Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I've moved this blog - New posts are now at

Thanks for reading my blog.  I've updated my infrastructure and am now blogging at   I'll keep this blog up for historical access, but I've moved most of the last several years of entries to the new blog.  I won't be adding entries here...

Thanks again and hope to see you over there!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

AIM STEEP to Build Breakthrough Viewpoint - Part 2

In part 1 of this blog series on Viewpoint, we explored the Y axis of the KJR Viewpoint framework, repeated below and introduced here.

and discussed using the STEEP analysis method to label the Y-axis and defined point A, the "Trendspotting" Viewpoint.  In this blog, we will work on labeling the X-axis and look at how to describe point C, "the Better Mousetrap" viewpoint.    Then in the part 3, we will put these together to reach our point B,  " All Pain, No Gain" and our point D, "Brave New World" viewpoint.

Ready, AIM™, Viewpoint!
It might seem trivial and simple to express what is "re-imagined" and "unexpected" about our product or service.  In fact, that's why we love our product.  Some of the best products in the world are built by people who had a problem because of the the "Today's Reality and could not solve it with the "usual" solutions available.  So they built a "Better mousetrap" and then said, "Hey, if I could use this, I bet a lot of people could".  THE PROBLEM is, they tend to sound like this...

When I worked at Acme, we were faced with a situation where our protocol for X was incompatible with our current business solutions.  What we really needed was a feature that we call FOO that integrates the existing infrastructure with the emerging need for cross channel communication and is compatible with ...That why we built this new dweelybopper, obvious, right?
When they need to sound more like:

When I worked at Acme, we were faced with growing margin pressure, increased regulatory scrutiny and a process for Y that was not responsive and was too costly.  Not only that, it was totally isolated from our current process, leaving us with un-substainable cost and compliance trade-off.   What we really needed was a new approach that was people, not technology driven,  and started with a whole new mindset that we could increase compliance AND reduce cost.  Once we understood that, we knew if we only had an innovation like FOO that allowed us to ...  That's why we built this new dweelybopper ..
Notice the subtle difference, we are not just telling the what:
  • The Foo enabled Dweelybopper" 
But we have been much more explicit about the why from our STEEP analysis
  •  leaving us with un-substainable cost and compliance trade-off
And most importantly we are focused on the not just on one, but on the three hows:
    •  The Approach - people, not technology driven
    •  The Innovation - the foo
    • The Mindsetthat we could increase compliance AND reduce cost
By crisply articulated the Approach, the Innovation and the Mindset, we not only create a context for our innovation, but we make it DRAMATICALLY more deep, compelling and interesting, exactly what we AIM to do!

We can think of this in a simple triangle framework:

KJR's AIM Framework Describes Solutions By Approach, Innovation and Mindset

By casting our innovation in multiple dimensions, we bring it to life, add memorability and create breakthrough.  Our innovation is no different, but by spending the time talking about our approach and mindset,  more and more people who will care and remember.  So, when we want to talk about our "Better Mousetrap", it's not enough to describe it technically, we MUST talk about the why and the other two hows of approach and mindset.

In the next blog, we will combine the STEEP and AIM axis of the Viewpoint framework, and find the powerful Viewpoints at points C and D of our framework, "All Pain, No Gain" and "The Brave New World".

Friday, February 22, 2013

AIM STEEP to Build Breakthrough Viewpoint - Part 1

In my previous blog,  Standing out - 4 Types of Viewpoint That Can Get You Noticed I discussed how to find 4 spots on my Viewpoint Framework that can powerfully set you apart in the market and get you noticed.     The framework looks like this:

where we labeled point A "Trendspotting", point B "All Pain No Gain", point C "A Better Mousetrap" and point D "A Brave New World".  We then gave examples of each of these.  However to build a powerful Viewpoint, you need to be able to EFFECTIVELY describe the 4 axis labels on the chart.  On the Y-axis, we have "Yesterday's Reality"  and "Today's Reality"; and on the X-axis the usual and "Usual and Expect" vs. the "Re-imagined and Unexpected" solution.

In part 1 of this 3 part blog series, we will look using STEEP to build the Y-axis labels and the "Trendspotting" viewpoint.  In part 2 we will use KJRs AIM framework to build the the X-axis and "Better Mousetrap" viewpoint.  In part 3 we will put them together to create the "All Pain, No Gain" viewpoint and the "Brave New World" viewpoint. 

