2
Jun

Engineering-heavy tech startups need marketing communications

2 Color Design Hi-Res Engineering-heavy tech startups have a real need for marketing communications. Simply building the best solution to a pervasive need in a target market is no guarantee of success. People have to know about your business and your solution. If you do not make an effort to let them know about your business and your solution, who will?

The above may sound like an easy process. But more often than not, most early stage tech businesses fail to meet this requirement. The usual set of tactics implemented to meet this need amount to a classic online marketing campaign:

  • a web site is launched to present the business to the public
  • the web site is optimized for search engines
  • the business builds a social media component with efforts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • an investment is made in paid advertising: click ads, Facebook promoted posts, Twitter promotion, etc

But the campaign fails to pay off. Few real prospects pop up. Launching the revenue-producing component of the business takes a long time. Competitors come to market with legitimate solutions to the same problem. What looked to be a defensible market-niche seems to be evaporating.

The obstacle blocking this online marketing campaign from producing expected results is, to an important extent, a matter of poor timing. The marketing communications effort appeared after the fact, in other words only after the product (your solution) took its final shape. Because founder expertise was clearly on the engineering side of the effort little time was spent talking to market prospects, testing branding concepts, slogans, etc.

In fact the marketing communications effort should be in process from the moment a management team takes shape and efforts begin to conceptualize a solution to an important market need, meaning one for which participants will pay a fair, but attractive price to secure and implement.

If your business lacks the in-house technical, coding-literate marketing expertise required to fill this seat on your team, you need to hire someone to do it for you while you try to find the right stakeholder to join your effort. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has this expertise and offers temporary VP of Marketing services on a retainer basis. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

23
Jan

SQL remains a useful foundation for building tools to analyze data

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthA lot of editorial content about data, and tools built for data analysis, includes a Pavlov-like association between “big data” and “modern” computing. Relational database approaches to addressing data in a form built to accommodate analysis with Structured Query Language (SQL) tools are treated as a dated approach, somehow behind the times.

But much of this content fails to inform the people reading it about just how these “modern” computing systems actually work. For better or worse, Relational databases, which provide a structure (perhaps backbone would be a better word) for information, are, at some point in the process of analyzing electronic information (data), indispensable.

As a rule of thumb, the best examples of editorial content written on topics relevant to this subject, will incorporate some respect for SQL. David Chappell of Chappell & Associates has written a white paper for Microsoft, titled Introducing DocumentDB A NoSQL Database for Microsoft Azure (http://azure NULL.microsoft NULL.com/en-us/documentation/articles/documentdb-whitepaper-chappell/), which, follows this route. Chappell writes: “To support applications with lots of users and lots of data, DocumentDB is designed to scale: a single database can be spread across many different machines . . . .DocumentDB also provides a query language based on SQL, along with the ability to run JavaScript code directly in the database as stored procedures and triggers with atomic transactions.”

From Chappell’s description it should be clear DocumentDB has been built to replicate some of the core planks of Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) best practices. These certainly include SQL tools along with stored procedures, and triggers. Enterprise consumers of RDBMS and/or NoSQL collections of data will approve of the end of Chappell’s sentence: “atomic transactions”. This phrase provides these readers with an important assurance: DocumentDB has been built with ACID “Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability” transaction process in mind. ACID data communications is the floor supporting today’s commercial quality electronic transactions. Without an ACID compliant structure on both sides of a commerce transaction, businesses are not likely to exchange information. The negative ramifications of such a condition are great, so “modern” best practices have been built with an assumption of ACID compliance as a given.

Unfortunately non relational database systems are challenged to demonstrate ACID compliance. This fact is not lost on Chappell. The white paper he has written for Microsoft presents a balance between big data, NoSQL and SQL and RDBMS concepts in a coherent presentation. In my opinion other technical writers would benefit from his approach. I suspect Chappell’s success at his effort is a direct result of his technical understanding of how these systems actually work.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work (https://www NULL.google NULL.com/work/), it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

  • Office (http://www NULL.office NULL.com)
  • and MSDN (http://msdn NULL.microsoft NULL.com)

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

19
Dec

Success Stories and Case Studies do serve a purpose for enterprise technology consumers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIf ISVs with offerings targeted to enterprise computing markets needed any more indication of the importance of case studies and success stories, they likely got what they needed in an article written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, which was published on December 16, 2014 on the Online Wall Street Journal web site.

