Monday, February 21, 2011

What not to say: Um

For a long time my job has reqiured a great deal of spokesmanship in various forms.  To illustrate my point, do a Google search on the phrase tim callan, and you'll see I'm six of the top ten entries.  Change the phrase to a subject I'm actually speaking about, e.g. tim callan ssl, and I'm all ten.

Contemporary spokesmanship involves the extensive use of online "Web 2.0" media like blogging and Twitter, and more on that later I'm sure, but it still involves good, old fashioned, vocal communication.  I talk to jounalists or analysts or other outside opinion makers on a weekly basis, so it's important to do a good job of coming across.  More on that too, I'm sure, but today I want to make a straightforward point about the word um.  When I write um in this post, I'm also referring to uh and well and like and and um and the thing is any other vocal tic that one uses as a pure, content free filler while speaking.  Most of us have them, and most of the time they're things we say when we're thinking of the next word or point we need to make.

Now, there's nothing wrong with pausing to think, but the use of these words makes a speaker look indecisive and inarticulate and, frankly, not really on the ball.  If you watch almost any newsbyte from the current President of the United States, you'll notice that he says uh all over the place.  I put it to you, however, that President Obama made it to his very high level of accomplishment in spite of that vocal tic, not because of it.

Instead the best practice, in my opinion, is silence.  Go ahead and stop.  Think.  Pause as often as you need to.  In fact, a well timed pause, if you don't use it too often, can be a powerful way to draw your audience in.  You build some tension for what's going to happen next.  A great example comes from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.  The film features a flashback in which Captain Koons delivers a gold watch to a young Butch Coolidge.  He tells a long story about the journey of the gold watch from Butch's great grandfather to his grandfather to Butch's father and finally to Butch himself.  At one point during the soliloquy Captain Koons says,
Three days later, your grandfather was dead.  But Winocki kept his word.  After the war was over, he paid a visit to your grandmother, delivering to your infant father his Dad's gold watch.  [seven seconds of silence]  This watch.
Those seven seconds of silence are incredibly powerful.  We're sitting and staring at a close up on this watch and thinking about everything we've been told and what remains to learn.  Now try to imagine the same scene if Christopher Walken had given the line as, "...delivering to your infant father is Dad's gold watch.  And well, um, you see it was this watch."

Which is better?

So what do you do about a vocal tic if you have one?  I have found that I can more or less train them out of my vocabulary.  The first step is to be aware.  Pay attention to your own speech with a particular ear to words, sounds, or phrases that you use repeatedly and that play a pure filler role.  Note what they are.  Write them down.  Then set yourself the challenge to stop using them when you speak to people.  To make it easier for myself, I attached a note to the bottom of my monitor at work which read, "Don't say um."  That way it sat and stared at me, and I had a very immediate reminder when I was on the phone with people in a work context, which for me was the most important context in which to improve this habit.

At first I realized that I said this U word a lot, but as time went on, I found I was saying it less and less.  Every time I would say it, I'd have this brief thought that went, "Oh, you dummy, you said it," and that served as a conditioning mechanism to train it out of my speech.  I'm not purely umless, but if I'm on the clock as an official spokesperson, today I'm pretty darn close.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lead generation is not demand generation

One way I see marketers in the technology industry, among others, hurting themselves is by using the term demand generation when they really mean lead generation.  Lead generation is the practice of finding prospects out there in the world, ones that have a genuine chance of purchasing from you (or taking some other action you want them to take).  That means you identify and begin a relationship with a potential buyer who already has a certain level of demand for the product you offer.  If there is no demand, there is zero chance of purchase (unless you're a con artist), and therefore there is no lead.  In other words, the demand already exists in the market.  The lead generation activity connects that demand to a product which can fill it to both parties' advantage.  In short, lead generation is actually demand realization.

