Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking at the same facts from a new point of view can create a new understanding

By Mark Helfen

Sometimes looking at the same facts from a new point of view can create a new understanding, a new marketing strategy, even a new way of designing a product.

At the November 8 SDForum MarketingSIG meeting, Adrian Ott, CEO of Exponential Edge, presented some new ways of thinking of time, and how it effects your products. If you were there, you would have heard phrases like:

- Time-onomics
- Attention bottleneck
- Inattention economy
- Time value innovation

The basic idea is to factor your customer's time, or more specifically the lack of time, into the design and marketing of your products.

The latest technology funnels huge amounts of data into our brains. The result is that we have to triage our attention.

"Time is driving so many of our decisions," said Ott, factored into everything. It isn't just price that is the basis of a purchase. Decisions are made by comparing value to price, plus the time that needs to be invested in buying or using a product or service.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

There are still only 24 hours in a day - your need to fight for your customer's time and attention

By Mark Helfen

There are still only 24 hours in a day - your need to fight for your customer's time and attention in an ever more difficult environment.

As the number of products available and ways to communicate with your customer explode, your life as a marketer gets more difficult. It almost seems impossible.

At next Monday's MarketingSIG, Adrian Ott, CEO of Exponential Edge will speak about how to successfully compete for time and attention in a today's market. Her talk titled "Snack, Trigger, and Shop! How to Attract and Retain Today's 24-hour Customer," will describe some new ways of thinking about time and attention.

PLEASE NOTE NEW LOCATION - After many years of meetings at DLA Piper (many thanks for the help) this month we will meet at a new location:

2831 Mission College Blvd Santa Clara CA 95054
In the San Francisco Conference Room
Same time - 6:30 p.m.

map here

And thanks to EMC for hosting the location (and food!)

In researching her book The 24 Hour Customer, Ott learned about "the dynamics of time and attention," and developed a framework to make this work in your favor - Time Value Innovation.

According to Ott's research, people spend only about six minutes a day on e-commerce web sites. They spend only two to three percent of their time researching, looking up and buying things, both on-line and in person combined, a figure that hasn't changed since the 60s while the number of products available, and the ways of reaching your customer has "exploded." The result is a time war - companies battling for customer's limited time and attention. Trying to occupy as much time as possible - the time you spend on Google is time your not spending on Facebook.

My initial thinking was that this was only about advertising, but when I spoke to Ott she showed that thinking about a customer's time can help with the design of all kinds of products and services, both business and consumer. She gave several examples of how time, and thinking of time, can change a product:

Time slicing - Writing a blog entry took too much time, so Twitter created shorter time slices.

Time shifting - Your favorite show is on at the wrong time, so Tivo, or Hulu lets you shift time.

Time Sharing - Zip cars allow you to share the use of a car without ownership.

So come by Monday, and hear about the eight triggers that can help redirect customer time and attention in your favor. So you can make time, as little as there is, work for you.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Monday, October 18, 2010

Its more effective to nurture the relationship with a current prospects than to find a new one...

By Mark Helfen

► Instead of the marketing department just finding more leads and throwing them over the wall to sales, how about prospects that get nurtured until they become real sales leads.

► Instead of trying to sell potential customers who aren't interested, or at least aren't interested yet, how about letting customers educate themselves until they are interested in your product.

► Instead of your direct sales force spending time prospecting for customers from large list of unqualified names, spending time educating early stage prospects and working a wide pipeline, how about those same reps spending time with people who are ready to buy, or at least educated enough to decide if they are interested.

At Monday's (October 11) SDForum Marketing SIG, Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at Marketo, talked about broadening your thinking from a sales cycle to a highly effective revenue cycle.

According to Miller, "the internet has changed everything," and the result is "customers have seized control of the [sales] process." Marketo's model reflects the change in power from sellers to empowered buyers. Potential customers can get information about your products with no help from you or your sales force. They won't speak to sales reps until they want to. They're in charge.

Marketing needs to take responsibility for the entire revenue cycle, including the sales cycle, and 'nurture relationships" with potential customers not yet ready to consider buying. Miller said that just like its easier and cheaper to sell to an existing customer than a new one, its easier and cheaper to sell to a prospect once they have a relationship with your company, than to start with a new prospect.

In this model, marketing finds names, and nurtures them until they become leads. Marketing becomes a publisher, providing useful information - documenting best practices, or generating white papers. Eventually Miller plans to ad video to the mix.

By providing valuable information you gain permission to keep in touch and stay in contact. By tracking your prospects interests and their activity on your web site, you can find when there is enough interest for a name to become a lead, and it's given to sales.

