The Startup innovation and entrepreneurship scene here in Charlotte NC is abuzz. Last week we were at the Startup Weekend at the Packard place in Charlotte.
It’s interesting to see how most innovations, if not all, revolved around the Social Networking and Mobile sphere. And the winners quite fittingly was a mobile app – Cribsheet.
Perfect timing to a perfect storm
Cloud Computing has moved well beyond the hype and seems to be taking its seat in corporate boardrooms and enterprise IT strategy plans. Fuelled by a recession which led to cutting down of IT spending and a quest to discover more efficient ways of making IT dollars work for the company, the cloud computing phenomenon has struck with perfect timing.
Its benefits are undisputed, low (almost zero) capital investments, anywhere availability, pay-as-you-go plans and easier switchovers, CIOs and CFOs alike are starting to like the sound of it. Yet the Cloud Computing model is not without its drawbacks.
That’s when the marketing comes in
Despite the well documented concerns of security, reliability, platform and data lock-in etc. which have overshadowed the cloud computing model, service providers have ingeniously maneuvered their way through the negativity and have created a marketplace that is more ready to embrace the model and willing to take a few risks in doing so.
While the issues have been addressed to a great extent (although not fully solved) and assurance given to the clients, attention has been diverted to more compelling aspects such as great usability, anywhere access on any device, ability for the users to customise the application themselves and so on.
Chatter-ing up the office
Companies such as Salesforce.com have redefined what enterprise systems should be like. They’ve done this by challenging the conventional wisdom and perceptions which dictate that business software is uninteresting and boring to use. By creating and developing tools such as Chatter (along with a launch event that featured the Blackeyed Peas!), they have brought excitement and energy that was confined to the likes of Facebook and Twitter into enterprise software.
Cloud computing service providers have made the shift not only more attractive but also less painful to deal with. Migration plans, change management strategies and user adoption strategies… all of these come bundled in. So while the concept of cloud computing is a technological marvel, the marketing that has gone in to it absolutely admirable. It ought to go down in the books as a triumph of great marketing.
Amidst the millions of books in categories such as self improvement and business, there are two in particular any business professional, student, entrepreneur or any individual interested in personal growth must read.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
- Built to Last – Jim Collins & Jerry Porras
And reading these in quick succession or in concurrence brings about an interesting epiphany.
The second habit – ‘Begin with the end in mind’
The second habit in Covey’s book, ‘Begin with the end in mind’ lays out a principle or in his terms, a habit that will set a person’s life on-course that will help him stay true to the things that he or she values most and thereby be deeply satisfied. A practical step as suggested in the book is to carry out some introspection and writing down of a personal mission statement.
Covey’s book also explores some of the previous attempts by various authors in finding the ultimate formula for personal success. In his research he finds that many of the methods used were fundamentally flawed in the fact that they were an attempt to change the outcome of a thing without a change or improvement in the inner workings responsible for it.
Built to last with core values and ideologies
In ‘Built to Last’, the authors through research discover some of the widely held beliefs regarding the success behind great corporations are in fact myths.One trait that is common among highly successful corporations however is the existence of a purpose or mission greater than itself and greater than the objective of money making within the company.
There exists a changeless core in these organizations that acts as a beacon and helps them weather changing times, economic downturns, stifling competition etc. Like Covey’s second habit, people in these organizations hold true to these values and core principles and deploy powerful drive for progress that enables them to adapt and change without compromise to the core ideals.
This common ground found in these books reveal a significant reality which many individuals and corporations alike seem to have forgotten. They have belittled the importance of identifying these core values and have looked for quick fixes. One thing becomes clear in reading these books; there are none. Identifying these principles and values are even more vital in today’s turbulent economy businesses have to deal with and lifestyles people lead.
Journey in a circle
And what’s even more interesting is that these priceless and ageless principles lead to the fundamentals set forth in yet another and certainly the oldest book in this world. And this one, everyone should read! The human-race seems to have gone around in a circle in an attempt to find short cuts and various other means of arriving at their destination only to find that there are none. The Author is probably having a chuckle with an “I told you so!”.
Salesforce.com really seems to have taken the lion’s share of the market with their SaaS based CRM. Competitors companies that were once considered the leaders in the Enterprise Application world are scrambling to get back their share of the Cloud pie (whether its in CRM software or otherwise).
Microsoft in particular is carrying out a very interesting campaign to market their CRM software; Microsoft Dynamics. The messaging and strategy is a direct confrontation with Salesforce.com with taglines such as “Don’t get Forced get what fits”. They’ve also got case studies of companies that didn’t get ‘Forced’. Although some punch lines make no sense at all; for instance - Easy integration of Office Outlook and Dynamics whereas Salesforce.com – Outlook Integration: is not. We’re talking Cloud here and Microsoft, your missing the whole point! Anyhow, we’ll let that pass and its pretty much an effective campaign.
Some cleverly placed advertisements on popular blogs and online marketing magazines (where marketers generally hang around) are putting a smile on users’ and more importantly making them click on the banners. The landing page is the MS Dynamics home page.
You’ve got to hand it down to Microsoft this time. They’ve very tactfully singled out some of Salesforce.com’s shortcomings and some of their best kept secrets that customers were willing to put up with and of course with some good ol’ fashioned exaggeration managed to launch an attack against the Cloud CRM vendor. So far so good…a well executed campaign, existing Salesforce.com user start thinking for themselves, non-users and for those who are evaluating CRM solutions, Microsft Dynamics is back on their radar.
And then they mess it all up!
Microsoft decides to bundle in a special offer which promises users that are switching from Salesforce.com or Oracle CRM to Dynamics a $200 per user incentives!… BAD move!
The website copy reads as “Get incentives of $200 per user for services like data migration, customization and more!” but popular magazines like http://www.businessinsider.com are already reporting the move with headlines such as a “Microsoft Paying Customers To Switch From Salesforce.com”
Microsoft Brand Managers, what were you thinking?
This type of a gimmick completely puts an otherwise well crafted campaign off course, makes Microsoft look desperate and seriously affects their brand. It wouldn’t be surprising if Salesforce.com hits back with a campaign to make an utter mockery of Microsoft’s efforts to poach its customers.
Notes added on 08th Feb 2011:
Experienced when attempting to sign up for Beta version available to MS Partners:
- The sign up form does not work with Firefox browsers. (works on IE)
- The sign up form has the following note: Signing up for this offer will give you access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. You will receive an email from Microsoft in a few weeks with the details on accessing your subscription.
Every so often marketers come up with ludicrous campaigns that question the sanity of this profession. This is one such scheme devised by a local insurance company and currently in full steam.
Ironically titled as ‘Deal with guilt” the insurance company offers vehicle owners involved in a car accident with air tickets!
The TV ad goes something like this:
- A family guy is packing his bags, about to leave on a plane journey
- His daughter looks on with a sad faces.
- Eventually asks why and where the father is going
- Father’s reply: I’m going on a holiday overseas because I won an air ticket when I met with that accident!
- Daughter: What happens to the other guy who was in the accident?
- Father: Oh! He’s going with me too!
The marketer’s desired action from the audience –
- Switch over to this insurance provider
- Go, crash your car on to someone else’s
- Fly off on holiday with the person you knocked down
Funny? Ingenious? Absurd? Creative?… I’m having trouble deciding. Whichever it is, someone ought to be moderating advertising.