Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Zach-Taylor-3Recent articles published by Inc Magazine & Harvard Business Review have capped the increasing amount of attention paid to ‘Customer Experience’.  Apple, and the way they handle the massive crowds at their retail locations, catapulted the customer experience conversation that has exploded in the past two years. The concept originated in the service industry – hotels and restaurants – then moved into the retail environment (ie. Apple, car dealers, etc.), and is now everywhere we look.  The importance of customer experience continues to gain momentum in the B2B arena.  As the world gets smaller and competition grows, great execution of customer experience in the B2B space is now paramount.  While still not perfectly measurable, the strategy is sound: deliver an amazing customer experience and your customers will never leave you (they will buy more and provide referrals).


Redefining Competition in the Era of Innovation

Posted: November 23, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Innovation, Marketing, Startup

bob-gilbreath-ahaThis week we discovered that a competitor in our market was buying our company’s trademark with Google keywords and making an untrue claim against our product. It created a burst of shock and anger in our offices and led to some back-and-forth drama. But after handling the situation and stepping back, we realized that this was a futile effort that completely back-fired on the other company. In this new economy, the nature of competition is being redefined—and entrepreneurs must reset their views.

Clients, partners, investors and job prospects frequently ask for a list of our competitors. It is a natural way to try to size up a company, and in business we are naturally competitive. I started my career in large companies where we constantly fought for share of the same pie. I will never forget my first job in banking, when my competitor stole my largest client with a free lunch and lower interest rate. On the Tide brand at Procter & Gamble, we obsessed over every basis point of share shift.

But competition is vastly different when you are working in new and innovative markets. Instead of fighting over the same territory, innovation allows you to discover and settle completely open spaces.


Are You Really Solving a Problem?

Posted: September 14, 2014 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Marketing, Planning, Startup

TIM-METZNER-BWOver the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs at the very earliest stages, including many Startup Weekend events. One common pitfall that I see many teams fall into is starting with an idea for a “great product” versus a specific problem that they are trying to solve.

What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

Starting with the Solution

I understand why most people tend to start here, it’s how most of us think. The high profile successes seem to be from “inventors” who are creating things so new and different that the world doesn’t even know they need it. Quotes like Henry Ford’s classic “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”, and iconic leaders like Steve Jobs, perpetuate the belief that this is how great companies are started.

The trouble is, most companies aren’t Apple. Sure there will always be room for highly disruptive companies that are reinventing entire industries, but this is unquestionably the exception. The reason starting with a solution is so difficult is you literally have to create demand for a product; it’s a solution searching for people with a problem to solve. (more…)

What’s in a name?

Posted: December 14, 2013 by Vance VanDrake III in Legal, Marketing, Startup, Uncategorized

vancevandrakeWhat’s in a name?  Groups of related trademarks are often referred to as a “family.”  Businesses often treat their trademarks, their business names, and their product name or logos like their children.  A trademark indicates source (it tells purchasers where or from whom the product or service comes.) Trademarks represent the goodwill in a brand.  To be successful, you must protect your own brand with equal vigor and take precautions not to tangle with other brands that may be confusingly similar. 

Many early-stage companies with outstanding innovation, leadership, and funding fall apart because of a poor name selection process, or a misunderstanding of trademark law. This results in an expensive trademark battle or, in some cases, being forced to change a name.  Because trademark owners are so protective of trademarks, they spare no expense to eliminate all  potential threats.  These proceedings can be very expensive and disruptive to a business but are easily avoidable. (more…)

Don’t Stop Selling

Posted: November 24, 2013 by Zach Taylor in Leadership, Marketing, Selling, Social Media, Startup

“You don’t find customers anymore – they find you”

— Chief Marketing Officer at an SEO Marketing firm

Zach-Taylor-3A C-level marketer presented this extremely controversial and dangerous idea to B2B service providers at a recent conference.  According to the presentation, social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) is how you inform customers, generate inbound leads, then sit back and watch the money roll in. Allegedly, cold calling and sales reps are disruptive, unnecessary, and wasteful.  Unfortunately, too many of today’s marketing leaders are buying into the death of cold calling and outbound sales. Believing that content marketing is the almighty god of gods is… maddening. How many dozens of marketing/creative fads have come and gone since the Mad Men era? Just a few years ago, PepsiCo proclaimed that television advertising was dead and dedicated their entire media budget towards digital advertising (the trend du jour of the time).  Guess how that worked out?  PepsiCo quickly discovered the errors of their ways and diversified their ad spend with a mix of TV and digital.

If I could run a sales operation without ever having to make another cold call again, I would do it in a heartbeat and not look back.  Many are the days I dream of a room full of ringing phones with rock star sales reps fielding calls from interested, qualified prospects. Closing 80% of the people we talk to and getting better, more qualified referrals from the 20% that can’t afford our solution.  I think about the types of vacations, watches and expensive meals to which I would regularly treat my marketing team.  If there is a company out there with this luxury, please point me in their direction — I want to go work there.


Roadmap to Startup Investment

Posted: September 15, 2013 by Avi Ram in Leadership, Legal, Marketing, Operations, Planning, Startup


There is more investment capital available for start-ups then there are fundable start-ups to invest in. The key word is “fundable.” In this case the word fundable means that there is a 50+% chance that the start-up business will meet their business plan milestones.


Today’s Sophisticated Investors Don’t Invest In:

  • Ideas
  • Technology
  • Business Plans
  • Hype
  • New paradigms

Today’s sophisticated investors do invest in a solution to a well-defined business problem that will generate revenue when executed by a highly motivated team of entrepreneurs possessing an “unfair advantage”.


Building Brand

Posted: August 4, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Marketing, Startup

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable.” 

               — Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO, Starbucks.

