The Most Useless Answer on LinkedIn

I post my blog posts on LinkedIn Answers to get valuable feedback on my opinions and to bring traffic to the site. I have received some great input and have met some great people through LinkedIn Answers so I recently posted a question about unpaid internships. Here is the original post: Unpaid Internships vs Paid Internships

So I posted my question on LinkedIn and in about an hour Michael give me the most useless answer I have ever received: The Useless Answer

If you don’t have LinkedIn, here’s what he wrote: “I am not interested in reading your blog.

However I can answer this question as I have personal experience.

Yes. But it depends on the deal you make with them. You want to learn as much as possible.”

So he starts off his answer by writing that he’s “not interested in reading [my] blog.” Ok, so I can understand that part because most people just don’t have the time to read everything. However, this guy is taking the time to surf LinkedIn Answers to answer questions so he obviously has time to read my material. Then he goes and says that he can answer the question because he has personal experience. So now I’m expecting a very thought out answer because he goes and sets it up as if he has vast knowledge about internships. And what’s his climatic answer: “You want to learn as much as possible.”

Ok, so you’re wondering why I actually took the time to write a blog about this answer. Well, if you’re involved in the LinkedIn community, you will notice that there are Top LinkedIn Experts every week who answer the most questions on LinkedIn Answers. One would assume that these important professionals are extremely busy and barely have time to answer with quality answers. Well you’re right, they barely have time but yet they manage to write 300+ answers in a week! Yes that’s right, 300+ answers in a week. And do you know how they manage to write so many answers? It’s because they write these dumb, completely useless answers that do not provide a single bit of feedback to my question. All they want to do is pile up their answers so that they look important.

Anyways, I just needed to write this because it was the MOST USELESS ANSWER EVER!

My take on why CMO’s get fired

I have read two great blog entries about why CMO’s get fired: John Rindlaub and David Meerman Scott.

Now, I’ve only been a CMO for about a little over 6 months, but I’m really starting to understand what they are writing about. From my perspective (and it’s the perspective of a startup CMO) CMO’s can get too caught up in the overall strategy and never get down to executing what needs to be done. I have been working on a strategy for months now in order to develop a marketing strategy that will brand Future Delivery but at the same time now fully expose us because we are in semi-stealth mode and are currently in the product development stage. The strategy I developed is to separate FD marketing into 4 distinct areas: FD Edge, Thought Leadership, Wikivault, and Business Development.

I have gathered a marketing team that is responsible for each area of FD marketing; therefore, I am free to work ON the company rather than IN the company. And this is where I feel that most CMO’s fail because they get caught up in the overall strategy and feel that it is not their place to get involved with the nitty gritty areas of marketing. David Meerman Scott writes about the New Rules of Marketing and how one can use blogs, ebooks, podcasts, and web 2.0 sites to cost-effectively market your company and get people to write about you. I completely agree with his teachings and I believe most CMO’s do not want to constantly write blogs, conduct podcasts, or expose themselves to the public eye because they think in the old way. I want to be transparent; the other CMOs want to be opaque.

So I must completely agree with David. The Millennial generation is all about connectivity and transparency. If you do not understand the web 2.0 sites out there and use them to their full potential to brand your company, then you will most likely be fired as well.

Thanks David. Your teachings have truly changed the way I view marketing.

The Point of No Return for Startups

Startups are tough. It can be a tough and lonely road where you will work 100+ hours a week, and see no initial movement in your business. Few companies make it to the point where the company finally starts running on its own, and subsequently, the company starts running you. My business partner Yu-kai Chou and I call this point the “point of no return (PONR).” Up until the PONR, you are the sole driver of your company. If you stop working, then your company doesn’t advance, and you don’t eat. However, after the PONR, even if you stop working, the company will continue advancing and the work will continue to pile up. You are no longer the main driver of the company because it is pretty much on cruise control and hopefully headed in the right direction. Just because the company is moving, it doesn’t mean that it is moving efficiently or to the place it should be moving to.

This is the second point where most startups fail. There is so much work after the PONR that the business owner is completely overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do. He puts in more and more hours but the work never ends and he eventually burns out. So how can you ensure that you are prepared for the PONR?

1. Create systems

You should not be working on the day-to-day activities of your company; instead, you should be working ON your company’s overall strategy, direction, and management. Each area of your company – tech, finance, operation, marketing – should have a system that works on its own. The system should be efficient and easy to understand so that a new employee could easily pick up the system and work in that area of the company.

Don’t wait till the PONR to start creating your systems. If you have not created your systems before you’ve hit the PONR, then it is probably too late because it will take a tremendous amount of time and money to create systems for your company. Start to create systems as soon as you start your company. Even if you’re the only employee, make sure that there are systems to the way everything is run and make sure to document the systems so that your first team member will understand how to run the systems.

2. Empower your team

A startup company has very little capital. How on earth can you gather a team of people who will be passionate about your company and work for you for free? The key is to empower the members of your team and to choose your team members very very carefully. You need to hire people who are self-starters, and like to work in open ended, creative environments. You need people who do not need their hands held in order to accomplish an assignment.

