I get disturbed whenever a reseller, or even an end user asks for a competitive statement about storage Brand X or storage Brand Y. Given my background of everything storage, many a times, they want me to “dish the dirty stuff” of the storage brands I am competing with. And I often resist. Here is my philosophy and my approach.
Many storage consultants love to say bad things about others. It is one of the ways to get a bright glow about the product(s) they are pitching, and dim the prospects of their competitors. I don’t like to do things this way because what I say reflect on my professional ethos. In the closely connected storage networking and technology industry, we have folks that make career moves from one company to their competitors. Heck, I have a friend who recently joined Hitachi Vantara® after almost 20 years at EMC® (now Dell EMC®). We make career choices but it does not mean we should take the moral low ground to bash which storage competitor we are facing at that moment.
Where do I start?
The motivation to write this blog came from an article from CRN where NetApp®’s CEO, George Kurian, “corrected” Pure Storage®’s CEO Charles Giancarlo about his “inaccurate” statements about “true cloud storage”. Whatever Charlie said may be innocuous, but it has certainly stung Georgie.
And in any technology-based industry, this technology bashing habit is rampant. Like it or not, marketing has played a role in creating the perception and the aura of strength with the technology it represents. Over the years, I have my fair share of beliefs cultivated through marketing, although as I wizened over the last 2 decades, I spend a lot of time diving deep into the specific storage technology. If time and resources permit, I even do technical hands-on, just to understand the technology more intimately. And that became the basis of running this StorageGaga blog in the past 12 years. To go beyond the FUDs and the fluffs, and share meaningful details and knowledge. Through my sharing, I learn from others as well.
Is Marketing at fault?
In this case, is marketing at fault? Has marketing created a toxic environment for competitive bashing to happen?
I have a minor in International Marketing. I have never applied it professionally and decided to use my Computer Science major for the last 30 years. One thing I never forget is Marketing builds Trust to products, and the company behind the products. The brand of the products and the company have many tangible and intangible features, and how they are perceived go through a complex set of logical (and illogical) ideas and ideologies, a range of emotions over time, and much, much more.
And there are 2 roads marketing can take. The moral high ground or the moral low ground. The easy and the lazy low ground is bash the competitor. That move may work in the early days, but today, many customers are smart, sophisticated, and have done enough research to filter the signal from the noise. Thus, marketing is to strengthen the affiliations to the products, and to the company that represent them. Marketing is to build that confidence to use the technology of the product without high concerns and risks.
Can we fault marketing then? In the end, we look at the DNA and the culture of the company. Who are they? What values they represent? What are they willing to do or refrain from doing to build up their brand? It is not marketing’s fault. It is the intent of the marketing of the company that dictates present and future action of marketing.
Focus on the objectives, not the competitor
When we are asked to provide battle cards, feature comparisons, often storage consultants and pre-sales are put into a reactive mode. There is a feeling needing to dispel the competitors said about your storage features. There is a feeling of being pinned to the ropes, with the need to break free vital to explain the “inaccuracies” voiced by the competitors.
The other way to turn this around is NOT to feel obligated and compelled to explain. Reframe and refocus such conversions to highlight the need to solve problems. The customer’s problems and the customer’s challenges in their present environment, and how your solution can, not only solves their challenge, but also bridge into their future plans as well. Provide the path to lengthened their runway, and turn your features into smart conversations. This tactic will flip the table of competitive talks, strengthen your credibility, and turn the negative thoughts of the customer into your advantageous territory.
The power of Leverage
Another thing I would often use is Leverage. Use others, especially the ones that have already earned trust in the storage technology industry. Gartner® is the best example. I know of many customers and companies who always insist that the storage company must be in the Gartner® Magic Quadrant before they would even consider having a conversation.
My analyst friends at GigaOm® are also making waves too. Given the pedigree of Enrico Signoretti, Massimiliano Mortillaro and Arjan Timmerman and their strong backgrounds in storage technology, GigaOM® is steadily building a strong and trusted analyst firm on par with Gartner® in the storage infrastructure and information industry. Leverage them for their independent and unvarnished views for your business.
The use of “independent” analysts, bloggers is another leverage. I have been someone who has written many articles of storage companies in the past, especially with the Storage Field Day excursions. I am grateful for that, but underneath the glamour, there are roles and responsibilities to report and present the right thing. I have reported about poor and blasphemous writing of technical writers who have little or no affinity to the storage technology and data industry, and they irked me.
But I cannot understate the power of Leverage. It works.
I am not saying to I would never bash my competitors. I do, on rare occasions but only after several “mental obstacles” I have put in place to prevent me from jumping into bashing my competitor. And even then, I usually fall on my Computer Science background to relate my reasoning to the reseller or the end user. Usually, it is something deeply technical to make me sound logical and credible. And I know my stuff in things like file systems, clustered technology and all storage related features.
Yea, I will admit that I have done it. Bashing my competitors, but not right off the gates and not directly. I love to win, but I want to win with dignity and honour as well. This is my creed. This is my philosophy.