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Messaging in Technology Marketing Stinks, But Improvement Is Possible

by Hank Barnes  |  August 28, 2013  |  5 Comments

90% of technology marketing messages stink.

I can’t back this up with quantitative research, but the number feels about right based on the number of calls I take every day to help technology providers improve their positioning and messaging.   The cause is clear – its all about loving products and technology.  “Our stuff is so great, that we want to tell everyone about it–and assume that they will understand the value.”  That doesn’t work –unless you have buyers who know who you are and what you do before starting to engage with the information you provide.

Last week, I was participating in an executive briefing and one of my colleagues, Chris Howard, provided an example of great storytelling that was used to help Walmart improve the shopping experience for online users.  Let’s take a look.

The typical technology messaging approach (i.e. the wrong way):

“We analyze transactions and clickstreams and combine that with sentiment analysis and text analytics to provide your with deep insight into what your buyers are doing and thinking.”

The problems – Jargon rich technology terminology that does not address any specific problem or opportunity.   Many buyers would hear this pitch and their immediate response would be “So What”.

A Storytelling Approach (i.e. the winning way):

“We can help you increase the percentage of online visitors that actually complete a purchase by 10 to 15% by making it easier for them to find what they are looking for.”

This approach puts things in context that an e-commerce site owner, or business manager, would care about (increase % of purchases), while also giving a little detail to back up the claim (“making it easier for them to find what they are looking for”).  Its about value,  not about technology.

By leading with this outcome, you are encouraging the buyer/reader to say (or think) “Tell me more.”  It is Progressive Engagement in action.  And now, that the outcome is in their mind, you can tell the rest of the story, using the classic S-I-R Model (Situation-Impact-Resolution). (Note:  s  If you are a Gartner client, check out Richard Fouts’ notes on storytelling and value propositions for some great tips.)

(Situation) “When shoppers visit commerce sites, they often don’t find what they are looking for.  Search, in many cases, means “don’t find”, particularly in commerce sites with a broad range of products, where the context of a certain term (e.g. “House”) is hard to determine.”


(Impact) “As a result, many visitors simply leave and a sales opportunity is lost”

(Resolution) “We can help you make your search results more on target to what your buyers are looking for.  We’ve found that our approach helps most companies like yours increase the percentage of visitors that actually purchase by a minimum of 10 to 15%, generating a significant amount of additional revenue that is normally just lost.”

(Business Level Explanation) “We look at past transaction histories, the most common patterns that other visitors follow, while also collecting other information from social networks  that helps us understand what most buyers are probably looking for (e.g. We can figure out that when they type “house”, they are probably referring to the TV Show).  “

(Technical Explanation) ” “We analyze transactions and clickstreams and combine that with sentiment analysis and text analytics to give us more insight into what the buyer is probably looking for.”

Notice that the technology explanation does not come until the end of the story–and may be omitted entirely if you are only talking to business buyers.

The Storytelling Secret

Its not really a secret, but most technology marketers act like it is.   So let me lay it out simply.

  1. Lead with the Outcome (Make them say/think “Tell Me More”)
  2. Provide some context by introducing how you can deliver the outcome (“What you do”)
  3. Explain why this is important and something they need to prioritize highly (The situation and the impact)
  4. Walk them through how you do it —either at a business level, or a technical level–depending on the audience.


Follow those 4 steps and you can help us reduce that 90% number significantly.




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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: messaging  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Messaging in Technology Marketing Stinks, But Improvement Is Possible

  1. […] everything under the sun”. It was just the customers that did not get it. I loved to read a Gartner blog entry this week about the challenges that technologist face when telling the market about the solution. […]

  2. […] ← Messaging in Technology Marketing Stinks, But Improvement Is Possible […]

  3. […] as Gartner’s Hank Barnes points out in this killer write-up, is often at fault. “It’s about value,” Barnes says, “not about technology.” And this is […]

  4. […] your positioning; A bad message will torpedo any launch. Test your messaging using my colleague Hank Barnes’ handy test […]

  5. […] any marketing campaign, storytelling is at the heart of it. Yes, it’s important to get your message right! But even a great message will fail without a compelling and engaging story. (For some great […]

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