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Misunderstanding Marketing Emerging Tech

When I say I work in marketing and branding to anyone in the emerging technology industry, there are generally a few types of responses: 1) A polite head nod, 2) A slightly confused look, or 3) A lecture on how much they hate marketing. All of which result in pivoting the conversation to something entirely different, or, sometimes for #3, leaving the conversation altogether.

Why is this? Generally within the tech industry, there is a distrust of marketing and branding, especially among programmers and engineers. That somehow if a company needs marketing, then the tech isn’t good enough. There are many quotes from tech gurus and venture capital investors talking about their anger towards marketers. Here are some of my “favorites”:

“[It’s] what you do when your product or service sucks,” Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

“It is based on the ability to lie,” — Larry Page (paraphrased)

“We tell companies to ignore [it] for a long time,” Sam Altman, former Y Combinator President

So, why did I EVER choose to work in emerging tech marketing and branding, besides enjoying a challenge? I believe wholeheartedly that marketing plays an essential role in the emerging technology marketplace.

EMERGING TECH NEEDS MARKETERS

Tech innovators can create amazing, life changing technology. But most of the time, they can’t communicate exactly why it is amazing and life changing to people outside of their field. This means that the emerging technology isn’t driving revenue as fast as it can, and the industry isn’t growing as quickly as it can.

That’s where marketing comes in. Marketers don’t change the technology. Despite the quotes from above, marketers (and, for that matter, ethical CEOs or employees) don’t lie about technology. Marketers make potential clients and customers know why new technology is awesome, and why they need to have it.

Generally a CEO and CTO of an emerging technology company is focused on developing an amazing, cutting edge idea. Innovating with the tech. Optimizing it. Perfecting it. Beating competitors to launch. Emerging tech CEOs tend to rely heavily on saying their company is completely unique, that they are starting an entirely new vertical, and that they deserve to keynote innovation events. They also tend to explain their technology through a series of case studies. This approach puts a lot of the burden on their target audience to try and understand the new technology, giving tech CEOs a lot of confused looks and fewer call-backs from potential partners or customers.

An emerging tech marketer takes a different, but synergistic perspective versus a CEO or CTO. The marketer focuses on communicating the value of the tech. Marketers and brand managers focus on: who is the best audience, who are direct competitors and what are they promising, how and where can you communicate what is unique about your company. This means that a good marketer flips the CEO’s and CTO’s script when presenting the technology. It becomes about showing the direct value (usually an emotional one that drives purchase in combination with a rational value) that allows the target audience to know immediately why they need the technology. This is customized by audience. Whether that be investors, distributors, customers, and consumers, marketers can help position the right message at the right time to communicate effectively. This can be through a website, social media, pitch presentations, conversations with potential clients, a paid media campaign, a presentation at an event, a booth, or a thought leadership piece. All are connected to a marketing and communications plan.

That said, marketing is sometimes more of an art than a science, which often is frustrating at times to engineers and programmers. Positioning, messaging, competitive and target analysis fall into this bucket. Each of these are fundamental strategies and analysis to structure a connected and cohesive plan. The value brought by these is less tangible than a test of code. It can be that internal employees understand more clearly what a company’s goals are, that sales teams are empowered with effective tools, that potential customers have greater recall of the company that then results in more inbound leads and repeat customers. It also leads to more effective results with the more measurable pieces of the marketing plan such as social media, paid media, and public relations.

Ultimately, there needs to be trust, honesty, and transparency between an emerging tech CEO and a marketer order to deliver the best results and growth for the company. And, hopefully, in the near future, when I or any of my fellow marketers and brand managers tell an engineer or programmer in emerging technology what they do, the reaction will be more “we need to talk more” with an encouraging head nod. Until then, here are some suggested quotes about marketing for emerging tech CEOs:

“It’s what you do when you need to explain to your customers why your product exists”

“It is based on the ability to communicate effectively”

“We tell companies to use it once they have a product to sell”

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Samantha G. Wolfe is Managing Partner of We Are Phase2, an emerging technology agency / consultancy. Sam has been named a Top 23 Women in VRand a Top 101+ Women Leading the Virtual Reality Industry. Sam co-authored the book, “Marketing New Realities: An Introduction to Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Marketing, Branding, & Communications” and is a contributing author to “Convergence: How The World Will Be Painted With Data.” She also runs the largest XR Marketing group on Facebook and is a Board Member of NYVR Expo and SXSW Pitch.