In this series we went over the ten best practices that you as a startup or small vendor should be aware of and address appropriately if you want any hope of growing and scaling a successful vision beyond blind luck. We did this because the majority of analysts and experts don’t give you this insight in the clear cut fashion to help you understand what you need, why you need it, and who you need it from (in the form of an expert) to get you where you need to be.
While buyers need a lot of help, and the primary purpose of Sourcing Innovation is to give them the insight into the market, the vendors, the best practices, and the knowledge they need to be successful, Sourcing Innovation realizes it also needs to help vendors because buyers need better solutions as well as better education, and they won’t get those better solutions without successful vendors to deliver them.
And while the challenges might be too numerous to ever fully cover on any publication, as the list of best practices would get very long indeed, many are very niche and would only help a few vendors and can be overlooked with the goal of addressing, and solving, all the common issues first and if the niche ones are significant, then a vendor can engage an expert for a short period of time to address them.
To date, we have covered the following 11 best practices in this series:
- Identify the Market Sector You Are Competing In
… and the Niche Your Solution is Targeting
- Do Your Market Research
- Define Your Target Industries
- Identify the Core Pain Points Your Solution Will Address in the First Release
- Understand the Data Needs and Design the Full Data Model
- Understand the Current Customer Processes and Typical Restrictions
- Don’t Overlook the UX (User Experience)
- Get the Messaging Right
- Price It Right
- Get Advice AND Listen to It
- Get The Help You Need! (And Get It Sooner Than Later!)
They are all important, but they don’t cover everything. And while we shouldn’t have to cover this 12th bonus practice, because it should be covered by Best Practice #8 and #10, given the state of the the technology space today, we have to bring it into the limelight.
#12 Don’t Mention AI. Not Even Once. Not Even If You Are Using Proper AI!
Customers are looking for vendors who are offering solutions, not buzzwords. Who are offering solutions that provide repeatable, explainable, provable answers, not random, black-box, suspect answers that could be based in fact or fiction, especially if trained off of random internet data with no fact checking or supervised learning.
Maybe AI gets you analyst attention (and it might be required to get ranked high in some analyst reports, but as we’ve already explained, that’s complete bullshit and we would not expect those analyst firms to stick around very long, or stick to this if they want to stick around and be taken seriously), but as more and more buyers experience the false promises of “AI” first hand (and push back against analyst firms that only push AI vendors on them), we expect customers to start blacklisting vendors that only sell “AI” and not actual solutions or services (and analyst firms that only push “AI” vendors on them).
Maybe AI gets some potential customer attention because you must be a technology advanced vendor to be using AI, if your claims are true, but all it’s going to do at a smart company (and you don’t want dumb customers in tech, they always cost more than they pay you) is get you in the door, and if you can’t deliver a good demo, and convince the C-Suite (who, seeing all these failures, are, or soon will be, becoming suspicious of AI for AI’s sake) you have a valuable solution that is guaranteed to deliver a significant ROI, you’re not going to get the sale.
Furthermore, as we’ve said over and over again, there is no true AI (at least Level 4) and anyone with a working brain who uses that brain knows this to be true. Your target customers are beginning to realize that most solutions are Augmented Intelligence (Level 2) at best, and often only Assisted Intelligence (Level 1), and then only for specific functions or insights, which are often a very small subset of everything they are expecting the solution to do.
Plus, any advanced capability that is reliable is not based on some random, black box, untrained mystic technology, it’s based on specific algorithms, trained on known data sets, and tweaked with a well defined set of parameters in a well defined range that have known, predictable, responses to specific data sets and situations. More specifically, we’re talking parametric curve fitting, (MILP) optimization, clustering, pattern matching, neural networks, deep learning networks, etc.
Thus, instead of just claiming “AI”, you should name the technologies, describe how you’ve applied the technology to solve the problem, be prepared to overview the validations you applied, and summarize the results you achieved and how much better they consistently are compared to more traditional algorithms and solutions the buyer is likely using at the present time, if they are using any solutions at all. This will get the buyer’s attention and prove that you know what you’re doing and your technology is an actual solution, not buzzword vapourware.
At the end of the day, customers want success, and AI, on its own, does not guarantee success. (In fact, unhindered AI guarantees failure if utilized long enough. That’s the beauty of probability and statistics. Eventually anything built purely on black box statistics WILL FAIL!) Plus, many buyers are old school, barely trust tech as it is, and are very worried that AI will take their jobs (and even if it can’t, they believe that management is looking for every opportunity to use AI and replace them, even if the technology is inferior, so the last thing they want to do is bring in technology that management could try to use against them). So not only can focussing on AI undermine the power of your solution, but AI can turn off potential customers who want to feel safe in their jobs.
We’re not saying to lie about using AI, or to avoid the discussion when you get in front of the customer, we’re just saying don’t follow the crowd and the hype and don’t focus your marketing on AI. Focus on the solution. “AI” is just another tool in the technology development tool belt. It’s not a solution on its own. And customers need solutions, not Automated Idiocy. Finally, here’s another bonus best practice.
#12B … And Don’t Use AI to Write Your User Manuals, Thought Leadership, Blog Articles, or Sales Materials Either!