Choose Your Headaches Wisely

The typical technical sales cycle is overwhelmed with data. Features beget functions which beget more features which somehow turn into something called “benefits” when marketing gets done playing with them.

It’s impossible for anyone to stay attuned to all of these variables. At best people are capable of recalling three (3) things from a conversation in the short term and one (1) thing in the mid to long term.

Focus on the one thing that matters to your customer or prospect as it will be different for each and every relationships – and it’s our job as marketing to make that scale and excel operationally.

The key tipping point to one thing? Headaches.

Don’t underestimate the importance of removing headaches for your prospects and clients.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most – the attention to detail that no one else is worrying about because it isn’t “important enough” or “big enough” to be of value.

Removing headaches on a daily basis adds up quickly – especially when those headaches are attributable to improvements in efficiency, engagement, productivity and profitability.

Choose headaches wisely.


Why Content Marketing Works

Content marketing works because we are hardwired to embrace stories. Not words strung together to be legible or to make some semblance of sense – actual stories that can be quickly told, deliver an impact and be shared just as quickly.

From the beginning of time, history has been most frequently recorded as a series of stories. This isn’t an accident. People shared the most important information in the most memorable way possible. The attention to detail in these stories was significant because it had life altering / life threatening consequences if the details were lost. This is why history (the stories) sustained over dozens of generations.

Move forward thousands of years and stories still maintain one of the deepest connections to our psyche … if not to keep us aware of life altering opportunities or life threatening consequences.

By creating, curating and embracing stories that are highly relevant to our needs (and serving of the brands / products / services they’re associated with), content marketing taps into the deepest reaches of our beings – to a core level of our subconscious that still remains active in our ability to retain knowledge and develop affinity that improves the quality of our lives … if not prolongs our lives.

While most products, services and brands aren’t life altering these days, by tapping into our genetic predisposition for maintaining history, they’re establishing themselves in identical fashions to the tales that have served as our emotional foundation for generations.

There’s a lot to be said for the effective implementation of stories.

Marketing is a Practice

Marketing is a practice.

Much like yoga or meditation are practices. Force does not make marketing better. In most cases force has the opposite impact on the quality and effectiveness of marketing.

Marketing gets a seriously bad rap because it’s fraught with time consuming exercises that don’t seem to go anywhere or deliver tangible value. The exercises that do end up going somewhere (somewhere people can see) typically end up in a redesign of the website, a change in a logo, the creation of a stock newsletter that rehashes low-value content or a refreshed presentation template – all of which deliver limited value in the grand scheme of things.

This is what makes marketing hard – continuous attempts to solve large problems while omitting the time and attention that needs to be paid to the everyday details. As marketing, your customers don’t live in a land of strategy or theory. They live in a land of practice and execution. Help them execute.

Instead of attacking these larger problems that have questionable ROIs and approach strategy more than practice, go back to the basics. Practice marketing. That’s right – Practice.

Practice being a marketer, not a marketing strategist – not a marketing concept artist. Do the work.

  • Get out of the office and listen to your customers. Address the issues they’re raising – not the way they’re raising them.
  • Get out of the office and listen to your partners.Address the issues they’re raising – not the way they’re raising them.
  • Use your product or service with a new customer. What are the two new things you learned?
  • Use your product or service with a long-term customer. What are the two new things you learned?
  • Talk to your sales team and listen to the stories they tell you. Address the issues they’re raising – not the way they’re raising them.
  • Go on a handful of sales calls with your sales team and see these stories in action.

When you’ve finished each of these exercises, note your learnings. Share these insights with your sales, marketing and product teams – being sure to note why they’re important.

If they’re truly ground shifting developments, share them with your executive or management team – again being sure to note why they’re important and why management should care / act.

Marketing is hard work. Progress is most often disguised as small gains that are very typically missed or overlooked.

Be patient.


Successful Products & Services Do One Thing

What have you learned today?

Me? A successful product or service does one thing.

