Updated: June 15, 2010 17:35 IST

Challenges in technology marketing

D. Murali
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Doug Mow, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Virtusa Corporation, U.S.
Doug Mow, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Virtusa Corporation, U.S.

It’s very exciting to be in technology marketing today, exults Doug Mow, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Virtusa Corporation, US ( Despite the challenges, the assortment of tools and new techniques is so vast, he adds, during a recent interaction with Business Line. “For me, I really get to ‘practise what I preach.’ I haven’t felt this way at any other time in my career as a technology marketer. I finally get to use the stuff I sell.”

Global marketing is also becoming a different challenge, observes Doug. It’s easier to monitor local issues and create regionally-specific messages and branding but it’s also more difficult to manage and maintain brand integrity around the world, he explains.

Excerpts from the interview:

In what ways is the branding of IT professional services different from that of IT products? What are the major difficulties, internally and externally?

The most significant difference between marketing products and services is focus. Products tend to confine the offering and resulting branding discussions. While it is true that a software company can be many things, a professional services company can be literally anything.

As a software company you are either ERP, CRM, financials, HR, claims processing, or any other broad category of application. As a services company, you may be 185 things at the same time. Focusing on any subset ignores the others.

So the ability to pick, choose and commit in the services environment is much more difficult. It is also true that no matter how large the organisation is, there are more things to sell than resources and budget to support it. Of course, this is a broad generalisation because I have worked for services companies with strong focus and product companies that could not decide what they were.

Internally, reaching consensus is more difficult for services. For products, you provide network access gear or cell phones. Yes, the network access guys are tempted to pursue security devices, different protocols and other adjacent spaces, but they are not normally drawn to completely new sectors like mobile phones.

In services, your consensus lasts for only as long as you have “bench” or the next big deal. You make strategic decisions to invest in certain areas and it all goes out the window when the next big deal comes in for something you don’t do or a project ends putting large numbers of developers with specific skills unused and unbilled. Then all bets are off.

Externally, the challenges are similar. Technology companies tend to add too much complexity to their branding efforts. They rarely understand that great brands evoke a visceral response in the viewer. They want their brand to exude their technically superior features. For strong marketers in the technology space, our challenge is getting the technical side to understand the strength of good, compelling and emotional branding.

How apt is social media for IT marketing? Are there precautions that need to be taken when using the social media platform for marketing?

In my view, social media is an integral part of an online strategy. It meshes with the web site, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing and pay per click. They all contribute to a synchronised strategy, which contributes to a sound integrated marketing plan. Taken in that context, it is very critical and becoming more so over time.

For me, I have gone on record stating that 2009 was the year I knew I had to embrace social media in some form. In January 2009 I was not sure about Twitter. In January 2010 I am certain I need to leverage it.

But social media is a wild world. The rules are new and changing rapidly. What you say stays in circulation for a long time. The basics are the same. The legal issues, behavioural issues and standards of etiquette are the same as traditional and face to face interaction. But, everyone does not necessarily abide by those all the time in the virtual world. I see people interact in social media and think “that would never happen in the physical world”. Online, there is no rank, seniority or organisational structure.

When we have done social media roll out and training, we compare social media posting with travelling wearing a shirt with your company’s logo on it. You are an ambassador of the company and the brand. If someone on the airplane asked you about your company you would respond professionally and politely. The sheer fact that we have to present that indicates that the behaviour is not always in place in the virtual world. My only advice to those embarking on this path is to take it slowly and reconcile your desire and aspirations with your ability to execute.

Are marketers and enterprises embracing social media? And, is the debate – on whether there should be advertising on social media platforms – over?

I believe 2010 is the year that companies embrace social media. In the US we see retailers embracing social media for customer service. We see service providers monitoring social media for signs of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. We also saw Pepsi Cola divert $20 million from traditional television advertising on the Super Bowl to social media. Dell has declared that they can attribute $6.5 million of sales to Twitter (small but significant given the source). Those are big movements that will accelerate this year.

Regarding advertising on social media platforms, sites like Facebook and Twitter are going to have to eventually figure out how to turn all of their success into revenue. They cannot sustain as eternal investment cases. It’s much more likely to be advertising than paid access for subscribers but we will see. If they do it in a tasteful manner they will succeed. If it’s overbearing they will tank.

Do you find CEOs effectively leveraging their face-time with the world, to the advantage of the enterprises’ marketing efforts?

Some do and some don’t. It really depends on the individual and their past experiences. Some are born for the camera. Others need to be trained. Some avoid the limelight. As a marketer, it’s more important to understand what you have available to you and use it in its most natural setting. You can’t force it.

In another way, public-facing CEOs are critical. Many marketers believe that their company has to have a “face”. That it’s easier for the buying public to identify with an individual than an organisation. It helps with the brand but can also present challenges. But, if you don’t have one it’s not the end of the world.

It can also be a bit of a burden. When you have a CEO who is too much in the public eye, that can create a problem as well.

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