3-Step Approach to Avoiding Tech Product Marketing Failure

3-Step Approach to Avoiding Tech Product Marketing Failure


Featured Marketer: Pankaj Srivasatava.
Role: Founder and Principal Consultant, PracticalSpeak.
Discussion Topic: Preventing Technology Product Marketing Failure.
This Q&A article is a summary of the Podcast Interview.

So you've created an exciting new technology product. You're a disruptor. Congratulations. You've done the heavy lifting part of creating an awesome new product. Now your marketing department can start selling it.

Or, why not just go viral. Your marketing team could create a social media campaign with some creative incentives. Who knows what might happen. That's what everyone else is doing - right? Not so fast.

"Hope is not a marketing strategy," warns Pankaj Srivastava, Founder and Principal Consultant at PracticalSpeak.com. Most product marketing fails because it's based on fatal assumptions. Instead, the real job of marketing is two-fold - You must understand your customer's needs and create an emotional bond between them and your solution.

In this interview he discusses what causes technology firms to make false assumptions about marketing. Then describes his proven 3-step method for setting and reaching realistic marketing goals.

Q -What's the root problem that causes technology product marketing to fail?

A - There are two factors. Companies with technical founders have a heavy focus on technology. They gravitate towards technology and building products. So much so, they can lose sight of the actual problem being solved. Then they tell marketing, "We've built the best product, now go out and sell it."

"A myopic product-focused approach may result in a product that doesn't solve the original customer problem."

A myopic product-focused approach may result in a product that doesn't solve the original customer problem. I've seen this happen in several companies including companies I've been part of, and startups I've advised.

Q - What happens when a company focuses too much on their product and not enough on their customers?

A - People may say they have a customer centric approach because they do some research. But the most successful products are never ending from a development standpoint. There is no definition of a perfect product that actually fits the definition of perfect.

Products should be in a continuous state of development. And marketing should be in a continuous state of customer centricity. It's not sequential anymore. The second factor is where the entire C-suite is not aligned with marketing's value. I call this marketing ignorance.

It may be hard to believe, but a B2B marketing plan I've heard many times from the C-suite is - let's go viral.

They build the product, then create some social media campaigns hoping it will catch on. They usually have a few examples they can cite, too. But as one of my former bosses told me, " hope is not a strategy." Going viral is not a marketing strategy. It's mind boggling how often this idea of going viral becomes an expectation. What you need is a robust marketing strategy centered around customer needs.

You must meet both the current and future needs of customers. That's the role of marketing.

Marketing's real job is two-fold. First, it's to understand the needs and behavior patterns of your customers. And second, to create an emotional connection between your customers and your solution.

Companies that focus on feature-based comparison can usually build a short-term advantage. However, a competitor could copy features in a few months’ time. To create lasting advantage, you must meet the current needs and anticipate future needs of your customers. That's the role of marketing.

Q - Why do companies find it so hard to focus on customers' unmet needs instead of their product?

A - It's super hard to do. A Head of Marketing once told me how customer centric his firm was. So I asked, how do you define customer centricity? He said he does customer surveys.

Customer centricity is not about what your customer needs. It is about why they need what they need.

Think like a true marketer and you'll be asking a very different set of questions. It will alter how you view the solution and how customers interact with your product. You'll have a deeper, multi-layered understanding of your customer mindset, behaviors and needs.

Q - Do you have a specific approach to creating effective marketing?

A - I call my approach - SEA. The S stands for share, E for empathize, and A for align. And my 3-point system has helped me achieve a fair amount of success. The first job of a marketing leader is to create a culture of sharing information. This is the starting point for leveraging the value of the marketing team. You must let everyone in the company know what they can expect from marketing.

Marketing teams measured on revenue have more credibility and therefore more synergy with the rest of the company.

Second is empathizing. There's often a tug-of-war between product and marketing, or marketing and sales. If you empathize with sales and genuinely try to understand the obstacles they face in the field, they'll start sharing more customer insights.

You will find out more about customer sentiment and how they verbalize their challenges. These insights are invaluable for becoming a better marketer. Third is alignment. It's about measuring marketing results that everyone across the company can understand. Instead of measuring marketing activities, you want to be able to measure marketing’s impact.

The one metric that encapsulates this, that all other teams can relate to is, revenue. You want to be measured on revenue. Marketing teams measured on revenue build greater credibility and therefore more synergy with the rest of the company.

Q - Where did you get the idea of measuring marketing results based on revenue?

A - A previous firm I was with evaluated me on typical marketing measures. These included such things as customer satisfaction, brand and pipeline stuff. I told my boss I didn't want to produce all these boring Thursday reports that no one seemed to read or care about.

Instead, I told him, we should measure my marketing team based on revenue. A metric that everyone understands, and that aligns sales and marketing better. He reminded me it was something I didn't control, even as Head of marketing. I explained this would compel others to collaborate.

It was hard to adjust, at first and it took several weeks to reset goals and mindset. However, from that point on, there was more collaboration helping us do a better job as a marketing organization.

Technology marketers need insights from their sales, product management and engineering departments. Only then can you truly grow the business.

I posted my goals on my office wall so anybody walking in would see how I'm doing. A mindset developed that made sense to everyone on my marketing team. They embraced my approach and within a year they were all on board.

Teams throughout the company started collaborating. We grew the business 8 times in three years by hundred of millions of dollars. My point is, technology marketers need insights from  sales, product management and engineering departments. Only then can you truly grow the business.

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