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Friday, May 20, 2011

I am the crusher of dreams…


I had an interesting discussion with a colleague of mine who manages our support team. Each day he gets a firsthand view of something that my father likes to call reality. In his case he sees what happens when a customer's expectations are not sufficiently met. Usually those aren't the most pleasant conversations.

Clearly the product and what engineering delivers play a role in that. But we also discussed how and where marketing content also defines what those customer expectations ultimately should be. Specifically we talked about how the story told by marketing can help to temper a customer's wildest dreams.

By their very nature new technology and new software are supposed to be magical. Innovation allows for new tools that will help do something better, easier, faster, or even unlock the ability to do something they has never been done before. The problem with magic and tools that are depicted as such is that some users' wildest dreams set the bar of expectation far out of reach of even the best technology.

Some might blame this on Moore's law setting modern day users' expectation that engineers will always deliver something bigger, faster, and stronger. But part of this (or perhaps most of this) also falls in the hands of marketing. It's not the engineer's fault that the product cannot live up to customers' wildest dreams, that's marketing fault.

Content gives you the ability to control and set realistic expectations. If you built a car with a 60 mile per hour limit in a world where no car went faster than 50, there is no harm in setting the bar at 60. That will still get you where you need to go much faster than the alternative. However a promise of "the world's fastest car" could lead to expectations far beyond the 60 limit. This also leads to broken cars and hours spent with support departments.

Done well content can also turn reality in to a differentiator. Looking at it from a different perspective, knowing that nobody else can yet go 50 miles per hour, why not shape the market to set a 60 mile per hour limit as the must have within the category.

Create content, tell a story that sets a realistic expectation. After all that reality should still be far beyond what customers are able to do otherwise, but can also serve to keep those expectations in check…


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