Tuesday, December 22, 2009


A topic I could spend hours talking about but a good reminder as we plan for and head into 2010.

Success in improving business performance is not in the blinding brilliance of your strategy, but rather it is in it’s execution. It is important to work efficiently and make sure you are squeezing every ounce of productivity from your team but it is equally important, and oft not focussed on as much, to ensure YOU have your team DOING THE RIGHT WORK.

Make sure you close the Strategy – Execution gap before you refine strategy. Being an organization that listens, learns and iterates is absolutely crucial to be an innovate, market leader. But if you are not good at executing the tactical details of your strategy, further refinement of that strategy will be of little value.

In small companies this is tough in most (not all) cases the person is a really creative, strategic thinker is NOT a detail oriented, nose to the grindstone executor. Know what you are good at and what you are not and make sure you get someone involved in your business who will focus tactically on absolutely driving the day to details of getting stuff done. Implement some process, use technology, do whatever works for you to ensure that you can not only execute really well but also sustain the execution of the many iterations that will inevitably come to your strategy. Execution is not a once and done proposition. A learning, changing organization needs to be able to do this CONSTANTLY. The challenge is that EXECUTION IS REALLY HARD WORK AND TAKES TIME! Strategists don’t appreciate how hard execution is and tactical operators don’t appreciate the big picture perspective and how hard it is to bring all the pieces together and build a cohesive strategy.

Understanding the effectiveness of your strategy is very important as you look to listen, learn and iterate to ensure you are modifying the right things and to make sure you know that the strategic changes will in fact be implemented and delivered on day to day.

This year focus on your execution and make sure you are comfortable that YOU or someone you trust is doing the hard grunt work executing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Crossing The Chasm - Lesson#1 – Marketing In The Early Days

Where Do We Start??

Initial Assumptions:

  1. I'm going to assume you have a business concept, a strategy, some funding (bootstrapped or otherwise) and a product in some stage of development.  You may have some customers or you may be looking for your first but you are fairly early on in your company's life but perhaps beyond pure start-up.

  2. I am writing from a B2B perspective but most of this is applicable to all businesses.

  3. While Crossing The Chasm ("CTC") focuses mostly on marketing and selling I will touch on product planning and development as well.

  4. Lastly, I will assume you have read the book and are familiar with the concepts without reviewing and reiterating the great teachings in the book.

Given you can see as clear as day how you are able to solve some of businesses biggest problems and help them save or generate huge amounts of dollars it is only fair to assume that someone closer to that business (the customer) will see your solution as the answer to all their prayers, right?  WRONG. 

Education is one of the single biggest portions of  a sales cycle in the early days.  In most cases you are trying to sell them something that they don't even recognize that they need yet.  I know in my situation we spent countless hours and dollars trying to educate prospects on the basic NEED for what we do.  We also spent untold amounts trying to build awareness and lead generation marketing campaigns through the years.  In hindsight I would have ENTIRELY cut out these programs.  Money is tight and intuitively you think getting your message out to the masses will build brand awareness and will mass educate the market on your fantastic approach to solving their problems.


If I had to do it again (and by that I mean, the next time I do this) I would spend all those efforts on tracking and speaking to established bleeding edge early adopters within the target verticals/customers that have the most strategic value to me as a reference.  Finding bleeding edge early adopters should be the single focus of marketing efforts.   I want to be clear that when I say target early adopters I am talking about PEOPLE NOT COMPANIESPeople lead the early adoption of new technology.  Yes Corporate culture and willingness to take on these types of projects is important but in my experience, even in a let’s say less than progressive industry or company, you can and MUST find people who are visionaries and those are the people you need to market and sell to.  Seems pretty logical but tactically how do you execute against this?  Here’s my lesson’s learned for your consideration:

