The Rise of the Social Business Software Buyer

Picture this.

Your wife tells you that you need to find a better hotel for the next vacation. You jump on Google and zoom in on a few based on location, star rating, price and user reviews. At this point you are probably surfing on Trip Advisor, Kayak or Expedia. As for your next step, you will most likely visit the sites of the one or two hotels that you’ve selected to check all the amenities and whether you can get an even better deal.

Now picture this.

Your boss tells you that you need to find a better software. You jump on Google and zoom in on a few based on your use case and (if you are lucky) price. At this point you are probably surfing on the vendors’ sites skimming through all the marketing hype. As for your next step, you will most likely engage with a bunch of sales reps and start the lengthy process of comparing features, requesting each vendor to speak with one of their reference that fits (if you are lucky) your profile and negotiating best deal.

You get the picture.

Business software buyers should deserve the same information transparency and access to independent user reviews as do consumer buyers. And they will. Brian Solis and Jeremiah Owyang have laid the ground for this revolution in their insightful Social business and Collaborative Economy research. In fact the shift is happening right now and as a marketer you need to pay strong attention. Your world is about to change. How you will influence early on your buyers through voice of your customers will be as much if not more important than what you do on your site. As a sales rep, you also need to pay strong attention. Your buyers will know more about your software than you do when they reach out. How you establish early on a trusted relationship with them will be key to securing the deal.

Joining the revolution.

Today I am pleased to announce that I have decided to join TrustRadius, a quality “Yelp” site for Business Software powered by in-depth, structured and vetted crowd sourced user reviews and discussions. As a product marketer (and former software vendor), I see TrustRadius as a game changer in the way business software buyers will identify, compare, collaborate and select software in the future. In fact if you are in the market for social media, marketing automation or Business Intelligence tool, give it a go today and check the following overview video. Then seat back and think about how this is going to change your sales and marketing world, or better, read this very insightful article on the consumerization of B2B buying behavior by Tony Zambito.

You have a choice to make.

Watch this revolution happening and do nothing about it OR embrace it and adjust your marketing strategy and sales initiatives around your customers’ buying journey. I am definitively planning to blog more about the rise of the social business buyer and the broader implications on the world of software marketing, business technology research and analysis. In the meantime, how do you plan to adjust?

Leave a comment or send me a note at bertrand@trustradius.com. I would love to hear your thoughts on TrustRadius and/or broader impact on your sales and marketing world.

 

We are working on a new product. Can you name it?

There is something to say about SolarWinds.

First, let me set the record straight. I have joined SolarWinds in January as Sr. Director of Business Strategy and I am probably still drinking the Kool-Aid. Having said that, one of the reasons I choose SolarWinds over an executive position at an early stage start-up was that I was very intrigued by their business model.

SolarWinds sells IT Management software to companies of all sizes without any sales rep in the field. They don’t even have a professional services organization. They market their products on the web and they close each transaction over the phone. We are talking a lot of them. Think big volumes.

This is quite different from the traditional enterprise software world I come from – lengthy sales cycles where most of the Product Marketer’s efforts are focused on enabling the field, writing up ROI documents and keeping its fingers crossed at the end of the quarter when the bulk of the bookings happen.

So what’s different about SolarWinds?

It starts with the product. Each product solves a very well-known set of issues for which users need a solution today. And they are very price attractive too. That makes the job for everyone else much easier. Marketers don’t have to come up with complex jargon or lengthy collaterals. They can focus on driving demand and customer acquisition. Sales don’t have to explain what the product does nor do they have to come up with fancy product demos. They can focus on closing each transaction, one at-a-time, all day long.

So how do you find out what issues your users need to solve today?

