Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, cyber-security and AI, were some of the terms that I heard often at the Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference – two days, over 4,000 women and over 100 speakers. I was asked to chair their Entrepreneurs and Founders zone on Day 2 and I was mesmerised by the people I got to meet and introduce:
- Tara Annison, a whip-smart, poised and charismatic 24 year old, who is of course a blockchain and cryptocurrency expert, explaining the technology and the possibility of lending and borrowing crypto
- Amanda Gutterman, a Forbes 30 under 30, explaining the Ethereum platform and the role women have to play here
- Priya Guha, the first ever female British Consul General (amazing we still have to write ‘first female ever’ phrases in this day and age) talking about high growth for start-ups
- Pip Wilson, an inspiring angel investor and 2nd time entrepreneur talking about how women are under-represented at every single point of the tech funnel, from studies to entrepreneurs to venture capitalists
- Sharon Conheady, an entertaining and amazing cyber-security expert who has managed to break into stadiums, government buildings, systems and apps across the world, encouraging women to join this sector of work
From these talks as well as others I saw on Day 1, two core messages were loud and clear:
- We women have the responsibility to push, pull and find our way into tech, there are not enough of us in an industry that is paving and, in a way, deciding our future
- New tech jargon (which to some might sound incomprehensible and remote) has massive implications for the way we do marketing and branding in the tech space; and it is important to define and direct the role of marketers is in a data-driven, ‘hockey-stick’ growth culture.
I’m in the process of writing another piece on subject number one (keep an eye out for it!). So this article concentrates on message two: what is the role of marketing and branding experts in Tech?
And the short answer is ‘marketers need to bring the Human and Emotional touch back into tech’.
I have had the pleasure to work with a number of Tech businesses across my career (each at very different stages of growth) - in fact, it’s one of my favourite sectors to work in. It is where I often have the biggest opportunity to both innovate and to actually make a profound change. But what has become really apparent to me is that tech businesses often lose their humanness along the way (and some never had it to begin with). They start with a big vision, purpose, a big problem they want to solve, alongside some very big growth ambitions, and therefore the human and emotional elements of the original purpose get diluted by a data and money-driven culture. Marketing in this space is also often used to help businesses raise more capital, thus pandering to a (male-dominated, stagnant and unchallenged) VC culture.
But there is a real human element and social purpose to many of these new technologies, and new products and services:
- -Blockchain has a real opportunity to help the underbanked around the world (great article by Tara Annison here)
- -New products/services like Gousto’s foodboxes help reduce food waste dramatically
- -Automation and robotics (if applied and used in the right way) can help us develop more creative and fulfilling jobs alongside new education opportunities.
So if you’re a marketer working for or with a Tech brand, make your board, founders and/or senior management listen to this message: humanness and emotion is incredibly important in the tech space. Your brand, your business, needs to connect with your customers, your community (often global), at a human and emotional level, and this will only become more apparent and more important as our world continues to change rapidly and automation, robotisation and AI become part of our day to day. So I’ll re-use one of my favourite quotes (that I seem to use in so many of my articles):
"The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human." - John Naisbitt
Here are three tips to do so…
Tip 1. TALK TO PEOPLE
I can’t stress this enough, and this is particularly important if you are a data oriented business: you need to make sure you understand the people behind the numbers.
And not in a typical founders’ response ‘Oh I talk to our customers/clients regularly’ I just talked to 5 of them.’ Unless you only serve 15 clients, this number is not enough. You need to ideally speak to a representative sample* of your customer/client/prospect base for an accurate representation. Get some well written, emotional and functional surveys (it shocks me how terrible some of the customer surveys are in the tech space), do some ethnography, understand needs and motivations. Moreover, if you do not know how to do this, get an agency or consultant to help you or get trained! There are many people out there (including The Leading Edge) offering capability training in this space.
*A representative sample is a small quantity of your audience that accurately reflects your full client and/or prospect base. An example is a small number of people that accurately reflect the members of an entire population in terms of age, gender, and region. In the B2B space it might be based on turnover, employees and sector, and/or how much money they spend or don’t spend with you.
Tip 2. USE CULTURE TO IMBUE YOUR BRAND WITH EMOTION
When you have been in business for a while, you will already have a strong company culture, and some values that have naturally developed, even if you did not name your corporate or brand values from the get go. Every business has negative elements to their culture, but you should focus on the positive. Make sure you thoroughly understand them, their origin, their essence, so that you can accentuate them through articulation and then communication. Make them part of your brand, your day to day and your customer/client experience.
Tip 3. UNDERSTAND THE JOURNEY
It often amazes me how little tech businesses know about where the customer journey begins and repeats for their clients/customers (even those that have been functioning for over 20 years). There seems to be a sense that the journey starts when they hear or contact the business, and stops when the sale is made, only to re-start when the contract/subscription/ product runs its course. If you do not have a real understanding of your customer’s journey (and the functional and emotional drivers and barriers within it), you cannot provide them with an end-to-end experience that will drive repeat business, and you will be stuck in a loop of constantly trying to win new business, and having to take desperate, last-minute measures to retain clients.
I do realise that these things are easier said than done, but again, if you do not know how to do them, get help, support or training. At The Leading Edge we help businesses with all of these areas, and love working with tech companies of all shapes and sizes, so feel free to contact me or anyone from our team if you have any questions or need some advice.