Podcasting 101

         

Are you trying to promote yourself as a subject matter expert (SME)? Do you want to share tools and techniques to help people succeed? Do you need a way to build awareness but have a small budget? Have you thought about starting a podcast?

The last several months I have been learning to podcast and developing episodes for a June launch (I plan to have ten episodes uploaded to provide immediate content for listeners). I thought I would share my experience to help you pursue this path with minimal pain and expense. If you like sharing information and want to expand your reach and increase awareness, podcasts are a great way to get noticed and build your business.

Podcasts are growing in popularity and are an economical way to create and distribute regular content. So what is a podcast? It’s an episodic series of digital audio. You record an episode, upload it to a web host, and people listen to it on computers, phones, etc., anytime, anywhere. Pretty simple.

Just like terrestrial radio but on the internet. The best part is you have total control of your content, production, etc., unlike radio which has editors, is difficult to get on, and has a lot of legal restrictions. Podcasts are the wild west of the new age of digital media.

The best part of starting a podcast is you can talk about any subject. You also don’t need any fancy equipment. Just use your smartphone’s voice recorder, upload the file to your computer, edit it, and upload to your web host. The production level won’t be very high, but it is a great way to “dip your toes” in the world of podcasting without spending money. Here is a great article to show you what you might need (https://www.omnicoreagency.com/best-podcast-equipment/).

Once you get some experience and decide you really want to do this long-term, you will need some higher-end equipment. There are many different levels of equipment (e.g., price, performance), from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, and a lot in between (https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-equipment/). Podcasting will not break the bank. I highly recommend you watch lots of YouTube videos and read various blogs (as well as listening to a lot of podcasts) to figure out what works best for you. I am a total geek, so I read lots of books, watched hundreds of videos, and listened to hundreds of podcasts to learn this really cool digital media platform.

What pulled me in to the podcast world was my love of comedy. Comedians are the pioneers in this relatively new medium. Comedians such as Marc Maron (http://www.wtfpod.com/), Adam Corolla (http://adamcarolla.com/), and Joe Rogan (http://podcasts.joerogan.net/) led the charge. They realized they could control the content and the medium while providing content their fans enjoyed.

Other comedians followed and realized the benefit to their careers. Comedians such as Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky (http://www.yourmomshousepodcast.com/), Bert Kreischer (http://bertcast.com/), and Ari Shaffirr (http://www.arishaffir.com/category/podcast/) built massive followings that turbocharged their careers. The majority of comedians have podcasts – good or bad.

Many celebrities have also started podcasts to build new audiences and additional income streams. Professional wrestler Steve “Stone Cold” Austin has a great podcast (https://www.podcastone.com/Steve-Austin-Show), actor Dax Shepard just started his podcast (http://podbay.fm/show/1345682353), and historian Dan Carlin has one of the best history podcasts (https://www.dancarlin.com/). Most of these podcasters create their episodes in their homes. It doesn’t take a fancy studio or expensive studio-grade equipment. You just need passion for your topics and to produce great content.

When creating episodes, the following is a very high-level to-do list.

  1. Decide on a topic
  2. Create an outline or script
  3. Record
  4. Edit
  5. Upload
  6. Share
  7. Promote

Develop a theme you want the podcast to cover (e.g., business, history, car racing, model trains). Make sure you have a clear target audience and know what they like to listen to (e.g., topic, length of episode). Dependent on the type of podcast you decide to create – interview people, share information, discuss various topics, etc., you will need to do the following.

Podcasts take a lot of work. You need to create and post new content weekly. You want fresh content to keep listeners coming back each week, as well as ensuring you are found during search results (Google search loves fresh content).

It requires new skills (e.g., recording, editing, promoting). The benefits will help you develop your business or improve your skills at your current organization. For example, the ability to create audio and video content allows you to transfer the same skills to your market research reports, new product requests, etc. The more interactive your content is, the higher the overall engagement.

Here is a rough overview of how I am figuring out the podcast world. I knew I wanted to do this and wanted a well-produced show, but on a budget (except the microphone and recorder). I did not want to pay someone every week to edit and produce my shows; I knew I could do it myself.

My podcast consists of weekly episodes focused on business strategy and innovation topics. The podcast is not focused on interviews, so I do not have to worry about finding guests. I just need a weekly topic that will help people become much better at business.

I purchased the following equipment (along with estimated expenses):

  • Zoom H4n Pro recorder w/extra memory cards – $220
  • Zoom H4n Pro accessory kit – $50
  • Heil PR40 microphone, boom arm, C-clamp mount, shock mount, cables, pop filter, and windscreen – $500
  • External hard drive – $150
  • Sony MDF7506 Pro Headphones – $80
  • Logo – $65

The total I’ve spent is about $1,000. The Zoom recorder and Heil microphone are high-end, but I decided to spend the extra money as I wanted high-quality sound to provide a professional image. In addition, I knew I was going to do this for a long time and wanted to invest in good equipment up-front.

You can start your own professional-sounding podcast with a lot less money. There are some great microphones for about $100 (a Blue Yeti microphone is excellent and only $130) and you can record directly into Audacity, so no need for a recorder.

You can also buy a low-cost mixing board for about $75, to allow you to ensure your audio levels are perfect (I use the Zoom recorder for this). I like the mobility of the recorder to take on the road and be ready to develop episodes or interview people on a moment’s notice, so there will be multiple uses.

I’ve spent the last few months learning Audacity, free audio editing software. There is a lot of audio editing software available but Audacity is easy to learn and gets the job done – for free. I also practice every day to improve my on-air voice – try to eliminate awkward pauses, weird mouth noises, etc. (just become good at speaking into a microphone).

I hired someone from www.Fiverr.com to create a logo. This logo will be used on iTunes and other places I upload my episodes, as well as my website. In addition, I will use it for my microphone cube, to look really cool during video episodes.

I also plan to hire someone to record a professional sounding intro and outro for each episode. A professional intro keeps people engaged while a professional outro reminds listeners where to find additional information, how to subscribe to the podcast, and share various calls-to-action (CTA).

