Category Archives: Marketing

Do Industry Analysts Matter?

redmonk-logo-banner.gif
Conventional wisdom says, “Yes”. But we are generally skeptical of conventional wisdom at Atlassian. We like it when people try new models that are more customer friendly and by doing so, are successful. Like transparent pricing and product information.

Industry analysts are often viewed as a necessary evil, which may not be fair always. But there’s always a question: who paid for their opinion?

That’s why I really like the analyst firm Red Monk who says:

    “You should, in our opinion, be skeptical of all of the research you read. Every piece we publish is free to anyone, and every piece will disclaim who’s paying us and who is not.”

I also like what Red Monk focuses on:

    “We’re very open about the fact that we’re primarily oriented towards bottom up adoption. In practical terms, this means that if your main goal in life is getting on a CIO’s radar, we’re not the firm for you. There are plenty of firms that will (try to) do that for you. Our focus is instead on the grassroots, the bottom up adoption that’s made successes of projects that you may have heard of like Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Those projects, in case you hadn’t heard, didn’t get to where they are today by virtue of CIOs.”

So here are my disclaimers: Atlassian has not hired Red Monk, James Governor [Red Monk #1] gave me a T shirt and some stickers, and I had to pay for my own lunch, and his, while at Java One. But we did get to spend some time together last week in San Francisco here…
redmonkone-0524.jpg
Sun, who does pay Red Monk to do work, gave them a community day venue at Java One. It is remarkable that Red Monk did not pay for this incredible opportunity. Jonathan Nolen and I attended, and it was well worthwhile because it was not a prognostication platform for Analyst Speak but rather an open exchange facilitated by the Monks.

One More Reason Paul Graham is Right: Microsoft is Dead

Paul Graham’s latest insightful and controversial essay declares Microsoft is Dead. Some people didn’t get it: it’s a metaphor. Microsoft is not going out of business anytime soon, but it is ceasing to matter in terms of the future of software.

Paul points out the four big reasons Microsoft is Dead: Google, Gmail, Broadband, and Apple. Open source is missing from this list. Open source is screwing with a lot of traditional software companies, not just Microsoft.

But there’s another reason: how people choose what marketing to believe. Microsoft represents the Old World of Marketing. In the New World, word of mouth, reputation, and trustworthy information matter more, particularly in technology.

Word of mouth trumps bad, expensive marketing. What marketing even reaches people? No one reads direct mail, solicitors waste their time cold calling or are legally prevented, DVRs eliminate TV ads, spam filters are serviceable, blocking popups is a default, and even Flash can be blocked on your browser. Advertising has a lot of heat on it because so little gets through.

What about Apple’s expensive marketing? There’s one fundamental difference between their’s and Microsoft’s. Microsoft’s sucks. Have you ever seen the Steve Jobs keynote introduction of the iPhone? Can you even imagine this out of Redmond?

If marketing is going to get through, it better be damn good, because expense will not ensure success. Witness the Microsoft “Wow” campaign. It is doomed for two reasons: bad marketing and product problems. Even brilliant marketing won’t save a bad product. Which brings me back to the power of word of mouth.

Robert Scoble started using a Mac recently. Ironically Robert told me when we were at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus. What does that have to do with Microsoft being Dead, you say?

Scoble is all about word of mouth. He is word of mouth. He has thousands of followers on Twitter who know when he installs this utility or that progran on his new Mac. In the tech world, he is the Big Dog if you measure the sheer Blizzard of Bits emanating from the man through his Scobleizer blog, the Scoble show, his tweets on Twitter, and God knows what the man produces via IM and email. It’s frightening. He is a self-fulfilling prophecy of the new tech world.

The point is: people listen to him because he is insightful and authentic. He has far more influence than “Wow” on a billboard, or another crappy Microsoft marketing campaign that cost a fortune. Microsoft doesn’t get word of mouth because it starts with great products.

Great products start with first experiences. Buy a Dell Windows computer and a Mac. Side-by-side, take them out of their box, turn them on, and set them up the way you want.

After a few hours with your new Dell and your new Mac, compare the time you spent answering pop-ups you didn’t want, turning off annoying reminder features, and getting your security software working non-intrusively. There is no security software on the Mac. With the Dell, there is a good chance you will never control the pop-ups because it takes patience, or an engineer friend. If you are converting your data from an older model to a new, then these first few hours are brilliantly simple with the Mac. The OS X utility for migrating data stuns people used to Windows.

I haven’t done this exercise with Vista, but five minutes with Vista was one of my Worst All-time Computer Experiences. Nor would I recommend you buy Vista yet until Microsoft sorts through the initial problems, some of which are dangerous.

