With my background in ETL and data warehouse technologies, I often find myself helping middle-tier and integration vendors with their B2B positions and messages. Most often, as a first step, we clarify who they are messaging to: a task which can puzzle even experienced sales and marketing teams.
In these cases I introduce my BUBL-up framework, which helps to map out the targets of our work. I’ll explain BUBL-up below, but first let’s explore the problem.
Consider the software users. For vendors in the middle of a technology stack, between data storage and Business Intelligence tools, the users of their software (DBAs, data architects, and so on) may not have their own budgets. Instead, their operations roll into a larger data management organization with their own broader priorities. Appealing to users (with simplicity of use, capable features, helpful interfaces) may not resonate with buyers.
Buyers, for their part, may prefer to purchase all products from a stack vendor, to simplify license management and support. They want, in the pithy phrase, one throat to choke when things go wrong. They may expect consolidation to reduce costs. However, they may be responsive to demands from the wider business for stricter service-level-agreements, faster turnaround of changes, and more frequently updated data.
In other words, there are users of the entire data architecture (Business Intelligence analysts, consumers of reports, etc.) who may be beneficiaries of the product, even though they don’t touch it or buy it themselves. Many a business user of data benefits from tools and services that they know about only with puzzlement and indifference, if at all.
Vendors can struggle to get recognition for the value of a middle-tier tool in the broader organization, especially from the leadership. Yet executive sponsors are often essential to building the strategic relationships on which vendors depend for long-term, renewable revenue.
Where vendors have difficulty finding the right audience, I help them to map out my very simple, but rather effective, BUBL-up framework:
The first question to ask is, Which level or levels do we need to address with our message? One size rarely fits all, and in many cases your focus will rest on one or two levels only.
Having established who you speak to, you can then review the message, channels, and the relationships you have in place to ensure you communicate most effectively.
You might assume that getting the right message to buyers always takes the top priority. But vendors ought to remember that buyers can make mistakes which may damage a vendors standing in the long run.
I have seen numerous cases over the years – especially with front-end visualization tools – where vendors found buyers who themselves were users and delighted to substantial numbers of licenses. However, unless the buyer deeply understands the needs of other users, in the wider organization, they may well be purchasing software that appeals to them personally, but which sits as unused shelf-ware throughout the rest of the business. Enthusiastic users often prove ill-equipped to evaluate broad deployments.
I use BUBL-up to ensure that vendors are considering the implications of their work in messaging and positioning. If you have the right contacts, the right insights to the customer and the right message for each level of the framework, you’ll find a voice for your work.