UC Chuck MatthewsOne of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is building brand awareness and acceptance.  Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Nike are iconic brands among the most recognizable (and valuable) in the world – now.  They epitomize, however, the conundrum of understanding entrepreneurship, that is, we come to know ventures in their success, but need to understand them in their infancy.

Howard Schultz knows a thing or two about building a brand. Starbucks has risen from a single store in Seattle, Washington to a global phenomenon.  My students today only know Starbucks as the dominant global purveyor of the finest coffee beverages in the world.  What lessons can we take from the giants today to help focus our efforts on building a brand as we begin our entrepreneurial journeys. While we cannot cover branding from A to Z, we can learn our ABC’s

A is for Authentic.  Howard Schulz gets an “A” for his insights into building brand.  “Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” When it comes to brand awareness, consumers always respond to what the company does well.  Think about it in reverse. Nothing destroys a company’s brand image than not getting it right.  If, on the other hand, you focus on developing your primary product services and offerings, build core and distinctive competencies, and deliver value that exceed your customers’ expectations, your brand will soar.  Nike’s mantra of “authentic athletic apparel” speaks volumes about why Phil Knight’s dream of a better running shoe is the global brand we know today.

B is for Bold.  One of my late mother’s favorite sayings was, “Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.”  Today’s version is something like, “go big, or go home.”  Ted Turner’s early days of building the cable news industry we know today involved several bold moves. In1970, he purchased the struggling number four station, UHF Channel 17 WJRJ, in a four station Atlanta market.  He renamed it WTCG (for Turner Communications Group) and identified an even bolder programming path, ultimately building the “superstation” vision that would become TBS. At one point, he even took the option on all the NBC shows the local Atlanta affiliate (the number one rated station) didn’t pick up that year.  Soon, billboards all over Atlanta proclaimed WTCG the new NBC in Atlanta.  If success can be measured by the number of letters one receives from NBC lawyers, it was a huge success! Of course, the billboards came down, but the road to iconic brands TBS, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, and more had been paved.

C is for Creative.  Do you want to know the most unlikely path to building a brand for the ages?  Drive a Red Cross ambulance in France in 1919, come home to Kansas, fail at your first venture attempt, sell your meager possessions, hook up with your brother selling vacuums in California, convince him to start your own motion picture production company, get a good contract, only to be let go while you are in New York because the executive who hired you felt you, “wasted the studio’s money to have fun.” You don’t want to let your team go, so you jump on a train and on the way write the scenario for the first feature production of you newly rebranded company, Walt Disney Productions, Ltd.  On the train, Walt Disney decided that his new cartoon hero would be a mouse, because mice are little, cute, and are always up to mischief.  The first Mickey Mouse cartoon reel was produced in a cramped space over the Disney garage.  Of course, not a single studio was interested, until, undaunted, Disney found an equally bold independent producer willing to take a chance on Disney’s dream. Today, the Disney brand is among the most valuable in the world.

Building a brand creates expectations, but if you follow the ABC’s, be authentic, bold, and creative, you will be able to deliver in a way that will be enduring.  If you believe in your business, so will your backers and customers.  The common theme in building brand is designing and executing the reason to believe in your products or service.  Finally, aligning your goals, the organization you build, and the customer experience will produce the brand of the ages.  Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

Too Much Information

Posted: July 22, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Marketing, People, Social Media

Bill Cunningham BioMark Twain EntrepreneurI didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one

– Mark Twain
Every morning I wake up to an inbox full of great knowledge and inspiration. 25, 50, 100 emails magically appear overnight to catch my attention. Yet, they don’t.

At the GCVA presentation committee, some entrepreneurs bring 60 slide Powerpoint decks to make sure they cover all the information.  Yet, they don’t.

As part of the baby boomer generation that invented Attention Deficit Disorder and called it multi-tasking, I agree with Shakespeare’s thought “Brevity is the soul of wit!”

To that end I recommend you think about how subtraction can increase clarity!

My business communications professor showed us how to write succinctly by crossing out throw-away words, phrases and even paragraphs. He simply advised: “If you deleted it and still got your message across, then leave it out.”


aviramThe lessons of the new economy hold that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to get off and rapidly find a new mount. However, in traditional business, it is often difficult to let go of your investment in dead horses, which leads you to try other strategies to breach life into hopeless investments, such as:

  • Change riders
  • Buy a stronger whip
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed
  • Emulate the best practices of companies riding dead horses
  • Outsource the ridership of the horse
  • Affirm, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  • Change the requirements, declaring, “This horse is not dead.”
  • Perform a cost analysis to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  • Promote the dead horse to a management position.
  • Have the solicitors bring suit against the horse manufacturer.
  • Put out a news release that, in the unlikely event the horse is dead, it was dead before it ever came to the company.

A leader is one who does the right things, while a manager is one who does things right. In the new economy, leadership evolves to a new reconciliation of this polarity. It’s not enough to do the right things flawlessly; new economy CEOs must do it with conspicuous display of vision and character.



Posted: April 4, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Leadership, Marketing, Startup

Bill Cunningham Bio“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.” — Henry Ford

Henry Ford didn’t sell automobiles, he created a great customer user experience that resulted in the tremendous success of Ford Motor Company. Whether you deliver products or services, your customer experience determines whether customers buy and more importantly, whether they will buy again.

The cycle of user experience begins with the first impression of your organization. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book, Blink, he proves that you make snap decisions within a single microsecond at the start of a user experience and keep that portrait in your mind

Malcom Gladwell

despite evidence to the contrary. You have all heard that you only get one chance to make a first impression. More importantly, according to Seth Godin, is not the first impression, but the realization that you do not know when it will occur. This means you must be ready 24/7 with how customers acquire the user experience with your company.