Marketing Ahead of the IoT Curve





Michael Voellinger

Principal Executive, IoT Scorecard

Over the years I have selected quotes from many different politicians, military leaders, authors and others to add perspective and context in my articles. In writing this particular entry, I had to dig a bit deeper for just the right phrase. Here is where I landed:


“Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable.” - Thomas Nagel


The Internet of Things is a nebulous concept with a few loosely accepted definitions. To an automotive engineer, it’s the ultimate connected car or supply chain. To an oil and gas engineer, it’s real time information for operational efficiency and safety. To a schoolteacher, it’s the ultimate connected classroom. To the average consumer, it’s that funky thermostat they see on TV. It’s everything or nothing, depending on your personal stake in the game. From a marketer’s perspective, that’s a dream and a nightmare.


Let’s not be totally cynical about IoT. Personally, I’m excited because I believe it truly does change everything. But it’s going to take time. This is a repetitive movie, one that we have seen before. Remember the early days of mobile? I had a brick. I had the bag phone. I had the Blackberry. But the mobile revolution took time to mature, a rapid evolution in the end. That doesn’t mean there weren’t opportunities along the way. Quite the contrary – many billions dollars were made. Entirely new industries were born. Standards were developed and we accelerated the hell out of technology innovation. We’re poised to do it again with IoT. Or IoE. Or whatever you choose to call the end-state connected world.


And here, folks, is the marketing issue: IoT as it stands today means marketing to an undefined and radically segmented audience, with needs that are not fully articulated, working at companies with vague “innovation” budgets allocated for smart products and services that haven’t been 100% approved. Oh, and by the way, the mass-market consumers who will buy all this smart stuff are crunched for cash, tend to add new technology when old things need replacement, and are inherently skeptical that your technology is safe and secure. This is a tough nut to crack. With that backdrop, here are a few ideas and strategies I’m personally betting on in 2016 to keep my organization, ClearBlade, relevant in a sea of noise:


Market to the enablers


Right now, the deepest thinking and investment around IoT is happening in the “enabler” sector, the companies who make smart things for the masses. Companies like Intel, Dell, GM, Google, Amazon, Cisco, Apple, Samsung and the other usual suspects. They have enough girth to move the innovation needle and generate real IoT revenues quickly. For these organizations, the marketing value proposition is simple: tell me how you can accelerate my ability to build products or integrate with existing things. This is a combination of classic relationship building, market education and strong use cases. No rocket science, just solid marketing basics.


Educate the consumer


It’s a bit of an end run but a critical step in setting up demand – educating the consumer. The average person out there knows a lot about their iPhone and how it works. What they don’t know is how an IoT gateway can power a smart home experience, or how BLe compares to Zigbee. We need to start talking about real-life use cases with consumers now, and let them help define what the requirements will be for the first few waves of real connected living. The good will factor is huge here, along with the opportunity to capitalize on education as a press coverage driver.


Believe in the creativity of kids


My three children provide me with endless entertainment. But they also give me an audience and, along with small groups of their friends who come to visit the house, provide a great stream of ideas and feedback on connected “things”. I drop a Fitbit in the middle of the table, ask them to brainstorm on what they would connect it to, and bribe them with junk food to complete the task (and yes, that IS irony). Unlike a focus group of adults, children provide unadulterated feedback minus the personal agenda, and it’s wonderful for generating use cases and new ideas to market.


Progress through provocation


There’s a ton of room in the marketplace right now for IoT solutions and use cases. In fact, it’s green field on steroids. As marketers, we will play a crucial role in brainstorming the applications that can move the market needle. I spend nearly 50% of my current sales cycle working with customers to identify, develop and focus their projects. This IoT thing is still new, and we need to be advocates for our constituency and help them innovate.


Developers and more developers


I’m always in awe when the engineers at ClearBlade start riffing on the art of the possible. From an engineering standpoint, this is the most talented group I’ve ever worked with. It’s a constant reminder that one of the most critical groups of influencers circling the IoT ecosystem is the developer community. These are the people who will make it happen, the rest is essentially a pretty wrapper. The value proposition for these folks is pretty straight forward: peel away the marketing veneer and tell me how we can simplify complex tasks, get more efficient and leverage really innovative ideas to connect things.


Trillions of dollars, billions of devices and millions of connected ideas all make for high drama when talking about the Internet of Things. But from a marketing perspective, there’s really only one mission: create a relevant, believable and viable consciousness to put this opportunity in focus.


Speak up: This article is a conversation starter. Let’s continue the dialogue with your thoughts and feedback.



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