September 8, 2008

Do influencers think along the lines of the layered messaging model?

I originally came up with the more techie version of the layered messaging model

Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

because it’s a pretty good representation of how I think. But what about other influencers? Do they view things in somewhat the same way?

Well, I’m clearly at one extreme in my focus on careful, detailed analysis. At the other extreme is that portion of the trade press (and it’s not a small one) accurately described in Dave Kellogg’s rant

most of the IT trade press had degenerated to the following formula:

  • Hire 20-something English majors as IT trade journalists
  • Have them filter vendor press releases deciding which to cover
  • Write stories based on the press releases, one live analyst interview, and one to two customer interviews
  • Make money by selling advertising to the vendors
  • Don’t rock the journalistic boat too much because of the prior point

Net: they didn’t add much value.

But most analysts, bloggers, and journalists are somewhere in between.

Sure, there’s a school of thought that goes “Oh, it works? Customers say so? Then it must be great stuff.” But many observers really do try to do serious analysis. I talk all the time to journalists who ask “Is this for real?”, and they’re not just looking for customer stories. Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves, whatever their faults, do respectively have categories for “Completeness of vision” and “Strategy.” And while some Gartner or Forrester analysts may be dumb enough to accept any kind of incoherent fairy story as credible future plans, most do at least some critical thinking as to whether those stories could realistically come true.

Among bloggers there’s a similar mix. Some – including some of the most famous – are surely at the “Oooh – shiny!” level of credulity. But the blogosphere, especially when discussing enterprise or other highly-scaled IT, also contains a lot of in-depth, carefully-reasoned technical analysis.

So far I’ve argued that influencers perform more or less careful logical analysis, including of vendors’ forward-looking technology strategies. But I’ve begged the question as to whether such analysis closely matches the specific models I’ve laid out. Let me now address that head-on.

It seems beyond dispute that many influencers use at least the more simplified layered model

Enterprise IT product

The top layer answers the question “Is this good for buyers?”, and the other two layers answer the question “Is this better for buyers than the alternatives?” No other common template seems to do as good a job.

But how do influencers decide whether products really have the features and metrics claimed? Demos, hands-on use, publicly-validated benchmarks, and general vendor claims only go so far. In most cases, influencers have to look further for support. The influencers I talk with are much more likely to believe something if they hear it from customers than if the vendor is the only one saying it. They’re also more likely to believe something if it grows out of a clear technical differentiation – e.g., “MPP/grid” or “columnar” or “FPGA” — that if it arises from no clear technical source that they can understand.*

*These specific examples are all taken from the red-hot market for specialty data warehouse appliances and DBMS.

Bottom line: The two enterprise IT layered messaging templates I laid out really do describe a significant part of how influencers form and support their opinions.


3 Responses to “Do influencers think along the lines of the layered messaging model?”

  1. How to pitch me | Strategic Messaging on September 8th, 2008 1:59 am

    […] How I think about vendor stories Share: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  2. Chuck Hollis on February 5th, 2009 12:34 am

    You and I could have a fascinating conversation on these topics.

    You’re just scratching the surface!

  3. Enterprise IT marketing — a layered messaging model | Strategic Messaging on November 7th, 2009 11:58 am

    […] Discuss the extent to which the layered marketing model actually matches how influencers analyze enterprise … […]

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