Don’t want to hire an outside resource? Consider the story of everyone’s favorite fighting Frenchman

Interest rates are up, go-to-market spending is down, and outside marketing and public relations are overpriced. But the smartest leaders of B2B firms know that taking advantage of the exceptions to these trends in today’s business environment will make or break their companies.

Investing in new messaging and new markets is necessary to land new customers and grow. But your internal marketing and sales team still needs to focus on what’s going to bring the most efficient and profitable revenue today – your existing customers in your existing markets. You shouldn’t distract them with side quests.

Even if you did ask your internal marketing and sales team to engage a speculative new market, they most likely would not give it the focus and thinking required to succeed. Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is jam-packed with how and why these distracting side quests are usually unproductive.

If you want to break into a new market, especially if an incumbent is already succeeding there, you need a separate team whose existence is attached to success in that market. Outsourcing to a marketing and public relations agency – mercenaries, let’s call them – entails challenges, however.

Specifically, you need mercenaries who have the relevant experience to win in a new market as well as the mindset and operations that will integrate easily into your firm’s culture and workflows. You want an outsider and a team player who can enter an established market in a fresh, innovative manner that also reflects your firm’s unique approach to business. That’s a tricky balancing act.

Isaac Oates, chief executive and founder of professional employer organization and payroll provider Justworks , described this dilemma perfectly in an interviewwith Brad Svrluga.

“We had salespeople with sales experience, just not this kind of sales experience,” Oates said. “There are a lot of things you relearn from scratch…I would talk with people who’d worked at the incumbents in the space, and they all would say, ‘Alright, hire me and we’ll show you how it’s done.’ I was just like, ‘I don’t think we want that.’…somebody wasn’t going to come in and just put us back to what everybody else was doing.”

So what’s the solution? May I introduce you to Marquis de Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolutionary War affectionately known as everyone’s favorite fighting Frenchman.

Lafayette, we are here

General George Washington met many French and other foreign officers who showed up to help achieve his goals (see Oates’ point above). He needed their expertise, of course, but he didn’t want them to show him how to establish a new nation like everyone else. He was doing something new along with his fellow Americans.

Unlike many of these mercenaries, Lafayette was not expensive for the American treasury. But he asked to be appointed a major general, an outlandishly high rank for a 19-year-old who had never fought in battle. From that perspective, he was an overvalued outside resource. However, the ragtag American army was also not the stuff of the French regulars by any stretch of the imagination. Lafayette, in other words, was arguably taking a risk, too.

How did Lafayette secure his position? He dispensed with any notions that he was superior to his partners.

“I’m here to learn, not to teach,” Lafayette said, as Mike Duncan writes in his biography of the Frenchman, “Hero of Two Worlds.”

That’s an interesting thing for a mercenary to say – quite uncharacteristic. Lafayette wanted to understand Washington’s vision of a new country and leverage the Americans’ advantages while helping the rebels win against their stronger, more experienced European adversaries. B2B leaders should keep this anecdote in mind when they’re thinking about outsourcing to a marketing and public relations agency that will help them conquer a new market.

Outside resources are good. They can be a difference maker in many ways that allow you to break into new markets and see things differently than just plodding away trying to do what everyone else is doing. But they need to show that they’re there to learn, just as much as to lend a hand and figure out the hard things. That’s the perfect mix.

So, when the chips are down – and they were certainly down when Lafayette arrived in the future United States – don’t cut yourself off from outside resources. Invest in them so you can break new ground.


Wrestling with Slower Sales 

Were there lessons from the slower revenue many enterprises experienced in 2023?

It’s been hard for many startup founders to tease apart how much slowness in 2023 was due to macro forces in the economy, and how much was from just being a startup trying to find a product/market fit. If you were in this position, you were working to speed up the sales cycle and make it more profitable just as a condition of existence.