  1. Regardless of the type of solution you are offering and the functional area of the organization your solution is applicable to it is usually easier to find someone in the IT group than on the business side simply because of their background.  This person will be your sponsor, your advocate and it is important that in the early days you really view them as a Partner more than a Client.  Many of these people can be found using bleeding edge technologies as that is their disposition, so social media tools, SXSW type events is where they will be hanging out to try to get info about the newest and shiniest things happening in their world.
  2. Look for companies that have already crossed the chasm selling into the general space you are in and reach out to them.  They will have lessons learned that will be as and more valuable than what I am telling you here.  The most important thing they will have is the name of PEOPLE that they dealt with at the companies they sold into.  Early adopters typically don’t change, even when unsuccessful.  Finding a person inside a target company that sponsored/led/bought another visionary offering was critical to our success.  This is the person you need to contact, court, and convince that you can help them.  They will understand more than anyone else the problem you are solving and the evolutionary way in which you are going about solving it.
  3. As you look into your target industry for ideal strategic candidates, in my experience the ones who are most likely to be open to your message as Company’s are the ones who are in the Top 20% of the industry and the ones who are in the bottom 20% of the industry.  The top 20% are there for a reason and have a couple things that are very important to you as you look to sell/partner with someone.  First, they probably have access to cash more readily than weaker companies in the space and second they also have an interest in staying ahead of everyone in their space and are willing to invest in new technologies that will continue to push their performance and create further distance between them and the middle class in the industry.  Bleeding edge people are attracted to these types of companies and are given more flexibility to thrive in this type of an environment.  Companies in the bottom 20% come at it from the opposite end but are viable for a different reason.  Finding a bleeding edge person is harder (but not impossible) in these companies but the culture of the company is more open to leading edge change because in many cases they have fallen so far behind the industry leaders they know that they need some game changers to get back in the game and in a lot of cases they have tried all the “non-evolutionary” solutions available to them with little or no effect.  Both of these are good customers for different reasons which I will get into in another post when I talk about “Sales In The Early Days”.  The middle performing companies are much harder to get into when Crossing because the risk of them investing in something new and having it fail from a personal perspective is very high.  The company is performing OK and often the culture of (the risk of) failure in a mediocre company does not support individuals stepping out and taking risks where in successful companies this risk taking and failure potential is accepted and frankly expected!



Agree, Disagree, please share your experiences.

Crossing the Chasm - The "Lessons Learned" Series

For starters, if you have not yet read "Crossing the Chasm" by Geoffrey Moore please beg, borrow, steal or buy (link attached) a copy and read through it. This book is one (of the two) most influential books that I have read in my time in small technologies companies.
Crossing the Chasm is a book about the journey, the trials and the tribulations in taking your product and company from one where every sale is a missionary sale to a place where there is a broader market acceptance of what you do and the business need to solve the problem that your product solves. The transition from one side to the other requires different approaches to almost everything you do as a business. In this series of posts I will walk through each of the functional areas in a business and the external influences on each and from my experience what worked and what did not work. For most businesses despite the brilliant guidance provided by Geoffrey Moore, this trip is one riddled with trial and error. Like anything not everything will work for everyone but in this series of posts I'd like to provide what I learned and where I failed in and effort to assist others in completing a journey that many (some may say most) companies never actually complete.
Follow along as I hope I am able to provide you with insight and the ability to avoid the 1 misstep that prevents you from Crossing. If you agree, disagree, have additional stories, thoughts please add in the comments so others who read can learn from all of us as much as possible.
Let the journey begin...if there are specific areas, topics you want me to cover please let me know. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Invest in Your Community for the Compound Interest

So I was talking to someone who had the following story for me as we discussed social media and it’s important role in brand building and community & employee engagement.

Associate:  Social media is a waste of time!  I started a Facebook page for my business, I did some blogging, I twittered…heck I even went to a SM focused conference and I have not had one lead come from it yet.

Me: How long have you been active in your community?

Associate: ALMOST 6 MONTHS (read with disdain and frustration), and I don’t have forever to wait to get an ROI, I only have so much time & I don’t see how this is helping me grow my business?

Me: You’ve barely even started!?  SM is not a lead gen program and is not a short term tactic.  Marketing through and participation in SM is an investment in your community, your space, your employees, your business, your customers, etc.  Think of it like a bank or any other long term investment.  Investing your hard earned money in an interest bearing bank account is not done because you need more money next week or next month.  It is done as a long term strategy and to leverage the power of Compound interest.  The reward is not immediate and your “investment” in time and effort contributing authentically to your community in a regular, repeated, valuable way will pay dividends for you and for your community over the years.

Associate: I need to drive business & cash immediately, don’t you know what is going on in my market right now?  I invested my time in this to turn my business around and sell through this medium.

Me: Then you didn’t understand how this medium worked before you engaged, you didn’t do your homework.  If you have short term business issues I can work with you on some tactics to preserve cash and sustain your business but this isn’t one of them.  You need to keep investing in SM but it isn’t your short term saviour.

Have you had this experience?  How have you handled it?  What guidance would you give an associate?

Too many people in my opinion are looking to capitalize on a short term lottery win through jumping on tools like twitter and thinking it will immediately turn around there business.  I empathize with many than NEED short term fixes but encourage you those people to address short term business issues aggressively and effectively while still participating in and building their community over the long haul.