The killer app of marketing today is word of mouth and reputation, and Microsoft has lost this game.

Tips on Recruiting Executives Part I [On Atlassian]

grateful-dead-cartoon.jpg
We are in the midst of recruiting for a vice president of marketing. Even though we are still working on it, I thought I would share some of what we do during the initial stages of recruiting. Here I am concentrating on attracting candidates, finding candidates, and filtering resumes.

Here are eight key elements to how we start the recruiting process:

  1. Write a great ad – Why do companies continually forget how important this is? Be specific about why your company would be a great place to work at, what’s so interesting about the job, or what is it about the scope of responsibilities that will challenge someone. Make it compelling. I believe this job we’re recruiting for is a great job, so I tried to make it sound like it. I wrote our ad on Linkedin which will expire soon, so it’s here.
  2. Remember Karma – How do you like to be treated when you look for a job? Well, that’s how you should treat applicants. Answer every single email application. Even if you get swamped, do it; if you’re late, apologize but do it eventually. You should treat any candidate at any level with respect. Because industries are small, you are more likely to run into senior people again in your career, so act accordingly. Three of the applicants for our VP job included: a well know Silicon Valley blogger who is a good friend, a local industry analyst who knows our space well, and a founder of a software company where I once interviewed to be CEO. Tables turn. Don’t forget Karma.
  3. Don’t rely on ads; leverage your best networks – We have had 75 applicants, many very good on paper, through Linkedin. But our best candidates came through referrals from Mike’s network, and Anthony’s.
  4. Filter, filter, filter – The higher the expectations and the greater the responsibility for the job, the more important it is to be exacting about filtering resumes and not wasting candidates’ or your time. I do believe in the Best Athelete theory which says the best person may not be the one with the perfect functional experience, but instead the brightest, sharpest, highest potential one. With senior people, however, you are hiring experience, so this needs to dominate your initial filtering.

    Occasionally I let a left-of-center candidate through because there is something compelling in her/his background. But experience dominates the first filtering. Executive search people say, “the best indicator of future performance is past performance”.

  5. Bad resumes tell a lot – I hate bad resumes, and that generally means most of them. My three biggest annoyances on resumes are:
    • Lists of skills, strengths, accomplishment, and capabilities, instead of background by job. Experience matters, and not a candidate’s interpretation.
    • Vague chronology. I like seeing jobs by month and year. If you have ever been interviewed by executive search recruiters from firms like Heidrick & Struggles or Korn Ferry, they get precise chronology.
    • Long resumes. This is partially a US thing because in other countries long resumes are common, but I hate them. One of our applicants is a SVP from a Top 10 tech company, and his resume is two pages. Most mortals fit on two pages.

    Cover letters are where it’s OK for candidates to sell themselves, although the degree to which someone reveals some understanding of us matters a lot. Bad cover letters say a lot. If a candidate does not take the time to write a good cover letter, then how much do they really want this job?

  6. Filter with email questions – If you just received 20 resumes, and aside from the one really good resume, and the eighteen that don’t fit, what do you do with the one that’s interesting but borderline? Send them an email asking three tough questions. My favorite question is: what challenges do you think Atlassian faces? This forces some thinking, and is a great question in a first interview as well.
  7. Network with some candidates – I generally make a few Linkedin connections during a search because the person has some interesting skills but we do don’t need them now, or I may know someone who could use these skills. This relates to the Karma Rule above.
  8. Have a backup plan (if you can afford it) – Before starting the search I lined up a great executive recruiter who I have trusted as an employer and as a candidate. I gave us 45 days to succeed on our own. So far, so good. Executive recruiters are painfully expensive, and most of them are not worth it. But at some point, if you have a critical hire, such as this one is for us, you cannot screw around.

I’ll blog Part II when we complete the search.

Do You Know a Great Marketing Executive?

We are looking for a vice president of marketing in our San Francisco office. The job spec is here on Linkedin. We’re looking for someone who has more creativity than these guys…
buyit1.jpg
… while still having a sense of humor. 🙂

Is Microsoft’s Sharepoint Wiki Good Enough?

GartnerWe did a briefing for Gartner today. A lot of the focus was on Confluence because next year Gartner is targeting collaboration, and technologies like wikis, to be one of the top two or three trends they will concentrate on. In addition to the primary purpose of these briefings — let Gartner learn about our products, these briefings give you an opportunity to ask the experts what they think. We asked Gartner what they thought about Sharepoint’s wiki.

Gartner said customers who decide to use Sharepoint’s wiki will not be asking “Is it the best?’, but instead will ask “Is it good enough?”. They added that the real wiki-minded people out there will not be happy with Sharepoint for a wiki. They also pointed out that big customers like Banks who want some degree of diversity in their technology will not want more from Microsoft. Customers who ask “is it good enough?” are the ones Microsoft will pick off.

