Strategic Marketing for the ERP World

- Jake Aull 9/2008


The most widely given reasons for why so many IT projects fail, are a lack of good project management, communications and user-needs identification.


At the climax of the dot-com bubble, just before the burst, I co-owned a small service company. We provided brand identities to mostly dot-com startups. Time and again I was amazed at how many of these companies seemed competently filled with programmers, but had no experience with the specific, niche industry they were building their dot-com to serve. I don’t think any of those companies are still around today. And my story is not an anomaly. In fact often the biggest-spending “customers” for dot-com startups were not customers at all, but investors…


Today in the business world, the major shift is towards IT architecture that allows everyone in an organization to access all needed software tools from one source. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system enables this, plus anywhere-access for permission-specified users. Consequently, creating or adapting business-to-business software today for the ERP system is critical. And knowing and utilizing the best web-enabled technology to do this is essential. But what else can providers do to ensure a purchasing, profitable customer base? Can anything be learned from the above?


Knowing one’s customers is crucial for business today. It becomes even more important as the U.S. grows its service economy (around 70% of all US business), one-to-one marketing tactics, and customer-focused (as opposed to competitive-focused) marketing. IT project managers succeed when they fully understand and serve the needs of project customers. Marketers succeed by doing the same for their customers and prospects.


A common, erroneous temptation is to think that marketing is exclusively promotion. There were plenty of promotions occurring during the dot-com bubble – in fact, more money was spent on promotions and advertising in the U.S. during the late nineties than anytime before or since. And we know the dot-coms were not lacking for funding (else how did they get all the money for these promotions?). The biggest marketing failure of the dot-coms lied in not knowing their markets and customers.


What is called for today, in the monumental rise of the business-to-business ERP world, is marketing that not only does its homework and addresses every aspect of its market, but also harnesses the knowledge and strategies of successful software project management.


Not to leave the reader hanging with questions unanswered, here is a first step toward such marketing understanding. The table below is a buyer behavior analysis of the two different customers for ERP components. In a time where even the most exclusive best-of-breed applications become adapted and customized for ERP integration, the ERP provider itself becomes a growing and powerful customer base. But the fundamental differences between it and the end-customer/user are vast. Consequently, both audiences require very different communication styles and benefits propositions.


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Copyright 2009 Jake Aull