Category Archives: Marketing

Vonage: Not Quite Dead Yet

vonage.gif

About a month ago – after a Federal court issued an injunction which prevented Vonage from signing up new customers during their appeals process – there were those in the media who were predicting the impending death of Vonage.  Well now after an Appeals court granted Vonage’s grant for an extended stay, it appears that they are not dead yet.

 

First let me point out that every individual or entity has the right to protect his or her IP.  Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that Verizon is accurate in their claims.  I find it hard to be sympathetic for a company that is (A) not able to successfully market the technology that they develop, (B) not actually interested in marketing a potentially less expensive technology to its consumers because it cannibalizes an existing cash cow, or (C) its organization is so terribly slow to react to market forces that they could not successfully introduce the technology that they developed before a competitor beat them to the punch.  It will be interesting to see how this appeal ultimately plays out.

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Filed under Appeal, Innovation, Intellectual Property, IP, Marketing, Verizon, Vonage

Perfecting product launches

HBR

 

The April 2007 edition of the Harvard Business Review contained the article “Preparing for the perfect product launch” by James P. Hackett, President and CEO of Steelcase.  Hackett does a wonderful job of explaining the troubles that many organizations face when developing and launching new products and services – failing to adequately think out and plan their strategies.  He points out that in one of his organization’s less successful product launches, that their “concept was a breakthrough, but the development process” broke down.  He attributes this in large part to the fact that they did not fully think through and test the entire process – every one was focused on “doing” and had not rigorously scouted out “the territory before we sprinted down the execution path.”

 

This is very common in most organizations.  We often notice a trend or base our opinions on a finite number of facts and – in our goal to introduce a new product to the market first – we mobilize resources to develop and launch that new product.  While not realizing, until it is too late, that our facts were flawed, because we did not do the proper due diligence in advance.  Often we subjectively find facts that support our business plans, rather than letting the facts determine what the correct decision should be.

 

Employing complexity theory and critical thinking skills, Hackett developed the following four phase process for new product development that he and his team implemented at Steelchase:

1.      Think – deeply consider the problem or opportunity

a.       Have every member of the team consider the problem independently.

b.      Ask the correct questions about the problem. 

c.       Divide the topic among the team members, read and research as much as possible. 

d.      Employ your team’s network to talk to the smartest people that you know about this topic. 

e.       Document all of your discoveries.

2.      Set the point of view – Develop a specific approach to the problem

a.       Have the team collegially and open-mindedly discuss all of the options generated.

b.      As a team, define the mission and what constitutes success

c.       Assign a member of the team to “own the point of view.”

d.      Once the point of view is set, stay the course.

3.      Plan implementation – develop the launch strategy and test it

a.       Make sure that the mission is understandable to non-team members.

b.      Determine the role that stakeholders will play in the implementation.

c.       Practice the plan so implementation runs smoothly.

4.      Implement – they implement the strategy

a.       Elect a spokesperson to be the voice of the company.

b.      Stay true to your measures of success.

c.       Give credit liberally and where it is due.

 

Now I can all ready hear most people saying that they do this currently.  It is important to point out that in this process, Steelchase does not cut corners, they provide employees with the time to fully think out and research new ideas.  They fully engulf themselves in any and all data available on the issue.  Once they are done with the thinking phase, then they move on to develop their solution to the problem.  Another key difference is that Steelcase has made this part of their company’s culture.  Hackett feels so passionately about this process that he personally teaches it to his employees.  He believes that it is more effective coming from him than a trainer or consultant that he could hire.

As busy as we all are it is much too easy to “go-go-go” and “do-do-do.”  It is much more difficult to stop, and consider all of the facts.  Test out your theories.  Create your plan and practice it.  And then implement your plan.  This is an enormous culture shift to the “reactionaries” who love to shoot from the hip.  But the long-term benefits to the organization are tremendous.

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Filed under Business Plans, Corporate Culture, Harvard Business Review, Innovation, Marketing, Product Development, Product Launch, Product Management, Steelchase, Strategy

Tater Mitts!!!

TaterMitts 

 

I was sitting here working on my blog, watching the Military channel when a commercial came on – forgot to hit fast forward on the Tivo – for Tater Mitts.  Seeing this commercial made me realize that the end is indeed near.  Anyone who pays $19.95 plus shipping and handling should be caned.

Better yet, just send me the $19.95 plus $6.95 and I will send you something much better… an autographed photo of yours truly.  It never ceases to amaze me the useless crap that is marketed via infomercials.  More surprising is the number of people who line up to buy this stuff.  Hell, who hasn’t seen one of those As Seen on TV stores in one of their local malls.  What’s one more crappy product that will take up space in a drawer?

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Filed under Marketing, Rant, Uncategorized, useless crap

Wall Street Scandal

I was reading the Matthew Goldstein article on UBS in the March 26th issue of BusinessWeek, and I found myself fixated on one small aspect of the story.  The story briefly outlines portions of Michael Guttenberg’s work history.  I found myself wondering how he went from being a “sales assistant” with Axiom Capital Management to an Executive Director with UBS in four short years.  Now, I will be the first to admit that I do not have intimate knowledge of the New York City Financial Services market, but to an outsider that sounds like a fairly incredible jump.  I found my mind shifting from did he, and twelve others, do what they are accused of or not, to what did he accomplish during those four years that justified that type of jump?

 

I found another comment in the article to be very interesting as well.  Goldstein, through sources that are “familiar with [Guttenberg’s] duties” labels him as a “glorified marketing executive.”  I find this interesting, because one of my pet peeves is that a number of people that I have come into contact with have a low opinion of the marketing profession.  So much so that they believe almost anyone can do it.  While this article does not provide an exhaustive look at Guttenberg’s resume, it struck me as an example of this type of thinking.  It appears that Guttenberg spent a fair amount of his time in the sales profession, but yet UBS promoted him to a marketing executive position, and on top of that placed him on “an elite committee” within the company.

 

Time and the courts will tell if Mr. Guttenberg and his colleagues are guilty, in the meantime I am fascinated by the progression of his career prior to this incident.

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Filed under Axiom Capital Management, BusinessWeek, Financial Services, Marketing, Matthew Goldstein, Michael Guttenberg, Sales, Scandal, UBS, Uncategorized, Wall Street