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February 26, 2014

Three Powerful Lessons About The Internet of Things From The Buy-Side

A friend pinged me a couple of weeks ago asking me to take a look at a headline for a demand generation campaign. He is a brilliant guy. He works at a really interesting company that is doing some pretty cool work trying to make the Internet of Things more accessible for a wide range of companies.

The headline was strong: Lots of language that would speak directly to potential customers and clients; tight focus on financial impacts; clear language. It was good.

Except for one glaring issue.

It was all about the Internet of Things.

At the end of the day, as more people ‘know’ what the Internet of Things is, they care less and less about it because it saying nothing about THEM. THEIR business. THEIR customers. THEIR part of the world.

I hinted at this in my TED talk on IoT. I called it a really big, broad concept.

And then I received that inquiry from a friend on the heels of spending a couple of days with a couple of exclusive collections of operations executives from some of the largest companies in the world – including some not typically identified as leaders the operationalization of emerging technology.

It got me to thinking. If you accept that position – that IoT is a really big, broad concept – would you lead with it in a strategic or tactical marketing or sales campaign?

Please don’t answer that until the end of the blog.

I am going to let you in on a handful of realities that INEX teams have been learning for the last few years, and that we had confirmed yet again last week in a room full of Fortune 500 executives who are exceptionally aware of the Internet of Things.

1.  Most decision makers are already past the term ‘Internet of Things’.

Increasingly, in one survey or another, they are citing that they know what it means, but, they do not know what to do with or about it. Because it is an abstraction.

Talking about the Internet of Things with a seasoned operations executive in a company that has deployed computing, control or communications in an operational context – versus administrative —  is to elevate the conversation to a layer of abstraction that will cause you to lose more than the sale.

They are clear, you however, will appear lost.

streetsign

You will lose their attention, their respect, and your place in line on their bid list.

To be blunt: Decision makers are more operational and more experienced with the concept of IoT, and cloud, big data, analytics, and more. So experienced, that they have moved past those saccharine bumper stickers and are now talking about specific implementation experiences; current pilots; and their unique roadmaps for instrumenting the physical world – in THEIR TERMS.

If you want their attention, respect and to preserve or elevate your place on their bid lists: Get prepared, get real, get specific.

2.  Most decision makers are clear that they — the deployers — and their customers are the key stakeholder groups shaping IoT.  Did I just race past technology companies, including IoT suppliers? Yes. Am I minimizing them? Absolutely not.

Assuming that enterprises are not already deep in thought, planning, or execution on the future of business in a post-IoT world is a fatal mistake. As technology marketers, just because you cannot see the bleeding edge of your prospects, or even your existing customers, does not mean that it does not exist.

It means that either you are not looking or listening well enough, or, they are not interested in sharing it with you.

customerisking

To be blunt: IT vendors are critical partners. However, they are not necessarily looked to as THE source for innovation, including when it comes to translating IoT into something tangible, tactical, meaningful for their operations. More and more enterprises get the potential, conceptual disruptions – opportunity and risk – associated with IoT.

If you want to be part of the conversation helping your enterprise partners, customers, prospects, recognize that in all that technobabble about disruption, you are talking about their families, their friends, their customers.

3.  Most decisions makers agree that culture – not advances in computing, control or communications – dominates the critical path to IoT deployment.

As much or more than most other technologies that have been deployed to-date, IoT-enabled/ labeled solutions can and will redefine the foundations of many – perhaps all – product and service businesses as they are currently conceived.

General managers get that customer/ user experience in retail or infrastructure, b-to-c or b-to-b, has to be front and center. And that customer/ user experience success demands deep understand and deft response to the merging of products and services, physical and virtual touchpoints.

Trust me: They get it. But, their work is rooted in the physical world. Where people live and work and play and die. Different kinds of people. And dealing with people can be complicated. And challenging. And necessary.  Not all the time. But on the big stuff: Completely and profoundly necessary.

To be blunt: People are returning to the center of more conversations with more companies than the general business press would lead you to believe. From the left, it is too easy to hammer all corporations as money-grubbing-machines. From the right, it is too easy to recycle limited citations from The Fountainhead. The fact is, a growing number of executives and general managers understand that the current approach to capitalism – zero-sum game, where each interaction is a transaction, and each transaction all about profit extraction – is, or will be soon, a suboptimal approach to value creation.

socialism

If you want to sell more, and profitably, you must understand that those people that you think are in the way of progress, they are in fact THE way forward.

Blogs are great places to get in, get some clarity, get out. But this post does not do justice to the scope and depth of what I am trying to share here. These are not my ideas, but my observations rooted in INEX work on IoT with dozens of companies from outside the IoT supplier community.

PLEASE drop me a line or give me a call, or start a new thread with this piece. We all need to talk about and work on this. Together.

February 26, 2014