If you have a website created in WordPress you will need the Blubrry plug-in to handle the files (https://www.blubrry.com/). You also need a web host for your files (such as Libsyn (https://www.libsyn.com/)). It takes a little work to figure out how to use these, but there are plenty of great videos to help you get started.

Don’t freak out. This is not really difficult, just takes some time and a plan. The more organized you can be while developing the podcast, the easier it will be.

Each episode consists of several different audio tracks:

  • Professional intro
  • Background music
  • Episode intro
  • Episode
  • Background music
  • Episode outro
  • Professional outro

I am still developing the “design” of the podcast, but using seven separate tracks in each episode provides a professional and engaging podcast. I drop each track into Audacity, set the various settings (e.g., normalization, compression, equalization), combine each with proper fade-ins and fade-outs, and develop informative show notes.

A few months before I launch the podcast I will interact on various groups or forums (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn). Daily interactions will help “prime the pump” prior to my full launch – get people to notice me as a reliable source of business information. Then in June I will post within the various groups and forums about each episode. Each weekly episode will also be supported by a related blog post and video. I also have a detailed content calendar to ensure a continuous stream of daily and weekly information.

I try to be as efficient as possible, so when I am developing each script, I leverage the content to write my blog post and record videos. I am able to develop and create multiple pieces of content by myself, without the need to outsource. I am serious about growing my training and consulting business, so I do all this work during my lunch hour and at night and weekends (I currently have a 9 to 5 job). I have basically given up TV, though still read a lot.

It takes time and dedication to create a weekly podcast, but I have a lot of fun developing, recording, and editing each episode. In addition, I now have several new skills to leverage for future job opportunities. I am using my free time to learn new skills and develop my side hustle (which I hope will become full-time).

If you want to create a platform for a future side hustle (e.g., training, consulting, teaching, market research, writing), you need to be serious and dedicated. If you really want to do something you love, you have to put in the time and effort. If you are not familiar with podcasts, listen to a few of the ones I mentioned or topics that interest you. Watch a lot of YouTube videos and see if this is something you want to do.

Just remember, it takes a lot of consistent work but the rewards can be great. You need to be a lifelong learner. Learning how to create podcasts will provide you with great skills and ways to avoid spending money outsourcing (it will also provide new skills to increase your value within your organization). The more you practice, the better you will become and it will be easier – like anything. You just need to create a daily, weekly, and monthly habit. Have fun and share valuable content to new audiences all over the world.

 

References

https://www.zoom-na.com/

https://www.audacityteam.org/

https://heilsound.com/

https://jrelibrary.com/articles/joe-rogan-experience-podcast-equipment-studio-setup/

https://www.libsyn.com/

https://www.blubrry.com/

https://www.bluedesigns.com/products/yeti/

http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator

Inbound Marketing and Product Management – Part II

The market is getting increasingly competitive and dynamic. Consumers are inundated with a constant flow of information. It is becoming harder to get people’s attention and turn them into qualified sales leads. Worse, marketing departments are operating with smaller budgets and bare-bone teams. So, how do you get through all the noise to reach and engage with customers? Inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing (also known as content marketing) focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing specific content for a targeted consumer segment (focus on providing free content). The focus is on providing high value content to a clearly defined audience to demonstrate you are an expert in your field, your product aligns with their values and lifestyle, and provide fun/entertaining content. Types of content that are very effective within content marketing are:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • White papers

Why Inbound Marketing?

Why adopt inbound marketing? Consumers are constantly searching for sources of information they can trust. They don’t want a hard sale. They want honest and insightful content to learn more and improve their lives. Inbound marketing replaces high pressure sales tactics, as customers are already primed to buy your products or services after absorbing your content (no further selling required). The trust you developed from your consistent content feeds makes sales conversions much easier.

Inbound marketing replaces hard selling with value that customers desire. Inbound marketing is not about sharing useless information. Your goal is to pull customers in and provide relevant and valuable information they find critical to get their jobs done. The content you create helps to improve awareness of your offerings and educates consumers.

There are multiple ways to succeed with inbound marketing. First, know everything about your customers. Get out and talk to them and develop personas to share with teams. Second, make sure all your content is based on keywords to drive search engine optimization (SEO). You want to develop ways to drive traffic to your website, collect leads, and close sales content marketing is a critical component of SEO. A strategy based on clear links, individual landing pages for each offering, and simple call-to-actions (CTA) to convert leads allows your loyal customers to get everything needed from you.

What it Takes

Inbound marketing is not easy. It takes a lot of work to consistently develop valuable content. The first step is to understand your target customers. What do they want? How do they consume information (e.g., mobile, TV, video, white papers)? Where do they consume information? Understanding your target customer and developing content that meets what they want and located where they consume, is critical.

Most inbound marketing is provided online. The goal is to create an infrastructure that keeps consumers returning to your various content platforms (e.g., blog, podcast, video, eBooks). You can also develop hardcopy books, workshops, and speaking engagements to engage in-person. The combination of online and in-person interaction provides multiple avenues to develop relationships and build your business.

Adopting a inbound marketing model requires skills not typical of a marketing team. The first step is a careful understanding of your target customers. In addition, journalism skills are critical to ensure well written and produced articles, white papers, case studies, etc. Content development requires strong writing skills, creativity, and a deep understanding of targets. Don’t stress over technology. It is easy to learn or relatively inexpensive to outsource.

The other requirement is a consistent schedule of content. You want to develop habits (for yourself and your customers) to deliver and receive valuable content on a regular basis. Teams need to develop content calendars to ensure ongoing delivery. You must provide daily content to maintain engagement.

Students and Individuals

And for you aspiring marketing professionals or someone looking to change careers or build a side gig, inbound marketing is a valuable tool to display your talents and skills. Creating a blog, podcast, or video series to share your knowledge is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills, talents, and value to recruiters and hiring managers.

The skills inbound marketing requires are vital for a successful business career. The daily requirements to create new and interesting content creates powerful habits to improve your writing, design, and research skills. The more you create the better you will become in your chosen profession or to build a successful side gig. Consistent writing and ideation will create a powerful foundation for a successful business.

