Software marketing: hammers, nails, and drill bits.


Clichés become clichés for a reason: We need to do some basic research to understand our customers and listen before we speak. 

LinkedIn’s Digital Asset Management Discussion Group has offered a short but telling exchange among a handful of its members the past few days.

Someone from Switzerland posted the following:

I would need a PIM Manager (Product Information Management)…urgent request. French speaking role…any help is welcome…

The first two responses were from software executives suggesting products that “support Multi-Language requirements, complete French interface” and have “good language support.”

The next response righted the course:

As far as I know, [he] is looking for a PERSON not a software!

To which the original poster says:

 Yes indeed, it is very much a person I am looking for…

I can sympathize somewhat with the first two respondents.  When you’re in the software business, it’s natural to think in terms of how your product might solve someone’s problem.

You may not even be selfishly motivated by wanting to capture a lead or make a sale.  You may genuinely believe your product can help someone, and you want to relieve them of whatever business pain they’re experiencing.

But no matter how legitimately we may want to “help” someone with our solutions, we all need to remember the cliché-ridden but still important points this LinkedIn exchange drives home about software marketing:

1) “People are more important than things.”  More specifically, our customers and their skills are more important than our software and its features.  Someone’s knowledge of where things are and how to get things done may trump the greatest features of a software solution; so “try to understand why [your] solutions are needed, and what your initiatives can do to improve the inputs these teams get, to make their lives easier.”

2) “Customers don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits, they buy quarter-inch holes.” Customers aren’t looking to buy software.  They’re looking to solve a problem.  In fact, given how limited budgets are in a soft economy, a huge software investment may be the last thing they want; they’re coming to us as a last resort.  So we need to think through their problems and what would truly address them before automatically unpacking our sample case. (And when we do finally unpack it, one of the first things out should be studies that document the value or ROI of what we offer.)

"I'd rather be a hammer than a nail..."3) “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”  The solutions offered by the two respondents may have been excellent tools for multi-language PIM requirements.  But since the question was about finding a person, not a product, the respondents ended up appearing to be poster children for the trite-but-true “hammer and nail” analogy.

4) “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  We need to listen carefully to what our prospects are telling us about their business, their work, their processes and their problems before we start in (no matter how sincerely and helpfully) with an elevator pitch about our products.

Finally, and most fundamentally…

5) “Do your homework.”  This is LinkedIn, where you can check out the profile of anyone who’s in a group you’re in.  It would have taken a single click to discover that the person asking the original question wasn’t in IT or a business process owner.  His profile says he’s a recruiter.  Of course “he is looking for a PERSON not a software.”  Five seconds of effort would have saved the two respondents whatever time they spent composing their responses…as well as a lot of embarrassment.

To my confreres who committed these faux pas, je m’excuse for using this thread as a teachable moment.  There but for the grâce de Dieu go all of us.

One Response to Software marketing: hammers, nails, and drill bits.

  1. […] I wrote about trite-but-true guidelines for software marketing.  Today, I’m writing about the release of Enterworks’ free RFI template for product […]

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