Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Chicken, The Ostrich and the Wiseman; A Holiday Tale of Caution and Opportunity

(Authors note: I have Cloud Computing on the brain. My client, Nimsoft, is changing the landscape of IT Monitoring with their recent Unified Monitoring Launch. I penned this little parable in honor of the Nimsoft customers who have the courage to challenge the status quo...For my non-tech friends, well, the puns will probably be lost on you, sorry...)

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a not so faraway land called eSPee land, there lived 3 great friends, the Chicken, the Ostrich and the Wiseman. Not only were they great friends, but they were also fierce business rivals. For many years, they had competed with each other and had all built strong and thriving enterprises.

While it was their custom to avoid business conversations almost entirely, once a year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, they would meet for breakfast to talk turkey (though that term somewhat offended 2 of them!). At one rather ominous meeting, the conversation went something like this…

The Chicken said, “My friends, though business is good, I fear the worst. Clouds have been gathering over eSPee land and I am quite scared. The waters of the mighty Amazon , EverChanging 2day, threaten to flood us all out of business. I am paralyzed and fear that all the work we have done is doomed.”

The Wiseman nodded, and showed great empathy to the Chicken’s concerns, then turned to the Ostrich.

The Ostrich stretched out his neck and said, “ Mr Chicken, as always you worry too much. These Clouds are yet another passing fancy. My customers are a bit confused, but my key vendors, Harold & Penny and Ida’s Big Machines assure me that they are ready. I’ll stick to them and keep focused on my customers, you can’t lose when you work with the best”

The Wiseman smiled, and as he was in the habit of doing, thought before he spoke. He sipped his coffee, rubbed his beard and said, “My dear friends, I share many of your concerns. Mr. Chicken, I believe you are right to see the clouds as a threat to what we have built, yet does this mean we are doomed? Mr Ostrich, I agree we must focus on our customers, but really, you’ve been with those old vendors for decades, are they really ready?”

With that the Chicken balked and left in a hurry, still panicked, and the Ostrich called his rep who sent the call to a reseller, who finally called the Ostrich back in a few weeks and told him everything would be OK.

A few years later, the three friends met for a farewell dinner for the Chicken and the Ostrich, who were both retiring. The Wiseman rose to give a speech;

“My dear friends, it is with mixed emotions that I bid you both farewell. Mr Chicken, I was sad to see your business close. I wish you well in your retirement in Miami. I warned you not to panic at the Clouds and to invest, but you were too scared to act. Mr. Ostrich, your customers did love you, but those old vendors loved you more, in fact, they loved you to death. I warned you to change, but, well, I hate to state the obvious, but you just had your head in the sand. I am glad we were able to buy your remaining business, and I wish I could have paid more, but many of your customers had already came my way. Had you just listened to me and followed my moves to the new vendors, those who were built for the Cloud and the sun, you might have survived. I am thrilled that you will be enjoying your retirement too.”

The Wiseman really meant what he had said. He had adjusted and invested, without losing sight of his customers needs. He had aligned with new vendors, those who had both vision and execution, but were not tied to the past. He realized that he lived in a Cloudy place (think Seattle!) but knew that this never stopped Bill Gates, so why should it stop him. He business thrived in this new Cloudy world, though he truly did miss his friends…

The End

Monday, September 14, 2009

YAWNER ™ : White papers, why???

As I am knee deep in a whitepaper deliverable for my current client, I stumbled on this posting:

http://www.visientllc.com/blog/ on not being "boring" with your marketing...and I was reminded of the acronym I created while at McAfee...

That's just a YAWNER - Yet Another White Paper Nobody Ever Reads. (Of course the YAWNER now has a close cousin, the YAVNEW, Yet Another Video Nobody Ever Watches, but that's for another time!).

I content that 98% of whitepapers from technology companies are YAWNERs and yawners. Why is this? Well I think there are a variety of reasons, but they net out into 3 broad categories:

1) Ready Fire Aim
2) The Kitchen Sink
3) Getta J0b (0r hire it out...)

First, as fundamental as it is, most whitepapers are simply not well targeted. Who is the audience, what is the current belief, what is the desired belief and what are the key messages. These are basic questions that any marketing professional should ask, but I am amazed at how rarely the product managers that I've spoken to or worked with can crisply articulate answers even in retrospect. Getting sleepy yet?

Second, too many whitepapers are just the kitchen sink. Well, this is a great whitepaper about product X, so let's throw product Y into the mix because it's strategic too. Or let's try make this serve "multiple audiences", so the business whitepaper ends up with 5 pages of dissertation on the ins and out of our API set. You get the picture. You almost know if you can't cover a topic in 10 pages or less, there's more than one topic, break it up. If you're targeting is on, the message should be lot tighter. Eye's drooping???

