Content Marketing For IT Vendors Archives

Want some serverless BS with your FUD?

selling serverless architecturesI hadn’t heard of serverless computing until I saw this post by storage maven Greg Schulz. Put simply, “serverless” reduces the need for conventional servers by off-loading functions such as authentication onto other systems, such as those in the cloud.

Even though he’s deeply technical, Greg cuts through the hype and provides a great road map for differentiating a technical solution by describing it clearly and focusing on the value your solution provides.  This is reprinted by kind permission of Greg’s Server and Storage IO Blog where you can find the full version with illustrations.

By Greg Schulz

A few years ago a popular industry buzzword term theme included server less and hardware less.

It turns out, serverless BS (SLBS) and hardware less are still trendy, and while some might view the cloud or software-defined data center (SDDC) virtualization, or IoT folks as the culprits, it is more widespread with plenty of bandwagon riders. SLBS can span from IoT to mobile, VDI and workspace clients (zero or similar), workstations, server, storage, networks. To me what’s ironic is that many purveyors of of SLBS also like to talk about hardware.

What’s the issue with SLBS?

Simple, on the one hand, there is no such thing as software that does not need hardware somewhere in the stack. Second, many purveyors of SLBS are solutions that in the past would have been called shrink-wrap. Thirdly IMHO SLBS tends to take away from the real benefit or story of some solutions that can also prompt questions or thoughts of if there are other FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) or MUD (marketing uncertainty doubt). Dare to be different, give some context about what your server less means as opposed to being lumped in with other SLBS followers.

Data Infrastructures (hardware, software, services, servers, storage, I/O and networks)

Moving beyond SLBS

Can we move beyond the SLBS and focus on what the software or solution does, enables, its value proposition vs. how it is dressed, packaged or wrapped?

IMHO it does not matter who or why SLBS appeared or even that it exists, rather clarifying what it means and what it does not mean, adding some context. For example, you can acquire (buy, rent, subscribe) software without a server (or hardware). Likewise, you can get the software that comes bundled prepackaged with hardware (e.g. tin-wrapped), or via a cloud or other service.

The software can be shrink wrapped, virtual wrapped or download to run on a bare metal physical machine, cloud, container or VMs. Key is the context of does the software come with, or without hardware. This is an important point in that the software can be serverless (e.g. does not come with, or depend on specific hardware), or, it can be bundled, converged (CI), hyper-converged (HCI) among other package options.

Software needs hardware, hardware need software, both get defined and wrapped

All software requires some hardware somewhere in the stack. Even virtual, container, cloud and yes, software-defined anything requires hardware. What’s different is how much hardware is needed, where it is located, how is it is used, consumed, paid for as well as what the software that it enables.

What’s the point?

There are applications, solutions and various software that use fewer servers, less hardware, or runs somewhere else where the hardware including servers are in the stack. Until the next truly industry revolutionary technology occurs, which IMHO will be software that no longer requires any hardware (or marketing-ware) in the stack, and hardware that no longer needs any software in the stack, hardware will continue to need software and vice versa.

This is where the marketing-ware (not to be confused with valueware) comes into play with a response along the lines of clouds and virtual servers or containers eliminate the need for hardware. That would be correct with some context in that clouds, virtual machines, containers and other software-defined entities still need some hardware somewhere in the stack. Sure there can be less hardware including servers at a given place. Hardware still news software, the software still needs hardware somewhere in the stack.

Show me some software that does not need any hardware anywhere in the stack, and I will either show you something truly industry unique, or, something that may be an addition to the SLBS list.

Add some context to what you are saying; some examples include that your software:

  • works with your existing hardware (or software)
  • does not need you to buy new or extra hardware
  • can run on the cloud, virtual, container or physical
  • requires fewer servers, less hardware, less cloud, container or virtual resources
  • is the focus being compatible with various data infrastructure resources
  • can be deployed and packaged as shrink-wrap, tin-wrapped or download
  • is packaged and marketed with less fud, or, fudless if you prefer

In other words, dare to be different, stand out, articulate your value proposition, and add some context instead of following behind the SLBS crowd.

