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Mark Gibson "Author, consultant and thought-leader on problems at intersection of sales and marketing" (Bay Area, San Francisco)

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The Four Steps to the Epiphany
The Four Steps to the Epiphany
by Steven Gary Blank
Edition: Paperback

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Four Steps to buisnding successful start-ups, 26 Feb. 2010
If you were to interview entrepreneurial high-tech CEO's having just sold their companies, or less than successful CEO's who wound them up, they would provide a great source of information; however their reflections could sound like Tiger Woods at his recent press conference, "Regrets, I've had a few....too few...I mean too many to mention".

Underachievement of potential is an opinion many investors will have reached on exiting their high-tech investment. In a conversation with Nic Brisbourne, investment partner at Esprit Capital Ventures in London last week, we concluded that the principal factors causing underachievement are generally people, not product related and the root cause is nearly always poor sales and marketing execution.

In hindsight CEO's will generally agree that they should have made changes earlier and knowing what they know now, can tell you what they would have done differently.

But what if entrepreneurs had a method or set of best-practices that were proven to create early sales and marketing success in both startups and new product introductions in high-tech companies...would this change the odds of survival and over/underachievement and the value of the company on exit?

I believe it would and am currently reading and absorbing the wisdom and four steps cover knowledge captured in Steven Gary Blank's "The Four Steps to the Epiphany", subtitled "successful strategies for products that win", a book about building successful high-tech companies.

Blank is better known in the US than in Europe, having started 8 companies in CEO or Marketing roles, five of which were IPO's including names you may remember: E.piphany an enterprise software company, Ardent a Supercomputer company, two semiconductor companies MIPS Computers and Zilog and according to Blank 3 very deep craters.

Blank teaches entrepreneurship and Customer Development at UC Berkeley's Haas Business School, in the Colombia/Berkeley MBA program and at Stanford University at the Graduate School of Engineering.

I love this book!; it's the best advice I have ever read in one volume for entrepreneurs. So many times through this book I said aloud, "wow if i'd only known this back then.....

Blank's core thesis in building companies is that there are four discrete stages in the process:
4 steps to the epiphany

1.Customer Discovery - is about finding out if there are customers for your idea and if and what they would be willing to pay for it, before you write a line of code. This must be done by leaving the office and talking to real potential customers and of course this removes the guess work in initial product specification - as the spec. is the founders vision and the mimimum working set required to win first customers (or earlyvangelists as Blank calls them). Customer Discovery removes pricing risk because prospects tell you what they would be prepared to pay and it removes the hiring and market failure risk of alternate approaches, including the popular "build it and they will come" start-up strategy.

2.Customer Validation creates a repeatable sales and marketing roadmap based on the lessons learned in selling (not giving it away) to the first early customers. These first two steps validate the assumptions in your business model, that a market exists for your product, who your customers will be, the target buyers, establishes pricing, sales process and channels strategy.

3. Customer Creation builds on early sales success and after completion of Customer Validation. Blank states that customer creation is dependent on the market entry type which is governed by the natture of the product - is it a disruptive innovation or a me-too. Customer Creation strategies define the four types of start-up
* Startups entering an existing market
* Startups that are creating an entirely new market
* Startups wanting to resegment an existing market as a low cost entrant
* Startups that want to resegment an existing market as a niche player

4. Company Building is where the company transitions from its informal learning and discovery oriented Customer Development team into formal sales, marketing and business development teams to exploit the company's early success.

If you are an entrepreneur or a sales, marketing or business development leader responsible for introducing new products or services, then this book is a must read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2010 3:48 PM BST

The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves
The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves
by W. Brian Arthur
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ontology of Technological Innovation, 7 Dec. 2009
W. Brian Arthur's The Nature of Technology is an important book for technologists, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, in fact anyone in the business of creating, marketing or selling innovative technology.

This book is an ontology of the process of technological innovation and is a major contribution to the understanding of the evolution of technology and its influence on our economy and civilization. nature of technology

I write this review as a layman, from my perspective of the observer of technological change over 40 years in the computer industry, initially in engineering, then sales and marketing and for the past 5 years focused on solving sales and marketing performance problems in innovative technology companies.

There is a clue in the title as to the main arguments in the book and few others in the World have the background to conceive, advance and prove such a powerful argument in just 216 pages. Brian Arthur is an engineer, mathematician, system theorist, economist and more recently a diligent scholar of Darwinian evolution.

Arthur coins a new phrase to describe the advances in technology as "combinatorial evolution"; whereas in nature evolution is biological and subject to the Darwinian laws of natural selection, technology evolves as a result of combinations of existing technologies and methods to create new innovations, the critical ingredient in the process is human knowledge and ingenuity.

Once a technology is created, it is then subject to Darwinian evolution, whereby the innovation advances through refinement of its component systems and further innovation and addition, the weaker ideas discarded to become museum artifacts and the process continually advancing.

Arthur examines the development path that produced the steam engine, the jet engine, the laser printer, the development of radar, the cyclotron, DNA and many other innovations including the computer to create a logical and balanced argument that is self evident, yet until this book, was untold. He also cites the great thinkers on the subject of technology including Joseph Schumpeter, Martin Heidegger, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and Thomas Khun.

Written in a clear, logical and carefully constructed prose, Arthur reminds us that our economy is the sum and manifestation of our technology and that it is becoming generative with the accelerating rate of technological change. "It's focus is shifting from optimizing fixed operations into creating new combinations, new configurable offerings." For high-technology entrepreneurs in startups, he captures the problems of both the innovator and the investor;

* he doesn't know if the new technology will work
* nor how well it will be received,
* who the competitors will be
* what government regulations will apply

"The environment around the launching of a new combinatorial business is not merely uncertain: particular aspects are unknown"

Finally he suggests that "in the generative economy, management derives its competitive advantage not from its stock of resources and its ability to transform these into finished goods, but from its ability to translate its stock of deep expertise into ever new strategic combinations."

Stimulating, thought-provoking and highly recommended!

Two Years in St. Andrews: At Home on the 18th Hole
Two Years in St. Andrews: At Home on the 18th Hole
by George Peper
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two years in St Andrews- four years on, 2 Oct. 2009
What a treat this book is.
Any golfer who has ever been to St Andrews or dreams of coming here should read this book. George has captured the essence of life in St Andrews; its seasons -or the lack of them, its characters, its rhythm and of course the golf. Packed with interesting characters, humor and anecdotes (all of them true), the contrasts George makes and his acerbic wit would frequently cause outbursts of laughter and bring a smile to my face.

My wife and I have been coming to St Andrews for 20 years playing golf and only missed one year during the time we lived in the US. We moved to St Andrews about the same time as the Pepers, although we didn't meet George and Libby for a couple of years. We have since become firm friends although our wives are not as afflicted with the game.

George gave me a signed copy of his book for my birthday two years ago and I'm ashamed to say I have not read any non-business related material until I picked up Two Years in St Andrews a week ago.

This is a very honest book and quite self revelatory....after reading it you feel you the know the Pepers as you have lived through their hardships, shared their joys and played a few rounds. You feel you want to knock on their door and hope that George and Libby will ask you in for a wee dram....which may explain why people from all over the World keep showing up at their home to say howdy.

This book will become a timeless classic on the love of the game and the town where it all started.

Highly recommended.

World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers That Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories
World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers That Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories
by David Meerman Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World Wide Rave is a Hit, 20 Mar. 2009
David Meerman Scott's new book World Wide Rave builds on concepts in his highly original The New Rules of Marketing and PR The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directlyand creates a manifesto for massive success in marketing ideas/products/services over the Internet. Rich with anecdotes and stories from people who have created their own World Wide Rave, David inspires challenges and stimulates thinking which has profound impact for anyone selling or marketing anything.

