Monday, December 24, 2012

How do you know what to work on? Engineering your Priorities

Do you find yourself often overwhelmed with the many, many things you have to do?  How do you choose what to put energy into?  How can you compare what is the more important thing, when the activities seem so diverse?  How do you justify not doing one thing and doing another instead?  This is where an engineering brain can help a marketer.  Engineers have this figured out: I bring you Engineering Prioritization.

Here is how an Engineer (myself) prioritizes, and how I apply it to Marketing work now:

  1. Calculate the estimated amount of time it will take to finish any given task or project.
  2. Calculate the expected financial contribution (savings or revenue) for completing the task/project.
  3. Use a "rough" discounted cash-flow model to estimate the impact in today's dollars.
    1. Here is a rough way to do Present Value calculation, for an engineer.
    2. Present Value = Future Value - $2,500 * Num_Weeks
    3. If task/project is less than 1-Week, PV=FV
  4. What task will make the biggest impact for the least amount of effort? (highest Present Value)
  5. DO THAT!  If you need a break, do something that takes just a few minutes.
  6. Break long projects into 45min-2hr tasks;;; do those!
It sounds simple, but do you actually try to calculate the PV of your tasks?
Yes. I do.  

AND, You'd be shocked at how many tasks I'm assigned generate PV=0.

AND, You'd be shocked at how few of those tasks I ever do!

The 1 thing in marketing that can sometimes screw this up is research/data gathering/analysis....
to calculate a PV of these kinds of tasks, you must consider WHAT key variable are you looking for, such that if found, you could make an influence and thereby increase profits or save costs (thereby yielding a positive PV)... then I just cut that by 50%.. it's seems like it's usually a  50/50 effort to find data you need to make a good decision anyway.

So; get out there. calculate the potential PV of your work;and SKIP things that don't add value.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All of Marketing by way of "Target" and "Position"

All of marketing may be explained by clearly defining and using two words: Target and Position.  Learn to use these two words correctly, and your business will prosper.  Fail in either or both, lose focus in either, and your business will die.

Target: The single very narrow, focused customer type you really, really want to love your product/service.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean +/- 5 years of age, a clear gender, and ideally also some "qualifying" attribute. (example: M/25-35/Hardcore Gamers.)

Position: The unique place in the mind of your target you want your product/service to occupy.
TO BE CLEAR: I mean a clear position that you can own in the mind: "The Best", "The Fastest", "The Cheapest", "The Healthiest", "The Most X", etc.  (example: "The Most Hardcore Social Game Ever")

So, how is this "all of marketing"?
Some example questions that come up in running a business should suffice to explain:

Question 1: Where should you sell your product?
Answer 1: Wherever the Target shops.

Question 2: What kind of copy should you write?
Answer 2: Whatever would please the Target while helping your product occupy a Position in their mind.

Question 3: How should you advertise?
Answer 3: Advertise wherever the Target is likely to see it; and ideally to solidify the Position in their mind, and eventually to drive buying behavior.

Question 4: Should I have a website?
Answer 4: If your Target uses the web... usually yes.

Question 5: What features should I have in my product?
Answer 5: Those features that help you occupy the Position in the mind of your Target.

Question 6: Should I partner with company X?
Answer 6: Only if company X is appealing to the Target, and can help you solidify your Position.

Question 7: What price should I charge?
Answer 7: A price that the Target is willing and able to pay, given your unique Position.

Question 8: Should I use Social Networks?
Answer 8: If your target uses Social Networks... usually yes.

Question 9: What if I have a new product?
Answer 9: Define it's Target and Position... and STICK WITH IT.

Question 10: What if my product isn't doing well?
Answer 10: Perhaps you need to improve the product for a better Position, or adjust the price to match your "actual" Position in the Target's mind.

Question 11: Should I add feature X?
Answer 11: If the Target wants it.

I could go on and on... and you may say:

With such a narrow target, aren't you losing out on sales?
Answer: NO!

You will get sales outside your narrow target, precisely BECAUSE you appeal so strongly to your target.  (e.g. imagine all the people who "aspire" to be in your target.. or who themselves uniquely identify with your message/target).  You don't turn these sales away, nor do you let it change your focus... it is your appeal to your TARGET that lets you win other customers outside the target.

I hope this makes sense and helps!  I am a bit passionate about this.  Email me or comment with questions/feedback/ideas.  I'm always open!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Proof that Marketing needs an engineering REMAKE! Only 25% of Marketers add measurable value.

This survey, while not perfect, highlights the need for a Marketing Revival.  We need to apply engineering and science to marketing, or this number (only 25% of Marketers add measurable value to organizations), will get worse and worse.  What exactly do I mean?

I mean this: imagine an engineer who "adds not measurable value to an organization".... while technically possible, it certainly ought to be quite rare!  Why?  Because an engineer KNOWS that what he works on does X for the company: creates a new product.  improves the quality of a product. etc...   And they know X numbers of product, or Y% of quality improvement.

