A recent conversation has had me thinking about vendors who engage through the VMUG Community.
A VMUG places unique requirements on a vendor who decides to present or sponsor. Unlike a sales meeting a VMUG is not a “Qualified Lead”. They have to engage a room full of people with varying skill levels and interests (which at that time may or may not include their offering), while attempting to demonstrate their capabilities. The usual sales slides won’t cut it, Members want to know how it really works and more importantly who is using it and how they do in detail. Ultimately they want to be shown the solution providing benefit not the brochure.
The community want a long term relationship, multiple presentations, free advice and engagement with multiple ways of communicating with the vendor at all levels.The pinnacle is giving the community ways of influencing the product and direction of the company. Adjusting to a community way of thinking does not come easy and I have seen vendors completely miss the mark when it comes to the crunch. I think that sometimes they are simply not prepared for how communities are different from other sales opportunities.
The vendors that are successful do not view VMUGs as a quick win, or the “Qualified Lead”. They see it as opportunity to immerse themselves among the people that use or are likely to use their products. It allows them to spread their knowledge, truly show how their product (and their people) can help (without it being a sales pitch) and engage on a personal level that will be remembered by attendees. Its the understanding they are part of a bigger ecosystem and that their part to play may come from a lead, a presentation, a conversation or even a quick DM / message on twitter.
It may be an instant purchase on the strength of their presentation or it may be 6 months from now, but playing their part in the community will attract interest. That interest will be evangelised by the community, and that community will ultimately become an extension of your sales / presales arm.
Those vendors who flourish do so by engaging the community wholeheartedly offering demos, free events advice, and embracing the community spirit, and as a community we eat it up spending many nights on the additional activities offered to VMUG members.
Our mantra for our VMUG is if just one person learns or solves something from the event, then its a success, and those vendors that embrace that same thinking are those that ultimately thrive in communities.
While I do not wish to cherry pick vendors that have shown these qualities, An example is necessary to demonstrate the point.
From tweet to Two Purchase Orders.
One of the greatest examples of vendor capturing the audience and that engagement being remembered was with Nick Furnell. Nick had attended a VMUG to learn more about storage options and was intrigued by the Nimble Storage offering. Nick subsequently followed Nimble via twitter and in a time of need, Nimble offered to help and the rest is history. This example proves that while not an immediate lead, a VMUG created opportunities as well as allowing a new evangelist to be born. Nicks presentation and subsequent blogs can be found here
The vendors that engage in the community, that play the long game and really do help us to get our job done I say thank you. You are key to the ecosystem and more importantly you recognise that we are key to it for you.
For those interested in becoming part of and reaching the community I say reach out. We are always happy to see new technology and how that will impact all that we do. If you are willing to put the time into the community, I am sure it will pay dividends. After all how often is it that we (or our technology) works in isolation? What better way to make sure we can deliver by ensuring a community of knowledge, help and technology is within reach.