I had a chance to sit down with Bruno Aziza from SiSense today to talk about the challenges of marketing Big Data solutions in a landscape fraught with hype and hyperbole. Bruno has a great perspective as a former Microsoft marketer who now works for a fast-growing startup. He knows the challenges and benefits of big and small podiums and is exceptionally good at talking about Big Data.
CT: Do you find marketing Big Data solutions for a startup to be difficult?
BA: I don’t think I’m in a position of disadvantage when it comes to getting noticed. I think it actually is easier being a small company because large companies find it very difficult to move quickly and also, customers have a different expectations of large companies. I think customers know the small guys can move very fast and provide better service.
We win many deals because we provide world-class customer service and better attention to detail than our larger competitors do. When someone has a challenge, we are very responsive. We’re competing with companies that aren’t and really can’t take the same care of the customer.
CT: What about the challenge of geting your story out above the noise?
BA: From a sales perspective, if we’re telling the same story as a large vendor, we have no shot. The other guys have more budget and are buying the key words. The place where a SiSense wins is in needing be smarter because we can’t spend the same money. For example, we went to Strata and spent $5K on our booth. The next competitor over spent about $100K but we won the Audience Award for attacking the event in a guerilla style. The people next to me were boring.
If you spend on an event like Strata and talk about the same things as them, you’ll be lost in the noise. Instead, I used tactics like having my software loaded on USB drives. As the conversation finished and they asked, “Where can I get this?” I pulled the USB drive out of my pocket and said, “Here it is.”
CT: Can’t the big companies be innovative as well??
BA: It takes more brainpower to think of things that are different. The big guys absolutely do think of innovative stuff, like we did when I was at Microsoft. The tactic of being super creative works well for everyone, but you have different types of marketers. You have operational marketers who buy lists, write whitepapers and do the things we all know how to do. To survive, everyone in a small company needs to challenge those conventions. When I go to an event like GigaOM Structure, everyone in my company is involved in a very collaborative effort that moves much faster and further than in a big company.
As a great example, I don’t have their problem of a 2-month press release cycle where everyone gets a cut and the message gets watered down. I can publish while the story is hot.
Big Data in particular
CT: What do you see happening in the Big Data space around marketing?
BA: First of all I see a great deal of confusion that vendors are creating. Every company you run into is in the Big Data space, whether they are or they aren’t. I don’t think many of them know what they’re doing.
Because we can’t define what Big Data is, it helps create lots of messages and, in the end, people don’t know what they’re buying. If you do have a solution in the Big Data and analytics space, you get bundled with the guys who really don’t. In some cases, I’m glad for the legitimate competition as I don’t compete against an IBM or TIBCO because we’re not selling the same product to the same class of customer. If you look at their price tag and offering, they’re focused on a country’s healthcare or the challenges of governments and global institutions. I’m focused on everyday solutions for everyday customers like Uber and others.
Secondly, I see the paradigms that some IT buyers work from are outdated. Large budgets and long timeframes are being applied like they did for BI…buy from multiple vendors and it’s OK to take 18 months to get to a result. The business customer doesn’t want to buy from three people, they don’t want to spend millions integrating solutions, and aren’t going to wait 18 months for answers from a cobbled together solution. It is a challenge for the big guys and is an opportunity for us. We’re the database, ETL and visualization and our customers can have the technology in hours and have it deployed in days. We sell you a subscription like my competitors won’t. This is becoming a consumer-type buying cycle and that’s how some of the big boys will lose customers. Even if they know the trend, it is very hard to change the business model, customer expectations and how you direct and pay your sales staff.
Bruno made great points that resonate against my own experience in large and small companies and with technology hype cycles. Customers vary greatly and some are truly looking for broad-based solutions that require pulling together many technologies to make it all work, while others are focused on solving something very specific that may not need a multi-million dollar answer. Above all, any offering needs to be accurately marketed and honestly described. At some point the hype dies down and the companies that have been delivering value continue to roll along while those who were opportunistic will fade from view.