Archives for: September 2008

How Apple Did It

When the iPhone was first announced, I remember exchanging many emails with industry colleagues -as many people did – speculating about the possibilities of Apple hitting the 10 million target that Steve Jobs set during the announcement.

Many emails were based on market research: how many people were buying phones at over $500 at the time, how big was the market for smartphones, etc. I was skeptical given the complexity of the software stack that powers a phone. Most of us had to eat our words.

How did Steve pull it off?

There are amny answers: articles and surely books are being written about it. I found a key piece today while reading a new book “Do you matter? how great design will make people love your company“. In this book, the authors explain how apple and other leading companies are design-driven and how most other companies are metrics-driven.

As a marketer and product marketer, many times I have had to justify my plans with market research: opportunity analysis, market sizing, CAGR (compound annual growth rate) numbers, etc. Most companies financial discipline require this type of financial justification based on hard data and require some kind of proof that an investment will yield results based on research, focus groups, etc.

Not at Apple. The key to design-driven companies is that they place significant value in customer experience. The company is aligned behind it. The problem with customer experience is that it is emotional, therefore not measurable. Steve Jobs has a knack for great design (in the broad sense of the word, meaning how to create products people love) and is able to pull it off because he runs the company and the board of director trusts his investments will pay off most of the time. Or at least he has a success ratio that allows the company to experiment.

If Steve had to justify the iPhone based on hard numbers, or if anyone at Motorola had envisioned the iPhone, they would have more than likely been shut down by senior managers because market research, hard data and market trends do not support the idea of a $600 first-generation smartphone selling 10 million units in the first 18 months.

Intersentingly enough, Motorola actually came up with the idea of the iPhone: they went to Apple and had to convince Jobs it was a good idea based on the fact you don’t leave your house without three things: car keys, cell phone and wallet. Everything esle is secondary. But I digress.

If this is a topic you are interested in, I highly recommend the book. It is written by Robert Brunner and Stweart Emery. I am half-way though but it is well worth it already.

When the iPhone was first announced, I remember exchanging many emails with industry colleagues -as many people did - sp...

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Fake Steve on Google

Fake Steve is Spot-on: “Another piece of food for thought. In all these years Google has spent millions, maybe billions, trying to create an Act II for the company, some way to go beyond search and advertising. They’ve done the classic Valley thing — hire nerds, turn them loose to dream up wacky ideas, put some of those ideas out into the market, throw them against the wall and see what sticks. Only, um, in their case so far nothing sticks. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Sure the stock is at almost 700 bucks and the dopes on Wall Street are lapping it up but the truth is that out in the Valley people are starting to snicker.”

 

Get the rest here http://fakesteve.blogspot.com/2007/10/were-not-scared-of-gphone.html

Fake Steve is Spot-on: "Another piece of food for thought. In all these years Google has spent millions, maybe billions,...

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Tradeshow Marketing 101

This is one of my pet peeves as a marketer. Last week I was at CTIA in San Francisco, a key event in the wireless industry. As usual I walked around the show floor to see what’s new. Like many trade shows, there were well over a hundred booths. Like me, I imagine most customers don’t spend more than a few seconds glancing at each booth before deciding if they will stop by for more information.

Here is the problem: the information that marketers are using as “headlines” in their booth look more like slogans than actual descriptions of what the company does or how it helps customers. I walked down one aisle and wrote down what I could read in the booths as I walked along:

  • The First Total Solution for the Mobile Channel.
  • How Everybody Knows – Right Here. Right Now.
  • Powering Mobile Business.
  • Mobile Services 24x7x365
  • Freedom. Security. Choice.
  • Any text. Anywhere.

Nice slogans. These companies must have paid quite some money to an agency to get their top creative talent to come up with these smart words. But they don’t tell me anything about your company. I consider myself a pretty smart guide, and I have spent over 7 years in the wireless industry. A week later, I can’t recall what product or service was being offered by any of the companies using the slogans above.

What is the solution? make the healdine your value prop. Clear and simple In plain English. No marketing-speak, no slogans. One company stood out from the rest in doing this right. In fact, I glanced over the list of exhibitors and the company stood out immediatelly. Although I don’t need their services I will remember this company and might even refer business to them if a friend asks me for companies that offer these services.

Their booth read “$22/Hr Software Development” – I am impressed. The makreting guy could have hired an agency and come up with something smart like “Solutions for a Wireless World” (which I swear I have seen). “$22/Hr Software Development” is super clear: I understand what they do and the company value proposition. I remember the company clearly. If I needed software development cheap you bet I would have stopped by their booth. It would be simple to find them in the event directory because they opted to get their listing under “$22/Hr software development”.

