Finding Innovative Ideas with The Innovator’s DNA

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Here’s an idea for you from the Innovator’s DNA that I thought was worth sharing. If you want to innovate, you need to ask questions. More importantly, you need to ask the right type of questions.

The goal is to challenge assumptions, make new connections, and see past what’s already there. This doesn’t happen by asking a random scattering of questions but through a disciplined practice.

Here’s how they sum up the approach in the book:

During interviews with disruptive innovators, we noticed not only a high frequency of questions but a pattern as well. They started with a deep-sea-like exploration of what currently is and then rocketed to the skies for an equally compelling search for what might be. Focusing on what is, they asked lots of who, what, when, where, and how questions (as world-class journalists or investigators do) to dig beneath the surface and truly “know the place for the first time” (as poet T. S. Eliot observed).

Essentially, you need to be able to see the entire box before you can see outside the box. Only by asking the right questions can you get build the full picture necessary to find a transformative solution to the challenge.

Are you Ready for the Zero Moment of Truth?

marketing at the Zero moment of TruthI recently caught a great post from Amy Taylor at the Brains on Fire Blog on the changing dynamics of consumers and retailers. Amy comments in her post,

After my iPhone shattered, I went on the hunt for an indestructible case by throwing a question out to my Twitter followers. The name “Otterbox” was quickly Tweeted back by many. When I decided to invest in iPhone insurance, my social network (and their glowing recommendations) directed me to a company called SquareTrade. In these instances, my social network wasn’t just influential in my purchase, it was integral.

This may sound like a familiar experience but have you really thought about what’s happening here? This trend might not be new to you but is dramatically changing the way you should market your solutions.

Think Insights with Google has gone as far as coining this new step of the buying process the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and defines it as the following:

ZMOT is that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying. I’m sure you know what I mean — you probably do web searches like this every day.

To prove that this isn’t just impacting a small niche of the marketplace, they did some some extensive research (download the Google ZMOT research report here) and found that:

70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase

79% of consumers now say they use a smartphone to help with shopping

83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them

And most tellingly, the data revealed that the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010.

This is a gigantic shift and should very clearly signify that the sales process is no longer managed by the seller. By the time a prospect wants to talk with you they will not only know your story but those of all your competitors. If you hope to be considered, not to mention win, during the ZMOT, you are going to have find ways to be part of the early conversation.

So, are preparing to win the Zero Moment of Truth?

16 Reasons Why You Should Read the End of Business as Usual

16 Reasons Why You Should Read the End of Business as Usual

Everything is changing and this is having a major impact on how businesses need to operate in the era of the connected consumer.

If you are trying to figure out what’s going on and how you can best adapt, Brian Solis’s new book, The End of Business as Usual, is a great place to start.

Thanks to Brian’s early release on Twitter, I was able to purchase an advance copy and spent the weekend reading it. There is a lot of great advice in the book of how to take advantage of this changing landscape and several outstanding case studies of companies that are leading the way. The major point being that you will either learn to adapt or be left behind by those that do (to accentuate this point, make sure to check out Brian’s End of Business as Usual teaser video).

I put together a few of my favorite quotes from the book in a presentation to share. Enjoy the presentation and grab a copy of the book!


Getting Your Customers to Stop Thinking of You

Dr. Art Markman talking about making your company a habit

This week I had the privilege of attending Forrester’s Tech Marketing Roundtable here in Austin, TX. As usual, Forrester put together a great discussion with fellow product marketers and shared some fascinating insights.

Forrester also invited a guest presenter for the discussion, Dr. Art Markman from the University of Texas. Dr. Markman’s topic of discussion was on how to make your company a habit (Side note -keep an eye out for Dr. Markman’s upcoming book,Thinking Smart. Sounds like a great read for Product Marketers.)

Your first question may be, why should you care about your customer’s habits?  Here’s one good reason from Dr. Markman:

In the end, the importance of habits inverts a common wisdom about successful businesses. You may think that you want your customers to think about you often. In fact, you often want your customers to act without thinking.

Customers have habits that involve routines and these routines don’t change easily. This can be a tremendous advantage if you can become part of their natural activities. This also means that if you are trying to replace a competitor’s product or service, you can’t assume that just because you have better features that  a customer will naturally switch.

I can’t think of a better example to this point than Microsoft’s attempt to get people to stop searching on Google and give Bing a try. Microsoft has done an admirable job trying to differentiate their product through design and around certain features (e.g. an innovative travel search) and has launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to drive awareness.

The cost of trying to replace a user’s default search? Right now, it  is estimated that Microsoft is losing over $1 billion dollars a quarter with Bing and has only reduced Google’s market share by two-tenths of a percentage point from the 65% it held when Bing debuted.

