The Medium is the Message

The one thing that is as important as your product is your messaging about it. In some ways, messaging is more powerful because if no one knows how great your product is, you’re toast. To illustrate my point, let’s investigate the phrase the medium is the message.” Originally coined by Marshall McLuhan, Marshall tells us the the medium (product) and message are one of the same. Your message becomes your product and your product becomes your message. Your success depends on your product (medium) and message saying the same thing at all times.

My coworker Tom made a powerful inaugural post about this very subject. One of the most hard hitting tidbits I gleaned from his advice was this:

But messaging is hard. You’ve got to get buy-in from everyone. You’ve got to validate it with customers and analysts. You have to enable + certify your entire field organization on it. You’ve got to test it via your website, paid search, email, etc. Don’t underestimate how difficult and time consuming that’s going to be. But when done right, a compelling message cuts through the noise and amplifies everything else you’ll want to do.

Messaging is hard

I have to agree with him that this is hard to get right. It’s near impossible to get right if your marketing and sales teams are not aligned. I speak from experience because I’ve seen misaligned marketing and sales teams. In some cases, marketing and sales are downright adversarial to each other. They blame each other for missed revenue targets or lead generation.

If this happens in a startup, it dies. If this happens in an established organization, it stagnates.

So how do you align sales and marketing? Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s as hard to do as defining your message, but it can be. When I see misaligned teams I often think a few things, but I usually look to the top leadership first.

What kind of leader does the organization have? Is he/she a team builder or a team divider? Everyone says they’re a team builder but many are team dividers. They divide teams in the spirit of free market competition. They hope that when every team competes, it will drive more revenue. They can’t be more deluded.

Marketing and Sales are Complimentary

Marketing and sales are complimentary teams. You can’t match them against one another and expect the money to roll in. You must foster a continuous feedback loop between them.

Sales is in the trenches, they hear what the customers are saying. If they sell, then great. If they fail, that’s great too. Why? No one likes to fail but failures are a great way to help marketing adjust their messaging. Sales sends feedback to marketing, marketing adjusts messaging, and sales executes with more wins.

Likewise, marketing is also in the trenches. They spend their days analyzing the market, crafting the message, and producing collateral. They’re findings help the sales team craft their opening salvos and engage with prospects. They provide the leave behinds” that sales gives to interested prospects. They provide direction for sales where to focus their time, money, and energy at.

Aligning Sales and Marketing

Going back to my original question, so how do you align sales and marketing?

  1. You must have leadership that builds teams instead of paying lip service to it
  2. Everyone on the team must know that they are part of something that CAN’T work if they’re not working together
  3. A feedback loop must be put in place and used
  4. Remove obstacles preventing you from aligning. This could include removing some people
  5. Never stop massaging the medium or the message for that matter

A day in the Life of a Sales Engineer

If you asked me 2 years ago if I’d be working in Sales at a high tech startup, I’d say you were nuts! Fast forward to today and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Today I’m a Sales Engineer at an advanced analytic startup.

What exactly is a Sales Engineer? Wikipedia defines it as a hybrid between Sales and Engineering, an interesting combination indeed. I live in a Goldilocks world of solving problems and selling the solution. This suits me just fine. Coming from the engineering world, solving problems is in my blood. Couple this with learned public speaking skills (i.e. Toastmasters), making presentations in a Sales environment makes me happy. I’m in my sweet spot.

What’s my typical day like? Hectic! Unpredictable! Cool! Most of the day I’m on discovery calls with customers discussing how our platform can help them. Next I could be making a presentation with an Account Representative to a board room. After that I could be on a WebEx with a customer helping them troubleshoot a process. This could, and has, happened all in one day.

What does it take to be a Sales Engineer? It takes a lot of skills and creative ability. I’m not just saying that to make myself sound awesome, it’s a tough job and can be stressful at times. Despite that, Sales Engineering is a rewarding career. As I said above, I’m in the Goldilocks zone! Sounds great, right? Ready to sign up at your local startup as a Sales Engineer? Not so fast, there are a few things you need to know to be successful at it. Let me share with you 6 key thoughts I’ve learned if you’re considering becoming a Sales Engineer.

Tips on being a Sales Engineer

Know thy product – Yes, you need to know you’re product inside out. You need to know what it can do and what it can’t. You need to know how to set it up in a customer’s environment, or be able to find the right resource to help in your company.

Be creative – If you have a flexible product, you will need to be able to use it in creative ways. Likewise, you need to misuse it too. Sometimes the customer has strange requirements and you need to figure out how to get it done!

Stamina – You’re going to be busy. Prepare to take calls after hours, before hours, on a train, in an airport, etc. I joke that my life would end if I lost my mobile phone.

Attitude – You must have an open and engaging attitude. This I can not stress enough. Learn from peers, learn from competitors, learn for everyone in your company. Have a can do” attitude and never shy away from hard problems.

Persevere – Sometimes after a great proof of value (POV), a customer will go dark.” You thought this was sure win and then everything becomes anticlimactic. Like a pregnant pause, you need to help your sales team push through this and reengage your customer.

Understand what Value means – Perhaps the most important item is that magical term value.” Boy do I hear this term tossed around like bowling bowl in row boat. I will dedicate a separate post to this topic but what youthink is valuable may not be valuable to your customer.

The Secret Life of Pronouns

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and managed to catch up on a bit of reading when I’m crusing at 30,000 feet. On my nook right now is a fascinating book that all text miners should at least browse in a book store. It’s called The Secret Life of Pronouns,” by  James Pennebaker.

The premise of the book is that your social status, sex, personality, and secret intentions can be determined by analyzing pronouns (I, you, they), artciles (a, an, the), and few other functional words. In the beginning of his research, James used the Liguisitic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program but appears to have modified it with proprietary word dictionaries.

From the surface, LIWC looks similar to the word frequency routine that Rapidminer does in the Process Documents operator, but they went further and added a bit more intelligence” to the analysis. What they did was roll out a fun servce called Analyze Words. You just enter your Twitter handle, click the button, and it gives you a snapshot into your tweet sentiment.

So how does this work?  I suspect that James and team use their dictionaries to categorize incoming text documents and test against them and for the author’s sex, social status, personality, and sentiment. I’m sure that a lot of up front” and hard work was done to build these dictionaries.  A lot of up front” work is the norm with text mining and if you try using shortcuts, you’ll likely get crappy models.

I think a model like his can be done quite easily in RapidMiner, especially if you build a good crawling and sentiment system to test against. All that it requires is a bit of thought and the will to do it.  Most likely this is written in Python but it would be fun to replicate this. Isn’t the data-driven world we live in, cool?