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GO BIG ALWAYS

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Marketing software doesn’t help how you market.

Marketing software doesn’t help you or your company be better communicators. When you look at software solutions you find task-focused point solutions (email blasting) or mess-management automation apps, which offer  a “single pane of glass” (combo email marketing, landing pages, social media marketing) with built-in testing, dripping, and nurturing.

Yawn.

None of these solutions materially change what you create to engage with people, the tone of their experience or who at your company gets to do the engaging. Marketing still shovels infographics, webinars, emails, etc. even though the market doesn’t want that stuff.

What type of marketing does the market want?

Short and authentic. Think: Reality tv. What companies–and software vendors–have missed is that the market–so all of us in customer mode–are now used to consuming raw, people-generated “cut-to-the-chase” communications. Our news comes from Twitter, videos on Youtube, we respond to quick text messages, reach people directly, pay for just the little piece of media we want. We no longer buy slick communications from corporate fantasy worlds, we want reality. We want behind the scenes, to see who we’re dealing with, to glance and get it. We want companies who aren’t afraid to show us who they are and what they do. We want them to value our time.

That’s who we want to engage with.

So what’s holding Marketing Software back?

Marketing Software is built for the old, slick world. It needs to graduate from automation and embrace consumer principles. We all market like crazy in our personal life. We’re constantly influencing others on social networks and showing what we’re up to to get attention. We do it from our phone, computers– pretty much everywhere and all day long. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

But then we go to work and it’s only the specialists (and their consultants) that can “do marketing.” It’s a magical waterfall process that takes forever and costs a ton. And the market doesn’t stay still. The rest of the company looks at Marketing and wonders why it’s so hard and so precious. And Marketing looks at themselves like gurus on the mountain– the communications police enforcing the “right” communications.

Beyond software, what needs to change are company’s policies about who is responsible for content and how it’s delivered. Amazing, authentic and marketable content is happening around us all day, everyday. Imagine if anyone at work had permission and new tools to spotlight these moments in smaller, faster ways. Have a job in shipping and receiving? Show that the boxes for the spring collection have arrived. Work in product? Show some of your cool manufacturing process. Meeting a customer? Capture the moment and share what they’re doing. That’s what we’re focused on solving at Crushpath. Before you think, “but communications would go out of control!” remember that that’s what they said about social media (and email way before that). Trust your employees and equip them to succeed.

Marketing must move from policing and controlling to providing and encouraging.  The best marketing shows what we do and is personal. It’s real-time content that’s available to create or consume on the fly.

What do you think? Love your thought and feedback.

 

 

Small Business Star Wars

 A New Hope

It was a period of Big Marketing’s online dominance.
Rebellious small businesses, striking from hidden Google results,
have begun to win victories against Big Marketing’s forces.
During the battles, rebellious small businesses managed
to steal secret plans to the Enterprise’s ultimate weapon,
the Bloat Star, a massive app with enough
power to destroy any chance of competing.
With simple but powerful technology in their hands,
the rebel forces now have a chance to restore freedom to the market…

Big Marketing rules the online universe. That’s got to change.

Big Marketing and Small Business

 

Remember the impossible shot-down-the-exhaust-pipe of “Big Media?”

Social media gave us the power to share and consume the content we want and it destroyed Big Media. Just ask the television, music, film and news industries how much they love what social media has done to their industry dominance (and profits). Today, we discover, create and consume content without Big Media. And because of that, completely new news, content and information rises to the top. It’s a re-balanced world — the 2% can no longer control what we consume.

The same thing is about to happen to Big Marketing.

Today, only Enterprises with Big Marketing rule the online universe. Companies with deep pockets and a mastery of the dark side get all the attention. Similar to Big Media, only 2% of the companies control Big Marketing. That means your mental map of the business landscape is populated completely by Big Marketing’s control– your awareness, attention and interest is given to the 2% who have blasted their way to the top of the ladder.

There’s a long history of the democratization of “the good stuff.” While powerful tools may start with the 2%’s control, faster, cheaper and easier solutions make them available to the masses. Look at what happened to our access of books, computers and information.

While today, Big Marketing has wildly expensive, bloated and complicated tools completely unavailable and unsuited for the little guy, tomorrow the same value will be delivered in much simpler packages. And that will begin the transformation of the business landscape.

The best (not the loudest) companies will rise to the top. 

Today small businesses can’t stop to market themselves. They don’t have the budget, time or know-how to tell their story or show up online. What small businesses really want is a way to have their work speak for themselves. And they want to get it out there as immediately and easily as when they post a pic on a social network.

We need to help them do just that. To re-imagine, radically simplify and offer them an extremely inexpensive way to get out there, get discovered, and fight back. They need ways to let their blood, sweat and tears prevail. To get help from the masses to lift them up and put them on the map, to promote them the same simple way we do news, content and information. To show Big Marketing that big ideas beat big budgets, every time.

That’s how we’ll deliver a massive disturbance in the force. It’s time for the little guy. Join the Rebel Alliance. It’s time to take back the Empire.

 

Stripped-down copies of enterprise apps completely miss the mark.

small business software

Let’s say you own a restaurant and grow your own vegetables. Would you be interested in a six-ton combine harvester? No. It’s simply not practical. In fact, that’s crazy. OK, well, how about a two-ton combine harvester? Still no. It’s still not practical, and it’s still crazy.

That’s the software industry’s approach to small businesses software: Take a flagship product and dumb it down. See that CRM packed with tons of data-entry fields and TPS reports? The industry’s thinking is: let’s make one with less fields you can use on your iPhone. No surprise, the organic smoothie shop owner isn’t interested in getting her hands on it.

I remember working at Dell in 1997 at an offsite whose goal was brainstorming the sort of computer a small business would want. “How about something that’s not the same grey box we sell to enterprises,” I offered.

