March 25, 2011

The fatal fallacy of modern technology marketing

In what is basically a great set of advice, David Skok evidently dropped the line

If a marketing activity does not create a lead for you, then it doesn’t belong in your marketing machine.

Or to rephrase that: Storytelling doesn’t matter.

Well, if you believe and execute on that, your company will die (at least if it’s in some area such as enterprise technology). I really mean that. It’s why I tell people that the “Red Hat” approach would doom most companies, and they should never hire a marketing VP whose main claim to fame is Red Hat experience. I’ve been telling people for a few months that I don’t expect VoltDB to succeed, because I expect VoltDB to execute on the kind of belief quoted above.

The three fundamental functions of marketing are:

A funnel-centric approach to marketing is useful mainly for the third of those three parts. As part of your marketing strategy, it’s great for anybody. It can even work as the whole thing if you’re just pushing a commodity, such as a Linux distribution (Red Hat) or an early-generation application server (JBoss). In those cases, your job really is to get people to switch from the “default” alternative (expensive incumbent and/or do-nothing), and give you money instead. It might also work if you truly don’t have any direct competitors, and are competing mainly for share of mind/share of wallet.

But in most enterprise technology markets, customers pick among multiple alternatives, each with its own appealing story. If you don’t tell your story too, you’ll fizzle and die.


5 Responses to “The fatal fallacy of modern technology marketing”

  1. Dan Weinreb on March 28th, 2011 9:18 am

    Curt, I must be missing something. Why can’t story-telling create a lead? Are you saying something like “before you can tell a story, you have to get their attention, so story-telling doesn’t count as lead generation”?

    when I say “I must be missing something”, I’m not trying to say “I disagree”; I literally just mean that I’m pretty sure that I’m failing to grasp what you’re saying.

    I do think that David’s comments (if this post summarizes them closely) are missing the whole question of how you get the attention of prospective customers and quickly get them to see that what you’re selling is something they’re interested in.

    As for Red Hat, I have a very smart friend who recently worked at Red Hat as a product manager. who has told me that Red Hat’s situation is unique and should never be used as an example for anything else.

  2. Curt Monash on March 29th, 2011 3:51 pm


    When story-telling creates leads, great. But not ALL story-telling creates leads, at least in the short term.

    Perhaps you’re planting a stake for a couple of years down the road.

    Perhaps you’re supporting something else you were doing in marketing.

    Perhaps you’re marketing to investors or prospective employees.

    Perhaps you’re contributing to the end of the conversion cycle, not to its beginning.

    The idea that all we have to do is:

    1. Generate leads.
    2. Build a sufficiently great website.

    can be very damaging.

  3. Marketing communication essentials | Strategic Messaging on July 3rd, 2012 8:55 pm

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    […] Marketing is mainly about developing and delivering messages. (Most of the rest is lead generation.) […]

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    […] problem, some vendors have exaggerated expectations of lead generation. This can lead to the Red Hat fallacy, in which they think that story-telling is unnecessary, and only marketing-funnel mechanics add […]

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