Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Geek Marketing 101.

Following various comments I've made about deficiencies in technology marketing and my disagreement with Doc Searl's provocations, I've been rightly harassed into prescribing some solutions to my complaints. So I give you Geek Marketing 101.

It 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?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant, my friend, and useful too!

And glory be, you now joined the ranks of "those who pontificate from 10 point lists."

It wasn't so painful, was it?

If you are successful at getting geeks to embrace marketing, we may just send you the Middle East. We could use some people who are truly skilled in harmonizing warring factions. Thanks for making the world a better place.

11:56 AM, August 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best post I've read all day.

11:37 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

Lauren - if productivity soars I will happily except a bonus but otherwise I'd be interested in their reaction.

Dan - many thanks - but does that come from a geek or a marketer or just a slow reader?

1:56 PM, August 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love 7( Tech Support is Marketing) and 10( DeMystifies)
Hat Tip to Ye From a Geek Learing Marketing.

11:38 PM, August 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That needed to be said!
I think "web2.0" software companies like are successfully marrying geekery and sales & marketing well. They've realized that consumers (even biz conusmers) think "what not how" and "will, not can"... and there's hardly a need to RTFM, the benefits are very clear.

3:23 AM, August 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little late to this party, John. Sorry. You've got some great ideas on geek marketing. Hope you don't mind me thowing in a few more.

A) Got a good technology product? Get over it! Technology marketing is not about the product.

B) Technology marketing is about understanding your buyers -- the people who will pay money to solve problems with your technology. The challenge becomes reaching your buyers.

C) On the web, reaching technology buyers is easy. -- you are what you publish. The New Rules of Marketing and PR are about getting your messages into the market through web content of all kinds -- blogs, direct-to-buyer PR, great web sites, e-books and whatnot. And it is about participating in the online forums that your buyers are in.

12:11 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Fear said...

Great post!
I think marketing is definitely the most misunderstood function, not just to outsider, but even to marketing people themselves. I really like your list, but I don't think it's complete. A very important piece of marketing that is left out is strategy - what to do to win against all those competitors.

11:08 AM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

@ Fear

Strategy for me lies somewhat outside the pure marketing remitof this post - although in another breath I am quite likely to say that the marketing mindset and the strategic one are very similar.

To some degree, when I talk about product development I am implictly if not explicitly doing so from a strtaegic perspective. Product development is not just about what colour the thing is, but all about the sort of competitive analysis to which you allude. It must answer the question "What needs will this product/service meet in a way that's better than anyone else can or is currently doing?"

For me, as you will see elsewhere in my blog - the way you beat the competition is by produing something amazing. Thanks for reading.

1:15 PM, October 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All your points are great and 1-3, 5 and 6 are especially excellent. Very much within the spirit of the agile method of keeping things simple. Keep up the great blogging you have a lot of good content.

2:18 PM, October 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Article, i have read all, many thanks for your sharing

8:12 PM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger Eric Swayne said...

Great post! Reminds me of two things said by Seth Godin.

The first is from his "This is Broke" series. He said that once he showed you things that were broke, it was going to frustruate you, because you'd quickly find things all over your world that are just as thoroughly broke - and you'd want to fix them. I look at the marketing in the company I work for, and I'm frustrated because I see that parts of it are BROKE. Especially the product manual.

The second comes from a talk Seth gave at Google, where he said "Nobody cares about your product - unless you're Google!" Unless your company's name is Google, you can't assume anyone gives a flying flip about your amazing product at all. Creating that buzz is ALL up to you. Failing to create that buzz is not your product's fault (necessarily), it's probably yours.

Thanks for writing this - I'll be checking your feed from now on!

10:12 PM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger said...

What is real marketing?

Hey guys I have what you were looking for, since long.
It is a wonderful tool or way to finally do this and that...

All the rest is just technology...

3:11 AM, October 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 15 years of tech marketing, this is a super summary. I even venture that we don't have websites anymore, we have webfronts, communication points. Truly successful technology has been that which everybody just "gets" right away.
Thanks. Webconomist

5:45 AM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent list...

"Marketing is not a department..." a truth few understand. In the nineties we used to say "everyone is in sales" - but the real statement should be "Everyone is in marketing."

8:36 AM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger Tish Grier said...

thanks so much for this John! I've been organizing a HUGE presentation to a local ad club out here in Western Mass on Wednesday, and your #2 item made me realize what I'm doing: acting as a translater between the world of the uncommunicative (where I have many friends) and the world of the untechnical(where I normally reside). It's certainly some job, I can assure you. I think translating from ancient greek to modern geek might be easier.

7:17 PM, October 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your 'Geek Marketing 101' thru Guy Kawasaki's blog .. Having reached the seventh iteration of a marketing doc for a VoIP product .. your 10 pointer definately cleared the fog.

Points 4 and 5 particularly helped me find the focus for my VoIP product document.

Can't even begin to imagine how I'd forgotten the value of point 7.

2:44 AM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments - they're always the best part of blogs and I hope you choose to read and comment on more recent posts too.

3:44 PM, October 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also just found this post through Guy K.

Brilliant stuff, John. Truly. Thanks for the tips. You've got a new feed subscriber.

11:34 PM, October 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great stuff. I am working on an MBA in management now and I am taking a Marketing Management class. This is some very useful stuff and I hope to bring it up in class tonight. I hope to start my own business one day and advice from these types of blogs has been very insightful.

I recently posted a related topic on my blog about a social experiment that I read about called "Tappers and Listeners" Technology folks need to change their attitudes toward users and these kinds of discussions on blogs is a great start. You have a new subscriber.

10:57 AM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

8:46 AM, June 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just looking for a way to market a techie unconference to geeks, and instead I get an awesome confirmation of what's right and wrong with so much of the way my industry works. I love "it's not a department"! Thank you!

1:58 PM, April 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:09 AM, August 17, 2008  
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11:00 PM, February 04, 2009  

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