While it varies by every specific check-writer out there, I’d assume some of the biggest reasons that companies buy tech, i.e. software, are:
- The tech specs of the software suite
- The relationship to the sales guy involved in the deal
- Ability to configure or customize around a specific pain point
- If the demo mapped well to their data and needs
- Because all their competitors seemed to buy this thing and they have no idea
If you believe these are five of the 10–12 biggest possible reasons, then ask yourself this: why do tech companies need marketing departments?
The Slack example
Slack is a darling of the tech world right now overall. Well, they got to $1 billion in 2 years — nice accomplishment — without a CMO.
Most execs look at early stages of a project and want “power branding,” etc. They want to know their brand and product will dominate discussion in the market. That’s the conventional approach.
Slack just listened to their customers. It was a good example of how customer experience > brand, which has been normative for over a decade but seemingly only a few executives/decision-makers really “get.”
“Community” vs. “branding”
I’d argue “community” is everything in life. It’s what we seek, ultimately.
Well, the same applies to this discussion.
A lot of marketing revolves around “the brand.” It’s this big, breathless thing. Everyone must be “on brand” at all times. We need the right messaging out in the universe. There needs to be “branding strategies.” Someone hire us a “brand consultant.”
Branding/messaging are what you’re pushing out.
User stories and discussions are what’s actually happening.
The latter means much more (much, much more) to the overall success of your organization.
The former is just a bunch of buzzword vomit on a glossy page with a well-designed logo.
So kill marketing departments in tech?
Not necessarily kill the department, but change the focus. It should be about:
- Technical writing (specs of the product)
- User examples (case studies)
- Building out a community where people ask about coding, configurations, how to apply it in specific situations
- Helping the weaker sales guys understand where to drive the value
That’s all just more digital noise.
People don’t consume it as much as we think.
Execs don’t care. They don’t have the time to read a white paper some 19 year-old wrote for $150 last week, mostly just citing stuff from the first page of Google on the same topic.
Sales guys don’t use it. (The good ones do, but that’s a rarity.) Sales guys prefer to sell on golf, beers, and “drop-ins.” Tech sales guys are often bros. It’s even worse. You know it. You might not admit it, but you know it.
Build a community instead of a brand.
Make sure your tech specs kick ass.
And have some stories about how people use your stuff.
That should be how tech companies construe “marketing” in the modern age.
We’re pretty far off, though
Go scroll through some job descriptions.
A lot of “community manager” jobs get posted around 40–50K. Why? Because decision-makers view that as “this girl will post to Facebook.”
“Brand manager” jobs are often low six figures. Why? Execs think “We will build a strong brand and overpower our competitors!”
That logic hasn’t been sound since about 2007, but we still think like that.
Until we pay people to do shit that’s actually productive for the business, instead of the shit we thought was revenue-driving in 1991, we’re facing a big uphill battle.