You ask them. SolarWinds Product Managers greatly rely on a community of 100,000+ users to identify needs and test new ideas. But it does not stop at the ideas or features level. At SolarWinds, there is a strong belief that you should not use catchy branded names because they don’t mean anything in and of themselves. Instead, they want the name of their products to be very descriptive because that’s how buyers will search for it on Google (obvious, right?). So they ask their users for suggestions : We are working on a new product. Can you name it?. And they get a lot of them. Why? Because SolarWinds users are also brand advocates. They truly have a say in the many aspects of product development and go-to-market strategy. Most importantly SolarWinds Product Managers are manically focused on making sure the product user experience is above the pack.

Why? Because at the end of the day it’s all about the product.

BTW – if you are on the set for a new adventure in Product Marketing or Product Management, and want to explore this fascinating business model, check the open positions they have, or shoot me an email.

 

Image Credit:  Photos by Mavis

42 Rules of Product Marketing: Forget About Your Product

A few months ago, I was asked by the 280 Group to contribute to a new book “42 Rules of Product Marketing“. The book is a collection of insights and practical advice from over 35 real world practitioners. For my part, I decided to focus on what I truly believe is the foundation of product marketing and what guides my decisions every day as a product marketer. Enjoy!

Forget about your product.

Product marketing is less about what you sell and more about who purchases it. Understanding your customer is what matters most, mainly what they care about and how they purchase and consume products. Only at that point should you strategize how to position, package, price, and sell to your customers.

Planning with the end in mind (the purchasing transaction) distinguishes a good product marketer from a great one. Great product marketers map their marketing strategy and sales initiatives around their customers’ buying journey. Most importantly, they strive to live, breathe, and think like their customers.

Doing so strengthens the product marketer’s best effort to:

Create a memorable story. The best product marketers create an emotional connection with their audience by casting their customer as the story’s main character and speaking in their customer’s voice. They search diligently for the perfect tone of authenticity that resonates best with their customers and focus their message on solutions, benefits, and value without superlatives and buzz words. Think Apple’s iPod “1,000 songs in your pocket” or Southwest Airlines “You are now free to move about the country.”

Create an enchanting experience. The best product marketers lead their customers through a beautifully orchestrated buying experience. They appreciate that their customer cares about the cumulative product purchasing experience including the initial website visit, first interaction with the sales team, online registration to community and support sites, and so on. They continue to escort their customers throughout the implementation phase ensuring that each customer is getting the promised value from their product. They know, especially in the B2B space, that a cohesive purchasing and on boarding experience will build the strongest relationship with their customer and increase the likelihood of an initial and subsequent purchase. Think Rackspace’s “Fanatical Support” brand promise and delivery.

Create passionate brand advocates. The best product marketers transform enchanted customers into their most effective sales agents by nurturing their customers’ passion and providing them the communication channels to voice their love for the product, whether an online forum or offline user conference. They root for their customers more than anyone else because they know that in these days of growing peer influence on purchases, their best customers are also their best marketing assets, their best brand advocates and ultimately, their best sales reps. Think Harley Davidson and their “Live to ride” official riding club (HOG) or Zappos and their mission to “Deliver Happiness.”

With the growing use of social media, product marketers have more ways than ever to connect, engage, and insert themselves into their customers’ habits while building a genuine relationship with their customers. With intimate customer knowledge, product marketers are best positioned to lead their company’s go-to-market strategy and execute upon Peter Drucker’s vision:

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.

Every journey begins with a single step, so slip into your customers’ shoes, walk a few miles in their problems, and…forget about your product

The 42 Rules of Product Marketing is available here

Groupon Wants You To Punish Derrick

During the holidays, I went through my inbox and unsubscribed from the many vendors that over the last 12 months have continuously sent me offers with little to no value. The process to unsubscribe is usually pretty straightforward and uneventful.

Then came Groupon with this short video:

Needless to say that I did punish Derrick (it’s not you Derrick, it’s me).

The simple addition of this video actually got me to re-consider whether or not I should unsubscribe from Groupon. Well just for a few seconds.

Seriously how many more white teeth cleaning offers can I consume within a year?

Anyhow, this is a great example showing how  you can make a boring experience interesting. I would love to hear some other great examples that you’ve come come across.

