The lessons learned from my 9-year tenure at MCI–2 in sales, 7 in
As an aside, I recently had the pleasure of explaining what
MCI was to a Gen-Y (or perhaps Gen-Z or AAA or whatever comes next) business
professional who had never heard of the company–and perhaps had never used
One of my favorite MCI lessons, which I still use with clients today, was
“management by press release.” I call it the “Headline
Test.” When developing a new product, offer, line
of business, start-up company, or even refining an existing offering, try
writing the press release FIRST. This process will force you to take a
market-focused view at the beginning of the product development cycle, which
achieves several important benefits:
Requires you to crisply articulate the market problem you are solving, which
I call the Customer Elevator Rant (i.e. “To address
the rising challenge of XXXXXX in the XXXXX marketplace, NewCo today
Forces you to think about and define the high level messaging and distill it
into succinct language (i.e. the headline, subhead and lead paragraph). (i.e.
NewCo today announced the first XXXXXX product that delivers XXXXXX”)
Enables you to clarify the positioning of the product or business vs.
competitors, substitutes and alternatives in the marketplace. (i.e.
“Unlike other products, NewCo’s solution enables…”)
Perhaps most importantly, the Headline Test is a tool for eliciting feedback
and, ultimately, gaining consensus among the executive team–based on their
understanding of the market, research, customer interviews, etc.–before
the major investments are made in product development.
Of course, the Headline Test doesn’t in an of itself validate a new
product or business idea. But when you sit down to write your press release,
if it “writes itself,” then the product or business has a good
starting point: some intuitive appeal and the ability to be quickly understood
by the target audience.
I’ve used the Headline Test in client engagements many times over the
years, and it has achieved the above benefits every time. Clients have
appreciated the test as an exercise that helps them refine their initiative.
Next time you’re starting the process of launching a new business or
product, don’t wait until you’re ready to launch to write the press
release. Try the Headline Test at the beginning. It shouldn’t take
more than an hour; if it does, you might have to revisit the core value
proposition and positioning.
Bob London is President of London, Ink, a marketing and communications
consulting firm based in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week another one of my ideas came to life in the form of Wedding Futures
(http://www.weddingfutures.com), a site that “enables couples to quickly
and easily select and register for stocks and mutual funds as wedding
I love the idea and want to state that I’m not claiming that I was the
first to have it–or that someone beat me to it. But in the course of
pursuing my hobby of humor writing, one of my jokes (in the form of liner notes
made over the years that could some day turn into essays) was about couples
being able to register for a CD at SunTrust or to have wedding guests make a
payment towards the couple’s cable bill.
This is not the first time that one of my humorous, improv-type or
’stranger than fiction’ concepts has turned into reality.
I’ve written about black box recording devices for automobile (since
announced in NYC taxis) and professional sports franchises allowing sponsors to
name the teams (subsequently a soccer team was christened the New York Red
The point is that buried amidst the out of the box, mix and match, sometimes
obtuse thinking are genuinely valuable ideas. I’m not one for typical
brainstorming sessions, but would venture to say that taking a humorous or
even exaggerated view of a problem could result in a viable solution.
Bob London is president of London,
Ink, a Washington-DC-based marketing and communications consulting firm and
writes business-related humor on the side at B0b-servations.com
By Barg Upender, CEO of Mobomo and Bob London, President of London, InkIt’s been more than four
decades since Michigan State University Professor E. Jerome McCarthy theorized
that marketing contains four basic elements: product, price, place
(distribution) and promotion, also known as the “Four Ps of
Marketing” or the marketing mix.
Amazingly, despite the unprecedented upheaval and transformation in marketing
strategies, techniques, channels and tactics during the last forty years-not to
mention marketers’ penchant for postulating all manner of new
philosophies, methodologies, rules and acronyms–the Four Ps of Marketing
have remained unchanged.
But perhaps now there is good reason to revisit and refresh marketing’s
Four Ps: the emergence of “applications” or “apps” as a
new means for organizations to acquire, retain or otherwise engage customers and
What are “Apps”?
