Archive for August, 2007

Marketing – Its not what you sell, its what they want

Its fun to have a boss that is willing to brainstorm and expand outside the zone of comfort.  Bateman IP is doing just that with its marketing presence.

For those of you who saw the title and said, “duh, fundamental principle.”  You’re right.  And yet, new businesses don’t seem to get it.  Even old ones put on the stupid – see Johnson & Johnson suing the Red Cross (if you don’t see how selling products that heal people and suing healers conflicts in terms of marketing, ponder awhile).

Business fulfills unmet needs.  Those needs are latent or active, which means that either people seek you out or you have to convince them to seek you out.

If consumers seek out your product category, then you have to convince them that your best attributes are the most important attributes.  Remember that Charmin toiletpaper is cuddly soft.

If your consumers don’t know that they need you, you have to convince them that life is better as your partner.  Pessimists call this creating a need.  Optimists call this discovering a need.  Its probably somewhere in between.  Think about anything that gets “buzz.”  Remember the need to watch American Idol, Survivor or Harry Potter?  Its sure not a need we just have at the forefront of our brain.

Pretty fundamental, eh?  Well what happens if you mix it up?  You fall flat on your face.  Sending consumers info about how your washer/dryer/toaster combo has all the great features and long-lasting does nothing to create the need (I’m not sure I want my carbs tasting like laundered underwear).  On the other hand, if you convince more people to buy toiletpaper instead of using bidets, then you’ve just worked hard to increase the market without helping your bottom line.

Take some time to notice the ads around you.  Ask yourself if they are activating a need or steering me to their attributes.  Then ask yourself if that is the correct strategy for you.  The more you think about it, the more you’ll be able to leverage it in your own life.

Directing Green Desire – How not to tick off people

I was talking with a friend about how a new IT person came in and without notice, rewrote the website template and asked for approval to migrate the website to the new template.  In the time it took to write the website and the email to get approval, the green IT guy might have set up his demise.

He’s probably lucky that I was talking with my friend before my friend visited with her colleages and lynched him.  There’s two sides to the story and thus two solutions, but let’s hit the problem first.

The Problem

My friend (who is not in IT or marketing) spent a year with her colleagues coming up with the design and layout of the website.  It was a fusion of ideas, and had a coherent look to it.

The IT guy saw a website that lacked web 2.0 features and knowledge such as usability, minimalism and reducing the amount of glaring white.  Unfortunately he didn’t understand the company, the users nor did he have any taste in color schemes.

My friend was planning on talking with other leaders and asking if they had assigned a website revamp after all that hard work.  As they all would have likely said no, then the IT guy was going to look like he didn’t have enough to do and didn’t get the organization.

The Solution

Communication before action.  If the IT guy had talked with my friend and proposed some changes, like usability or user focusing through color, my friend would have appreciated the desire to work with the team and expertise.

On the other hand, leaders should recognize that people fresh out of college (like this IT guy) don’t have all the skills, especially organizational culture ones.  A frank conversation about how to handle cases like this in the future, while recognizing his contribution will go a long way toward building a good working relationship.  The key is to remember that this IT guy is motivated.  He just needs some direction and people skills.  Whatever you do, you don’t want to kill his motivation.  And, yet, this situation was headed exactly that way.

So how do you fix your feelings?  Get a fresh perspective.  My friend asked me why he would redesign the website without asking and what was so good about his version.  I was able to show her that while his color and design lacked coherency and attractiveness, he had used some good design principles and technology that was lacking on the original.

The guy straight out of college wants to make a name for himself.  Instead of standing in his way, teach him how to do it.  The organization, and dare I say it, you will be better off if everyone shares how to succeed, instead of everyone clinging to their own successes.

Why Most Arguments Suck – Make Yours Better

Ever wonder why there’s a whole lot of sparring and not a whole lot of understanding these days?  It’s because people only argue from their point of view.  A persuasive argument leverages the other’s peson’s beliefs and speaks from their perspective.  Today’s “debates” with their “sound-bites” are just rallying cries and not true argument.  A true argumentor finds the kernel of disagreement and sifts through the chaff of agreement.

Here’s my rules of argument:

 Rule #1:  If you don’t understand the other side’s argument AND can justify it — don’t start arguing, start asking.

For rule #1, I think about the abortion debate.  I think about all the people who accuse each other about being “killers” or “legislating my body.”  If you’re berating the other side, there’s no use arguing because neither side will give in.

A good persuader will ask first, rephrase their beliefs looking for confirmation and then argue. 

For argument’s sake let’s take the side of pro-life.  We would ask someone when they believe life exists and choice retreats.  They would likely answer “at birth.”  So it might seem that our kernel of disagreement is at what point life exists.  But that’s not true:  you need to test it with an assumption.  Try asking this question:  if at any point during a pregnancy, with minimal invasiveness, an embryo could be transferred to a test-tube with no ill physical or mental effects, would you support this alternative to abortion?  Notice we’re still talking about their beliefs, but we’re finding out whether their objection is to a chain a woman’s body to pregnancy without a say or something else.  If the answer is negative, then follow-up questions should find where or if that switch could ever be made.

Rule #2:  Be willing to do the same exploration AND change your mind.

It’s not worth talking with someone unless you both can benefit from the other’s experience.  However, if you’re following rule #1, it is difficult to have a closed mind.  You might be sure of yourself, but not closed.

Turning the last situation around: a pro-choice person would ask the pro-life person when a person should be forced to sustain someone else’s life.  Should I be required to give up one of my kidneys to save someone else’s life?  my child’s life?  Should I be required to feed my child at the expense of my health?  What if there was only enough sustenance for one of us – which is right?  which should be required by law?  How far should a pregnant person be required to go to save the baby’s life?  bankruptcy?  house?  to protect the baby’s life?  alcohol?  seatbelts?  Find the limits where people switch and then confirm in your own words.

Rule #3:  Talk in their language, not yours. 

If you are arguing you should have 2 goals: acquisition of information and persuation.  You’re not going to be effective in either one if you force someone into your framework of understanding.  Use their words and their framework.  Their foundation and beliefs are different and that’s GOOD.  Its your job to understand it.

Notice my word change above depending on who I’m talking to:  baby vs. embryo.  A framework is not complete without terminology.  Look at math and physics.  If you don’t know the terminology, you can never hope to understand the framework (proofs).

Rule #4:  If it changes to violent, stop and walk away.

There are a few reasons to be violent, either by raising your voice or getting physical.  The only things that come to mind are protection from robbery or protests against the majority stomping on the minority (think Martin Luther King).  Generally, there are better ways to solve things.

In fact, if you stop when someone gets hot under the collar and don’t give them a reason to label you (that guy is just a bully, or he was blowing smoke because he came unglued), you just made them think about why they’re steamed and why you’re not.  People like to be consistent and don’t like to be mad without justification.  If you don’t give them that justification, they might just think about what you said.

If you’re the one hot under the collar, consider why you feel that way.

For example, I don’t get mad at people who call my wife or mother nasty things.  I know they are fantastic individuals.  I usually comment about how their comment says more about them than my family and walk away.

Hiatus Over

Without getting too personal, my long hiatus is over, school and family have calmed down (at least more than they were) and I can get back to more enjoyable things like blogging.