Think Like a Martian

The value of a fresh perspective

All of the recent news around the NASA’s New Horizons mission and Pluto has me thinking of… Martians.

think-like-a-martianLet me explain.

How would you approach a solution marketing problem if you were a Martian, complete with a fresh perspective and unencumbered with what earthlings already knew?

A fresh perspective

The father of Nobel physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988) employed this mode of thinking with his son, asking, “Supposing we were Martians, and we came down from Mars to this Earth, and we would look at it from the outside.”  In other words, Feynman was encouraged to consider ”a way of looking at something anew, as if you were seeing it for the first time.”

The alien or Martian approach forces you to look at a problem afresh, to question your assumptions.  As it turns out, consultants provide this outsider’s perspective for their clients.  The client might be stuck.  Or they’re in a rut or a hole and just can’t see their way out.  That fresh perspective makes all the difference.  As we’ll see, consultants don’t have a monopoly on this outside-in thinking.

Two companies from one

Several years ago, I flew out to discuss a CRM firm’s strategy for the day. Over several years the company had developed two distinct arms of its business, one providing CRM software, the other providing offshore development services. The CEO had an emotional attachment to both businesses.  But the two pieces had few combined synergies and confused their prospective customers who could not quite grasp what the company did.  In other words, they were suffering from unclear company messaging.  Several of the company’s senior execs also saw this as an issue but had struggled to solve it for a year and they were stuck in a rut.  They weren’t even certain that the problem could be solved.  I did not know any of that until after I arrived.

Less than an hour into the strategy discussion, I picked up on the issue without anyone telling me about it.  This problem was holding them back; it was a major issue that needed to be resolved before they could undertake other strategic initiatives.

As a “Martian” unencumbered with the company’s history, I was free to look at the problem from the perspectives of a prospect, a CRM expert and a seasoned marketer. I shared my outsider’s perspective, which helped them to see the issue from a fresh perspective, as a problem that (1) needed to be solved and (2) could be solved. We spent several hours discussing how the problem could be solved and how it would clarify their company message.  Within a few months, the company split into two pieces, one clearly focused on CRM, the other clearly focused on outsourcing. Now their message was clear and prospects understood what they did.  Problem solved. And it all came together thanks to that unencumbered outsider perspective.

What if you’re an insider

You may be thinking that outsiders have a monopoly on outside perspective.  Not true.  Even as an “insider,” you can bring in at least some of that same outside perspective to think like a Martian.  Start by stripping away as many assumptions and limitations as possible and then rethink potential approaches.  Think “What would I think about this if I knew nothing about it until now?”  Then pick and choose from this partial list of outside-in approaches based on your particular challenges:

  • Reexamine your existing assumptions and limitations to see which are less valid.
  • Talk to complete outsiders such as mentors. Explain the situation and see how they might solve the problem.
  • Bring in the customer or prospect perspective – what do they think?
  • Ask field-facing staff in sales, implementation, and customer support.
  • Take different perspectives. If you’re in sales, think about what the engineering team might think. If you’re in finance, consider how the marketing folks might approach this.
  • Look to other companies and even other industries that might have had similar challenges to see how they’ve solved similar issues. Check out case studies. Look at successes and failures.
  • Consider the concepts you learned in business school or other professional studies and from experience at other companies.   What do those lessons tell you that you should do? Some of those lessons from school might seem naïve or too academic, but they might also reveal new approaches that you can try.
  • Ask your company’s business investors, board members, and business partners for suggestions based on their experience.
  • Conduct focus groups and surveys.
  • Brainstorm ideas with peers inside the company and/or outsiders. Focus on building a long list before you discount any of the ideas. It usually takes 20 or more ideas to get to the good stuff.

 

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Filed under Case Studies, Messaging, Software marketing, Solution Marketing, Solution Marketing Community, The Solution Marketing Blog

Session at ProductCamp: Grow Your Business in New Ways

ProductCamp BostonJust added – new session at ProductCamp Boston! Once again, I’ll be leading a session at ProductCamp Boston, one of the three largest ProductCamps in the world. I hope you’ll join me at ProductCamp for this presentation. See below for registration details. I hope you’ll also join me for the ProductCamp session on Marketing 3.0.

Grow Your Business in New Ways

Saturday 2nd May, 2015 – 12:45 to 1:35pm (EST)
Microsoft NERD Center, Vitruvius (10th floor – conference room on far side from where lunch is served)

It’s no surprise that we “product people” often focus all of our thinking around our products… growing our product’s revenue, expanding our product’s footprint, how to get more people and more companies to buy our product, etc.

But when you step away from that product focus, you begin to see vast new revenue opportunities that you never knew existed. Join us as we explore a new way of thinking about your customers and the markets you serve. Along the way, we’ll learn powerful lessons from leading companies like Apple, Netflix and others.

