Instead of a Top 10 List, How about a Marketing Festivus…

or My 3 Top Marketing Grievances for the Year

I’m actually feeling quite optimistic for the year 2020 for B2B Marketers…but I guess I’ve gotten overwhelmed with Top 10 lists and feel like I have to get a few things off of my proverbial chest before settling into my lounge chair for a mid-week break of more football, champagne and chili! So, in no particular order…

Grievance #1 – “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, ” said Mark Twain the CMO

A mere seven years ago, I blogged in disagreement about a then popular post by Andrew Chen entitled, Growth Hacker is the New VP of Marketing. Well, as Andy Johns of Unusual Ventures points out in his Jan of 2019 post entitled, a post mortem on growth hacking, Growth Hacking is in decline, and fundamentals of product, product market fit, and positioning still matter in B2C and I’d add in B2B organizations.

Now in 2019, the siren call of the Death of the CMO is summarized in this 2018 post by Edwin Abl, entitled Chief Revenue Officers: Why They Are Replacing CMO’s.

I will save a point by point rebuttal on this latter claim for another blog. Suffice it to say, organizations that eliminate CMOs run the risk of not only short term thinking and loss of vision, but also greatly underrate the value of the right CMO as the balancing point between sales, product and strategy.

Grievance #2 – King Me? – Category is Not Always the Winning Marketing Strategy

After the CRO, the next hottest trend is being a Category King, popularized by the book Play Bigger, and now the siren call sung by investors to all B2B CMOs.

I don’t argue with the data presented that “Category Kings” get far better returns and you should strive to be one. But my grievance is in the timing (always now) and the process (pick the category then build around it). Category building is NOT for everyone all the time. Sometimes we are sadly not the first mover, and sometimes the market isn’t ready for a new category.

But my biggest gripe here, is the idea that category is some amazing short cut to success. We have to start with our story, what makes us unique, and the transformational value we have to our customers. Until you understand those, you can’t create message market fit, let alone become a “category king”. As my one client so succinctly said to me, “I thought the strategy should drive the story, but now after our work together I understand the story should drive the strategy.” So just like the CRO is not a silver bullet, neither is the “self-declaration” of Category.

Grievance #3 – “Not All Wine Turns to Vinegar” – Endemic Age Discrimination in The Valley?

Last month, a well know executive recruited made a post on LinkedIn that really got under my skin (It appears it’s now been deleted, so all of this is from memory.) Essentially, the post said, ‘don’t hire an experienced CMO, hire an up and comer’. It went on to imply that experience will stifle innovation and those experienced folks can’t be up to date on the latest in marketing, harkening back to Grievance 1 :). The not so subtle message I saw implied (whether intended or not) was don’t hire anyone over 35 to be your CMO. In my response, I pointed out that some of the most innovative marketers I know are “experienced”, and that there is a LOT to the job beyond knowing the latest and greatest tech.

But beyond this post, I see age discrimination as a significant problem in the valley. With people’s careers stretching well into their sixties, and with older parents the new norm around here, more and more “older” workers are going to be around. And they can add so much to even small start ups. We should hire to the job, NOT to some pre-supposed profile, be it age, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation. In my mentoring and advising of later career folks, I see them struggling with this issue consistently. The valley might be seen as funding young 20-somethings to find the next Zuck hiding in his or her dorm room, but folks in their 40s, 50s and even 60s can be key contributors to every firm at every stage. Find the right person at the right time for the right job, and if it’s a 28 year old from another start up and you are ready to take a chance on them, great, but be open to all!

Well, I had fun airing some of my grievances, join me below in my Festivus celebration by adding a few of yours!

My Amazing and Disappointing Day with Edward Tufte

If the Edward Tufte course Presenting Data and Information were a rock concert, I’d imagine the review would read something like this, “Greatest Hits Shine While New Material Mostly Misses”. And in many ways, Tufte’s 1 day event is more concert than course. Or maybe something between a lecture and a storytelling event, but in the end, while I enjoyed the day, I walked away both satisfied and disappointed, glad that I attended but deep down thinking that I could have just “read the books”.

Speaking of Tufte’s books, and each of the 400+ “students” received a box set of them yesterday, they are GORGEOUS, BEAUTIFUL pieces of work with amazing content, stunning visuals and represent a career of work that truly demonstrates why Tufte is the world’s expert on the topic Presenting Data and Information.

Tufte was magnificent and at his best when he was critiquing visuals. From the:

  • Tour and discussion of what makes the National Weather Service Forecast Webpage so great to
  • How he uses Minard’s map of Napoleon’s (Disastrous) March to and Retreat from Moscow to unpack his Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design (See Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, pages 122-139) to
  • His brutal take down of a data chart in a news article to
  • His very pointed (pun intended) critique of how Powerpoint’s “cognitive style” contributed to the total mis-understanding and mis-communication of the risk that the ill-fated Columbia Space shuttle was flying under (Beautiful Evidence, pages, 164-165)
  • To his discussion of the visual map he had created to help visitors navigate his 234 acre “artfarm” in Connecticut

Tufte’s critiques were entertaining, compelling, informative and instructional.

