Invest in U-Haul, a Marketing Lesson

August 27, 2015 View Comments

One of the challenges today for any company that is more than 5 years old is to re-think the way that they do business and engage with their customers. Social+Mobile...you know the deal.

That's why I was particularly interested when I heard about the Uhaul Investors Club.

It gives regular people like you and me a chance to put some money into an actual asset- like a truck and then earn returns up to 8%.

What I like about it is that U-Haul is going even beyond the idea of stock ownership. It feels like Propser or Lending Club, but for hard assets, backed by a brand we all know and trust.

While I only put $200 in (mostly to test), I think it's a pretty interesting concept and a foreshadowing of things to come as "old line" companies seek to identify new ways to build relationships and drive revenue in a world of supercharged connectivity.

Here's their official pitch (feel free to use my referral code-full disclosure)

I've found an easy way to invest and wanted to share it with you. U-Haul Investors Club® offers its members the opportunity to invest in actual U-Haul assets and earn rates as high as 8%. I'm enjoying my membership and think you will too.

Joining U-Haul Investors Club® is easy and free! To get started follow this link:
https://www.uhaulinvestorsclub.com/ReferAFriend/Invitation/d6ab657d-c123-4cfc-a333-e926dbcb4ca5

What Estonia Teaches You About Marketing

August 26, 2015 View Comments

You're perceived as a commodity. You don't have a ton of resources. You need to compete in a globalized world.

Sounds familiar, right?

The question is: how?

This, in a nutshell, is the situation that Estonia (a country with 1.5 million people) found itself in following the end of the Soviet Union.

Most people couldn't find Estonia on a map and can't really explain the difference between Estonia and her Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania.

What's more? You have no idea what Estonia's competitive advantage is, do you?

Now you see their problem.

So, instead of seeing challenge, they saw opportunity.

The country decided that it was going to basically "re-boot" and become the single most advanced digital country in the world.  They call the initiative "e-Estonia."

They realized that to compete in a globalized world, that speaking only Estonian wasn't going to get it done, but what's more, they decided that they needed to create a competitive advantage that would attract talent and investment.

So, they not only overhauled their entire infrastructure and leapfrogged almost everyone in terms of using Digital ID's (for contracts, voting, prescriptions, etc.), they also completely disrupted the concept of citizenship.

They invented something they call "e-citizenship" where a foreign national can get an Estonian ID card and use it to begin to do European-based commerce with Estonia as a hub/base.

Now, the "e-citizenship" confers NO political rights or visa rights. You can't vote, get actual citizenship, or work without a permit, but what it does do is allow you to set up a bank account, establish a business, conduct EU transactions and more at a fraction of the time/cost it would take if you were setting it up in any other country.

Now, they aren't stupid. To do much of this, you need to actually go to Estonia to finalize the deal (i.e. you need to show up at the bank to establish an account and you need a non-PO Box address to be the residence for the business), but you don't have to stay there.

Think about this... Estonia gets people to visit, to invest, and to be the hub. You get the ability to jumpstart European business operations at a fraction of the time/cost/hassle.

And, yes, I'm an e-citizen of Estonia.

Mostly, I did it for kicks and to see what the future of e-citizenship was, but in so doing, I realized how brilliant their plan is.

BTW...the English in all of this is flawless.

This is a great example of saying "ok, the world has fundamentally changed. Now, how do we take the technology and new needs to uniquely meet them?"

I never thought I'd be saying this, but "you should look at Estonia."

And look here...Estonia on the map.

 

 

For more on e-Estonia, click here. And sign up here.

BTW..It's not a joke. You fill out an application, pay a fee (free money for them) and have to prove your ID via Passport, etc.  And, no, it's not a tax-evasion thing here.

It Could Happen To You: Losing the Signal

July 27, 2015 View Comments

Ironically (or perhaps not), the single most powerful line in the whole book is the last one.  

"If the rise and fall of BlackBerry teaches us anything it is that the race of innovation has no finish line, and that winners and losers can change places in an instant."

Remember when BlackBerry was the king?

I do.

And I remember how it ushered in a new age.

In 1999, my then boss, Paul Cimino, at Snickelways, was (I think) the first person I knew who had a BlackBerry it was THE symbol of the connected, empowered executive.

We all know what happened then...it became the CrackBerry.

