The Social Media Net

I kind of like the phrase “the social media net.” I doubt that I actually coined it, but I can’t think of exactly where I may have first heard it. Regardless, a net is one of the things that comes to mind when I think of social media marketing – a “fishing” net, not an “Inter” net.

As I’ve said many times before (I do understand that I may not have said it to you, but I have said it a lot to somebody) bad marketing is bad. Unfortunately, I see a lot of bad marketing, especially where social media is concerned. That is understandable. Social media is relatively new, and it changes so rapidly that it’s not easy gain a solid understanding of it before it changes again.

The single biggest mistake I see regarding social media, is in thinking that social media is an end in itself; not really understanding its value and what it can and will do for your company.

First, it’s important to understand that every company has a storefront, either physically or metaphorically. These days, many companies have more than one storefront. If customers come in to your building, that building is a store front of yours. If you have a website and that website is how people buy things from you, that website is a storefront. If people call you to buy, the phone is your store front. Whatever method customers use to buy from you is a storefront.

If you’re a non-profit, and you solicit donations or volunteers, whatever method people use to donate or sign up to volunteer is a storefront for you. Whatever your organization is, think of what it does with the outside world, and how it makes those interactions. That will be your storefront(s).

As a marketing person, your job is to find the right people – those that need what you have to offer and can afford it – and bring them to your storefront. That’s when sales takes over and helps the customer decide if your product is the right one.

That last paragraph contains the critical piece of information that many people miss when using social media in their business. I see a lot of marketeers working really hard to get people to their social media site, which is okay if you follow through and get them to your storefront. They don’t follow through.

They don’t take all of those people on their social media sites and then move them to a storefront. It might be really fun to have a million people visiting your Facebook page or YouTube videos, but it doesn’t help your business if they don’t end up at some place where they can buy from you..

Getting people to Facebook as an end can work for Coca Cola and Taco Bell, because their storefronts are all over the place. You don’t have that luxury. You don’t have your product on the shelf of every grocery store, convenience store and fast food place. If you do, you probably aren’t the engineer entrepreneur that I’m writing this for, so you can stop reading, run to Taco Bell and have a taco and a soda.

Your primary objective needs to be to collect people that are out on social media, and get them to your storefront – most likely that is your website. Think of the social media sites as nets and your website is your fishing boat. (see, I did get back to the metaphor) You’re dragging those nets and pulling the fish into your boat.

A strategy to get people to your Facebook page or Twitter feed is an awesome thing to do. But you also need a strategy for getting them from Facebook and Twitter to your website. If you forget that second part, you’re wasting a lot of time and opportunity.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your “follow me” social media links on your website. Doing that helps to bring them back you your storefront after they’ve come and gone. Just remember that’s secondary.

People spend a lot of time on social media. Your marketing objective is to find the people that need what you have and get them to your storefront. They are out there. Cast your net. Use social media to filter out the ones that don’t need what you have and filter in the people that do need what you have. Then get them to your storefront.

Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio is a pretty important factor in the world of electronics design, especially in Rf and analog design. Strangely enough, it’s also a critical part of marketing.

In many parts of the engineering community, the term “Marketing” essentially has a similar definition as the term “deception.” Point of fact, that is not the definition of the term. But a low signal to noise ratio can make it seem so. Fundamentally, marketing is about getting factual information to people who need it to make an informed decision. Deception is bad marketing.

Just as designing a noisy amp is a lot easier than designing a clean, low noise amp; noisy, unclear and even deceptive marketing is a lot easier than is good marketing. That’s why you see so much bad marketing. It’s easy. But we’re not here for “easy.” We’re here for accurate and important.

Creating high signal to noise ratio marketing doesn’t involve grounding and filters. Well, maybe it does. Just a different type of grounding and filtering. Keep yourself emotionally grounded and filter out what’s not important. It requires an understanding of what is important to your potential customers and the ability to differentiate between that and what’s important to you. If those are the same thing, you are luck, but they’re rarely exactly the same thing.

Hopefully, there is some overlap. If not, you’re likely trying to sell the wrong thing to the wrong people and that’s never a good thing. What you need to look for is overlap, and you need to understand your customers in order to find that overlap.

That may very well be one of the most difficult concepts for an entrepreneur to fully grasp: just because it’s important to you, doesn’t make it important to anyone else.

