Dear Future Customer

May 16, 2015

dear future customer - meghan trainor adapted lyrics

Channeling Our Inner Meghan

Much of what we do in Marketing is develop content and coordinate programs for lead generation. In other words, we’re engaging with future customers.

I’ve taken Meghan Trainor’s popular song (“Dear Future Husband”) and adapted the lyrics for marketers.

Dear Future Customer (Lyrics)

Dear future customer,
Here’s a few things
You’ll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only
Oh wait: we’re polygamous, we have many customers (whoops!)

Take a spin with our free trial
And don’t forget the flowers (if you like it)
‘Cause if you’ll treat me right
We’ll be the perfect vendor
We’ll give you multi-year discounts,
That’s what you need

You got that 9 to 5
But our customer support is 9 to 9
So don’t be thinking we’ll be baking apple pies
But we’ll ship you some for Thanksgiving
Sing along with us
Sing-sing along with us (hey)

You gotta know how to renew your subscription
Even when we’re acting crazy
Tell us everything’s alright

Dear future customer,
Here’s a few things you’ll need to know if you wanna be
Our favorite customer
If you wanna get that special badge
Participate in our advocacy programs

After every fight
Just apologize
Wait, we shouldn’t be fighting
Even if we’re wrong
[Grin] The customer is always right!
Why disagree?
Why, why disagree?

You gotta know how to treat us like a vendor
Even when we’re acting crazy
Call us out on Twitter (and follow Meghan here: @Meghan_Trainor)

Dear future customer,
Make time for our customer conferences
Don’t leave me lonely
And know that next year, we’ll get Bruno Mars for the concert

How Mark Schaefer Made a Splash with Content Shock (And What You Can Learn From Him)

January 29, 2014

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Insights for Content Marketers

I consider 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued.” Mark Schaefer is Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, where he provides marketing consultation to businesses. He’s the author of the {grow} blog, along with a number of books.

Photo: Mark Schaefer on Twitter (@markwschaefer)

Shortly after the New Year, Schaefer published a blog post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” The post received 400+ comments, along with thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles. This week, Schaefer followed up with a new blog post to address all of the dissenting opinions.

My Quick Take on Content Shock

Content Shock
Image via Mark Schaefer.

Too many dissenters took a “black and white” view of Schaefer’s piece. Either content shock will doom us all or it won’t. In fact, this was my original interpretation. As Schaefer’s follow-on piece notes, however, we don’t live in a world of absolutes – there’s grey matter in between the black and white.

As a content marketer for a “small” brand, you’re not doomed to hopeless failure. In fact, if you’re a small fish in a big pond, Schaefer prescribes the following:

“If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

Mark Schaefer’s Winning Formula

Mark Schaefer
Image via Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

Schaefer Marketing Solutions operates in a highly crowded space. First, consider their direct competition: individuals and agencies who offer similar consulting services. They’re blogging and publishing books, too. On the agency side, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of agencies with far bigger budgets.

Next, consider the “indirect competition” – the rest of us who are publishing related content. Whether it’s social media marketing or content marketing, Schaefer competes with HubSpot, Marketo and KISSmetrics for attention and readership. It’s not a zero sum game, but it’s competition nonetheless.

So with the two blog posts alone, let’s consider how Schaefer combats content shock for his own business.

Find a Timely Topic

While some trace “content marketing” back to the age of cavemen, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the discipline and the term are getting a lot of buzz in 2014 (and, earlier in 2013). We’re all talking about “content marketing” – but more importantly, brands are putting serious dollars behind it. I’ve worked with journalists in past jobs and many of them (today) are heading up content marketing at B2B brands. So January 2014 was a good time to introduce “content shock.”

Take a Well-Reasoned Stand

Taking a stand garners attention. Taking a well-reasoned stand gets attention, but also drives dialog and conversation. If you wrote a blog post about “Why World Peace is Overrated,” you’re taking a stand, but you’ve lost credibility with most people in the title alone. Schaefer presented a well-reasoned argument that combined with a timely topic and a little controversy, generated a firestorm.