But then, something went wrong...woefully wrong as the company got blindsided by the iPhone and then Android.

This book, Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, is the story of that experience.

And it's so well written that I "binge read" it over the weekend.

It's a powerful lesson for any business executive, of course, but also any person who wants to learn from the mistakes of others and how to not get caught flat-footed, stay relevant, reinvent, and not rest on laurels.

The writing was superb and if this remarkable story of ascent and descent (in such relatively short order) doesn't make you challenge your own assumptions, well, then (snide remark here).

If Never Stop Marketing means...doing everything you can to avoid believing your own B.S. and staying as close to the market as possible so you don't become a cautious tale to others, then this book should inspire you.

Sprinklr's New CMO: Why I'm More than "OK"

June 11, 2015 View Comments

Many of my friends and colleagues saw the announcement that Sprinklr has hired a new CMO.

 

They have asked me, "are you ok with this?"

 

I certainly am touched and appreciate the concern, but I wanted to share that not only am I ok with it, I am ecstatic about it.

 

Here's why.

 

When I joined Sprinklr in January 2012, the company was valued at just about $20 million. I was employee #30.  

 

I WAS the marketing department.

 

At the time, Sprinklr was one of 30 contenders (if not more) in the burgeoning social media management space. We had no brand awareness and certainly weren't considered the leader (how could we be? No one knew us).

 

From that time, until the moment when I handed over the reins to my new boss, we grew to a company with 900 employees, valued at $1.5 billion. 

 

In those 3.5 years, we finished #1 in 7 different analyst reports from places like Forrester and IDC.

 

We grew from a handful of brands as clients to over 1,000. Now, we have offices in 10 countries. We executed hundreds of campaigns and built out a scalable engine for generating and measuring demand.

 

The marketing team of one grew to a marketing team of more than 30. Everyone in the industry knows who Sprinklr is and everyone knows we are the Leader.

 

Now, I certainly did not do it alone. 

 

In fact, I often say that "if people want to confuse causation and correlation, that's fine with me." Still, I'm proud of the work we did and much of what I did.  I also know that I put in a ton of effort.

 

But I also know that the skill set required to lead a marketing team as a company grows in valuation from $20mm to $1.5bn in 3 years is VERY different from the skill set that is required to lead a marketing team as a company grows in valuation from $1.5bn to $10bn+.

 

Not better or worse. Just different.

 

I also know that at the young age of 42, there's a TON about marketing that I still need to learn. A TON.  

 

Most people don't work at companies that grow at 300% per year (for 3 years in a row), so it's not easy to understand the rate of change that Sprinklr has undergone.

 

What Sprinklr needs now for us to realize our destiny is someone who has the requisite skill set to get us there.  I don't have that...at the moment and there's no shame in admitting that. 

 

That's not to say that I don't have any value that I can meaningfully contribute to the organization. I believe I do.

 

Even better...I get to learn at the side of someone who has more experience and a different skill set. It's like going to business school, but you're getting paid instead. A much better deal.

 

And we get to continue to lead Sprinklr to its next level of evolution.

 

So, you see, that's why I'm not only "OK" with having a new boss, I'm pumped up about it.

 

Plus, now, when someone says to me, "hey, I think Marketing should do X...", I get to say, "great, go tell Tom."

 

 

 

Don't Apologize if you Never Stop Marketing

May 26, 2015 View Comments

A new colleague of mine gave me a book called "Relentless."  It's by the trainer who worked with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and others.

He's hard core.

And reminded me that not only is it ok to be hard core, but it's preferable...if you want to be the best in the world at what you do.

And, if you don't, well then I suppose it's probably not surprising when you lose, get fired, or have to yield on price.

I can't say the book is a work of great literature, but I can say that it is motivational and it helps you refocus on commitment...particularly as you start to achieve some measure of success in your career.

It's easy to say "hey, I'm doing great," but once you say that...you're on the way out.

I oftentimes use the metaphor of getting to the NBA for your professional life.

The guys in the NBA were each the best players on their high school team.

They were the best players on their college team.

Then, they get to the NBA and, all of a sudden, they aren't even playing.

You have to be able to re-invent yourself. That takes sacrifice, hard work, and commitment.

You're going up against people with the same (if not more) level of talent as you.

