Eight years ago, we started touting blades to the masses. Do you remember the original messages?
More servers per rack! Save datacenter floor space!! Introducing the Density Optimized Server!!!
Now the bell tolls for me. These messages are the wailing echos I hear from my chamber bed.
Here's the thing. It's 8 years later and our marketing ghosts continue to haunt the entire blade industry.
We reviewed some customer research last week from June 2008 (yes, last month) with Forrester Research, and we asked a very simple question to people who still haven't bought a single blade system. "Why not?"
Can you guess what they said?
"I don't have a space problem." "Blades = space savings. I have lots of space, so I don't need blades. Done. End of story. Next question please."
Most of these folks took a look at early blades in 2001 and admittedly, saw a lot of holes. My, oh my how they remember the holes! Their mind was made up. "Blades are too hot." "Blades cost more." "Blades are under-featured." "I have a plenty of floor space." These myths continue to live on despite a remarkable transformation over the past decade of blade technology and a lot of data and experience to the contrary.
The fact is, no one changes their mind. A decision made, is a decision made. But you can give them a different perspective. In the tech world, if you get the introduction wrong - either the wrong message, the wrong product or at the wrong time, there is no turning back. Ask Microsoft.
My point today is not really about blades, it's about first impressions (and how the wrong one can keep you up at night for years). The beginning of every marketing discussion is all about first impressions. They are so important because they stick like microwaved duct tape.
If you get it wrong, or take a narrow view, or don't crawl inside the skin of the customer to find and communicate the real, felt need your solution solves - you will be haunted for many, many years with the ghosts of marketing past. Our mistake in 2001 was focusing on the product, not on the customer. We wanted so badly to show what an engineering marvel it was that we didn't spend enough time to understand how it could really help the customer. (I like to think we are learning.)
1. Don't launch half-baked. If you think you will have a killer product in 6 months, wait 6 months.
2. Talk to as many customers as possible. Do this well before you launch.
3. Test the message. Then test it again. (and I don't mean with paid analysts, but with real people in the real world)
If you nail that first impression and are crisp, clear and aimed at the root of that felt need, you'll have a great launch. But, you never get a second chance.
The good news for this insomniac technology marketer? There's still plenty of work to be had to help customers evaluate blades for their business and to articulate the relevant story behind blades. (Like I said, I like to think we've learned something.)