The title of Dwoskin’s article is The Joys and Hype of Software Called Hadoop (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/the-joys-and-hype-of-software-called-hadoop-1418777627?mod=LS1). The reason her article should alert any ISVs still in the dark as to why they absolutely require a marketing communications effort, which will produce success stories and case studies can be found in the following quote:

  • “Yet companies that have tried to use Hadoop have met with frustration. Bank of New York Mellon used it to locate glitches in a trading system. It worked well enough on a small scale, but it slowed to a crawl when many employees tried to access it at once, and few of the company’s 13,000 information-technology workers had the expertise to troubleshoot it. David Gleason, the bank’s chief data officer at the time, said that while he was a proponent of Hadoop, ‘it wasn’t ready for prime time.'” (quoted in entirety from Dwoskin’s article in the WSJ. I have provided a link to the entire article, above and encourage readers to spend some time on it)

This comment from a large enterprise consumer — BNY Mellon — which can be read as less than positive, can (and likely will) do a lot to encourage peers to look a lot closer at Hadoop prior to moving forward on an implementation.

Bottom line: enterprise businesses do not like to proceed where their peers have hit obstacles like the one Gleason recounts in his comment. Peer comparisons are, arguably, a very important activity for enterprise business consumers. So ISVs working with Hadoop on big data offers, or NoSQL databases and related analytics need to make the effort to queue up positive comments about consumer experiences with their products.

I recently wrote a set of posts to this blog on Big Data, NoSQL and JSON and must admit to experiencing some difficulty finding the case studies and success stories I needed to gain a perspective on just how enterprise consumers have been using products presented as solutions to the market for these computing trends. Hortonworks (http://www NULL.hortonworks NULL.com), on the other hand, is an exception. So I would encourage any readers after the same type of testimonial content about customer experience with products to visit Hortonworks on the web.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

15
Dec

Who’s losing sleep over NoSQL?

One of the biggest challenges facing product marketing within any business is successfully identifying a market segment. I would argue more businesses fail because they either:

  1. don’t understand their market niche
  2. or can’t articulate a message intelligible to their market niche
  3. The next step is to put together a portrait of an ideal prospect within this segment. Over time, if a business is lucky enough to succeed, this portrait will likely change (perhaps scale is a better word). After all, early adopters will spread the word to more established prospects. The latter are more conservative, and proceed at a different pace, based upon different triggers.

The 3 steps I’ve just identified are no less a mandatory path forward for early stage ISVs than they are for restaurants, convenience stores, or any other early stage business.

But a lot of the marketing collateral produced by early stage ISVs offering NoSQL products and solutions, in my opinion, doesn’t signal a successful traverse of this path. In an interview published on December 12, 2014, Bob Wiederhold, CEO of CouchBase presents the first and second phases of what he refers to as “NoSQL database adoption” by businesses. Widerhold’s comments are recorded in an article titled Why 2015 will be big for NoSQL databases: Couchbase CEO (http://www NULL.zdnet NULL.com/article/why-2015-will-be-big-for-nosql-databases-couchbase-ceo/).

My issue is with Wiederhold’s depiction of the first adopters of NoSQL Databases: “Phase one started in 2008-ish, when you first started to see commercial NoSQL products being available. Phase one is all about grassroots developer adoption. Developers would go home one weekend, and they’ll have heard about NoSQL, they download the free software, install it, start to use it, like it, and bring it into their companies”.

But it’s not likely these developers would have brought the software to their companies unless somebody was losing sleep over some problem. Nobody wants to waste time trying something new simply because it’s new. No insomnia, no burning need to get a good night’s rest. What I needed to hear about was just what was causing these early adopters to lose sleep.

I’m familiar with the group of developers Wiederhold portrays in the above quote. I’ve referred to them differently for other software products I’ve marketed. These people are the evangelists who spread the word about a new way of doing something. They are the champions. Any adoption campaign has to target this type of person.

But what’s missing is a portrait of the tough, mission-critical problem driving these people to make their effort with a new, and largely unknown piece of software.

It’s incumbent on CouchBase and its peers to do a better job depicting the type of organization with a desperate need for a NoSQL solution in its marketing communications and public relations efforts.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

4
Nov

Microsoft looks at the inevitability of big data

Jason Zander, a Corporate Vice President at Microsoft opened his segment of the Keynote presentation for Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe 2014 (http://channel9 NULL.msdn NULL.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2014/KEY01) with a compelling argument for the inevitability of big data. Zander presented some numbers indicating the global population of smart devices has now surpassed the entire human global population. The number of apps supporting these devices, and their users has also grown in geometric proportion. The result is truly big data — an enormous amount of information about each/every touchpoint for devices, users, and even data itself as they interact.

Zander’s rhetorical argument is yet one more articulation of one of the core planks of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — productivity. To sum up this theme, readers are asked to simply consider the impact of the “hundreds and hundreds of petabytes of data we already have” on the notion of what this writer refers to as the “dawn” of “information opacity” aka the Samuel Coleridge phenomenon (“Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”).