Demand generation is something entirely different.  Demand generation is activity that actually increases the potential that exists latently in the market, without regard for the efficiency with which your sales team fills this potential.  I use the term pretty broadly to cover any activity that increases awareness of the need among target prospects, preference for a solution of your type, or brand affinity for your solution in particular.

Let's see it in practice.  Direct mail typically is 97% lead generation and 3% demand generation.  Online advertising is maybe 70% demand generation and 30% lead generation.  Most broadcast advertising is 100% demand generation, but there is a breed of direct-heavy advertising that is strongly oriented toward lead generation.  Infomercials and extended (several minute) commercials often try to generate a significant amount of demand and also convert you into a lead or even a sale all in a single throw.

This argument may seem like an academic and anal-retentive one that doesn't matter in practice, but I don't feel that's the case.  I routinely watch the marketers and business managers responsible for the budget mix get themselves confused because of these terms.  Let's say we have a mature product for which growth has gotten perilously close to zero or in fact is in decline.  What's the marketing response?  More demand generation.  Of course.  After all, the problem is that there is not enough demand.  So by carpet bombing sufficiently many human beings with DM and shoving an incentive down their throats, we manage to stuff a bunch of names and e-mail addresses into a database.  Boom.  Lots of demand has been generated, clearly.

And yet, no more people are buying.  The business managers all get together and scratch their heads and say, "Now how come sales continue to falter even though we've generated all this new demand?"  You didn't generate demand, folks, you generated names and phone numbers in your CRM system.  Not the same thing.

It's difficult because it's a standard term in the industry, but I try to train marketing and sales teams to stop using the term demand generation when they really mean lead generation.  It's difficult.  Nonetheless, I recommend this practice if you're interested in preserving clarity of thought as you seek to optimize marketing and sales performance.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One danger of targeted online advertising

This one's good for a chuckle, but it also illustrates a danger that comes with behavior targeting in online advertising networks.  Today I captured the below image from, on which I was reading an article about a recent security breach.  The headline references the breached company, Trapster, and that's enough for the targeting to kick in and serve up - guess what? - a Trapster ad.  So at the very moment I am reading about how Trapster lost its customers' private information to the hands of criminals who now will seek to exploit those customers, I am also being served an ad (at Trapster's expense) recruiting me to join their ranks.

Let's set aside the fact that these ads are wasted marketing dollars.  Even if they were free, Trapster doesn't want this ad to appear here.  It draws unwanted attention at a time when the company wants to keep attention at a minimum, and it invites snarky commentary like this post.  And even though Trapster most likely didn't do anything wrong to cause this ad to appear (it's a danger inherent in the system), in the eyes of someone who doesn't understand the ins and outs of online advertising, it makes the advertiser look insensitive and ghoulish.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On consistency in branding

The story of Tim Callan's first visit to Stockholm:  One time when I was in my mid-twenties I had the good fortune to travel to Sweden and Norway on business.  It was my first time anywhere in the Nordics.  I arrived in Stockholm at night, and by the time I had gotten to the hotel and checked in, it was pushing eleven.  I had not had a chance to eat that evening, and rather than choosing room service I wanted to get out and see something of the city, even if it was simply a matter of walking to dinner and back.

I left the hotel and started down the larger of the streets it was on.  Now apparently they roll up the sidewalks at night in that city, or at least in the area I was in, because I walked past plenty of restaurants that were closed or closing but none with a kitchen open.  I walked into several bars, but none of them had food on the menu.  I walked and walked for blocks and blocks and continued to find nothing.  After twenty minutes I had more or less come to the conclusion that I'd best turn around and head back, right after I look at this last open area ahead.

In case you haven't been, Stockholm is build along a large river with lots of islands in it and bridges connecting them to each other and the two banks.  The parts of the city that border on the river afford some nice, long views if you happen to be in the right spot.  And in fact, as I emerged from whatever street I was on into the riverfront area, indeed I suddenly could see quite a way to buildings across the water.  I emerged and swept my gaze across the scene, and immediately I saw a shape I recognized.

