Lucy’s Sail: Chapter 4: The New Line

OwnWebNow
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Pardon the maritime references; For what it’s worth, the line is used to lift the sail up so that the ship can sail faster in a new direction. So in terms of the series of blog posts crossing the metaphores between The Beatles Lucy in the sky with diamonds, the colonial and penal ships sailing around the world to establish new colonies, yada, yada, yada… this post title therefore infers that we will be doing something new with the wind to get us moving faster. My god, I’ve completely lost it.

If you haven’t read any of the posts on this thread, I understand. Self gloating gets tiring. Most of it is unlikely to impact you at all if you don’t work with us. The following will and I hope you take a moment to understand where I’m coming from and what I am about to do.

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In the long, long ago, I started a consulting business. We designed network solutions, built workstations and servers, started writing system management software and antispam stuff.. fast forward to now. We have a mature enterprise consulting group. We have one of the leading infrastructure companies, in terms of customers, in terms of network diversity, and in terms of presence. We have an ISV arm that develops all the things you are aware of and all the things you’ve never heard of. Fingers crossed, by the end of the year we’ll be doing a lot more stuff. Point being, none of this happened overnight, I worked very hard and very long with a lot of people to get my company where it is now. About two years ago I had announced my intention not to die under the glow of the computer monitor, at 4:10 AM auditing an event log. Over time I reduced my work hours, got married, started a family, had a kid.. and the company grew more and more, and it is poised to go even further.

As I started pulling back from being the main operational monkey, and focusing on other things, I sat in a lot of meetings, conferences, advisory panels and just sunk a lot of hours into trying to figure out what it is we do here. Are we an ISV? Are we a Global VAR? Are we an antispam company? Does it matter to anyone? Turns out the marketing message only matters to the marketing people, the folks that sit around and talk about the web page that nobody visits as the next book to be included in the bible, counting the number of times you have to repeat word “process” or “leader” in order to prove a point to the guy that is scavaging the site to figure out some obscure detail we failed to document.

What this business (Own Web Now Corp) was built on, what it grows on and what it will continue to succeed on is much simpler than that. It’s called relationships and working with our partners and clients to help them be more profitable by spending less time on special systems where they have a tiny need/opportunity and helping them pull of giant projects only we and IBM can deliver.

Welcome our new web site…

Last week Judy and I sat down and scraped the whole pile of marketing crap and instead looked how to reduce the amount of junk filler we have and instead focus on how to get people to come to our site, learn something new and move on even if they don’t buy anything. We are not a retail op, impulse purchases off the web site are not very likely nor important, but it is important to stay true to our heritage of being a company that works together with partners and clients, not one that sits behind vendor tables and hands out dead trees. Call it antimarketing.

Our new web site:

http://www.OwnWebNow.com

But dude, what am I looking at?

The first thing you’ll notice is that there is no signup button. No buy me now. Even all of our products are not described. What about the specs? What about the flash? I need cute pictures to make a decision damnit!!!! I know, hold on, it will be there. There is a point to this exercise:

Most of the web sites in the IT consulting space, b2b or b2c, suck. They suck because it takes far too much time to design, it is outdated immediately, it is not relevant to the audience and it doesn’t serve a purpose. At all. So instead of working on our corporate identity, instead of drawing people to it, instead of constantly refreshing and educating our partners and clients – we come up with another distraction to further fragment our presence. OWN is a small company. We have three sharepoint portals, two web servers, two knowledge bases, one blog and one managed folder that I know of. There are likely more.

To me it matters very little how my web site scales with my competitors in terms of revenues generated from the web – read the bank balance, bitch – what matters to me is that we have this awesome opportunity to take what we do every single day and put it towards improving our partners and clients.

My favorite self-proclaimed RiffRaff general Andy Goodman and I talk once a month, sometimes more. I don’t want to out Andy but he makes a lot of money for OWN. He ain’t no RiffRaff, those tshirts are expensive! Same with Mark Crall. Do we talk about some super secret squirrel club way to take over the world? No. We talk about business, we talk about technology, we talk about business plans. We do things that makes being in this industry fun and we’d talk to you about it in person no matter what.

I have never entered into a conversation with the words “So who do you use for antispam..” and I don’t really see a reason to start to now. Moreover, I have a new problem, with more people from OWN working directly with my partners and customers, do they know what we’re all about?

I am advertising to myself.

My marketing message is that I need to sell myself, my partners, my employees, my vendors and my wife on what it is we do around here. If I can manage to do that, we’ll find someone to sell this to. If I don’t I guess I’ll go work at McDonalds and buy some AdSense to promote our solutions. It beats growing old and fat and having to wear pink pants and a megaphone to attract attention.

I (know from partner feedback) that people buy more than a product and a service from OWN. They buy into a relationship. I want to share that with you, although if you’re reading this blog you already know how I go about things.

Summary

We are all at a point where our businesses must change in order to survive. I am going to share the development of our message, our value proposition, our web site marketing, traffic trends, what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t have all of the above problems, keep on working hard and you soon will. First, I’ll comment here on what we say and how we say it, to give you an idea of how we’re trying to position our hosted messaging and collaboration products that we’ve been selling all along. In a world of Gmail and Live, a $10/10 GB Mbox needs to fight too.

Second, to celebrate the launch of the new web site and our new dedication to improving our partners and working better together, we’re doing a series of podcasts from the Microsoft WPC. Tune in every night this week to find out the latest WPC events as seen by our partners.

Finally, remember that little SBS Show thing Chris and I used to do? Yeah, it’s grown up a little bit, and you can download the latest show here: http://www.ownwebnow.com

I hope this post and the one that will follow later tonight and tomorrow reaffirm the commitment to our partners and clients that we’ve built a business on top of. Stay tuned 🙂 Oh, and join in 🙂

3 Responses to Lucy’s Sail: Chapter 4: The New Line

  1. Mike says:

    I’m just an end-user, but I am impressed with your company and your ethos in running it. I’d like to learn more about it for the non-profit I work for, but can’t find a list of partners on the OWN site that I can contact about the products. Do you plan to do this at some point?

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