It has been almost 7 months since we found Innoventsoft. After coming out of product management, I devoted some time to marketing. And recently, I found my experiences revealing two insights into organizational operations and end-consumer behavior.
Disclaimer: It is also possible that the wisdom I have accumulated, of which I am proud to some extent, could be mere theories or facts in many marketing books.
Insight 1: Innovation is not related to organizational growth
In B2B organizations, innovation is often considered the parameter to growth. The consideration is reasonable as long as the thoughts cook positivity in the R&D and engineering departments and spur inventions. However, the moment the spirit of innovation spikes pride and arouses a false sense of massive contribution to the organizational top-line, there is a problem. The reason is innovation does not directly contribute to organizational growth.
You would be cynical about my above argument and might like to understand how.
The first reason is all the innovation happens with specific hypotheses and assumptions, which are validated using a small sample size. At best, there are estimations, but there are no common census or statistics that represent the total target audience.
“Only because it happened with you does not mean it happens with everybody. Which means the chance of innovation getting adopted will be negligible.”
The second reason is innovation is inhouse and controllable, unlike the market. Only because an organization employs some scientists and R&D engineers, it can spur as many innovations or create as many features as per its whim. But consumer adoption is uncertain and uncontrollable. Your end audience or customers may reject your product features citing ‘n’ a number of reasons- did-not-like-the-UI, clunky-software, learning-curve, etc. This is also why sales & marketing is the most challenging job.
A quick Google search on “innovation that failed” will give you links to many noble and astounding inventions that didn’t work. Here are some interesting references AT&T Videophone in 1964, Laundroid machine by Seven Dreamer Laboratories, Cloud storage provider Nirvanix shutting operation, Jame Watt failed steam engines, and many more.
Success in the adoption of innovation lies in an effective communication strategy. A marketer can make communication effective only if they narrate the application/value of innovation rather than the innovation itself. E.g., how well an innovation can make an existing process efficient and change the lives of people working in the process at the optimum cost possible.
This value-based communication works so well that successful companies have started to consider innovation that delivers value rather than beating the competition or focusing on incremental improvements in cost, quality, or features.
If you are a marketer in any B2B organization, you would like to understand the product innovations or features first. And without getting overwhelmed by the sheer invention, one should focus on the communication strategy for faster product adoption.
Harvard Business Review has a fantastic article on value innovation for high growth.
Since communication is so important, I also did some experimentation on it and derived my 2nd insight.
Insight 2: Consumers love to hear what they don't know rather than what they know
After serving as a marketer, I have seen how marketing veterans and CMOs from Silicon Valley failed to reach out to new age customers, i.e., to do online marketing correctly.
In the last 6 months, I have personally reached out to more than 100 CMOs and experienced marketers in B2B organizations, mainly from India and the US. And their profiles are extraordinary. Their work experience ranges between 30-40 years, whereas the median of their work experience is 37 years. Almost all of them were over-achievers in their prime with senior and leadership roles, and some of them were highly qualified, with postgraduate degrees from IVY league institutes.
The question is not HOW but WHY they failed to market software products in the post-pandemic era.
The first "obvious" reason is resistance to change.
Most marketers have slogged half of their lives to master an art. And suddenly, they cannot accept that all accumulated knowledge becomes obsolete with the rapid change in technology and consumer sentiments, global dynamics, and governmental policies. Though not starkly different from traditional marketing, new techniques of marketing a product or solution are hardly accepted by these experienced marketers who once ruled the game in the 90s and 00s.
Their traditional techniques of relying heavily on marketing events, placing online ads, or product placement in analyst relations simply do not yield many returns. I don’t deem them as unimportant, but they are not something that new-age customers expect..
In today’s world, customers want to be educated and engaged before purchasing a product. And brands can only provide a holistic experience for duration if they have trustworthy content.
Recently, Khaby Lame, famous for producing 20-sec TikTok videos, has been chosen as a brand ambassador for Hugo Boss. He has never uttered a word in his short videos and yet has a million fanbase. Hugo Boss ad with Khaby Lame draws more impressions to the brand’s website than any other Hollywood celebrity endorsement. Khaby Lame’s example shocked the marketing fraternity and taught a lot about the power of generating engaging content. And experienced marketers resist accepting the change that has occurred, a simple human behavior.
The better communication strategy is not to re-educate the target audience about what they know but to educate them about what they don’t know.
At Innoventsoft, we used technology to communicate our message to CMOs. E.g. we said how AI/ML could churn data and identify which content would work for a B2B business instead of just saying producing engaging content. And it works.
If you are a marketer, you should leverage a hook in your communication strategy, which people are unaware of. It works like magic.
Doesn’t magic work in a miraculous way? We all know there isn’t any miracle happening, but our inability to reason out makes us more surprised and enthusiastic.