Companies in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) find themselves at the nexus of powerful, future-defining trends.

McKinsey identifies nine settings where value may accrue, with a potential economic impact of $4-11 trillion a year in 2025: Factories, Cities, Health, Retail, Outside (logistics and navigation), Homes, and Offices.

As this market takes off, smart IIoT companies will begin planning now for how to maintain a compelling story in the face of intense competition, confusing technology, and evolving, non-standardized nomenclature.

Investors at every level — from start-up to Enterprise — will look for well-conceived business plans and well-branded companies. A clear vision will be essential.



Keys to a powerful IIoT brand story


1. Help prospects see a different, better future

Present a vision of how the world will be different and better, and how you can help make that happen. Already, nearly everyone in the category is promising essentially the same things— smarter, more productive, more efficient, more agile — to the same universe of prospects.

You will need a take on the IIoT marketplace that explains how your offering delivers IIoT category benefits — intelligence, productivity, efficiency, agility — in a unique and better way. Here are some things your brand must answer.

  • All marketplaces are viewed in context. What context can you set that resonates with prospects? What will make them sit up and say, “yes, this is exactly what we’re experiencing?
  • Within that context, what is your company’s worldview? How do you see the market, and what will you do to make things better? How does your worldview enable you to do things your competitors can’t or won’t do?
  • What’s the best way to describe the value of extracting, analyzing and applying data from the intelligent system you will create?

A strong worldview ties your brand message to urgent macro trends and helps you answer two key prospect questions: Why this? Why now? — that your products and services are uniquely qualified to resolve.

What is new technology today will soon feel ordinary, confusing and hard to differentiate to prospects. Now is the time to take a leadership role in which your brand shapes the future rather than reacts to it.


2. Anticipate and address Data Boundaries (How and where can the data be shared?)

Depending on which “things” you are Internet connecting, you may or not be able to entirely own the data. These are your Data Boundaries.

You might be tempted to defer questions of data ownership and its implications to your CEO and General Counsel, but CMOs should politely insist to be included in those conversations — especially at an early stage. You need to shape the kind of story that is possible to tell, and you need to be the voice of your customer in those meetings. Together, set the stage for data sharing in ways that maximize the data’s utility and monetization prospects.

Also, remember that you will participate in both an existing ecosystem of vital partners as well as extending and creating your own ecosystem around your ioT offerings. Consider how you will integrate with that existing ecosystem and enable others to integrate with yours. Your brand story needs to take all of this into account, especially as regards your capabilities across design, manufacturing, installing, monitoring, measuring, analytics, and refinement.

When considering your data boundaries, think through how you will manage them and the advantages and disadvantages that arise. A strong brand story anticipates — and counters — Data Boundary disadvantages.


3. Don’t just sell the data, sell how and why you make it useful

Data collection and aggregation is relatively easy, and if history is any guide sensors will get smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous.

True IIoT companies will need to build the right capabilities and a compelling story about how they transform raw data into robust and actionable analytics. There will likely be a market for pure data companies (for example, drones are already being used in the insurance business to vet claims), but the real power of the data will always lie in your ability to a) better predict outcomes based on past events; and b) recommend what to do next.

Consider what it is that you do that makes your analytics provably better. When you then sell the benefits of the data, you have the evidence to support why you can deliver those benefits better than your competition.


4. Build bridges to the future, don’t just leap there

In the 16th Century, Machiavelli wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order.”

Tech companies sometimes have an unhealthy habit of showing disdain for the old ways of doing things (“those old-timers just don’t get it”) and assuming that what seems intuitively right to them will be instantly adopted. It’s important to remember that the nuts and bolts of the physical world are just as important as the bits and bytes of the digital world. Respect for institutionalized methods (correctly) runs deep and suspicion of unproven tech is high. And naturally, that goes double for employees who risk being displaced as new technology is adopted.

Rapid adoption is made more challenging the bigger or more complex the ecosystem in which your IIoT offering is to operate. For example, critical travel infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and airports are hugely expensive assets, difficult to improve without disruption, and highly interconnected. Taking on board any new technology can be seen as adding risk unless you can prove otherwise in a way that respects the established order of things.

Your brand story should seek to define the future as a smart path rather than a blind leap, and define the enemies of progress in a way that both new-tech and old-tech people can get behind. You’ll need to help people see why the future is better, how they fit into it, and why it is not as risky as it may appear. Include all the people who will need to recognize the value. This also impacts how sales talks to prospects, and how management talks to investors.


5. Shrink long sales cycles: create real urgency

There’s a lot of hype and curiosity about IIoT. So you may find it fairly easy to get meetings (“sure, let’s learn something new”) but surprisingly hard to get deals signed. There’s always someone who will be interested in the next new thing and the risks and rewards it provides. The trick is to make sure they bring their checkbook with them.

To avoid having lots of meetings that sound promising but go nowhere, we encourage IIoT CMOs and CROs to look at “The Challenger Sale” methodology, and especially the technique called Rational Drowning. Ideally, you want to create an ownable metric that helps prospects understand why they need to buy now.

If an accepted metric exists, you can build on it and provide evidence for why your brand is the best answer. If no metric exists, you may need to partner with a University or industry analyst to create them. You might even be able to name it (e.g. “The X Inflection Point”, or whatever). Prospects should credit you with bringing it to their attention, and should associate that metric with you when they invoke it later. So think carefully about the name and associated nomenclature.

The right IIoT brand story can help make the difference between closing bigger and better deals fast — or being an also-ran.

We suggest you invest accordingly, and begin today.




About the authors

Tom Cunniff ( is a B2B brand strategy consultant who has worked with companies in IIoT, Data, FinTech, MarTech, BioTech and more. Tom has worked at J. Walter Thompson, founded and sold a successful early digital agency with clients including Unilever, spent 10 years leading global digital marketing as a client-side marketer, and wrote for the J. Peterman catalog in its Seinfeld-era heyday. He is former Chairman of the Digital Committee for the Association of National Advertisers.

Mike Cucka is a brand strategy consultant specializing at the intersection of B2B services and technology for IIoT, Data, FinTech, Professional Services, Energy and Technology companies. Mike has worked at Siegel & Gale, then founded a successful brand strategy agency with clients including Microsoft and Gartner. Twenty-five years experience bringing clarity and impact to B2B services and technology brands. MBA Fuqua School of Business.