Resources

There are great resources to help you get up-to-speed quickly. Gary Vaynerchuk (https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/) is one of the leaders in this movement. His book Crush It! is an excellent guide to leverage content and social media.

Other great sources of information are Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman as well as the many books from David Meerman Scott (https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/). Check-out the Hubspot Academy (https://academy.hubspot.com/) to strengthen your skills. Don’t spend too much time learning and researching. Just jump in and start creating. The more you practice (and learn) the better your content will become.

Joe Pullizzi’s book Epic Content Marketing (http://www.joepulizzi.com/books/) is another great resource. Also, listen to podcasts to understand this medium. In addition, always develop content that you would pay for. If you would pay for it, then offering it for free provides a higher level of value. Develop content your targeted audience wants to read, listen to, and watch. And provide it for FREE.

PROS and CONS

Benefits of inbound marketing are:

  • Increase sales
  • Reduce internal costs (e.g., less paid media)
  • Loyal customers

The detailed work of creating ongoing content creates a more engaged and creative workforce who clearly understands the customer’s desires. Building an internal army of creative producers is a long-term investment in future success. The more your employees understand your customers’ needs and constantly develop new, creative ideas to engage them, the higher probability of long-term success.

Negatives include:

  • Time to develop new skills (writing, video production, audio production, etc.)
  • Challenge of leveraging keywords and SEO in all content
  • Difficult to clearly understand target customers

The mindset to move beyond paid media is also difficult for many to accept (especially those who have been practicing traditional marketing for many years). TV is not dead, yet, but has much lower return dependent on specific demographics. If you do not have a budget for consistent national advertising, content marketing is a great alternative to the high costs and low conversion rates associated with mainstream medium. In addition, clear goals and objectives need to be defined to communicate success. You will need to convince leaders that inbound marketing takes more effort, but the returns are potentially greater at less cost. Identify several key measures to track and determine what is working.

Overall, the PROS outweigh the CONS. Instead of wasting resources on a shotgun approach to marketing, your targeted content and media will have higher ROI as you focus solely on targeted customers. Start small – maybe one product or sub-segment. Measure, test, and experiment to understand what works (and doesn’t). The more you understand your customers – what they want and where they want to access it – the more engaged they will become as you continually deliver high-value content that meets their needs.

Conclusion

Overall inbound marketing is an excellent strategy to engage with customers. As more and more organizations focus on targeted customers, the ability to directly engage with timely and valuable content will help to increase engagement and result in more effective leads (and easier conversions). Adopting inbound marketing can be intimidating, but with a disciplined approach to understanding your customers, developing internal skills, and delivering ongoing, timely content will create strong differentiation and competitive advantages.

No matter the goal – corporate marketing or personal brand promotion – inbound marketing works extremely well. Also, many organizations are still behind with the power of inbound marketing. You can quickly move ahead of competitors as you engage in a more intimate way with customers..

Start slow. Write a blog and post interesting content on social media. Then move into podcasting or video production. Podcasts are easy to do and interviewing guests can bring new visitors to your website. In addition, videos are the future. Making high quality short videos that engage with customers has never been easier. Software such as Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/) or iMovie (https://www.apple.com/imovie/) allows anyone to create professional looking content with little practice. And you don’t need any special equipment to start. Just use your smartphone and imagination. Create fun and engaging content every day.

As you dive into inbound marketing, you and your team will have endless ideas to create great, informative, and engaging content for a specific audience. Developing natural inbound leads is the power of inbound marketing. Potential customers will find your content, embrace its value, and be convinced to use your solutions.

Don’t wait, start now. It is as simple as getting out of the office, talking to potential customers, and creating great content. Now go out there, and Crush It!

References

http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/

https://www.hubspot.com/

SMART Goals

   

When developing plans, it is critical to develop goals. Developing clear, specific goals helps you focus and ensure you operate effectively and efficiently. Time is the most valuable resource you have and you must create a clear roadmap to achieve business success. Developing SMART goals ensures you stay laser focused on achieving your targets.

SMART goals are specific, measureable, actionable, realistic, and timely. Creating SMART goals provides a clear, measurable roadmap for you and your teams. As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage, what you can’t measure”. Teams want and need direction. Creating SMART goals provides this.

Daniel D. Matthews (2011) in his excellent book The A3 Workbook provides an excellent template for developing a SMART goal. The goal statement should include four criteria:

  1. Do what (verb)
  2. To what (brief descriptive statement)
  3. How much (specific measurement)
  4. By when (specific time frame)

The following is an example of a specific and clear target statement using Matthews (2011) template.

Increase (verb) SuperX Refrigerator sales in the East region (to what) from 7% to 11% (how much) by March 31, 2017 (by when).

Use questions to develop each element of the statement:

Specific – what do you want to accomplish, etc.

Measurable – how much, how many, etc.

Actionable – how can this be accomplished, what is required, etc.

Realistic – is this possible, is this viable, feasible, or desirable, etc.

Timely – when do we need to accomplish this, etc.

Make sure the goal statement clearly states the goal you are trying to achieve by removing the root cause of the problem or achieving a specific accomplishment. Most importantly, the statement must be measureable – you cannot manage what you do not measure (the SMART goal template will help keep you focused). Without clear measures it is extremely difficult to manage and improve.

Leaders need to provide a clear direction for teams. Employees want to know where they need to go and develop plans how to get there. Developing SMART goals provides this needed structure and discipline.

Practice writing SMART goals, then share with team members, and slowly integrate within your plans. As your team members understand the benefits of SMART goals, you will have higher probabilities of success and a stronger, more cohesive team. Stop wasting time, add some discipline to your planning, and use your time more effectively.

 

Reference

The A3 Workbook: Unlock Your Problem-Solving Mind by Daniel D. Matthews (2011)

Kaizen Comedy

Kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “continuous improvement” (the Japanese characters translate directly to “change” and “good”). It is a mindset that nothing is perfect and everything must (and needs to be) improved. When driven by senior leadership, kaizen can create a powerful organizational culture that focuses on developing competitive advantages and differentiation.

