You Can't Market Without Great Talent

February 9, 2016 View Comments

I've dedicated 2016 to becoming a much better people manager.  

I actually prefer the term "coach," as it's really more in line with what I am trying to accomplish for the people whose careers for which I am responsible in helping to shape.

When I take a step back and think about it, it's actually a pretty solemn responsibility, so I am taking it much, much more seriously.

Now, there are some managers who don't take it seriously. There are others who do.

Then, there are those who have been preaching the gospel for a long time...waiting for those of us who need to hear it to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.

In my case, Halelly Azulay is one of those people.

I've known her for over 7 years now and her song has been consisent: Grow Your Talent.

In fact, it's the name of her company, TalentGrow.  She's also a pretty savvy marketer, as you'll see in this blog post.

A few weeks ago, I called her (it was her birthday) and I mentioned my goal for 2016.

Well, wouldn't you know it that she then sent me not one, but TWO, books to help in the journey.  The first was her own, Employee Development on a Shoestring.

The second, "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go."

Bottom line: I recommend them both.

What I like about them is how they give you very practical advice on how to develop employees.  What's more, it's contrary to what most of us think and, probably, have experienced.  It's not about the Annual Review.

It's about spending time, listening, asking questions, and turning each moment into a learning opportunity.

And, as Halelly's title tells you, it doesn't need to be expensive.

If there's something I've learned in the past 4 years at Sprinklr, it's that you really can't do great marketing without great talent. If you find the people with the right ambition/passion, however, it's possible to cultivate that talent...which turbocharges your outcome.

I encourage you to read both of these books and sign up for Halelly's blog while you are at it.

Say HELLO to Great Marketing

February 8, 2016 View Comments

Full disclosure: I received a free product sample and my friend, Adam, is the CMO of the company


I was recently introduced to Hello, a company that is trying to redefine the oral healthcare market. I know, I's a crowded space, so how are they doing it?

Well, if I had to summarize it, I'd say "It's the purpose-driven Tom's of Maine approach with some bangin' flavors and some great design."


Forget, for a moment, the purpose-driven side of it. Though all of us want to do right by the environment, how many of us are willing to truly practice what we preach when it comes to taste..particularly in toothpaste?

Not many...which is why that's the first thing Hello had to get right. And they did. I personally love "Mojito Mint" (and how can you not love the name?)

Then, there's the design, which wisely encompasses two has to look stylish (it does) AND also connect back to the purpose--so the packaging meets the necessary recycling and environmentally friendly requirements that you would expect.

Finally...purpose (and passion-driven) oozes (weak pun intended) out of every part of their marketing, particularly near and dear to my heart on the social channels. And you can see it refelcting in their fan base, say on Facebook.

So, yes, I got the samples for free and yes, my pal is their CMO, but it's not worth my credibility to shill for him.  I would pay money for this product on all three levels: taste, design, and company purpose.

What I think they have done is successfully executed the Simon Sinek "Start With Why" and I believe that's the core of great marketing today.

No Excuses to Not Better Yourself This year

December 31, 2015 View Comments

We're on the eve of a New Year.

Time for resolutions.

If you want to be a better person, I'm all for it.

If you want to be a better marketer, I'm all for it.

All I know...there's no excuses for either.

Case in point:

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to become a better team leader at work.


OK, so I got a head start by beginning a few months ago, but what can I say? I'm aggressive that way ;-)


So, I signed up for a course via Coursera (for free) taught by 2 University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business professors called "Leading Teams."


The course itself is very interesting and informative. The lectures are delivered in bite-size chunks and they creatively integrate the coach of the Men's basketball team. There are quizzes, video, external articles, and the discussion forum.


Much like a traditional classroom setting, the discussions are what you make of them. Participate and you get something out of it.


I'm about 50% of the way through the class, but the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) experience so far has been very valuable for me, with a ton of useful information.  


The point is...if you want to get better at anything, you have more access to more bright minds and more people who can help you than ever before.  


Go for it.




Happy New Year.

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 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 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. 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 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 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."