On any given day you will find a group of engineers or programmers huddling in the back room, sitting in the corner of the coffee shop, or gathering around the most recently divorced individual’s kitchen table to plan the next major new company built on breathtaking technology.

The hard fact is that we really don’t need more technology. What we do need is better application of the technology we have.

In fact, it would be fair to say that we probably have enough sound technology available to last us for the next five to ten years. What we need are people to make the technology usable for the rest of us.

Technology is important, but what is needed even more is sound marketing/market understanding, ability and practice. We rush insanely great technology/products to market, we get them reviewed/talked about by bleeding edge media techno-writers and the din of noise fills the media. Print, web, blog, radio, TV all cover the insanely great solution and we forecast fantastic hockey stick sales and insane profits.


Figure 1 – Rough Ride – There’s an ideal scenario for every new company, new product, and new service. There’s a lot of noise and excitement in the media. People look and buy and then they tell friends who also buy and the sales rocket upward. Unfortunately the reality is the modified Gartner Technologies Cycle of widespread expectations, disappointment and slow acceptance.

Instead of the product sweeping the globe in a year – or two – it trundles along with respectable growth but nowhere near the hyped numbers we read. Obviously the product is a failure and we’re certain it was the product failed…not the consumer.

As time goes on product — slowly and by now without the insane profits we envisioned — sales grow and the product is absorbed into our daily lives.

It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t the consumer epiphany. Manufacturers/retailers didn’t convince the consumer that he or she had to have the product. Instead it was Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm product lifestyle discussion. His book hit the street in 1991, established Moore as a visionary, people read the book and most returned to the same old technology/hype/failure practice.



Figure 2 – Jump – Geoffrey Moore helped industry management understand that products can quickly penetrate the innovator and early adopter market segments. However, it takes a long time for products to achieve broad marketplace acceptance.

Industry history proves again and again that no one listens to the consumer because in the U.S. and around the globe penetration took time.


Figure 3 – Tangible Proof – The computer/consumer electronics industry is the poster child example for how rapidly products spread throughout the marketplace. Products that we feel have been here “forever” or were rapidly understood and purchased actually took many years to produce 50 percent household penetration. Source — CEA

Consumers aren’t stupid but the industry does a disservice by not putting all of the marketing tools behind the product to give people a reason to buy!

Rather than listening to engineering on “what the marketplace really needs,” marketers go out and talk with customers and prospects. Then they tell engineering and manufacturing to produce a product that meets those criteria.

Next, the company builds a legion of early adopters and “puts them to work” spreading the word, advancing the technology across the marketplace.


Figure 4 – Spheres of Influence – The growing popularity of blogs and social networks have made it possible for ideas and products to quickly spread around the globe. The concept that everyone is no more than six degrees apart has shrunk to three degrees or less according to most industry market research analysts.

According to a Forrester consumer adoption study:

  • 83% of respondents got their information from friends/acquaintances
  • 75% from product/service reviews
  • 63% from a known “expert”
  • 52% from user reviews on a content site
  • 50%from online consumer opinion sites
  • 49% from editors on content site
  • 37% from online chat rooms, discussion boards, user forums
  • 30% from blogger reviews

Tech-based CEOs, cold-number CFOs and marketing staffs often dismiss the importance – and value – of these individuals in helping products/services cross Moore’s Chasm more rapidly.

Rare Mixture

There are some excellent (but rare) heads of marketing in the industry who understand finance, economics, selling and R&D as well as how to determine and anticipate the market’s next-generation product requirements. These men and women want new, additional products to sell. They also want products that will fit specific market segment/niche requirements.

They understand the importance of packaging and presenting these products so that they appeal to their target markets. They understand the value of good marketplace relationships and promotion.

Smart management doesn’t make a decision to introduce a new product without the facts in front of them — facts that tell them their chances of success with the ultimate consumer. They hone their promotional messages not on the engineering “facts” but rather tap into the wants and needs of their buying publics.

Successful marketing people realize the importance of promotion that makes their customers feel a little uncomfortable. They understand that people need to be dissatisfied before they’ll make a change from status quo. Marketing must provide the catalyst for change in order to stimulate the purchase of their product(s).

The also understand the importance of helping, working with, supporting and relating with the early adopters, reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, site managers handle, use, discuss and champion the products.

Success with them isn’t absolutely necessary we suppose. What the heck if they ignore the product because they can’t get it in their hands to talk about. Or if they take potshots at the product, no big deal — they’re only one person.

The problem today is that lousy little potshot is heard around the world.



Figure 5 – Frustration – Once early adopters have accepted the product, manufacturers and developers tend to move on to the next generation of “killer” solution. By this time producers are confident that “everyone” knows about the hardware, software or combination and how to use it. Adoption is a little more difficult for mainstream users.

Battle Lines Drawn

When Robert Duval muttered those immortal words in Apocalypse Now, “God, but I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” he wasn’t talking of death and destruction. He was talking about the excitement and challenge of battle.

While the battles of one-upsmanship between engineers and designers will probably go on forever, those small skirmishes don’t win the big, bottom-line battle.

And, while engineers may mutter under their breath that marketing is squelching their technical advances, they also have to admit that their efforts are not driven by profit motives.

To stay in business, every company has to be pushed, pulled and dragged to make a profit. The only people who are in a position to accomplish this are the rare  — very rare — marketing people who can rally the organization and its outside resources to do more than simply sell some product.

Instead, they sell the product to a market segment again … and again … and again.

Marketing should focus all of their resources and efforts on helping the marketplace help them capture market share.

Finance, engineering and product design should be figuring out how to give the company the tools and products they need to get the firm’s unfair share of the market before the competition realizes what is going on.

True all of this isn’t absolutely necessary. Insanely great products and services will sell themselves. But the black holes of space are filled with great innovations – hardware, software, service – that weren’t led by intelligent, competent and empowered marketing.



Figure 6 – Swallowed Up – While PC/CE technology seems to move at the speed of light, firms often fail to understand the importance of drawing in and involving the consumer and having him/her help spread the word on the product’s/service’s strengths and benefits. As a result the technology streaks across the sky like a comet and quickly/quietly disappears in the black hole of space. Source — NASA

One Response to Consumers Need Voice in Driving Products

  1. Evolving Squid
    May 05, 2009

    Any chance of getting a larger (readable) version of Figure 3, or a link to the article from which it was taken? I did a quick search and couldn’t find it, but it looks really interesting.

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