High Tech Marketing isn't Geeky

No F**ks Left Friday! High Tech Marketing Isn’t Geeky

Your high tech marketing isn’t supposed to be geeky.

“But of course it is,” you cry. “If you don’t tell them the specifications, details of the product and how hot this new technology is, you won’t be able to get them to see what you’ve done is out of this world.”

We hear you. We do.

But, you’re wrong. All marketing, high-tech marketing, business-to-business marketing, consumer marketing is about one thing — emotions. And if you don’t realize that, you’re not going to break through the cr*pload of messages that — more than anyone else in the world, probably —  high-tech buyers get every single day.

Here are three reasons why.

Nerds think about sex more often

We’re dating ourselves, but remember that movie Revenge of the Nerds?

No?

Well, trust us. It was filled with high-tech geeky engineer types (really, horrible stereotypes, not like the amazing nerds and geeks we know and hang out with).

Anyway, at the end of the movie in the kind of cheesy Hollywood moment that only a cult film can present without irony, the college cheerleader who has just “unmasked” the nerd she’s just hooked up with asks “Are all nerds as good as you?” to which Lewis the number one nerd on campus replies “Yes.” She asks “How come?” and Lewis says “‘Cause all jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.”

So what’s our point? Just because your customer is an engineer, coder, technician, physician or lab-rat — they are still moved by EMOTION. Passion, humor, love, family, laughter and yes, sex. You need to identify what emotions will move your customers to connect with you.

That matters because when you’re creating your marketing tools, you need to think of the emotional appeal first, not the technology which leads us to say…

Your box looks like everyone else’s

Manufacturing boxes with high tech in them — isn’t your’s pretty?

Well. Uhm. No.Promo_HighTechMarketing

Your box looks like everyone else’s, it really does. I can’t tell you how many times we see high-tech marketing FEATURING XYZ company’s world’s greatest box!!!. Big. Front and center. To the detriment of all things good in marketing!

No one buys based on what your box looks like. And we know it. Our execs worked with a company who had a box designed to detect weapons beneath clothes. We set up their entire brand launch for a major tradeshow. And yes, the engineers wanted to have pictures of their AMAZING new imaging box in GREAT BIG LIGHTS. And what that box could do was SO. VERY. COOL. It really was, we admit it!

And we said no.

What did we show instead? Well, The MOST adorable little tow-headed boy next to his golden retriever in a Radio Flyer car. (Oh, and we sent out to high-value prospects an ACTUAL dog in a radio flyer!).

Because it wasn’t about the box. It was about the idea that member of the military, managers and execs could come home safely to that little boy BECAUSE of that box. 

(And don’t get us started on spec sheets. How we hate them. Oh we get that they’re necessary, but they are NOT. A. PRIMARY. MARKETING. TOOL.)

The CFO signs the check

And the last reason your high tech marketing isn’t about being geeky comes down to this.

Is the geeky engineer really your customer?

Sure, it’s great to have a round of high-fives with your compatriots at your customer’s companies. But ultimately, in high tech marketing, who is the buyer? It may be that the engineer is an influencer, but a CEO, CFO or even VP of Development is making the call. And the emotional appeal to those types may vary widely from the engineers who know how great your tech is.

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High Tech Marketing — like all marketing — is about Emotions

Ultimately, all marketing — even high tech marketing — comes down to emotions. Not specs, boxes and data. We know it. We live it. We love it. So reach out to us if you want us to help you pinpoint the emotional needs of your customers and craft amazing high tech marketing to engage those emotions.

Spark Something in YOUR Marketing

Spark Something. Seriously. Ep.1: “So you do marketing??”

We help our clients create strong marketing elevator pitches. But, paring down marketing services into a 30 second elevator speech is not necessarily the best — or at least not the easiest — idea. Oh, don’t get us wrong — we have a number of elevator phrases our market understands like:

“Creative marketing for high-tech business.”

“You know tech, we know tech marketing”

“We turn ‘geek’ into ‘human-speak.’ “

And one that usually drives it home:

“What we do is not rocket science, but no rocket scientist can do it.”

