Tech companies have some of the most unique marketing challenges of any industry today. Every single startup is attempting to disrupt industries, change the way people think, and eliminate the status quo. The thing that many of these companies don’t realize though, is that eliminating the status quo is a much tougher sell than they might think it is. People generally like the status quo, or if they don’t like it they are fine with it. They understand it. They’ve learned to live with it. Status quos don’t just happen. They have their own force and weight to them. Things have generally settled the way they have for a reason, and they get stuck there. That’s why it’s called “disruption.” You have to call an incredible amount of force in order to get any movement.
With rare exception, having great technology or a great product isn’t enough. Tech companies need, perhaps more-so than companies in many other industries, to have a rock solid marketing strategy if they want to have a hope of convincing the world that their totally new, unique and amazing product or service is indeed the game-changer that they think it is.
Know What You Do
All companies can have a tendency to get lost in the weeds of their specific industry or specialization when thinking about and describing what they do. Tech companies, though, may be some of the worst culprits.
Tech companies are faced with describing something new, technology-oriented, which frequently relies on totally new ideas, inventions or production methods. They’ve gotten to where they are by thinking outside of the box and against the norm. How can we expect them to describe what their companies are doing using easy-to-understand conventional language when they are blowing up conventions left and right? We get it. It’s hard.
But, it’s also necessary. If tech companies want to have any hope of selling themselves, they have to find a way to explain who they are and what they do in the most simple and straight-forward terms possible. Buzzwords, jargon or any words that smell like they are even close have no place in ad copy, pitch documents or an “about” section on your website. Companies have to know what they do both as they understand it in their own terms, as well as in their audience’s terms.
And don’t just say, “We’re a tech company.” That doesn’t mean anything.
Know Who You’re For
No, the answer is not, “everybody.” Tech companies are generally solving very specific problems, so they need to have very specific audiences in mind. They should know age, gender and geographic area of their target audience. If they are selling to businesses, then they know what kinds of business, and what department and job tittle they are trying to appeal to. These will be the people buying the product, using the product, and excitedly telling all of their friends about the product.
For tech companies, knowing who you are for is closely tied to knowing what you do. There needs to be a deep and knowledgeable insight into the people to whom you are trying to break through to. How are they currently solving the problem that you are offering a better solution to? Are there comparable products on the market? Are they getting by with no product at all? What is their budget? What is their culture and philosophy.
All of this is important when considering your target customer and what strategy you come up with to market to them.
Take Marketing Seriously
For the most part, tech industry entrepreneurs come from coding, engineering and business-oriented backgrounds with little to no experience in marketing. This can result in misunderstandings and misconceptions about what marketing entails, and how marketing strategies are formed. Regardless of what people may have seen on Mad Men, marketing isn’t just about thinking up catchy taglines or the Don Drapers of the world making conference rooms full of executives cry.
Marketing today is a scientific, data-driven practice. Marketers collect and analyze massive amounts of data about customer habits, conversion rates, demographic information, and so on. Tech companies who want to succeed would do well to not underestimate the serious, proven, scientific nature of today’s marketing practices.
Use Social Media as a Tool
Many people and companies use social media all the time in their personal lives, but don’t fully comprehend the power of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest (as well as others) as incredible tools for businesses to be able to market to and engage with customers. Any company that got started with a crowd-funding campaign probably knows a thing or two about using social media to raise money, which is certainly one great use, but it is capable of so much more.
Social media can be a great way to conduct customer service. Twitter, for instance, gives customers a direct line to a company, and gives a company the ability to quickly and efficiently solve a customer’s problem. All the better that it is done in the view of the public, so everyone can see what effective problem solvers the company is and how much they care about their customers.
Social media can also be a great way to position a company as an industry leader and innovator. By posting blog posts and engaging in discussions about relevant topics, a company can show off their knowledge and unique perspective about what is going on in a particular field. It also allows them to potentially provide solutions to problems their customers haven’t even thought about, thus displaying to customers and competitions that your company is way ahead of the game.
Tech companies can’t be all about technology. And in fact, people are going to be one of their most important resources when it comes to marketing. Mainly, because there is one force that no matter how hard anybody has tried, it is impossible to harness and use at will. And that force is “word of mouth.”
Word of mouth is especially relevant for tech companies, because the things they are doing are new, different, and take real action by early adopters and influencers to show their friends, colleagues and other people in their social networks how great this new thing is. Facebook didn’t get to be huge because they had the best technology or they solved some problem nobody else had solved. They exploded because people liked using it, and told all of their friends.
While nobody can force word of mouth or make a post or video go viral at will, there are things you can do to encourage word of mouth, such as working with influencers within a certain field, whether that means submitting a product for a review with an influential blogger, or sending a sample to a popular Instagram user with hundreds of thousands of followers. Working with influencers is just one way to potentially boost word of mouth.
The challenges faced by tech companies when it comes to marketing are certainly unique and difficult, but they don’t have to be an impossible climb. With the right attitude and the right marketing strategy, tech companies can overcome these obstacles and find a way to hit that disruption they are aiming for.
Here at 10twelve, one of our niches is the technology sector. We have bought, sold and started various businesses in the tech industry. Let us help you determine the perfect strategy and learn from our successes and failures to grow smart. Contact us today to discuss.