Getting STEEP

Most business people are well aware of the SWOT analysis framework to assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a company, product or strategy.  However far fewer have heard of STEEP (or its first cousins PEST, STEEPL, STEER, and PESTEL).   STEEP and its derivatives and excellent tools to scan an environment to understand it.  Perfect for our "Customer's World" axis to define "Today's Reality".

STEEP stands for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental and Political.  To keep it simple, we will include Legal and Regulatory in the Political sphere.  (Now you see where the cousins come from!)

Most solution providers will focus on ONE of the STEEP factors when they think about their customer's world.  Bankers think about Economics, Environmental consultants think about Environment, Technology providers about well, duh, technology.   This myopic view of the customer's reality is self serving and self defeating.  STEEP is an excellent tool to open our eyes and find trends that we might otherwise miss.

STEEP is simple.
  • We simply gather our customer experts, and even some friendly customers, and brainstorm a list of the top 3-4 issues or opportunities or  facing the customer in each of the  STEEP area. 
  • We then rank order them by importance to the customer.  We define importance as the degree to which the item matters to either risk or opportunity to the overall business.   
  • Once we have identified the top 10 of these items, we then rank order these factors into the top 5 that our solution can have positive impact on.   Such as E: Segment specialization P: Increased privacy regulation and T: Mobile device proliferation among customers
  • We then define the "Old Reality" as the opposite set of points so we can make statements like, E: "It used to be that Our (customer's) industry players were 1 stop providers of broad solutions, however, there is a big move from consolidation to segment specialization" and P: "We are under ever increasing regulatory scrutiny on privacy of customer information, where we need to change from our standard of care and process oversight " and T: "Our customers are demanding self service support and renewals on mobile devices"
  •  We then "add" these Statements together to form a Trendspotting label.  For example, Zuora added a compelling set of trends together (Economics: Advantage to buyers and seller of pay as you use models, Technology: SaaS and Cloud  Environmental: Ridesharing, etc...) and labelled them "The Subscription Economy"  They describe it at  like this: 
Commerce has evolved. In the last 10 years, there's been a dramatic shift in the way both consumers and companies want to do business. Today, people would rather subscribe to services than to buy products. It's happening everywhere. And it will have a dramatic effect on your business
Stepping back and viewing the customer's reality through the lens of STEEP is an exercise that can pay off in many ways, including creating a powerful Trendspotting viewpoint.

In part 2 of this series we will take "AIM" (Approach, Innovation and Mindset)  at the x-axis of the framework to help create a more compelling articulation of our "Better Mousetrap" and then in part 3, we will look at the two powerful intersection between our STEEP and AIM analyses,  "All Pain No Gain" and "A Brave New World".

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Standing out - 4 Types of Viewpoint That Can Get You Noticed

As I've blogged about extensively, today's information rich and overloaded environment combined with independent buyers, makes getting noticed harder than ever.   Customers live in their world, not the vendors.  When organizations struggle with filling the top of the funnel with engaged prospects, it is almost always a lack of getting themselves noticed. 

My Viewpoint framework, shown below and developed over the last 4 years in helping clients reach new speed and success in building top line growth and filling the top of the funnel, is based on the simple yet powerful observation that buyers notice when you align your context or Viewpoint with theirs.  This can be seen on the KJR 2x2 Viewpoint matrix here:

KJR's Viewpoint Framework Aligns Your Solution With The Customer's Reality

To create a compelling context for our marketing message to breakthrough, we must articultate a Viewpoint, a top of funnel message, that aligns with the customers world, by placing our bet on on of the four locations on the matrix, labeled below as A, B, C and D.  Let's take a look at each of these Viewpoint types, label them, and look at the characteristics of and an example of each.

There are Four Types of Viewpoints that Can be Effective
Viewpoint Type A: Trendspotting.  This articulation of a Viewpoint is powerful in that it names and frames a environmental shift that is either keeping the customer up at night or creating great opportunities for them.   Zuora coined "The Subscription Economy" effectively owning the name of the megatrend that was engulfing the business world, and have built a highly effective go to market strategy around this articulation.

Viewpoint Type B: All Pain No Gain:  This articulation focuses on the pain of trying to solve today's big problems with yesterday's solutions.  This works great when the pain is large enough to induce action, and is well recognized and acknowledged, yet unaddressed.  FireEye talks about the Advanced Malware Threats and the resultant risk to create a compelling context for a discussion of their solution.  They have experience explosive growth and are poised for an IPO according to their CEO.

