In my role as big data analyst, I get to hear a lot of vendors' pitches. As someone who spent a lot of years in technology sales and marketing before becoming an industry analyst, this is usually both informative and entertaining, both for the content presented and sometimes for what isn’t being said.
Put another way, a great solutions presentation plays on three levels:
- The core information - everyone should understand the basics, no matter their background on the particular topic. This answers the “what it is” and “why it matters” questions, or general awareness.
- A nuanced spin - target audiences should be hearing more depth and detail of the product or service as compared to alternatives. This establishes “how this works” and “who has the best implementation,” or education and differentiation.
- Personal engagement - both the presenter and the listener should feel the urgency. This helps them understand “who benefits in specific terms” and “why I should care enough to keep listening,” or relevance and applicability.
Having witnessed all these experts share their stuff, I can definitely attest that there are a couple of major issues that threaten the effectiveness of big data marketing. Again and again, I see this pattern.
The marketer enthusiastically waves their arms around as they discuss the power of big data to transform IT and apparently entire industries, usually with a lot of very glossy PowerPoint slides. The story line is how businesses are stumbling around in the dark, clueless and inept today. With the purchase of
- Predict patterns of particle physics, popular perception, and parking peculiarities.
- Discover entirely new continents of customers.
- Never make a bad business decision again.
- Save a fortune by spending just a few measly bucks with this vendor.
All well and good, clearly these are lofty goals to pursue, level 1 “big picture value proposition” covered off - check.
Then with a jaw-dropping descent, the sales engineer suddenly begins to detail how their software version 1.4.1j (build 2) has a new input flag for the command line interface to link a function call in three fewer characters of typing for the highly skilled, highly-priced data scientist, should she ever be hired. Level 2 “technical details” done and done, usually to the point of overkill.
Where is level 3 “what’s in it for me,” which should be drawn collaboratively on the whiteboard? When will vendors be able to give a repeatable, reliable roadmap for successful design and delivery of a real solution to my pain? We know it's a hairy, complex ecosystem of technologies that all have to play nicely together. How does this piece fit in the bigger puzzle? Which other pieces or partnerships are you specifically offering? I hear very exciting anecdotes told--unfortunately they usually end with “and then we did something my lawyers won't let me tell you about because it’s a competitive edge.” I’m still waiting for the vendor who can describe exactly how to build the full stack in your own environment and how this will lead to your own personal success, career fulfillment, and ever-lasting happiness.
Now, I know many vendors are reading this and saying "hey, what a jerk!" and "I'm a way better presenter than that!" and to be fair, a special few of you really are. Sincerely, thank you for being you. But everyone in the industry needs to get a little bit better, more engaging, and more prescriptive.
(Maybe we can help.)