People Don’t Want a Drill…


Today, I have the honor of guest blogging over at Drew McLellan’s Marketing Minute. The post is titled “People Don’t Want A Drill…”

Here’s a sample…

“…people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.”

Check out the whole post here

Update: Here’s the complete text:

In his book “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth“, Clayton Christensen writes:

“How do you create products that customers want to buy–ones that become so successful they “disrupt” the market? It’s not easy.

Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.

Most of these failures are predictable–and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don’t properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.””

Put another way, people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.

Given this, why do so many companies attempt to market their products and build their brands using an approach focused internally on the thing and not externally on the customer’s need? They conduct focus groups, assembling panels of customers to ask if adding this bell or that whistle to their thing would make it more appealing. They do extensive demographical analysis to determine those target customer segments that will find their thing appealing and then spend lots of resources convincing those customers to buy their new and improved thing. Sure, they get clear inputs on what customers want, but don’t typically take the time to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they use the company’s thing. And this approach isn’t isolated to just manufacturers. It carries over to retailers who are focused on the products they are selling and not what the customer is passionate about or the “hole” they are trying to make.

Consumer Electronics retailers (my background) are particularly guilty of this. They are constantly telling customers that they have “all the great technology you want (or need) at prices you can afford“.

The fact is, very few people “want (or need) technology”. Customers don’t just wake up one morning and decide they need to go down to Circuit City to pick up some great new technology.

They DO want to have an incredible theater experience in their home. They DO want to capture and share family memories. They DO want to be able to print documents from any computer in their home.

How do the marketers respond to these needs? They dish out specs like 1080p, HDMI2.3, megapixels, and 801.11B, G or N. Whatever the latest spec is, that’s what you want. For the customer, none of this hype guarantees a great experience. Marketers who choose to promote their things this way will have a hard time building a powerful brand.

Marketers who understand what customers are really looking for will succeed by focusing on the experience enabled by their brand. Apple is, of course, the often-cited poster child for this. The iPod has never been the best in class from a technical standpoint, but the way Apple enables the music listening experience is what has put their brand miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the term “iPod” is often used generically in place of “MP3 player”. Customers looking for a portable media player will almost always think of Apple and iPod first.

My friend Ryan Karpeles wrote a great post on what he calls Reverse Branding which echoes this idea:

“People rarely think of your actual brand first. They think about what they want. Then they decide who, specifically, can fulfill that desire. Being that “who” is the essence of Reverse Branding.”

Getting customers to drive your brand in this way is the holy grail of marketing. To get there, you first need to understand that it’s the hole they want, not the drill. Once you get that, focus your efforts on being the best damned hole maker in the business.


Getting Social with My Digital Friends

Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people through social media. I often refer to them as my “digital friends” because, for the most part, we have never actually met. I know a handful of voices from phone conversations and podcast and I have seen most of their faces on their blogs, facebook, and Flickr. Despite the lack of physical familiarity, I have followed their lives through the things they share online and have gotten to know many of them quite well.

It’s a very odd feeling when you physically meet a digital friend for the first time. Back in October, I had dinner with Geoff Livingston, Valeria Maltoni & CC Chapman. I had never met any of them before, yet the conversation came as naturally as it would have had we been old friends. In a way, we were and a great time was had.

With that as the backdrop, I am really excited about attending Blogger Social ’08 next April 4-6. Bloggers from all over the world will be converging on New York City, not to talk about Social Media, but to just be social. It will be an opportunity to hang out with the digital friends I communicate with on Twitter, Facebook, Seesmic, Utterz, etc.

Below is a list of those who are confirmed. If you are a blogger you should get on this list, too…if for no other reason than because the cool kids are.

  • For full weekend, register here.
  • Commitment shy are you? Yeah, I get that. So then sign-up for Saturday’s spectacular event only right here.
  • Full Blogger Social website with FAQs, bells and whistles is right here.