BE Authentic & Caring with your community

BE Patient & Persistent with your contributions and willingness to help others

BE a Trusted Advisor that people can go to and follow for genuine guidance and real feedback and support

DO NOT be a used car salesman or a pompeous ass

DO NOT be condescending and arrogant

Some will disagree and I have no doubt that there are some examples of short term surgical tactics that have utilized SM tools to disseminate and drive promotions and programs with short term impact but don’t blog, twitter, vlog, FB, etc for a short term fix.  Compound your interest over time and lead your community towards a better ecosystem for all.


David Meerman Scott has a great example of a some relatively short viral programs including one that Universal Orlando did with their Harry Potter Theme Park.  I’ll discuss David’s thoughts in a later post but I highly recommend his new book World Wide Rave!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Seek Out The Truth…

As you engage with your community and especially your customers, prospects and trusted advisors ALWAYS seek, ask for and encourage the truth. Too often people meet with others in their industry and have drinks and chat over how great everything is going and how wonderful their respective companies are. It is nice to meet with friends and exchange pleasantries but DO NOT mistake these meetings for confirmation that you are doing the right things. If you want to get better YOU MUST seek out the truth.

Here is what I believe…

If you are not getting better every day you are getting worse. There is no such thing as standing still.

In order to improve your business you need to understand your strengths yes but you also must understand your weaknesses either real or perceived. If you are not meeting the needs of your community and fulfilling your deliverables than someone else will. Engage in REAL conversations with people who are friends and foes. Here are some of the people you should seek out:

  • customers
  • employees
  • industry experts
  • competitors
  • business partners
  • lost customers
  • customers on deals you lost

Some of the questions to ask and data to acquire about your company:

  • Did you end up purchasing a solution to assist with your business needs ?
    • if so who and why
    • if not, would you consider doing business with us in the future, why or why not
  • How would you describe your experience in dealing with us
  • What could we have done differently in the sales process
  • Were there aspects of our product/solution functionality that did not meet your needs
  • Were there aspects of our implementation/methodology that caused you concern
  • Was our pricing competitive
  • Was our sales representative professional and effective at addressing your questions
  • What is your perception of our Company
  • How would you describe us versus our competitors

It is important that you talk to many different people and get many different viewpoints. What you are looking for is a pattern that comes across from several non-related sources that become themes. It is this data that you need to assess and evaluate as you look to steer your business forward and become the better tomorrow than you are today!

Don’t let people tell you what they think you want to here DEMAND the truth. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Your Message Clear?….Twitter Your Business Description

Had an great conversation while attending the conference on the value of simplicity. Many organizations, including mine, can be accused of complicating their message and making it difficult for their employees, their customers, their prospects and their community at large to understand what they do.

An attempt of this for Ivara would be as follows:

“Ivara provides business intelligence software to improve physical asset performance and reliability in capital intensive industrial companies”

While this is a very valuable exercise I would caution against over-simplifying. Twitter is a great tool BUT if it takes you 160-180 characters to appropriately state your message that is not the be all and the end all. The point is be able to articulate to your community what you do in a memorable, repeatable, accurate statement so when you get a couple minutes to introduce yourself in the elevator or at the conference people will get it. Another great exercise is to do this with your Executive team and ask each of them to do this and compare. The variation in what comes forward will provide evidence of how clouded your message may be in the market. By the time the message gets from Exec to employees to customers to prospects, etc, etc imagine what a mess it can be if it is not crisp from the start. It’s like a bad game of “telephone” from when you were a kid!

Couple to-do’s for you as you look to grow your community:

  1. Send me your “twittered” messaging and let me see if I can clearly understand it and would remember it
  2. Ask your co-workers to do this and send it to you via email within 15 minutes. Significant variations will tell you that a follow on meeting to clarify this statement is required.

Send your messaging and let me know how your to-do’s go. Clarity of messaging is key for all stakeholders and community members.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Conferences, Community and Social Media

Had the good fortune this past week to attend one of the premier conferences in our industry (RCM09) and meet with several of the main players in our space, the asset health and reliability space, and with several customers and prospects who are looking to take the next step in their asset performance journey.  Here is a picture of our booth:


One of the leaders in our community and the conference organizer Terry O’Hanlon is embracing social media as a content delivery, engagement and community building tool.  The conference had it’s own Twitter handle which was helpful in a couple different ways:

  1. It allowed those who were attending to talk up the event and virtually meet new people and set up meetings before even arriving at the conference
  2. It allowed people who were not able to attend to participate with the rest of the participants and hear what was going on and follow along from their office
  3. It acted as a news media source.  During the conference there were major announcements and press releases and conference updates that needed to be communicated and this was a great media to disseminate the information

As you look at how you build your community a few points and suggestions as a follow on to my previous post as you look to take the next steps.

