If you apply classical marketing to Tech, you will fail

Summary : It’s not that classical marketing is totally ineffective. But it is only marginally so. The reason is that classical marketing is what tech-marketing gurus refer to as the fluff part of marketing. It appeals mainly to the senses and emotions, and disdains the logical sell that is so essential to success in Tech.

This principle has been proven time and again.  It’s not that classical marketing is totally ineffective.  But it is only marginally so.  The reason is that classical marketing is what tech-marketing gurus refer to as the fluff part of marketing.  It appeals mainly to the senses and emotions, and disdains the logical sell that is so essential to success in Tech. 

The essence of marketing is to appeal to one of the three basic needs: food, shelter, and to procreate.  Marketing translates these into the three S’s: Satisfaction, Safety, and Sex.   The last is the most powerful force in nature, which is why classical marketing focuses on it most.  The classics are ads with beautiful men or women, which are meant to make you think that if you buy this product, you will appeal to the opposite sex.  As Charles Revson of Revlon put it, “Cosmetics is the selling of hope in a bottle.”  This is about as distant from the principles of Tech marketing as it gets.  On first principle, there is little to B-to-B that relates to a sex sale (other than the seedy side of sales).  B-to-B is all about appealing to satisfaction and safety.  Moreover, satisfaction can almost always be quantified in monetary form.  The sexiest part about a B-to-B sale is when it brings in the money.  It’s all about profit.  When safety comes into play, it’s all about risk of profits.  At the end of the day, B-to-C marketing is mostly about fluff, while B-to-B marketing mostly about money.  Show them the money to succeed.

How Tech differs from generic B-to-B is that a new constant is added: change.  You don’t earn a bachelor’s from the school of Tech until you can demonstrate full competence in this area.   Also, Tech is highly cyclical and technology quickens the pace.  In fact some believe that it is high volatility that put the Hi in Tech and certainly, you earn your PhD with your first severe downturn. 

The bottom line is that safety, or risk avoidance, is very important.  Moreover, it bridges back to classical B-to-C marketing through the back door because the customer’s career is now at risk.  Make the right technology decisions, more money flows in, and you move up in the organization.  Make the wrong decision and the company starts hemorrhaging fast as security escorts you to the door.  For proof, look at all the careers wrecked by poor implementation of SCM database programs.  Thus, a good Tech marketing effort will seek to show the customer the money that comes from buying, and the inherent risk of avoiding a decision.  Tokyo Electron is a master of this approach.  Virtually everything they do focuses on building the customer’s trust with them.  TEL’s tag line “People, Technology, Commitment” and ads that show people leaping across rocks, with tag lines such as “Innovations Ahead” drive customer mind-share in this direction.

Another difference, which is a huge one, is the degree to which marketing and product development go hand-in-hand.  This is the single most important job of marketing in Tech marketing.  Classic marketing is primarily a sales support function: developing selling tools, identifying sales opportunity tactics, etc.  Developing products is primarily an effort of surveying customer wants and building something to meet them.  I’ll never forget when GCA tried hiring a marketing expert from Johnson & Johnson, whose most important contribution was figuring out that they could sell a lot more Q-tips if they came in colors other than white.  He failed miserably, because he never comprehended that in a technology company you have to figure out what the customer needs are and then drive development to come up with something innovative.  If you don’t understand and can’t drive your company’s core technical strengths, you’re lost before you start in Tech.  This is why virtually all Tech marketing executives have a technical background, learning marketing on the job (rather than the other way around).

By G Dan Hutcheson

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