Why We Hired A Cartoonist and Screenwriter Before a Marketing VP

By Jay Valentine

Cloud_Sliver Cartoon 1

B2B marketing is dead today, killed by a total lack of innovation, imagination and style. 

Marketing professionals think SPAMMING those poor few remaining souls who download a whitepaper is “lead gen” building a marketing funnel.

Sales reps, 67% of whom now fail to make quota, often consider marketing just a make work place where useless “leads” with Hotmail and Gmail accounts are passed to them – leading to wasted activity.

If one is taking a disruptive product to market, what does one do?

If you are VC funded, you hire the hapless marketing types, fire up that SPAM-Marketo marketing machine, buy DiscoverOrg lists used by everyone in the industry, and blow through that Series A and Series B round.

Nothing happens, the sales team turns over once or twice, but you are executing the conventional wisdom, dumb as it may be. Everyone does it!

If you are funding the company yourself, keeping the equity for your team, you think carefully. You closely evaluate what it is marketing is supposed to do, how they do it and define the essential deliverable.

For us, the essential deliverable is persuasion via differentiation of both the message and its medium.

Our team needed to persuade Fortune 100 C-level execs there was a problem in the “digital transformation” outcome in which they are investing blindly. 

Apps ran just the same in the cloud, where they were investing billions, as they had in the data centers they were departing. There was really NO transformation. They are spending billions for “someone else’s data center.”

We were surprised at the common refrain: “…we know moving to the cloud, nothing changes. But everyone is doing it.”

In our little world, we could run an app in the cloud, reduce the AWS or Azure bill 90%, the app ran 1,000 to 1 million times faster, storage was reduced 90% and we regularly took apps that ran in major data centers for 90 hours and ran them on a Raspberry Pi in 20 seconds.

We delivered apps, the kind of enterprise apps one would expect to take 18 – 20 months to build and we delivered them in a single quarter – fully containerized.

Early sales calls were met with constrained laughter – until a quick POC (proof of concept) stood up the entire system before the contract was out of legal.

Our marketing problem was there were so many different ways to drive incremental change there was little or no appetite to appreciate disruptive change. 

In fact, few believed there was even such a possibility because they were so tied up in traditional and current means of what we now call DevOps.

While senior management wanted disruptive change via new business models, IT teams wanted to deal with familiar technologies which were inherently incremental.

So, we needed marketing.

Knowing traditional B2B marketing with logo-wear and SPAM was not conducive to our message to the C-suite, we looked at a different way to get to those we sought and hoped would get our message.

We needed to communicate via a story – that oldest means of human communication.

We spoke to two constituencies who do this every day – but not in B2B selling. 

We met with Hollywood screenwriters and cartoonists.

The screenwriters were all about the core elements of a story. What part of a story comes first? What is the ingredient in a story that causes someone to have that AHA! moment when they realize that if they looked at app dev from a different place the outcome could be radically better? How does the best story materialize?

We met with cartoonists. For them, our question was: “How do we take a very complicated technology story, about a simple technology that has astonishing outcomes, and get it across in fewer than 50 words?” 

The answer was the cartoon – a way to bond pictures, innocent ones with no inherent bias, to some messaging that would make someone stand up and take notice there might be a different way.

All our efforts went into a new language – actually two. The first language is that of cartoons. How does one say something with a cartoon? How many characters work? What is the interplay? Male or female?  How many cells work best?

The second language is that of the story – that immutable human communication means that has lasted thousands of years and yet today, even with Marketo-SPAM, remains the best way for one human to communicate a novel concept to another human.

Who writes stories? Screenwriters. 

Did we know one? Yup, we did and he is writing for Hollywood.

So we hired a screenwriter and multiple cartoonists. 

They crafted our interesting story so we could deliver a differentiated message, about a disruptive technology, to buyers who at first laughed because they thought such outcomes were impossible.

We landed the accounts we wanted and we still do not have a marketing VP and we do not spend money SPAMMING with Marketo to DiscoverOrg lists.

Now we are enjoying working with innovators who found a new way to deliver outcomes impossible with current technology.

They are accomplishing digital transformation.

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