Fab 5 Product Marketing Blogs (2012 Edition)


Last year, I published a list of my favorite sources for Product Marketing content and inspiration. The Fab 5 Product Marketing Blogs became one of the most viewed and commented post on this site in 2011.

As we start 2012, I thought I should highlight a few more bloggers and experts that have greatly influenced me in the last 12 months. Some might surprised you as they would probably not even consider themselves as Product Marketing experts. However they do cover topics such as buyer personas and sales enablement that are critical in today’s product marketing realm.

Congratulations to the 2012 Fab 5 Product Marketing Blogs winners:

  • Toni Zambito – Toni is an expert on buyer persona and his series on “the buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future” is without doubt the best and most influential write up that I have come across in the last 12 months. As product marketers we should always plan with the end in mind (the purchasing transaction) and map our marketing strategy and sales initiatives around our customer’s buying journey.
  • Tamara Shenk – A new comer on the blogger scene, I first encountered Tamara at the 2011 Forrester Sales Enablement conference in San Francisco where she talked about the need to “not just enable sales people but the entire buying system”. A VP at T-Systems, Tamara is a thought leader on one of the most under valued and yet critical function of the product marketing role. I strongly encourage you to read her thoughts on the sales enablement biggest challenges as well as her insightful perspectives for 2012.
  • Giles Farrow – A product marketing consultant focused on software marketing, Giles is to product marketing what John Gatrell is to product management. He is doing an excellent job at sourcing and sharing some of the best write up on product marketing and marketing topics. Giles has also written a very insightful series on software product marketing that works and he regularly comments on other product marketing experts blog posts.
  • Josh Duncan – Josh is a prolific product marketing blogger, and storyteller, whose passion for the field of product marketing is unparalleled (disclaimer: Josh & I are co-blogging on this site). I am particularly a big fan of his simple yet powerful examples as a result of a family trip to the garden center or a read from the many blogs (and books) he digests on his Kindle every week. Josh is also the host of the insightful Product Marketing Podcast series covering a wide range of topic from product marketing to product management.

Ultimately your list of favorite blogs and bloggers will differ based on 1) what you want to learn about 2) those who will help you to make a difference in your job, and 3) the writing style of the authors

I am always looking for more inspiration so …  who is on your Fab 5 list for 2012?

Image Credit:  Creativity103

Zucco’s Equation for Marketing Success

Earlier this year at our annual user conference, our CEO introduced a simple but very effective framework that he constantly uses to assess new opportunities and lead our company. He calls it Zucco’s Equation for Strategic Success:

  • W2A: Where we are
  • W3TG: Where we want to go
  • HW(GT)2: How are we going to get there

As I sat through his presentation, I realized how important this equation is for us marketers as is it to our executive teams. Too often we lose track of the big picture, spending all of our energy on the very tactical elements of our marketing plans.

Zucco’s Law is very easy way to take a step back and re-assess if your marketing efforts are still in line with the overall strategy. Most importantly it gives you an opportunity for course correction as specified in the 4th rule of Zucco’s Equation for Strategic Success:

  • EA3: Enable, adjust, adjust, adjust

We live in a world where we can no longer rely on yearly plans, let alone bi-annual plans. As new opportunities come up, we need to learn from what works and adjust our programs in real-time yet without losing focus on the big picture.

What’s your secret for marketing success?

Image Credit:  Erik Charlton

What is Product Marketing?

What is product marketing In his new blog purposely titled “What is Product Marketing“, Diego Lomanto is doing a great job at defining the role  and responsibilities of product marketing in the enterprise software world:

“Product marketing is the function within a technology company that focuses on the strategies and tactics that are associated with marketing products including: market segmentation, product strategy, positioning, sales enablement, driving awareness, assisting buyer informational needs, competitive positioning, deal assistance and post-launch interaction with customers”

Like April Dunford, who wrote a similar blog post last year on How do CMOs Define Product Marketing, Diego is offering a framework for those looking for a better answer than the wikipedia definition.