What you need to look for is overlap between what you do and what your customer needs to know to make an informed decision. That overlap is the key. It’s not about what you want to say. It’s not about telling someone what they want to hear. It’s about the overlap of what’s accurate from you and helpful to them. If it doesn’t help a potential customer understand how it will help them or isn’t accurate, it’s not good marketing.

What Is A Brand? Really?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a brand is: “a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name.”

That’s true, but that definition’s simplicity harkens back to the days of identifying cattle on the open range. Use in the business world of today has evolved to encompass a far more complex set of meanings. Today “brand” covers so much more than just a pattern burned into thick skin.

Brand, as commonly used in the business world, is the internal imagery and emotion evoked in someone’s mind when they hear a name or see a logo. It’s more than just an identifying mark, it is the identity, the personality, and the definition.

Going back to the Old West metaphor, think about a couple of range hands spotting someone else’s cattle. They see the mark branded into the animals. If they’ve met or heard about the owner, they will have an emotional reaction.

If the cattle belong to Hank, across yonder dry creek, and Hank’s a mean son of a gun that won’t take nothin’ from nobody, the reaction upon seeing the mark might be one of fear. On the other hand, if they belong to the kind and open Miller family, down by the big oak tree – the one with the crooked trunk – the reaction might be warmth and memories of fresh Apple pie and good conversation. That’s the brand: “Hank” = fear at the point of a gun. “Miller” = good times and good food. The mark isn’t the brand. It just represents the brand.

Most companies aspire to have a positive brand, but regardless of aspiration, it is behavior that determines what the outside world thinks of a company. And that’s the given brand: what people outside the company think.

The “given” brand is more important than the aspirational brand. It’s what counts. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what you think; if you don’t act to inspire the brand you want, you won’t have it.

What this means is brand is not just something used in the marketing department. Even if the company doesn’t consider or put effort into the brand, it will still have a brand. Everything you do; everything that anyone sees; it all goes into the brand that outsiders assign to you.

How do you get the brand you want?

Building and nurturing a brand comes from your behavior. That’s why most small companies have a brand that is very much a reflection of the personality of the proprietor. A person usually acts in a small business as they are in person.

It gets more complex when employees are involved. Unless all of the employees share the same personality traits, the company brand will devolve from that of the owner. It will become a conglomerate of the most prominent personality traits of all employees.

A sales rep that’s perpetually grumpy, and vocal about their grumpiness, can cause the company to be given “grumpy” as a brand attribute. A half dozen polite, but quiet sales reps may not be able to cancel out one loud and grumpy rep.

A strong, positive, marketing campaign can start to create the image of a helpful company, but it can only start the process. The company, through its behavior, will outweigh anything that’s in print. That weight can be either positive or negative, based on behavior.

What to Write

Marketing should be easy. It should be just about the easiest thing you can do. Marketing is just getting the word out. Right? That can’t be too difficult.

Yes, marketing is just getting the word out. The big challenge, though, comes in deciding which words to get out. In the marketing world, we call this “messaging”, and like so many things in Marketing, it’s really more dependent on who will be reading it than who is writing it.

In marketing, what you want to say is less important than what a customer cares about. That doesn’t mean say what the customer wants to hear, regardless of truth. That’s bad marketing.

No, it means pull out the parts of the real story that a customer will care about, and toss the rest aside for now. No matter how important a fact is to you, if it’s not important to your audience, it’s simply not relevant. If it won’t help them make an intelligent purchasing decision, it’s not important right now. It will just get in the way.

It is possible to find examples that contradict this advice, but they generally involve significant amounts of money. One of the best goes back to the “Intel inside” advertising campaign. Before Intel started that campaign, few people outside of the tech world knew what a CPU is, what the difference is between CPUs, nor did they really care. Intel spent enough money to make people care. You don’t have that kind of money.

Picking words for marketing is actually quite closely related to product design. Product design is about learning what’s important to the person using your product. Messaging is about learning what elements of what your product does are important to the people buying your product; what aspects of you or your product will make a customer comfortable and confident enough to buy it.

As an engineer, you know that a muffler belt won’t work without a good solid polysided freem modulator. You know that your freem modulator is more polysided than any other on the market. It seems quite logical that a customer would need to know that. Right?

