Let’s file this under completely random unsolicited conference call advice…
If your colleague just finished a thorough explanation, and out of courtesy turns to you and asks “Do you have anything else to add?”, and you respond “No”, what should you do?
The obvious answer is to stop talking.
What I find myself guilty of, and what occurs on almost every conference call ever, is that a “No” response is typically followed by repeating everything already said, and wasting everyone’s time to hear oneself speak.
If, and only if, you have something so INCREDIBLY valuable to add that it will completely change the course of discussion for the better, should you say “Yes” and then share your opinion.
As we approach the end of 2014, I realize I’m becoming I am a communication snob. It’s a challenge to myself as a person and as a marketer: In how few words can I convey the most meaning? Less is more.
Music industry pontificator Bob Lefsetz highlights how incredibly easy it is to be lured in to measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
The quick summary: Billboard, the company that lets you know Katy Perry is again at #1 in the charts, recently announced plans to include downloads and streams when calculating the Top 200 tracks. Sounds great, right?
Here’s where we learn about measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
Part of Billboard’s new calculation is an attempt to squeeze the new into the old: Ten downloads of a track equal one album purchase. When was the last time you purchased an album, let alone a physical CD?
Lefsetz captures the essence of this mistake. In an online world, streaming equals listening equals the right thing to measure…
“The only thing that counts is listens. Sales are irrelevant. Especially of albums…”
“But the whole [music] industry is based on albums so they don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater…”
“Do you see Netflix telling us how many views equal one DVD? Come on.”
Yikes. He’s right. I work in mobile today, which suffers from malsurement (that’s bad measurement) everyday. Almost every data point measured in mobile is measured because that’s the way it’s always been done on your desktop website.
Best example: click-through rates. You see an ad, you click on it. This breaks down so fast on mobile, it’s just outrageous. Somewhere between 30-50% of all clicks are accidental, because you’ve got fat fingers, or you’re two martinis deep while checking tomorrow’s forecast.
Easy fix. Have everyone in the entire global ecosystem of mobile adopt better metrics. Dammit. That ain’t gonna happen, at least this decade. Billions of dollars, millions of ad campaigns, and thousands of sales pitches all hinge upon click-through rates.
My point, if I have one, is that marketers, product managers, sales people, and the big bosses at companies large and small all struggle to measure the right data for the right reasons.
Measuring the right thing for the right reasons sometimes isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.
We’re one week away from the second RIoT Meetup. The Raleigh Internet of Things group casts a wide net to anyone working in, interested in, or hoping to be in the business of getting inanimate objects on speaking terms with each other.
The group grew in size and scope since our first event in June 2014. With help from my pal Larry at the Wireless Research Center of NC, we’ve added sponsors, new speakers, and upgraded the venue to the swanky and boisterous HQ Raleigh.
In late May, our company was dabbling with beacons, little devices that can wake up an app on your phone and (in theory) add value to your life. I saw a West Coast IoT meetup scheduled, and in a rash move, decided to schedule our own Research Triangle Park version of that.
Here’s where I struggle.
I work in mobile, about as bleeding edge for tech as you can get, but not involved in the day-to-day of IoT.
Many RIoTers have been in IoT for a decade. I’m a newcomer.
I’m leading a Meetup where I have little industry expertise.
On one level it feels like posing, pretending to be something you’re not. My post here is a half-assed attempt to acknowledge this shortcoming.
On a different level, who gives a shit? No one needs permission to start a company, start a band, start a Meetup, start a church, start a new product, or do something creative.
When I started my enterprise sales career in 2005, I had it all figured out. I closed a couple of deals, made some cash, and pretty much knew how to run a company. Except, nothing could be further from the truth, despite that being my attitude.
After 8 years of slinging software, I quit my job to run a startup, where I began to dabble in product, and became more deeply involved in marketing. Hmm…these things appear related.
As I approach two years at StepLeader, I am deep in the trenches of the product, marketing, and sales trio, henceforth known as PMS. One of my biggest lessons learned? These three elements intersect on a daily basis.