But we are three key things as professional marketers. We are strategic, creative and comprehensive.

So, in the edict of the elevator pitch, we can clearly define strategic and creative marketing in a sentence or three.

  • Strategic marketing: Understand the nature of your product or service. Define who it serves and how the features of that product or service offer customers great gains or solve great pains. Identify, narrow and target those customers and get in front of those customers using memorable messages that appeal to them.
  • Creative marketing: Understanding the strategy above, add the magic of the right emotional appeal — via humor, passion, whimsy, love, anger and more — in a powerful, moving and memorable way across multiple channels.

So strategic and creative — easily understood.

It that “comprehensive” word that gets us into trouble! Because it’s the one that begets the question “But really, what do you do?” To which we can really only answer “it depends.”

It probably what gets you in trouble as an entrepreneur too when it comes to your marketing. It can be overwhelming to see all the things you COULD be doing! It’s much harder to determine what you SHOULD be doing.

So, over the next weeks, we’re launching “Spark Something, Seriously.” In this series we will be addressing the “comprehensive” pieces of our marketing so you better understand the vast options available to your company, and what to ask for from any marketing firm you choose to hire.

The articles will address:

Branding

Your brand is your identity to the world and, more than just a name and logo, has to answer in words and imagery:

  • Who you are?
  • What is your product or service?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What do they like, what do you like and where do those likes dovetail — that’s the brand sweet spot.

Content

Look, if we hear “content is king” one more time, we may scream too. But, in a world where we receive over 6,500 marketing messages a day, you must be a part of filling that pipeline with content. Your content tells:

  • What you’re about
  • What you believe
  • How you help your customers lives
  • Your acts of service and education to your market — a necessity in the new millennium
  • And lastly, your product’s features

Offline Marketing Channels

Offline channels are the stalwarts of effective marketing. They cover any message not received solely via a computer or mobile device (yes, there is some crossover) like:

Press Relations

  • News
  • Events
  • Pitching

Public Relations

  • Speakers, influencers and boards
  • Corporate social responsibility

Promotions

  • Advertising via non-digital means
  • Cool stuff and giveaways!

Tradeshows and events

  • Pre-show
  • Onsite
  • Post-show
  • Paid sponsorships
  • Booth draws
  • Speaking

Guerrilla

  • Outrageous, unexpected, stealth or often sneaky!
  • News-generating
  • Viral-generating

Digital Marketing Channels

These are the methods of marketing you create and deliver to your customer via computer or mobile device and include:

  • Influencer relations (bloggers, Instagrammers, Verified Twitter accounts)
  • Social media engagement with customers
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • SEO & digital advertising
  • Podcasting
  • Video content

These digital channels often feature messaging and creative elements that arise as you create your offline strategy. It’s important not to put the digital cart before the offline horse!

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Someone asked us if this blog series will replace “No F**ks left Fridays!”

Naaaah.

After all, we’re all about leaving it all on the floor, being outrageous and using sparky little ideas to have out of this world impact. So, forgive us this serious series. But we hope it helps you Spark Something. Seriously.
Till our next installment, happy marketing.

“Hey, how do you like my logo?”

How do you like my new logo, is it good?

A friend to our firm “re-branding” his consulting firm asked us this today on LinkedIn.

And in the simplest terms, we might have responded “looks nice, tighten up the font so the name of the company is easier to read and worry about that three-dimension iconography in application” but that would have been a disservice to our friend.

Because a logo is more than an icon and a font. It is the core of your brand. And your brand must speak in every way to your customer profile, your corporate culture, your industry, your core messaging and, of course, your product or service. And your logo must take a strong crack at representing all of these critical elements.

Your logo has to reflect the things that appeal to your customer. This is especially challenging in technology companies. You think “well, it’s just gotta’ look techy” but most people’s definition of “techy” is sleek, silver and computer-like. If you’re selling the world’s best technology for filtering garbage from sea water? Well, motherboards and the goodness of the creatures of the sea and waters of the ocean don’t really jive, do they.