So, how do you make your company or product a habit?  Here are a few starting points from Dr. Markman:

  • Find your customer’s habits and insert yourself – once you know what they are actually doing you can design for their behavior.
  • Find a way to disrupt existing consumer behavior so they will consider something new – sometimes you need to disrupt their habits in order to get them to consider a new choice.
  • Don’t surprise people when it comes to change, let them know the site changes are coming –  as opposed to Facebook always surprising users with new features.
  • Look for the little things you can do to make your product become a habit – we often point out the big features but it can be the small things that make your product ‘automatic’ in your customer’s minds.
It is worth noting that finding existing habits is not a trivial task. Asking customers what they do will lead you down a different path than what they really are doing. The best advice, “Don’t just do something, stand there and watch” what they are actually doing to gather insights into their product habits.

In the end, finding out what your customers are doing without thinking can help make your product a better experience and make it even harder for competitors to replace you.

13 Tweetable Insights from WikiBrands

Over the last month, I have been doing a lot of research on brand development, customer engagement, and community building. After going through half a dozen of the latest books on the subject, one has really stood out – Wikibrands by Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover.

I like how the book covers strategies and tactics along with plenty of example of businesses that are succeeding by co-creating branding efforts with their most engaged customers. If you are looking to build a brand community or for ways to improve your social business, this book has a lot to offer.

The following are some quick insights from the book that I wanted to share (format inspired by Dharmesh Shah’s review of the Lean Startup):

  • The litmus test for a thriving business in this marketplace is, “Does your brand deliver genuine participation?”
  • How businesses create value through brands will be transformed by the relationships and experiences these businesses have with their customers.
  • In today’s economy, building brand value has become more a function of what you actually do rather than what you say you do.
  • Wikibranding is about something larger than social media or new marketing, it’s really about “social business” – a business imperative.
  • Your CEO really wants to lead a wikibrand; he or she just doesnt know it yet.
  • Wikibranding requires a shift in company focus from top-down consumer communication to consumer collaboration.
  • The companies and brands that lead in customer collaborative spaces tend to have a driving ethos that makes their people and fans go the extra mile.
  • Good wikikbrand efforts represent a mixture of an organization’s perspective and a mosaic of customer views.
  • Language and content are the special ingredients that grease the wikibrand conveyor belt.
  • Big companies are like the high school prom queen – the don’t flirt with anybody because they don’t think they have to.
  • Once you have attracted from the world out there, the influence meter starts over.
  • The best customer communities are neither brand dictatorships nor radical experiments in open source development.
  • Wikibranding cannot be a siloed functional exercise.

Would love to hear if any of these points resonate with you or any others to add?


Image Credit: ausnahmezustand

7 Reasons Why All Product Marketers Should Write

Jason Baptiste recently wrote a wonderful post on the OnStartUps blog titled, Why Every Entrepreneur Should Write and 9 Tips To Get Started. While the post was aimed at the startup/entrepreneurial world, I think it can be easily extended to all product marketers. Being an effective communicator is a core marketing skill and an even more important one for product marketers.

Being able to develop a story and then translate it across all the various channels – media, web, blogs, social – is what in my mind sets apart a good product marketer from and a great one.

Following Jason’s 7 entrepreneurial reasons for writing, here’s my take on why all product marketers should write:

  • You Will Meet Other Smart People – this one is pretty straight forward but may be a surprise for some. Writing and publishing online gives you a chance to interact with people and build relationships beyond your standard network. Bottom line, having a diverse network of smart marketers is always a good thing.
  • Your Experiences Will Provide Insightful Knowledge – the most successful marketers I know have had two things in common. They never stopped learning and they were always generous with advice. We all have successes and failures that others can learn from and sharing helps the overall marketing community.
  • You Will Establish Domain Expertise – no question about it this is an important one. Whether you on the executive path or just getting started, there is now an expectation that you will have a “digital ready” skill set. Case in point, Hubspot’s recent article, How to crush the competition with inbound marketing, calls out the need for hiring digital ready marketers. 
  • It Helps Build Dedication – Unfortunately, writing is hard. By dedicating the time necessary to write, rewrite, and publish, you are building a habit. This is a step towards becoming a life long learner and a better product marketer.
  • Your Communication Skills Will Get Exponentially Better – how can you not want to be a better communicator? Whether it is trying to draft powerful product messaging or to communicate with your sales team or customers, the better the writing the better the results. In a recent HBR article, Eight Ways to Communicate Your Strategy More Effectively, Georgia Everse points out that not all not all messages are created equal and that you must choose different approaches based on your purpose. Wether you are trying to inspire, educate, or enforce, your message must be “simple, but deep in meaning.” The only way to get better at writing these types of messages is to practice. I can’t think of a better way to sum it up than with this thought on communications from Simon Sinek

  • You Will Build An Audience That Will Give You Candid Feedback – have a new idea or a concept you would like help developing?As you start to build a following, you will more opportunity to bounce ideas off your audience and ask for help.
  • It is A Rapid Accelerator Of Serendipity – you never know when that random comment or feedback could turn into a something more – maybe a new friend, maybe a speaking gig, maybe a new career opportunity. All I know is that if you don’t get out there and do the work, the odds of something happening are greatly reduced. 

Last, it is worth pointing out that by writing and publishing, you continually get a chance for others to get to know you and see what a good communicator you are. You might really be a good writer, but without something to point, you are asking people to take your word for instead of being able to see your words on their own.

