Tag Archives: marketing

Tips for Global Entrepreneur SmartCamp Mentors

At our first Global Entrepreneur Smartcamp event of 2011 last week in Bangalore – I was asked to share my observations and advice on how the mentors for the startups can be most effective and helpful as they coach the companies throughout the event.   So I shared my five key tips for mentors –

1) Rely on your expertise and experience – each of you as mentors were selected based on your expertise and experience, so leverage that as the key areas that you coach the entrepreneurs on – and stick to those areas you know best.

2) Ask good questions – rather than telling them what to do or making statements.  Too often mentors want to tell an entrepreneur how to position their solution, or how to adjust their business model.  Instead by asking effective questions mentors can get the entrepreneur to think in new ways, to explore new options that might lead to a richer set of ideas than just the one idea or approach that might be thought of by the mentor.    This is the essence of good “coaching” and socratic teaching at it’s finest.

3) Help entrepreneurs see connections across the  elements of their business model.   As senior business leaders and mentors, you are all experienced in seeing connections across various business models – e.g. understanding how certain pricing models will impact route to market and sales models, which might impact a customer acquisition vs.  retention strategy and have impact on marketing and solution delivery.  But often times entrepreneurs are not as experienced at seeing the inter-relationships of these business model elements and don’t see the interdependencies – or they assume items are inter-dependent when they don’t have to be.   As mentors helping them see these connections is a critical area  we can add real value.

4) Help them learn to anticipate.   Given our collective experience in working with startups – we all know that the ability to anticipate changes in the marketplace and being able to evolve the initial idea is the key to success.  Ask good questions about how the solution might evolve based on client feedback, how the business might be able to pivot based on either existing or new entrant competitor moves, or based on changes in technology or value capture strategies.   Anticipating well is a key to survival.

5) Help them refine their value proposition and communications.  The single area we most often see significant same-day improvement in during a Smartcamp is helping the startup improve the clarity of their customer value proposition.  Often times the most impactful area we can help them is in clarifying the customer problem they are actually trying to solve, and crisping up their statement of value and 30-second elevator pitch to prospective clients.    By helping them refine the positioning of the solution and the messaging of their unique value and selling proposition, we can really strengthen the startup’s chance of getting those first key clients.

I hope you find these tips helpful as we all work to coach and mentor these exciting startup companies!



Since it has been awhile since I have posted anything here at my blog – I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on what direction to take with the postings for 2010.   Part of my approach will be to shorter postings to try and share ideas and gather some perspectives from marketing in high-tech, as well as other key parts of the global economy.

Over the weekend I saw for the first time the new Dominos ad campaign, which shows how they finally “heard” the common feedback about their pizza being bland, or their crust tasting like “cardboard.”  In fact the cardboard comment is exactly what my son says everytime we order Dominos!  So it really resonated with me…  If you haven’t seen the ads – you can find them all here —> http://www.pizzaturnaround.com/

More importantly though – I think the ads show that their VP of Marketing & Innovation (a classmate of mine at Notre Dame – Brandon Solano) had to find a way to get the external feedback acted on within the company.   One of the key challenges we often face as marketers is to understand the commonly held perceptions that exist about our products or services.  Then we have to mobilize our companies to make the difficult changes required to overcome them.  Often the first step is the hardest – enabling our companies to “face the music” and recognize the truth of “hard to hear” client feedback.

So are their common perceptions of IBM that we need to “face up to” and then begin to act on?  Do we have anyone thinking our product is like “cardboard?”

Indian Perspective on Global Leadership

As many of you know, I’ve been traveling in India last week and this week to work both with key software partners, as well as to spend time with our rapidly expanding IBM India Software Marketing Center of Excellence.

As part of IBM’s transformation to become a globally integrated enterprise, our goal is to ensure we are leverage the best talent available all around the world, while simultaneously shifting talent to the best market opportunities.  Obviously this requires quite an adept organization and strong leadership to ensure we are always focusing on the right product areas (software, services, high-value servers and not longer PCs), the right geographic markets (more focus on high-growth emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, etc.) and the right client opportunities (more focus in the last few years on small and mid-size clients.)

Managing to keep, retain, and shift talent to meet this ever changing business dynamic requires careful leadership and a truly global perspective.   As I sat at breakfast this morning in Mumbai, India I was reading today’s The Economic Times – and ironically enough, they had a piece on their op-ed page that talks precisely about global leadership and managing talent.  The author – Kumar Mangalam Birla is chairman of the Aditya Birla Group – which is a $28B Indian Company that is part of the Fortune 500 and has subsidiaries that compete in everything from cement and aluminum production to mobile telephones and grocery stores.

In his piece that was printed today he argues that –

Being a true-blue MNC [multi-national company] is only partly about geographic spread. It is relatively simple to address cross-border issues pertaining to technology, finance, markets and products. But extremely difficult to cope up with challenges relating to the human dimension. Global leadership is all about developing a mindset that wants to leverage resources seamlessly, across geographic boundaries. A mindset that is eager to build unique capabilities, to transcend the barriers of cultures in order to create value. It’s about being global in attitudes — but without letting go of your roots.”

I think this offers a great perspective on the true nature of global leadership.  Last week I had the privilege of meeting many of our newest members of the  IBM Software Marketing Center of Excellence Team here in India – and I know they will help us blaze the trail toward creating the best possible value for our IBM clients by leveraging resources seamlessly regardless of their geographic location.

Below are a couple of photos of our new teammates!


rountable talking with India Team

A new twist on web 2.0 social networking tools

As I travel around the world working with our software partners – I try and keep an eye out for interesting and effective marketing campaigns.  Today as I changed planes in Boston Logan airport on my way to London and then Bangalore, I saw a series of adds for Dentyne gum that caught my eye.

Here’s one of the ads below –

And then another one next to it was –

Given that my wife and I were living in Boston and Washington DC during our year of engagement, and our wedding anniversary is today (don’t worry – we celebrated with a fine dinner at  Sequoia in Georgetown last night!) – I can relate this image in a special way!

But more importantly, from a marketing point of view, these ads seem to be pretty effective at a nice juxtaposition of the online world with the real world.  And if you check out their web site, it has a 3-minute limit on it (check out the creative different  “clocks” you can choose from in upper right corner), so that you can get back to the business of face-time with real people.

Kind of an interesting marketing campaign, check it out and let me know what you think!

Why Bother?

So as I start my blog, many close colleagues in the industry have asked the ever important and sometimes dreaded  “Why….?” question.   Since that is one of my favorite questions for all parts of life — I thought it would be worth answering as the starting point for our discussion.

So why start this blog?  As I reflected on this over the past few weeks I think it comes down to three key areas –

1) To help facilitate a discussion of good ideas and examples within the IT industry – and within the ecosystem of the broader business community that we are all part of.

2) To share ideas and observations from the intersection of sales, marketing, partnerships, and general management in hi-tech and other industries.

3) To listen and learn from all my colleagues and partners around the world in these areas and to discuss related topics in international business, travel, culture, work-life balance, social media, the role of business in society and other relevant topics for our networks.

In my current role at IBM Developer Relations, I have the privilege of working key software, technology, and venture capital partners all around the world.  Each interaction presents an opportunity for insights and learning – and for the conversation to continue.  I hope that you will join me in the discussion – here on this blog, via Twitter, and in person at every chance we get.