Hello SAP Community!
I’m in marketing. But, I hope, the good kind.
What does that mean? Well, I posted a quick thought to LinkedIn yesterday:
“Yes, marketing departments should look after after lead generation and advertising. But a real marketing department is also responsible for (1) optimizing the end-to-end customer journey and (2) creating a thriving, interactive customer community — because, ultimately, this is what your brand will depend upon.”
SAP community-builder extraordinaire Mark Richardson chimed in with a reflection:
“How “trusted” are customer community events going to be by the user-base if they are directly-driven by/within the Corporate Marketing Dept..? Maintaining the “wall” between Marketing events and User-Group events is important to ensure your Technical and Product Teams get “real-world” feedback – and not only the stuff that has been “filtered and vetted” by Marketing.”
This, to me, is the heart of the problem. If having marketing involved in an event would actually make it worse, then for me, that’s the definition of bad marketing!
Having marketing be responsible for optimizing the customer experience is not the same thing as trying to “control” it. Ideally it’s about working with customers to co-create new ways of creating value in the future — i.e. creating new bridges, not maintaining walls!
So, discussion time:
(1) I believe that the easiest part of the problem is audience mismatch — techies shouldn’t have to “suffer” business content they aren’t interested in, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, today, the underlying technical platforms make it harder than it should be to only get to exposed to the “right” kind of marketing.
(2) I agree that marketing sometimes has a hard time being “real”. As Mark puts it in the LinkedIn thread:
“There’s (*probably) never going to be a SAPPHIRE keynote session on “Lessons learned from a Failed SAP implementation”.
I’m personally a huge believer in warts-and-all customer stories, because they’re more credible and more interesting, and so more effective marketing. We all know that enterprise software is complex and complicated, and that things go wrong sometimes. Helping customers through those problems by explaining how to avoid the same problems is just good business.
There are some things that make it harder to talk about failure than to talk about success, obviously. When things go wrong, relationships can deteriorate, making it less likely to be allowed to use the stories. Many organizations don’t see a big upside in publicly talking about their failures. Competitors tend to jump on the stories, telling only the worst parts. And, much as I would wish otherwise, telling the whole truth isn’t necessarily as effective as exaggerations, at least in the short term (e.g. think of your least favorite politician).
I think the solution is more community — marketing should be about facilitating conversations between prospects and customers. If they say bad things about our products, we should be working on fixing the products, not the conversations!
(3) Marketing prefers to talk about happy things, rather than acknowledging when things aren’t going right. For example, I think Jelena Perfiljeva‘s recent, heart-felt post on the current blogging experience on SCN is wonderful, and echoes a lot of my own feelings. But it’s probably not going to get forwarded around as much as it should be.
I’m a huge believer in the SCN community, and I don’t really know what the answer to the problem is, but I know it surely involves more of this kind of feedback, earlier!
(4) It can be hard to evaluate the real quality of what marketing produces. There are lots of KPIs available, but most of them are flawed in one way or another. For example, there have sometimes been disastrous attempts to reward people for the volume of stuff they create, rather than any notion of quality — and the effects have been felt on SCN in the past.
Marketers do unfortunately tend to get rewarded for producing things that are “slick” (ooh! nice video!) rather than “interesting” — because “slick” is easier to see. And some marketers don’t necessarily know what is “interesting” because they not close enough to customer problems, and get limited feedback on what they produce (the result is the “marketing fluff” that everybody hates).
Again, I think the solution to this is more community, not less — getting feedback on whether what is produced is actually useful or not (from the right people — see technical/business point above)
Bottom line: I see marketing + community as the path towards a better customer experience, but I know not everybody sees it that way. What important problems did I miss?