I applaud both April and Diego for their effort at clarifying and promoting the critical role of product marketing in today’s world. Their frameworks are providing a strong foundational basis and should be reviewed, adapted and embraced by every software vendor.

I am also hoping that the upcoming book on the 42 Rules of Product Marketing, based on the successful 42 Rules of Product Management and 42 Rules of Marketing series, will help shed a new light on the rising discipline of product marketing. I was honored to be asked by the 280 Group to contribute to this new book and I look forward to sharing with you my perspectives and product marketing philosophy in an upcoming blog post.

Image Credit:  Oberazzi

What Kind Of Social Expert Are You?

Last month I was lucky to attend ProductCamp Austin 7 (#pcatx) and present a session on “Social Marketing in B2B World: Reality vs. Myth

The key message that I wanted to communicate is that social media and social marketing are two different things.

Social media experts (at least the ones that I have encountered) tend to take a tool-centric approach focused on building an army of twitter followers and Facebook fans.

Social marketing experts start with from a strategic marketing perspective and leverage social media tools as distribution channels as they see best fit.

While I would not go as far as saying that 99.5% of social media experts are clowns (to which Sonia Simone provided a great response on her blog),  I do believe that we, as marketing experts, are best positioned to test the new social media tools and make the case for what best work best for us and our organization.

With that, I also strongly recommend the Content Grid that @joechernov and @jess3 have put together. A great infographic to help you strategize which content you should create and which social media distribution channels you leverage at each stage of the sales cycle.

Enjoy the presentation:

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Last week, our top sales rep told us his secret sauce for repeatedly exceeding his quota. He summarized it as follow: “Look guys, just keep it simple” …

  1. Find how who has the money
  2. Find out how much they have
  3. Sell to them as fast as you can

While they are many other best practices that he shared with us, his success recipe reminded me how much we, as marketers, tend to over-complicate things. We like to come up with a messaging full of superlatives and other buzz words, build as many strategies and campaigns as possible,  and produce countless numbers of collaterals and sales supporting tools etc.

While this makes all of us feel good, excess is usually not associated with efficiency. In fact in these days over information overflow, less is more.

Folks in the design world know that perfectly. They’ve even coined an acronym for it: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Yet simplicity is not easy to achieve. What makes a striking design stand out is that it contains no unnecessary elements.

As marketers, we should continuously search for those unnecessary elements, whether strategies, tactics, words or tools.  After all we all know that simplicity is necessary in order to properly convey an idea. Think Apple’s iPod 1,000 songs in your pocket.

My (simple) advice: stick to the basics

  1. Know your audience
  2. Identify their buying cycle
  3. Focus on driving revenues

What about you, how do you keep it simple?

 

Image Credit –  ImageLink

Why Social Does Not Matter


You are a professional marketer in the B2B Technology space.

By now, you’ve probably completely refocused all your marketing energy and dollars on the new world of social media. Trade shows are dead and email marketing is so passé. Instead you chat, tweet, IM, like, +1 all day long. #fail.

B2B technology purchasing decisions are not primarily made over social networks. In fact Twitter was ranked as the lowest amongst social sources that influence business technologists’ decision making. That’s according to a recent Forrester Research survey (2011 Social Technographics for Business Technology Buyers).

Now does that mean that social does not matter in the B2B world?

It does. But only when done right can social marketing become a fantastic asset in your B2B go-to-market strategy. When marketers put aside the social hype, the Google + of the day, and focus on building a solid marketing strategy of which social is a component.

This is what I plan to cover this week at ProductCamp Austin 7 if my session “Social Marketing in B2B World: Reality vs. Myth gets voted.

From my own professional experience as a practitioner, I will be sharing some pragmatic examples of how social marketing can be successfully leveraged to accelerate your prospects’ buying decision process. I will also share some templates that I found very useful when devising the right (social) marketing strategy.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday in Austin.