Author Archives: jeffrey

Premature Differentiation: The Final Chapter

The title is a bit misleading this time, because part 3 is actually concerned with when a focus on differentiation is NOT premature. When is that? When the people you are trying to reach have a high awareness your category (what it is you are selling) and a high and positive awareness of you as a vendor. If you are in this leadership position, you can focus almost exclusively on points of difference because the background information is already known.

Premature Differentiation Part 2

Even when potential customers understand your product, focusing too early on differentiation can hurt your sales. Even if people know what a car is, you still have to market differently if you’re Hyundai (at least in the US market) rather than Mercedes.

On the Differentiation Progression diagram, I call this market position Low Vendor Awareness. Potential customers understand the kind of widget you sell. But they but either don’t know your company, don’t know you make that particular widget, or just don’t see you as a category leader. Put in the customer’s voice, Low Vendor Awareness is just a fancy way of saying, “I know what a car is, but who the hell are you?” If you’re in this phase, your job is to create credibility and get considered.

Premature Differentiation Part 1

See the Premature Differentiation Video

“This positioning isn’t differentiated!”

I’ve heard this complaint dozens of times. Software’s a competitive business, and we all want to claim that what our product does is unique or at least better. And yes, at some point in the sales process you need to be able to explain why the customer should buy your stuff instead of someone elses. But does that mean that your points of difference should always be the first things you mention?

Hell no!

When and how much you focus on differentiation depends on what customers already know – both about the category of product you’re selling, and about your company in particular.

The Power of Positive Boredom

I usually write about messaging and marketing, but this topic hit me too hard not to share it. A great Fresh Air interview with reporter Matt Richtel gave me new insight on the creative wellspring that messaging, or any kind of creative work, bubbles up from. The magic (and increasingly rare) ingredient? Boredom!

As I’m writing this, there’s a guy walking by my window looking at his phone. He’s checking his email, just like I often do. He’s not bored. Too bad for him.

The Good Kind of Stupid

Want to get schooled in messaging? Write a country song!

In 2003 I took some time off from marketing to learn to be a songwriter. The West Coast Songwriters conference gave me my first chance to screen a song for a real live A & R guy. This was a big deal. Artist and Repertory people select songs for a record label’s artists. Remember record labels? They’re those companies that used to sell music!

To Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Know What You are Talking About

More advice about overcoming fear of speaking. Really?

Humans have contended with this fear since cavemen could grunt, and tips for overcoming it can’t have been far behind. Somewhere there is a self-help cave drawing advising aspiring storytellers to imagine the audience without their bear pelts. So no, I don’t want to be the millionth person to suggest imagining your audience naked. Depending on the audience, that could give you nightmares anyway! Besides, the goal isn’t just to overcome fear, it’s to deliver a compelling presentation.

Nobody Remembers the Fourth Stooge: Why the number in marketing shall be three

When your product is so fantastically capable, why should you struggle to boil down all of its value to just one positioning sentence and three key messages? Because there seems to be something natural, even hard-wired about the brain’s response to the number three. No parent tosses a giggling child into the air on the count of four. No movie cowboy draws on five. Memory research, literary trilogies, and the dramatic tradition of the three act play all support the “rule of three”.

But all of that science and tradition can be distilled into a few words: nobody remembers the fourth stooge!

You Know Too Much!

Why is it so hard to sum up your company or product in a few simple words? Like they say in the old spy movies, “you know too much!” As valuable as it is, all of the detail you have accumulated about your offering makes it very hard to boil it down for someone who doesn’t know (or care) as much as you do. And sadly customers and prospects NEVER know or care quite that much. If they did, they’d in your business instead of theirs.

The Story Comes First

Why a blog (or for that matter a business) about creating great messages? How can you take hours, days, weeks to perfect your business’ message? You’ve got videos to shoot, webinars to do, posts to get on Facebook, tweets to, uh…tweet. Yet how can you afford NOT to? All of these new media are channels through which your message will flow — so you’d better your story straight!