Watch out for getting hung up on, or pulled into myths about serverless or hardware less, at least until hardware no longer needs software, and software no longer needs hardware somewhere in the stack. The other point is to look for solutions that enable more effective (not just efficient or utilization) use of hardware (as well as software license) resources. Effective meaning more productive, getting more value and benefit without introducing bottlenecks, errors or rework.

The focus does not have to be eliminating hardware (or software), rather, how to get more value out of hardware costs (up front and recurring Maintenance) as well as software licenses (and their Maintenance among other fees). This also applies to cloud and service providers, how to get more value and benefit, removing complexity (and costs will follow) as opposed to simply cutting and compromising.

Next time somebody says serverless or hardware less, ask them if they mean fewer servers, less hardware, making more effective (and efficient) use of those resources, or if they mean no hardware or servers. If the latter, then ask them where their software will run. If they say cloud, virtual or container, no worries, at least then you know where the servers and hardware are located. Oh, and by the way, just for fun, watch for vendors who like to talk serverless or hardware less yet like to talk about hardware.

Ok, nuff said for now…

Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, vSAN and VMware vExpert. Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Watch for the spring 2017 release of his new book “Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials” (CRC Press).

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

finding ideas for marketing contentAre your pitches, blogs, videos, podcasts and white papers rehashes of vague buzzwords like transformation and digital?

To avoid pumping out “me-too” messaging, push yourself (and your in-house subject matter experts) to dig deeper and come up with specific, actionable advice for your potential customers.

One great example comes from a story about data analytics on the TechTarget publishing and marketing site. Don’t let the fact it is old (December 2013) stop you from reading it carefully. The subject (data as a corporate asset) is as fresh as ever. More importantly, this story shows how to take a common, even overhyped, topic and bring fresh, compelling insight to it.

The secret: Asking tough questions based on real-world experience with customers — the kind your sales, support and marketing staff get every day.

Five Meaty Questions

After describing the new (as of 2013) trend of older industries such as manufacturing using Big Data, the piece gets to the good stuff – a five question quiz one vendor asks CIOs to see if they’re serious about treating data as a corporate asset.  The questions include “Are you allocating funding to data, just as you would for other corporate assets?” “Do you measure the cost of poor, missing or inaccurate data?” and “Do you understand the “opportunity cost” of not delivering timely and relevant data to your business?”

While each question has a “marketing spin” (a “yes” answer makes them a better prospect) each is also valuable because they help a prospect understand the real-life challenges of implementing new technology.  Note that each question:

  • Drills beneath good intentions to coldly measure how committed a customer really is. (How much are you willing to spend on this new technology?”)
  • Talks about the non-technical issues that often derail IT projects. (Does this initiative have its own budget?)
  • And describes specific processes (such as measuring the cost of poor quality data and the “opportunity cost” of not delivering high quality data) that can improve how a customer implements the new technology.

Providing detailed insights like this helps establish you as a trustworthy, experienced technology provider and makes it more likely customers will listen when you come to them with a more product-specific pitch.

Finding the Nuggets

Now, how do you wring such insights from your sales, marketing or product support staffs? Whether the subject is Big Data, security, containers or any other buzzword of the week, ask them questions like:

  • How do you know a prospect is serious about our product or service rather than just going through the motions?
  • What are the non-technical factors (such as budget, corporate culture, office politics or management processes) that make implementation of our product succeed or fail?
  • What words, phrases or questions do you hear from a customer or prospect that tell you working with them will be a nightmare, or a pleasure?

The answers to these questions are your “raw material.”  Your next steps are to decide which of the answers are most valuable and relevant, flesh them out with real-world examples and follow up questions from your SMEs, and don’t publish until you can provide detailed, specific and actionable recommendations.

Do all that, and you’re not just another echo chamber in the IT hype factory. You’ll deliver usable, actionable content that will keep your prospects reading — and buying.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

Tuning Content for Account-Based Marketing

content account based marketing David McGuire from UK-based copywriting agency Radix did a great post recently on account based marketing (ABM.) I won’t repeat his excellent explanation. But suffice it to say it’s all about focusing your marketing efforts on the very specific subset of prospects who have a genuine need (and budget) for what you’re selling.

