Archive for October, 2008

Microsoft has big brass ones.
October 31, 2008

As you are no doubt aware, Apple has been running ads for a while featuring Justin Long and a dweeby guy who is supposed to represent PC computers.  There has been a bit of a backlash as people finally are starting to tire of being told that they are lame for using a PC.  Nevermind that most people are forced to use a PC because of work, the truth is that there are a lot of people who don’t care (and probably wouldn’t notice) Mac’s OS advantages and superiority.  Many people LIKE using Windows.  They are comfortable with it and in the event something goes awry, they are used to rebooting and going on with their day.  

Now, a few months back, Microsoft hired Crispin Porter (I think, something like that) Advertising to handle their new $250 MILLION dollar campaign.  The goal of the campaign was to try and make the Ford Taurus of operating systems – Microsoft Windows – not seem so lame.  The first pass was a couple of ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates shopping for shoes and stealing garden gnomes.  While the spots had nothing to do with Windows, they certainly got people’s attention.  And while non-marketing types were busy poo-poo’ing the ads, they didn’t realize the effectiveness of that first step: people started talking about Microsoft.  In marketing, we call that the “introduction.”  Get the target’s attention, if only so they’ll be ready when you have something important to tell them.  That leads us to part 2, wherein the kids at Crispin rocked out a series of “I’m a PC” ads showing different interesting yet normal people professing to use Windows.  In one swoop, the “looking down our nose at PC users” tact of the Mac ads started to be less humorous and more insulting.  


Now, the third step has rolled out and frankly I’m amazed (in a good way).  Microsoft is putting kiosks outside of Apple stores with 3 experts standing by to talk all-things-Windows for people who may or may not be going in to the Apple store.  AWE.  SOME.   You didn’t REALLY think that Bill Gates and his zillions of dollars was going to sit around while Steve Jobs and company ridiculed his life’s work, did you?  

Head to Engadget for the full skinny and some pics.


Facebook is annoying me.
October 23, 2008

There’s an article in this week’s Time Magazine about how Facebook allows you to keep up with nearly everyone you’ve ever known and why that isn’t always a good thing.  I’ve encountered an entirely different problem: I can’t communicate with friends anymore because of the convenience of Facebook.  

Last week I found the email address of an old friend.  He and I had played in bands together and been buddies in high school before he moved out of the country.  I saw him a few times when he’d come over for the summers, but other then a couple hours in New York City in the summer of 1998, I haven’t had any interraction with him in about 14 years.  

So, I find an old email address online and send him a note saying, “is this a good email addy?”  He replies back with a better one and I send him a couple paragraphs about what I’ve been up to and asking how he’s been.  In response, he added me as a friend on Facebook.  Sigh.  

Now, I’ve seen pictures and can read his favorite quotes and hear what he’s been rocking out to but I’m not further along in catching up with him.   The convenience of adding me on Facebook trumped the oh-its-such-a-pain-in-the-ass of writing me a real email.  Instead of a note telling me what he’s been up to, I received an invitation to come see for myself through friend comments, photos, pokes, etc.   Best I can tell, he has a lot of friends, smokes cigars, and makes goofy faces in photos.  I sure am glad we could get caught up.  

Oh well.

Rule # Twenty-something: Keep. Knocking.
October 15, 2008

I was going to re-enter this blog by ranting about Michael Arrington’s recent post telling folks that in this economy, they need to build products people will pay for and not ad-supported products.  That’s a strategy I’d advocate (and have done so before on this blog) even when money is growing on trees and riverbanks are dusted with gold coins.  Ad-supported business = fail.   Large companies can use scale to build ad-based businesses, yes.  But your startup isn’t a large company so you aren’t going to make it if you’re counting on ads.

Now that my rant is out of my system, I’ve spent the last 6 months learning yet another Rule for starting a business that has more to do with day-to-day operations then building a web-application.  That rule is simple:

Keep Knocking.

There are tons of quotes about persistence and desire and working hard, and maybe this is another one.  But I like this one the best because it’s (a) short and (b) literal.  


Perhaps the hardest part of launching anything, selling anything, marketing anything is the part where you try to get a seat at the table and convince someone to give you and your product(s) a chance.  You’re not competing with other companies per se nearly as much as you are competing with the status quo.  You need market-share and mind-share, not growth.  (As an aside, many companies can be started and become great even in a bad economy if they are focusing on market share as opposed to market growth.  More on that some other time.  Maybe).

Anyway, what’s the worst sales and marketing job on earth?  Cold calling.  Everyone hates cold calling since it’s so uncomfortable.  But that’s why it should be so attractive if you love your product/service and believe in it.  If you’re cold-calling when no one else is, you can earn that spot at the table.  Sure, it may take 50 calls to get 5 appointments that lead to 1 sale, but that’s 1 more sale then you’re going to get sitting on your ass with the phone in the cradle.


My current venture – an offline bricks’n’mortar project – has been knocking for months and months and months.  The sales cycle is really long from first contact to actually getting an order.  But recently, we’ve started to have the door creak further and further open.  In one case, we’re to the point where the person answering told us, “You have earned a large chunk of my business due to all this knocking.”

Coming full circle, “Keep Knocking” is a reminder to be persistent and work hard, but it’s also a reminder that the only way you’re going to be successful is by the near-literal knocking on doors until your fingers are bare.  Knock long enough, knock hard enough and someone will eventually answer.  And as I suggested before, doing nothing will get you nowhere.  Doing something will get you somewhere.  

Start knocking. 

Keep knocking.