Jason Dea's Pages

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pork and a post about Apple...


That up there, that’s what I had for dinner a few weeks ago.  In case you’re wondering, this was before the New Year’s resolutions kicked in :)

Dinner consisted of several pints of German beer and the delicious roasted pork hock pictured above.  It was all quite delicious, and I knew it was what I wanted as soon as I read the description: “Succulent fall off the bone roasted pork” Mmmm nom nom.  For those of you who are less familiar with the world of butchery, in reality it’s the ankle of a pig and is made up of about 72% fat and gristle.  Lol.

I showed that grainy picture to a coworker just now.  Showing her that picture kicked off a wildly entertaining and informative conversation about her favourite foods, restaurants, and hidden gems near the office.  You see, she has passion, and because of this I’ve promised her that I’ll try out a few new foods, and some new restaurants.  Moreover I trust I will not be disappointed.

I’ve actually had similar conversations in the past, only about a different topic.  Last time it was about a funny phone made out of glass, or an extremely lightweight computer.

I hate using this example since it is a bit cliché but I think it is appropriate.   Apple is the rare technology company who is able to generate that level of passion in its' users.  They are just a computer company, but to their fan base they are so much more.  Apple even pioneered the concept of selling through product evangelists years ago.

In light of the recent news of Steve Job’s leave of absence it’s fascinating to see the flood of concern that’s taken hold online.  As an outside observer I think this deeply personal relationship Apple users have is core to their success, and the reason for their concern.  Apple is personified by their leader, whose future is now a bit in question.  

My own content strategy revolves around showing how my organization is made up of real people who have interesting opinions and are experts in a particular field.  Apple takes this to the extreme and to many the company seen as one man, in a black turtleneck and jeans.  The story of Apple is as much his story as much as it’s the story of a computer company.  An you know what?  It works.

People relate to Apple, and want to be cool like Apple.  They want to be Steve Jobs and tell the world his message.  

I wish Mr. Jobs all the best and hope his health returns.  After all the more successful he is, the more I have to write about…

Friday, January 14, 2011

Do you like me? Or do you “like me”, like me?


I read a great quote the other day about biggest challenge for marketers today - How to turn "like" in to "act"? At face value seems straightforward, how can I take customers who like what I do, and take them one step further and have them act on it by telling others. It's not a new idea, but with the emergence of social media, "liking" something on the surface has never been easier, but because of this, convincing someone to act has never been more difficult. I believe this becomes a question of how to create passion in your user base.

As a teenager I had dreams of becoming a musician, an artist. I am lucky since what I do for a living still allows me some creative freedom. Sometimes at a dinner party I'll default to telling people that I'm a writer when asked the dreaded "what do you do?" question. This is kind of true, and much easier to explain than telling them I work in product marketing. I do write as part of my job and it does allow me a bit of artistic expression. And that's the key - Art creates passion, both for the creator and the audience.

I think in my line of work there is an opportunity to inspire greater passion and engagement in a user community. The content that you build your marketing around - the story you tell the world, and how you tell that story.

Pablo Picasso said "Art is the elimination of the unnecessary". I love that quote and I think it can be applied to content marketing.

It takes a lot of courage to take the unnecessary away in marketing content and just tell people in few words what it is that you do. Buzzwords, extra syllables, and extra adjectives all serve to shield the core message away from an audience. I think it shows a tremendous respect for your audience if you simply get to the point. As Picasso said, this is the way to elevate what you do to art. Art, and respect, a combination to build passion, and action.

Here is one of my favourite writing tools. It's fantastic for a sanity check on anything that I write. Overuse of buzzwords. Words that are too long. Too many words. All flagged. There are other similar tools out there, and in the online world there is even a metric called the Gunning fog index to measure this. So with the problem recognized and tools available, why don't more writers use them?

At the end of the day, do you like me or do you "like me" like me? Perhaps by being honest with you, it can be the latter, and maybe you'll even be inspired to do something about it…


Monday, January 10, 2011

What I learned from a homeless dude with a golden voice…

I'm certain that you've all seen or read, and heard about a man named Ted Williams who's blessed with a golden voice. He was once a radio announcer but had fallen on hard times until Doral Chenoweth III posted a video of him online showcasing both his voice and his story.

That little video went viral and now Ted has several job offers on the table, and even some offers from some to sponsor him a new home.

