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16 October 2012

Hooray for marketing

By Andrew Clifford

Marketing may seem vacuous to our technical minds, but when it works it's magic.

Last week we were exhibiting our Advisor software at a Gartner show. We were not there under our own brand - we were presenting the software through a partner's brand, promoting capabilities that we had jointly developed with them.

We got a lot of interest in Advisor because we were presenting it for a very specific use. The show was about outsourcing and related subjects. We were presenting Advisor as a tool to gather facts about vendors and perform vendor compliance assessments. There were a lot of people at the show who identified with this need, and we have a lot of interesting leads to follow up.

This was a good example of marketing working well. Our partners had done their homework, and had discussed the "hot topics" with Gartner. Vendor management is very much in fashion, and a lot of organisations are starting to clarify vendor management roles and processes. Rather than present Advisor as a general tool that can help in lots of ways, we decided to focus on just one area, and by doing so created a lot more interest.

In the past our marketing has not been so focussed. We have had mature and effective system governance assessments for years, but, as someone once replied to us, "it's not our priority right now". However good the idea in principle, it isn't what people recognise and it is too broad an idea to meet their immediate needs.

Over the years I have learned two things about selling:

  • It is better to present a good solution to a little problem people recognise than to present a great solution to a big problem people do not know they have.
  • For tools, the ability to be flexible and cope with real world messiness is really important, not for its own sake, but because it allows you to deal with specific, nuanced needs in a very focussed way.

I don't think there is anything wrong with presenting a general-purpose tool as a specialist tool. It would be dishonest to present something we have not got, but we do have a real offer in this area. We have spent many years getting Advisor to the point that it can support these types of assessment and advisory requirements, and our partners have many years experience of outsourced services and vendor management. Creating products in Advisor may not take much longer than it would to mock them up in PowerPoint, but the difference is that we have functioning products that capture subject matter expertise and which can add significant value to organisations.

Going forward, we need to do more of this sort of marketing. People are interested in products that solve the problems they have and exploit the opportunities they recognise. Advisor is a semi-blank canvas, and it can add value to many different situations, but to deliver that value we have to research the specific situations that people recognise, and present specific solutions in those areas. This is the essence of marketing, and when it works it's magic.

Next: Hobgoblins

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