Small software companies sometimes struggle to get a clear message of their value proposition into the market.Â It is certainly hard when you have some revolutionary product that is not quite like anything else, but this can also happen through one part of the company not knowing what the other is doing.Â
This isn’t meant to pick on a particular company, but it is illustrative.Â Â A small, recently founded British software company called Grid-tools recentlyÂ put out a reasonably smart piece of stealth marketing.Â They did a press releaseÂ on Newswire quoting some figures about how much time and effort data quality problems were costing.Â This was a good strategy – they don’t actually talk about the survey very much, but by leading in this way it looks less like a direct product plug and hints at potential return on investment.Â
Unfortunately, their marketing department (and how big can this be in a start up estabished in 2004?) doesn’t seem quite joined up, since if you find their web site (which oddly is not directly referenced in the press release) you discover that they don’t sell data quality tools at all, but software to create and manage test data, and also archiving of data (”information lifecyle management”).Â All fair enough, but why go to the trouble of a press release about data quality if you don’t sell a data quality product?
I have recently been looking at a number of start-up companies and have observed that they often have interesting technology but rarely manage to coherently describe what their value proposition is.Â This seems particularly a British disease – software execs in the UK seemÂ almost proud of their lack of marketing prowess, disdaining this as all a bit “American”.Â While it is certainly good to have an emphasis on product engineering, you also need to be able to sell software, and that is hard if people don’t understand what you doÂ or indeed if they have noÂ really way of finding out that you exist.Â Â
This is one area whereÂ British software firms have a lot to learn from the Americans.Â I recall looking at a software company once whichÂ had produced a beautifully written and quite convincingÂ whitepaper about a “new” approach to business intelligence (essentially EII).Â Although it was not really that new, the paper was well written, slightly controversial and seemed thorough – just the kind of thing that would make you want to find out more.Â It was only after some digging that I discovered that they did not have one single live customer for this revolutionary approach (this was not a British company, in case you haven’t guessed).Â I’m not suggesting that British software companies adopt any dubious marketing practices, but sometimes we need to stop hiding our light under a bushel.Â Or atÂ leastÂ manage to illuminate the right bushel.Â