6 Recommendations on How to Market Smart City Solutions

Over 80 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, according to IDC’s Vernon Turner. Cities want to take advantage of smart solutions to become more sustainable, increase operational efficiency, and improve security. When marketing your smart city solution to cities, it’s crucial to understand how they function, what they’re looking for, and what their challenges are.

My experience in marketing IoT solutions, in particular for smart cities, has been that customers are aware of the need and benefits of IoT in general, but are not quite ready to commit much money. As marketers, we have to offer engaging information about our smart city solutions that enables cities to justify an investment to their citizens by clearly demonstrating value.

Here are 6 recommendations on how you can engage cities and show the value of your smart city solution:

  1. Sell the Long-term Vision: Pitch the broad vision of IoT as it pertains to your type of customer. Show how complete, integrated IoT solutions can provide benefits. Don't focus on discrete stand-alone projects, since you can only show ROI with large-scale implementations. For example, if a city wants to make their downtown trolley safer with video monitoring, tell them how they can easily use the same IoT platform to also improve traffic and make parking easier.
  2. Market a Complete Solution: CIOs say that one of the largest hurdles to IoT deployments are skills. For us in marketing this means that we need to market a complete solution that includes products and consulting services. This also gives you a chance to make sure that your company is seen as a trusted advisor by your customer.
  3. Build on Existing Infrastructure: Most smart city implementations are not green field, and no city wants to rip out what they already have in place. For marketers this means it is crucial to emphasize that your solution can be integrated with existing infrastructure and apps, that’s it’s flexible, and that it has a broad ecosystem of partners.
  4. Bring Together Buying Centers: When selling to a large organization such as a city or a retail organization, bring the different buying centers together and talk about their planned projects and objectives and how they can be accomplished with ONE IoT platform. When selling to cities or municipalities, bring together different city departments, utilities, and businesses like retailers and stadium or entertainment venue operators. Airport authorities can be relevant, too. You have to overcome the challenges that these entities today often work and plan in silos.
  5. Engage Citizens: When selling to a city, keep in mind the citizens. They want to have a say in what happens in their city. Make sure to engage them early in the planning process and keep and open dialog. This avoids resistance to IoT projects that can easily be seen as invading privacy. Some cities do this with community meetings and websites.
  6. Address Privacy: Talk about the privacy of your smart city solution up front. Vendors need to have a privacy statement and privacy built into their technology. Encourage cities to write their own privacy policy and publish it. As an example see what Kansas City has done.

The sales process to cities is long and while you are busy marketing, make sure that you also provide tools to your sales people that helps them to show the value of your smart city solution. Case studies and ROI calculators, as well as collateral showing use cases and benefits, work well.

What are your experiences in marketing smart city solutions? Share them in the comments below!