Five Ways Storytelling Goes Bad

Wherever you go in the content marketing industry, people are talking about brand storytelling.   You have to tell stories to get customers emotionally involved in your brand. The human mind is intrinsically geared to hearing and understanding stories.

Hey, I’m all for storytelling. When my clients go on about how they digitally “transform” this or that, I harass them for real-world examples – stories, if you will — to explain what they’re doing.  When they give me a cookie-cutter, jargon-filled case study to word-smith, I push back for more details on the business challenges and the internal implementation headaches that will bring their work to life.

But in each of those examples, I use stories to illustrate a wider theme or broader truth. When we use stories to trivialize, to distract, to pander or to cover up, we’re cheapening our profession and pulling the wool over our reader’s eyes. Is that we went into this profession for?

How might story-telling hoodwink a reader, either intentionally or not? Stick with me for a sec for an example from the pharmaceutical rather than the IT industry.

Yes, We Price Gouge, But Our People Are Nice

Consider these two audio spots I heard within ten minutes the other day on NPR:

The first described allegations that drug companies vastly overstate the cost of drug development to justify higher drug prices and greater profits.

The second was a promotional notice from an NPR donor – a drug company — inviting listeners to hear stories about how their employees volunteer their time to help their communities.

Which story is more emotionally engaging? The feel-good piece about the volunteers. Which is easier to tell? The feel-good piece about the volunteers. Which drive more positive views of the drug company? The feel-good piece about the volunteers.

But that volunteer story describes dozens or maybe hundreds of volunteers doing individual good works. Unless the drug company is giving them paid time off to volunteer, it’s not really about the drug company at all. The second story involves billions of dollars and whether hundreds of millions of people get the health care they need.

So you tell me. Which story is more important?

Where Storytelling Goes Bad

Story telling is essential because it grabs viewers and listeners emotionally. But it gets in the way when it:

  1. Describes only anecdotes while ignoring systematic root causes. You can always, for example, find a student from a failed family and lousy school who made it into Harvard. But that doesn’t mean poor schools and chaotic home lives don’t holding many more students back. A corrupt mortgage broker could tell lots of good stories about the nice people who work for them. But that doesn’t compare with the human loss caused by systemic abuses such as weak underwriting, corrupt lenders, and too-loose credit.
  2. Conflates a one-time event with real change. At the recent Content Marketing World Kate Santore, who heads up integrated marketing content for Coca-Cola, played a 2013 ad showing Coke kiosks encouraging person to person contacts  between citizens of nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. The spot is beautiful and even inspirational. But did it make a lasting difference in how those people felt, thought or acted?
  3. Appeals to the emotion at the expense of clear thinking. Check out this light-hearted ad from Cisco claiming the ideal Valentine’s Day gift is an ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Router. I can see this working for top of the funnel “awareness” of a product, but will it convince either a system administrator to recommend it, or a CIO or CFO to approve the purchase?
  4. Doesn’t reflect the company’s true value or role. You have to praise Coke’s diversity-boosting Super Bowl ad this year as at least taking a stand on a controversial subject. But at the end of the day, is Coke’s mission showing “what unites us is stronger than what divides us” or selling beverages for a profit?
  5.  Doesn’t tell the customer what they need to make a purchase decision. At Content Marketing World, I overheard one speaker enthusing over how a post on a bank Web site about watching an eclipse out-performed traditional content such as, he sneered, “stories about the interest rate on credit cards.” Maybe it’s just me, but I want to hear about my bank’s interest rates.

Wherever I turn, I see “storytellers” trying to distract me with anecdotal, emotion-filled messages when what I need are facts. If we’re selling big-ticket IT solutions, we need to make sure “stories” support the message but don’t overwhelm it.

Thoughts?how story telling goes bad

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.

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.

transformationMany marketers talk “transformation” but fewer can deliver it – or even define it. Look beneath the covers, and what sounds so impressive turns out to be only incremental cost-cutting.

But one recent case study I wrote for a global professional services company got me thinking of the “T” word. The reason: The “transformation” we described delivered substantial, ongoing improvements as well as permanent changes in how their customer operated.

Angle One: Beyond Cost-Cutting

That customer was a major telecommunications provider with hundreds of applications and tens of thousands of servers and databases. It was looking for a new outsourcer to take over and improve its operations, cut its operating costs by at least 30% and reduce the number of service outages and the delays in fixing them.

What makes this “transformation: The goals went beyond just reducing the costs of normal IT operations. The customer wanted fundamental change and improvement in the quality of service the business providers its customers.  