Now, what about a marketer?  If you write a report, does it add value?  If you "make an ad" does it add value?  If you build a website, does it add value?  If you write Facebook posts, do they add value?  If you write a blog post, does it add value?  If you organize an event, does it add value?  If you manage a print ad, did it create value?  Did the brand you invented add value?  WOW.  If you say no to any of those... you are in trouble.  But the hard part is "how much value did you add?".

Here is the beginnings of how to measure Marketing Value:
  1. First, establish the fact that eyeballs have a value.  (call it $0.001 or something).
  2. Establish the fact that an Email or Like/Follow has a value (call it $0.10 or something).
  3. Establish the fact that an "engagement (comment, review, etc)" has a value (call it $0.25 or something).
  4. Establish the fact that a "sale" has a value.
  5. Establish the fact that market data (if used) and brand creation (if used) adds product value.. how much?  Call it 10%.
  6. Establish the fact that we CAN measure the above (except for #5).
  7. Now, focus on 1-4.. measure, and see if the values need adjustment.
    1. IF YOU DON'T DO WORK in 1-4... you are not adding measurable value.
    2. Go do 1-4.
  8. Meanwhile, consider #5... how can you measure that?  (I'm still thinking about it; but the answer lies somewhere in the "Price" of your products relative to competition).

Now, Marketers.  GET OUT THERE AND MEASURE!  Don't be a "no value added" employee.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Say "Yes Master" At Work: The Toyota Way, a Style of Learning on the Job

Perhaps we should be saying "Yes Master" at work more often!   It might make us better learners, better leaders, and a better functioning team.

"Yes Master" is derived from the idea of Sensei in the workplace model of The Toyota Way leadership model.  The Toyota Way is the title of a book and a management method based on a well known production system called Toyota Production System.  This book is a little dry in the writing, but contains some interesting insights into management practices at Toyota (and presumably in other Japanese companies).

The core idea of the Sensei in The Toyota Way is to match up a very experienced mentor to each and every employee (even the plant President).  This Sensei uses three phases of leadership to train you "on the job" at the Genba (work site).  The three phases might make one say "yes master" now and again.  The first phase is Cho: the practice principle.  Practice precisely the masters movements until you are proficient.  The next phase is Han: to work on your own only with occasional  oversight, but without variation from the Sensei's method.  Finally, the Ri phase: to become so proficient as to be automatic, allows the student to begin to practice Kaizen , or continuous improvement towards perfection.  This cycle might be repeated many times in many different places for the Toyota leader.  And it is very humbling.  In some cases the Sensei would have the student stand in a white circle only to observe for a full day and write many, many Kaizen observations.

Can I really mean to implement "Yes Master" in the workplace?  Yes.  Imagine the level of respect being shown, and the amount of pride both master and student can share in success.  Yes. Imagine the simplicity of organizational structures.  Yes. Imagine the clarity of roles.  Yes. Imagine the humbling experience this would be for so many "Type-A" leaders.  Remember, even the President and CEO needs a Sensei.

To think one needs not a Sensei is hubris of the highest level.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Engineers hate "Pre-launch" activity.

Never tell an engineer that you are doing "pre-launch" marketing.  You will get anger, pleading, and hatred in ways you cannot imagine.  Why is this?  Why do engineers hate "pre-release" marketing activities?  And why do marketers love it?

Engineers hate it for an obvious reason: "what if that feature doesn't work or live up to the hype?"  Fear of under-delivering is a healthy fear for your engineers, but it is also irrational.  If the product under-delivers, you've got bigger problems, usually, than the fact that you made bigger promises early.  My advice: deliver! Also commonly, engineers can't understand the need for pre-launch buzz and hype. 

Marketers want pre-launch buzz and hype.  Why?  Three simple (and one sad) reason.
1. Sad reason: because many don't know how to add much value in "pre-launch" phase.  It's sad because there is much that can be done: competitive analysis, pricing studies, etc.  Those are not the sexy parts of marketing however, so they get "not done", and pre-launch becomes the exciting focus.
2. Simple Reason: Economics.  Increase demand!  If you can get an early start on "creating unfulfilled demand" than when the product does launch, there will be a rush to buy and be proud you got one!
3. Simple Reason: Measure Demand.  If you do the buzz marketing, and get no buzz... you may have an issue (or need to tweak your marketing/positioning).
4. Simple Reason: Press.  Getting press involved early means getting 2 stories instead of just 1.  Without a pre-launch story, all you get (often) is the "launch" story.

Now get out there and "pre-launch" something!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Branding 101: What sets your Brand Apart?

Brand is one of those things many people (including engineers AND marketers) misunderstand.  Some think it is a color, a logo, a label, a trademark, a phrase or some combination.  It is not.  Brand is exactly this: what those who have heard of your product/company 'think' your product/company is about.  That's it.

Where in the mind of your target audience does your company/product sit?
Which 'mental filing cabinet' do they put you in?
Can you influence it?

These questions have led to the development of most modern branding theory.  The answers may surprise you.

Learning where in the mind of your target audience your product lives is easy: just ask.  Ask your customers.  Ask them how you compare to competitors.  Ask them what they think. can help.

The answers should let you see what kinds of filing cabinets exist (usually arranged in the minds of users by "Price", "Value", and "Quality").  But can you get into a "New/Empty" filing cabinet?  Can you be the "most/best" of something, so your file comes up first in the mind?


