Tag Archives: CUSTOMERS

The most important meeting I had last week

When I first arrived at Infinio, I reflected on the types of meetings I Infinio_Systems__Inc__-_Calendarattended, praising most of them for being pretty valuable.

That’s been consistent here over the 9 months that I’ve worked here. While there are certainly moments that are unproductive, there are rarely entire meetings that I come out of thinking “geez, what a waste of time that was!”

In fact, two meetings I’ve been attending recently are particularly interesting.  One is the Sales and Marketing leadership planning meeting for 2015 programs, and one is the long-term roadmap & strategy meeting. Both meetings are attended by really smart, engaged people, and between the two of them, I get a sweeping view of the company going forward, which significantly helps me do my job better.

I went to a few other interesting meetings last week – the bi-weekly engineering iteration review, a review of survey results from a vendor, and a discussion about our website.

But none of those (nor the two mentioned above) were the most important meeting I had last week.

The most important meeting I had last week was with one of our BDRs. BDRs (business development reps) call the people we meet at tradeshows and online, and engage them in further conversations about Infinio.  This BDR had some questions about our industry, product, and competition, so we spent ~45 minutes together talking through his (well-thought-out) list of questions.

The reason this was so important was that I got to hear:

  • Which parts of our training were working, and where we were leaving things out
  • What questions he was getting the most on the phone, and what things he did and didn’t know how to respond to
  • What things we’re suggesting he say work, and which are a total misfire on our part

It was a view from someone who directly interacts with our prospects all day long.  And that is the most important thing for me to be in touch with.

Would you eat that bagel?

bagelI used to work across the street from a well-known franchised bagel store.  I ate there because it was convenient.  But the food was prepared terribly!!   Cream cheese an inch thick across the entire bagel, hole and all.  Tuna spread across the bagel unevenly, extra in the hole it seemed.

I always used to think to myself, “Do these people even look at the food before wrapping it up?  Would they serve themselves, their spouse, their child this food?  I think not!”

The other day mrDiva and I had One Of Those Days.  Carsick babyDiva, accidental separation of adults at the beach, dead car battery.  We got home, looked at the food in the fridge, and said (nearly simultaneously) “delivery.”

He really wanted Papa Razzi pasta, so I called to find out who provided delivery services for them.  Turned out it was Dining In, so we placed an order with them.

Except from the time we started our order and the time it took to correct their misbehaving web form that wouldn’t take our credit card, the delivery time changed by 45 minutes.

We weren’t having any of it.

mrDiva called Dining In and I daresay his hackles were up.  But their customer service rep was delightfully human.

That doesn’t sound good,” she said, “that sounds like a long time!”  She went on to work some magic that had our food delivered sooner.

Over orichette and penne, we discussed what was so good about her service.  It was that she was human in her response, while still doing her job and not disparaging her company.  She was exactly the opposite of the bagel sandwich-makers – she gave us her honest reaction while working to resolve our problem.  She was herself.

I don’t think this happens enough in sales and customer service.  Service is so script-oriented that rarely do you get an actual human reaction to a complaint or request.   And this experience was more than just empathy or assistance, it was a real person on the other end of the phone showing me that she was a real person who was also trying to solve my problem.  Having that interaction made me really like Dining In.

(And no, there’s no WAY you’d eat that bagel.)

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.




The myth of the greenfield opportunity

Attribution: walknboston/FLICKRIt’s baseball season here in Boston – home of the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX – and Fenway couldn’t look more beautiful. The lights shine, the uniforms are crisp, and the field is a bright, grassy green.

A green field.

Greenfield – also what we in sales and marketing call a completely fresh opportunity – in contrast to “Brownfield” which is an opportunity in an existing environment.

For example – say a customer is deploying a new CRM application into their environment; that is a greenfield opportunity.  If a customer has a CRM application that needs an upgrade, that is a brownfield opportunity.

Wikipedia: “In many disciplines a greenfield is a project that lacks any constraints imposed by prior work. The analogy is to that of construction on greenfield land where there is no need to work within the constrains of existing buildings or infrastructure.”

But in reality, do greenfield IT infrastructure opportunities really exist?

Probably not.

First off, each person involved in the project brings with them constraints from prior work:

  • “I had a bad experience with Vendor X and I’ll never deploy anything mission-critical on them again”
  • “I took a three-week training course on Product Y so we should use them.”
  • “My brother-in-law works for Vendor Z so we should have them in.”

More importantly, as organizations are being tasked with “doing more with less” it’s very rare that any project is going to be deployed on completely new hardware.  More likely, IT departments are being asked:

  • “Don’t you have a VMware farm you can just add this application to?”
  • “Can’t you support a few more users on the existing infrastructure?”
  • “What can we do with some of that hardware you have lying around?”
  • “We already have an investment in Product A and Product B, can’t we use that for this?”
  • “Should we be looking at the cloud for this?”

