I read an interesting article in Fast Company on the outsourcing of cool. The article states that “Big companies are outsourcing “cool” to nimbler, closer-to-the-ground outsiders. They might as well farm out their souls.” According to the article, the primary driver of this outsourcing of cool is risk avoidance from company insiders. While I agree with this assessment, I think another driver is that it is easier to defend an outsider’s work and not appear defensive.
This article got me thinking about the role of cool in my marketing efforts. I am often so quantitative that I don’t spend enough time focusing on less tangible things like having a “cool” brand. But is cool really important? Absolutely. A cool brand gives you loyal customers who become product evangelizers. Part of their identity becomes association with using a cool product. Why wouldn’t they talk about something that in a transitive way makes them cool?
Unfortunately you can’t measure cool – heck you can barely define it. Also, cool for one target user segment may be totally uncool for another segment. All of these things make the pursuit of cool a tough endeavor. Still, with or without outsiders, “cool” is a worthy quest.
This morning I shared my 2nd half 2006 marketing objectives with a colleague from a different department. He was surprised to see that I would include the H2 sales targets as a key marketing objective. Though traditionally in most companies hitting short-term sales targets wasn’t a primary marketing responsibility – it should be today. Practitioners of metrics driven marketing understand that short-term bookings (particularly new bookings) goals are a key element in the model that is used for measuring the efficacy of our outbound marketing budgets. Of course we also look at more granular numbers that relate to specific activities, but the aggregate numbers are also important. Additionally, most venture funded companies are expected to grow quickly and marketing shares the responsibility for achieving target growth rates. Obviously in the process of achieving short-term sales goals, marketers must be building long-term brand equity to support future sales momentum and ensure that target markets have the capacity to support future growth targets. Marketing cannot escape the pressures of accountability to the top and bottom line.
I have spent about half my career working abroad and running international marketing teams, so you’ll probably be surprised by the following statement - I currently sell more product internationally by accident than through careful planning. “Going international” is no longer the huge endeavor that it once was. With online advertising, ecommerce and a good product, it is almost impossible not to go international. This is particularly true for software, because of its easy digital delivery over the Internet. However, moving from organic international growth via online advertising and ecommerce to aggressive market building in foreign countries is very challenging. Product localization is only part of the picture; effective sales and marketing execution requires a “native touch”. The necessary investment to build a local native team is huge, but is much less risky after traction has been established in a foreign market through organic growth.
You may have noticed the recent release from Yankee Group regarding SMB online marketing. The release suggests that SMBs are “accelerating adoption of e-commerce and online marketing.” Overall I agree with the findings of the report. It’s a natural next step for SMBs who’ve created a web presence to begin promoting that presence. However one thing jumped out at me that didn’t seem quite right; senior analyst Sanjeev Aggarwal believes “the area of online and search marketing has become too complicated for SMBs to tackle on their own.” Though it is tempting to boast that what we do is rocket science, it really isn’t that complicated. Also, many SMBs don’t have a big enough budget to justify working with an outsider. With a couple hours of research, they could easily start a Google ads campaign and most would see immediate benefit. Of course at larger budgets, most SMBs should work with an outsider.
I was excited to see that Philip Kotler (and Ned L. Roberto and John Davis) will publish a book in January ’07 called “Measuring Marketing: 103 Key Metrics Every Marketer Needs.” I’ve always found Kotler’s books offer valuable marketing guidance in topics that complement metrics driven marketing. However, since this book focuses entirely on marketing metrics, it should do a lot to validate the science of measuring marketing efficacy. You can view the table of contents on the publisher’s website. By the way, while Amazon lists Kotler as the first author, you’ll notice that publisher’s website only mentions John Davis.
If you’ve ever worked in a new startup company, you’ll probably agree that gaining initial customer traction is one of the biggest marketing challenges you’ll ever face. You have to invent/discover everything – effective positioning, messaging, media, and much more.
Last month SmartBiz.com asked me to document an effective process for gaining this elusive initial traction. The article “Creative Discipline: Starting Your Startup” can be found here: http://www.smartbiz.com/article/articleview/1258/1/54/ . Of course this process won’t work in every situation, but it has been highly effective in my past startups.
A few of the key elements are:
- Understand your target customer and their motivations for buying your product
- Google adword (tracking, limiting campaign scope, optimizing flow, etc)
- How to effectively scale campaigns
- Benefits of a “free hook”