You can influence where in the mind your product lives.  To do this you must first really understand your product & your competitors products.  WHAT SETS YOUR BRAND APART?  What are you really special at?  Nothing?  Going to be hard to file you in a cabinet.  (no room for 'not best at much' category).

Figure it out or make it so.  Be the "most or best" at something.  Unequivocally.

Now how to brand it that way?   Exude your most-ness.  Your messaging should refer it.  Your graphics should bleed it.  You should get your customers give testimonials claiming it.  You should get reviews saying it.  You must emphasize at all times, you are the 'most/best/only' X.

Build that brand on top of your key distinguishing attribute.  Then stick to it.

Got a new version of the same product that is even more "mostness" of the same key benefit?  Fine.  Keep the same brand name.

Got a new product with different feature mix?  Fine.  Build a new brand! DO NOT extend your old brand.  Don't even keep the company name unless you have to (see P&G, Kraft, etc.).  The new brand should exude it's new uniqeness and key attribute.  (not attributes mind you).

Debate welcome below in comments.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Engineers Need to learn Diplomacy

Diplomacy is not just a great game from the 1950s, its also a vital skill, that so many engineers (myself included) lack proficiency in.    Sure we know what it means, we may even have the "theory", but we suck at it.  We engineers are too "black and white".  Diplomacy is not about black and white/right or wrong.  It's about understanding and mutual benefit.  My recent read of How to Win Friends and Influence People has led me to start thinking hard about how I communicate with people.  Read on for some situations that may apply to you!

Here are some situations where Engineers have the wrong idea & how to correct them:

  1. "You are wrong, and I am right."
    • Wrong!  (hehe, see I'm an engineer).  You can't put the real world into right and wrong.  There are shades of gray.  
    • A better approach: "I'm sure there is much to your statement that is correct.  However, I have a slightly different understanding.  Lets discuss till we can at least see each others viewpoint."
  2. "This is a negotiation, I will try to get what I want."
    • Wrong!  A negotiation should be a mutual discussion to find where both parties can find benefit (1+1 = 3).
    • A better approach: "I would like to tell you what areas we really need, and where we can be flexible   If you can do the same, perhaps we can find some win-win agreement, or just move on otherwise"
  3. "This is a sale, I will try to sell the other person, by convincing them this is the best for them."
    • Wrong! A Sale situation should be about "qualifying" the person, and truly helping them determine if the sale is right for them.  (they have to decide, you can only ask questions and point out benefits that are relevant to their situation).
    • A better approach: "We are a X company, and we help people with Y.  Do you have any problems with Y or would you like your Y to be better?  Maybe I can be helpful, but if not, no worries."
  4. "This is a rule, do not break it."
    • Wrong!  Rules are for science & children.  Being flexible to the situation and listening to peoples concerns is the diplomatic way.
    • A better approach: "I'd like to understand what happened better to see if this rule is still applicable, or if there is some situation where it is broken."
  5.   "Why should I bother helping this person, when they are clearly incompetent?"
    • Wrong!  This one is hardest for me.  But diplomatic way would be to learn more about the incompetence to be able to prevent the problem in the future or create a learning system that fixes the incompetency.
    • A better approach: "I'd like to discuss the problem further and understand how you get here so I can prevent it from happening in the future."

Can anyone recommend a good book on Diplomacy?

I think I can use a good refresher as well!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Got Marketing Questions? I'll answer them here!

I know a lot of my blog readers already are marketers... but I would welcome questions from you or anyone.  Feel free to be specific with your situation/example.  If I've ever encountered a problem like yours (likely) I will answer it with an example from my past.  Are you an engineer-type?  My answers will be logical (hopefully), and use an engineering problem-solving methodology.   So, ask away.  Comment below, or message me... I'd love to learn more about your specific marketing challenges.  And remember, Marketing INCLUDES product design and development... so those questions are welcome too!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Father Forgets

I just started reading "How to win Friends and Influence People", a book with an unfortunate title.. as it is not at all about "hucksterism" or "cheap ways to make friends" (unlike another book I am reading, "Never Eat Alone".. more on that later).
Instead it is about character and psychology...  and it contains the readers digest version of Father Forgives by W. Livingston Larned.

PLEASE READ THIS if you haven't.  It's very good.

(Or click here to listen to it on youtube:

(text borrowed from here:

Father Forgets

by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.
There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a twoel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, "Goodbye, Daddy!" and I frowned, and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came Up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before you boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive - and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, form a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. "What is it you want?" I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to your for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too muchof youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in yourcharacter. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself overthe wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you alugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: "He is nothing buy a boy - a little boy!"

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Manufacturer Coupons

If you are a marketer, and you sell products at retail, you might have wondered: "how do I make a manufacturer coupon that works for any retailer?"  The answer is quite complex, but I've figured it out.. and here are my instructions/thoughts:

1. Get a GS-1 barcode.  You'll have to have an approved GS-1 Prefix (ID) number.

2. Your products should have a GS-1 barcode on them.  Start grouping your products with the 3-digit group id.  (Products around the same brand or price can be grouped for example).

