technology road maps If good content marketing creates conversations with your customers, what better conversation could there be than learning what customers want in your next-generation products?

Google recently gave the disk drive industry some free, and detailed, market research in the form of a speech, a blog post and even a detailed white paper. Google’s wish list is interesting to me both from a technical storage perspective, and from says more generally about what you can learn from your customers.

The Storage Lessons…

Among the new, interesting points Google raised were:

  • How much video is driving cloud storage demand, and the need for disks optimized to stream video. (Season Four, House of Cards, anyone?)
  • And per those needs, that Google is willing “to pay a higher gigabyte price for storage, so long as it delivers a lower total cost of ownership as well as higher capacity and higher I/O operations per second.”
  • That solid state drives, despite how prices have fallen, are still too expensive for massive cloud deployment.
  • The need to “optimize the collection of disks, rather than a single disk in a server.” This includes accepting somewhat higher disk failure rates, as the data is likely stored on another disk as well.
  • A call for taller disk drives, and thus “more platters per disk, which adds capacity” and amortizes the costs of packaging, the printed circuit board, and the drive motor/actuator. “Given a fixed total capacity per disk, smaller platters can yield smaller seek distances and higher RPM, due to platter stability, and thus higher IOPS, but worse GB/$,”
  • And the importance of security in disk drive design, especially in areas like preventing hacks to the drive firmware. This is not something I often see in storage marketing material.

…and the Marketing Lessons

Google was good enough (and has enough clout) to begin this visionary conversation about the next generation of storage. I don’t see any reasons why any vendor in the technology sector, couldn’t start such a conversation without making it sound like a mere marketing ploy.

For example:

  • Write a “next-generation product roadmap” based on conversations with customers, insights from your technical visionaries and analysts you trust. Then open it up (via social media and online polling) to feedback and discussion.
  • Break out separate elements of your product roadmap and continue the discussion via blogs, contributed editorials, etc. Describe why you think each element is or isn’t important, and invite feedback.
  • Describe the “ifs, ands and buts” that would make each future product feature more or less valuable. In the disk drive example, is there some new solid state memory technology (maybe your own) that would make solid state drives more affordable than customers expect? Is there a new type of exploit that makes protection against firmware hacks even more important?
  • Make a quick poll about future feature sets part of every Webinar or blog post you do. Build your “next generation” wish list one piece at a time.

A final thought: Disk drives are (how do I say this?) not the sexiest, most leading edge product. They’re part of the IT plumbing and, some would argue, a commodity. If Google could make them interesting, and tie them to more compelling trends like video on demand and security, we should be able to do the same with almost any technology solution.

All we need is the imagination to get started, and the commitment to leverage what we find for thought leadership (and to guide product development.)

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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