Competing on Customer Success in the Cloud

Earlier this week I wrote about two Doug Henschen articles that highlighted the old data integration battle between Batch and Real Time as it relates to cloud computing.  Each article included unfounded claims by vendors who had hoped that they would go unchecked. They did not. On Wednesday Doug followed up with a post that every software product marketer should take the time to read.  It was originally entitled:  Sifting through Claims, Conjecture and Outright Lies but was later softened somewhat to:  Sifting Through Competitive Claims & Conjecture.

The post reminded me of a recent post by Dave Kellogg on PR, which highlighted the differences between Tiger Woods and Evan Lysacek:  PR Lessons from Sports This Week: Tiger F, Lysacek A+. The Kellblog post summarizes a great exchange between Bob Costas and Lysacek with this excerpt and commentary:

Lysacek, continuing:  “the truth is that he’s been a force to be reckoned with in men’s skating for the last decade and has been a great role model for me …  [he] did something that no one thought was possible, [took time off,] came back, and got his third Olympic medal — two silvers and a gold — and that’s not something to be taken lightly.” Wow.  Call the guy who’s attacking you a role model and then cite his accomplishments in a clear and precise way.   This guy is good.

Wow.  Call the guy who’s attacking you a role model and then cite his accomplishments in a clear and precise way.   This guy is good.

I wouldn’t call myself a PR expert by any stretch, so I did a quick Google search and found this article:  Common Mistakes When Talking to the Press. The top two points on the list of Interview Don’ts is worth reviewing:

“Remember the golden rule “If you don’t want it printed – don’t say it in the first place”.”
“You should never knock the competition, whilst trying to promote your own product.”
The Do List talks about knowing your facts and reinforcing your points with proof.  Nice.
To this day, my favorite article on software marketing is the “I Know Marketing” Forbes.com interview with Marc Benioff. While he’s no stranger to aggressive competition, he highlights the importance of getting your metaphor right and he mentions customers no less than 1o times in the short interview. As Benioff states in this Behind the Cloud interview:
“It’s all about customer success. As they continue to see the benefits of the reduced risks and costs of this model as well as the revolutionary tools that can change the way they run their business and innovate, we will continue to see rapid adoption.”
In the era of cloud computing, and more specifically software as a service (SaaS), customer success should truly become the primary differentiator. When asked tough questions about your competitors, why not let customers who did a fair evaluation of both provide your answers? And when you’re launching new features or making claims about differentiated functionality (that doesn’t involve consulting), be sure you can back it up with customer proof. The beauty of the SaaS model is that vendors actually know how their products are being used. And the subscription model means that actually usage is critical to renewals.
It’s never been easier to get to know your customers. So as a product marketer, instead of simply trying to compete on data sheet feature, function, benefits why not take the high ground and compete on actual customer success?
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