January 8, 2015

Marketing to a single person

Marketing is commonly done to single individuals, influencers and sales prospects alike. A number of my posts reflect that reality. Most comprehensive are probably my 2014 post about presentations to small audiences and my 2008 survey of many kinds of influencer. Relevant bits of other posts include:

You can’t sell effectively without listening. This is one of the basic facts of business, yet shockingly many people forget it. You can’t pitch effectively without understanding how the prospect frames what she hears, and you can’t judge that unless you listen to what she says.

from a 2013 post about “fluency”,

If you are a small startup with innovative technology, put as little as possible between your own people who can talk with passion about the stuff, and whoever you’re trying to get coverage from.

from a 2011 quoted journalist rant,

the right person to lead an important relationship is:

  • Usually somebody who can truly speak for your company, and specifically:
  • Has the knowledge and ability to respond to pushback.
  • Knows the influencer well enough to argue back in turn.
  • Occasionally an in-house press or analyst relations staffer.
  • Almost never an outside PR person.
  • from a 2012 collection of marketing communications tips, which also makes the point that you should flat-out ask people how they like to work, and a variety of cautionary tales of how one can bungle meetings or other relationship moments.

    The above can be summarized as:

    I could write a whole post on that last bullet point alone.

    Here are some further tips for productive single-person marketing and persuasion. Read more

    October 30, 2014

    How to start a presentation

    I see many slide decks, a large fraction of which are screwed up right at the beginning. Here are some thoughts on doing better. This post goes together with others that relate to presentations or press releases, including:

    In the first post linked above, I wrote:

    The most generic and reusable part of a slide deck is its beginning — the “setting the table” part. A natural sequence is:

    • Whatever seems necessary to introduce and identify you.
    • Some validation as part of the introduction — company size, customer logos, whatever.
    • The big business problem/need you’re helping with.
    • A little validation about the problem/need.
    • Some common difficulties in satisfying the need, which are happily absent in your solution.
    • Specifically how you meet the need.

    Let’s drill into some of those points.

    Tips for company validation include:

    Read more

    August 24, 2014

    Presentations for small audiences

    My dislike of slide presentations is vehement and long-standing. Even so, my consulting duties often lead me to critique vendors’ slide decks, hoping to make them a little more tolerable. :) Most of the precepts I rely on in these exercises can be encapsulated in “C” words:

    And at the risk of drowning in excessive Cs, slide decks are a primary venue for a recent post topic: Short lists of Concise Claims.

    Let’s talk a bit about that tailoring. Some things are shown only to very specific audiences. For example: Read more

    July 27, 2014

    Short lists of concise claims

    It is often necessary to produce a short list of concise claims. A large fraction of all PowerPoint slides fit that model. So does the list of news in, for example, a typical product press release.

    Making such lists is hard, for at least three unavoidable reasons:

    Even so, many claims lists are yet worse than they need to be.

    To create or improve a claims list, it helps to establish goals by asking

    and also to check resources by assessing:

    In the case of a product upgrade, answers often resemble: Read more

    July 9, 2014

    Judging opportunities

    This is the first of a not-very-organized series of posts on two related subjects:

    Most of my posts can be said to touch on those areas, especially the latter one. But in this series I’ll try to be more direct about it.

    Useful background may be found in:

    For a new company in a new enterprise IT product category, the path to success may be oversimplified as:

    Read more

    July 2, 2014

    Pitfalls for Pollyannas

    Q. What’s the primary difference between used car and computer salespeople?
    A. A used car salesman KNOWS that he’s lying.

    – A joke that was old in 1995

    The technology business is difficult, so it’s natural for technology vendors to make mistakes. Many of these fall into two broad categories:

    In particular, vendors commonly overestimate their (current and future) competitive positions. This isn’t just for public consumption; often, they fool themselves as well. Popular forms of overestimation include (and these overlap heavily):

    The dictum Fake it ’til you make it bears a certain relevance here, all the way down to its Alcoholics Anonymous associations.

    Read more

    March 14, 2014

    Pricing advice: Avoid the looking-glass

    From time to time over the past 30+ years, vendors have described to me pricing schemes in the vein:

    That sounds like a risk-sharing win-win kind of deal, in which your customer’s costs perfectly mirror the benefits achieved.

