Mar 10, 2011

Over-promising and under-delivering!

First in a series about assessing and using today’s technology in your communications practice.

It’s fat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, has 1,001 essential minerals and vitamins, zero-calories, it’s Organic, harvested in a green and humane manner…and it makes you better-looking!

How can it can be all of that? Well…it can’t.

We product marketers can’t get over ourselves, even though in this social-media world, it’s been proven time and again that savvy consumers can see through it all in an instant and then tell all of their friends.

In our world of providing content and communications services to our clients, it’s no different than the food example I used above. Take a recent news release announcing a new platform. “…next-generation, web 2.0-friendly conversation driving, content creation and web hosting platform.” Whew. I want one!

Here’s another stream of hocus: “…listen, measure, engage…organize, prioritize, score, compare, generate…determine favorability for a complete picture of your brand presence.” I’ll take three of those please!

It’s impossible to be all things to all people in any business. Marketers used to know that. It seems to me that in this current environment of APIs, semantic analysis, and ridiculous multiples for software companies, we’ve all gone feature crazy in a frenzy of acquisition and integration. A Dilbert cartoon from last week had a professorial character pointing his implement at the flipchart which had three words on it. In the cartoon he’s asking his audience to define where they fit in. The three words on the flipchart are Facebook, China, and Irrelevant.

Marketers seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths in this B2B space, because it’s difficult to figure out what features and functions might have a real competitive advantage…so let’s just offer all of them. One high-profile company has been disparaging commercial wire services for the last few years. Wire services are so irrelevant to their value proposition to their clients that they went out and bought one in Europe. One company that has offered a complete end-to-end communications dashboard solution for many years has been on an acquisition tear recently. Apparently there were a few “ends” that weren’t complete yet.

And don’t forget that integration is not easy. My company was purchased by PR Newswire in 2009. It has been a smooth transition but not a perfect one. Software advancements have allowed for some remarkable combinations of function and features. Be careful though, just because a company now says there are 187 features and functions in their new whiz-bang offering, make sure that it doesn’t require 65 logins and 8 different 800#s to figure out how the heck to use the thing.

The bottom line is that it’s increasingly difficult for buyers and decision makers in corporate communications and marketing to figure out what to invest in. Trust me when I say that we’re all trying to provide our customers the best possible solution. But it seems we’ve lost focus on what our customers want from us.

Here’s one way we can better serve you and help you manage the clutter. By figuring out what you already pay us to do…and make it better. Maybe combine one or two services that you’re paying us for into one, easy-to-use solution.

Several suggested questions you can ask the sales representative of the vendor knocking on your door (including us) with the shiny, new toy that you absolutely must have.

  1. How does this work with what I’m already paying you guys for?
  2. How does this make my overall workflow experience smarter, faster, and cheaper? I mean the “whole” experience from purchase through use through support.
  3. Can this absolutely replace or compete with what I’m spending money on now? And if it does, can you explain it to me in a short period of time!

Sure it’s sugar-free, but if the aspartame makes me go blind or crazy over time…not so good.

Author Dee Rambeau is PR Newswire’s vice president, customer engagement.

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