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How To Use Gartner’s Hype Cycle To Define Marketing Strategy

Most people in B2B tech marketing are aware of Gartner’s iconic Hype Cycle. Beyond providing interesting data, however, the Hype Cycle can be a key tool for tech marketers to define their marketing strategy.

Martin Smith

24th Jul 2020

Most people in B2B tech marketing are aware of Gartner’s iconic Hype Cycle. Beyond providing interesting data, however, the Hype Cycle can be a key tool for tech marketers to define their marketing strategy. In fact, aligning your marketing strategy to the Hype Cycle shortcuts a lot of navel-gazing about what the right marketing strategy might be and enables you to immediately start executing.

Following is a detailed explanation of the Hype Cycle, along with strategies and tactics for using it to match your market’s acceptance of core technology. Gartner issued the first Hype Cycle in 1995, and it’s still going strong 25 years later.

As shown in Figure 1 above, each Hype Cycle drills down into the five key lifecycle phases for a technology, including:

  1. Innovation Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist, and commercial viability is unproven.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  3. Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  4. Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  5. Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance clearly pay off.

 

Each phase of the Hype Cycle correlates to marketing activities that are essential for a technology’s success, as well.

 

Marketing During The Innovation Trigger Stage

During the Innovation Trigger stage, focus should be on establishing the technology and business, while also ramping up marketing. Marketing efforts at this stage should be broken into two parts, pre-launch and launch. During pre-launch, you should develop clear use cases so people understand what could be better with your technology. Use cases are vital before you can even start a tactical sales and marketing plan.

At this time, you should also develop your market positioning, which is carving out a place in people’s minds for what you do. Research the other players in the market and create a unique position. Also develop your messaging, which is distinct to positioning. This means finding the words that explain your benefits clearly. You can experiment here and see what hits home with respected third parties.

You should also build a website and develop a professional web presence, even if people aren’t ready to buy from you. Spend a little money here and hire good designers and copywriters to look like the professional company you want to be. This is the time also to cultivate relationships with a few key analysts, who can make connections and open doors, while also providing early written support of your concept.

Once your company has launched the technology, you should develop your launch story, which is something we did for Orbex. It could be a product launch, platform launch, a proof-of-concept or a major customer win. You need a professional technology PR person or agency on board at this point.

At this time, you also need to develop a pipeline of news. The single hit of a launch can quickly be forgotten. Think ahead to everything interesting that can and should be shared with the market to help you become that company that you hear about everywhere.

Establish an analyst relations program that builds on the initial relationships you’ve established. Provide analysts with updates and show your momentum and progress. And find the new analysts who have started covering your sector.

This is also the time to build lots of content. The race for attention – which can make or break your company – has already started. If you don’t have talented content writers, then get support – and make sure your content is optimized for search.

Meanwhile you should also build your social profiles. Create interesting content and share it. Build the reach of your social content by finding and following the people who are talking about your technology sector and influencing the thinking about the market. Digital channels are effectively becoming the new word-of-mouth network, so get involved.

It also helps if you can win some awards. If you have technology that people will consider to be innovative or cool, then you have a good chance of doing, which can provide third-party endorsement while the business catches up to its potential.

Use cases are vital before you can start a tactical sales and marketing plan.

Marketing During The Peak of Inflated Expectations Stage

Get real with your news announcements. You’ve got some tough competition, so your news needs to be hard news. Think funding announcements, tech giant partnerships, major customer wins, milestones and landmarks.

Meanwhile, keep building relationships with media and analysts. By this time, you hopefully have productive and friendly relationships with the key influencers. Keep it going by being friendly, helpful, responsive and interesting to score incredible articles in mainstream media during this phase. This will help you to win the content war. Consider the buying cycle and what content you need to pull through new customers at every point. See what your rivals are doing and do it better than them. With B2B, think blog articles, whitepapers, webinars, infographics, video.

This is the time to dominate search. If people are now actively searching for what you have, then be where they’re looking. Beyond Google, also consider alternative “search engines” like YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. It’s also the perfect time to make your CEO famous. Find speaking slots for your CEO and get him/her commenting on news stories, while also getting byline articles placed to make them part of the story.

 

Marketing During The Trough Of Disillusionment

Don’t take your foot off the pedal. Marketing will be the source of growth, so even if things sometimes look shaky, retain the investment in marketing to get you through any bumps in the road. Slashing marketing in the short term leads to death in the long term.

Your happy customers are your biggest asset, and you need to use them. It’s never that easy to get endorsements, but you can do it by making them really happy, showing them what’s in it for them, and providing incentives. Get the CEO or exec team involved to stop cautious salespeople from shielding customers.

It’s now time to refine your segmentation because the sector will be sufficiently evolved for there to be various sub-sectors or verticals to focus marketing efforts. But also be ready for crises. You might need a lot more crisis management than you ever did before. Get a plan in place for whatever might go wrong and know how you will respond to whatever does.

Meanwhile, keep building relationships media and analysts. They’re always important. And keep your content machine in full flow. High-quality content combined with a great email and social distribution will keep your lead generation growing.

Also spend time making your senior execs into strong spokespeople for your sector. What’s needed now is a refined edge to executive marketing. They should clearly understand your industry and speak candidly, yet smartly, about its challenges and opportunities.

...keep building relationships

Marketing During The Slope of Enlightenment Stage

At this time, you should do everything that you were doing during the Trough of Disillusionment. The same strategies and tactics apply here. Become sensibly paranoid about your established competition. You’re one of a handful of go-to companies in this sector. Pay close attention to what they’re doing or not doing and market better than they do.

Pay close attention to new alternatives. Now that you’re in an established category or technology, there will be upstarts and disruptors talking you down and presenting a cheaper way of doing what you do. You need a close eye on potential market shifts, while alerting your executive team of any significant market developments.

It’s important at this time that legal not kill marketing. By this point, your company is probably big enough to have a legal department or counsel, and it’s their job to stamp out all risk … including saying or doing anything. In a battle of influence and ego, make sure you have the authority to continue running marketing without constant intrusion that renders your efforts ineffective.

 

Marketing During The Plateau Of Productivity

This is the time to loosen purse strings and spend more on marketing, making it too expensive for anyone else to compete with your mindshare. This is when advertising becomes vital so you can be the only company that feels safe enough to do business with.

This also is the time when you need a full-scale marketing machine that covers every channel and opportunity, including PR, SEO, digital marketing, events, awards, advertising, design, copywriting and lead gen.

Meanwhile, you need to measure everything. You need data-driven marketing that the CEO can visualize, love and count on. Also, if journalists aren’t covering you as much, don’t worry. You can be the media. You’ve been doing it to some degree with your content marketing efforts so far, but now you can go whole hog and create owned media.

It is great for any company to be considered to part of a technology that will run through a Hype Cycle. It provides the opportunity – but not a guarantee – of success. Success will be driven by a combination of brainpower, hard work, enough money, the right marketing strategy – and a little luck.

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