The late Dave Packard, co-founder of HP, once made the observation that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”. Having just listened to a presentation by Forrester VP Nate Elliott, I’m inclined to add that your brand is - equally - far too important to be left to marketing…
Nate’s presentation can be found here. Both of these attitudes run contrary to traditional approaches to marketing and to your brand. But those traditional approaches - which were fraying at the edges even when Dave Packard made his remark 50-odd years ago - have been rendered completely obsolete.
It’s all about the experience
They are obsolete because in today’s world, what your prospects think of you has got very little to do with the messages your marketing department broadcasts, and everything to do with your prospects’ and customers’ experiences of your organisation, your offerings, the people that represent you, and the feedback they get from others.
Marketing, as Nate points out, used to be about “making promises and hoping”. But any failure to deliver on the brand promise has a far larger and wider impact today. Take one example: David Meerman Scott recently reported on being regularly spammed by BMW, a brand that many of us hold up as an icon of consistent brand values.
The genie is out of the Twitter bottle
But by failing to respect their customers, and by compounding the problem by not implementing requests to unsubscribe from unwanted messages, BMW have alienated themselves from a growing number of fans - and the word is spreading. Once the genie is out of the twitter bottle, it cannot easily be returned.
Not just about social media
This is not just about social media. Your brand is intimately associated with every experience and every interaction your prospects and customers have with your organisation. One careless, thoughtless act can ruin years of careful reputation building. One inept sales conversation can loose a deal. One bad product experience can compromise a lifetime’s potential customer revenue.
A wolf in SaaS clothing
I want to share an example that a number of clients have shared with me. SaaS (Software as a Service) isn’t just - or even largely - about a type of technology delivery. Increasingly, it’s about a complete approach to delivering a positive customer experience. Established software vendors that - in an attempt to jump on the bandwagon - are slapping SaaS lipstick on a conventional business model pig are completely missing the point.
The real SaaS leaders - companies like Salesforce.com and Hubspot - understand this very well. But latecomers to the party - and I’m going to single Oracle out for particular attention here - seem to be getting it spectacularly wrong. Quite apart from crafting what are possibly the world’s most boring corporate presentations (a crime against humanity by itself), clients tell me that Oracle are failing when it comes to the total user experience associated with many of its new SaaS services spectacularly wrong.
All about the experience
Real Software as a Service, I suggest, isn’t just about whether your technology happens to tick a series of often-arbitrary product capabilities. It’s also about how easy it is to buy, install, use and enjoy. In short, it’s about delivering a superior user experience. It’s about removing any and all barriers to success.
It’s about being able to explore the capabilities of the offering through a variety of different means, including self-service. It’s about having an informed discussion about capabilities when you need to. It’s about being able to sign up for a trial with a few clicks. It’s about making it easy to start small and grow. It’s about eliminating the barriers to entry. And it’s about making it easy to experience early success.
Very little of this, you’ll note, is about technology, or about the product. It’s very much about the entire end-to-end user experience. And that’s the bit that a lot of traditional vendors seem to stumble over. They just haven’t thought about the user experience from the right perspective. And until they do, however much money they spend on marketing (or however much their sales people spend on their suits), they will continue to miss the point and miss the mark.
What values would your customers associate with your brand?
I’d encourage you to think about what values you want your customers to associate with your brand. How are those values reflected in the quality of your conversations and interactions with your prospects, and in the experiences of your customers? And, as 2012 approaches, what could you be doing to ensure that your brand is being reinforced in everything that you do?