Zander points to cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure as a leading example of it, as the only method of powering all of the data produced by the global interaction of users and smart devices. It’s worth noting his mention of telemetry. There will be more to be said about this category of data, and its relation to the concept of an Internet of Things (IoT) throughout the remainder of the conference.

The presentation then shifts to another core plank of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — the slogan, first articulated by its CEO, Satya Nadella, and now re-articulated by each and every other spokesperson (including Zander) “Mobile First, Cloud First”. Zander echoes Nadella’s recent comments on the slogan, and pulls in the scalability plank of the market message. Mobile First, he stresses for his audience, requires ISVs like Microsoft to envision consumers in motion, implementing different devices, at different times, with the objective of accomplishing the same tasks or activities. The only way to satisfy this need for a uniform computing experience is to deliver the same quality across any/all device form factors. Nothing less will do.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

21
Aug

Microsoft Appears More Comfortable When Promoting Products to Developers

While one can argue Microsoft’s marketing communications targeting computer tech consumers often miss the mark, their promotional efforts targeting developers fare better. A good example can be found in a recent entry to the Office Blog, titled Connect and collaborate with the powerful tools in Office 365 for Enterprise (http://blogs NULL.office NULL.com/2014/08/12/visionaries-need-great-productivity-collaboration-tools/).

Where the current video advertisement campaign for Surface Pro 3 fails to marry the showcased product with the human archetype a lot of the advertisement’s audience dreams of becoming, this short post does a better job of connecting these marketing dots.

The “dreamer” aka “Human as visionary” is certainly an attractive archetype for developers who build applications, and the business stakeholders sponsoring them. The editorial content of this ad explicitly presents the connection between this personality type and its various iterations across a presumed organization (or business), all the way from the CEO at the top, through the developers responsible for building the solution, and, finally, to the “workers” (perhaps end users?) who will consume the solution as they go about the task of successfully completing their work.

While the editorial content explicitly presents this connection, the method leaves something to be desired: “The CEO has a big dream. He is passionate about towers and wants to build the tallest one possible. He needs help to collect and share his ideas, and he needs a way to unite people under his cause. The CEO could benefit from Yammer.” The presentation is clearly a simplification. The reader can’t be expected to do much more than smile at such an attempt to present a rationale for collaboration.

But one of the videos embedded in this post, Office 365: Visionaries need great productivity and collaboration tools (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=Ry5VooSZTEs) saves the day, for this writer, and provides the subtly the complete communication piece requires to make a lasting impression on readers.

It is a pity this same finesse could not have touched the video advertisement campaign for the Surface Pro 3. Regardless, it is highly likely Microsoft’s prime audience — enterprise business technology consumers — will find this post, which is good news. After all, this prime audience is more likely than average computer tech consumers to subscribe to Office 365.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

18
Aug

Do Better Informed Consumers Deliver More Sales Than Their Less Informed Peers?

Implementing a strategy to better inform customers about specific differences between one’s product and a product manufactured by a competitor includes a tacit agreement to compete to be the best. ISVs should carefully consider the ramifications before implementing this strategy. With the exception of clones and direct copies, no two products are the same, nor are they ever targeted at the same consumer. So this strategy may not pay off as expected.

Anyone visiting Microsoft.com recently will notice a number of direct comparisons between the Surface Pro 3 and Apple’s MacBook Air, and the soon-to-be-released (this writer, who owns a Windows Phone 8.0 Nokia Lumia 925, would hope) Cortana personal assistant and Apple’s Siri. The underlying premise supporting this type of marketing communications is product equivalence. The Surface Pro 3 and the MacBook Air are two versions of the same solution, as are Cortana and Siri.

But, we argue, this underlying premise is a fallacy. Dr. Michael Porter has written about this competitive approach, and unfavorably. Dr. Porter’s ideas on the topic have received commentary in this blog before, so there is no need to revisit them. It may suffice to simply equate this approach with a “zero sum game”. One competitor wins everything, while rivals receive nothing at all. When the results are combined, the total is a zero — no one really wins.

One may argue this effort has a highly successful ancestor — the television ad campaign Apple undertook in the first year or two of the new century. This campaign purported to be a competitive comparison between Mac and PC, albeit in the form of two personae — one guy representing the Mac, and another, stiffer, bespectacled, stouter, more formal guy representing the PC. Regrettably, this argument doesn’t work.

The ad is actually a caricature of the “head to head” product comparison communications method. The subtle suggestion, of course, points back to the presumed male viewing the ad, to whom a question will likely appear (seemingly out of the blue), “do I want to be the Mac, or do I want to be the PC?”.