Marketo's software system tracks information about names and leads, and generates statistics on how the whole process is working. Miller claims that the information tracked allows him to predict the number of leads that will be given to sales over a quarter, and visibility into revenue that will be generated.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Can you read the "online body language" of your prospects?

By Mark Helfen

Given how much the internet and social media have empowered your potential customers, how can business efficiently sell complex products with long sales cycles?

According to Jon Miller, "social media has changed the relationship between sellers and buyers."  Companies have to respond by changing the relationship between marketing and sales.

Miller, VP Marketing at Marketo, will be the speaker at the SDForum Marketing SIG meeting, 6:30 p.m. on October 11. Marketo is in the business of "revenue cycle management... revolutionizing how marketing and sales teams of all sizes work - and work together - to accelerate predictable revenue." At our meeting, he will discuss his ideas of how you can better manage the process that starts with finding new sales leads and ends with closing business.

Please note that this month we are at our normal location - DLA Piper in Palo Alto. NEXT MONTH we move, but those details will follow in a future post.

Miller's presentation is targeted to anyone responsible for driving revenue - lead generation, online marketing, or demand generation managers, and Directors and VP of sales or marketing. His ideas apply to complex business-to-business sales.

The change in social media has changed the relationship between you and your potential customers. In response, you need to "transform" the way sales and marketing interact to close business. When I spoke to him, he listed four key ideas that he will discuss next week.

1. Focus on the entire revenue cycle, not just the "top of the funnel," meaning lead generation.

2. Don't contact a lead before its time. Prospects now have a lot of information they can get on their own, and don't need you to contact them until they require help to move forward. For example, most companies in this category don't list their prices on their web sites, hoping that potential customers will get interested first and then ask. This is pointless from Miller's perspective - if you don't list your prices, people will find them a different way.

3. Make sure the process keeps moving - don't let it sit idle. Don't dump a bunch of leads in a sales reps lap and let them turn cold.

4. Understand your buyer's online behavior. Use web measurement tools to see what interests specific buyers, what pages they look at. Or, their "online body language."

So come to the next Marketing SIG meeting - online body language might not be as enjoyable as the old fashioned kind, but could be much more profitable.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There's more out there than Google, especially for marketing and sales managers. You will be "surprised" by what you are missing in web searches.

By Mark Helfen

If you thought the ultimate internet search tool was Google, come to the next combined meeting of the SDForum Marketing and Search SIGs. According to our speaker, you will be surprised by what you're missing.

Penny Herscher will speak on the topic Intelligent Business Search. Please note that this special combined meeting will be on a different day, and at a different location than our regular monthly Marketing SIG. We will be at the LinkedIn campus, 2027 Stierlin Court in Mountain View on Thursday, September 9. Details here.

This will be the only Marketing SIG meeting in September. In October, the Marketing SIG will return to its regular schedule, the second Monday of the month, at DLA Piper.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How can product managers show leadership on privacy issues?

By Mark Helfen

It's scary out there, and Phil Burton has the stories to prove it. Customer profiles and data put at risk by poor design, poor testing, and just not caring.

Burton is Principal Consultant and Trainer at the 280 Group, who bill themselves as "Product Marketing and Product Management Experts." Burton has been with them for four years, and has a 25-year career in product management and product marketing focused on information security, data communications and networking.

The problems come from three source - policies that the company decides on, or maybe ignores making a decision. Operations that don't work well, and customers that aren't educated. In the end, product manager will need to provide leadership in all three areas.

At Monday's (7/12/2010) SDForum combined Marketing and Security SIG meeting, Burton discussed a long list of companies where poor decisions and operations about privacy put their brand image at risk.

Facebook is in a class all of its own, maybe because of its size. If you were alive and breathing over the last 90 days, you couldn't have missed the huge controversy over their new (and newer again) privacy settings. According to Burton, the privacy policy reflects Facebook's long-standing strategy to "monetize their customers private information.

In Burton's estimate, Facebook is "cavalier" about sharing users private data. "Its astonishing how much information they consider public."

In a famous speech, Facebook's founder said, "the age of privacy is over."

Blippy is another example. The company lets their users share limited information about their credit purchases with their friends, who can see what their friend's latest purchases are. But in an example of an operational failure, the system exposed information it wasn't supposed to - the credit card numbers of their users.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How can product managers show leadership on privacy issues?

By Mark Helfen

Privacy is becoming more critical, both to consumers and to businesses. While the underlying security technology may be complex, you don't need to be an expert to exercise leadership and help assure that your products meet market expectations.

At next Monday's (July 12) combined SDForum Marketing and Security SIG meetings, Phillip Burton will speak on the topic "What Every Product Manager Needs to Know About Security."

