If you didn't know it, the HP BladeSystem dominates the Netherlands blades market. Why? My guess is they keep it simple. Check out these new videos from our mates overseas.
Save power and cooling
Eliminate a lot of cables
Save administration time
Save datacenter floor space
There are a lot of materials available to customers and partners around the competitive strengths and weaknesses of the major players in the blade market. Lots of claims, lots of counter-claims, YouTube videos, podcasts, press releases, full-page ads, web banners, reports and the list goes on and on and on. If you listened to what Dell and IBM say about HP BladeSystem, you'd think we haven't sold one. In fact, I think they talk more about HP than their own solutions.
Taking a step back, do customers make their decision based on this kind of marketing?
It may get a mention or a thought during the evaluation process but there are usually 3 or 4 bigger factors that influence a sale: the relationship between the customer and an account manager, one who can listen to their needs and then deliver the right solution at the right price, supported by a proven service and support structure. These are just a few.
Wow, so all the competitive attacks in the world won’t change their minds? That's right, customers aren’t stupid. In fact, they are quite savvy with regard to competitive claims.
The numbers don’t lie.Blades Unit Market Share; IDC server tracker Q1 2008
The latest IDC report shows that HP is the clear market leader and sold twice as many blades as IBM and over 5 times as many as Dell. The businesses buying HP BladeSystems probably saw the right solution rather than just another box with check marks on features.
Here's a thought: maybe our technology isn't just 2x or 5x better, maybe our sales people are twice as good as IBM and 5 times better then Dell, and as for our service and support perhaps we can claim to instill that level of confidence over our competitors?It may be a stretch but whatever way you look at it, there is no doubt it’s a great time to choose the HP BladeSystem...despite all the noise surrounding the blades market.
If I see one more press release from IBM announcing another one billion dollar investment, I'm going to have to start a new line of jokes. Seriously, have you ever noticed that every time IBM wants to get in the news with something that's just barely news worthy, they add "$1 Billion" to the subhead?
What's even funnier is it seems to be a magical marketing formula that never gets old for reporters and hasn't since the 1970's. Furthermore, has anyone ever added up all the billions of dollars spent? Well, I did. Sort of.
A Google search for now reveals:
Hey! That's over half a million hits! Is that newsworthy?
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.)
If you read our blog on a regular basis, you know that we really like the idea of simple. In my case, I'm the marketing guy, so I'm always looking for new ways to convey the value of very complex or very new technology in the most simple way.
Tonight, I ran across a presentation called "The Buzz on Virtualization". It's an attempt to explain virtualization in simple language. If you're an absolute, no-nothing, virtualization novice; start with this presentation. Otherwise, the rest of this blog is more an examination of technical marketing than technical learning.
First a disclaimer: I think this presentation stinks. (Sorry Barry, nothing personal.) Especially for one that was submitted for the "World's Best Presentation Contest." I also wouldn't really recommend it for anyone other than my mother if she asked me "What's virtualization?"
Nevertheless, I will give this presentation a solid E for effort. It does a good job of trying to speak in a visual language, it had 3 big points and generally kept to 1 idea per slide. Overall, I think the messages are pretty good.
Here's the point of this post: What do you think?
In the high tech, business to business world is this type of presentation going in the right direction or the wrong one? Do you want the spec sheet and white paper on slides or do you expect something different from presentations? Almost every presentation I see from the top IT vendors (HP too) are almost identical, other than the different logos on the slide. Is this conformity, wisdom or mediocrity?
PS: If you really want to know why I think it stinks, comment below and I'll give you my full monty review. Maybe I'll give some tips too.