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The Sorry State of Services Differentiation at OOW14

by Rob Addy  |  October 3, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

As the last remnants of OpenWorld are being removed from Howard Street I thought I’d look back at the broader Service Provider community contribution to the event. SIs and Managed Services Providers play a significant part in the Oracle story.  They are the ones that attempt to make Larry’s pronouncements real for their customers. They are the ones that deliver on the promises of Messrs Kurian and Fowler. They take the technology and turn it into a tangible solution. Or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do anyhow!

If a tree falls in the woods and there’s nobody’s there to hear it fall, does it make a sound? Of course it does, but that’s not really the point. Nobody hears it and consequently nobody cares. If a provider delivers an amazing implementation of technology and nobody knows about it, does it really matter? It will of course matter to the customer involved, but the wider world will be largely oblivious to the fact. And that’s why we have marketing! 😉

Below you can see a collage of some snap shots from the OpenWorld Exhibitor showground. I have omitted the funny ones of provider representatives picking their noses, staring blanky into space, bemoaning their aching feet to their colleagues etc. But I think it does give a reasonably good representation of what was on offer for the attendees…


“So what?” you say. “They’re the usual run of the mill trade show booths” you continue… Well yes… Yes,they are… And that’s kind of the whole point. They’re safe. They’re dull. They’re uninspiring. They’re bland. If one were to remove the logos they would be barely indistinguishable.

What’s wrong and what’s missing?

Ok. I admit it. Marketing and messaging are incredibly subjective and personal things. But even given that enormous caveat, I would suggest that there are perhaps some guidelines that service providers may want to think about… It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a start…

  • It’s not about you! Many of the examples above are incredibly “Me! Me! Me!” focused. It’s all about the provider, the number of employees they have, the number of projects the have completed, the number of locations they have around the world. Sorry chaps! But you need to get over the Narcissus complex and start talking about stuff that matters to your audience.
  • Know your audience. Talk to your audience. Align your messages with the things that matter to your audience. This is particularly true if you’re attempting a vertical industries message – Talking at a tangent makes you look awkward and out of touch. You don’t want or need that.
  • Leverage your most valuable asset more. And no! That’s not your people! It’s your customers! Customer reference stories bring it all to life and allow your audience to contextualize your message and imagine themselves receiving similar benefits.
  • Get specific. Vague statements of “innovation” or “growth” are meaningless. Avoid generic statements of the obvious at all times. Quantify your claims. Provide evidence to substantiate your assertions.
  • Focus on value. Benefits are nice, but value sells. Translate what you do into what it achieves and then contextualize those benefits against tangible business outcomes in the minds of your buyers.

So there we have it. Services marketing in 2014 is sub-optimal. We already knew that but it’s always nice to validate an opinion with demonstrable proof. Thank you OOW14 exhibitors, you proved the point perfectly. But fear not. It can be fixed. And fixing a value articulation issue is a lot easier than fixing an inherent value delivery problem…

As one provider eloquently stated on their booth… “Maybe you need a deeper team – one that brings the combination of technical chops and business insight you need to gain the edge today”. I’m not too sure what “technical chops” really are but I think the availability of said “chops” is probably a good thing. 🙂

I, and my Go-to-Market analyst colleagues, look forward to using our collective “marketing chops” to talk with any of the providers “showcased” in this blog post to help them move their messaging beyond the current woeful state-of-the-union and create some truly engaging state-of-the-art positioning.


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Category: off-topic-subject  support-messaging  

Tags: oow14  

Rob Addy
Research Vice President
5 years at Gartner
More years than I care to remember in the IT industry

Welcome to my blog! I post about all things services related from the provider perspective. End-users are welcome to read but please be aware that you may sometimes find its content unsettling. I will endeavour to post frequently (as it's a lot cheaper than a therapist) but please forgive me if other more mundane activities occasionally get in the way...Read my official Gartner bio here

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