Some principles of enterprise IT messaging.
0. Decision makers are motivated by two emotions above all — fear and greed. In the case of enterprise IT, that equates roughly to saying they want to buy stuff that:
- Is safe.
- Will confer benefits.
1. For a marketing message to succeed, whatever its goals are, the “confer benefits” part of the story needs to be:
2. The “safe” part needs to be believed too. Rational belief in the safety of doing business with you is good. Blind faith is even better, but usually is enjoyed only by the most established of vendors.
In some cases, that may be the greatest competitive strength they have.
3. To be believed, enterprise IT messaging generally needs to be:
A certain amount of exaggeration is expected, and easily shrugged off. It’s also possible to get away with a certain amount of vagueness, whether in a fear/safety story or when pitching something as new/innovative/exciting. But don’t overdo either.
One common way to overdo your exaggeration — make an obviously false claim of uniqueness.
4. Please note: Deficiencies in the consistency of your messages can undermine credibility and clarity alike.
5. Messaging can become distorted in many ways, both accidental and deliberate. For example: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Layered messaging models, Marketing communications, Marketing theory, Technology marketing||1 Comment|
It seems that my IT vendor strategy worksheet was well-received, by companies at different stages of development, clients and non-clients alike.* So here’s the promised sequel — a similar worksheet with more of an execution orientation. If your answers to these questions don’t dovetail well with your strategy responses, you have some serious rethinking to do.
*Those who’ve worked it through include a multi-billion dollar powerhouse, a two-person lifestyle business, and some pre-revenue start-ups.
For the strategy worksheet, I took the extreme position that every employee of every IT vendor should have at least some idea of the answers. In this case, I won’t go quite that far. But I will say that most IT vendors will find most of these questions to be of great importance. So no matter what your role in the organization, you might find it helpful to see how much of this stuff you actually know.
And if you’re the CEO, you should score 100%.
Once again, for reasons of length, I’ll summarize up top and comment on each question below.
Michael Arrington is in another flap, this time for asserting TechCrunch’s right to blindside companies with news. To disagree with him, you almost have to take the stance that companies have some sort of right to manage news about themselves, which I see as pretty ridiculous.
Recently, I got into a flap with EMC Greenplum. I blindsided them on a story; they retaliated for the story by, among other things, screwing me over business-wise. Why did I blindside them in the first place? Because I believed that if I didn’t, they’d put me under intense pressure not to publicize news I’d obtained. (Given the punishment they dished out for my running it, I imagine my belief was quite correct.)
Meanwhile, here are excerpts from a post I drafted last year, but never ran: Read more
I just blogged about a company pre-launch because the news wasn’t actually embargoed (their website was up) and the press was asking me for comment. Those details are unusual, but I’d guess that the majority of quotes I give to the press are about news I haven’t been briefed on.
When news is minor enough, that’s unavoidable. But in this case and others I would have willingly been briefed (scheduling just got a bit awkward this time). The two lessons here are:
- Brief the people who will be called for quotes before you brief the press, and therefore …
- … know who the press is likely to ask for quotes.
I post from time to time about stupid PR tricks, but last night I had an experience that was a whole different level of appalling, for reasons of ethics and general incompetence alike. Within hours, the vendor’s CEO had emailed me that the offending PR person would be terminated this morning.*
*By the way, that means an intriguing New England startup needs a new PR firm. By tomorrow it should be obvious who I mean.
It started as an ordinary kind of bad pitch. The PR rep emailed offering a briefing with a mystery company. I immediately deduced that the company was one I was in fact set up to talk with today, and had indeed been writing about since 2009. Besides being annoyed that I’d had to scramble to set up my own last-moment briefing with a company I’d led the way in writing about, I also bristled at the fact that the pitch included quotes from a couple of my competitors, whom I shall unimaginatively refer to as Dave and Merv.* So far, no big deal.
*Both personally and professionally, they’re two of my favorites. Even so, I dislike being told that I should use them as authority figures to be copied in my own view formation.
But then it occurred to me that those quotes probably weren’t approved, but instead were just lifted in an unauthorized manner from conversations, and indeed probably didn’t reflect the analysts’ precise views. So I messaged Dave and Merv. Shortly thereafter, the PR rep emailed me:
Neither David or Merv have authorized the quote for publication. It was sent in error to you, as I had believed you had agreed to the sharing of confidential information.
The bulk of my response to that — and the essence of this post — was: Read more
For the second straight post, I’m mixing the general and the personal. Sorry!
I jumped into an #ARchat on Twitter Tuesday, and set off a discussion about the subject of analyst quotes in press releases. Since that chat has been blogged, starting with a partly accurate* paraphrase of my views, I figure I may as well state those myself. Read more
This was and is meant to be a generally-applicable post. It just turns out to be laced with examples from my own experiences. I hope those aren’t too distracting from the broader points.
