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Ever heard that expression before?  Don’t wait for someone to pass you the ball, move around, get open and go get the ball yourself…  Be aggressive.

We should take this sports message to heart in our business lives.  Whether you are talking about sales or marketing or whatever aspect of a business you are dealing with.  Go to the ball.  Don’t wait for business to come knocking at your door – go get it.  Don’t wait for a new job to come knocking at your door – go get it.

Its really easy in these tough economic times to cut things we view as “discretionary” when it comes to your business.  Marketing & Lead Generation is one such activity.  However, it is OK to make cuts for the health and well-being of the business, but be careful how much you cut.  Going dark as a company can cause irreparable harm to the long-term health of your business that you might not be able to recover from.

I once took a job with a company, decent size company of about 150 people or so, worldwide and about $35M in revenues. I was brought in to bring the Product Marketing role into the company.

First thing I asked the folks within the Marketing and Sales organizations is how they launched a product. Internally, they told me that they sent an email out to the company with the press release announcing the product attached. (That was it) Externally, they told me that they put a press release out on the business wire.

Most companies don’t realize how important it is to conduct a proper product launch. Having a launch plan with proper tasks assigned to various groups within the company, having launch meetings with members of that team from the majority of departments within the company, etc.

A product launch process is like a bow and arrow. You pull the bow back as far as it will go preparing to release it. The act of pulling that bow back is all the work that must be done pre-launch to prepare for the actual launch of the product. The act of releasing the bow is GA of your product.

One of the most important things any organization can do is learn how to properly launch products to maximize their exposure not only externally to the market, but also internally as well so all depts know about the launch and what it means for them.

For those who remember the mid 1980’s, sorry if I just dated some of us, one of the best marketing/branding companies of the last 50 years made, what some referred to, as one of the biggest market/brand mistakes of our generation when they changed the formula to Coke and came out with the NEW Coke.

Right after WWII, Coke owned over 50% of the software drink market – however by the early 80’s, under intense competition from Pepsi, their market share dropped almost in half.

When Coke announced the NEW Coke, Pepsi thought that they had “won” the Cola wars and put a PR campaign out stating just that.

48 Hours after the announcement of the NEW Coke, research firms estimated that over 80% of the US Population was aware of the “NEW Coke”. (THAT is brand recognition)

Later that same year under pressure from its faithful customers, Coke re-introduced the old Coke under the name “Classic Coke”. Within 6 months of this re-introduction, Coke’s sales had returned to more than twice that of Pepsi’s.

Whether just the re-introduction of the old formula was the driver to increased sales or the introduction that year of Cherry Coke, who knows.

Did Coca-Cola pull off one of the biggest marketing coupes of all-time? Or did they make one of the biggest mistakes of all time and came out smelling like roses?

Remember that next time someone says Marketing doesn’t effect sales. :o)

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

For instance…  THIS Thanksgiving (Happy Thanksgiving by the way), you are NOT going to eat as much and give yourself that uncomfortable feeling for the night that you do every other year.  Unfortunately, you get to watching the football games, maybe turn on a basketball game, you continue to eat the snacks that are put out before dinner, then dinner is served and you don’t want to feel like a bad guest, so you fill your plate and eat a great dinner.  Then, right after dinner you find yourself lounging in the Lazy-Boy chair moaning and groaning…

Sound familiar?  Has your company continued to try the same things that have gotten you to the point you are at as a company – only this time, for some reason, it will work better!!

How frustrating is it for you to continue to develop business or product or marketing plans for a specific product or company only to see the company fall back into the same trap that has gotten it to where you are now?

Sometimes the best thing for a company to do is get someone from the outside to look objectively at your business and pay them to tell you the truth from how things look from the outside.  Sometimes people are too worried about their job, don’t like conflict, not good at communicating, etc.  Whatever the reason, sometimes the best thing for your company is to hear the truth from someone who is not attached to your business.

“Your Opinion, while interesting, is completely irrelevant…”

So what does all of this mean?  Am I just being a jerk and trying to show people that I know more than you?

Actually, couldn’t be further from the truth.  I got this line from a book – “Tuned In” – and the premise goes like this — While you might think you know a lot about your companies technology and the market that your company plays in, the only way you could possibly know about the problems that exist in your prospects environments is to get out into those accounts and talk with them.

Does your company have one person who “has all the knowledge”?  They know what direction the company or the product needs to go in.  They stand up in front of the group and tell your executive team what they should be doing and what direction the company should be taking.

Do you ever wonder why your company or product line continues to struggle and can never get off the ground and gain the proper traction in the market?

I often sit in meetings and listen to different companies talk about their next product release and how great a product it will be and how much the market is waiting for it, etc. etc.  Then I start asking questions like – How long has this product been under development?  What problems is the release solving in the market?  What prospects have you taken this product into and discussed the solution set to?

Most companies can answer pretty quickly how long the product has been under development and how much that development effort has cost them to date.  However, when I get to the questions about what problems the release is solving and what prospects they have talked to – I tend to get a look that quickly says “Solving problems?”…

Solving problems is why we develop products and bring them to the market.  Yet I am amazed at how often companies develop the next version of software because —  well, because they needed a new version.  Requirements are based on what the competitors are doing or worse, they are based on what the companies existing customer base says they want.

A little bit of thinking up front and spending some cycles talking with prospects will go a long way on the back-end of a requirements document that ensures the product you are bringing to the market actually solves problems that exist within your market.  After all, isn’t that why we develop products?

Tune in to your markets.

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