About Frank Catalano

I don’t have time to read all of this. What do you do?

I’m an independent, strategic-yet-practical business adviser, consulting to companies in the education technology industry as well as organizations with digital learning initiatives in the consumer market.

I provide creative and straightforward advice, and develop related strategies, on both a project and interim-executive basis.

My clients have been small and large. They’ve included a wide variety of startups, and more established organizations such as Professional Examination Service, Apple, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, MetaMetrics, Corbis and the Toy Industry Association.

In my spare time, I’m an industry analyst, author, professional speaker and a media commentator.

Who is Intrinsic Strategy?

Intrinsic Strategy is Frank Catalano.

GeekWireStartupDay2horizontalThere is no more direct way to say it. When you retain Intrinsic Strategy, you get my brain, experience and full attention. Not a junior associate in a consulting firm after you were pitched and promised by a senior partner. Not someone executing a template-driven and buzzword-filled plan that doesn’t take into account the unique combination of your company and your market. And certainly not someone who claims the latest bright shiny object (today, social media; a decade ago, a website) will meet all of your marketing needs.

I know bright shiny objects and have even briefly admired my reflection in them. After all, I wrote Marketing Online for Dummies and Internet Marketing for Dummies (the latter in print and generating royalty checks for seven years, a lifetime in Internet time) with my colleague Bud Smith. I am active on Twitter as @FrankCatalano. I had a blog in 2000, a Web site in 1995 and a computer bulletin board system (remember those?) a decade earlier.

But I also know that nothing is more fleeting than a technological advantage. All new techniques and technologies eventually settle down and become part of the overall tool kit. They should never, ever distract from the core — creating awareness of, and demand for, your product and service with the people who should want it.

What’s your approach?

I think a solid marketing strategy is the core of all solid business strategy. You absolutely have to know what your business objectives are, and directly tie your marketing to them. And by “marketing,” I mean knowing what’s unique about your product or service, who your target customers are, what motivates them, the messages needed to get them to act and the methods and timing to deliver those messages to get the desired action. It’s straightforward strategy-to-tactics approach that prevents a lot of bumping around in the dark.

On the other hand, I’m not into marketing buzzwords and fake “systems” that simply exist to make consultants seem smarter than they actually are so they can justify charging more than they’re actually worth. Developing a strategy is not, and should not be, painful. If done properly, the right tactics fall out of a good one.

What’s your role?

I’m executive-level and hands-on. I don’t advise from afar and then clutter your desk with an unworkable report which has, as its most admirable trait, a hefty thud factor. I roll up my sleeves, work to deeply understand the issues and get my hands dirty. If you don’t have a plan, you will. If you already have a plan, you’ll receive an honest appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses and how to adjust it to make it work better all the way through tactical execution.

You’ll get polite, candid advice every step of the way. And I do mean candid, which is why I’m a consultant and not a large-company executive.

Didn’t you used to be a large-company executive?

I started consulting in 1992 after several years in marketing management positions at the Apple Programmers and Developers Association and at Egghead Discount Software. Along the way, I held long-term interim executive positions while a consultant to McGraw-Hill (VP Marketing, McGraw-Hill Home Interactive), PC Data (General Manager, Internet Monitoring), Apex Computer (VP Marketing), Boxer Learning (CMO), MetaMetrics (CMO) and Professional Examination Service (CMO). I spent a short time as VP Marketing of iCopyright during the heady and ultimately headless dot.com days. And I consulted a lot of companies, from start-up to global in size and scope, on a project basis. These included Apple, SGI, the Toy Industry Association, Corbis, Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door, Wifinder and Pearson.

In 2004, one of my clients said they could renew my contract. Or hire me. So I joined educational technology and publishing company Pearson for four years with the title of SVP Marketing. I first worked with the U.S. assessment and testing businesses but later with all the K-12 education businesses, providing leadership in branding and marketing strategy as well as acting as an internal consultant on marketing best practices.

I returned to consulting in 2008, with a brief stint as Chief Marketing Officer for the not-for-profit Professional Examination Service in 2013. It is true that what is considered insubordination in a staffer becomes a charming eccentricity in an executive.

With whom do you work?

My clients tend to be digital technology, content and services companies in education, consumer and certain business-to-business markets. The few outliers have a tech tinge. For example, Rick Steves’ travel business was trying to better understand how to integrate Web marketing. The Toy Industry Association needed expertise in the new category of tech toys.

While I think there is commonality in all good marketing and business strategy, I don’t think enthusiasm alone trumps enthusiasm-plus-knowledge of a particular market. If I don’t think I have the market expertise chops in your particular space, I’ll tell you up front. We’ll part friends.

Why should my company pick you?


  • I work hard.
  • I’ll become part of your team, if needed/desired.
  • I focus on practical, executable strategies and tactics.
  • I take very few clients at one time so they get maximum mindshare.
  • I’ll be honest with you at every step as I don’t have a full-time job to protect.

And I energetically handle everything from reality checks and brainstorming sessions to interim executive roles and active board participation (having been on the boards of LessonLab and Boxer Learning, the advisory board of New York Game Factory and even the MVP Gold Advisory Board of Alaska Airlines). I enjoy creatively determining how to successfully do what hasn’t been done before.

Will you only write my brochure?


Will you put my company in your columns if I hire you?

Be careful what you wish for. My column writing under my byline is fully my own work and is not for sale, rent or placement. If I mention a current or recent client or project, it’s only because I had no way to avoid it, and comes with obvious, overt disclosure. That’s the ethical thing to do.

Why did you pick a name that’s so hard to type?

I was born with Catalano. As to Intrinsic Strategy, in 2008 it replaced the more generic Catalano Consulting as the name of my business since it better represented what I achieve for clients. It just took me a while to realize I should make that change. Depending on your generation, even marketers suffer from cobbler’s-children/ eat-your-own-dog-food blindness.

Weren’t you an award-winning journalist once?

Yes. On radio and television, and in print and online. That kind of experience has been helpful as I still do a lot of public speaking and write essays. Even after leaving journalism full time, I wrote a regular column for Seattle Weekly and the Puget Sound Business Journal, was the in-house, on-camera technology industry analyst for KCPQ-TV Seattle’s news programs, did regular interviews with NPR stations and many mainstream media outlets (including the diametrically opposed New York Times and Fox & Friends) and even emceed a number of charity auctions.

I now write a regular commentary column for the tech news site GeekWire, and have contributed to the NPR education site MindShift and the edtech newsletter and site EdSurge. But I consider it analysis, not reporting.

Since returning to consulting, I’ve keynoted the 2012 BbWorld Transact conference and been a general session speaker at the Education Industry Association’s 2011 EDVentures conference and the Association of Educational Publishers’ Content in Context Conference. Other speaking engagements include SXSWedu, EdNET, MIT Enterprise Forum NW, the Software and Information Industry Association’s Ed Tech Business Forum and Ed Tech Industry Summit, Washington’s Innovation Summit, Ignite Seattle 11 and Gnomedex 10.

So how do I reach you and Intrinsic Strategy?

If you’d like to get to know me a bit better first, read my blog on this site or follow me on Twitter (as @FrankCatalano). But you can easily click through to the Contact page. And you’ll discover one other quality of mine: I’m very prompt in responding.

Frank Catalano: strategic consulting, analysis & insight