Monthly Archives: May 2014

It’s Complicated

“So is this for BDRs who can’t reach registrants who didn’t attend?  Or for SRs who can’t reach attendees who did attend?”

It’s complicated.

I’ve never worked at a startup before, but I think this is the beginning of a phase where we are scaling some things and noticing how that breaks other things.  It’s like when you are 12 and your legs grow but the rest of you hasn’t caught up yet.

I saw three examples of that in the past few days.

1. Our followup email templates

When I was hired, a Director of Demand Generation was also hired.  She’s taken our programs by storm!  One of her first achievements was to execute a successful webinar series starting this month.

The quote at the beginning of this post is from an email I wrote to our marketing team – I was providing text for a “standard” email, and I didn’t know if the text was for people who registered and didn’t attend, or who actually did attend.

This is going to be second nature in a few months.  In a few months, we’ll have a template, a system, an agreed-upon way of following up with customers after webcasts.  But for now we’re in “let’s have some great webcasts and experiment with what works best for people and process around followup.”

2. Our website

We’re in the middle of some updates for our website. We’re doing some short term triage with a plan for a more thorough overhaul later this summer.  I’ve only been on the periphery of the mechanics of the update (with the exception of the actual content) but from what I can tell, there’s a current platform, a staging area, and integration with Hubspot, our marketing automation platform.  When a new page needs to be set up, there’s a lot of different places it can go and people who may need to be involved to get it done.


This, too, will simplify itself.  We’ll have a single platform with automation and a clear idea of where landing pages go.  But for now, we’re still figuring that out.


3. Demo lab equipment

I gave my first demo this week on a webinar.  I also gave my second demo this week, that one for an analyst.  But when I went to get the IP and login to the system, Matt and I determined that the system wasn’t working.  And in fact, it took Matt a good day to get our double-nested ESX environment with workload generation back up and running.

It turns out that someone else thought they were using that equipment for a set of storage lab tests that we need to do.  And then someone else needed the same equipment for some application performance testing.  We’re big enough that there’s not one person who knows all the testing we’re doing any more.

So I was directed to our “longevity” installation – where we run our product for a long, long time as a casual part of our QA process.  Except that version of the software isn’t running the current version, it’s running a future version.

So for next week, I’ll be demoing on our support cluster.  Unless someone else needs that for something.  🙂

It’s complicated.

It wasn’t, now it is, then it won’t be again.  Then, I’m going to guess, eventually, it will be again.


What do I do all day

There’s a hashtag I’ve seen a few times that looks like this: #whatsysadminsdo or #whatdbasdo.  If you’re not fluent in twitter, it’s basically “what <<job title>> do”. (Like #whatlawyersdo or #whatdoctorsdo.)

I think that many of you who read this blog have no idea #whatdoessheryldo.

Some of you in my industry are familiar with technical marketing; also I have gotten some notes on Facebook from people who work in different industries and appreciate this blog. But for every one of those is someone who sees me socially and says “Your blog makes me feel dumb.  I have no idea what you are talking about.”

My sister, drDiva, doesn’t get it either.  When I was a sales engineer, she could understand that I was the technical person who worked with the salesperson to explain the technology during a sale.  (Quite a distillation of SE-ing, but useful for the Thanksgiving table.)  But as a product marketer, I befuddle her. I explain what I do, and she understands the “launch” function (that is, creating documents and noise when we have a new product), but wonders how there enough work to do to keep me employed after launch.

(For the record, I have no idea what drDiva does.  I mean, she’s an anaesthesiologist so I know she administers drugs to put people under, but other than that, no idea.)

Last week was a great week – the kind of week you hope is what your job always feels like.  So, here’s a crack at #whatProductMarketersDo or at least #whatDoesSherylDo

  1. Presented a webcast with one of our founders, sharing the results from a recent lab test of our product.  Our product showed significant performance benefits with typical enterprise environments.  70 people attended.
  2. Met with the sales team to introduce a new framework for how we talk about performance and results.  This involves setting expectations with a customer before they evaluate what the entire spectrum of performance results looks like and where they might fall.
  3. Took the performance/results framework and began to update our evaluation guide to reflect this new model.
  4. Met with our VP of Sales to present the newest version of our “pitch” deck and competitive sales resources.
  5. Wrote a draft of a paper that discusses our product’s architectural advantages.
  6. Wrote my blog post for this week.  (I blog here and on Infinite I/O.)
  7. Participated in a call with an analyst firm who is working on a paper about us. Provided the basic pitch and joined in discussion on structuring the paper.

