Crommunity Round-Up: Exploring the marketing activities ofKitchener-Waterloo's technology companies
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  • December

Crommunity Round-Up: November 2020

A wise man once said, of November weather, that “Nothin’ lasts forever (and we both know hearts can change).”

He went on to add something about needing time on his own and, further, suggested that we each need some time all alone. Look, 1.4 billion views can’t be wrong.

What does this have to do with KW tech? It’s a metaphor.

Need to catch up? Check out past Round-Ups

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Product Updates are Marketing Opportunities

How does your company announce product updates? Or maybe I should take a step back and ask, *does* your company announce product updates?

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A quickish story: one fine afternoon, back in my old gig, I wondered “How do our customers find out about our new software releases?”

You see, we had lots of products, and they’d often receive updates. It was in everyone’s best interest to have customers running the latest software: for customers, it meant they’d have fewer bugs, better and more powerful features, and so on, which collectively enabled them to maximize their benefits and value; for us, it meant more satisfied customers, lower support costs, and—ultimately—improved profitability.

But I realized that I didn’t actually know the mechanisms by which a customer learned about a new software version. So I started asking around. I fired off a few emails to sales engineers and account managers around the world, and I got up from my desk and walked over to chat with customer support, then professional services, then engineering… (ah, the good old days)

Many short conversations, several infinite loops, and a few hours later, I had identified 11 distinct mechanisms/channels by which a customer could find out that a new version of software was available, including things like:

  • Someone told them (account manager, SE, support, PS)
  • They saw a note in our monthly customer email
  • They saw a new software file available in the software list
  • They saw a little bulletin in the support home page (manually added, and only for occasional releases)
  • They saw a press release (for those exceptionally rare cases when a press release accompanied a software release)
  • They saw a post in our customer/user forum

Interestingly (importantly? crucially? surprisingly? revealingly?), what I also discovered was that—despite the clear and obvious benefits of getting customers on the most recent versions, and even a company-wide push a couple of years earlier to do so—we did not have a push notification system that alerted customers to the availability of new software.

Think about that. Not even an email that went out to customers announcing availability.

Funnily enough, everyone thought we had something in place—they just thought that some other team handled it or that one of the mechanisms that was occasionally and inconsistently employed was always put to use.

It was a classic not-quite-my-job scenario (and I don’t mean that in a lazy way, I just mean that everyone genuinely thought someone was better positioned to do, and was already doing, it).

Admittedly, there were a few other historical factors at play, but our situation was primarily the natural outcome of no one owning the issue, and no one ever having asked the simple question that I asked.

So I quickly wrote up a set of guidelines (just enough process) that mapped the 11 communication channels/mechanisms to the variety of software types that we released (e.g. hot-fix, maintenance release, minor release, major release, etc.) to introduce some consistency and to help make sure more customers knew about the new releases. (Note that this ‘solution’ wasn’t perfect—we still lacked a to-all-customers push mechanism—but it was a considerable improvement in many ways, so it was a step in the right direction…don’t let a perfect-or-nothing approach get in the way of progress)

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OK, so what does that story have to do with product marketing and this post?

While scouring the local interwebs for November content, I noticed that both Magnet Forensics and Dejero give at least some of their software releases the blog post treatment:

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that every release or update you provide needs to be treated as a marketing opportunity, but what I’m most definitely saying is that you should recognize the potential and have some guidelines in place about when and how to make the most of a release.

For instance, each of those four posts walks through the newest features and does a good job of relating them to market problems and user challenges and does so in everyday industry language. There are even demo videos! That’s a far cry from what I’ve seen some companies do, which is just dump a list of obscure feature names and bug fixes into a “release notes” file under the assumption that readers can make sense of it.

Plus, by relating new capabilities to real-world problems, both Dejero and Magnet Forensics benefit by introducing more subject domain content into their sites. Companies seem to always be struggling for content ideas, and updates provide a great opportunity to talk about market challenges and how you empower customers to overcome them.

Of course, these posts also show non-customers/prospects what they’re missing out on while providing real evidence of lifetime value and extensibility (especially if you’re using a software-based or hybrid approach to tackle problems that competitors are addressing in hardware). Field upgradability, for the win!!

And speaking of competitors… Won’t they be able to gather competitive information from these posts? Sure, I guess. But also, who cares. I mean seriously, who really cares?

Here are two reasons why you need to stop focusing so much on competitors:

  1. The real benefits of informing your customers and prospects vastly outweigh the potential drawbacks of informing your competitors
  2. Your competitors are going to find out anyway, and likely very soon, so all you’re really ‘achieving’ is keeping your customers in the dark

The more you pay attention to your customers and—at least as importantly unless you’re a monopoly (you’re not)—to the long list of market participants who aren’t your customers, the less you’ll need to pay any attention at all to your competitors. Leave them eating your dust and spending their time and energy paying attention to you.

So here’s your two-part assignment:

  • Do a bit of Zoomwork and identify all the different ways your customers can conceivably learn that a new product version is available, what’s in it, and why what’s in it matters
  • Consider if there’s an opportunity for you to contribute to a handful of valuable goals (e.g. growing awareness, creating demand, increasing customer satisfaction, decreasing support costs…to list but a few) by using your company blog (probably the best option) to showcase releases

Bits and Bytes

Here are a few other November notables:

  • (This should’ve gone in the October Round-Up, but we missed it) SSIMWAVE announced a new product, the Video Quality Dial, that allows providers of VOD services to substantially reduce distribution costs while maintaining a high-quality viewer experience
  • Auvik Networks published two data-driven thought leadership pieces, the Network Vendor Diversity 2020 and Best of the Best IT Network Resources & Communities—the former aggregates managed network device data gathered by Auvik deployments while the latter reveals the results of a survey IT network professionals (which is a very accessible approach that more companies should employ)
  • It makes sense that a company that enables and improves remote connections would be in high-demand during a pandemic, and that seems to be the case with Dejero: this post explains how Spanish-language sports broadcaster FOX Deportes uses Dejero kit to comply with COVID-related restrictions and this one explains how Dejero kept the election-night news streams running; and, for their success in the Japan market, Dejero was also one of three Waterloo Region companies (joined by Avidbots and O2 Canada) profiled in the latest issue of The Canadian
  • DarwinAI posted another deepish-dive into the rapidly evolving world of explainable AI, this time focusing on quantifying the trustworthiness of a neural network—as we tweeted when we saw it, clear, authoritative posts like this one (and its XAI predecessors) go a long way to establishing thought leadership, earning recognition as domain experts, and owning the conversation in your field
  • RideCo has a new blog post and case study showing the positive impact of their solution in two of Houston’s suburbs
  • Waterloo EDC continued their detour through Europe, pitting the Waterloo Region up against Stockholm (which thinks it’s so cool just because it’s an archipelago)

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Aaaand that’s a wrap.

If you want to nominate something for inclusion in the December round-up, then hit me up.

A schooner *is* a sailboat.