    The naive form of that argument is wholly ridiculous, however; what customers pay you is only a portion of their total cost of ownership, and in most cases not close to the majority. The plan has more fundamental problems too, and experience shows that it rarely works in practice.

    Last May, I summarized and explained my standard pricing advice by:

    • There should be 2 or more simple pricing algorithms, so that …
    • … the price for any given customer is the lowest of those choices.

    Generally one pricing algorithm will be suited for most of your customers, while the others will be meant for minority or edge cases. …

    Core reasons for that approach include:

    • Simplicity. Your salesman on the account should be able to quickly determine which pricing approach will apply. The prospect should be comfortable that there won’t be hard-to-foresee “gotcha” charges.
    • Fairness and match to use case. For any particular prospect, there probably will be a pricing scheme that fits well.
    • Competitive flexibility. Nothing in this strategy puts much of a floor or ceiling on your pricing. You can do whatever you think is economically best.

    Benefit-sharing pricing, by way of contrast, can be simple or fair, but it has great trouble being both at once. So if you propose it, messy negotiations will ensue.

    For example, suppose that Tweedledee Inc. mirrors Tweedledum Corp. in all ways but one: Tweedledee uses your best competitor Humptyware, while Tweedledum runs the far inferior Dumptysoft. Thus, if Tweedledee implements your Frabulizer, their rate of rattle-breakage will drop from 2 percent to 1; but if Tweedledum buys it, their rate will drop from 10 percent to the same 1. Should and will Tweedledum really pay you 9 times as much for the same thing as Tweedledee? Not a chance. So if you try to price on the basis of measurable outcomes improvement, you’ll probably just get into a huge price negotiation mess.

    I do see one scenario in which I might consider benefit-sharing prices — when you’re in a messy price negotiation anyway, and benefit-sharing could close the gap. For example, if you want $1 million for what you claim will be a $20 million benefit, and the customer offers $750,000 for what they more conservatively estimate as a $10 million outcome, you could let the last $250,000 ride on some agreed-upon metric tracked over time. But even that is a questionable stratagem, in that it amounts to a bet that your salesman’s optimism will actually prove to be correct.

    Bottom line: Keep your pricing simple, which it isn’t if it depends upon your customers’ internal operating metrics.

    March 3, 2014

    Marketing in stealth mode

    I consult to ever more stealth-mode companies, so perhaps it’s time to pull together some common themes in my advice to them. Here by “stealth mode” I mean the period when new companies — rightly or wrongly — are unwilling to disclose any technological specifics, for fear that their ideas will be preempted by rival vendors’ engineering teams (unlikely) or just by their marketing departments (a more realistic concern).

    To some extent, “stealth-mode marketing” is an oxymoron.* Still, there are two genuine stealth-mode marketing tasks:

    Further, I’d divide the second task into two parts — messaging and outreach. Let’s talk a bit about both.

    *I am reminded of my late friend Richard “Rick” Neustadt, Jr., whose dream job — notwithstanding his father’s famous book on presidential power — was to be a US Senator. So he needed to punch his military duty ticket, and got a billet doing PR for the Coast Guard. (One of his training classmates was Dan Quayle.) His posting was to a classified base, and so his PR duties consisted essentially of media-mention prevention. But I digress …

    Stealth-mode messaging

    As I wrote in a collection of marcom tips, the pitch style

    “We’re an awesomely well-suited company to do X.”

    is advantageous

    • In stealth mode, when you don’t have anything else to say …
    • … but not at first product launch, when you finally do.

    For small start-up companies, this message is most easily communicated through highlights of the founders’ awesome resumes, for example:

    Our CTO personally stuffed and dyed the yellow elephant for which the Hadoop project is named.

    But that still begs a central question – how do you describe what your stealth-mode company is planning to do? I.e. — in the quote above, what is the “X”?

    Read more

    February 16, 2014

    Messaging to multiple audiences

    A common question I’m asked may be paraphrased as:

    My standard three-part answer is:

    Read more

    December 29, 2013

    The core of strategy

    This blog is based on two precepts that also guide my consulting:

    Let’s spell that out.

    Messaging is the core of strategy

    The enterprise software business, in simplest terms, is about the building, marketing and selling of software. Messaging is central to all of those activities! In particular:

    If we add another level of complexity, the story changes only a little. Read more

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