Side note: a search on Google shows that the original Content Shock piece has 12,500 inbound links pointing to it!

Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions

If he had enough time in the day, I bet Mark Schaefer would reply to every single blog comment and every single tweet. If you look at his blog posts, he gets rather close to doing just that. It takes a lot of time for Schaefer to respond to people.

blog comment

But consider his competition: other marketers, agencies and vendors like Marketo and HubSpot. They might have bigger budgets than Schaefer, but some of them do NOT interact as much – or if they do, they don’t do it in the inviting and genuine style of Schaefer.

Advantage: Schaefer.

To combat content shock: having a plan in place to genuinely engage with the readers of the content you produce. Schaefer, “predicted” all of this (in a sense) with an earlier post  that he published, “How to beat Hubspot at its own game.”

Follow Up

Sometimes, it’s not enough to reply to comments and engage with your readers (and dissenters). If you were fortunate enough to have your content spark a conversation, then take the time to carefully review all of the input (both in favor and in opposition of your stance) and follow up. Your follow-up should summarize the dialog, then provide your response. Just like Schaefer did.


So how can smaller fish survive in the larger content pond? Consider what Mark Schaefer did:

  1. Find a Timely Topic
  2. Take a Well-Reasoned Stand
  3. Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions
  4. Follow Up

What are you waiting for? Go do it!

5 Completely Surprising Marketing Tips Learned from Fifth Graders

January 21, 2014

fifth grade classroom

Photo source: User Michael 1952 on flickr.

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Recently, I served as “teacher for the day” in my daughter’s fifth grade classroom. My guest appearance was coordinated by a great organization, Junior Achievement, who “teaches young people about money management and how business works.”

With a lesson plan provided by Junior Achievement, I taught five, 45-minute lessons on topics related to business and entrepreneurship. I know about raising fifth graders from the one I have at home, but spending a day with a class full of them gave me further insights on their attitudes and inclinations.

Before long, these fifth grade students will grow up and become part of the target audience for your marketing. Here are five surprising marketing tips based on my observations.

1) Forget about social media marketing.

I asked students to name examples of businesses. Here’s the list compiled by this Silicon Valley-based class:

social media top of mind with fifth graders

Perhaps they were too young to name Snapchat? The point is, fifth graders are on the bleeding edge of technology. They used iPods as toddlers, then graduated to iPads. They may not be using Facebook, but their siblings and parents are. So they’re aware of what it is and what it does.

That being said, forget about the social media marketing you’re doing today to reach their parents. Once these kids enter the workforce, social marketing will no longer be relevant, because another form of advertising will have emerged.

2) Invest in billboard advertising.

T-rex billboard ad

Photo source: Eric Fischer on flickr.

We did a lesson on advertising. The fifth graders were given a business scenario and asked to work in teams to devise a business, then create an advertisement for that business. Before they started designing, they were asked to name examples of advertising.

Many of the students mentioned billboard ads that they see on Highway 101 in the Bay Area. They were able to recall the messaging contained on those billboards in impressive detail. Out-of-home advertising works! It’s effective because of the captivated audience it commands. So as these fifth graders grow into adults, think of ways your own marketing content can be delivered to a captivated audience.

3) Decrease your online marketing budget.

If you think about standing up in front of a fifth grade classroom for an entire day, it can be worrisome: will the students have any interest in what I’m saying? To be honest, I noticed that some of them “tuned out” during segments of the lessons.

But what got them to pay attention, engage and interact? Activities. The Junior Achievement lesson plans pair verbal instruction with a fun activity that reinforces that instruction.

Online marketing is great. It’s cost effective and it’s measurable. But to make a deeper connection with your  marketing, consider programs that include face-to-face interactions. The fifth graders are kind of expecting it.

4) Tomorrow’s workers won’t be motivated by gamification.

Many of the day’s activities came in the form of games. The fifth graders would high-five each other when they rolled a six, but what got them most excited were forms of peer-to-peer connections and recognition.

WHITE PAPER: How Community Managers Can Use Gamification to Create Sustainable Engagement

We did an exercise in which two students were named partners in a popcorn and ice cream business. The two partners stood at the front of the classroom. Next, they called up classmates (one by one), assigning them to assorted roles within the business (delivery people, business analysts, attorneys and ultimately, a CEO).