If a customer walks by your booth at the next tradeshow, what message will he leave with in the 2 seconds he will spend?

This is one of my pet peeves as a marketer. Last week I was at CTIA in San Francisco, a key event in the wireless indust...

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Bad Marketing: Magazine Subscription Renewals

I am a loyal subscriber of Business Week. I have been reading it since I was a teenager – back in the 80s. (Late eighties). When I moved to Redmond, I extended my subscription via a third party. I started receiving two issues of Business Week in the mail every Monday. Guess their computer system is not smart enough to know if it is the same name and the same address, it is probably a duplicate or a renewal.

I called customer service to try to correct the problem, which did not happen. A few weeks later my old subscription was running out and I started getting calls at home (with telemarketer precision – at dinner time) to ask me to renew. I told them I had already renewed, but they did not listen.

This week I got a letter in the mail with the words “Important Tax information – open immediately” – no logo, plain envelope. I was suspicious, yet intrigued, so I opened it to find a “third notice – please renew your Business Week subscription”.

Now I was mad. Not only they deceiving me into opening their envelopes with cheap tactics, the message I got was “You must renew your subscription, this is the third time we ask you, are you not understanding?” Sure, the fine print read “your subscription may qualify as a tax deduction” – but that is just annoyingly bad marketing.

I have received other deceitful offers – like the subscription requests that look like an invoice, hoping another decision maker in the household (A wife, for example, but I am trying to be politically correct) opens the mail, assumes the other person has already made the commitment, and mails a check for a few dollars. That’s the kind of world we live in, too bad. But that is not the kind of tactics one expects from Business Week

I am a loyal subscriber of Business Week. I have been reading it since I was a teenager – back in the 80s. (Late eightie...

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Bad Marketing: Credit Cards and Respecting Your Customers

I am an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum member, which means I spend way too much time on planes and a considerable amount of money on American Airlines. In the last six months, I have received a few dozen pieces of mail from this company, which tells me I am a valued customer since they call me Platinum. I am also a shareholder. That’s why every time I get one of those pieces in the mail with messages like “Important information for you” or “Time sensitive material” I have an expectation of what will be inside the envelope.

Every time I open it, I have the same experience: they are trying to sell me the Citi Aadvantage credit card. I already have a Citicard, I don’t need another one, even with the promise for 10,000 miles. I have seen the ads in every issue of American Way, I saw the banner ads, I got your promotional emails. STOP! It is getting to the point where AA is destroying the trust in their communications. Soon I will ignore any envelope I get from them, which will be headed straight for the shredder.

 Speaking of the shredder, on which I got a good deal at Target, it is a device that I don’t want. A shredder is a purchase that I was forced to make because of the hundreds of credit card offers we get in the mail every year. Credit card companies should pay for it. Just to point that American Airlines is not the only bad marketer. I sometimes get two credit card offers from the same company on the same day!! (and I don’t think my credit is even that good). Why can’t credit card marketers be more creative??

I am an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum member, which means I spend way too much time on planes and a considerable...

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Website Navigation

In the last edition of Inc. magazine a letter to the editor reads “removing the navigation bar from the page is a user interface no-no”. I am not sure I agree entirely. There are some cases where instead of a navigation bar, you want to handhold the customer through a specific user experience.

Often times I have been to sites where there are not one but two or three navigation bars, sometimes with sub-menus, and I still don’t know where to go. I am sure I am not  the only one.

Sometimes you as a marketer have created a specific marketing path, and instead of having a home page with navigation you have a landing page that greets people and provides additional information before going to the next step in a specific journey.

 I am not advocating webmasters should eliminate all navigation bars – instead I am encouraging marketers to think about the customer journey from their perspective and the website as simply a tool to help them get to the end point.

In the last edition of Inc. magazine a letter to the editor reads "removing the navigation bar from the page is a user i...

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Humility, Pride and Ego

I am an avid reader of Harry Joiner’s blog. He is a recruiter

He has a few posts about the importance of humility. Humility is an interesting concept, hard to describe. One can say Humility is the lack of Ego or it could mean seeing every other person as equal to you. I just checked Wikipedia, which defines Humility as a quality of a humble person: someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others.

How can you be bold, how can you be a leader if you are humble. Think of the business leaders or people you admire: Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, Sam Walton, Ghandi – who has the right “angle” on humility? how do they combine their passion for success and for being the best in their field with the need to be humble?

I tend to think of it from the perspective of Pride versus Ego. The difference is relativity: someone who has a strong Ego evaluates his accomplishments in relationship with his peers. He feels good about being better than the others. On the other side, someone who has Pride evaluates his accomplishments in relationship with himself, with his potential – independent on how the other people do.