An app is a small, self-contained computer program that provides value or
engagement to a mass or targeted audience in a community, marketplace or
platform. Think of Scrabulous for Facebook; WeatherBug for the iPhone;
NBC’s Saturday Night Live widgets; or the Wall Street Journal’s
reader for the Blackberry. Apps are commonly grouped via their method of
distribution and/or platform:
Mobile apps: Designed to leverage the unique characteristics of mobile
audiences and smartphones, such as the need for location-based information
or lightweight, portable versions of larger, more complex services such as
Community- or platform-based apps: Those that are developed exclusively
for and can only be used on a particular site such as Facebook; and
Widgets: Portable apps that can reside on multiple third party sites
The App explosion
The proliferation in the use of apps by large and small businesses, as well
as non-profit and government organizations is well-documented. Apps have been
developed by brands of all stripes as standalone marketing tools or to target
fast-growing, communities such as Facebook (350,000 apps used by more than 70%
of Facebook’s 250 million users1) or the iPhone (65,000 apps
available; 1 billion downloads in first 9 months2).
And due to their ability to achieve low-cost global or
geographically-targeted distribution; their relatively inexpensive development;
and rapid time to market-as well as their virtually unlimited potential for
creating unique and valuable user experiences-apps have only begin to reach
their potential as a new category of marketing tool.
Let’s examine the explosion of one type of app: mobile. The
transformation of the mobile web landscape is reminiscent of the original
trajectory of the World Wide Web. Very quickly, the consensus shifted from
“Why does my company need a Web site?” to “Why don’t we
have a Web site yet?” That shift was caused by the reduced cost of
developing sites, their practical and proven use in engaging customers, the
increase in available bandwidth; and technological advances that helped
organizations deliver more useful and relevant user experiences.
The same phenomenon is occurring today with mobile apps: A recent New
York Times article reports that nearly half (48 percent) of phone users
shop for apps more than once a week and about the same number (49 percent)
report using apps on their phone for more than 30 minutes a day; the cost of
developing mobile apps has dropped dramatically; and technological improvements
are enabling more speed and a better user experience.
How do “apps” relate to Marketing’s Four Ps?
Apps can deliver some portion of the product experience;
promote the brand; place themselves wherever
customers are; and/or be priced to stimulate trial or
engagement. But while “apps” combine elements of each of the Four
Ps, they’re neither fish nor fowl–they don’t neatly fit into
any one category.
In other words, apps are not products, promotions, channels or pricing
strategies. But an app can have some or all of these elements. Apps
are…well, they’re apps. Simply put, apps have become a box you
check in your marketing plan, right next to the other Four Ps. It’s hard
to imagine a new brand launch, Hollywood film, ad campaign or even a fundraising
push occurring without the question being asked, “Should we develop a
mobile or Facebook app for this?”
Barg is the CEO & co-founder of Mobomo, a leading mobile application development company
focused on developing applications for smart phones in the consumer and
enterprise markets. Mobomo has deep expertise in Apple iPhone, Google Andoroid,
Palm Pre, RIM Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian OS. Barg is a serial
entrepreneur and technologist with 20 years of experience in commercial software
product development. Barg was founding partner of web development firm Intridea
and he founded and sold Concentric Methods, a biomedical software development
company. In 2009 Barg was named by Washingtonian Magazine to its list of
Washington, DC’s Top 100 Tech Titans.
Bob London, President of
Bob London is president and founder of London, Ink, a marketing and
communications consulting firm that helps organizations define and prioritize
their products and services based on what the market wants - or doesn’t
want - to buy. In pioneering the Virtual VP of Marketing concept, Bob works with
established and early-stage companies who aren’t ready for the cost and
commitment of a full-time marketing executive to assess their market
opportunity, determine the strategic options and develop a practical
go-to-market plan. Bob’s work and writing has been profiled or covered
by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Miami
Herald, USA Today and Marketing News, the AMA’s
flagship magazine, and he recently spoke at Network Solutions’
Unintentional Entrepreneur series. For more information, please visit www.londonink.com.
(Or the art of throwing the previous regime under
By Bob London
We all know about the so-called honeymoon period in business: the time at the
beginning of a new job when an executive can sit back and absorb and assess the
way things work, who the power players are and where the bodies are
buried–without being expected to make any great decisions or
pronouncements. It’s a no-fault grace period which can last as long as
several months depending on the role and company.
But there’s another less-talked about phase executives can leverage to
their advantage: the Blame Window. This is the period during which you can
hold your predecessor responsible for the challenges you are now facing.
One might naturally ask, as I did, how long after you’ve assumed a new
role can you blame your predecessor? And how would one go about throwing him
or her under the bus?