Students were most excited when they were called up to the front of the room. The selection and “job assignment” (in front of the entire class) gave meaning to the activity. It made them feel rewarded. How do you “gamify” experiences for tomorrow’s workers? Make it less about points and badges and more about peer-to-peer relationships and recognition.

5) Make them wait for it.

child using tablet

Photo source: User nooccar on flickr.

Today’s generation of kids live in a world of instant gratification. With timeshifting and on-demand consumption, they get what they want, when they want it. Remember how Thursday nights on NBC were called “Must See TV?” Today’s generation calls it “I See TV” (“When I Want It”).

So first, make your product, content and experiences great. Then, act differently with it. Don’t give it to them right away. Make them wait. Make them go through hoops to get it. Why? Because when they do, they’ll cherish it. They’re so used to getting everything right away, that making them wait adds to the enjoyment.


Today’s fifth graders are tomorrow’s customers. While I enjoyed my time in the classroom, I also considered it a form of market research, in better understanding tomorrow’s buyers. Hopefully, I learned from them as much as they learned from me. And, I hope this post served to spur forward-looking thoughts on how to do marketing in the future.

A Portrait of The Marketer as a Young Man

January 11, 2014

young marketer

This post was originally published at Medium: A Portrait of the Marketer as a Young Man.


Recently, I read a great post on the Kapost blog by Anne Murphy. Anne’s post was titled “3 Things You Can’t Learn from a Content Marketing How-To Article” and included a paragraph titled “How to Write.” Anne wrote:

“For 18 years, I lived with one of the best writers and editors I know. Her name is Nancy Murphy. I call her Mom.”

Not only did Mom help shape Anne’s writing, but she (Mom) taught her that “good writing takes constant work.”

Today, I’m a marketer (at DNN) who does a lot of writing. My degree is in computer science, not history, communications or political science. I spent the first 14 years of my career in Information Technology (IT). So how did I come to be a marketer? Anne’s post inspired me to consider my own journey.

Careless Mistakes in Second Grade

If there’s such a thing as a crisis in elementary school, then I was in one. Both of my parents had been called in to a meeting with my second grade teacher, Mrs. Trout. I had been making careless spelling mistakes and the pattern was only getting worse. Spelling errors were understandable, but Mrs. Trout was concerned about my consistent pattern of carelessness.

I took that meeting to heart (well, as much as a second grader could). I addressed the carelessness and improved my spelling each year. In fact, by the time I reached fifth grade, I’d be entered into the grade-wide spelling bee.

This second grade crisis helped shape my marketing. It’s put a certain lens around everything I do: writing an article, reviewing an email promotion, writing a webinar description, reviewing a white paper, etc. I have an ability to catch my own mistakes, as well as spot errors in others’ work. I harken back to my days in second grade and know why.

Editorial Independence

The Call of the Wild

Image source: User cdrummbks on flickr.

I’ve now reached fourth grade. We read Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” in class and I was writing a book report at home. My dad briefly looked over my work and thought that I wrote the report all wrong. As he tells the story, I became very upset, insisting that I had written the book report according to specifications.

Based on my strong insistence, my father allowed me to proceed and I handed in the book report “as is.” It turned out I was correct: I received a good grade on the report. From that moment on, my dad gave me full editorial independence in my grade school writing projects.

This feeling of independence can be empowering. If every sentence I wrote could be inspected for corrections, the experience wouldn’t be as enjoyable. And while editorial oversight is important and necessary in many contexts, the independence is one reason I enjoy blogging so much.

Reading about Sports

Also in fourth grade, I developed a love of sports. Starting in high school and continuing into the present day, I read a lot of sports articles.

Best American Sports Writing

Image via Amazon.

I like to read the beat writers who cover my teams and I love human interest stories (i.e. long form articles) related to sports. I adore “The Best American Sports Writing” series. My dream job? To be the beat writer for one of my favorite teams.