And you may have disparate audiences for your product or service. Despite the size of it, a logo may be a great place to try and find an appeal to both. We’re working with a hundred-year-old realty company. And while they have a trusted name and established audience of buyers and sellers, they are also trying to showcase new perks they offer buyers, sellers and agents alike using advanced technology that the realty market is creating. These technologies make buyers and agents traipsing from home to home and sellers’ homes safer. They also have a longstanding tagline about doing business on a handshake.

So notice that in the summary above, we have several concepts to tackle. And the best summary of how we do that is with one word: Metaphor. We live, eat, breathe and love the nuance of metaphor. Look at Nike (though maaaayybe we shouldn’t use them as an example because they got really lucky for $35). Their simple metaphor was “movement” and everything about the Nike swoosh says “move!”. Add in the angling reminiscent of a runner’s foot as it lands heel-to-toe and lifts off of the pavement again, the “swoosh” of a basketball player taking one over the rim, or the hand of the QB just as he releases the hail-Mary pass. (you’ll never look at the Nike logo the same now, you’ll see what Nike implanted in our collective subconscious every time!).

In our example, we need to account for metaphors including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Tradition
  • Progress
  • Technology
  • Trust
  • Handshake-style business dealings
  • Homes
  • Safety
  • People

Are there ways to combine these many metaphors into one logo? We think so (and we’ll let you see it when we’re done!). And there are key places in each and every logo to look at incorporating metaphors. These are:

  • Color: This one is usually the most obvious, yet often missed. But think about it. If you’re selling fire or theft prevention – than a burning red or orange color choice might not be the best one. What colors make people feel safer? Warm blue-greens are the top choice.
  • Font choice: Usually people understand they need to examine this as a part of their logo. BUT, but we will tell you that seasoned graphic designers will save you hours of time and research because they can spot the right font that will reflect the metaphors AND work well in application! Our designers typically give our brand strategists about five choices, we narrow it to two (three max) for the client and make sure that we know why we’ve picked those and how they represent the brand message and metaphors.
  • Logo imagery: Again, this is an obvious place to use metaphor. But it can be tricky (and tends to trip up technology companies especially). We can’t tell you the number of times a company doing weapons detection or gun safety tech have asked us to use a gun-sight in their logo. That’s the opposite of the needed metaphor. A gun sight means someone has you in their crosshairs, so isn’t the job of the weapons protection company to avoid that? Again, a team of brand strategists and designers will use years of experience in understanding metaphor to ensure the imagery gives off the correct message.
  • Movement and dimension: Not just for brand strategy, but also for in-application use, movement and dimension must be considered as part of overall design. Typically, our tech companies want the most three-dimensional logo possible and we get why. Everyone wants to look like a vanquishing hero and light-reflecting, high-movement, super-hero-like details seem to be the way. BUT, you have to remember what happens in application. Try embroidering a “rivet” contained in your steel-shield logo onto a shirt. Looks like a polka-dot. And  No lie.

Those are the chief places “metaphor” can be reflected in your logo. So start with your customer profile, your corporate culture, your industry, your core messaging and, of course, your product or service and build metaphors to suit. Then let them be your guide to developing the logo that best represents you.

Messaging: It matters more than the means!

So when we venture out to share the messaging about what we do with the B2B and tech communities we love, we are bombarded with questions about how we achieve marketing success for our clients. And inevitably, people jump to asking questions like:

  • Do you do social?
  • Can you do a drip email campaign for us?
  • Can you do a press release and get us in the news?
  • Will you automate our digital outreach?
  • Do you make videos?

 

And while all of these are perfectly valid questions, we want to cry “Hey, you’re putting the cart before the horse there! Before you talk about the means to get to them — have you even figured out to which customers you’re messaging and what your messaging should tell them about you?”

 

And we have to poke our engineer and tech-savvy clients a bit.

 

Actually, not poke. We just have to say it bluntly.

 

You’re the worst!

