Ah, tech marketing. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
It’s not true of all the tech companies and products I have worked with during my 25-year career, but my favourite clients have invariably been the ones that require me to go deep in order to understand them. I don’t have an iron ring on my pinkie finger and although I was once a Canadian math Olympiad, I abandoned the maths and sciences in favour of writing, journalism and business strategy when I hit university. (However, I couldn’t resist taking Calculus — as an elective! — in first year. And it was my best mark.) So it’s a real blast for this engineering wannabe when the subject matter is technically dense and I have to learn all kinds of new stuff. I’m an old dog but learning new tricks is one of my favourite things.
My enthusiasm for complex scientific and engineering subject matter does translate into a swift understanding of all aspects of a technology client’s business, something that has been a key differentiator for me over the years.
Well, as I’ve said before, most everything in life is hard. But bringing a new technology to market poses two unique challenges not faced by your average consumer packaged good.
In the first instance, persuading customers to use your new technology product or service usually means persuading them to change how they do things now. And persuading human beings to change how they do things is devilishly difficult. The upside from a marketer’s perspective is that the only products that really stand a chance are the ones for which a compelling value proposition can be made, and there’s nothing more fun than marketing something with a compelling value proposition. (And no, that doesn’t mean it always has to be a financial value proposition. Some of the most successful technology products of our time succeed in conveying huge value that has nothing to do with dollars. Or sense. Can you say iPhone, anyone?)
The second unique challenge faced when marketing a new technology product or service is that the next best thing, the newer invention that is going to leap-frog over yours in a heart beat, is always just around the corner. So there is always a narrow and rapidly closing window of opportunity during which marketing must absolutely make the most of things. This makes for exciting campaigns. Unfortunately, it also spells doom for the cautious technology-company CEO who wants to take it slowly.
This has two upsides. The first is that the very latest marketing and communications tactics and techniques are available to technology marketers because our audience, early adopters by definition, will generally be among the first to embrace them. The second is that doing so is massively consistent with brands that want to portray themselves as being on the leading edge. For example, contrast the incredibly well-done iPad-based promotion for Stockholm, in the video below, with the dead-trees brochures most economic-development agencies produce for their cities. Which one is more consistent with a city that wants to be known as technologically advanced?
My three buckets of customer segmentation teaches that most prospects for new technology products or services are not actively looking for a solution to their pain, either because they do not know they are in pain in the first place or because they do not believe there is a viable solution out there. This opens up an incredibly potent opportunity for tech marketers to educate and inform the marketplace. Prospects who have not yet realised how much their current practice is broken or how much they are losing by not switching to a better approach can be made aware of this. And prospects who have given up trying to solve what might even be a crushingly painful issue can be made aware of a new and better solution.
This golden opportunity to inform and educate rather than sell and promote just happens to synchronize nicely with the rise of the empowered buyer who wants to be educated rather than sold. And here’s the beautiful part: If you engage with such prospects at the outset of their learning journey, chances are you will be the only vendor engaged when that journey ends in a deal.
My business plan might not be enamoured with the unpredictability of working with tech startups but doing so is a huge part of what gets me up in the morning. I love the energy and passion of entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, and I derive tremendous satisfaction from working with them and mentoring them. Regular readers of this blog, which is supposed to be a marketing blog, will know that we spend a lot of our time writing about startups, entrepreneurship, financing, the ecosystem that supports bringing technology to market and a whole lot of other things that aren’t directly connected to marketing. We really can’t help ourselves; it’s where our passions lie, too.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, Hey, tech marketing: Will you be my Valentine?
Image: Which? Tech Daily
Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer. Originally published on February 14th, 2013: “Why I Heart Tech Marketing.”