3. Your coupons will use that same GS-1 Prefix.

4. Find a Coupon Design shop... (here is my favorite:  Small company, but great service!).  Got a big budget or making a LOT of coupons?  Go to:  (expensive but good in volume).

5. Build a coupon!  (use their wizard, as understanding the GS1 codes is not easy!).

6. Get (or borrow) some legal text for the front of your coupon... (example: look at any other MFG coupon, and 'borrow' the legal verbs from it).

7. Test the coupon!  (be sure to put your street address where the coupon can be redeemed).

8. IF you don't want to handle processing coupons yourself, get a "clearing house" to do it for you... this is the best one for small companies: 

9. Good to go!

It really is that easy to do MFG coupons.  You might get some flack from your retailers, so giving them a heads-up is a good idea.  But in general, coupons can be a great thing to reward or motivate your loyal customers or get some new people to try your products.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Is Zynga Marketing Dumb?

The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is yes... but it's complicated!  A good friend of mine recently blogged that he thinks Zynga Marketing is failing because they don't adjust pricing in a failing game.  I disagree with this statement, although he is on to something (but the problem is bigger).  Pricing is extremely complicated in social games and is based on strategy: so changing pricing at the whims of players is bad.  That said, there is a problem at Zynga with their marketing, and I'll tell you what it is.

I've been in Social Network marketing since 2008, running my own business Karmaback, and recently joined venture form Creeris Ventures where I have been (and still am) consulting by running Marketing at Night Owl Games (Dungeon Overlord is the free game I run).  Anyways, in my experience in social games, the key to marketing is: 1.) know your target customer. and then 2.) MEASURE everything.

So what is Zynga doing wrong?  I'm not sure, I don't have their data... but I think I know what is going on.  They are doing a classic mistake with branding: "Line Extensions".  So many executives think that "we can leverage the brand we built by doing a new kind of thing with the brand."  This is flawed thinking.  Re-using the brand to target the same customers with almost the same thing is usually fine and good.. but using the brand for a NEW product/game/service/model/target customer is bound to fail.  Colgate frozen dinners anyone?

With Zynga, their problem is not making a Pay-to-Play game and sticking to it... their problem is trying to extend the Zynga brand into pay-to-play.  The need to create a new company/brand that caters to "hardcore" gamers or gamers that are willing to pay more to play more type... Then the new brand can focus on games like that.

So, Zynga, get a clue.  Stick Zynga in your brand closet and keep it for "Ville" type games.  You need to build a NEW brand if you want to make different kinds of games for new markets and players.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Better Work Through MORE Willpower.

In business and in life, we all struggle with Willpower.  Willpower, as described in The Willpower Instinct by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.d, an amazingly awesome book, is both the iWant power (wanting to do/get/be something) and iWont power (wanting to stop doing/getting/being something).  In business, this is usually doing the "hard work" that will actually make a difference.  In Marketing, for example, it means 'actually talking to customers (some say yick!)'... or stopping  the 'usual marketing we always do'... or 'killing that poor product/brand'.  THIS BOOK is the definitive resource for improving your Willpower (both iWant and iWont).   If you want to lose weight, be more productive, be a better person, or whatever you "want"... READ THIS BOOK NOW!  I, for example, WANT to write a non-fiction book about marketing.  Ironically, this book is so rich and filled with examples and real studies, I think I may 'use' this book for iWant power, AND 'use' this book as a guideline for how to write non-fiction.  I should mention I do not know the author personally... but I would love to do one of Dr. McGonigal's seminars.

So, what did I get out of this book?  Here's a few takeaways...  I've ordered a physical copy too, so I can better quote the book and use it as a writing reference (since I only read this on Audible so far).

  1. Meditation Increases Willpower.  
    • (the simple kind, where for 5-10min a day, you just relax and 'not think', but listen to your breathing)...
    • (also, get enough sleep/and eat healthy.. it increases willpower (really))
  2. Forgiveness Increases Willpower.  
    • (learn to forgive yourself!  based on Scientific research, forgiving your splurge will be MORE impact-full than punishing/blaming yourself!).
  3. Find a way to Motivate Yourself.
    • The Chance of a Random Reward drives Willpower.
    • (give yourself random rewards for successes, think of the goal/future self).
    • (lotto tickets as a reward).
  4. Social Pressure Fuels Willpower (and Weakness).  
    • (stay away from social settings that might make you lose in your willpower goal.  Find mentors or sponsors who support your goal.  Make your goal public.)
  5. Think of your "Future" Self. 
    • (just thinking about your future self leads to greater power for iWant or iWont).
  6. Don't try to Suppress Thoughts/Cravings. 
    • (when you try 'not' to think of something, you end up thinking more of it... when you try to reject bad thoughts, you have them more and worse... in both case you ACT on them more.  Instead, "accept" the thoughts, and then accept that you can control your actions.)
  7. Change iWont into iWant.  
    • (iWant power is easier than iWont.  Dieting does NOT work.  Wanting to eat 'more' of healthy foods does!).
Here's a great video by Dr. McGonigal about Willpower:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colors and Styles

One of the big challenges of marketing is dealing with different people's opinions about color and style.  "I like it blue."  "No, I want it rounder."  "That Font is too hard to read."   All of this is, of course, opinion.  So, how do you choose?  How do you deal with this conflict the best possible way?