Angle Two: Working Differently

The customer’s goals included overhauling many of its internal processes. This included improving communications among its internal and external support staff, increased consistency among their support processes and establishing and enforcing service level agreements (SLAs). The customer also wanted its support group to be able to scale up the amount and type of services it provides. On the measurement side, the customer needed to assess the outsourcer’s work by its impact on the business, not just IT. One example: The ability to easily ramp up infrastructure to meet the traffic needs of big revenue-generating events such as major league games or concerts.

What makes it “transformation?” Making permanent, significant changes in internal work processes, not just doing the same old things a bit more quickly or inexpensively.

Angle Three: Ongoing Benefits

The customer wanted the service provider to do 15 percent more work while reducing costs by 15 percent each year. The service provider is achieving this through, among other things, increased automation of IT processes and shifting from a traditional time and material model to managed services linked to business needs.  The service provider also has a road map for taking on the support of additional systems, is broadening its SLAs to cover additional metrics, and training first-level service teams to handle more problems.

What makes it “transformation?” Improvements that keep giving over time, not just a one-time cost or performance boost.

Uncovering the “Transformative” Angles

In working with clients or your internal subject matter experts, try these questions to better uncover how you’re doing “transformation” for your white papers, case studies and other collateral.

  • How are we permanently changing our customer’s systems or processes for the better?
  • How will our product and services deliver ongoing (not just one-time) benefits for the customer?
  •  What is fundamentally new and different for the customer after the implementation of our product or service?
  •  Draw “before” and “after” pictures of the customer’s systems, processes or business structure to show what you’ve changed. If you don’t see much difference between the two, make sure you’ve captured all the real changes by re-asking the questions above.

And finally, if it ain’t transformation, don’t pretend it is. As Gartner noted several years ago, transformation can sour outsourcing deals by leading customers to expect more than they’re really getting.

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.

No Messaging, No Payoff In Marketing Automation?

how boost ROI marketing automation When I work with clients on white papers, Web sites and other collateral, the hardest part is often getting them to explain what the heck they want to say.

Veteran marketer Tom Grubb has found the same thing while implementing marketing automation at companies such as CA Technologies. In this guest post Grubb, chief strategy officer at digital marketing agency Digital-Pi, explains how a lack of proper positioning can hobble entire marketing automation efforts.

What do you hear from the Monday morning quarterbacks after your marketing program results are in and they failed to deliver great results?

“Your subject line sucked.”

“The landing pages were confusing.”

“I told you not to put that graphic there.”

That white paper?  Really?”

Yeah, you could have tested your subject line, landing page, graphics and the offer.  But there may be something much bigger lurking beneath your lackluster program performance than a tweak here or a swap there that you overlooked:  your company/product messaging – or lack thereof.   If you don’t get your messaging right and tight, the revenue you take will rarely equal the marketing investment you make.

This ah-ha moment struck me during a two-day engagement in San Antonio with an established SaaS business going to market as a newly independent company.  Ken Rutsky, an expert on messaging and positioning asked me to collaborate with him to advise on technology, demand gen, and go-to-market.  We had a game plan for the two days centered on funnels, forecasting models, user experience and a marketing technology stack. After we defined the structure and segmentation for their market, my partner Ken the messaging master drove a mini brainstorming session that resulted in a rough messaging and positioning architecture for their business.  That evening, Ken worked his magic on the day’s rough messaging turning ideas into words and structure in a way that was clear, concise, logical, and effective.

When we reviewed his work with the team the next morning, it was clear to me that this was the cornerstone to the success for the rest of our work – and the marketing programs that would soon follow.  The big idea is this: marketing automation and program execution divorced from great messaging and positioning can significantly reduce ROI on marketing investments.  ­By the same measure, great messaging and positioning can enable – and therefore greatly improve your returns on marketing investments.

When I was at Intuit, getting messaging and positioning right and tight was table stakes for every Intuit business unit.  I learned Intuit’s “message mapping process,” but more important I learned the power of using a messaging methodology to get everyone in every role at the business on the same page.  All were able to clearly articulate what was unique, compelling and great about our products.  It made marketing so much faster and easier because we always stuck to the blueprint, no matter what tactic or program we brought to bear.