A kaizen mindset focuses on teamwork, personal discipline, and embracing failure. In addition, everyone within the organization is encouraged to continually provide suggestions to improve every aspect of the business. Kaizen focuses on standardizing repeatable processes, measuring effectiveness, comparing measurements over time, ongoing creativity and innovation, and working within a cycle of continuous improvement.

Organizations focused on kaizen often use improvement process cycles such as plan, do, check, and act (PDCA). A never-ending process to think-create-innovate and improve. Toyota demonstrated how kaizen can create a highly successful organization while Masaaki Imai brought kaizen to the world’s attention with his famous book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.

As a business professional, you can develop a kaizen philosophy learning from stand-up comedians. Don’t laugh, successful comedians live and breathe based on a mindset (and practice) of continuous improvement. Never being satisfied with their current work, they continually refine and change their jokes and stories. They embrace failure based on “bombing” and then going back and rewriting their jokes.

Comedians also never stay complacent. Successful comedians get stage time as often as possible (typically several times per night, several nights per week). In addition, they will travel hundreds of miles for $25 to get stage time. It’s about practice, failure, and perseverance. It’s about never giving up and continually pushing forward to grow, learn, and eventually succeed. It’s a constant focus on improvement. It’s about moving beyond what was successful to create new material and redefine your skills.

Nightly practice in front of live crowds, creating podcasts, doing talk radio, writing every day, working corporate events, performing at colleges, etc., are all ways comedians develop skills and continually improve. Just like comedians, business professionals need to embrace business not as a 9-5 job, but as an opportunity to continually learn. In addition, business professionals need to enjoy creating, developing, and providing great products that customers embrace.

Always look for better ways to do things. Stay positive and avoid complacency and doing the same thing day-after-day. Develop new ways to ideate, educate sales people on new products, or engage with new audiences. An ongoing, deliberate focus to continuously improve will change your personal and professional lives (for good) and make for a more enjoyable and exciting career.

Comedians, just like successful businesses, focus on the customer (audience) to “feel” how jokes are received (and what people think is funny). Comedians also focus on identifying root causes. Why did the joke “bomb”? After a bomb (i.e., failure), comedians will go back and listen to audio recording of their set and determine why the joke was not successful. They will continually refine the joke until they have removed all the clutter and have a joke that connects with the audience. Just as you need to continually understand what customers like and dislike about your product, comedians continually refine their product (i.e., jokes, stories, etc.)

Nothing is ever perfect. Everything can be improved. A kaizen mindset can transform how you do your work and how your company performs. A focus on daily improvement, embracing failure and learning from it, creating high quality products, and meeting customer needs is the foundation of a kaizen culture.

Become the student of your chosen profession. Don’t stop learning when you finish college. The majority of powerful business tools are not taught in school. You need to find these through an ongoing search for knowledge and improvement.

Become a comedian. Be like Dean Delray who decided to become a professional comedian at age 44 (after 25 years in the music industry). He rode his motorcycle to get stage time anywhere and in any weather. He got on stage hundreds of times per year. He developed a podcast and worked at his craft. He is now touring with Bill Burr (probably one of the all-time greatest comedians) and is starting to become very successful. It only took 7 years, getting stage time 7 days per week, never complaining, and working every day to improve his writing and skills. (https://www.deandelray.com/)

How about Jerry Seinfeld – maybe the master of kaizen. He writes every day. No breaks, no excuses. In addition, he still does stand up, has a hugely successful web series (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee), and produces shows, writes books, etc. No matter how successful he was with his TV show (Seinfeld) he still works every day to get better at comedy. The cycle of improvement never ends. (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/)

Another comedian with the kaizen mindset is Joe Rogan. From acting and being one of the top stand-up comedians, to being one of the pioneers of podcasting, to working as the color commentator for the UFC, he never stops. Every night he can be found at local SoCal comedy clubs practicing new material. And he doesn’t get comfortable with successful material, either. Every year he keeps creating new material to engage his audiences and stay relevant. Hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude equals success. (http://podcasts.joerogan.net/)

No matter your job, adopting a kaizen mindset can result in a better, happier life, and great personal and professional success. Business professionals need to learn from comedians. Develop the habits to continually refine and improve your skills, practice every day, and embrace failure. Lifelong learning and improvement is as critical for successful business as successful comedy.

Quirk’s OC Event – Market Research Insights

The annual two-day Quirk’s market research conference in Irvine, CA just wrapped up (January 30-31, 2018) (http://www.thequirksevent.com/orange-county/). This was my first time attending, even though it is in my backyard, and it was a great event. Attendance was over 800 with approximately 60+ vendors. In addition, there were 68 seminars over the two days.

I always recommend market researchers get out of the office as much as possible. You can only learn so much from staring at data. You need to talk to customers, retailers, suppliers, etc., to drive new insights. In addition, market researchers need to be lifelong learners. The ability to learn new techniques, new software, and technology and rub-elbows with fellow researchers is a powerful way to grow. Events like the Quirk’s Event are invaluable to improve your knowledge and skills.

Companies such as Digsite (https://www.digsite.com/), Fieldworks 9http://www.fieldwork.com/), Fuel Cycle (https://fuelcycle.com/), and Marketing Systems Group (http://www.m-s-g.com/Web/Index.aspx) were on display. The opportunity to learn about a variety of market research tools and interact with key suppliers is invaluable to develop new, innovative ways to engage with your customers. In addition, the exhibit of the University of Georgia and Market Research Institute International (MRII) provided an excellent overview of their market research courses to help educate the next generation of researchers (or improve your team member skills) (https://blog.mrii.org/courses.

I also attended some excellent seminars, also. The presentation from aha (http://ahaonlineresearch.com/) on qualitative research provided some great tips to improve your qualitative research and engagement techniques. In addition, the presentation from Blizzard Entertainment’s (https://www.blizzard.com/en-us/) Research Director offered some great tips on providing value and increasing your influence within your organization.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting with Vox Pop (https://mediavoxpop.com/). If you want to take your research to the next level with real-time video, this is the future. Vox Pop allows you to provide survey respondents with the ability to provide video responses (not just boring open-ended questions). Vox Pop then allows you to easily analyze the videos in a short amount of time, and pull key verbatims and create short, powerful videos to drive insights within the organization.