While some of the slowdown was attributed simply to smaller budgets that led to sales constraints, one particular frustration was repeated in conversations we had as part of our annual 2023/2024 market intelligence process:

Executives were encountering a “consensus sale” situation that seemed to be worse than years before.

Instead of being able to find a decisionmaker and working with them toward a deal, leaders reported that they and their team were seeing buying decisions becoming increasingly conditional on more individuals with vetoes and less of a stake in the product.

So how did executives fix this problem? Some of the solutions shared with us included –

  • Focusing narrowly on aspects of the product that addressed prospect revenue and impacted topline rather than bottom line.It appeared that businesses selling products or services primarily aimed at the bottom line were subjected more to consensus sales.
  • Investing in search marketing to increase hits from browser searches is boosted by a thought leadership engine.In one case, this was enhanced through thought leadership written by respected people in the industry, in order to make the product the respected solution for its particular audience.
  • Focusing on more client conversations and protecting the time needed to make sure they were approaching the market effectively. This was the strategy of a business within a larger enterprise concerned with developing a new identity and marketing messaging after a series of acquisitions.
  • Orienting on sales-driven thought leadership. Developing pieces that could easily fit into the sales team’s hands and be used in moving leads and prospects through the funnel.

Ada Lovelace Was a Marketing Genius, Too

Read the original article here.

The world’s first computer programmer could also be described as a pioneer in B2B technology marketing. Her wisdom and discerning insights into the potential of technology not only advanced science but also serve as a guiding light today for those of us tasked with articulating to others tech’s potential.

Lovelace was an aristocrat, fortunate to study mathematics in the early 19th Century. Her mother, also a mathematician, believed what we might call a STEM education could prevent Ada from following in the footsteps of her father, the sensual Romantic poet Lord Byron. Lovelace began studying Charles Babbage’s prototype digital computers in the 1830s.

And don’t get thrown off to that reference to digital. Today “digital” suggests electrons moving around. But here digital means reducing the world to ones and zeroes to better compute what’s going on in it, rather than figuring things out via analogs. Read Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators, for an excellent history of the people who advanced computing for the details.

Here’s where the marketing comes in

What cemented Lovelace’s place in history in 1843 was her translation and ridiculously extensive annotation of an Italian mathematician’s article on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Despite her mother’s efforts, Lovelace inherited her father’s gifts with the pen. Her science was like verse. “The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves,” she wrote in one of her notes in the article. The substance of her thoughts was even more powerful. Her annotations envisioned applications of the Analytical Engine that went beyond basic calculations, creating the first known computer program with an algorithm that produced Bernoulli numbers.

Her contributions remind us of the importance of an often-overlooked tool in tech: human perspective. Rather than focusing solely on the nuts and bolts of a remarkable innovation, she considered its applications. She perceived new worlds where the benefits of technology could be brought to fruition.

These insights are extremely important for the future of enterprise AI. Advancements in AI, machine learning, and other technologies have promised ambitious but too-often-unrealized advancements for organizations in many industries. Many of those advancements have yet to be achieved not because AI is incapable of performing them. Rather, too few companies have created AI-enabled applications that busy professionals can integrate into their workflows without significant training, teams of data scientists or other accommodations. Until the hype cycle around generative AI achieved liftoff, selling AI in a general sense wasn’t really moving the industry forward. In other words. business solutions that AI makes possible was the name of the game.

Generative AI has changed that game, but its utility will still be expressed most tangibly through business solutions. And it will be what business solutions can and can’t do that will ground the conversation. You might accuse me of sidestepping consumer applications, and you would be right. But let me save that for a future piece.

First tech white paper?

Lovelace foresaw the distinction. When she wrote her groundbreaking notes, Babbage and his colleagues were hoping that the British government or others would finance the completion of his complicated machines. Unfortunately, they never received it, though researchers have been seeking to replicate and finalize his inventions in the 150 years since Babbage died thanks in part to Lovelace’s notes.