Image credit:  aless&ro

What Kind Of Social Expert Are You?

Last month I was lucky to attend ProductCamp Austin 7 (#pcatx) and present a session on “Social Marketing in B2B World: Reality vs. Myth

The key message that I wanted to communicate is that social media and social marketing are two different things.

Social media experts (at least the ones that I have encountered) tend to take a tool-centric approach focused on building an army of twitter followers and Facebook fans.

Social marketing experts start with from a strategic marketing perspective and leverage social media tools as distribution channels as they see best fit.

While I would not go as far as saying that 99.5% of social media experts are clowns (to which Sonia Simone provided a great response on her blog),  I do believe that we, as marketing experts, are best positioned to test the new social media tools and make the case for what best work best for us and our organization.

With that, I also strongly recommend the Content Grid that @joechernov and @jess3 have put together. A great infographic to help you strategize which content you should create and which social media distribution channels you leverage at each stage of the sales cycle.

Enjoy the presentation:

Check Your Assumptions

The first half of this year has been jammed packed with product launches and new marketing campaigns and at the end of the day, I haven’t had as mush time as I would like to blog.

Now that I have had time to catch my breath, I am trying to do a little retrospective. Jim Holland put together a great post on the subject back in June that highlights some great questions to ask during a moment of pause.

One area I would like to comment on is the subject of  examining your strategy and seeing if anything has shifted – especially looking at your assumptions.

During planning, all sorts of assumptions are made when it comes to market forecasts, costs, and business impacts. Sometimes, a lot of thought goes into this analysis, sometimes, it’s the back of the napkin, and sometimes, it’s a thumb in the air.

However it was done, it’s easy to forget what magic went into those numbers to make the business case work. If you stop and revist these assumptions, you may find that what seemed like a slam dunk a year ago isn’t looking so straight forward.

I recently ran across a perfect example that highlights the danger of working with old assumptions while shopping for a new car – a bit random but relevant.

We were in no rush while shopping and spent a lot of time looking at dealers and different car models. While trying to find a way to compare costs, features, etc, I noticed some fine print in the fuel cost calculations:

The annual fuel cost calculations were based on $3.00 a gallon? I honestly don’t remember when gas cost $3.00 but I know it has been some time (2008?). So here’s the question, what does the annual cost look like with today’s fuel prices? What if gas goes back up to $4 or more?

Continuing to make new decisions on old assumptions can not only artificially inflate your numbers but also leave you with a pain at the pump when trying to fuel your business.

So here’s the question for you, when’s the last time you checked your assumptions?


Image credit: scui3asteveo

A Marketing Reminder From Nokia – Stay Paranoid

Outstanding article in this week’s BusinessWeek on the fall of Nokia. It is a fascinating tale of complacency and complete disregard for a changing marketplace.

From the article,

Nokia’s initial reaction to the iPhone is the most embarrassing example of what went wrong. When Steve Jobs unveiled the device in January 2007, “it was widely disregarded,” says former manager Dave Grannan, who now runs Burlington (Mass.)-based voice recognition company Vlingo. “The attitude was that we’d tried touchscreens before, and people didn’t like them.”

…As iPhone sales took off, Nokia remained strangely detached, say a dozen current and former executives. The company didn’t sit still, exactly. It opened its own app store, Ovi—but never put marketing muscle behind it. With no runaway hit like the iPhone, app developers largely ignored it. When Elop euthanized the Ovi brand name on May 16, it had 50,000 apps; Apple had 500,000. “It was an ignorant complacency, not an arrogant complacency,” says Nokia human resources head Juha Akras.

It would be one thing if Nokia was unable to respond to the shift driven by Apple and Google but in reality, it sounds as if the company just chose to ignore all signs of change. They assumed that customers would keep buying their products no matter how the market was changing.

Nokia never stepped away to look at the marketplace through their customers’ eyes.

If you don’t have time to read the full article, Andrew Grove’s famous quote sums up what happened at Nokia in one sentence, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

Image Credit:  Alicakes*

Yahoo Dropping Delicious Makes Complete Sense – But Not Really

Trying to figure out why Yahoo decided to drop Delicious from their portfolio isn’t hard. It could be because it isn’t growing anymore, doesn’t make any revenue, is no longer hot (hey, its been a long five years since Yahoo bought the company).

Cutting products and focusing the company is exactly what Yahoo has to do if it has any hopes of turning itself around (in fact, this is pretty much what they said they were going to do).

So, what’s the big deal?

While it may have made a good product level decision, dropping Delicious makes no sense when it comes to marketing strategy – at least at this point and time.

Delicious has been woefully neglected since being purchased by Yahoo but it is still a brand that a lot of people understand and care about.  In the meantime, Yahoo has done nothing to get people excited about Yahoo again.

Nobody really knows what the Yahoo brand stands for and why they should care anymore.

None of this will really matter if Yahoo can get it’s act together but in the short run, I would say this is another warning sign that things are not heading in the right direction.  Building excitement about your brand and products is hard enough without pissing people off first.

Image Credit:  Flickr