Marketing


Devon McDonald of OpenView Partners recently wrote a blog post on Scrum Agile Marketing in which she discussed Minimum Viable Marketing. It got me thinking about my clients’ prospects and customers, and it lead me to the following theory, which I am now testing, using a more agile approach:

  1. Prospects don’t want to be sold or marketed to, but most want to be educated.
  2. They’re not looking to get a degree. They just want an answer to a question.
  3. They don’t want to plow through long documents, so the answer has to be easily found.
  4. If they have another question, they want that answered, too.
  5. They are constantly dealing with others’ objections, so new-found knowledge has to be easily shared.

That lead me to create a series of one-minute videos, each designed to answer one question or cover one topic very succinctly. I’ve chosen as a topic, information technology in remote and branch offices. The series is called Branch Office Tech Tips. I’ve posted eight so far, but expect new content frequently, and don’t be surprised if some content is replaced. This is Agile.

As part of this experiment, I’ve hosted the videos on Wistia, because Wistia gives great insight into how many people watch, for how long, and when they stop watching. But seriously, if I can’t keep someone engaged for 60 seconds, then I need to go back to the content for a do-over.

I’ve added another page on this blog, specifically dedicated to Branch Office Tech Tips (BOTT). I’m also going to start making better use of IFTTT. Blog updates will automatically be posted to LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms. At least that’s my plan. We’ll see what works.

I do remember enough of my college statistics courses to know that using Twitter to evaluate trends and attitudes introduces significant sampling and reporting bias.   Still, ignoring the obvious data quality issues, I do enjoy reading through my TwitterFall feed every week. Because of my interest in application availability requirements, which drives the business of StorMagic, on whose board I serve as an independent director, I typically set the search terms to “computers” and “down,” but when “She shuts it down like computers” is trending, I’ll switch to searching on “computers” and “free.”

This is just a sampling of the “computers” and “free” tweets I saw this week. Apparently, for the patrons of some quick-serve restaurants, when computers go down, #lifeisgood.

 

AbbeyVoss just got a free coffee and biscuit at Caribou cause their computers are down #lifeisgood

lilseannn Public Service Announcement : Taco Bells computers are down; free TB!

r0danthony Computers shut down in the cafeteria. Your boy got a free meal. Lololol.

 

I’ve noticed over the course of the past two years, that Starbucks typically offers up free food and coffee when the computers go down, as captured in this tweet last week.

‏@NDarnell96  Getting free Starbucks cause their computers froze

 

My guess is that Starbucks gives away coffee when the computers go down, because it’s cheap marketing, and they assume the cost of delivering high-availability applications is too high. Coffee brewers basically turn water to gold, anyway. And if you’ve got as many gold buyers as Starbucks, what’s wrong with an occasional free giveaway when customers are willing to provide free advertising? I’ve never been able to verify this, so if anyone can validate the assumption, please let me know. If that’s the approach, at Starbucks, I get it. But it appears someone wasn’t on the program last week, as I also saw this tweet:

@Spencer_Westley@Starbucks‘ computers are down and WHAT IS LIFE?

 

This “give it away when the computers are down” approach works fine at quick-serve restaurants, when you only need computers to take payments, but it gets much more challenging if you need the computers to get the orders from the front counter to the kitchen, to apply loyalty credits, to recall the frequently ordered items on the automated order entry system, to actually make the food, to know when to plate the food, or when you take orders over the web, but fulfill them in the restaurant. These days, companies drive efficiency from automated operations and new revenue sources from processes that are dependent upon computers.  They also are driving the perception of customer intimacy by knowing more about their customers’ likes, dislikes, and preferences. Computers matter, not when you’re selling any cup of coffee to the next person in line, but when you are selling this particular, customized cup of coffee to that loyal customer.

In last week’s post I talked about the importance of a start up knowing the percentage of customers that would recommend their product or their company. There’s actually a name for this metric. It’s called the Net Promoter Score or NPS. Here’s an article that provides a way to calculate your NPS.  In order to have a high NPS, you need more than the right product. You need the right customer experience.