I’ve tried my hand at sports writing. At my current job (and at past jobs), I’d write summaries of company softball games and soccer games and share them. My colleagues would tell me that I missed my calling as a sports writer.

Because of all the reading I’ve done, writing about sports came so naturally to me. As I sat at my keyboard, words would emanate and flow like those of more experienced sports writers. It’s similar for the B2B content I write at work: I consume so much of other people’s content that it helps inform and guide my own.

The High School Poetry Magazine

For a high school English class, I submitted a poem that depicted a cold, wintry night from the view of my bedroom window. My English teacher liked it. She managed the school’s poetry magazine and encouraged me to get involved.

So I wrote more poems, attended a poetry conference or two and helped assemble the school’s magazine. I’ve come to realize that marketers are much like poets: we need to assemble words in a way that makes an impact with our audience.

So when I compose tweets, Facebook posts, subject lines, calls to action and promotional copy, I look back to my high school days and realize that my dabbling in poetry helped a great deal.

But Where’s the Beef?

Where's the Beef?

Image source: User xxxbadfishxxx on flickr.

There’s a difference between eloquence and substance. At an early age, I discovered that I had a knack for putting words together. But I didn’t receive consistently high marks on my papers, whether it was AP English (in high school) or Literature Humanities (in college).

The issue? I was missing the beef (i.e. substance). This realization helps inform my B2B writing. Whether it’s a blog post or a white paper, I try to spend as much time (or more) researching as I do writing. The content must be well planned, well researched and well thought out. Words can always sound good, but they must be backed up with information and insights that provide value to the reader.


It’s been fun to consider how childhood events and developments helped shape the marketer I am today. When I graduated from college, I never considered the possibility that I’d be in marketing. I wonder what I’ll be doing ten years from now. Perhaps you’ll find me online, reporting on last night’s Yankees game.

Improve Your SlideShare Marketing with These 10 Fun Facts

November 16, 2013

10 Fun Facts About SlideShare


At DNN, we produce 1-2 webinars per week on topics ranging from online community to content management to website optimization. Recently, we created a SlideShare channel to host all of our webinar presentations. It was a convenient solution for distributing slides to our webinar viewers. And, it would help widen the reach of our webinar content.

Results Have Exceeded Expectations

In the three months since launching our SlideShare channel, our presentations have received 40,000+ views, 47 Likes, 186 downloads, 317 Facebook shares and 180 tweets. One of our webinar presentations, in fact, generated 10,000 SlideShare views during the first week it was posted.

Let’s consider ten fun facts about SlideShare that can help inform your SlideShare marketing.

10 Fun Facts About SlideShare

1) SlideShare has 60 million monthly visitors.

According to their “About” page, SlideShare has 60 million monthly visitors and 130 million monthly page views. They’re among the top 200 most visited websites in the world. It’s a no-brainer, folks: extend the reach of your content (for free) to a potential audience of 60 million people.

At DNN, our webinars might reach thousands of people. With our SlideShare channel, we have the potential to reach millions. As a bonus fun fact, more than 10 million presentations have been uploaded to SlideShare. Check out a neat infographic from SlideShare that marked the occasion.

2) Hyperlinks (in slides) are clickable.

It’s true that Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird have changed the dynamics of SEO, but links are still a primary currency of the web. When creating your presentation, be sure that any links become true hyperlinks. I’ve found that hyperlinks (on SlideShare) are not clickable on Slide 1, but are clickable on all subsequent slides. On the DNN SlideShare channel, our presentations have generated 95 clicks to external pages.

3) Infographics are liked 4x more than presentations, and 23x more than documents on SlideShare.

Earlier this year, SlideShare announced support for infographics. Since then, they’ve published data points that compare engagement and interaction between infographics and other content formats. Just save (or convert) your infographic to PDF, then use the standard “Upload” process in SlideShare. It will detect that the uploaded document is an infographic and place it in “Infographics” tab in your SlideShare channel. We recently published an infographic, “Top 10 Blogs Every B2B Marketer Should Read.”

4) Your URL is derived from your presentation’s filename.

The structure of your URL is important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SlideShare auto-generates the URL of your presentation and you’re not able to edit or change it. So name your file to match your desired URL.