Whew – what a week!  Good thing it ended in a 3-day weekend.  I love my job these days but that is a lot of brain power.  And now you know #whatdoessheryldo.

IT and the cosmos

Folks, this industry is BIG.

IT is a $3.8T (that’s T – for Trillion) industry.
Datacenter technologies and software are a $450B industry.
Storage is a $35B industry.

That’s big.  Ginormous.

It’s hard to remember sometimes.  I’ve been at Infinio for 2 ½ months and have tried to be really really focused on our part of the industry.  For starters, server-side cache, SSDs, software-defined storage, flash arrays, hybrid arrays, and vSAN.  Then also virtualization, including VDI.  Not to mention performance testing tools and benchmarks.

Sounds like a lot, right?

But it’s kind of like the first episode of Cosmos.  (Have you been watching?  It’s awesome.)  Neil deGrasse Tyson does this thing where he explains the scale of the universe, and it blew my mind.  We’re on a single planet in a single solar system in a single galaxy, and there are bajillions of all of those things.

VISTA stares deep into the cosmos, courtesy of esoastronomy.Head explodes.

And our industry feels like that sometimes.  Earlier this week, Tim, a former colleague of mine, was in town and we had a chance to catch up.  A few years ago, we were selling Dell’s enterprise product line together, exposed to the same technologies: servers, storage, networking, and racks, power, and cooling.

A few years go by, and I’m in my corner of the industry, while Tim is selling Dell’s thin client technology to OEMs.  It was funny to orient each other to what we each did.  I felt a little tentative understanding exactly what he was doing.  Seemingly there was no overlap in our work.  And yet, I’d say we’re in the same industry – IT – and maybe even the same part of the industry – infrastructure.

The same thing happened at Citrix Synergy a few weeks back.  I figured I was going to a tradeshow in my own industry and that I’d generally understand the themes and announcements and be able to talk to the customers. I attended the keynote and I felt like it was a different language being spoken.  (Hello, Google!)

At the booth I was amazed at how much the customers cared about their users’ experiences with virtual desktops, and how little they knew about their infrastructure.  It’s not that the attendees were ignorant or lazy – on the contrary, I just learned there was a massive part of the industry with far more complexity and expertise than I knew existed.

The industry is big.  There’s a lot of opportunity, a lot of innovation, and a lot to learn.

Are we marketing a product or a solution?

Rubik's Cube Solution by Patricio Cuscito

One solution to a Rubik’s Cube

At work, we’re overhauling our website, and in a meeting someone asked, “do we call ourselves a product or a solution”?

“Solution – of course!”  part of me answered.  Solutions signify value!

“Really?” said the other part.  I’m not so sure we have a solution.  We have a product.  And it can solve problems.

When I was at Dell, I worked in a team called “Solutions Marketing.”  It’s kind of funny because at Dell there were dozens of teams with that moniker.

  • Some marketed solutions that were Dell products coupled with other vendors’ products.
  • Some marketed solutions that were Dell products angled towards a specific use case.
  • Some marketed solutions that were Dell products angled towards a specific vertical market.
  • Some were doing the technical marketing work in a lab to support these efforts.

It was trendy to be in “Solutions Marketing.”

We talked about what it meant to offer a customer a “solution” versus a “product.”  How it more directly addressed their needs and aligned better with their their requirements.  “People don’t buy products,” we’d say, “people buy solutions.”

Fast forward, and here I am at Infinio.  We have one (awesome) product.  It gets deployed in one way, where it’s either on or off.  It solves (hard) problems.  Are we marketing a product or a solution?

Does it matter?

Let’s look at some examples from my consumer life.

1. Keurig coffee maker.  I’d say this is a solution.  I have a problem – I like coffee and I hate to wash coffee pot parts.  The Keurig solved this for me.

2. Soft corners to babyproof furniture.  This purports to be a solution, but really it’s just a product.  And it doesn’t work too well – given the overhangs and shelves on our furniture, they keep falling off when we open something.  (Thankfully, babyDiva is made of steel.)