 

Before digital marketing was pretty much everything anyone talked about in marketing, you’d at least listen to us tell you about the importance of brand, taglines, imagery, perception, creative campaigns, promotions, event outreach, press strategy and customer & public relations — all forms of messaging!

 

Now — someone has convinced you that all marketing takes place at this keyboard and that you NEVER have to leave your dark engineering corners which makes you oh, so happy!

 

My goodness, what have we wrought?

 

So we’re going to say this and keep repeating it until it sticks. The messaging still matters. The messaging still matters.  Stop focusing on the means until you get it in your head that the messaging still matters.

 

And let us also say — it’s not your fault. It’s an industry problem that marketers have so convinced you that if they get you half-a-second of a view of half your ad, they’ve done their job. Well, thankfully, market leaders like Proctor & Gamble’s Mark Pritchard are calling out the industry on digital return sleight-of-hand, and demanding more from the people who run the “means” side of the industry.

 

Which means maybe, just maybe, we can make a case for focusing first on messaging, then how to maximize the message across delivery vehicles (like digital ads, press releases, promotions and all the many forms your messaging can take) and lastly the MANY means of delivery: organic digital content, digital ads, social, sponsored content, digital video distribution, print, broadcast, and other offline means.

 

Think about it — what makes you respond to or remember the sponsored content that smacks you in the face on Twitter, Facebook or a Google search? It’s what the content says that is important to you.

 

And messaging has to be first strategic, then creative. The strategy finds the best ways to connect with your customer on a visceral and emotional level. The creative makes that connection memorable.

 

So, want marketing that works? Remember, it’s first about the messaging — the strategic and creative messaging!

 

 

 

PR & Politics on No F***s Left Friday

In this highly charged U.S. political climate, we see many brands staying away from the PR & politics fray and many diving in.

 

So the question becomes: in PR & politics, do you tie your brand to a political side or not. Is there an advantage to choosing that outweighs the risk?

 

We are going so say a resounding “yes!” It is important that you pick a political side. We also believe that picking a political side has become more important not only because of the current political climate, but also due to the rise of millennial generation buying habits.

My company!PR & Politics is (now) good marketing

So why do we advocate this choice to pick a side? Because it dovetails with our belief that when you market to everyone, you market to no one. But also, because at the end of the day, if you own, run and value your business and its impact on the world, you have to live with yourself.

 

Luckily, the millennial generation has called companies who take a stand on social responsibility and political values to the attention of all age groups. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a much larger factor in buying choices since companies supported at first by millennials (Toms shoes being the quintessential example) have found outstanding success by embracing social marketing. Now you may say “Well, Toms is apolitical — who wouldn’t support sending a free pair of shoes to the needy.” But Toms is no exception to controversy.

 

Want to talk political choices? Then take a look at Penzey’s spices. Penzey’s has often taken a stance in politics, with stories supporting values they believe in and encouraging cooks to vote! But Penzey’s bold and repeated condemnation of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency solidified their position “bigly.” Penzey’s even posted a little about the immediate results. We’ve reached out to Bill Penzey for further comment, but their receptionist assured us that from HER seat, the call volume is way up. And they’ve gone on to support the women’s marches in ways that can only be called huuuuuuge.

 

So, what did controversy do for Toms and for Penzey’s? Controversy created a conversation. And as long as you have a well-thought out principle-based public relations strategy for managing controversy, you not only win the marketing game, but you get to stand on the principles and values of your company while you do so!

 

What about those who disagree with us?

One answer: f**k em. (Okay — the team won’t let me just leave it at that, ADK).

 

The longer explanation is the same one we tell you when building a brand. “If you market to everyone you market to no one!” And that in itself may seem an oversimplification. But it truly is that simple. You have a targeted audience and, believe it or not, it has leanings. And you should know what they are. And, if you are very lucky, they will be leaning the way your personal value system leans.