Third, getta job! As much as we would like every PM and PMM to be a great writer, the fact is, most are not. But a good editor (insourced or outsourced) can make all the difference. And you PMMs out there reading this, insist on it. Take your knowledge and leverage it, don't try to be everything! Now I'm getting tired!

So, in summary it's just plain simple: 1) Target 2) Resist scope and subject creep 3) get the right skills deployed. Maybe then yours will be one of the 2% of whitepapers that are actually readable and powerful marketing tools...

Good luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random thoughts on social media and PDP™

Jim Tybur's interesting post here: http://irongiving.com/ made me think if Twitter and other social media could be a great way to measure Product Differentiation Pressure™ ...Not sure yet how they connect, but maybe....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Product Differentiation Pressure: Do features matter?

Yes and No. It's the great contradiction of product differentiation, features mean nothing, yet features mean everything. Let me explain.

Features mean nothing - Customers (except a few really geeky early adopters which are not subject to the laws of nature:) don't buy features, they buy benefits. Or even more specifically, they buy either to put money in their pockets or to sleep at night. Nobody ever slept because their had a new feature. But lotsa people sleep well when they solve problems. Features don't matter!

Features mean everything - Let's go backwards here. Customers have problems. Product deliver benefits that solve problems. Features are the engines that make the benefit delivery possible.

Benefits that I can deliver that my competition can't are the crux of high PDP™ (Product Differentiation Pressure!) Unique features that are the engines for these specific benefits are the key to LASTING Differentiation!

Oh, and the customer better Care about these benefits. And Care means they will change their decision to get this!

Ask yourself, have I identified a set of unique features that create one or more unique benefits that I deliver better than my competition, and that a set of buyers Care about. If the answer is yes, you are on the way to high PDP.

Next blog I'll take a look at an example from my past...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Product Differetiation, why it matters, part II

In my last blog I stated that , "differentiation is at the crux of an effective go to market strategy".

Why? First, let's define product differentiation.

Product differentiation is the messaging that communicates
why your product is better than the competition at delivering
a set of business benefits that matter to a set of buyers

So, there's a definition. Been too too busy doing to write...But please note the absence of the word "Feature" or "feature set" in this definition. More to come on the roles of features in product differentiation next time...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

PDP™, More to Come, and why it matters

Thanks for the positive feedback on Product Differentiation Pressure™, or PDP™. PDP is a concept which I've been working on for a while, and there is much more to come. Before I dive deeper into the symptoms of poor PDP, I wanted to talk about why this is so important.

I am a classically trained technology marketer. I crossed the chasm and grew up in the tornado. I've got a lot of respect for the traditional view of whole product from Geoffry Moore, and positioning ala Reis and Trout, and the good old 3 Ps and 4 Cs that I learned in Marketing 101. In fact all of these are tools to pull out and use with success.

Why then focus on product differentiation, especially at a time where all the experts say differentiation is not substainable?

Well, to me, differentiation is at the crux of an effective go to market strategy. That's a bold statement, so I guess I better explain why. But the kids are roused now and blogging time is over for this morning...time to cook breakfast...more to come later...


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Diagnosis - Poor Product Differentiation, How to Spot a Silent Killer!

So many products, product lines, and even companies suffer from poor differentiation and don't even know it. Poor differentiation is like high blood pressure, it kills silently and slowly. Products don't maintain price points, it's hard to scale sales, etc. If only we had a simple cuff to put on our arm to measure our "Product Differentiation Pressure™." Well, until then, here's a simple list of symptoms of this silent killer...

  • Selling on price not value
  • Difficult to replicate sales success across reps or channel partners
  • Win rate below achievable (as benchmarked by best reps)
  • Difficult to partner (long initial sales cycle or stuck with techies)
  • Selling lower in org than desired
  • Stagnant marketing (conversion rates, content, etc…)
  • Lack of breakthrough beyond tech evaluators/cognoscenti
  • Sub-optimal targeting
  • Feature and/or generic focused discussion
  • Product roadmap not “focused”, spread like “peanut butter”
  • Product requests accepted that don’t seem to fit with agreed priorities
  • Lack of real or perceived strategic “vision” in roadmap
Ask yourself honestly if these symptoms reflect your product or company. If you answer yes to more than a few, you've got a low Product Differentiation Pressure™ or PDP™, and unlike blood pressure, where high kills, low PDP is the killer here.

In my next blog, we will look at each of these symptoms in a bit more depth...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SWATing Away at Marketing Plans

It's been quite a while since I blogged about anything even somewhat substantial. I am heads down on my project with Nimsoft. It is exciting and challenging, and I am loving it. We've built a very aggressive launch plan, and are now in deliverables execution mode. This is the grind part of the project, and every inch of progress is hard work. The team here is great and we are doing a lot of good work together.

