Suddenly, you’re a technology company. Now what?

Traditionally, organizations in the industrial sector and the technology sector looked for different strengths, skills and strategies from their marketing communications and PR teams.

Now, however, with connectivity and digitization on the rise, industrial brands are increasingly asking themselves how to prepare for a future in which their products are judged as much by their intelligence and ability to share data — by their technology — as their reliability or cost. They are being forced to act more like technology brands.

This evolution is largely being driven by the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT promises to bring increased visibility, intelligence and control to everything from manufacturing to healthcare. Yet, it is also being hyped so wildly that it risks becoming meaningless in the market.

Will the IoT change the world as we know it or will it fail to materialize in any way that resembles the current hype?

Unfortunately, if we wait for that question to be answered it will be too late to act. And, if we manage properly, it almost doesn’t matter. Regardless of how quickly the industrial IoT evolves, there are clear benefits to industrial companies beginning to think and act more like technology companies.

Here are three principles of technology marketing that industrial marketers can incorporate into their integrated marketing and communications programs today:

1. Create and communicate a compelling vision

The best technology marketing has always been able to present a compelling vision of the future, even if a brand’s current solutions don’t fully support that vision. Purchasers understand that technology evolves. When they invest in a new software platform, for example, they are investing as much in the vendor’s vision — and their ability to execute on it — as their current solution. Once they make that initial investment they are far less likely to switch to a competitive solution, even if the competitor is faster to market with new features, because it means walking away from their initial investment.

Thought leadership allows an organization to create a compelling vision for the future that aligns with the capabilities of their solutions without selling too hard in the early stages of the purchase process.

What does the future warehouse or building or refinery look like? How does technology enable simpler management, greater productivity or improved customer service?  What are the major steps required to get there?

If you can answer those questions in a credible, non-promotional way that aligns with your market’s business drivers and feels achievable (no small order, I know), you strengthen your position in the market and predispose prospects to your current offering.

2. Trade confidentiality for transparency

Often, the biggest challenge in communicating a compelling vision is internal fear about “showing your hand” to competitors. That concern shouldn’t be underestimated, but it has to be balanced against the risk of keeping information from customers that they need to make decisions today. The more your products depend on technology, the greater that risk as buyers need to understand how that technology will evolve in the future.

You may be confirming for competitors what they likely already suspect, but you are also getting out in front of them and forcing them to react to you. The “safe” approach of “keeping our cards close to our vest,” becomes less viable as purchases become more dependent on technology.

3. Embrace the ecosystem.

Ecosystem may be an overused term, but it has meaning in a connected future. As devices and systems interconnect and communicate, it’s no longer enough to understand your customers and their application; you now also have to understand the environment in which your systems operate. What management software will ultimately be controlling them? What other equipment will they need to communicate with? Are there partnerships or alliances that are mutually beneficial?

Technology companies are notoriously interdependent and that interdependence is now seeping into every other industry. Working with companies with complementary offerings, particularly in the early stages of technology evolution, can enhance credibility and increase your presence in the market.

It’s a scary time for industrial marketers. Not only are they having to navigate a rapidly changing communications landscape, many will have to help drive a transformation of their company culture and marketing organization structure while presenting a new, more dynamic face to the market. Taking a page from the technology playbook can help in managing this transformation and positioning the brand for the future.