Archives for posts with tag: marketing

Notes on Startups, or how to build the future – with Blake Masters.


(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help fund my book buying habit.)

Some will know Peter Thiel (pronounced teal) as one of the founders of PayPal, or maybe even as an Silicon Valley investor. However, it is much more likely that you recognize his name from his brief portrayal in the movie: “The Social Network.” Wherever you know is name from, even if it is from my blog, he is a man worth listening to. Blake Masters certainly thought so when he attended a series of lectures that Theil gave at Stanford and took more copious notes than anyone else. These notes started to circulate to a much wider audience than the student body and so a book project was born.

Zero to One is a reference to the ability of a technology company to go from nothing to something and thereby change the world. Interestingly, Theil defines a technology company as any company with new ideas – doing more with less. This generally means software startups in the mold of Google, Apple, and Facebook, but he is at pains to stress it does not have to be.

Zero to One is interesting because the ideas it contains about business are quite contrarian to what we believe as outsiders about startups and Silicon Valley (and I’m sure to a number insiders as well). We have all been brought up to believe that competition is a good thing; however, Theil makes a convincing case for competition as a destructive force. “Monopoly is the condition of every successful business” and “Every business is successful to exactly to the extent that it does something that others cannot.”

He is on less firm ground when he tries to apply his startup thinking to the wider geo-political world. Although he is undoubtedly on to something with defining groups of people as “indefinite optimists” “indefinite pessimists” “definite optimists” and “definite pessimists” – particularly as it relates to politicians, and finance – it is hard to buy this as it relates to entire continents.

It is interesting to note that a lot of the ideas contained in Zero to One are self evident but are so against standard business thinking (it is a brave man who says Malcolm Gladwell needs to rethink his ideas) that they have the favor of heresy. Why should you expect any business to succeed without a plan? A business that cannot provide a ten fold improvement in technology over its competitors is doomed to competition death. Don’t disrupt – avoid competition. The history of progress is one of monopolistic innovation.

What helps sell these heresies is how Theil relates these to the high tech modern fables that we have all grown to know, but not understand: Google vs. Microsoft. Microsoft vs. the United States Government. The rise of Facebook. And the reemergence of Apple.

One thing that explains a lot of the success of the Silicon Valley startup is the focus and vision of founders. However, as Theil points out this comes with its own drawbacks and potential pitfalls – particularly as you try to apply his thinking to general business environments.

“…(the) strange way that new technology companies often resemble feudal monarchies rather than organizations that are supposedly more modern. A unique founder can make authoritative decisions. Inspire strong personal loyalty. And plan ahead for decades. Paradoxically, impersonal bureaucracies staffed by trained professionals can last longer than any lifetime but usually act on short time horizons.”

The cult of personality can come at a cost for both the founder and the companies they have created. Founders are important not because they are the only ones who’s work and add value but because they can bring out the best work in other people. Adulation of a founder has to be tempered by the fact that it can turn into demonization and notoriety at any point. Theil indeed makes a striking comparison between founders and the worshiping of scapegoats and sacrifices of ancient peoples.

Zero to One is that most rare of things, a business book that actually contains new and interesting ideas about companies and markets that you felt you already knew about. It also has some stark lessons for those who seek to emulate the success of the startup model, without understanding what makes it successful in the first place. Hint: it is not the perks!

This is less a manual for the modern startup, and more a cautionary tale about borrowing ideas without understanding context. Whatever you take from it, it is certainly a book worth reading and Theil is a thinker we should hear more from outside of Silicon Valley.

(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help fund my book buying habit.)

“Scott, we have a problem with social media. People keep going on there and complaining about our products. We just don’t know what to do!”

“Well, for starters, how about you make a better product?”

Unselling is about sales and how the rules of selling have fundamentally changed.

After two fun books (that I reviewed here and here) on the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media and customer service, Scott Stratton and Alison Kramer have given us a great and insightful book on taking the pulse of our customers and where our businesses should be aiming. These concepts of pulse and aim (you’ll have to buy the book for the definitions) tie together a lot of what Scott has been talking about online and on the Unpodcast for the last couple of years.

What Unselling manages to achieve is to create a structure and understanding of why certain methods work and why others don’t. It is one of the frustrations, for example, to here about customer service failures and successes that can seem to contradict each other. Unselling provides keys to unlocking these mysteries. It also debunks a lot of nonsense that other marketers and marketing books talk about.

An extremely easy read, with short chapters, this is not Scott Stratten the borderline stand-up comic and keynote speaker, this is Scott Stratten the insightful and intelligent marketer who had risen to the top of his profession (the jokes almost get in the way). While the previous books concentrated on the how and the what, Unselling is very much about the why.

This is not a book for sales people, or a book for marketing people, it is a book for business people, and people in businesses, because we are all sales and marketing people now.

So you think you need a marketing strategy?

Now what?

Marketing for a veterinary practice, any small business for that matter, starts with deciding what you should sell, or more appropriately what your customers are buying.

For example: Starbucks don’t sell coffee, they sell a daily luxury and a comfortable friendly environment to enjoy it in. They make coffee.

BMW don’t sell cars, they sell a status symbol that is tempered by a performance driving experience. They make cars.

You’re buying what?

Customers (or clients if you prefer) of veterinary practice are, in general, not buying veterinary services, they are buying the wellness and health of a family member. If you are looking to sell to your clients you need to understand what your clients are wanting to buy, or will want to buy, and then taylor both your marketing strategy and, ultimately your business to that need.

Business or Marketing?

Marketing can act as an adjunct to your other business operations, however, I believe that things work best when marketing is integral to every part of your business. Marketing is about the dialog you have with your clients. That dialog could them visiting your website, calling your office, dropping by, or receiving services. Who you are as a business, will define how those interactions are handled – why wouldn’t you want them to be informed by a consistent, and well though out, marketing message that is self reenforcing.

Having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve in business, and how you want your clients to perceive that achievement, will define everything else about your marketing program.

A final work of caution…

Keep in mind that you may not always be able to control how clients perceive and pigeon hole you. This is not necessarily a bad thing as your clients are claiming ownership of their relationship with your business. Google would be a classic example of one of the most successful brands on the planet, that can fail totally with product launches because their clients do not feel the new products fit in with how they perceive the company. The trick is to maintain, cultivate, and nurture the relationship with your clients without stifling it.

Next week: Strategy to Branding and Back Again.

So why, when there are thousands of other things to be doing, have I (and you should too) have a blog?

Well, there are a number of reasons – but for the most part it is because I believe in content marketing and I need to practice what I preach.

Content marketing, the generation of content (articles, tweets, etc.) that create a following amongst potential clients, is currently considered the future of marketing. It is also, quite probably, the most honest form of marketing as it is an exchange of information. A blog is hopefully a dialog between writer and reader, meaning that the writer’s position can be challenged or supported.

So in addition to my Twitter feed, my rants on LinkedIn groups, and my book reviews on LinkedIn, I’ll be posting here about every week – thousands of other things permitting…

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