“There’s no marketing worse than software marketing” — and how to fix it

In 2008, I attended the Software Business Conference in San Jose. It was full of useful information on how to build effective pricing structures, what to plan for in the emerging software-as-a-service model, and how to protect company software from pirates. One thing I remember clearly is from one of the marketing presentations:

“There is no marketing worse than software marketing.”

Advertising for cars, shoes, irons, and soft drinks win awards. YouTube videos for minivans and waterproof running shoes go viral. Marketing campaigns for enterprise software? Most people think they just inspire afternoon naps.

So what’s the problem?

The first problem is that enterprise software is a complex animal, and that the features and benefits aren’t always easy to understand. Those who do understand it are often so entrenched in the industry that they use jargon to describe what the software does. The people assigned to market the software usually don’t understand the jargon, much less the product, without an awful lot of work.

It’s not surprising that many software vendors’ websites are confusing. When visiting these sites, it’s often very difficult to figure out what the software does, who the software is for, and what the real benefits are. Software often needs to be installed by people who have previous training in some technologies — and often, those people aren’t the same as the people who are making the purchasing decision. This adds a lot of moving parts onto the buying process, which adds complexity to the sales cycle, which complicates the marketing messages.

Branding goes extremely far in this industry. For IBM, HP, Oracle, or CA, software buyers know these companies and will often give them an audience. (“You don’t get fired for buying IBM,” as the saying went in the ’70s.) Smaller tech companies find it much harder to gain footing. And figuring out how to message to the target audience is daunting — many of them are techheads who say that they’re totally turned off by marketing.

So how do technology marketers meet this challenge?

Understand the market: First, marketers must talk to customers and developers. These people are on the front lines, using the product every day and shaping the product to meet certain goals. If marketers can get trained on the product–or at least sit in on a couple of days of training–they’ll be able to understand the product exponentially better.

Second, distill the product message down to one or two key benefits. “What does the product do?” is a question that must be answered in 10 words or fewer–both in your product descriptions and on your website. This product message might be similar to competitors’–but if the message is distilled, the product will seem simpler to customers (even the techies who say that they don’t pay attention to marketing). This can be one of the hardest things to do: developers and other stakeholders won’t want to kick out their favorite feature in the main marketing message. But study after study has shown that narrowing the focus of marketing messages increases revenue much more effectively than broadening the message.

Engage in conceptual conversations: Lastly, the company and/or the product experts must be willing to talk about issues and concepts in public forums: blogs, forums, and social media networks. When smart people at your company start talking about the way they view the world, it goes a long way towards convincing your prospects that they need to start viewing the world the same way. Your company people can’t look at this as a time to close a sale or hawking the latest 10% off promotion; rather, they have to genuinely want to engage prospects in conversations about the way technology is used to address business problems. If prospects realize that they really like the way your product/your smart people approach the problem, you’re 75% of the way to closing the sale.

These three things aren’t easy. They require many people in your organization to get out of their comfort zones. But technology buying has changed in the last five years: salespeople are running into more dead ends, where prospects who’ve seemed interested and have even viewed a demo are no longer returning their calls or responding to emails. The messages are getting filtered out and the prospects are being lost.

Advertising above the fray: an update

So Google got the name of their NexusOne phone in front of 100 million people in their target audience. They promised their online store would revolutionize the way smartphones were sold. News broke that Android phones surpassed the iPhone in sales for the first time ever.

Why didn't the NexusOne live up to Google's expectations?

And in the middle of all this, Google admitted defeat.

Now, selling 165,000 phones at almost $600 a pop in less than 6 months can hardly be called a failure. Creating revenue of $100M in half a year with no marketing but a webstore and a text ad on a search page is actually quite phenomenal. But even that $100M in revenue fell far short of Google’s own expectations.

But why did the NexusOne fail to hit the sales numbers of the iPhone and the Motorola Droid in that time?

Smartphone market experts think that people probably wanted to hold the phone in their hand at a store before they made the buying decision. While this makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, Apple sold a million iPads to people who couldn’t hold one before making the purchase.

I think that Google, in their rush to be innovative with marketing, ignored the marketing rule of 1+1=3. Running an 1/8-page ad 8 issues in a row has greater impact than a full page ad in a single publication. The iPhone and Droid both were advertised heavily on TV, billboards, magazines–as well as websites.

And the text for that ad on the Google search page? “Experience the NexusOne, the new Android phone from Google.”

