When I started in technology marketing, ten years ago, my mentor, Hugh, taught me something useful. He said, “Brian, if your customer thinks you’re broken, then you’re broken.”



At the time, it didn’t make any sense. But after wrapping up a competitive project for a client, I’ve been thinking about what Hugh said.

My task, for the past month, has been to behave as though I’m a well-informed prospect for some software, and pretend that my management told me to research seven vendors.

I spent about eight hours, per vendor, scrubbing the Web, social media, analyst’s reports, financial reporting, and anything else I could find, to go get the skinny on whether the vendor was risky, whether the software had problems, and whether ducks were in a row.


Two of the vendors were broken. As a consultant pretending to be a prospect, here’s how I knew.

1. Management churn + executive cluelessness. If over 50% of your senior managers have left in the past year, and your CEO is bragging about it in public, you’re broken.

2. If you’ve moved the software team to other groups more than twice in the past two years, then you’re broken.

3. You couldn’t support current operating systems and proposed that your users deploy beta code in production environments as a “workaround”. That’s broken.

4. Half of your customers give your product a 5 star rating, and the other half give it a 1 star rating. How does that happen unless you’re broken?

5. You still haven’t figured out how to amplify news through social media.

6. Keyword searches for key software functionality are directed to unrelated pages on your site.

7. You have three products in your portfolio, and only one of them has recent case studies.

8. Your site doesn’t have a place where I can register for events.

9. You force me to provide personal information to download a product brochure.

10. You haven’t talked about R&D spend for your product in four quarters.

11. You’re not recruiting new developers or engineers, but are recruiting a TON of salespeople to “turn the product around.”



So think about it. Does your company or product exhibit any of these traits? What will you do to change that?