This post provides a bit of applied behavioral science to help technologists who are asked or required to fill marketing roles in their organizations. A degree in electrical engineering or computer science probably didn't prepare you well for this role. This is a very short course that should help.
When developing strategic messaging, target-audience analysis precedes everything else. Guessing or assuming isn't necessary or desirable. The game is getting inside the heads of your prospective customers: What do they know? What are they interested in? What motivates them to take the action you desire? What do they think of your brand? What do they think of your competitors?
These aren't typically easy questions to answer. In fact, understanding motivation is elusive for nearly everyone in all kinds of management jobs. How do you motivate people to work, buy, vote, or behave responsibly? What's primarily essential is understanding the three principles of motivation. These are:
- Everyone is motivated. There are reasons for what people do (or don't do).
- People do things for their own reasons, not yours.
- Forcing people to be motivated won't work. Motivation comes from within.
It may seem as if there isn't much hope for success, but incorporating these concepts from the outset can help you move in the right direction. To start, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Put yourself in your customers' position. If you were the customer why would you want to pay attention?
- Why would you be interested in reading what you send, post, advertise, or promote?
- Would you be motivated to take any action?
Effectively analyzing motivation requires separating yourself from your message, product, company, organization, and even your own social standing. Disregard your objectives and whatever benefits your company may gain if your message has the desired effects. Ask others. What's best is asking people from your target audience.
With today's online survey tools like Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, Cvent, PollDaddy, SurveyGizmo, and many others, there's no reason any tech marketer can't begin learning what drives the target audience or “community's” interests. The power of analysis is at least two-fold. You may confirm your thoughts about what's interesting to prospects and customers, but you will almost undoubtedly acquire new insights about the people you're attempting to attract to your brand. Perhaps the most important thing you can discover is this: What do customers value?
After having discovered and examined customers' perceptions, continue by looking at how competitors describe themselves. The good news is that quite often your competitors are all using the same meaningless buzzwords and perhaps all claiming the same values such as “quality” or “ROI” or “lower total cost of ownership.” That's great! Because then the path is clear to create differentiation for your brand with values not claimed by your competitors.
Next, gather everyone with a stake in communications to discuss and agree on responses to the seven questions I believe marketing must answer. These are:
- Who are you?
- What business are you in?
- For whom? (Whom do you serve?)
- What need? (What are the special needs of the people you serve?)
- Against whom? (With whom are you competing?)
- What's different? (What attribute, important to customers, makes you different from those competitors?)
- So? What single, unique benefit does a customer derive from your products or services?
When the first session is over, gather the noted ideas and use them to develop a summary and recommended positioning statement. The summary should focus on contrasts and similarities among ideas. Finding and incorporating competitive messages to illustrate available positions and claims is also helpful. Craft one or two prospective positioning statements and a set of key messages (supporting statements) for consideration by the work group. Not more than three key messages are necessary. Put all of this together and distribute it shortly before a second session.
It is important that everyone see it before encountering each other again as a group. Hopefully, participants will come prepared with constructive ideas and intent on reaching agreement and closure. For more on creating a communications strategy, read my article, “The Positioning Statement: Why To Have One Before You Start Communicating.” I've successfully applied this with many tech brands and helped them become strategically aligned before they start communicating. The article also points out the necessary ways to follow through and assure that the strategy sticks.