I think of myself as someone with great Pride but low Ego. That’s who I want to be.

I am an avid reader of Harry Joiner's blog. He is a recruiter He has a few posts about the importance of humility. Humil...

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Managers not MBAs

I just read the abstract for a book called Managers, not MBAs which is focused on the concept that MBAs are being thought too much theory which is completely useless in a business where leadership and proven experience are the basis for performance. The book also claims top-school MBAs are arrogant and makes a case for top Harvard graduates who failed miserably in business. Furthermore, enrollment in the best schools is limited to students with high test scores instead of professionals with proven performance. The fundamental premise is that management is art and our education system focuses on theory.

 It is true that in general, education is not evolving as quickly as businesses do. However, as long as companies keep hiring MBAs to high-paying high-profile jobs, the schools will continue to offer them, students will continue to pursue them as there is little incentive to change anything. I think some schools are trying to move in the right direction by introducing more case studies and role playing.

 I still think there is a huge opportunity for innovation here for academic institutions and hiring departments in all sorts of companies.

Is your hiring department screening candidates based on the practical skills needed to do the job? Take a clue from The Apprentice: Donald Trump did not hire the top graduating students from a brand-name school nor he made his choice by a written test on management theory. Of course, that scenario would have produced poor rating in all likelihood. At the end, trump hired the person who performed best in real-life scenarios.

That’s why I found it so interesting to interview at Microsoft. The focus of the interview discussions are not based on what positions were held or what you studied. Interviewers present challenges that test problem solving, innovation, and other much more important, sometimes relatively subjective aptitudes. I think the fact that Microsoft is known for hiring smart people (except for me maybe) proves the point about the opportunity for companies to look at candidates in a new way.

Is there a market for a new kind of academic institutions, the Harvard of the 21st century?

I just read the abstract for a book called Managers, not MBAs which is focused on the concept that MBAs are being though...

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A Missed Opportunity

Two years ago, during the 2006 Soccer World Cup Univision and ESPN published their ratings for the Mexico-Iran game which showed 5.6 million people (if I remember correctly) watched the game ton Univision, plus about 1.5 million on ABC.  That’s almost 10% of all households with cable and TV (data from worldscreen.com). And this only accounts for fans that speak spanish and/or those who follow Mexico as a team. 

It is evident that the number of soccer fans in the US is a sizable market measured in probably tens of millions, a market that is being largely ignored.

Coming back from work it is very hard to find a TV channel with a good summary of the day’s games – the best I could find is 20 minutes on ESPN at 10pm. No major sponsorships as you would expect from McDonald’s or some other fast food chain, no special offer from the cable company or Best Buy to buy a better TV (except for a few ads in Univision). At work many people were having a hard time finding a t-shirt to support their national team.

Surprising for the most competitive market in the world.

Entrepreneurs, mark your calendars – the World Cup is back in 2 years!

Two years ago, during the 2006 Soccer World Cup Univision and ESPN published their ratings for the Mexico-Iran game whic...

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Hiring for Performance

Sure – but what is Performance?

Harry Joiner made a post on his blog that made me ask myself this question. Why? here is what I posted as a comment on his blog, which by the way is an excellent blog.

Harry, I agree with the principle from Peter Drucker, however there is a big caveat: How do you define “best performers”?

Every company hires people based on their culture and their unique criteria for performance. Just like there are my aspects to what we call “intelligence”, performance- or “ability to execute” is an ambiguous term in its definition and especially in the way to measure it.

As an example during the 90s, Motorola is a company with very high performance people in terms of their engineering ability. As a consequence, the company filed an incredible number of patents and innovated in many areas creating technologies that have changed our lives.

The problem is, these high-performance thinkers/engineers/problem solvers were not very high performance marketers.

Visiting the Motorola Museum is enlightening both in the number of technologies created by Motorola (from the first square TV to the first car radio to the transponder used to communicate with Apollo XI) as well as the number of markets created by the company, only to be lost to competitors in an amazingly short timeframe.

A good example is the cellular industry – created by Motorola a few years ago, worth many billions of dollars in infrastructure, services and handsets. According to data reported by Monitor this week, Motorola has only 18% of the handset business – and this is after a strong comeback.

Is Google hiring high performance engineering talent-focused thinkers with a big ego, creating a culture that is extremely ambitious and self-confident? Can they really take on companies like Microsoft with 10 times their manpower and recognized by hiring high performance people?

Sure - but what is Performance? Harry Joiner made a post on his blog that made me ask myself this question. Why? here is...

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