What does IBM conjure up in your mind? Is it big business, white shirts and the corporate way of doing things? That was the perception many business people had of the company several years ago. Realizing that small businesses didnít think IBM was relevant to them, the company decided to break down that perception by providing services that appealed directly to small biz. Does IBM feel passionately about small business? You bet. Just ask Jim Hilt, manager, sales management and operations for IBM.com. Hereís what we learned from Jim:
IBM sought to breakdown the barrier that says IBM isnít for small biz. While the company has been working on changing the marketís perceptions for the last couple of years, the IBM.com branded campaign was started in June. Overall, the company is using various media to let small businesses know that IBM was interested in and understood their business.
On the IBM.com website, there are small business centers for 10 countries around the world. Plus there are special centers for women entrepreneurs and other market segments. The centers focus on the kinds of information that small biz needs. The centers provide info on what products and technology are needed (IBM products arenít thrust down the customerís throat, either); tools like Ask the Expert; and specific info on IBM products (which can be purchased directly online or through the telesales group).
Banners, emails, affiliate programs are all being used as well as direct mail, radio and TV. The TV ads show a much hipper and cooler IBM. One TV ad very successfully pokes fun at IBMís old image.
The company also staged a multiple city tour in a green semi- trailer truck. The truck would appear at small business meetings and further publicized that IBM was embracing small biz (plus note the semi was green, not blue. Another way to show the change in the companyís outlook.)
Perceptions have changed dramatically. Many industry observers are lauding IBM for its transformation. It proves that an extremely well coordinated effort can achieve a change in the publicís perception. But you have to work at it. One of the keys Ė using TV and radio, which have been very important in changing the companyís image.
NOTES: IBMís complexity is its strength, points out Hilt. The company realized that the web part of the company had to be coordinated with the rest of the corporation. The messages had to be coordinated and had to translate into a changed perception of the company. Typically, any breakdown in coordination usually involves the website. To counteract this, IBM makes certain that if an offer is featured in the TV ads, the offer is mirrored on the website. Coordination of the offline and online presence is very important.
Further, IBM is constantly getting feedback from customers and is refining its marketing based on that feedback.
One last tidbit regarding marketing in different countries -- IBM found that more personalized vehicles are acceptable in the US, UK, Japan and Australia but not in other markets.
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