A tech marketing lesson from 10,000 happy chickens

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Simplify. And simplify again. This is a good exercise for any tech company trying to come up with a value proposition in a nutshell. We just got a new client in the data communications field, with a highly complex product, and our biggest contribution has been to make it simpler to understand just exactly what they do. Reminds me of the talk I gave in Washington DC to a group of cleantech companies as part of Larta’s USDA program (Check out http://www.larta.org). I asked for a volunteer to role-play with me on the question, “Can you explain your technology to a six-year-old?”

The brave man who stepped up to the plate was Keith Lewis, the CEO of a sensor company (SSS Technologies, soon to be Sarkitel Sensors) out of Alabama. The company description in the program guide says that they make an “ammonia sensor which, when used to control ventilation, can improve performance in poultry, hog and dairy operations.”

Keith, however, was on to me and skipped the usual tech jargon right away. I played the 6-year-old. “So, what do you do, Daddy?” I asked.

“You know when you pee and it smells bad sometimes?” was what Keith opened with.

Yes folks, marketing can be really fun, and funny, sometimes! A dialogue ensued that had everyone including the participants in stitches. Turns out, the bad smell is ammonia, and when 10,000 chickens are all peeing in a chicken farm, too much of that smell is really bad for both people and chickens. So when it gets too bad Daddy’s sensor turns on the fans. But why can’t the fans be on all the time? Because too much wind makes chickens catch cold or get sick.

Aha, an insight. The sensor activates extra ventilation only when ammonia levels require it, eliminating two health hazards for poultry and the people who work with them: toxicity and excess wind. Happy chickens get fatter and lay more eggs. Plus you save on energy costs.

If you have a technology company, try this “dialogue with a six-year-old” exercise yourselves. The act of simplifying can lead to startling insights about how to move from a technical description to a clear, understandable and distinctive value proposition.

By Farida Fotouhi