Burton is Principal Consultant and Trainer at the 280 Group, who bill themselves as "Product Marketing and Product Management Experts." Burton has been with them for four years, and has a 25-year career in product management and product marketing focused on information security, data communications and networking.

When I spoke to Burton this week, he said, "There are an alarming set of privacy issues" showing up with social media and Web 2.0, but some companies don't seem to care.

While raising alarms, he insists that "I'm not being alarmist."

"A single incident can damage your brand," said Burton. While he thinks that large companies are more likely to have their act together, recent incidents involving Facebook and Google Buzz show even they can get bitten by privacy problems, gaining bad P.R. in the process. For small businesses, a privacy breach can cause permanent damage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Social Media Seminars with discounts for SDForum members

Here are a couple seminars in Social Media, with special pricing for SDForum members:

Kevin Heney was a speaker at the March MarketingSIG meeting and gave an informative talk on branding. You can read a summary of his presentation here.
I know Steve Farnsworth and can recommend his expertise.

Description (copied from the event web page):

Social Media and Branding Workshops

The same organization that brought the Silicon Valley Brand Forums to you for over a decade is now offering workshops in branding and social media. These intensive half-day sessions will teach you the skills and knowledge to advance your organization’s mission and your career.

Creating Preference for Your Products and Services

This half-day workshop gives attendees an understanding of the value of brand management and the steps involved in creating a brand strategy.
Attendees of this class will learn:
    * What a brand is and why it’s important
    * How to plan a brand strategy
    * Common mistakes in brand management
    * New opportunities and challenges in branding
Date: Tuesday June 22, 2010  ‑ Time: 8:30 am to 12:00
Location: Redwood Shores, Redwood City, CA
Cost: $119
Instructor: Kevin Heney, Executive Director, Silicon Valley Brand Forum

Using Social Media Strategically to Grow Your Business

This half-day workshop walks you through the steps in building a social media roadmap that gives you an action plan to succeed in your social media marketing efforts. By showing a clear process, the low cost and free resources, and how to make sense out of the social media landscape. You will be able to implement a strategy that creates awareness of your brand, shortens the sales cycle, and grows your brand as a preferred choice on your prospect’s short list.
Attendees of this class will learn how to:
    * Set realistic and achievable goals
    * Developed a social media strategy that helps sales people close more business
    * Collect marketing intelligence on the competition
    * Implement social media without adding headcount
    * Choose which tactics are most effective, and where to start
    * Build a loyal following of prospects and customers who will rave about your company
Date: Tuesday June 22, 2010  ‑ Time: 1:00 pm to 4:30
Location: Redwood Shores, Redwood City, CA
Cost: $119
Instructor: Steve Farnsworth, Chief Digital Strategist, Jolt Social Media

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Digital initiatives can create RABID customers

By Mark Helfen


Communities of common interests have been around as long as humans. Maybe longer.

But the ever wider distribution of the web, supporting networks and social networking software have changed the dynamics, allowing the creation of digital communities that can have a large effect on the success of your business or organization. These "digital initiatives" (in the terminology of our speaker) can:

  • Improve, or damage, your relationships with your customers.
  • Improve positive images or your company, or strengthen negative images.
  • Improve customer service and satisfaction.
  • Give your customers a voice, which can supply innovative ideas that you might never have thought of. 
  • Help create a population of not just customers, but committed, even "rabid" fans.

At Monday's (6/14/2010) SDForum Marketing SIG meeting, Dylan Thomas, Digital Director at Rassak Experience, discussed strategies for developing your community initiative plans, but spent most of his talk describing digital initiative successes and failures.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't outspend. Outthink! Power up your marketing programs with the power of communities

By Mark Helfen

Community initiatives can enhance your marketing communication program, make a small company look big, and help gain momentum for startups, all without big time or money commitments.

Even better, their impact can be measured, and they can even make money for your company.

Or so says Dylan Thomas. Thomas holds the title of Digital Director at Rassak Experience, a digital brand building and communications group. (My favorite quote from their web site - Don't outspend. Outthink!)

He will be speaking at next Monday's SDForum Marketing SIG (6/14) on the topic: Using Community Initiatives to Build Your Brand and Drive Business Results.

The current hot buzzword of social media is subset of community initiatives, which Thomas views with a "broad brush."  He includes Facebook, Twitter, email marketing, and proprietary community web sites in his overall idea of a digital community.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SIG TOPIC SURVEY - How should privacy be included in your marketing mix?

Your help is requested in an informal survey of SDForum Marketing SIG members.

Would you be interested in a SDForum Marketing SIG meeting on the the topic:

How should privacy be included in your marketing mix?

