What Does Marketing Do Anyways?

There are different types of marketing… but product marketing, in part, "figures out what to call that thing."

You see, we have a lot of really smart engineers who are doing new things and are very creative about solving problems. But, then they go give it a name that reflects what it does, which is great… until it starts doing more. And, then what? You’ve got a branding/messaging problem, or worse.

I was in a meeting earlier in the week, talking about product stuff and Julianna asked "well, what category is that?" A question that just sobers me right up, even in a product planning discussion.

You see, if there’s no category, no one will understand what it is (and there is no magic quadrant for it!). It’s something technology companies seem to face a lot, and with my experience in start-ups, we faced it all the time. There are three options:

  1. Glom onto an existing category and hope to convince people you’re different (Does this sound familiar? "Why isn’t anyone listening to me, I said ‘discovery’ not ‘discovery’?!?!")
  2. Create a new category (That’s the sound of marketing budget being flushed down the toilet!)
  3. Ignore it and do your own thing (At least I’d have alignment between my personal and professional life.)

There is this weird dynamic… if you call it something fancy/different, a lot of technical people (our buyers?) don’t trust you. They think "marketing" has just come up with a different way of saying the thing you are trying to differentiate yourself from. It can actually work to reinforce competitive messaging, or at best, simply reduce the trust you are trying to build with the prospect.

Interestingly, Lori posted on a similar subject this morning, differentiating application delivery controllers from load balancers. Her situation is different, as an ADC is a "more advanced" load balancer (don’t shoot me if I’m muddying the waters further!). Whereas in Actional’s case, we’re not something else plus X. We’re just X, and when most people are trying to solve the same problem, we solve using something else (wholly ineffectively I might add!).

But, if you look at the three choices above, there really aren’t three choices. Or rather, the choices are already made by company culture. Take Progress Software for example: We’re not "marketing trend-setters." Meaning, we don’t invest in creating new categories. And yet, we’re big enough that we don’t just "do our own thing" because that requires a different sort of discipline than the one we employ. Don’t get me wrong, I like and respect our discipline, it’s just different than what’s needed for a "do your own thing" approach.

So, we’re left shouting into the wind. Perhaps that gives a windbag like me good career prospects? I’m not sure.

SOA What makes us really different in our category but unable to create a new category around easily?

  1. We track every single message, consumer, producer, and the relationship between them all, in development or production, without affecting application performance.
  2. We do it easily and automagically, meaning we get the full benefit without blowing TCO through the roof.
  3. We know exactly who’s doing what to whom, and how often, which allows SOA owners, operators, and business analysts to make better decisions about the distributed applications running on their SOA infrastructure. Whether it’s about SOA operations, security, or business alignment, there’s no more guessing (praying?) about what’s happening.
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