Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Surviving The Storm – Smart Use Of Your Limited Marketing Budget

By: Mark Helfen

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

The SDForum marketing SIG December meeting, “Surviving The Storm – Smart Use Of Your Limited Marketing Budget” gathered a panel of seven executives from web startups and VCs to discuss how the difficult economic times has changed their strategy and operations.

But while times may be tough, the panel, an optimistic lot, mostly discussed how their companies would survive and turn the economic situation to their advantage.

Ezra Roizen, Partner at Ackrell Capital, moderated the panel. He began by noting, “In the current environment, surviving is winning.” Business models have changed from “customer acquisition to survival.”

But overall, panelists said that this could be a great time for their businesses. Companies need to carefully focus their strategies, but those that survive the downturn can emerge at the other end as market leaders.

“You need to be really clear about what you are doing,” said Tom Patterson, CEO and President of Wise.com. “It doesn’t cost money to be really clear about your message.”

“This is a great time to be selectively aggressive,” said Benjamin Wan, Vice President of Marketing at Hit Profile. According to Wan, advertising for brand awareness is down, but performance advertising – ads that deliver leads – is “robust.”

Ranjith Kumaran, CTO of YouSendit.com, had a similar message, stressing the need to focus.

“The less moving parts to your business, the better it is,” said Kumaran.

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, a Senior Associate at Sierra Ventures and the sole VC representative on the panel, noted that while times are difficult, “the VC firms are still open for business.”

“We just signed a deal last night,” he said.

Companies may need to cut their budgets so they don’t run out of cash, and push for finishing their products features so they are ready to go when the economy picks up. Firms need to plan for a longer time horizon. “Visibility may be a few quarters away.”

But most of the executives said that the current problems would be an advantage for their ultimate success.

Surviving is a competitive advantage, according to Kedric Van de Carr, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Vator.tv. “Companies are pulling back, dying. It’s a huge opportunity to gain market share.”

Patterson of Wize.com can see other advantages.

“During a downturn it’s tough to raise capital, and tough to sell a company. Everything else is easier,” said Patterson.

“It’s a good time to rethink your human resource strategy, and get more value for the buck,” he said. “The quality of the resumes we get are much better, and the people we couldn’t get to talk to us before are coming back.”

“It’s a great opportunity to upgrade your team,” he continued, and to renegotiate contracts. “Companies dying is a good thing. The talent pool has been spread really thin.”

It’s an opportunity to “get high value employees inside and out.”

The state of the economy is an “opportunity to cut without feeling bad,” said Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix. “If you lose your job now, the best thing is to start a company.”

Patterson agrees.

“There has never been a time you could start a company so cheaply,” he said. He mentioned web services using Amazon S3, and the availability of lower cost engineers.

Tolles believes that small companies have an advantage in these times. “Big companies are run more poorly and you can go after them.”

For at least one of the companies, web traffic, if not money, seems independent of the economics. Topix is a news aggregation site, carrying local, national, and international news. According to Tolles, web traffic is most affected by world events.

“Disaster is good,” said Tolles, noting that important or popular news, such as the big fires in San Diego, or Hurricane Katrina, drives traffic to his site.

The circulation problems that newspapers are having also drives traffic to Topix.

”The fewer newspapers the better,” said Tolles.
Mark Helfen is a Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. He can be reached at mhelfen@wordpixel.com

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Networking and Match-Making (job/skills, that is) -- Thoughts from the Nov Marketing SIG event

Every time I do the meeting introduction at the beginning of the Marketing SIG, I always like to give a quick overview of the SIG for the audience -- for the first time attendees as well as others. Here are 2 key goals for the SIG:

1) To provide a learning experience that’s useful and practical that is worth spending an evening for; and knowledge that people can apply at work the next day; and
2) Equally important, is to provide networking opportunity for the community to build and maintain professional relationships which is a critical career survival skill in any economy

I’m coming to the conclusion that networking is well-understood and well-practiced in Silicon Valley. I’m always enlightened when I meet people from all over the world at the SIG. This time, it’s a pleasure to meet Etan from NYC, and Marie from Spain, who are here to set up new sites for their startups. They have been here for only a matter of days or weeks, but they’ve found SDForum, and made their way to Marketing SIG!

And speaking of networking, our quick, informal survey indicated that in the room we have roughly about the same number of people hiring as people who are job searching. I hope good matches were identified. But it also got me thinking: can the SIG provide a more “robust” system to do better? Any volunteers?

