4 Signs You Shouldn’t Hire a Web Designer or Developer

The days of spending lavishly on your first/second/tenth website are doomed. For a host of reasons, it doesn’t make sense. It’s like buying a factory before you have seed money or your first customers.

If you’re in the early stages of growing your business or even your idea, save your marketing spend for experimentation and business modeling, not creative design firms who will give you a “corporate identity.”

All the effort that pre-IPO company spent with that sexy downtown design firm for a $100K, 3-month website project is being copied by a bunch of Eastern Block kids with immaculate PHP/CSS skills

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a sharp logo/name/tagline. By all means, you have to be memorable.

But as for your website? Take a long, deep breath should anyone tell you to hire a web designer/developer. You may need to, but here are four signs that maybe it’s not the best strategy. Read more

5 Marketing Wastes of Time and Money

There is good marketing out there, but there is also a ton of marketing waste. Yet businesses continue to throw time, effort and money away attempting to move the needle simply because everyone else does it. So in no particular order, here are 5 marketing efforts B2B companies do that are completely and utterly useless like the ice cream cone that spins itself. Read more

How Adobe Could Take Over Design (Again)

Adobe’s Creative Cloud is an ecosystem waiting to rain on everyone.

Designers (and pigeonholing them into a single group is already tantamount to imprisoning them in Abu Ghraib) are a notoriously cliquish bunch who have a guttural reaction to  LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. where their 7AM lattes come back up their throats. Pinterest (for inspiration) and Deviantart (for gloating) are okay. But their activities around the “job” of design can’t be socialized as easily to pull faithful creative types away from their Photoshop layers and Bezier curves. Cat videos are an exception. Read more

Killing Your Darlings

The picture above is of our street during Santa Clara’s annual cleanup week where residents have the opportunity to chuck all their once good ideas.

Software, unlike a material product, has the ability to linger. It’s a strange phenomenon if you think about it. Software is a piece of intellectual property rather than an actual product. It’s more like content, where it can sit perpetually, even if there’s no one using it. Read more

The Five-Tool Marketer for Software Startups

In baseball, the rare athlete is called a five-tool player. This is the guy who can (1) hit for power, (2) hit for average, (3) plays great defense, (4) can throw the ball with speed and accuracy, and (5) has speed. When you have that guy on the field, things just seem to go well. Some of the famous ones are: Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds (pre-Balco), and Willy Mays. Read more

If Marketing Were Software

Software is essentially a manifestation of some manual process in hopes that it can automate some small piece of information management (unless we’re talking about software for design or related purposes).

Marketing, in much the same way, is a type of information management, with the explicit goal to get information in the hands of a customer so they can make a decision to purchase. It can attract, influence, education or even walk the customer through the buying process.

So if marketing were a piece of software, how would they be alike?

Imagine if the entire world were a database, or even better, a data warehouse with tons of diversely structured tables. For marketing, each table would be a customer segment, a market opportunity, an advertising channel or any number of avenues that need to be measured.

A marketing strategy for each of these database tables is like building joins or schema. You are looking for relationships between this discordant data and trying to hone in on a more targeted effort or customer list. A more targeted customer list reduces the risk in spending a lot of marketing dollars on unproven approaches to capturing your market. If we’re talking databases, a focused schema lets us hone in on specific data, and define clear processes for it.

The core app, maybe it’s an API or what’s on your app server — that’s like your marketing engine. This includes the people and tools that make the operation go. It’s constantly being optimized (hopefully) so that you get a better return on your investment, but also just to be more tactical. What you’ll also find is that what might seem completely different (email, social, advertising) are actually part of a holistic, multi-channel, parallel processing effort. You’re going to distribute the same stuff but over each and each has unique ways to measure success.

And the UI is like your messaging. It’s what’s going to compel a “user” to understand and get value from whatever marketing you’re doing. It’s also your brand so you want consistency and memorability. When someone sees your marketing, you want them to already have a familiarity with it to reinforce the relationship so they don’t have to “re-learn” a bunch of messaging you’ve already fed them.

One last thing: You gotta have conviction for what you’re doing. Just like you can’t design an application that you don’t believe will benefit the user, you can’t move forward with a marketing strategy that doesn’t imbue a sense of vision and value. If you’re literally using canned material you copied from a competitor, people see that and know you’re just a poser.

Image: Creative Commons License Lindsey Bieda via Compfight

Services versus Products and Stuff in between

For software entrepreneurs, there is an epic struggle as to whether software is a service or a product. To the untrained user eye, it’s a product with the expectation of service.

I have a theory. Software applications are for all intents and purposes automated processes. They perform information “work” in much the same way a power saw simplifies cutting. That said, information changes, so the machinery has to change with it. Well, until software writes itself, you need a human to change the applications. If the application comes from a vendor, this is the service part.

So this introduces several challenges. You now have a software lifecycle that churns out bug fixes, patches, and feature updates. You may also face implementation needs such as integration, data migration, etc. that are unique to every customer.

Read more

Marketing Is Sales En Masse

Most companies separate the sales team from marketing. Operationally, it is okay to do so, particularly since most salespeople have big, big egos and most marketing people would rather not deal with both the individual minutiae of a customer relationship or the hounding pressure of sales quotas.

But today’s web-based world is changing this dynamic and it’s a good thing. For one, it makes the marketer pay less attention to stupid marketing tactics that don’t bear fruit. It makes the marketing effort accountable to some level. There really is no room in an organization for under-performance. It’s not fair to those who work hard or find creative solutions.

For software, depending on the customer, you may need salespeople, who can consult from a one-to-one perspective. They take the middleware marketing materials and convey them to every unique enterprise they encounter. They are also required for negotiations, or “the deal,” if your product can be priced as such or involves additional services.

Marketing can also learn a lot from the sales effort. What pitches work well? What stories resonate? Who are qualified buyers? These questions give a marketer information to hone the marketing toolset and do what they do best: refine/craft messages, identify the channels to communicate those messages, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

This effort increases the propensity of someone finding out about you, hopefully cutting through all the noise, and identifying a person in need.