Merriam-Webster defines a broker as someone who helps others reach agreements and make deals to buy or sell some kind of property. So with that in mind, data center brokers typically bring expertise in commercial real estate and mission critical IT facilities to help identify, vet, negotiate, and ultimately procure data center facilities on behalf of their clients.
Now with such an insanely complex transaction, brokers as intermediaries are still very much a healthy business model. But there are four major ways that data center brokers have gotten disrupted in recent years.
1. Mobile Devices
There’s a widely circulated stat about there being more mobile devices on the planet than toothbrushes.
On the surface, the personal hygiene implications sound pretty darn gross.
But think about this. Do you personally have both a tablet and phone? That’s two devices.
How many toothbrushes do you use at once?
But all oversimplifications aside, as mobile devices have become more powerful and more mainstream, we walk around in our pockets with a PC that essentially can look up the answer to any question imaginable within seconds. And in most cases, whether, on an Android phone or iPhone, you don’t even have to type the question. For example, your ideal client might ask:
- “Why is ASHRAE important to the data center industry?”
- "What data center tax incentives are available in the US?"
- “Who's the best data center broker in Dallas?”
These are all questions that your buyer personas are likely to be asking Google, Siri, Bing, or Yahoo!
And with as much as 70% (or more) of the buyer’s journey and decision-making process over before prospects are ready to speak to a broker about their data center needs, the only question is: Do you want your ideal clients to find your website content? Or do you want your ideal clients to find your competitor’s website content?
2. Search Engines
As you may have noticed in the previous section, typical searches asked by those looking for a broker are often entire questions, rather than just a few words.
As IT professionals, and search engine users in general, have become more savvy users of search engines, over time keyword phrases searched for have become much longer – often known as “the long tail,” as first popularized in Chris Anderson’s bestseller “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.”
While the back of US currency may read “In God we trust,” as search engines have taken on more pervasive roles in pop culture, there’s a widespread feeling as well that, “In Google we trust.”
This has massive implications for those who previously depended on the traditional marketing playbook for demand generation – trade show booths, direct mail, cold calls, renting an email list and then spamming people for instance.
Today, your brand is no longer what you say it is. Your brand is what the crowdsourced wisdom of Google says it is.
As Google so succinctly explained in its landmark research on Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), “The Internet has changed how we decide what to buy. At Google, we call this online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth - or simply ZMOT.”
And if you’re in doubt that these phenomena apply to your ideal clients, it’s more critical than ever that you develop buyer personas for your most important ideal clients.
A buyer persona is simply a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client based on research and educated speculation. And it must be researched-based. Just guessing would be like a surgeon opening you up on the operating table without the benefit of x-rays, imaging studies, blood work, or pre-op testing.
3. Social Media
Do you think that your ideal clients for data center facilities aren’t using social media? Think again.
And while this should always be validated by buyer persona research, there are dozens of LinkedIn Groups with thousands of members just in the tiny little data center ecosystem.
Now, not all IT professionals that are decision makers and evaluators use Twitter regularly.
But there are definitely enough that simply running a search on Twitter on a popular hashtag like #datacenter or #IaaS or #cloud will reveal thousands of status updates posted literally every week.
That’s an awful lot of conversations that you could be a missing out on when a CIO poses the question:
“Anyone know a good #datacenter broker with experience in Silicon Valley?”
4. Cloud Computing
When Marc Benioff and Parker Harris founded Salesforce.com in 1999, they may have been a little ahead of their time, but not by much.
Today with a $48 billion market cap, no one is questioning the business model viability of software as a service (SaaS) or cloud computing.
However when it comes to deciding on infrastructure for mid-market or enterprise IT needs, most decision makers for data center facilities grapple with a choice of an on-premise data center, a colocation data center, a wholesale data center, cloud computing, or some hybrid combination.
Either way, every IT stakeholder in a company most certainly goes through a buyer’s journey – an active research process -- when deciding how much or how little of their infrastructure should reside in the cloud.
What does this mean to a data center broker’s marketing?
It’s critical that you not only have helpful, educational content for each of your ideal buyer personas.
You’ll also need contextually-relevant content for each buyer persona depending on whether each person is in the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness stage – just beginning to research a broad-based problem
- Consideration stage – starting to consider potential solutions to those problems
- Decision-making stage – narrowing down to the shortlist and engaging more interactively
While there a number of disruptors impacting the data center industry, including environmental regulations, regulatory incentives, increasing density, compliance requirements, power pricing, and industry consolidation, brokers of data center services are grappling with four main disruptors to their traditional marketing and sales funnel. These include the mainstream adoption of mobile devices, search engines, social media, and cloud computing.
The Bottom Line
If your sales funnel still looks the same way it did five years ago, there’s a very good chance that your brokerage is completely absent from the first 70%+ of the buyer’s journey. That absence is a huge problem because it’s during that first 70%+ of the buyer’s journey when you have a chance to influence prospects as a trusted advisor.
Sure you can sit this out and only sometimes hear from prospects in the final 10% to 30% of the buyer’s journey. But unfortunately at that stage, their mind is nearly made up. They’ve been educated about the issues that matter most from someone else. And the only way to change their mind is to sacrifice your margins and come in cheaper. Not exactly the recipe for a profitable brokerage firm.
So the key is to attract your ideal buyers early. And the way to do so, in a world where traditional interruption-based marketing has been disrupted: creating helpful, educational content that teaches prospects how to get up to speed on the issues that matter most to them.
Are you a data center broker that’s still living in the past? Hoping for a resurgence of the phone book, printed trade publications, postal mail, and cold calls? Are you counting on search engines and social media to be just another fad? Let us know your take in the Comments box below.
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