Peter Propp — Marketing Leadership

The impact of Marketing and Technology on our lives

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Great Coverage on SIC in NEWhiteboard!

December 16th, 2013 · Stamford

The Stamford Innovation Center recently had a great writeup in NEWhiteboard, a blog that covers the startup scene in CT.  Here’s the opening paragraphs and a link to the whole article.  We are very pleased with the coverage:

Recently the Whiteboard spent a day at the Stamford Innovation Center, where we met with Peter Propp, the SIC’s Vice President of Marketing, and Barry Schwimmer, its founder and Managing Partner. The occasion was a fantastic evening lecture by Brian Cohen, Chairman of New York Angels, which formed part of the SIC’s ongoing series of popular events. We also wanted to hear the latest on the SIC’s new coworking space, Workspace, and its InnovationEd program.

As Peter and Barry guided us through the SIC and introduced us to its community, they told us the story of their company, including the challenges they’ve faced, the pivots they’ve made, and the ambitions they hold for the year ahead.  (Click here for the rest of the story)

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It’s The Mistakes That Make Us

May 28th, 2013 · career, Serendipity

It’s the mistakes that make us.  Not sure who said it, but it is true.  I cringe when I think of these three stories from my career.  None of them killed me, I learned from them and I want to share them so that others can avoid my mistakes.

Lesson One – Seize Opportunity.  Applying for my first job in NYC, I had spoken with Ursula Obst (can’t forget that name), then the admin to Phillip Moffitt, the highly regarded Editor In Chief of Esquire Magazine.  I was such a fan.  I decided to deliver my letter and resume in person.  Ursula wasn’t there, Phillip Moffitt came out (in a great shirt and tie as I recall) and asked me if there was something he could do for me — Ursula was out for the day.  Did I tell him I wanted to work for him?  No.  I froze, told him the letter was for Ursula and left.  I Kicked myself all the way down on the elevator, but I did get a great celebrity encounter on that ride.*

Lesson Two – Do the hard thing.  This one is more of a decision than a mistake in my book, but I do think about it from time to time.  Following an incredibly intense 3 years as the original Business Development work for IBM’s WebSphere brand, I was exhausted and feeling unappreciated.  I accepted an offer to leave IBM to start an Internet consulting practice in Westport, CT, Digital Idea.  IBM countered that I should run NYC WebSphere sales for the intimidating, but highly regarded Bob Guidotti.  The hours would have been insane, the base pay was not as good, and I had doubts that I would be successful.  But working at Digital Idea gave me the income that allowed us to renovate our house (a decision that I’ve never regretted) and I got to try my hand at building a business in my hometown.  Digital Idea flopped, I went back to IBM and got to do many more exciting things, but I always wonder what would have happened if I had said yes to Bob Guidotti.

Lesson Three – Don’t undervalue facetime.  As WW Marketing Manager for IBM’s Partnerworld Industry Networks program around 2007, my team was running marketing campaigns and spending millions of dollars around the world.  I was on dozens of conference calls from my office – but no-one who reported to me was located in my building in Somers, NY.  The policy came down that I was going to get a roommate. I was fond of speakerphones and privacy and did not like my commute so I decided to go work from home.  What did I miss out on?

  • Serendipitous, random meetings in the lunch line with execs and peers.
  • Knowledge of upcoming initiatives or nuances to existing approaches.
  • Opportunities to hear about new jobs before they got announced.

None of this hurt me at first, and I got to spend more time with Suzanne, Rose and Bennett, which is never a bad thing.  But when the big cuts came in 2009, I realized that moving home had in some ways been a career limiting move – one that could have been avoided with a disciplined approach to planning work days in Somers or other IBM locations, even when there was no reason to be there.

These stories and others are always on my mind as I work with entrepreneurs everyday. I encourage them to be prepared to tell a short story about their business to anyone who asks.  I try to help them make the right strategic move to achieve their goals – and I always encourage them to invest the time to meet people, to be present as we work to build an entrepreneurial community in Connecticut.

*celebrity encounter was when I boarded the elevator and Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne were on board.  Dunne turned to Didion and uttered the immortal words “No-one really goes to Fiorucci’s anymore, do they?”  At least those words are immortal to me…

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Peter Propp is a business consultant focused on helping startups create and execute great strategies, especially in the area of strategy and marketing.  He is VP of Marketing for the Stamford Innovation Center in Stamford, CT.

