Frequently Asked Questions

The Basics

Why should I choose Cromulent?

So why choose Cromulent, above all the agencies that are out there? Because we have a unique combination of skills and experience that will make your message shine:

  • We know B2B marketing: from experience, we know that succeeding in B2B takes a clear value proposition, meaningful competitive differentiation, and compelling content
  • We bridge knowledge gaps: we create comprehension with different audiences through carefully crafted versions of a consistent message
  • We ‘get’ going global: our team has grown business in markets around the world and created content for global and regional audiences
  • We work really fast: we work on a project-by-project basis, so there’s no incentive for us to move slowly; more often than not, we will work faster than you
  • We understand your technology: we’re not your normal marketers – our technical background lets us learn how your stuff works and what makes it different, so we can explain why that matters
  • We provide extra value: we’re like an extended piece of your team, willing to share whatever we know from our diverse and extensive experience to contribute to your success

What can Cromulent do for my organization?

Lots of things – primarily relating to messaging and content. Check out these pages for more information:

If you’re wondering about corporate training, digital marketing, marketing strategy, web design, printing, or video marketing…then your question is answered below, in the “Does Cromulent Do…?” section.

We’re not a B2B technology company...can Cromulent still help me?

Many of our services are applicable beyond B2B and technology, it just happens that we’ve got strong qualifications and differentiated capabilities in the B2B tech world.

 

It doesn’t hurt to chat.

How did Cromulent get started?

You can read about our origins over here.

Cromulent comes across as a bit informal/irreverent – are you a professional organization?

We enjoy what we do, and that comes across in our communication and brand – but make no mistake, we are completely serious about doing excellent work.

Can I see some references?

Who's on the Cromulent team?

The principal person at Cromulent is Lee Brooks; he’s supported by a network of marketing professionals who provide valuable skills (e.g., graphic design, lay-out, editing, media contacts, etc.) and domain knowledge.

 

In practice, clients deal exclusively with Lee – so you have a single point of contact. If you’re concerned about NDAs, then let’s chat in more detail.

Who's Lee Brooks?

Lee’s a reasonably accomplished technology marketer; in September 2018 he launched Cromulent Marketing.

 

Between 2001 and 2017, he worked in various high-tech roles – transitioning from engineering through project management, product management, and into product marketing – within start-ups, scale-ups, and large corporations spanning private, public, and governmental organizations.

 

In the latter years of the pre-Cromulent days, Lee was the Director of Product Marketing at Sandvine, where he played a crucial role as the company grew to become a global market leader with more than $200M USD annual revenue. In his time at Sandvine, Lee:

  • Built a high-performance Product Marketing team that became the envy of competitors
  • Helped the company scale by extending the Product Marketing team’s scope into a diverse array of responsibilities, including technical demonstrations and marketing, competitive and market analysis, new hire onboarding, internal training conferences, a range of webinar programs, and much more, in addition to all the traditional functions
  • Directly authored more of the company’s content than you’d probably believe
  • Helped turn Sandvine into the industry’s unquestioned thought leader, through an expansive technical library and the renowned Global Internet Phenomena program
  • Personally owned the marketing content for two acquisitions, crafting entire marketing portfolios in just a few days
  • Was fortunate to travel much of the world to visit countless customers and prospects, to speak at conferences, and to attend tradeshows as a general domain expert and company spokesperson
  • Paid close attention, and learned an enormous amount about the challenges facing B2B companies and strategies for competing in a global market

Through this direct experience, and augmented by many conversations and habitual research, Lee learned what helps organizations succeed – and what holds them back.

 

Lee’s a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s internationally recognized Computer Engineering program (with a specialization in Mechatronics Engineering), so he has a strong technical foundation. Over the years, he’s continued to learn by asking questions, pursuing answers, and voraciously consuming books on a wide range of subjects.

Why did you choose the name "Cromulent Marketing"?

“Cromulent” is a bit of an inside joke, mixed with a touch of irony, and a soupçon of practicality.