There’s no compelling content in the ad line at all–no reason at all given by Google for a user to consider a NexusOne in the world of smartphones out there. (Except, possibly, that the phone is from Google, which smacks of arrogance.) The iPhone (“There’s an app for that”) and Droid (“In a world of doesn’t, Droid does”) are both about features, productivity, and being able to do everything you want on your smartphone.

It seems to me that Google ignored a few of the essential marketing fundamentals–they relied on a single medium to drive product awareness, and they failed to create a compelling story. Perhaps the “it’s from Google, it has to be good” works when your products–search and Chrome–are free, but the world changes when you now need a $600 investment from your customer base.

MLB, not McGwire, should get most of the blame for the steroid era

January 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Today, a not-so-shocking confession came out that Mark McGwire used steroids off and on throughout his career. He confessed that he used steroids in 1998, when he hit 70 home runs, which shattering Roger Maris’ decades-old record.

Pundits, sportswriters, and columnists throughout the country have been discussing this confession. Some say it was time for McGwire to come clean; others that McGwire started the “Steroid Era.” But I haven’t seen any writer actually discuss the circumstances around it.

1994 was the year that Major League Baseball decided that the rich owners and the rich players weren’t rich enough, so they decided to ruin baseball for everyone. The work stoppage started on August 12, 1994, and forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 1994 season and the postseason. MLB was the first sport to lose an entire postseason due to a labor dispute. Afterwards, people were angry. Fans in Cincinnati paid for an airplane to tow a sign reading “Owners & Players: To hell with all of you!” Attendance and TV ratings fell dramatically. Some teams, like the Montreal Expos, never recovered.

Then came Mark McGwire.

In 1998, McGwire started hitting home runs. And hitting more home runs. Then a little known player on the Chicago Cubs, Sammy Sosa, started hitting home runs too. Soon they were both on pace to beat Maris’s record. And soon, they whole country was following the home run race, and forgetting that they had sworn on a stack of bibles never to attend another MLB game again. When McGwire smacked number 62, he circled the basepaths, then hugged Roger Maris’s family in the stands. TV shows cut away to the scene. America loved baseball again. All was forgiven.

A few years later, we begin to suspect that that year might be tainted. Soon, confessions of steroid use–and names of other users–come to light. At first, the confessors are laughed at; soon, however, their stories are found to hold water. But America doesn’t get angry. Some of us don’t want to believe that the players were juiced. Some of us tried to justify it, saying that the players are simply entertainers, and the steroid-fueled entertainment bring in the big bucks. But enough people were angry about it that Barry Bonds eclipsing Hank Aaron’s career record of 755 home runs was not celebrated like McGwire’s record; indeed, many people booed Bonds during his travels. But the fans kept coming, people kept their TVs on the game, and the revenues kept pouring in.

McGwire may have been the first, but he still saved baseball, and baseball owes him–not just for those 70 home runs, but for being a sacrificial lamb. Did MLB know the McGwire/Sosa roided-up race would be the start of an era marked by cheating and deception?

Did MLB care?

Categories: Customer behavior

Advertising above the fray

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the biggest problems with advertising today is that there is so much of it. There are so many print ads that everyone ignores them. There are so many banner ads that everyone blocks them. There are so many TV commercials that everyone fast-forwards through them.

But today, January 6, Google rose above the loud, graphics-driven advertising fray. Google advertised their new phone, the NexusOne, on the Google home page, with a single line of text and a really tiny picture of the phone.

300 million page views, $0The NexusOne has received its own share of press in the last few weeks, with some people saying it’s going to be the biggest story of the Consumer Electronics Show (even though Google won’t be at the show). But the line of advertising–which essentially cost Google nothing–has also been written about on media sites and on, um, marketing blogs.

Google gets about 450 million page views a day, and for its very minimal investment, Google has put the name of its phone in front of over 100 million people. In one day. (Plus, marketing geeks like me are writing articles about it.)

When a company like Google can reach 100 million people in their target audience in a place people don’t expect to see an ad, that is much more effective than a traditional ad. Marketing above the fray was the source of an interesting book by Mark Hughes called “Buzzmarketing: Get People To Talk About Your Stuff” When your product gets discussed in the media, that’s good. When your ads get discussed in the media, that’s great. And when the medium of advertising gets discussed in the media, people start talking about your “stuff” in ways that make your brand noticed.

That’s part of the reason that Google is trading above 600.

The money comes from GM, the beneficiary is Lexus

January 2, 2010 3 comments

Here’s a picture of a billboard advertising the new Buick Lacrosse, which sets Lexus in its sights.