If messaging and positioning are so important – so fundamental to great marketing – why then don’t more companies build and maintain a great messaging foundation?  Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

  • Company somehow believes they have it – but they don’t
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the company is today
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the market/competition is today
  • Various factions in the company make up their own versions of messaging
  • Messaging was built by someone who doesn’t really understand how to build great messaging
  • Stakeholders were left out of the message building process and don’t understand or have any interest in following it
  • The messaging is not documented in a usable way

And what happens?  Everyone at your company can interpret your company’s value to mean something different on any given day, for any marketing initiative.  All marketing disciplines are diminished: public relations, demand-gen, investor relations—all of it.

So what can you do?  For starters, give serious thought to getting someone outside of your company to help you get your messaging defined; if you have messaging in place, ask yourself if it could use a refresh, a re-think, or another set of eyes outside your business to give it a look.  Our visit to San Antonio was the catalyst that made creating a great messaging architecture possible for our client.  We looked at their business from the outside, bringing new ideas and reinforced some of their thinking around how they could segment their market, surface their value and differentiation, and go-to-market in a strong, cohesive way.

The message is clear: get your messaging and positioning defined and documented and put it to work in your marketing.  With your messaging right and tight, you are more likely to find that the revenue you take will be more than the marketing investments you make.

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 Is Lousy Content Good Enough?

quality content marketing SEO experts keep telling us that customers (and the all-important search engines) pay more attention to quality content than “me-too” jargon stuffed with key words.

But I also keep seeing cheap “content mills” On the other hand, I keep hearing about content mills that, as one ex-IT journalist complained the other day, “pay freelancers peanuts and expect instant turnaround.”

Is content marketing a brave new world of quality journalism funded by vendors, or a flood of low-cost and low quality spam? Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski, reporting on a recent Innovation Summit panel of former journalists who now doing (committing?) content marketing, was pretty scathing.

Evil Empire?

Foremski argued that “most Content Marketing fails because it is trying to produce Editorial Content but the leadership (for the efforts) is in PR or in Marketing.” This results, he argues, in content that reads more like marketing or PR than editorial content, with its implied fairness, completeness and relevance. Content marketing, he says, “needs to be editorially led to be successful.” But how far will, or should, a vendor go in reporting “just the facts” if those facts reflect badly on their product or service, or don’t reinforce their messaging?

He went even further to say “Content Marketing is failing us and causing a lot of damage to society and to the Brands that bankroll this practice” when it “pretends to be legitimate third-party editorial content.”

This may very well be true when it comes to “mainstream” topics such as government, the economy and the environment. Here, readers should demand fully independent, unbiased and in-depth reporting and be willing to pay for it.

I’d argue it’s a somewhat different story in highly technical areas such as cloud computing or storage, where mainstream media lacks the skills or the audience to go deep on “how to,” “trend” or “product comparison” stories. With the trade pubs that used to provide such content hollowed out by the Internet, I think IT decision makers know they must rely on vendors to do a “fair enough” job of educating them. If vendors do a good job, there are a lot of ways to do everything from thought leadership to “best practices” without being blatantly promotional.

And Too Expensive?

Foremski’s also complains that “Creating lots of high quality content is terrifically hard and tremendously expensive — especially the way PR and Brands do it, with dozens of stakeholders involved at every stage…” As it takes time to build a brand, he says, the costs mount to unacceptable levels.

Amen on the need to streamline the production process. But even so, quality content will still cost you, even just in the time it takes your subject matter experts to conceive, write and polish quality content.

Here’s where I can report hope, courtesy of a recent conversation with an editor at a lead generation site sponsored by a major global tech firm. About a year ago, this firm began hiring  former journalists and tasked them with using traditional journalistic techniques (and talent) to create detailed, actionable content about how to effectively buy and use IT products and services.

I recently spoke with one recent (2006) media startup that is thriving through sponsorships, advertising and events driven by quality content from ex-IT journalists that are paid living wages. Another vendor-sponsored site is, after a slow start, delivering quality leads at a lower cost than previous lead-gen efforts. What is interesting is that, as the site gained credibility and the vendor invested in more content, even older stories (if they gave readers useable information) began drawing more and more hits.

It seems too good to be true – content that appreciates in value over time. Good for the reader, good for the vendor, and, yes, good for us ex-journalists who create the content.

Would Junk Work Just As Well?

But is this quality content worth it only for big-ticket, complex products and services like those in IT? Is low-cost, keyword-stuffed content good enough for commodity products or for business to consumer sales? Is content marketing just another step on the slippery slope to a society where we can’t trust who tells us anything, anywhere, anytime?