Here’s who has signed-up to be a Socialite thus far: Susan Bird Tim Brunelle Katie Chatfield Terry Dagrosa Matt Dickman Luc Debaisieux Gianandrea Facchini Mark Goren Gavin Heaton Sean Howard CK Valeria Maltoni Drew McLellan Doug Meacham Marilyn Pratt Steve Roesler Greg Verdino CB Whittemore Steve Woodruff Paul McEnany Ann Handley David Reich Tangerine Toad Kristin Gorski Mack Collier David Armano Ryan Barrett Lori Magno Tim McHale Gene DeWitt Mario Vellandi Arun Rajagopal Darryl Ohrt Joseph Jaffe Rohit Bhargava Anna Farmery Marianne Richmond Thomas Clifford

You can also check out where everyone will be coming from, thanks to this Google Map put together by Matt Dickman.

I hope to see you in NYC!

Thankful Experiences

rockwell.jpgYesterday, ahead of the US Thanksgiving holiday, David Armano posed one of those great conversation starters to the community that follows his company’s blog, ExperienceMatters. The simple question: What Experience Are You Thankful For?

The response was big, especially since Experience Matters is typically more essay-oriented. Within 24 hours there were over 60 responses to the question and those responses make for a wonderful read. I went to the post this morning and was inspired to add my own words to the conversation.

The replies that people have left are personal, engaging and entertaining. They also demonstrate the human side of these digital relationships we develop through social networking. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

PS. For those of you who are Circuit City associates and read my internal blog when I was employed there, the name ExperienceMatters may sound familiar. Yes, it was the name of my blog there and is the name of the LLC that I created after my employment at CC ended. Great minds do think alike 🙂

Using Social Networks to Market PED3 iPhone Stand

Here’s a great example of leveraging Social Networks to market your products. This morning, I jump on Twitter and see a tweet from CC Chapman talking about free PED stands for iPhone and iPod Touch. I jump over to @ThoughtOut’s Twitterstream for the details. Available to “the first 5 people to link with a blog type of post about “PED3 iPhone stand (or iPod Touch)””


Sounds simple enough. and I can write a post that discusses the marketing aspects without just pimping my blog for a gadget.

Of course, it’s not as simple as it seems. To be successful at marketing through social networks, you have to have a couple of things. First, you must have a product or service that people want and at a price they are willing to pay. Second, you need an audience. There are lots of Social Networking sites out there. They all provide audiences, but I think Twitter is a great choice due to the speed with which messages can be communicated within it. You don’t necessarily need a big audience, but somewhere in that audience, you have to have people like CC Chapman, who has a high number of active followers in the social network space. People like CC are able to spread your message to other people, who will in turn, share it with their audiences (like I’m doing now).

Even if I don’t get one of the free stands, I’ll probably purchase one and I can say I heard about it first through social networking. I will be curious to know how many other people learn about this product this way.

Education In The 21st Century

One of the best things about social media and Twitter in particular, is the great content that my digital friends share. A few weeks ago, Mike McAllen shared a powerful video created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. I meant to blog about it, but with my hectic travel schedule, I just forgot about it. Fortunately, another Twitter friend, Shashi Bellamkonda mentioned the video again and that served as the kick in the pants that I needed to share it with you.

The YouTube description says the video “summarizes some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.”

I attended college (Virginia Commonwealth University) before the digital age. My computer was a Radio Shack calculator. My social network was whoever was hanging out between classes in Shafer Court. My Digg was the list of articles that were available at the local Kinkos at $.10 a page and a professor lecturing in front of a chalkboard (or with an overhead projector) WAS the way I learned.

Of course, while the video paints a very different picture of today’s educational environment, some things have not changed that much. Like the students in the video, I paid big bucks for my textbooks in 1980 and most of them were never used.  Other realities described in the video remind me that things are much more challenging for students; like the idea that some of their first professional jobs will be in roles that don’t even exist today.

As I watch my daughter approach her high school and college years, it’s easy to see that her generation does virtually everything differently because of the internet and technology. Communication, learning, recreation, everything.  Current college students did experience life before the internet.  Today’s 13 year olds did not.  As suggested by the recent Media Snackers video, their lives are highly fragmented. They get their information from a vast array of sources, not just a teacher with chalk and a blackboard. When they join the workforce,they very well may be doing jobs that don’t exist today, and you can bet that they will work in complex, distributed environments.  Does this mean we should drastically rethink today’s highly structured educational process to better enable tomorrow’s workforce to compete in a global market? I’m no expert in education, but I think it’s worth looking at. What do you think??

