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Get your head out of the clouds

Get your head out of the clouds

Maybe I’m getting old and cynical, or simply have been in this fine industry way too long, but with each new “transforming” or “disruptive” technology that comes along, my crap meter starts pinging.

I’ve lived through many technology “buzz phrases” that promise to change the world. It’s bad enough that the substance behind the promise often doesn’t live up to expectations, but I’m definitely over the acronyms and geek hyperbole that get thrown around when a new wave of technology takes hold. In reality, of course, the fluff always arrives some time ahead of the actual adoption of the technology. Sometimes the fluff is all you get.

In my years as a CEO of large and small companies I have been pitched to by numerous tech companies who just don’t get it. How hard is it for you to understand my business and provide real solutions, to real problems, using plain English?

The latest buzz of course is the panacea known as “cloud computing”. In reality it’s not a particularly new concept but one that’s finally gaining traction; well if not traction certainly media coverage. You can’t help wondering whether the underlying technologies and business models would be half as attractive if someone hadn’t come up with the moniker “The Cloud”. A good buzzword attracts proponents even more successfully than good technology does.

I have a hunch that if you interviewed 100 CEOs, less than 20 percent would have any concept of what this wonderful term actually means. The cynical may think that as clouds are caused by hot air rising this latest bit of “fluff” is aptly named. The use of these “buzz phrases” soon permeates into sales and marketing collateral, where it often succeeds in obfuscating the real value of the solution. Too many companies use jargon which, as the singer Morrissey once said, “means little to me in my life”.

If you’ve got a real product or service to sell, which solves a genuine business problem, then that is what you need to be promoting. You don’t need buzzwords or jargon to do that. In fact, using plain English explanations is not only going to set you apart in a market selling “fluff”, but it is less likely to ring alarm bells in risk-adverse managers’ ears.

In the current economic climate, prospective clients will be wary of adopting a new technology that is unproven. However, senior management will always be keen to find efficiencies, increase productivity and drive more to the bottom line — and that’s the angle to you need to take.

There’s another upside to keeping your marketing message simple and buzzword free. Eventually, all buzzwords lose their currency, either through over-exposure or by failing to live up to the promise. If you’ve bet the farm on aligning your solution with the latest tech craze, you could find yourself losing out when the craze fades. Good solutions aren’t fads and if you’ve got such a solution, you don’t need any buzz or fluff to sell it.

So, take some time out to define what you’re really selling. If it’s an existing technology solution that you’ve dressed up with a cool new description, then it is likely you are heading down the wrong path. What you sell has to serve a purpose and provide a solution to a problem. Don’t allow your judgement (or your sales message) to be clouded.

Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email: bobp@swaytech.co.nz


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