5 Ways to Rise Above the Noise

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Remember the Verizon ads years ago that repeated the refrain, “Can you hear me now?”℠ It was a brilliant and simple way to demonstrate how Verizon’s network was superior to others. For mobile phone users frustrated by fuzzy and unstable calls, Verizon nailed the ultimate consumer benefit at the time: a clear and reliable connection.

One of the biggest obstacles for marketers today is finding impactful and lasting ways to rise above the noise. Everywhere you turn there is a relentless stream of content delivered through an unending variety of channels. No brand, company, or individual voice is immune.

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Thomas Butta with attendees of REACH 2014

As consumers we feel it. As business people we suffer from it. As marketers we must deal with it. I’ve seen this theme play out at each step of my career – including most recently in the world of venture capital through my work with Andreessen Horowitz in Silicon Valley.

So, how can you avoid being part of the noise?

The question is one I discussed recently at Princeton University’s REACH 2014 conference in front of an audience filled with hundreds of the brightest and most earnest undergraduate students interested in careers in marketing and advertising. There, we talked about five traits central to rising above the fray.

1. Give. In business, like life, you need to give to get. Sometimes you need to give value that seemingly has no self-serving purpose. A great example of this is AppNexus, where I was CMO. AppNexus, the technology company that provides trading solutions and powers marketplaces for Internet advertising, carved out a significant portion of its office space to allow other innovators and technology leaders to Razzle Dazzle audiences. The space became an exchange of ideas and possibilities, not unlike the business AppNexus software supports. Attendance to the events was free. It was good for the NY tech community. It was good for attendees. And, ultimately it was good for AppNexus.

2. Surprise. Sometimes you have to reach people where, when and how they least expect it. A great example of this is when PTC, where I was CMO, opened an analyst conference with a short film we created that simulated what a Wall Street analyst would be doing from the moment he woke up until he arrived at our meeting at the Logan Hilton in Boston. As you can see, every item the analyst encountered was enabled by PTC software. I dare say those analysts never thought the same way about the importance of PTC software in their everyday lives.

3. Truth. Wherever you can tell it like it is. You need to use truth as a way to stand out from the hype. We did exactly that for a small, but clever big data software company based in Austin, Texas. We created a booklet that dispelled the myths and mystery around big data. It was called, The Truth About Big Data. It not only won over the hearts and minds of its customers, it attracted the attention of IBM, the biggest company in the space. Less than a year later, IBM acquired the company.

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4. Clarity. People need clarity to make sense of the madness. Sometimes it’s really hard to discern the important signals that can help from the typically self-serving noise that comes from company after company shouting about why their products are better than the rest. Imagine you’re a buyer. How are you going to figure out who and what really matters? It certainly helps if a company is helping to bring clarity and transparency to the table. That’s why we created the booklet, PLM Schizophrenia. Making Sense of the Madness for PTC.

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5. Invest. Sometimes you need to go well beyond traditional tools, and invest in the creation of something of such significance that it can change an entire industry. That’s what PTC did for the new industry of Product Lifecycle Management when it created The Way to Product First, A Roadmap for Creating and Capturing Value. It was effectively the playbook on how to create winning products. It became so useful, it is now in version 8.0, and has been taught at MIT.

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If you do these five things, you have not only risen above the noise, you have increased your chances of achieving the most coveted spot in any industry, the trusted guide. The trusted guide is the place/person/company where people tune into for help.

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