The Great IBM Power Play
As a college freshmen, I first encountered political science. I remember well the impact
of the prof pontificating, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely!" Back then in the hot days of the Cold
War, you could "hear" the class sub-vocally exclaim the equivalent to today's "heavy." What
insight we thought. The entire rationale of the U.S. Constitution's "checks n balances" reduced to four words.
After all, POWER is something to be feared and constrained. Right?
Wrong! Power is power. How its used makes it good or bad. Yet unfortunately, for
many -- steeped in the protective security of bicameral legislation -- power is something that they are often uncomfortable
using (maybe even feel guilty) ... therefore is something that they do not practice using... which therefore is something
that they will feel even less comfortable using in the future.
IN MARKETING AND SALES
THIS INABILITY TO GARNER POWER AND UNWILLINGNESS
TO USE POWER
IS A FATAL FLAW
There are some who feel that power is subjective. Herb Cohen
in his bestseller, "You Can Negotiate Anything", contends that if you believe that you have power, then
you have it.
To an extent this is true. Good poker players and contract negotiators
understand this karma. Ronald Reagan, however, believed that you needed more than a menacing stare
or good bluff for world peace... perhaps a Persing missile or two.
Micheal Korda's #1 bestseller, "Power", detailed the power game from
physical location to gender via exercises and rules. And in "Dress for Success", the awareness of
the"power suit" has created a new salutation in business -- "See you've got your power
AND IBM HAS ITS POWER SUIT ON ALL
Isn't the topic of power fascinating. Were it not that we all
have marketing plans to prepare/implement and sales to make, we could argue forever the merits of the
above. But then again, why bother. IBM DIDN'T WASTE THE TIME -- IT
HAS IMPLEMENTED ALL SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT. And there are some powerful
marketing lessons to be learned from IBM'S acquisition and excercise of power*
Daryl Conner of O.D. Resources, Inc. developed a survey by which individuals
could measure their ability and willingness to use power. Since IBM as a corporation is an entity,
I'd like to profile IBM using Daryl's nine basic types of power available to people
in an organization -- the exception being to emphasize IBM'S possession of these same power types in the marketplace.
TYPES OF POWER
POSITION POWER -- is based upon a rank. Clearly, not very much needs be said. After all these years and all the other companies, IBM is still #1... by a
long shot. On a scale of 1-10, give them a 10 for overall domination, and especially in business data processing. If there are any doubters of the value of marketshare dominance
follow the bouncing ball to the below powers.
ADMIRATION POWER -- based on character and charisma. As the
saying goes, "No one ever got fired for bringing in Big Blue". The airtight
selling approach. The strict legal protocols. The professionalism of management, etc. go to
make a total package. It's actually amazing to hear IBM users "bitch and moan"
about IBM'S lack of price performance or lack of upward compatibility in one breath and then praise their marketing power in the next breath. That's charisma!
ASSERTIVE POWER -- based on the capacity to be directive and
persuasive about desire or ideas. Again, not very much needs to be said here.
One typical way that IBM accomplishes this is to bring the executives to Endicott or Armonk N.Y. for a
"Directions" presentation. They listen... and they follow. Companies even
as big as DEC can't do this yet (though at least they are finally attempting to).
ENABLING POWER -- based upon the capacity to provide opportunities to others to implement their own power. Wouldn't you like to be Microsoft or
any of the others that have hopped on the coattails of Big Blue! The number of products
that get placed upon the IBM door step for possible review is unfathomable. In essence the world
is their research department, because they can create a Cinderella.
WITHHOLDING POWER -- based upon the capacity to intentionally
withhold the use of any power type to allow events to take a certain course.
Parents withhold love from children to keep them in line. And IBM, too, has learned the power of
with- holding marketing information. For example, look at the state of affairs
w/r/t local area networks. Simply, when IBM holds out on market entry, the marketplace is at best tentative.
Early adopters hop in, but the flock watches from a safe distance until Big Blue speaks.
Quite an interesting counter power to its previous paralyzing power in pre-releasing announcements
(which led to rulings to protect other vendors).
INFORMATION POWER -- is based upon possession or access to info that is perceived as valuable to others. The world speculates upon IBM'S every move
for one reason: They don't know what's going on... and therefore cannot anticipate. Look at the current speculation on the XT software deal. It ranges from "ho-hum" to "there's
an imminent invasion into software". There is no arguement regarding this power type's value. INFORMATION IS POWER.
EXPERT POWER -- is based upon possession of expertise, skills, or knowledge that is useful to others. It's powerful to have Senior Fellows using
the resources of one of theworlds largest corporations to do basic research. And as mentioned above to also be a magnet to attract the fruits of outside research as well. Distributed
data processing asknown in the late '70s never got IBM'S endorsesment. Instead, IBM
years later announced and sold the value of the Information Center concept to put (read, "distribute")
information near to the people who needed it. Sold a lot of 4300s as they marched
over the graves of several other vendor's former DDP efforts!
REINFORCEMENT POWER -- is based upon the capacity to accomplish things by administering rewards, punishments, and pressures. I call this policing
power. And here IBM holds all the trump cards. For starters, IBM has on-site SEs available to monitor competitor calls, software/hardware upgrade opportunities, internal politics...
the works. For this reason, I excuse myself in product planning meetings when the
conversations turn to, "Well what does IBM do in this situation?" Or "Let's follow IBM'S approach".
because there is usually no convceiveable way to pull-off an IBM enforcement.
Trainers of large animals understand that one never ask a beast (read,
"corporation") to behave in a way that one cannot enforce... otherwise one runs the risk of reinforcing a bad habit. Ronald Reagan understands the value of Star Wars (so do the Russians
- that's why they're scream- ing). And IBM understands positive and negative customer reinforcement from Armonk down to the field service engineer.
CONNECTION POWER -- is based on relationships or connections
with influential persons. For example, count the number of former U.S. Attorney Generals
that went to work for IBM. Imagine what their influence has been on all cases pending against IBM... especially the one that has lead to this frolicing market free-for-all that IBM
is currently enjoying.
So there it is... a perfect score. In every catergory that conveys power to an individual, IBM,
as a corporate entity, has managed a Perfect 10 -- (hold the Bolero, please.) Possibly, it's a bit unrealistic to think
that you, or your company, or client could ever achieve such power. Yet the road map for this conquest is before you
and the benchmarks for perfection come in one color... BLUE.
This article wasn't written to encourage anyone to fight IBM on its turf, but to provide a model for
becoming "King of your own hill... or niche." Good Luck.
SEAT OF MARKETING POWER: Actually there is no one Seat of Marketing
Power, there are Seats. Some of these have been mentioned elsewhere: The Powers
of References, of Users Groups, of Marketing Oriented Contracts, of Telemarketing, of Sales Literature,
of Transition programs, etc. By my definition, these are all TACTICAL in nature
which develop into a profile of STRATEGIC POWERS that are far more impactful upon the marketplace. And TOTAL STRATEGIC POWER is achieved through the domination of one's environment.
It requires not only the acquisition of this position, but the exercise of the power that "comes with
the turf". For you "King of the Hill" players, you know what I mean! Advantage goes to the
guy/gal on top.