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March 27, 2010 4:48 pm

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I’ve now attended six BrainShares and I’ve learned something new at each one.  This time on the personal connection to brands, not assuming that you are communicating, and getting back to basics:

As the most visible and public way for folks to demonstrate how passionate they are about Novell, Brainshare grew over the years into a very important part of the relationship between the company, our customers, and our partners.

When it was gone (2009), people missed it – I missed it – and when it came back, they were very pleased and I was too.

This was brought home to me as I walked the floors and visited the sessions at Brainshare last week. One after another people approached me to express their gratitude for Brainshare’s return and I was glad to be reminded each time that people don’t just have a business relationship with Novell, they have a personal relationship with us.

And while it’s nice to be thanked for something you’ve done, what I truly appreciated was that many of the people thanking me then took the opportunity to say, “Now that I have your attention, here’s some other thoughts I have about Novell and the things you’re doing….”

These conversation were wonderful and served to remind me of something else that no marketer should ever forget:

Never assume that your customers, your partners, or even your employees understand as intimately as you do where you intend to take the company and how you intend to deliver value.

Ultimately, it’s incumbent on us to deliver our message in a simple, meaningful, clear way.  And it’s not incumbent upon customers and partners to try and figure it out for themselves.

In other words, my experience at Brainshare taught me that we still have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to letting the marketplace know what it is we do, why we’re different, what we stand for, and why we should be among the strategic IT vendors that they do business with.

The good news is that we do have something distinctive to say and offer relative to helping folks securely manage their workloads across physical, virtual, and cloud environments AND for addressing the growing convergence between personal and enterprise collaboration.   Those who continue to view us as being in the legacy, infrastructure software business didn’t realize just how far along we were and, frankly, I think they were pleasantly surprised to discover where we are today.

Our basic message at Brainshare was, “Innovation is alive and well at Novell and not only is the company a solid choice for some of the basics, but we’re also doing some really interesting things related to one’s ability to adopt these evolving business models of virtualization and cloud, in particular.”

That’s not the kind of message that you can tell people; you have to show them. To do that we took Brainshare back to its roots: A technical conference for technical people. Less style, more substance.

This attitude was reflected particularly in the fact that we demonstrated a lot of products (Identity Manager 4, Novell Cloud Security Service, Novell Pulse, SUSE Studio and many others)  that were not just far off visions or hallucinations but actually real. We supplemented these demos with a lot of technical sessions and a lot of opportunities for people to talk to the experts who are developing these products.

The result was, from what I saw, a lot of energized customers and partners who were intrigued and excited to find out where we are going as a company and as a community.

That’s some of what I learned from Brainshare. Did I miss anything?

John

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1 Comment

  1. John (and all the other fantastic employees at Novell who participated): THANK YOU for bringing BrainShare back.

    I have been to BrainShare every year since 1998 and this one is in my top 3! Sure, the one year absence made it something to look forward to even more than usual, but coming from the Netherlands there has been a discussion within our company to go to Amsterdam. I have not idea how well the EMEA version of BrainShare will be, but I am glad I insisted on going to Salt Lake City. BrainShare was more sober than I have ever seen, but it made the technical level stand even more.

    There are two weeks that make that I can do my job properly: BrainShare & the ATT live.

    Again, thans for the effort and support.

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