As I think through the major themes of the book I hope to write over the next year, the word “horizontal” keeps coming up, over and over and over.
It comes up in nearly every conversation I have with marketers. More often than not, when you get to the heart of an innovative marketing program, you find a block that can be summed up thusly: “That’s not what we do.”
In other words, “We’re the marketing group. That’s a great idea, John, but it requires we work with the (customer service, IT, business development, human relations, public affairs, product development, legal) department. And while we’d love to do that, well, we’ve (have never done that, have tried it before and it didn’t work, don’t like those guys, been told not to do it, don’t have budgets that cross departments, etc. etc. etc.).”
But marketing is, in its essence, a horizontal practice. (I wrote more about this on the American Express Open Forum site.) Every customer interaction is marketing. Every partnership is marketing. Every employee is a marketer.
And all your data, well, that’s marketing too.
Case in point: Mashery. I had a good conversation today with Mashery’s CEO Oren Michels. Mashery has a smart (and very Web 2) model: It provides API infrastructure for enterprises looking to turn their businesses into platforms. In other words, business who are smart enough to realize they need to join the conversation economy.
But joining the conversation economy means more than skinning your corporate website with Twitter search results (though I commend Skittles for doing it). It means taking your core assets – the data that drives value and knowledge inside your enterprise – and offering it as fuel for the collective intelligence of all your partners – your channel, your vendors, and, ultimately, your customers.
What does that look like? Well, Mashery has plenty of examples, including the New York Times and Best Buy. It’s late and I wish I could write a lot more, but let me sum it up this way: Companies that create platforms which enable customers to leverage internal data with collective intelligence will win. Those that don’t, will lose.
Oren had a very telling insight, one that plays to the issue of “horizontal versus vertical.” Most enterprises see his services as “IT”, and push him to “talk to the CTO.” But most CTOs don’t care about creating new channels of distribution, new business rules, and opening new markets. They see their job as servicing that which already exists. That’s a recipe for epic fail.
Mashery is not an IT play, it’s a business development play. Smart companies understand that.
More on this soon.