Technology companies are often accused of falling in love with their own technology. It’s understandable. With today’s high rate of technological innovation, look at the things we can do that we scarcely dreamed possible before. But with all this progress, an old adage seems appropriate: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” That’s because technologists can often develop their inventions without fully understanding how customers will actually use that technology or what unexpected issues they may encounter related to its deployment.
It’s up to chief marketing officers (CMOs) and their marketing teams to strike a balance between what’s possible with a given technology and what’s practical to bring to the marketplace. That means truly understanding the customer’s world, so the company can better align the application of its technology with the customers’ needs — while acknowledging, respecting and openly communicating the challenges that arise as a result of it. But how do marketers do that?
Find The Balance
It’s the responsibility of marketers — especially solution or product marketers — to understand their customers’ experience at a deep level. How will a customer use your product? How do they want to use it? And what factors will influence or restrict how they can actually apply the technology?
For example, take the regulatory, privacy or ethical concerns that have arisen with numerous technology platforms. Do such considerations place limitations on how a customer can apply the technology, possibly causing them to not receive the full perceived value or benefit from your solution?
One real-world example might be marketing automation software. Say that software has the capability to automatically email and track responses for lists of prospective buyers. If you sell the technology worldwide, it’s important you know about the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other regulations that govern how your customer can utilize these features and, thus, limit realization of the full value of your solution. It’s your responsibility to understand what the customer can and cannot do to realize this value and to educate them on those insights.
Another example is video analytics and some of the new technologies in the surveillance and security world. While the capabilities of video analytics are dramatic and advancing quickly, social issues can arise from these technologies as well. A marketing organization needs to understand how these technologies can help people, improve lives and prevent damage or injury, but marketers must also recognize the limitations of these tools and where they might be abused. Marketers then need to ensure they market these technologies for the appropriate use cases — not the inappropriate ones.
Being a technology “arms dealer” of any sort carries a responsibility attached to it, and it’s the marketing team’s responsibility to set and monitor those parameters.
Recognize The Challenges
Many industries face challenges that a technology might seem to address, but customers may be unaware of the limitations of those technologies. To be a true partner to your customers, it’s important to help them understand and navigate these limitations.
Take the BlackBerry mobile device, which in its heyday was recognized as a leader in information security. Many financial services, government and other agencies with an interest in securing their information put a lot of stock in BlackBerry’s security. In fact, it was a mandatory standard for many users.
What those organizations failed to recognize was that BlackBerry’s primary processing centers were in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, so any sensitive data was actually crossing international boundaries when they sent it. This presented various compliance issues for certain industries, not to mention potential security issues if the data were offshored to data centers in more hostile nations.
A more recent case is the rising popularity of the internet of things (IoT) and the cloud in the health care industry to speed up processes like analyzing blood samples and getting the results back to the ordering physician. While the process for drawing blood, analyzing it and documenting the results may be secure, what if a public cloud offering is used for, say, a physician’s online portal to share data with various members of the patient’s care team?
In this case, there’s little control over where that data actually resides or where or how many copies are stored in case of data loss. It’s even possible those cloud services are hosted offshore in a remote data center to reduce costs or spread risk geographically. This solution, then, is in direct contravention of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations regarding the residency of patient data.
Marketers need to help customers understand what they’re buying and what they’re not, and how to deal realistically with challenges that may (and do) arise. A customer will value a trusted partner that can provide this sort of guidance and help them avoid such issues in the future.
Share That Story And The Balance It Represents
In the end, the value proposition of any compelling technology must balance the art of the possible with the practical realities. It’s up to technology marketers to find that balance and tell that story specifically to individual markets.
It is marketing’s responsibility to be the interpreter between the customer’s business needs, the technology you offer them and the challenges that can arise from any limitation or misuse of that technology. The better you understand this delicate balance, the more customers will value your expertise in your chosen markets — and the better equipped you’ll be to guide and prescribe how they can use technology to meet their needs and still meet their compliance requirements and social obligations.