By the numbers…

The engineering community is obsessive about numbers….Moore’s Law and the ever-decreasing widths of lines on transistors, speeds of machines, quarterly sales, the number of lines carried by distributors, and the list goes on and on. It is therefore no surprise that marketers have become equally preoccupied with “measurable results”—how many clicks on my ad? How many sales-ready leads? How many new names added to our database? Supporting this drive to measure are a number of marketing technology [“MarTech”] platforms, tools, and products. Here at Penton, we utilize Eloqua and it’s darn good at helping us move people through the funnel to help us provide more valuable leads to our clients.

This move toward measurable marketing and ROI-driven spending has been with us for many years now and the technology advancements allow us to get smarter and smarter as our targeting becomes more about “the right content to the right person at the right time.” However, in a recent meeting with a customer, we had a long discussion about the need to get back to some basics of marketing communication that we have moved a long way away from as an industry.

The client explained how his company was looking at a return to “telling stories”—using content to frame a bigger position for the company as engineers and procurement professionals are bombarded by hundreds of “right time, right place” messages as everyone has become more sophisticated. If everyone’s product is faster, smaller, cooler, cheaper (or more cost-effective), then how does an overworked engineer choose? The discussion reminded me of an old Harvard Business School model, The Total Product. Essentially, the model suggested that every buying decision (or design in decision) of a product was based upon three factors: THE TECHNICAL PRODUCT, THE BUSINESS PRODUCT, and THE EMOTIONAL PRODUCT.


Disruptor PyramidThe theory is that companies get very focused on the Technical Product—basically all of those measurable things mentioned earlier such as “speeds and feeds.” However, the buyer/engineer is also looking at the Business Product: Who is the company? Have we used them before? Are they in it for the long haul? Do they look after us, or will they? These attributes tend to be a little less measurable, although things like “financial stability” are, of course, numbers. The killer point in the model though is the Emotional Product—often very hard to measure because it’s not about numbers, it’s about, ahem, “feelings” that the engineer/buyer has toward your company. Do they “like” you? Do they feel “positive” about you? Did a salesperson upset them and have they vowed to do business with “anyone but company X”?

Often the Emotional Product can outdo the technical and business aspects of your solution. The client discussed his plans to use content in a way that will communicate passionately to his target audience about how they have helped real engineers solve real problems. It is not a classic lead-generation program (that comes later), and it is all about telling stories that connect with the audience. My hunch is that in a desert of such approaches, the company will move the needle on adding emotional value to the technical and business value it brings.

As marketing conversations are turning increasingly toward using content to craft stories, I’m delighted to announce that Penton has teamed up with Jim Warwick at Beacon Technology to launch a series of research studies focused on “reputation” of companies. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more…

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