What I mean by “empowering your team members” is that you give them the opportunity to accomplish their goals in the their own way. If they feel that they own a piece of the project and company, then they will feel passionate about it and work extra hard to achieve their goal. Empower your team members by giving them big responsibilities and giving them free-reign on how they will accomplish their goals. In essence, you set the finish line; they choose their path.

What other ways have you found effective in empowering your team?

Why was I chosen to speak?

My colleagues (Yu-kai, Shin, Gabe, and Garren) and I went to an event tonight called The First 100 Days of a CMO. The presenter was Scott Hamilton from Allign and he spoke about how a CMO can successfully integrate himself within the company and ultimately lead the company to success. Overall it was a great presentation and what I want to write about is something that stood out in my mind during the event.

The room was full of people in their mid 30’s. My colleagues and I had badges on that read “students” so that people would be able to recognize us and place us in the right seats (not that they couldn’t distinguish simply by looking at our young faces). During the event, Scott asked us to get into groups and run a case study about how to effectively quantify the commitment of your marketing team.

To be honest, I wasn’t that into it and I merely sat back while everyone at my table discussed some points. After listening to what they had to say, I commented on my view points, added to their ideas, and began to sum everything up into bullet points and key topics. To my surprise (surprise because everyone was at least 10 years older than I was), everyone loved the direction that I was headed towards and chose me to be the speaker for our table. They wanted me to present my ideas.

The funny thing was that Yu-kai Chou, who was sitting at another table, was chosen to speak for his table as well. Now what’s going on here? We are literally fresh out of college, and we’re asked to present the ideas when there are people here with 10+ more years of experience than us. Yu-kai and I decided to analyze the situation and we came out with these conclusions:

1. We speak with authority and confidence

If you want to demonstrate that you know something and can contribute to the topic, you need to speak with confidence and in factual statements when adding your ideas. Yu-kai and I speak through people – not just at them – when we are adding out points of view. Speaking through a person means to actually project your voice through them, so it’s like you’re talking to them as if they were two steps back from where they are standing. We also speak with authority by giving clear, concise ideas with concrete stories to back up our ideas.

2. We synergies ideas

Yu-kai and I not only look to contribute our own ideas, but we look for the synergies between all of the ideas. How does this comment relate to the other comment and how can it further our project. It is one thing to acknowledge that the person had a great idea; it is an even better thing to take her idea, mix it with yours, and come out with an even more powerful idea.

3. We lead with questions

Yu-kai and I love leading with questions. This means that we begin every team conversation with probing questions that make everyone in the team contribute. We do not want to give a lecture and tell everyone on the team what to do; instead, we know that 5 heads are better than just one, and by creating an environment where everyone feels confident and free to contribute their ideas, we generate the perfect setting for the best ideas to flourish.

4. We summarize points and make it concrete

Yu-kai and I both summarized the ideas and strategies of our tables. Not only did we summarize them, but we articulated the ideas to our team in a clear and concise manner so that everyone understood the exact steps that we were taking. We also acknowledge the person who made the contribution for each point so that they feel praised and rewarded for their efforts.

These 4 reasons are why Yu-kai and I were both chosen to speak for our tables. Learn to use these traits successfully and you too will become a leader.

Start selling before you even have a product

Will brings up an excellent point in his blog post: You Dont Need to Have a Product to Sell a Product. This is the problem that I have faced as a young CMO and I’m sure it is a problem that many of you are facing.

“How do I sell something that I don’t have?” It’s a tough question to answer and Will writes up a great strategy for it. I will tell you exactly how I’m doing it in order to give you a more concrete answer to your question.

Make sure your potential client understands your product

Our product is FD World, which is a virtual world that makes THIS world more productive. What does that even mean? Well, I have found that the first rule of marketing is to make sure that your target market is able to completely understand what it is that you are selling them. In this case, we are creating a virtual world. It is very easy for me to describe what I am doing to someone in the Y Gen. All I have to say is, “In essence, we are building a 3D Facebook where students can network with other students and professionals.” My generation is able to easily understand this. However, the company representatives that I am pitching this to are not in my generation and have never experiences virtual worlds. I solve this problem by describing my product in terms that they are able to understand. I have effectively used our visual concepts that we have developed in order to create a concrete image in the minds of our target market.

Start from the bottom and work your way up

Big corporations have a lot of bureaucracy. If I waited to start selling my product once we built it, it would take another 6 months to get past all of the red tape that most corporations have. This is why selling early is crucial. The easiest way I have found to do this is approach the people at the bottom who are eager to jump at the chance to start something new and contribute to their company. Our product is very relevant for recruiters, so I go to many career fairs in order to meet recruiters and to tell them about our product. Once I get their contact information, I immediately follow up and push to schedule a meeting where I can delivery my pitch.