It’s the most expensive way to sell, but can be useful for big ticket products that a relatively few customers need. It’s not, as Radix points out, a new idea. But, as Radix points out, it requires content that is far more focused on each specific customer than the customary, “one size fits all” content many marketers produce.

Producing that content requires specific skills on the part of a writer. McGuire says that to turn out highly-focused ABM content a copywriter must:

  • Do enough research to understand the specific issues facing each targeted account
  • Write well enough to capture the imagination of each account, with…
  • …the understanding to deliver the most relevant information without wasting their time…
  • …and the soft skills to push back on marketers that want to use overly technical language or marketing the account won’t care about.

Let’s assume you’re launching an ABM campaign and are looking for content, and writers, to populate it. Here are some tips for ensuring either your internal writers or outside contractors meet the content bar for ABM.

Research

A good writer will ask questions like:

  • What’s the concrete business benefit? How will your solution increase sales or reduce costs?
  • What existing applications and platforms is this customer running, and how does that affect whether your solution is right for them?
  • What are the strategic challenges this customer is facing? (Customer retention, chronically low margins, competition from disruptive competitors?) And, again, how might your solution help this specific customer?
  • What is their corporate culture – aggressive and risk taking, or conservative and hemmed in by regulations? How does our solution fit with this culture?
  • Who are the critical decision makers? How many of them are there, and how do their priorities agree or conflict? Which of them needs to be convinced first before moving the buying decision up the command chain?

Writing

Besides the “sniff” test (do you like their writing) some objective criteria include:

  • Is the content based on the specific client’s needs, or just a superficial tweak of generic content?
  • Does it read like an objective story in a trade publication or an analyst report (good) or a piece of marketing fluff (bad)?
  • Is the content useful and/or interesting enough that you would pass it on to a colleague?
  • Is it clear enough that your parent/partner/friend who is not in the IT industry could understand the value proposition?

Efficient Delivery 

  • Does it include a three paragraph “elevator pitch” a reader can absorb in 30 seconds or less?
  • Does the opening paragraph grab this specific customer’s attention with compelling new information designed for them, or bog down in the same messaging you use with all your customers?
  • Does it reinforce the relevance for each prospect by repeatedly explaining how what you’re telling them helps them with their specific challenges?

No Techno-Jargon

  • Does the writer insist on spelling out and explaining acronyms, even if you think the prospect understands them? (You’ll be amazed how many people around the decision making table have nowhere near the understanding of technology you have as a seller.)
  • Once the writer has asked you to explain something, do you feel like you yourself understand it better? (If you do, the customer will as well.)
  • If the writer challenges wording as too technical or confusing, can they offer replacement text that is both clearer and accurate?

Now, how is account-based marketing changing the type of copywriting you need and how you work with writers? Is it best to bring the writer in after you’ve decided what you want to say, or give them a say in honing the value proposition and messaging? And do you feel comfortable with letting mere writers push back on your messaging? Let me know how we writers can do a better job at ABM.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

The Dead Fish Test for Customer Surveys

pitching customer surveys Conducting a survey to prove the need for your product or service is a popular content marketing tool, and with good reason.  Done right, it provides proof your product or service is needed, and a news hook for reporters or editors.

But all too often pitches for such surveys arrive in my inbox with a dull thud like a dead fish. That’s a waste of all the time and effort the sponsor put into them. It’s the worst of the three levels of survey pitches I’ve seen. Which one are you using?

The Dead Fish Approach

The least effective approach, which I see all the time, is an email blast throwing the survey on my doorstep in hopes I’ll be interested. For example:

 Hacking Heaven Systems just released the results of a survey on cloud security.  Any interest in checking out the press release on embargo? Let me know…

Why should I be interested? All you’ve told me is that you did a survey. Even if I covered cloud security exclusively and continually you’ve given me no compelling reason to follow up. The email doesn’t even have a link to the release itself, meaning I have to ask for it and wait for your rely.  Even if it was a really slow news hour or day or week, there are faster, easier ways to find stuff to write about.

And, what’s with the embargo? In these days of social media and instant news, an embargo signals you don’t have a clue. If you want to give your story a chance, offer it without preconditions.