About ProductCamp Boston

ProductCamp Boston is the only full-day unconference for product managers and product marketers in the Boston area. Because it’s an unconference, ProductCamp is organized by attendees, for attendees so you can get the most out of the day. Over 400 product management, product marketing professionals, developers, entrepreneurs, students and industry thought-leaders come together to network, share and learn about product management, product development, market trends, product marketing, startups, product design, career development, and more. ProductCamp website | Register for ProductCamp Boston

About Steve Robins

Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. He’s held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a marketing tech column for TechTarget, and has co-chaired the ProductCamp Boston unconference for several years.

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Session at ProductCamp: Marketing 3.0 – What’s Next?

ProductCamp BostonOnce again, I’ll be leading a session at ProductCamp Boston, one of the three largest ProductCamps in the world. I hope you’ll join me at ProductCamp and participate in this interactive discussion.  See below for registration details.  I hope you’ll also join me for the ProductCamp session on Growing Your Business in New Ways.

Discussion: Marketing 3.0 – What’s Next

Saturday 2nd May, 2015 – 1:45 to 2:35pm (EST) – note time change
Microsoft NERD Center, Commons B (10th floor – far side from where lunch is served)

Empowered consumers, content marketing, social selling, agile marketing and an explosion of new marketing (martech) tools: the world of marketing is rapidly evolving.

Join this interactive discussion about the challenges, opportunities and imperatives of the new marketing department of today. What’s working? What’s not? What needs to change? What does the marketing 3.0 department look like? What is its mission and goals?

Update

Read the session notes on Slideshare

About ProductCamp Boston

ProductCamp Boston is the only full-day unconference for product managers and product marketers in the Boston area. Because it’s an unconference, ProductCamp is organized by attendees, for attendees so you can get the most out of the day. Over 400 product management, product marketing professionals, developers, entrepreneurs, students and industry thought-leaders come together to network, share and learn about product management, product development, market trends, product marketing, startups, product design, career development, and more. ProductCamp website | Register for ProductCamp Boston

About Steve Robins

Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. He’s held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a marketing tech column for TechTarget, and has co-chaired the ProductCamp Boston unconference for several years.

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Predicting a Solution’s Value

Predicting valuePredictive lead scoring can identify the leads that will place the greatest value on your solution – and pay the highest price.

Value, the difference between the benefit that a customer receives and the total cost to achieve that benefit, is central to solution marketing.  But value is also closely tied to lead scoring as well, with major implications for your company’s revenue and profitability.  As I recently wrote in SearchCRM,

A lead score predicts the likelihood that a given lead will ultimately convert into a closed deal. The higher the score, the more likely that a lead will turn into a sale. The score may incorporate predictors such as the lead’s current challenges and technologies, the presence of an active and budgeted project, selected demographic/firmographic data, and even frequency of activity.

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How Apple Creates a Future that Sells

AplWatch-HomeScreen-PR-PRINT_2Today Apple announced additional details of AppleWatch as well as a new, slimmer (!) MacBook line at a media event in San Francisco.  Apple is an iconic company and their innovation can provide helpful lessons, many of which apply to solution marketers. Which takes me to the AppleWatch: Needing to be tethered to a iPhone via WiFi, and carrying a not-insignificant price for an optional gizmo, it’s not clear how well this new product will perform I the market.  But if anyone can make a go of it, Apple can.  Here’s why. Continue reading

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Filed under Case Studies, Pricing, Solution, Solution Marketing, Solution Marketing Strategy, Solutions, The Solution Marketing Blog, Value

Cyber Lessons from Black Friday

Black Friday offers an important lesson for cyber (i.e., enterprise software) solution marketers. 

Bombarded by Black Friday

Cyber lessons from Black FridayOver the last few weeks, we’ve been bombarded with a never-ending stream of Black Friday TV commercials. These included a litany of TV commercials for BMWs and other cars on sale for Black Friday. Maybe it’s all due to a surge in self-gifting, although experts were predicting a drop for 2014.

In a world where everything from clothes to cars was on sale on or around Black Friday, retailers were competing against just about every other retailer for the $381 that the typical shopper spent this past weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.  That included direct competitors offering similar goods, indirect competitors who offered different goods that solved the same problem (say, giving a nice gift) and what I’ll call Share of Budget competitors who solved different problems but competed for the same budget.

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Product Marketing in an Agile Environment – Recap from ProductCamp Boston

Reprinted from Gail Ferreira’s B2B Solution Marketing Insights Blog with changes

agileEd note: My biggest takeaway from this discussion was that marketing/product marketing needs to contribute strategically to the roadmap (even in an agile environment).  The roadmap needs to work not only to support customers and prospects but also marketing launches and timeframes (which of course also support customers and prospects as well).  -Steve Robins

ProductCamp Boston 2013 was again another great event!  From a discussion facilitated by Steve Robins, I wanted to share some insights on “Product Marketing in an Agile Environment”.

Agile processes do impact marketing, particularly when product roadmaps don’t proceed as anticipated.  For example, using Steve’s company as an example, he noted that:   Continue reading

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