Jason Dea's Pages

Friday, February 25, 2011

Piling stuff on top of the trash can is not taking out the garbage…


My family has a habit of piling things on top of the trash can with the mistaken belief that this is in fact the same as actually taking the garbage out to the garage, curb, or dumpster. I call this game the squeezing contest.

As I was undoing the latest squeezing contest, and sorting through all the junk that had been amassed in our kitchen, I reflected on my first foray in to crafting messaging and value propositions.

When I first started in marketing I had a terrible habit too, sort of a messaging squeezing contest. I was a regular guy with a degree in engineering in a sea of MBAs so I compensated for my lack of business school pedigree by trying to sound smart. In retrospect I was being sucked in by the lure of tech marketing gobbledegook.

Another thing I tried was to add complexity to the way I built the message itself. I became quite adept at using Microsoft smart-art to create complex frameworks upon which I would build a story around. What I soon learned was that by overcomplicating things I was actually putting up barriers for my audience's ability to understand the point I was trying to make.

Since then I've learned that piling garbage on top of a trash can isn't taking out the garbage, it's just making a mess. I've also learned that piling on a complex messaging framework just adds confusion to the story you're trying to tell. I've now borrowed a simple messaging philosophy that April Dunford summarizes exceptionally eloquently. 1. What is it? 2. Is it for me? 3. Why should I buy it from you?

Rather than trying to satisfy a massive matrix of messaging components, this 3 question model is much easier to implement. Ultimately I've found it much more successful as well. Customers don't want to feel confused. They just want you to get to the point.

So I've gone from this


To this.


Oh and this too….


Friday, February 18, 2011

Democracy in the age of the internet…

Democracy - a form of political organization in which all people, through consensus, direct referendum, or elected representatives exercise equal control over the matters which affect their interests. 

I was reading an interesting topic of discussion on Quora around whether or not Japanese girls were still the best predictor of future trends in technology. This question made me think about an interesting trend that I see which I refer to as the democratization of technology.

For years tomorrow's trends were found in the sea of neon of the Akihabara district in Tokyo, in the hands on hyper connected young women. One example is their pioneering use of SMS or text messaging as a communication method. Today I think next big thing lies in a very different demographic however. 

What I see technology trends being driven by a traditionally Luddite demographic. Yes, baby boomers.

The Nintendo Wii as a great example rode a wave of success built off a consumer base of seniors, women and other non gamers. Every day during my subway commute I see more and more people from my parents' generation playing Angry Birds or checking their email on an iPhone as well.

Apps are what pushed the iPhone in to the mainstream. They make software available to everyone without requiring a degree in computer science. Apps do two things incredibly well. First, they eliminate the hassles associated with installing and configuring traditional software. No media to worry about, no minimum specs, they just work. The other value of an app is the ability to focus specific content for a user. They clear away all the information clutter out there on the web. My mom's experience is an interesting example. She doesn't like using Google to search for information. Even with the algorithm they use to push the most relevant searches to the top, she finds the mere existence of ten thousand other options to be a headache. 

With an app all the information clutter is swept away. A restaurant finding app as an example gives my mom the ability to focus only on the information she wants - where to eat dinner. The app has removed what intimidated her most about the internet, too much information. The statistics show that she's not the only one.

In the world of B2B I see a similar trend of democratizing technology. The big buzzword of the day in that world is "cloud computing". I won't bother trying to define cloud since many have already done this. Instead I will state that I believe the value of the cloud is in empowering the little guys of the world to compete with the big guys.

Whether you're going to Amazon to subscribe to a server farm with no capital cost, or simply using Salesforce.com to manage your sales opportunities, all these services give small businesses and startups around the world access to infrastructure and applications formerly reserved only for massive corporations who had access to massive capital, and the time to build these complex systems. Now all you need is a credit card to subscribe to whatever infrastructure or applications you need freeing you up to focus on your core competency.

I find all this quite refreshing. By making technology more accessible, and importantly as accessibility becomes the driver of innovation we have made step in an exciting new direction…

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bowling – the great marketing metaphor


I hate flying. I find airplanes the stale air gives me headaches. As part of my job occasional business travel is a reality though.

