Top 3 Marketing Lessons from Luis Salazar, Voyager Capital’s Entrepreneur in Residence

2/20/09Follow @gthuang

Have you ever talked to someone who really knows technology, and really knows how to sell it? It’s a potent combination. I got that feeling from Luis Salazar, the chief marketing officer of Bellevue, WA-based GMI, an international market research firm. Salazar moonlights as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) at Voyager Capital in Seattle, where he advises Voyager’s portfolio companies and helps evaluate new investments in terms of their go-to-market and monetization strategies. (He’s Voyager’s sole EIR.)

Salazar spent 11 years at Microsoft, starting in Venezuela in 1997 and progressing to become general manager for marketing in Redmond, WA, and co-founder of Microsoft Office Live. He left in October, and has been working with Voyager since last spring. As an advisor, he specializes in the consumer side of Internet companies, and one of his guiding themes is that online market research and online advertising are one and the same. For example, as an avid photographer, Salazar says companies like Canon need to put ads in front of him—but they also need to know his product preferences so they can develop a better camera. Marketing and advertising should help each other.

But the problem is how to get the right survey to the right sample of people. That’s where technology comes into play, and that’s where Salazar thinks Web 2.0 software—everything from user-generated content to targeted ads—will have its greatest impact. In particular, he sees Web 2.0 starting to reinvent health care, online market research, and energy management.

We didn’t get into all those details yet, but I asked Salazar to pull out his top lessons in marketing and product strategy from his career. He responded with three:

1. “The product is the go-to-market.” It sounds obvious, but companies often forget the most important thing is make a good product and retain customers. A big part of that is “getting marketing more involved in product engineering,” Salazar says. “Marketing and engineering are so entwined…You need to code in such a way as to engage ad networks.” As opposed to the common view (especially among engineers) that marketing is just promotion.

2. “Design does not equal user experience.” Don’t forget that the user experience is very subjective, he says. “It’s not how it looks, it’s how it works.” Sometimes just the wording of a phrase in the click-to-buy box, or the color, or where you put something on the page, can have a big effect on sales. The key is to find out what that effect is, and build it into the design.

3. But perhaps the best advice Salazar had is what he told his 11-year-old son, whom he helped start a bookmarks business to pay for a Nintendo Wii. (His son has already learned the ropes of Google ads, print ads, radio promotion, and price points, and now donates his proceeds to United Way.) “It doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as you do what you love. The money will come.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://soekershof.com Herman

    “The most beautiful we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true Art and Science” (Albert Einstein)