Monday, August 10, 2009

Earning your unfair share of the IT Budget

I know that two little green shoots do not a forest make but being the ever optimist I look to the (admittedly cautious) positive outlook expressed recently by EMC, Fujitsu and a few other executives as cause for at least moderate optimism.

With that being said IT budgets over the next few years will remain tight but data keeps being created and storage requirements still keep growing with current estimates placing the CAGR at 40 to 50% PA at least for the next couple of years.

So with budgets being tight and the need to store data continuing to grow the question for data storage marketers is how do I get my unfair share of these shrinking budget dollars.

Borrowing a theme from one of my favorite books “Hope is not a Strategy”[1], (thank you Rick Page). I am continually surprised at just how often “hope” influences marketing strategy with the expectation that this approach will bring them the success their investments deserve and their shareholders expect.

A number of years ago there was another text that gave me some valuable insight into why many products perform like damp fireworks despite the marketing hype and executive promises. The book, “Developing Products in Half the Time”[2] spends much of its real estate talking about the “fuzzy front end” process of product development which if not managed will delay product development, aka time to market, and distort the original product concept.

This I have experienced first hand in a number of companies as I watched scope creep warp the original idea and create a feature bloated product that delayed time to market, increased cost and confused the identification of the solutions sweet spot. Check out my recent blog “Why Technology Products Fail” for a deeper discussion on the topic.

So back to hope. What should be top of mind for vendors who thoughtfully plan their product launches with the checks and balances that will allow them to implement mid course corrections as dictated by unexpected and often unpredictable market dynamics?

  • Deliver solutions that resonate with the issues that are at the top of the target prospects prioritized issue list. All too often vendors have not invested the time to understand the prospects priorities and hence are solving legitimate but low priority problems. Unless the solution solves the prospects number 1 issue you are chasing the left over budget dollars. To understand a prospects prioritized list of pain points, ask.
  • If your solution does not resonate quickly with your target prospects you are either not selling into your sweet spot or your prospect base perceives only marginal value in your solution. Revisit your segmentation, the product value proposition or both.
  • Understand your prospect but more importantly understand who are your high value prospects. These are the folks where most of you selling investment should be made.
  • Clarity of message; craft your message(s) in terms that are meaningful to the prospect. The executive, finance, operations and technologists all have different interests and hot buttons. Find each, engage them with a selling message that is crafted to be meaningful to each function. Only one may have the yes vote but several will have a no vote.
  • Deliver a complete solution. Many vendors fail because they do not look at the value of their solution through the eyes of the prospect. Installation, support, usability, financial advantages, product and technology life-cycle, application ecosystem, vendor reputation and capabilities etc are all topics that need to be covered in a holistic solution presentation. Failure to do so can leave unanswered objections that will block a sale.
  • The selling process is not just the responsibility of the sales team, despite what they may think. Follow-up and follow-through; marketing creates the opportunity, sales converts these opportunities to revenue and support cements the relationship; manage these often dysfunctional and potentially sales destroying hand-ffs.
  • Much vendor/prospect friction can be eliminated by matching the selling process with the prospects buying process.

[1] Hope is not a Strategy, Rick Page, McGraw-Hill
[2] Developing Products in Half the Time, Preston Smith & Donald Reinerstsen, John Wiley & Sons