A yellow curved line, in almost an upside down U shape.  Adjoined by another yellow, curved line, in the same shape, the two lines touching at the very bottom.  Otherwise known as the Golden Arches.

That's right.  From a quarter mile away I instantlly spotted this tiny neon beacon, and I immediately knew what it stood for.  A place I could get food that was open late.  Bingo.  I hoofed it on over there and had a Dupla Sajtburger, which is what they call a Big Mac in Sweden.  Happy ending to Tim's first night in Stockholm.

The moral:  What does this story illustrate?  It illustrates the power of consistency in brand building.  The fact is that most of the people out there in the world, tragically, don't pay nearly as much attention to us and our messages as we ourselves do.  Shocking but true.  Most of those people very selfishly go about their day thinking about themselves and their own petty concerns and dedicate almost no attention to the terribly important things we marketers have to tell them.

After we're done moaning and wailing about our sad, sad fate, we can take a lesson.  You have to assume that in all but the rarest of circumstances your target audience will be incredibly apathetic, distracted, and forgetful about the marketing messages you put in front of her.  However bad you think they will be at retaining what you have to say, it's probably considerably worse than that.  It's not that your customer is stupid or ignorant, it's just that you most likely fall far lower in her priorities than you figure you do.

So what do we do about that?  There are a number of responses, and I may get into some others later, but for now the answer is we focus on consistency.  Figure out what you want to say, how you want to say it, what words you want to use, what images you'll use to communicate your ideas, and what your colors and fonts and other stylistic elements will be like, and then use those elements consistently and rigorously over and over and over again.  Don't get cute.  Don't mix it up.  Don't think you'll give them a chance to try something different for a change.  Don't make the mistake of thinking your customer has paid even one thousandth of the attention to your marketing that you, yourself have.

I see marketers making this mistake all of the time.  You execute a marketing program until you're absolutely sick to death of it and if you have to see it one more time you swear to God you'll take out your own eyes with your letter opener.  The moment you have that reaction, that's when the prospect is finally saying to himself, "Gee, this looks familiar here, haven't I see it before somewhere?"  And amazingly that's exactly when many marketing departments say, "Out with the old and in with the new.  It needs a refresh.  My now, isn't all this new marketing so much more interesting and fun to produce?"

The folks at McDonald's understand that.  Those Golden Arches are eternal, ubiquitous, and unchanging.  By rigorously applying that graphic treatment to my every encounter with its marketing, stores or product, the company had made those arches into a part of my visual vocabulary, a graphical word that means the same thing as the chain's name itself.  And on that occasion it got them a sale.

Now I know we're not all spending the kind of media dollars that Ronald is.  But even if you don't have that kind of marketing muscle, you still owe it to yourself to maximize the power of what you do have within your limited scope.  In fact, for those of us with mere-mortal budgets, the need is even greater.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What we're going to do here

Maybe one more post's worth of introduction and hemming and hawing, and then I'll get to the subject matter that I have in mind for this blog.  In this case I'll detail my intentions for this blog.  FWIW, I wrote a similar statement of intentions for Tim Callan's SSL Blog, and that one has turned out well

As I stated in the previous post,
...while I enjoy the SSL Blog immensely, I deliberately made a decision to keep it highly focused on a few technologies:  SSL and its relatives.  I sometimes stray as far as code signing or trust seals, but that's not very far at all.  In the meantime I have many opinions on the industry and the role in it I have inhabited for my entire career.  And I have lacked a suitable forum for discussing matters beyond that very narrow topic.

To be more specific, I have had twenty years to formulate my opinions about what a successful technology marketer looks like.  Some of these are pure thoughts about marketing vehicles and how they work best; some are thoughts about software and internet services; some are about both at once.  And really they're all about both at once because my viewpoint on marketing has been forged completely in the crucible of real-world performance for software and internet companies, and my viewpoint on tech products has been inextricably intertwined with my need to aid and abet the selling of those products.

