I’ve been insistent that everybody needs to pay attention to politics now, which is being conducted with greater cynicism than technology marketing ever could be. But in this particular post, political and technology marketing (among other kinds) are compared on a more even basis.
- Articulated voters’ fears.
- Stoked those fears relentlessly.
- Claimed that he “alone” could fix things.
- Won the US presidency.
This is actually a time-honored pattern, pursued by (among others):
- Many other demagogues and authoritarian leaders.
- IBM in its industry-dominant heyday.
- Consumer marketing companies over many decades.
- Several of the world’s great religions.
While fear-and-fix is a powerful strategy, it’s not easy to pull off, because it involves establishing both sides of a partial contradiction:
- There is a terrible danger that is very hard to prevent.
- I can in fact prevent it.
Approaches to resolving this paradox typically fall into one or more of three buckets:
- Overstating (or entirely fabricating) the danger.
- Overstating (or entirely fabricating) the fix.
- Understating (or just downplaying) the costs of the solution.
Let’s consider some examples. Read more
Donald Trump’s favorite musical is said to be Evita, the story of the fascist/populist couple Juan and Eva Peron, who guided Argentina from status as a rich country to being pretty much of a third-world wreck.* Isaac Butler wrote about that back in November, but he missed a key point. More precisely, he missed a key song, whose lyrics I shall copy below. (I think this is one of the rare cases in which printing a song’s entire lyrics is clearly fair use.) Emphasis added.
*In real life, Juan Peron was vastly more influential on his country than his second wife Eva, not least because he lived much longer. But the musical portrays them as more equal partners, giving her great credit for his original ascension to power.
Art of the Possible Read more
A group of former congressional staffers has put out a great-looking, short guide on how to influence legislators. Their angles include:
- They’re Democrats, focused on resisting the Trump/Bannon Administration.
- They base their views heavily on the successes of the Tea Party in the Obama years.
- As might be inferred from the name they chose — “Indivisible” — they’re focused on protecting-the-threatened kinds of issues, such as religious discrimination, sexual discrimination, or health care for the poor.
- They’re focused on Congress — House and Senate — rather than state legislatures.
I’ll quote the summary in its entirety: Read more
It’s time for another of my quick primers on the enterprise IT business. This one is about sales. First I’ll run through some generalities; then I’ll link you to some previous posts; after that I’ll close with a collection of practical tips.
This is, to put it mildly, an important subject. In particular, there are only two kinds of enterprise IT CEOs:
- Those who need to understand sales because they don’t have anybody else to do it for them.
- Those who need to understand sales because they do have people to do it, who need to be managed and helped.
Every enterprise IT CEO needs to be heavily involved in sales.
Of course, a few tips do not a salesperson make. Selling is a complex process, with many steps. Worse, it’s tough for somebody to explain to you what the process is, in part because there’s a kind of recursion involved — a big part of what you do in the sales process is establish what the process is.
And that’s in both senses of “establish”, namely “figure out” and “bring into being”.
Other inherent difficulties in selling include:
- Selling involves getting money from people. People don’t like to part with money.
- Buying from you often involves a lot more commitment — and foreclosure of other options — than merely writing you a check.
- Usually, a sale involves getting agreement from multiple people. These people often have different views, biases, and motivations.
Much of this blog gives advice about how to tell a story. But that’s actually an oversimplification. In fact, you’re almost always in the situation where you want to tell multiple stories at once. The main messages of this post are:
- Figure out which stories you are telling (the complete list, if you please).
- Make sure that you’re telling each of them well.
Reasons the multiple-stories situation is so common include:
- Products are, unavoidably, positioned along many attributes each. If you’re trying to get a prospect or influencer to think well of a product, you may need to address multiple important concerns.
- A product release typically introduces multiple new features in a product.
- People only pay attention to you sporadically. Thus:
- When you’re pitching them about something new, you generally also should reinforce the belief that your product in fact has been great all along, because your historical greatness may not be at the top of their minds.
- Similarly, they may need to be reminded — i.e. informed — of your evidence for company momentum.
- Customer momentum stories typically include quotes as to why the customers so liked your product. Product feature stories often include customer momentum validation.