3. Donuts.  Every Friday, Alan brings in donuts for the team.  They’re fantastic.  They light up our day.  And they are definitely just a product.

IT people are sharp.  If they have a problem, they’re going to look for a solution, and whether we call it a solution or call it a product, they’ll find it.  It’s not 1999.  People have access to so many more online resources to research technology.  What we call it is probably not too relevant.

Sure, a “product” has more of the reputation of being something the customer has to do more work to implement.  But again, it’s 2014.  IT people are going to read up on what it takes to make something work no matter what we call it.  (And really, are donuts that much work?)

I think we can help people find us by showing them how we can work in their industry (financials), in their environment (e.g., with NFS), with their application (e.g., virtual desktops).

But I don’t know if that means we call it a solution.

Leaning in – one year later

Empty boardroom (flickr reynormedia)On the second Friday of every month I have lunch with an amazing group of women.

We met a year ago right after Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In came out, when someone posted to a popular Boston mom’s email group to gather a group of women together to meet and discuss the book.  About 30 of us attended that, and our lunch group was born.

We have distilled into a group of 14, about 8 of whom make it to lunch each month.  Among us, we have women who work in engineering, medicine, real estate, law, marketing, consulting, startups, finance, and HR.  All of us are professionals, many with advanced degrees.  We all live in the greater Boston area.  And we are all moms.

It is one of the things I most look forward to each month.

At this point, one year in, we know a lot about each other.  Each person’s life is a continuing story that we get a monthly snapshot of – we remember month to month about people’s husbands, their bosses, and their aspirations.  In this year, a few of us have changed jobs.  A few have had a baby or gotten pregnant.  A few have dropped out.

Each month we have a topic or theme – sometimes a guest speaker or a book we all read.  But the best part of our lunches is the sharing and the problem-solving.  Commonly, we bring our work issues into lunch – she’s taking on more at work without a raise or promotion, she has a hapless boss who used to be a peer, the business she’s trying to get off the ground.

We share and critique and sympathize and celebrate.  We encourage.  We listen.  We occasionally mention Sheryl Sandberg, but increasingly less as time goes on.

I’ve heard some great stories this year from these women – the woman who flew across the country to get the meeting with the person who can give her the raise she deserves, the woman who found a perfect sabbatical opportunity right when she was at her wits’ end, the woman whose business partner moved to Scandinavia right on the cusp of their success.

We’re a Greek chorus of opinion, too.  “You have to ask for more” “No guy would take that on without more salary” “Sheryl Sandberg would NOT approve of that” “You have to stop going to those meetings.”  We encourage each other in ways we don’t encourage ourselves individually.  It’s success by peer pressure.

And sometimes we also talk about our kids.  Or our preschools, our nannies, our au pairs, our mothers, and our husbands.  And we share and encourage and celebrate those things also.  But the fact that we’re moms is more implicit in our discussion than explicit.  “I had to get my daughter so I didn’t get to confront that coworker until the next day” is the norm.

I’m not sure why this groups works so well or feels so good.  It’s a pretty random – albeit self-selecting – group of women.  We have no real guidelines, just self-leadership.

I’m grateful to be a part of it.

The post-mortem on this week’s travel

I’m sitting in LAX waiting for my flight and reflecting on the past few days.  It was my first business trip for Infinio, and my first tradeshow in many years.  Here are 5 things I learned:

1. Your co-workers are key to your happiness at work.  If you aren’t sure this is true, then spend 9 consecutive hours staffing a tradeshow booth with them.  I’m lucky.  Mine are pretty awesome.

2. The buying process has really changed in the past 10 years.  We talk about how our marketing has to change because customers are more educated and do more of their research before contacting vendors, but I didn’t realize that would make tradeshows different.  But they are.  Customers were much less likely to walk up to our booth and say, “hi, what do you do?”  They were more likely to either (a) read our booth signage to see if we were relevant to them, or (b) already know about us and whether they were interested, or (c) avoid us like you do the cellphone kiosks in the mall.

3. Citrix has a very well-developed and well-honed partner program.  I was consistently impressed with the channel partners I met at the show.  They were very knowledgable about Citrix and all the ecosystem products, and they were notably enthusiastic about learning more about a technology that could help their customers.  They were a really impressive group of people who asked great questions.