 

First, the inside joke part: “Cromulent” – of course – is a neologism owing its existence to a classic episode of The Simpsons (Lisa the Iconoclast). Cromulent’s founder, Lee Brooks, and a co-conspirator are big fans of classic Simpsons (even going so far as to compete on a classic Simpsons trivia team), so incorporating a Simpsons reference into the business was an unavoidable path. Would our customers ‘get’ the reference? Some would, others wouldn’t. Could the name actually put people off? Perhaps…but that’s the price one pays for an awesome name that really captures the spirit of the company.

 

Second, the irony: In recent years, cromulent has actually entered the dictionary, with a  definition of “acceptable or adequate”. The irony is that literally transposing the definition into our company name results in “Acceptable Marketing” or “Adequate Marketing”, while the reality is that we strive to produce work of exceptional quality and impact. A related aspect, although not-quite-irony, is that many consultants and agencies take themselves far too seriously – we’re poking fun at ourselves right from the beginning. We take pride, of course, in doing great work for our clients, but we’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking that what we do is magic.

 

Third, a hint of practicality: Two of the most important considerations for naming a business are 1) that the name be memorable, and 2) that the domain name be available. If we’re speaking to a potential client who’s familiar with cromulent, then – *BOOM* – we’re memorable implicitly; if the potential client isn’t familiar, then they usually ask about the origin…and the story itself creates an impression in their memory. Finally, you’re reading this FAQ on www.cromulentmarketing.com, so QED.

How do I get in touch with Cromulent?

Here’s a convenient form!

Where is Cromulent located?

We’re based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Logistics

How do projects usually start?

We’re pretty informal: usually we get introduced via phone or email and have a brief chat; then, if things seem promising, we (ideally) sit down in person for a longer chat – but usually no more than an hour.

 

We’ll ask questions about your goals and timelines, and a few other things to understand the scope of the project and the larger context; you’ll ask questions to find out if we’re credible.

 

Then we’ll follow up with a proposal, which usually lays out a few different options, including costs.

 

You say “yay”, “nay”, or maybe suggest tweaks and ask clarifying questions.

 

And then (presuming “yay”), we’ll provide a statement of work to capture everything that’s already been agreed, and we’re ready to roll.

How do projects typically progress?

That one’s hard to answer, because it depends on the nature of the project.

 

Broadly, things usually break down into four phases after the initial conversations:

  • Learn: We usually meet with one or more members of your team at the outset, for some fairly long (say, from thirty minutes to an hour or two) discovery discussions; if necessary (and it almost always is) we’ll also do quite a bit of primary research (e.g., about your company, customers, industry, competitors, etc.). If we’re directly producing external-facing material (e.g., datasheet, technical showcase document, overview presentation), then we’ll also ask you for brand guidelines, document templates (e.g., .docx, .indd files), presentation templates, image libraries, and so on.
  • Draft: We’ll crank through the deliverables and get drafts to you as soon as we can, for a ‘sanity check’ to make sure things are heading in the right direction. This stage lets everyone make sure there won’t be any unfortunate surprises later on, and keeps the whole thing efficient.
  • Refine: We’ll deliver polished versions of the content; at this stage, any changes should be small tweaks or refinements.
  • Deliver: We hand over the final deliverables and related assets; upon acceptance, we send our project invoice.

Finally, we’ll often follow-up with an informal chat to gauge how things went and to discuss any potential future activities.

What's your rate?

Because we work on a project-by-project basis, we don’t have an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly rate. Instead, we’ll work to understand the project, quote you an amount, and then deliver.

Why don't you do a time-based rate?

There are two reasons why we don’t do a time-based (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) rate for our projects.

 

First, we work fast. Really fast. So fast that it’s a genuine, meaningful differentiator for us. Billing by a time period would undermine that uniqueness, which would be a very poor strategy.

 

Second, we never want to be in the position of a client wondering if we had an incentive to take longer than was needed to get something done. Wastefulness and inefficiency go against what we believe in (for similar reasoning, we don’t do retainers…those just seem like a mechanism to get money for doing no work). With a per-project price, if we mess up the work estimate then we just have to absorb the result and get better at estimating, and the client doesn’t feel any pain from our mistake.