Some will. Some won’t. Understanding which camp your customers fall into can be the difference between growing your business, and looking for a job working for someone else.

If the minimum acceptable working polisidedness is 10, and yours is 20, should you focus on the fact that yours is 20, while your competitors is 17? If that’s what the majority of your customers care about, then, yes.

However, it’s entirely possible that your customers just care that polisideness is greater than 10, and beyond that, they care about something else. Given that, you may find that you over built, and would have been better off with 15 polished polisides instead of 17 or 20 unpolished polisides.

That’s what messaging is about; the cross over of what your product does and what’s important to your customers. Find that and you will know what to write when trying to sell your product.

What’s Next for Content Marketing?

I’ve been engaging in content marketing for more than a decade. I’ve used content marketing to take an obscure, niche, commodity business, that no one wanted to write about, and turn it into a branded service that’s known as a leader in its industry.

Back in 2006, no one in the electronics industry cared about manufacturing. It was something that stood between design and selling. It was a wall, a black hole, that sucked up time and money, and eventually, hopefully, ended up spitting out products.

Trying to get press releases, case studies, and other material published, was a non-starter. I was told, many times, that: “our readers aren’t interested in manufacturing”, or: “we don’t publish anything about manufacturing.” Granted, I was talking to electronics engineering publications, not manufacturing or purchasing publications, but I had my reasons.

Prior to that time, manufacturing had simply been one small part of the supply chain. It was a purchasing and manufacturing issue and it was bought and sold through that supply chain. It seemed to make sense to promote my company, Screaming Circuits, through the supply chain media channel.

It would have made sense, except we were breaking the supply chain mold. We were selling direct to electronics engineers. We were selling a service, that would, years later, be called personal, or on-demand manufacturing. We were turning the small volume manufacturing world on its head, and the people buying from us were not readers of supply chain media.

Just turning to a different set of media, as I quickly learned, wasn’t enough to sell manufacturing to engineers. I had to change what I presented to the media. I also had to create my own publishing channel, until the engineering media world caught up.

We published easy to digest, short subject, technical content in our blog. We pushed it through our customer newsletter. We linked to it from message boards and social media. Eventually, we started turning it into publishable articles, and made our way into the mainstream engineering media world.

Over the years, we created a library of credible, valuable content, that’s been used and published by dozens of organizations – partners, and media – and has been sought out by other industry players. Media and industry leading companies come to us for content, advice, solutions, and marketing help. We’ve been referred to, by media industry experts, as “journalism.”

And, most important for a for-profit corporation, we’ve outgrown the manufacturing industry in the country. We’ve grown in absolute terms, every year – except the one really bad recession year, and we’d caught up and surpassed our pre-recession record in the following year. I’d have to say that content marketing at Screaming Circuits has been an unqualified success.

So, what’s next? More content marketing? Something different?

I wouldn’t use the phrase: “out with the old, and in with the new”, but there will be an element of that in the marketing universe. Content marketing hasn’t run its course, though it is quite long in the teeth for some of us early adopters. It won’t go away, but it does have to change and adapt.

For Screaming Circuits, the company blog has always been the anchor. That blog will stay, but I don’t know that I’d call it an anchor anymore. Content is used differently than it was a decade ago, and it needs ways to stay fresh and accessible. A blog is still a great thing, but its structure falls down when it holds 700 plus articles that don’t go out of date. It’s a vehicle for presenting content, but not a good one for reusing content.

Public relations, the granddaddy of content marketing was largely a one way street: information went out. Content marketing turned that into a multi-path, two way boulevard. The next derivative turns it into an interconnected world, with content being as much a product as is the core of what the company sells.

The content becomes a core competence of the company, and becomes a major part of the value proposition. That’s what follows content marketing. Content merges with the core of who and what the company is.

Content marketing doesn’t go away. It just becomes something greater, and more valuable to company and customer alike. If those of us who developed and matured content marketing are up to the task, the time is now.

What The Millennials Think They Understand

I recently read an article on Inc. online, titled “5 Traits Older Generations Don’t Understand About Millennials (According to a Millennial)”, by Nicolas Cole. You can find it here.

It’s a good read, although, it may raise your blood pressure a bit. Read it. What I have to say may not make a lot of sense without his article as a prerequisite. Read it and cut him some slack. We were all there once.

