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Technology Marketing "Done Right"

SaaS Vendor Zendesk's Customer Hero Tour

Most technology companies, especially software companies, do marketing all wrong.

Zendesk is NOT one of them.  Their "Customer Service Hero Tour" - taking place in various cities including Austin (where I'm currently based), Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and New York, is a great example for other technology companies to follow.

If you're connected with customer service in any of those cities, you should attend the event - any software company smart enough to spend their marketing dollars in this fashion is worth getting to know.  If they're smart enough to do "this" so very right, they're probably smart enough to do a lot of other things really well too.

Plus, it sounds like a great event - I will definitely attend.  Check out the "registration page"...then read on for my perspective on why I love this event in so many ways.

Me-Me-Me Marketing - Odious (Even on a Good Day)

I (mostly) hate software and technology marketing.  I've written a lot about how terrible it usually is and how immature the marketing profession is at technology companies.

Most technology companies stink at marketing.  They make a habit of committing a mortal sin - they make marketing all about "them", and they will all surely go to Marketing Purgatory when it is their time to pass.

I call it "me-me-me" marketing.  And I detest it.  It's even worse than meeting some loathsome bore at a party - where all they can talk about is themselves (and have no ability to connect with the person they're talking to, or the rest of the world for that matter).

Marketing for technology should be about "the customer".  Best-in-Class software marketing is about how to make the customer successful in their ventures by using the technology.

Examples of software technology marketing done right are few and far between - one of them is Zendesk with their "Customer Hero Tour".  This is an "out of the ballpark" marketing hit.

The Customer Hero Tour from Zendesk caught my attention when I got a LinkedIn "InMail" from someone I used to work with back in 2003 back when I worked in Silicon Valley.  This guy was reaching out to his contacts in cities (such as Austin, where I am currently living).

What is a "Zendesk"?

Zendesk is not a piece of laid-back office furniture from Ikea.  It's software.

Specifically, Zendesk is a Cloud/SaaS-based HelpDesk software provider.  Their product helps companies achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.  I don't know much about it, don't use it, don't have any professional or financial connection to Zendesk and I'm not trying to get a job there.  But their Customer Hero Tour email caught my attention - and I love this marketing campaign - so I'm writing about it as an example to other technology providers out there on "how to do it right".Legacy Modernization

And any vendor brilliant enough to market "this way" is worth learning more about.

Marketing or Education?

I would not be entirely surprised  (assuming someone from Zendesk reads this) to get an email from someone complaining that I've misrepresented the Customer Service Hero Tour.  I'm calling this a "marketing campaign", and someone will probably object to that and ask that I re-characterize it as a customer service education event.

Who says that Marketing can't be beneficial and educational for the customer?

To take one step beyond that, I would argue that Marketing SHOULD be beneficial and educational.  That is the difference between "spam" and effective marketing.

Marketing is nothing to be ashamed of when it's done right.  In fact, bringing value to customers is something you should be proud of.  The fact that Zendesk is piling a ton of educational value into a marketing event that will reach a LOT of people is WHY it's such a brilliant move.

I am not at all afraid to admit that I've learned a marketing thing or two by studying this event.  If you are a technology marketer (software or otherwise), you should do the same.  Zendesk has raised the bar on this one.  I'm glad I actually read my InMail from time to time.

Why the Tour is Valuable - and Awesome Marketing.  Yeah, Educational too.

Here's why I love this marketing (errrr... education) event:

1) They are coming to us.  Yup.  I'm in Austin, and they're coming here.  None of that superior "west coast software" attitude.

2) They are making it interesting.  5-star (on - including a review from Steve "Woz" Wozniak) author Micah Solomon is coming along on the tour.  He's the author of "High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce".

I'd visit a toilet-bowl cleaner marketing event to listen to this customer service celebrity speak.

3) They help me do my job better.  Zendesk is sharing best-practices benchmark data from their 15,000 customers and is also hosting a Customer Service interactive panel discussion.

4) They're making it fun.  Everyone always hosts these events at some boring Marriott or Hilton.  Nothing against those hotels, but they're not very fun - I've had beers in about 10,000 Marriott "Champions" bars and none of them are fun.

I don't know about other cities (they promise a "Hero Party" in every city), but the Austin event is being held at "The Parish" - an ultra-cool live music venue in the heart of Austin's hot 6th St. district. Super smart - playing on Austin's reputation as the "Live Music Capital of the Planet".

5) It's free.  If Zendesk wanted to, they could easily charge for this event.  People pay hundreds of dollars (or much more) all the time to attend various "symposia" that are less educational and valuable than this.  Call it a "Seminar" or "Symposium" and get rid of the super-hero graphics, and they could turn a profit on this tour.

What's NOT to love about this event?  Check it out....see you there.


Hollis Tibbetts is a Software Strategy Director for Dell Inc.'s Global Mergers and Acquisitions organization.  He writes on a number of software marketing and technology topics, including marketing "best practices", growth strategies, Data, Integration and Legacy Modernization.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

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All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

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