When I went to pharmaceutical marketing blogging school, they taught us to always lead with a killer headline, something that demands people’s attention. I always try to pick something that intrigues you, but this time it was easy. Because the days of products are gone.

I realized this a few weeks ago when I decided to try to use a different product from iTunes to manage all my music. While I am deeply in love with my iPhone, I’ve never been a Mac guy. I’m strictly PC simply because I like cheap commoditized hardware that I can switch out myself as needed without having to go to some “genius” to help me make a minor fix.

So I have a PC running Windows 7, iTunes and an iPhone. I tried out two different programs, both of which worked great. They let me import my music, went and found lyrics and album artwork, let me tag tracks, make playlists, etc. You want to know the one thing they couldn’t do? 

Load music to my iPhone.

Why not? It’s just an unbelievably pretty external hard drive, right? Wrong. It’s an Apple product, which means it really only likes to talk to other Apple products using Apple software. You can almost hear my iPhone sigh when I plug it into my PC, as if it can’t believe it has to keep company with such a philistine.

The same thing happened when I was trying to manage my contacts on my iPhone. I have a lot of contacts in Gmail, which is my environment of choice. But it was a tremendous hassle to get contact lists from both places to play well together. 

You’re probably wondering why, if I love Google products, didn’t I buy an Android? I will retort, why should I be forced to?

Because we have entered the age of a system.

Facebook and Twitter are systems. They only (barely) play together through APIs. Your social media platform is a system and might not want to integrate other tools. Your CRM program is a system, and it might not talk to other systems. How you manage, communicate with and collect information from your reps is a system. 

Heck, even the products we sell are systems. Diabetes drugs seem to be prescribed in groups, as do surgical recovery drugs. 

And what about electronic medical records? Can I take my records from your hospital to my doctor? And even when the answer is “yes,” it’s not easy.

Hospitals are systems. Insurance groups are systems. 

Cars are systems (drive a Toyota all your life? It will take time to learn what each stem and button does on that Ford or Mercedes). Political parties are systems (what Republican or Democrat believes every tenet of their party’s platform? You may buy in because of their economic policies, but you’re also endorsing their social policies, whether you agree or not). Even countries and religions are systems.

What does any of this mean? It means that you need to stop trying to sell a product and understand that people need a system, and if it’s a system that can exist within and work well with an existing system of theirs, all the better.

Imagine you’re trying to pitch a new social media platform on your organization. You want them to buy into FiveStepChicken (I just made that up, but now I own the name). 

How do you do that? List the features? Show how it will increase productivity or effectiveness of communication? No, show how it works within the system first. That’s the first hurdle and if you can’t get past that, you’re dead in the water.

We live in a system world. Embracing that idea sooner rather than later will help you achieve your goals.