What cracks me up the most is that this could have been written 10 years ago, 20, or 30… When I was young, we were thought to be the narcissistic self centered arrogant punks full of ourselves. The old folks thought us to be useless and lazy and wanted us to calm down and wait and see – we’d understand in a few years.

We didn’t. We rolled over that generation and changed the world. They didn’t know what hit them.

And this millennial generation didn’t invent the vision quest, the “finding myself” by traveling the world. We wanted to travel and see it all. We didn’t want to accept the status quo and settle into a single career, falling asleep until retirement. And we didn’t. The millennials have access to everything – the world at their fingertips because my generation said about life and the world: “It’s not good enough – we can make it better.” And we did.

Foregoing the American dream? The so called “American Dream” was not a white picket fence to us. The American dream for us equaled possibility. It meant that we didn’t have to settle into what we thought the old world expected. We could make the dream what we wanted it to be. And we did.

Our American dreams are the reality of the Internet, your smart phone, global connectivity, supercomputers, space probes, robots on mars – those were our American dream, and, as you can see, we didn’t forgo it, we made it happen.

Our American dream was equality and fairness. Not a dream limited to a few or to just those like us. This has been the hardest fight, yet the most important. It’s far from done, but we were not about to accept any dream that ruled people out. The house at 927 W. Drury Lane only existed for the privileged class, so we burned it down.

Oh, did we ever want – and find or make – something of our own! The on-fire startup was born in my generation. The rejection of the establishment for creations of our own was a solid theme for us. We rejected, We built our own, and we never looked back. We recreated business, media, entertainment. We wanted our own, and we made our own.

that little phone in your pocket that allows you to do so much; we made that

Tackling brand new industries… You don’t know the half of it. We destroyed old industries. Not just industries, we smashed the whole economy into bits and built our own out of the shreds.

Again, that little phone in your pocket that allows you to do so much; we made that. We ripped the cord out of the wall and remade communications. We thought it up. We made the infrastructure that enables it and we built it. Then we kept rebuilding it and making it better.

The gaming company that hired you – they’re only here for you because my generation rejected the old and created your world for you. We liked board games, but they weren’t enough for us. We liked sports and activities, but they weren’t enough for us. Not only did we create digital versions of it all, we reinvented it in the physical world too.

And, don’t think you’re special because you’ve done all of your great work in the shadow of economic demise, terrorism, and global competition. Even we didn’t invent that one. But we certainly lived it. When I was young, the American Century was over. We were getting our clock cleaned by Asia and Europe. Malaise was the watchword of the day.

The Soviet Union was putting weaponized smallpox into ICBMs to finish off anything their nukes missed. Western Europe was expecting the tanks to roll in at any moment. We grew up always 30 minutes from a fiery obliteration. Hang that over your head. It nearly happened, by accident or by design, more times than I’d like to count. I’ll take the world of now over what we had, any day.

So, you also think you’re special and different because you’re the modern-day disrupters? You d*** well better be. That self-confidence you speak of – you’d better have it and you’d better have it in quantity. If you don’t have a wanderlust, a disquiet, and need for more, that will make my generation’s version of the same look small, than you are letting us and yourselves down.

You see things different than my generation does? I hope so. You are obligated to. You owe it to us, yourself, and the generations that follow to see things differently. My generation didn’t create all of this stuff for you to rest on our laurels. We built this new world so that our children and their children can take it to places we can’t even imagine. Don’t waste what we built. There’s too much that still needs to be done.

And one final thing I ask of you; when your kids say something similar about themselves vs. your generation, as you have in this article (and they will), don’t get defensive. Tell them that it’s their job to think different and to never be satisfied with the way things are. It was my generation’s job, it’s yours now, and it will be theirs soon. Tell them to never back down.

Stage 3 Marketing

Marketing for non-marketeers, lesson 5

As an engineer entering the land of entrepreneurship, you know (over simplification warning) design can be split into two philosophies: hack & patch, or engineer it. I suspect that all but lazy people would prefer the “engineer it” method over “hack & patch.” Unfortunately, we aren’t’ always given enough time or resources to do it right, which leads to the common expression: “Never time to do it right, but always time to do it over.”