I just put together a nice summary preso of the Secure Computing SWAT initiative work we did on Web2.0 threat protection in the late 2007- end of 2008 timeframe. It was probably one of the most successful campaigns that I've worked on end to end. This was really successful on a lot of levels, and is a model that I am using today for the current project we are doing. If our Nimsoft "Project Owen" is half as successful, than we hit a homerun at Nimsoft.

As I work on solidifying the KJR Assoc consulting business, the SWAT case study is a great template and service offering case study. It's all coming together...Looking forward to chatting with several friends on this topic over the next weeks, squeezing this in between presentation, whitepaper, website, demo, and other Owen deliverables...

Head back down now...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Clouds here, clouds there, macrotrends, opptys?

It seems to me that Cloud computing is everywhere, as I've pointed out in a previous post. I would like to point out 3 macro trends that get are related, but get a bit less attention

Trend 1: The Merging of Enterprise and Service Provider: For years, it's been talked about, but virtualization and "cloud" will accelerate this even more. The compute "grid" is pretty dang agnostic about location, Service providers will need to be more enterprisey and visa versa.

Trend 2: Disambiguation of terms: Cloud means so many things to so many it is almost meaningless. It's much more interesting to talk about PaaS or ITaaS or SaaS and their interrelations than throw out the "cloud" word willy nilly, though even these terms need better definition.

Trend 3: Federation will be the next hot space. Whether federation of resources across hybrid space or federation of security or federation of x, I predict that for the "cloud" to really accelerate, we must lower the friction of federation across just about all the core IT functions. Some bigger vendors are missing this as Billy Marshall points out here...

We are entering the next generation of IT infrastructure and we get to solve all of the old management problems over again, yeah for us!!!!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Congrats to old friends and new...a transaction

It was about a year ago that I "bumped", at least virtually, back into John Street and Scott Chasin formerly of USA.net, then of MxLogic and now, as of today, of McAfee. It's a bittersweet I am happy for John, Scott and the old crew from Secure, and also the new crew at McAfee. (For details see http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=21988) . I remember well sitting with the team in Denver and in Mtn View doing the netscape.net mail service deal in 1997 (How did that get to be 12 yrs ago, crap!!!) . Omid (yes, the Omid, I knew him b4 goog!) , Amy, Alan and I from Netscape and John, Scott and his team. Ahh, the good old days!

I am still a huge believer of the Hybrid Delivery strategy we cooked up at Secure, and I wish MFE team well in executing. Well done! And congrats to John, Scott and the team!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home sweet home...ideas come around again and again

After 8 days in Orlando, there is NO place like home...back to the real world and weather where you CAN be outside allday without drenching your clothes in sweat.

I saw Hunch launch, reminds me of an old shopping aide that AOL had, I don't remember what it was called, but it reminded me that there are no new ideas...just ideas whose time has come, or who changes her stripes

I first learned about Virtualization as part of MVS on IBM mainframes...now we virtualize PCs and servers

I used to try to sell emulation boards that made PCs look like dumbterminals...now we sell dumbterminals and make them look like PCs...

Wasn't delicious a lot like Backflip???

Remember GrandCentral? Check out mashery!!!

Every time the compute platform changes, new startups and tools emerge, then get gobbled up...is the cloud + virtualization one of these times? I think so...

Of course, some companies try to reinvent with these changes...any every succeed???

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cloud Cloud, Everywhere the Cloud...

Seems like the cloud is now everywhere, even in last weeks business week ON THE COVER!!! (BTW, thanks to the folks at B-Week for continuing to send the magazine, even though I stopped renewing, guess they need the eyeballs, but that's another blog altogether...)

So, what's the cloud to you, a catch all, marketing hype, the next bubble, or the real delivery of utility computing?? Where are the "plays", IT service management (and the big boys are cranking up their drive the "Open" efforts! ), Virtualization, Security (see Bruce Schneier's post here...) ???

Opinions welcome, even if there bad ones...:)

McAfee Network Security Launches, A nice wrap for me...

Though I didn't hit the road with Dan R, the package of announcements I drove for launching McAfee's Network Security biz made it out pretty dang well...a lot of the coverage looked like this...McAfee takes on Cisco, etc...and this McAfee pushes ePO and this , you can also read the press releases here.

This is really nice positioning work (if I may say so myself:), and the products are strong. I just hope the sales and channel teams can get behind this bucket of stuff with vigor and aggressiveness. The old sidewinder firewall is getting a nice re-launch with some cool app and identity awareness and virtualized and virtual versions, and look at the V aggressive GTM on the mail/web/DLP Internet Gateway bundle...look out Cisco!

As you can see, I take a lot of pride in this chunk of work, and am genuinely pleased to see it hit the market. I wish my old team and the gang from SCUR well with their ongoing journey to #1 in Network Security. I am pretty sure our paths will cross again - soon???