Now Is Gone – Helping Companies Leverage New Media

now_is_gone.jpgOn August 11, 2006, at a campaign stop, incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen twice used the word macaca (a perceived racial term) to refer to S.R. Sidarth, who was filming the event as a “tracker” for Allen’s challenger, Jim Webb. Webb’s campaign moved aggressively to spread the video through social media channels like YouTube and blogs. Mainstream media echoed these reports and Allen’s fate was cast. Once considered a serious contender for the 2008 Presidential race, Allen lost his re-election bid and in doing so, shifted the balance of power in the US Senate to the Democrats.

It was a powerful demonstration of the power of social media and the speed with which messages can be shared broadly. It was also the event that convinced Washington, DC PR guy Geoff Livingston that his world had forever changed.

In this new age of the empowered public, organizations have lost control of the conversation. People increasing turn to peers for opinions, news and even entertainment. Empowered by powerful new tools and social networks that are not bound by geography, the people formerly known as “the audience” are now in control. Livingston points out that:

“Businesses are realizing they will be forced to communicate to their customers in the consumers’ own preferred social media forms. Instead of businesses trying to find customers, this time businesses are trying to play catch-up with their customers.”

….and that fundamentally changes the Public Relations game. The problem is most organizations don’t know how to market through social media. Recognizing that opportunity, Livingston, a well respected blogger whose PR firm has real world experience applying social media principles to businesses, has taken the time to distill that experience into a set of ideas others can use.

In his new book, now is gone, Livingston discusses the general strategic principles and major aspects of social network marketing, providing executives a primer to begin their effort.

Start With the Right Attitude

The introduction (written by Brian Solis) does a great job of educating the reader about the new realities of marketing in the age of the hyper-connected, empowered consumer:

PR 2.0 starts with listening and reading, and leads to insight, understanding, and perspective. This inspires respect, which is the critical ante for participation in the social economy.

  • Listening is marketing.
  • Participation is marketing.
  • Media is marketing.
  • Conversations are marketing.

Understand and Apply The Basic Principles

Over the following chapters, Livingston discusses the increasing role of new media in consumers’ lives helps the reader understand the basic principles of marketing effectively using social media. What makes this book so useful is that Livingston uses his background in traditional PR to explain these principles using terminology and strategies familiar to traditional marketers. Those Seven Principles of Social Media Communications are:

  1. Relinquish message control — Command and Control is dead. Businesses will have a hard time with this, but in a conversational marketplace, two-way communication rules. Organizations that refuse to give up control “will be met with anger, distrust and either rebellion or distrust”
  2. Honesty, ethics, and transparencies are a must — No one wants a relationship with someone who doesn’t behave well. This is about “human relations” and applying The Golden Rule.
  3. Participation within the community is marketing — Just putting out content won’t cut it. You have to participate withing the community, reading and commenting on other people’s content.
  4. Communication to audiences is an outdated 20th century concept — Audiences receive one-way messages (as in mass communication). The audience has been replaced by the community and they are talking. You had better be listening and engaging.
  5. Build value for the community — The is about getting to know your community and what they care about through listening, reading and understanding. Then making a conscious decision to deliver content back that they will value.
  6. Inspire your community with real, exciting information — A press release to your stakeholders does not inspire them. Product details don’t get them excited. Leverage you subject matter expertise to build intrinsic value.
  7. Manage the media form with intelligence and you will build a community of people who become very loyal to you — Here’s a concept that shows up everywhere – Make it Easy for your community come back through calls to action, intelligent RSS feeds, a central landing point. Cultivate sustained interest through regular content updates.

Throughout the book, Livingston uses real world examples to illustrate successes and failures. now is gone is a great tool for organizations who are ready to start participating in their communities. Are you ready? Chances are your competitors are. What are you waiting for? After all, now really is gone!