Offense vs. Defense (a follow-up to my life lesson post from yesterday)

April 29 2009

So I woke up this morning with a slew of blog comments, emails, and instant messages to read. The content varies but it seems what I wrote caused people to react - some negative, some positive. I know Ed blogged in response to what I wrote - and I will get to that in a moment.

First, thanks for the feedback. 99% of it has been constructive, even if you did not agree with what I wrote. I LOVE when people disagree with me, even passionately. But you have to, in the worlds of Rob McDonagh, "be constructive and polite". I am not always right and like to learn from my actions. So thanks again.

Second, I want to publically separate my comments from yesterday when it comes to the technical aspect vs the marketing, sales, and competitive side of Lotus Notes & Domino teams. Brent Peters commented yesterday about the technical state of the Notes & Domino product line - and I agree 1000000% with Brent. I think the state of the core Notes & Domino products are in the best shape in many years. The folks working on them are deeply invested in making them the best products they can with the resources they have. I will also have a few issues and pet features I want to be in the product, but overall, Brent and his team have done an incredible amount of work since we first saw 8.0.0 live at Lotusphere a few years ago. Brent will be the first to tell you there is more work to be done - but from what I saw at the SDR and learned in discussions with Brent and his team, the products will only get better. Their vision is right on technically. I think people will be blown away what they hear at Lotusphere 2010.

My issues are with the marketing and on-line effort around the products. The only way to communicate that was to go after the only voice from Lotus that is no technical - Ed. I know Ed works his ass off - doing far more behind the scenes than we will ever know about. The issue is that Ed is the only voice. And he is no longer the World Wide Sales Leader for the product line. He is in a product role - which is something we desperately needed.

Lotus has made an effort of getting technical and pure product info out into the on-line marketing place. We see a bunch of product blogs (many hosted by PSC) that focus on what is going on with each product. We have the Notes Design Blog, which is used by Mary Beth Raven and her team to engage the Lotus audience to help drive better products. I can argue that info isn't getting all the way to the business and managers who need it, but that is part of the core problem. We have very little communication from the sales, marketing, and competitive teams at Lotus. We know they are working on the Smarter Planet initiative - but what about between those ads? Why does Ed have to post every piece of good news about a competitive win? Where is the responses from Lotus about attacks on their products - not just from Microsoft, but from Google and the rest of the folks going after the collaboration space.

This is not about complaining about the lack of TV ads. I know there is a difference between advertising and marketing. For this discussion, I am taking advertising off the table. Let's focus on the marketing aspect - and in 2009, marketing has to include a social media strategy and execution.

So to follow my own rule of offering constructive ideas vs. just bitching about something, I would like to see Lotus make being active in the on-line community a requirement for the folks in marketing, worldwide sales, regional sales, and competitive roles. Not everyone needs a blog, but where is the Lotus Competitive Blog? The Lotus Marketing Blog? The blog for the World Wide Sales Team? I will gladly host them here with the other IBM blogs. Just email me and it's done. Heck, do what others do and make it a group blog. Get 10 people who write for it and have them all write once every two weeks. That would get us daily content once a day without putting a burden on others.

We should also see these folks out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. Why are customers and business partners starting and maintaining the fan pages for Lotus products on Facebook?

I want Lotus to play offense. To use a sports analogy - I want them to be passing and scoring lots of points in the game. I want them to keep the other team thinking and off balance. Being reactionary and always on defense only works so well. Yes, the Giants beat the Patriots because they had a great defensive plan in the Super Bowl in 2008, but they still had to score points. Heck, the Chicago Bears decided to go out and get a franchise level quarterback - something unheard of from the team that redefined defense in American Football in the past 30 years. Lotus, get out there and play to win. Play fair, but don't play with the old patterns. Try new things. Be inventive - not just with your products, but with your sales and marketing strategies. Have your competitive team get out there and be active - if Microsoft is going to write a document EVERY year that attacks Notes, why not do the same? Why not answer them but with a taste of their own medicine.

I am not a marketing guru. I am not a sales authority. I fully admit where I am weak in my skill set. But for someone who started out as a hard core technical geek who is transitioning into a sales role, I know you can not do the same things if you want to be successful. You have to be flexible and willing to try new things. That is what I am asking Lotus to do. Approach marketing, the competitive field, and the world wide sales effort with as much effort and excitement and energy as your developers have done with Notes & Domino over the past three years.

I would like to thank Bob Picciano, Brent Peters, and Ed for engaging in this discussion publically. I would hope we can continue this dialog - and I promise to point out all the good stuff you do as well.

3 Responses to “Offense vs. Defense (a follow-up to my life lesson post from yesterday)”

  1. 1) Bram Withaar says:

    how true. We have a host of blogs on planetlotus. But how many on marketing/sales/competetive information?

  2. 2) Nathan T. Freeman says:

    "where is the Lotus Competitive Blog?"

    There was once such a thing, started with great fanfare at Lotusphere 2006. In fact, the very first sentence ever written on it was this: "On Lotusphere 2006 business development day, we committed to respond to Microsoft FUD within 24 hours ."

    Here's the blog: { Link }

    It looks active today. The problem is, it's not really. If you open it through a slightly different URL, you get:

    And what you can see is that there a HUGE gaps in posting starting in March 2007. There's a 4 month gap there until July 2007, followed by a 5 month gap 'til Jan 2008, followed by an 11 month gap to Feb 2009. Only recently have new entries appeared, and they are almost never about competitive positioning.

    So here's the thing: it used to be someone's JOB to respond to competitive FUD. Everyone cheered when this was announced in 2006. Did something change about the competitive landscape in the last 3 years that made strong competitive positioning unnecessary? Do we say "ah, we grew every quarter since Jan 2006, so obviously we don't need resources on competitive positioning?"

    I might be able to agree that competitive positioning isn't as important if there was greater general awareness, but to fail to respond competitively AND not generate demand among constituency spells disaster. Why would an IT manager ever want to go out and discover information about IBM's products? His users hear about Microsoft and Apple, and if they want to switch from MSFT products, it's *too* Apple's products. He's got Microsoft in his face delivering the message that IBM is irrelevant. Why should he have to go sell himself on IBM?

  3. 3) Keith Brooks says:

    Nathan beat me to it, Anthony was supposed to be doing it but he does it from the inside mostly. Perhaps due to legal issues.

    there are sales, marketing people, not managers necessarily, on twitter, facebook and other places posting and replying and being proactive.

    But it is far from ideal.

    I don't think it should be all of their jobs to post these items.

    The tech advocates, or whatever they are called nowadays inside, should however be doing so publicly. It's their job usually.

    My requests fell on deaf ears, as did submissions to the teams and their managers but maybe some of these discussions will bring some more of them out.

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