Archives for category: Marketing

Do as I say, not as I do. This is the standard coaching refrain. We expect the people we coach to put our instructions into practice. We demonstrate by our words not our actions. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • They’re better at it than we are
  • We can’t do it that way
  • We cant do it that way any more
  • We don’t do that way because we do it in an engrained way we can’t or won’t get out of
  • We do a short-cut version of it because we know it inside out but we need them to learn all the steps and how the steps relate to each other before they’re good enough to expedite the whole thing

This is a tough ask in coaching because we’re trying to lead by words, not by our actions which is the standard way to inspire people. At some point every coach will hit this if the people they’re coaching become better at it than they currently are. That’s what you want as a coach, at least a good one.

In business this is slightly different. We’re supposed to coach rather than manage, otherwise our direct reports don’t get a chance to learn it for themselves and grow into the role, eventually expanding beyond it. In business you can’t expect to instruct someone how to follow a process and then not follow the process yourself. Chances are they won’t follow the process you want them to and they won’t respect you either.

The answer, in sports as well as business, in fact in everything as well as business, is to come clean and be honest. ‘I don’t do this myself because [insert honest reason] but I’m advising you to do it this way because it is the best way, and you will get the best results from it.’ Then you have to let their actions, and their results, do the talking.

 

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

Towards the north-west of Ireland is Knock Airport in the county of Mayo. It’s a handy airport for those of us on the western coast of the country, since it flies to a few UK airports and the odd holiday destination too.

It has a slightly amateurish, making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, which I’m OK with, since it’s small and therefore you can get through to the gate quickly.

The one thing that has always irked though is the ‘development’ fee of €10, payable by everyone 12 and over leaving. It was introduced when the airport opened, and, rather like the Forth Road Bridge toll, is still there. It’s not well advertised, either by the airlines or the airport itself, and catches out a lot of first time travellers. It also leaves a poor taste in the mouth, giving you the impression that both the airport and the country is chancing its arm and fleecing you because it has you over a barrel. My mother has recently taken to presenting a bag of coppers to the counter when paying her fee. It’s about the only statement you can make, since the office staff must have skins of titanium by now.

Anyway, I was talking to some staff the other day and they pointed out that Knock receives less government support than other airports like Shannon, and wouldn’t be able to keep going without it. I didn’t know that. So, in addition to it being not very advertised, it’s not very well explained either.

If the airport worked harder to educate its passengers about the fee, many more would leave feeling more disposed to the place, and more inclined to depart from there again.

I was helping my daughter bake a cake the other day. She wanted help measuring out the ingredients and then she got on with it herself. It was to be a cake for her Ladyship’s birthday, one of those two-sponge affairs with jam in the middle and icing on the top.

I haven’t baked in a long time. I was staggered at the amount of butter that was called for in the recipe. Half a bar of the stuff. Worse was to come. The required amount of sugar filled a desert bowl, heaped.

It reminded me how much of the stuff that we’re supposed to moderate in our diets goes into making the big 5 food indulgences: cakes, crisps, sweets, chocolates and biscuits. I also love the cake mix, the gloopy mass of ingredients before it goes into the oven. Not usually the one to make the mix, I would grab a few scrapes of the remains of the mixing bowl. I had forgotten how much badness goes into these delicacies.

I guess that’s why legislation insists on manufacturers explicitly listing contents of food and also showing the number of calories in a meal. This has applicability not just in the world of fast moving consumer goods but in the broader marketing of both B2C and B2B products. Sometimes we don’t want to know what goes into the making of something. Sometimes we do, so it’s good to have the option.

As a marketer I like to participate in market research if I’m asked, and if I’m allowed – people from a marketing background can sometimes be excluded from participating in surveys. I know how hard it is get intelligence on a market.

Generally it’s a very short call, which is fine. Sometimes, I get called by a big research house in Dublin to help with a state of the market survey they do periodically. How’s my business doing, how do I think it will do, and so on. I avoid their calls these days.

Here’s why: it’s an unfair exchange. Firstly, the call is always about 15 minutes long, which is far too long and contains loads of repetitive questions. 15 minutes is a really long time to tie someone up on the phone. Secondly, I get nothing back. Not a copy of the research, nothing. In fact, it’s not just an unfair exchange, there’s no exchange at all. It’s all one way, coming from me.

Many companies doing research will offer a voucher, or a copy of the research, or entry into a draw for a device, in return for your time and attention. These guys don’t. They just persist with the phone calls.

If it’s not a fair deal for both parties, it will never last. It will simply cause resentment and close doors for good.

 

In this last post, for now, in the mini-series on product marketing in agile environments, I offer you my third thought on what has worked well for me. In fact, I talked about it briefly at the end of my second thought.

The third thought is this – and how difficult is that to say for a non-native speaker, with 2 voiced ‘th’ sounds and 2 voiceless ones! – leave the detail until the end. The detail is the filler, the proof points, the things that are only needed when the audience has engaged and wants to go deeper.

