The bridge between product development and bringing a product to market can be a tricky one to cross. Without due care, the hard work of engineers can be lost in a sea of marketing messages. Technology expert Mogens Abel-Bache shared some insights with me into how marketers can help tech companies get their products into the hands of the people it’s designed to serve.
For today’s tech companies, speed of product development is a critical competitive advantage. There are huge upsides in getting the product or service ready for market fast, before competitors take the first chunk of market share.
However, as technologies typically get more complex, one of the big challenges tech companies face is explaining what the product is and the value it provides at a fundamental level. This of course has always been a core marketing task, but it doesn’t get any easier as services and technologies are constantly evolving often within fast-growing markets.
Clearing up the complexity
Mogens Abel-Bache, VP of Engineering at Denmark-based software-as-a-service (SAAS) provider Siteimprove, and with more than 20 years’ experience leading development at technology powerhouses including Microsoft and Milestone Systems, knows how important it is to get the communication right for complex technology offerings:
“It’s not like buying a car, for example, when you usually have a reasonable idea of what you’re looking for. In contrast, do you know what to look for in an SAAS product? Expecting people to completely grasp the complexities of an SAAS offering might be unrealistic. That’s why Marketing and Product Development need to work together to develop a strong position to ripen the marketplace.”
At the rapid rate that tech product development occurs, Marketing can be severely challenged simply in keeping up with product development. Often, Product Development moves its attention onto the next exciting project even before the preceding product goes to market!
Then there’s the element of trust. The hand-over between Product Development and Marketing is a potential stress point for everyone. The product development team has often invested a mammoth number of hours and expenses in the new product, so they want to be dead certain that Marketing will be up to the task.
From a very early stage, then, Product Development must team up with their marketing colleagues to provide the direction for launching a complex product.
Not only does Marketing need to be close to Product Development (and Sales, for that matter), but they also need to be part of the product vision. This positions them well to create and describe the concept with enthusiasm and the right messages.
Mogens Abel-Bache thinks that most engineers are more at home communicating precise, ‘hard’ facts – the way the technology has been designed and built, and the features it possesses.
“Engineers often feel the need to explain all the details to cover the technical integrity of the product and also to make sure that people understand everything it can do,” he says.
On the other hand, marketers are usually more at home handling ‘soft’ communications, producing high-quality written and visual content. It’s here they can apply their storytelling skills and insights in engaging people at a more emotive level – even when it’s about technology – which is perhaps something that most hardcore engineers are not comfortable with. Despite their enthusiasm about their technology area, it may not always come across.
“Tech companies usually sell a ‘tool’, and the actual value in that tool lies in its benefits and how it helps a person do something different than they did before,” says Abel-Bache.
Essentially, it’s about hitting the sweet spot where technical accuracy and clarity creates an ‘a-ha moment’ at an emotive level. That’s what we need to aspire to, but it takes a good deal of analysis, creativity, planning and, not least, teamwork to make it happen.