I just finished listening to a brief CNBC interview with Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com. Benioff describes a new generation of companies that are competing with Microsoft, not by maintaining a billion dollar war chest or by applying brute force, but by using the power of the Internet to greatest advantage. "The Internet," says Benioff, "requires new kinds of technology, product and business models." The same could be said of marketing and communications. Today the Web allows companies to sell and promote their products and services in entirely new and exciting ways, at lower cost and greater effectiveness.
This new kind of marketing is online, global, and high-touch. Customers will rely on word of mouth references and use the Internet to search for new products that fit their very specific
requirements. Marketing to them must be finely segmented, interactive and reciprocal. It must focus on engaging the customer, on bringing him or her into the "conversation" as a partner and even, co-designer. Then the magic will follow.
This caught my attention because a former client and early investor in Salesforce.com, Robert Troy, recently asked me to meet with another of his start ups, Santa Cruz Networks, to discuss new marketing techniques the innovative startup might apply to support its exciting new video conferencing product.
Santa Cruz Networks, a provider of Internet communications services, recently launched the wildly popular video PC conferencing tool, Festoon. Festoon, formerly vSkype, is a new free PC service that supports real-time screen sharing over IP among up to 200 users. Troy is one of a handful of VCs known for their exceptional track record of building successful high-tech companies. (Another story which I will come back to in a subsequent post.)
The sea change, that Benioff describes,is transforming the fundamental shape and form of marketing tools as we know them. Today, these new technologies and techniques provide enormous advantage to those who understand how to apply them, and Festoon is an excellent case-in-point.
Santa Cruz Networks launched Festoon in June of this year, almost entirely by word-of-mouth over the blogosphere -- at almost no cost to the company. According to Itzik Cohen,company CEO, the company has since been adding some 5000 users/day since the company was launched, some 640,000 users so far. Not bad for almost no financial investment.
Increased Internet access, driven not simply by broadband, but by cell phones and PDAs, mandate a whole new generation of tools that leverage its powerful reach. I am looking forward to talking with Cohen to discuss how a company competes with Microsoft by applying new online tools.
If you are interested, there is a very good interview with Itzik Cohen by Robin Good.