 

And yes, that works in B2B marketing. Selling new energy products? You know that there will be a clear uphill battle to move purchasers who love the GOP your way. Selling a cloud-connected two-ton fleet truck? You’re not going to convince a logistics guy wearing Birkenstocks who moves granola to even test drive it (unless he goes all Greenpeace on you and decides to run it into a wall — and by saying that, we are not advocating it, okay?).

 

So don’t worry about the sales (or lack of) to those who disagree. Stir the hell outta’ the pot of people who already believe the way you do — or that your company culture does. Your corporate values really should align with what your product does for the world anyway (if not, we fear for your soul and encourage you to seek a new job, start a new start up or find a home in a country where you can start a blog and live largely on a few hundred bucks a year).

 

Bottom line — there are plenty of customers in your pot, believe me. Don’t worry about those who don’t agree with your politics.

The strategy of the PR & Politics message

This is the place where all of your “but, but, buts…” can be asked about using PR & Politics. Choosing a political side doesn’t mean that you must pick “Hi, we’re XtraBotics Turbo Drones and we vote Right!” as your corporate tagline because well, first of all, it would really s*ck as a corporate tagline. But second, you don’t have to be in everyone’s face about your political leanings. What you have to do is decide when you’re going to not shy away from it.

 

There are a few places you do that. Think about your organizational values when you decide what charity your employees will support at Christmas, what fun run you all decide to participate in over the summer, any donations you may give for certain levels of sales or for referrals. And also, keep it in mind when you fill out your boards of directors, reach out to others for third party endorsements, even selecting your bloggers and influencer outreach partners. And, it probably goes without saying that social engagement is a place you can choose to showcase your political values — let us help you decide if you want to.

 

What’s that exception you mentioned?

We have many clients who are GSA certified and have to satisfy requirements to maintain their ability to compete effectively for federal contracts. You, dear clients, and any others who are currently selling exclusively to government are allowed to be an exception to PR & Politics, though we would say if your entire business development plan is about government contracts, you may want to ask us about your biz dev plans! But for that type of marketing, we know those rules and can help you out. But you are the exception (hey, kind cool being the exception, no?)

 

Putting our money where our mouth is: SparkLeftSparkLeft

So we have to say, we’re testing this PR & Politics theory ourselves. Partly because of passion. Partly because we truly believe that there are start-up technology firms that believe in the values that drive Spark Rocket Marketing’s love of technology. Those firms are concerned about job creation and really helpful training for job seekers in a world less dependent on blue-collar laborers. The firms we love believe that they can create jobs by developing not only new software tech, but also manufacturing products that will change how we use our home appliances, how we access doors, how we shore up crumbling infrastructure, how we save precious resources like water and clean air and how we move, heat and cool the world’s inhabitants.

 

We believe they will respect our choice to dive into PR & Politics with the launch of our new platform in support of a division of our company committed to creating winning messaging for liberal candidates. We also believe that we’re going to teach candidates to be more passionate about their messaging and reaching out to their base, just like we teach our tech clients to do! So we’re introducing Spark Rocket Marketing readers to “SparkLeft…a launchpad for liberal women.”

 

(P.S., We also believe that really smart companies like to be challenged by those who may not agree with them. Just because we lean left, doesn’t mean we can’t be incredibly valuable as a fresh messaging eye to those who disagree with our politics. And if they can’t, well I’m sure you know our thoughts on that…)

 

(P.P.S., No F***s Left Friday is our semi-regular series of in your face marketing posts. Because we believe marketing has to be a little in your face. We usually write them before we all head out for martinis — so come join us (check out other NFLF posts for other places we frequent) Because if we are going to claim to be audacious in what we do for our clients, we have to be audacious ourselves! You may not agree with us so we encourage respectful comments)

TBT: Dancing hamsters – creative & tech DO mix!

We’re at the Florida Venture Forum, and at yesterday’s Women in Venture Capital event we were reminded how often technology companies forget that creative campaigns work! So with a nod to Throwback Thursdays, we wanted to share a story of how the unexpected brought unexpected success.

A few years back, we had an amazing client who had a skincare product. Based on tech developed to help burn victims, this small company had begun to move into the beauty market. And we were launching a press initiative for them.

