Microsoft and HP’s recent announcement highlighted some of the ways in which poor announcements strain credulity and make it harder to get attention when you do have something worthwhile to talk about. Some errors crop up repeatedly in IT marketing communications, and this one suffered from several of them.
- Don’t oversell. A sudden push for a call early the next morning. Reporters from major publications calling analysts saying “I heard Ballmer and Hurd will appear.” Blog posts about “The New Future of IT.” Press releases that tout “the industry’s most comprehensive technology stack integration to date.”
The reality: No Ballmer, no Hurd (although some video). An announcement by marketing guys, with no new technology, no new partners, no dates. Future products, some anticipated already. [edit: after this piece was published, I learned that there WAS a call with Hurd and Ballmer. But numerous analysts – myself included – were not on the call. Journalists were.]
- Explain who benefits. Provide a bit of clarity about the problem being solved. Who is feeling this pain? Is it hard, expensive, or impossible to solve this problem now?
The reality: A direct quote: “There is nothing wrong with where we are today.” Followed by statements that “we are going to make it easier.” Clarity lacking here – of course it needs to be easier, but we’ve heard “faster time to value” stories so many times that they fall on deaf ears without specifics.
- Differentiate from the competition. Who they are, and why you’re better. IBM, maybe Oracle, consortia of various stripe – this could not have been more obvious.
The reality: Nothing was said until direct questions were asked. And then the answers were not terribly satisfying, because the competitors are also partners and will continue to be. The “faster, easier” message cannot be validated without something substantive. How this would be “better than [competitor]” was never said.
- Define your terms correctly. “Infrastructure to Applications” was the pitch. The “ease of installation and use for the whole stack” story makes for a nice discussion compared to appliance discussions being heard elsewhere.
The reality: “Applications?” Exchange. SQL Server (not an app itself.) Management software. Where was Dynamics? SharePoint? Third party apps? Nowhere. SQL Server sizing and orchestration tools exist on the partner portal. HP Insight templates will help systems configuration. Some were mentioned; most were not new.
- Describe how you will sell and to whom. The Frontline Partnership between the two firms means thousands of well-trained HP field people with tools and training getting it done better, faster and cheaper. And only one line item on the invoice. “And 32,000 partners will sell for us.”
The reality: The partnership is not new – it’s literally decades old. Now it only takes one line item to buy an Exchange system? Great. What new features are in the partner program? Will those 32,000 other partners that were mentioned now take a back seat to HP in many situations? When will HP take the lead, and when will other partners get their chance?
This sounds worse that it was. Many of these questions have answers, and the partner program assets are formidable. Here’s the problem – the yawns start quickly when the “strategic” announcement turns into tactical, deployment-centric stuff. And cynicism sets in when obvious points are not mentioned, obvious questions are neither posed nor answered. Had this announcement not been oversold, it would have received reasonable coverage from thoughtful analysts who had time. Instead, the vendors got a very skeptical question at the event (and few others), tweets saying things like “#HPMSFT ‘partnership’ announcement is fluffy hot air,” and blog posts like RedMonk’s Michael Cote piece that reduce it to a BFF story and point out that there “wasn’t much meat on the bone.” (A plug for Michael here: his piece is well thought out and has several very useful links. Highly recommended.)
IT Marketing folks, take heed – these are common errors, and they can be avoided. HP and Microsoft can draw a crowd by clearing their throats, and though they didn’t do much more than that here, the analysts and press will show up next time because it might matter. If you’re not an industry giant, it won’t be that easy for you if you leave this much out.
2 thoughts on “IT Marketers: Oversold Announcements Weaken Your Story”
Nice work, Merv. One thing I would add (in reference to Michael Cote’s piece) – the degree to which channels like Twitter have essentially eliminated opportunities for repairing or making-over flawed announcements. The days of call backs and late corrections may be entirely over, which emphasizes the importance of the guidance you provide here.