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Quick Note on Startup Podcasts, Incubators and Co-Working

October 28th, 2012 · Co-Working, Incubators, Podcasts, Uncategorized

I’ve shared with you guys my podcast obsession.  The content coming from This Week In (Jason Calconis’ media empire) is outstanding.  More on Jason here.

Jason has a few startups and is an Angel Investor out of LA.  He hosts This Week in Startups.  His interview with early Twitter investor Chris Sacca is a must watch/listen.  I usually download his content in the iPhone podcasts app, but here’s a link to the youtube interview with Sacca — amazing guy.

At the Stamford innovation Center, we recently heard a short talk by David Taten from FFVenture Partners.  David delivered an amazing talk about the value of Angel investing and how ff do their work.  On a long drive the next day, I was listening to This Week in Venture Capital, and David Taten’s partner John Frankel was the interviewee.  He’s just as smart as David.  I highly recommend watching this video or downloading the podcast via the podcast app.  I was delighted to hear Mark Suster and John Frankel vigorously agreeing on the value of the incubator  and co-working movement.  When we teach smart business people how to build startups, I truly believe we can be creating incremental jobs — and isn’t that just what our economy needs?

As David Taten very clearly pointed out — the job of large corporations is not to hire, but to get more efficient and reduce headcount.  But startups by their nature have to hire in order to gain velocity.  So here’s to more incubators, more co-working and of course more startups.

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Stamford Startup eBrevia Hits the Big Stage at DEMO, 2012

October 8th, 2012 · DEMO, Exceeding Expectations

Our friend Ned Gannon is the CEO and co-founder of legal text analytics platform eBrevia.  He spends a few days a week as one of the beta testers of the work-spaces at the Stamford Innovation Center.  If you want to learn more about how Ned and his team were chosen as one of only 4 Startup America-related startups around the country to present at DEMO, read the press release here.

Anyway, Ned is back in town and sent me this update on eBrevia’s experience at DEMO:

At the suggestion of some of the folks at the Stamford Innovation Center, I thought I’d put together a quick blog post describing our experience presenting eBrevia’s software at DEMO Fall 2012.  We were selected to present at DEMO free of charge as one of the four national winners in the Startup America DEMO Competition.  As part of the prize, American Airlines flew the team to Santa Clara, CA for the event.

eBrevia is commercializing artificial intelligence technology developed at Columbia University to analyze, extract information from and summarize legal documents.  The company’s natural language processing software uses machine learning techniques to assist law firm attorneys, in-house counsel and business professionals in performing legal tasks more efficiently, accurately and cost effectively.  DEMO is a launchpad for emerging technology and trends. Each year over 2,500 people from around the globe attend DEMO to experience innovation at its birth.  At each DEMO event, a hand-selected class of new products are introduced to the world for the very first time to global press and prolific bloggers; investors; corporate acquirers; strategic partners and buyers.  Throughout its 21 years of existence, DEMO has earned a reputation for consistently identifying new innovations that are most likely to disrupt the markets they serve and/or change the way we use technology overall.

The days were a whirlwind but both productive and enjoyable.  I’ve included a few of the highlights below.

- eBrevia’s presentation went very well and can be viewed via the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Obtzfg5ginA.  It was a large audience and you can see me squinting a bit under the powerful lights.

- eBrevia’s booth in the DEMO pavilion was very active and gave us the chance to demo the software for a wide variety of interested attendees.

- Networking breakfasts with other innovative companies and attendees as well as lunch and dinner receptions in the pavilion.

- Two remote pitches (one at 6:10 a.m.) for folks on the East Coast.

- Tuesday night dinner hosted by Startup America – we had a chance to meet the other national winners as well as some of the organization’s corporate partners.

- Private meeting with Scott Case, CEO of Startup America and co-founder of Priceline.com.

- Meeting with potential investors in Palo Alto before rushing to catch my plane back.

Definitely a busy and exciting few days.  Now it’s time to start following up with all the connections we made…

Thanks, Ned.  And Good Luck!