In my experience, the best outcomes happen when the marketer takes feedback from everyone, listens closely for "real problems".  Then, chooses 1 person to give complete control of the color/style/design.  That person should come from a design background/school.  If there is noone on your team that has that background (such as Art School), then trust the instincts of your art contractors (or hire one!).

You cannot accept the opinions of untrained people over that of seasoned professionals whose job it is to make stuff look good!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Positioning your Company or Product in the Minds of the World.

What is Positioning?  The outstanding book by Al Ries and Jack Trout should be your FIRST stop on the topic.  Those excellent narrators bring to life a concept that can seem boring; but is truly vital to the success of a product.  If you do not have a "Position" for your product... you are almost certainly doomed to fail.

Consider, when you go shopping, say for a new car, how do you choose what to buy?  If you are interested quality? Toyota.  Great Driving? BMW. Amazing Safety?  Volvo.  

In order to properly market your product, you must find a position for your brand... this means finding a place "in the mind of your target customers" for your product to live.  Imagine your target customer has a limited capacity for remembering things (certainly true)..and you get 1 shot to 'place your product in the filing cabinet of your prospects mind'... what do you want them to remember?  The idea of positioning is that IF you can get it into their mind WITH a position; it will be easier to file away.  (rather than into the 'misc' category, your prospects file it in the "Safest" category or the "Best Value/Cheap" category or the "Highest Quality/Expensive" category or the "Funnest" category or whatever.

With my good friend Barry Raskin, I have adopted a formal sentence structure that helps guide the development of a "positioning statement"... can you fill out this sentence?  Can everyone on the product team?

" _(  YOUR COMPANY/PRODUCT/BRAND  )_  is a _______  that does ____________ for ________.

UNLIKE OTHER _____________ we do _________________________.

Having trouble?  You are not alone.  About 90% of the start-ups I encounter have never thought of their products in this simple and critical way.

This will FORCE you to put a position on your product.  This sentence is not something you share with the world (necessarily).  It is an internal guide to keep marketing focused and what you want to 'imprint' on people who encounter your product/brand.

There is a whole bunch more psychology and tips that the book (below) goes into.  I'll leave you with 1 final tip from my own experience.  When you sit down and do this exercise, you'll realize quickly that the "for ____" is a vital part.  If you are not TARGETING a well define market... your POSITIONING will fail.  Start with the target market first... then find a position in their minds you can occupy.

It is even better when you can occupy a position that nobody else has claimed yet.  The "Most, Best, Fastest" or similar terms are what you are shooting for!

Read more from the experts:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Market a Bad Product

There are Classic Bad Products, such as "New Coke" and "Ben-Gay Aspirin".  There are also horribly bad Tech Products, such as "RealPlayer" and "SoftRAM".  There are few things they have in common:They often "borrow" from another brand (Brand/Line extension), such as Ben-Gay Aspririn.
  1. They often "do not perform as advertised", or are otherwise misleading such as SoftRam
  2. They sometimes are just so annoying to use and so invasive that they are not worth the hassle, such as RealPlayer.
  3. Often, they are all 3!
So, can you market a bad product?

Can you get someone to buy it???

Yes.  All you have to do is figure out "who" the product is really meant for... and a 'fair' price for the product delivered (not dreamed).

Is it ethical?  Yes.  You have to change the price (to what is truly delivered), and you have to choose the market (to those that actually need a solution), and if yo do those two things, and make a sale, it is fair.

Can you make a lot of money?  Probably not.  Depending on how bad the product is, you will have to narrow the market to be quite small and reduce the price to where it may not make money (and may actually cost you money to sell it).

How do you market a bad product?  You tell the truth.  Be what you are.  Know who you are for.  And HIDE NOTHING.

Ironically, some people may find that refreshing and buy your product anyways... certainly if you can "find the niche" that the product has some use for.

Here are some examples from some Classic Bad Products:
  1. New Coke.
    1. this is a 'brand extension'...  and uses the new coke brand.... unfortunately Coke tried to make "ALL MARKET" accept this as a brand replacement. (Bad Idea!)
    2. As a brand extension though, New Coke, could have been marketed beside "Coke" as a different flavor, a flavor targeted at younger folks, or targeted at Pepsi lovers.
    3. Given that kind of target market, it might have found a niche.
  2. Microsoft Zune.
    1. Microsoft COULD have carved out a DIFFERENT target market or audience with Zune.  E.g. perhaps Zune was an MP3 Player for Senior Citizens?
    2. Ironically, marketed like that you might have charged "more" for the Zune.
  3. SoftRAM.
    1. Yes, it mislead folks about that it was... but... it also kinda-worked!
    2. SoftRAM could have priced itself as a $0.99 utility to tweak Windows.
    3. They might have sold Millions!  (and not been the target of FTC investigations).
    4. The could have targeted people with extra HD capacity.... or perhaps Housewives... or 'old PC owners'....
    5. Being HONEST about what they are and are not would have been key
So, my top list of "Bad Products"...  here you go... 
  1. Canned Chicken  -  It's disgusting.  I am not in the target market.
  2. Windows Mouse - It was terrible, and required a driver install.  Utter fail.  Not worth the price.
  3. Thin Black Socks - They are uncomfortable and do not last long.  Hate those socks  (I'm not the target market)
  4. Playstation 3 - Horrible quality.  Breaks so easy.  Not worth the price.
That's just a few.... but every one of those DOES have a market somewhere, and a price.

