Scrap The Marketing Department And Employ Visible Experts
I’ve never been particularly impressed by the marketing that most companies do in the area that I work. It’s generally marketing the obvious, or desperately trying to find an interesting case study that we can polish up. Personally I’d rather dispense with the traditional marketing budget and let our expertise market us by association. We would do this by employing true experts and by letting those experts demonstrate their expertise to the world through blogs, white papers, reference architectures, podcasts, social networking and events. Of course that would mean those experts would be less available for project work, but through their networking with the community they would enhance their expertise. Visible experts would not only contribute to the global community, but they would lead our internal community of budding experts too, providing coaching and inspiration.
Once visible enough they could also provide a gateway to introduce new experts to the community, to create a pipeline to enhanced visibility in new areas, in the way Brian Madden did for his brother, Jack. Visible experts are a powerful tool for branding, because they are not only more visible than marketing they are useful and authentic. There are only a few dozen visible experts in the end-user space so it’s possible with determination to really make a dent and the impact on our company could be profound.
I’ve always been amazed at the impact that Brian Madden has managed to achieve in the desktop field by self promotion, dedication to telling it how it is, always being on the side of the community and being useful and entertaining. He provides an excellent model for other experts seeking visibility.
Having poked around on the web for evidence supporting this idea I was pleased to come across a bit of data to back up my anti-marketing bias:
In the study, we found that 66% of all Visible Experts exert a major positive influence on their firms in terms of business development and growth. When we dug into this category, we found that Visible Experts bolstered firms’ businesses across a number of areas, with the biggest increases occurring in firm growth, lead generation, and audience reach.
These are just the sort of impacts that a marketing department would ‘kill for’ and there’s more:
The research showed that 62% of Visible Experts greatly contribute to building their firms’ brands. Visible Experts help their firms establish trust and market leadership, expand their reputations, and increase overall brand recognition
Very encouraging, but there are some cautions that come to mind from what I’ve observed:
- The experts need to be working on the side of the community they are trying to reach, they are not there to promote their employer. Their employer gets these benefits merely by being associated with the expert
- The experts need to be real people who know from doing, not just product managers or product marketing managers, not corporate blogs or twitter feeds
- The experts will need time to develop their standing in the community, perhaps averaging 25% of their week, but remember this time will greatly enhance their expertise through community learning
- The experts need to be authentic, not just mouth pieces for the company, but being proud of their company is ok. Some guidelines on where to draw the line here would be useful, because in my personal experience it’s possible to get into trouble by being critical of partners, even when they deserve it! Experts DO need the freedom to be critical!
It’s also worth noting that the company needs to be prepared to pay it’s experts a lot more based on their success, and this should motivate a lot of experts to come forward from the darkness of the corporate cave:
The research revealed that buyers want Visible Experts, and they are willing to pay more to work with them—a lot more. In fact, buyers will pay 200% over baseline to hire Visible Experts at the lowest level of visibility, and 13X over baseline to work with Visible Experts at the highest level of visibility, as demonstrated in the chart below.
As I mentioned above being a visible expert’s not always plain sailing, one of the posts that I did that caused me some minor trouble at work unpicked Citrix marketing a few years ago, looking back I think I added quite a bit of expert value to their marketing! I’m reminded of the value that Paul Thurrott adds to Microsoft by cleaning up and explaining their marketing as an outside expert, but also the value that Scott Hanselman provides to Microsoft through his association, even if he’s often authentically critical of them.
The inspiration for this post was a proposal that I made at a corporate innovation event a few years ago, of course it went nowhere, but now It’s on my blog, preserved forever.
Anyone wanting to take this further might be interested in this book that provides a step by step guide to success, by the author of the post I quoted from above.
I wrote this post snuggled up in Caffe Nero on a chilly September morning not far from the beach where I took the photo that decorates this post. I’m not an expert anymore, although I enjoy dabbling, I’m more focussed now on enjoying the sunsets.