How did you identify the problem?
After initial meetings, we moved very quickly from “What do you do when someone writes something bad about you in a blog?” to: “How would we begin to map where influence was, where it traveled, and how bad was the problem really?”
There's a science to mapping influence. It's identifying the key conversations, who those influencers are, who those brands are that are driving those conversations via association with those concepts, understanding that heat map of sorts, building that heat map. And then literally building programs that move from Point A to Point B when the heat map associates the right words and concepts with your brand versus the others.
How did you get buy-in about what you needed to solve?
I was able to go back to the team and say, “These are the problems that we're really solving, and these are the three that we're going to tackle right away: How do we establish our own brand and our own voice and our own positioning? How do we get credit for the innovation and the technology that we have built that is real? And how do we continue to build our business as we are addressing points one and two?”
Where did you start?
I always believe that the boogeyman isn't as bad as you think it is, but you need to understand what it is. The starting point was the analysis that we did on really understanding where influence lived, understanding who owned what in the market conversation, and understanding how we were perceived as D-Wave in the market.
But then, what do you do with it? Once we established a baseline, everyone said, “Some of it wasn't as bad as we had thought, and some of it was worse than we had thought.” We began to ask the question “What is our unique value proposition in the market?” Let's not start with, “How do we compete against the negativity?” Let's start with, “What is our unique value proposition?”
What was the story you ended up with?
In typical obsessive CMO manner, I started just reading everything, interviewing people, talking to customers, attending customer events. I am not a quantum physicist. I will never understand how all these things work, but what I could do is I could take the data and the information that existed around the company, and I could assess that and turn it into a landscape.
After we did that, I looked at what our unique value proposition was. We realized quickly that real people were building real applications on our quantum computer. We were the only ones that you could do that with. What we found is that our customers were excited to talk about it. Our customers’ view of us drove what that brand promise ended up eventually being.
What was the brand promise?
We came up with this wonderful oxymoron: “Practical Quantum Computing.” Now, the two don't seem to have anything to do with each other; how can you be practical and be using quantum mechanical effects in computation? What it means, and what our brand promise is, is that we are always going to be delivering things that are usable and for the person on the other side.
If you're a data scientist or you're a chief technology officer or you're a CMO and your business problem is that you need to make sure that your offers are optimized around the globe, let's speak to you on those terms. Let's not talk to you about the way the quantum system works. All of our storytelling starts, begins, and ends with customers.
How are you making that promise real?
Every time we make a product announcement, the product is there and ready and live. Every time we talk about roadmaps, we have examples so that they can start seeing why it's going to be real. Every time I have a spokesperson out there talking about the company, it is things that you can show via science or via other evidence points. We are hardcore about it.
It's not the D-Wave story; it's the customer story. I bring customer feedback back to product teams regularly: “These are the kinds of things people are looking for. What can we do?” Part of it really is that intersection between marketing and product and ensuring that that's a real tight fit. Then, when we do deliver things to the market, there are things that people have asked for, they’re relevant, and they're ready. Don't underestimate the power of truth.
How does that customer feedback get synthesized effectively?
I think you always have to deliver the bright shiny object that is different from what the customer thought that they wanted or needed. We're always on that path and that keeps us innovative. But I also think that sometimes it's the most simple. It's not about, “How do we build a whole new quantum computer?” That's not the problem we're solving for. We need to make sure that millions and millions of people who aren't physicists learn how to use this, so we're constantly asking questions to the customer about those things.
How have your metrics evolved over time?
When I started, the No. 1 metric was perception and negative sentiment. We established a baseline, we established a heat map, and then we began to track that monthly. What’s changing? What words are associated with our brand? Are we increasing the negative concepts? Are we decreasing them? In three years, we've been able to go from 30% to 3%.
Now, it’s really about pipeline; the volume of people who are now willing to talk to D-Wave, show up to one of our special, hand-knit events come under that, and then turn into pipeline. I consider this to be this continuum of metrics, all of which, if you imagine a layer cake, run together to get to the place where we are now.
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