4. I need to look into a standing desk.  My colleagues at the show were much more comfortable standing for long periods of time than I was.  We hypothesized that it was because of their use of standing desks.

5. The weather in Anaheim in May is lovely.  I forgot how nice it is to eat outside.

Leaving on a jet plane

Two months in, and it’s time for my first business trip for Infinio.

Yesterday was a typical pre-business-trip day: running to Kinko’s, finishing emails, and squeezing cosmetics into 3 oz bottles.  Several calls to mrDiva as we figured out details for the week.  It reminded me of so many other trips I’ve taken and places I’ve been.

Except this time I’m traveling for Infinio.  Is this how baseball players feel?  They get traded from one team to another and then they are doing what they used to do but wearing a new uniform?  Except the big difference is that I chose Infinio because I respected the team and believed in the technology.  Not sure that is what’s happening at the trade deadline.

I am fortunate, because I’ve always been proud of working for my employer.  I loved traveling for Dell – I’d hope people would ask me who I was and why I was traveling so I could say I worked for Dell.  (Or I was in the Austin airport, where everyone worked for Dell.)

But it’s been a long time since I did a tradeshow.  My travel for Dell was either to individual customers, to present to small audiences as part of a roadshow, or part of Dell Storage Forum.

And tradeshows are different.  Customers are seeing all the major players in a part of the industry at once, so having a differentiated message is incredibly important.  It’s not just about the technology, by “why YOUR technology.”  It’s also the epitome of the elevator pitch – you have just a minute or two to get someone’s attention before they hurry off to the next booth.

It’s exhausting. 

But it’s also an amazing opportunity to talk to a large number of customers in a small amount of time.  It’s like a customer boot camp for marketers.  In marketing, we do this thing called “message testing” where we get a panel of customers to read or listen to our language around a product or feature, and we can see if it’s working.  We also do “A/B testing” where we show different groups of customers different versions of the same thing – say a website – and see which one is more resonant.

A tradeshow can be the biggest, fastest set of message testing and realtime A/B testing ever.

Of course, my top priority is to educate customers about Infinio.   After all, they are taking time out of their typical responsibilities to learn and we are a new brand in a new segment of the market.  In some ways, we’re exactly who a lot of customers are here to see.

Secondarily, I’m really interested in seeing how customers react to our message, whether the things we think are differentiated are really differentiated, whether the language we’re using is working.  Finally, lucky me, we’re at the stage of the company where executives are still booth staff.  So I’m also really interested in listening to how they talk about the product and the company.

I’ll write a post-mortem at the end of the week.




Life moves pretty fast…

When I started in the industry, it was in data protection.  Except back then, we called it “backup.”  I quickly learned that my ability to hold a conversation in the domain was predicated on my understanding some fundamental technological concepts.

For example, I had to understand multiplexing, shoe-shining, grandfather/father/son tape rotation, what it mean that Exchange didn’t really quiesce, and what a backup window was.

Over time, being able to talk about backup meant knowing a different core set of concepts.  Today, the category would be called “data protection,” and you’d have to know about snapshots, backup-to-disk, deduplication, and offsite replication, for starters.

When I was at Dell, I transitioned from being a sales engineer to being a storage specialist.  Suddenly, I had to learn the fundamental storage concepts – and quickly.  At the time, they were (roughly): RAID, more disks means more IOPS, disk contention, storage virtualization, usable space, and automated tiering.

This stuff is barely relevant in storage anymore.  Or, maybe it’s more like the information has commoditized.  It’s taken for granted now that we know which RAID types are appropriate for what workloads; that’s no longer a consultative value-add that a vendor can provide.  You get into a discussion with someone and mention some of this, and it’s so basic it destroys credibility.

And that happens incredibly quickly.  Less than a year ago, it was still interesting to talk about storage performance and storage capacity being resources that should be managed separately, now that is not considered “thought leadership,” it’s internalized into the collective consciousness of the industry.

So what are the fundamental concepts now?

Content-based storage, I think.  Server-side cache and all-flash arrays.  Distributed scale-out systems, object storage, variable-block deduplication.  Software-defined anything.  Converged systems.  I bumped into two other products this week (in addition to my own) that use are content-addressable with a consistent hash.


As a childhood hero of mine said, “Life moves pretty fast….”