Lately there is one part of flying that I do look forward to. My airline of choice has done a good with their entertainment options to make my time on planes a bit more enjoyable. On a recent flight home from a series of meetings on the west coast, I got settled in and browsed through their latest movie selection. I was excited to see The Social Network as one of the options. As a new parent, my wife and I don't get many opportunities to go to the movies so the backlog of movies I keep meaning to see is quite large. A little downtime in the air is a perfect chance to catch up on that list.

I'd read a lot of good reviews of the film and as a regular Facebook user I was quite intrigued as well.

The movie was great, my favourite part was probably the score done by Trent Reznor. In retrospect something else in the film stands out as well. The Social Network also showed as a great case study for one of the tenants from "Crossing the Chasm" by Geoffrey Moore.

The book has become one of the must reads for technology entrepreneurs. In it Moore describes how to grow your customer base from early adopters through to mainstream success with a great bowling analogy. Segmenting different niche markets or bowling pins and knocking them down one by one using adjacent markets as the catalyst to move on to new ones.

This process is described brilliantly in The Social Network and shows how Facebook went from early adopter success through to the $50B valuation company it is today.

The early adopters were Harvard students; they were both a local user base as well as a user base with the cachet of being members of Harvard's exclusive community. Exclusivity was their value proposition. The next bowling pin was Boston University, that market was both local (quite literally an adjacent market) and to move the plot forward also allowed Mark Zuckerberg to satisfy some personal spite J

From there the expansion was more strategic, Stanford had visionaries who could build a presence in the always connected world of Silicon Valley, and later Cambridge and other exclusive international schools became their early majority. Mission accomplished – 1 million users, chasm crossed. Brilliant selection of bowling pins knocked over with a defined strategy.

In the real world Facebook has over 500 million unique users and last I checked had a valuation of over $50B. I guess in bowling lingo they've really hit on a string of turkeys. (full disclosure, I don't really understand bowling lingo, but last time I went bowling I got a turkey for a string of strikes which I am very proud of)

Ultimately great products still need great market strategies, so maybe it's time to dust off the two tone shoes and start bowling…

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why conversations and public washrooms don’t mix…

With the big game just around the corner, I'm left to remember one of my fondest football memories.

One autumn afternoon a group of friends and I took the drive from Toronto down to Buffalo to watch a Bills game. The best part of the game experience is definitely the tailgate before and sometimes after the game itself. However the most vivid memory I have of that particular trip was not the game, or the tailgate. It was an incident in the washroom.

For those of you who have never been to Ralph Wilson stadium in Buffalo, the men's washrooms have sort of a shared sewage trough, rather than individual urinals. A friend and I had lined up at the trough and began our business, when suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked "can you scoot over a bit?" and proceeded to squeeze in between us. "Uh sure..." was my response.

That right there was the most awkward exchange of words I've ever had in my life.

This gets me to the other uncomfortable exchanges I've had to endure… cold calls.

But wait... in today's world of business, is the cold call a dead concept? A search on Google seems to indicate that many people believe they are. I disagree. While I can't argue that content marketing, effective use of social platforms, and demand campaigns can help increase inbound interested in your products. Eventually human contact still needs to happen for most B2B purchases.

While perhaps less ice cold these first touch conversations can still be quite awkward, particularly if the salesperson has been poorly enabled.

I describe the core of my job as writing the story that my company tells. But what sense is there in having a good story if you don't have people out there telling it? That's how I think of sales enablement. As best as I can, I focus less on scripts and memorized bullet points, and more on trying to teach people about the context around the story. After all, every story needs some context and nuance beyond simply the punch line to be truly memorable.

In that vein I end up putting quite a lot of my focus outside of what it is that my own company does, and I spend a lot of time doing my best James Bond impression and try to get under the covers of what my competitors are doing and where and how they beat us. Competitive battle cards, news briefs updating new competitor products and versions and full portfolio comparison documents tend to be the most frequently downloaded and requested pieces of collateral I create.  Those along with product positioning documents make up the bulk of my internal sales enablement kits.

Perhaps not the most glamorous part of my job, but hopefully this effort helps prevent sales calls that feel like the chat I had in Buffalo that cold afternoon.