An unfortunate truth in tech marketing is quite often when a company attempts to begin promoting its brand or products, but it's missing some important preparation for effective communications.
Technologists may be smart, even brilliant. However, their technical training likely hasn't prepared them very well for the storytelling needed to attract market attention, demand, and customers.
Additionally, there's what I call “the love factor.” That's the screen between an inventor's idea and the real world. That screen often makes technologists truly believe that their product is without equal, insanely great, and that people will naturally beat a path to their website clamoring to buy. It could happen but its not likely. More likely is there are at least five other genius inventors with very similar or exactly the same idea (solutions) hunting the same customers.
So while this may seem like a blatant pitch for marketing and business communications, its really a suggestion that, in fact, engineers don't know everything and they need some help getting the word out.
Getting off on the right foot
One simple rule applies here. “Strategy first, then tactics.” Everyone gets the tactics like ads, trade shows, websites, whitepapers, news releases, webinars, blogs. and so on and wants to rush off and do lots of them. What's completely missing is a strategy either one for the business as a whole, beyond, “We can make this.” or even better, one directing how you will communicate about your special brand and fabulous products.
There is so much BS around strategy, it compels comment. Strategy is not a desire or wish, as in, “To become the most respected supplier in our market,” or a financial target like, “Increasing profitability by 20 percent,” or “Grow by 50 percent in the next two years.” Those are nice goals or objectives but don't confuse them with real strategy. A business strategy is not, as is so often portrayed in the corporate world, an end point or a bunch of fluff and high-sounding language without meaning. According to one of the preeminent thinkers on this, Richard Rumelt, whose book, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy , I highly recommend, a strategy at the least includes the following:
- A diagnosis defining or explaining the nature of the challenge. An effective diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of the business environment by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical. (An example might be a missing piece needed by customers that competitors have ignored. It can also be lots of other things.)
A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is the overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out he guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in the accomplishing the guiding policy.
I hope this doesn't seem overly academic and helps your team begin thinking strategically. Good strategy makes all the difference. Ignore it at your peril!
Earlier columns have discussed how essential differentiation is. Discovering your brand's difference, that's important to customers, is an intimate part of strategy. What separates your brand or big idea from others? If that's not clear, sharp and immediately comprehensible by nearly anyone, or just your peer technologists, there's more homework to be done. The communications piece is where poor or no investment often fails to be made by tech brands. (See “the love factor” above).
Running off and just doing some possibly connected marketing tactics is a great way to burn through limited resources. You may get lucky and attract some prospective customers. What's far better is having a sharp focus on the single, unique value (people can't remember multiple values) that you bring to the market that your competitors do not, or better yet, cannot bring.
Other areas essential to success are:
- Engage top management in the strategy and making sure its really a strategy, not just wish for success. Manage their expectations. Marketing doesn't usually affect change overnight.
- Have a budget that's equal to the task. Don't take on powerful competitors with weak resources. They'll eat you up!
- Stay totally focused on your difference, which is intimately connected to your strategy, and never miss opportunities to remind the market of that valuable difference.
Basically, know what you're about and who you're competing against, don't hunt for bear with a BB gun, and avoid suffering the consequences of Ready, Fire, Aim!