I like my SlideShare URL’s to match the title of the presentation. You’re not guaranteed to get your desired URL: if another presentation has the exact same title, SlideShare will append a number to the end of your URL (to make it unique). Don’t name your presentation “My webinar deck with edits from Jon v2”.pptx unless you want those words to appear in your SlideShare URL.

5) You can link to a specific slide.

You’re already using your social channels to promote your SlideShare presentations. Let’s say you wanted to share a surprising statistic on Slide 7, however. It’s not a great user experience to tweet about Slide 7, then drive users to the Slide 1 of your presentation.

SlideShare has an easy solution: to permalink to Slide 7, just append “/7” to the end of your URL and you’re done. Once users land on Slide 7, they can still navigate backward or forward. SlideShare explains further on their blog. In the spirit of sharing a specific slide, here’s a fantastic quote on community management (from a recent webinar).

6) SlideShare supports audio in the form of Slidecasts.

You can upload an MP3 (audio) file and synchronize it to your slide presentation. Side note: I’d like Morgan Freeman to narrate my presentations. SlideShare provides step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

By grabbing the audio track from your webinar (and then doing the synchronization), SlideShare can be a convenient place to host on-demand webinars!

7) You can easily embed SlideShare presentations on web pages.

You can embed any SlideShare presentation onto a web page, including those published by others. By embedding your own, you play the role of promoter or syndicator. By embedding presentations from others, you play the role of curator and commentator.

When viewing the presentation on SlideShare, simply click the “Embed” button at the top of the player. Copy the HTML code for use on your site (or blog). You can also copy a “shortcode” for blogs. Using embedding, we generated 10,000 SlideShare views in one week (for a webinar presentation).

8) You can link your SlideShare account to your LinkedIn account.

By linking these two accounts, activity on SlideShare gets fed automatically to LinkedIn and seen in the Newsfeed of your LinkedIn Connections. As you upload new presentations or “Like” existing ones, your LinkedIn Connections will know. Check out how you can use this to share social media content in five minutes a day.

9) You can share your videos on SlideShare.

Presentations, infographics and audio, oh my. Now comes video. Yes, you can share your videos on SlideShare, too. Check out this FAQ on videos (from SlideShare) for further details.

10) SlideShare PRO gives you some premium features.

After seeing early results with SlideShare, we decided to upgrade to SlideShare PRO Silver, since it gave us the ability to embed registration forms, as well as a deeper view of analytics. The Silver plan costs $19 a month, so it was a no-brainer. Have a look at this SlideShare for more info on PRO.


We hope you liked our fun facts as much as we liked documenting them. Beyond the fun, we hope you can apply many of these facts to become a more effective marketer on SlideShare. Sixty million visitors are waiting.

Related Resources

  1. The DNN Software SlideShare page.
  2. A Twitter chat I participated in: Tips for Using SlideShare in Content Marketing
  3. Prior post: How a Webinar Presentation Generated 10,000 SlideShare Views in 1 Week

Originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Who’s On Your Marketing Team? Everyone.

July 13, 2013

Your Marketing Team

Photo credit: Flickr user WorldSkills via photopin cc


Whether you write code, collect payment, negotiate contracts or recruit new employees, we’re all in Marketing. Wikipedia defines Marketing as “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service.”

While this definition is suited for businesses, cause-based organizations (e.g. non-profits, schools, universities, etc.) have Marketing teams as well. For them, the first half of the definition applies: “the process of communicating value.”

Explicit vs. Implicit Communication

Communicating value

Photo credit: Flickr user Saint Huck via photopin cc

We often think of “communicating” as an explicit action: I’m speaking to you or sending you an email; communication, however, is quite often implicit. Think about body language. It’s not an explicit form of communication. In fact, you’re often not conscious of what your body is “saying.” But body language tells us all a lot about how you’re feeling.

The same holds true for Marketing:

Explicit Marketing

Implicit Marketing
Human Resources
Engineering & Development

Now, let’s consider these functions individually.