Persistence pays off

How long does it take you to reply back to your friends’ emails? These are your friends and you still sometimes take a while. Don’t be discouraged if your contact at a company never gets back to you. The best thing for you to do is to stay positive and email them a follow up email. As a general rule, I usually send 3 emails before I give them a call. All your emails must give the feeling that you’ve been emailing back and forth already. Don’t write “hey I haven’t heard back from you”; instead, you should write, “hey how was your weekend? Mine was amazing because I had lots of fun and was productive.” Marketing is a numbers game; the more people that you reach out to, the higher the chance of converting a lead.

I want to thank Will for blogging on such a great topic and you should definitely check out his site.

Emotions > Logic

So yesterday I posted my first blog post on Brazen Careerist. The title of my blog post was “Flirt with the Interviewer.” You can read the post for yourself and comment about what you think of it.

The reason I wrote this blog post was that I wanted to demonstrate to people that it is possible to take risks during an interview and come out ahead. Yes, flirting during a professional setting can be dangerous, and that is why it’s completely up to you to gauge your interviewer and measure whether he or she is the type of person that would flirt back.

As I expected, some ladies took offense to my post and said that any type of flirting in a professional setting is completely inappropriate. This is a strong case of Emotions being greater than logic. First of all, a male has written a post about successfully flirting with a woman, so naturally women will have their guard up while reading the post. Logically it makes sense. Women use their sex appeal all the time to get what they want. Women use it at a lounge so that a guy will buy her a drink, they use it at school to get help with homework, and they use it during the recruitment season to get a job. Guys cannot help being attracted to a good looking woman with a great personality that has walked into the interview room (Just so you guys know, I fully respect woman and their intelligence. I’m not saying that the reason a girl gets a job is because of the way she looks. I know that women get jobs because of their qualification and their experience. I’m just pointing out that looks play a major role in the recruitment process)

My goal with this post was to show that men can do it as well. More importantly, I want people to understand that there are people out there flirting with the interviewer right now. I want you to be able to use every single weapon in your arsenal in order to achieve your dream job.

I am very thankful to all of the people who commented on my post. You guys offered great insight and also made some very valuable points come out. You showed how people naturally make decisions and react to things on an emotional level rather than on a logical level.

Remember fellow CMOs, people make decisions based on their emotions. Use this to your advantage when you are developing a marketing campaign.

The Startup CMO

Its not all creativity and glamour.

Most people have the misconception that being in marketing means that you do the creative work and develop catchy advertisements or develop a brand new marketing campaign to reach more people and generate more sells. Well, that is only but a small fraction of what I am doing as the CMO of Future Delivery.

Now that I have my own company, people often ask me what it is that I actually do. So, this is what the CMO of a startup company does:

1. Market Research

Thats right. A big part of what I do is research the entire market. And when I say entire market I mean everything from industry trends and competitors, to surveys and TAM analysis. Its a dirty job but someone has to do it. The CEO is out there building the business plan and the CTO is building the product. It is my responsibility to figure out what kind of product the market is ready for and will accept as a solution to their problems.

2. Business Development

If you hate to cold call or cold email, then this is not the job for you. A startup company has no name, no reputation, and no clients or customers. It is my job to go out there (even right now with no product), and sell our product. I am dead serious here. I am making phone calls and setting up meeting where I am literally walking in with nothing but a laptop and few concept drawings of what the world will look like. Do we actually get some clients? Of course we do! If I weren’t able to convert leads, then I would be in the wrong business.

You will receive a lot of “No’s”, a lot of canceled meetings, and a lot of unreturned calls; however, the CMO must be persistent and must always remain positive. In essence, this is a numbers game. The more people I contact and the larger my network grows, the higher the chance that I will meet someone from a company that will listen to my pitch and like it.

3. Branding

Here comes the fun part. Like I said, we have no name; therefore, it is my job to go out there and develop the brand. I must develop a strategy to stick our company brand in the mind of our target market. There are many ways to do this and the fun part is finding the right ones that work. Here are a few strategies that I’m working on right now: blogging, facebook, linkedin, thought leadership, squidoo, youtube, and career development mavens. I will blog about my experience with each one and which ones work and which ones don’t.

4. Public Relations

Like David Meerman Scott, I do not believe that we should pay a lot of money to get journalists and other media to write about us. If we develop the right content, build thought leadership in the career development field, and attract users, then journalists and the media will come to us. And believe me, when they come to us, we’ll be ready. I am developing the Press Kit and the Media Page so that when the time comes that someone is researching Future Delivery to write an article, they’ll know right where to look to get all of the information that they could possibly need about Future Delivery.

5. Team Leadership

I do have a team that is working with me: Shin Kadota, Peter Suberlak, and Michael Wang. All of them studied at UCLA with me and all of them are very eager and bright young minds. From my experiences, I have learned that the best way to lead a team is to empower them and make sure that they are the right person in the right seat of the bus. Each person on my team is leading a specific project. I give them the opportunity to accomplish task B, but I do not tell them exactly how to get from A to B. It is completely up to them to decide what steps they should take to get to B, which gives them the feeling of ownership and freedom that motivates them to do an amazing job.

What are your experiences with being a young CMO? I would love to hear your stories and hopefully we can learn and grow from each other.