As a digital marketing consultant, I work with marketing teams at a variety of different software companies across industries.  Today I was pondering some of the common qualities behind what makes the best teams successful, and jotted down the following list.  If you’re at a software company of any variety, stop and ask yourself – which of the following does my marketing team embrace, and which am I lacking?
1.  Company leaders see marketing/PR as a revenue generator, not a cost center
The best software marketing teams are given the resources and time necessarily to break through and get that company referenced as an industry leader.  These teams are given the privilege to continue marketing long term, provided ample resources to succeed, and nurture the right talent because their management sees marketing as something which impacts revenue.  They don’t see it as some abstract cost center they “have to” throw budget at in order to succeed.
2.  Their team members are proven and passionate
Instead of simply hiring the cheapest or most convenient hire, smart software companiesgrow their teams with proven, passionate individuals (or at least bring smart, eager to learn team members on board).  There is the old cliche that client-side marketers “don’t care” or “are boring.”  This idea is shattered at software companies (or any company) who rocks at marketing:  their team members care and have passion.  A consultancy is great and can help boost a software company’s digital reach significantly, but the right team members internally are also vital for long term success.
The idea of the launch in marketing is one which is fast fading in relevance.  Instead of a big launch, the ability to maintain a pace with relevant communications is even more valuable.  Not to completely downplay the idea of buzz, it’s still vital.  But the savviest software marketing teams can orchestrate buzz without necessarily having a reason.  They’re also organized for failure – and in fact are encouraged to fail like crazy to find what works.
4.  They create lots of (great) content
I touched on this in my recent primer on content marketing.  The best software companies aren’t just relying on a static set of product pages to draw prospects.  They are actively producing a variety of content across digital channels not just about their product, but to become a go to resource for the industry.  And, their content is so good it deserves to rank highly in organic search.
5.  They tap their customers/super users as part of marketing
The best software companies are bringing their users into their marketing organically.  And not just as part of marketing collateral, they are creating opportunities for organic linking and endorsements through the web.  Further, they know the power of  who to tap:  super users and true fans.  They use them as case studies, success stories and referral sources, sure, but even more so they integrate them within social marketing initiatives.
6.  They experiment
Coloring within the lines is for marketers who want to be perpetually lost in the noise of the web.  Experimenting should be a part of everyone’s strategies and a critical component of the modern marketing mix.  If you’re not budgeting time to experiment, make the time today.  If you actually have creative team members, experimenting may end up proving more valuable to break through the clutter than anything else you do.
7.  They integrate marketing and sales
Marketing and sales teams are not put in silos – rather, they work together, learn together, share data and ultimately work as a team.  Software marketers need to understand the sales process and buying cycle (and the reverse is true: software sales pros need to understanding the marketing process).
8.  Their team members have personalities
And their management teams let them be themselves on the web to help forge connections.  Software companies who have team members that are known in their industries have a decided advantage against competitors who don’t.  It’s an edge to tap personal networks for marketing initiatives in tandem with the networks that business has built.
9.  Pull and push marketing
Pull is important, but the best software marketers also understand (and leverage) push marketing tactics such as email marketing.  Even in a social-powered web, marketers can’t deny the power of push campaigns.
10.  Marketing is both metrics and emotion/creativity-driven
Software marketers (and all marketers, really) need to be metrics driven and savvy with reporting meaningful outcome metrics and KPIs to show accountability to constituents.  With that said, it’s getting more and more common for software companies to be totally metrics driven in their marketing and outright ignore emotional/creativity in their marketing. The best software companies mix metrics and emotion.
11.  Product teams work directly with marketing/sales
By ensuring product teams are in communication with marketing and sales strategists, they can help ensure they are developing features that will truly help make the product stickier.  While product development cycles can be lengthy, listening to and actually incorporatingsuggestions from marketing can provide an advantage against competitors who don’t take this feedback into consideration.
12.  Savvy to nurture a digital community
Software companies who nurture a digital community will do more than activate the social media and SEO intersection.  They will build up a powerful and trusted army of marketers who spread word of mouth about the brand’s resourceful content and product.
13.  Intelligent about what to keep in-house and what to outsource
The best software marketing teams realize what both their strengths and weaknesses are.  Being aware of this, they make smart decisions about what to outsource to vendors/service providers vs. hire for in house.  They also only hire consultants when they are actually able to implement recommendations and new team members when ready to grow vs. cutting off extra resources prematurely and wasting efforts.
14.  Their teams are agile and empowered
Rather than having an overly restrictive corporate process, the absolute best software marketing teams are agile and empowered.  To achieve this, their teams are actually trusted by management to act appropriately and represent the brand intelligently.  In essence, they’re given freedom of agility.  For a great example of this, look at Matt Cutts.  If a large company like Google trusts team members like Matt to speak on behalf of their brand, certainly your company can too.  If not, you need a new team.
15.  Their customer service team is an extension of marketing/PR
It’s difficult for all software companies to do this, but if they have rock-star customer service people who can make that process social, it’s possible to leverage that activity for marketing and PR goals.  Not all software companies want to do this of course, but for those who can it is a significant opportunity.
16.  They understand purpose and passion
To motivate the right team members, it takes more than money.  For creative, talented individuals purpose and passion trump profits as a motivator.  This is difficult for many to understand, but is likely one of the reasons for attrition of marketing talent from software teams.  With that said, providing team members with equity is not a bad idea either, as it certainly can be another motivating factor for success.  Equity inspires a different type of connection with team members than raw cash.
17.  They are unafraid to have opinions or take sides
Let’s face it, the software space in many industries is crowded.  And when developing software that tries to appeal to everyone, in many cases it may appeal to no one.  Just like this is true in development, it’s true in marketing.  Team members need to be unafraid to have opinions or take sides both on internal issues and externally when discussing their respective industries.  This might not please everything, but this is a good thing: byappealing to everyone, they appeal to no one.
This is of course just a short list — what other characteristics do you see defining successful software marketing teams?