So, at the highest level...it comes down to the question of: 

WHO WANTS IT MORE?

That's what this book is about. Helping you determine if you really want it that badly and, if so, what it will take to get (and stay) at that level).

How to Achieve Marketing Mastery Through Sushi

May 11, 2015 View Comments

I've been a fan of Garr Reynolds for a long time now. His book, Presentation Zen, is a must read in my opinion.

However, the other day he put together one of the best blog posts I have ever read about what it takes to truly succeed in your profession.

Called, "Shokunin Kishitsu & The five elements of true mastery," Garr uses the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (review here) to illustrate the type of commitment it takes to become a true master. I did the same thing a few years ago, but I think Garr does a better job (see: Sushi and Marketing Mastery).

I just love how he breaks it down.

I've used a far less elegant way of describing it, which I lifted from Nilofer Merchant called "being a student of the game," but it highlights for me (at least in the world of marketing), the difference between people who do marketing for their jobs and the people who ARE marketers.

They eat, drink, and sleep it. They study it in their spare time. They talk about it when they are "not at work."

I wish there was a "Jiro dreams of sushi" test I could give to people, but I do always screen for passion, which you can't fake.

In my hiring, I've long said, "I don't care how skilled you are, if you're not passionate, I don't want you."  Because the skills need to stay sharp and only if you are passionate about your craft will you have the desire and fortitude to go back and refine them.

Read Garr's blog post...3 times.

And remember...Never Stop Marketing.

The Skills, Network, Challenges Career Path

April 24, 2015 View Comments

When I was 18 and opted to take German in college, one of the reasons I decided to do so because I looked at the state of the world economy and thought, “well, if Germany is the largest economy in Europe, it probably can’t hurt to learn that language.”

 

And, after college when the opportunity came up to go to Japan, I thought, “well, Japan is the 2nd largest economy in the world [it was at the time], that could be useful one day.”

 

What I didn’t realize is that it’s more than the language, it’s the culture and history of the countries that help you really work within those environments.

 

In my Never Stop Marketing days, I was able to travel to both Germany and Japan to provide services to clients.

 

And, now, as Sprinklr expands globally, those same skill investments I made over 20 years ago are paying off.

 

In February, I was in Germany as part of the SAP partnership we have and in April, I visited Japan to help the Sprinklr Japan team get off the ground.

 

(And, heck, in the middle, I went to Israel-keeping the Hebrew fresh.)

 

It’s been rewarding and exciting to see how this part of my life/career has played out to date.

 

Same goes for the combined 3 years I spent living in those 2 countries. Not only did it help me learn the languages and cultures of those particular places, but it served to expand and enrich my ability to function in any foreign environment.

 

In a globalized world, that’s obviously a good thing.

 

When people ask me about “career path,” I cast it aside. I don’t think a “career path” exists. How could I have predicted the rise of Facebook, Twitter, etc. 15 years ago?

 

What I tell them is this:

·      Focus on building your skills. Develop new ones because you never know when they will come in handy.
 

·      Focus on building your network.  People whom I met 20 years ago (and stayed in touch with for genuine, non-selfish reasons [that is the key] end up being great resources for you in unexpected ways.
 

·      Take on big challenges: No one likes to feel like they failed or might fail, but forcing yourself to do new things that may fail is a skill in and of itself.  It’s better to force the change on yourself than have the change forced upon you. It’s Darwinian. Need to be able to adapt.

 

Anyway, I’m writing this on the plane back from Japan and I suppose I’m a bit reflective right now.

 

And inspired.

 

Now, it’s time to think about “what are the skills I am going to need 20 years down the road to stay relevant?”

 

I don’t know for sure, of course, but I do know that it involves looking at the larger trends and following the skills, network, challenge approach.

Luna Bar's Brilliant Corporate Sponsorship

April 5, 2015 View Comments

Every man knows that the only rule of pregnancy is: "when your wife has a craving, you do what you can to address it."

About 12 years ago, when my wife (aka the "NFO") was pregnant with our first child, she had only one craving...Luna Bars.

One night, around 8.30pm, she tells me "I really want a Luna bar."

"Where do you get them?"

"Well, you can usually go to store A, but they close at 8, so you need to go to store B..which is about 5 miles away."

Ugh, I thought, "you can make it," I said.  "You can get it tomorrow."