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Peter Propp is a strategy and marketing consultant based in Westport, CT.   He helps a wide variety of startups and established companies address growth opportunities with marketing and business development approaches.  He has interviewed dozens of business leaders on his video blog, 10MinuteStrategy, and is the co-founder of the FairCo TEEM Meetup Group, which is focused on providing a platform for shared learning by and for the many business leaders who reside in the greater New York region.  He can be reached at peter <at> proppmail.com

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Startup Weekend Stamford — Photos from Day 1

March 31st, 2012 · Uncategorized

Well the hype around Startup Weekend Stamford was replaced with massive amounts of energy and a wealth of good ideas.  49 ideas were presented, 10 or so teams formed, and I have no idea which one will win.  There are some very strong teams with very good ideas, and then there are some where the idea may be stronger than the team and vice versa.  Want to know how it turns out?  Come visit the Closing Ceremony at UCONN Stamford at 5pm on Friday, April 1.

Here’s some photos from last night:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me, Back on Terrestrial Radio — One Day Only (Thanks, Larry)

March 24th, 2012 · Uncategorized

If you’d like to hear the sort of music I played when I was a college DJ at Kenyon in the 80′s, click here around 11am EST today, Saturday, March 24.  

Now here’s the backstory.  For the past 18 months or so, I’ve been part of a remarkable experiment on Facebook.  Larry Friedberg, an ex EBay exec, started a Facebook Group for Kenyon College Alumni from the 1980s.  The original idea was to get more than 500 members to join, now we have nearly 1700 members.  Kenyon only had 360 students per class in the 80s, so by any measure, we have captured a lot of interest.  It is a private group that shares so many stories, memories, concerns that it is really hard to describe.  We have a lot of laughs — and yes, we have some conflicts.

Our 1700 members live on every continent, are in just about any occupation you can imagine, from Wall St, to Security Guards, Veterinarians, Lawyers, Construction, Educators and Librarians, Politicians, Technology, and plenty of Marketing folk.  We have kids in Grad School and beyond, College, High School and even pre-school.

The point?  While the value of Facebook overall has cooled for many of my non-Kenyon friends, the 1700 of us who are in the group (or at least many of us) now have a vibrant group that has become a community that in many ways shares more details about our feelings and our lives than we did when we all lived in Gambier, OH.

We’ve also established a great relationship with the Kenyon administration that is on our terms.  It is really interesting what you can get from your Alma Mater when you are 1700 strong.  For example, we now have a great relationship with Kenyon’s student radio station, WKCO.  And today I get to be on the radio again, thanks to Facebook, and Larry.

I’ll post the playlist later.  If you can, click here around 11am EST today, Saturday, March 24.  

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What’s the Secret to Marketing Success? Timing!…and Relevance

January 25th, 2012 · Branding, Direct Marketing, Marketing, Orchestrated Marketing, Uncategorized

The data supports the smart marketers approach.

About 8 years ago I was running worldwide demand generation marketing for IBM Software Group’s WebSphere Application Server and a number of related products.  Our job was to focus on the most important business problems our products solved and develop messages and campaigns that would drive a potential buyer from Awareness to Interest, Desire and Action.

At the time, I personally knew a great deal about our domain and the value that WebSphere was bringing to the complicated world of web applications.  And I had an amazing team working for me who were experts in taking a story and building the campaign elements that when linked together would generate suspects, prospects, leads and sales for our products.  It was an incredibly time consuming process to combine a compelling business value story with the right techniques for telling that story in such a way that we moved our potential customers along the AIDA cycle.  This sort of work never gets attention by most business media.  But it works.  It could have worked even better if we had been able to leverage real time data on message delivery as part of our multi-channel marketing approach.

That’s the finding of a study, “Personalized Marketing and Real Time Data” by David Daniels of The Relevancy Group, funded by my client, Intelisent.  You can download the white paper here, and I promise you it will be worth your while.  Here’s my favorite graphic from the study:  •	Marketers who "orchestrate" their campaigns by delivering highly personalized messages via multiple messaging channels at precisely synchronized intervals can achieve nearly four (4) times the revenue and six (6) times the ROI of marketers who use less sophisticated approaches.

