In this series, I will comment on the written feedback I received after my presentation. Also, I will answer the online questions asked by students I had no time to amply reply to during said presentation

Lehren für Unternehmensführer – das Leben, das Wissen, die Informatik und die Ethik

(Computer Science and Ethics” Lessons For Managing Directors – Life, Knowledge, Computer Science and Ethics)

„Innovative Entrepreneurs“/ Summer Semester 2010
Leadership in growth-oriented enterprises

Today: Marketing

Question:
How do you attract potential customers? To be sure, I already saw your logo on the wall of a house, but I used to believe IF is a hotel.

Answer:
I wish this question were as easy to answer as it sounds, because that would facilitate quite a few matters.

Maybe I should begin with “logo on the wall of a house – IF a hotel?”. In one of their projects, the unternehmerTUM team did a survey asking people living in Unterhaching what comes to mind when they hear IF.

And, indeed, some of the people that were asked thought InterFace was into cosmetics – because of the face at overlapping the “F”. Mind you, these answers were given although we very actively support quite a few athletic (basket ball, soccer third league, chess, volleyball national league) and charity projects (kindergarten, literature, music, community activities). There you see how hard it is to create any sort of public awareness, especially if you are into something as hard to explain as IT services.

It looks better if you are talking about the sector. We are quite well-known in our field. What is interesting, though, is that most experts know us for themes we tackled in the past. For instance, there are quite a few decision-makers who still associate InterFace with “artificial intelligence” (AI) and Prolog (a programming language of AI popular in the 1980ies). Our no longer existent sister company InterFace Computer GmbH used to be a huge success with it thirty years ago. People obviously remember.

Similarly, many IT key persons and experts still know us from our product family HIT/CLOU (in those days, we were still the InterFace Connection GmbH). CLOU was a text engine responsible for quite a success story of ours during the 1990ies. Today, it hardly plays a role any more – but many people still associate HIT and CLOU with InterFace. In those days, we still had a traditional newspaper, the HITNews (later, we re-named it IF-News). It was delivered to almost 2,000 customers and kept growing heavier. Until one day it was obsolete.

In order to make people aware of us today, we rely on several factors:

  • Internet
    Apart from our now a little antiquated website (we are currently working on a fantastic new one), we have a nicely active corporate blog. The internet activities are supported by my “private blog” (which is where you are currently reading this article…).
    Of course, we also use the big personal services, such as Stepstsone. And many of our employees can be found on XING. My twittering is more a private affair. Facebook and the like are still somewhat neglected in our company.
  • Presentations
    We frequently try to give presentations on special conferences that have a good reputation (OO, SCRUM…) or at universities. Our themes are both technical and social. As far as I a concerned, I also often try to relate my experiences as an entrepreneur or position myself on social themes (social responsibility, ethics).
  • IF-Forum
    With  the IF forum, we created a special series of events. We invite famous speakers three times each year. Among others, we already welcomed Gabriele Fischer of brand eins, Prof. Dr. Kathrin Möslein of FAU, Klaus Kastan im IF-Forum” Klaus Kastan of the BR radio station Washington, Dr. Wolfgang Herles of the ZDF – German journalist and author, Dr. Heribert Prantl of Sueddeutsche Zeitung München, Jörg Schindler of LBST München, Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Grün of Philkoll. Frankfurt and Dr. Simon Grand of RISE, St. Gallen. By now, this series of events enjoys a huge popularity.
    In 2010, we also organized our first technological IF-Forum on “Agile Software Development”. We plan to continue it on a yearly basis.
  • Fairs
We used to have regular stalls on the Cebit (Hannover) and the Systems (Munich). Those days are gone. Now the big fairs are mostly nothing but meeting points for an industrial sector. We only introduce our enterprise on very special events now,
  • Confederations    
You will also find us in user groups, fir instance on Java technologies. Some InterFace employees accepted posts of responsibility inn the DOAG (Deutsche Oracle Anwender Gruppe). We have only little influence at the GI (Gesellschaft für Informatik). This community of computer scientists gets less and less important in the IT industry.
  • Once in a while, we are really old-fashioned and pin some posters all over the awlls of universities.
  • Or we are extra modern, developing and distributing an APP (IFBistro) for downloading the current menu of the TUM Garching restaurant onto your iPhone.
  • In my opinion, another very reasonable (marketing) method is celebrating lots of festivals and Happy Hours. To be sure, the new and totally grotesque compliance rules are a detrimental factor. But those of my colleagues and friends who are permitted to come always have lots of fun.
  • The best is still the “word of mouth marketing”. If customers recommend us to other customers, we benefit most. But this is something you do not achieve through marketing. Rather, it is the reward for hard and successful work.

There is, however, always a long way from being known to getting a contract. As a general rule, you will only get a contract if the customer trusts you. For medium-sized enterprises, this cannot be achieved through marketing. Instead, what you have to have is both “happy customers and happy employees”. Based on this, you can try to find as many allies as possible.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Of course, the internal communication is also very important. After all, our colleagues can only supply the customers with all the right and important information through said communication. For this purpose, we have a special application: our “market place of ideas”. But the access is restricted to InterFace employees and specially selected stakeholders.

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