Buying Power?

I was part of an interesting conversation last night during #vbeers in London. Actually it was a bit of a recurring topic so I couldn't say for sure how it started. I just wanted to record my thoughts though.

In a nutshell, we were talking about buying decisions, how they are driven and what they best strategy is. The eventual consensus appeared (to me at least) to be that some companies have the right idea and some do not.

Think about a business, maybe a small one for example with a handful of employees. They're expanding though and so they're having to grow their IT infrastructure. Which vendor will they choose do you think? Will the decision be based on cost, features, familiarity or some combination of these and other factors?

I threw familiarity in there deliberately as it was the core part of the discussion. I think that familiarity plays a bigger role in buying decisions than people think. If you (or your employees) are familiar with a technology or vendor and the price difference is not astronomical, wouldn't you choose the product that you're most comfortable with?

Look at Apple. If you visit one of their stores you can pick up and iPhone or an iPad and play with it. In my mind that makes them instantly more attractive than other products where you have to ask a salesperson to get an item out and then you play with it briefly while they watch over you. Apple's products may be more expensive and, depending on who you ask, they may be better than the competition but the fact that they're more accessible in a shop gives them an edge.

And if your employees all have iPhones and iPads, eventually there will be pressure on any business to work them into their infrastructure strategy. In effect, business decisions will start to become influenced by the consumers that they employ. These are the people that vendors need to target and take a long term view about it.

Take another example, storage. If a growing business is looking to invest in some expensive storage technology, you'd hope that they would do their homework first. Given a choice between EMC and NetApp (other storage vendors do exist – this is an example) which would you choose? You can download a fully functional Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) from EMC and play with it, experiment a bit and run a proof-of concept. NetApp have a simulator also but you have to be a customer of theirs to use it. Does that not tip the balance in favour of EMC before anything else is considered?

Some vendors get it and some do not it would seem. They can't rest on their laurels or the competition will give them a well deserved beating.