Why even IBM needs SMB marketing software

"Employees are the brand at IBM" said Ethan McCarrty then in charge of social media strategy at IBM. But isn't it the case for all companies?

Marketers used to buy ads, PR and creative work. Now they also buy software. This is new and this is a big change. A clear example of that trend, Marketo‘s massive success is 100% built on marketing software – a category which didn’t exist 10 years ago. Beyond Marketo, an entire ecosystem has developed ranking from marketing automation to inbound marketing and content marketing. Some say this space is crowded but the fact is no one denies anymore that software tools have proven useful to understand “which 50% of my marketing spending is efficient“.

The success of these tools has been to be designed for marketers by marketers. The same way Salesforce.com used the language of the VP Sales and not the language of CFO’s, marketing software vendors owe a big part of their success to speaking the language of marketers. Demand generation, campaigns, leads, funnel, nurturing, editorial calendars, brand assets, landing pages, open rates, click-through rates… The jargon is undoubtably omnipresent in these tools because they’re focused on being understood and used by one unique user category: marketers.

This needs to change.

When in charge of social media strategy for IBM, Ethan McCarrty came out with this sentence:

“Employees are the brand at IBM”

What? Employees? The brand?

One of the largest brands in the world – famous for having invented commercial computers, standardized a dress code for knowledge workers and being the safe choice for IT professionals who “couldn’t get fired for choosing IBM” – this huge organization says its brand is depending on its employees for its very own existence.

Yes.

Make no mistake: this is not some kind of politically-correct paternalist trick to boost morale; nor is it an HR stunt to make IBM more attractive to candidate. This is just a good honest observation of what social media helped us realize. And it doesn’t apply just to IBM but to all companies.

So why is this change happening?

Because of this:

Some say this slide has no solid basis and that the numbers are exaggerated. Perhaps. But it still captures an essential trend: companies are being judged through their employees AND the latter now have unprecedented ways to express themselves online thanks to social media.

So wether we like it or not, whether we see that as a threat or an opportunity, CMOs need to take this into account: what employees say on social media will impact the corporate brand.

So if employees are the brand at IBM (and others), this also means that marketing needs to go out of the marketing team (tweet). Large organizations need to empower their employees to communicate in a way that makes sense for them and which is aligned with the corporate brand. They need tools that everybody can use and that makes it easy and rewarding for them to do their own part in the overarching marketing plan.

Impossible?

Not if you consider another recent trend: consumerization of IT.

Years ago, we were buying complex software that required to be installed by IT teams on dedicated hardware and for which you needed training and support.

Not anymore.

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy changes let iPhones and iPads invade the Microsoft enterprise fortress. And, beyond devices, we now bring our Google docs, our Dropbox or our Evernote software with us to our next job. It’s BYOS too (Bring Your Own Software).

Software vendors used to offer either Enterprise products – complete but also complex – or SMB products – easier, streamlined but also limited.

Not anymore.

You can be an SMB and run on Salesforce. Just like you can be a large Enterprise and use Google Analytics or Google Docs. In this merge, the SMB category is winning because while it’s possible to add features to an intuitive product to extend its value, it’s very hard to get something complicated adopted by many. This is why the iPad became an enterprise device by the way – probably to the surprise of Microsoft.

The same will happen with marketing software. It needs to. IBM probably invested in a good chunk of marketing software designed by marketers for marketers. Good. But that’s not enough if employees are the brand at IBM. What they need next is a new generation of tools that anyone can use. So that the expertise of a top consultant who has a sharp analysis on recent big data industry news is not lost to the corporate marketing team. So that the key account manager has the perfect answer when asked by the CIO of her client what IBM thinks of the latest storage costs trends. So that the field engineer who’s seen dozens of similar client situations can easily contribute to a global case study on the ROI of private clouds.

Your employees are your brand.

So what marketing tools will you give them so they can help develop it?

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About the Author

Guillaume Decugis
Co-Founder & CEO @Scoopit. Entrepreneur (Musiwave, Goojet). Engineer-turned-marketer. Skier. Rock singer. http://scoop.it/u/gdecugis

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