"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Albert Einstein
In Silicon Valley, the phrase “disruptive technology” is tossed around like loose change. More often than not, it translates to a marginal improvement that is more evolutionary than revolutionary. But every now and then the term truly applies.
The Apple Macintosh is an example. The graphical user interface (GUI), the computer mouse, and desktop publishing are terms we understand today. But they were new terms and capabilities for all but a small group of technology developers when the original Mac was introduced in 1984. The challenge a truly “disruptive technology” poses for marketing is how to describe it so that most anyone can instantly understand its value and advantages.
This is the challenge I recently faced at Picarro. The company is a well-established producer of scientific instrumentation for isotopic and trace gas analysis, which it sells, primarily, to academic and government researchers. In 2012, the company integrated its patented cavity ring down spectroscopy (CRDS) instrumentation for methane gas analysis into a mobile platform with wind transport physics, leak detection analytics and cloud-based geo-informatics to revolutionize natural gas leak detection. The resulting product, Picarro Surveyor™ for Natural Gas Leaks, represents a “radical simplification of complex scientific measurements” that enables “anyone that can drive a car and read a map” to conduct sophisticated natural gas leak detection much more precisely and quickly than present methods.
How do you describe that to someone in a way that is instantly understandable, credible and memorable. This was the problem that sales and marketing faced whenever they tried to describe the product, its value, and its advantages to a potential customer, a journalist, or anyone in the target audience. While a visual presentation helped, the most effective demonstration was an actual test ride. But this was impractical to scale.
The solution was to create and produce a microsite that simulates an experience similar to an actual test drive—and more. The site must 1) function unassisted with readers and listeners to describe the operational value and advantages of the technology, and also 2) allow a Picarro sales or marketing representative to use the site as a visual aid for the same purpose.
The Picarro Surveyor for Natural Gas Leaks microsite includes:
- A virtual test-ride video that gives the viewer the experience of an actual test-ride while explaining key operational and technological characteristics.
- A customer case study that describes how a major utility is using the Picarro Surveyor to find more gradable natural gas leaks faster and easier.
- A white paper that describes how precise, accurate and easy measurement is critical to expanding the role of natural gas in achieving safe, environmentally responsible energy independence.
- Recognition and reporting of the value and advantages of the technology by Gartner, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Forbes.
While the microsite has only been active for a few weeks, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. In additional to functioning as a virtual demonstration site for introducing new people to the product and technology, people previously familiar with the product have commented on the effectiveness and attractiveness of the new site.
In the next post, I’ll describe how we carried this approach through to a live event.