Unfortunately, the comparisons on Microsoft.com do not possess this same subtly and can only be construed as direct product to product comparisons. In the opinion of this writer, they are not likely to be persuasive and, even if they are, they will not likely lead to a lot more profitable sales.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

21
Mar

The Microsoft Cloud Promotional Campaign Debuts Without a Formal Introduction

Microsoft has debuted a new promotional campaign, ‘The Microsoft Cloud’ (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/enterprise/microsoftcloud/default NULL.aspx#fbid=rL9VA16Lj6y). This campaign is targeted to the core of Microsoft’s customer base — enterprise business. The campaign includes a highly integrated set of customer testimonials, position statements, and presentations of components of the solution.

This campaign launched with little formal fanfare, breaking with what has come to be Microsoft’s “typical” approach to introducing a new set of marketing concepts. So the campaign has, to date, successfully avoided the usual critical reaction from popular media. Of even greater importance, rather than foisting “Microsoft’s” version of popular computing concepts, this campaign simply starts with a familiar presentation on cloud computing and merely brands it as “Microsoft’s” cloud. The campaign breaks further from the recent past with a very clear focus on enterprise business prospects and their need for hybrid clouds, which amount to an integration of on premises computing systems –SQL Server, Windows Server– with Office 365. Promotional content is highly integrated with product presentations juxtaposed with client testimonials and even success stories.

The theme of the campaign includes four components:

  1. Insights
  2. Productivity
  3. Social
  4. and Platform

1) Insights

Insights amount to analytics, and include Microsoft’s BI offers, CRM, and Power BI for Office 365. But on premises BI solutions, including SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014 are also promoted. Microsoft’s new embrace of 3rd party computing platforms (for example, the announced port of Office to the Apple iPad device platform) is represented in the Power BI presentation with a presentation of how Power BI can be connected to SAP Business Objects.

2) Productivity

The “Productivity” presentation is all about Office 365, with no mention of SharePoint anywhere in at least the first 4 screens I reviewed. There is no on premises solution included in this plank of the Microsoft Cloud solution. But there is a section devoted to the “Office 365 Trust Center”, ostensibly to persuade enterprise prospects on the security of the Productivity computing platform.

3) Social

Once again, I found no mention of SharePoint within the first few screens of the “Social” presentation, which is filled with a lot of information about Yammer, and a new set of “Social CRM” capabilities, which are built on the CRM product.

4) Platform

The last plank of the solution, Platform, is a lot about Azure, but also very much a position statement on the notion of “hybrid cloud”.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

12
Dec

Is this May 30, 2012 or is Morgan Stanley in a Deep Freeze on Intel?

On December 9, 2013, Kiernan Ray, of Barrons Online published an article Intel: Expensive on Free Cash Flow, PC Trends Still Poor, Says Morgan Stanley (http://blogs NULL.barrons NULL.com/techtraderdaily/2013/12/09/intel-expensive-on-free-cash-flow-pc-trends-still-poor-says-morgan-stanley/). In this article, Mr. Ray summarizes some points made by Mr. Joseph Moore about Intel. Mr. Moore is an analyst at Morgan Stanley who covers semiconductor manufacturers.

I disclose I have bullish investments in Intel.

I took issue with a couple of the points Mr. Moore made, at least as Mr. Ray summarized them. The most important of these was his comment that Microsoft’s decision to terminate support for Windows XP was actually a primary driver of an uptick in PC sales. I think the uptick in PC sales has more to do with the improvements Microsoft has made in Windows 8.1, together with substantially lower product prices offered consumers by its OEMs (as the result of the economies represented by Quad Core Chipsets on the new Haswell circuits), than it has to do with the demise of Windows XP.

But as I researched Mr. Moore’s background, online, I came on another article authored by Eric Savitz, this time published on the Forbes website, with a date of May 30, 2012 titled Intel: Morgan Stanley Launches Coverage at Underweight (http://www NULL.forbes NULL.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/05/30/intel-morgan-stanley-launches-coverage-at-underweight/).

The thrust of both articles are substantially the same, at least as I read them. Whether we’re back in the summer of 2012, or approaching the new year at the end of 2013, the predictions are the same: Mr. Savits, in the Forbes article summarizes Mr. Moore’s position as ” . . .[Intel] will see minimal earnings growth through 2014 as prices flatten, unit growth slows and costs rise.”

Fast forward to December, 2013. Mr. Ray summarizes Mr. Moore’s reiterated position as an ” . . . [u]nderweight rating on shares of Intel (INTC), which may see some positive news flow from the uptick [in PC sales], but is still dealing with long-term uncertainty about its business . . . ”

To reiterate: there has been little change, if any, in Mr. Moore’s position in over 1.5 years on this business. It would have benefited Mr. Ray’s article had he set this historical stage for readers, rather than characterizing Mr. Moore’s position as anything new whatsoever.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved