You and Your Audience: Understanding Their Priorities
B2B marketing often requires us to appeal to highly specialized individuals in very niche roles, and no one epitomizes this as much as whoever is in charge of an organization’s data center. With tightly controlled budgets, incredibly complex operations and long term planning stages these professionals may not need to upgrade for many years, and in a field where even smaller businesses can easily spend millions, these decisions are not made lightly.
So in this field, where hardware and software is optimized to the most minute specifications, and each professional is only looking for the right product at the right instance a handful of times in their career, how are we supposed to market to them? With this in mind, and a Data Center Transformation Summit to organize, I was allowed to visit BrightTALK in the flesh.
It’s hard to think of a website having a geographical location, but somewhere in the world every webpage you can “visit” online you could also – theoretically – visit in person. In this sense, BrightTALK lives inside an old gin distillery, behind a blank metal door, past a security guard, up a lift, along a few corridors and behind another blank metal door, surrounded by yet more blank, metal doors. I barely recognized it!
Well, in fact, I didn’t. The only recognizable names in the building are the HP and Dell logos scattered about the cabinets, among the blinking lights and the noise. It is the noise of thousands of machines doing many millions of essential and mundane things and the noise of thousands of fans trying to reduce the immense heat created by them.
My guide, BrightTALK’s Operations Director, Paul Holden, talked me through the most important aspects of any data center:
‘Security. Cooling. Efficiency.’
I began to understand this better as he described the dual power supplies direct from the national grid, the diesel generator in the basement with thousands of gallons of fuel on standby, and the many fail-safes that allow a website to run on just a fraction of its hardware. These places hold so much data and are so important; their security and anonymity are so paramount that they are second only to hospitals in receiving electricity in an emergency. As such, every decision and purchase within this place has to be made with the utmost care and attention, and its cost justified to the penny.
I knew these centers were complex but the sheer level of power, planning, and expense required is near unfathomable. I began wondering how IT professionals stay on top of it all and asked Paul how often he would upgrade. Unsurprisingly, this also depends on a huge number of factors: how fast your organization has grown, whether you have or will adopt a cloud platform, what type this might be and the level to which it is integrated, as well as what kinds of services you provide. On top of this you need a good architect in your team who can not only execute upgrades when needed, but has the foresight to build an infrastructure that is scalable enough to allow for future upgrades.
I began to despair at the list of these responsibilities and how much, and how long it would take for someone to even begin to consider a product. Eventually I asked Paul how often the team might turn to Google for solutions. “Daily” was his response, these are complex systems and accessing shared knowledge is invaluable.
With that, and a few more questions, it started to become clear. These professionals cannot afford to fall behind on new developments, new ideas, new hardware, standards and regulations. They have to be constantly aware of how a business is growing, what it may need tomorrow, or in five years, what this may cost and what they will need to facilitate this. And if the product doesn’t exist, then they build it themselves and wait for a better option.
So how do I make my next data center event a success? I think that what I learned from my short jaunt into their world, is to provide the kind of information that these professionals can’t get on Google, the real experiences of people who have been there and done that. Not a list of product details – an operations team or system admin will find the right product when they’re ready – but rather information on how to start their project, what strategy is best to get a certain result, and what could be most appropriate for their particular setup. All the while the names of trusted companies, the new hardware and software, will permeate to be there when they make that next big decision.