Five years ago, I embarked on an amazing journey. In this journey I sought to understand the real challenges that enterprise business and technology leaders faced when it came to digital transformation. Although I’ve spent my entire career working in enterprise technology, including the past 15 in enterprise product marketing, I felt like I only had a superficial grasp of the realities that technology has placed on enterprise leaders. For me to truly understand, I had to walk in their shoes. I ultimately aspired to be a better marketer – and to share my learnings with my product marketing colleagues who seek to market and sell digital transformation products and services to these enterprise leaders.
I had the opportunity to work directly with enterprise business and technology leaders on their digital transformation pursuits. This list includes Starbucks, Nordstrom, Premera Health, and Chugach Government Solutions.
During this journey, I observed many relationships between technology vendors and their enterprise customers as transactional and shortsighted. As product marketers, we have a tremendous opportunity to change this relationship to be focused on the long term, centered on the needs of the customer, and driven to deliver great outcomes for everyone involved.
I want to share my top five takeaways from this journey so you can benefit and apply to your enterprise sales and marketing programs.
#1 Don’t assume that business leaders understand technology
Ten years ago, our primary audience were technical decision makers and practitioners who went to school to learn technology. When we introduced new technologies, this audience had the necessary expertise to quickly grasp and to understand the new benefits. Today, we have a wide array of decision makers with different backgrounds that may not include technology. We cannot assume that our customers are up to speed on IoT, AI, and blockchain. It’s our job to take a step back and to educate all participants.
#2 Pour the foundation before you build the new house
Much of the digital transformation discussion has been around business models: the destruction of old models and the creation of new ones. For the enterprise, business model transformation is complicated. Unlike organizations “born in the cloud” (e.g., Netflix and Amazon), they can’t just start over when it comes to digital transformation and the business implications that come with it. We need to help our enterprise customers focus first on the fundamentals: the evolution of foundational capabilities that will ultimately enable them to be more agile and better positioned to deploy new models or products / services.
#3 Your customer-facing content is too self-serving
I’ve endured countless client technology vendor presentations. I’m still amazed how self-centered many of these presentations are—vendors spending a large amount of time articulating how awesome they are, how many locations they have, how many customers they have, their dramatic stock price growth. To avoid this, ask yourself, “What will it take to truly put my customer at the center of all customer-facing content this year?”
#4 Stop the spread of the shiny object syndrome
As the speed of technological innovation continues to increase, so does the pace of marketing these new things that we like to call “shiny objects.” I’ve seen business executives get excited about new technologies that their tech vendor shared with them at a conference. I’ve also seen the problems this causes when companies implement shiny objects: it creates more fragmentation and increases technical debt. To avoid the spread of shiny object syndrome, we need to foster better planning: the promotion of digital visions, strategies, and roadmaps that keep organizations organized, prioritized, and investing in the right things.
#5 Infuse change adoption into your pre-sales and post-sales activities
Over the years, I’ve witnessed many technology initiatives underperform, or fail. I’ve also seen new strategic technologies be deployed and ultimately get abandoned due to lack of adoption. We are often so focused on the technology being implemented, we forget about the people who will ultimately be responsible for using the new tech. Change adoption is an overlooked and critical human ingredient to ensuring successful outcomes with technology. If people are not bought into the new tools, they’re going to resist. Stakeholders need to be brought along, involved in the process, and consistently communicated with. It is critical that we infuse change adoption into our pre-sales AND post-sales programs and content.