Hockey Hall of Fame legend Wayne Gretzky humbly credits a lot of his career success, over 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL), to something his father Walter taught him through his years of coaching: “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

While it’s unlikely that Gretzky and his $200 million net worth would relish the opportunity to lead an IT company, Gretzky’s contrarian, forward-thinking advice is something that the C-suite at data center providers should take to heart.

Now granted, most CEOs of data center service providers are very much forward-thinking about attracting capital, designing and building facilities, developing and improving processes, leading strategy, developing staff, and speaking at conferences.

However over the past few years, how clients and potential clients evaluate data center providers has changed drastically.

Disruption and Out with the Old

10 years ago, your sales team pretty much controlled all information.

Potential clients were at the mercy of sales reps, and marketing’s contribution to revenue may not have mattered much.

But the game has changed dramatically.

The traditional marketing and sales playbook for the data center industry has been disrupted as search engines, social media, mobile devices, and the cloud become your ideal clients’ go-to tools for navigating the buyer’s journey.

So what might’ve passed for a no-brainer a decade ago -- demand generation staples like cold calling, renting email lists and blasting (ahem… spamming), interrupting people at trade shows, and buying banner ads – is being called on the mat, or to continue the hockey analogy, placed in the penalty box.


Does anyone know anyone who answers their phone without checking caller ID first?

Do you look forward to getting unsolicited emails? Google’s Priority Inbox and other similar innovations make it even harder for email to get through – let alone from those with sketchy email sender reputations and egotistical, salesy content.

Talk yourself into any fiction you’d like about today’s ROI from trade shows – but a big chunk of people are there for networking with their peers and continuing education – not being hard-pitched by hundreds of vendors.

And banner ads? When did you last click on one that led to a major purchase decision? Or the flip side, when was the last time you powered up your favorite web browser one morning and said, “Gee, wouldn’t it be awesome if Google gave more real estate to paid ads and less space to its organic search results?!?”

In With the New at Data Center Providers

So, given that we just might be repulsing or at least alienating a significant chunk of ideal clients by continuing to cram cold calls, spam emails, trade show booths, and banner ads down their throats, what should a data center provider be doing to be relevant in today’s buyer-centric sales cycle?

Your best clients and potential clients, just like you, have gotten very used to doing their own research. So they ask questions all day long to their favorite search engine (Siri, Google, etc.) and in many cases to their favorite social media channel (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, etc.).

How do we know what questions our ideal clients are asking? (And that we need to be answering?)

We develop buyer personas that create data-backed, actionable, and accountable marketing strategy, sales strategy, and product strategy.

No reason to guess what’s keeping a category of ideal client up at 2 o’clock in the morning. We find out.

We don’t guess what can get our ideal clients promoted if they excel at or fired if they screw up. We find out from the source.

And we certainly don’t guess where they hang out online and offline. We find out the real answer and get consensus so we don’t spin our wheels.

Today’s data center evaluators and decision makers are craving solutions to their problems. The sooner we figure out what those are, the sooner we can reposition our marketing and sales teams to focus on being helpful, resourceful, trusted business advisors – so our companies actually matter during the first 70% of the buyer’s journey when selection criteria gets firmly rooted.


What are you doing to ensure that your data center isn’t stuck in the past with demand generation and that it’s actually skating to where the puck is going? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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