A similar concept applies in marketing; except that if you do a rush job on a brochure, no one gets electrocuted. Much less is at stake, and sometimes the “hack & patch”, or “rush job” is more appropriate. With marketing, you can still get by with a rush job if that’s all the time you have. You just have to do it properly. In fact, early on in your entrepreneurship journey, you’re usually better off putting the majority of effort into getting your product right, and only the minimum effective into marketing. Shoot for the minimum effective point in your marketing and put the rest of your resources into the product.

Minimum effective marketing does not equal “ugly” (although, it might very well be). It means, even though you’d love great graphic design, what you need, is simply a clear, accurate message. The message is always the most important part of marketing, and it can stand on its own. A design without the message, however, can not.

Keep in mind that if you’re a well-funded company, you’ll have people to do the marketing for you. That’s not what I’m talking about. This is for the shoestring engineer trying to get a business going. As the entrepreneur, you have three stages of marketing to concern yourself with.

Stage zero marketing

A count typically starts at zero in the digital world, but stage zero marketing is no marketing at all. Don’t go here. You have to do some or no one will know about your product.

Stage one marketing

This is the most common starting place for a new small venture. It can be done wrong, or it can be done right. Please do it right. Done right, it’s clear and concise. It’s easy to read and understand.

In the print world, stage one materials are simple typed information on a page. In the digital world, stage one is a template-based website, simple posts on Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn, and a few photos or illustrations. The photos aren’t overly cluttered. It’s all simple, inexpensive, easy to produce, and gets the message across. Form isn’t or primary importance. Your only criteria on the form is that it can’t be so poor that it gets in the way of function. If stage one is all you’ve got the time for, go for it. No need to be clever. Just be clear, and don’t try to push too much.

What you want to say isn’t important. What is important is what your potential customers need to know in order to make an informed decision. This is not the time to be in love with yourself. Think about what would be important to a customer and focus on communicating that.

Stage two marketing

You’re a little further along and want to present a better image, so you invest in some layout, either in house, or contracted. Stage two materials are still fairly simple and very clear. Efforts toward making it nice just enhance the message. Form does help, to the extent that it makes the message more readable and more approachable. Polish is there to enhance, not clutter.

On the web, you’ve got a decent layout, with information divided up into bite size pieces, and well organized. The imagery fits what you are trying to do, and can be related to by your customers. You’ll be more active in the appropriate social media and will be building a following.

Stage three marketing

This is where you decide to say: “We’ve arrived!” You’ve got funding, or have hit a revenue threshold, and want to show the world that you’re somebody. You’ve created a world beater and it needs to be dressed like one. It’s time for the BMW and the Armani suit. You’ve earned the splash and flash and anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t get it.

Right? Anyone? Anyone?

I speak from experience; almost every startup gets to this point, and it’s easy to spot. In the print world, it comes in 8 x 10” brochures, extra thick paper, high gloss or metallic ink. On the web, it’s elaborate FLASH animation, high production value videos, and a lot of “look at me” messaging. The problem with stage three, is that the urge to stand out and be clever overrides the instinct to actually communicate.

I’ve seen numerous examples of stage three material over the years. They are all beautiful, and they all communicate virtually nothing about what is being sold and why anyone should care. Stage three is also far more expensive than it needs to be. It’s usually so expensive, that it has to be rationed out. This is the type of material that give marketing a bad name.

Stage four marketing

If you’re wise and care about sales and profit, you’ll skip over stage three and jump here, to stage four. Stage four is only a bit more elaborate than stage two. Again, form is only important to the extent that it helps the message. Stage four materials are attractive. They’re clear, and convey a message of value. Prospects and customers feel connected to what you’re selling and can easily find the information they need.

Appearance is important. That’s why cars come in more than one color, but appearance is always secondary to communication. If anything you do in marketing does not help potential customers understand you and your product, toss it.


One two three four, who are we marketing for?