For example, you can embed Vox Pop into your online Qualtrics survey and have respondents add video testimonials to certain questions. Not only do you get powerful qualitative feedback (from any device) in a quantitative survey, but the video provides interaction and higher engagement for respondents. Vox Pop’s attraction is the fast, seamless way to analyze video content.

 

The attraction of Vox Pop is the powerful (and easy) ability to analyze text analytics from each video, make specific topic categories based on respondent comments, and then string the video clips together for an impactful presentation. Vox Pop also provides quick transcription of each video as well as the ability to add subtitles. In addition, several large research companies are using Vox Pop in the backend of their products. I highly recommend checking out the Vox Pop website (https://mediavoxpop.com/) and setup a demo. This can really change the way you do qualitative research.

Overall, the Quirk’s OC event was excellent. It was an unbelievable value as the Quirk’s team ensures a streamlined conference that only costs a few hundred dollars. There is nothing fancy (no expensive lunch and dinners, no high-priced speakers, etc.), but everything you need to improve your research skills. Finger food was provided by the exhibitors and there were plenty of drinks and snacks to keep you fueled. As someone who conducts mostly DIY research, the ability to attend 15 seminars and have 1-on-1 meetings with five research vendors in two days was a great use of time.

 

The East Coast Quirk’s event is scheduled February 27-28 in Brooklyn, NY. If you are in the area, check it out (http://www.thequirksevent.com/brooklyn/).

#marketresearch #quirks #research #creativity #innovation #voxpop

Dr. Edward de Bono

    Parallel thinking. Lateral thinking. Random word. Six thinking hats. These are just a few of the theories and tools developed by Dr. Edward de Bono. Dr. de Bono is one of the foremost authorities on creative thinking. He was born in Malta in 1933 and is a PdD in medicine. After practicing and researching medicine, he moved to how humans think and create new ideas.

He taught at prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. He has been at the forefront of creativity and innovation for decades. Dr. de Bono has written over 50 books that have been translated in over 35 languages. His teachings have been adopted by schools, public and private companies, and governments. Companies across the globe such as IBM, Siemens, AT&T, Du Pont, and British Airways have trained thousands of employees and adopted many of de Bono’s teachings.

The two most accepted and “famous” innovations from him are parallel thinking and lateral thinking. Parallel thinking was developed to overcome the innate issues with Western-style thinking which are based on arguing and trying to get your idea accepted, rather than the best idea. The goal of parallel thinking is to develop as many ideas as possible, and work together to the best solution, not just the solution your Vice President wants. The Six Thinking Hats (Hats) are the key tool within parallel thinking.

The Hats are six colored hats, each representing a different thinking process. The benefit of the Hats is to separate each thought process to ensure focus and avoid jumping between different ideas. Each hat is discussed for only a few minutes before moving to the next hat. The benefit of the Hats is to ensure all the information on a topic is reviewed by the team holistically – pros, cons, feelings, new ideas, etc.

 Lateral thinking focuses on changing perspectives to develop new ideas. It is a proactive, deliberate way to continually move forward to develop new ideas rather than finding an immediate solution. Not all the ideas will be useful, but it is important to focus on quality and deal with quantity later. Within lateral thinking, the two most adopted tools are random word and PO. Random word uses a word that is not associated with the topic of focus to drive new connections.

For example, you are developing new ways to improve your accounting system. You choose the random word BIRD. Then you pick four words related to BIRD. For example, feathers, flies, nest, and tweet. You would then use these four words to develop new ideas linking to the topic, improving the accounting system. The random word forces you to think outside of normal patterns and to forcefully look at unrelated words to drive new ideas. PO is another excellent tool within lateral thinking.

PO stands for provocation. A provocation forces thinking in a new direction. You use the word PO to precede a provocation/statement. PO is used to overcome limitations and optimize the pattern behavior of the human brain. Use PO as a stop sign to pause and then develop new ideas. Instead of immediately saying NO to something, you can insert PO to expand the thinking and look for more options.

For example, someone on the product planning team says they need another $10 million. Before saying NO, restate the problem using PO and develop new ways to create new products with the current budget. Stating PO indicates that it’s time for new ideas and to not immediately say NO. PO forces you to avoid traditional thinking patterns and search for new ideas. The product planning team might develop ideas to crowdsource suggestions from customers, talk to engineers in a different industry and understand how they solve similar problems, or talk to suppliers on ways to reduce overall costs.

PO can also be used to connect two disparate ideas. For example, automobile PO deodorant. PO links these two unrelated words (ideas) to drive new ideas. This prompts expanded thinking and look for ideas that are not directly related to the topic. Some potential ideas; develop new ways to incorporate scent into the driving experience or develop a roll-on paint dispenser to cover-up scratches.

Change the way you think. Move from EITHER/OR to AND. Say AND instead of BUT. Think of WHAT CAN BE rather than WHA T IS. If you want to improve your creative thinking skills and help your teams innovate, read Dr. de Bono’s books. You can watch his lectures on YouTube, but they are slow and painful. Here are a few of his great books to help you on your journey of self-improvement.

Dr. de Bono was a very interesting person. His theories can be used in your personal or professional life. The power of parallel thinking and lateral thinking is the adoption of deliberate and systematic methods to develop new ideas any time and any place. Read his books and start using the tools every day to transform your life.

Lateral thinking: Creativity Step by Step. (1970). New York, NY: Harper & Row Publisher (http://amzn.to/2GjCcBo)

Six Thinking Hats. (1985). New York, NY: Back Bay Books (http://amzn.to/2E9ErH5)

Teach Your Child How to Think. (1992). New York, NY: Penguin Books USA, Inc. (http://amzn.to/2FhwtuD)

https://www.edwdebono.com/

#parallelthinking #lateralthinking #sixthinkinghats #creativethinking #innovation #creativity

Inbound Marketing and the Product Manager

    

Product managers are the tip of the marketing spear. You develop overall product strategy, identify target customers, develop positioning and messaging direction, and create the roadmap for sales and marketing teams. As the unnamed (and often unheralded) marketing expert within the company, the product manager is tasked to ensure customer-focused products are developed and effective sales and marketing tactics are deployed for optimal market success.