Definitely a great feel good story, and definitely a much happier story to start the year than the other big story in my news feeder at the moment which involves hundreds of thousands of animals dying and falling out of the sky… scary.

Anyway, back to the man with the golden voice. His story reinforces something that I believe in with when it comes to social media or web 2.0 or whatever other buzzword you want to attach to communication on the internet. These are technologies that can finally bring us together as a global village.

The portion of the video that to me was the most powerful was not simply the voice, but when he described how he used to have a career in radio, but then drugs and alcohol became a part of his life and things took a turn for the worse. With that, I was pulled in to the screen and Ted resonated as a real person. A real person, with a real story, who had experienced real tragedy, which all somehow made me care. What the internet provided was simply a platform for him to distribute his message to an audience wider than he could have ever imagined.

That's what a global village is all about. It's about going back to a time when we all knew each other's names, a time when I felt a personal connection to my neighbors. A time when people even had real relationships with vendors, only they were called local businesses back then. Joe the butcher, Doris the florist, Ken the guy who cuts my hair.

Some will tell you that things have evolved past those ideals. But this new communication platform now give us an opportunity to turn back the clock… at a global scale. The internet changes the definition of local. My neighbourhood is no longer measured in kilometers, but instead by the reach of my message.

So all you sales and marketing people out there. A request. Please stop inviting me to "like" stuff or asking me to follow you if all you're going to do is send me the same boring brochures and press releases. Tell me something about yourself. Tell me why you're a real person. Make me laugh. Tell me why you're a real person who I should trust, and heck maybe I'll even take a look at what you're selling along the way.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Marketing lessons from destroying the death star…

As a kid I knew my obsession with Star Wars would one day pay off. 

Most fans like to quote Yoda and the stanzas full of wisdom he shared with Luke on his journey to fulfilling his destiny as the last hope of the resistance against the evil empire.  Me, I have a different inspiration.  My guru is Gold Leader.  His instructions to the team were critical to the destruction of the death star… “STAY ON TARGET!”

The older I get, the more I think that one group of people who have forgotten the advice of Gold Leader are the folks who make decisions in the software industry.  Industries with more history seem to have less trouble staying on target.  Pharmaceutical companies swing for home run products exclusively, their goal: release a billion dollar product every few years.  Fast food the opposite; their target is a different one… volume.  Get as many people in and out as fast as possible.  We’ll make our fortunes 99 cents at a time.

I’ve noticed that a lot of software companies seem to have a bit of an identity crisis.  Do we want a low cost high volume product that can be purchased on a credit card, or do we want to have a complex product that requires millions dollar budgets and an army of consultants, but only needs a handful of customers every year.  Hey I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we carry a portfolio of both!  That way our salespeople will be stretched so thin that they have no idea what to sell.  

Software is funny like that.  I suppose it comes with the territory with technology people.  The next version or next project will always be bigger and better.  It doesn’t help that enterprise customers always want to make things more complicated than they should be by pushing for simple products to do complex tasks.  On the flip side even successful large solution companies seem to be getting App fever these days, trying to streamline and strip down something that should never be naked.

But hey, maybe I’m the only one who sees this as a problem.  Well, me and Gold leader anyway…

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What is this guy talking about again?

Over the years I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with product demos.  In my various sales and marketing roles and even today I’ve had to deliver hundreds of product demos for audiences as small as one person or as large as a few hundred at an event.  Being a regular attendee of industry events, I’ve also had to sit through many, many, many product demos over the years as well.

The good and bad of product demos really crystallized in my head over the holidays.  

In an effort to better share photos with my in-laws, my wife set her father up with a Facebook account.  All he wanted to do was see pictures of his grandson…  My wife had all the best intentions but proceeded to put him through a painstakingly detailed product demo of Facebook.  This is how you post your status update, this is how you search for new friends, this is how you buy a new pig in Farmville, this is how I play Scrabble with my friend from high school I haven’t seen in ten years... on and on it went…  He was put through a gauntlet of about a dozen features and capabilities before he got to see even one photo.  The look on his face said it all… He had fallen asleep.

And that is what’s wrong with product demos.

I’d seen this demo before.  Only it had to do with virtualization, or business intelligence, or systems monitoring, or some other “B2B” related topic.  Very rarely did a product demo ever get to the point.  Or at least they rarely get to the point before I fall asleep.

All I want to do is see some photos!  Or perhaps all I care about is the one report I need!