I suppose it’s a given that the Marketing team does marketing. But here’s something some marketers may not consider: while you can help fuel demand for product and facilitate the sale, your job doesn’t end there. Marketing can play a strategic role in the important post-sale activities of onboarding and retention. Even after a sale is made, Marketing needs to continue the “process of communicating value.”


What does Sales do? They sell. They close. But Marketing does a little selling. And Sales does a little Marketing. Sales is most effective when “the process of communicating value” occurs throughout the selling process and continues post-sale. And that means the sales rep is continually doing “marketing.”


The Support Team (Marketing)

Photo credit: Flickr user EcoVirtual via photopin cc

I place Support in the explicit camp, but they really straddle both camps. They’re explicit in the amount of direct communication they provide. They’re implicit, though, in their communication of value. They don’t actively “pitch” or “market,” but they communicate (deliver) value in the actions they provide and the effectiveness of their service.




Photo credit: Flickr user Dave Dugdale via photopin cc

Finance has far more touch points with customers than many think. They negotiate payment terms, collect payments and get in touch with customers when payment is overdue. The process by which a customer interacts with Finance can be as important as the underlying product.

For instance, an online ordering and payment system (set up by Finance) can simplify the process of doing business, thereby retaining more customers. The presentation of information on an invoice (and its accuracy!) can be important to some customers. In both cases, Finance provides an implicit communication (delivery) of value.


Similar to Finance, the touch points from the Legal team shape the customer experience. Everything from the manner in which a contract is negotiated (to the contract itself) is an implicit communication of value.

Human Resources

The HR team partners with the executive team to help define and shape the culture of the organization. When HR recruits new members to the team, they’re doing marketing. To convince candidates to accept job offers, HR needs to communicate the “value” that the organization provides.

In addition, the culture that HR helps shape is fundamental to the value (both explicit and implicit) that gets communicated and delivered to prospects and customers.

Engineering & Development

Good products market themselves and result in repeat customers. Yes, developers: the hundreds of lines of code you wrote today? That was, in a sense, marketing. Welcome to the team.

Information Technology (IT)

Information Technology can “touch” both inward-facing and outside-facing systems.  For inward-facing systems, IT provides the critical resources that “Marketing” depends on. Legal, Sales, Finance, etc. cannot communicate value if these systems are not available.

For outside-facing systems (e.g. the infrastructure supporting a SaaS business), IT directly impacts the value delivered to the end customer, in the form of service availability and performance.


The next time someone asks what you do for a living, tell them: “Marketing.” Then, explain why.

The 10 Things Marketers Should Do When Starting a New Job

May 25, 2013

Do these 10 things when starting a new marketing job

Photo credit: Courtney Dirks via photopin cc


Recently, I started a new job at DotNetNuke, a leading web content management platform. As a product marketer, part of my role is to help tell the story of the great products we sell – and, in a broader way, the great company we are.

As a result, I wanted to meet everyone in the organization, from Sales to Legal, from Engineering to Finance and from HR to Customer Support.

Here are the ten things marketers should do when starting a new job.

1) Introduce yourself to everyone.

Meet everyone at your new company

Photo credit: Flickr user: screenpunk via photopin cc

Depending on the size of your organization, it may be challenging to meet “everyone.” I’m based at headquarters, with about 40 other team members. I was taken “on the rounds” to meet everyone. If you don’t have the benefit of being taken around, be sure to introduce yourself to everyone you come across.

2) Ask for an org chart.

I was provided an org chart on my first day, which helps on a number of levels. First, it gives me a list of everyone in the organization. Next, as I meet people, I’m able to look them up on the chart to confirm their role. And finally, it gives me an early sense of whom I’ll be working closely with (e.g. account managers, account execs, etc.).

3) Engage with Sales right away.

Sales and Marketing alignment begins with a “hello.” Introduce yourself to as many sales reps as you can. The first week is primarily an “existence proof,” so Sales knows your name and begins to recognize your face. It’s the beginning of a long-standing (and important) relationship.

4) Focus on completing the “logistics.”

