You want to find new ways to market your tech company. So you need to find people to learn from. I’d bet you £1 that Carl Sagan would not be on your list of potential mentors.
But he really should be.
In 1977, two spacecraft launched to explore the solar system. Part of the Voyager mission, both craft beamed stunning shots back to Earth. Without Voyager, we may never have known about Jupiter’s giant storms, the moons of Uranus, or the composition of Neptune.
In 2013, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space. Five of its eleven instruments still send data back to NASA, though it’s likely to run out of energy after 2025.
At the closest point in its orbit, Jupiter is 365 million miles away from Earth. How do you get the public to buy into a mission that won’t bear fruit for years, and takes place in the far reaches of space?
That was the problem Carl Sagan faced…and solved.
Technology often faces a buy-in problem.
You may have seen this with your own technology solution. It could solve a given problem, but buyers are either unaware of the problem, or reluctant to give up their existing solution. Perhaps your technology is more of a ‘long term’ product. Or your software solves a problem that’s not particularly fun or sexy (like accounting).
Or worse. Potential buyers are scared of your technology.
Tech and software can be confusing. To many people, it’s an alien, clinical, inhuman force. People don’t think of Wall-E or Johnny 5 – they think of the Terminator or the machines in The Matrix. When it goes wrong, it leaves users frustrated, embarrassed, or angry.
You need to make technology more human.
Let’s go back to Voyager for a moment. How was a tech-heavy, scientific mission going to appeal to the public at large?
NASA brought in Carl Sagan to help with public buy-in. He came up with a simple solution.
The Voyager Golden Record.
As a child, Sagan visited the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The time capsule project captivated the youngster. The Time Capsule contained books, artifacts and newspapers from 1939, preserved for posterity beneath Flushing Meadows.
Voyager’s image problem recalled this beloved memory. Sagan realised the human need to make our mark on the world, or even the cosmos. We build monuments to remind those who will come later that we were here. Even having children helps to satisfy the urge towards immortality.
Why not connect that deeply-rooted psychological human compulsion with another human need, the desire to explore?
The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space, but the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet – Carl Sagan
The record contains scientific graphs and charts, as well as music, greetings in a range of languages, and images of life on earth. Designed as a giant “Hello there!” to any passing alien civilisations, the record also ensures humanity’s immortality. Even after humanity ceases to exist, a record of our achievements will be floating through space.
In essence, he made Voyager human.
Which is ironic, since no human will ever play those golden records.
What can you learn from Carl Sagan for your own marketing?
Let’s back up a second. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to launch something into space just to get people to buy your solution. (Though if that’s an option, you might want to look into it)
The key thing you can learn from Carl Sagan’s elegant solution is this;
Find a way to appeal to the emotions of your customers.
In Sagan’s case, he wanted to generate an emotional response in millions of Americans. People always make decisions based on emotions, before justifying them later with logic. If NASA could make people feel something about Voyager, they’d be able to logically justify the cost of the program.
How can you appeal to the emotions?
Your automated scheduling tool isn’t clever software driven by AI. It’s time spent at home instead of the office. It’s birthday dinners attended, instead of missed.
The smart light bulbs aren’t just energy efficient. They’re the parent able to turn off the light in the room of a sleeping infant without going in and waking them up.
Your fitness wearable isn’t just a heart rate tracker and pedometer. It’s your user losing weight on her terms so she looks amazing for that high school reunion.
Use your content to turn your solution into something human.
Use your content to give your technology a memorable name. Go behind the scenes – let your customers get behind the curtain so they realise they’re not quivering at the feet of Oz the Great and Powerful, they’re dealing with a regular person…just like themselves. Show customers the benefit of using your solution. Let them meet the creators of this mysterious technology.
By making your technology more human, you’re making it easier for your customers to relate to it. Which makes them way more likely to buy – and benefit from – it.
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