Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Friday, November 12th, 2010

A recent article at Yahoo Finance, “Ten Mistakes that Start-Up Entrepreneurs Make,” is a must-read for inventors, entrepreneurs and small business owners. Mistake Number 3, in particular, rings a bell with this marketing guy:

“3. Spending too much time on product development, not enough on sales”

Most inventors and entrepreneurs – from the newest medical device, to 3-D imaging software, to a designer cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin. Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical start-up is forced to prioritize and sacrifice … and areas often neglected are marketing and sales. Here are 7 things every start-up and small business should be doing to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:

1. Early, EARLY, EARLY in the life of your start-up, figure out who your likely customers will be. Who has the passion – and the $$$ – to buy a product or service like your? Where are you likely to find them? And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?
2. Understand what your potential customers love and what they hate about products or services like yours. Then, emphasize the things the like, provide a solution to the things they hate, and don’t waste your time and resources on things they don’t care about
3. Test your concept – early and often. Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – investors, supplier or distribution partners, and potential customers. Entrepreneurs often fear that a competitor will ‘steal’ their idea, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers don’t care about.
4. Nothing can jump-start your start-up better than an early success, so Focus, FOCUS, FOCUS! I know, that dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough. Pick a particular offering (or closely related family of offerings), a customer segment you know well, and a well defined distribution scheme. Then, invest all your effort in making it work. The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – you gain from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.
5. Remove any hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Take a look at your own business through the eyes of a customer: Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet? Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business? How can I learn more about you, your product, your business? Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious return and refund policies?
Remember – What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers think and feel about it.
6. Share your success. You deserve to be amply rewarded for pushing your idea to fulfillment, but don’t forget the ones who helped get your there. It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business. The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work for yours.
7. Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers. Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time your customer touches you – beginning with their first phone call, email or their first step inside your store.

Marketing Green Technologies – Part 1, for Inventors

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Karen posed a couple of entertwined questions over on one of the Linked-In Group discussions:
“How can inventors of green products find and market to potential customers?”
“How can companies find new ‘green’ products and evaluate their effectiveness?”

For the inventor —
Having been there for most of my working life, I know that marketing even the best new product to industry isn’t easy. Most manufacturing companies are inherently conservative and cautious about adopting new products and new designs. And well they should be! Their caution is certainly understandable when viewed against the company’s responsibility for the safety of workers and the community and the efficient operation of million or hundreds of millions of plant investment.

Wearing my marketing hat, I often emphasize the emotional, non-rational side of b2b sales. However, in the case of new and unproven manufacturing products, it is vital to give the design engineer or maintenance leader confidence – built on hard data and credible experience – that your product won’t fail. In many cases, the cost of a failure (to the company and to the individual career) so far outweighs the potential and uncertain benefits that they just won’t take a chance.

That being said, companies are always happy to find ‘better and cheaper’. But in my experience, few are able to invest people resources to systematically monitor and assess new products. More typically, engineers will look for solutions to problems as they arise. Thus, it is vital to be visible (or memorable) when the engineer encounters the problem.

Bottom line – Being in ‘the right place at the right time’ means being in many places – print ads, internet, trades shows, customer visits – most of the time.

Updated “MS vs MBA”

Monday, June 1st, 2009

My 28 May post “MS or MBA” created quite a lot of interesting and valuable discussion over on LINKED-IN. The question: “Would an advanced technical degree be more or less valuable than an MBA to a young professional interested in a marketing / business career in the manufacturing sector?”
Here are some key themes and interesting excerpts:

AN ADVANCED DEGREE IS VALUABLE (Not surprising, since it seems most responders have at least one!), BUT….
“[E]xperience is worth the most in this market…. [U]nless you can get into a top B school … it really isn’t worth it. B school is all about the networking and Alumni network.”

“My MBA has broadened my career opportunities and earning potential. The rigor learned in my engineering training has definitely translated well to the business world.”
“With 2 technical degrees the technical advancement path may be enhanced, while the business community may not be convinced the person has business chops; with a BS and MBA, the business community will probably be more accepting.”
“The issue is really the difficulty in crossing the technical / business barrier [especially] in the large multinationals.”
“To understand the business best, start in a technical role, then shift to the business. It is very difficult to do the reverse.”
“Those who are technically trained can learn business management issues … Someone who has a business background cannot easily learn the chemstry/engineering/technology in a similar manner.”

“In all cases, creativity, attitude, team building, ethic and results amount for far more than advanced degree specifics.”
“I have both – MBA from Rutgers BS and MS in Physics. I would say that nothing can jumpstart your career, these are just tools.”
“With a technical undergrad degree, the advanced degree [MS, MBA] is ultimately less important than the would-be marketer’s curiosity, openness to new ideas and new approaches to business, and sensitivity to the motivations and intentions of key players in the marketplace.”


Here’s text of all the comments.