Filling out the W-2, reading the employee handbook and enrolling in benefits are important and necessary steps. Spend the time early on to complete these steps. If you can get them done on Day 1 or 2, the rest of your first week (and beyond) is set up for success.

5) Schedule video conferences with remote teams.

Meet remote teams via video

Photo credit: Flickr user: oxmour via photopin cc

Since our Engineering and Support teams reside in a different location, I was scheduled on orientation briefings with the leaders of those teams. We used a Polycom video conferencing system, which allowed us to see each other. If you don’t have such a system in your organization, go with Skype or Google+ Hangouts.

6) Attend as many internal meetings as you can.

Ask for permission to attend as many internal meetings as your schedule permits. Because you’re new, you’re guaranteed to learn something in each meeting. I attended a daily scrum meeting and got to hear details around the current product release. It also gave me a feel for how the Engineering team works.

7) Tell Sales what you plan to do for them (informally).

I boiled it down to this: I want to enable Sales to sell more. Define your objective up front and communicate it. That helps shape everything else you do. Communicate the “what,” then work to define the “how.” Sales will be sure to help you with the “when.”

8) Ask for the fire hose to be turned on.

Ask your peers to send you as much information as they can: email threads, project plans, existing marketing content, etc. It’s better to have the fire hose be turned on than to be lacking in water. You’ll need to prioritize what you consume and review – but as a marketer, you’re skilled in working with (and prioritizing) massive amounts of content.

9) Attend sales calls as a silent observer.

It’s good to see product demos from peers, but it’s priceless to observe a sales call (and demo) with prospects and customers. You get to learn a lot about your products. And importantly, you get to see how Sales is positioning and selling the products. During your first week or two, you may not be ready to have a speaking role on these calls. So let Sales know up front that you’ll focus on listening.

10) Develop a short-term plan.

Your boss will probably provide you with a short-term plan. Take that plan and compress it down to an even shorter timeframe (e.g. your first 1-2 weeks). This helps you prioritize at a more tactical level, to ensure your first 1-2 weeks are as effective as possible.

Separated at Birth: 10 Reasons Product Managers and Event Managers are Kindred Spirits

May 4, 2013

Product Managers and Event Managers are similar


Creating a great event is like creating a great product. You need to have empathy for your user (attendee) and create delightful experiences that satisfy needs and make them come back for more.

Companies innately “get this.” It’s not surprising that some of the best product companies also produce great events. Two companies that come to mind are Apple and Salesforce. Let’s consider ten similarities between product managers and event managers.

1) Your job is defined by one thing.

Product managers are defined by their products. Event managers are defined by their events. I used plurals there, but more often than not, it’s singular: a product manager handles a product and an event manager handles an event. Most other jobs lack this singular focus.

2) Determining “market fit” is critical.

Before designing a product, a product manager needs to build the business case around market fit: will there be people willing to write a check for my product – and if so, how many are there and what’s the average selling price? Event managers need to follow a similar exercise, to determine whether people will attend the event and (in some cases) whether companies will pay for sponsorship.

3) Your work is determined and defined by a schedule.

Product managers and event managers work from a schedule

Image source: User sadiediane on flickr.

Yes, we all tend to work from a schedule. But product managers and event managers run against a schedule 12 months out of the year. For products, the schedule is built around the current release. For events, it’s built around the current event. After those “ship,” a new schedule is built for the next release or for next year’s event.

4) You apply feedback to make the next one better.

Effective product and event managers identify lessons learned and apply those lessons to make the next release or the next event even better.

5) Empathy for the user is a requirement.

Product managers need to put themselves in the shoes of their target customer. Event managers need to do the same with their target attendees. Without a sufficient amount of empathy, great products and great events will be merely good.

6) You need good marketing to succeed.

An example of good marketing

Image source: Boston Public Library on flickr.

A product never achieves greatness until it’s adopted by the market. An event can’t be great if no one attends. In both cases, marketing is needed to drive awareness and adoption. Without marketing, products may cease to have customers and events may cease to have attendees and sponsors.

7) You have a job that never ends.

I marvel at 24 hour news networks like CNN. Yes, I know that not all programming is truly “live,” but still, there’s programming around the clock. It’s similar for product managers and event managers: rarely is there downtime, because you’re always on to the next release or the next event.