The Live Fish Approach

This at least makes the pitch shimmy around and look interesting. And it ain’t complicated. You probably have an internal summary report describing the top three findings. Feature those prominently in your email so the editor can quickly decide if they’re interested and click through. For example:

While eight out of ten enterprises are putting more apps and data on the cloud, seven out of ten corporate decision makers say cloud security is getting worse, not better. Six out of ten say cost pressures are forcing them into security risks they’re not comfortable with, and half say it’s only a matter of time before cloud security harms their organizations. Contact Hacking Heaven Systems for details of the study and our analysis of the implications.

Am I interested? Quite possibly yes – at least enough to reply to the email and ask a few questions, like how large the survey is, whether any respondents are available to talk, and whether you asked any of them what they’re doing about this state of affairs.

The Great Fish Approach

This takes the most effort but maximizes the chances I’ll call. It does this by personalizing the email to reflect what I’ve already written about the subject or an editorial calendar where I’ve advertised what I’m writing about.

I notice you’ve recently done several stories quoting analysts and vendors about how concerns about cloud security are easing. Well, not according to the 500 corporate decision makers Hacking Heaven Systems surveyed recently. Yes, eight out of ten say they’re putting more apps and data on the cloud. But more than half say this is due to cost pressures, and seven think cloud security is actually getting worse. A full half of them say it’s only a matter of time before cloud security harms their organizations. Contact us for comment on what accounts for these findings, and names of survey respondents willing to talk.

This last approach obviously takes more work. It also assumes:

  • Your target reporter or editor covers this field often enough to have an opportunity to do a follow up, or is willing to develop a story to pitch on spec.
  • That you did a good enough job crafting your questions to develop these compelling angles.
  • That you thought the results through completely enough to offer a take on it that is more than a marketing pitch, and
  • That you actually have survey respondents willing to talk to the press.

If this was a beat I was covering regularly, I’d be hard-pressed not to follow up on this third pitch just to be sure I wasn’t missing a good story.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong, and in this age of SEO-driven marketing some content development bot would pick up even the dullest press release and promote it. If so, do you do one version for the bots and another for the humans you want to call for a full discussion?  

 

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

My Kingdom for a Better Sales Pitch

bigstock-Man-Standing-On-Street-Is-Aski-132268082A political fund-raising call I got the other day ended very badly. No, not because I wound up screaming at the caller, or even because I didn’t contribute.

It ended badly because the organization almost lost my contribution by boring me with a bland, “one size fits all” script and forcing me to go on-line afterwards to contribute, rather than letting the caller easily send me a follow up email.

The same happens all the time with B2B sales campaigns. Here’s what went wrong and how voters, and customers, could more easily vote with their wallets.

The Rigid Sales Script

I got the political fund-raising call when I was 1) busy working and 2) out of the country and thus charged mega-bucks for every minute of phone time. I tried to tell the caller I was interested but couldn’t take the call, and even offered my email address as a sincere expression of interest.

But the telemarketer sounded completely confused and continued with what was obviously a pre-programmed spiel. I wound up, unfortunately, hanging up on him. The script from which he was working, and his call center system, probably wouldn’t let him easily grab my email and send a follow up note with an easy link to contribute.

I wound up finding the organization’s Web site and contributing, but someone less motivated wouldn’t have. In addition, my call will be recorded as a “hang up” (and a failure) rather than a success (by reminding me of an organization I chose to contribute to.) That makes it harder for this political organization to track the effectiveness of its call banks vs. email or other communication channels, or to link my contribution to the call.

The One Size Fits All Script

The second mistake was that the “sales pitch” began with a general, high-level reference to themes from the previous night’s convention coverage. But just as product pitches need to tell me exactly how the product will help me, this call never got specific. What would have been even more compelling would be something like this:

As you know, funding for the endangered sea turtle will be a critical issue in the next Congress.  Rep. Joe Kelp in Maine’s 2nd congressional district is head of the natural resources subcommittee that will vote on such funding early next year, and is in a tight race with his challenger, Harriet Treecutter. We need only another $125,000 to fund a targeted direct-mail campaign to the 30,000 swing voters who can keep Kelp in this important chairmanship and move this funding forward next year. We’re currently $78,000 of the way there. Will you move us forward with another $50 contribution? If so, we’ll update you in three weeks with the results of the campaign.