(you just may have to PAY ME to wear those thin black socks).

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Inspiration & Hero: Stephen R Covey

Stephen R Covey is my hero.  He has been a deep inspiration in my life since 2000, when I took his 7 Habits of Highly Effective training classes at Intel (required for management training).  It should be required for all humans.  His seminal books: The 7 Habits and The 8th Habit are life-changing, non-threatening, filled with stories we can all relate to and deeply profound.. not to mention extremely useful for all people (weather you are a stay-at-home mom, a retired nurse, an Engineer or a CEO, or anything else).  If you have not read his book; please do so ASAP.  I have 2 copies I will lend to anyone who wants to read it.  I also have it on cassette tape and audible.  I can lend the cassette tape as well.

That said, I am extremely sad that he passed away today.  I know his legacy is a great one. I hope his books and lectures do not fade into obscurity: they have founded a generation of leaders (multiple generations even).  See you in heaven hero!

Here are a few things you've inspired in me:

  1. Character.  You defined it.  You literally defined character and principles in the "lighthouse" analogy.
  2. Communication. You refined it. You put words to the best skills for communicating: Seek First to understand, then to be understood.
  3. The phases of life: You lived it.  You showed me how a person moves from dependence to independence and then to inter-dependence (the final step I'm still trying to make).
  4. The truth of Win-Win.  You proved it is possible.  That Win-Win is an option.. the best option, every time.
  5. How to lead by giving power.  You personified it.  I use the technique in business and with my kids.  *I am their worker, they are the manager of a clean living room.*
  6. How to sharpen the saw.  You did it.  Your very passing: dying as a result of a bike accident (at 79) inspires me to keep sharpening the saw.
  7. SO MUCH MORE... I could go on.  All of your habits and stories taught me something.  Perhaps the most poignant was this: TO TEACH is the GREATEST SERVICE and the best way to LEARN.  I hope to make you proud.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Martial Arts can teach you about Business.

I love martial arts.  I've practiced some form since I was 10 years old.  Martial Arts can teach you may things about business... some very interesting concepts from the business of martial arts, and some from the philosophy of martial arts.  Read on for the scoop.

The Business of Martial Arts:

  1. At it's core, the business of Martial Arts is a franchising operation.  The difference is that you must EARN the right to franchise.  That's just good business sense.  Don't let anyone with a buck sell your product, make them earn the right.
  2. Bill monthly, encourage use.  By billing monthly, martial arts keep you "captive" to your pocketbook (a tactic known to 24-hour gyms).
  3. Make me feel special.  As a consumer of martial arts, I love it that you make me feel special, unique, and desired.  It's a club that not just anybody can join: e.g. the best kind... and a kind that breeds long-term customers.
  4. Don't be what you are not.  You don't have weights, snacks, movie nights, or popcorn.   You don't offer massage, swimming lessons, or dance.... you are martial arts.  You are what you are, and you never break your contract with me about what you are. Good for you; this too keeps me loyal, not overly demanding, and keeps your costs down too!
The Philosophy of Martial Arts:
  1. Only for Defense, never for Offense.  This may not be all martial arts philosophy, but it is most of their core principles.  How does this relate to business?  Simple.  DO NOT abuse your customers.  If they are your customers, you don't need to FIGHT them for goodness sakes.  Also, don't go after your competition... it's better to find your NICHE and defend from a position you own, then to go on OFFENSE and try to take their position.
  2. Goals.  This is a core tenant of Tae Kwan Do (my current marital art of choice)... and for business it is essential.  If you have no goals, you are going nowhere.  If you don't set "Practical goals" you can "Actually measure".. you are drinking your own Kool-Aid or setting yourself for failure.  No matter what you do in business, set goals... try to reach them.. analyze if you fail... celebrate if you win. Then set another goal now that you are wiser of your limitations (for more or less).
So you see, Martial Arts can teach you much about business.. and keep you healthytoo!  Get to it!  We can spar any time (the image at top is of me sparring a partner during black belt testing...  I'm the bug guy leaning forward.. perhaps a tad too aggressively).  I need to work on #1 of the martial arts philosophy... I attack too much!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Working in the Blind

Do not work blind.  It is dangerous.  You can hit yourself, stab a friend, or even fall off a cliff.  Doing Marketing without Analytics, is working blind.  Imagine running an ad without measure its effect.  Imagine building a product, without any user input.  Imagine running a TV ad without any information about who watches it, what your goals are, or how to measure those goals.

My approach: Hypothesize, Test, Measure  -->  repeat.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Austin Technology Incubator SEAL team Presentation

Occasionally, I am invited to speak at The University of Texas or at the Austin Technology Incubator (part of U.T.).  I love giving talks, guest lecturing, or speaking, and this weeks topic was for the SEAL program on "Startup Sales & Marketing"... an expertise of mine.  I usually just "wing it", but today I brought slides.  And here they are attached below for your convenience and reference!

