Humanize How We Market Technology That Needs Less From Humans
byliza.adams02-28-201707:00 AM - edited 03-22-201708:39 AM
Today, technology requires increasingly less from humans, less human intervention and direction. Think automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, controllers and orchestrators, robotics, application-awareness, policy-based capabilities, virtualization, programmable devices including chipsets, intent-based networking, IoT-related (Internet of Things-related) technologies, and so much more. How should the way we market technology change given this dynamic?
How we market technology needs to be more human as technology needs less from humans.
Deliver What Customers Need, Not What They Expect
As humans, we’re conditioned to expect certain behaviors from those with whom we interact. Customers expect vendors to market and sell their products. They expect vendors to discuss how great their products are, what’s different about their products compared with the competition, and what they’re doing to even further improve these products. They don’t expect vendors to discuss business outcomes and human impacts.
I recall a GTM (Go To Market) workshop that I led for a business unit at a CSP (Communication Service Provider) customer in Asia. At the end of the workshop, the head of the business unit said to me, “We got what we needed, but not what we expected.” Unsure of what he meant, I asked him to explain further.
He said that he expected us to give them an overview of our products, capabilities, and roadmap related to SDN, NFV, automation, virtualization, fabrics, and security. But instead, he was pleasantly surprised that we showed him our keen interest in helping his business be successful. We discussed ideas for potential revenue-generating services that they can offer, key learnings and best practices from other CSP offerings, what segments to target, how to position and message the value to end users, and what the potential business and financial impacts might be. He and his team got what they needed. I’ve shared in my articleFour Fictions About Developing Virtualized Managed Services, some of the topics we discussed in the GTM workshop.
It ended up being the highest form of praise. We were invited back; introduced to new stakeholders at higher levels; earned the right to talk about our enabling technologies, products, and a POC (Proof of Concept); as well as asked to help them with their GTM strategy later on.
Capture Hearts and Minds, Then Wallets Will Follow
As an industry, we’ve done a much better job marketing what IoT technologies make possible in smart city use cases. Many thanks to city, municipal, and other government entities that shine the spotlight on the greater human challenges and issues. It’s much more interesting and inspiring when we talk about how technology is used or will be used to:
Optimize energy consumption and waste collection
Control pollution and traffic
Improve public transportation and parking systems
Enhance the use of electric cars and bike sharing
Control and manage flooding
Bridge the digital divide, and more
The stories become more compelling when we couple the greater vision with results and savings to the cities and users, as referenced in this article about the top smart cities in the world: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Singapore, London, Seoul, and Helsinki.
As someone with young children and a fan of family entertainment and movies, this The Jim Henson Company video about how technology makes stories come alive in more magical ways is one of my favorites.
We can readily see the storytelling why-how-what sequence in action. Customers need to know less about technology when the technology inherently does so much more of what customers used to have to do. They can be less smart about networks as networks become smarter. If we capture the customers’ hearts and minds first by telling inspiring stories about why people should care (impact on the world, businesses, and users), then the wallets can follow more easily as we talk about the how (way it solves problems and brings about change) and what (technologies and products needed).
Why - Traditional hand-manipulated puppets can now move into the digital space while performing and interacting with each other simultaneously to create a scene. Think about the impact on family entertainment, children’s learning progression, and imaginative play. This is what is possible. This inspires.
How - There’s an enormous amount of data that needs to move around to make this happen. Technology reduces transfer time of digital data from cameras to storage in under 30 minutes from eight hours, speeds how artist machines connect to storage, and provides more efficient ways to connect storage systems.
What – The Brocade switch fabric is the product. Only at this point in the story does the product become more relevant.
The notion that customers make decisions emotionally yet research logically should be at the forefront of technology marketing, now more than ever. Customers should hear more about what technology can help them do, what it makes possible, and less about the technology itself. In fact, solely focusing on technological benefits for task-level activities could be threatening to certain job functions and roles.
In previous industry inflection points, orders of magnitude in technology improvements (e.g., highest port densities, any service on any port, smallest footprint, lowest power consumption etc.) were sufficient to drive the necessary change and business success. Today, it’s not just about performance or technology, it’s a business model evolution that relies on simplicity, agility, business outcomes (e.g., monetization), and realization of a grander vision for humanity.
The rules of marketing haven’t changed. We still need to market to and connect with humans. It’s a human engagement. But what has changed is the customers’ heightened sensitivity to more human messages that focus on the why and not just the what, as we go through this digital transformation.
I would love to hear your thoughts and other ideas for marketing in this digital tranformation phase.