And how would the organization know I care about the sea turtle? That’s where all the Big Data, micro-segmentation of voters we keep hearing about comes in. If you know what I care about (as a voter or a tech buyer) tell me very specifically what my contribution (or purchase) will do based on my specific desires.

The Turn-Off Follow-Up

Since contributing, I get almost daily emails form this group with subject lines like “BRUTAL loss,” “DANGEROUSLY behind,” and (which I love) “you haven’t answered.” Even in this election year, the sky can’t be calling every day – and it’s not my job to answer unsolicited emails.

What might get more contributions out of me would be an update on the results of the previous voter turnout campaign I helped fund. Tell me how the polls have turned, how many committed voters you have registered, and exactly how you would use my next contribution to make more progress.

In the B2B world, effective follow up means finding out if the customer is using the product, getting value from it, and is aware of how specific add-ons or upgrades could make them more money. For solutions sold in the cloud, sellers can track usage patterns, social media comments and other feedback to tailor their follow-up to each customer, suggesting products and services geared to their specific needs.

But as both an IT customer, and an involved voter, I keep seeing clumsy, unfocused and just plain irrelevant offers. In these days of Big Data and personalized messaging, why can’t we do better?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

When to Stop Nagging and Other PR Questions

how to pitch editors and bloggersWhat is the best way to pitch a writer – by phone or email? When should I stop calling to ask if you’ve seen my pitch? How much editorial control do vendors exercise over custom content sites?

Those were among the questions I got at a recent lunchtime talk at a Boston-area PR firm. I was invited to describe how I operate, as a blogger and free-lance writer, and how PR pros can work most effectively with folks like me.

For all of you who weren’t there for the pizza and my presentation (which you can download here,  complete with samples of PR pitches done right and wrong), here’s a synopsis:

Q: When is the best time to contact you with a pitch?

Q: There are no good or bad times, as my work schedule is completely unpredictable. Since I don’t cover a beat for a trade publication, or have a regular story submission schedule, there are no regular “deadlines” to work around. On the other hand, I often go from calm to overbooked within hours. What’s more important than the timing is the form of a pitch. (See question below.)

Q: What is the best way to contact you – email or phone?

A: Email. Phone calls are an intrusive interruption, no matter what I’m working on. Given the low likelihood a pitch will turn into an interview or, much less, a story the interruption usually isn’t worth my time, or, frankly, that of the PR person.

Q: What kind of story idea pitches are you interested in?

A: Right now, none. When I write for trade publications (click here to subscribe to my email update on such stories) it’s always based on an assignment from them. Pitching stories isn’t something I typically do, as it requires a lot of up-front work with an uncertain likelihood of a return. For other writers, though, that might not be the case. A quick email asking if they’re open to such story idea pitches, and what areas they’re most interested in, could be worthwhile.

Having said that, some vendor-sponsored sites such as TechBeacon (sponsored by HP Enterprise) ask writers to come up with a steady stream of story pitches in a specific area such as security or DevOps. The difference here is that the Web site promises a regular stream of work, as long as the writer does a good enough job pitching. To get your sources exposure on these sites, treat them like a trade pub: Monitor what your target editor and others are writing about on the site and pitch accordingly. If these sites offer a handy “trending” or “what’s popular” list all the better, as that shows you the topics the editors will want more coverage of.

Q: How much editorial control does the vendor have over a site they sponsor?

A: This varies based on the site and whether the aim is to generate high-level visibility and thought leadership or to generate short-term leads. In my experience, most vendors downplay their sponsorship and hire IT trade press veterans to run the site. They want the site to look and feel more like a trade pub than a marketing site, tracking what stories visitors read to generate profiles and score them as leads.

Q: How do we pitch ideas or sources to editors of such sites?

