I heard someone say today that engineers and IT people have an “emotional barrier” and that top-level messaging coming out of my team should be more rational. As a marketing change agent trying to push through a big idea, I sat back, listened, and took notes. This topic preoccupied me for the rest of the day.
Engineers and IT people (75-80% male) are humans, with the same perennial personal and professional concerns as people in any other line of work: Am I doing work that matters, that makes a difference? Am I getting enough done? Am I going to make it home in time for dinner? Ask any engineer why they chose their profession, and they will likely say “to make the world a better place.” Ask an IT friend of mine who was summoned to go onsite to fix an IT issue while we were at dinner recently whether he jumped out of his chair smiling and ran to the office, or whether he stomped off annoyed and frustrated because his evening with friends had been hijacked.
The generalization that the profession is comprised of robots is erroneous and misses the opportunity for high-tech marketers and salespeople to connect to customers in a meaningful way. Yes, rational messages and proof points must be present in any good messaging framework and downstream deliverables. But making an emotional connection with customers is of utmost importance. Technology decisions are made based on both emotional and rational factors. We do our industry and our profession a disservice when we fear our technical customers won’t be able to make the emotional connection to our company and its offerings. Ditto if we believe that they base their purchase decisions only on the rational reasons placed before them.
encourage beg my fellow marketing colleagues to push emotive messaging to greater heights. Focus on your customer outcomes, desires, and wish lists to get at the core of how you will connect. This is very hard work and there can be a lot of resistance to it! Don’t let that dissuade you. Once you figure out how to make the emotional connection, the rational messaging is easier because you have a beacon to which it can align. You can always dial it back or take baby steps to get it into market; but, frankly, I don’t believe there’s anything to lose with pushing hard to make the connection with customers.
In his book Steve Jobs, author Walter Isaacson writes that one of Jobs’ greatest leadership lessons was to combine the humanities with the sciences. Isaacson writes, “The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences exists…..will be a key to building innovative economies in the 21st century. It is the essence of applied imagination, and it’s why both the humanities and the sciences are critical for any society that is to have a creative edge in the future.”
Wow. I love this. A feel. Not an “understanding of”. Not a “degree in”. Not “mastery of”. A feel. As high-tech marketers, we stand at that intersection of art and science. We have a feel for both. We connect our creativity to the technology to bring it to life for our audiences, to infuse it with meaning for them. Embrace this ability.
As coincidence (there are none) would have it, I came home to a letter from my daughter’s school district. She was accepted into the talented and gifted program for both science and language arts next year. I am ecstatic at the opportunity now before her to stand and learn at the intersection of both the arts and the sciences. To have a feel for both.
So tell me, how do you stand at the intersection of the arts and science?
M has observed a high correlation between software developers and gift for music. Perhaps this is due to music being very mathmatical, or perhaps this is a ‘socially’ acceptable for of creative outlet that lets the, break through an ’emotional barrier’, which seems like a cop out explanation to me. Have any high tech marketing initiatives used music as an emotional vehicle?
Another great entry that makes us rethink our perceptions. As an engineer myself is always nice to be reminded “we are people too”. I applaud the push toward adding emotive content to complement the rational one. While keeping in mind engineers, just like everybody else, want to “hear” the message in their “native language”.
Marketers need to understand the layers of a story and where and how those layers apply and influence each other through the acquisition (buying) process. It doesn’t have to be complex—you identify two layers, the emotional and the technical. Marketers who are close to sales may see the technical as of paramount importance because that happens to be those salespeople’s frame of reference. When they don’t get business, the excuse may be made in this frame: not fast enough, not reliable enough, not proven. Because customers won’t usually say, “Your company doesn’t excite me. I am not enthusiastic about your company. That’s why we didn’t buy.” The reason I mention layers is this: marketers can use the emotional layer to boost and influence the technical layer. They can’t do the reverse.
Great post, Teresa. It makes me think of the Maya Angelou quote “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Memorable marketing—and memorable brands—are those that are able to make us feel something. That’s why people (at least those of us old enough to have seen it) still remember the Apple 1984 commercial. Consumer brands have used this principle (with varying degrees of success) for years, but very few B2B brands—especially technology brands—have even tried to make their audiences *FEEL* something. That’s probably why most B2B tech marketing is very, very forgettable.
Hi everyone, all of your comments are so spot-on. Thanks for engaging in this very important conversation. You’ve given me a lot to think about, too. This is a topic that will continue to preoccupy me and that I will write about again. Here’s to pushing the envelope and creating memorable B2B high-tech marketing!