Category Archives: Innovative Thought

Jeff Bezos on what we call marketculture, zappos and amazon’s early days

I came across a really great video produced by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon today.

In it he shares some cool stories about Amazon’s early days, a short list of what he knows about business and why he loves Zappos.

What is really interesting from our point of view is his comments on what he knows about business. He mentions a few of the critical components of what we call “MarketCulture” – an obsession with customers, understanding them, listening to them and inventing for them. Take a look:

Jeff if you are listening, we would love to run Amazon through our “Market Responsiveness Index”!

A Product So Good We Don’t Need Sales or Marketing

A little while ago I read this blog post by Jeremiah Owyang and was pleased to see another blogger take on an issue that we recognize everyday.  Is your company market-driven or product-driven?

What’s the difference?  Product-driven firms spend their time, money and best talent on creating unique or new products, or on increasing the amount of features that differetiate them from their competition.  Market-driven firms spend the same on market research, segmentation and communication efforts.

One trend we have noticed is that many of our customers are often those firms making the transition from product-driven to market-driven.  This may happen for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes engineers are promoted into product management roles and they lack the market analysis skills to do proper marketing.  Sometimes product-driven companies find themselves losing market share and realize they’ve lost touch with their customer. Have you ever been tempted to say, “we’ve got the best one out there but no one knows it?”  It’s a classic symptom.

For whatever reason it comes to be, a product focus at the expense of market focus is less than ideal.  (If we assume a zero-sum gain.)  Jeremiah points to some tech-first success stories, but I’m of the opinion you minimize business risk by focusing on a demand that needs to be met than a tech that needs to be sold.

Collaboration Needed by Workers Too

On my way in to the office today I heard an interesting story on NPR.  Apparently services have popped up in New York wherein small business owners, freelancers and other self-employed types can work together in the same space.  While one tennant (right word?) admits it cuts into his productivity a bit, the value of (1) interacting with others, and (2) network with other entrepreneurs more than outweighs the downside.

Here’s the link to the story, which you can read or listen to.

In this area we have a similar concept over at the Marina Technology Cluster.  While it was set up as a business incubator to vitalize a community in dissaray after a military base closing, radio ads definitely emphasize the value of the collaborative environment.

Video Enables Never-Before-Possible Conversations

Using videos to interact with clients has always been powerful.  A video report at an annual shareholder or sales meeting will hold attention better than most, if not all speakers.  And back in our younger years, how much more interesting was a watching an educational film than listening to the teacher?

Over the last number of months we’ve seen that video can enable conversations that just wouldn’t happen otherwise.  I’m talking about online video.

Example 1 – Jemima Kiss is an online journalist for the UK publication, The Guardian.  Excited about the upcoming Indiana Jones movie, she recently posted questions via Seesmic.com to Steven Spielberg and Karen Allen (Marian in the 1st & 4th films) … and got responsesClick here to read her article and view the videos.  From her home in London she was able to speak directly to these Hollywood celebrities, and she was rewarded with a couple of direct answers.  Pretty empowering.  As she puts it, “The best thing about it is that it bypasses the Hollywooid/Cannes schmaltz and gets straight into a conversation.

Example 2 – Baron Davis, NBA allstar, sent out a “dare” directly to some of his fans via iBeatYou.com a site that elicits video responses to fun and outrageous challenges.  He directly challenged a teenaged fan to an online staring contest.  That teen then responded and further challenged Jessica Alba (star of the Fantastic Four movies) and she responded.  Now these videos are not really that interesting, and the whole thing is just a lot of fun and nonsense.  But the bigger picture is that here is a teenage fan that gets to play a game with two of his favorite celebrities.  That’s pretty neat!

We’re still very much in the early adoption stage of online video, but what other opportunities does this provide us and the companies we work for?  A more personalized message for one.  A lot more meaning and understanding can come from a video conversation than can over the phone, or worse, email.  Enabling video chat raises one’s “cool” factor.

Just as teleconferencing with our coworkers in other offices reduces confusion and builds comrodery – put a face to the voice – online video enables that powerful connection with anyone out there, including our customers.

Recession? Time to grow the business!

In an article entitled Seven Winning Tactics During a Downturn, MarketCulture chairman Linden Brown outlines some tactics to use during a downturn that help grow market share and improve the value your company provides its customers.  Chief among them:

  1. Take another look at your firm’s mission. How well does it emphasize your customer?
  2. Reconsider the team you have in place, and trim only those that don’t provide customer value. Across the board cuts miss this point.
  3. Spend more time researching your customer and the competition.
  4. Price strategically. Resist the urge to drop prices.

Be aggressive during a downturn and focus your team’s energy where it needs to be: On building profitable consumer value.

See other articles on our Publications page.

CEOs Take Heed

Corporate culture comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization. It can be measured, it can be focused around the customer through training and focused efforts.

This is the premise behind our new article published in the IndUS Business Journal. I for one am very proud to be represented in international business journals, given the wide range of business cultures around the world and the significant impact culture has on business performance. Based on what the research tells us, it is one of the most important drivers of your firm’s success or failure.

Fostering a strong market culture in an organization makes sense, yet most CEOs don’t see this as an important competitive advantage and something to:

  • Measure
  • Manage
  • Instill at all levels of the organization

It takes a well conceived and articulated strategy to build and maintain a strong market culture in any firm, large or small.

