Monday, April 18, 2005

Ballmer finally gets that it helps to speak customers' language

Twelve years ago, I co-started vertical marketing at Microsoft when Microsoft was a recent entrant in the enterprise computing space with Windows NT and BackOffice. I started the Healthcare industry marketing effort which is now approaching the half billion dollar mark in revenue. Despite the revenue growth and 12 years passing, it's only now that Microsoft is making a major commitment to communicating with customers in a language they understand -- their industry's language.

When was I was in the healthcare marketing role, much of my time was spent translating the product group gobbleygook that was classic "speeds & feeds" sort of marketing talking about product features rather than benefits or proof of why your product matters. For example, healthcare has been through a shift to pushing care out of the hospital into outpatient clinics distributed throughout a community. The shift from "host" to "distributed" care has had dramatic implications for how healthcare gets delivered. Talking in these terms is much more meaningful to a healthcare CEO/CFO/CIO than the latest TPC benchmark. Speaking the customer's language was one of the reasons why we were able to drive growth in the healthcare market while having much less success in other industries where that didn't happen. Once Ballmer "gets it", watch out. It may take him awhile but he'll come on with a vengeance. IBM has a lead with their industry marketing efforts that will take quite awhile to close.

Update: Computer Reseller News gives additional information on the organization.

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