Entrepreneur:

Marketing & Selling

Entrepreneurs' Primer on Marketing, Advertising, and Selling

How To Survive and Win in the Era of Over-Communication and Killer Competition

By: Terry Collison, Blue Rock Capital

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Marketing What?

Let's start with the bad news about marketing:

  • "Just because you can market doesn't mean that you have automatically found a real market."

  • "Just because you have identified a real market, doesn't mean that you can market effectively to it."

Winning Customers (PowerPoint download)As a concept – even as a function – marketing is so... well, so squishy.  Right?  "VP of Marketing."  Yeah, sure.  What do those people really do all day?  Good golfers, I suppose.  OK, so that's not the story.  But what is?  Everybody knows that marketing has something to do with advertising.  In fact, they are often lumped together ("marketing" is erroneously substituted as a more highfallutin term for "advertising").  But the two are truly different functions. Marketing is the broad process of getting your company positioned so that the messages and content communicated by its advertising will then be (1) received positively and (2) understood accurately and (3) accepted as valid.  Those three steps are related but they are each distinct.  If this still sounds fuzzy, re-read the paragraph and think about it before proceeding further.

Exhibit 2

Your Promotional "cash flow"

To date this much actual cash has been spent to develop our product   $                                

Next year, we would like to have $                          from sales of this product.

Advertising.   In our industry, Advertising Age reports that established companies in our product/market area typically have an advertising budget that is equal to    % of their targeted sales.  Product introduction.   If we are introducing a new product, we believe (or we are advised) that we must spend           % more than this "steady state" ratio of advertising for Year 1.

Company positioning.   Especially if our company has not already advertised other products extensively (i.e., if our company is brand new),  then we believe (we are advised) that we must allocate                                  % on top of the above advertising budget in order to establish the company's credibility and visibility in the market.  This, plus other activities plus certain parts of our staff cost, define the company's Marketing requirement.

Overall promotional program.  We are willing and able to commit  $                        actual cash to next year's promotional program.  This will be used in stages as follows:

                                                                          1st quarter            $                             

                                                                          2nd quarter           $                             

                                                                          3rd quarter            $                             

                                                                          4th quarter            $                             

 

We will define target sales revenue results by quarter.  Here’s what we think should happen:

                                                                          1st quarter            $                             

                                                                          2nd quarter           $                             

                                                                          3rd quarter            $                             

                                                                          4th quarter            $                             

 

Cash-flow” for the year's sales program, therefore, should look something like this:

 

 

1st  quarter  

2nd quarter

3rd quarter  

4th quarter   

Year     

Targeted Sales Revenue  

$

$

$

$

$

Budgeted Marketing Expense 

$

$

$

$

$

Budgeted Advertising Expense

$

$

$

$

$

Budgeted Selling Expense  

$

$

$

$

$

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net Cash-Flow Contribution 

$

$

$

$

$

                                                                                                                              

Suggestion:  No later than 15 days prior to the end of each quarter, you should make a specific decision as to how you will continue your program in the subsequent quarter.  In other words, if it’s working, you may wish to accelerate your commitment of sales resources.  If your results for a given quarter are less than what has been targeted, you may or may not wish to cut back or terminate the effort in the subsequent quarter.  You could decide instead to increase your efforts.

But whatever you do will be the result of a conscious decision related to an explicit appreciation of the facts as they then exist.  You will not simply be drifting along and hoping for the best.

 

 

Although the process of marketing may be diffuse and although the actual techniques of marketing widely differ from one company to another, the objectives of marketing remain remarkably constant.  Trade shows, authoring papers, and attending industry meetings, making speeches, serving on committees, and community projects can all be part of a marketing program.  Making your entity visible in a positive setting is the key concept behind marketing.  Marketing is not selling or advertising your specific product or service.  Each of those functions must be budgeted and pursued in its own terms.  Marketing is different.  For example, by writing this paper I am engaged in marketing the entity with which I am associated.  I am specifically not advertising the activities of the entity nor am I selling you anything.  Notice that the content of this paper has nothing directly to do with what my particular organiza­tion does as its business activity (i.e., investing long-term equity capital in promising young ventures).  However, you, as the reader, end up able at least to form some initial attitudes about my organization as a result of reading this paper.  The way I write and the way I handle ideas provide you with a basis for forming certain expectations and attitudes about my organization.  Hopefully, these are positive.

Both the message content and the methods of marketing are different than the message and methods used in adver­tising.  Both functions are critical to success.  But they are different.  For more information about Marketing, the Entrepreneurs' Forum of Greater Philadelphia offers a paper called The 4-1/2 Marketing Issues that Entrepreneurs Absolutely Must Get Right.  For more information, contact the Forum.

 Job Hunting 101:  A Model of the Selling Process When the "Product" is You

In the National Business Employment Weekly, the best single article I ever read about finding a job began with a paragraph containing 100 words.  The first 99 were “no” and the 100th word  was “yes.”

 

The article went on to explain that this paragraph is a model of the job-hunting process. It also struck me as a model of the selling process and of pursuing lots of other novel things worth achieving.

The article’s author observed that most job-hunters mistakenly develop a “conservative” strategy that they believe to be more “efficient” and respectful of their limited time, their limited energies, and their finite resource.  But if their goal is to minimize the elapsed time required in their search process, then, paradoxically, their strategy turns out to be exactly the opposite of what they should be doing.

After a handful of enthusiastic initial “try-everything/respond-to-every-opportunity” efforts, most job-hunters say to themselves something like “Hey, this is nuts.  If I focus my resources on qualifying opportunities more thoroughly before I present myself at the door, I should be able to increase the probability of being successful and really ending up with something that represents a good ‘fit’ for my skills and interests and the way others are likely to see me as an asset.”  Flawless logic; lousy outcome.

Job-hunting involves a process that satisfies all the criteria of being a complex system (multi-variant, fluid interaction, not all factors being knowable; most factors being well beyond the control of the “central” player, i.e., the job-seeker).  It is axiomatic that complex systems function counter-intuitively.

 

Given this insight (taken here on faith), it follows that one does not want to attempt to focus on a specific type of situation or attempt to pre-qualify any particular opportunity (what-the-hell are you really going to be able to find out beforehand, anyway?) or even (dare one admit it to oneself?) try to avoid being rejected once again.

Because you cannot, by definition, have any meaningful information about just how long the search process will take (absolutely the only thing you can possibly know with any certainty is that when you have found the right “fit” the process will be over), it follows that your only sound strategy is to attempt to get rejected as frequently and as rapidly as possible.  Your “success rate” at being rejected consti­tutes the only bona fide measure of your making true progress in the search process.

To grasp what this means, start filling out the chart on page 6 (99 “No"s followed by that lovely “Yes”).  If you use this as a log of your activities and as a guide to your strategy, it will also serve, automatically, as an index (and as a concrete indicator to you) of your actual progress.  Trust me.  It changes your whole outlook... makes you think straight... turns you into a creative strategist again.  And if you hit a rough spot along the way, as Miles observed to Joel in Risky Business, sometimes you just gotta take a break and say “Screw it!  Ya know?"

                                                                                                                                                                                          

This "model" of the job hunting process applies to "regular" selling as well (see Exhibit 3)

 

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