Some topic ideas:

  • Is privacy, both policy and technology, a required part of your marketing mix?
  • What do customers, both business-to-consumer, and business-to-business, expect for privacy policies and practices.
  • What are some of the best privacy practices that work well, and what doesn't work.
  • What are some of the changes coming down the road, and how can marketing programs, and marketing managers, be prepared.


Any speaker suggestions would also be welcome. If there is interest expressed, either by commenting on the MarketingSIG blog, or by emailing me directly, we will try to schedule a session.

Your suggestions requested and appreciated,

Mark Helfen


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not in any Job Description -- The Unwritten Role of Marketing

by: James Downey

Think Avatar, iPad, Pablo Picasso—there’s gold on the right side or your brain.

Inviting audience members to rethink their marketing careers using the right sides of their brains, Joe Cullinane, executive advisor, consultant, educator, and author of two books on sales and social media, told the May 10, 2010 meeting of the SDForum Marketing SIG at DLA Piper that even in left-brained Silicon Valley there is “a shift toward creativity and relationships.”

As a first step, Cullinane instructed the crowd of marketers, use your right brain to build a better relationship with your boss. The baby boom generation grew up in an analog world of televisions and transistor radios; Generation Y in a digital world of ubiquitous computing. When boss and employee hail from different generations, Cullinane said, the marketer must negotiate communication styles—is it a phone call or a text message.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A SDForum First?? Presentation by iPad

Right or left brained, our speaker next Monday still has the tech bug, and will try something unique. Maybe a first for SDForum, certainly a first for the Marketing SIG.

Speakers usually bring their own laptop as a way to show presentation materials in our meeting room. But Joe Cullinane will bring his shiny new Apple iPad as a way to show his presentation, with hardware to connect it to the rooms projection system.

And, in good right brain thinking, also his laptop as a backup. Just in case.

Not in Any Job Description: The Unwritten Role of Marketing

An appeal to the right side of the brain...

By Mark Helfen

Joe Cullinane wants to appeal to the right side of your brain.

Your left brain is the part that writes code, crunches numbers, or focuses on logic. But getting organizations and teams to work well, and allowing you to better support you manager and your team needs some right brain focus.

"Its surprising that this side - the right brain - gets so little attention when its so important," said Cullinane when I spoke to him about his presentation. "It's a skill you don't learn anywhere, yet it can help in your career."

Cullinane is an executive advisor, consultant, and coach who helps executives and entrepreneurs achieve their business goals. He is also an author of several books, including his latest, Surfing the Rift: The Executive's Guide to the Post-Web 2.0 World. He will speak on the topic Not in Any Job Description: The Unwritten Role of Marketing at the SDForum Marketing SIG meeting on May 10.

The human relations skills, or "the mortar between the bricks" as Cullinane describes it, are not in any job description, and is "not stuff they teach you in business school. Nobody teaches these things."

But from three perspectives, Cullinane will show how they can be key to your success - with your boss, your team, and yourself.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Webguild Social Media Strategies Conference - special deal for SDForum members is putting on their Social Media Strategies conference on May 18 and 19 at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara.

If you are an SDFORUM member, you can get quite a break on the price.

Here is the deal, courtesy of Jeffrey Blake:

Social Media Strategies is a conference on social business, social marketing, advertising and optimization. Social media technologies are fundamentally changing the sales, marketing and operations. It is changing the way businesses acquire customers, market to, interact and communicate with customers. This conference features cutting edge topics, keynotes, workshops and discussions that provided strategic knowledge, insights and real world examples on how to successfully plan, implement and manage your organizations social media efforts to achieve your business goals.    May 18-19 at Hyatt Regency Santa Clara
Exclusive discount for SDForum:  $595  - use discount code: sdforum
Additionally - there will be some periodic raffles for free tickets - see the website.

Jeffrey says the code saves $555 off the non-member price of $1150.

Let me know if you decide to go.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When do you need a product strategy?

By Mark Helfen


When your tiny technology startup is scrambling to get its first product out the door, or struggling to make its quarterly numbers, or responding to an unexpected sales opportunity, why should you take time away from such critical problems to develop a long term strategy?

Monday, April 12, 2010

PrivacyCamp - a barcamp in S.F, May 7

Privacy Camp - a free "unconference", will be held in San Francisco on Friday, May 7.

More data at their web page, here.

Here is a descriptive quote from their web page:

The San Francisco camp, held May 7 after the Web 2.0 Expo, aims to examine privacy and social networks.

Barcamps are user generated conferences. The agenda is typically decided in the first few hours by the participants. If you have a session you would like to moderate, propose it, and if there is enough interest it will happen. You don't need to be an expert to moderate a session, just willing to stand up in front of a small group and manage the process.

