Archive for February, 2011

Is Marketing for companies with sucky products?

VC Fred Wilson writes “Marketing is for companies who have sucky products.”

Yes. And No.

I absolutely agree with him that the key is to build a great product and not force or pay for marketing. But much of building that product … is marketing.

Fast growth doesn’t magically happen.

Marketing is the difference between technology – which is a better widget – and a product – which is a better widget that gets used. Marketing is THE customer expert and advocate.

Marketing is responsible for understanding customer pain and market competition and opportunities.  Marketing ensures that product has the right features, optimal positioning, pricing, packaging, and promotion, and a market and customer-oriented product roadmap. Marketing typically writes the business and marketing plans and develops the pitch and slide deck to help gain funding.  Marketing directs the UI, grows and supports evangelists, handles outgoing and incoming communications, articulates and writes benefits and copy, and develops partners and channels.

All of this is critical to fast track the product so it can go viral and be a great success … without spending the unnecessary money or time on PR, SEO, and other external programs that Wilson cites.

Market on!

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Tech venture insight

Choice takeaways from VC Fred Wilson on tech and Internet ventures when he spoke at HBS from Seeing Both Sides.

  • “Early on in a start-up, entrepreneurs should be hunch-driven more than data-driven.  If you are only data-driven, the risk is that you will move too slowly.  It’s more important to have a hypothesis about what might work and what might not work and then see what happens in the marketplace to prove or disprove that hypothesis.
  • Lean start-up as a methodology or approach is very useful, but isn’t a guarantee for success by any stretch.  Think of the methodology as a machine.  If you have garbage inputs, you will still have garbage outputs.  There’s no substitute for good strategy, great entrepreneurs and a very large market opportunity.
  • When considering when to monetize your new product/service, think carefully about whether the monetization strategy actually improves the service or is a distraction.  Banner ads on Facebook are a distraction (as Zuckerburg supposedly said in the movie Social Network, “No ads. Ads aren’t cool.”)  But, for example, on Etsy if someone pays for a product, it inspires producers to create more products.  Thus, the monetization is harmonious with building the service.
  • If you are going to fail, and certainly with more start-ups being created and seeded we will see more failure, be sure to fail gracefully.  How you handle yourself as you unwind / seek a soft landing will reflect heavily on you and will cement your reputation.
  • Don’t worry about whether you are building a feature, a product or a company.  Build something great, have huge passion for it, engender affection with a large customer base, and let the rest follow.
  • If you get traction, transform your company into a platform.  The most valuable companies are those where third parties help you grow by plugging into your services like a utility.
  • VCs don’t make companies successful.  They can believe in and support a company, but ultimately the entrepreneurs make or break the company’s success and don’t let anyone (particularly an egotistical VC!) imply otherwise.”

Are LinkedIn Events eventful?

LinkedIn (LI) Events is Meetup for LinkedIn members. It’s been around for over two years now.  What do you think of it? Have you found it valuable? What tips or other uses have you found?

I’ve used LI Events a few times for DallasBlue events. I’ve found it useful for supplementary marketing and services and have added it to my regular event operations. My review and comments are below.

Weak features:

  • Primary event listing. Don’t have a web page? LI Events allows you to publish the basic facts, including a link to a web site.  The listing does not provide payment or formal registration.  It’s OK for a simple and free get-together.  It’s adequate for a secondary listing.  But it’s not a selling or registration service.  I don’t recommend it as the primary home for a professional or corporate event.
  • LinkedIn community promotion. I’ve seen little evidence that business members turn to LI Events to find a new seminar or business event.  You might attract a few people.  But don’t count on it to fill your meeting.
  • Branding. There is little you can do to brand your meeting on LI Events.  The event is associated with your personal profile. You can’t provide a logo, HTML, or otherwise format your listing and description.  Your organization is a single non-descript line in the event overview.  LI provides a custom URL with the event name.  But that is quite long.  Use bit.ly or your favorite url shortener.

Recommended use:

  • Contact marketing. LinkedIn makes it easy to invite your connections. The event will also show up in LinkedIn updates on the home page and in email for your LinkedIn buddies.  LinkedIn messaging restrictions apply. You can only invite current connections and send to a maximum of 200 people at a time, which can only be filtered by metro area and industry.  Don’t rely solely on LI Events for your marketing. But it definitely should be a part of your outreach.
  • Social communications. LI Events supports comments.  It’s limited compared to LinkedIn group discussions.  Still, it’s a useful real-time and social way to publish event announcements and updates, receive and answer questions, and allow other comments and suggestions. My normal event publishing doesn’t provide this functionality.  I’ve found LI Events to be a nice supplemental resource.
  • Online event networking. I’ve been looking for several years for a free service outside Meetup that allows invitees and attendees to look up one another before an event to see who’s coming, plan personal meetings, and initiate contact, as well as to follow up afterward. Only people who RSVP in advance on LinkedIn will be listed in the LI Event, just a subset of actual attendees. So it’s far from a complete solution.  Similar to Event communications, I don’t have a solution for online event networking and so find this to be a helpful, albeit limited, feature.

Be sure to actively promote the LI Events event URL for communications and networking everywhere you list the event – your main event web page, your newsletter, all event marketing pieces, and all registrant messages.

Claim your free lunch, gloves, seminar, and other deals!

Here in Dallas many folks are confined to the house, frozen in by the ice and snow.  So let Blue set you free.  I’ve pulled together a bounty of special deals just for you, whether you’re in Texas or beyond!

Free networking lunch Wed. Feb 9. A few seats are still open for IT executives to network and learn what’s new in Data Management at Pappas Steak House in Dallas. Discover how deduplication and low-bandwidth replication can help improve data protection and solve back up challenges.  One lucky attendees wins an HP laptop! Register now.

Free bag gloves. Start 2011 right with Jay’s Kickboxing in Plano. Get in shape … improve your fitness … tone your muscles … supercharge your cardio … lose weight … learn self-defense … build confidence and discipline … hone your martial arts and MMA skills and techniques … all at Jay’s! I’ve been a student at Jay’s for several years.  New students get free gloves. Join me and learn more at Jay’s Kickboxing.

Free future technology seminar Fri. Feb 11. UTD presents Jeff Wacker, official HP Futurist. Discussion and Q&A will provide in-depth insight on the influence and direction of technology. Find this and similar events at the DallasBlue Entrepreneurs Community Calendar.

Free weekly entrepreneur meetings. DallasBlue Entrepreneurs Collin County meets weekly in Grapevine for startup support and presentations. Join the group!

Free deals. In this Great Recession money is tight.  Why spend it if you don’t have to? There are now hundreds of hot deal sites where you can get great products and services from 50-90% off or even free.  My favorites include NoMoreRack (I bought 3 ties for $1 each plus shipping!), Hot Deals Live (win an iPad just by registering), and Vistaprint (free business cards).  I maintain a page where you quickly view almost 100 deal sites for Dallas and beyond at MyLinkDallas.com.

Helping Build Your Business … and save you money!

Marc Freedman


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