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I have spent the last 12 months working with some of the smartest and best funded marketing people on the planet, I have been working with the the really big, household name, IT Infrastructure vendors. I learned lots, lots about marketing, lots about honest analysis and lots about human nature. I learned that marketing isn’t that tough to do but it can be terribly hard to do it well and be constantly effective.

Boiled down to it’s basics marketing is about understanding a business problem really well whilst at the exact same time being paranoid that you are completely wrong about that business problem in every respect.  After you get the paranoia right, everything else is just process. Sure there is a ton of creative stuff that needs to get done to do it well but if you have smart people and a pile of cash that is never a problem.

So step one in our marketing 101 lesson is understanding the problem. Marketing people sometimes call this Getting to the Insight and you have to get it right. Get it wrong and everything else you do is likely to be completely useless and may even be counter productive.

Once you get the Insight you need to work out who has the problem. Is it SMEs, Enterprises, Startups, the Medical Profession? Marketing people call that the Segment and the process is called segmentation.

Now we have the Insight and the Segment we need to work out a set of solutions that solve the problem for each sector. Notice I said solutions, not solution. We need solutions because each segment may need a different solution to the same problem.

We are almost there. Now we need a set of Messages that explain and position the Solutions to the Segments we identified earlier.

Insight -> Segment -> Solutions -> Messages

So this is what I have been doing at ESG, helping marketing departments understand the problem, that is get to the Insight that matters that will make the vendor successful. I have also been trying my hardest to disprove insights, often with help from research and polls. Generally as long a you can’t disprove an insight it’s OK. Strangely enough it is usually almost impossible to prove insights, because no one ever has complete market visibility.

These insights need to be backed up with research and customer validation, we need to be paranoid. Insights are nebulous and time bound. What might have been an amazing insight at one time won’t be that way always – once the problem is solved for the relevant segments the insight goes away. Challenging the insights that vendors rely on to make major product investments is important and it needs to be verified constantly. IT insights can decay or morph very quickly, much more quickly than fast moving consumer goods but not quite as quickly as fashion and apparel items.

Understanding what customers think today about IT products and services is crucial but even more important is being right about how they will be thinking next quarter, next year, next decade. If we understand how insights change over time we can adjust our segmentation, alter our solutions and correct our messages. If we fail to foresee the changes we fail to correct our messages, we get a misalignment between customer brand perception and marketing department messaging.

The IT business moves so fast that is often a fatal mistake.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steve O'Donnell, Phil. Phil said: RT @stephenodonnell: [Blog] : Your brand is not what YOU say it is, it’s what YOUR CUSTOMERS say it is. #thehotaisle […]

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