And today marketers might call those notes a white paper, or a document that aims to both inform readers – usually prospective customers or partners – about a complicated technical subject and persuade them of its utility in solving problems. It’s a translation and explanation of a solution, one might say. While Babbage and his team were concentrated on the nuts and bolts of their engines, she was busy showcasing their work to the rest of the world and describing its material benefits to potential users.

She was on the frontlines. That’s where B2B marketers in enterprise AI need to devote their attention today.

When the sugar high of generative AI fades, it will still be delivering understated but significant value in business operations in a wide variety of industries today, from clinical trials for pharmaceutical development, to consumer lending, to manufacturing. Much of that value will originate in incremental advances with AI that don’t garner headlines because it may be more on the user interface side. The momentum is clear, however. AI is at the center of the digital transformations changing the global economy today.

B2B marketers should take a page from Lovelace and clarify just how big it can be, and what stands in the way.


Lessons from “The Innovator’s Dilemma” for Business Leaders Considering Generative AI

Clayton Christensen’s seminal work, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” has long been a source of guidance for business leaders grappling with disruptive technologies.

As generative AI emerges as a transformative force across industries, it’s worth revisiting Christensen’s insights.

Beware of blindspots:

Christensen highlights the tendency of established companies to disregard new technologies that don’t align with the preferences of their current customer base, especially when the disruptive technology initially offers a lower quality version of the existing technology.

Does ChatGPT or Bard write content of code as well as you would? No, maybe not. But….

Market incumbents often focus on serving their existing customers and optimizing their current products or services to meet their demands. This approach is based on the assumption that sustaining innovation—incremental improvements to existing products—will continue to drive growth and success. However, disruptive technologies often start by addressing a different market segment with different needs, and they initially offer a lower quality or less sophisticated alternative to the incumbents’ offerings.

In this scenario, the incumbent companies tend to dismiss the disruptive technology as inferior or irrelevant. They rely on the feedback from their current customers, who are typically satisfied with the higher quality products they already possess. The incumbents fail to recognize that disruptive technologies have the potential to evolve rapidly and improve over time, ultimately threatening their dominant position in the market.

The book explains that market incumbents face the “innovator’s dilemma” when considering disruptive technologies. They must make a decision: either invest in the disruptive technology and risk cannibalizing their existing business, or ignore it and risk being surpassed by new entrants who recognize its disruptive potential. The incumbent’s focus on current customers and their preferences becomes a barrier to adopting and exploring the disruptive technology.

However, as time progresses, the disruptive technology improves in quality, becoming more appealing to a broader customer base. This evolution allows new entrants to gain traction and expand their market share, eventually threatening the incumbents’ stronghold. By the time the incumbents realize the significance of the disruptive technology, it may be too late for them to catch up or adapt effectively.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” provides examples from various industries to illustrate this phenomenon. Companies like Kodak, which disregarded digital photography due to its lower quality compared to traditional film, and Blockbuster, which dismissed the potential of online streaming due to its inferior video quality, serve as cautionary tales.

To overcome the innovator’s dilemma, market incumbents must recognize the importance of monitoring emerging technologies and potential disruptions. They should be open to exploring new market segments, even if the initial offerings seem inferior, and allocate resources to understand the evolving customer needs. By embracing a mindset of continuous innovation and being willing to disrupt their own businesses, incumbents can adapt to the changing landscape and proactively respond to disruptive technologies.

Embracing Strategic Innovations:

Christensen emphasizes the importance of strategic innovations, particularly those that challenge traditional norms. Generative AI provides a platform for such innovations, allowing organizations to explore new territories, experiment with novel ideas, and create groundbreaking solutions. Business leaders must foster a culture of innovation and empower their teams to leverage generative AI as a strategic tool. By embracing generative AI, leaders can challenge conventional thinking, disrupt their own businesses, and create new market opportunities.

