How Steve Blank Sold the RIGHT Story to Turn Around SuperMac

Chris Monk
Jun 19, 2018 · 4 min read

I was recently reading an articleby legendary entrepreneur Steve Blank where he talked about the strategy he used to turn around SuperMac — a company that made add on products for the Macintosh.

SuperMac had gone bust and filed for Chapter 11, but two VC firms had seen enough potential in this company to invest $8 million in Venture Capital.

Steve was hired as VP of Marketing with the seemingly thankless task of leading this turnaround.

SuperMac was not in good shape.

Not only was the company coming out of Chapter 11, it was the laughing stock of the Mac industry. Its two major competitors owned 90% of the market and, to quote Steve:

After talking to its resellers and customers I realized that SuperMac was the only company that could be described as “fifth in a group of three.”

The company had potential, but Steve had a hell of a task ahead of him.

MY INTERPRETATION OF HOW STEVE DID IT

In the article, Steve’s main argument in this article is on how execution is absolutely crucial (quite rightly picking on the tendency for business school graduates to want to focus on strategy alone) — however, I’d like to focus on the strategy aspect of things in this article because:

a) It’s genius

b) It displays a lot of the things I talk about and what we work on with our clients here at Persuadem.

STEVE SOLD THE RIGHT STORY

There has been a lot of talk in the entrepreneur and business world about ‘storytelling’ — it’s been sold as the panacea of all marketing and sales problems.

Yes, storytelling is extremely important. But it has to be the RIGHT story.

Telling stories for a story’s sake is not good marketing.

The story itself needs to sell an ideology — it’s part of what I call Ideological Branding.

By ideology I mean a new way of working, a new methodology, a new approach and a new way of thinking — one that is different than that of the competition.

And this is exactly what Steve did.

And here’s how he did it.

The fact that Steve’s first act as VP of Marketing is to jump on the phone with previous customers should come as no surprise — he is after all the father of the customer development methodology which launched the Lean Startup movement.

It’s during these conversations with previous clients that Steve discovered the crucial keys that he could use to reposition SuperMac.

Notably the fact that his customer’s based their purchase decision on product reviews in a handful of key magazines.

Steve now knew exactly where to focus his story and what his new ideology would be.

Steve knew that the key decision making factor were product reviews in a few key magazines.

The problem was, SuperMac wasn’t able to win any of the product reviews.

Instead of trying to fit their products into the existing framework of product reviews, Blank and his team simply redefined the benchmark criteria that was used to rate graphics cards in the media.

They created their own benchmarking system that consistently proved that their graphics cards were miles better than their competitors.

Then they leaked that benchmark to the key media that their customers used.

By the time their competitors cottoned onto this fact (a couple of years later), it was already too late — they were off to the races and munching up market share.

To quote Steve in this article:

It was an educational mission to tell the story of who our customers were (and by inference who all the graphics board customers were) and why the current reviews of these graphics boards weren’t adequately measuring what was important to this large market.

The key to succeeding by selling a story and a new ideology is to hammer it home EVERYWHERE and in EVERY piece of communication.

Content creation is EASY when you have an ideology to sell — you just repeat the same story again and again in different ways. It just takes a bit of creativity.

About Chris Monk

Former Global Marketing Director with over 12 years experience in marketing and sales, including work with Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Google and SAP.

I help businesses implement Ideological Branding — a strategy that some of the world’s most successful businesses use to create massive growth and dominate their markets.

Learn more at www.ideologicalbranding.com

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