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Why IT suppliers’ message no longer works in Europe

Yann Serra, journalist at MagIT.fr


Within the realm of professional IT, the communication coming from major suppliers no longer corresponds to what European journalists are supposed to tell their readers. By selling a dream, as one does in B2C, marketing has lost track of the only thing that matters in B2B selling: the usefulness of the product. 

Marketing services obviously decided to dazzle their readers with alleged experts who bestow on the crowds their teachings about fashionable tech buzzwords, amazing them by rattling off numbers and studies, and filling their dreams with words about artificial intelligence, the Cloud, or cybersecurity. And all this to give the public the desire to reach new heights. Of course, the brand - not the product, of which very little is known - is the “key” to attain that goal. 

This approach is completely at odds with the very pragmatic expectations of European businesses, which are mostly interested in knowing how a product can solve their own technical problems. On this side of the Atlantic, we don't care about the aura of an expert, their studies about someone else, and even less about becoming some sort of imaginary hero. On the other hand, we care about being cared about. In this regard, the message of major suppliers is not just uninteresting. It sounds fake, even disrespectful. 

By trying too hard to seduce, communication becomes counterproductive

Let’s take a simple example. Recently, a so-called “expert” shared the following information with me. 

“Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, you can give Google a text in English and it will translate it into French very effectively. ”

(Note that this expert does not work for Google, but for another, very well-known, IT company.)

This little sentence, which is characteristic of how IT giants communicate, has three problems. 

First of all, it’s false. Google is absolutely not effective in translating a text from English into French. I am a bit of an expert there (well... I’m French, after all), and I can tell that this person is just talking nonsense. I will stop believing what he says. 

Also, if this person has no problem telling me nonsense about something, although he knows I am an expert in it, it’s obviously because he has no respect for me. Therefore, I can tell that helping me is not his goal. 

Finally, this information is not interesting at all. Obviously, it’s not like I had never thought of testing the effectiveness of Google’s translation service for myself. Instead, I reached out to an expert hoping to learn new things, but in fact he wasted my time. It’s obvious that this person tried to share something of interest with me in order to seduce me, and simply in order not to lose me. Except that, well, it doesn't work. In France, and as far as I know, in the rest of Europe too, this fashionable communication strategy is ultimately counterproductive.

Words made to dazzle, not to interest

After positing the principle, let’s get into the details. All the conferences, keynotes, and talks delivered by spokespeople of major IT suppliers follow the same format, consisting of the following 12 steps: 

Lots of data taken from studies performed by Gartner, IDC and other analysts, or from information that everyone has read in the press, about a specific topic 
More results of studies on the topic
And more... The goal here is to show that the speaker is very knowledgeable
Say: “As we can see, the world has changed and businesses must embrace that change”, 
Change N. 1: improve productivity
Change N. 2: improve something else that has to do with the domain of the product (security, processing power, client relations, communications, etc)
Change N. 3: innovate to stay in the game 
Say: “And some business sectors are specifically impacted by this change”
The longest possible list of nonspecific sectors (health, industry, commerce, transportation, finance, media... even “start-ups”, to look cool).
Say: “This change is coming, not changing is not an option”
Say: “And that’s why a supplier like us can support you in this new challenge”
Conclusion, with colleagues who applaud you in the room and share you on social media, etc.

This is what European IT professionals (and by extension, the journalist who writes for them) think when they hear all this: 

Data: “We knew that already”
More data: “Are you just padding your presentation because you’re lazy?”
Changes: “I know better than you the changes that I must make.”
Lack of details: “I want to compare your solution with those of your competitors. Why are you hiding the details? ”
Business sectors: “I only care about mine, I don't give a toss about the others. I’m wasting my time. ”
“Not an option”: “I am free to do as I please. Don't try telling me what I have to do.”
“Why we should support you?” “No, you never said why. You’re lying. ”

This is what a European professional would rather hear instead, in order to feel that their needs are addressed: 

We know that you have this problem that you need to fix.
Here’s how we can help you to fix it, and here are the details.
These are the benefits you will end up receiving from our solution.
The end. 

Too much simplification, too much Google Translate, not enough local content

Finally, let’s think for a moment about three details which, alone, sabotage all efforts at communication by major IT providers. 

The first is talking to their audience and explaining things to them as if they were 5-year-old children. While, in France and Europe, this works well when a scientist addresses the general public, it’s a serious faux pas when the audience is made up of experts, who expect to be treated as equals. 

The second is using Google Translate, an increasingly frequent practice among suppliers who think that Headquarters needs to control marketing communications globally. This service does not work well: not only does it makes reading the message annoying and difficult, but it is very easy to detect. At best, the reader of a post that has been translated automatically will interpret it as a cruel lack of attention. At worst, they will think that this supplier does not even trust their local teams to translate and adapt their content.

The third is the lack of local stories. In order to feel a connection to the story they are reading, Europeans need to see themselves in it: they want references that look like them, they want testimonials that show constraints that are like theirs. And it’s not enough to have the same business sector: the health system in France, for example, has nothing in common with the health system in the USA. Without this “mirror effect”, the audience will conclude that the supplier has understood nothing about the expectations of their market. 



For the original version of this article, in French, please click here.




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