Many marketing teams are constrained with limited budgets and immense pressure from executives and board members. In addition, too many marketers are using a traditional marketing playbook that is inefficient and ineffective today. Most marketing teams do not have budgets for national campaigns which result in a miniscule number of effective leads; though they continually focus on TV, radio, and print and pushing product information to groups of people who are not interested. Sales leaders spend large amounts of money on sales incentives which devalue the brand must. These are not long-term strategies to survive. It is time to stop. It’s time to rethink what you do.

With increasing “noise” in the consumer landscape, traditional sales and marketing tactics ineffectively result in large amounts of wasted scarce and valuable resources. So, how can your organization build a loyal and excited following that spreads word of your new product and they line up to purchase your products? Inbound marketing, often referred to as content marketing is the optimal method to build loyal and rabid fans. Inbound marketing uses less money (than traditional marketing/advertising) and results in high engagement, specifically with targeted customers. The goal is high conversion rates.

Inbound marketing is all about engaging with targeted customers and providing valuable content where these customers consume information. It is not about selling. It is about educating, entertaining, and informing. Organizations need to be a valuable source of information and content. Don’t talk about your product and all its features. Demonstrate how the product solves the customer’s problems. Develop stories of how customers use your product to make their lives better. Focus on customers.

To become a great inbound marketer (and a great marketer in general), you need the mindset of a journalist marketer. You need to create blogs and podcasts to engage customers. You need to make informative (and often fun) videos to attract your targets. You must leverage the power of social media and share informative posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You need to develop effective calls-to-actions (CTAs) to drive engagement.

You must change your mindset and embrace the new reality. The days of national TV campaigns that have horrible ROI, press events that focus on dying media channels (where your targets are not spending time) and websites that are basically “digital brochures” are over. The communication landscape is a messy, noisy, and congested environment. To ensure you are “surgical” with what you develop and to engage your targets, you must be laser-focused on the optimal mediums, and continuously monitor performance and adapt as needed. Ongoing “tweaking” of everything needs to be a key part of your organization’s culture.

As Bob Dylan noted 40+ years ago, “the times they are A-changin”. The days of spending millions on TV ads to “interrupt” a wide range of targets and (mostly) non-targets is over. The mentality of “shotgun blast” tactics is inefficient and ineffective. It is time to have fun, be extremely creative, and closely engage with potential customers. It is time to develop an internal army of marketers who continually improve; they build-measure-learn.

Product managers need to focus on developing an intimate understanding of the target customers and determine where and how they can be engaged. What medium do they use to find out about products to solve their problems? What type of content do they prefer to learn about new products? Most importantly, who are they and where do they spend their time (I’m talking about how they access information, not necessarily geographically or physically where they reside).

Product managers must carefully identify their target customers, develop a product that helps them meet their needs or overcome pain points, and provide engaging content where these targets spend their time. What I’m talking about is really Marketing 101, but is even more important in this chaotic digital world that we try and navigate effectively.

Train your teams. Build a powerful organization of skilled inbound marketers. Empower your internal teams and create a Marketing Army. Build trust. Everyone must be a marketer of your product, not just the folks in PR or your social media team. Empower employees to write blogs, create podcasts, or develop video series. Have engineering teams develop effective frequently asked questions (FAQs) or how-to videos. Develop an endless stream of valuable content to keep the focus on your customers and how you solve their problems.

Develop the core skills and encourage co-workers from all parts of the organization, not just sales or marketing to engage with customers. Train teams in copywriting, photography, search engine optimization, etc. Make it easy for your teams to develop great content. Develop standard operating procedures (SOP) with clear constraints of what they can and cannot do. Provide helpful hashtag terms (#) to allow everyone to use the same keywords for the most effective engagement. Most importantly, this must be done in-house. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, waste your precious dollars outsourcing most of this to ineffective creative agencies.

Test and experiment. Most marketing teams just shoot out a lot of “stuff” and hope some of it sticks. Advertisers have been testing and experimenting for over 100 years. Unfortunately, most marketers avoid this. They prefer to focus on fancy websites, pretty designs, and avoid effective content. They build it and hope people will come. Unfortunately, they do not know their customers or what they need. They stare at spreadsheets but never talk to actual customers. There are no plans to measure what works and what doesn’t. There is not an incentive to continuously improve. They don’t test different messaging or media. They avoid the hard work of constantly tweaking and experimenting to determine the optimal and most effective engagement tactics. In other words, they are unprofessional and lazy.

The “good ole days” are over. Marketing communication teams must stop wasting time and pretending to live in an episode of Mad Men. Product managers need to drive marketing strategy. This begins with a deep knowledge of the customer and their struggles. This begins with knowing exactly where to provide content and engage with these audiences.

Get out and learn who your targeted customers are. Learn everything you can about them, create amazing products that solve their problems, and then develop remarkable content to engage these target customers. Don’t “spray and pray”. Be a sniper. Be focused on your target. Keep adjusting until you “hit” them over and over again.

Inbound marketing is fun and effective. Enjoy being creative and developing awesome and amazing products and content. Watch your teams’ morale skyrocket. Be constantly engaged with customers. Build a community. Don’t focus on “one and done”. Use inbound marketing along with traditional methods and measure everything. Focus on what works and stop wasting time and money with marketing tactics that were developed before the internet and social media. Rethink how you think.

The following are excellent references to become a master of inbound marketing.