JetBlue uses Twitter – Listens to Customers, Grabs New Business

Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging as much as I should be is because I have been “micro-blogging” on this fascinating site called Twitter.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, check out their FAQs or read a Newsweek article. Find out how it can be used by businesses through CIO Insight.

Today I’m drawn in by a video interview of the guys that created the site on FastCompany TV.  (And for those keeping track at home, I found out about the video on Twitter.)  At 12:23 into the video came a story about how JetBlue uses Twitter.  It was fascinating and one of the most eye-opening examples of fantastically strong market culture in action.

JetBlue set up an account and used it to monitor comments about the company.  Then they started offering real time deals.  All along they were listening to the community and when folks were gearing up for South by Southwest (an annual tech/music festival in Austin, TX) but couldn’t find flights, JetBlue jumped in and offered more flights.  Awesome marketing and awesome market culture!

Customer Insight – knowing where the spot demand was

Competitor Awareness – everyone else must be booked too

Collaborative Networks – real time info from the clients influenced an operational decision, “Can we give them more flights?”  “You betcha!”

Decision Making with a Long-term Focus – what kind of positive buzz and customer loyalty do you think that little profitable move made?

Leadership – it was a corporate decision to engage the customer at this level, evidenced here

I am a huge fan of Twitter and stories like this are empowering.  Jeremiah Owyang runs Web Strategy by Jeremiah where he outlined some additional tools you can use to improve your Twitter experience.  I recommend you check that out if/when you set up an account.  Then be sure and follow me!

Great SVAMA Event w/ Carmine Gallo Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon we had an SVAMA-sponsored lunch presentation by Carmine Gallo.  He presented topics from his new book, Fire Them Up via (Amazon), which discusses great communication techniques.  However, more than simply summarizing his points, we were able to put the pieces into practice.

After explaining 7 components that fill in the acronym “INSPIRE” participants were asked to practice their elevator speeches, and the group and Carmine offered critiques.  It was funny, one after the other the pitches improved:  Bad pitch, critique, better pitch, critique, great pitch.  I was reminded of the book Made to Stick which gives a similar set of techniques that anyone can use to improve the resonance of their message.  I do appreciate these techniques that work no matter who uses them.

The INSPIRE acronym:

I – Ignite your own enthusiasm
N – Navigate the way with a consistent memorable vision
S – Sell the benefit by putting your listeners first
P – Paint a picture with powerful, memorable, actionable stories
I – Invite participation by asking for input and dealing with objections
R – Reinforce an optimistic outlook by becoming a beacon of hope
E – Encourage people to reach their potential by praising and investing in them

An Individual Also Has A Market Culture

So often we talk about a Market Culture as being something that an organization (company, business unit) possesses.  We forget to mention that the actions that define this way of business life start at the individual.

Personal Culture => Group Culture

Your Market Culture => Your Company’s Market Culture

So every day ask yourself, “What have I done today to be a strong Market Culturalist?

  1.  What new Customer Insight will I gain today?
  2. What new Competitor Awareness will I have today?
  3. How will I Collaborate today?  Both internally and externally?
  4. Will I take into account the Long-Term Impact of my decisions?
  5. Will I encourage and display Leadership today?

These questions will not only help lead your day to day activities toward those best for your business, but will provide a “leading by doing” example for your coworkers.

Mark Cuban is a “Market Culturist”

I’m a fan of Mark Cuban. I like the enthusiasm he brings to his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, and to the NBA. I like watching them play. When I was dominant on NBA Live ’03, the Mavericks were my team. I appreciate the rebel spirit he brings to his team and NBA referees, and the way he goes after what he wants, like the Chicago Cubs.

So when I saw a post on his blog about one of my other favorite topics, music, I had to dive in. And wouldn’t you know, he a “market culturist!”

A little over a week ago, Mr. Cuban talked about a movie’s official soundtrack. A few get really popular – these days the hype is for Juno – but most just languish in the final end credits that no one watches long enough to read anyway. So if most of them aren’t really doing much anyway, and they cost so much to publish and record, is there any other way they can be used to provide value to a customer? Yes, says Mark Cuban, give it away for free to whoever buys the movie ticket.

That’s where the real Hollywood money is made anyway, right? Ticket sales. And as prices for tickets approach $10 apiece, I do, from time to time, wonder if seeing the movie in the theater is worth the money. I mean, thanks to bit torrents and Quick Silver Screen, I can see a lot of movies for free at home. Legality questions? Try Usenet.

So, back to, “why would I want to pay $20 to see a movie with my gal, when we can see it at home for cheaper and not have some idiot’s cell phone go off in the middle of important plot developments?” Because I’m a music fan and the ticket will give me access to a free copy of the sound track. And as a music lover, if I’m made aware of one more band that I’d like, or a new version of a popular song, that’s really valuable to me. Some people are writers, or like to chop up movies on Fan Edit. Mr. Cuban says give them access to the script. As he summarizes,

“Bottomline, is that anything that can be delivered digitally as a download could be bundled into the value of a movie ticket and delivered from the ticketing site, the studio or from the theater’s website. The cost to deliver a song, script or even video (like what you might find as extras on a dvd) digitally is nominal relative to the marketing investment required to get people to the theater”

Mark Cuban: Visionary, business “maverick,” and a true “market culturist.”