Glenn Gow called the other day, and (I'm not ashamed to admit it) we had a little revival meeting.
Gow is from the old school, from which he got the name of his marketing consultancy, Crimson Consulting Group Inc. of Los Altos, CA. The firm was number 331 on this year's Inc. 500 and does most of its work through 2,400 part-timers -- there are just more than 30 full-time employees.
Gow's background is about as old-timey as you can get in the computer industry. He started at Procter & Gamble, and after a failed start-up in California, worked at Oracle. After some years on his own, he said, "I realized I needed to surround myself with people who were smarter than I was to serve all the needs of our clients. So I switched into managing and building a business."
What is exciting about Crimson is its basic approach. It's not flashy. "You have to understand your customers," Gow said, "and focus on them with precision." You don't need to be known by the whole market, just your market.
Crimson hasn't entirely missed the Internet recession, "but we're still growing." Recently, he said, the company finished a project for Sun Microsystems on global pricing.
"The policies you create in the U.S. don't necessarily fit well when you go global," Gow concluded. "We discovered they were at a huge disadvantage in some markets" by studying key competitors.
Close study, segmenting markets, and following through with implementation are the keys to Crimson's approach. "So we're seeing an increase in demand for our services because not many people in technology are schooled in marketing. They don't have experience at it."
Gow sounded like a neat guy, but he would never hire someone like me, any more than you would hire a sportswriter like Rick Reilly to coach a hockey team.
"We look for direct operational experience. You need to come out of a technology company, and you need to have done the things our clients are faced with. So when we bring a team in, the client says we know more about the business than they do."
What about all those veterans of clueless dot-com start-ups now hitting the bricks? I asked. Could they be saved to work for Crimson Consulting?
Yes, they could, Gow said, if they admit their errors. "There's value in learning from mistakes. Bring those bruises so others don't make your mistakes."
So you see, dear friends? There is hope. You can be saved from the stupid marketing decisions of the last few years by admitting your sin, learning from your errors, and changing your ways. So let's all come in on the chorus:
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Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.
December 12, 2013
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