Saturday, September 12, 2009

Skipping the Middle Man

Spent a lot of time over the last two weeks saying good bye & best wishes to many long time colleagues as I get ready for the next adventure in ECM. One common pattern that's emerged from these chats? Inevitably I ended up telling my favourite people: "Skip the Middle Men. They Don't Get It. Talk Directly to Your Audience Because They Do".

Product marketing, product management and consulting professionals in the enterprise software business write a lot. So why do so few of the really good ones blog? Technology companies inevitably spend precious marketing dollars on PR agencies, media and analyst relations, and rightfully celebrate each hard-earned opportunity to submit an article, get interviewed, talk about their product.

But why wait? Why not just write? Umm...for free?

This fear is not limited to software marketers. Was a bit shocked to spend time this week with some friends in the arts - writers, journalists, broadcast specialists. They don't do it either. They rely on agencies, publishers, middle men to find them work. Of course they need to be paid for their work - it's their profession, but how is anyone going to find them? The middle men have all the evidence of their skills but the buying audience can't find it. Talent hidden is talent useless. Tree falls in the forest....etc etc etc.

But who are these middle men in the enterprise software world? It's anyone who is not a potential buyer or user. It's sales, corporate marketing, brand police, R&D who think they know best because they supervise that guy who wrote the code.

It took me a while to put my finger on it, and after talking to people in several other companies, realize it's not a situation unique to any particular part of the technology world. But I see the pattern consistently now - the subject matter experts don't write for their customer audience, they feel obligated to write for the middle men.

Training materials for people who don't want to be trained. Inane verbal gymnastics to satisfy the chieftains wanting to protect their turf brand. High paid executives and flown-in consultants who hide away in conferences rooms squeezing the lifeblood out of any original thought leadership.

So if I didn't get a chance to say it in person, I'm saying it now. Skip the middle men. They don't get it. Write for the audience who wants to hear you. Start a blog, engage in expert communities, go to local association meetings, take off the gag of fear, take pride in your work, feel proud to put your name on something meaningful, put some skin in the game, live in the market, not in a spreadsheet, channel energy externally not internally, share your knowledge, target people who will read you, don't waste time on those who won't.

Related posts: Make Your Content a Social Object / ROI in Age of Narcissism


  1. I don't disagree with what you're saying, Cheryl, but it can be hard to find one’s voice.

    Since leaving OT, after representing the corporate message for so many years, it has been hard to find my personal voice; the message that comes from my own heart that I really feel I can get behind.

    But, as I've evolved with this, I've come to realize that part of the problem is a lack of rich dialog with those who could be active in benefiting from the results of the work I would do. I have no voice until there is dialog; dialog with the true benefactors of the ideas that I would espouse.

    Getting out of my comfort zone to speak with with these new cadre of people has been a struggle but one I continue to focus upon.

  2. Excellent post Cheryl, just found it today.

    JP - Just blogging about finding your voice is a great place to start, I don't think I am a natural blogger, but some of the posts that talk about my experience of blogging and social media have resonated most with my visitors.