Marketing for technology companies presents the challenge of ‘why’
At the heart of the matter is the engineer’s deep-seated impulse that if the product is right, marketing or even a stand-out brand does not necessarily make it better! Colin Printer, Creative Director at Fortune West, discusses.
We have learned at FortuneWest that when marketing for engineering-led companies we have to be authentic both to the motivation of the manufacturer and to the interests of the buyer.
FortuneWest has lengthy experience working in the technology and security sectors. My colleagues have security technology in their bloodstream. I am not a deep technologist myself, so it comes as a surprise that while security customers frequently raise large budgets for R&D and production, there is scepticism about budgets for branding and promotion. There seems to be a built-in conservatism that stems from a fundamental belief that either it works or it doesn’t work, and considerations such as pressing product advantages don’t get the attention they deserve.
The closer you get to the inventor or the maker of a product the more likely you are to hear them describe what their product does and how it works. Technical Sales people can really go into extensive detail about how a product is put together, and may not leave a techno-leaf unturned.
From a marketing and buyer’s perspective, it can seem strange that the most interesting part of the story is often omitted, which is why.
Recently, a group of engineers described to us how they had created a clever microphone array to measure the noise and vibration on the aircraft skins of a particular aircraft manufacturer. The innovation was a matter of great pride. Brilliant, we thought, but we wanted to know the context, the why, and it was never mentioned. Was it to create competitive advantage through better customer experience, to create a safer plane, to increase flight efficiency, to reduce maintenance costs or something more esoteric?
We understand that engineers are naturally sceptical about brand building and glossy promotion – and marketing companies sometimes do not help their own cause in this respect. However, it is the why that makes all the difference to orders and sales.
In most cases the why is about people; that is, the product makers and the product users, the maker’s vision and the users’ gains. Consider just some of the “whys”:
• Why should you choose my company over another?
• Why have we developed this product specifically to solve your problems?
• Why is my product better or better value?
• Why should you trust my R&D department, expert sales team or product roadmap?
Manufacturers, engineering firms and science-based companies should look to enjoy the gains of considered, focused design and promotion. The outcome will be that they will compete less on function and price and more on performance and value. They will learn to become comfortable with a higher profile and a degree of fame!
Never forget your “reason to be.” On one notable occasion, we were briefed extensively by the Chairman of a defence product manufacturer about his company’s heritage and its product range. Regrettably, he was angered by our question about why his company exists. However, in this instance, the company’s existence depended on specific conditions, namely the prevalence of threat and violence in the world. The fact that the Chairman had not mentioned this fact was illuminating. His was a classic example of technology products that require context and would have no purpose otherwise, that is, in a peaceful world.
It is critical to see through the market’s eyes. Perhaps an engineer considers it a bit nosey to try to understand their customers’ motivation (how they make purchase decisions and why they buy one product rather than another)?
In order to tell stories (promote sales and capability) that resonate with prospects and customers, it is essential to overcome the engineer’s mistrust of the intangible and, occasionally, their embarrassment about showing off!
The more competition there is, or if you are competing in a new sector, or overseas outside of your established territory, so it becomes even more important to develop compelling stories to persuade prospects who ask themselves why they should pay attention to your sales propositions.