Not every public safety agency will embrace every new technology. And it can be difficult to market new technology to those who either don’t understand it or simply prefer a traditional approach to the job. But it’s up to you, dear marketing comrades, to show public safety professionals how to turn technology advances into an advantage. Let’s consider how that’s done.
7 Ways to Market Technology to Non-Techies
Some public safety professionals are highly technical. For those who aren’t, there are a number of ways to reach them. (Bonus: these same methods can help close the deal even for tech-savvy leads, so adopting these techniques is a win-win.)
1. Approach Prospects from the Top and the Bottom
Marketers tend to take one of two approaches when approaching public safety: top-down (chiefs and upper management) or bottom-up (rank and file). While this may be advisable in some cases–and seemingly necessary, given limited resources–it often overlooks the porous and, at times, messy truth of public safety organizational charts.
Of course, purchasing decisions are made at the top, right? Often, yes. For this reason, marketers will target leadership. While speaking directly to key decision makers can result in a faster sales cycle, reaching them is usually more difficult (and there are fewer of them to contact, plus they’re busy, often playing political roles in a city or county). In addition, unless leadership will be the core users of the technology, they may not see the urgency or true value of your product or service. As a result, a lot of time will be spent educating them.
On the other hand, marketers will sometimes take a bottom-up sales approach, casting a wider net to build grassroots support. There are undeniably more of the rank and file to be reached. This method also helps develop advocates within the agency. The question is: Will those advocates be able to convert to customers?
The best approach, if you can, is to address both. Reach out to key decision-makers with a personalized approach, and target those at the line level who may help push the decision up from the bottom.
2. Become a Storyteller
Storytelling has always been an essential part of marketing, but it’s even more important when it comes to selling technology that can be confusing or complex. According toTy Bennett, author of The Power of Storytelling, too often sales people tell stories that are a “solution to solution.” For example, saying, “we made this amazing product, and it sold out in five months,” is not going to hook someone in public safety. To sell technology effectively to this audience, tell stories using examples and buyer journeys.
Leaders in public safety look for trustworthiness and authenticity, and storytelling helps build that. Your key messaging should not be listing features and using canned talking points. Let your story guide you instead. Highlight a very real problem that the prospect can relate to. This person is more likely to remember the challenge, the struggle and the overcoming of odds. Only then should you delve into your solution and the positive impact others have had with it.
Let’s say you’ve created a new app that helps firefighters be more efficient. Rather than talk about the IT features, begin with thepublic safety impact. Tell the story of how the app helped save a life, protected an officer, reduced response times, etc. Once they’re interested in what the technology did, then you can funnel them into features, and later, pricing.
3. Avoid Jargon and Stock Phrases
Every industry has its own language or jargon. Jargon is described as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.” Technology is one of the worst offenders. Those in the know may rattle off complex terms or alphabet soup to show their technology prowess. However, if the person you’re selling to isn’t familiar with this jargon – and let’s face it, most will probably not be – you risk confusing or alienating them completely.
Stock phrases can also derail the sales pitch.Bill McGowan, CEO of Clarity Media, says that many presentations consistently use what he calls “five deadly words.” These words cause more damage than any other because they sap the presenter’s conviction, undermine their authority, and apologize for taking up the audience’s time. Here’s a sample sentence containing all five in bold and why they wreck sales pitches.
“So I just thought I’d kind of quickly walk you through my presentation.”
- So is an empty calorie word, much like “um.”
- Just is a word that implies a half-hearted effort.
- Thought is a word that implies a lack of confidence.
- Kind of, when strung together, lacks strategic conviction.
- Quickly signals to the prospect that they are likely to be bored by the presenter.
It’s important to understand how fluent a client is in the technology you’re selling. Remember, if you’re focusing on the intricacies of the tech instead of how it will solve a problem, there is going to be a disconnect between buyer and seller.
4. Highlight Support/Reliability
The Pew Research center recently cited commonobjections to technology, including the idea that “…we are becoming more and more dependent on machines and hence more susceptible to bugs and system failures.” This is often a lingering fear for public safety professionals: ‘What if your product, that I’m now relying on, fails?’
Easing these concerns is important when meeting with a prospective buyer. They want good technology but also reliable support. So, it is important to state that your product provides a high level of reliability and that your company offers a high level of support. After all, public safety is a 24/7/365 job – your customer may need support at the most inopportune hour. Even if you can’t make your support team available at all times, be sure to keep customers in the know through updates, bulletins, ongoing training, and so on to maintain contact. If there is a problem with your product, and you’ve not delivered on your promise of support, negativity will spread quickly.
5. Set Expectations
This goes hand-in-hand with highlighting support/reliability. Delivering a tech product or service that meets expectations is critical (exceeding them is even better). But, you don’t want to oversell your product or your customer support if neither can deliver on the promise. Word of mouth spreads fast among public safety professionals, so just as a good product will be on people’s lips, so will a bad one. And, if your product or customer service gets flagged as not living up to promises, your brand reputation may be in jeopardy.
To be sure your product will meet expectations, discuss the potential for problems and ask what the prospect expects when this happens. For example, you might ask, “When and if the technology fails (potentially due to user error, poor LTE reception), how quickly do you expect a response?” Based on their answer, you can address their concerns on the spot, open up a dialogue, set reasonable expectations, andbuild trust. You may also realize you need to make product or service improvements to continue to sell to the public safety industry.
6. Hire Directly From the Industry
Have you considered hiring sales people who used to work in the public safety discipline you’re targeting? Perhaps you seek out retired (or even part-time active duty) law enforcement personnel, firefighters or healthcare/EMS professionals. They’ll likely be able to empathize with the buyers, understand their pain points, and connect on a more personal level. They likely already have a number of contacts as well, getting potential buyers in the door easier.
7. Provide Data & Testimonials
This was saved for last, as it may not be appropriate in the early stages of the buyer journey. However, when a prospect is in the consideration stage for technology, hitting them with some cold, hard data is certainly appropriate. Often, this can be in the form of case studies that highlight how similar public safety agencies have used your product successfully. For example, highlighting how your technology shaved two minutes off response time can be an eye-opener that seals the deal with a prospect.
Hard data also comes in the form of testimonials from satisfied customers. Letting customers tell your story can inspire purchase, and these types of stories are great for followup emails, social media posts, brochures, ads, or just about any marketing channel. With89% of buyers saying testimonials, reviews, case studies, etc. are what they rely on most to make their decisions, these remain a powerful tool in any marketer’s or salesperson’s toolkit.
Let’s Start a Conversation.
We get it. Selling technology to non-technical people in public safety can be a challenge. Just remember that potential buyers are usually not interested in the intricacies of the technology but rather in the positive impact it can have on them, their department, and the community. Need help getting the word out about your product to public safety? RedFlash Group specializes in public safety marketing and can help. If you’re ready to talk about creating a new marketing plan for 2023 or updating your current one,we’d love to start a conversation.