An overnight success - 10 years in the making, David's ideas are rapidly changing the way people market products and create PR. He describes himself as a recovering marketing executive having led marketing efforts at Knight Ridder and News Edge in the old World of Marketing and PR.

Every day in the technology business I see old-World examples which David highlights - marketers wasting time, money and precious resources on doing things the old way. Buying PR services, counting print impressions, spamming people with direct mail and email campaigns; hiring telemarketers to generate leads because their me-too Websites don't have sufficient inbound lead flow to feed the sales force.
Typically these companies are product-centric; you'll see product features and benefits (another sure sign of old-World thinking) on their site and the good stuff, their interesting ideas are under have to give your contact details to get it - so they can SPAM you with email and hound you with Telemarketers.

Rules for creating a World Wide Rave are simple, anyone with thoughtful ideas can do this, and whether your market is 100 or 10 million, the principles are the same.

1. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT - EXCEPT YOU. People are interested in themselves and their issues; they like to be entertained and share in something remarkable....don't hype your products, CREATE SOMETHING INTERESTING & TELL STORIES.
2. NO COERCION REQUIRED. NO GIMMICKS OR BAIT AND SWITCH. When you've got something interesting and worth sharing, people will talk about it.
3. LOSE CONTROL - of your messages. Make your valuable online content totally free and easily shareable. It's not about generating "sales leads", yes you can measure success, but DON'T obsess about marketing ROI.
4. PUTDOWN ROOTS - get involved in the online communities of people who actively share.
5. CREATE TRIGGERS - that encourage people to share. When a product or service solves a problem, or is very valuable, interesting, funny or just plain outrageous it's ready to be shared.
6. POINT THE WORLD TO YOUR VIRTUAL DOORSTEP. If you follow the Rules of the Rave, people will talk about you, and when they do they will generate all sorts of on-line buzz that will be indexed by Search Engines all relating to what your organization is up to.

Simple right?
Read the book, learn the rules and create your own World Wide Rave.

Mark Gibson is an author, consultant and thought-leader in solving problems at the intersection of sales and marketing. Advanced Marketing Concepts Ltd (AMC) consults, delivers and implements sales and marketing messaging alignment, consultative sales training and performance support products and services. AMC is based in the UK and works with innovative companies throughout the US, UK, EMEA, Europe, and Asia-Pac

Why Killer Products Don't Sell: How to Run Your Company to a New Set of Rules
Why Killer Products Don't Sell: How to Run Your Company to a New Set of Rules
by Ian Gotts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killer-book!, 26 Feb. 2009
"Why Killer Products don't Sell" is a revelation and MUST READ for technology sellers and marketers for a number of reasons.

1. Firstly, there is original thought in the analysis of the buying cycle and the lifecycle of every purchase in the buying organization. The authors state and I agree that every purchase follows the I-M-P-A-C-T process, the difference is that in a mature buying category, this can happen in a couple of minutes for acquiring a "value-offered" product (Dell Laptop), vs. months for an emerging buying category "value-created" = your discontinuous technology.

2. The second key idea is that there are four different selling cultures, depending on the maturity of the buying category. This indeed explains why so many "proven" sales-people and sales managers from well known corporations (value-added or value-offered) fail in early stage companies where the buying category is still being formed (value-created) and a consultative sales approach is required....this is worth the price of the book alone.

3. The imperative is for sales teams to understand where they are in the technology adoption life-cycle in order to more effectively facilitate the buying process; and for technology sellers to align their organizations operational cultures to match the buying cultures of their target markets.

Rowsell and Gotts have made a valuable contribution to a growing body of work in the science of professional selling.

We have spoken with both authors and with their permission will be integrating the IMPACT concept and ideas from their book into our Consultative Selling Training courses and E-Learning programs.

Highly recommended!

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