Something else for Lexus to relentlessly pursue.This ad in on a billboard on my way to work and my kids’ school, so I see it approximately a jillion times a month. I have a HUUUGE problem with this ad on several levels.

1) It looks like a Lexus ad. People are driving past this ad and seeing it out of the corner of their eyes. I didn’t realize–until I was a passenger stuck in traffic in front of this billboard–that this was an ad for a Buick Lacrosse, not a Lexus. I had passed it at least 30 or 40 times. The design is tragically flawed: the word “Lexus” is placed prominently above the car’s photo. The car’s name, “Buick Lacrosse,” is at the bottom right, which is the last place the eye travels–and usually doesn’t get there when the billboard is zipping by at 65 miles per hour. The name placement is especially problematic because it’s so easy to be covered up by nearby signs and foliage. GM spent millions on a campaign that looks like a Lexus ad–and reinforces the Lexus message.

2) It requires the viewer to work too hard to get the point. First, one must have knowledge of Lexus’ marketing campaign. Unless you know that Lexus’ tagline is “the relentless pursuit of perfection,” the ad makes no sense. Secondly, one must fill in all the blanks: Lexus relentlessly pursues perfection; the “something” referred to in the ad copy is the Buick Lacrosse; therefore, the Buick Lacrosse is perfection, and Lexus is relentlessly pursuing it because Lexus wants to be as good as the Buick Lacrosse. Whew.

No one is going to work that hard driving by a billboard.

Not only that, but the viewer must think about Lexus’ tagline in order to understand the ad. From a branding perspective, you NEVER want to reinforce the competition’s message in your own advertising. Go where the competition isn’t — that’s why Pepsi is blue and Coke is red.

3) I was going to write that the message of the billboard is totally disingenuous. Really? Lexus relentlessly pursues the “perfection” of the Buick Lacrosse? But then I did some research, and it turns out that the Lacrosse is pretty competitive with the Lexus ES 350, and about $2,500 less. But when I (finally) understood the billboard, I thought that there was no way a Lacrosse could compete with the Lexus. Motor Trend even rates the Lacrosse a full star higher than the ES 350. (Really.)

So what could make this ad campaign more effective? If it were me designing the ad, I’d go for less cutesy and more straightforward. “Buick Lacrosse beats Lexus — for thousands less.” (I might even throw in a “Really.”) It’s not very sexy ad copy, but it might work flying by at 65.

Making Video Social

Here’s the edited transcript of last night’s Sacramento Social Media Club’s “Making Video Social.” I was livetweeting it. It was a great event, and I enjoyed meeting everyone!

@ronnieledesma We’re about to get started… @SMCSac presents “Making Video Social” Live video feed: http://ustre.am/2IWb #smcsac -7:03 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac What a boisterous crowd for Making Video Social. I think one of the presenters might crowdsurf later. #smcsac -7:05 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Good evening, all! I’m Paul Ardoin, and I’ll be livetweeting SMC Sac’s “Making Video Social.” We’re about to begin! #smcsac -7:07 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac As a company, what can you do with video? EA Sports’ “Jesus Shot” vid for Tiger Woods 08 created big buzz. #smcsac -7:12 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne #smcsac Just learned a cool use of video called the “Jesus Shot” w/Tiger Woods and EA Sports.http://bit.ly/mv2Yo -7:14 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wil Wells [@WilWells] from The Pear Lab [@thepearlab] presenting on amateur video for social media. He likes Chicken Tikka Masala, HTML 5, and Modo 4.1. #smcsac -7:15 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: Good ideas and humor trump high-quality video. Basics to follow. #smcsac -7:17 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: only necessary equipment: your computer, a video camera, and your brain. #smcsac -7:17 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: New 720p HD flip camera can even shoot good green screen footage on tripod for under $250 #smcsac -7:19 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma The Flip auto uploads to YouTube and gives you 60 min of HD Video. #smcsac -7:19 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny Wil Wells – The Pear Lab opening likes Indian food HTML5, using the word epic & this man ok I’m listening #smcsac http://twitpic.com/7laza -7:21 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Video is obviously compelling: everyone wanted Wells to keep playing the sample video. (Well, it *was* a vid about mullets.) #smcsac -7:21 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Three things you need: 1. Equipment. Showed us his Flip camera. 2. Software: iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. 3… #smcsac -7:22 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: HD/720p gives you more flexibility for color correction #smcsac -7:22 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: No. 2: Software — Mac & PC are both fine for good-enough quality social media video. #smcsac -7:23 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: The easier your equip & s/w is to use, the more video you will capture (& better quality, more creative, etc it will be) #smcsac -7:23 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma 3rd thing you need for amateur video: Uploading! YouTube or vimeo. Check them out. #smcsac -7:26 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: Online video is good b/c people want instant gratification — on their terms. #smcsac -7:28 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: If a picture’s worth 1000 words, how many words is 30 frames per second worth? #smcsac -7:29 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny Looks are almost everything… HD’s quality can add credibility to your video podcast #smcsac -7:29 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: Online video can establish you as an authority #smcsac -7:29 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Wells: Esp in this economy, making online video is easy and cheap — and no editing req’d #smcsac -7:30 PM Jun 16th, 2009

