On December 1st, 2010, HP Software launched 8 products under the HP Business Technology Optimization – Applications umbrella. The launch leveraged customer proof points published by TechValidate. By HP standards, a product launch of 8 concurrent products represented a very large and strategic event for the HP Software division. Typically, most HP launches occur with only a handful of customer proof points available at the time of launch. In this case, 223 unique customer content assets were generated using the TechValidate platform. These assets were created in less than two months and included testimonials, case studies and statistics – all sourced directly from HP customers. Cynthia Hester and Swati Kamath generously took the time to share how they accomplished this.
Cynthia Hester, WW COE Customer Reference Lead at HP Software
Swati Kamath, Customer Advocacy Program Manager at HP Software
Q: When developing marketing and customer advocacy programs for HP, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?
Cynthia: For us, it has always been tough to get customers to agree to publicly endorse our products and provide quantifiable proof points to use as evidence through PR vehicles, analyst relations, collateral materials, and sales presentations. It’s crucial for us to produce strong evidence and be able to turn that around quickly and distribute it so that there is access for all of the stakeholders in the salesforce and marketing teams.
Swati: It usually takes a huge amount of time to get customers to endorse anything. The big challenge is getting the requisite approvals from legal departments on the HP and customer sides for public references. It’s a huge pain.
Q. Can you describe the overall scope and goalsfor this launch? What were the key goals that went into the planning of that launch?
Cynthia: At a very high level the plan was to launch HP’s newest set of offerings around Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). We had to communicate a higher-level strategic message to the market as well as communicate on a tactical level. The launch included ALM11 specifically as a product launch along with several different types of supporting products and components that went into that overall solution. Strategically, we hoped to raise visibility around what HP is doing in the ALM space.
Q: What were the specific challenges of launching 8 products at the same time?
Cynthia: In my tenure at HP, this was one of the largest, broadest launches I have ever seen. We had 8 products that we were launching at the same time under a unified solution umbrella. From a development, product marketing and customer reference or advocacy perspective – that’s a lot of moving parts.
We had to deliver a solution level message, as well as come up with proof points that related directly to the products around key benefits for customers. Our challenge was to take eight products and to communicate a cohesive, holistic message out to the marketplace for each of our different audiences.
The launch also required that we coordinate with 8 different product managers and 100+ beta customers. The launch team established early on that they were going to have a microsite for each product. It was very helpful that we started early and were organized around each one of those products and microsites.
So the main challenges were communication, messaging and rolling this thing out on time.
Our launch date was December 1st, 2010 in Barcelona. We were ready 2 weeks early – which was huge. I’ve worked on lots of launches. Getting all of your collateral ready, and having all the proof points together for launch is major. Usually something falls through the cracks and you don’t quite make it or you’re scrambling up until the last minute.
Q: Given your perspective from other launches, how many proof points did you have for this launch compared to previous launches?
Cynthia: I would say we had significantly more; we’ve never had that much evidence going into a launch that’s come directly from our customers. That was another thing that was a huge achievement that we’ve not seen before.
Swati: We generated a total of 223 assets in less than 3 weeks.
Cynthia: TechValidate provided us a platform and a process by which we could relatively easily (especially if you think of traditional methods of pulling together collateral, quotes, and materials that you need for launches). The platform allowed us to pull those things together quite quickly and in a systematic matter.
And at the end of the day, I think that we would not have been able to do it without the TechValidate platform. Nothing would have happened as quickly without that platform in place to create content sourced from our customers at a click of a button.
Q: How long did it take you to generate marketing assets for the launch?
Swati: Out of the 2 ½ months, the time using the tool itself took about 1/3 of time. Briefing the product team about the best use of the tool was actually the most time intensive part.
Cynthia: I think that’s pretty typical of what we’ve seen when we’ve run our TechValidate surveys. The biggest time component is educating everyone around what TechValidate is and what useful purpose it serves. It’s not appropriate for inbound product management – it’s used to generate proof points around customer’s experiences using products or services that have been deployed.
Q. Were there any surprises during the launch process?
Swati: Don’t underestimate the need to educate key stakeholders about TechValidate. TechValidate is a new approach to collecting and creating customer evidence and it takes a little time for everyone to get their head around it. Once people have reached the peak of that curve it’s a very easy thing to execute. Now that we have pretty much educated everyone on the product teams, they are coming to us to execute projects with TechValidate. When they start seeing results, they just can’t believe it.
Q: What has been some of the feedback you’ve heard from internal and external stakeholders about the TechValidate content you created for the launch?
Cynthia: Our internal stakeholders were extremely happy. I know that our VP of Strategic Marketing was really pleased on the day of the launch when we hit the “go” button and everything went live. People were shocked to see the number of assets generated for the launch.
Q: What kind of response rate have you seen across your install base with these projects?
Cynthia: I would say we get between 15-30% response rate pretty consistently. Some outreaches falls below that benchmark, but for the most part we’ve had really high response rates. Frankly, that is another thing that blows people away.
In my experience with direct mail or online surveys in general, if you can get a 10% response rate, you’re really excited. So 15-30% is really, really great.
Q: How are people using TechValidate content in HP’s sales/marketing communications?
Cynthia: When we got ready for our analyst conference in March our AR/PR team needed customer proof points within a fairly short time frame. The first place I sent them was to all of our TechValidate assets. Those were already published and approved and they could go through and pull out what they needed.
With TechValidate assets, we don’t have to go through an approval process when we want to use a customer statement in our marketing communications. It cuts down on the amount of time that it takes for us to get something to those stakeholders. Everything is on demand so they can actually use them for the activities that they are undertaking immediately. From that perspective, it becomes a very useful library that’s available for ongoing marketing activities. And it’s very easy for those stakeholders to get the proof points that they need.
Swati: We also know that the assets are being promoted on Twitter, on the product pages on HP.com. Some of our product marketing managers are promoting the assets on blogs, webinars and slide sets. They also include the assets in presentations and sales portals. We’ve included the content in all of our sales newsletters, put it on the launch microsite and product marketing pages, and posted it to our software sales portals in order to reach all of the right channels.
Q: Any wisdom to pass on to marketing teams at other companies in terms of using TechValidate to create impactful customer evidence and content?
Cynthia: Learning how to use the tool and what to do for execution comes fairly quickly. But getting your team to understand the nuances, in terms of what’s the best way to get the maximum impact out of TechValidate is really key. You have to go through a process of education and communication with the key stakeholders.
Swati: For internal education, it always helps for me to start with the content assets that you can publish with the tool and work backwards to what types of questions you want to ask to elicit the appropriate proof. By reverse engineering the process of creating the questionnaire, it helps a lot. The critical piece of making TechValidate outreach work for you and making the survey successful is putting together the right questions and finding the right audience.
Q: How would you sum up the impact that TechValidate has had on HP’s marketing?
Cynthia: In terms of change around marketing evidence or collateral, TechValidate has had the biggest impact on speeding up the time it takes to get to market of any other technology that we’ve tried. I can’t think of another technology or solution that has had as much impact on the speed and quantity of content created.
Swati: TechValidate literally speeds our time to market. Once you publish content, it generates an external link almost instantly, which makes a big difference compared to traditional case study publishing processes. TechValidate bypasses that entire process. It makes creating compelling customer evidence so much easier for us.
Many thanks to Swati and Cynthia and HP for sharing their experiences!