Privacy camp is a three part event this year. The San Francisco event is part 2. The first part already happened on April 17 in Washington D.C., with a focus on the government policy and privacy. Part three is scheduled for Toronto, in June (exact date not yet decided).

Barcamps are a great way to learn and network.


Mark Helfen


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Strategy development doesn’t naturally live in any organization. So where should it live?

By Mark Helfen

Where should strategy live in your company?

The job of strategy development for your company “doesn’t naturally live in any organization,” says Rich Mironov. So where should it go?

Mironov will be speaking at the April 12 SDForum Marketing SIG meeting on the topic “Where does/should strategy live in your company.” He is a principal at Mironov Consulting, and the author of the book The Art of Product Management.

Mironov clearly has a soft spot for people with the title “Product Manager,” who should own the process of developing company and product strategies, describing them as “the concentration point”, “the rallying point,” and “the organizing principle” for the development of a company’s strategy.

But where should a product manager live in the organization?

In his experience, they actually live all over. In companies he has examined, one-third live in marketing, one-third in engineering, and one-third in “other” – somewhere else in the organization. Product strategy development doesn’t seem to have a natural home.

Whichever organization its part of, the resulting strategy can appear to have a bias based on its place in the organization. If the strategy is owned by one department, “it will fail.”

So while there is no natural home, it has to live somewhere. Larger organizations can have separate strategy groups, but for small startups and mid-sized companies this isn’t affordable.

It’s critical that even for startups that haven’t shipped their first product, a corporate and product strategy is developed.

If a startup doesn’t have a good strategy, “every sales call with every prospect disrupts the strategy,” putting companies in “thrash mode.” A good strategy helps small companies from being buffeted by “pseudo market input,” which is my candidate for the phrase of the month. Each piece of new data can be considered, instead of forcing the company to react instantly.

Ultimately, strategy development is a process, not a deliverable.

Monday night’s presentation will help you bridge the divide between the reality that strategy development has to live somewhere, and the ideal that it’s a company wide process responding to the requirements of every business function.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Thursday, March 18, 2010

ACM Data Mining Camp, March 20, 2010

Here is another Barcamp - this one on data mining, this Saturday.

Barcamps are free, a great way to increase subject knowledge and to network.

Barcamps usually create their own agenda at their start, and this one is no different.

Details here

Here are some details from their email announcement:

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery SF Bay Area -- the professional
organization for those who work in computing -- is putting on a one-day
Data Mining Camp this Saturday in San Jose at the offices of eBay.
Registration starts at 11:15; the event's close will be at 7:30p.

Anyone interested in data mining, cloud computing, or related fields is
welcome to attend. There is no charge. Lunch and dinner will be provided.
We will have a recruiting session during the event, open to all job seekers
and all recruiters/hiring managers.

At an "unconference", any attendee is welcome to present a session (space available) -- just ask. We will provide a classroom and a time slot. Also,an excellent plenary opening session will feature many top people in the field.

A pre-conference class from 9 to 11:30a will be presented by Salford
Systems. This optional training session is $30.

We expect 400-600 attendees;

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Branding at SDForum

One of our attendees, Michal Lenchner, wrote two articles covering our meeting.

Check these out:

How to build a strong brand and gain trust?


Mark Helfen

A brand is an emotional conclusion to a logical process...

By Mark Helfen

“A brand is a promise. An emotional conclusion to a logical process.”

So says Kevin Heney, speaking at last Monday’s (March 8,2010) SDForum MarktingSIG meeting.

Heney runs Kevin Heney Design (, a consulting firm that helps businesses with their branding. He is also the founder of the Silicon Valley Brand Forum (, a professional association where branding professionals can discuss the challenges of branding. (Check the forums website for their next meeting, coming up on May 4.)

Marketers frequently discuss the idea of a brand, but people using the same words sometimes mean different things. Heney’s definition is more precise, developed after a long focus helping companies with their brand identity.

“Brands are an emotional relationship to a company,” said Heney. “Companies produce products, but customers buy brands.”

Positioning is another term frequently discussed in marketing circles. The two are distinguished by logic versus emotion. Positioning is a logical result, branding an emotional one.

Brands can carry a large part of the value of a business. By Heney’s calculation, the value of the Coca-Cola brand (sometimes referred to as brand equity) accounts for 91 percent of the market valuation of the Coca Cola Company.

In fact, a brand can exist without a company behind it. Pan Am is a widely recognized brand and logo, even though the airline of that name has not been in operation since 1991.

The critical information for businesses is that they must manage their brand.

