Technical humility doesn't win you customers

Posted by John Morada and Sean O'Shaughnessey on Oct 22, 2019, 3:00:00 AM

Don’t downplay your technical credibility because that is one of the main reasons you were discovered in the first place. All too often, the current modus operandi for a marketing or sales conversation is about 'business value.' While there is certainly nothing incorrect with that approach, we recommend not losing yourself in the generalities of solving business problems that you forget who you are.

Earlier this year, our company ran several exercises to define our brand. After talking to our investors, to industry analysts and among ourselves, however, we realized one basic truth: we are a technology company selling a highly technical product that customers use to meet technical goals. We don’t see any reason to downplay how technical our product is, and continue to stress our technical merits while still making a business case for achieving technical goals.

Here’s our perspective on how tech-focused companies can talk business without losing their identity as technology companies.

From a marketing perspective

Enterprise business-to-business decision-makers look at technology in far different ways than retail purchases. Enterprise buyers have to consider holistically how your software will add or detract from their entire technological landscape that often includes differing development practices and dozens of toolchains, current projects, and other business objectives. Our messaging has to be holistic as well because being in the software infrastructure space means we are fairly sticky once implemented. Being in the lower levels of the technology model will have touchpoints to all parts of IT, and lots of operational parts of the business. In addition, enterprise buying decisions are often made by several people, not just a single individual.

Making a strong technological case is important when you’re solving a technical problem. For example, the Agile Stacks platform inherently folds in better practices for labeling, integration, and tokenization. It’s our job as marketers to make sure prospects know this exists and to highlight both the technical and business reasons that make it important. How best to bridge the two arguments into a single value point is to start with business case and fold in the technical argument that solves for the business problem. In the upcoming release of our new website, we stay away from the whitepaper-esk approach of overly technical content and pivot to a comprehensible customer-centric message. Come back to our website in Q4 for a fresh look and feel.

Answer the question, “So What?”

You just cited that you have a particularly wonky and geeky capability. How meaningful is that to your target audience? When you’re marketing a technical product, you have to understand when something is a feature and when it’s a benefit—and this can change depending on if you’re talking to the CTO or the CFO.

The Agile Stacks’ platform is powered by Kubernetes. One would think we would be tempted to splatter the term all over my website and other collateral. But we don’t. We don’t want to seem like unapproachable, arrogant Kubernetes experts.

Enterprise buyers want to know as much as they can about your technology. However, you need to change the focus and message depending on the exact role you’re speaking to, and make sure the value proposition you offer aligns with his or her actual needs.

Get sales conversations right

Four decades ago the book “Solution Selling” explained the four buyer personas in any enterprise sale:

  • Economic Buyer - releases money
  • User Buyer - judges impact on job
  • Technical Buyer - screens out
  • Coach(es) - guides me on this sale

The technical buyer probably likes all of the techy talk and can probably make the connection between “tech feature” and “benefit” and then maybe to “business benefit” for the company. However, it is unlikely that the other three personas can. It’s important that you have messages tailored to all of the personas so that everyone involved in the buying decision understands the business benefits clearly.

Messaging is an iterative process. Once you’ve settled on some messaging strategies, you’ll need to continue to refine with feedback from sales, from prospects and from customers. The market will evolve, and you’ll need to adapt.

Conclusion

As a B2B technology company, it’s important to find the right balance between owning and communicating the high-tech nature of your product while also presenting your product in a way that allows you to connect with all of the buyer personas in a B2B sale. Don’t downplay your technical expertise, but make sure to connect it to things the buyer persona can relate to.

You might not get it perfect the first time, and that’s ok. Messaging has to be continually adapted as you learn more about what customers care about, identify with and worry about.

Topics: Cloud, CTO, DevOps Automation, Infrastructure Automation

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