Sadly technology driven people, and technology driven presenters are too focused on features.  Especially the new ones - those are the shiniest.  Users, customers, father in laws, they just want to get to the good part.  They want to read the last page of the book first.  Or perhaps a better analogy - they just want the headlines.  Takes less time, and gives more value.

So please, for all you product presenters out there.  Get to the point.  Show me what I care about, and save the features for inside your own boardrooms.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

10 Apps to Watch in 2011

10 Apps to Watch in 2011

It’s all in the sauce man…

Over the holidays I had a few discussions with various people about the failed buyout of Groupon by Google. Everyone was completely flabbergasted by the valuation the company was given, rumoured to be close to SIX BILLION DOLLARS (said in my best Dr. Evil voice). Interestingly just this week Goldman Sachs invested in Facebook putting their valuation close to FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS (again, with the Dr. Evil voice).

This got me to thinking. Where is this value really coming from? An accountant I am not, however from what I can tell, neither of these companies, can justify this valuation off of revenue alone. So there must be something else, something about their potential.

So here's a story…

I have a friend back home who is wildly successful. The root success is pizza. He started a local pizzeria many years ago and has since expended to having multiple locations and even franchised out other locations as well. If you ask him, the secret is in his sauce, some of family recipe. Although I swear I see it simply come out of a can. Nevertheless, I believe that his secret lies somewhere else.

Whenever I walk in to his restaurant (he still enjoys manning the counter at the place where it all started) he greets me by name. Not only that. Everyone who walks through the door is greeted by name. Even more, he still remembers most people's orders by heart. No onions for this guy, extra sauce for her, that ladies kids like the crust well done…

For me the personal touch that he brings and real relationships he has developed with his customers over the years is what has made him a success. It's what makes his customers come back over and over, and it's what makes us all recommend his restaurant for best pizza in the city whenever asked.

What if there was some way he could expand that personal touch outside of his neighbourhood? What if there was some way that he could create a global community where everyone could get to know him, interact with him, suggest things, or maybe even post a coupon or two…

AH HAH!!! Could that be the secret? I think so. Never before has it been so easy for customers and vendors to start a direct dialog. Social media, web 2.0, team buying, blah blah, blah. To me the core value of all of this is the internet's ability to break down the communication walls between buyers and sellers. The online world gives us all an ability to take the loyalty of the local pizza store and spread it to a global fan base. How much is this worth? Well apparently the financiers of the world have already valued it at BILLIONS OF DOLLARS (again Dr. Evil)!

And you thought it was all in the sauce…..

Monday, January 3, 2011

Faster than the speed of the internet...

I heard an interesting quote the other day that for the kids today everything moves at the speed of the internet. I've been thinking about this and realized that despite being well beyond my kid state, I also expect things at the speed of the internet also. Well my attention span does anyway.

My wife tells me that I have a shorter attention span than our one year old son. I blame the internet the way people used to blame MTV. But I see this as a good thing. I believe this is a result of the tremendous access I have today to information. Some might be useless, while some can also be tremendously valuable.

Take how the online world has transformed the buying process of today's consumer; both enterprise and individual.

I'll use my recent experience of buying a car as an example. I spent hundreds of hours researching before making my purchase. Not only did I go through traditional channels like the typical car magazines off the magazine rack, I also ended up joining a few online forums. I even joined one site that offered a service that gave me access to manufacturer list pricing as well a dealer invoice pricing for not only the cars but for accessories as well. I also joined owner communities for the top two vehicles I had narrowed my selection down to, to get an owner side perspective of the pros and cons of each vehicle.

Best of all this was all research that I was able to entirely on my own.

By the time I got to test driving the cars I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of the options and price I was looking for. More than that I also knew what to expect and things to look out for in terms of how the cars drove from the user forums.

I was a buyer with a level of education and comfort in the product that would have been unheard of only 10 years ago. Rather than relying exclusively on the manufacturer and dealer to provide me with the information I needed to decide on my purchase by the time I arrived on the car lot I only needed a few things validated and someone willing to process paperwork for me.

That's the beauty of the access to information available online. It's also something that can be frightening to vendors. The old adage says that knowledge is power. And in the world of sales and marketing this has put a twist on another old adage "the customer is always right".

Kids today…..


HOW TO: Use Social Media to Create Better Customer Experiences

HOW TO: Use Social Media to Create Better Customer Experiences