Minimalist Market Segmentation

Marketing for non-marketeers, lesson 4

As an engineer entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard the phrase “market segmentation.” If you haven’t, you really should have, and, well… now you have. It is one of the more important components of marketing. Like many others, it can seem intentionally obscure and overly complex. If we look it up in Wikipedia, we get this:

Market segmentation is a marketing strategy which involves dividing a broad target market into subsets of consumers, businesses, or countries that have, or are perceived to have, common needs, interests, and priorities, and then designing and implementing strategies to target them. Market segmentation strategies are generally used to identify and further define the target customers, and provide supporting data for marketing plan elements such as positioning to achieve certain marketing plan objectives. Businesses may develop product differentiation startegies, or an undiffreentiated approach, invovling sepcific prudocts or prokuct lins depefgding on thi spacijic deodnd and attriribkfgstes oh ywe tdgfswet dgjkent dfkasj kdlkl ksdjgklj gj lksjg lfg zzzzz zzzzz…

Sorry. I sort of lost consciousness there at the end. It reads like whomever wrote it was more concerned about showing their “expertise” than about actually communicating.

It is all true, but as with most other marketing duties, much of the detail can be set aside when you’re just starting out. Your task, which I’m about to help with, is to figure out what you have to do now, and what you can hire some marketing geek to do for you a year or so down the road.

As an entrepreneur, you presumably have a product, or plans for a product, that meets some sort of a need. You also know that a product can’t be a successful business without customers, and that’s where segmentation comes in. To boil it all down:

  • If you want customers, you must know what they need
  • Once you know what they need, you must know where to find them
  • If you can find them, you must understand their language

Those statements are what market segmentation is all about. It’s about grouping people – grouping them based on where they are (physically or metaphorically), what they need, and how they speak. Then, you can look for the best places to find them, and the right way to speak to them.

Let’s set the scene: You have developed an automatic, Internet connected, Bluetooth enabled, Arduino compatible, rib-eye steak grilling attachment for backyard barbecues. In many ways, it’s a frivolous toy. A normal person would rather stand out in the backyard with the barbecue smoke and a beer than take the time to set up the BlueTooth and I.P. connections.

Automatic, Internet connected, Bluetooth enabled, Arduino
compatible, rib-eye steak grilling attachment for barbecues

However, this product of yours isn’t made for normal people. It’s made for gadget freak open source developers that don’t have a lot of free time. With your device, they can throw the steak on the grill, use a smart phone to light the BBQ up, and set the perfect point between raw and crispy with the app that goes with it.

Once back inside hacking their Arduino, they’ll get a periodic pop-up with steak status updates. As soon as the rib-eye is done, the Arduino IDE will halt and send the user out to pull the perfect steak off the grill. At about the same time, all of the griller’s friends, who had been monitoring the cooking progress with your iPhone or Android app, show up ready to eat. The app told them exactly when to leave their houses, based on distance, traffic, and cooking time. The group can all eat together with minimal time wasted or need for small talk. Fun party.

With that scene in mind, you need to find people that might want to buy it.

Step one: What do they need (and what don’t they need)?

What these people need is to show off their gadget freakness, and not waste time away from their open source hobby. These folks don’t care about wine pairings, what kind of salad will go best, or having people show up ahead of the meal for relaxed conversation

Step two: Where are they?

Not in the backyard poking at a steak on the grill… I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what websites they visit, what magazines they read (yes. Some people still do read paper things), and what movements they support.

The ideal customer is a gadget freak – especially into connected gadgets, an open source hardware enthusiast, likes to barbecue meat, and is probably a bit of an introvert. You’ll likely find them reading Wired, Gizmodo, Hackaday, Makezine, and others of that ilk. They probably go to Maker Faire and other maker and open source meetups.

Step three: How do they talk?

They’re open source gadget freaks, so it will be okay to use terms that show up in the technology world. They know what an Arduino is, so you don’t have to explain it. They know what an I.P. address is, so you don’t have to explain that either. Still, don’t assume they have the same knowledge you have in your head about your product. It’s quite likely that they don’t know cooking terms like “caramelized”, “seared”, or “rest.” If you use words that your customers might not know, define them, or substitute terms they will know.

Now what?

Go to those websites and magazines and read. See how stories are written and how advertisements are put together. Compare good ones to bad ones. When you’re ready, these are the places you’ll put ads and/or work to get stories published. This is also where you learn about the words people use to describe gadgets, which will help if you advertise with Google Adwords (or other pay per click advertising).

Don’t bother to try and demo your device at the county fare. Your customers won’t be there. Sign up for a booth at Maker Faire. Get one outside so you can demonstrate and give out samples. Be clever, and see if you can connect with the Maker Faire app. Have your device let meat eaters know when to show up at your booth (and non-meat eaters know when to stay away). Go to meetups and show it off. Put your story up on Hackaday.