A: First, make sure your idea or source can provide information that is original, detailed and timely (download my content quality control check list here). Then, make sure your source isn’t a direct competitor of the site sponsor, or that their messaging doesn’t contradict that of the vendor. You wouldn’t want to, for example, pitch a story about the continued value of tape storage to a vendor that just dumped their tape business.

The good news: Some complementary vendors are featured regularly in such sites (see one example here.) If in doubt, this is one time where a detailed, specific query to the site editor is worthwhile and shows you’re doing your homework.

Q:  I emailed you a pitch and you didn’t respond. How often should I call to check for a response?

A: This was the toughest question and one where I was caught in a lie. My immediate response was “Don’t call or email me again – if I’m interested I’ll call you.”  But one of the PR pros reminded me that sometimes such nudges have reminded me of a good idea I overlooked at first glance, or of a source I didn’t need when first pitched but can use as my deadline looms.

Bottom line advice: If you really think your idea or source is strong, limit the nudging to one email per week, focusing specifically on why you think it’s a good fit and asking what, if anything, could make it stronger. Then it’s in the editor’s hands to be courteous enough to at least respond.

Even if we can’t do lunch, email me your questions about best PR practices (or anything else) and I’ll answer them in a future post.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

Pokémon Go: Why IT Marketers Should Care

Pokemon Go security When I was assigned a story on the security risks of Pokémon Go, I groaned. What could be interesting about a game where players chase comic book characters superimposed on the real world on their smart phone?

It turns out the enormous popularity of Pokémon Go IS the story. It’s so engrossing players are tumbling down hillsides and reportedly being lured into ambushes while glued to their screens. That means enterprises that can latch onto Pokémon Go (or create similar apps that go viral) can tap huge marketing opportunities – but face equally large security risks.

Let’s start with the downsides, as those were the focus of my reporting.

Risky Business

The initial security scare focused on reports that Pokémon Go vacuumed up too many details from the Google accounts of players. By all accounts, the developer and Google quickly fixed that, and the game may never have actually used all the information it asked for. But one source hinted darkly that even one-time access to email or other accounts could give a game developer valuable information they could use later. He also asked whether, as Niantic (the game’s developer) frantically ramped server capacity to meet demand, it could possibly put the proper security precautions in place to protect any user info it did gather.

Even if the legit game doesn’t snoop too much info from your phone, my sources described cleverly disguised malware variants that can. Another possible channel for malware are unofficial guides to games that help users improve their scores, or “hacks” that promise a short-cut to extra rewards. “jailbroken” or “rooted” devices, in which users bypass the manufacturer’s built-in security safeguards, are an especially prominent risk.

Then there are the broader (and even more story-worthy) societal concerns. If someone hacks your application and sends unwary players into traffic to chase a character, are you liable if they are it by a car? One source who does a lot of work for defense clients raised the specter of “crowd spying” in the form of a game that sends hundreds of players to catch a character the spy agency placed in front of a sensitive military base. Before authorities can chase the players away, their phones have already captured and transmitted images of the base from multiple angles.

Sound crazy? There Indonesian army has reportedly blocked service members from playing the game while on duty for just that reason. And how much of a leap is it to port such a game from ground-bound smartphones to drones, adding a new dimension (literally) to the privacy, security and liability questions?

The Upside 

The story angles don’t stop at the dark side. McDonald’s is reportedly first into the “monetization” game, sponsoring Pokémon Go play sites at its restaurants in Japan. But using games to draw foot traffic to a specific location is only a baby step.

Imagine a toy retailer creating an AR/VR game that lures kids into their stores and puts the most popular characters near the highest margin toys, giving them an instant discount as they “capture” the character with a tap on the screen? The next step, of course, is to combine real-time information about a player’s location with their past purchase history, credit worthiness or other factors to pop up real-time offers within the game. (This raises the challenge of securely combining corporate data with that from customers’ devices I tackled in my story.)

Senior Vice President Nagaraja Srivatsan at Cognizant Technology Solutions* has a whole raft of other ideas and examples.  They include restaurants giving diners a discount if they drop “lures” to get other customers to drop by, or offering “contextual” ads based on where a player is and what they are doing.

