when is a hard sales pitch too much?I’ve always felt that if you’re going to educate customers, educate them. If you’re going to sell them, sell them. 

Think of when you’ve been getting what seems like great, impartial advice from a realtor or a mechanic and they slip into selling you something. You know it instantly and you suddenly start doubting everything they’ve said. Not good for the old customer/vendor sales process.

I got to thinking about that when I picked up a cool marketing tool from DZone Inc. out of Cary, N.C., at the recent Red Hat Summit in Boston. The handout was a “Refcard” on “Preparing for Continuous Delivery.” One of more than 150 the company has developed, it looks like one of those glossy two-sided cards you see in bookstores that provide a quick “cheat sheet” on anything from Algebra to European history.

On the “Refcard“ for continuous delivery, the goals include “delivering software more quickly and frequently,” “increasing software quality” and “increased efficiency.” They described prerequisites including “development practices such as automated testing” and “tooling such as source code management.” So far, so good. The presentation looked, as Fox News like to say, “fair and balanced.”

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Then I stumbled on a separate section titled “The Key Building Block of Continuous Delivery: Release Automation.” It said, in part, “the overriding aim should be to increasingly automate away more of the pathway between the developer and the live production environment. Here are some of the major areas you should focus your automation efforts on…”

Get Your Hand Out of my Pocket

That’s when I double-checked the sponsors of the reference card. One was PaaS (platform as a service) provider CloudBees. The other was application release automation vendor XebiaLabs. Bingo!

Yes, automation is important, but giving it such an outsize role in a description of “continuous delivery” tainted, for me, what is otherwise an excellent, in-depth summary of a complex subject. Other sections of the Refcard went into great detail on vendor-neutral topics such as “implementing a deployment pipeline” and how to “capture audit build information.” In such a context, the specific focus on automation stood out all the more.

It also stood out because education is something you do with relatively “top of the funnel” prospects. These are the folks who are just beginning to think about whether they need what you’re selling. They need to know what’s involved in using your product and how it works before getting a hard pitch.

Now a Word from Our Sponsors

In a white paper, of course, after the (relatively) impartial discussion of the subject, it’s perfectly fine to end with something like “We provide an automated intelligent deployment framework that reduces release costs and delays, and supports agile, DevOps and continuous delivery strategies.” But in a white paper, I try to keep this “word from our sponsor” it short, sweet, and contained in one section where it isn’t confused with the higher-minded education.

Now, if I were to include my own pitch here, it would say something like: “I provide clear, concise and powerful white papers, product briefs, case studies and other marketing content for prospects at any stage of the sales cycle. Drop me a line or call at 781 599-3262 if you’d like to learn more.”

So how did I do with my pitch? And do you think DZone went over the line with theirs?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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