I didn't go.

Yeah, I know. Not a good way to score many points.

So, they next day, I decided to try and make it for her.

Keep in mind that this is pre-social media, but the following day, I decided to call the company.

I make my way to a Marketing person and say, "so, you guys market yourself as a nutrition bar for women, right?"

"Yes, we do," he answered.

"Well, you'll be glad to know that my wife's sole craving during her pregnancy is for Luna bars."

He chuckled.

"So, hey, I was wondering...would you guys like to be the official corporate sponsor of my wife's pregnancy?"

"Uh, we don't really have a program for that," the guy answered.

"Tell you what," I said. "How about you send a few Luna bars, a t-shirt or something, and I'll make you the official corporate sponsor."

"Sure, we can do that."

A few days later, I get a box with some Luna Bars, a few coupons, and whatever else. Great, I know.

But, here's the rub.

My wife is fiercely BRAND LOYAL to Luna Bars now. By my estimation, we have spent nearly $3000 on Luna bars (if not more) in the time since the they became corporate sponsors of my wife's pregnancy.

And my wife is a mega-brand evangelist...telling everyone how much she loves the product and creating additonal sales for them that way.

Bottom line: I think that the ROI on this particular sponsorship was very high for them ;-)

Now, I have to go back to them for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah!

Book Recommendation: Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict

February 11, 2015 View Comments

One of my great fear motivators is becoming irrelevant in a professional sense. When you can no longer add value, you are replaced. Whether by a machine or a lower cost option, it doesn’t matter, you’re done. And it’s hard to bounce back from that.

To combat that, I spent a lot of time thinking about macro trends and playing around with new technologies.

It’s why I bought BitCoin a while ago. It’s why my daughters and I play with TinkerCad and print 3D items. It’s why I watch documentaries on Netflix (ok, I binge on a lot of other stuff as well). It’s why I explored the Dark Web, got solar panels, was one of Vonage’s first 20,000 customers, bought a Nest, ordered an Amazon Echo and more.

It’s also why I love traveling and why I have a hard and fast business travel philosophy of “always doing something unique to the city” when I visit. Otherwise, it’s airport-office-hotel-airport. This way, your eyes are opened in some way.

You get the idea. Sure, some of it is “fun,” but a lot of it is…this is how I get my head around what is coming so I can be better prepared.

In fact, in a knowledge/information economy, being able to see things before others do and then prepare for them is a non-negotiable skill and will be the source of competitive advantage.

What I didn’t have, however, was a defined PROCESS for doing this.

And that’s exactly what my friend, Rohit Bhargava, has done for all of us in his new book (disclosure: I got a free copy) called “Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future”.

It’s only 99 cents on Amazon now, so you can thank me later.

I read the whole book in one sitting while on a plane and like his previous books (all of which I enjoyed), the writing is very consumable, but more importantly, he combines theory with practicality.

You walk away with concrete steps to take so you can be a better, more sophisticated, curated trendspotter.

And that’s what you need.

Plus, he made me feel better about my fatherhood strategy (which, I admit, I got from my own dad). One of the key objectives of parenthood is to instill a sense of curiosity in your children. Help them learn how to ask questions and look at the world from a wide perspective.

Rohit confirms this approach and emphasizes that it’s important for adults (I would argue that in a world of radical transformation and disruption at lightning speed, that it’s more important than ever.

Two thumbs up on this one.

Book Recommendation: Hard Thing About Hard Things

February 2, 2015 View Comments

My wife had the good foresight to get me a copy of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers  by Ben Horowitz.  Unlike most business books, it is very much a collection of straight shots, devoid of platitudes, and full of the emotional tumult that comes from making difficult decisions. There's a lot in here that feels like the world of Sprinklr now, making it particularly relevant for me.

Whatever size business you run (or wish to run) or even if it's just managing some people, Ben's perspective on the roller coaster ride that was his CEO career is going to both entertain and empower you.

As opposed to a consultant who, as he says "hasn't managed a fruit stand,"  Ben speaks from practical experience and recognizes that these things aren't easy. They're hard.

He helps you achieve the Zen of management--well, not really, but he gives you the comfort to know that you can't achieve it...which helps you achieve it, if you follow me.

If you are a "student of the game" of business, I believe you will enjoy this one.