Without a product worth talking about, your marketing is meaningless.
Without marketing that provides value to customers (as opposed to asking for attention), your sales will be 10x harder.
Without product and market knowledge, your sales team will be borderline inept.
If you’re a sales person at large company, with little contact with the marketing or product teams, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Join their daily standups, ask for advice, ask for time with their leadership, and make it routine. You’ll close more deals.
If you’re a marketer and not participating in product discussions or listening in on sales calls, are you high? Are you making things up?
If you’re a product manager and not speaking with your customers, both inside and outside your office, you’ll build terrible products. You won’t be able to arm your marketing and sales teams with key messaging.
At a startup, it’s easier to have true PMS integration. Small teams make communication easier, in theory.
For everyone else working in a silo, break the silos down, not because you’re on a mission from God, but because you’ll enjoy your work more, and be better at it.
The entrance to my neighborhood sits atop one of the many large hills in Chapel Hill. As you crest the hill, there’s a good chance you’ll see a squad car perched at the intersection. It points out to Highway 54, with the radar gun leveled across the window sill. And if you follow @ChapelHillPD on Twitter, you already know to slow down.
That’s right, the Chapel Hill Police Department frequently, but not always, tweets out when and where they’ll be enforcing the speed limit.
To figure out why the CHPD might do something so awesome yet so unconventional, I sat down with Sgt. Bryan Walker, who manages their social media presence. As I planned for the interview, I realized that this was the first interview with a police officer where I’ve been asking the questions. How the times have changed.
Within minutes of our conversation, Sgt. Walker starts dropping lesson after lesson on marketing. All of us tech-savvy, startup prima donna, self-proclaimed “gurus” were getting schooled.
Here’s what we can learn from the Chapel Hill Police Department about social media and marketing.
Go Against The Grain Public offices and officials historically see little value in marketing and branding themselves. Why should they? There’s no immediate, visible incentive. The Chapel Hill PD felt compelled to go against the grain. They wanted community outreach, new audiences otherwise untapped by law enforcement, and positive ways to engage the town’s residents. Think about it…most interactions with the police usually aren’t positive. Going against “conventional wisdom” allows them to reach thousands of people a day and noticeably stand out.
Get Buy In Both the town and police department leadership support social media to re-shape the town’s image. This is no accident. While the town may be considered “progressive” by some (go ahead, insert your favorite Chapel Hill joke here), Sgt. Walker built buy-in initially, and repeatedly over time. Buy-in means better chance of success.
Chart your own destiny No one grants you permission to come up with new ideas. You only need permission from yourself. Sgt. Walker wrote the job description for which he ultimately was promoted in to. This is a fantastic strategy. If you want something from someone else, tell them everything you’re going to do to help them, instead of asking for a handout.
Don’t feel compelled to build every new concept and creative idea from scratch. Emulate your peers whom you admire. Prior to launching their social media strategy, The Chapel Hill PD discussed at length what attitude they wanted to convey. Admiring how Seattle’s police force uses social media, they borrowed their helpful yet playful style. What style? At a 2013 marijuana rally, Seattle’s finest gave away bags of Doritos adorned with “you might be hungry” stickers explaining the new rules about legalization, while tweeting out #OperationOrangeFingers. Genius!
Master 1-2 Channels First Every month, a new social media channel springs up. Marketers have a temptation to do them all, spreading too little peanut butter over too much bread. The CHPD focuses on two channels: Facebook & Twitter. They realize they still have enormous potential with just these two. They’re going to go deep instead of going wide. Smart.
Find Audiences In New Places Twitter & Facebook allow them to reach audiences they never have before. The few conversations I’ve had with police are usually in-person. Now they reach me, and thousands of residents, every day with positive, helpful, and valuable messages. Twitter becomes their primary vehicle to reach the college crowd, with Facebook leaning towards longer-term residents. As a marketer, where are new places to find your audience?
