I was recently invited to attend a pretty cool event called Data Field Day, an offshoot of the original Tech Field Day which brings together a number of vendors and independent analysts in a whirlwind 2 days of presentations and roundtable discussions. Last week was the first Field Day focused on data and analytics, with Cloudera, SanDisk, Hedvig and HGST giving us a taste of their history, their future and what their solutions are all about (a big Thank You also to MemSQL for hosting the Ignite talks in the evening, much fun, you can view my talk on ‘Why The Future Of Work Is Child’s Play’ here)

Where’s the beef ?

There was a fair mix of data storage and big data analytics solutions to learn about; (SanDisk and HGST presenting on the future of Flash and Disk based storage, Hedvig on software defined storage, and Cloudera on analysing what you’re storing).

But whilst there were some standout moments, for example SanDisk throwing their Data Scientists to the analyst wolves which sparked some real human-led debate, there was a recurring theme throughout:

Tech companies really struggle to get away from the product detail and just tell a story. 

There’s a definite sense of pride behind retelling the company beginnings, and the deep technical passion in the product itself but the solution only come alive when there’s a story, and as a technology evangelist it’s in those client successes and how a product really made a difference for a customer that spark imagination and generate discussion.

This may be a sweeping generalisation, and I’ve worked alongside tech companies for a while now, but both established firms and young startups are still falling into the same trap.

  • Proudly displaying your VC funding badges is not going to tell me what problems you’re going to solve – this is a big one for the startups, it just tells me who’s money you’re burning through, not the point of why you exist
  • Deep technical demos might whet an architect’s palate, and show off how much effort you’ve poured into the product, but when the business is paying the cheque you’ve lost the buying audience – love your product but when you demo it make it relevant and relatable, not a point and click training course
  • Product Marketing still has a long way to go to get out of the weeds, to  stop using fluffy generic terms, and to create engaging content for a wider audience – no one cares about the colour of new UI, or if you’re using the latest buzzword from Gartner if you can’t engage with me one-on-one with your message

There’s a great piece written by Guy Kawasaki, and whilst it homes in on evangelism only, it’s something all tech companies, and the way they market themselves and their solutions, should start to live and breathe.

If you can’t tell me

  • why your product exists,
  • how it can resolve a pain or need, and how it can make a difference
  • where the value in using the solution or service comes from,
  • who will it help the most, and who has it already helped
  • when can I get my hands on it, and when will it make a difference

then stop what you’re doing and think again.

Because if I can’t understand your story, neither will a new prospect who’s sitting in front of you.