Viewpoint Type C: A Better Mousetrap:  If customers know they have a problem, and  they are spending money to fix it, but either have not eliminated the problem, or can not sustain the costs of mitigating it, this Viewpoint works great. It leads with, "Hey, what you have sucks and I've got a better solution here."  This Viewpoint is especially powerful in mature replacement markets.  For example, Palo Alto Networks took their "Next Generation Firewall" viewpoint to the bank to the tune of a $3+B IPO right around the backs of Checkpoint, Fortinet and others.  And while arguably those others have caught up with feature sets,  Palo Alto is still viewed as the gold standard of the next generation of firewalls.

Viewpoint Type D: A Brave New World:  This type of Viewpoint describes the promised new state that the customer can arrive at if they implement your solution.  It is powerful because it talks about the intersection of the customer's world and the providers unique solution.  KJR client DMTI Spatial has established a new Viewpoint called "Location Economics".  DMTI is challenging their customers to find new opportunities to build business and reduce risk by recognizing the power of tapping into today's Mobile Society with DMTI's powerful transaction enablement services, re-awakening a staid and conservative data oriented market.

All four of these types of Viewpoints can make your stand out and get noticed, creating excellent context for your Go to market and content marketing activities.  My next blog will dive into how to pick the right one....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In Honor of Combat Post Keating - Three Lessons To Learn from The Afghanistan Front

In his haunting and inspiring book, "The Outpost - An Untold Story of American Valor", Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) tells the story of the brave soldiers who gave their lives and honor to defend Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in the remotest part of Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.  COP Keating was originally envisioned as a Provincial Reconstruction Team base.  To quote wikipedia, PRTs in Afghanistan are:
" the primary civil-military relations tool in Afghanistan and Iraq and are described as “'a means to extend the reach and enhance the legitimacy of the central government'” "

Nestled in a remote valley in the Nuristan province, Keating was positioned on the marginally passable road to Kamdesh, providing a base of outreach to the surrounding villages.   The location however was quite vulnerable from a military perspective, surrounded on 3 sides by mountains, prompting just about every soldier who arrived to say, in I'm sure even more colorful language,  "are you *&*&ing kidding me". 

Through 600+ stirring pages, Tapper tells a story of individual bravery and institutional failure.   Under-resourced, understaffed and isolated, the mission of the PRT is abandoned and COP Keating becomes a mostly military operation.  Poorly located, it is an easy target for both ambushes on the supply lines and eventually direct attack.   However, for 3+ years, soldiers and commaders continued to try to build the relationships with local elders to root out insurgents and build critical infrasturcute like water pipelines.   In the end, hundreds of years of tribal conflict, a complicit Pakistani intelligence service, the Taliban and the geography fated the mission; and too many soldiers gave their lives in defense of the outpost, until it was eventually attacked, successfully and bloodily defended and finally intentionally abandoned and then flattened by US bombers in late 2009.

It most certainly trivializes the immense sacrifice of the COP Keating soldiers to find lessons that we might apply to marketing, and before I do so, I want to take a moment to honor and remember their valor, bravery and memory.  At the end of this blog, I've listed organizations that you can donate to if you so like. Tapper's book has moved me deeply, and I have an new found respect for our soldiers, and a renewed disgust with the brutal reality of war.  

So with that pause to reflect, I do find some interesting lessons to learn here.

1) When the mission changes, past decisions may no longer make sense -

 When it became clear that the PRT was not going to work, the location became a combat outpost.  In that role, it could not have been in a worse position.   Yet past decisions and senior leadership commitment kept Keating going in its location, despite the change in mission.

If you've changed your mission, or pivoted, are you clinging to business decisions that no longer make sense.  Whether key partnerships are no longer strategic, or pricing and packaging are wrong, or team members need to change, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to NOT adjust your tactics to your mission.

2) Surrounded, the position left no real room for maneuvering and defense.  -

If you find Google on one flank, Facebook on the other, and  Oracle on the third, you may NEED to seriously consider repositioning your offering.  You need to find higher ground, move to a local peak that you can own and defend.

3) Despite the urging of those on the ground, the generals were paralyzed by not wanting to change what was clearly a failing strategy.

Are you listening to your team and open to change, or are you stuck and committed to a course of action.  Your sales team and other customer facing parts of the organization are at the coal face.  Listen to the feedback from the front-line.  Do so formally and informally, and do so often.  Change is a must in fast moving markets.  

So, be clear on your mission, find higher ground to own and defend, and listen to the team and adjust quickly.  Seems pretty easy to say, but ain't so easy to do.

(In honor of and in memory of the Soldiers of COP Keating, if you are so moved, here's a few places you can make donations:  Army Emergency Relief, Defenders of Freedom, Fisher House Foundation Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Wounded Warrior Project.