Posts Tagged 'Marketing'

December 13, 2010

Kevin Smith Gets It

I am a Kevin Smith fan. I admire him on a number of levels – his movies entertain, his podcasts with Scott Mosier (Smodcasts) are a funny, albeit twisted, trip into the unknown and his on stage performances / monologues / Q&A sessions never fail to please. Kevin is also a prodigious Twitterer (11,994 tweets and 1,716,849 followers).

My appreciation for Kevin and Scott Mosier has clambered up a notch following this article on Techdirt. Read the article and watch the embedded video and I think you will soon see what I mean. Smith and Mosier, for lack of a better phrase, ‘get it’ or perhaps they backed into things and ‘got it’ once it had happened. They understand the notion of building an audience; they understand the idea that it is tough to build something and monetize it immediately. In a world driven (supposedly) by instant gratification, they have introduced the word patience.

While it seems antithetical, there is a certain truth to this – there are very few businesses that went viral and surged to terrific profitability as soon as they started to Tweet or became active on Facebook. For 99.99% of businesses, audience takes time to build, which means that success takes time to come. And oftentimes, it does not come at all despite best efforts.

Twitter, Facebook, and podcasts are all part of a toolbox that, if used properly, can build something much more valuable than the stand-alone channel. As Techdirt author, Mike Masnick, points out; Smith has been able to build something that he can monetize by giving away some goods free. He has taken the time to build his audience and now he is reaping the rewards by monetizing other, ancillary efforts.

I am not implying that all business is equal – there are few comparisons to Kevin Smith that make sense for most business beyond the fact that everyone is producing something and trying to sell it. But I think the lessons are the same across most businesses – audience is not instant. In fact, I am not sure that it ever was (that said, I suppose beer was probably close to an instant success when the Egyptians invented it and stated to hieroglyph about it. It was probably the rage of Alexandria in short order). Simply beginning to Tweet and expecting instant success is a fool’s game. However, starting the game with the notion that Twitter, Facebook and whatever is next are useful tools to build toward success, forces a deal more patience and an almost deliberate approach. Here we can find success. Not overnight success for most, but success nonetheless.

As the saying goes recognizing the problem / challenge is half the battle. All we need to do now is figure out what to do next. I am working on it.

-@quigleymar

November 18, 2010

Tweet Tweet ... Tweet?

If I've timed this submission right, I'll be the first person with a byline on the SoftLayer blog from the new SoftLayer office in downtown Houston. I'm part of an esteemed group of new employees who had The Planet business cards until last week, and I'm excited about the opportunity to subject a new group of readers to my abundant arsenal of esoteric references and feeble attempts at humor. I've joined SoftLayer's marketing team, and I'll be focused on our social media outreach.

Don't worry, this post isn't going to feature any of those "I like long walks on the beach, red wine and dinner by candlelight" introductory tidbits you usually get when you meet a new person on a blog. We're diving right into the good stuff. Today's topic: SoftLayer on Twitter.

If you've been around for a while, you already know a lot about SoftLayer's official Twitter accounts, but because a new crowd of customers might be checking out the InnerLayer for the first time, let's step back and look at each account. By sharing our purpose for each of our accounts, you know what to expect when you click the "follow" button.

@SoftLayer: http://twitter.com/softlayer
This is the big kahuna. The @SoftLayer account is your primary company contact on Twitter. If you have a question, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want information about a ticket, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want a haircut ... you should probably go to a barber. Because @SoftLayer account has the widest reach, you'll learn more about the company and our offerings here, and when you need a response from SoftLayer, this is one of the first places you should look.

@SoftLayer_News: http://twitter.com/softlayer_news
Now that the merger is complete, we have more than 76,000 deployed servers in 10 data centers with more than 1,500 Gbps of network connectivity. Wherever we go, we'll be making waves, and the @SoftLayer_News account will try to keep up with all of our coverage. When we post a press release or announce a product, followers of @SoftLayer_News will hear it first.

@SoftLayer_Sales: http://twitter.com/softlayer_sales
@SoftLayer_Sales is where we teach the art of bonsai tree trimming. Actually, that's a lie ... Unless you can think of a server sales-related question involving bonsai tree trimming, you won't read anything on that topic. It's actually your one-stop shop for SoftLayer server specials and your Twitter contact for anything and everything sales-related.