 

We believe that the project-based approach strikes a happy, fair market equilibrium, while avoiding the weird incentives of rate-based billing models.

How much does a project cost?

It really depends on the scope. All we can say at this point is that:

  • we’re exceptionally reasonable, especially compared to what we experienced in our own careers
  • we’re usually able to present different options, to find something that works for your budget

How long does a project take?

Again, it really depends on the scope. Probably significantly less time than you’d think, if history’s any indication (we’re talking days or weeks from start to finish, not months).

 

Let’s chat.

What happens if I don't like the output?

First, we’d be horrified, both because we pride ourselves on delivering top-notch work, and also because it means our learn-draft-refine-deliver ‘process’ failed.

 

Obviously, we’d try to rectify the situation. But if it comes right down to it and the project can’t be saved, then our philosophy is, “If you don’t like it, then don’t pay for it – but don’t use it, either.”

I have a really urgent deadline...is that OK?

Most likely that’s fine – we’ve hit some very aggressive deadlines in the past – but let’s chat.

I'm in (location); can Cromulent still work with me?

Most of our business is in and around the technology hub of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, including the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

 

That’s not to say we don’t do work outside of that region; it just introduces a few variables – so let’s chat.

What factors contribute to a great outcome?

Thanks for asking!

 

Our perfect-case scenario is:

  • Expectations are mutually understood: both parties know how things are going to progress
  • Larger context is clear: we know how this project or engagement fits into your big picture (i.e., supporting company objectives, strategic initiatives, etc.)
  • Goals are clear: we know what you hope to gain
  • Internal agreement about and support for the project: everyone’s on the same page about what we’re doing, and why; any disagreements are minor, and are matters of opinion or subjective taste
  • People are supportive and welcome the opportunity to work together: we’re here because there’s some compelling reason; we’re also happy to work with your internal personnel, other contractors, etc. – after all, we’re (presumably) all working in support of the same goals
  • People are open to doing things differently than the way they’ve always been done in the past
  • Key people are available for conversations (and willing to converse): sometimes, there are questions or topics that only specific people can address – it really helps the whole project execution if those people know in advance that we might be contacting them
  • Dependencies are carefully managed, and any delays are communicated
  • Inquiries and questions are answered quickly: we won’t inundate you with inane questions, but we will ask clarifying questions as the project progresses – fast turnarounds enable fast work
  • We get the resources we need right away: branding and style guidelines, existing content, etc.
  • Review timelines are tight: short review cycles keep things running at full speed

What problems might crop up?

We don’t usually encounter problems, but in the rare instances that we do, they’re (thankfully minor, and) usually one of:

  • Expectations aren’t mutually understood
  • Larger context is unclear
  • Goals are unclear
  • Internal contradictions, disagreement, infighting, sabotage, etc. get in the way
  • People get defensive about an outsider being involved
  • People are attached to old ideas, concepts, terms, ways of doing things, etc. and resistant to trying new approaches
  • Key people are unavailable for conversations (or are unwilling to converse)
  • Dependencies aren’t well-managed, so they negatively impact the project; delays aren’t communicated
  • Inquiries and questions don’t get answered
  • We’re stuck waiting for important resources to get sent over
  • Review timelines stretch

The most common ‘issue’ we encounter is that last one: review timelines stretch. Obviously, this one isn’t a killer unless there’s a hard deadline, but it just causes the overall project to drag on longer than needed. All other things being equal, faster’s better for everyone.

Another one that pops up from time-to-time, but that – again – is very manageable, is a dependency; for instance, we’re waiting for a lab trial to get some stats, or for a real-world deployment to get some results, or for a new product version to get up-to-date screenshots, and so on. In this general scenario, we’ll work intelligently to get as much done as possible, but the final deliverables are held up until blanks are filled (or temporarily omitted).

Can you work with my existing people or agencies?

We sure can, although the best arrangement depends on the project details.

If I have an idea of what to do, and you think it isn't very good, will you push back?

The short answer is “yes”; here’s the longer answer…

 

Our objective is to get you the best results.

 

Presumably, you know quite a bit about your business and probably lots about your market. We know messaging, technologies, and other random and useful stuff. We combine all of that together in pursuit of your goals.

