Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Geek Marketing 101 (revisited).

Three years ago today, I posted a guide to my views on marketing disguised as a discussion of technology marketing. It became my most viewed post (thanks Guy Kawasaki). Three years on, I think it still applies. Three years hence, I fear, marketers will be making the same mistakes.


Geek Marketing 101 is so named because I see amongst many geeks a pervasive misunderstanding and consequent distrust of what marketing is, and a failure to recognise that much technology marketing is no longer geek to geek since complex products are increasingly being bought by non-geeks. Of course, these observations are equally applicable to geek to geek and non-geek businesses.

1) Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development). Promotion and sales are just sub-sets of marketing.

2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don't speak geek.
Successful technology marketing must translate the creations of the uncommunicative into the needs of the untechnical. Spin is not good marketing. Lucid two-way communication is.

3) Simplicity does not negate complexity.
Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation. It facilitates an entree to your world. You can't have passionate users until they start using.

4) Think what, not how?
Think of the "product" in terms of what it does, not how it does it. You may be interested in the latter, but your users generally aren't. Portable computer memory is not a difficult concept to enunciate, yet flash drive and USB drive nomenclature is predicated on technological aspects not the actual function. Long words confuse, don't they?

5) Think will, not can.
Think of the "product" in terms of what most people will be happy doing with it and not in the myriad possibilities it offers. You may think speed and multiple settings are hot, but outside the lab such attributes may not provide the greatest satisfaction. Simple, intuitive interfaces will.

6) Only you RTFM.
Regular people don't read the manual. It's too big (see 5), too complicated (see 3) and thus incomprehensible. It's not that people are averse to science and technology - they're averse to being made to feel helpless. The demand for books that simplify science is huge the world over. Your manual is marketing.

7) Technical Support is marketing.
In the absence of all of the above, your users inevitably need help. A technical support department speaking in non-technical, hand-holding language transforms their purchase from waste of money to life-enhancing boon and is the greatest marketing tool you have.

8) You're not marketing to people who hate marketing.
Don't allow your misguided prejudices about advertising and snake-oil to infect your approach and damage sales. People hate hype, spin and unfulfilled expectations. They do not hate having their needs met (see 1).

9) You're not marketing to people who hate technology products.
They're not Luddites, but nor are they geeks - that's what you're paid to be. However, they often hate how technology products make them feel because blinding with science is as bad as baffling with bullshit.

10) Marketing demystifies.
As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

10 Comments:

Blogger Peter J. Cranstone said...

Brilliant. Simply spot on. My favorite #2 - people have to start "using". Without that there is no chance to create value.

5:32 AM, August 11, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

Many thanks Peter. Good to know it still resonates and is reaching new readers.

11:55 AM, August 11, 2009  
Blogger Rob @ Cynic said...

Jesus, you've written a post longer than 3 lines.

And it's really good.

Are you OK?

7:36 AM, August 12, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

I wrote it three years ago - so draw your own conclusions.

9:53 AM, August 12, 2009  
Anonymous lauren said...

transpose 'technology' for 'art' and all still applies. duly noted. i think we need to skype soon.

7:43 PM, August 14, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

We do indeed lauren - now that I'm an art guru apparently.

3:24 PM, August 16, 2009  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for this John - I just wish I'd seen it 3 years ago. It is already stimulating a whole lot of thinking about things beyond marketing as the principles you've captured are highly applicable on a wider scale.

Tim Rawe

2:51 AM, August 29, 2009  
Anonymous Subbu said...

As someone who is trying to work with technology companies, your post is spot on. In fact, I intend to share it with some of my potential clients who are so much in love with their product that they are reluctant to make even minor changes.

One of the reasons for their discomfort with Marketing is that both agencies and the kind of marketing they have seen has been the snake-oil variety.

It might help if you could write a version aimed at agencies and potential marketers!

4:51 AM, September 15, 2009  
Blogger john dodds said...

Subbu, I think the same rules apply to agencies and marketers - just swap the word geek and or technology with the equivalent in their industry. Industries vary, the raison d'etre of marketing doesn't.

9:38 AM, September 15, 2009  
Anonymous Subbu said...

I will do that,John :-) Thanks!

2:35 AM, September 16, 2009  

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