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Setting the Agenda and Leading the Conversation

Setting the Agenda and Leading the Conversation

Corporations and their management teams can lead and their respective market segments, but they can also lead in other areas such as industry trade groups and engaging in conversation with their customers and peers. For a long time, I have believed that the leadership team of an organization should engage in social media and Actively Participate in industry conferences in order to help set the agenda, lead the conversation regarding their industries, and help set best practices.

Companies and their leadership teams must go beyond social media and join the speaking/roundtable circuit. They will help define the very markets, shape regulation and best practice, build the company’s reputation, and highlight their strategic thinking. It is not easy to go down the path of active engagement in social media and/or speaking due to the time commitment involved. Certainly, this is compounded when most corporate social media is focused on the purposes of marketing the company’s products or services to a particular audience with the intention to move consumers along the purchase continuum. While a corporate approach (the corporation itself and not the products/services) to social media marketing is targeted to an audience, it is not typically the same audience that purchases the company’s products and services.

By engaging in conversation around industry norms and best practices, management can demonstrate high levels of leadership that enhance the company’s reputation while building individual members of the management teams personal brands. Not only does a company benefit in building its reputation and brand through peer and industry recognition, the individuals involved in the process benefit through the increased industry exposure.

It takes time and effort to engage in this level of social media and personal speaking activity. It builds the corporate brand and demonstrates industry leadership within a given market. It can act as a recruitment vehicle, tell the corporate story through the eyes of an individual, and humanize the entity. The benefits far outweigh the cost and time it takes to create, develop, and maintain a social media presence and engage in industry trade activity.

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Win a Free Copy of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Win a Free Copy of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

I am reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, and I want to share the book with you!  Register for a chance to receive a new copy of David Allen’s book.

No strings attached! I will delete the registration information after the winner is selected, notified, and sends me a valid address for delivery.  The book will be sent directly from If the winner does not respond within five days of notification another person will be selected. Since I am paying for this out of my own pocket, the shipping is limited to the continental United States.

Register now for the giveaway!  The winner will be chosen on September 30, 2009.


Is Microsoft holding back netbook innovation?

Is Microsoft holding back netbook innovation?

Most people associate innovation with technology, so it is especially disappointing when a technology company becomes the barrier to innovation. In an attempt to protect the sales revenue of the Windows operating system, Microsoft is stifling the market potential of netbooks.

Jared Newman at wrote a piece titled “Five Netbooks Microsoft has Crushed” and outlines some of the netbooks that are being discontinued because they are too good to qualify for the discounted Windows netbook price. If these devices are forced into notebook classification, they will no longer be able to compete on price against either netbooks or laptops.

The major appeal of a netbook is the size and price. I do not begrudge Microsoft for making a profit or maximizing it revenue opportunities, but the company was built on innovation. Frankly, it seems Microsoft  is cracking down on that which made it great.  In order for the OEM manufacturers to hit a competitive price-point, they have to curtail features in order to avoid higher operating system licensing costs. This practice does not encourage innovation, it smothers it.

Gregg Keizer at has a piece talking about Microsoft’s position on netbook pricing. Simply put, Microsoft wants to move consumers to its more expensive versions of their operating system. The below quote is from Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, and was taken from a recent analyst meeting.

We want people to be able to get the advantages of lightweight performance and be able to spend more money with us, with Intel, with HP, with Dell and with many, many others,” 

Microsoft is missing the point on netbooks. Netbooks are not desktop or notebook computers; they are niche devices that are growing in popularity. I do not believe that netbooks are reducing the full priced operating system sales. The reduction in OS sales has a lot more to do with the economy and the marketing problems of Vista. Consumers know Windows 7 is right around the corner, so why buy Vista?

Netbooks are a new market with new potential customers.

Multi-computer owners own at least one desktop or laptop. As a group, their computers tend to stay relatively modern, and they purchase upgrades when needed. Netbooks appeal to this group because they do not want to lug the larger laptop when going to the coffee shop to get some work, or recreational surfing, done. Additionally, a desktop computer does not move around the home much so it limits its utility. The small size and aggressive price of a netbook are highly attractive to this group.

It is my understanding that the multi-computer purchasers are the predominate consumer of netbooks. I have yet to meet a first time computer owner who purchased a netbook. I have also never spoken to a netbook owner who replaced their only full featured computer with a netbook. However, I have met a couple of dozen netbook owners, and the netbooks were always the second or third computer.

Microsoft should be looking at netbooks as an opportunity for additional incremental OS sales. By embracing netbooks and encouraging the OEMs to build the best possible devices for the $199-$399 price-point, Microsoft could reap larger OS sales and further solidify its market dominance.

It is conceivable that Microsoft could be left in the dust if they allow other operating systems to move into the netbook space. Consumers will move to an alternative operating system from another big name, like Google, if it has innovative features and the right price-point. Google will encourage innovation and push the boundaries of what a netbook can do; Microsoft should lead this charge, not resist it.

Lost and Found: Microsoft’s advertising campaign

Lost and Found: Microsoft’s advertising campaign

I feel the same way, as several of my peers that I spoke with, in that we do not “get” the Microsoft and Seinfeld Vista advertising campaign. If consumers do not understand the ad campaign, then Microsoft has a real problem. I guess the overarching message was “get connected”, but I am not entirely sure how that tied back to Vista. And after spending millions of dollars, Microsoft realized the message was lost, and pulled the plug on the campaign.

I am not sure how the marketing team allowed the below ad to air as it seems a complete waste of air time. The ad strikes me as a desperate attempt to reach for “anything”, but came up grasping nothing but air, in the face of the very impactful Apple ad campaign.


“If a book about failures doesn’t sell, is it a success?” Perhaps not, but Microsoft hopes that a new $300 million ad campaign about the flailing Windows Vista will somehow turn it into a success with the help of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The campaign will be one of the largest in Microsoft’s history, and is expected to begin on September 4.

Did the Microsoft ad agency actually forget to talk, much less sing, the praises of Vista?  I have a hard time calling this ad campaign anything other then a mistake and a waste of money. Vista is still on the rocks with consumers, both business and personal, and Microsoft can ill afford additional marketing blunders.

So whats next for Microsoft? A new ad campaign that will focus on people staying in touch, sharing ideas with each other, and a more direct response to Apple’s marketing machine. The idea of “sharing of ideas or information” have been successful campaigns in the past for both IBM and Cisco, and Microsoft hopes to capture the spirit of these past marketing successes.

So far, the first ad I have seen is a great improvement over the Seinfeld ads. Microsoft is taking a stand and looks like they will actually start to compete with Apple for the minds of consumers. This is long overdue as most of the problems with Vista seem to be marketing (user mindset), at this point, and not technical. The below ad is on the defensive, and almost, to the point of justifying “PC’s” right to exist in the market.

For the last few years, Microsoft has not taken an aggressive marketing position. With the market power of Microsoft, they should shift to a more aggressive stance with Apple and not allow Apple to lead the marketing conversation.

In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone. –Bill Gates

I think it is time for the Microsoft management, their board, and the marketing department to take Bill’s own words to heart before Microsoft gets trounced again. Windows and Microsoft’s market position is not set in stone and can be lost if not attended to properly.