My research yielded no credible answers to these questions, so I developed
the following handy formula (Fig. 1) to help executives calculate their
available Blame Window:
Here is a fictitious example to show how the formula works. Let’s say
Bill S. takes over as CFO of a venture-backed start-up which has already raised
two rounds of funding and is burning $75,000 per month with profitability two
years away, soonest. After 6.5 weeks on the job, Bill discovers a serious flaw
in the company’s pricing model that requires redoing the model–and
therefore the business plan–from scratch. Bill’s predecessor held
the CFO post for 2.5 years.
Q: Can Bill blame his predecessor? A: Absolutely! Using the former CFO’s tenure
of 30 months, divided by 2 equals 15, which is then divided by the 6.5 weeks of
Bill’s tenure and multiplied by a Problem Magnitude Rating of 5. The
result is a Blame Window of 11.4 weeks. Since Bill discovered the error in under
seven weeks, he can throw the former CFO right under the old Greyhound.
Caution: this formula can be dangerous if not used judiciously. Here are
some important tips to remember:
First, make sure you get the math right. There is
nothing more embarrassing than miscalculating the Blame Window and having the
whole situation blow up in your face. Set some reminders in Outlook 90, 60, 30
and 7 days prior to the expiration of the Blame Window so you will know when to
stop blaming your predecessor.
Second, do your homework before you start laying on the
criticism. Was your predecessor
revered or scorned? Respected or tolerated? Make sure to get these and other
data points before you start spraying around accusations. The last thing you
want to do is tear into someone who is a company legend or, worse, someone who
Third, make sure to select the right way of broaching the subject
with your superiors. Here are some preambles to get you
Jocular: “Gee, if I’d known all this before I
would have asked for a lot more money, ha-ha-ha!”
Nothing Personal, Just Business: “I’m sure
<name of predecessor> was a good guy, but…”
Delicate but Direct: “I don’t want to
cast aspersions on anyone, but now that I’ve gotten my feet
Mildly Annoyed: “I have to tell you I’m not
sure what I’ve gotten myself into here…”
Threatening: “If you think I’m going to take
the fall for any of this, you can just find yourself another CFO.”
(Why Would Investment
Bankers Embrace Social
Media During a Downturn?)
By Brad Fleisher, Managing Director, Focus
The recession has hit nearly all industries across the economy and investment
banking, leading the pack, has certainly not escaped the grief. What used to be
the largest and most profitable group of investment banks on Wall Street,
commonly referred to as the bulge bracket, is now the busted
bracket, consisting of just two bank holding companies - Goldman Sachs and
Although the consensus among mainstream economists is that we’re in the
trough and will see positive growth in Q1-2009, albeit probably mild, M&A (a
lagging indicator) is still weak because of ongoing discrepancies in middle
market valuations Buyers are fishing for distressed deals, and sellers still
have the misconception that an offer should start at 8x EBITDA (and be increased
for average performance) rather than 5x, which is the long-term, broad economy
Taking a page from Rahm Emanuel’s book, and not wanting to waste a good
crisis, a few partners and I took advantage of the slow down to re-think and
execute a new business strategy. We’re seeking to capitalize on three long
term trends in the economy.
Social Media Marketing v. Traditional Media Marketing. While
there is still no more effective way to reach 90 million potential customers in
30 seconds than through a Super Bowl advertisement, there is no better way to
communicate an esoteric point on intellectual property valuation to 140
professionals who are seeking this information than through LinkedIn, Facebook
or Twitter. You don’t have to “tweet” every hour to take
advantage of social networks. And the trend has just begun. Social networks are
becoming platforms to distribute customized services to highly fragmented
communities rather than just a vehicle for information exchange.
Applying these trends to investment banking, the hypothesis for our practice
group at Focus is that we can build our brand and grow our business quicker by
leveraging the Internet and social media than through placing traditional
tombstone advertisements in industry magazines and attending industry and
That’s why, earlier this year we launched Intangible Insights
(www.intangibleinsights.com), which is our online Community of Practice where we
blog, podcast, conduct surveys, publish research, and otherwise communicate with
and expand our target market. We’re even discussing strategies for
streaming video to micro-niche audiences through a branded Internet TV channel,
which may be a number of years out, but is certainly on its way.
Intangible v. Tangible Assets. There currently is an
enthusiastic debate within the Intangible Asset professional community whether
intangible assets compose “upwards of 80% of listed companies’
values” (according to a Brookings Institute report), or just under 50%.
For us, the point is this: Intangible property accounts for a significant
amount of a company’s valuation.
