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Ziflow, Switzerland and product strategy

6 min read
Anthony Welgemoed

It was quite the news in the world of marketing technology when Scott Brinker (@chiefmartec) announced a couple of weeks back that he was joining Hubspot as their VP of Platform Ecosystem.  Scott has long been recognised as THE thought leader in marketing technology. Scott produced the poster child of marketing technology conferences MarTech, and also created the annual Marketing Technology Landscape, which was presented this year as the ‘MarTech 5000’.

In his candid blog post announcing his new role, Scott provides some background on why he sees Hubspot as a great place to apply his thought leadership and knowledge of an incredibly diverse martech landscape. As Hubspot expands their platform worldview, they want to ensure they have the right people and strategy to capitalize on that vision and opportunity, which, in their words is “building an ecosystem of valuable integrations for our customers”, while at the same time embracing the realities of competition.  

At Ziflow, we were interested in Scott’s move because the rationale reflects our broader product strategy, which we call internally our “Switzerland approach”. It plays a huge part in what we decide to build, and how we decide to partner. To us, platforms are the real opportunity in marketing technology.  

Platforms versus Suites

CMOs have benefited from several years of increasing technology budgets and significant technology investment, in fact 2017 is the year that CMO’s were set to outpace CIOs in technology spending. This has driven a closer examination on the choice between all-in-one suites versus the platform, or best of breed approach.

The suite approach typically sees one vendor endeavour to provide a wide range of marketing technology within a single monolithic application.

With a platform approach, there are multiple independent technology solutions which can be integrated to provide a purpose-built stack. The individual tools are selected for their solution to specific challenges, often weighed against multiple peer vendors to identify the most suitable choice.

Our “Worldview”

At Ziflow one of our main strategic tenets is to focus on solving a specific customer problem and doing Man holding a globe in front of his face to show international company characterthat better than anyone else. The customer problem we are focused on solving is the chaotic business process of content review and approval.

We are also “content-centric”, which means we think about a piece of content moving through its life-cycle from inception through to distribution. Review and approval of a piece of content can take place one or multiple times during its life-cycle, and that piece of content touches many other marketing technology tools during that process. Those other tools might include Digital Asset Management, Project Management, Resource Management, Timesheets, Billing, etc, etc.,

There are a large number of amazing tools that do all those necessary things, and we do not consider it realistic or desirable to replicate the functionality in those tools. Instead, a second strategic tenet is to create an architecture for Ziflow that makes it easy to integrate with those other tools and for those other tools to integrate with Ziflow. This approach allows our customers to select best-in-class technology to support each area of their business.  

Why are we adopting a Platform strategy?

Here’s a few reasons why we’re embracing a platform strategy;

Depth of Field
In photography, depth of field refers to the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp. In product terms, for Ziflow, that means focusing more on the tasks and processes surrounding creative production, review and approval, and less on the administrative aspects of managing projects (further afield).  This means we can more effectively respond to, and anticipate, our customers needs with precision and sharpness. As uses cases and requirements evolve, as a focused product company, we can deliver more useful software every day.

Best practices (yours, not ours)
We want to build software to encompass your best practices, not to enforce our perspective on you and your team. As product companies evolve into suite companies, there are certain trade offs that have to be made, in terms of user experience, workflow and even licensing.

By focusing on how creative content gets produced, we’re able to help you improve your existing workflows, becoming part of your best practices. As suites expand and core capabilities merge with fringe features, a certain rigidity sets in on how things can be done.  We purposefully avoid that.    

Release Early and Release Often
Our CEO has recently written on our Release Early and Release Often development philosophy. In fact, it’s this philosophy that allowed us to launch online proofing three months ahead of schedule.

By keeping or product narrowly focused on our core set of use cases, we’re able to rapidly iterate and deliver new capabilities, features and integrations for our customers.

Integrations, Your Way
The Swiss have the right approach here. They get along with everybody, and so do we. We’ve built Ziflow to be easily integrated with your project management, DAM, notifications/chat and even cloud storage products.  

Time to Value  
We’ve long considered online proofing to be “the quickest win in MarTech”. We’re able to have you up and running and marking up creative content in minutes.  Even with the most onerous enterprise requirements, you’re still up and running on the same day you purchase Ziflow.  The same can’t be said for larger suites which require endless setup, configuration and training.

The seemingly limitless variety of marketing technology solutions available today could easily be overwhelming. It’s not only marketers who will have to be discerning when it comes to selecting their marketing stack, but also the vendors themselves when it comes time to decide when to build or partner to best meet their customer needs.

As Hubspot and Scott Brinker has shown, it’s prudent to embrace the opportunities that a platform position provides.  

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