I’m always a little shocked by companies that see unhappy customers and fail to take immediate action. My wife recently took her car into the local dealership for routine service.  Between a post-doctoral fellowship, an active private practice, and several non-profit board seats, she’s very busy. So she wanted to know how long the service would take. The answer was, “No more than an hour.” After a two and a half hour wait for her service to  be completed, she was obviously steaming. She complained to the service manager, who apologized and then sent her on her way.

When the post-service customer satisfaction survey call came, she gave candid answers. She was not satisfied. Less than 24 hours later, she received a call from the service manager apologizing profusely, telling her to call him directly, the next time she had her car serviced. He then offered her a complimentary car detailing service along with a polite recommendation that she wait until the winter season was done, in order to get the maximum benefit from the detailing. The coupon for the free detailing arrived the next day in the mail. My wife was somewhat calmed by the gesture, but still doesn’t mind repeating the story of the dealership’s poor service.

Now, imagine how different her reaction might have been, had the service manager, to whom she expressed her dissatisfaction before she left the dealership, had then offered her a discount, or a free detailing service. Her anger would probably have been assuaged immediately. What if it didn’t require the service manager’s involvement at all, but the clerk at the service desk had been empowered and taken the initiative to make things right? What if the dealership’s response had been as it was for me at a local restaurant, when the waitress offered my meal for free, because I had to wait too long to be served. Rather than a detractor, I became a promoter, for her willingness to proactively do the right thing.

Last summer I spent an enormous amount of money when I purchased the Torque game engine, so that my oldest son could try his hand at game development. In order to maximize my son’s success and seeing that there were many in-depth books available to learn how to use Torque, I offered to buy him a book as well.  But my son assured me that it was unnecessary, since he already knew how to program in Torque. That seemed odd to me, given that he had never had the software before, but turns out, he learned how to program in Torque by reading websites and watching videos on line. Increasingly, that’s how the latest generation learns. And thanks to a growing library of videos stored at sites such as YouTube, and contributors such as Khan Academy, you can learn how to do almost anything, including most of the math you will need to graduate high school and pass the first year of college.

Videos are also becoming an important medium for companies to get the word out, to explain, and clarify. So as an example, after a 2-day planning meeting with one of my clients, StorMagic, where I serve as a member of the board, I asked my son to record five short videos of StorMagic’s CEO, Hans O’Sullivan, answering simple, direct questions. Each video is less than a minute long and answers one or two questions on topics such as the background of the management team, the strategic focus of the company, the impact of recent announcements, and the company’s relationship with one of its partners.

Videos seem to be all the rage.  I don’t know what will come after videos, but it seems to me that for the next few years, at least, video will be of strategic importance in getting the word out about your company.

Hope you enjoy these.

StorMagic’s CEO Discusses Multi-Site Installations of SvSAN for VMware

StorMagic CEO Discusses the StorMagic Team and Recent Growth

More videos regarding StorMagic can be found on YouTube by searching StorMagic. You can even learn how to install and manage an SvSAN just by watching a video.

I recently attended the TEDxBoston conference. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to go.  This year’s conference was overflowing with both people and ideas.  For me, it’s a vacation from the day-to-day, an opportunity to find new inspiration, and a place to cross-pollinate ideas.  I never go to find more business, but rather to get better at what I do.

One presentation that I found particularly valuable was by Michelle Borkin, who explained her interdisciplinary approach to data visualization.  She brought together professionals from astronomy, who were working on how to get better 3-dimensional  pictures of objects in outer space, with radiologists, who were trying to get better 3-dimensional pictures of organs in the human body.  The results were both beautiful and amazing.

It would be easy to say “Outer space is very different from the human body, so it has no relevance to what I’m doing,” but she took the opposite approach and asked, “What are they doing that is similar to what I’m trying to do, and what can I apply from what they have already learned?” With all of the discussion around data generated on the internet, I kept wondering, during her presentation, what data visualization techniques can be taken from astronomy and radiology and applied to understanding consumers and influence.

From time to time as a favor to friends, I will contribute as guest blogger.  So let me direct your attention to this Guest Blog on Countdown.2.Storage ExpoRose Ross, who also attended the BDEvent, asked me to provide a write up on the one session that she missed, which was the one that I co-chaired with Mike Miracle.  For reference and completeness, here’s Rose’s very-excellent post on the rest of the event.