This is a long term trend, if not a permanent change,that will accelerate in
the post-recession economy as developing countries use labor advantages and
decreasing communication costs to offshore commoditized tasks, both
manufacturing and informational. In order to compete, the U.S. will have to
enhance its intangible asset capabilities through R&D, workforce
productivity, distribution networks, and stretch its tangible resources, which
will further diminish the reliance and value of hard assets
Intangible assets compose the largest share of value, by far, in
Internet-reliant companies. Of course, there is significant value in the
intellectual property assets of the knowledge economy company — the
patents, copyrights trademarks, and trade secrets — but the real value
resides at the next layer, in the methodologies that convert the intangible
assets into revenue — culturally-ingrained process to attract and retain
talent, strategic measurement and execution processes, brands, databases, social
networks. Our group is working on a valuation rating system for these intangible
assets so our clients can better understand the intrinsic value of their company
and their acquisition targets. Just identifying and analyzing these assets, not
to mention exploiting them, will help our clients with post-transaction
integration plans or accelerated growth, which is the arbiter of a successful
Generalist vs. Specialist. Since its inception in 1982,
FOCUS Bankers has been a middle market, generalist investment bank and has long
debated the generalist v. specialist strategy. There are benefits and drawbacks
to each, but it’s difficult to toe the middle line. During my five year
tenure at the firm, I’ve worked on deals in industries ranging from
highly-engineered manufactured products, transportation and logistics, and
electronic parts distribution to the information industries, including software,
Internet, IT, and digital media, which is where most of my career experience has
The recession gave us the opportunity to transition into one carefully
defined market: the Internet-Reliant Industry with a focus on intangible assets,
and start a practice group within the firm. The key was to define the space
large enough to have an active and growing marketplace, but small enough to have
end-to-end domain expertise. That it’s highly dynamic, indispensable to
information industries, full of cutting-edge growth opportunities, and just a
lot of fun, doesn’t hurt our commitment.
The silver lining in this recession for us is that we took the opportunity
for introspection and execution. Our strategy is fluid, but our practice group
has staked its future on these trends, which we believe will shape future
markets and US competitiveness.
About Brad Fleisher
Brad Fleisher is a Managing Director at FOCUS Investment Banking in Washington, DC and publisher
of Intangible Insights. Brad is an experienced investment banker, entrepreneur
and attorney with over 15 years M&A, corporate finance, and business
development and advisory experience in the Internet, software & information
technology, media, and education industries. Contact Brad at
Government 2.0 Camp is the unconference about using social technologies (aka web 2.0/social media tools)
to create a more effective, efficient and collaborative U.S. government on all
levels (local, state and federal).
Government 2.0 Camp will bring
together the leading thinkers from government, academia and industry to share
Government 2.0 initiatives that are already in process and collaborate about
Government 2.0 ideas that are currently
I’m very dissatisfied–to the point of taking action–with
the lack of efficiency and abundance of waste in government and am a big
believer that new Web technologies, Web 2.0 applications and social
media/networking applications can help. Trimming the Federal budget by a
quarter of one percent over the next five years could pay for a lot of fixes
(long-term) to our educational system or seed the nascent but promising field of
I fully support transparency in government, particularly government
spending–it’s our money after all–and again believe that Web
2.0 technologies and social media/networking apps can enable this.
I believe the Gov 2.0 arena will yield good business opportunities for
London, Ink, long-term.
Sounds like a great event! (I like the participatory BarCamp
FEBRUARY 7, 2009–POTOMAC, MD London, Ink, a full-service marketing
and communications consulting firm based outside of Washington, DC, announced
today a major initiative intended to demonstrate its commitment to
‘green’ practices that are highly visible and high impact.
Effective immediately, the letter “k” at the end of the London, Ink
logo will change to a compelling shade of green from the original basic
“London, Ink didn’t just want to jump on the green bandwagon and
announce another green initiative,” said London, Ink president Bob London,
who is also known as the DC region’s Virtual VP of Marketing for providing
marketing expertise on demand. “Changing the letter ‘k’ in
our logo to green represents a major commitment, as it is the letter most people
focus on since they are expecting a ‘c’ after the
Taking this initiative a step further, London, Ink is issuing a challenge to
other Washington, DC area marketing, communications, PR and design firms to make
similar commitments towards ‘greening’ their businesses.
Continued Bob London, “I’d like to see some of the more
traditional service providers, including ad agencies, public relations firms,
Web design and digital marketing agencies follow London, Ink’s lead.
