How To Engage Prospects Without Having To Sell To Them


Monday, 10.36pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Github, recently bought by Microsoft, is turning into the world’s largest software graveyard.

But, you don’t just find software there.

Take this cool collection of marketing resources for engineers, curated by Lisa Dziuba of Flawless App.

Flicking through these got me to the concept of Engineering as Marketing, popularised by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares in Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth.

What does this mean?

You can’t just tell people what you do and show them a brochure and expect them to buy any more.

First of all, it’s hard to get to speak with anyone. They’re all busy. And, unless what you do is exactly what they are looking for right now, they’ll cut you off.

That’s if you get through the receptionist and the email only policy.

And that’s because telling isn’t selling.

Increasingly, what we’re trying to sell in product and service companies is technology. Brains aren’t enough.

You need tech as well – and with tech you have to show what you can do. Demo or die.

But what if you have a large, complex and expensive product?

Or what you have something like a book to sell? Something that doesn’t have a technology element to it.

Take the energy business, for example. It can take from tens of thousands to many millions to develop a new solar project.

I’ve just typed “solar irradiance calculator” into Google.

The first website that comes up is for a Solar Electricity Handbook.

The handbook is the best selling solar energy book today, the website says.

But on the website, they also have a calculator, which lets you see how much a solar installation will perform in the city of Masis, in Armenia – should you wish to do something like that.

And here’s the interesting thing.

The second link on Google is for a company that is using this calculator – and gives the first site a linkback.

That’s a perfect example of engineering as marketing.

The company has created a free tool.

That is focused, no pun intended, on calculating a specific thing – how much sun energy do you get in a particular place.

It’s complementary – which means that it doesn’t steal sales from its main product. You can use the calculator without losing any sales of the book.

The book is the main product and the calculator is a useful additional bit that might get you to the website and even buy the book.

And its building useful links from other sites that use the tool.

Most examples of engineering as marketing focus on the big examples – Hubspot and the like.

But – small companies with small budgets can also use this strategy very effectively.

You might struggle to get time with decision makers to talk to them about what you do.

If your product is relatively expensive – it’s going to take time to develop a relationship with them at a number of levels.

If you provide free and useful tools that don’t cannibalise your core business – they could end up coming to you.

For example, if you use a calculator on someone’s website for long enough, you might be interested enough to talk more about the rest of your products.

Take the solar PV project business – if you can provide tools that make it easier to find locations with good sunlight – you might find people coming to you to ask about your design and installation services.

Like many of the best solutions, engineering as marketing doesn’t try and tackle a problem head on, you go around it instead.

And it doesn’t need to be expensive. Creating microsites, calculators and other small tools don’t need to cost a lot or take much time.

But you do want to make then free, focused and useful.

And, importantly, not make you lose sales.


Karthik Suresh

What Is The Secret Behind A Creative Leap?


Saturday, 10.03pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Brian Tracy, the motivational speaker, starts one of his talks by saying something like “Before I came in today, I read every one of your resumes and I know all your job titles.”

He points to someone in the first row. “You sir, your title is Chief Problem Solver.” To another, “You’re VP of Problem Solving.” And to another, “Executive Problem Solver.”

This gets to the heart of where the interesting stuff happens in business today.

Either you’re in a job where you’re told by your boss exactly what to do, and you do it that way or you get fired.

Or, your boss doesn’t know what the right answer is and needs you to figure it out, in which case you have a client, not a boss.

The first kind of job is manual labour. And, when you think about it, many jobs need that kind of approach – from working at a fast food chain to carrying out heart surgery.

You wouldn’t want your meal cooked in whatever way the chef fancies – perhaps they’ll try it a little under cooked this time to test out if the flavour is better?

You’d want your surgeon to do exactly what is needed – and not go off on a diversionary expedition inside you to follow up something more interesting?

But, there was a time before those jobs and tasks existed in the way they do now. Someone figured out how to make fast food work.

The McDonald brothers worked it out. They created a restaurant where every move was orchestrated. Every step and action had a purpose.

At a recent visit to a McDonalds, I counted around 15 people behind the counter, and no one was getting in each other’s way.

In the film “The Founder”, you hear the story of how they did it – how they noticed that people wanted burgers and fries and not much else off the menu – how they tore down their restaurant and rebuilt it from scratch and created a whole new concept in dining as a result.

