Old Dogs 'n New Tricks? Marketing New Tech to Small Biz
Yesterday my son and I gave a BizCat's talk to a small business group on emerging new technologies and how to apply them for business success. It turned out to be one of those fun talks where the questions are flying and people really get into the topics—conferencing, social networks, internet broadcasting, etc. So I was caught off guard when Tim Jr. said "I'm really surprised that went well, considering most of the audience was over 50!"
Granted, Tim is a Gen-Yer and I'm a baby boomer (I often remind him that my generation created the technology revolution!). But this isn't about a generation's interest (or disinterest) in technology, it's about who is driving the post-recessionary business world and why he shouldn't have been surprised at all.
In the recession of the early 1990s, corporate layoffs of older workers created a "temporary" workforce of predominately "consultant/contractors." In the current economy, however, we're seeing laid off workers starting small businesses as retailers, internet marketers, management consultants, trainers, and more. What makes them both unique and interesting is that they're melding years of real-world work experience with cautious adoption of new technologies to create powerful new business models. For this group, tech gets adopted only when it meets a clear business need or can produce a measurable result, not just because it's new or innovative or fun. They're far more interested in the "application" than in the "innovation."
This new but "older" generation of business entrepreneurs is asking the question, "How could I use the new technologies to be more successful in my business?" Perhaps it's because many of today's tech companies are filled with younger folks (who think this should be obvious), but most are not answering that fundamental business question as they promote their products and services in the marketplace.
The history of business and marketing tells us that the greatest product successes have been achieved when innovators focused on application (practical use) over innovation. Today's vendors forget that in the dawn of the computer revolution, IBM marketed the cost-saving and efficiency benefits of computing to the companies of the day... because no one wanted to buy a "computer."