EDITORIAL I liked the wet PC best

A vendor at the recent PC show in Sydney had a cute display of water continuously running over a server (or something). It was a great gimmick, but unfortunately I can't remember what the product was, and I certainly can't remember the brand.

Likewise, at the show I was handed what looked like a software package. It was only by accident that I realised it wasn't software, but a press release on CD-ROM. Mind you, I still haven't had time to load it to see what the message is.

Being recognised and being remembered are very important in this industry, yet how many of you have spent time and money on making sure your "image" is right? This is especially true when what you're selling is your skillset or knowledge. These are a lot harder to brand than a soft drink.

Here is a relevant editorial from our US sister channel publication Solutions Integrator.

Branding your service product

by Susan Scrupski

It's time to start spending your hard-earned money on "packaging" your people.

What do IT resellers and Phil Rizzuto have in common? Nothing. But I needed a way to get Phil into this column to illustrate a point. They tell me baseball star Rizzuto lives in my neighbourhood. I don't know if this is true, but sure enough, every time I ride past his (alleged) house, I mentally make a note that it's his house. Hmm. Light's on . . . wonder if he's home? Nice shrubs . . .

What Phil has going for him is a strong "brand identity" in the US.

Most of the leading technology manufacturers understand brand management. It's subtle, but you "think" different things about, say, Compaq computers than you do about Dell computers. Even when we see a Hewlett-Packard or Sun logo, we hold certain beliefs about those companies, based purely on how well we've processed and internalised their projected corporate image. And what technology professional could mistake what's inside one of those big dairy cow boxes?

What I'm talking about here is perception -- the most powerful tool in marketing. Perception marketing is building the framework for what you want customers, investors, employees, or anyone else to think about your product. Of course, it helps if you can live up to your positioning, but sometimes it doesn't really matter. Perception is reality, as they say.

Image building

One of the most difficult challenges for IT-services firms is to manipulate perception about the company's capabilities -- to build a unique image for the company. An obvious impediment is the lack of a product.

People are the product in an IT-services firm. But how do you "package" your com-pany's people to differentiate them from your competitors'? Maybe it's true that Vanstar employees are better looking than Entex employees. Or maybe IBM project managers have better senses of humour than EDS account managers, but that's not much to build a unique selling proposition on.

It's all in the marketing

Again, it comes back to perception. What do you want your target audience to "think" about your company? Consider Andersen Consulting.

Back in the late 1980s, Andersen was about as well known in IT consulting as Grant Thornton, a midsize accounting firm. Andersen launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and marketing program that, in about 24 months, skyrocketed the firm's recognition to the extent that Andersen became one of the leading IT consultancies in the world.

In IT-services firms, marketing is unfortunately not a priority. I don't understand why, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that so many executives come up through the ranks of technical positions. They'd much rather spend the company's hard-earned money on development, training, gala "sales" events (which is definitely not a marketing program), or acquisitions.

But look at the airline industry. They all use the same basic Boeing jets; they all fly basically the same places; they even use the same airports. What differentiates one airline from another is their service.

Imagine what the airline industry would be without world-class marketing. Now imagine what the IT-services industry could be with world-class marketing.