@SLChat: http://twitter.com/slchat
A new addition to the SoftLayer Twitter team, the @SLChat account is designed to help us communicate directly with users. With more than 24,000 customers, we might have several simultaneous conversations going at a given time. Previously, if you reached out to us on Twitter, we'd reply to messages from one of the accounts above, but as our user base grows and our Twitter follower count increases, we don't want to spam those primary channels with updates that may only be relevant to one customer. By adding @SLChat, we're improving the signal-to-noise ratio on all of our other accounts.

SoftLayer is built around a social media culture. If you know where to look, you'll see our executive management team checking in at the office and retweeting great press coverage we've gotten. Those updates can be fun and interesting in their own right, but they point to an even more important truth: As a company, we want to be engaged with our community so we can learn from it. If you've got something to say, we want to hear it. Post a comment, send a DM, tweet an @ reply, leave a wall post, send a carrier pigeon ... We're listening.

-@khazard

March 22, 2010

Oatmeal is Good for YOU!

Have you seen the commercials for Quaker Oats oatmeal? In recent years they have changed their traditional marketing message to appeal to a specific customer profile. The ads new message is that by eating oatmeal every day for breakfast for 30 days, you will lower your blood cholesterol levels. Pretty slick! Eat our oatmeal and you drop your cholesterol and participate in a healthy lifestyle. Net result, you are healthier, live longer, better quality of life, Yada, Yada, Yada….All this from the simple, inexpensive miracle food… oatmeal. Hey, no need for that expensive prescription medication to control your HDL or LDL, just eat a bowl of oatmeal every day!!

Now, you’re probably asking, what the heck is the point to this blog? Well, glad you asked! I want to share a story with you. This past weekend, I went on a hunting excursion to Central Texas to hunt wild hogs. There are a number of interesting tales to share about the actual hunting, and I’ll post those at a later date! This story takes place in a small town I passed thru (or tried to anyway) on the way to the hunting lease. Flying down Hwy 29, we were passing thru a small, one stop light town named Bertram. Big signs all over town advertise the fact (Proudly) that Bertram is the Oatmeal Capital of Texas. They even have an Oatmeal Festival! My buddy was in a truck ahead of me, and made it thru the light, but I was caught and had to stop. My buddy really wanted to get to the lease and kept truckin’, leaving me to apply a heavy foot to the accelerator (thank God I don’t have a Toyota) to catch up. Next thing you know Jed’s a millionaire, and I have the bubble gum lights going off behind me on the local law enforcement vehicle (their one and only). For those of you not familiar with small town Texas law enforcement, Big Brother Bubba looooves to pull over city slickers from the big city. We represent a steady, easy revenue stream for the local coffers. To contest any citation, you are required to show up in person, usually in the middle of the week, usually late in the day or in the evening. Hence, most people will just pay the fine and go on down the road. I digress, back to my story! Well, Officer Bubba, looking just like Sheriff Buford T Justice from Smoky and the Bandit fame (short stature, big belly hanging over his gun belt, cowboy boots and straw hat) ambles up to the window and goes thru the standard drill. I think he was disappointed because I had pulled over immediately and had license and registration waiting for him! I quickly realized from his demeanor I had zero chance to talk my way out of the ticket, but gave it the old college try of “hey, I’m following my buddy, he made the light and blew ahead, and I’m just trying to catch up so I don’t get lost” explanation, but no good… Oh well! So, after a short wait, Officer Bubba ambles back up to the window and hands me my ticket with a big ol’ friendly country smile, that featured three missing top teeth, one barely hanging on by a slim part of the root, discolored by years of copious Redman, Skoal and or unfiltered cigarette use. Ugh!! But good news for Quaker Oats, I’m sending them an idea for a new ad… you got it... Officer Bubba in the Oatmeal Capital of Texas extolling the virtues of daily consumption of oatmeal to help “preserve” those few precious teeth that small town law enforcement officers are so fond of!!! Whadaya think?