Finally, think of the opportunity to use AR/VR games to train or motivate employees. How about a Pokémon Go-type app that rewards hotel employees with bonuses or time off for finding and capturing not characters, but dust spots or trash in public areas? Or that gives field service reps points for sharing maintenance tips through an AR app on their smartphones? (In that case, how do you protect sensitive data about the failure rates of your components, or those from your competitors you see on your customer’s premises?)

 Get Pitching 

Any or all of these scenarios may, or may not, pan out. Pokémon Go itself will undoubtedly fade (maybe sooner than later) as just another fad.

But its blockbuster popularity, however short lived, shows that everyday consumers will download, play, and spend huge amounts of time with the right VR/AR app. And where eyeballs and interest go, money and opportunity follows. Pokémon Go is the tip of a lot of fascinating icebergs we’ll all be innovating around, writing about and pitching about for years.

Got any clients who are trying to ride the Pokémon Go bubble, or facing security threats as a result?————————————————————————————-

*Cognizant Technology Solutions is a client but did not reimburse me for this mention.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
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.

To Stand Out, Find Your “Micro Niche”

how identify target customer content marketingGot a sinking feeling your marketing copy is too “me too?”

If so, you’re not alone, according to content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi. He did an excellent post earlier this year arguing that many campaigns fail because the material they offer is too much like everyone else’s.

I’m always surprised when I push a client to tell me what makes them different and they tell me (as one did the other week) that “When you really get down to it, all of us do pretty much the same thing.”

Granted, this person works in the execution trenches of a global service provider, which makes it harder for them to take a strategic marketing view. But I really had to push them to describe the software tools and skills that help them win deals from the competition.

Niches Within Niches

Pulizzi has some excellent suggestions to fix this. Among them is the need to focus more closely on your specific market niche. I’d go further and say every business has a hyper-niche or it wouldn’t exist. Some of these hyper-niches, and their marketing implications might be:

  • Geographic: “We’re the only bar on the coast within ten miles of a popular beach.” Promote how easy you are to find and plaster the walls with local memorabilia and photos.
  • Skills: “We restore 18th century books, which requires specific skills to deal with the chemicals used in making them.” Show before/after examples and blog about how different types of 18th century paper age over time.
  • Geographic plus skills: “We do pest control in southwest Florida, where the breezes from the Gulf of Mexico bring in pests you won’t see anywhere else.” Blog about those local pests, the damage or diseases they cause and how to fight them.
  • Geographic plus skills plus real-time insights: “We sell real estate north of Boston. We have unique insights into what the latest plans for a rapid transit extension mean for housing prices along the route.” Blog  about your thoughts or, better still, develop an interactive map showing projected price spikes in each community.

Enough About Pests. How About Tech?

If bars, pest control services and realtors and differentiate themselves, so can we in the supposedly sexier tech industry. Try these hyper niches:

  • Customer service: “We put a director-level manager on site to manage our projects with you, and to coordinate with our off-shore team.” Link to bios of these on-site managers and case studies of how they sped implementation and reduced costs for your clients.
  • Geographic plus customer service: “As the only full-service Cisco partner in the Mid-Coast, we can reach your office within two hours with the equipment needed to restore your network.” Link to an interactive map showing travel time from your your site to local customers, and to  testimonials about the quality of your local service.
  • Skills: “We find the right human resources management software for you by evaluating not only different products, but your corporate culture.” Link to an interactive guide telling customers which platform best fits their needs in “soft” areas such as collaboration, quality of life and employee empowerment.
  • Real-time market insights: “With the sudden upsurge in demand for “digital” branding, we’re seeing massive confusion over what this means and how to explain your message.” Provide your own insights* for writing about digital in ways that drive sales.)
  • Skills plus real-time market insight: “We monitor the current performance and price of cloud providers such as Rackspace, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure and proactively recommend when to shift from one to another.” Link to a free sample assessment and case studies of how you helped others.

Differentiate Thyself

Given the complexity of technology, the rapid pace of change and the wide range of customers, there are plenty of micro-niches for us to work with – if we put in the time and work to identify and then exploit them.  To get started, download my free checklist for evaluating the  depth, originality and timeliness of your content.

*Shamelessly self-serving link to my own site.

 

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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