A recent McKinsey article makes the following statement: “At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product - it is the product.  They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience - it is the experience.  In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”  Right on!

McKinsey makes the case for the “job” of marketing to be pervasive throughout the entire company.  That the old “push” marketing model just doesn’t cut it anymore with customers, that they need to be engaged through a comprehensive and well-crafted range of experiences from the first contact on.  It’s not a monologue with the customer anymore, it’s a dialog.

And the typical, functional silos that we typically create in our organizations where we “own” various aspects (and many time arbitrary) aspects of the customer experience, makes it very problematic to create the kind of seamless and engaging experiences that customers are increasingly demanding now.

The software industry is clearly no exception to all of this.  The traditional “packaged”, buy-install-use-repeat model tends to lead software companies to a “product-centric” mentality that tends to operate as though the software is the only thing that delivers the experience and that customer engagement is all about an engaging software user experience.  Other touch points like phone support, online customer portals, out-bound sales often appear to the customer as disconnected, disjointed and just plain disorganized.  Hardly an “engaging experience” for the customer.

And, the “cloud” delivery model takes this notion of software-is-the-experience to the extreme.  For many cloud solutions the only way customers can engage is through the company’s online website.  Trying to boil the entire customer engagement to a website experience (think Skype) can, in itself, be a very limiting form of engagement for a customer.  

There’s no question in my mind that software industry is moving inexorably to the cloud.  As a result we need to consider new ways of engaging customers in comprehensive and compelling experiences.  We certainly have examples of this - the top social networking sites are good examples.  And from these I see is engagement that isn’t necessarily about the software in and of itself, it’s about what the software enables the customer to do.  That’s where the “magic” happens.  The software is a key component for sure, but it’s more of a transparent provider of the compelling experience (think Angry Birds.)

My point is not that on-premise software is bad and cloud is good in delivering engaging customer experiences, my point is that both have their unique challenges in delivering these experiences AND that we need as an industry to stop thinking we just need to deliver a great piece of software.  Software is NOT the end, it’s the means.  Then end, is the customer’s engaging and value-rich experiences from purchase through use.  

And this begs the question of how we deliver such experiences to our customers?  The McKinsey article clearly points out the answer: “companies must elevate the role of customer insights.”  That’s it, we must become much better at gaining customer insights that inform us on what experiences we need to deliver and where the cloud delivered approach can have a distinct advantage.  More on this in my next week’s blog. 

And, if you’d like to read the McKinsey article I’ve referred to in this blog, let me know and I’ll be happy to send you the link.

 


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    John Geffel

    Value is a much abused, misunderstood and misused word, everyone thinks they provide it but so few show real evidence that they do!
     

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