  1. Just Do It! – Be a leader and get started today.  Control the medium, control the message, control the space.  Start distributing content that is of value and point people to where the content resides.  Become the trusted advisor for resolution to their business issues and point them to others when they have problems that you are unable to solve.
  2. You Don’t Have To Do It Alone – who are the leaders in your space and what are they doing online.  Reach out to them and work with them to set up a site, or better yet post to your site.  Talk to your customers and partners and determine how and what will add value to them and work with the ‘gurus’ of your space to deliver it.
  3. Start twittering, blogging, etc at your conferences and let people know you are there.
  4. Consolidate your online contribution and make it easy for people to find you - If you have a website that is your principle communication vehicle is your blog linked to the website and vice versa so they are easy to find?  Is your Twitter handle and link on your blog and website?  What about your business collateral?  Put it on your business card.  Put it in your email signature line.  make it easy for people to find all your contributions and thoughts on your community so that they know where to go and don’t have to search.

Remember that building a community takes time, patience, dedication and is an investment in your company, your community, your customers, your employees and your prospects.

Some math to show the reach of social media.  The Twitter conference handle generated 86 followers in a couple weeks.  Lets assume 1/3 were already using Twitter (my estimate from reviewing the list) and that means that approx 60 new people in my community were reached using social media due to the commitment and effort of one of our respected industry leaders.  Over time if those 60 users add 60 users each in the community (fairly conservative assumption) the community has grown to 3600 in fairly fast order.

Now maintaining those new community members and growing that community is dependant upon the continued flow of VALUE ADD content.  I and all of us at IVARA will do our part to contribute and lead this great community and care and feed for customers, partners, employees and prospects.  For now we have our IVARA BLOG, our IVARA TWITTER  and many webinars, etc that link through our website.

What are you doing in your space?  Are you investing in and giving to your community, if you don’t someone else will…step up and make the commitment, get started today.

Please comment on your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures so we can all grow our communities together.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building a Community….Step 1

My company Ivara operates in a fantastic market that is full of opportunities to engage with a robust, knowledgeable group of employees, customers, competitors and thought leaders.  While the current economy presents challenges for us and our customers alike it is also a great opportunity for us to band together and share our experiences (good and bad) and help each other come out the other end of this downturn a stronger, more profitable and better serving community than we were before.  To that end we all have to do our part in the community and it starts with adding value.  I am a huge Twitter participant and one of the biggest messages that you get from engaging in this medium is exactly that…engage! 

Like everything in life, you get out of something what you put into it and when building a community you should always be making deposits into the community bank so that at some point you are able to make a withdrawal.  As I am familiar with it I will use my industry as an example but it could be applicable to any industry.  Our industry is focussed on supporting industries on the road to operational excellence and providing people, process and technology to facilitate and sustain change in their organization ensuring improved uptime, productivity and quality from their operations.  Many operational and maintenance folks are not entrenched in the online world to the same extent we are….and why would they be?  Historically, other than personal interest, there has not been a ton of value add content and guidance online to assist them in improving how their assets run and are maintained.  This is the first challenge in building a community….providing enough valuable content consistently for them to want to engage with you using a new medium. 

How do you get offline people online???

In a word…persistence!  Over weeks, months and years continue to provide meaningful free content for people so they can use what you know to improve their business and solve their day to day business problems.  Then connect the content to the people.  The content can be delivered in an immeasurable number of ways.  We have started in the last year or so with a program to deliver blog posts, twitter updates and webinars online in addition obviously to the company website.  All of these are good delivery vehicles especially at the beginning where less sophistication for your community is probably better.  We have now added a free online reliability conference that is open to any and all customers as well as some prospects.  What works in your space?  Give it some thought, plan out some ideas, throw out some trial balloons and feel your way along.  the only thing I know 100% for sure is you MUST start and you must start now.  If you don’t someone else will.  Be there for your customer and community, be a leader and show them you are committed not to your own success but to theirs and that you want to provide them with tools, ideas, resources that will help make them look like stars in their organization.

I am fortunate that we have a community with many other people who are true experts in our field who have been forging the path online for us to follow.  It is now time for me and our Ivara to step and contribute to the community and make our overdue contributions to the community bank.

How has it been building a community in your industry?  What lessons have you learned?  please share so we can all learn and foster healthy, vibrant communities in our respective spaces.

We have a long way to go but I am committed and persistent and believe in our community!