Telling the right tech story

How to reap benefits of tech—without calling yourself a tech company

Everything and nothing is a tech company,” Wired wrote last month. This echoes a sentiment shared by the Washington Post, whose headline “When everyone is a tech company, no one is” speaks to an over-saturation of tech brands wherever you look.

It seems like every sector from retail to healthcare to finance is teeming with self-proclaimed tech companies—diluting the significance of the label and raising skepticism from investors and customers alike.

This isn’t limited to upstarts, either. As legacy brands and expanding mid-sized companies are forced to compete with new entrants, they’re hungry to play the tech game too. Many wish to recruit top talent away from flashier firms or appeal to the growing number of younger consumers who have come of age in the area of tech dominance. While they may not seek to be tech companies, their desire to be on equal footing with the big tech players is real.

Do it for the right reasons.

But before getting caught up in the tech hype, companies striving to position themselves as more tech-forward should ask themselves two things:

  1. Are we elevating our “techiness” to help solve a business challenge?
  2. Are we committed to a strategic approach, so that our tech story genuinely feels like us and can help support our goals?

Answering the first question involves taking a look in the mirror. If you’re hoping to keep up with trends or apply a new coat of paint to outdated products and processes, your efforts will likely fall flat. If, however, you’re trying to solve a business challenge—recruit talent, recapture your market share from the competition, acquire new companies or even become acquired yourself—and tech is a part of that solution, a refined tech story can help move the needle.

You’ll also only be able to meet these goals if you’re staying true to who you are as an organization. Your tech story should be a natural extension of your brand and values, should manifest in ways that look and feel like you, and should help create a strategic framework to support your business priorities. There are many ways to do this effectively, but we unpack a few starting points below.

Look at your values & value prop with fresh eyes.

We can start to build a tech story by looking at what you already bring to the table. Taking a fresh look at your company’s vision, products, and values can help identify key ingredients that already exist in your company; you may just need to highlight them differently.

First, consider what about your business vision is driven by tech. Many large brands, especially in the B2B space, can tout that proprietary products, technologies, or processes sit at the core of their businesses. Where would your company be without those? If the answer is non-existent, examine how you might play that up.

Next, think about the differentiators in your products and services. What about them stand out—particularly in how your customers use them? What outcomes can you alone claim? And what greater purpose do you share with your users and the world?

And finally, think about the values that your company shares. What goals unite your employees? Which of your teams’ attributes mirror those lauded by the tech sector: innovation, collaboration, disruption, connectivity, obsessions with data—and how can you bring them to light?

Let’s take a look at an example of a non-tech brand who’s done this well: 3M. They’re a huge, storied company whose business has evolved for more than 100 years. But they have long pioneered innovative patents, engineering techniques, and software solutions to create leading products. The way they highlight their foundational technologies speaks compellingly to would-be hires—especially engineers, and anyone with a penchant for science—as well as potential acquisitions looking for the resources and philosophies to best support their products.

Crucially, 3M doesn’t claim to be anything they’re not. They proudly lead with their core manufacturing capabilities and don’t obscure their heritage. But the way that they’ve positioned themselves, especially in their tagline “Science. Applied to life.” speaks to the greater purpose, innovation, and frankly, downright nerdiness that tech companies embody.

Focus on building an unbeatable customer experience.

A tech story becomes more powerful if it’s supported by a seamless customer experience. Apple is the pinnacle of the elevated CX, across product design to their in-store atmosphere to marketing. There’s a reason we think of the giants as the gold standard. They consistently exceed expectations at every touchpoint, building brand equity one moment at a time. This is why CX is an essential consideration for defining a stronger technology story.

Without an emphasis on improving customer experience at each juncture in their relationship with you, your brand will feel out of date and disconnected—the antithesis of the sleek and modern tech brand. The good news is that even large, multifaceted businesses can make gains in this area.

Chase, and its parent JPMorgan, are decidedly not tech firms, instead steeped in centuries of financial services legacy. But they’ve invested in creating a smooth and sleek experience for their retail customers that exceeds expectations of a large, unwieldy bank. From their high-quality apps to their responsive customer service to the consistent look and feel of their in-person services and products, Chase accomplishes the CX goals of many tech-aspiring companies.

Notably, JPMorgan does this across their B2B lines of business too, reinforcing their customer experience commitment holistically—in a way that bolsters their technology story. Their company-wide focus on CX has helped them market their products and services to win revenue and outpace competitors.

Play up your transformative impact in your messaging.

Finally, consider how you might revamp your messaging to emphasize the disruption, innovation, and simplification of customers’ lives that are part and parcel to tech. People take pleasure in shaking things up, fixing products or processes that are slow or ineffective, and creating products that change how society interacts. Where do these attributes come through in your organization, and in what ways?

Crown Castle, the infrastructure giant whose technology helps power wireless connections, 5G, and smart cities, emphasizes their company’s transformative potential in a way that’s rare for the industrial sector. Since partnering with Sullivan, Crown Castle has embraced a brand and messaging strategy that elevates their impact.

This is evident as soon as you land on their website. Rather than play up their products or detailing specifics of their services, Crown Castle keeps their messaging high level and aspirational. They prime the user to consider the big, exciting possibilities that partnering with Crown Castle might have for their business and communities. They clearly state how their work provides “the connections that will transform the way you do business” and explain how they’re leading the way in advancements in wireless technology and edge solutions.

The messaging plays particularly well for recruiting efforts, speaking directly to Crown Castle’s target of “ambitious, self-motivated people who want to transform the world with us.” Through this approach, Crown Castle articulates their fast-paced, solutions-oriented culture and brings it to life to advance an important goal: continuing to grow their talent pool with the best and brightest.

Build a brand for your future.

With these tenets in place, you can build an authentic tech story that pushes your brand in a future-looking direction, while helping you chart progress toward specific business goals.

And for those with appetite for even further evolution, this strategic positioning work can be a foundation for larger organizational transformation. It can become a lens for determining if new products and services fit within your vision. It can be a catalyst for changing how you connect with recruits and customers. And can help you embody some of the best of what a tech brand can offer—without sacrificing who you are.