If you have ever wanted a 1-stop reference for Sales & Marketing advice at a Startup, I hope you enjoy theses slides.  Feel free to share with reference to the author (Harlan T Beverly) and my blog (

Enjoy the Slides -> Click Here!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Proving a Marketing/Sales Model.

How do you prove anything?  Very,very difficult from an engineering perspective.  Instead, how about "verifying a hypothesis".  In other words... create an H0 hypothesis about your sales & marketing strategy... then; test that hypothesis, and most importantly measure the results closely.

If you can say that your hypothesis works, then do the hard part: try to scale it up!  (wow, that can be tough).

So many companies think: well I'll get X customers, and then I'll be at a critical mass and then my model will be Y.  The problems... how do you get to X customers?  How do you know what will happen when you get there?

Instead, I focus on getting to x customers (note the smaller x), and prove that the model works at x.. (e.g. the business is profitable at x).  Then, I slowly scale up towards X.  If Y happens, great... but my X is still my x and that's good enough for a profitable business.

Go x yourself.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New LOWER Pricing for Karmaback!

Great News for you Social Network Marketing Gurus....

You have a new tool at your disposal... Karmaback!

Karamback is now Free to try for 30-days... and is "all-inclusive!", including fully custom apps!
It's just $49.99/month after that!

Yep, that includes ALL our tools:

  • which lets you schedule social posts to Twitter and Facebook, and "photo upload posts" to Facebook... for ANY time you want, with fast and deep analytics!  Yep, includes your own branded app!
  • which lets you build a FULLY custom Sweepstakes to run in your Facebook or Twitter, Including your own custom app.
  • Fanpage Tab Builder, which lets you build full HTML Fanpage tabs, with just a few clicks!
  • Referral Contest Builder.
  • Track-able Links
  • Viral Coupons (Social Coupons with any twist you prefer: like-gated, claim-gated, share-gated, etc.).
  • ALL INCLUDED, free to try, 30-days, and just $49.99/month after that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Greatest Start-up Book Ever?

I've read dozens, maybe almost a hundred books on start-ups.  I've loved many of them, but none of them really seemed like 'science' to me, more like opinion.  After reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, I now understand what I've been missing!  I really do feel like The Lean Startup is the greatest start-up book ever.. and here is why you MUST READ THIS BOOK NOW!

  1. It teaches entrepreneurs the "Scientific Method" for building a startup.
  2. It teaches entrepreneurs the proper ORDER of building a startup.
  3. It teaches INVESTORS the propper criteria to evaluate a startup.
  4. It explains in detail the right time to 'get funding' and more importantly 'spend funding'.
  5. It explains very clearly why so many startups fail.
  6. It has dozens of examples of the process being used successfully.
  7. It truly teaches you about scale-able business models.
  8. It builds a great foundation for managing people and teams in a startup.
  9. It even applies to big organizations that want to be more startup-y.
DO NOT WAIT, get this book now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

7 reasons to Fail Early & Cheaply

Since everyone knows 19 out of 20 start-ups will fail... why not fail as soon as you can and as cheaply as you can?  In fact, recent evidence suggests that the #1 reason start-ups fail is trying to scale up too quickly/too soon.  Here are 7 reasons to FAIL as quickly as possible, and as cheaply as possible:

  1. Whenever you fail, you almost always learn more than if you succeed... especially if you start out with the goal of learning/deciding if a hypothesis will work.
  2. If you can fail quickly, you will likely have time and energy enough to try again!  (not necessarily a 'new' start-up, but instead another "hypothesis"/product variation to test in the current one).
  3. If you fail cheaply, you may have money enough to try again!
  4. If you fail early, you avoid spending too much time on a bad idea.
  5. If you fail cheaply, you haven't invested too much "sunk costs" into the idea, and can let it die more quickly.
  6. If you can fail quickly, it means you have wisely set criteria for failure (a rare thing indeed!)!
  7. If and when you succeed, you KNOW you have something, because you have defined (wisely) what success is, and your past failures prove that the current situation is "Worth" scaling up!
Final word of warning: Scaling up itself is a difficult challenge, so use the term literally, and slowly increase the rate of growth, rather than step function.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Know how you plan to grow!

Here's the deal.  If you have a business, and you don't have a plan for how to grow.. you are already failing.  You need to at least have a hypothesis by which you believe you can achieve SCALE-ABLE GROWTH.  And there is not reason to not grow.. here are the top strategies.. the key is always test ("Is your strategy working?"):

  1. you will grow by viral behaviour.  Once you get a boost of new players, you will auto-grow because your virality is above 1.0.
  2. you will grow by advertising.  You make enough profit $$ per item/customer (after acquisition costs) that it justifies continued ramped up investments in advertising.
  3. you will grow by retention and word-of-mouth.  Similar to virailty, but more personal.  you will retain your customers so well, they keep buying more and more and even bring friends occasionally.
  4. you will grow by 'free' marketing.  People are searching for what you got, and your SEO will help them find you in a scalable fashion. (p.s. this is very difficult)
  5. you will grow by hiring a sales-force and hunting out the best customers.
What's your strategy?
Got any others to add to this list?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Social Network Posts... Work.

