The IoT technosphere is full of great ideas and the products they've driven. Unfortunately, it's also littered with failed companies who, despite having great ideas and maybe even a great product, didn't understand some hard truths about marketing, and about IoT marketing in particular. Here are some IoT myths you'll have to bust on the way to becoming king of your particular IoT hill.
1. My IoT Product is Great for Everything
Maybe, but probably not. Here's a typical story: When you first had the idea for your IoT product, it was probably because you looked around and said "Hey, nobody in the IoT space has built a blabbertron that does X" -- and so, you built a blabbertron that does X: The Blabbertron X, let's say. While building Blabbertron X, you did some market research and realized that there are a lot of features that all of the blabbertrons already on the market have in common, so you made sure that Blabbertron X had those features, too -- and then proceed to hype those features. But while it's true that Blabbertron X probably needs those features to be competitive, they're not what make your product unique.
Focus your messaging and your marketing on that feature that is unique so that when potential customers compare you to your competitors, your product will truly stand out.
2. If I Build It, They Will Come: The IoT Field of Dreams
It's a one-in-a-million shot (at best) that your product will be so great that it will catch fire solely through word of mouth, so ask yourself whether the time and costs of what you're building -- and potentially your company's future -- are worth risking at those odds. I call it "Field of Dreams" marketing, and it's fairly commonplace in the IoT space. You're probably not Costner, though, and this certainly isn't a movie. Given those long-shot odds, the fundamental question is this: No matter how great your product is, how can it succeed if no one knows that it exists?
You need to be prepared to spend some combination of time, money, and energy to market your product. There's really no way around that.
3. Engineers are My Audience, so I Don't Need Messaging
Engineers are people, too! And to a certain extent, if your IoT product is B2B and meant to be sold to other engineers, then yes, you absolutely need to convey in engineer-speak what differentiates your product. But that doesn't let you off the hook for also being able to clearly message, in non-engineer, what your product does and what makes it different. Why? Because the bigger the company that you're selling into, the bigger the chance that the ultimate decision-maker on the purchase will not be an engineer.
Without messaging aimed at those kinds of decision-makers, you're leaving your sales pitch up to their engineers. If you have proper, non-engineering messaging in place, though, you can have a certain measure of control as to what decision-makers take into account -- and that's always valuable.
4. My IoT Differentiator is Set in Stone
Maybe, but it's only going to work if you have a true competitive advantage -- which, in business-language parlance, means that what you're doing can't be replicated by your competitors, or at least not easily. But rest assured that once your competitors in the IoT space see that Blabbertron X is using a machine-learning algorithm to iteratively improve something, it won't be terribly long before their products are also using machine learning for the same kinds of things. Thus, you should always be working on the development roadmap for your product -- and you should never be afraid to reevaluate whether your supposed differentiator is truly different.
A quick story: I'm using "machine learning" as the potential differentiator here because I know of a company who is clinging to that as their differentiator when there are already several similar products on the market doing the same thing. In fact, this company also owns a dedicated spectrum of radio frequencies that give their IoT products a much longer range than their competitors can tout, making it ideal for remote deployments where cellular coverage is spotty or even non-existent. They don't recognize that as a differentiator, when in reality it could actually provide a true competitive advantage -- if they were willing to rethink what it was that truly made them different, and go for it.
The Moral of the IoT Story
None of the above should be too terribly brain-bending. But companies do frequently fail, and it happens in the IoT space, too -- even when the companies and/or their product should have shone. That can happen for a lot of reasons. But when it happens because a company subscribes to one of the myths above it's especially sad, because it likely needn't have. So think through these myths, and if you see yourself engaging with any of them give it some deeper thought. You -- and your company -- are worth it.