A daily identity crisis – venture style.

Damn it!

You’d think that after 18 months of intense development which resulted in a live marketing platform with paying customers, we wouldn’t be having this problem.

You’d think we’d know by now.

But as we begin selling our new platform, prospects from agencies and brands, surprisingly, see us solving different problems. Agencies think of us as tech company helping them with new ideas. Brands see us as a service provider able to integrate tech enabled marketing with services. This leads to some awesome but awkward moments confusing what we are.

Generally speaking, they categorize us loosely in three ways:

  • Tech venture. Brands most typically see us as a content syndication platform able to integrate different content types within one hub. With our network of topic based communities, brands can distribute content and curate visitors towards a purchase. One can think of us as an “Open Sky” (affiliate platform) meets SayMedia (topic-based, blogger network). We add a “big data” kicker which puts us squarely in the tech venture bucket.  One of our first customers is a new ecommerce site using our tech to drive cheaper CPAs versus PPC (fingers crossed).
  • “Nextgen” agency.  Aside from my deep distaste for anything “nextgen” developed during my tenure as brand director for Lucent Technologies – I have no idea what that means.  Agencies are a fee-based services business – a decidedly human endeavor. Any variation of “nextgen” anything has a tech focus which, by definition, minimizes human intervention in favor of automation.  Confused? So am I. But we have some customers where we deliver social marketing and content syndication services. For these customers, we are an agency with a comprehensive and integrated tech approach to social and content marketing.  I don’t know if that qualifies as “nextgen” anything. 
  • The “agency’s agency.” This definition is most intriguing perhaps because it actually most closely matches what we are doing today. We planned our platform to be “agency happy” in that an agency can sell it profitably to a client. And when our first big “corporate” sale came through an agency partner, our most optimistic hopes were realized because we weren’t even in the room when the sale was made!  While this is a major milestone moment, the real work starts in the post-sale phase as the agency learns to work with our platform and processes. It’s the agency’s role to lead their clients in this initiative. It’s our role to offer the agency a safe passage on their journey through these new, sometimes murky marketing waters.

Every encounter with every prospect or partner is a revelation amplified during these early, tender weeks. Each marketer has unique ideas for how they want to use our platform – from a social learning laboratory to a content hub to a curated commerce platform.  We’ve already productized some of their ideas. There are other ideas that we could see have tremendous value. It’s so tempting to go off and productize these ideas too; a rather easier task than you may imagine since we built our platform to be a nimble, direct response-like engine – lots of modular pieces that can be arranged and re-arranged to test a multitude of marketing variables.

But as tempting as it is to go off and productize all these ideas, obviously that’s way too chaotic. Choices must be made which means I am pretty sure our identity crisis will get worse before it gets better.

This is, as a friend once told me, a high class problem to have.  Yay (I think).

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