In your earlier iterations of the content to support your new product or enhancement, you focused on the high level, the really important stuff that resonates with your audience, the reason why you developed the product in the first place. People are busy, they are subject to a constant, heavy flow of information. They don’t have perfect memories; they’re only going to remember one thing you tell them, if you’re lucky, and you’re probably going to have to tell them multiple times anyway.

This is a good thing, because in an agile environment the exact detail of what you’re offering isn’t decided and baked in until the end. So your job is to build up the interest and demand with high level, highly distilled and focused messaging which helps your personas self-select. Once they have engaged and want to know more, then you can hit them with the detail which you now have.

This is the third post, and my second thought, as part of a mini-series on what to focus on in product marketing where the software development is agile and releases are small and quick fire, rather than traditional, infrequent and sometimes slightly ponderous.

My second thought is this, and it borrows from the agile philosophy itself. Approach your content and your communications in iterations. It’s no good disappearing into your bunker at the beginning of the creation process and coming out right before launch with the finished article before anyone’s had a chance to comment on it.

You need to iterate, and iterate often. Quick fire drafts get your thoughts out early and give key stakeholders the chance to sense check the direction you’re heading in and feed back so that you can adjust if necessary. Reviewers can track their changes in your documents so that when you evolve your work for a second and third look they only need to focus on the new stuff and not re-read everything again. Your job is to make sure that each new version still hangs together, makes sense and is a coherent, unified piece of work.

This is how I approach almost all of my work, including product marketing assignments. Do the homework, collate all the information, get a sense of the patterns, distil everything down to the key messages, and do a first pass. The early, high level draft allows you to align everyone’s thinking and affords you the time to change accordingly. The detail can wait til later, when you’re closer to the finish line.

 

In a previous post I introduced a mini-series offering thoughts and experience on how to do product marketing in an environment where agile software development creates a sea of small releases rather than a desert with a few major milestones affording you time to circle the wagons.

My first thought is that you should stay true to the principles of what you’re trying to do. Faced with a barrage of product enhancements and releases of all sizes and shapes, you have to prioritise in terms of your audience, your audience segments, and their personas.

What is most important to them? What will attract their customers and keep them loyal? What does your enhancement or release do to help them help their customers? Answering these questions should drive what you devote to building a story about, and, perhaps more importantly, what you choose not to focus on.

When you wear this special lens which focuses on what their customers care about, you can develop messaging which helps your customer solve these problems or capitalise on these opportunities. It’s never about your products’ features and functions, unless they uniquely guide your customers to an understanding of how you can solve their real problem, which is sometimes not the problem they think they have.

Don’t get bogged down in the iterations of your solution, get bogged down in why your customers should care about where you’re heading.

I thought it worthwhile to do a short series on product marketing in an agile environment.

Many product marketers are used to gearing up to perhaps 3 major releases a year. They have runway, they can plan with an end goal in mind, and they have time to align the resources and get the detail right.

When faced with an agile software development methodology, however, they find the traditional approach more difficult, since the cadence is now ‘sprints’ every two weeks and a release every three weeks, or something of that order. It requires a different approach.

First, however, some definitions are probably in order. By product marketing I mean the process of influencing customers to buy – and enabling sales people to sell – business-to-business products. Agile software development is the process of developing software in iterations and a bit at a time, allowing for flexibility and course correction on the way, rather than traditionally going from a start to a finish line in one big go. Noice that I’m not talking about agile marketing, which is essentially doing marketing activities in a way that borrows from agile software development.

What tends to happen to marketers not used to agile are the following symptoms:

  • You’re not sure what you’ll be getting in the end product
  • You’re not sure when you’ll be getting it (stifle your sniggers if you can make that argument for traditional development…)
  • Stuff happens and the product is out there before you’re ready or before you even know about it

What product marketers generally prefer is a small number of large meaty releases that they can get their teeth into. With agile you can sometimes feel you’re faced with a roadmap littered with lots of small releases, all vying for attention.

It’s against this background that I thought the subject warranted a mini-series. Stay tuned if this is your bag. If not, feel free to click away…

Content marketing, the business of producing and promoting online the kinds of materials which educate and edify rather than overtly sell what you have, relies on an endless stream of idea and information, even in an era where constant recycling and repurposing is not only the norm but considered a best practice.

I do quite a bit of content marketing, paid and unpaid. In fact I suppose what you’re reading right now is a form of content marketing. It demands quite a portfolio of skills, like creativity, writing ability, attention to detail, and organisational prowess to name but a few. There’s one thing above all else, however, that it needs in my opinion.

You have to have a hunger. A hunger to acquire. Content marketing hunger is what drives you to devour information in the hunt for inspiration you can turn into information of value to the people who want to read your stuff. It’s a kind of inquisitiveness that has given me 599 ideas and counting for blog posts, and that’s just for my hobby, not my day job.

The information doesn’t have to be about your domain of expertise either. Information from all areas helps spark ideas that you can synthesise and shape into meaningful new content for your audience.

If you stay hungry, and stay curious, you’ll always have the catalyst for content.