The answer(s) are “yes,” “no” and “it depends.” Trying to drive hits to a celebrity Twitter feed to sell products? Superficial retweets full of trending terms may do the trick. Selling system architects on a new approach to managing cloud services without violating patient privacy regulations? You probably need to spend enough to make sure you’re saying something new, useful and insightful, and saying it clearly.

And while I doubt any vendor will sponsor a Pulitzer Prize winning expose of, say, telecom security practices, you never know. Who thought 15 years ago that a one-time Web-based bookstore (Amazon) would be funding Emmy–winning TV shows?

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.

Stop the Video Madness!

when to use video If I have to sit through another vendor video full of bouncy music, cute special effects and a happy-talk narrator when I’m trying to learn something I’m going to scream.

And I’m not (just) speaking selfishly as someone that still gets most of their assignments producing old-fashioned word documents rather than video. I’m speaking as an information consumer that, just like one of your prospects, needs to quickly learn about new technology, rather than be “entertained.”

Almost everyone uses video in B2B sales these days. But here are six ways it gets in the way of educating these busy customers and steers them to your competitors.

  1. They have to wait for the video to load and buffer.
  2. They have to sit through the afore-mentioned theme song, graphics, cute jokes or happy talk before they hear anything worthwhile.
  3. Once the voice-over starts they need to toggle between the video and their word processor to take notes. (No way to easily cut and paste information as they can with text.)
  4. If the customer misses an important point, or the speaker mumbles or speaks too quickly, they have to rewind the video to listen again. This usually takes two or three tries to get to the right place in the video, forcing them to sit through the same video again and again.
  5. There’s no way to quickly scroll through the content to find what they need. With video, you force the customer to sit through the whole conversation before finding if their question was answered.
  6. The content is often presented out of sequence or full of vague jargon such as “solution,” “optimize,” “transform” and “digital.” The reason: The vendor didn’t properly script the interview and prepare the presenter, meaning they had to choose from whatever good video they got. With text, there’s more opportunity to push for more detail and reorder the content to focus on the most important points.

When Video Works

Having gotten that off my chest, here is where video is as good as, or even better than plain old text.

  1. When you have emotionally or visually engaging images to help tell your story. Think of showing patients helped by your Big Data diagnostic software, the factory equipment that stays running thanks to your Internet of Things sensors, or customers responding to real-time offers from your marketing software on their smartphones.
  2. When a moving image helps explain the process improvements you delivered or the unique benefits of your technology. Think of before and after flow charts showing agile application development, how Big Data analysis finds security breaches and how your advanced algorithms improve route planning.
  3. And when you have that rare articulate, passionate speaker whose presentation and presence adds to, rather than harms, your ability to tell a good story.

Being an old fuddy-duddy, I’m probably missed other areas where video trumps the written word. But for someone (like a customer) that needs to find very specific information very quickly, I beg you to at least offer them a transcript of the video so they can scan it quickly rather than sit through your entire spiel.

Anyone else out there agree that video can be incredibly annoying, or do I need to lighten up and enjoy the show?

 

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.

Tailoring Content to the IT Buying Cycle

content marketing for IT vendorsIt’s no surprise that the IT sales cycle is getting longer and more complex, with more and more players involved all the time. The move to “digital” means not only IT, but sales, marketing, operations and finance is and should be involved in everything from setting requirements to agreeing on budgets.

But specifically what content do each of these players need, at what stage in the sales cycle, and for what type of IT product?

To the rescue comes business networking site LinkedIn, with a survey of how 8,600 professionals in 11 countries purchase four types of products: Hardware for end users, software for end users, hardware for the data center and software for the data center. While it’s a long (76 pages) read, (and covers only products, not services) its well worth the time if you’re looking to fine-tune content in these four categories.

Until you download the report, some highlights.

The Problem

The report found that IT sales are getting more competitive, with less than one in five large companies even willing to consider a new vendor. That makes it even more important, if you’re trying to crack a new account, to engage everyone involved in the purchase with engaging, relevant content.

Across all four product categories, the critical “vendor selection” stage typically involves four or more people, with any individual often engaged in more than one stage at any time. For every product type, the three stages that involve the most players are 1) the up-front needs assessment, 2) determining specifications and budget, and 3) implementation.

Although many vendors don’t consider this last, post-sales period part of the sales process, it’s actually critical, according to LinkedIn. That’s when, the report says, those who chose their product “…are very exposed and vulnerable…and need to know that the vendor” is there to help them prove to their bosses that they made the right product choice. Successful customers are more likely to stick with you for upgrades, and to recommend you to their peers – word-of-mouth that is often the most effective form of advertising in this social media age.