It is widely believed among analyst relations professionals that one should engage the services of the analysts most influential in one’s industry, in the hope that the analysts one pays will speak well of one’s company, publicly or privately as the case may be. Thus, the best way for an analyst to make money is:
- Become influential in the industry s/he covers.
- Say nice things about the companies in it, especially the ones with larger budgets.
It’s been quite a weekend for discussion of analysts and ethics. A few more thoughts:
1. The terms “ethics” and “ethical” are used somewhat inconsistently, along a spectrum from:
There are procedural rules of good behavior, and if you violate them that’s bad. That’s the essence of ethics.
Unless the motive was impure, an act was not unethical.
Either extreme, in my opinion, quickly leads to nonsense.
2. Actually, I think calling that a spectrum is a bit misleading. I’d prefer to say an act is unethical if:
- It is (too) likely to have bad effect AND
- The perpetrator was guilty of bad behavior in not acting differently.
Thus, somebody can make an error in the area of ethics and still be fully ethical if, upon realizing it, they straightforwardly correct it. On the other hand, a pattern of such “errors” can suffice to convict them of unethical behavior.
3. In particular, I stand by the following views from the post and comment thread that set this all off:
- Oracle behaves unethically by repeatedly foisting off sponsored analyst content as independent research.
- Merv Adrian is a fine, ethical guy.
- One reason I believe Merv is an ethical guy is because when I pointed out a screw-up to him, he characterized it as an oversight (I believe him) and said he’d move quickly to correct it.
- Commenters in that thread who suggested I shouldn’t even have mentioned Merv’s error were out of line. When you make an innocent mistake, you may suffer some embarrassment as a result.
4. Merv’s analysis of white paper ethical issues was excellent, and supersedes mine. Continuing the oneupsmanship , I’ll now try to synthesize by saying: Read more
|Categories: Analyst relations, Ethics, Marketing communications, Oracle, Technology marketing||2 Comments|
In a recent post, I made certain assumptions about what is or isn’t ethical in vendor-sponsored analyst research. I’d already discussed the triggering incident briefly (i.e., in Twitter direct messages and the like) with a couple of analysts I respect, namely Merv Adrian (the one most directly involved) and Ray Wang. It’s safe to say we’re in at least rough agreement.
However, a couple of comments on that post took me strongly to task. Perhaps not coincidentally, one came from a vendor, and another from somebody whose main role in the “analyst” community is to produce and publish – you guessed it! – vendor-sponsored content. One option was to just blow those comments off as nonsensical, since they weren’t really responsive to the actual post. But I think those rather surprising remarks also suggest it is time to reopen the subject of vendor-sponsored analyst research.
Vendors typically pay for white papers, webinars, podcasts, in-person speeches, etc. for some combination of five reasons:
- They want to connect with sales prospects. If Merv or Claudia Imhoff or I speak on a webinar, registration will be higher than if only company execs spoke. Similarly, you can capture more registration information from prospects who want to download a white paper if it was written by a third-party analyst.
- They want general endorsement from the analyst. If a well-regarded analyst is associated with a firm, that’s good for the firm’s image.
- They specifically want endorsement from the analyst for their marketing claims. Many of the ethical challenges with vendor-sponsored research or other content lie in this area.
- They want the analyst to do a better job of explaining something than they think they could do themselves. This is the ethically purer version of the prior point. Realistically, they often can’t be separated. E.g., most vendor-sponsored white papers will involve a combination of the two. The same could be said for webinars such as the ones I did for Aster Data last year.
- They want to give the analyst some money to enhance the relationship, and this way they get something other than advice in return. Personally, I won’t do content-creation business with a vendor unless they first buy actual consulting services (via the Monash Advantage), but I’m in the minority, and in fact didn’t always have that policy myself.
Continuing the discussion about IT analyst business models:
In the traditional model of IT analysis, vendors and users alike buy subscriptions to published research that are bundled with a certain level of retainer-like consulting. You can also buy additional consulting from analysts on an ala-carte basis. Indeed, analyst relations gurus suggest it’s a best practice to do so, both because you might learn something and because the process of your doing so might strengthen your relationship with them, in reality and euphemism alike.
In the 1990s I subverted that model somewhat. Anybody could buy my subscription newsletter for $347/copy/year. Only two vendors that I recall (Oracle and Informix) ever bought > 10 subscriptions at once. In addition, I had some faxed published product that frankly didn’t add all that much to the newsletter. But it was part of a $15,000/year service – almost always sold to vendors only — that also included a day of consulting and related prep and follow-up, a price point I stumbled into and later in various ways validated.* Read more