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Published July 13th 2015

Marketing: No-one Ever Got Fired For Choosing a Social Suite

Would you rather work at an average business with a frustrating number of processes and structures that could be improved, or would you rather join a company that has got everything right?

It might sound obvious to opt for the latter, but it’s difficult to improve upon near-perfection. How can you stand out and undertake memorable work in a place that has it so right already?

For the more ambitious types, establishing novel, powerful systems and optimizing the underlying operations of a business can be the primary driver behind how they select an employer.

Indeed, many of the most widely admired business leaders are those that have transformed distressed companies, not those that have maintained the solid performance of even a well-regarded giant. Compare the reputations of Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, for example.

The reality is that most people, including marketers, conduct their jobs in workplaces that leave room for improvement.

With best practices that evolve at breakneck speeds, simply keeping up with the rest of the market can be enough of a challenge for many.

The difficulty of decision-making for social technologies

Implementing new technologies and systems often lies at the core of organizational change, and almost all of us seek such change in the pursuit of excellence.

It’s in this area that the balance often lies, with key staff regularly left to make decisions that will determine crucial changes in the performance of a business.

Purchasing decisions might be anything from the adoption of a new HR platform to measure performance of particular programs, to a dramatic overhaul of the manufacturing techniques in unit production.

Naturally, the means by which many ambitious marketers can influence positive corporate change lies in the decisions they make when it comes to new technologies.

There’s little doubt that it’s this pressure that has provoked the infamous business phrase “no-one ever got fired for choosing IBM”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.22.11 AMAnd it’s true. Embracing the solutions of the widely known giant for each discipline is unlikely to land the decision-maker in hot water.

But should it?

It’s worthy to consider that the phrase could happily be inverted.

“No-one ever got promoted for choosing IBM”. Depending on how you answered the opening question to this piece, this might be something that prompts a different kind of thinking.

Motivation and change

It’s well documented that carrots motivate better than sticks.

Siding with particular vendors for vital purchasing decisions for fear of losing your job is no different, and the logical path to mediocrity.

It’ll place you firmly in the late majority, or worse. And few are happy to be a laggard.

1The late majority is where ‘OK’ resides.

Ambitious people don’t operate in the late majority, and neither do high performing companies. Positive change doesn’t happen here, and neither do difficult decisions.

In order to truly inspire and implement productive change in an organization, marketers in decision-making positions must seek answers held in the early majority.

The very best will boldly push into early adoption and the innovative beyond.


Social technologies are no different

With more departments than ever embracing the need for social data, and curiosity finally piqued in the boardroom, the responsibility on senior social marketers to pioneer the right technologies is intense.

The easiest decision is to opt for size. A nice, safe establishment.

An example: marketers choosing social relationship platforms can purchase licences with Sprout Social, Oktopost or Sendible.

Crippled by fear that these might be too lightweight, and concluding that the relative small scale of these vendors may be too limited, marketers may instead go for more established players like Hootsuite, Spredfast or Percolate.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.29.49 AMAgain, some marketers become paralyzed with fear when it’s pointed out that these tools lack the financial muscle and depth of headcount that other software providers offer. It may also be pointed out that the business has existing contracts with Adobe, Oracle or Salesforce for its CRM or email marketing requirements, and that it would be easier to simply select the same vendor again.

And so marketers fall into the trap of the suite: the warm reassurance of safety that a giant vendor seems to offer.

No-one will get fired for choosing a social suite.

Puddles and wells

Alas, the safety net is something of a fallacy.

All too often, large vendors spend far more development time on integrating a disparate series of technologies than they do on creating innovative products.

Through cost-driven acquisitions or impulsive outsourced feature grabs, the race to build a social suite has rendered many of the enterprise software businesses little more than a puddle: wide, broad and encompassing a sizeable space, but ultimately shallow in most areas.

The young, rapidly evolving world of social data software is nowhere near ready for conservative, margins-driven convergence. Consolidation now will lead to stagnation and missed opportunities.


“Marketers who use social suites have found that integration remains an empty promise. And while suites’ social tools occasionally perform well, none can provide marketers the consistent quality they’re seeking; even the best social suites contain just as many inferior tools as good ones.”
-Brief: Buy Social Point Solutions, Not Social Suites, Forrester Research, Inc., June 19, 2015

Innovation, value and performance more often lie in the depth of point solutions. The ‘wells’, if the puddle analogy were to be extended.

This is directly evident in the feedback of marketers that have undergone this very same process.

Surveys of marketers who have implemented all-in-one solutions reveal they are far less satisfied than those who make the more difficult decision to use of point solutions.

Social suites simply do not live up to their expectations.

“Clients of point solutions score their vendors significantly higher than do clients of social suites in Net Promoter Score surveys, and also rate their vendors higher in features and functionality, value for money, and nearly every other measurement we’ve tracked.”
-Brief: Buy Social Point Solutions, Not Social Suites, Forrester Research, Inc., June 19, 2015

2Source: Forrester’s Q1 2015 Global Social Relationship Platform WaveTM Online Survey

Though there are plenty of examples of suites being the right choice for some purposes, concluding that they are the best choice for every requirement is nonsensical.

Marketers, you must be bold. Reach for that promotion, and don’t fear the loss of your job. Success is rarely built on fear, and memorable quality seldom comes from making easy decisions.

Take the time to assess the options available when implementing new technologies.

Remind yourself that these are opportunities for credible, meaningful change in your organization and that you have the opportunity to lead the innovation in your entire marketplace.

It could become a critical competitive advantage.

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