Massage the Message By Channel All marketers know this, but not everyone does it, including myself. Treat different platforms, and their audiences, differently, because they expect different content. Twitter is the department’s medium for instant, real-time updates like traffic accidents, breaking news, speed enforcement. They use Facebook to tell deeper, richer narratives.
Include Your Personality The CHPD likes Seattle’s approach because it humanizes the department. It shows that they do indeed have personality, a sense of humor, and are regular people. Is it all personality all the time? No. It’s just the right amount. I love bringing this concept to marketing as well. Your marketing should include your personality, just not all of it.
Tell The Story You Want to Tell Social media allows anyone to be a media company, no longer dependent upon others to spread your message. This is incredibly helpful for police departments, who sometimes find themselves in the media because of a giant shit storm. Now, they get to tell their own story.
Stepping back from marketing, this is an incredibly valuable lesson for startup founders. It’s easy to focus on the insanely challenging parts of your business and whine about that to anyone within ear shot. I complained, a lot, when my first company was melting down. In reality, the startup experience remains a life changing event for me, which is a better story and much more enjoyable to share.
Remember the True Goal Sgt. Walker initially received push back on tweeting out the location of speed enforcement. On the surface, it seems contradictory. Isn’t the goal to catch speeders? Nay. The true goal of tweeting speed enforcement locations is to improve the safety of driving through our town. If a few hundred people slow down as a result of a tweet, mission abso-freaking-lutely accomplished.
The ultimate goal for Sgt. Walker? Reach people. The most effective policing of a community comes from a partnership with it. That’s what every company is after also; a partnership with their customers.
There you have it…ten lessons any marketer or startup founder can learn from the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Over a pint of Boylan Bridge Brewpub beer, Jonathan Stephens shared an idea for a new post. He’s my former business partner, but now does something important for Republic Wireless. At least that’s what he tells me.
Jonathan politely observed that The Expert Generalist’s audience needs a go-to resource for the types of startup marketing tools available, and examples of each.
Around here we call that list of tools a “tool stack”, which is fun to say. Kind of like the word “sconce”. Or “taco” or “booyah”. They roll off the tongue nicely.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let us remember that marketing begins with a great product. Many of the tools below help with the outer circles in the “Circles of Marketing“. If your product stinks, no fancy-pants tool will overcome that.
Here’s my list of best marketing tools for a startup, based exclusively on my own experiences, hearsay, and conjecture, and slanted towards B2B marketing. If you’ve got other suggestions, comment or email me, and you’ll get an e-booyah in return.
With your survey data looking sharp, you’re ready to spread the word about it. I prefer starting the “spread” by presenting a webinar of the results. A webinar brings you a captive audience for 30-45 minutes. There’s a whole series on how to do webinars starting here.
You’ve got two primary ways to drive registration for your webinar.
Pay to advertise it
Promote it yourself for free
For the startups that have marketing budget, test a few paid approaches. These are listed in order from cheapest to most expensive.
Purchase small campaigns on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook targeted directly to your audience. Target by title, company, location, and whatever else works. You set the budget here. Start with a minimum of $100. Expand them if they generate lots of registrations. Kill them if they don’t.
Purchase advertisements on online industry publications. This can range from $500 to $10,000 depending upon which sites you’re purchasing it from. This approach worked well for me in the past.
Hire a PR firm specific to your industry. These folks ain’t cheap, but the good ones have established industry relationships nurtured over years. They can get you and your data published in more places more quickly than you can.
Don’t have budget to promote your webinar? Try these ideas.
Take each topic or main point from the survey and write a blog post about it. This should give you 10-30 blog posts and fill your marketing calendar with great, sharable content for 2-6 weeks, depending upon the how frequent you post. Use this promote webinar registrations.
Build a schedule of tweets and LinkedIn posts sharing valuable data nuggets from the webinar. Link to the webinar’s registration page.
Email your existing customers notifying them of the webinar. I schedule a series of at least three emails spaced over a few weeks.
Email your prospects.
Email your advisors, mentors, investors. Ask them politely to share with people who will find the content valuable. Make it easy for them. Ghost-write the email you’re asking them to send to their people.
