Over at IT Garage, Doc writes:
In Software by Bounty, Doug Kay says, This is a tangible manifestation of what Doc Searls has described as the demand side taking control, and I think it bodes well for the further formalization of a demand-driven economy of software products.
I think it’s a great example of the death of distance between first sources and final customers, and the emergence of new markets without marketing. As Don Marti puts it, The biggest transformation in software is the erasure of the line between “the business side” and “the technical side”. Everyone needs to know what’s going on in the market. And “on-message” is obsolete — the market already knows the truth… And the truth is that there is plenty of demand for which marketing is no longer the best intermediator between demand and supply.
Hold on, Doc & Don. There are some serious misconceptions here. Sure, erasing the dividing line between business and technology is great. But markets don’t “already know the truth” and understanding the right message to talk about with your market is vital. It’s ridiculous how many bad tech presentations I’ve had to endure…
I know its easy to run with “marketing is bad” material. It’s a favorite of the technology crowd, since technologists often find themselves across drawn battle lines with marketing guys on the other side making ridiculuous demands.
Sure, a lot of marketing is horrific. But the power of good marketing is incredible. Just look at the different between Apple with Jobs and Apple with Sculley, whose marketing debacle with the Newton was firmly grounded in his experience and expertise from Pepsi-Cola. Fact: you can’t market technology like you can soda pop. And lots of marketers don’t understand that, which makes life for technologists a challenge.
Some see Sculley’s failure as an example of why marketing is bad. On the contrary, it is a counterpoint to the value of the brilliant marketing of Steve Jobs, even for technology companies. Perhaps especially for technology companies. And the message holds whether you like Apple or not.
“Markets without marketing” is really just sales. It is nothing new.
Any time you have a market–anywhere numerous transactions occur–good marketing can help a company make better decisions and communicate more clearly. If you just have one-to-one relationships, absent a market of any kind, marketing is irrelevant. And you don’t have a market. That’s just non-markets without marketing. Also nothing new.
But when you do have a market, it pays to try to understand the market as a medium for trends so that you can better predict the future and have more useful and productive conversations with people in that market. If instead, you treat every conversation as a new conversation, without connection to your own history and reputation for creating value, and disconnected from the lessons learned in your previous conversations, you might as well be a neurotically forgetful door-to-door salesman of inimaginative, generic products. Keeps you busy, but it isn’t real effective.
No matter how you reach your customers, markets require clarity of communication. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of advertising in the world. For it to work, people need to be able to rationally understand your product, emotionally resonate with the value you provide, and have easily repeatable stories that communicate the right message about the right people. In short, you need a good brand. And without understanding the market as an aggregate, you cannot create a viable brand, because doing so creates either something solipsistically suited perfectly to your own internal delusions or designed for just one customer. As soon as you extend into an understand of how your brand can catalyze and energize multiples of people, you are doing marketing.
I am a huge fan of D.B. Holt’s How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding. He presents an excellent analysis of how real-world brands established themselves as icons in our culture, including how many of them struggled along the way, with misteps and mistakes that often left them disconnected from people who really cared about their value. But when communications link credible, compelling value with the right audience using stories that resonate with meaning and cultural depth, brands become icons and sales skyrocket. And it doesn’t need anything more complicated than a good conversation to start the ball rolling.
No matter how disintermediated you make the markets, people must make a final decision about buying or not buying. That decision rarely comes down purely to price. People incorporate a wide range of factors when making a purchase and at the end it boils down to whether or not they trust that purchase to create more value in their life than any other option, including buying nothing. That trust is a reflection of the brand and their purchase an expression of faith in that brand.
What I think we all really want are markets without stupid marketers and bad marketing. Now that’s a noble goal, but I don’t expect we’ll see it any time soon. Luckily, we are seeing increasing velocity in the marketplace, and that at least, should help weed out the marketers who can’t keep up.
In the meantime, I’ll throw my support behind removing the dividing line between “the business side” and “the technical side.” Everyone should be part of the marketing conversation. Technologists who don’t understand the market are just as dangerous as marketers who don’t understand the technology!