The Crazy World of Software Marketers


Probably the most enjoyable, but clearly the most perishable, job is Chief Marketing Officer. Sifting through hundreds of briefings a year, I can tell quickly who knows what their company does, what value it has for customers, and beyond that, who’s got a market-discovery and customer-acquisition strategy that works.


Probably the most enjoyable, but clearly the most perishable job is Chief Marketing Officer. Someone has to be blamed when things go wrong, regardless of product, sales, and economic conditions. The CMO is such an easy person to blame. And CMOs make themselves such easy targets: they have visible expenses, but lack an analytic framework and business process to see the impact of their work over time.

Another year of budgeting t-shirts and mugs, salespeople complaining about the quality of leads, wearing out your feet at yet another conference, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is this what marketing is all about? And does any of that really work? The coolest gift I ever got from a software marketer was a battery operated car. It arrived in a lovely metal box which I still have. The car? I gave it away. It was cool, but it didn’t at all influence my decisions about their software.

Since a high percentage of our customers are either the CMOs or CEOs of software companies, we spend considerable time talking to them about their pain points. Here are a few observations and lessons gleaned from some of the best, or not so best, practices in marketing for this new decade.

Web 2.0 is in our product – you mean we can use it in our marketing?

Web 2.0 is something that is put in our product literature, not something we actually use in our marketing.

Rather than using the internet as one big junk-mail delivery service, leading firms are mastering Marketing Automation techniques and using new search engine platforms and new techniques such as MaaS (Marketing as a Service) platforms. MaaS providers such as JAZD, and others, use the concepts of managed services and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Sadly, many CMOs do not know about using these techniques to generate leads. Nor do they use PBM (permission based techniques) on the web. SEO and PBM have demonstrated their quality-lead generating capability and ultimate sales success, but only a few of our clients use these methods.

Use the Data

Does the creative nature of marketers make them averse to the use of analytics?

These days, there is too much data supporting the successful use of marketing analytics to not start down that road, if you haven’t already. (After all, don’t software firms preach change management to their customers?) In addition, firms spend more money on t-shirts, hats, and mugs, than on things such as in-depth market research which, especially in the B2B market, has earned its stripes on new market entry, customer value proposition, and target marketing methods.

Though a bit dated, this Fast Company article could have been written last year, as marketing people were let go in droves in 2009. One point this article made was that the renowned CMO of Burger King, (at that time CMO for 4 years and counting) held the job longer than the average 15 to 24 month tenure of most CMOs because he used ‘the data.’ (He lasted about 6 years.)

Marketing analytics are used successfully in consumer products companies, but not enough in software marketing.Which leads to:

Brand management is not just for soap companies!

Brand management is for consumer products – not for software.

In the past, I did considerable work in the consumer retail space, where there are many lessons to be learned. Brand management is one of those. For example, have you ever tested your brand acceptance and reputation in your target market? Did you ever look at the demographic of the employees in the firm and who they are marketing to? Does your brand appeal to them? Do prospects embrace your value proposition?

Marketing Communications is not just posting advertising and newsletters on the web

Peter Gillberg has a great blog with a relevant post:

“… I still find most of the communication in the Industry incredibly boring and stiff. I don’t even have the energy to try to understand some of the Industry newsletters I get. What are they talking about?”

He does have a point. What are you communicating to your prospects? What is the medium and channel of that communication? Are your targets actually reading it and gaining some insight from it? Leaders really work their messages and spend time with customers. They research what their customers really value about them, and they craft messages based on the customers’ value perception. Using this strategy, a clear winner was Apple, with their PC vs. Mac ads. Apple customers value the simplicity and reliability of the software and operating system. So much so, that they are willing to pay extra for Mac products.

Channel Marketing – an underperforming asset?

Here is another strategy: sign up a bunch of channel partners. The perception is that it’s easy and cheap, and who knows, they might bring in a lead or two.

The reality is that channel nurturing is just as expensive, and as valuable, as any other sales situation, if managed with the care it deserves. But companies fail to analyze the right partnerships and their overall strategy, and then they don’t work to make those partnerships perform. I recently talked to Marketing Advocate, who, in our estimation, takes channels and makes them perform. Look for more on this topic in subsequent articles.

PR Firms vs. Market Strategy

PR firms are fluff.

The use of PR firms has often degenerated into outsourced administration staffs who just work on setting up meetings and creating lists of media and analysts. They are not treated as real partners in sorting out the critical questions and messages in your market. PR firms have also taken a huge hit in this economy, since customers are hard to come by and often are not ready to take on the thorny questions, like, “Who am I?””What is my message?””Who really cares about us?” And “What outlets do I market through in this decade?”


What was that definition of insanity – doing the same old thing and expecting different results? The pressure is on to deliver as never before. Departing from the known reality is a bit risky. However, playing it safe, in the marketing job, has never been an option.

Good follow-up sources:

Marketing Sherpa

ChainLink Research

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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