I'll give you one pedestrian but real example.  From my early teenage years through college I had been a user of Apple computer products.  By my senior year in college I owned a Mac and my own inkjet printer that would print a page every two minutes and could hold at most five pages at a time.  (I majored in English and therefore routinely handed in thirty-page papers, which would take an hour to print and which needed me to sit there actively monitoring and feeding the printer the entire time.  Before I handed in my 250-page thesis I was up all night printing the sucker out.  I went ahead and sprang for the photocopies for two of the three readers on my panel because it was preferable to spending the next twenty-four hours feeding paper into a printer five sheets at a time.)  I was a bit of a power user albeit with a bias toward word processing as my key app.

Then I went to work for a Windows ISV.  ISV stands for independent software vendor, and we sold desktop productivity applications for the Windows platform.  Obviously I was going to use Windows at the office, although I still had my Mac at home.  That started me down a career path marketing business applications for use on Windows desktops and then networks, and I continued to spend most of my time in the Windows OS, and soon I had laptops from my work and could use them in my off time as well, and finally one day I packed up the Mac and gave it away to someone or other who needed a computer and couldn't afford one.  And then I was a pure Windows head.

By this time I was in product management for Windows apps or managing product managers, and part of my job was to learn the ins and outs of this platform in particular.  Naturally that bled over into my own usage, and to this day it still throws me off when an app does not obey the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts or fails to implement right-click menus in the way I would consider proper for the interface.  And so ultimately my occupation as a designer and releaser and promoter of a certain kind of product completely colored my behaviors and attitudes as a user of that type of product, to the point where I was a fundamentally different sort of computer user than I surely would have been had I instead pursued a career in, let's say, entertainment or insurance or pharma.

Likewise for the practice of marketing.  My views of marketing are wrapped up entirely in its application to technology products.  Popular marketing gurus like Geoffrey Moore and Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin are to be taken in a different light when one applies their ideas to high technology.  The same goes for messaging and evangelism and the various media and techniques that one might employ.

So although I imagine I mostly will be talking about the philosophy and practice of marketing, bear in mind that the unspoken end of that phrase will read, "...the philosophy and practiee of marketing as applied to computer technology products and services."

Next time, a bona fide topic.  I promise.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What is "Tim Callan on Marketing and Technology"?

As I mentioned in this blog's first post, I've authored Tim Callan's SSL Blog for the past four years plus.  I originated that blog after observing - as in insider in the SSL industry - that that particular industry was rife with both misinformation and disinformation.  To straighten up these misconceptions I needed a forum in which I could discuss matters in my own words, at any length, allowing for rapid turnaround and not depending on anyone else like a web development or design team to publish my opinions.  I didn't know quite what to expect, but this blog has exceeded any reasonable expectation I may have held in terms of audience size, influence, and its effect on perception and understanding about SSL.

A blog is a ravenous animal that is never fed, and as soon as you've posted, you start the clock on being late for your next post.  So why on Earth would I start a second blog?  The answer is that while I enjoy the SSL Blog immensely, I deliberately made a decision to keep it highly focused on a few technologies:  SSL and its relatives.  I sometimes stray as far as code signing or trust seals, but that's not very far at all.  In the meantime I have many opinions on the industry and the role in it I have inhabited for my entire career.  And I have lacked a suitable forum for discussing matters beyond that very narrow topic.

Thus this blog.  I will allow myself more freedom to think about and explore a broader set of topics than one specific if important infrastructure component.  Just as Tim Callan's SSL Blog went in directions I didn't entirely foresee, I don't doubt that Tim Callan on Marketing and Technology will as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tim Callan's SSL Blog

For over four years I've been the sole author of Tim Callan's SSL Blog.  During that time I have published more than 400 entries and the blog has emerged as a key voice in the public dialog on the internet's secure backbone.  Read it at