Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lotus Foundations - where is the IBM marketing?

It didn't take a Nostradamus to predict that IBM would throw in a few spoilers during Microsoft's Launch Week for SBS2008. After all, if Microsoft can repeatedly use the first day of Lotussphere to re-release their plans to take 'x' million Notes customers away from IBM, then why shouldn't IBM return the compliment and try to crash Microsoft's party. It's all good, clean predictable fun. Announcing the inclusion of VMWare Virtualization in Lotus Foundations is one of those spoilers. Stand by for a few others as this week unfolds.

Now the serious bit. The launch of SBS2008 and EBS2008 means that the battle for the hearts and wallets of SMB is well and truly joined. Microsoft is the defending champ but for this round IBM had a ten month head start with their January 2008 acquisition of Nitix and subsequent release of Lotus Foundations Server. So did the IBM Marketing team use that time effectively?

My answer is no.

From what I can see, for most of 2008 IBM SMB Marketing have been flopping around impotently just like the US Army did in Vietnam in the 1960's. (That particular analogy can be stretched a bit further). IBM is a technical and financial powerhouse with a wealth of experience in classical IT marketing. Show them an opportunity to re-architect and replace the core database of a Fortune 500 company and they'll throw in enough marketing and technical firepower to win the battle. Unfortunately dealing with SMB opportunities is more like chasing Vietcong insurgents - they are small, mobile and each local cadre writes their own tactical rulebook. Microsoft has excelled at building a large Business Partner community to track down and nail these SMB opportunities while IBM is still trying to figure out how to adjust their existing marketing ploys to win this new war. To make it worse, IBM/Lotus seems to be treating Foundations like a sideshow product - it would be good to get a few sales but let's concentrate on the Notes/Domino market first.

Prove me wrong IBM. Show me that you have a worldwide marketing plan and that you're going to use it. Show me how my company can work with your marketing plan to build our common client base. It's strategically unwise and financially inappropriate to expect existing Lotus Business Partners to develop and pay for developing their own strategies to create the Foundations market. We need to see IBM leadership in this space.

(At this point I'm not addressing the IBM technical direction for Foundations - that's a much happier story and we'll look at that in another post.)


Bob Baehr said...


For sale - one "Humble Pie" :)

Bob Baehr
The Unofficial Poster Child For Lotus Notes and Domino

Bob Baehr said...


For sale - one "Humble Pie" :)

Bob Baehr
The Unofficial Poster Child For Lotus Notes and Domino

Gavin Bollard said...

"We didn't lose Vietnam. It was a tie!" - Otto, (A Fish Called Wanda).

Seriously though.. you make a good point;

"IBM/Lotus seems to be treating Foundations like a sideshow product - it would be good to get a few sales but let's concentrate on the Notes/Domino market first."

Personally, I'd like to see IBM pick a few small business clients in various countries and offer to set them up on Foundations for "FREE" (with annual maintenance costs only) in exchange for being able to quote them and publish their stories in some MIS journals.

Graham, what exactly do you think IBM should be doing to market foundations?

John Rowland said...

If you believe in the product, get out and promote it. If you don't, stop selling it.

Seems like that would be fairly obvious to IBM marketers, but hey...

Graham Dodge said...

Thanks for the pie Bob - I'll gladly eat it when the circumstances are right.

I've given my opinion to IBM and I continue to do so at every opportunity. Mind you, I'm not saying that it's an easy job, and opening a new market for Foundations server is way beyond my humble marketing skills but surely IBM has smarter people than me on board and I'm really hoping they can get something happening in the very near future.


owenb said...

reminds me of the early days (and some later ones for that matter) of Notes with Lotus and then IBM

IBM dont seem to have cottone to the SMB market

crodrig5 said...

I just received a marketing email from IBM Australia this morning. Here is the link to the online version, check out item 4, ouch.
view it online

Graham Dodge said...

Carlos, your link didn't work.

If it was an IBM to Business Partner email, then it was may be considered to be privileged information and shouldn't be published in a public Forum like this one.


Christian Tillmanns said...

Last week I received the marketing information for Foundations. Flyers and all that stuff. Nothing new there.
Graham you are right. IBM does not a lot about SMB marketing. We have all known that for years. You can't even say that to Ed Brill or Alan Lepofsky, because they have heard it so often.
Yes, do it right or stop doing it.
Yes, the Vietnam analogy is absolutely right.
@ Gavin
The standard marketing procedure for a product like this is:
1.Do a mass marketing (not the usual IBM press release – reach out to the end customer)
2.Go to Events where you can reach decision makers (reach out to the end customer)
3.Find ISVs who have additional value propositions
4.Give specialized partners (those who are willing to invest in the product) and early adopters good benefits
1.do a specialized marketing for IT Pros. Those are not the decision makers in SBMs
2.rely on the old business model. It is a new product with a new business model

That is what IBM should do.

Richard Moy said...


I agree with you. But it would help if IBM start having a central web site focused only on small business solutions. Instead of going to one place for Foundations there is already two sites. At one point there was 7 sites in IBM that addressed the SMB market, but each had a different message and focus.

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