“Could you say that again but using different words?” Why I don’t speak marketing.

What is the most important work book you have ever bought? Mine was Newton’s Telecom Dictionary.

I was right at the beginning of my career and working in telecoms, where people spoke in acronyms.  I would take the weighty Dictionary to meetings so I could understand what was being said.

I realised quickly that most industries speak acronym. And acronym speakers love speaking in acronym. It demonstrates their expertise and increases their credibility. It can also shortcut what could otherwise be very long conversations.

I barely used them. It slowed down my understanding of what was being said. I always unpacked acronyms whenever I heard them, and still do.

In fact, I thought I hated acronyms, but then I went to work in marketing. There, I learned about marketing speak.

My reaction was similar to reading a detailed menu in a restaurant; I’d understand all the components but would struggle to immediately understand the combination. Jargon can become so distant from its original meaning that it actually makes understanding harder.

Which is when I started asking “could you say that again but using different words?”

I’ve thought a lot about how ‘tribal’ language is and how it alienates people.

Today, I avoid marketing jargon and acronyms for a few reasons. Firstly, I can’t remember what all the terms mean and I’m more interested in the idea than the name. But primarily, when I meet with colleagues who aren’t marketers, too much marketing jargon makes them either stop listening or fake an understanding.

It may take fewer minutes to say something using marketing speak and acronyms but it will take a very long time to win back that audience.

If anyone has a marketing dictionary, do send it my way.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/could-you-say-again-using-different-words-why-i-dont-speak-fairley

11 practical lessons from tech start-up marketing.

You know you are in a tech start up when you see battered copies of Moore’s book ‘Crossing the chasm’ and Ries’s ‘The Lean Startup’ lying around. I recently enjoyed reading this article which made me reflect on my own experiences.

I’d like to share some of the practical things that I have learned.

  1. There should always be an enemy. It may be a product, organisational inertia, or a risk averse culture. Accept you need a competitor. You are never the only one in the market.
  2. Be targeted. Aim at one persona, in one industry, with one product. Then add the next persona. You will have to cross-sell, up-sell so prepare that strategy. Don’t get side-trcked by opportunities outside your plan, they will consumer resources and are unsustainable. No one offs.
  3. Map the persona’s journey. Use focus groups of the early majority. This will enable you to give them the information they need to know, when they need to know it, where they want to find it.
  4. Start your marketing with industry analysts, thought leadership, case studies, product marketing, sales enablement. Only then add the unexpected, something none of your competitors are doing, to stand out.
  5. Join their conversations. Even if your tech approaches a problem differently and better, your potential customers will already be trying to solve it. Find where they are discussing it and join in, persuade them of your new perspective and solution.
  6. Use their words and language. Read and listen to what they say. I’m also in love with tools like MozPro where you can understand search intent. I’m an advocate of using new language to describe new things. But you have to pair it with established language, otherwise you’ll either be speaking a language no-one understands or talking to yourself.
  7. UX for the early and late majority must present the new in a familiar way or the familiar in a new way. Asking people to see new information in an unexpected way is a tall order. Put aside lots of resources for training if that’s what you are planning to do.
  8. Hire versatile, digitally and tech savvy folks, who get shit done. They need to be able to think strategically and implement it themselves. They need to be willing to change focus as the business needs change. Which they will do, a lot. Don’t outsource to agencies because you can’t afford the best to be dedicated to you.
  9. Make sure EVERYONE knows the elevator pitch. The whole company needs to be clear on what your product does and what it does not.
  10. Tell your employees what is going on. Open communications work well; use tools like Slack, a weekly “What’s happening?” email or monthly ‘all hands’. Management by the water cooler, silos and gossip create a culture of politics, bitching and Chinese whispers.
  11. Consistency is critical if you want to be taken seriously. Which is why brand matters. When no-one has heard of you, delivering on your promises make, or break, your reputation.

Update 14 August 2017: Thanks to LinkedIn folks for sharing their best practice. #12 would be Make sure sales and marketing are joined at the hip.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/11-practical-lessons-from-tech-start-up-marketing-rachel-fairley

‘Be still and know’. Why a personal brand is worth having.

I recoil when I hear talk of ‘personal brand’And I sigh when I am asked for my personality type, ENTJ if you’re asking. I have learned not to roll my eyes when someone tells me; ‘you really must blog’ or ‘you must be active on social media’.

I’ve often wondered why I feel this way. Is it about my privacy? Is it the vacuous and insubstantial nature of social media? Is it a lack of confidence?

Recently I was challenged by a tech investor to put myself ‘on the record’; to crystalize my knowledge and share it. This is the first argument for blogging that has resonated.

So, this is my first blog in ages. In the spirit of crystalizing and sharing knowledge, any advice and constructive feedback will be greatly welcome.

I had an epiphany a couple of years ago about what motivates me. I’m not motivated by the promise of being rich; bonuses, share incentive schemes. I am not motivated by titles or power for the sake of it.

Then, last September, I had a rather large brain tumour removed. You won’t be surprised to read  the experience has changed me. My university motto kept coming back to me; ‘Be still and know’. I have spent six months thinking about what I am good at, what I want to be better at, what I need to stop beating myself up about, and what makes me happy.

I like solving big hairy problems and getting shit done. I can’t bear it when the discussions are circular, and the procrastination is companywide. Debate, commit, execute.

Most marketers have come up through product marketing or lead generation. I’ve taken a brand route in, and worked both agency and client side. I’ve been worrying about my legitimacy as a marketing leader who has had an unorthodox or unusual career path.

I don’t have a marketing degree and was debating undertaking one. Over slices of toast and coffee, a brilliant CMO I know challenged me; ‘Who asks you about marketing qualifications?’. She said if you do a marketing diploma, know you are doing it for yourself.

I realise I don’t need a certificate. I’ve never been competitive even with myself. I want to feed my curiosity. I want to do new things and learn new ways to do the same things. There is a lot of good training and reading available online so I’m going to start there. Recommendations please!

I met a CEO who hires people who are ‘keen, clever, get shit done’. I’m so drawn to that kind of culture. I live in London and love its diversity. Companies that value diversity are so attractive.

And I won’t work where #everydaysexism is acceptable any more. Life is too short to feel like you constantly have to adjust your response as a woman to fit in. Hard enough being a marketer!

‘Be still and know’ has helped me in so many ways. I understand what drives me. I believe that I have genuine, unique expertise that has come from following my curiosity. I now have the confidence to use and share that expertise to make a difference.

Rachel Fairley.