Friday, July 16, 2010

Can We Help other IBM Regions?

This is a response to an email I received today from a Business partner outside the US.

We have been seeing and hearing over time reports from around the world that IBM marketing isn't helping us as Business Partners.

Customers are looking at other products and/or competitors. Sometimes they actually make a choice, although not a commitment, to go to those vendors.

Customers bring up all the Microsoft FUD and/or Google discussions.

Customers never come to our events.

How do we stay in business?

These are some of the issues I deal with regularly and some were in this person's email to me.

It makes me sad to hear people complain about IBM in this way. I grew up idolizing IBM(possibly because it was my first pc, the original IBM PC) and wanting to work for IBM and manage an area of technology I loved was a goal in life. Luckily I reached that goal before I was 30.

The problem is, I reached that goal before I was 30.

I could not appreciate what IBM really was and is in so many ways. My Lotus EMEA and US friends from then know what I mean. Nor could I truly appreciate what I would miss when I left until after the fact.

Back to the issue at hand. Probably because of my experiences working throughout South America for Citibank and across Europe and the Middle East for IBM, I look on the countries outside of the US, no matter how large or small, as in need of anything I/we could do to help them. Sometimes against company preference, but if we are not all one big family, who will be there for me when I need that help.

This in many ways is what I found amazing about Lotus Notes when I first saw it, that one can share everything with others. Needless to say not every one truly "gets" what that means or implies.

I don't care if IBM does this or that, IBM does not make my life as a Business Partner any better than yours because I am in the US. We all have guidelines to work by and if being a Business Partner was easy, everyone would do it.

It's not easy for sure. But relying on IBM is not going to change your view of the world around you. IBM is there, once you prove to IBM you are worth investing the time, money and other resources. This means many things to many people, but I don't have any other of my vendors that we are Business Partners calling me to do business for them, that is until we show we can bring them any business.

Likewise if you are faced with a lack of clients I offer you this:
EVERY Microsoft customer,
EVERY Oracle customer,
EVERY Google customer,
EVERY SAP customer

can use any or all of the following products: Sametime, Connections, Mail Protector, Quickr and of course Portal and Websphere and more even if they use Domino, Exchange, Gmail or Groupwise.

What have YOU been doing to understand these products and how they fit into customers who are not Lotus Notes and Domino based? Don't you think that if you had some of these in customer sites, at some point, you will be able to talk about Domino apps?

No Marketing? No Publicity? Sure that hurts, sort of, but then if you needed to do it and it cost something sizable but nominal, say $250 to put a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper, would you do it? Why? Where? Your little city, even my area has at least 2 dozen magazines, 4 newspapers, countless legal/business periodicals and a business radius of 100 miles. Where do we start?

You can have an LCTY, you can have a LUG event, you can do webinars, you can do some technology day or proof of technology event, you can go see every single customer and show them what they are missing or ask them about their plans to do anything and how we have tools to help get them there faster. You could be blogging and participating in every social media/network that is relevant to your business, clients and country at a minimum. If you are not getting quoted in interviews online or in print or on the radio, why not? Write an article for The View magazine (Disclaimer I am on their technical advisory board), work on a Redbook, write a book or an ebook on a topic. DO something to differentiate you or your company. Advertising does not do it unless you have a lot of money.

Most if not all of the Business Partners that I know and you should know of do some if not all of these during the span of the year. Many of the bloggers participate in events outside the Lotus and IBM community as well as lending a hand where possible.

If you truly believe there is no business for Lotus in your region, again as I have said the last few weeks, you are an IBM Business Partner not a LOTUS Business Partner.

Microsoft Business Partners are not Exchange Business partners exclusively, they also do Windows, SQL and that Sharepoint mess of stuff.

We are working harder to expand our business, both inside the US and outside of it. In some cases we have had legal/financial reasons why we could not make certain moves and I felt bad about that as I wanted to help out some people. But we have a goal for our business and it's not just to sell Notes and Domino, or to make money.

Those are not goals, although they are nice things you should want to do.

If you are seeing business dry up, maybe you should be reading Bruce's blog, especially this post. Something from nothing and he quit his day job.

Keep customers away from Notes apps? Maybe given the browser intensive world we live in, but those same apps can and should be moved to the web and run off Domino. It's your job as a Business partner to make that happen.

The funny thing to me is when we offer our help to various in country people, both IBM and Business Partners, we feel we are seen as poaching others territory. I respect that view, but at the same time, if you need more people on the ground or on the phone or via a webinar we can help you with, why is that so bad? We all win.

If we need 24 hour coverage for a client, we have people around the world we can utilize. We never sit here and think we should only hire people locally, although obviously there are times that is necessary.

My team's role inside IBM was to make each sales and engineer out there, not just in EMEA but world wide, have whatever they needed to get their job done as efficiently as possible and resolve customer situations appropriately and to not reach a point where CEOs make a decision that an IBMer was not part of. The same guidelines work today.

Know your products, know your competitions products better in some cases.

If you don't know an answer, ask someone who does. If you don't know who knows, ask me or one of the 300+ Lotus bloggers on Planetlotus.org. One of us has to know the information you seek.

Keep thinking the world is ending, you will fulfill your prophecy.

So in this slow summer time months take some time with your staff and some clients, talk about it all. Find what is missing and go after it. Spark an idea or find one at a client, but make a plan, set your goal, think big, collaborate.

I once suggested you call your competition and work together.

They just may have the same issues as you and if you need help we(the collective yellowverse) are always here for you.