Tufte also has a great skill for memorable quotes and advice and here are a few of my favorites from the day, at least as best I scribbled them down:

“Visualizations are needed when there is so much data the only way to see it is to see it…. “

“Let the information be the interface”

“Use visualizations that are conventional. Make you contribution your content, not design of it, rich, luscious, compelling content”

“R (the statistical computing program) can count but can’t see. Illustrator can see but can’t count. Use statistical programs to analyze your data but use graphics programs to make it beautiful and concise”

On Analytical design you want “complete integration of words, numbers,images and diagrams”

“Everything you put in your presentation should include reasons (for your audience) to believe it” (think documentation, links, sourcing…)

“serious problems are multi-variant and multi-modal and do not belong in a single domain”

“You never learn more than when you actually observe data collection”

Edward Tufte, San Jose Ca 12/15/19

and my all time favorite:

“For smart people, good ideas are a dime a dozen. The difference between good ideas and great ones is implementation!

That’s the shine and it was really good stuff.

But I do have a few rather large critiques of my own. Tufte referred often to his “new book” but it was not clear until after the lunch break that he was reference a TO BE PUBLISHED new book. And much of this new material was quite rough.

Just prior to the lunch break, Tufte went on a 20 minute riff about how to best be a patient (bring in a printed list of issues to every appointment) which seemed disconnected from the day, not very well organized and lacked any real relevant take aways to the day. There were several other times in the day where Tufte put up a word slide book excerpt from the new book, and then struggled to present it and make any real connected points. While this was kinda frustrating, I could both understand it and excuse it as I am also a speaker and trainer, and know that the only real way to make content work is to try, fail and adjust. I’m sure next year much of this new content will either disappear or get really good like the rest of it.

But my BIGGEST critique is that the day failed me as a learner. And that failure was due to something that Tufte should never have failed at. Tufte failed to present a clear map of the day, what I could expect to learn, and the context of the entire presentation. For a thought leader who is rightly known as a genius in presentation, I found this flaw as confounding as it was inexcusable. Tufte never discussed learning objectives, Tufte never connected the individual critiques into a whole, and Tufte failed to communicate any big point or points.

In some ways, this is understandable. Tufte’s entire approach is “Thick information” and as he says, “to let the viewer do the editing.” The day with Tufte was thick with information and advise. BUT it lacked coherence and structure and as a learner I found that highly frustrating and annoying. I expected more from the author of “Beautiful Evidence” and “Visual Explanations” .

Tufte has a bias against summary and editing, but he is a champion of data driven navigation and loves maps. Unfortunately for most of the day, I felt a bit disoriented, lost and confused as to where I was, where I had been, and where I was going and when I got to the end of the journey, I honestly did not know what I has really learned. There was NO MAP TO THE DAY.

I enjoyed the hits, and will value the books, but the day was much less than it frankly could have and should have been.

10 Years of Awesomeness and the Future of Storytelling, Truth and the Art of Marketing.

I’m lucky enough to be sitting on a tropical beach in the Caribbean Sea as I celebrate 10 years in my Marketing Consulting and Thought Leadership Practice and yet another birthday while taking the time to sort out where my practice leads me next. I know these things to be true –

  • I am getting ready to launch my first podcast – Marketing InSecurity. I’ve been a guest on probably a dozen or so podcasts and I am super excited to be at the other side of the virtual table, interviewing an amazing set of guests (I can say amazing because I already have the first 8 guests lined up and they are truly a who’s who of Cybersecurity Marketing stars!
  • After 8+ years I am moving offices. The new facility is an amazing co-working space less that 2 miles from my home in Menlo Park. The energy is super cool and I’m both scared and excited to clean out nearly a decade of office stuff. The shredder is at the ready and I can’t wait for the change
  • I still wake up every day kinda amazed that this is now the longest “job” I’ve ever had, and I have every intention of making it last another 10-15 years. THANK YOU to all my amazing clients who never cease to inspire me to be of service to their causes!

Here’s the things I am wondering about as I think about the next decade ahead:

  1. The future of business storytelling – I’ve build much of my practice on the assumption that Story and using it to create context and framing of business value, is the most critical piece to Business to business messaging. I know this is true as long as people are selling to people. But will the ‘bots take over selling and or buying, and what would that mean to marketing and messaging. If algorithms rule, does marketing still matter?
  2. The future of “truth”. This is one that matters in my work, but is probably a much bigger topic well beyond my pay grade. I’ve always said that one of the keys to great messaging is VERACITY, another way to say truth. But it seems that truth is becoming harder and harder to judge, identify and know.
  3. Art versus Science – Is it true that the art of marketing is done? Is the growth hacker truly the new CMO? Is influence dead to be replaced by data driven manipulation? If truth is truly illusive and storytelling relegated to literature class, what’s left? I may be an engineer by training and love a good science read, but there’s no doubt that I love a great story even more.