So — a quick note about beauty editors. They get swag. They get serious swag. And they get invitations to spectacular events like Paris Fashion Week. So, how were we going to stand out in the midst of ALL that “stuff?” And how were we going to explain the tech behind the product in a way that editors could easily share with their readers?

Enter Carly, the Dancing Hamster. Carly wore a business suit, carried a cell phone in one hand, a briefcase in the other and sang, in her squeaky hamster voice, “She Works Hard for the Money.” We donned Carly with a custom banner, added a great promo card complete with a limerick which hinted at the advanced tech in the client’s products and supported all the fun pieces with a detailed press backgrounder and online “quiz.” (You can find more details here!)

BUT — the reason we got traction wasn’t because of the detailed tech explanation. It was Carly. With follow-up calls to our targeted editors we simply had to say “We sent you the hamster.” And no matter the reaction (usually laughter) there was a REACTION!

This simply gave us the hook to get our clients product on the radar cost-effectively in an industry where $1000s of dollars are spent per editor just to get a 10-line-mention in a beauty favorites page.

Why is this important? Because we see so many technology companies who forget to bring the creative — which means they forget to connect to emotions. They so busy selling the features of their next-generation, earth-changing tech, they forget their audience is made up of HUMANS who laugh, cry and love.

The approach changes for every customer you target, but never forget to tap your creative side (or let us help you tap it!) to connect to their emotions. That’s what gets your next-generation technology noticed and makes it memorable!

 

Spark Rocket Has Babies! — A social marketing experiment

We just gave birth at Mission Command! Well, sort of. We’ve had “babies” as a social marketing experiment. Yes, egg babies.

 

Remember that low-tech teaching tool of giving adolescents eggs to carry around to teach them responsibility?

 

Well, we’ve decided to have a similar social marketing experiment at Spark Rocket. You see, we’re great at advocating for our own technology and start-up clients. We’re all about creating engaging content for games, security, real estate, prosthetics, cosmeceuticals, aeronautics and other technology markets and teaching clients how to share it via social marketing to build a following.

 

But it’s giving ourselves the same social marketing love that we kind of really stink at. We forget to pay attention to our own needs and, as a result, neglect to share via social networks some really valuable marketing information. This not only reduces our own self-promotion, it keeps us from engaging with the start-ups and entrepreneurs we adore helping! And it’s pretty hard to stand by our teachings if we’re not following them (that “the cobblers children have no shoes” saying wears thin after a while!)

 

Oh — and we want to be better stewards of our personal health too. After all happy, healthy Spark Rocketeers means better service for our clients!!!

 

So in that vein — our core team had babies. Raw egg babies. (Uhm, as an aside, we are amazed that the first question people ask are if they are raw? I promise, we have NO plans to eat our babies at the end of the experiment. Just sayin’.) Two of them. Each. And each baby has a series of “feeding times” and we have to keep them with us at all times as a physical reminder that taking care of ourselves is important.

Social Marketing Progress: How are the babies?

Thus far, in three days of our social marketing experiment, no one has killed cracked their baby. So that’s good. And at “feeding time” we have done things like:

  • Written several blogs
  • Updated our social accounts
  • Done training in new social media best practices and analytics management
  • Added a REALLY NEAT software script to our Twitter account to boost engagement!
  • Cleaned up our emails
  • Practiced self-care: stopped to mediate for ten minutes, drink an extra bottle of water, chat with co-working office members (who are really enjoying seeing how this experiment is going!) or take a walk around

So, we’ll let you know how on this blog and via our social channels how things go (of course, if we don’t — you’ll pretty much know the results!).

 

Meanwhile — wish us luck with our babies. Feel free to ask us YOUR questions about them (and tell us they are the cutest raw egg babies you have ever seen), and feel free to share what crazy practices YOU use at your office to stay on top of “entrepreneurial self care.”

 

Happy entrepreneurial technology marketing from the gang at Mission Command!

 

 

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