Adapting to Uncertainty and Iterative Development:

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” underscores the need for businesses to adapt and iterate in uncertain environments. Generative AI algorithms thrive on data and continuous learning, constantly improving outputs through iterative development. Business leaders should adopt a similar mindset, embracing uncertainty and utilizing generative AI to experiment, learn, and iterate. By leveraging generative AI’s ability to generate diverse possibilities and rapidly evaluate outcomes, leaders can gain a competitive edge by iterating and refining their offerings at a faster pace.

Seizing New Market Niches:

Christensen highlights the importance of exploring new market niches that emerge from disruptive technologies. Generative AI could open doors to previously unexplored territories, enabling businesses to identify and capture new customer segments. By applying generative AI to understand customer preferences, customize experiences, and generate personalized products, leaders can unlock new avenues for growth and secure a competitive advantage.

Balancing Existing and Emerging Technologies:

Christensen’s book emphasizes the challenge of balancing existing business operations with the adoption of disruptive technologies. Similarly, business leaders need to strike a delicate balance between leveraging generative AI and optimizing existing processes. Rather than viewing generative AI as a threat, leaders should see it as an opportunity to augment human capabilities and enhance existing operations. By integrating generative AI into the organization’s innovation strategy, leaders can strike a harmonious balance, ensuring the coexistence of both traditional and generative AI-powered approaches.

Not a good idea to sit back:

By recognizing the disruptive potential, embracing strategic innovations, adapting to uncertainty, seizing new market niches, and balancing existing and emerging technologies, leaders can unlock potential in generative AI. As generative AI becomes increasingly prevalent, business leaders who understand and embrace its power will be well-positioned to drive innovation, gain a competitive edge, and secure future success.


Why we hate sponsored impressions

I’m sure there’s a rule against writing LinkedIn articles in anger.

This article doesn’t follow that rule.

If members of your team, or your marketing partner are paying for sponsored LinkedIn posts, please ask them the following. Why are they sponsoring those posts specifically? And on what organic metrics are they basing their decisions?


When we start marketing engagements with clients, one of the very first things we do is examine what LinkedIn posts have garnered the most impressions, and the general trendline on impressions (are they going up, down, or around).

If clients have engaged in sponsored posts in the past, that clouds what we can see in terms of how their network is responding to what they’re sharing. We’re not against paid promotion of content or social media. But we like to know what we’re putting dollars behind before amplifying it.

Organic impressions, what folks saw and engaged with, because friends and colleagues reacted and shared gives us a clearer picture of what an audience is interested in from our client, why they like it, and from whom they like to get it.

Too often we’ll look back into a client’s LinkedIn history and see posts that seem to have done remarkably well and are exemplars of good content, only to see that we’re looking at sponsored impressions, and the organic impressions tell a different story.

If anything, this post is directed to the super smart folks at LinkedIn who have on one one hand, made it a lot more challenging for marketers to work on LinkedIn than other social platforms. But on the other, that has meant that people from our tribe have not watered down the content that’s shared by our manipulations. LinkedIn interactions are more authentic, which is excellent.

However, in part to allow for that authenticity perhaps, LinkedIn makes it difficult to more easily see how posts perform organically, you have to do extra work to see it. The least amount of clicking, checking and work only shows you that if you spend more money, you reach more people… but to what end?

That’s why we often ask our clients to stop sponsoring posts after we engage with them, so we can get a cleaner picture of what’s going on. And because we can’t endorse where the money should be spent until we get a validated signal of what the money should be spent on.

Media Relations

Damn the Torpedoes!

Before 60 seconds were up, one of the U.S. Navy’s most powerful warships had slipped under the surface of Mobile Bay, Alabama. The ship’s pilot and a few more men scrambled out the only hatch available. Everyone else on board was trapped, drowning and soon dead.

As we launch Gale Strategies, a public relations firm for digital thought leadership, I think about that moment. Depressing right?

Actually, it’s what happened next and why it happened that demonstrate that Gale Strategies is ready for the world and why your business is ready if you’re bringing about digital transformation.


