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Negative associative sales

“We missed you at the [name deleted] Institute for Sports Medicine.” This was the title of an email I received, reminding me of when I blew out a knee skiing years ago, and the subsequent rehab process.

The knee injury was not a positive experience. It was one of those events that you use to gauge different points in your life. Among other things, to me it meant no more runs on black diamond trails. But the email didn’t only bring up personal memories. The introductory paragraph also reminded me of marketing messages I’ve seen recently in the storage industry:

“Do you have something that has been bothering you for a while? Sometimes early intervention of an issue can be addressed conservatively through a variety of treatment options. Don’t let a little problem right now become a big problem later!”

This had several negative implications. The first was that I’d hurt myself again and did not seek treatment. This is playing on the probability that I’ve been injured once so I’m likely to do it again. That’s either a reflection on the activities I’m involved in or that I have a tendency to get hurt. The other is that I have not addressed the problem that results. The final sentence is a thinly veiled prediction that it will get worse.

This type of marketing is not much different than what we see in the storage industry – not to mention super paranoia information security marketing. Many approaches around storage data protection try to get the potential customer to identify with a recent real-world disaster. If the customers have experienced a data loss or unavailability incident themselves, even better.

There are several approaches taken, depending on the focus and product being sold. The easy association is with data protection and the need to guard against high-profile disasters. Headlines involving IT usually involve bad news and protecting IT from the calamities experienced by others is a great sales approach.

There are also several negative sales approaches used for storage systems. One is to avoid the type of failures that result in data unavailability. Purchasing a more reliable, mature system with the best support available is the answer. There are enough examples to remind potential customers of failures with inadequate storage systems or storage software because their functions were not mature (meaning they lacked extensive field experience in critical environments).

Arguing from the negative works with those that have been injured previously. (I can feel my knee twitch a bit now). But it may not work so well with those who have not. A better approach may to explain the value a solution brings. In most cases, that value must be explained in economic terms.

Unavailability to information has an economic impact. Looking at the potential impact and what it means requires understanding the customers and their businesses. From there, you have to show the prevention alternatives provided by the product and the economics – cost vs. value. This requires more homework and evaluation but provides a better solution with better understanding to the customer. It may not be as quick a sales opportunity as associating with a negative, potentially painful, event but it is probably the best for the customer and leads to building trust and follow-on business.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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