Asking my son’s a similar question after their first day of school on Wednesday, I felt it might be appropriate to begin asking this of myself – and to note the answers. Perhaps just for posterity … Perhaps because they will make more sense over time … Perhaps, well, just because.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that a successful product or service does one thing. That’s it. Just one thing.

This isn’t a net new learning. Rather, this is knowledge that has been continually reinforced on a daily basis. For a number of reasons – yesterday was a really strong and positive reinforcement of this lesson.

What makes the web and ultimately mobile so unique is that the ability to connect dozens (or hundreds) of “just one thing” products is easily within our grasp. This enables the “best of the best” to serve their role while ancillary noise can be eliminated.

The ability to use APIs, plugins, etc. to connect these focused products is one of the most powerful aspects of the web and mobile today. The simple example of this is login – use your FB or Google login to access other services. This empowers the product team to “skip” the login and authentication step and focus their efforts on the core feature of the product or service … what will make it “must use” again and again.

In theory, this model of API-based application design should create significantly stronger applications as the ability to focus on core capabilities is unimpeded. In practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sitting on my desktop right now are (literally) hundreds of screenshots for a client’s project. Each image illustrates just one of a dizzying number of states the platform will present to and manage for customers. The depth and complexity of the features and functions is astounding. The time, attention to detail, everything that has gone into this platform has focused on addressing every conceivable state the customer may encounter. Very few I’s are left undotted or T’s uncrossed.

The depth of functionality is quite literally exhaustive.

As I’m working through the details on this complex product, I reflected back on the almost dozen products that I’ve helped clients launch this year … and they all have one thing in common – Incredible complexity.

Obviously this isn’t a unique state.

I tend to be introspective in these areas so I had to stop myself and ask a very difficult question, “Am I the cause of this complexity?”

This type of introspection isn’t easy – and it wasn’t easy this time.

Looking back at where each of this year’s projects began (at concept) and ended (at launch), it was clear that the complexity of vision and execution arrived before I did. Thankfully, the end product / service has become significantly more concise at launch than at concept.

This should hold true, I guess. We’ve all heard the axiom, “I’m sorry I have written such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” We’ve also all been faced with the prospect of doing something simple and ending up with pages and pages of stuff. Being precise and focused takes a considerable amount of time – time that most early stage organizations (and products) don’t have the luxury of wasting.

Instead of investing time in more, invest the same amount of time in less – if not in significantly less. The rewards of less will far outweigh the benefits of more – in the eyes of your customers, partners, employees and investors / shareholders.

… and now back to the product pruning shears …

An Introduction to Believe

Last week with the second installment in the learn . know . believe series I hit with a post on know. The basis of know is quite simple, too – yet equally overlooked in positioning exercises. The purpose of know is to help people understand exactly how your product / service / company will benefit someone like them. The complete post is available here as a reference.

In this final post of this series, we’ll focus on believe.

Following in the footsteps of learn and know, the foundation for believe also begins with a single question,

“What will <product / service / company name> do for me?”

Believe connects the benefits of know directly to the customer – at a truly personal level.

At believe, the customer no longer knows a positive benefit may be achieved. At believe, the customer has experienced your positive benefit(s) and believes the your ability to deliver on your promise(s).

At first pass believe sounds a lot like know. This is true, but the gradient between the two is quite sharp. Customers have to believe a product will meet their initial objective, and/or other nearby objectives. If they know it will meet their objectives, a small hurdle has been cleared as they know many other alternatives may also meet their objectives. If they believe it will meet their objectives, they have instilled in themselves a deep seated knowledge that your product / service has the ability serve them in a way no other alternative can match.

While know represents a satisfied customer, believe is the cornerstone of loyalty – the foundation upon which advocates for your product and your brand base their positions. When a customer believes in your product, they are fully committed to its contributions to their business and/or life. When a customer believes in your product, they are no longer seeking alternatives. When a customer believes in your product, they are taking active steps to introduce their network to the benefits of your product / service.

Beliefs are very difficult things to change. If you can achieve this level of commitment from your customers, you are very likely to have a customer for life.