Talking IBM i With Power Systems Marketing Chief
November 4, 2013 Dan Burger
Seldom is heard an encouraging word about IBM Power Systems marketing. That’s the cold hard facts when you talk with the IBM i community. It’s an old complaint, much like the name change that remains a burr under the saddle of some folks. I’d like to see some i-specific marketing done to grow the market as much as any of the world-class complainers in the IBM i community, but this is quite obviously and assuredly not a IBM priority.
At the recent Enterprise2013 conference, I had a meeting with IBM’s vice president of worldwide marketing, Lisa Johnston, who reports directly to Power Systems general manager Doug Balog. She’s familiar with the AIX side of Power Systems from her 1999 to 2001 experience working for Rod Atkins and Adalio Sanchez, who each had a turn as general managers for the pSeries line during that time frame. Marketing has metastasized in the 15 years she’s been away from servers and systems. Johnston explained the heavy emphasis on digital marketing that has supplanted the traditional marketing that we once knew.
“We now focus on what we call category marketing,” she says. “What that means is cloud, mobile, big data and analytics, and social. Those are areas that clients are trying to solve. They are wondering: ‘What should I be doing in the cloud space? Should I be building a private cloud, leveraging cloud capabilities such as provisioning and metering? Should I just use a public cloud?'”
Marketing is aimed at trying to help clients solve questions that involve the new technologies that are changing the way businesses operate and are fundamental to business processes. You’ve heard this before: There’s no IBM i solution or AIX solution. In the wider view of helping organizations solve business problems, the platform-specific approach confuses the marketplace, Johnston says. “Once we begin to help with those categories, we drill down into the technology solutions, the services, and the systems. I participate in the bigger IBM messaging from the Power brand that is fed into those categories, and when I spend my additional marketing dollars it is virtually all on digital.”
Johnston describes the marketing efforts as starting with messages such as the attributes of the Power platform that are important to the market. Then the messages get more specifically defined by role. What a line of business leaders care about. What a CTO, an IT manager, and the developers care about.
Information gathering from the customers plays a big part in marketing. Feedback from the Large User Group (LUG) carries a lot of weight. Products, features, and functionality that are important to those customers are credited with influencing the Power Systems product roadmap, but it also influences what gets marketed. Marketing influences are also created by the other advisory groups such as COMMON, the value added resellers and the independent software vendors, Johnston says. Advisory group interest in particular products has an effect on what products or attributes get marketed.
The emphasis on digital marketing can be best seen in the number of IBMers who have become bloggers. Blogs from high-level IBM i executives abound. Most of them can be found in Big Blue’s self-published IBM Systems Magazine, which has largely transformed from a print publication to a website. Longtime IT Jungle readers may recall that our staff came from the print publishing company called Midrange Computing, which folded up its tent in 2001. We have been digital since our inception that same year, so we definitely get the idea that digital is the preferred choice for communication. We’ve been blogging longer than the word blog has existed. By the way, thanks, IBM i community, for your continued interest in what we report.
Johnston has resources on her marketing team–people power–that contribute to the goal of involving more of the IBM workforce in social media. There are also people allocated to manage the relationships with the user groups.
“Digital marketing teams are looking for ways to have a deeper conversation with clients,” she says. “These groups pre-define who we want to talk with. We have to decide how to make those conversations higher value and how to engage with them outside of traditional marketing. We have resources and we are directing those resources toward influencers: end-user clients, journalists, analysts, and bloggers.”