Saas marketing wars

by admin on March 3, 2009

in General,Marketing

Earlier today I saw a post on Cloud Ave where Ben Kepes had ran with some clear baiting material. The old shoot first, ask questions later method of reporting. Ben had used the material he had as an intro to a sort of review about Ubikwiti. It wasn’t really a review but a litany of what he classes as ‘failed’ issues.

I’m not sure that’s wholly fair.  Here’s the problem. Ben starts with [my emphasis added]:

From what I can see their offer isn’t entirely correct – they’re pushing a single business, single user Ubikwiti account and comparing it to a standard Xero account which isn’t in fact single user. I don’t like dodgy marketing, we’re all better off building the pie before we try and steal slices off each other.

It’s a fact of software vending life that you’re always going to be comparing apples and oranges in immature markets. Saas is an immature market where we’re seeing many styles of application and pricing model come to the table. It is way too early to know which approaches are going to deliver the ‘winning’ combination. We do know that vertical market strategies are faring much better than re-inventing the wheel.

The implication is that Ubikwiti is misleading whereas a simple comparison of what it offers with that of Xero [the company it was targeting] reveals a very different style of product/service. Whether Ubikwiti is selecting the right target in the right manner is a different argument but to imply it is ‘dodgy’ is a stretch.

I agree the market is better off ‘building the pie’ but who’s stealing what? The switching costs between saas software is so low that it is up to individual vendors to continue delivering value and keeping customers happy. If all your customers are interested in is a price they will race to the bottom, requiring little encouragement. From what I’ve seen in the saas market, that’s not happening.

The real difficulty comes from the source for Ben’s approach. He’s used an email from Duane Jackson of Kashflow where Duane trashes Ubikwiti. Duane didn’t send the email to me because he knows I’m not going to run with that kind of stuff. Vendor pokes vendor? Way too easy and always suspect.

Let’s remember for one moment that Kashflow is embroiled in a legal tussle with Sage because it has undertaken what Sage believes to be unfair price comparison practices.

I could care less about the legal rights or wrongs of Sage’s case but to trash a competitor on what amounts to the same line of reasoning is unacceptable. It’s hypocritical. Duane has also set himself up as the arbiter of what a blog should look like. He doesn’t have that right and to do so is arrogant.

I could name a clutch of people, highly respected in their field who write what they consider weblogs but which do not allow commenting or which contain no links. Does that make their contribution less relevant? That’s in the eye of the beholder. Oh – and by the way – there’s no search facility on Kashflow’s blog – that sux mightily ;)

Of course Ubikwiti could do a better job. Blockquoting the material they’re using would be a good start. What they do is their choice and whether it is read and adds value is for individuals to decide.

Ben was clearly having problems with Ubikwiti. I’ve not experienced those same problems though I did ask the company if there was a reason why the servers were (apparently) running slow over the weekend. (I’ve been playing around with the service for a few days.) On at least one of Ben’s ‘fail’s I wonder if he accidently hit this link. What worries me is that instead of trying to resolve the problems by talking to the company first to find out what happened, Ben simply calls FAIL.

According to the post timing, Ben had a good three hours in which to give Ubikwiti a call before hitting the ‘post’ button. There’s no indication that he did that.

It’s always been my practice to check with a company if I’m having problems. Software is complicated and sometimes those who review get it wrong. That’s why in many cases, it is wise to let the vendor know where the problem lays so it can be verified. That’s what I did with Sage before any of the clamor over that company ‘failing’ blew up. Otherwise, you risk the chance of libeling them.

In writing posts of this kind and amplifying the rants of a deeply invested insider, the industry takes another un-necessary slap. It may make for good sport but doesn’t demonstrate a muturity which customers expect.

[Disclosure: Ubikwiti is a sponsor]

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Ben Kepes March 3, 2009 at 7:15 am

I wasn't going to reply but I will… albeit briefly

1) My post clearly stated that it wasn't a review but rather a reaction to the press release – I will review fully in due course. The concept I actually love (as I mentioned)
2) I understand your apples vs apples comment but Ubikwiti were claiming something wrong – ie that the Xero single user/single business offering is $49/month. This is not the case AFAIK
3) re the timestamp. I wrote the post this morning my time at 530am. I suffered the errors at that time however they were completely secondary to the core thrust of the post which was the marketing campaign Ubikwiti are leading. But to answer your direct claim – the post was written and published within a 15 minute timescale
4) Quoting blog posts verbatim is bad practice – not hugely important in the scale of things but still bad practice. Normally it wouldn't have been worth mentioning but taken alongside the PR I saw it was relevant
5) Given the rant that the CEO of Ubikwiti left me, accusing me of being in the paid employ of Xero, I further contend that they need to work on their PR – even if they feel they've been slighted

Dennis Howlett March 3, 2009 at 7:38 am

My friend you're missing the point. I'm not surprised the CEO went off on one at you though if it had been me I might have chosen different wording. I mean – fancy running with a story where your source is kicking the crap out of a company with which it doesn't even compete?

Understand the timestamp thing but couldn't you be bothered to check first? He's answered your points whether you agree or otherwise. There's this wee thing called 'right of reply' that seems to be missing from so much of what you say.

How a company chooses to conduct itself is for it to decide. And while we're at it – name me a tech company that makes a great job of tech PR? I'd love to find one.

Daniel Tenner March 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm

"How a company chooses to conduct itself is for it to decide."

I think this point is worth emphasizing. We should behave according to our own standards of behaviour, not react to other people's… that way lies barbarism.

I am a polite, decent human being (at least I like to think so). That's not influenced by whether others around me are being less than that – I live up to my own standards, independently of how others behave. The same should be true of your company. Just because someone else goes low doesn't mean you should too.

Duane Jackson March 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I'm sure you wont mind if I pick you up on a couple of points, Dennis.

"He’s used an email from Duane Jackson of Kashflow where Duane trashes Ubikwiti."
It was their marketing I was trashing, not the company or the product.

"Duane didn’t send the email to me because he knows I’m not going to run with that kind of stuff."
I posted on Twitter that if anyone wants my thoughts on it, to let me know. Ben did, you didn't. Hence he got an email and not you.

"to trash a competitor on what amounts to the same line of reasoning is unacceptable. It’s hypocritical.
So a price comparison on our website that includes a competitior is the same as or even comparable to putting out a press release directly targeting their customers?

"Duane has also set himself up as the arbiter of what a blog should look like. "
I know nothing of what a blog should look like. I just know that I've got no interest in a blog that's just a copy'n'paste of other blogs. We all have opinions, if we didn't state them then the blogosphere would be a very quite place

Varuna Fernando March 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm

If I may be so bold, I’d like to give some advice to Ben and Duane.

When we write about someone else’s business, remember that their business is their love and joy, their child. It’s real and it’s personal.

Anyone writing a blog, or a blog comment, should be mindful that they are not talking privately in their home. They are making a public statement for all to see. This brings with it a great responsibility.

So what was that advice? Whatever you have to say, say it nicely, keep it soft, and leave yourself some wiggle room (for those occasions when you have stuffed up and everyone knows it).

Finally, try to use the following words often: seems, perhaps, possibly, maybe, unsure, and inconclusive.

interested March 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

not in the case of sage its not, its a corporation, faceless, without passion, without mercy, without love.

Ben Kepes March 5, 2009 at 5:11 am

@Varuna – sage advice and I'll bear it in mind. I guess I'd like to append your comment saying that it works both ways. My writing is (without over dramatising) is my love and joy, I'd also appreciate the same respect from people who comment on my post.

Anyway – your advice is worthwhile and appreciated – cheers!

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