Key concepts in technology marketing

For my first degree, I majored in marketing, so I figured I was well equipped for the challenges that lay ahead when I joined a software start-up as a product manager for a portfolio of financial software products. However, I quickly discovered that marketing software is something entirely different than marketing soap and detergent – which is what they taught at my business school.

So when I was asked by MaRS to lecture on technology marketing for “CIBC presents Entrepreneurship 101” on November 25th, I immediately thought about the things I wish I’d known about technology marketing when I first started out in the field of technology.

At MaRS, technology doesn’t just mean information and communication technologies (ICT), but includes cleantech, life sciences, advanced materials and engineering as well, so the concepts covered in the presentation are relevant for entrepreneurs in all those fields — including most entrepreneurs that are starting social purpose businesses.

One of the key messages in my presentation was that marketing is not just an organizational function, but a philosophy that permeates all value creating activities in a start-up. Marketing has evolved into a highly analytical field and it is especially important that entrepreneurs approach marketing in a deliberate and analytical manner.  My presentation, which can be downloaded below as a PDF and watched in the below video, contained some of the key analytical frameworks that any entrepreneur should know. All the concepts that were presented in the lecture are documented in detail in an online resource called the “Entrepreneur’s Toolkit” which is due to launch with the rest of the new MaRS website this week, so please remember to check back.

Because of time constraints, there was one thing that I had to partially leave out of the presentation and that was the advice to entrepreneurs that are attempting to get marketing going on a shoestring, so I’d like to make up for that here:

  1. The first step to preserving resources and shortening time-to-market is in crafting your value proposition. In the presentation – especially the part that is called Critical Value Factors – we advocate taking a very focused approach when determining your value proposition. Choose a specific target customer, understand the problem your are solving for that customer (and hence the benefit you provide) and the solution you design that will help you address the target customer’s problem. I recognize that it is really hard for most entrepreneurs to abandon potential target customers, but without a really tight value proposition the risk is that you will lose focus down line in terms of product development, strategic market approach and positioning, which in turn will delay time-to-market (and revenue) and diminish your overall returns.
  2. The second step has to do with your marketing communication activities. While most people associate marketing communications with advertising, the discipline involves something completely different for technology start-ups. The start-ups we work with at MaRS often have unique and brilliant technology around which they develop innovative products or applications that customers can use, but very little is developed for marketing. The most cost effective way for these clients to communicate with the market is to leverage the key opinion leaders (KOLs) within their particular target market to get a word-of-mouth campaign going. KOLs are typically analysts, writers or members of a leading peer group that enjoy the respect of your target customers. The various steps in achieving a word-of-mouth effect is outlined in detail in the “Marketing Communications” section of the previously mentioned Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, which you’ll be able to find on the MaRS website shortly.

While the first step creates the strategic foundation for going to market in an effective and efficient manner, the second step is about looking for market infrastructure that can help leverage scarce resources to promote great technology. If executed in tandem, the two steps will go along way in helping your start-up land the first couple of customers.

If you have questions regarding the presentation on November 25th, feel free to post them below and we’ll address them to the best of our ability.

Downloads and resources

Weren’t able to attend the class? Need some notes or want to look something up? Click below for all of the goodies from the lecture. Watch the video and the slide presentation below.

Introduction to technology marketing
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