Couples Therapy: Product & Marketing – Part 1

Five Common Hurdles Tech Companies Can Overcome with Marketing

Many of us in the marketing industry struggle to communicate with tech people. In most cases, these folks are engineers. They think in binary. They build, launch, learn, adapt, refine, release— again and again. And if we’re being truly honest, they tend to work in glacial timelines.

On the other hand, when tech people look at marketing people, they see dreamers, bullshit artists, storytellers. The data they use doesn’t really make a better business or product; instead, data is just a tool for self-justification. They spend their days dabbling in creativity, doing a little wordsmithing, and then poof— they are pouring another bourbon and playing another 18 holes.

I have a confession to make: I run a marketing agency and I usually find myself on Team Tech — I view the “work” of marketing with degrees of skepticism. But reality sets in when a business is clawing to find a voice, generate exposure, and build momentum…because an amazing product performing beautifully but silently does not a business make.  I’ve spent many years serving as a liaison between product and marketing teams, translating between the two. The process is not unlike a UN council.

From this unique position, I’ve learned a few lessons, especially on the unnecessary hurdles that each side puts in front of the other. In this first article, we’ll start with the tech side of table:

1. They demand to measure success with terms like Viral, Disruption and/or Network Effect.

These terms are usually leftovers from their investor pitch decks that reference stories like Uber (and the almighty uberfication of whatever). Investors and board members have grown immune to the grandiose terminology; it’s no longer a metric for serious business growth. But it doesn’t stop the dreamer CEO from rallying the Marketing corps around the “DISRUPT” rally cry.

2. Marketing is walled off from Product

Marketing is often viewed as a team of buzz-creators. It’s believed that insulating the sanctity of product design from marketing’s fantasy world will secure the integrity of the customer experience. In reality, if a tech company’s marketing is done correctly, it should revolve entirely around PMF, or product market fit.  Defining metrics, gathering insight, communicating adaptation, measuring performance, and ultimately adapting product strategy will form a repeatable cycle. More traditional marcom activities like brand, identity, awareness, comms, social, etc. should all revolve around making a better final product.

By seamlessly integrating the product design process, your entire brand will be embodied by authenticity, quality and customer experience. It will OOZE a genuine adoration and passion for your users.

3. Abandoning market research for user research.

Market research is most often used to build business plans, product strategy and advertising campaigns. These typically big budget initiatives often make Tech Companies feel that, by the time you complete the research, either their market has changed or their product has.

User research, which is more closely linked to product design and strategy, is often viewed as an iterative, real time replacement. Getting feedback from actual consumers within the context of the almighty product is what matters most to them. But in reality, user behavior is most often influenced not by your product experience, but by outside variables like consumer tech, competitive landscape, customer experience, etc. This is where market research should be allowed to play to its strengths.

4. Relying too heavily on social

Social media is an excellent tool— in fact, it can get addictive. But it’s important to remember that it is highly transient and volatile. It can be used tactically to support core initiatives, but that usage should be selective, discreet, and carefully targeted.  Social is automatically associated with mistake #1 as the channel to build ‘virality,’ but it’s random and difficult to center a business— let alone a marketing plan— around it.

5. If we build it, they will come

It’s an all-too-common problem with tech companies, and they often project it on Marketing.  Budgets remain tight, teams remain understaffed. The engineering mind believes their product will sell itself, that interest will grow organically as users and clients simply share their astonishment with all of their friends and family.

The marketing mind sees competitors, the other decisions that users make in the day, the user’s working budget, the factors that influence different users in different ways, etc.  The marketing mind also sees the weaknesses and flaws in the product, seeking to highlight its strengths through structured communications.

But without mutual acknowledgement of these weaknesses, the varied paths to user adoption, and the importance of establishing a budget to help influence conversions, the whole process becomes a self defeating exercise.There are a lot of ways to help resolve this very common conundrum.  But before we do, our next article will talk to the marketing side of the table.

Ready to launch a product or service? Contact us at Airfoil Digital to find out how with Airfoil Group we help get your message in front of the right people. New users, new employees, new investors, new media our team can help build and execute on the right marketing strategies to drive your business goals.

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