People often ask me at what point I realized that I fell in love with marketing. It was when I realized that great marketers are helpful.
It was 2012, and I was starting to become more heavily involved in the sales and marketing of our ThoughtWorks Studios product line. At the time, I subscribed to a blog written by Alex Payne (formerly an engineer at Twitter). Alex had recently founded one of the early online-only banks called Simple, and as such, started to be approached by all manner of software sales teams that (like us) were trying to cater to the emerging category of companies we liked to call SWiB’s (software is the business).
Alex’s article was born of frustration mid-workday. Titled, “How not to sell software in 2012“, it was exceptionally powerful for our leadership team.
The reason why is simple (no pun intended): many of our customers and fans were hands on people. Designers. Builders. Testers. Many heralded from the world of open source programming. Most were not opposed to commercial software that added value. Almost none liked to be sold. They liked to be empowered to make their own buying decisions and then given the tools to self serve.
This post sent a shockwave across our group. We realized all of the flaws in our product messaging. There were a new set of enterprise software rules for the web, and if we did not change we would be left behind.
Upon reflection, it was then I realized that the storytelling behind our brand was so important. But not just the stories; how we implemented that across channels was critical. Our website, social media, the tone of our emails. The brand promise: did we believe in letting people try before they buy? Were we going to go against a couple decades of software industry tradition and make our customers sit through infomercials?
So, that moment was a turning point for me because it reinforced the best marketing lesson anyone can learn:
Great marketers are helpful to their buyer.
Organizations that build their digital strategy upon this foundational idea will be off to a great start. Note: you can also substitute the word ‘salespeople’ for ‘marketers’ and the sentence still works.
My learning didn’t stop there, but it was a spark. It led to lots of exciting career changes for me, at ThoughtWorks and beyond. What’s amazing to me though, is that while business has made some aspects of this better, there are a number of places where it’s still this bad, if not worse. But that’s a story for a future post.