Rose has been a friend for many years, so, of course, I said, yes.  For those of you who don’t know her, Rose is an accomplished PR professional, who carries many titles, including:

It seems I’m not the only one who is a Rose fan.  I see on her bio that she is the 2005 winner of the Toigo Award for Best Storage PR Professional.  For those that are looking for PR support in Europe, take a look at Omarketing, and for those looking to expand a European channel, take a look at Launchpad Europe.

And under the  FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which focus on “Testimonial Advertisements, Bloggers, and Celebrity Endorsements,” let me assure you that I am not paid by, nor do I receive commissions or referral fees from Launchpad Europe or Omarketing.

Oh, yes, the next BDEvent will be held at the Sheraton in Palo Alto, CA, on January 25 – 27, 2011.

Many startups are using free, online survey tools. Today I helped StorageVirtualAppliance develop a survey targeted at users of VMware and other virtual-server solutions. The survey was developed using FreeOnlineSurveys, similar to Survey Monkey, with which I was more familiar.

As I was working with StorageVirtualAppliance, I was reminded of some rules in survey design.

1) Know the purpose of the survey: Lead Generation, Evangelization and Market Awareness, Actionable Information for Product Marketing, Actionable Information for Product Management

2) Think about how you will categorize and summarize the data. Open-ended questions may provide great color commentary or quotable statements, but in large volume are difficult to categorize and summarize.

3) Have an incentive for those that take the time to complete the survey. The incentive could be as simple and inexpensive as a summary of the results, it could be an opportunity to be entered into a prize drawing, or it could be a small cash award.

In addition to helping with the survey, I also offered to help get the survey out to a broader set of participants. So, if you know any IT professionals, please send them to this blog and have them click on this survey link.

Thanks in advance. Participants could win a copy of Eco-Tech Warrior, Greg Schultz’, new book, The Green and Virtual Data Center.

One of the sessions I attended at the New England Area VMware User Group meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week included a discussion on how to take the internal storage of a VMware ESX host and turn it into a virtualized iSCSI storage appliance.  I happen to believe that the approach has great merit for many smaller IT shops and for remote office environments.  The internal storage of an ESX server, if totally useable and accessible to the ESX host and other ESX servers on the network, is probably the cheapest storage you will ever buy.  What I found particularly interesting about this session, however, was the fact that the presenter downplayed the approach as good enough to experiment with the storage virtualization software, but not good enough to run production applications.  In order to encourage companies to try the software, the developer offers a free 30-day trial, the expiration of which then renders the server unuseable, unless you purchase a permanent license.  While I believe the company has good software, I don’t understand the approach to the market. (more…)

Most people I work with now know that I am a relatively active user of social media and business networking tools, including Facebook, Twitter, DeliciousLinkedIn and Plaxo.  In fact, over the past six months, my blogging dropped off significantly, but my use of social media and business networking tools accelerated.

One of my clients was asking about the size of the installed base of Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS), wondering if it was a market large enough to justify the investment needed to integrate with  their own solution.  They also wondered about the penetration rate for GDPS within the installed base of z/OS licenses.  That’s rather esoteric stuff, unless you cut your teeth on IBM mainframes, as I did. (more…)

About 20 years ago, I had a small consulting practice, helping very-small businesses migrate from typewriters and manual accounting systems, to automated ordering, billing, and accounting systems.  Within a year or so, I turned my few customers over to my brother, Ken, who was much better equipped to service them.  Ken was also substantially more knowledgeable in the area.  To Ken’s credit, he continued to service these accounts for years, even though he was geographically challenged with a separation of about 350 miles.

My first client has offices little more than a block from where my sons now attend summer camp.  So this morning, after dropping them off, I stopped by to see my former client.  He’s no longer using the systems we developed for him.  But they were good for more than 10 years.  So that’s not bad.  I met his in-house IT guy, the guy that replaced my brother and our systems.  The new guy says he also takes out the garbage and cleans the offices on Fridays, something we never did.  (more…)

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