Gary Turner, MD Xero UK went on something of a rant with this post: When black and white makes grey. Knowing the man as well as I do, he must have been REALLY ticked off if he felt the need to pen such a piece. In it he berates the on-premise (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) FUD that dominates on-premise marketing and takes a pop at his old employer Microsoft. Some of what he says are classic Turnerisms:
…after speaking with someone today who was just totally bewildered after having spoken with a classic software vendor about pseudo-hybrid-virtualized-models and rinky-dink cloud versions of CD based software apps, I could no longer contain myself and I decided that it’s time for some inconvenient truths about the future of the software business.
Oh-ho…Welcome to the world of FUD. So what next? Among other gems:
When software executives talk apparently with conviction and authority (they’re technology experts, right?) about hybrid models, the ‘best of both worlds’ or cloud apps being a trivial ‘souped-up’ way of describing good old fashioned software that’s only different because it’s accessed over the internet instead from your hard disk, then in my view they cease to hold the right to call themselves software executives. They’re just executives.
You’ve got to admire the scything action even though I think in his last sentence Gary was being more than kind. Executives? More like droids. But then we see the frustration:
Customers look to our industry for guidance, help and for people in which they can place their trust. And so it really gets my goat when some of the so-called technology advocacy coming out of established software businesses deliberately compromises that relationship in favour of protecting their own businesses ahead of those of their customers.
I hear what Gary is saying and his points are valid. But as I was discussing software vendor marketing with a buddy of mine earlier in the day I said there is a reason why these companies spend 40-50% of revenue on marketing. Because they waste 30-40% of their effort. SaaS is no different. There have been way too many examples of SaaS companies providing the kind of ‘guidance’ that could only ever be understood by geeks and bore little relationship to what user organizations need to understand and know. Earlier in the post, Gary talks about his passion for selling accounting solutions. That’s to be admired in any salesperson.
In many tech companies there is a pernicious variant of that passion – love of the technology. I see it all the time and it blinds salespeople to addressing the customer reality. As a side issue it often blinds development organizations and CEOs into believing that the only technology that matters is the stuff they build. What is known as the ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome. It is stifling to innovation and leads to many blind spots. Now for the good news:
In Gary’s rant he says:
I usually prefer to take the high road and let our success do the talking
Yes – that’s the way but success is not measured by the company but by its customers. That’s why at every turn I will say to vendors: ‘let the customer speak.’ It’s the cheapest yet most effective form of marketing known to man because when push comes to shove: customers buy via other customers. They don’t buy FROM the vendor. That’s tough if you’re a tiny start up with few customers but it is those early adopters who have taken the vendor on trust and not a little faith who are the most valuable assets.
There is a new twist on that. In recent times I have heard an increasing number of other analysts say to me: ‘I’ll look at that because you’ve said it is good.’ That’s an interesting phenomenon. This is something the vendors cannot do. So while I praise Gary for his ‘high road’ approach, I’ll argue that other constituencies are setting the buyers’ agenda. Work with those people and communities or continue to pour money down the marketing drain. It’s the vendors’ choice.