The ironclad USS Tecumseh hit what we call today a “mine.” One of those spiky explosive balls floating below the waves that you have to avoid, if you still remember the game Minesweeper. In this case – back in 1864 – they were called “torpedoes.”

If the just-sunk Tecumseh was one of the U.S. Navy’s most powerful ships, the world’s most powerful was the Confederate CSS Tennessee, and it was coming straight for the clump of Union boats behind where the Tecumseh had been.

“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead” – U.S. Admiral David Farragut is alleged to have shouted.

And despite it being apparent suicide, the fleet pushed forward through the minefield and into the embrace of the Tennessee. By the end of the day, with Farragut literally tied to his flagship’s rigging so he could see above the smoke, the fleet had come out on top in one of the greatest naval victories of the U.S. Civil War.

Apart from all of us wanting to win, what does this story have to do with launching a business or digital transformation? Well first, everything most of us think we know about the Battle of Mobile Bay is wrong. It’s wrong in a way that’s similar to how few really seem to understand digital transformation (more on this later).

Against all odds

“Damn the torpedoes,” has come to mean moving forward despite considerable risk. It’s a cry of the determined who accept their fate and will go against all odds.

But that’s not what Farragut meant.

If he wanted to be more precise he might have said –

“Actually, I’ve calculated the key variables in this scenario and it may not seem like it right at this moment, but we’re in a much better position than the other side. To pull back now in the face of this loss would mean to delay success further.”

Thank goodness that’s not what he said.

Farragut was not impatient, nor reckless. He had a vision, and he could see tomorrow from where he stood.

His fleet had been sitting outside of Mobile Bay for eight months. He had not attacked even when he knew the Confederates were building the monstrous Tennessee, because the U.S. army did not have enough forces in the area to translate a win on the water into occupation of the forts around the harbor and the capture of Mobile itself.

He had to give up at one point while waiting, and leave Mobile Bay to help a failed campaign elsewhere before returning. Eventually the army delivered ground forces, but he did not have iron ships to help with the attack. So he waited as the Confederates strengthened the forts protecting the harbor, laid mines, and finished the Tennessee.

But on August 5th (yes, this Monday is the 155th anniversary of the battle) he finally had the combination of forces he needed to succeed.

Farragut didn’t have absolutely all the variables calculated, but he knew that he was now in position to absorb tragic losses like the Tecumseh and still roll over his opponent.

Farragut was patient, and he knew how to steadily build a winning position, and then when to push it home. He knew when the wave of history was with him.

Digital transformation

Public relations. Your own industry if you’re not in PR. All of it is changing. Your investor deck may hide the fact that deep down inside, you feel like an underdog fighting for an opening. The incumbents may be the world’s most powerful – like that huge CSS Tennessee bearing down on us. You may worry that you’re on the wrong side of the competition’s winning streak. Unknown and unseeable dangers are all about us as we navigate these waters. We will take losses.

But around Farragut and beyond that day in Alabama, slavery would be washed into the past. It had to be. Industrialization in the Northern U.S. would prove more powerful than the feudal plantation economy in the South. Immigration and the influx of Irish and Germans in the North and black troops who joined the Union army together would prove more powerful than the best the South could offer. The war would be grim, but the wave of a new era was pushing across the country.

That wave would be articulated by Abraham Lincoln, through his Gettysburg Address, through the thought leadership of new industrialists, shipbuilders and young women and men who would carry the wave forward. That’s the spirit of Gale Strategies today.

We want to help you articulate today’s wave of digital transformation, to define what the future of your industry will look like, and why you are leading the way. It’s not reckless; we know how to do it.

We’ve calculated the key variables in your scenario and it may not seem like it right at this moment, but we’re in a much better position than it initially appears. To pull back now in the face of distractions and even losses would mean to delay success further.

One hundred and fifty five years after David Farragut said it – Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead. I hope you will.