August 09, 2019

Why Is Most Tech Marketing So Bad?

Matt Bramson

Matt Bramson
President/Cloud Strategy Solutions

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Why do so many good tech companies do such a bad job at communicating to prospective customers? Isn’t it common knowledge that the objective of prospect communications is to attract and interest them? Why are such smart companies so dumb when it comes to executing effective communication with their prospects?

These are questions that I’ve been asking for many years. I’ve worked with dozens of technology companies as an employee and consultant. And I’ve reviewed the communications of hundreds more as a technology industry observer and customer. The vast majority of tech businesses focus almost entirely on communicating what their product or service does, how it does it, and sometimes why. Almost no companies lead with the need they address and the benefits they deliver. Why not?

The first explanatory observation I’ve made is the low level of awareness of this problem. As George Bernard Shaw famously noted, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” And the reality of his statement seems to apply to most of what is communicated between technology companies and their prospects: most tech companies believe that what they communicate to prospects is appropriate and well-received. The fact that their communications generate weak results is generally explained away as a result of other factors.

The other common observation is that far too many tech companies don’t have a clear handle on who their prospects are and why and what their prospects want and care most about. This seems extremely odd but it’s all too true. The reasons, it seems to me, come down primarily to three phenomena:

  1. By nature, humans are self-involved. It’s simply not in our constitution to be good at seeing the world through others’ perspective. It can take a good bit of effort to fully empathize even with those closest to us like our family and friends. Prospects are strangers so getting into their heads is really tough.
  2. Technology companies, and the individuals therein, are, naturally, very into technology. Many think that technology and solutions are fascinating in their own right and, to them, they are. But prospects, per phenomenon #1 above, are interested in themselves and their needs — so the disconnect is profound.
  3. Getting feedback from real prospects is difficult, time-consuming, and (let’s be honest) pretty irritating. Prospects typically don’t know very much about a company they’ve yet to do business with, much less their products and services. So their feedback on messaging, when it’s solicited and listened to, is easy for many to dismiss. They very often “don’t understand”, “don’t get it”, or “don’t know what they’re talking about”. The awareness that these dismissals are subsequent to reading or viewing what the company believes explains their company and its value to them is often vanishingly low. It can seem akin to a chef claiming that a diner who just finished a meal and said it didn’t taste good is not to be believed.

So what’s the solution to overcome this triad of foundational challenges? My best advice, based on a couple decades of experience, is this: don’t even try. You will almost certainly fail. Instead, hire someone — an outsider (like the very prospects to whom you are trying to appeal) — to help you tell your story. For a modest cost, an experienced outside marketing consultant can assure that your communications will be crafted to attract and appeal to your ideal prospects. Marketing is expensive and ineffective marketing is the most expensive kind. Marketing messaging and other content can more than pay for itself — in fact, it’s supposed to. If your current marketing messaging and content isn’t generating extremely strong results, a good marketing consultant can help. And, indeed, may be the only realistic chance your business has of making a meaningful difference in marketing communication effectiveness. Godspeed.

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