HubSpot Academy – https://academy.hubspot.com/

David Meerman Scott – https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/

Ryan Holiday – https://ryanholiday.net/

Brendon Burchard – https://brendon.com/

#inboundmarketing #contentmarketing #marketing #productmanager #socialmedia #content #strategicmarketing #madmen #advertising #hubspot

5 Critical Product Management Skills

(1) Writing

Communicating with team members, vendors, customers, etc., is an ongoing part of product management. It is one thing to text your friends and not worry about sentence structure, grammar, or spelling. It is another thing when you are writing an email to your team, developing a business plan, or creating product training – your writing is what will empower your message. A few simple rules to remember are: use the active voice (not passive), keep sentences and paragraphs short, avoid adverbs, and practice every day. Yes, practice every day. Writing is a skill and like any other skill it gets better with daily practice. The following books will make you a much better writer.

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (http://amzn.to/2D4iH1U)

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (http://amzn.to/2D7sc0g)

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley (http://amzn.to/2D34xNV)

(2) Market Research

How do you develop the best product in its class? You get out of the office and talk to customers. You interview retail store owners, your customers, and your competitor customers. You create questionnaires, gather data, and use statistics to understand what the data is communicating. Sitting in an office all day and staring at spreadsheets or creating PowerPoint presentations is a big part of the job. However, the only way to beat your competitors and excite your customers is to understand what customers want, how they use the products, and their pain points. The way to do this is interact with them and learn first-hand. Learning the intricacies of market research is a powerful tool that keeps giving. Check out the following books to improve your skills.

The Complete Guide to Writing Questionnaires: How to Get Better Information for Better Decisions by David F. Harris (http://amzn.to/2CYshPR)

Marketing Research Essentials (6th ed) by Carl McDaniel and Roger Gates (http://amzn.to/2D64PU1)

(3) Creative Thinking

You have to continuously develop new ideas. Tattoo the Japanese term kaizen, meaning continuous improvement, in your memory. The only way to improve yourself, your products, current processes, or solve problems is developing new creative ideas. The best way to develop creative ideas is with a structured and disciplined approach. Using creative thinking tools such as SCAMPER, random word, or biomimicry avoids wasting time “brainstorming” or haphazardly thinking of new things. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best ideas are developed with a structured process, tool, or technique. Read the following books to improve your skills.

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko (http://amzn.to/2DnNIe2)

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward de Bono (http://amzn.to/2CV4HDw)

(4) Storytelling

How do you get a new product concept approved from executives? How do you convince salespeople the new product is exceptional and will beat the competition? The best way to build a movement is exciting people. And the best way to excite people is with a compelling story. Creating a compelling story is not easy. It takes practice and a lot of work. Impart visuals, video, audio, and other tools to pull your audience into the story. Video customer testimonials and share the feedback with co-workers. The following books will help build this skill.

The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam (http://amzn.to/2DrdCh5)

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (http://amzn.to/2EBxDAY)

(5) Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is something everyone needs to be good at, but most of us have never formally learned critical thinking. If your advertising agency tells you the new TV ad concept will improve brand awareness by 64%, you better ask how this will happen. How do they know this? Where is the data? How did they collect the data? Critical thinking is putting your skeptic hat on and dissecting what someone is telling you. It is not about attacking someone or their argument, it is pausing, stepping back, and asking questions to ensure nothing is missed. In this age of fake news and the allure of Big Data, critical thinking is vital to ensure the best decisions are being made. The following are a few excellent books to reference.

A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston (http://amzn.to/2Ft35Tj)

Critical Thinking for Marketers (Volumes I and II) by Terry Grapentine and David Dwight (http://amzn.to/2FvUNdt)

Musings from TJ

“You’re nuts to go down there!” was what I kept hearing from co-workers regarding my plan to visit Tijuana and walk around. Sorry to disappoint, but Tijuana (TJ) is not the scary, crime-ridden city from 30 years ago. It had a rough patch in the mid-2000s, but is now a great place to wander around in relative safety. The people are helpful, there are cops everywhere, and the foodie culture is growing (good or bad).

There are multiple ways to sightsee TJ, but we chose the simple method – park in San Diego and walk across. We tried to book a walking food tour but were out of luck, so we did our research, printed out some maps, and headed across. (Yes, we printed out our maps since we are too cheap to pay for international roaming on our phones, or too lazy to just get some extra browsing time for the day). Either way, it was nice not dealing with our phones all day, except to take pictures.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, creativity, innovation, and inspiration come from experiencing new things. The best method to get inspired is visiting new places. What better than visiting a new city just a few hours from home? After we parked our car in San Diego ($25 for the day), we walked about 5 minutes and entered the Mexican immigration center. After some quick paperwork, passports stamped, we were in Mexico. Yup, that easy.

Walking from the immigration center to downtown TJ took about 15 minutes. Tijuana has always been a tourist city, so there are lots of souvenir shops, barkers trying to get you in their restaurants, as well as many California license plates cruising around.

Our first stop was the Tijuana Cultural Center and museum (http://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/51716/en/tijuana-cultural-center-cecut-.html). There was an exhibition of local photographers and it was nice to check out some local history. From there we journeyed to the Museo de la Luca Libre Mexicana (http://www.mullme.com/). This is a new museum that houses an amazing collection of superhero memorabilia, various old-stuff from the past (e.g., comic books, milk jugs, radios, etc.), an unbelievable collection of Lucha Libre masks/billboards/art, etc. and locally made leather masks.

The museum was difficult to find. We asked multiple people and finally found it after about 30 minutes walking in circles (next time I will pay for cell service). When we entered, the manager greeted us and explained the facility (his English is great for all you non-Spanish speakers). The museum opened in April 2017 so they are still building a following. The owners got together and with their love of all things nerdy, decided to open a spot to display their amazing collections.

The museum was an old restaurant that they refurbished. The architecture was a blend of the past and present. It is really beautiful inside. I am not a big superhero memorabilia fan, but the various collections were impressive. A local artist painted the murals of various superheroes on the walls, ceiling, etc. The art was amazing and blew us away – I want to find that guy and hire him for some work. After the first floor collection, we journeyed upstairs to the Lucha Libre collection.