Lastly, many thanks to Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, http://brighternaming.com/ , to come and shared his vast knowledge on naming and trademarks. Very interesting topic, and one that requires as much process, analytical, and linguistics skills as it also provokes emotions. Feedback from the audience encourages us to plan a part 2 for the topic. So stay tuned… Many thanks also to Jep Castelein for volunteering a case study for the naming exercise. So after the discussion, did he like “Axometric”? Did he, did he?

Join us in the Dec 8 Marketing SIG – Surviving the Storm – smart use of your limited marketing budget in tough times

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Survival Marketing: What, When and How to Market in a Recession

Recession, recession, bailout, recession seems to be the words on every ones lips these days. We at the Marketing SIG always try to help our audience turn every situation into an advantage. One of our friends at Impact Marketing Group (http://www.impact-mg.com/) suggested the following workshop that they are holding. For anyone who is interested, here are the details:

When the going gets tough, the tough get marketing! Businesses who invest in marketing during economic down turns are the businesses that survive. Join marketing expert and author of “42 Rules of Marketing”, Laura Lowell to learn the marketing “must-haves”…no matter what your budget.

After the workshop, you will be able to:
Know exactly how to spend your marketing dollars
Create an actionable marketing campaign that drives results
Differentiate yourself from the competition

In this intense 3 ½ hour hands-on workshop, you will learn:
What’s really required for an effective marketing campaign
Who is your best target customer
When is the best time to launch a campaign
How to combine online and offline marketing tactics
Where is the best use of use SOCIAL MEDIA for business
Why some campaigns fail (even though they had lots of money)

All workshop attendees will receive:
A FREE copy of “42 Rules of Marketing” by Laura Lowell.
The companion 42 Rules of Marketing Workbook.

When: Friday, November 14, 2008 8:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Where: Toll House Hotel & Restaurant in Los Gatos, CA
Early-bird registration $169.00 until Nov 7
Registration $196.00
Space is limited to 30 attendees. Register now.

CLICK THIS LINK TO REGISTER: http://www.42rules.com/marketing/workshop/

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thoughts on the October Event

The Oct Marketing SIG meeting speaker, Dominic Haigh, VP of Business Development at Agilis software, gave a very educational talk on License Management and how it can be used to the best advantage in marketing products. Clearly Dominic is very knowledgeable and experienced in the subject. His presentation was so well-organized and well-presented that everyone took home some useful and practical information. It also showed that some of the audience have thought deeply about the subject and its challenges based on their questions and insights. Mr. Haigh was able to answer all questions in a calm and easy-going manner which this Marketing chair found very inspiring.

I hope everyone who attended enjoyed the presentation. As well, the presentation is available on : [www.sdforum.org/marketingsig] in the "Resource" section. I hope to see you all at the Nov 10 SIG [www.sdforum.org/marketingsig]

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Upcoming event - OCTOBER 13 - Marketing and License Management

I know many of you already received an email with the upcoming event and I am sure everyone is extremely excited about it so just to spice things up we decided to give you a little preview of what is going to be in the presentation. This way you can come with the right questions and get the most out of every moment.
Dominic Haigh who is the VP of Agilis Software (www.agilis-sw.com) is going to be presenting the topic. Some of the issues that he is going to touch on (this list is by no means comprehensive)
- Why should we use license management.
- Where does license management fit into the company and how can your marketing team take advantage of this technology.
- Go a little bit into how license management works.
- And few others

For those who are still wondering about the logistics: The event is going to take place at our usual place on our usual time (www.sdforum.com/marketingsig)

Hope to see everyone there!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Inside Scoop on Outsourced telesales

Monday September 8 Marketing SIG meeting kicked off our Fall season with a very interesting speaker, Sridhar Ramanathan, who shared his vast knowledge on the topic of outsourcing telesales. He provided practical advice that audience could apply to their strategy planning when considering outsourcing telesales. He kept the audience well engaged and the meeting interactive.

Sridhar Ramanathan is the founder and president of Pacifica Group (www.pacifica-group.com). His company specializes in product launch, demand generation, and alliance/channel development.

First One -> Stay Tuned!

Well this is it. The official beginning of SDForum Marketing Blog. Of course we don't have much at this very moment but stay tuned. You will not be disappointed.