Do the PR yourself. Huh?
Months in advance of any “ask” for PR, track the names of journalists writing about similar topics. Comment on their articles. Add value to the discussion at least 5 times per author. Now that you’ve got something valuable to share in return, your past history with them serves as a reference point. This doesn’t guarantee, but greatly increases the likelihood they’ll write about your data, or publish your own analysis of the findings.
After the webinar, shift the focus to promoting the whitepaper. The same techniques described above work just as well for driving downloads of the whitepaper.
You’re also armed with fantastic content to submit to conferences for speaking engagements.
In a round-about way, this is how I got to be on TV [sort of] to discuss our findings. A customer referral to an industry organization six months ago led to presenting our survey data to an audience of 800 potential customers via a live broadcast. Not too shabby.
We’ve reached the end of this series on how startups use surveys for content marketing, and it’s time to move on. Next up, let’s dig in to the “tool stack” available to startup marketers. FYI – “Tool stack” sounds cooler than it really is.
This post originally appeared on ExitEvent.com, the southeast’s startup focused news site. I’m including it here and sharing as “startup marketing” for two reasons.
This guest post serves as an example of building relationships ahead of time with publications to spread the word about your updates.
We’re hosting an event that provides no direct sales & revenue benefit to StepLeader. Instead, we’re hoping to build a community that can learn from and support each other in a very new industry. In Seth Godin’s “circles of marketing“, building a tribe and your story becomes a key component of startup marketing.
Internet of Things Enthusiasts Unite & RIoT
I’m incredibly lucky to work at a company that isn’t afraid to try new things. Ever sinceStepLeader started building apps for the old school clamshell phones back in 2004, we experimented with new mobile tech.
The drive behind this experimentation is a belief that mobile should be easy, relevant and incredibly personal. Isn’t that the promised-land of mobile? The computer in your pocket, on your wrist, or stuck on your face gives you exactly what you need, when you need it most. Right?
We’re not there yet. Nobody is.
The easy + relevant + personal equation is ridiculously hard to solve. Here are a few paths one might take to begin solving it:
*Serve personalized content based upon past behavior and location by collecting, storing and analyzing a shit-ton of data.
*Wear your mobile device to gather information about you and your physical surroundings.
*Make the offline world more digitally connected to the online and mobile world.
This last bullet is where our latest round of experimentation begins—using beacon technology (StepLeader’s test gadget pictured above). Apple branded its approach to this as iBeacon. iKid you not.
The concept is simple. Stick a little bluetooth low energy [BLE] device—or beacon—on something. It broadcasts a signal. Your phone receives that signal, and through an app, tells your phone to do something.
Here are a few examples to illustrate the concept:
Walk into a grocery store and the store’s app loads your pre-built list. It tells you the fastest route to grab your milk, bread, Tostitos and Dale’s Pale Ale.
Visit a new home for sale and receive expanded information beyond the single-page, printed brochure.
Stroll through an MLB park and receive additional information about the team, special offers and stadium history.
One way to think about it: beacons assign physical locations their own URL, thus bridging the offline and the online.
Immediately after we began researching this topic, we noticed a growing community of like-minded individuals exploring the “Internet of Things”.
Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining that term’s past, present and future. My simple description is that IoT gives physical objects an Internet connection. Large companies, small ones, startups, ourselves and academia are all getting their hands dirty here. Bringing everyone together can only be good.
To accomplish that, we’ll be hosting the first Raleigh Internet of Things Meetup, which shrinks down nicely to RIoT. We’ll look to share with and learn from others in this space, to build a community of people who are cozy sitting on the bleeding edge of technology, and to continue establishing this area as a thought-leader in the tech world.
The first Meetup takes place at StepLeader’s downtown Raleigh office Wednesday, June 4th at 6pm. Official details are here.
Aside from being the best buzzword since “Big Data”, the “Internet of Things” represents a new wave of innovation, opportunity and entrepreneurship. There’s no better time than right now to start exploring.