Pragmatism can drive hardtech to success but won’t let it make progress. If product marketing requires more work, companies should hire a product marketing manager. “Skills haven’t changed. Knowing how to sell software isn’t what’s new. Building better software or a moonshot is,” says Grant Beckwith, global CEO of SLUX. Software marketing is continuing to be an underutilized skill in Silicon Valley.
As we cycle from a 15-year product-driven century to an era of multipurpose, mso-spectrum software, too many businesses are struggling with product market fit. The urgency is on to learn how to take your product marketing from “burn the village” to “scratch my back,” selling the product to audiences that demand familiarity with its functionality, are responsive and proactively engaged with your company.
Hardtech and moonshots just can’t move fast enough. On the demand side, companies should pump out all the data on how much they own in a marketplace, be it out-of-pocket costs to buy a car, minimum selling prices on a sale, or pipeline demand or demand set-ups. Hardware is filling a significant gap in this space. Salesforce’s call center product built five years ago allows it to be hugely effective for a nearly $10 billion annual recurring revenue company. That and other productivity tools like QuoteBuyer are forcing hardtechs to improve their sales techniques.
On the supply side, b2b tech tools like Jira, Hubspot and MailChimp are not only providing a wealth of insights for sales teams, but are also giving key company functionalities like marketing, development and operations the same flexibility. We’re beginning to see though, that B2B tech still seeks to sell into a company’s microfunctional silos that seem like there are big intangibles like building a customer to blame, not product. Canals can be quickly filled by standalone products.
A new generation of companies are going to crash these silos to sell to vertical markets like social good. Facebook introduced Karma today. It’s a social venture built from scratch that gives money to people for creating positive change. The branding alone could raise its profiles because it harbors the heat of a social good.
Facebook, however, isn’t eligible for a moonshot federal grant, so it’s opting to become a philanthropic content platform for nonprofit organizations and engaging them through ads (it is, after all, Facebook). It may not have the customer specificity, but it can simply get more relevant to get deeper in to nonprofits’ interests than Facebook can even get out to consumers.
In the soft target world of consumer products, some sit squarely in the sweet spot of “hard tech.” Engineering 101 could tell you that many services operate on personalized recommendations to get people to buy things they need or would likely love. With fewer that know what consumers truly need, Facebook, Google and Amazon have great assets for every vertical. AppZen’s in-the-moment recommendations say “this app is great for navigation in a subway station.” This applies across multiple categories, because we can all know what we need or would like.
In tough tech markets, though, it’s hard to get a brand like Warby Parker to sit in the coffee shop. When hardtech starts to lose out to soft tech, it’s time to ask if the ultimate winners are hard tech or soft tech.