This week Buddy Media sent an email to their subscribers with advice on how to make good Social Network Posts...  Two interesting nuggets here:  1.) Email Marketing works... I opened it, read it, and liked it.  2.) The advice is right on target.  Post short messages, use full URLs, ask for a call to action, and post outside business hours.  In fact, their findings: 20% higher engagement when posting off-hours, is perhaps conservative, (I've seen 75%-100% higher engagement when posting off-hours).

How do you post off-hours? Why not use my tool?  It lets you schedule posts for whenever you want (even when you are out of office). It also gives you awesome options such as photo upload posts, and more...  Try it Free! :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Learn Quickly the Cost of Acquiring a Customer

One of the most common advice I give to aspiring entrepreneurs about their business plans is to Learn as fast as possible the true cost of acquiring a customer.  Why?  It tells you quickly how viable your business is AND helps you to focus your message.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to run a test ad campaign with several simple landing pages.  Can you convince some (hopefully targeted) web traffic to convert into interest? Can you convince them to become a buyer?  How much did it cost to get 10 customers?  (divide that cost by 10 and you have a rough idea how much it will cost to acquire customers in the future).  Too high?  Consider A/B Testing new landing pages, or being more targeted... or maybe even improving the offering (the product).

Get Busy!  Test. This book (which I thought was quite good, especially for engineer-type thinkers) may help:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Make Sticky Products & Sticky Marketing

I'm fascinated by Marketing.  It's super hard.  That's why I love it.

Please, make my job easier... make products that stick!

This book is a good place to start:

Now, this is a marketing book, but it contains ideas that product people should know...   Since you product folks may not read it... here's an interpretation for you:

1. Products need to solve a problem people have, a need, or a desire for something not previously possible.
2. A clear vision is established that inspires the development team to reach for it!
3. It needs to deliver on any promises implied. (no buyers remorse)
4. Ideally it is "worthy" of people talking about it after they bought it.

Then, work with your favorite marketer to make sure:

1. Everyone really understands what the product is.
2. Stories are developed around the product that inspire people to buy it.
3. Credibility is built in to the product.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Redefining Marketing: Marketing is science buried inside Art.

Marketing has never been about Advertising.  This is not really a redefinition of Marketing, as much as it is a reminder of what Marketing has always been.  Advertising is a tiny, often outsourced, part of Marketing.  It is the least of what we do.

True Marketing starts with the People.  It is an understanding of the customer -> how they think, what they like, how they shop, their demographics, their psychographics, and as much data about the customer as can be compiled.

It continues with the Product.  What benefits are desired.  What benefits are conveyed.  What to make.  What features to add and CUT. What it is.  What it does. How we talk about it.  Why it was built.

And moves into Pricing. What value is delivered for various customer types.  Pricing Strategy. How to capture the most value per customer type.

And on to Place.  Where to sell.  Where to put product in easy reach of customers.

And finally Promotion (note: this is not advertising)... to include how to let people know about the product.  Packaging.  PR.  And yes, some small bit of Advertising if necessary.

Beyond this, you enter the realm of what I call Marketing Fantasy...

Marketing Fantasy is where some Marketers go... thinking they actually can control:
1. branding/brand awareness
2. style/design
3. predictions/future trends
and more.

These things are Fantasy, because Marketing might be able to measure these things, finding direct controls of these things is nearly impossible.

Why do I love Marketing?  Because...   Marketing is science buried inside Art.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skeptical About Fake Social Marketing

Fake Social Marketing = the kind of contrived, half-hearted attention you try to garner by having a Fanpage or Twitter follower... but it serves no purpose other then as a huge mega-phone.

You are just saying nothing to people who don't care.

Real Social Marketing = when you have people that *actually* care... and that you have an interactive conversation with those people, and actually listen and react to what is said.

I am skeptical of the value of "Fake Social Marketing".  I think it has 'some' value, actually... at least you are making some effort, even if it is not social.  Fake Social Marketing is more like a "Blog" than an actual social site.  I think most companies take this approach because "Real Social" is harder and more risky.  These kinds of companies might use tools (such as those available by my own company: ) to rapidly grow fans & followers, then spam them with messages but ignore any responses.  That was NEVER the intent of how to use Karmaback..... I am a much stronger believer in "real social".

Real Social Marketing is when companies use Karmaback to REWARD their existing fans/followers with a sweepstakes or discount/coupon... and a side-effect of the Reward is that you get a few more fans/followers... (it's not necessarily the primary goal).  Meanwhile, Karmaback's PostOnTime tool is used to help coordinate when messages get said/planned messages... but someone STILL should be interacting with the comments/responses after the post has been made.  Incidentally, the posts themselves should be useful/helpful/informative/or conversation starting... A great example would be asking your Fans/Followers if you should have a certain feature or not.

So, consider this when you are planning your Social Marketing campaign... Focus on the "real social".  Don't just blindly post... read and respond.  And don't bribe, but reward.

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