It’s time to strut the 3000’s stuff

The season reminds us of the true meaning of marketing: attracting new customers

December, 1997

It’s a month before Christmas as I write this, but I feel like Santa has already arrived at the NewsWire. Not because there are presents under our tree. We won’t even move our traditional Douglas fir into the living room until the last few days before the 25th. Here in Texas you must wait deep into December to get weather that feels like the holidays.

HP 3000 customers, however, don’t have to wait. It feels like they’ve already been given a gift. HP’s Commercial Systems Division (CSY) is making them a present of a new customer effort, one of the most serious I’ve seen at CSY in five years. It matters to everybody who owns an HP 3000 – because the more people sitting at the MPE table, the greater the feast of solutions. That translates into better prices and value, something anybody who’s shopping should care about. We all need to shop once in a while.

You have to go back even further than five years to find a splash of national advertising like 3000 customers saw in late October. I’m not sure the HP 3000 ever enjoyed the kind of advertising push where a string of ads appeared in publications not specifically aimed at HP customers. You could find them in Infoworld, Computerworld, Computer Reseller News and PC Week. Whatever the shortcomings of what I call the national press – its attention span is short and attention to detail is sometimes absolutely absent – it’s one place where hearts and minds of high-level managers are won.

The challenge of 30 percent new 3000 business in 1998 has a swagger to it, like Bill Gates claiming that Windows NT is completely scalable
Companies have always needed new customers to keep a computing platform healthy. Without the new blood, the solution suppliers lose interest, and the customers can’t get the job done without the solutions.

While that seems obvious, for the last two years it was hard to get anybody in CSY marketing to admit winning new customers was even important, let alone vital to the 3000’s health. One long-established solution supplier in the MPE market sniffed regularly, “You can hardly call it a marketing department when it only sells to its existing customer base.” It’s all marketing, but the real risk, effort and reward lies in getting people to choose the 3000 where it’s not already working.

Since there’s no changing the past, we won’t linger on the lost opportunities that pulling the 3000’s punches might have cost. The past is not as important as what CSY wants to see in its future – making almost one dollar out of every three that it earns this year come from a customer new to the 3000.

Measuring the success of that effort might be something best left to the dedicated bean counters in the audience. It’s far more important to note that the challenge of 30 percent new 3000 business in 1998 has a swagger to it, like Bill Gates claiming that Windows NT is completely scalable, or Al Gore being the front runner for the next US Presidency. Either of those things could happen, and CSY could get to its 30 percent goal. The effort is more important, since it gives the impression that Gates, Gore and CSY actually believe in their ability to benefit customers or citizens.

Evidence abounds that today’s CSY customers are seeing benefits. The division racked up a sales year where it reportedly broke quota four months early. Many of those companies which were supposedly moving to Unix, or now NT, have been as still as a mouse when the lights snap on after midnight. They bought more HP 3000s this year than anybody expected, and so CSY earned a lot more than its keep.

That profitability carries a lot of weight inside HP. Now the division has a reputation for getting close enough to customers to sell them what will solve problems, at prices somewhat higher than people pay for better-known solutions. The extra cost works in two places at once, since customers get more for their money while HP gets to post the profits.

Those profits yielded benefits this year for CSY. Now the group has support from HP’s upper-level managers, something that was hiding behind operating system religion in years past. HP doesn’t believe anymore that any one environment is going to solve everybody’s problems. It knows, according to computing czar Rick Belluzzo, that it must sell a diverse set of environments. And sell is the operative word. Belluzzo admitted that it’s more of a marketing challenge to offer Unix, NT and MPE than to tell everyone that NT or Unix will do it all. This concession is all the opening the 3000 needs to maintain that respect from the top of HP’s management chain.

Inside CSY, its new marketing manager Roy Breslawski is coupling that high-level support with a refreshing belief that “one of the right things we can do for current customers is go get some new ones.” Big changes, both, changes that could lead to another strong year for the 3000. If CSY broke its quota months ahead of schedule in 1997 without a push toward 30 percent new business, just imagine what fiscal 1998 might have in store. And yes, you should care about the 3000 breaking quota. You get more from CSY when it happens.

To be fair to Breslawski’s marketing predecessors, there has always been new business being written for HP 3000s. Even in the darkest part of the 3000’s business curve, when we dreamed up the NewsWire, you only needed to look at the mail order industry, airlines or healthcare firms to find places where solutions led the HP 3000 into new shops. In some cases, it displaced buzzword-rich alternatives like Unix systems and even the leading loyalist alternative, the AS/400. Nobody is saying nothing has been done to increase the 3000’s customer base. We’ve just been saying, as long as we’ve been publishing, that not enough was being done. But that is changing, as you’ll see in our Q&A this issue.

The sounds we’re hearing are sweeter than caroling in an early evening’s light snowfall. Breslawski says in our Q&A that CSY will target discrete manufacturing to find some of those new customers. Breslawski expects that MM II will sell some 3000s in places where SAP’s R/3 is just too big, and takes too long to implement. That’s an about face from a division that was making plans to give customers “Choices” to replace manufacturing systems in 1995, some of which included non-3000 systems. It would appear the new evangelism in CSY will make one of the leading choices a revamped MM II running on a 3000. Choose this, they might be saying.

For the moment, we’re not thankful merely for the gift, in this giving season. It’s the thought that counts. We believe the thought is your computer system is great solution, a party that CSY will now work to invite a lot more people to. We’re ready with the maps, the favors and placecards that identify this successful community. We’re already having a happy holiday – hope you do, too.

– Ron Seybold
Copyright 1997 The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved

Ron Seybold, Editor In Chief The 3000 NewsWire Independent Information to Maximize Your HP 3000 512-657-3264