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February 3, 2010

Custom Server Solutions

The other day I was at a well known coffee shop (take a wild guess) and was steamrolled by all of the marketing hype. Try this! Take one of these home! Only for a limited time! Often the presentation of too many options makes the decision a lot more difficult. I know it’s just coffee or tea but now I have the sudden urge to collect them all! And despite years of caffeine conditioning I don’t think my heart, stomach, or my bank account could take a collecting and consuming of all. I’m looking for something different this time, but again, too many options. The next logical step is asking the Barista what their favorite is. I figure they spend their entire workday around the stuff; they MUST have a good recommendation. All I was really looking for here was a “get this” and call it good. Only after I asked, did I remember that most people who frequent this caliber of coffee joint are really particular about their coffee. I, however, am not one of the ¼ soy milk, ¼ cream, no froth, low-fat, exactly 1723 crystals of sugar type of people, so I’m not really prepared for what comes next. Instead of a one-size-fits-all answer, I’m getting a barrage of questions about my preferences. While this was not really what I was after, it hit me that this Barista is building me a solution. I did, in fact, leave with a tasty seasonal coffee, custom tailored to my needs. Servers are a lot like coffee, they rely on gratuitous amounts of caffeine to be any good; that and, there is usually never a generic solution that is going to suit your needs. The sales team at SoftLayer is not there solely to assist you in placing an order for you; they are there to ask you questions about your intentions with the server so they can recommend the best possible solution. You can have your low-fat CentOS with a double-shot of 5570’s with “venti” gigs of ram. Just ask our sales team to brew you up a solution.

October 30, 2009

Powered By the Internet

I recently engaged in an interesting conversation with my significant other. It went something like this:

Her: "The company made us take our facebook page down, because it wasn't official"
Me: "Really? I figured that'd be an awesome way to market your company... Create a group, invite all of your customers to join you, and advertise via facebook"
Her: ...

While the actual conversation did last a lot longer, she later made a valid point. Being well versed in the web hosting industry (as she has to deal with my barrage of nerdery on a daily basis), she mentioned that it made complete sense that a company such as SoftLayer should use the Internet, and social networking to connect the employees, customers, and fans together, pushing that envelope just a little bit further. Our whole operation, after all, is in fact powered by the internet.

We have all avenues open for social networking to help us power our business. You can look at what's going on in SoftLayer at any given moment via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The InnerLayer... the list goes on, and surely continues to grow. It's only a matter of time until the next best thing comes around (does anyone remember MySpace, or Friendster?), I'll bet a paycheck* that we'll be quick** to jump on board.

After all, when all is said and done, there's no wrong way to market yourself. People do it all the time in their social networking profiles. They may present themselves as a party animal, a scholar, or a hard worker, but regardless, they're putting their image out for the world to see... and while it seems like a large paradigm shift for businesses, when one stops to think about it, it makes perfect sense; it's a free outlet to market yourself!

So while some companies are stuck in low gear, SoftLayer has hit the throttle, and speeding ahead, continuously braving ahead into new and interesting ideas. We'll continue to push the limits of what's acceptable to most, and use every tool to get our name on the streets.

* Comment made in jest. I will NOT bet an entire paycheck.
** I make no guarantees as to exactly how "quick" quick will be

March 13, 2008

Marketing 101: Defining the Customer

As I have started to settle into my new role with SoftLayer, we have spent a lot of time meeting with various vendors and partners to discuss our overall vision and plan for 2008. In almost every one of those meetings we get to the same question: "What does a typical SoftLayer customer look like?" Or, the other version of that: "What is SoftLayer’s target customer?"

You would think this should be an easy question to answer. After all, we have over 4,500 loyal customers that rely on us each and every day to deliver on-demand, world class IT infrastructure. Surely, there must be some common thread among these customers. Being responsible for "Strategy & Marketing" I decided to look into this to come up with a standard reply to that question. The standard ways to do this from a marketing text book (i.e. "in theory") perspective include:

  • Industry – financial, manufacturing, retail, distribution, etc.
  • Geography – typically regions within a country, or countries themselves
  • Customer Size – normally based on revenue or employees
  • "Retail" or "Wholesale" – are we selling to the final consumer of our products or to a reseller

The next step -- look at our customer database and start to build up a profile based on those criteria. A relatively simple process, but the problem we found was that the four metrics above did not adequately define any of our customers. Some examples:

