Monday, April 7, 2008

Who cares?

I created a seminar this weekend for delivery tomorrow to Venture Island entrepreneurs, 90 minutes of blah-blah about creating a kick-ass sales and marketing strategy. I dusted off a few old presentations, reshuffled slides, customized the content for the audience, and wrapped it in a bow. Should be fun.

One of my slides erroneously opined a CEO’s primary job is sales: Customers, partners, employees, investors, etc. Makes sense, but I was off mark. The paramount responsibility and challenge for an entrepreneur (or anyone who’s trying to lead a cause) is to get people to care.

Everyone is solicited, every day. Buy this, go here, invest there, attend this, support that. Requests for our time, interest and participation. I received such an email from the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy this weekend, engaging board members to spread the word about the Academy's annual Showcase. Because I care about the organization -- I'm personally, emotionally, historically and benevolently committed -- it was a no-brainer; I acted.

Back in August we touched on the imperative of getting people to care in a post, Be relevant. A snapshot:

What is relevance? To me, it’s getting people to care by generating value and interest and demand and intrigue and inspiration. It’s about creating and stoking a bonfire, one with ever-growing visibility and a desirability to participate. It's encapsulated in one of The Cluetrain Manifesto's theses: Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die. It’s hands down the paramount challenge CEOs face.

Relevance matters only in the minds of your constituents; it’s their perception, period, that counts. And, all stakeholders count: Customers, prospects, partners, shareholders, employees, analysts, competitors … your entire ecosystem. It’s doing something – a lot of things – to edge people to the front of their chair, to raise an eyebrow, to engage a phone call, to elicit an, “I’ve gotta do something -- invest, buy, partner, work, lead, support – with this company," action.

Fostering relevance is an (check that: the) ante to success. The rest – the blocking and tackling of business – is easy and boring. If you’re not relevant – if you can’t get key constituencies to care – move on. Treading water in an empty pool is painful for all involved.
In another post, Ode to Arco, we shared a post-script from an interview Marc Andreessen did with one of his entrepreneurial heroes, Stephen Wolfram. Here's a taste:
People have different motivations, of course. A lot of people think the big thing with companies is money.

Yes, if you luck out, you can make a lot of money. But it's really rare that money carries people as a motivation.

You have to actually care about what you're doing.

For some people, like me, it's the actual creative content that they care most about. For other people, it's the act of building the company. For others, it's making deals. Or winning against competition.

But there has to be something you really care about.

Back to the Be relevant post. It was sparked by an over-a-beer conversation with a comrade about a local publicly traded software company. Here's a recap:
What’s up with them? Earnings are lagging. Stock price’s flat. Growth has stagnated. The CEO’s fried. A recent acquisition fell apart. The CTO bolted. They’re running out of cash. They’re too small to be public. The board’s unhappy. Analysts don’t care. It was a standard, morbid diagnosis of a limp-along company.
At the time, the stock languished in the low twos. Today, it's trading at $6.60. The company is relevant; people care. In this case (of a public company), results = relevance. If only I cared enough to buy the stock.

1 comment:

Tanya Middleton said...

Relevance is alaways key, finding the connectivity between yourself and the consumer is always the most important step you can take. Finding the right peers and prospects to surround yourself with can be challenging at times. I actually work with Microsoft, and right now I’m really excited to spread the word about the “Vision to Venture” tour they’re having between April and May, which will consist of five live events. Featured speaker, John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach, award-winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide, as well as many other speakers offering industry tips. The tour is fully geared towards entrepreneurs and web business owners/ developers. You can see more and register at http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/v2v/ so let me know what you think! And if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them 