Interview with Kevin Epstein, Author, Marketing Made Easy

Today is the beginning of LA Technology Week (, a weeklong series of technology focused events celebrating technology in the Los Angeles area. This week includes the Tech Coast Angels Fast Pitch ( tonight, and lots of other events geared toward business and technology in the region. One of those events is "Marketing Made Easy" an event Wednesday sponsored by the Pasadena Angels, featuring Kevin Epstein, author of "Marketing Made Easy". We thought it might be interested in getting a few tips from Kevin for the entrepreneurs who follow socalTECH. socalTECH's Ben Kuo spoke briefly to Kevin.

Tell us a little bit about your book?

Kevin Epstein: The book was an exercise that started after talking to a few too many entrepreneurs and finding that I was answering the same questions over and over. It was much more cost effective and a more concise use of their time to put it in a written, reference-able format. The original idea was a desktop reference type of book, and coincidentally Entrepreneur Magazine was looking for someone to write the latest in their series Entrepreneurship Made Easy. Their books include accounting, venture capital, finance, etc. The book is a series of chapters, starting with planning, walking through planning to execution of programs, and follow up with the close and sale, how you defend against competition, and top mistakes in the market that you never do again.

You also have a blog?

Kevin Epstein: Marketing keeps changing, and even though you've bought the book I don't rest on my laurels. It's my way of supplementing the book although with a somewhat more real-time and/or raw and opinionated view. I'm a bit more conservative and neutral in the book. The blog, because of its ephemeral nature, is a little more like I am in person, which is opinionated and loud.

What are some of the things you'll be talking about for entrepreneurs?

Kevin Epstein: The Pasadena Angels are very smart and good to their entrepreneurs for sponsoring this type of event. There's that old saying--build a better mousetrap, and people will beat a path to your door. Entrepreneurs often start by building companies with a better technology or product, hoping that sales will happen--and find out that's complete nonsense. If no one knows you have a better mousetrap, they won't buy anything from you!

What's we'll cover is a brief intro piece over lunch, on where to start--optimal activities for an entrepreneur, and topics like how do you plan, how much do you spend, how do you get the attention of the market and companies in general. We'll also cover how to maximize your ROI and getting the biggest bang for your buck.

There are a lot of entrepreneurs who read our publication, can you tell us what the biggest mistakes you see in marketing, or the most important thing entrepreneurs need to learn?

Kevin Epstein: Thank goodness there's a difference between mistakes and the biggest things to learn. The biggest things to learn are: plan and listen. Execution is good, but planning is arguably better. Listening is better than that. Whether you're marketing through buying a sign, advertising, or email, if you don't know where you want to go, it's pretty hard to get there. Plan, figure out your goal, try marketing, and listen to customers giving you feedback. If they tell you they love your product, but couldn't find you, figure out where they did find you. Tailor your marketing.

The biggest mistakes, without going into too much detail, are gambling instead of planning, over-hyping -- marketing for the sake of noise and color, and not thinking of marketing as education--and failing to pay attention to the feedback loop. For example, if you send a bunch of email, and it costs you $1000, and you get one response from a 14-year old who is not interested in your product--listen to that feedback! What does that tell you? If you spend millions on a Superbowl ad, did it work? Did you make any sales? Lots of people say your ads, but did it turn into sales? People get mesmerized--vendors of marketing of advertising and marketing are like drug dealers. They sell all sorts of custom widgets, from chocolates to ping pong balls, and even skywriting. They're like drug dealers. It's attractive and addictive, and no one looks at the results. That's gambling, rather than thinking logically, and not measuring and listening to your customer.

Marketing is an easy way to either make your company really successful, or spend money and crater it.

Thanks for the tips and good luck at the event...