  • Industry -- we serve all possible combinations of traditional and new industry classifications; from large manufacturing, to Web 2.0 start ups and no single segment is more than 5% of our business
  • Geography – we have customers in over 100 countries. Even in the US our customers come from every corner and every state in the country
  • Customer Size – 1 employee to 50,000+ employees and everything in between; $0 in revenue to $10 billion and more
  • Retail and Wholesale – almost an even split between the two groups

Being inquisitive by nature, I could not let this end with an answer like: "we have a very diverse set of customers that represent all industries, all geographies, and all customer size categories." It did lead me down a path to start asking customers some questions like:

  • Is IT infrastructure a critical component of your business?
  • Do you need highly scalable IT to adjust for seasonality or growth in your business?
  • Do you want a simple and flexible management tool to allow complete control of your data center infrastructure?
  • Are enterprise grade solutions of value to your business, but something you cannot afford?
  • Are you looking for innovative solutions to help drive your business forward?
  • Do you value standards based processes and controls?

To steal a quote from a very, very distant relative... Eureka! While this might not be as significant a discovery as the wheel, fire, or the Archimedes' screw, it did finally bring some clarity to our little customer debate. The vast majority of our customers answered "yes" to many or all of those questions. It also led me to understand what our customers do not want from us:

  • Specialized application support
  • Highly custom solutions that scale poorly
  • Up-front fees and long term contract commitments

The net result is that our customers are segmented very differently than traditional methods would suggest. They are clustered around a common need that spans across all demographics. The customers that come to us are looking for a very special thing – the SoftLayer approach to IT management. If you belong to a company that can resonate with the questions above, you have come to the right place.

-@gkdog

October 17, 2007

ISPCON Update: Blogging/Social Marketing Impact

ISPCON Update: Blogging/Social Marketing Impact – Do ya Digg?

With ISPCON starting today I thought it would be interesting to hear what companies and individuals in the ISP space are talking about when it comes to social medias, blogging and any other real user experience methods that are taken to attain and retain a customer base in the ISP world. After all, Softlayer is a cousin (be it distant cousin) of the ISP world and most of our executive management team has all lived the ISP experience at one time in our careers.

The session "using social networking and Web 2.0 to market your business" started off with an extremely interesting video that can be seen here:


Since it was voted one of the more famous YouTube videos, I might be one of the only ones that had not seen it yet, but nevertheless it is a cool look at Web 2.0 (and much more).

There are a few key themes that were driven home during the discussion.

Web 2.0 in its simplest form is user-generated and manipulated content. In technical terms its AJAX, Feeds and Simplicity. The Myspace, Facebook and Youtube phenomenon are drivers of this and we are seeing a huge influx of follow-on companies that are utilizing the common theme of user-generated content to monetize applications throughout the internet. An example of this would be the Facebook open API being used to build gadgets. One gadget cited is a whiteboard application allowing multiple users to collaborate in Facebook and through ad-generated monetization, an obscene number of nearly $100,000USD per month was being attributed to the creator.

Blogging is the real Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Living in the world of Buzz words, it's hard to read any tech publications these days without stumbling across SEO. What is it? Well, no one really knows, but it's some magic that companies are buying into which get them to the front of the search line, so to speak. The concept that blogging is the real SEO is because blogging is very close and very niche to the topics that are being blogged about. If I am a used car dealership in Dallas and I blog about my weekend sale in Dallas, it would make sense that when someone searches for used cars in Dallas, that you cannot get more directly connected. It all makes sense, now it's just how the information is dispersed which leads me to the last point that was driven home.

Tagging is critical to all socialization, blogging, and web 2.0 applications that you may be trying to publish for mass consumption. Since the eyeballs are critical it is key that the use of tagging and linking are used to increase the reach of your user generated-content. For example, the use of Digg, Reddit, and Del.icio.us are key drivers of eyeballs to your content. Tag it all, Tag it often and the eyeballs will follow.

So, when I publish this blog I am sure to Tag it with; Softlayer, Webhosting, Web 2.0, etc. Let's see if my social experiment will pay off and someone out there will Digg this!

-Sean

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