Thursday, December 18, 2003

Marcomm Hints

I got the following email today from a fellow marketing manager whose company is about to get funded:

What are some of the strategies you use to raise the awareness of your company and the product or service you sell? Currently I own outbound product marketing. I've been doing the monthly PR and getting our editorial calendar for 04 lined up and also tradeshow/conference track. But, what else can I really do to get some good lead generation and excitement about our company?

This area would fall under the area of Market Communications, which is not my particular specialty, but I worked with one of the best in the industry - I'll call her Cal Blonde (she would appreciate this appellation and unfortunately does not blog).

Cal Blonde and I worked together with Rorschach at a start-up that blew through $15MM in two rounds. We had INCREDIBLE visibility and awareness - over 100 articles were published on our company within our first 18 months of existence. Our competitors couldn't announce a product without us being quoted in the article. So how did our Marcomm Manager do this?

1. Have an Easily Understood Vision - One of Cal Blonde's strengths was that she was NOT an engineer, but worked at an engineering company. So when the geeks like the engineers and marketing people ran up and told her about the electron noise level of our particular widget, she would give us a blank stare and say "So what!"

Low electron noise level is not a vision. How many wanuzits or klampters you have on your gizmo is not a vision. You need a vision that is easily understood and gives benefit to the layman.

Part of this, of course, is spin. The layman doesn't care or understand the difference between 802.11a vs. 802.11g and which one has the fastest bit rates. What he cares about is FAST, WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY ALLOWING YOU TO DOWNLOAD MOVIES TO YOUR LAPTOP WHILE ON YOUR PATIO! You get the picture.

1a. Be First - Oh yes, you need to be out there first with your vision. If you just copy someone else's vision, you are a "me too" and will always be in the shadow of the leader. That was another reason we were quoted in press articles on our competitors: we were the leader. So if a competitor announced something, we would be asked what we thought, and we just did a big Yaaawwwn. Been there. Done that. Ended up killing that project since the parts sucked. Nothing else will infuriate your competitors as much.

But here's the main point: by being first with a unique vision, you set the tone of your industry and the benchmarks others will be measured against.

And if you're not first? You will have problems creating buzz. Figure out what you ARE first in, and see if you can spin that into a compelling vision that is easy to sell.

By the way, this is why so many companies announce "vapor ware". The need to be first with an announcement is more important than it actually being ready. Remember: perception is reality so if you announce first, and ship second, it is the perception that you led with the announcement that will be remembered.

2. Make it Easy for Your Trade Press - I am talking specifically about the technical trade press, and let me tell you something: technical reporters are NOT technical. Part of it is just the sheer scope of "technology", which covers too many markets for one person to understand well.

We were very careful to spoon feed the press people on our market, our products and our technology. We kept it simple and at high level what the benefits of our product were (see Vision above). Once they had that down, they would just copy what we gave them for the details on klampters and wanuzits.

3. Be a Source of Info for the Press - in other words, network with the important press people in your area. If there is a particular reporter that covers your space, identify him/her and keep them up to date on what is going on in your market, even if you are not involved in the story. What you want to become is a primary source to this person for your particular market so they start calling you up for quotes when your competitors announce something, or find out something you didn't know.

4. Ditto #3 for Analysts - If you have any analysts that cover your particular product space, make sure to befriend them and become a source of info. Analysts can have amazing influence on deciding who is "hot" for a particular product. (For those of you outside of tech, there are investment banks and research companies that follow technology trends).

The whole idea of these little pointers is to keep having your company name come up in the press and analyst reports. When it does, you WILL get hits to your web site asking for info, and I don't think I have to tell you what to do there. It's a long, drawn out process, but if you have an easily understood vision that creates excitement, it really isn't that difficult.

Then, of course, there is the standard Marcomm stuff you should keep up and do - advertising (if appropriate), tradeshows, etc. Here is a standard slide I throw up on this which you might find helpful as well and is self explanatory.

Rorschach, you have any other inputs? Maybe we can get Cal Blonde to give some additional insight?

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