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Technology Is NOT A Solution

March 1, 2012

I’m still amazed at the number of companies who believe technology is THE solution to a particular problem they’re trying to solve. Over the past 12 years, Voltage Factory has worked with several large, very well known organizations who have sunk millions of dollars into data warehouse, eCRM and other various, enterprise-wide software “solutions.”  In fact, one company with whom we partnered literally flushed 3 years and close to $8 million down the porcelain drain. One year later, one of their Dealers, working with his nephew, developed a rudimentary platform to enable him to do what the fancy software could not. Within 3 years his solution was embraced throughout the Dealer network, and a new company was born. So what was the difference?

Whether the Dealer knew this or not at the time, I cannot say, but the difference was obvious–his solution was not the technology, but rather how easily the technology ENABLED him and his team to significantly improve an identified process or practice that they, alone, understood. Today it seems as though “automated marketing” is becoming all the rage. I foresee a similar situation developing. More and more silicon valley types see the void in the marketplace and are clamoring to perfect automated marketing platforms. Typically these “solutions,” developed by well-funded start-ups, and populated with software geeks,  look to solve the sales and marketing dilemma strictly through the lens of technology. In fact, last week I was nosing around the website of one such firm. I went to the “About Us” section and reviewed the resumes of the management team. As I suspected, each one touted their previous successes in technology and software development, with virtually no one having any previous, practical experience in marketing. The problem? They cannot have an intuitive understanding of how marketing actually works. As a result, they produce “solutions” that are ridiculously complex, and do not prioritize, focus nor enable improvements of the most vital sales and marketing processes for their individual client. Their “solution” involves selling user licenses across an enterprise, even if it means a majority of the stakeholders will never use it. To address this, they conduct hours upon hours of training so that these same stakeholders spend less time doing what they were hired to do, and more time trying to become computer geeks.

In my 30 plus years in advertising and marketing, I have never run across an organization whose situation was identical to any other. In fact, it’s ironic that most companies with whom I’ve partnered have all tried to differentiate themselves through their sales and marketing programs. So why do people continue to hope that a one-size-fits-all,  off-the-shelf technology solution will work for them? The key word here is HOPE.

Technology can only ENABLE an organization to improve if it is easy to use, focused on the right problems, embraced by all of the key stakeholders, and is customized to meet their unique and distinctive needs. So if you run across an automated marketing “solution” that entails user / license fees and hours-upon-hours of training, avoid the pitfall of wasting lots of $$$$ and time.

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