 

Does that mean that we might end up doing something a little different than your initial idea? Maybe. Maybe even probably (odds are that all our heads working together will come up with something even better).

 

Does it mean we’ll push back if we think you aren’t giving yourself the best chance to be successful? Yep.

 

Will that upset some people in the organization? Maybe…? Especially if they’re wedded to ideas and egos rather than results.

 

It’s easy for a consultant just to do everything you say, and then either to take credit if the results are good or to disavow any responsibility if the results are bad. But it’s far more honest – and, in the long run, much more effective – for a consultant to work with you authentically in pursuit of the best results.

General Marketing

Why should I work with an outside agency?

There are lots of reasons why you might benefit from working with an outside agency:

  • Because you don’t have a full-time marketing person, but need a bunch of work done…
  • Because you have a major launch coming up and need a turbo boost to your marketing to get ready…
  • Because your audiences are confused by inconsistent messaging…
  • Because your digital campaigns are underperforming due to poor organic relevance and inadequate content…
  • Because you’ve been searching for months for the right candidate, and work is piling up…
  • Because your existing team or agency are great communicators but can’t quite understand your technology well enough…
  • …and many more

We also talk about some major challenges facing B2B tech companies in our origin story.

When should I hire marketing people?

We’ve been asked this question a few times, so we put together a lengthy answer over in our blog.

Messaging

My company is pretty new/small...why should I invest in messaging right now?

Here are two good reasons:

  1. Your company is never so small that the message doesn’t matter
  2. Failing to establish a clear, consistent message now (regardless of where you are right now) will cause significant problems down the line that’ll become more difficult and time-consuming to fix the longer they’re left to grow and fester, unresolved

We have great technology...why do we need messaging?

Ever hear of the better mousetrap fallacy?

 

Basically, it’s not enough to have a good product, cool technology, powerful solution, etc. People have to know about your good product, cool technology, or powerful solution, and those same people have to agree to give you money for that good product, cool technology, or powerful solution.

 

The right message will make your communications strategy more effective and more efficient, which should get the attention of the right people. But now you’ve got to convince them to fork over their cash, which they’re generally loathe to do.

 

Despite what many technologists think, neat technology does not stand on its own. Instead, that cool technology needs to be linked to acute, painful, important problems that your market is experiencing; further, you then have to demonstrate that your solution is worth choosing ahead of your competitors’. And, complicating matters, it doesn’t just come down to which technology is ‘best’. Things like value, interoperability, ‘good enough’, and other factors come into play.

 

Your message is how you shape and ‘win’ these discussions.

Can Cromulent help me with product/feature/technology naming, descriptions, 'marketecture', etc.?

Yes!

 

The Messaging Guide includes all of those things: product names, product descriptions, feature names, feature descriptions, technology names, technology descriptions, higher-level aggregations of features and technologies into ‘marketecture’ that maps to customer problems and desired outcomes, and so on.

 

If you don’t have those things well-defined already, then we’ll define them as part of the project.

 

Alternatively, if you don’t want a Messaging Guide but are having trouble naming your ‘things’, then we can come in just for those aspects.

Content

Can you help me develop my content strategy/plan?

We sure can.

 

Some of our clients have content strategies in place already, and just need us to produce the content; others are at the very beginning of their content planning and want assistance pulling together a strategic content plan.

 

Either works for us.

I've got great technology...does content really matter?

A well-stocked content library can help you increase awareness, help you win more deals, and help you win those deals more efficiently.

 

Basically, it’s not enough to have a good product, cool technology, powerful solution, etc. People have to know about your good product, cool technology, or powerful solution, and those same people have to agree to give you money for that good product, cool technology, or powerful solution.

 

The right message will make your communications strategy more effective and more efficient, which should get the attention of the right people. But now you’ve got to convince them to fork over their cash, which they’re generally loathe to do.

 

Content is what actually conveys your messages, and your customers/prospects expect that your content will anticipate and answer a wide range of questions.

 

So yep, content matters…to a very large extent.

Can you work with my existing in-house people or external agency?