After all, there’s always room for each of us to be
‘greener.’ Take it from me, it feels great doing something
About London, Ink
London, Ink is a full-service marketing and communications consulting firm
based just outside of Washington, DC. London, Ink’s unique Virtual VP of
Marketing model differs from other traditional marketing and communications
service providers such as ad agencies, PR firms and Web design firms in that (a)
the client receives independent guidance on when and how to prioritize, execute
and measure a wide range of marketing initiatives, from PR to SEO to lead
generation to channel marketing; and (b) all services are provided on an
on-demand basis, providing clients with budget predictability and
London, Ink’s low overhead, client-focused model eliminates the common
conflicts between agencies’ profitability goals and creative philosophies
versus the client’s requirements. Please visit www.londonink.com for more
information or contact London, Ink president Bob London at email@example.com or
Great info from destinationCRM.com and supports why companies should consider
solutions like e.SSENTIALS from London, Ink, a fixed-price bundle of
online/social marketing programs. See e.ssentials.net for more info.
Given the state of the economy, Lamba writes that
social networking is a relatively low cost solution that could help in
fostering, “steady communication with existing partners, and clients as
well as incubating new relationships” — a function both desired by
consumers networking with friends and with employees in the workplace. The
aforementioned IDC social networking survey, in fact, indicates that the
majority of social networking users list communication as their number one
reason for usage of such sites.
Announcing e.SSENTIALS, from London, Ink: A new, fixed-price online
marketing program including development of five essential initiatives: marketing
database, e-newsletter, Google AdWords, search engine optimization & social
Potomac, MD, December 11, 2008-London, Ink, (www.londonink.com) a full-service,
on-demand marketing and communications firm, today launched e.SSENTIALS, a
fixed-price program of online marketing services for small- and mid-size
businesses and non-profit organizations.
Designed to meet the budgeting predictability requirements of small- and
mid-size organizations, the London, Ink e.SSENTIALS program includes the
development and execution of five essential online marketing deliverables for
one fixed price.
The London, Ink e.SSENTIALS Program Includes:
Marketing Database: Compilation of an organization’s
key contacts, including prospective, nurture (long-term), and existing
customers/clients and partners. Regularly communicating to a house list can be
the most cost-effective way to for an organization to maintain or increase
mindshare-a critical step towards being “short-listed” when
prospects are ready to buy.
E-Newsletter: Development of a web-based newsletter
template that will be emailed to one or more segments of the Marketing Database,
plus execution of one prototype e-newsletter.
Google AdWords/Analytics Test: Development of a test of
the Google AdWords pay-per-click online advertising program, the world’s
leading online advertising platform.
Web Site Search Engine Optimization Audit: Assessment of
content, page titles and other factors for search engine
“friendliness” and recommendations for immediate enhancements.
Introductory Social Marketing Program: Development and
implementation of a program that leverages free distribution of an
organization’s message, via at least one of the following tactics:
company/product blog or leading social networking sites.
“Running any business today without online marketing tools such as
database marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and
basic social marketing, is like making an omelet without eggs,” said
London, Ink president, Bob London. “These tools are lower cost and
easier to measure than traditional marketing tactics, but too often they fall
off the priority list due to a lack of resources and expertise to properly plan,
implement and maintain them.”
“Now with e.SSENTIALS, London, Ink provides small- and mid-size
organizations with a practical, cost-effective and low-risk way to implement
these fundamental programs as they enter 2009.”
What about Content?
The e.SSENTIALS program leverages an organization’s existing content,
such as news releases, white papers, articles and other subject matter or
thought leadership content. New or additional content can be created for an
How is the e.SSENTIALS Program Priced?
The fixed-price, all-inclusive cost of the London, Ink e.SSENTIALS program is
based on the size of the organization by annual revenue. Please contact
London, Ink at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240 994
7644 for more details. The cost of the program is billed monthly in five equal
“Teaching Organizations to Fish”
In addition to the development and execution of the above programs, for an
additional fee London, Ink will provide training for managers and staff on how
to continue to leverage and maximize the above tools.
Additional details are available at e.ssentials.net. To sign up for this
program or to learn more, please contact Bob London, president of London, Ink at
About London, Ink
London, Ink is a full-service, on-demand marketing and communications firm
based in the Washington, DC metro area, that develops and implements marketing
and communications programs for mid-size and growing businesses and non-profit
Bob London, president of London, Ink, serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for
organizations that need hands-on, interim leadership in marketing strategy,
planning and execution. For more on London, Ink please visit www.londonink.com or contact Bob London at
240 994 7644 or email@example.com.