8) The focus of your job is experiential.

So there’s my fancy term for this post, experiential. For events, this is obvious. And it’s true for products: craft a great user experience and you create great products (and events).

9) You’re required to lead multi-disciplinary teams across the finish line.

Great coaches lead great teams

Image source: User farmerdave8n on flickr.

Product managers and event managers need to lead. You’ll work with people across numerous functions and assorted personalities. In the end, you have a single goal: bring the team across the finish line to a great product release or event.

10) You need to make an impact to achieve customer loyalty.

Want customers to renew their SaaS subscription or purchase your next device? Want attendees to return to your event next year? It’s simple: satisfy their needs and make an impact.

7 Similarities Between Online Marketing and Downhill Skiing

April 8, 2013

Downhill skiing has similarities to online marketing

Image source:


I recently spent a week skiing at Squaw Valley in Northern California. While riding the ski lift one day, it occurred to me that skiing has similarities with online marketing. Let’s consider seven similarities.

1) Start with the bunny slope, then work your way up.

As a beginner skier, you’d never do your first run on a double black diamond. Instead, you might go for a private lesson on the bunny slope and learn how to do “pizza formation” with your skis.

With online marketing, you could also go for private instruction. Or, read a lot of blogs, attend webinars and watch other online marketers in action. When you’re ready for your first “slope,” start small. Build upon your initial success and learn from your early mistakes. Pretty soon, you’ll be skiing blues, on the way to online marketing black diamonds.

2) Take advantage of downtime.

With skiing, a large percentage of your day does not involve skiing. You spend over an hour driving to the mountain and putting on ski gear. You wait for other members of your group. You stand on the lift line, then sit on a chair up the mountain.

What’s left is the time you actually ski. It’s similar with online marketing. The posting, publishing, tweeting, pinning and email blasting occur around periods of inactivity. While skiing, I use downtime to catch up with friends, take in the view and breathe in fresh air. With online marketing, use downtime to read content, curate content, build plans and review data. Your resulting marketing will be the better for it.

3) Check weather and trail conditions.

Squaw Valley conditions report

Before heading down the online marketing trail, check the relevant data: performance from past campaigns, open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates and such. The last thing you want to do is find yourself on a double diamond (with moguls) when you’re not ready for it.

4) It’s all about the data.

Stats from the Squaw app

Pictured: the Squaw app. My statistics may be slightly skewed.

As online marketers, we have the benefit of more data than we’ve ever seen. And that’s true for skiiers, too. Online marketers have suites of analytics tools. Skiiers have smartphone apps to track descents, average speed, maximum speed and distance traveled. Both can use the data to inform their future plans.

5) Use a trail map to plan your journey.

The trail map at Squaw, as seen on their smartphone app

Pictured: Squaw’s trail map, as seen in their smartphone app.

Skiers use trail maps to identify terrain that matches their ability. They’ll also figure out how to get from the top of the mountain down to the base lodge. As online marketers, we need to build our own trail map before doing any marketing.

6) It’s good to help others.

When I see someone ahead of me fall and lose their skis, I always stop and offer to hand the skis down to them. Why? Because it’s easy for me to do that, while it’s more difficult for a skier to climb up the mountain. When I receive an email blast that has a prominent typo, I’ll reply to the sender to let them know. If a company lists a broken link in their Twitter profile, I’ll give them a heads up via a direct message. Helping others is a good thing.

7) It’s OK to bask in your success.

After a full day of carving up the mountain (mixed in with a little waiting), nothing beats the thirty minutes soaking in the hot tub. It helps sooth over-worked muscles and is quite relaxing. With online marketing, it’s fine to take pause and bask in your hot tub of success: sales leads, unaided awareness, lift in page views from organic search, etc.


Online marketing can be quite enjoyable. But remember that navigating the terrain won’t always be an easy descent. Make sure you have a trail map, check the conditions and always ski to your ability. Learn (and apply) your mistakes and you’ll be sitting pretty in that hot tub at the end of the day (campaign).

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