In this special guest feature, Kim McMahon from McMahon Consulting writes that, for High Performance Computing vendors, HPC Marketing is a completely different animal than B2B.
My specialty is marketing for high performance and technical computing companies who are selling servers, storage, networking, big data, cloud, and services. Their customers use the super-high end resources to do things like mapping the human genome or running complex, data-intensive climate models to improve forecasting and protect against disaster.
The cool things my customers are doing with technology is one of the best parts of my job. So I got to thinking, is marketing to this type of customer different than marketing in other industries?
I’ve decided the answer is yes.
Now, before I go further into how different (and cooler) HPC marketing is, I am in no way suggesting that B2B marketing in other industries is better or worse than the marketing I get to do. It’s just different.
So, here I go with my list:
- The Market is unique. The market is looking for products that are very specialized and typically built to address a gap that is not addressed by current products on the market. General purpose products often times do not meet the requirements for speed, latency, or performance (just to name a few!).
- Products are technical. The products are highly technical and this comes with a need to understand technologies that the every-day person has never heard of. Shared memory, map reduce, what 100Gb Ethernet is and why it’s important – things like that.
- Relationships are key. Everyone in the industry knows everyone either directly or through someone who can make an introduction. Add to this, the products being sold or the research being done has a high amount of closely guarded intellectual property. This creates an environment where relationships are a must for doing business.
- The Market is highly educated. Many members of the community have completed years of study with multiple degrees and PhDs at places like MIT, Stanford, the University of Cambridge, just to name a few. To do marketing, you don’t need that type of degree from that kind of school, but you need to understand the importance and give it the respect it deserves.
- The Market does not want to be sold to – At All. What you also get with that high degree of education is a group of people that know a lot (or think they know a lot) and just will not be sold to. They will figure out when they need something and find you. And when they find you, hold on!
- Three distinct market segments: Commercial, Government, and Academia. Most companies who are working in HPC are selling to all three of the market segments. As diverse as these industries are, so is how you approach each of these segments from a marketing standpoint. Each segment has their own ‘group’, they find information in different places, they have different jargon, and there is little overlap. This results in multiple marketing messages and marketing plans to address each of these segments.
- Proof of concept plays a big role. Speed, latency, and performance are among the considerations for buying any high-end computing system. Plus, it must run on a software application which is often an in-house developed application. Testing and running proof of concepts is a normal part of the process to make sure the performance is there and everything works.
- Constant record-breaking hardware and software. Not every company selling products to the HPC and Technical Computing Community are in the record-breaking race, but it certainly is part of the industry. If you are marketing for one of these companies, you get lucky and have some really great news to talk about. For the rest of us, we watch the results and figure out how it will affect our customers.
- Technology partnerships are key. The specialized products being built and sold fit a niche. Technology partnerships bring together complimentary technologies to take that niche and make it a little bigger. Joint marketing with partners expands the breadth of awareness and the message to the market.
- Once its in your blood, it doesn’t go away. HPC gets in your blood and under your skin. Once you start in this industry, it’s hard to leave behind!
I love working in this industry and I’m glad it chose me – or I chose it – or I guess we ended up here together. I’ve listed my experience working in this industry, do you have anything else to share?
Kim McMahon will be a featured speaker at the StartupHPC-15 event, which takes place Nov. 16 in Austin in conjunction with SC15. Having done sales and marketing for more years than she cares to count, Kim writes frequently on marketing, life, the world and how they sometimes all come together.
McMahon Consulting has many years of experience in the IT, compute, storage, networking, and services departments of companies such as SGI, Cray, NetApp, and Brocade. We bring our experience, knowledge, contacts, and experience to IT companies providing innovative and exciting solutions that are solving some of the toughest challenges users have. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or just to brainstorm!