Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Brilliance That is iPad Marketing

Let me preface this post with the knowledge that I own neither an iPad nor an iPad2. I am the proud owner of an iPhone and an iPod, and my employer provides me with a second iPhone for business purposes. Apple certainly does not need me to promote their latest offering and truth be told I am nowhere near the charismatic showman that Steve Jobs is.
Apple announced the launch of the iPad2 less than one year after the release of the original iPad.  It is thinner, it is faster and it has a camera. All of these things should have been included on the original iPad. So how did the product gurus at Apple miss them? And how is it that the media have left them off the hook for launching a clearly inferior product last year?
Regardless of all of this I just happen know of one person who is a middle-aged technology neophyte with no smartphone, who rarely checks email and who has no presence on Facebook or Twitter. They hate computers really. And guess what? More than anything they believe that they NEED an iPad! When pressed why, this person states that they will use apps (I am not sure they even know what an app is but the concept is alluring) and that it will make their life easier. The TV commercials with the catchy music and cool apps showcased have worked their magic!
The marketers at Apple have created a technology that is so far ahead of the competition, and that is more affordable than the competition that people just want it. How did they manage this?
Apple is (or was at least) the Beta vision of the personal computer. I have owned many versions of Macs over the years and generally paid a significant premium to own and use what I believed to be a superior product. I recommended the iMac to my parents (who now own two!) and they were die-hard Windows users for years. How was Apple able to avoid the fate that almost every believed they were destined to, extinction?
It started with the iPod and iStore. Apple created a new industry with this and pretty much owned it (and still do). Next came the iPhone and Apple became a serious player in an existing product category overnight. The convergence of these technologies allowed the visionary that is Steve Jobs to dream about a tablet – the iPad. The revenues from sales at the iStore are high margin as there is not a whole lot of R&D that now gets applied to the iStore.
Another thing Apple does extremely well is manage supply against demand. They build hype around a product, announcing it will be available in a week (or month). The people line up in droves to buy it and then they run out before everyone is satisfied. This creates more demand as potential buyers decide to buy as soon as there are more available just so they do not have to wait too long.
Then there is the cool factor. Let’s face it, Apple products are cool. The real reason I have an iPhone isn’t because it is a great phone, it’s because it is a cool product that does a lot for me and it is a phone.
For all technology neophytes out there, you do not NEED an iPad; you WANT an iPad because you have been sold the “cool” factor. You really need to learn to determine the difference. But don’t worry, once you have your new iPad2 you quickly discover there is an app for that too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Sales People Love Golf

As an avid golfer and a seemingly lifelong sales person I am struck by the similarities of my two passions. It is no wonder many successful sales people also enjoy the game I love. Do you ever wonder why?
I have been selling something since my adolescent days hawking chocolate bars door-to-door for a high school fundraiser, but it is only in the past 10 years that I have discovered a passion for the game of golf. At first glance the two seem completely different and unrelated. Sometimes first impressions need a second look and this is one of those times.
When I rang my first doorbell to sell those chocolate bar I had no idea what I was doing. Sure we all received a few tips (be polite, thank them even if they don’t buy etc.) but I stumbled over my words and am sure that my first sale was because they felt sorry for me, not because I had done a great job at explaining what the money would be used for. I had no opening, no value proposition and no closing skills. I needed some coaching – badly.
Thinking of the first time I played a round of golf the similarities more than amuse me. It was about 15 years after I sold my first chocolate bar. The experience was just as thrilling. I went to the course with a good friend, rented a set of clubs, walked to the first tee and hit the ball (I may have hit the ground first, I don’t recall that first shot or many of the 140 others that followed!). I had no distance off the tee, no accuracy to the green and no ability to read the green.  I needed some coaching – badly.
Many sales organizations have “Leaderboards” in their sales bull pens, a stack ranking that gets a lot of attention at month end much like the leaderboard at Augusta National does on Master’s Sunday. Instead of a green jacket sales people get bragging rights, a commission/bonus cheque and sometimes a trip.
So what separates those at the top of a leaderboard from those further down? Is it skill? Is it natural talent? I believe that it is a desire to be better. To be better than you were last week or last month or last year. It is a commitment to developing and a willingness to accept coaching. It is being able to put your hand up and ask “what can I do differently that will make me more successful”?
Even the best golfers on the PGA Tour have coaches and some even have more than one. Phil Mickelson, arguably one of the most aggressive golfers on the Tour, has paired with renowned swing coach Butch Harmon to help his accuracy. It is Phil’s acknowledgement that it is possible to be better, and that he needs help to do this, that impresses me.
Throughout my sales career I was always looking for more coaching, looking to have someone help me strengthen my talk track, to help me get better at my craft. I read books and listened to audio tapes. I wanted to be the best that I could be, to be as close to the top of the leaderboard as I could be. I was never satisfied with the amount of coaching I received (which was more than most others).
Far too often I worked with fellow sales people that did not want to be coached. They felt that it somehow undermined their credibility inside the organization and with their customers to have someone ride along with them, or that they must doing something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth as the return on the coaching investment is highest with top performers, especially those that eagerly seek out coaching opportunities and adopt the recommendations offered.
My roles have changed over the years and I am now the coach. I enjoy being in a role that allows me to help others achieve their goals, to help them be the best that they can be. I still seek out coaching from my manager and from my mentor on a regular basis, so that I can be the best that I can be.
As for my golf game, I spent most of the winter watching “Playing Lessons From the Pros” on the Golf Channel because I really think this will be the year I break 80. Now that the snow has almost all melted (in NS anyway) I will also be spending a lot of time on the driving range and on the putting green, and will be seeking some coaching to help me reach my goal. Putting in golf is a bit like closing in sales. But that is a topic for another day. Anyone have some good putting tips?

Monday, March 7, 2011

To Pay or Not to Pay – That is the Question

NEWS ALERT: I will not net get paid for writing or posting this blog. Nor will you have to pay to read it.
Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? Why should you pay for access to my mindless ramblings in this blog space? You have chosen to visit the site of your own freewill without any coercion from me other than the tweet, the Facebook update and the incessant barrage of nonstop emails.
The question of paying bloggers came up recently in my Twitter feed from the host of the CBC Radio show Q, Jian Ghomeshi, in relation to blogs posted by The Huffington Post (HuffPo). Social media is all about conversation and the dialogue around the topic seemed to lean towards the affirmative, based on HuffPo’s ability to pay.
Let me preface the following with the fact that I generally do not weigh in on many conversations like this and that my opinion here is based on my old school beliefs.
Bloggers blog because they want to. If you’re sole purpose in blogging is to make money and not because you have a passion for the subject matter then you are an author in search of an audience. I do not blog because I want to be read, I blog because I can. My blog is like an OpEd piece in a newspaper except I get to publish it whenever I want, and blog about any topic that is on my mind.
It is true that some bloggers are passionate about their topics AND want to have their message read by the masses. It is here that HuffPo helps them, providing a larger audience than they enjoy with their personal blog space. So should HuffPo compensate them for providing this service OR should the blogger pay HuffPo for this access? Let’s zero-sum this one, no one gets paid.
If a blogger wants to make money, and some do, they have the option of monetizing their blog space with the use of affiliate marketing. By promoting something to your readership you get rewarded monetarily, so it is basically a form of advertising. Again, the blogger has chosen by their own freewill to monetize their space, no one is forcing them. We all have this option.
There will be those of you who disagree with me on this one, and I accept that. If you believe that the fact that HuffPo has the money to pay for the content is reason enough for them to actually remunerate the blogger I have an interesting corollary for you: you can send me your readership fees from this posting via email,