Friday, December 16, 2011

Horrible Frustration + Instant Gratification: It Works Every Time (Marketing Technology)

A Kerr mason jarYou know how sometimes you can't get the lid off a jar?

It's stuck, so you run hot water over it, put rubber gloves on, hit it with a metal spoon, twist and yank it until finally the lid pops off. Sometimes the liquid in the jar explodes over its lip, and you jump back. You might even drop the jar because it's so exciting to see that it finally opened. And then it falls off the counter and shatters into a million pieces. Which is sort of sad, since not only can't you eat what's in the jar but it's a real pain to have to pick up all those glass pieces.

In any case, yesterday I finally popped the lid off a technology jar at work. Actually a few of them. Considering all the projects involved, the combined effort was more than five years of work. It was like boom - boom - boom, one problem solved; then another; then another; then another. By the end of the day three people had seen it and they were suitably shocked and awed.

I had an epiphany:

The magic formula for getting people to adopt a new technology is to show them how it resolves a real frustration in their lives, by providing an instant gratification.


The solution has to do both of those things. The frustration has to be real - it has to be their frustration, not one that you've invented or imposed on them. The gratification has to be truly instant - if they have to fiddle with it for more than five seconds, they're gone.

Some other associated realizations, that can help you be more successful and manage the stress associated with having to "fix your baby," the technology solution:
  1. Expect that it will take you a really long time to develop a solution to the problem. You will have to test it, fix the bugs, redesign it, show it around, fix it again, over a period of months and maybe years.
  2. Expect that nobody cares that you solved the Rubik's cube. You are the geek and they are the end user and usually, never the twain shall meet.
  3. Expect that you will need help packaging the solution for the end user. Usually that means finding someone in a leadership function who is not a communicator, but who has something to gain by promoting this technology. This person will know exactly how to market it to other people who need to support it.
  4. Expect that you will have to pare down the solution's capabilities to only the simplest and most obvious things. The end user does not want to know about every possible thing that can be done, only the thing that solves their problems.
  5. Expect that you will also need help from a non-technical communicator to help you design the interface so that it is easy to use from a visual standpoint. (This is a HUGE mistake technology companies make, thinking they need technical communicators instead of ordinary folks who don't speak in jargon, ever.) You'll also need an easy-to-use set of screenshots to walk a user through the first time.
Sometimes when you're working on technology solutions you can get frustrated yourself. You may think that it's a waste of time, nobody will ever use it, and things don't change. Not true! I have pushed through a few significant projects like this and while not all of them have gone through (yet), enough have actually been adopted that it's worth taking the game.

Think of it like archery. You have 20 arrows to throw at the target. If you don't know how to shape them only 1 may hit it. By learning in advance how to package and refine your work, and then sell it to the end user, you may up that number to 5 or 10. Which is really totally awesome.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

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