‘You can’t decide to not have a brand,” said Heney. Your audience, or customers, creates the perception of your brand. You need to assess their perception, and adjust both your brand and your company’s behavior to support the brand you want to have. In both your marketing materials, and in the on-line/web 2.0 world, be aware of your brand image, what other people are saying, and manage your brand.

Heney presented a number of ways to assess the value and perception of your brand, in the process of developing a formal brand strategy.

But the list was pretty long for a new company just getting its brand act together. So if you are a start-up, how do you start creating and managing your brand?

The key is consistency. Brand building starts within your company, and is both “top down, and bottom up.” Meaning that everyone in your company needs to give the same answer when asked what you do, and what your best at. Everyone needs to use the same logos, wording, and images to identify your brand. You should establish a central repository of branding materials that everyone draws on when presenting your company to the world.

You can see Heney’s complete presentation on the SDForum web site, here.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Thursday, March 4, 2010

P-Camp 2010 Silicon Valley - March 13

By Mark Helfen

P-Camp 2010 Silicon Valley will be on March 13, and if you are a Product Manager or Product Marketing Manager, you don’t want to miss it. I was at last years, and it was quite an event.

P-Camp is a barcamp. What’s a barcamp?

Well, there is a whole history of where the idea of a barcamp originated. You can read about it here, but it isn’t really relevant to deciding to attend. Barcamps have nothing do to with bars, beer, or other alcoholic beverages, at least not during the session. What you do after is your own business.

There are barcamps all over the world on a large variety of topics. (The Nairobi 2010 barcamp is currently being planned.) I recently attended Freelance Camp (for freelance writers) in Santa Cruz – it was a great day.

The idea of a barcamp is an “unconference,” - an open source meeting where the conference attendees make up the days agenda when the morning starts. P-Camp is a little more organized – morning sessions are set up in advance by a vote of the attendees, while afternoon sessions will be decided on the morning of the event. If you have a topic you would like to discuss with fellow marketers, you can organize it and run it. You don’t need to be an expert to run a session, you just need to be willing to stand up in front of a group and manage the process.

Whether you run a session or not, its worthwhile. A whole day devoted to product management and marketing topics, all surrounded by your peers. A great learning and networking opportunity.

You should register in advance. In prior years, registration filled up. Cost is…. free.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Monday, March 1, 2010

For most people there’s not much training in branding. They learn it in the field.

By Mark Helfen

“For most people there’s not much training in branding. They learn it in the field.”

So says Kevin Heney, speaker at next Monday’s (March 8) SDForum Marketing SIG meeting.

Heney runs Kevin Heney Design , a consulting firm that helps businesses with their branding. He is also the founder of the Silicon Valley Brand Forum , where branding professionals discuss the challenges of branding. (Check the forums website for their next meeting, coming up on May 4.)

Heney’s presentation will cover the value of a strong brand and what branding can do for your business, how to strengthen your brand, and some of the new challenges in brand management.

Many companies do nothing to manage their brand. Some technology companies are lead by “brilliant people that are strong on technology, but not strong on branding.” Heney’s talk will explain why ignoring your business brand isn’t a good strategy.

He will bring a number of real world examples of brand positives and negatives. Although following good branding strategy, the negatives aren’t negative, just “more challenging.”

Like other areas of marketing, new technology shakes things up and changes the balance. In the case of branding, social media has changed the landscape.

“Most people underestimate the effects of social media in their brand,” said Heney, both in the positive and negative direction.

He related the story of a brand “challenge” faced by United Airlines, involving the airline, a guitar, Youtube, and potentially $180 million in value. I won’t repeat it here – you will need to show up next Monday to hear all of the details.

So come to Monday’s meeting, and start your field training on branding.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Email should still be a part of your marketing mix.

By Mark Helfen

The worlds second oldest form of Internet marketing*, email, can still be an effective part of your marketing and sales strategy.

But as described by Laurie Beasley, founder and president of Beasley Direct Marketing, there is a great deal of strategy, tactics, and - mostly - thinking needed to run an effective campaign and get results.

Beasley was the speaker at the February 8 SDForum Marketing SIG meeting.

Beasley is also President of the Direct Marketing Association of Northern California, and an instructor at U.C. Berkeley Extension.

"Email marketing is old. It's been around for 7 to 10 years. But people are still as crummy at it as they ever were," said Beasley.

Beasley was the speaker at the SDForum Marketing SIG meeting for February, and she offered a number of suggestions on how to make email marketing pay off.

Email marketing needs careful thinking about content, the construction and look of the email, the frequency of emailing, and even the time when it's sent. Not just a "batch and blast" mentality. "That fills up their in box with worse than SPAM, with crap," said Beasley.