juliemarg #SMCSac green screen use aftereffects -7:32 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma http://twitpic.com/7lbs8 – Wil Wells of @ThePearLab talking Video 101. #smcsac -7:33 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne #smcsac @ThePearLab recommends using vimeo over YouTube to upload video content -7:35 PM Jun 16th, 2009

briankameoka two examples using Flip type cameras (from @mediocrefilms) http://bit.ly/YrPZ and http://bit.ly/18k28D #smcsac -7:36 PM Jun 16th, 2009

paulardoin It’s pretty clear that Wil Wells makes great videos because of his talent, not because of equipment or software #smcsac -7:36 PM Jun 16th, 2009

briankameoka Those @mediocrefilms examples, one was 2 Flips, one was 1 flip, 1 Kodak Zi6 #smcsac -7:37 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Mike Henderson from 12 Horses: Creating content for specific audiences #smcsac -7:37 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: It’s easy to create video; it’s hard to create a brand. #smcsac -7:39 PM Jun 16th, 2009

briankameoka @paulardoin yeah, his stuff (Will Wells) was great #smcsac -7:39 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: Why bother with web video? B/c everyone watches video online; shows the experience of your brand. #smcsac -7:40 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: video allows consumers to become attached to your brand and then interact with your brand on their own terms. #smcsac -7:41 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: many ski resorts do bland stuff: weather report podcasts, repurposed tradeshow videos. No one wants to listen/watch that. #smcsac -7:43 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Most popular video on YouTube: Evolution of Dance. People love it b/c it’s silly, it’s fun. – Mike Henderson, @Twelve Horses #smcsac -7:44 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: For ski resorts, people want to see powder footage, scenery, kids, races. (Not hi-gloss promo videos.) #smcsac -7:45 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Audience member says “It’s awesome” about Evolution of Dance Video. I like: Make “awesome” video.” #smcsac -7:45 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne #smcsac Mike Henderson with Twelve Horses says think about your brand and what your core audience would like to see when creating video -7:46 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma @TwelveHorses created awesome Alpine Meadows video. In one shot used a helmet cam for amazing shots. Real content. #smcsac -7:47 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Find Mike Henderson of @TwelveHorses on Twitter as @mehwolfy. #smcsac -7:48 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: Know how (e.g., videographer, editor) is important. #smcsac -7:48 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny Making video is simple, branding it is not. Authenticity is a good place to start @twelvehorses #smcsac -7:49 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: Authenticity, passion must show in social media/video, even in unexpected places #smcsac -7:49 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson: And do what your competitors AREN’T doing; go where they AREN’T. (He must be a fan of Ries & Ries’ branding ideas.) #smcsac -7:50 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny “your video isn’t working you should have a mac” “no it’s a QuickTime problem not cuz it’s a PC” battle of the platforms unfolding! #smcsac -7:52 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Q: How do videos prove return on investment? A: Hard to do ROI on any SM. #smcsac -7:52 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson now showing sample videos from Nevada gov’t agency, Alpine Meadows ski resort #smcsac -7:58 PM Jun 16th, 2009

maxhansen In response to question asked here at #smcsac, to understand social media ROI, follow @kdpaine, subscr to her blog. She’s the ace. -8:00 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Creative commons music from garageband.com used in videos. There’s a good tip. #smcsac -8:01 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Henderson and Wells both use GarageBand for music; royalty-free. #smcsac -8:02 PM Jun 16th, 2009

maxhansen @SMCSac I use a lot of royalty-free music from podsafemusicnetwork.com . It’s the place to find Paul and Storm and some other greats #smcsac -8:04 PM Jun 16th, 2009

