Growth Insights for CEOs

3 Marketing Mistakes Technologists Often Make

Posted by Beth VanStory



Marketing-Mistakes-by-TechnologistsOver the years, I’ve enjoyed working with some brilliant minds from the technology world. From my early days in Telecom and the pioneering days of interactive TV, to the groundbreaking revolution in eCommerce, smart technologists have astounded me with their vision and capabilities. As marketers, however, I find that they often fall short in a few areas.

First, technologists tend to err on the side of verbosity, telling people everything their product can do. This lack of focus often results in confusion, and worse yet, a failure to connect to the prospects’ needs. Sometimes this problem occurs in the development stage as a result of what I like to call, “because we can” technical development. In this case, the developers decide to throw in every feature they can think of—whether or not their customers care. But often, wordiness is simply the result of excitement about all the things the company can do.

A second common mistake I’ve seen is the heavy use of jargon, acronyms in particular. While abbreviations may seem like a clever and memorable way to market a product, alphabet soup is rarely as tasty to those eating it as it is to those who are serving it. If a marketing message is so complicated that prospects have to look up the meaning of something, it is merely adding more questions—and confusion.

Product-Focused Vs. Customer-Focused Marketing

The third marketing mistake I most frequently witness from technologists is the use of product-focused, rather than customer-focused marketing. Often, with product-focused marketing, technologists talk in depth about the what (features and functionality) vs. the why (the benefit). While features are great, benefits are better. What do I mean here? If the customer does not care about a feature, it’s not a benefit to them. For example, while the average business owner doesn’t understand what the “robust implementation of protocols” means, their ears will perk up when they hear that they can connect to the Internet from virtually anywhere.

According to research by McKinsey, enterprise technology companies’ focus on promoting sophisticated products with innovative features is making the customer conversion process more challenging. Since they do not successfully convey how the product meets buyers’ needs, they find it more difficult to influence key decision makers. To drive digital sales growth now and in the future, the extent of the product value they are communicating is not only helpful, but absolutely critical. 

With this information in mind, approaching marketing from the customer’s point of view can make all the difference in the world. Here are four easy-to-follow guidelines for ensuring you are speaking their language:

  1. Identify the problem: What issue does your prospective customer have that your product or service helps solve? As you develop the answer, use solution-focused wording instead of providing a list of features. Product features will then become supporting reasons why the customer should believe that the product solves their problem. A business’s ability to serve their customers faster or reduce the risk of hacking conveys their advantages. Listing automation or security features serves as the validation.
  2. Steer clear of acronyms: Does your prospective customer already know what TLS or WAF stands for? It’s not until they learn about or use the product that they have any idea what it is made of, why it’s unique, or why they should choose it over another solution. If you absolutely must use an acronym, at least state what it stands for the first time you use it.
  3. Pilot your marketing material: While you may think your product descriptions or website copy sound innovative and exciting, it will only be effective if it speaks to the audience. Have someone new to your industry read each piece of copy. If they can understand the value you bring to the marketplace, your prospects probably can, too.
  4. Play “name that tune” with your marketing speak: Most people can hold less than seven thoughts at a time in their short-term memory. Since you have a limited shot at prospects remembering the value of your product, experiment with how few words you can use to convey the problem that your company solves effectively—and the reasons for potential customers to believe it. In most cases, less is more.

We’ll always need skilled technologists to develop the products and services that enhance our lives and help our businesses thrive. However, prospects will not buy if they are not compelled enough to try them. Practice sorting through the features and benefits of your products, write and rewrite your copy to convey them most appropriately and effectively, and don’t forget to show the text to a novice. If you get into the habit of using this approach, you are more likely to see an increase in sales and growth for your business.

I welcome your feedback. Should you have a question about your messaging or need advice, I’m just a phone call or email away. Click here to contact me.

Beth VanStory is a fractional CMO and Executive Coach who specializes in helping leaders grow their businesses. She has worked remotely with clients for more than 10 years. Learn more about her expertise by visiting her Chief Outsiders profile.

5 Steps to Building a Winning Brand

Topics: Product Marketing, Marketing Technology, Marketing Strategy

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