We see the end result, but we rarely see the process. Often, people who do creative things can’t explain how they do it – it’s almost magical.

But… it’s something many people are interested in and study. In this paper, Kees Dorst and Nigel Cross look at creativity in the design process.

There are two states we can be in – a problem state and a solution state.

Imagine them like mountainous islands separated by a forbidding stretch of water.

The challenge is to get from one side to the other.

People who do this well start by exploring their mountain in detail.

They look at the problem, what the client feels, how it impacts them. They try and look at it from different angles and viewpoints. They ask themselves questions that try to prod creative thinking, lateral thinking.

They look at possible solutions – explore the solution space. What are the approaches that have already been tried? What could we do differently? What’s the opposite of what is being asked for.

Then, they start to frame the problem – settle on a way to view it.

This means focusing on the things inside the frame and discounting the things outside it. Focusing on the things that matter.

Trying to match up the problem space and the solution space.

All this work is trying to build a bridge – a bridge between the problem space and solution space.

This bridge is the thing that links the two in a way that works. Some bridges won’t. Some will – and they will work well enough to be selected to go ahead.

So, the creative leap is like building a bridge. But what it takes – what it needs is immersing ourselves in the problem and solution space, going past the simple and default and first solutions that come to mind and forcing ourselves to look longer and further and harder.

When we see a finished product – whether it’s a book, an idea, a business model – we might think it sprang to life fully formed. This way of doing things is the only way.

And that way lie jobs that are filled with boredom.

The interesting jobs are the ones where you solve problems – where you make clients happy.

A warning, however. This doesn’t mean you’ll make money.

The McDonald brothers had to eventually sell their business to Ray Kroc, who went on to create the business we know today.

They solved the operations problem – to create fast food.

He solved the business problem.

Either way, they’re all creative problem solvers.


Karthik Suresh

How Do You Know You’re Going To Succeed?


Friday, 9:12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

What would you think of a book called Winning Through Intimidation?

It brings to mind a book full of lessons on how to be more assertive, how to be the biggest, baddest person around. The kind of stuff someone about to go to prison for the first time might need to know.

The author, Robert Ringer, talks about this right from the start.

It’s not a book about how to beat others down.

Instead, it’s about how to get through being intimidated by others, how to keep going when there are obstacles in your way.

Where this starts to become useful is when we have to think about making and following a plan.

Take sales, for example. Every company has to makes sales.

It doesn’t always have to grow – that might be a goal but it isn’t essential – but it must make enough sales to cover its costs.

Here’s a pattern that seems to happen a lot when we’re trying to get sales.

Say you have a small company – it’s makes enough money to make the prospect of hiring a sales person a reality.

So, we get the cost of a person in the budget for next year – plan for the thousands a month it will take.

Is that enough? Will that person be able to come in and reliably meet the targets set every year?

Probably not… and that’s because just having one sales person isn’t enough to be successful.

You need a system. A system that includes a good product that is better in important ways than the competition, a good price, good information, a good order taking and distribution system and so on.

You don’t need a hugely expensive system that has every possible option thrown in.

But you do need a complete system.

A sales person can’t sign get a deal signed if there is no paperwork drawn up. They can’t get in the door if you don’t know the kind of person that wants to talk to you and can help them make contact.

It’s very easy to get discouraged and dismiss a project of this kind as a failure.

We hired a person who looked good on paper and at the interview, but it didn’t work out. We need to hire better next time.

We rarely notice that we have a broken or non-existent system in the first place – and no matter how great the sales person – we never had a chance at success.

But here’s the other thing.

We’ve also paid for a very expensive lesson – one that cost us in salary and time.

And it costs us even more if we fail to learn from what has just happened.

We’ve stumbled and fallen into a pit. We can curse and withdraw or we can move forward.

We can think about what we’ve learned, what went badly and what went well and, knowing what we know now, what we could do differently.

When we do this, we start to pull ourselves out on the other side of the pit.

And we start taking steps that move us in the direction of success.

We may stumble and trip again and again. There will be more pits.

But unless we learn and move forward, we will simply be left standing, looking at the failures we have had.

The next thing we try could be the thing that leads to success finally.

Failure is a state of mind. It happens when we decide to stop.

If we decide not to, if we always ask what is next, we’re going to find a way through. Always.


Karthik Suresh

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