Category Archives: marketing

A Glimmer…

I spent two days this week helping my company on a proposal effort. I reviewed resumes of candidates from our teammates for specific skillsets. It was grunt work but I felt productive and left the day feeling like I contributed. It also gave me a chance to show the corporate staff that I am more than a pretty face. I did get a glimmer of hope. During lunch on the first day, the Director of Program Development mentioned that our company needs a lead for another contract and that I could fill that role. I would like that. Anything to boost my profile and do some real work.
I keep reading about how a person needs to brand themselves inorder to get the position they want. What is my brand? How do I want my company and customers to see me? My first marketing job. My assignment is to create a marketing plan to build the Mr. Happy brand.

I think I Have a Path…

I think I mentioned before that I have started work towards my MBA. I am doing an online program through Ellis College of the New York Institute of Technology. I chose this program for a few reasons. I liked the specializations they offer.

At first, the Strategy and Economics specialization attracted me but now I am gravitating towards Marketing. They also have a number of other specializations like Leadership, Accounting, Finance and Project Management. I also liked that they developed their courses in conjuction with some prestigous business schools – Columbia University, Stanford University, and The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. To me, this gives them a little more credibility than some of the other schools out there.

I also like the fact that Ellis is affiliated with an actual “brick and mortar” school. I read somewhere during my research that even though online degrees are becoming more accepted among corporations, a program through an established state school is looked on more favorably.

I am finishing up my last assignment for my first class, Managerial Marketing. The problem is giving a fictional construction equipment company a recommendation of whether to open a company dealership in a large market, Los Angeles, that does not have a franchise. There company franchises in San Diego, Phoenix and San Fransico that service the area. Reading the material, I can see arguments for both sides. Both a company dealership and a franchise will cause some conflicts with the other dealerships, mainly by taking away market share. The biggest argument I can see for not opening a company dealership is the high cost of entry, over $10 million. This would cut into profit goals that were set for a new product being set to be introduced. This is my strongest justification for not opening a company dealership and to keep trying to entice a new franchiser in the market.

I realize that this just a course exercise and rather simplistic, but this is why I am really enjoying this whole process. The marketing exercises we have done over the last six weeks have been fascinating, as has been our reading. As I read the material, I try to apply it to my current company. Who is our customer? How are we defining ourself, as a company? How is the company marketing itself to attract work that fits its strategic goals?

I think I have found a path

Marketing Myopia

I am working towards my MBA in an effort to get me out of hell. At the beginning of marketing class we had to read the article, “Marketing Myopia” by Theodore Levitt. This is an incredible article. He talked about defining your company and being customer-oriented rather than product-oriented. Failing to do this causes companies to not grow or fail. I see this all of the time in the contracting world. These small companies do not know who there customer is or how they want to brand themselves.

My first job out of the military was as a program manager for a small contracting company. The president was an engineer who’s specialty was in embedded work in C and C++. His main focus was to do only embedded, C and C++ development. One of its first big clients was for an office doing embedded coding in C and C++. As the company started to grow, it brought in non-engineers to do recruiting, business development and program management. We “outsiders” saw that this was risky. the company was putting all of its eggs in one basket. In this environment, contracts can end without notice and next thing you know, you have a dozen or so people sitting on the bench eating up overhead dollars.

There were other opportunities out there to grow the company if it would expand itself into other areas. The president would not allow it. He did not want to do Java, he did not want to do web page development, or networking, or anything else. His mantra continued to be “Embedded C and C++ development.” Eventually, the scenario from above happened. Contracts ended for one reason or another and we found ourselves with a lot of overhead charging. The customer had decided to not hire contractors to do embedded work but instead hire their own employees for this type of work. The eggs were being tossed out of the basket.

The company’s ten year anniversary was on a Thursday. A lot of “rah rah” and “the future is bright” talk. As a gift, we all received travel coffee mugs with the company logo. The next day, I along with the other program manager and the recruiter were all let go. We were hurting the company financially. The VP for Business Development had left the month prior and the company was not growing, a lot of overhead. As a joke, I tell people now to never take the coffee mug when attending company all-hands meetings. It’s a trap to figure out who should be laid-off.

At its high point, the company employed almost 50 people. It had went from 10 to almost 50 in about 18 months. Now, it is back down to right around 20 with a lot still on overhead. This is all because the company defined itself very narrowly. It did not see itself as an IT company or even a software development company. It was a embedded, C/C++ company. A broader definition would have allowed it to expand into other areas and more easily absorb the overhead costs. It fell into the same trap Mr. Levitt described when talking about railroad companies in the mid 1900s. They defined themselves as railroad companies not transportation companies. This caused problems as other modes of transportation arrived in the 1900s like trucks and airplanes.

I don’t do business development or marketing work – yet. But when I do, my first questions will always be “Who is your customer?” and “How does the company define itself?” Someday.

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