Friday, February 25, 2011

Value Is Overrated - Guest Blog by Boris Alltotears

I've known Boris for years.  He's worked at many of the same companies as I have as well as competitors over the years.  You'll recognize some of his early work in marketing as the inventor of the phrase, "quickly and easily."  We drifted apart as I've turned my focus to eliminating MABUSHI and talking about who cares and why.  I've been busy with my day job so I've asked him to sit in for me and give his impressions of the quality of marketing he observed at the recent RSA security conference in San Francisco.  Take it away, Boris.

Thanks, Tim, for the opportunity to appear and to finally give voice to my disagreement with your views.  You focus too much on value (whatever that is?) and not enough on creating energy and excitement around cool new features.  In my more than 20 years in the business it's been features, features, features and features still reign today as what gets my blood pumping.  Without features, what would we talk about?

Features are what's cool.  If you want proof, just spend 30 minutes walking the show floor at RSA.  It was envigorating to be amongst all those leading providers of security stuff.  The leading provider of SIEM was next to the leading provider of network security.  Right across the aisle was the leading provider of web security next to the leading provider of comprehensive on-demand threat management and vulnerability assessment solutions.  Then there was the leading provider of unique and powerful solutions for IT audit and security.  Next to them was another leading provider of SIEM and behind them was the cool booth for the other leading provider of web security.  Not really sure what any of it meant but it all sounded SO COOL and they had nifty giveaways. 

RSA must be the premier security show to be able to attract all those leading providers of stuff.  And this has got to be the greatest industry in the world to be able to have more than one leading provider for each of those security categories.

And everywhere you looked there were next generation security, um, stuff.  I mean, if it's not next generation, who wants to know?  No one wants to secure their business with current generation or, God forbid, last generation technology.  Buyers want to know they've got the latest and greatest, coolest features.  If that weren't true, how come so many vendors there plastered their booths with these phrases?  Right?  CIOs must love buying next generation products for everyone to be saying they are next generation.

To keep all the leading providers and next generation stuff straight, I had to take home all their brochures just to figure out exactly what they did and if I should care.  And like a good citizen I duly recycled all 37 pounds of data sheets I collected.  Don't want that stuff cluttering up my office, you know.  I did get some fun giveaways for your boys, though.  I hope they liked them, especially that bouncing cup thingy that I got from the leading provider of integrated user authentication and verification solution suites - or maybe it was from the world's leading provider of network access control (NAC) and policy compliance solutions.

No, Tim, this value stuff you keep touting is boring and overrated.  As the president of the enterprise sales division of a leading provider of search and online advertising said at their sales kick-off a few years back, "Don't bother with that solution selling crap.  We've got great products. Go out and sell great products." 

Uh, thanks Boris for that wonderful insight.  I might ask you to come back soon to give us your, um, views on other topics.

Next up: Where did those 4 $%#^#%# About Us slides at the beginning of everyone's decks come from?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Two Sure Ways for B2B Marketers to Blow the First Date

As promised, today's post is a guest blog by Josh Duncan.  Josh leads Product Marketing and Social Media efforts at Zenoss, an enterprise software startup.  You can find Josh writing online at the Random Jog blog or on Twitter @Joshua_d.  Josh is a fellow crusader in the battle to rid the world of MABUSHI.

Image link:

I am trying to read Simon Sinek’s latest book, Start with the Why, but haven’t been making much progress. Whenever I sit down to spend some time with it, I only make it a few page before I inevitably run into something that I need to write down and think about.

For example, on the subject of building trust with you customer Simon writes,
Like on a date, it is exceedingly difficult to start building a relationship with
a potential customer or client by trying to convince them of all the rational
features and benefits. Those are important, but they server only to give
credibility to a sales pitch and allow buyers to rationalize their purchase
B2B marketers must find a way to get the attention of the customer to get in the door but that’s just the start. There’re usually multiple stakeholders and influencers that have different goals and agendas that must be addressed before the final sale.

One sure fire way to not get a “second date” is to over-position the product. It’s when marketing wants to please everyone and tries to cover every angle with the product positioning.  What usually happens is that the product promises to do more than it’s capable of delivering. If it sounds too good to be true, people assume that it is. Additionally, the last thing you want to do is raise your customer’s expectations only to crush them into pieces when the product fails to live up to the hype.

Another mistake is trying to position your product in a hot category when clearly it is not.  Look no further than Microsoft’s “To the Cloud” commercials for a perfect example.

It’s not really clear what product they are talking about here but it’s definitely not Cloud Computing.
Were they hoping that by sticking Cloud in the positioning people would assume the product is new and cool?

So how do you reach your customers without over-promising and over-hyping? It’s about finding out what they value and their pain points and engaging with them at a level that shows you get their challenges. Most importantly, you have to realize that buliding trust is a process and it takes time.

Trying to shortcut the process will leave you dateless, sitting at home alone, waiting for the phone to ring.

Next up: Another guest Blogger giving tips on slide presentations.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What To Do While You Build the Marketing Plan

Okay, this may sound like a rant or a whine but I'M NOT THE LEAD GEN GUY!

I just started a new gig and am in the process of building a complete marketing infrastructure for the company: soup, nuts and everything in between.  I know he's not being derogatory but the Sales Director introduced me to a few people by saying that I'm responsible for "generating leads and helping us with the messaging."

I could respond by saying, "I'm really the pick the segments, determine the key points of value, figure out how we compete, identify and develop the personas, build the partner strategy, quantify the lead and sales process, write all the collateral, create and execute the campaigns and track the results guy."  But he probably wouldn't listen anyway.

Yes, all that stuff has to be done BEFORE you can create and execute any lead generation campaigns that have any value.  I'm too new to the company and space to know who the buyers are, where they go for new information, what resonates with them, etc. so it would be a supreme waste of my nice new CEO's money to try to do any lead generation campaigns now.

Silly True Story to Illustrate My Point (I'm not making this up): A company I know recently bought two lists of names, 20,000 in all, of people who read an industry rag that covered its technology.  They blasted out an email to all these people who had never heard of them and got exactly 3 leads.  Not to be outdone, they followed it up with another email to the same database six weeks later and got exactly ZERO leads. And this is a 20 year old company!  A 20 year old company who doesn't understand their buyers or market.

However, the sales team, my nice new CEO and the Board wouldn't tolerate that kind of performance nor are they in a position to wait until I have the marketing plan completed before they expect results. 

What to do in the meantime?  I could Make Stuff Up (MSU) but that usually results in MABUSHI and a quick ticket to the unemployment line.  I could run screaming for the hills but that wouldn't impress SWMBO.

Instead I spent the afternoon with the sales team and my nice new CEO and we drilled into everything we already knew about our existing customers (though few), what worked, what we did, where they are in the company, etc.  The result was a moderately focused customer segment, four proven titles to call on in those target companies and a workable (though incomplete) persona for one of those titles. 

It's not efficient but it's not wrong, either.  Our sales team has a focus for the next 60 days while I flesh out the personas, refine the messaging, create some resonant content and all the rest of that "lead gen" stuff. 

Key Take Away: You have assets even if you don't know what they are.  Find them and use them while you build out your plan.

Next up: My first guest blogger.