Scary Smart Want Ad

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Just saw this full page ad in today’s New York Times:

“Top of your class? An innovator in your field? Wicked good at what you do? If so, maybe we should talk. Right now Google is looking for the brightest minds in…”

…technology? programming? math? How about Sales Management? Yep, you got it, this is a media company looking for ad sales people.

I have to say really admire this ad on multiple levels.

It’s striking/noticable. It’s playful and casual, both in visual approach and in it’s tone. As such it’s really consistent with the company’s image and positioning. It’s also consistent with this image and culture in that it is a tad bit arrogant – all about being super smart – in all parts of the organization.

I love that they use their own product as the call to action. Not a url but a suggested search entry “scary smart”and then clicking on the sponsored link on the side. Or you can email scarysmart@google.com.

I also like that it’s timely – playing off the Halloween theme – even in saying that they want to “create and almost spookily entreprenurial environment.”

Frankly, I think that it is a bit eerie that it was in response to a very similar want ad almost 15 years ago that I got my real job in technology. The ad was from the scrappiest, coolest, most successful, most irreverent company of the time… Microsoft.

The ad back then started with a big bold headline (right next to a then very boring IBM ad):

“NO ONE WANTS TO BE A COG IN A MACHINE”

It was an ad for a technical evangelist, a job for which I had no qualifications. But I sure did not want to be a cog. So I told Microsoft that I was not at all qualified but that I wasn’t a cog and that they should talk to me anyway. And they did just that, overlooking the details and hiring me on smarts (fooled ’em) and attitude.

I wonder what they would do today.

 

Jimmy Neutron on the Essence of Marketing and Sales

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My boys and I were just watching The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (a great kid’s series about a nerdy genius boy – kind of like Rich Tong – who invents all kinds of stuff to solve his problems). They really love this show, but little did I think that it would have lessons for marketing and sales people.

The episode is called “Birth of a Salesman” and the background is a school sales drive/contest to see which kid can raise the most money by selling candy. In this episode, we learn all about persuasion, targeting, technology andfeatures vs. customer empathy, and the benefits and pitfalls as using premiums to drive initial customer acquisition. And the overall lesson that being too smart often leads to bad marketing(makes me feel a bit better).

The vehicle for these lessons is the rivalry between Jimmy (and his technical prowess) vs. his nemesis Cindy (and her charm, persuasive talents and force of will).

Jimmy’s approach, like many tech firms, is to focus on the technology. He goes door to door trying to sell candy by explaining its chemical make up (wow, even worse than just focusing on features). Unsurprisingly, no one buys.

Meanwhile, Cindy adapts deftly from customer to customer. When knocking on a mom’s door she plays the poor orphan girl. With the tough guy janitor, she plays a scene from the Godfather. And when selling the truly goofy parents of Jimmy himself, she resorts to singing and dancing and sells them more than their own son. This is too much for Jimmy and leads him to give the following deeply insightful marketing quote:

“I have miscalculated. It’s not about superior intellect. It’s all about manipulating emotions with shallow, unscrupulous behavior”

Right on!?!? ;-o

Inspired by this he creates a robot that he thinks embodies all these qualities. It is called (in an off hand literary reference) the Willy Loman 3000 or WL3000. Unfortunately, WL does a very pushy, cheesy job that is way too transparent. So he employs a standard act of desperation – the giveaway. In order to make the sale (because that is his only objective) he starts using every cool invention and possession of Jimmy’s as a premium for making the sale. All the way to actually giving Jimmy away. Not the best outcome.

So what are the lessons we all can take from this profound drama?

  • Just because you have a high degree of competence (or even genius) in one area, does not mean you can apply it effectively in another;
  • The superior technology features of your product and the background of how they came about may be very interesting to you but you should not assume they are to anyone else;
  • Speaking in your customers’ language and changing this depending on which customer you are talking to is not only perfectly moral (not two faced, really), it is a lot more effective than the above;
  • Beating people over the head doesn’t ususally work; and finally,
  • Bribing people to buy your product – with premiums – can be a great way to get people to act, but do so with caution, you could end up losing your shirt (or more) in the long run.

For more such profound Jimmy Neutron quotes look here.

 

NewsGator as Platform Play

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NewsGator announced today that it has acquired NetNewsWire, the most popular Mac-based RSS reader. Also, in May 2005, NewsGator acquired FeedDemon And NewsGator shipped their Enterprise Server product on Friday.

Why all this activity? Well, according to Brad Feld, it’s because they are building a platform play in RSS. Read Brad’s post to see some interesting stats and analysis on how all this could play out between Blogline, Yahoo and the ever more ubiquitous NewsGator. Will be interesting to see how this all develops.

And thanks much Brad for the nice mention of our book. Go NewsGator go!