My Time in Marketing Communications- by Michael Levy

Earlier in my career, I did a short stint in the marketing communications department of a B2B technology company. My biggest discovery was that I wasn’t very good at marketing communications (so you ask, why am I writing a blog?) I found that the structure of product collateral and white papers didn’t suit me very well. I chafed at the puffery involved in making claims written in the superlative and found that positioning was difficult in a nascent market for a technology company that lacked a natural user base.

That it was the year 2000 and the “tech wreck” that was only months away didn’t help. My timing wasn’t great in attempting to cross the chasm from product management to marketing.

But I did learn a few things along the way about marketing and technology.

Every successful company has a vision which provides a roadmap for meeting customer needs, working with other companies in their ecosystem, and building for the future. A vision informs all employees about how they will delight their customers and become indispensable to them. Technology, in and of itself, is not a vision. Being the fastest, most flexible, enterprise/cloud/mobile/social {insert your favorite three letter acronym here} isn’t a vision. Technologists so often get caught up in the benchmarks and bells and whistles of their product that they forget why end users would want to purchase their offering. A cool technology isn’t a vision. It is merely a platform upon which to frame a vision of what your company offers consumers and businesses.

At last November’s Dreamforce, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff launched their new platform Salesforce1 as “The Internet of Customers”. It was not only a witty play on “the Internet of Things” (and he did talk about internet enabled toothbrushes), but it brought his company back to first principles – How do we help our customers support their customers?

Often times the best tech products hide most of the technology and use it to simplify the user interface. Google began as a simple search box where you type in your keywords and it returns the best matches. Or consider Apple. Not only does Apple offer great products and a strong design sense, but it also offers a vision around how their technology provides unique benefits to consumers. MP3 players were a fragmented market of hobbyist toys until the iPod redefined portable, digital music downloadable from the iStore. They offered ease of use, elegant design, one click purchasing, and thousands of songs that fit in your shirt pocket.

Likewise, Apple transformed feature phones into smart phones with downloadable apps that rolled in many of the iPod features. Continuing to work their way through consumer products, they redefined the slow growing monochromatic e-book segment with convenient high-resolution, multi-media color tablets. At launch, Steve Jobs said that the iPad was a third category of portable devices that was going to exist alongside phones and laptops, it had to be better at browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks. It allowed users to hold the full webpage in their hands and manipulate it with their fingers. Steve Jobs described it as a “truly magical and revolutionary product” that is “so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone.” While such claims would be viewed as mere puffery coming from most companies, consumers knew that Jobs had the product to back up such a claim. As the Wall Street Journal wrote prior to the iPad launch, “The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.”

Michael Levy
Michael R. Levy is a contributing writer to our blog and the principal of GZ Consulting, a market research and competitive intelligence consulting firm based in Massachusetts. Michael founded the firm in February 2012 after leaving Infogroup where he was the Manager of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence. Michael focuses on information services including sales intelligence, CRM, data hygiene, and marketing automation.
Michael Levy
Michael Levy