Software Product Marketing That Works (Part 1)

Software Vendors Used To Hold the Power

The relationship between software vendors and buyers has dramatically shifted over the last 20 years. In the 1990s, I worked in IT selecting enterprise software for a global manufacturer. Information was scarce. I would hoover up anything I could find on alternative software from magazines, tradeshows and conferences. Everything I found was tightly controlled by the software vendors’ marketing and PR teams:

  • regurgitated press releases
  • paid analyst research
  • fluffy marketing adverts
  • occasional screenshots
  • quotes from company executives

Vendors restricted any meaningful details to prospects, so I had to sign up for seminars and talk to sales teams. It meant enduring long sales presentations, endless PowerPoint decks, and follow-up meetings as the vendor’s sales team plodded through their sales process.

I just wanted to see a demo, understand core features, compare, contrast and evaluate against other vendors. I tried using paid analysts like Gartner and Forrester, but there were either knowledge gaps or their independence was uncertain.

Old School Product Marketing Was Easy

When software vendors held all the power, product marketing was easy. Prospects were a captive audience. Their only route for getting information was tightly controlled by the vendor’s sales team.

Product marketing could focus on producing basic sales collateral: superficial data sheets, long-winded white papers, boring case studies, and long presentations.

In the 2000s, far more information became available online, but it was still controlled by vendors on their websites. However, the vendors’ control was starting to slip as it became far easier for new market entrants to be discovered online.

Software product marketing teams now had to focus on supporting demand generation, on grabbing attention. Using the promise of educational, interesting content to bring in prospects and then give them the sales pitch. This worked, because the information supply was still limited and the novelty of email newsletters, webinars, and video as delivery methods appealed to technophiles.

Old School Product Marketing No Longer Works

In 2011, the balance has changed. Buyers are in control.

  • We’re faced with information overload not shortages
  • We can get real information from customers not canned messages from vendors
  • There are dozens of delivery formats available on demand, for free
  • Our privacy online is more valuable

Product Marketing Must Change

Don't Shout. Do Listen.

To work now, marketing must flip the bit – it must turn itself around:

  • Don’t push marketing to audience. Do encourage buyers to pull information in
  • Don’t brag, boasting is ignored. Do encourage feedback, reviews, social proof from customers.
  • Don’t focus on your product features. Do focus on customer benefits, people using your products.
  • Don’t choose words to impress. Do simplify for clarity.
  • Don’t broadcast generic information. Do customize information to engage different audiences.
  • Don’t pitch your product. Do educate why there’s a need.
  • Don’t manage your sales process. Do make it frictionless for people to buy.
  • Don’t invest in industry tradeshows. Do invest in engaging customer communities.
  • Don’t build massive sales teams. Do encourage self-service demos, trials, and purchases.
  • Don’t lock customers in with restrictive contracts. Do provide value and excellent service.
  • Don’t rely on SIs and IT to implement and sell. Do design software so users are self-sufficient.
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Software Product Marketing That Works (Part 1) by @SmartSoftMarket

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