What’s Wrong with Tech Marketing – and How to Fix it (Forrester Interview)

As I blogged last week, I spoke with Dr. Thomas Grant of Forrester about a new report: Tech Marketers Pursue Antiquated Marketing Strategies. Our wide-ranging discussion covered many topics that should be of interest to Flack’s Revenge readers.

The report calls technology marketers out on the carpet for being too focused on lead generation and new business. When compared with other industries, the techies simply do not spend the time or money that they should on market research or customer relations, and do not use social media or PR to full advantage – it is instead all about big bang events, product releases and other news, and talking rather than having thoughtful conversations.

No doubt, some will wince at its conclusions, however, the report does offer suggestions for improvement. In Part 2 of my conversation with Dr. Grant, I tried to zero in on these things, elicit examples and also find out more about ways in which tech marketers can more productively use PR and social media, and work with media and analysts. There are more business software solution designers going the personalized marketing route, to allow businesses to hold personal relationships with their customers.

Read on, and if this is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to visit the Forrester site as they have a selection of interesting reports that pertain to marketing. It might also encourage you to read into techniques like TURF analysis to gain new insights from data gathered.

Do companies ever make the transition (from being productdriven to market and customer-driven)?

it is wrenching… and sometimes takes disruption.

Discussion about SaaS as an example of disruption that is changing thinking

What really struck me about SaaS was that it kind knocked people for a loop… they started saying things like “Well, this isn’t just a delivery model, this is a business model… we have to have a very different engagement model around our customers, we have to design our products differently.”

In a way, what had happened was that they had been thrust into a very close relationship with customers that didn’t exist necessarily in an on-premises world… with many layers of obfuscation between you and ultimately what people were doing with the technology… and suddenly people realized, well, damn, customers aren’t just interested in things that are new, and they’re not just interested in products, and they’re not just interested in us as a vendor in delivering products that are new…

[This] has led people away from emphasizing too much what is new, and new leads and so forth… obviously from the statistics, not everyone is there yet.

Emphasis on the new, new thing

One of the things that companies have learned is that, [while] new is good… new is not always intrinsically and obviously valuable. That is why the pace of innovation in the tech industry is a double-edged sword… on the one hand, it allows people to come up with things of value and deliver them to the market quickly, but often also lets them deliver things that are not of value, or not explain the value as effectively as they should because they’re rushing to get it out and then they move onto the next thing.

On relatively small budgets for press and analyst relations (see chart)

The conceit that because we are developing new technology, we are defining the market, ergo there is no market research to be done is patently wrong. Aside from the fact that not every technology [and] innovation is disruptive to that level, also, too, it is the case that you are addressing a human need; people do express their needs usually in a pretty clear fashion that you can then do market research about…

it is unfortunate that they don’t tap available resources as much as they do, nor… other sources of influence… It is, especially in the B2B world, a pretty complex process… in the best of all possible worlds, you are trying to create some sort of a cascade of positive viewpoints on what you offer as a vendor that go, ultimately, into not just a press release or a piece of marketing collateral but ultimately go in a conversation between a CIO and a colleague when they sit down together… you’re ultimately trying to reach that kind of conversation.

I don’t think that is something the tech industry has effectively mastered… again, not just press and analysts, but other people might be important influencers… they don’t get that picture too clearly.

There’s an unfortunately standard model for doing analyst relations… what analysts don’t enjoy is talking to a vendor only when there’s a huge announcement, and there’s this carefully stage-managed conversation… frankly, the analysts have a hard time getting a word in edge-wise, because there’s this gushing fire hose of information about this big new thing… that’s not as effective as being in a more conversational mode with analysts….

Are tech companies under-investing in PR relative to other industries?

I think they are under-investing where PR is going… PR doesn’t have to be just about announcements about new products.

One of the areas that is often misunderstood is the value of a new success story… what people look for in a success story is not necessarily what vendors think they are looking for… which is usually just validation that the vendor is wonderful.

If you are looking at PR as a conduit for information that will have an effect on a potential buyer or will help keep a customer loyal, having a story about how someone addressed a problem – even if the vendor is a minor character or not even mentioned – is still going to get my attention…

What about tuning into vendors content on blogs and Twitter, assuming it is interesting and an area you cover you’d want to tune into that, right?

Yes… and I do, for example since I do write a lot about social media as an input into the development process, I’ll follow a blog like, the social product development blog that PTC has… I’ve gotten to know one of the persons who posts there a lot and I have a lot of respect for what she has to say. We’re willing to follow what a social media outlet has to say regardless of whether it is a vendor or somebody else.

We asked Cisco how has social media effected their launch process… they said, well what happens is that the spike of activity flattens out a bit, there’s more conversation they have to engage in leading up to a launch event and there’s actually, on the trailing side,more going on afterward… not just a “show up and throw up” event, then they rush off to the next big launch, but they have to engage over a longer time. Forrester

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