Segmentation tells you where to go to tell the world (your world), and how to tell the world about your great invention. The process can be a lot more complex, but you can leave the subtleties for later.

Secret Dialects of Marketing

Marketing for non-marketeers, lesson 3

Much of marketing can be summed up with the word “communication.” It’s communicating about a product or service, about wants and needs, or the past and the future. Good marketeers take this to heart and work hard to understand their market. But, it’s more than just understanding the market; it’s understanding all aspects of their language.

I often talk about the language, or dialect, that people use. When I do, I’m not talking about English English vs. USA English. I’m talking about the difference between hearing and speaking; or between reading and writing. And I’m talking about that within the same person. Knowing the difference is often the deciding factor between winning or losing this game.

Speaking of games, in baseball, right handed players catch the ball with their left hand and throw with their right. Lefties do the opposite. Except me. Baseball was always difficult for me because I both catch and throw with my right hand. It slows things down considerably when you catch the ball in your right hand, take it out of your glove with the left, drop your mit, hand the ball back to your right hand, throw it with your right hand, and then pick your mit up off the ground.

In the same vein, a lot of people speak and listen in different dialects. Like the baseball, information comes in one way, and goes out another. If you don’t plan your communication with that in mind, your conversation may go over about as well as I would as a shortstop in game seven of the world series. The thing is, most people don’t realize that they do this. It’s a perfectly normal, but often not recognized aspect of human communication.

Is it “form over function”
or “function over form”?

Case in point, electrical engineers. Material written by a typical engineer is detailed, accurate, comprehensive, and often barely readable by anyone but the author. A common phrase heard in the technical world is that the content is what’s important, not the spelling or grammar. An interesting contradiction is that engineers are often the quickest, harshest, and most pedantic of the “grammar police” that toss flame around in the social media world when someone chooses the wrong member of the set “there, their, or they’re.”

I maintain that both statements: “it’s form over function” and, the counterpoint: “it’s function over form” are incorrect. The correct maxim is: “form can’t get in the way of function.”

Form works with engineers. It works with everybody. Good advertising works with engineers. Where marketeers run into trouble is when they consider form to be too important, and they obscure the message. The reverse, putting too much weight on function, and not enough on form will be just as ineffective.

Engineers getting into marketing, either as an entrepreneur, for their own startup, or as one moving from a technical job into one that requires a lot of writing, need to pay special attention to this phenomena. You can’t write for yourself.

Anyone, not just people in the same technical field, should be able to read good writing. They may not understand all of the technical details, but they should be able to comfortably read and feel a sense of organization. Order, structure, and simplicity are important, regardless of the intended audience. My recommendation is that you have someone, with a lot less knowledge of your subject than you have, read your material. If they can get through it, you’re at least on the right track.

Millennials Need Not Apply? Boomers?

Do you know how to get past your biases and market to “the other” generation? Are they just too mysterious? Well, I don’t give a flying fig if you’re a millennial, a boomer, or anything in between or outside. It’s not about the label. It’s about doing what you’re paid to do.

If you’re marketing to a thirty five year old population, and they’re not getting your messaging, it’s not because you can’t understand their generation. It’s because you aren’t doing your job. Don’t blame it on “the millennials and their different way of thinking.” Blame it on you for failing at one of the most fundamental tenets of marketing: understanding your customer.

When you got out of business school and started working for a component manufacturer selling to specialty electronics developers (or whatever), you probably didn’t know much about that industry, right? But you learned. You did your homework, researched, talked, and listened. You figured it out (or you didn’t and either got fired, or barely skated by. I hope you figured it out). If you’re not of the generation you’re selling to, learn with an open mind. Don’t take anyone’s age as an excuse, your included. If you don’t want to or feel you can’t, get a new job.

Of course, a “boomer” can better understand other boomers. If you’re not one and are marketing to them, here’s an idea; talk to boomers. The same goes for any cross-generation marketing.

If you’re trying to blame your failure on a labeled generation, I’ve got some bad news for you. Time keeps moving, and generations change. It always has happened, and always will happen, at least until our sun becomes a cold dark lump of coal.