Telecommuting will change how tech marketers do business

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Telecommuting is changing the way technology marketers do their jobs—or at least it should be, according to a new Forrester Research report based on Forrester's “Workforce Technographics U.S., Canada, and UK Survey, Q3 2009.”

The online survey—conducted in September and including answers from 3,904 information workers at companies with 100 or more employees in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.—said by 2016, 43% of all information workers will telecommute, which will present specific challenges for the IT department. Meeting this new workforce's needs while keeping costs low will prompt many to allow employees to use their own IT resources, including software, hardware and cellular phones. Forrester, which coined the phrase “technology populism” to describe this trend, said it will force technology vendors to sell not simply to the CIO and corporate buyer but also to the individual end-user.

“When it comes to laptops, you've already got a third of workers helping to make the buying decision,” said T.J. Keitt, the author of the report, “What Technology Populism Means for Tech Marketers,” released in June. “That's pretty much mainstream. With smartphones, only 34% report having no part in the decision—they have their devices wholly selected for them. That means 66% have choices. The proliferation of choice in endpoints is an important story because it shows that businesses are acquiescing to things that were historically no-nos.”

It also means that technology marketers can't continue with their business-as-usual marketing strategy. The end-user—and some elements of b-to-c marketing—have to come into the equation. Keitt provides these three suggestions to help marketers improve their reach and target end-users.

  1. Emphasize ease of setup and use. Business users have come to expect that any technology they use is going to be intuitive and have great applicability to their day jobs, Keitt said. “The quicker you can get someone up and running, especially if they are installing something on their own, the more willing they are going to be to recommend it to their friends and colleagues,” he said. You can do this by using video and case studies that show how simple it is to set up your product, such as the videos that show 3-year-olds playing with Apple's iPhone and iPad.
  2. Focus on specific job-use cases. When you're marketing to a line of business or an IT executive, productivity, cost and ROI matter. When it comes to individuals, however, they just want to know how a technology is going to make their lives easier, Keitt said. “Talk about which types of jobs will benefit and why it will be important to them,” he said. This may take some research and analysis. Who are your power users at your target companies? What features and functions do they use most often? Sometimes, end-users may have insight that you and your R&D department don't, Keitt said. You can also poll your current user base to see what their pain points are and find ways to address them.
  3. Identify and enable influential end-users. “We've seen the incredible power of word-of-mouth and the power of social networks,” Keitt said. “When we looked at things like Google Docs and LinkedIn and asked people how they found out about the services the answer was always ‘peers and colleagues,' which is why building a cadre of thought-leaders and opinion-makers is just as important when selling technology into the business world as it is selling consumer electronics,” he said. Look at the customer's social network reach, and consult with these people when it comes to future iterations of your products. “There's very little talking to the end-user going on right now,” Keitt said. You can also learn from products and services that are targeted at consumers. But be careful, Keitt said. “It's not like saying you'll take Facebook's interface and dump it on your product because that works. You need to look at the Facebook interface to see what people like about it.”
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