I wasn’t invited to anymore offsites.

But wait, there’s less?

There’s two big problems with building small business copies of successful business software categories like CRMs, Marketing Automation, or Support Software:

1. These categories are old and tired. Even people who work at actual enterprises don’t love enterprise software.  What makes the industry think a dumbed-down version is going to be more popular?

small business sales fight club

2. Vendors don’t understand their target. If you’re a very small business, there’s no value these complex, role-specific apps have for you. You’re running around wearing a million hats and this tech is way too much for what you’re trying to do. It would be like me writing an exercise book for pregnant women just because I can write. I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be a woman or be pregnant and most vendors don’t know what it’s like to walk in these folks’, either.

Small Businesses: The 98% non-tech masses that business software forgot.

I should be clearer about who I mean by small business. If small business softwareyou’re in tech, have a decent sized sales, marketing or support team, I’m not talking about you.

If you’re a freelancer, the owner of a service-oriented, 1-20 employee non-tech business, then I am talking to you.

For the record, there are a lot of you. According to the U.S. 2008 Census, there are 5,294,970 million small businesses 1-20 employees; 3.6M of them are 1-4 employees. 90% of all businesses in the U.S. are under 20 employees. 98% are under 100 employees. That pie chart would look like Pac-Man had his mouth tightly closed. (Sorta like someone just tried to sell him dumbed-down enterprise software.)

These small businesses aren’t lining up for social-mobile-local-big data-cloud-sharing-wearable solutions.

Most small businesses spend most of their time chasing tires, i.e. trying to get customers and get paid. Sure, they might have an old website. They might spend $300/month on Yelp or throw an ad on Craigslist. If it’s a new year’s resolution they might pay contractors to update their site, or a social media guru to do some of that Facebook stuff. Maybe they’re still turned off from a failed Groupon attempt.

But that’s the extent of it. And we’re still talking about the vast minority of these guys. Nearly all of them are technophobic and using tools most Valley types would scoff at. These companies believe their product or service speaks for itself.

So the question becomes– who actually is providing value for these folks? It’s a tiny pool with a clear leader: Square. Square re-imagined the credit card transaction from the users’ perspective–using the tools they already used– their phones and tablets.  They even offer a stand to make it even easier. Square didn’t offer the same old ideas with fewer buttons, They listened carefully and built what small businesses really wanted.

There’s a huge, post-pc-like opportunity to innovate for very small businesses

In the  90′s and early 2000′s, the computing market  asked us to be system integrators– learning about and buying lots of pieces, then learning to assemble them…all so we could perform simple tasks like “getting online” or “connecting to other people.”

What’s surprising is that the software industry still asks small businesspeople—who have even less time than the rest of us—to keep doing it.

That’s why there’s a huge world of small businesses that don’t participate. Small business software is simply not worth the trouble to them. Which is a shame, because lack of visibility is the one thing above all else that keeps small business, small.

Today, when you search online, only the companies with deep pockets who know the black SEO magic show up on Google. Those are the ones who are found. That’s the map of the business landscape today.

I think we learned our lesson from the revolution of news and content, that the best, not the loudest should rise to the top. The question is, who will help the small businesses? Who will change the map and level the rest of the business world? There’s a massive opportunity out there.

Let’s do something about it.

small business opportunity

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First off, the name “Enterprise Software” sounds like crap.

Not even JJ Abrams could make Enterprise sound sexy. Say, “Enterprise software” to someone in a huge company and watch even their eyes glaze over. Now try it on your co-worker. Are they excited to hear more?

No.

It’s slang for suck my soul. 

Enterprise software is complicated, slavish, unimaginative stuff built for top-down “automate and track” management.  Calling it sexy is like trying to make tax codes sexy. Or plastic slip covers. Oh, now management wants us to use soul-sucking software delivered though the cloud with a touch interface that let’s you share stuff? Can’t wait.

With Enterprise Software, nothing’s real. Everything’s far away. Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.–bastardized quote from Fight Club’s @chuckpalahniuk.

I’m not talking about the invisible, behind the scenes, “make it run faster/cheaper” Enterprise stuff because that’s sexy to engineers and bean counters. I’m talking about the software for us worker bees.

Every time something *is* cool, the Enterprise version sucks. 

Ever notice that? Here’s why: The intended value moves from you to your company’s management. Imagine what it would be like for the White House go to suddenly be in charge of choosing our apps for us then forced us to use them. The value would be for them not us. That’s the way it’s been for Enterprise software.

Want to disrupt the Enterprise? Go small. 

The big mistake startups make is to try to build a better CRM, ERP, PLM, CMS, or other big, already entrenched Enterprise system. Those things already exist and people despise them. The idea has been done.

Still, look at how many different folks are trying to build a prettier solution of the same idea. Instead, stop thinking about what exists and start thinking about solving a big, hairy part of the people’s everyday jobs. Reframe the solution completely by going as small and meaningful as possible. Then wins hearts and minds.

Reboot tasks that impact revenue.  

If you focus on a task that directly impacts the bottom line, the opportunity for success is far greater. Don’t update it, reinvent. Companies that pick a single key task, reframe it, and deliver a ton of value in a simpler way will find success with today’s professionals.

  • Box made sharing a file quick and painless.
  • Yammer reimagined clunky collaboration software.
  • SuccessFactors is a better way to think of talent management.
  • Same with Taleo and human resources.

It’s no surprise that most of these companies have been acquired by the big guys.

Let worker bees be the boss.

If you’re going after the front line, you must go bottoms up. Enterprises have moved from “no software” to “no shelfware.” That means they want to make sure their people love it before they invest. Earn your way up, then make sure you have a clear value proposition for management that doesn’t pull the rug from under the worker bees.