Speaking of stories, I’m in the middle of Neil Stephenson’s D.O.D.O and I need to wend (inside book joke) myself back to the lounge chair and see what year I land in. And If the next 10 are anything like the last 10, one thing for sure it won’t be is boring! – Cheers Ken

Position available here

Join my practice as a part-time business manager.

Independent Contractor – Role Description  – This is a 1099 Independent Contractor Position

About the job:

KJR Associates seeks a part-time contractor to act as the business manager for its growing thought leadership and consulting practice.  Initial tasks may include:

  • Client interfacing and scheduling on project logistics
  • Managing and building the practice’s email database
  • Event planning and management
  • Nurturing and growing community offering and membership site
  • Managing and growing of social media presence

The candidate should be computer fluent with Office, web-based applications and comfortable learning new applications and skills.  Marketing and sales experience a big plus. Great independent working style and collaborative and growth mindset are required.

Commitment –Initially 30-50 hours per month, from home, with occasional face to face meetings. Consultant should bring their own computer, highly preferable to be a Mac, supplies and home Internet connection.

Pay – Commiserate to market and experience level

Inquiries – email or call 650-868-4566

About Me

I help B2B growth company executives in Sales, Marketing and the C-Suite to breakthrough and achieve and grow market leadership in new and existing markets. My clients not only lead, they improve key sales and marketing metrics like leads to revenue and opportunities to close.

What I Do:
• Market Leadership Strategy
• Breakthrough Messaging and Positioning for Growth Companies
• Market Leadership Training for Product Management, Product and Corporate Marketing Teams
• Strategic Go To Market Projects on area such as Pricing, Channel and Growth
• Speaking, writing and mentoring on Marketing Effectiveness and Market Leadership

I have spent 20+ years in B2B marketing roles, launching the Intel Inside broadcast co-op program in 1991 and then the Internet’s first affiliate marketing program, Netscape Now, while at Netscape from 1995-99. Since then, I’ve been CMO at several start-ups and ran Network Security Marketing at McAfee where I developed and executed a marketing strategy that grew our web security business from $60M to nearly $200M

In the 9 years of my consulting practice, my clients have generated over $6B of shareholder value through IPOs and acquisitions. In addition, several others have reached private equity valuations of $1B+.

My first book, Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Breakthrough, Lead, and Transform their Markets, published in 2017, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and booksellers everywhere in ebook, audio book and paperback.

Word of the Week – “Old Pro”

“Old Pro” – (n) Noun –

1) A bar in Palo Alto, as in “The Old Pro”.  The Old Pro is a very popular sports bar currently housed on Ramona Street in the building that formerly was Ramona’s Pizza.  The Old Pro has often hosted the royalty of Silicon Valley and was one of the late “Coach” Bill Campbell’s hangouts.  Also, many a Stanford Business School student have hoisted a beer or two or three at Tuesday night F.O.A.M (see F.O.AM.) night at the Old Pro, both old and new.

Example – “Meet me at the Old Pro to watch the (49rs, Stanford, Warriors, Giants, A’s …) game”

2) The “Old Old Pro” – Valley veterans will remember the “Old Old Pro” that was a in a World War 2 Quonset hut on El Camino and Page Mill roads. The Old Old Pro had a peanut covered floor, with some shells maybe as old as the building itself, and was covered wall and ceiling with now non-PC Budweiser, Nascar and Rigid Tool Bikini Clad girl posters.  Many, including the author miss the Old Old Pro.    Other valley bars of Old Old Pro vintage include the now defunct Wagon Wheel complete with poker room, the St James Infirmary in Mountain View with its massive Wonder Woman statue and popular with Moffet Field Airmen, Santa Clara’s Peppermill, as well as Palo Alto’s Antonio’s Nut House which is still hanging on as of this writing on California Avenue.

3) Old Pro (rare usage) – Possibly one of the rumored denizen’s of Thursday night happy hour at the Rosewood.  As in, “She’s an (old) Pro”…enough said…


Word of the Week – “Open Source”

Open Source – (n) Noun – 1) A hypothetical business model that has made money exactly once (see RedHat) and is often bandied about as the next new thing.  Also, known as the last ditch effort to save a failing software company.  This is not to be confused with “Freemium”(see Freemium), another business model that shares the same strange characteristic of making money by giving away value, but has succeeded at least a few more times.

2) Software freely distributed, developed and maintained by volunteers working on an “open source project”.  This is kinda like the Woodstock version of software.   Often seen together or described as “Crowdsourcing”, the theory is that more people can build better software.  This is often proven true, and the benefits are great.  However, as it has often been predicted, Open Source is NOT the business model of most software companies, at least those that are profitable – see #1 above.

3) The industries attempt to wrest control from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.  It has kinda worked, but SaaS (see SaaS) has arguably had a much larger impact.

Example – “We are going to open-source this project/product/company so we can scale.  We are going to monitize (see monitize) it by delivering an enterprise supported version”

See also – RedHat, Hadoop, Mozilla, Docker, and thousands of other projects.