It's always nice to see two representatives from the same company writing independently of one another yet looking for much the same answer. In this instance I'm referring to SAPpers and fellow Irregulars Charles Zedlewski and Thomas Otter. Both are highly articulate and quick to defend their company's position (as they should do) but on this occasion, I wonder if they might have touched upon the sensitive nerve that is enterprise software marketing. Charles first:
I find most software product marketing to fluctuate between the puerile to the abstruse.
The abstruse bit actually gets me more than the puerile does. For example, most product brochures do an amazing job filling 2-4 pages with words and the obligatory marketecture diagram, but still saying next to nothing about what the product actually does or how it will specifically benefit the buyer. My belief is this is a contributor to sales inefficiencies because now it takes 2 flights from a sales rep and a demo from a sales engineer until the customer has the first clue what the product does or what to compare it to.
Add in dull, impenetrable, jargon laden, expensive, wasteful. Charles wonders whether a wiki might work where:
...readers could comment on it or ask questions and the product managers, marketers or users can clarify and enhance until all the marketing-speak is scrubbed out and you're left with a lucid description.
great idea..and then go further and discourage printing paper even when finalized.....have prospects just download it...HP will hate it but will also be green...and even better evolve it to merge with product demos and discourage first and second meeting sales travel
I reckon Thomas has already found a key part of the solution. He sings the praises of Sun employees Linda and Dan. These folk have done a bang up job of telling the world, in a very subtle way, just how great Atlassian is as a wiki provider through the medium of a 6-minute video. In doing so, they are telling a story that anyone can understand. Thomas says:
Says a lot about customer engagement if they build this sort of thing off their own bat, and then share it with the world. Goodness indeed. It means that your marketing people can focus on the important strategic stuff like making cool t-shirts.
Steady on Thomas, you'll be giving those marketing types wild ideas ;)
The downside is that it is remarkably difficult to get customers to talk. I had this same discussion with Hugh MacLeod over Twitter:
Most people I know with valid success stories want to keep it private ;-)
The problem arises because customers either see case references as a bargaining chip in the cut and thrust of the sales negotiation or they mistakenly believe that what they've acquired provides a competitive advantage. Nonsense. Software does not bestow competitive advantage anymore than owning a Fender Stratocaster makes you a great rock guitarist. It's what you do with it that makes the difference.
Taking up Charles idea would be a first step towards ridding the market of a massive resource waste perpetuated by a fiction that gets factored into the final price the customer pays. I think we can all agree on that.