I did my MBA pre-PC, and back then, the frame of reference for most business teaching was about products and bricks-and-mortar businesses. The Web didn't exist, and software wasn't a business category. That's all changed big-time, but the fundamentals have not. One of the core mantras of marketing is ATU - Awareness, Trial and Usage. Pretty simple and pretty universal. All the front-end advertising in the world is useless if it just generates awareness. Once you have that, there is often a big chasm between awareness and usage, especially for expensive or complex products.
That leads me into a subtle segue from the 20th century to the 21st. In marketing circles, the biggest change in the new century is the rise of software, and the broader notion that we now live in a service and knowledge-based economy. Economies of scale is a major driver of competitive advantage when you're building physical products, but not so for things like software. These offerings can provide a great ROI, but take some investment in human capital to gain acceptance.
Today, Interactive Intelligence has some news that speaks very well to that. I follow them pretty closely, and last week they gave me an in-person pre-launch briefing on Quick Spin. The details were just announced this morning, and the program is set to roll out before year-end.
So, where is all this going? Well, Quick Spin is basically a free trial of their CaaS platform - communications as a service. Interactive has gone down the hosted/cloud path faster and further than just about anybody in the contact center space. They're definitely a visionary type of company, but it's not easy being ahead of the curve. The cloud has not yet rendered all that came before it obsolete, even though it may seem this way if you believe everything you read.
Again, coming back to Marketing 101, the Early Adopters get it with CaaS. They are always a minority, but see the future, and are prepared to take some early risk to gain an edge on the competition. If it works, they look like geniuses, and if not, it may ruin the business. Most companies are more conservative and would rather learn from the mistakes of others. They may lose a bit of market edge, but figure it's worth it if the 2.0 product works better and is probably cheaper.
This is where Interactive is showing its marketing smarts. They know CaaS works well - lots of customers are using it, and it's ready for broader adoption. They also know that mainstream contact centers still have reservations about the cloud, so Quick Spin helps them cross the chasm between awareness and usage. Basically, Quick Spin is a slimmed down version of CaaS, making it easy for those apprehensive customers to trial the product. Not only does it give contact center a no-cost, no-risk way to experience what CaaS can provide, but it showcases how flexible Interactive can be in delivering solutions for all types of scenarios.
While this sounds very Marketing 101, you don't see it happening very much in our space. We all know how weak the economy is, and ATU is as valid today as it was in my school days. To me, this is another example of how having the best technology is no guarantee of success. If you have it, and do all the other things right, you have a pretty good chance of leading your market. But if technology is all you have, your odds of success are pretty long, unless you're very lucky. Interactive has figured all this out, and it's another reason why they're making money. If you can't get people to buy, get them to try - and if it's as good as advertised, you'll be fine.