The email content needs to be written so that "every word needs to be relevant to the person you are sending to." Keep it light in text and graphics, with lots of white space.

"You need to invest in content to make it interesting and lively," words which this writer certainly approves.

"The longest people will spend on an email is 55 seconds, so you have 55 seconds to convince them to do something, and then they're out," said Beasley.

The email construction, or layout, needs to reflect the email programs your customers use. The things people look at are the from field, the subject, the preview pane (for Outlook users), and if you get them to open the email, to portion that is visible without any scrolling.

The time you send an email is important. Don't send overnight, or your customers will arrive at work with your message as one of a large pile that needs to be looked at. Beasley recommends the time before or after lunch, where they may be fewer meeting and less competition for attention.

How do you get addresses to email to? One way is to rent lists where people have opted in to receive third party emails. This is a way to contact potential customers (prospects), but the best strategy is to combine email with telemarketing. Direct human contact is still more powerful then just email.

One of the best ways to build you in-house list is to allow people to sign up on your web page. People opt-in for newsletters more than any other reason. Which gets back around to being sure that your newsletter is relevant and interesting to your readers. Emails that aren't relevant to the person who receives them are one of the main reasons that people later opt-out of your email list.

* The (almost) first Internet marketing.
Back in the early days of the Internet, the backbone was owned and operated by government agencies - the principally National Science Foundation. When you got your personal email address, you had to agree that you wouldn't use the Internet for commercial purposes (really!). The first advertising SPAM was posted to Usenet groups by the still notorious Sanford (Spamford) Wallace, advertising green cards for immigrants.

Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Friday, January 29, 2010

The first internet marketing strategy - email - should still be a key part of your marketing mix.

By Mark Helfen

What might be the original internet marketing strategy – email – is still alive and kicking, and a can be a valuable part of your overall marketing mix. Or so says Laurie Beasley, founder and president of Beasley Direct Marketing. She is also President of the Direct Marketing Association of Northern California.

Beasley will speak at the Monday, February 8 SDForum Marketing SIG meeting on the topic “Building Blocks to successful B2B Email Marketing.”

Email is still a widely used strategy, and its use is growing in a difficult economy. As one example “every software company does email marketing,” according to Beasley.

From her perspective, email marketing includes a broad variety of information sent by companies to their customers, or potential customers. Software updates, company news, customer retention marketing, and prospecting all fall in the email marketing area.

“Its difficult to pack everything into a single hour,” said Beasley, but she commits to giving attendees the “core foundation for success” of an email marketing strategy.

Since much of the email marketing I get has subject lines like “Size does matter,” or “Term Life With No Physical?” I asked her about how spam affects the strategy.

Her answer was that spam isn’t illegal, just not very effective.

The idea is to use opt-in marketing. When you send email to a rented list, everyone on the list has opted-in. The objective is to get a relevant offer in front of the right people, something that spam isn’t very good at.

Beasley listed three main topics for her presentation:

1. What a relevant email offer is.

2. Tried and true techniques for growing your own email list.

3. Why subscribers choose to opt-in for an email list.

So come to the Feb 8 meeting, and “If you are, or will be responsible for email marketing, you will learn how to plan and resource an effective email marketing project.”


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Search Engine Optimization for Beginners

By Mark Helfen

The objective is to get attention and traffic to your web site, to sell your products or services, by getting on the first page or two of results when potential customers use a search engine – Google or another.

The strategy is to use a new version of public relations – that is, getting other people (or in this case, search engines) to get your web site and your business noticed, without paying for it.

The tactics are Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. At last Monday’s SDForum MarketingSIG, Athol and Dan Foden described a large number of techniques and tricks to help make sure your web site is seen when prospects are searching for what you sell.

At one time, businesses pursued SEO strategies to get a good placement in search results, But then search engine marketing (SEM), or paid search engine advertising, took over.

SEM has become less effective over the last few years said Foden. In fact, his consulting business, Brighter Naming, has dropped almost all paid search advertising.

At the same time search engines are smarter. Intelligent, relevant, and regularly updated content on your web site can get you up in the search engine output, instead of 5 or 10 pages down the list.

The result is “the best ROI on your marketing dollar,” and you can start “on a shoestring.” As in close to free. It all starts with a web site. It’s even a low investment of time. After getting set up, Foden says that 10 minutes a day can keep your web site fresh enough to keep you well up in Google’s search results.

The balance of the presentation was a large number of hints and tactics to make your web investment pay off. I will only list a few of my favorites here. If you are interested in the complete list, check out his book Brighter SEO Organic Search Engine Optimization.

