Five Questions For Marketing Maven Judith Rothrock

Expert offers tips on software launches, analyst relations and endless summer soiree

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Recently I had an opportunity to speak with Judith Rothrock, president of JRocket Marketing and an award-winning marketer who has helped a host of software companies expand and succeed in the highly-fragmented enterprise applications space through innovative marketing techniques.

Here’s an excerpt from our discussion:

What are the common mistakes that software companies make when launching a new product?

There are five very common, consistent mistakes that software companies –both large and small – make when launching a new product into the market:

1)  Companies mistakenly build a product, and not a solution.  A great example of this was the original launch of SAP HANA, which stands for High Performance Analytic Appliance.  HANA is an unbelievable breakthrough: In techno-speak an in-memory, relational database management system.  In plain speak – a way to handle both high transaction rates and complex query processing on the same platform – so you can find trends/answers in huge amounts of data to make better business decisions.  Initially HANA was a technology in search of a problem…meaning it was not built or marketed as a solution, but as a technology.  Once industry analysts got past the gee-whiz factor they quickly assessed that no marketing or sales infrastructure had been set up to actually leverage sales of HANA.  Apparently what was missing was to turn this great idea/technology into a well-articulated solution set.  Then you should have followed through by identifying the right buyer with a productized solution: and built marketing/sales initiatives by targeted geography, company size, and buyer type (organizational role).

2)  Companies over-estimate their competitive advantage of their new product.  Whether a software company operates in a crowded solution space (like enterprise resource planning- ERP) or are introducing a breakthrough new solution, all companies fall into the trap of believing that their solution is so markedly better that the buyer market is going to come running. This is not unlike all of us seeing our children through filtered parental lenses of perfection. 

3)  Companies often can’t narrow the focus of what they’ve built and/or miss the most important competitive advantage. JRocket Marketing once was working with a vendor to launch into the U.S. market, but was experiencing stagnant sales and couldn’t understand why.  Their executives presented me with slide after slide showing dozens of reasons why they felt they were better than competitors.  In the end, none of the reasons they thought were competitive advantages were useful to the launch.  Instead, they had missed that they had built a competitively unique and superior architecture that offered advantages that none of their much larger ERP competitors had. They assumed that everybody knew that and failed to spotlight that in the first place.   

4)  Companies use the group think tank approach for marketing their new product.  This is the kiss of death for any marketing initiative. Trust an experienced marketing leader to carry the ball and make the decisions, much like a quarterback.  They will pass to the right people as needed but in the huddle they need to be the decision maker.  If they fail, toss them out.  

5)  Companies mistakenly put smart product, sales, industry experts in charge of marketing/branding of the new product, versus hiring trained, experienced strategic marketing experts.  Product marketing is not strategic marketing. Sales leaders can sell ice to Eskimos but branding and the axioms of marketing are a real skill set with real learned processes. I frequently go into companies that have wasted tens of millions of dollars on trial and error campaigns, literature, websites, etc. from well-meaning and fantastically gifted leaders who have no strategic marketing track records. In short, go with the pro.

Marketing Maven Judith Rothrock
Marketing Maven Judith Rothrock

How should young and fast-growing software companies position themselves in front of industry analysts?

Industry analysts can sit through as many as 20 or more presentations from technology vendors each week. They’ve seen it all, heard it all, and after a while it all starts to blend together unless there is a clearly defined competitive advantage/differential. Young, fast-growing companies often have trouble breaking through to get air time with industry analysts who simply can’t follow thousands of technology startups that emerge each year. You can get their attention by investing a ton of money into analyst programs to at least get them to hear you. Our recommendation is to think more strategic by leveraging experts who have spent decades building relationships with industry analysts and fast-tracking the awareness process. We have developed programs that would build the brand and deliver sales-ready leads in less than 90 days.

What’s the value proposition of JRocket Marketing?

Very simply, two things: a lengthy track record of successfully positioning dozens of technology companies against their competitors and guaranteeing that the IT world’s top influencers will both meet with them and write about them. Companies partnering with JRocket Marketing spend a fraction of the amount they spend on large marketing services agencies – and get a much broader range of deliverables: positioning, 12-month marketing plans, and training/hiring of marketing support to execute programs. Recently, JRocket Marketing was awarded a finalist trophy for a major marketing award, against competitors many times larger than us. The award was granted for work done on behalf of a software company that previously had no unique market branding/identity, but has since been recognized as a stand-out for smarter software and better customer service.

Tell me your latest achievement in helping software companies market themselves successfully.

JRocket Marketing has helped dozens of software vendors achieve very tangible goals:  attracting a buyer of their company, attracting investors for capital infusion, establishing a new market space or buyer segment, gaining coverage/credibility in specific industry reports for sales programs and branding documentation, etc.  One of our most recent achievements was the sale of a software client for $1.6 billion. Prior to the sale, JRocket Marketing helped manage their corporate and product positioning, and analyst relations programs.  JRocket Marketing had completely repositioned the company, identified an unmet market segment and also identified/introduced the company’s unique cloud solution advantages to a wide audience.

You’ve organized a number of Grape Escape events mostly during the summer and all of them were packed with interesting people and topics, how did you do it?

We are very process oriented and have very specific procedures for how the trademarked JRocket Marketing Grape Escape event is packaged, promoted and executed.  The original Grape Escape event was established more than 12 years ago as a unique way to bring technology analysts and software vendors together in a creative, friendly, informal, yet productive way.  Originally, it was a single night affair with brief presentations by technology company CEOs, plus five-star food and wine (hence the name, “Grape Escape”!  Over the years, as more and more analysts asked to be invited to the event, and also began requesting a larger program, the event has expanded to cover a three day period of back-to-back private and group meetings with the technology companies, as well as product demos and customer testimonial speakers.  Grape Escape is known throughout the analyst community as an iconic and unique program:  it has literally drawn hundreds of analysts over the years, and has delivered hundreds of invaluable analyst reports to JRocket Marketing clients for their marketing and sales programs.   

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