Daniels is a former Jupiter and Forrester Analyst and his insights are really useful, here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • Marketers who “orchestrate” their campaigns by delivering highly personalized messages via multiple messaging channels at precisely synchronized intervals can achieve nearly four (4) times the revenue and six (6) times the ROI of marketers who use less sophisticated approaches.
  • Marketers who embrace segmentation and personalization experience fewer challenges and greater results than those who don’t.
  • Ten (10) percent of consumers who receive relevant marketing emails share them on their social networks on a regular basis, a number that is as high as 22% with consumers in younger demographic segments.
  • Contrary to common logic, the messages in most e-mail marketing efforts are far less personalized than offline direct mail messages.
  • The majority of marketers have not integrated the disparate array of customer data sources into a centralized database for direct marketing purposes.
  • Only 25% of direct marketers embrace essential testing tactics, such as control versus lift and multi-variant analysis

Check out the full study here.

You see, Intelisent knows a thing or two about message delivery – they are a spin-off of direct marketing leader Data-Mail.  They’ve been helping some of the most sophisticated companies in the world develop highly personalized campaigns that are delivered with precise timing.  Intelisent is now a separate company focused on helping companies leverage “Data that Delivers” as a Key Performance Indicator within a campaign and within the marketing function.

This stuff is the unsung hero, working data of marketing.  The wonky stuff that doesn’t seem to matter, until you are standing in your brand new store on the Grand Opening Day and no-one is there, even though you know you sent two big mailings out.   Intelisent customers would know that there was an issue with the routing of the mailing and could have taken steps to get that mail on its way – and shifted plans to have a “soft launch” with a bigger event in the future.

Here are some other benefits from the Intelisent platform:

  • Track and leverage delivery and open data in real-time so that traditional direct marketing efforts can be reinforced by electronic tactics and vice versa.
  • Use remittance mail tracking to manage cash flow.
  • Use mail delivery information to predict store traffic so retailers can shift inventory and balance staffing.
  • Create a call center script with similar custom messaging, based on the details known about that consumer – and only call the consumer when a specified set of campaign actions has already occurred.

I’m pretty sure we could have used a few of these tools back in my IBM Software Group campaign days.

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Amex, Panasonic and Chase — Blown Marketing Opportunities at the US Open

September 8th, 2011 · Uncategorized

In tennis, the ball is only allowed to bounce once on your side of the court before you hit it. In this blog post I’m going to give you three examples of marketers at this years US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY who invested in Mobile promotion techniques to generate customer awareness and loyalty, but blew their opportunity to score points with consumers.

The first offender was the US Open themselves.  We were lucky enough to get a parking pass and were delighted that the parking pass came with a QR code and a note to scan the QR code for directions.  Great Idea.  But here’s what happens when you scan the code: You get delivered to a web page (not even one tuned for mobile) with a choice of several text blocks with directions – really shitty, misleading and incorrect directions – to the parking lot, but no map.

Here’s what they could have done if they had been really considering an end-user who, by definition, has a QR reader on their phone and therefore access to Google Maps.

  1. Identified a specific spot on Google Maps where the parking lots are located.  (if you are driving to the Open, they are near the Queens Zoo, in the middle of Corona Park).
  2. Use the QR code to send them directly to a view of that location on Google Maps.  Most app phone users will know at that point how to get driving directions from that point.
  3. Alternatively, provide an option of a link to Google Maps, or a street address near the entry road for the parking for entry into a GPS device.

I’ve actually blocked from my mind how frustrated I was in trying to find the parking and have no clue how we actually stumbled across the entry road for the parking, but I do recall that there was swearing involved.

 

Panasonic was at the Open in three locations, showing off their 3-d technology (I am on record that I believe 3-D is stupid.) Panasonic’s promotion gives away a high-end TV if you visit all 3 booths and capture the QR code at all 3.  Here’s the problem:  when I captured the QR code, I was brought to a non-mobile tuned web page with a 6+ field entry form, including a 2 word Captcha.  Rediculous.  I tried it once, failed on the Captcha and got a samosa from the Indian food stand.  Fantastic samosa, btw.

Panasonic's use of QR Codes was less than simple or smart

Why couldn’t Panasonic…

  1. Allow me to just enter an e-mail address as my identifier and then on the back end see if I visited all 3 booths.
  2. Send me the contest rules and detailed information request via e-mail?

The Panasonic issue reminds me that there are lawyers out there and promotions rules people who have no idea about consumer engagement and the importance of giving people a good experience.  Panasonic blew the opportunity to give users a simple experience.