briankameoka The videos that Mike Henderson showed – youtube channel is http://www.youtube.com/skialpine #smcsac -8:05 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne #smcsac People will look at bad video, but people won’t listen to bad audio. Pay attention to the audio & don’t cut corners. -8:06 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny @barbiep an arguement against sandwiches is occuring, apparently skiing & snowboarding is better content for video #smcsac -8:08 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Fab photos from PhotographerLink coming soon of @SMCSac‘s Making Video Social event. Their photos look fantastic. #smcsac -8:09 PM Jun 16th, 2009

socialone Video common sense: if no one is watching it, either content is bad or u screwed up. LOL. #smcsac -8:10 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Next up: Evan Solomon of @JustinTV! #smcsac -8:14 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: What’s the *live* video use case? (As opposed to prerecorded) #smcsac -8:16 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: live video feed of ferret cage; click a button & give ferret a treat #smcsac -8:17 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: live feeds of people playing video games gets 12 million views per month #smcsac -8:18 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma + @justintv mixes chat with video, “letting people talk in real-time,” rather than comments which are “not social” #smcsac -8:19 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: If people feel like they can interact with/have control over content, is also powerful #smcsac -8:19 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: small businesses have a lot of organizational advantages for live video #smcsac -8:20 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny Commenting on video is not social, but chatting in real time is powerful. #smcsac visit @justintv to see how they are doing it right -8:20 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: Live video gives people the opportunity to chat in a different environment, and share their content #smcsac -8:22 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma Give people dead simple ways to share your video content. – Evan Solomon, @JustinTV #smcsac -8:22 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma + @JustinTV provides embeds for easy of spreading/sharing video. #smcsac -8:23 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma ‘I’ve seen data that suggests an account with 100 followers may have greater impact than one with 1000.’ Evan of @JustinTV #smcsac -8:25 PM Jun 16th, 2009

joshdmorg @justintv making some good points about diminishing return on twitter followers @smcsac#smcsac -8:26 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: live video gets viewers for voyeuristic reasons; bad live video is more compelling than bad recorded video #smcsac -8:27 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon on ROI: If you don’t have something to measure that you think has direct impact, you have nothing to improve #smcsac -8:28 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne Evan @justintv concerning ROI whatever you think you can measure in social media, measure it! #smcsac -8:28 PM Jun 16th, 2009

jennykoreny Users do not have defense up towards video as they do other forms of communicating online (spam, emails) b/c it’s so new #smcsac @justintv -8:30 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: live video can help companies get sponsorships & gain visibility #smcsac -8:29 PM Jun 16th, 2009

maxhansen @SMCSac Short excellent piece on SM ROI. http://tinyurl.com/ltarha #smcsac -8:32 PM Jun 16th, 2009

ronnieledesma If there’s a video pro in the audience who knows video streaming & wireless audio enough to get @SMCSac started on the cheap… #smcsac -8:33 PM Jun 16th, 2009

SMCSac Solomon: Live video is a PITA to moderate; Search is harder on live content #smcsac -8:38 PM Jun 16th, 2009

Zsavonne #smcsac Join SPRA for social media panel discussion next week, June 25. Click here for more info http://tinyurl.com/mj4wfe -8:47 PM Jun 16th, 2009

JennaLanger The #smcsac event tonight made me realize i need to start utilizing my webcam! Anything in particular I should record myself doing? -11:43 PM Jun 16th, 2009

mehwolfy #smcsac helmet cam videos: http://tr.im/oNIn, http://tr.im/oNJ4, http://tr.im/oNLH & http://tr.im/oNKo (last one ductaped to my ski pole!) -8:16 AM Jun 17th, 2009

Categories: Livetweeting

Livetweet alert: SMC Sacramento’s “Making Video Social”

Making video social

Making video social

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16, I will be livetweeting Social Media Club Sacramento’s “Making Video Social.” The event is live, and if you want to come in person, it’s at the Peppers.TV office in Sacramento (near Mather Field) at 7:00 PM. (Networking and snacks start at 6:30.)

The event is free — you can sign up here.

You can follow my livetweet by following me, @paulardoin. Also, I have become enamored of TweetChat.com lately. Go to TweetChat.com on Tuesday night, sign in with your Twitter username and password, then enter the room with the #smcsac hashtag. The feed updates automatically, and only sends updates with #smcsac. I’ve used TweetChat.com for a few livetweets before, and it is often the difference between tolerable and intolerable! (A few of the SMC-Sackers like HootSuite, which I haven’t used yet.)

So remember: follow the #smcsac hashtag on Tuesday night. I plan to post a lightly-edited version of the transcript here on Wednesday.