I used to wonder if VMware even had a marketing department; in fact, I still do. It seems to me that VMware’s products are so good and have such dominance that they really don’t need marketing to sell themselves.
But today there is much more competition in the virtualization space, and good marketing is a must for obtaining new customers and keeping existing ones. I don’t claim to be a marketing expert but I do know that if someone doesn’t know about your product, he probably won’t be buying it.
The other day I heard an ad on satellite radio for Parallels’ desktop virtualization product for Macs. That was the first virtualization ad I’ve ever heard on the radio and it surprised me. VMware needs to fire up its marketing machine to both promote more awareness of its products and to fight all the misinformation coming from other virtualization vendors. VMware should take notes from IBM and Apple who do a dang good job of marketing themselves. You see IBM advertising almost everywhere; print, TV, radio, online, etc. Apple generates huge excitement with its announcement events for all of its products. These types of events are great for getting the buzz out on the street and letting customers know what a company is working on.
It seems VMware has finally taken a cue from Apple with VMware’s upcoming April 21st event to discuss the launch of their next release of VMware Infrastructure 3, which is vSphere. This is a great marketing move but it would be nice if VMware did more. Some suggestions:
- Announce release dates – We don’t have to have exact dates, but it would be nice to have an estimate. It would be nice to see general release dates for both major and minor releases; also, as the approximate date nears it would be nice to have an exact date. I’ve heard VMware doesn’t do this because it could affect their stock filings; other public companies do it, though, so I don’t see why VMware couldn’t do it. Lotus does the best job I’ve seen of informing customers about there upcoming releases.
- Public Betas – VMware has done public Betas with products like Workstation, and I think it should also do public Betas of new ESX releases. This has many benefits; first, VMware has a larger audience to test their product with before its release. This will help identify bugs and issues that may go unnoticed in a limited private beta. Secondly it allows existing customers to experience the new release ahead of time so they can learn about it and prepare for it. Finally it allows potential new customers to see what’s coming, which may influence them to choose VMware’s product instead of a competitor’s.
- Let people talk about upcoming products – VMware has started to open up about upcoming features and releases as evidenced at recent VMworld conferences and on the VMware website. But why the need for a big shroud of secrecy? I can understand wanting to keep information from competitors, but VMware is so far ahead right now it would take years for competitors to catch up. Knowing this information will help new and existing customers make better purchasing decisions.
In addition, more general advertising couldn’t hurt; I’d love to see an ESX vs. Hyper-V commercial on TV similar in tone to the PC vs. Mac commercials. The more people that know about VMware’s product and its capabilities, the more people there are that can potentially become customers. Perhaps a Superbowl commercial touting vSphere. (I know plenty of VMware evangelists who would be happy to star in it.) Or a vSphere blimp would be cool; perhaps VMware could buy an old one from Goodyear, repaint it and fly it over the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Whichever way VMware chooses, the bottom line is that I believe VMware has great products and the marketing efforts should recognize that also.