This article was written by guest blogger Aaron Zeper. Marie and Aaron spoke at CompTIA ChannelCON 2017 together in Austin, Texas in August. They shared a stage discussing all things marketing.
Not everything old is new again.
As an entrepreneur in the technology sector, I have seen a lot of trends come and go from software as a service to cloud and beyond. The evolution and rate of change in the technology sector is astounding. You don’t have to wait too long for a trend to reverse itself or evolve to the next level.
You know the old saying everything old is new again? I have learned quickly in my time as a business leader that the one area where this does not hold true, is marketing.
Marketing is no longer the process of “selling” a product or service. Nor is it a function that remains relevant for a finite period of time to a customer. Today, marketing is more than that. Much more. Marketing is everything that shapes a customer or prospective customer’s perception of your company, your product or service and your general place in the market.
The role of marketing today
Marketing must be a component considered in every aspect of your business. Marketing goes well beyond your logo and sign on your building. Marketing is also the way the receptionist greets you, the hold music on your phone service, the tone your service representative uses on the phone, the communication of your tech on a customer site. In short, marketing is not a function, but a consideration for every action and function in your business.
If you are still reading, you must believe there is some aspect of truth.
Customer experience and perception is quickly becoming the only differentiators that matter. In a world of infinite choice and options and a buyer who is savvier with much higher expectations than ever before, the way in which you communicate in every aspect of your business is how you win.
The growing problem of technology marketing
As competitors converge and the difference between options shrink, this becomes a lens in which to view a growing problem in the technology world. Solution Providers and OEMs think technology marketing is all about getting the next set of features and enhancements out the door, “selling” the features and functions. MSPs, VARS and OEMS think the problem is user adoption. They market a feature and are frustrated when it isn’t adopted.
There is a tidal wave of digital tools, products and services washing over consumers and businesses. Every week, the latest, greatest and most powerful tool is released. Each one better than the last. But with each new purchase comes the need to implement and use it. And, the implementation and usage is where the next big thing actually becomes the NEXT BIG THING, meaning it generates actual and measurable business value. There is a glut of tools and features that are clogging up technology departments, while providing no value. These are features that have been bought, but not deployed or optimized.
If you are a company with a bunch of cool tools and features that are not tangibly improving business performance, you will be making a new choice in the future. How many tools do you think each department owns? How many do they use?
And if you are a company selling a bunch of cool tools and features that your customers are not using, you will need to re-evaluate your measurements of success. You must get your customers using and benefitting from your product or service or your sales will decline.
How does this relate to marketing? How does it relate to the fact that marketing must be embedded across your organization.
Reset your focus on the customer
Here comes the preaching. You must begin to think about your product or service from the perspective of your customer – ALL THE TIME. Not some of the time, not when it is convenient, but always. You must have a map to adoption and usage to generate results. You must guide your customer. And you must make this part of the way you market.
It may sound like a crazy idea but instead of focusing on features and functions, focus on business value, what your customer actually does with your product or service and how they will measure the results.
Your marketing team should be orchestrating every step of the process. Every script should be purposefully designed to encourage adoption, to ensure business outcomes. Every interaction with your company should be purposeful with the goal of increased usage and adoption of your product and service. This will restore growth and improve results to your company.
The real future of marketing
As an entrepreneur who successfully exited a business and sold to a large enterprise, I can vouch for the fact that “how” your customer uses your products and services and how that is expressed across your business, is what will make or break businesses in the future. There is no new twist on selling features and functions or thinking that technology solutions, no matter how great they are can make up for a business that does not understand today’s new marketing reality.
Many colleagues I speak with are in the process of reinvention. The cloud, reinventions of software and hardware delivery and the incredible pace of technological advancement have made people rethink their business models and service delivery. It’s an exciting time to be in technology but if you think technology in and of itself is enough to create growth and profit, you will be sadly disappointed.
Embrace marketing and understand its true value and impact on your business. Brochures and advertising won’t get you far. Not everything old is new again and technology marketing today is a case in point.
About Aaron Zeper
Aaron Zeper serves as Vice President at STG Tech Data, a recent acquisition of Fortune #108 Company, Tech Data. Aaron leads all Services, Sales, Marketing, and Operations teams in the organization, which delivers a variety of IT Data Center services on behalf of Solution Providers to their end user clients. Prior to Tech Data and STG, Aaron has 15 years of experience, domestically and internationally, leading technology organizations up to 200 teammates with over $1B in annual revenue, working at Insight and as a contractor to IBM and CA (Computer Associates).
These organizations saw explosive growth as he innovated new markets, created sales channels, and developed services teams that broke traditional thinking. Aaron utilizes three key components: business improvement, talent development, and the client experience, with a foundation of controlled chaos, common sense, and extreme balance. Aaron is a rebel with results.