I recently received this commentary from Neil Harper. I found his possition compelling and concise.
I work in IT software marketing, and find myself increasingly disillusioned at the 'typical' marketing strategies employed by large software vendors - recently I was told that my previous company had executed a direct mail campaign to over 000's contacts to drive attendance towards a series of breakfast briefings they were hoping to run (this is in the financial services market) - the results were so poor that they had to cancel the events and have since launched an internal investigation to basically see who the finger of blame can be pointed at!
I feel sorry for the marketing manager in question who will inevitably have to explain her performance (alas, we live in an age of performance measurability), but for the root cause is systemic - too many marketing departments are under pressure to generate leads, fill seats, or 'spread the word' with the knowledge that their entire actions and expenditure will be available for post-analysis and disection, that they simply follow the policy that 'looking busy and hitting numbers' with little thought behind the strategic value of their contribution to the business. Add in an increasing apathy from the sales function towards marketing - and therefore little guidance and support - and it is no surprise that the IT sector in particular has an industry-standard response rate to marketing campaigns of between 2-5%.
Yet nobody seems to want to address the key issues being raised here - not just the tremendous wastage and unsustainability of such costly campaigns, but also the potentially negative 'brand damage' such mass-circulation messaging can cause. When you consider that most software and hardware companies have a target account list of between 100-1000, with an average of around 250, I struggle to understand why these organisations do not instead follow a far more targeted marketing strategy - the NARROWcasting campaigns as opposed to the traditional BROADcasting format. Most IT companies have a generic set of marketing/positioning documentation that list product attributes in such a dull and uninspiring format, that it is hardly surprising that getting an effective message to the end user is fast becoming an unachievable task. Add in the saturation of virtually every communications medium from email and direct marketing to new and emerging vehicles such as mobile phone marketing and the task begins to look impossible.
In my view, the only conceivable way to improve such response rates, and to create a open and creative dialogue with customers is to deliver highly targeted campaigns that include some of the generic product information but only where it can be tailored specifically to the customer's needs. By this I mean 'picture painting' - the document needs to convey an understanding of the customer's day-job - and understanding of what each department/director/senior manager has to do - tasks/responsibilities/pains et/c, and only then should product attributes be mapped to these requirements - and mapped with precision. However, industry/vertical value propositions only go so far - their content remains too generic even at that level - where the real clever marketeer treads is in a developing PERSONALISED marketing documentation PER COMPANY!! As I have mentioned, when you look at a marketeers list of strategic accounts (very many of these are global accounts - i.e different marketing teams in separate countries are targeting the same accounts) these campaigns can still be rolled out globally for the necessary economies of scale. All the software vendors will create such detailed documents - or RFIs et/c - only after the target account has requested such information as part of the tendering process - and these are then completed by salesmen, with an inevitable lack of brand awareness and writing skills. In my view, marketing should speed the process by creating these documents as part of a series of highly targeted campaigns - say a supply chain message that details the individual suppliers/products/supplies the organisation sources in its daily transactions, and where the software can specifically make an operational difference on a daily basis. The enormous amounts of marketing spend that individual IT companies exhaust on trying to infiltrate their unique value proposition into their target accounts would in my mind be better utilised by employing a series of marketing managers who's brief is to understand their target customers, and who can articulate such detailed documents.
This is certainly where my long-term interests are, and judging by recent noises coming out of the IT industry, perhaps this is a concept gradually gaining traction - it will be interesting to see future developments, though I don't hold out much hope for the immediate future.
I would be interested in your thoughts!