Some Suggestions

With my analysis in italics:

  • When talking to the finance types who influence the sale, “Be up front about the costs of implementation, not only financially, but also in disruption of productivity or operational downtime.” I think such honesty is a compelling draw for customers. But good luck getting your product managers to fess up to this, or your other customers to share such painful data.
  • Customers researching end-user software prefer Webinars over white papers. Makes sense as it lets the customer see the software, not just read about it. Webinars also makes it easier to get user feedback.
  • In the implementation stage, customers “…are the hungriest for rich content and information (but) are rather quiet” about asking for it. “Make it easy for them to self-educate and learn on their own. Maybe we should ask our technical writing peers for help with implementation guides, FAQs, best practices and ROI calculators to offer customers after, as well as before, the sale.
  • Data center hardware buyers are very closed to new vendors, and “prefer in-depth articles and engineering terminology over events, conferences or social media…” Ramp up the geek speak, but team your CTO or engineers with professional writers so their insights can also be shared with less technical folks on the evaluation committee.
  • Buyers of data center software find events and conferences more valuable as they move from determining the need to defining specifications and budgets. In-person schmoozing is where you get the real dirt about what works and what deals you can get from vendors. Rather than fight this, maybe facilitate it with your own networking events for customers?

Brave New Whirl

This is all a far cry from the relatively simple days (if they ever existed) of finding “the IT decision maker” and hammering them into submission over lunch or golf. It also makes for quite an uphill struggle, when so many companies struggle to produce enough content to support simpler sales cycles.

What’s your take on whether the buying cycle is indeed this complex, and on LinkedIn’s recommendations for navigating it?

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.

digital marketing strategyI was recently with a major client and their writing team reviewing content plans for 2016 when the D-word – digital – came up.

Everyone agreed it’s a catch-all buzzword that can mean almost anything to anyone. But one of the participants –former Gartner EVP and Head of Research Bruce J. Rogow — had a new and interesting take which he fleshed out with a presentation of his concept of Digital Enabled Businesses.

His take on “digital” helps clear the air because it focuses not on the technologies that make something “digital” as on what digital means to people and organizations.  Rogow, now Principal at IT Odyssey & Advisory, calls it “old IT” and “new IT”

Brave New Digital World

Think of “old” IT, for example, as directive in that companies dictate which applications their employees can use and how they use them. These applications may be old and ugly, but they’re generally proven, stable and secure.

“New” IT, on the other hand, tends to be more elective and collaborative, with companies having to adapt to employees choosing their own devices and customers sharing buying tips about their products on social media.  The user’s experience with your Web site or applications will often  define your brand for them, making their performance over multiple platforms critical.

In short, “digital” is not so much about technologies (though elements such as software as a service, Big Data and the Internet of Things play major roles) as about ways of thinking and ways of working.

He also had some interesting and sometimes snarky comments on “digital” startups. For example, they tend to run on OPM (other people’s money) without the rigorous need for short-term returns as in a traditional business. They’re also often founded by people who would be run out of traditional organizations for their non-conventional behavior.

His findings ring true with similar comments I’m hearing in recent “digital” messaging work with other clients. When I press them for a definition of “digital” they say things like “The customer is in charge,” “Making transactions easy and even delightful,” “Anticipating the customer’s needs” and “Providing a consistent, smooth experience across channels such as phone, online and in person.”

What does this mean for IT content marketing?

Digital Messaging Tips

  • If you’re putting a big bet on “digital” be ready to invest for the long haul. Rogow says becoming “digital” is so complex it may take many traditional players as long as 15 to 20 years.
  • Going “digital” implies fundamental changes to business models, staffing, financial management, sourcing and corporate culture. Address and even highlight these issues in your marketing collateral. This makes you look smart by alerting prospects to these hidden obstacles.
  • CEOs are, he says, profoundly skeptical about what they see as past bogus promises from IT and want to see real results. Be specific in your digital story and back up your claims with real-world results.

The more your competitors bore the market with airy “digitization” promises the greater an opportunity you have. Sell your digital story not with technology buzzwords, but with compelling stories around how “new” IT enables customized, easy to use products and services that create and dominate entire new markets.

And don’t stint on talking about the messy “people” side of going digital. Based on Bruce’s savvy insights based on conversations with dozens of CIOs, that’s where much of the “digital” battle will be won or lost.

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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