I think Gartner is right on. Their point about some big customers wanting less dependence on Microsoft is interesting. You might think the pervailing principle is always to reduce vendors. Although this is a common objective with enterprise customers, there is a point at which too much is too much from one company. Now we’ll just wait and see if the Sharepoint wiki is even ‘good enough’.

How to Ruin a Perfectly Fine Product with Marketing

We’re about to release a new product, and someone asked how we are gearing up our marketing for its introduction. The answer is we’re not. His question is rational, but it’s comes from a place that says if you surround a new product with marketing, you increase the chance of success.

The problem is that this assumes customers want this marketing and will trust the messages. It is wise to assume most customers distrust marketing, they have little time or patience, and they are smarter than how most advertising treats them. New products particularly face this reality.

Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy a new product if someone other than the company selling it recommended it? How often do you believe claims abut new products?

What we find works is releasing a product, getting it into the hands of a bunch of customers, listening to their criticism and ideas, and then building on their word of mouth. When this first group of customers starts telling you the product is actually useful and they want to keep it, then you might have something. Customers talking about a product generate far more sales than our claims.

The last thing you want is a whole bunch of customers running into your store because they saw some great ad, and then acting disappointed when they see your new pots and pans. Introduce the pots and pans more slowly. Unfortunately most people can’t wait, and marketing testosterone usually trumps sensitivity to customers.

Which leads to the second common trap when marketing new products. Claims are more easily wrong before lots of customers whack away at the product. Your customers can give you tremendous insight into what works and what sucks. If you collect enough of this data, you can produce straightforward, useful information about your product, and skip the claims. Introduce your marketing once you really have a grip on how people outside your company view your product.

Jobster: Good Idea?

Is recruiting ripe for something new or better? You might think so. Craigslist was the last really useful and different way.

So you might think Social-Networking-Meets-Recruiting is timely. Linkedin, the most prevalent business network has added jobs to make money, but what every job board learns is: you are only as good as your volume. So far Linkedin has been disappointing. But we’ll keep trying because we like the concept and it’s inexpensive.

Jobster, on the other hand, started as a recruiting-networking concept, right off the bat. Nice idea but bad business model. Why do businesses continue to make it hard for customers to check out their services and buy? Jobster fails for three glaring reasons:

1. Make it easy to learn about the product. Go to jobster.com and two clicks later an employer like me is reading the Jobster Solution. But what exactly does it do? It still seems unclear so I guess I better click on demo. There’s an option to enter my contact info. No thanks. Click on Tour. In the first 30 seconds I learn that Jobster is a whole new way of recruiting, that I can proactively recruit non-job seekers, that scads of recruiters have helped design it, and that the CEO is willing to roll up his sleeves to work with me. I feel great. That’s really sweet of him. But I’m a typical employer: I’m in a hurry, I need people yesterday, and how do I get started? How do I cut through this marketing crap?

2. Make it easy to sign up. Clicking on “Get started” is where things go South fast. I have to fill out a form, and submit an email. And give them my phone number. That sucks but hey, they’ll send me a password and I’ll get started, right? Think again. I get an email saying “The future of hiring technology has arrived and Jobster is leading the way. If you have questions or would like a demonstration contact us at…” Grrrrr. Where is my password?! Let me at this thing! I want to try on the flared pants, and if they fit, hey, I’m buying. But I have to call them and speak to a sales person! Here comes Telesales Death. Direct sales means high prices. But I’m dying to check out “the future of hiring technology”…

3. Give people a free or cheap way to evaluate, if it needs any explaining. Simple products are simple to test out. But things like software and this “new way” of recruiting are tricky. Guess what Jobster costs? $295 per month. But that’s deceiving because Gary Thede, the helpful sales rep at Jobster tells me it takes at least 90 days to see any result. Even then, he agrees when I say this is a $4,000 decision because signing up for a year is what it takes to build your network. Just look at how long Linkedin is taking to gain steam. And that is if Jobster even succeeds. Which is yet to be proved.

Which takes me back to the web fact: you are only as good as your volume. The other fact in recruiting is: Craigslist charges $75 and is the most effective job board. If you have a “new way” and a great idea, which Jobster just might have, then you better face economic realities: teach me online quickly simply, make the barrier to signing up low, and let me try it out for free or for peanuts. Make it fly off the shelves. When I see the deal, make me go “Wow”. Unfortunately Jobster is the opposite: hard to understand, hard to sign up for, way too expensive, and laden with an expensive sales force. I wish Jobster well though because it’s a good idea.