If you are not familiar with Lucha Libre, it is Mexican professional wrestling where many of the wrestlers wear masks. I used to watch Lucha Libre when I was a kid and am a big fan of Lucha Va Voom (http://luchavavoom.com/), so this was really cool. One of the museum owner’s has been collecting wrestling memorabilia for 44 years, and the collection is a historical lesson in Mexican wrestling. Parts of the collection included hundreds of actual masks, various action figures and toys, as well as costumes, pictures, hair samples (from bouts where a wrestler lost and had his head shaved), to old TV episodes from the 1950 and 1960s. There is even a real wrestling ring.

After spending a lot of time being a little kid again, we moved to the third floor. Housed on the top floor is a gallery displaying local artist Jorge Ayllón Gutiérrez’s leather mask collection (https://www.facebook.com/encuerARTE-222118024582954/). Many years ago, a friend bought me a leather mask from Mexico and I have a small collection from various travels (e.g., Italy, Japan). The collection was excellent and all pieces were for sale.

After the museum, we journeyed to the Telefonica Gastro Park (https://www.facebook.com/TelefonicaGastroPark/). It was about a 30-minute walk. The U.S. food truck trend is everywhere, and TJ is no exception (there were lots of food trucks in Russia when we visited earlier this year). The “park” is really a parking lot that houses multiple food “trailers”, a brewery, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy some great food and drink. The place is tourist friendly and the food was excellent.

After stuffing ourselves with great tacos, we headed over to Mercado Hildalgo (http://www.descubretijuana.com/es/atractivos/mercado-hidalgo). The place was crazy as everyone was there buying stuff for New Years. There were more California license plates than TJ. The Mercado Hildalgo is a collection of open-air markets selling vegetables, fruits, cheeses, beans, spices, piñata supplies, etc. It was fun to walk around and sample the various items. Then, it was time to head back to the border.

On the way, we stopped by Container Coffee (https://www.facebook.com/conteinercofferoasterco/?rf=1756930457856837) for a great mocha latte (and to rest our feet). We then found the local tourist trap – zebra donkeys. TJ is known for zebra donkeys (white donkeys are painted with black stripes to show-up better in photographs). I am not a fan of using animals for tourist crap, but most of the animals looked very healthy, had lots of food and water, and had pads to stand on – not horrible. The stand that “grabbed us” were two funny local guys; one spoke pretty good Japanese so he bonded with my wife to practice.

For about $10 we got our photos taken, received a high-gloss color photo, and got some local perspective. We spent about 30 minutes hanging with him and hearing the struggles of kids growing up in TJ and trying to get a good education and well-paying jobs. There is a reason so many Mexicans cross the border to have kids.

As Joe Rogan always reminds his listeners, those of us who were born into the middle class (and above) are just lucky (and privileged). It was just a roll of the dice that we were born in stable families, in a safe place, with good schools and plenty of food, instead of being born in a ghetto or a worn-torn country. Like most places, when the hand you are dealt is not great, it is pretty damn hard to get ahead. There is nothing special about any of us; we are just lucky.

I then grabbed a Mexican Coca-Cola (cane sugar, not syrup), and waited in line to cross back to the U.S. About 45 minutes later we were back in San Diego. Too much fun, way too easy. Much better than driving.

As the New Year is a few hours away, think of what you want to accomplish in 2018. Think about how fortunate you are. And, if you are struggling, put a game plan together leveraging the internet, public libraries, free online courses, mentors, etc., to improve yourself. Moreover, experience new things, meet interesting people, and change your life and the life of others. Make this year count to destroy the negativity, hate, and lazy thinking of others. As Gary V says, “Crush It!”

Musings from PAPOR Annual Conference

PAPOR_Logo

I always tell people to get outside their comfort zones. Meet people from different industries, attend conferences outside your industry, and basically just experience new things. As a long-time product and marketing guy, I have conducted market research to develop competitive advantages, solve problems, or create differentiation. Over 15+ years, I have conducted hundreds of market research projects and feel market research is an underused practice within most businesses.

Last week I attended the Pacific Chapter of American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) annual conference. PAPOR is my local chapter of AAPOR. The conference was in San Francisco and the majority of attendees were academics and professional researchers focused on public opinion research. So for a guy who focuses on applied research, this was a great experience to hear how the “pros” conduct research and find ways to improve how I conduct research.

AAPOR-logo-2017

The conference kicked-off with two short courses on mixed-mode surveys and tips for conducting web surveys. The next two days consisted of panel discussions. Multiple panels presented papers on sampling, design, and analysis. In addition, there were discussions on the current criticism with public opinion research (e.g., fake news) and the public’s view on health policy, aging & quality of life. Not your typical topics for a guy who uses market research to improve marketing and sales operations, or develop new products.

Research types

Listening to a wide variety of individuals present their academic papers was an excellent reminder of how important it is to apply the structure of basic research to applied research. Hearing how others conduct research and the struggles they encounter was a great comparison to typical market research. The conference also had presenters from the “real world” of research.

Selfishly, there was a great panel that discussed survey processes and best practices for applied research (as well as basic research). Shirley Yang from Dropbox discussed a segmentation project she worked on, and Jocelyn Landau from Netflix discussed how her team applies mixed-methods to product development. In addition, Bob Davis from Davis Research presented excellent reminders for data security and protection. Bob was the one who let me know about AAPOR and convinced me to join the group.

Netflix logo

The ability to “rub elbows” with a wide range of researchers from a variety of industries, both public and private was a great way to spend a few days. I returned to the office with several excellent tips to improve surveys and response rates, as well as meeting new people to bounce ideas off.

I strongly recommend joining AAPOR and your local chapter. Every one of us needs to become a lifelong learner. The best way to learn new skills and develop new innovative ideas is through meeting new people and collecting tips and techniques to improve your own work. Join groups like the American Marketing Association (AMA), Marketing Research Association (MRA), or the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), or just reach out to local businesses and have a coffee with someone in a related position.

PDMA logo

Don’t get in the habit of going to work, doing what you have always done, and then returning home. You need to break this cycle and move away from the status quo. The business world is changing rapidly and you need to ensure you have the proper skills to succeed. Skill-up, join various organizations, and learn from others. Don’t think that since you have done something for many years, you know it all. The world is changing too rapidly to be content. Now get out there and make a difference!