(Note:  I did notice some interesting Internet-centric TV’s, however, that have Twitter and Facebook built in.  Interesting idea.

 

Chase:

I’m a relatively new Chase customer and I like their ATMs and iPhone app for the simple way they read and accept checks.  But I am not sure what they were trying to promote at their booth.  The booth materials said that I could use my Chase iPhone app to scan a check and be entered in a drawing for a cash prize.  But halfway through the line, a guy with an iPad came up to me, took my information and placed me in the same drawing, even though he knew I had an iPhone and the app on my phone?

But wasn’t the purpose of the promotion to drive trial of the iPhone App?  Didn’t the booth attendant know the reason for the booth?

What Chase could have done was create a number of checks on posters and place them in strategic areas (like the Chase ATMs maybe?) around the US Open site.  And then from those areas driven some activity at the booth.  Long lines at a booth, undercut by non-thinking booth attendants does not make for a good promo.

 

Finally, American Express.  Here’s what they did right:  Gave out US Open Radio earpieces for free to any cardmember attending.  You just give them your card, they swipe it and you get the earpiece so you can hear the TV broadcasters talk while you walk around or attend a match.  This is a very useful, very simple, very popular promotion and a nice loyalty reward.

Here’s where American Express did not do great.  At the amazing food booths (so much better than the last time I was at the Open) there was a sign that said  something like “if you check in at the Open on Foursquare or Facebook you can unlock benefits that include a $10 card credit when you purchased more than $20 of food (that’s easy!) on your Amex card. But you have to go to a website (as a public service, I will promote it here:  http://sync.americanexpress.com)  to connect your Facebook and Foursquare accounts with your Amex Card number.

Amex's check-in promo needed a mind-reader!

 

Here are the issues with Amex’s check-in promotion:

  1. No QR code on the sign to make it easy to register with your mobile device.
  2. No promotion of this promo when you get the radio.
  3. No promotional signs up before you get to the register.  There are long lines for food at the Open.  If they knew about the promotion, they could have registered for the promotion while they waited to order their food.

I want to make it clear that I think these brands are generally on the right track.  But they are not thinking about how an end-user will actually experience their promotional use of technology.  Implementing clever promotions using technology requires marketers to think like software companies.  At a minimum you need to consider:

  1. What is the most important end-result I want from my customer or prospect?
  2. How many steps am I requiring for participation?
  3. What device will they be using?  How can I make the mobile experience easy?
  4. How can I train my staff to encourage participation?
  5. How can I reward participation for non-sweepstakes winners?

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the Open in person or on TV.  The quality of play and the spirit of the crowds is truly exhilarating.  And I hope some marketers will read this and consider smart ways to “hit the ball once” and generate success using today’s mobile and social marketing opportunities.

 

 

 

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As 3-D Fades, Hollywood should focus on stories

June 1st, 2011 · 3D, Uncategorized

Cover of "Avatar (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Co...

Cover via Amazon

While I’m rarely happy to discuss the failure of a new idea or a new technology, I was delighted to read in the Times over the weekend that the 3-D boom in movies may finally be waning. “3-D Starts to Fizzle, and Hollywood Frets” (NY Times, May 29, 2011)

 

It could not happen a moment sooner.  Last October I wrote about the abuse and over-use of 3-D in a piece I titled  “3d Is Not For Me”

 

The problem with 3-D and with the movie industry in general right now is not the technology.  The problem is the quality of the storytelling.  If a movie has a great story, they should make it.  If it has a great story and they can use 3-D in clever ways, they should make that movie – Avatar for example.

 

But we saw Avatar at home a few months back on a non-3-D TV, and it was a perfectly fine adventure movie (even if it was a poorly cloaked version of the story of Pocahantas). I’m sure the 3-D would have made it a modestly better experience, but we were able to enjoy the experience because the story was good, the script was solid, the acting, directing and cinematography were all set at a high Hollywood standard.

 

So please Hollywood – how about focusing on some original stories?  How about more films with focus on strong female characters?  Clearly that’s an area that hasn’t been done to death.  Who knows?  You might find an untapped audience that’s ready to spend.  Just don’t make “Thelma and Louise 3-D.”

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River city extension

April 30th, 2011 · Uncategorized

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