And pilots and POCs, formerly the opportunity that IT had to try out new hardware to evaluate their applicability to a new project, are often shafted when it comes to hardware.  “It’s just a POC, you can use anything for that” and “Let’s pilot it on the old hardware, we can figure out what we’re really going to use once we deploy for real.”

In short, rare is the IT organization who is building a new datacenter from scratch, deploying a new application on brand new hardware, or unencumbered with legacy investments.

How should this change our sales and marketing?

First, we should always talk to customers about what they currently have and what their plans are to continue using it.  This is not to say that if we have a disruptive technology that we shouldn’t introduce it to displace an incumbent – of course we should.  But knowing the lay of the land with respect to incumbency is necessary to become an extension of the customer’s team.

Next, we should be introducing solutions that enhance a customer’s existing investment.  (Easy for me to say, I work at Infinio, where our solution enables customers to get more performance from their existing storage systems.)  Again, disruption isn’t bad, it’s what make the world move forward.  But it’s not always a revolution, we’ve turned into pretty intelligent beings based on evolution.

Finally, we need to put some meat behind the “do more with less” marketing slogans.  “Do more with less” can’t mean “Buy into my expensive product/architecture and your applications will run better.”  We need to provide proof points and examples of other customers who have leveraged solutions to actually spend less money or get more out of existing infrastructure.

A girl walks into a coffee shop

A girl walks into a coffee shop.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”bla bla bla

“We don’t have medium, we only have large or small.”

A girl walks into a coffee shop.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“We don’t have medium, we only have one size.”

A girl walks into a coffee place.  “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“We don’t have medium.”

I learn the most from our customers.  Second to that, I learn a lot from being a customer.  And in the past two weeks, my local coffee places have enabled a lot of learning.

What irked me about the three situations above isn’t that they didn’t have the size I wanted.  What irked me was that they didn’t try to help me solve the problem.

See, it’s 8:15 and I’ve already solved a lot of problems myself.  I got myself up, dressed, and ready for work, then I got a toddler up, dressed, and ready for daycare.  I got the toddler into a stroller, the dog walked alongside the toddler, the dog dropped off back at home, the toddler dropped off at daycare, and then myself on the bus to the train to my stop.  First world problem solving to be sure – but problem solving nonetheless.

And I am at the coffee place because I want someone else to solve my coffee problem.

Frankly, I order a medium because it’s easy.  It’s 12 oz in some places, 16 oz in others.  I just say “medium,” so I don’t have to think about it.

And here’s what I’d like to have happen:

A girl walks into a coffee shop. “I’ll have a medium latte.”

“Here are our two sizes, which one would you like?
“Here is our latte cup, will this work for you?
“How’s this size cup?”

Help me solve the problem.

I think that’s what our customers want too.  I think they want us to help them solve their problem.

Just like I want the cashier to think about what brought me into the store, I think our customers want us to think about their entire data center and business priorities, not just the part that relates to us.

Just like I want the cashier to quickly hone in on what it most important to me (COFFEE!), I think our customers want us to quickly hone in on their biggest challenges and how we can address them.

Just like I want the cashier to offer me options to make it easy to get my problem solved quickly, I think our customers want us to offer them options too.

And I think most of our customers also occasionally want a cup of coffee.



I’m glad you found yourself here.

You may know me (and some of this) from Twitter, but to level-set: At the end of January, I left my job in solutions marketing at Dell after 7 years.

kendallAfter a short hiatus, I joined Infinio Systems – a software startup in Kendall Square – as Director of Product Marketing.  There is so much to digest and learn, and there’s no way to share the experience in 140 character chunks.  So here I am in the blogosphere.

So why name my blog “storageDiva’s Tablespace”?  Two reasons:

A tablespace is the abstraction layer in a database that sits between the logic of the database and the physical datafiles it contains.  Basically, you group several tables and indices together and while they are physically stored in datafiles, the collection of them (regardless of physical location) is a tablespace.

I like the metaphor of this blog being a tablespace of interrelated tables, because I plan to share all sorts of interrelated ideas about my experiences in technology, marketing, and life at a startup.  Here’s a swag at what I think the “tables” would be called: 

  • LEARNING: My education around caching, performance, and all things Infinio
  • CUSTOMERS: What I learn from our customers and our not-customers
  • TECH: Thoughts and ideas about our product and the industry at large
  • MARKETING: How product marketing is changing in the Internet/Social Era
  • STARTUP: Life at a startup, especially after coming from a big company
  • XX: What it’s like to be a woman working in technology
  • HOME: Balancing my work life with my daughter(“babyDiva”) and spouse (“mrDiva”, also at a startup)

I said there were two reasons for the blog being called “storageDiva’s Tablespace.”  The second reason comes from Sheryl Sandberg.  In her book and TED talk she relates a story of being at a meeting and notices that the young women are sitting on the periphery of the room while the men all sit at the table.  She urges the women (and the reader/watcher) to claim a seat at the table (not behind it) to ensure their voice is heard.

The phrase “table space” is a reminder to myself that I have gotten where I am by always claiming my space at the table, long before the other Sheryl made it trendy.

I hope you’ll stick around.