to be part Coder and part Data Scientist.   Andrew says,
"The fastest way to spread your product is by distributing it on a platform using APIs, not MBAs. Business development is now API-centric, not people-centric. Whereas PR and press used to be the drivers of customer acquisition, instead it’s now a lagging indicator that your Facebook integration is working. The role of the VP of Marketing, long thought to be a non-technical role, is rapidly fading and in its place, a new breed of marketer/coder hybrids have emerged"
Do I agree, yes and no.  Marketing, especially direct marketing,  has always been part science, and business development has always been about partnering and distribution.  So in that sense Andrew is both right and wrong.  There has definitely been a continued rise of analytics in marketing starting with Direct Marketing,  moving to SEO/SEM, and continuing with the emerging fields of social analytics, A/B testing and other new techniques.   In fact, to many CEOs marketing is no longer a "black art" , but is now a "black science."

The major problem I have with Andrew's post is toward the end.  After walking through an integration between AirBnB and Craigslist, Andrew states rather pejoratively,
"No traditional marketer would have figured this out
Let’s be honest, a traditional marketer would not even be close to imagining the integration above – there’s too many technical details needed for it to happen. As a result, it could only have come out of the mind of an engineer tasked with the problem of acquiring more users from Craigslist.  "
Not only is this totally unsubstantiated, it's insulting.  Plenty of marketers, like myself, are pretty damn technical, they have to be.  Do they code, maybe not, but can they spec and understand an integration like this, HELL YES.   Secondly, who tasked the hypothetical engineer with doing this in the first place?  So while this post is definitely interesting, at the end of the day I think it is wrong.  

As I've argued extensively, in today's overloaded information market, getting attention is still about context and communications.  The argument that coders and data scientists will be the only flavors of marketers in the future is just a leap beyond logic and reality.  Marketing, taken in its broader sense, is the understanding of markets, buyers, communication and value exchange.  It doesn't require a coder to do this, it requires a business person, albeit, a pretty technically savvy one in many organizations. In addition, it may be the romantic in me, but I think the artists and poets will continue to play an important but changing role in marketing success.  If you want one compelling argument for this, I'd point you right to the Apple Product Design team.  So, as much as some would like to pronounce the VP of Marketing as dead or dying, as Mark Twain famously said, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mind The Gaps - 3 Gaps to High Velocity Pipeline, and How to Bridge Them To Success

When I used to go to London often and ride the Underground, the constant refrain seen was "Mind The Gap".   Mind the Gap or you could suffer some unmentionable and clearly gruesome fate.   As Online software service providers of all flavors try to create high velocity sales and marketing businesses, they would do well to mind these 3 gaps:

1) The "It's Not Your Time" gap
2) The "It's Not My Job" gap
3) The "Window Shopping" gap

Let's take a quick look at each of these gaps and see how we can minimize the risk of a potential customer "falling through the cracks", which while not bloody and gruesome, is costly and mostly avoidable. 

1) It's Not Your Time - Sorry Ms. Vendor, you got me here and I was pretty interested, but you've failed in the 3 minutes I have to deliver relevant value once I arrived.  I'm not ready for the trial, because you're not showing me any compelling reason to listen.

2) It's Not My Job - Oh shoot, I went to try your product but I realized I need the X (CTO, Network Admin, HR Manager, implementer, ...) to configure, load or integrate something to try it.  Can't I get see something now, maybe later...

3) I'm Just Window Shopping - Today's world is full of triers, but where are the buyers?  If you can't tell them apart, it won't be the prospect falling through the cracks, but it will be your valuable sales and marketing resources...

 Bridging the Gaps

How then can we bridge this gaps with our Go To Market approach?

Here's a few ideas...

1) Create the context - We compete not just with 4 or 5 other solutions that are close to ours, but hundreds or thousands of things on the buyers mind and agenda.  Engage visitors with a unique and compelling viewpoint, and then keep them around by relating your value to their world.    Zuora's "Subscription Economy" is a compelling and relevant viewpoint, check it out as a great example.  Now it's YOUR TIME!

2) Reduce Experience Friction - Make sure it is EASY for buyers to experience the value you deliver.  If an integration step is needed, make sure there is a way to simulate or demonstrate the result without the full commitment.  GoodData does this by providing a myriad of example implementations of dashboards, so if a potential buyer doesn't want to or can't do the integration right then, they can still experience the value.  Remember what your key buyers job and skills are and deliver experience to them NOW!

3) Find the Buyers - In try and buy and freemium models, it is absolutely possible to monitor and understand buying behavior vs. window shopping.  Don't depend on inefficient sales methods to find the most likely buyers, watch and understand what their actions are, they speak louder than words.  Tools like Totango offer powerful and easy platforms that let you do this.  Let the Buyers find You!

So if your velocity isn't where it needs to be, take a quick look at these 3 Gaps found in many go to market plans.  Mind the Gap, Find the Gap, and Fix the Gap to drive high velocity!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Five Reasons We Overvalue Value!

Value Propositions and elevator pitches live in the rarefied air of marketing speak.  They are almost seen as mystical accomplishments reachable by only the anointed among us.  "But what's the elevator pitch" we hear time and time again....Give me the 30 second attention grabber, etc, etc.

While I agree that Value matters, and actually matters a lot,  I think as sales and marketing professionals, we've worshiped at this alter for so long, we've lost sight of the end goal.  We've become Value snobs.  Here's are my top 5 reason's why we overvalue Value:

1) We are Product Narcissists...Who doesn't love their baby.  Even when we clearly articulate customer benefit, we RARELY ask whether the benefit is truly valuable.  We are often NOT in synch with out customers priorities, fears and aspirations.  This might be the #1 thing that drives great sales people to say "The marketing guys are out of touch".

2) Content is a Commodity... What we write, our competitors can copy and paste with amazing speed, especially if it is good content.   There are really only 2 benefits to products anyways, cost savings and revenue increase, and there are only so many ways to say these things.  Good content is not cheap or easy... for the first guy, but is for the second!  When we focus on the words that describe our Value, we lose to the second guy every time.

3) If Content is Dead, Context is the new King  ...  Value without context is like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it.  We spend so much time on Value we forget about Viewpoint.  True impact happens when we paint our value in the Context of a Viewpoint that is aligned with our customers.  We get out of our product narcissism (see point 1), and set the terrain to communicate in a meaningful way.

4)   It all goes back to IBM...Need Feature Advantage Reaction, Wilson Sales Strategy, Powerselling...  Most of what we do has its roots in a world of 1970-1990.  A world of technocrats who lived in glass houses could be sold to like that.  But today's buyer is self directed and really SMART, and has access to more information than ever.   Buyers have shifted from evaluation to experience as the way they form opinions and make decisions.   Many of us have not kept up...

5) Hard to experience = hard to use.   High velocity sales requires high velocity value delivery.  Set the context and then "show me the money".  If it's so darn hard to DEMONSTRATE your value, then your product or service must be damn hard to buy, deploy and get value out of.   The days of DESCRIBING value are over.  Better to show me 60% of the value in a compelling experience, than describe it 100% in a long piece of text or video.

The real power of influence in sales and marketing has shifted from Content to Context, from Value to Viewpoint and from Evaluation to Experience.   Don't lose sight of Value, but let's put it in its more appropriate role in our sales and marketing mix....