“Elevating From Consumer To Mission Critical Value” with Brian Cox, Senior Director of Marketing for Enterprise Solutions, SanDisk
By Clara Kuo
March 2014 Event
High tech companies – just like people – are often are trying to reinvent themselves, and often the change is seen as necessary to stay relevant in the marketplace.
Brian illustrated how SanDisk has been able to reinvent the company to expand its consumer products to include key focus on the “mission critical” enterprise business market. SanDisk, Cox pointed out, is well known for its Cruzer USB sticks and camera SSDs, but the need for these products is changing, and SanDisk is a strong case study for becoming an enterprise business.
Cox started by reflecting on companies who have done this successfully, while others were challenged.
Intel vs. Nokia
Back in 1969, Intel created their first microprocessor, the 4004, which was used to for a consumer product: a desktop calculator. Today, Intel has successfully been built into an IT enterprise business. Another example – Nokia is known for its personal cell phone business, but few realize that they attempted to launch a line of security appliances. Few would be familiar (except for those in the room that worked for Nokia) that the new enterprise product didn’t meet expectations and was eventually sold to Checkpoint. In certain ways, the Nokia strategy informed Cox about what could be different or a better way for SanDisk to approach their enterprise strategy.
There are Fundamental Differences between Consumer and Enterprise
Cox argued that consumer and enterprise products require completely different types of marketing approaches and could not be treated the same. Consumer products are typically based on an impulse purchases, and the focus is on how quickly products can be built and shipped.
Enterprise products are more strategic. To elevate a consumer product to a mission critical enterprise business, Cox pointed out, “is unique in that it is just as much about the sales organization as it is about the product. It requires support by field engineers, training and integration. Sales cycles and demand generation are long. It requires a different level of investment and infrastructure.”
So how does SanDisk extend their products to enterprise IT? In his presentation, Cox reviewed important aspects of going back to basics as well as 8 key tips for success.
Go back to basics – SanDisk’s Market Assessment as a Case Study
Cox stressed basic marketing practices: who, how, where, why, what and when. A close look at customer behaviors and taking into account the over-arching marketing strategy will yield a strong payoff. Here’s how SanDisk evaluated their market for opportunities.
1. Understand who the buyers and influencers are.
In SanDisk’s case, instead of the traditional model where OEMs make the choice on a product and then sell to the end user, they focused on influencing the end user so that they would demand SanDisk product and push the OEM to purchase.
2. Focus on brand to reach the customer
It made the most sense for SanDisk to focus on brand strategy to develop credibility in the enterprise market. While SanDisk has a very well known presence in the market as a consumer leader, few were aware of the new enterprise products, so Cox and his team needed to inform the market of the offering.
3. Why do customers buy? What are their pain points?
After looking at specific segmented groups of the market, the team looked at the needs of each of these buyers. For example, a data center manager most likely does not want to be woken up in the middle of the night because of a server crash. Thinking about what bothers users the most on a human level will make the product all the more valuable.
4. What Information do Buyers Need to Buy
In a B2B marketplace, the buyer needs information to make a sound decision. It’s not enough to simply target the buyers, but influencers must be involved as well. In this case, Cox and his team used Tech Buyer Intelligence Reports to evaluate areas where they had control, and it is only these levers of control that were prioritized.
5. When to Pursue Customers
Cox stressed the importance on focusing in on a few, critical solutions, where customers have enough pain and enough money. Another consideration for SanDisk was the geographic locations. Cox said that initially, expanding their markets in China seemed intriguing at first, but since they had no salesforce and other necessary resources, it made more sense to begin in the US market. “Achieve success, then expand,” Cox said.
6. How to Determine the Level to Staff the Team?
The enterprise team ran a competitive benchmarking analysis using LinkedIn to identify the number of salespeople at each competitor. This was by no means an elegant or fast solution: resources were used to go onto LinkedIn and manually find salespeople at each company and count the number of people with B2B sales and marketing titles.
8 Key Tips for a Successful Mission Critical Marketing Strategy
1. Ensure CxO suite and Board of Directors are committed to an Enterprise business for the long term
Not all CxOs have the patience to see this long term investment through, as they may want to see results of the efforts sooner than later. “Fear in this case is a great weapon,” said Cox – “what if you don’t have a business because no one uses USBs anymore?”
Second, it is important to have the same definition of what Enterprise is, because any differences in perception can negatively impact business objectives. At Nokia, the CxOs had a differing opinion of what it would mean to provide an enterprise product, and they didn’t understand that it would require a significant change in strategy. Since the CxOs did not really “buy-in” to the strategy, this fundamental disagreement led to the product’s failure.
2. Trying to grow Enterprise “DNA” internally is difficult.
It is much easier to import enterprise DNA than to train existing consumer sales staff. Consumer sales people may not have the level of expertise that is needed to support the relationship building and training required for an enterprise level product.
Additionally, it is extremely important to have separate consumer and enterprise teams. Never integrate them because it could be too confusing in terms of business objectives and long term goals.
3. Pick a business that has an expanding customer need
Ensure that the product is superior to the status quo. It’s very difficult to sell a “me too” product with a highly competitive market. Cox recommended “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The book emphasizes differentiation from competitors and identification of a market space that has insatiable demand. The goal is to avoid gaming for procurement, because doing so could have a serious effect on profit margins. Here, Cox stressed that it would not be worth the effort.
4. Ensure that the technology or service is sustainably superior to the status quo or alternatives
Similar to point #3, but in respect to the product’s viability: the product or service that is being offered must have some differentiator that makes it attractive in the market.
5. Sales infrastructure is just as important as the product.
Cox emphasized the focus on hiring sales talent from proven Enterprise providers, because consumer sales staff will not have the expertise to build relationships with target customers.
6. Partnerships – Enterprise channel partners will give you credibility.
Seek out those with credibility in the space you want to enter, and they can help your company gain traction in the market.
7. Build awareness and cover the right bases.
In enterprise marketing, it’s not only the buyers who matter. There are other stakeholders that influence on the purchase process. As Cox points out, each of these various stakeholders will do research on the best solution for their company using different sources, and reaching different sources helps to gain trust with stakeholders. For example, New York Times, Tom’s Hardware and the Economist all have different audiences, which is why a wide reach is important.
8. Focus on a select market and build success in steps.
Here, Cox emphasized the importance of focus as a critical success factor. “A solution is not producing a brochure, because your salespeople ask for a brochure,” Cox said. “You need something that is more comprehensive, go deep – Don’t do a shotgun play.” In other words, it’s important to think about the overall strategy instead of simply creating single one offs that do not have a great deal of impact on the company’s long term success. Cox prioritized credibility and marketing communications in his strategy over sales collateral. Eventually this focus will help the sales team to sell.
Clara Kuo is a marketing professional with interests in product development, branding and marketing analytics. In her spare time, she enjoys studying Python, road biking, and meeting new people. You can find her on Twitter @clarakuo and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/clarakuo