Lessons from OnePlus #Fail...Marketing is About Experience

October 19, 2015 View Comments

Last year, I bought a OnePlus One phone and I fell in love with it.

You could not find a more passionate advocate. I probably sold 15 phones for them both with invites and otherwise.

Their marketing was inspired. Clean, crisp and a mantra of #NeverSettle that really resonated with me.

But "their marketing" was "marketing" in the traditional sense...a website, how they talked about themselves, and the look and feel of the product.  That was all great.

About 6 months into my ownership, I got my first warning sign, downloading an update that crushed my battery life (the best part of the phone) and sent me into a bit of a tizzy. Fortunately (and maybe to OnePlus' credit), they had a strong community of people like me who were able to help address my issues (for the most part).

But their actual customer service? Basically non-existent.

I'm all in favor of leveraging your community of raving fans, but you can't completely outsource customer care to them.

Still, as an early adopter, I'm primed to accept glitches and set backs. It's part of the deal, and for the most part, the phone did its job well.

So, when I heard that the new OnePlus Two was coming out, I bought it the moment I got the invite and didn't really think about it.

Until I got the phone and discovered that there was no NFC included.

Now, maybe for many people that's not a big deal, but NFC is critical if you want to use Android Pay (think Apple Pay for Androids) and even the mere act of transferring your data from one phone to the next with minimal hassle.

I've used Google Wallet (Android Pay's father) many times and expect to many more. There will be more digital payment options in the future, not fewer, and I couldn't understand how the company could make a phone without NFC. Still, their call, but I decided to return it.

And that's where the hassles began..

Where I think OnePlus is failing now is not recognizing that the brand and their mantra of "#NeverSettle" is not just about creating a great product. It's about a great experience at every touchpoint.

I contacted customer care to get an RMA so I could return it. 4 days went by and nothing (despite a promise of 24 hours or whatever and multiple outreach attempts).

Their emails support@oneplus.net would bounce back.

Finally, I had to tweet their CEO and two different OnePlus handles which got a response and told me what I needed to do.

I sent in 6 pictures of the phone (which I had used for all of 10 minutes) to show it wasn't damaged. Multiple days go by...and nothing.

I even opened up a PayPal dispute. Nothing.

My friend Jon, after hearing this story, said, "you know, Amazon has ruined all of us."

He's right.

We expect the returns process to be frictionless and painless and when it is, we keep coming back...ultimately buying more.

OnePlus, though they make great phones, hasn't figured this out.

The returns process is full of friction and pain which means that I'm not going to buy phones from them anymore. Nor will I advocate that others do it.

And that's the lesson, my friends.

You can make the world's best product, but if you don't at least meet customer expectations on what the FULL experience of interacting with a company should be (think about what Amazon, Uber, etc. have done to set the standard), you're going to disappoint.

It's a tough game, but we're all playing it.

What are your Marketing Operating Principles?

October 12, 2015 View Comments

As you grow a marketing team or even lead a virtual team, I think it's important to codify the principles by which you operate.  It's particuarly important as you bring on new people and/or you don't have direct oversight to every activity.

The question is: What are yours?

I've been thinking about mine (obviously) and here's the list...which I am sure will grow and evolve.

  1. Never Stop Marketing
    obviously. There are times when you need to slow down, plan, regroup, but you should never bring the efforts to a complete standstill.
  2. No Lead Left Behind
    I learned this from my former boss at Microsoft, Christine Zmuda. The point is...as marketers, you work really hard to create net new leads, so you can nurture them and generate demand for the sales team.  So, it's a damn shame when you do an activity (an event, a content marketing piece, whatever) and you don't track everything religiously.
  3. Leave it all on the field
    Some people confuse this with "Go Big or Go Home." It's not the same thing. The idea here is that if you are going to do something, you can't do a half-assed job. You do it as best you can given the timeframe you have and don't "phone it in." 

    Which is connected to...
  4. Don't let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good...or the corollary from Steve Jobs "Real artists ship." 
    Your job is to put items in market. You have to be sensitive to the needs of the company and larger market trends.  You can't wait and dilly dally forever. 
  5. Make Little Bets
    You can read the book as well. You continually test and iterate, test and iterate. As things work, you operationalize them and then make little bets on top of them.
  6. Commander's Intent 
    As a leader, your job is not to tell people how to do their jobs or, even, necessarily what to do (you can coach them.) Your job is to clearly articulate what you are trying to accomplish. What is the desired outcome?  If you do that, your team will find new ways to achieve it when the original plan fails (which it will most likely), as von Clausewitz wrote: "no plan survives first contact with the enemy."
  7. Communicate the Strategy
    Write your strategy statement. Use the framework in this article. Make sure everyone knows it. This should probably be first, as it's most important, but I supposed I saved the best for last.

So, what did I miss? What are yours?

Join me in Estonia in Summer 2016? A trip to the Digital Future

September 20, 2015 View Comments



Would you like to take a trip into the future with me next summer?

I'm going to go (with a few friends) to visit Estonia because it is the world's most digitally advanced country.
After becoming an e-Citizen, I've naturally had the chance to talk with others about it.
We've hatched a plan.
Spend a few days there next Summer experiencing it together.
What We Will Do
We're going to set up meetings with leaders in various fields (business, technology, healthcare, infrastructure, government, etc.) to understand how they are operating in the e-future.
Apparently, something like 94% of Estonians pay taxes online (that was 2012) and think about this:
Imagine if your newborn was automatically issued a digital birth certificate and his health insurance started before he even arrives home. Imagine if you could present a registration of residence electronically from your living room. If you could register a new business and a few minutes later you are ready to start trading. If all the data from your healthcare providers were carried in one e-health record. Imagine completing your tax return in five clicks and getting your overpayments digitally transferred into your bank account within 48 hours. In Estonia, these are not cyber dreams; they are reality. source

So, in order to understand the future, I want to experience it.
No commitment necessary right now, of course, but would you be interested in coming with us?
Basic idea:
  • Spend 3-4 days in Estonia
  • Meet with as many people in as many different fields as possible to understand the impact
  • Optional: use your e-citizenship to experience it firsthand 
  • Meet others who are crazy enough to do this.
Ok, who's in? Sign up below.

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:

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: 


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.