- The layered messaging model inherently calls for several linked stories. What’s more, there are several kinds of support on its bottom tier, and you may not restrict yourself to just one.
The first way to deal with all this is via modularization. In some cases, that’s easy. (E.g. websites can make different points on different pages.) Sometimes it’s harder, but worth doing anyway. E.g., in my recent post on influencer pitches, I said: Read more
- When attempting to impress influencers, press and analysts alike, pitch emails are much more important than actual press releases. By that I mean, among other things:
- The old cliché that your first few seconds of impression-making are much more important than all the rest applies in this case.
- Unless the pitch email succeeds, your press release won’t even be looked at.
- Unless the pitch email succeeds, you won’t get to have a verbal conversation with the influencer.
- Pitch emails can, just by themselves, harm somebody’s impression of you, in two overlapping ways:
- They can damage your credibility.
- They can insult the recipient, by giving the impression that you think he’s dumb enough to be fooled.
- Few companies act as if this is true.
My support for these views includes:
- My own reactions as an influencer.
- My conversations with other influencers.
- My knowledge of how PR and AR work get done.
- Common sense.
My top tip for pitch emails is: Approve the pitch emails a PR firm writes before they are sent out!!!! There are two big reasons for this: Read more
Engineers used to wonder what the point of sales and marketing people was. If a product was good, wouldn’t customers make the correct decision to buy it?
Nobody I know seems that naive anymore, but I did just get a similar question, which may be paraphrased as:
Why do investors judge a startup on the CEO’s pitching ability? Shouldn’t they focus instead on the actual merits of the company?
Most of my answer boiled down to:
Investors’ top concern is management’s ability to execute, and pitching is — or simulates — a large part of execution.
In particular (and now I’m quoting my own email directly):
- A CEO is a company’s chief salesman in one-on-one (or one-on-few) selling situations.
- A CEO is a company’s chief promoter in public forums, or in one-on-one influencer marketing situations.
- A CEO is a company’s chief recruiter.
- A CEO needs to align a company behind a shared vision, and specifically a shared understanding of the vision.
- A CEO needs to persuade employees to do things they don’t feel like doing.
I finished with one other point that didn’t fit the template, namely:
If you can’t articulate a good pitch, why should we believe there’s a good story in there at all?
I think the entrepreneur who asked me the question was convinced.
- I’ve posted a lot about how to pitch.
I’m generally a skeptic about the value of press releases. However:
- The IT trade press is increasingly understaffed, and hence press releases can in some cases serve as a draft of the article you hope folks will write. (Whether articles of that form have any influence or credibility is a whole other matter.)
- Press releases are collateral support for whatever higher-class outreach you do.
So my current opinion is:
- You should write press releases primarily for a general online audience, but …
- … secondarily for the reporters at whom they are ostensibly aimed.
That fits with my general view that press releases:
- Should tell your story.
- Should read well.
- Shouldn’t do anything to actively embarrass you.
That brings me to the subject of this post: third-party press release quotes. For starters, I think the following are pretty obvious: Read more
The concept of “elevator pitch” is ill-defined. Strictly speaking, it’s supposed to be how you’d describe your company or product in no more time than the length of an elevator ride. But if you ever actually are in such a situation, you will likely tailor your pitch to the specific listener. Ergo, you shouldn’t have one standard elevator pitch. So I’ll talk about “self-introductions” instead. Whatever we call it, the challenge “How do we introduce and summarize our story in the shortest possible time, or in the fewest possible words?” is a Really Big Deal.
Self-introductions occur at several different lengths, including but not limited to:
- Short enough to fit in the first paragraph of a press release without obscuring the main point.
- Short enough to fit into an elevator ride — — or in the boilerplate at the end of a press release.
- The first few paragraphs of the About and/or Product sections of your website.
- The beginning of a typical slide-aided presentation.
Usually, it makes sense to view the shorter ones as being abbreviations of the longer, more complete forms.
Most software technology benefits boil down to either:
- We help people be more effective. (Productivity)
- We help computers run faster. (Performance)
- We help people be more effective at making computers run faster. (Performance via productivity, or vice-versa)