We sure can. So far, our breakdown is something close to:

  • One third of our projects: we do everything
  • One third of our projects: we work with an in-house designer
  • One third of our projects: we work with an existing agency

…so we’re good to go, regardless of specific circumstance.

Can you just review and edit my existing content?

The best approach is for us to discuss your organization’s goals, then determine how content supports those goals, then assess content gaps and problems.

Maybe it’ll work out that some of your existing content is pretty solid, but just needs a few tweaks, but it’s a bit backwards to use that tactic as a starting point.

Public Relations

If Cromulent writes an award submission, will I win the award?

Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee you’ll win an award just because we wrote the submission. We’ll just make sure you’ve got at least a fair shot by writing a compelling application.

(In our experience, the best predictor of award wins is the amount of money you spend with whichever organization is handing out the awards.)

If Cromulent writes a speaking submission, will I get the speaking slot?

We’ll write a compelling submission, but there are too many outside variables for us to guarantee that you’ll be accepted to speak at the conference/tradeshow/event.

If Cromulent writes an article submission, will it get placed?

We’ll do our best to write a terrific article, of course, but outside variables have too much influence for us to guarantee that your article will be placed/accepted in a publication.

Does Cromulent manage my social media channels and content?

No – we’ll help to develop an overall Social Media Strategy and specific guidelines to serve as a quasi-instruction manual, but you’ll still need to take care of the direct, active management.

Does Cromulent do crisis management?

Does Cromulent serve as the media contact?

No; we’ll produce the material, but you’ll still need to designate someone as the media contact.

How fast can Cromulent turn around a press release?

Very.

Thought Leadership

Does thought leadership matter?

Thought leadership isn’t the first thing you should pursue, but it really does matter.

 

Thought leadership as a concept has been sullied to the point where the term itself is almost dismissed as a buzzword, which is unfortunate because thought leadership programs – when executed well, over the long-term – are effective ways to amplify your voice, to control a discussion, to influence decision-makers, and to pave the way to success.

 

Note the “when executed well, over the long-term” modifier: thought leadership has a bad reputation in part because too many people have shared too much shallow, insipid content on LinkedIn.

 

Real thought leadership takes time, strategy, and execution, and it should be in service to higher organizational goals. But it’s well worth it due to the increased awareness, credibility, competitive differentiation, access, and influence that it provides.

Does Cromulent Do…?

...Part-time or in-residence stuff?

This one’s a bit tough to answer. We’re not against a part-time or in-residence project, we just think it’s usually not the right answer.

 

Let’s chat about your objectives, and we can go from there.

...Corporate Training?

That’s not a standard enough offering to get its own page on our website; however, there’s no harm in reaching out to us to see what we can do.

...Web Design?

We definitely don’t do full-stack, e-commerce, back-end, etc., but we’ve been known to dabble in the design, presentation, and content aspects of the website world. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to chat.

 

At the least, we can probably weigh in with some guidance as to some things to consider when you’re planning or upgrading your website.

...Branding (designs, guidelines, etc.)?

Nope. There are some other folks around who are skilled at developing branding, brand guidelines, etc…we’d be happy to introduce you.

...Digital Marketing?

No, we don’t do pay-per-click, ad campaigns, etc.; nor do we tune your digital marketing stack, set up your lead generation processes, and so on.

Our work complements your digital work by providing you with more and better content; the increased organic relevance should lower your per-unit costs, and having more content lets you better attract and serve your audiences.

...Marketing Strategy?

Assistance with marketing strategy isn’t as much of an à la carte offering as the other things, but we’ve been known to dabble in the subject.

 

Let’s chat.

...Video Marketing?

We don’t have video production capabilities, but we do have more than a little experience writing tight scripts for a range of video types. If you want us to help plan and script your videos and demonstrations, then let’s chat.

...Investor Relations?

No, but we might know someone who does, so feel free to reach out.

...Printing of the final content?

Nope – for infosheets and other written content, we’ll provide you with the print-format PDFs that you can take straight to your printer.

...Marketing activities for mergers and acquisitions?

Ooooh, nice. We’ve got some relevant experience…

 

Let’s chat.