1. Two views of your web site:
There are two views of every web site – the human view, and the robot view. The robot is the process from Google and other search engines that indexes your web site with occasional visits.
Two web sites were shown side by side, both dentists who compete in the Dallas area. One was based on interesting graphics, the other text heavy. By looking at the page source (which most browsers let you see) the difference in what the search robot sees was clear. Robots can’t read graphics, so you need to be sure that there is plenty of text to describe your business and target market. This is part of the text that allows your web site to be found.

2. Keywords:
In addition to the text displayed on your page, there are keywords and meta-tags that are not visible to the end user. But they are visible to the search robot. While the tag values and the text on the page are different, they should be aligned, covering the same topics. For at least one example of tags, check out Foden’s Brighter Naming web site, and view the page source. The tags are

A search on Google for “meta tags google” generates a lot of information, including some documentation directly from Google.

3. Content:
Content, in this context, means words strung together that provide meaning and value to your potential customers. This could be a description of your business or services, or articles you write that show your expertise and inform your prospects and customers. More useful and compelling content means more that you web site has more “stickiness” – people spend more time looking at it, and you have more chances to sell them something.

Search engines value content also. They are looking for results that will deliver value to their users, and they are getting better at finding it. So more content helps raise the position you appear in a search, and increases the search terms that will find you. According to Foden, the days of just repeating paragraphs of junk with the right words to fool a search engine are past.

4. Regular updates:
Search engines also value change. So after you get all that valuable content in place, it immediately begins to go stale. You need to keep adding information to your web site. That’s where 10 minutes a day comes from. Newer content will help your web site show higher in search results.

5. Tools to help:
There are a number of mostly free tools to help you understand what key words are most frequently searched, how your web site is viewed by search engines, where people spend time on your site. The ISP where your web site is hosted probably keeps statistics on your web pages – contact them for information. Google analytics is a service that gives you “rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness,” and its free from Google ( A paid service is Keyword Spy (

6. Register you web site:
You need to register your web site with a potentially long list of search directories. Starting with Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… A key directory is the Open Directory Project ( These directories are where search engines go to find new sites.

Foden’ new book has a four-page list. A Google search for “search engine registration” will return about 52 million hits that you can check out.

7. Inbound, relevant links:
One of the factors that Google uses to determine the popularity and value of your web site is to its users is by the number of other sites that point to yours (inbound links). In the past, whole systems of interlinked sites were set up to try to achieve this end. Supposedly the now smarter search engines value “relevant links” more highly than a random collection. Foden suggests posting on blogs with links back to your site. Or exchanging links with friendly, non-competitive businesses or partners, each site pointing to the other.

This is only a small sampling of last Monday’s meeting. And the meeting is only a tiny fraction of what has become an entire industry – SEO optimization. There are many web sites and newsletters that cover the area. Or you can buy Foden’s new book for an introduction.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Win the Search Engine Wars – or – Your graphics designer is screwing up you website rankings.

By Mark Helfen

You can win at the search engine wars, and Athol and Dan Foden will show you how at next Monday’s SDForum Marketing SIG meeting.

Foden is president of Brighter Naming, which helps companies develop names both for their products and for themselves. He also consults on internet marketing, search engine optimization, and is the author of the recently released book Brighter SEO: Organic Search Engine Optimization. He will be assisted by his son Ben, also a freelance marketing consultant.

Foden has been a popular speaker at previous Marketing SIG meetings.

I spoke to him Tuesday, and he said that his presentation would be practical advice, using real web sites, starting with his, for a detailed description of how you can get a high page rank on Google.

As search engines have gotten more intelligent, “honest citizens (or webizens) can play again,” said Foden. “You don’t have to game the system.”

Foden promotes a balanced approach, including a web site, search engine optimization, blogs, and social media that form the “SEO Power Pyramid.”

The result is “free” visibility, without paying for advertising. Perfect for small businesses, departments, or the individual consultant, including those just starting out. No need to pay Google for Adwords.

“If you are out of work, starting a business, this is a low cost way to get noticed,” and you can do it yourself said Foden.

The wide reach of the web will widen your visibility beyond the limited circle of friends, family, and your contact list to an international audience, and Foden says his own business is “living proof,” attracting clients from well beyond the valley within the last month.

Monday’s meeting will cover four topics:

- How to do integrated internet marketing on a shoestring.

- How you can start getting visibility for your small business tomorrow.

- How to stay a step ahead of the curve in the internet space.

And, perhaps most surprisingly,

- How your graphics designer is screwing up your website rankings.

“There are two views of a website. The human view, and the robot view. People don’t think of the difference,” said Foden.

You will learn the difference at Monday’s meeting.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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