Pointing the Way to Strong Tech Marketing Plans

Every electronics OEM needs to formulate a business story and develop related media pitches and awareness campaigns. Creating success just takes a bit of preparation and adherence to a few key pointers.

Use management time wisely
We're not ordering pizza here. A substantial amount of management time is needed initially to get the story nailed and incorporated into the communications effort, hopefully across the organization and in all media. Answering some key questions and creating a positioning statement and key messages should precede everything else. This results in a communications strategy on which all tactics are based. Remember — strategy first, then tactics.

After the campaign is up and running, fewer large blocks of management time are typically needed. However, some direction will be regularly required for questions or clarifications and on short notice if/when we get opportunities with media or others. Public relations is a management function and cannot be successful without its consistent involvement, as I discuss in my book.

Extracting information from technical and management team members for content development, perhaps via audio recording, saves time. Reusing relevant content may be a more rapid means of capturing information. You may also want to involve other content experts within the organization or even outside it.

Make clear agreements
A letter of agreement with your marketing or PR counsel is just that. It's not a proposal or a plan. It's just a set of ground rules. Most importantly, there should a business or marketing plan, with understood budget resources for the campaign, to which a marketing communications or PR proposal can be tied. Would a field commander go into battle without knowing the strength of his force and his adversary's? Would a pilot take off without knowing the distance the available fuel will cover? Would a carpenter start a house without known quantities of building materials?

Developing a fairly precise vision of a supporting PR campaign requires equally clear direction on which to base action. Can a PR plan be created without a business strategy and planning information? Sure, but it'll likely be a bit of an air plan that's probably unsuitable. Then we have to start over. Anyone can list possibly appropriate tactics. Basing a plan on that is equally futile. Start with a clear understanding of resources that can describe and estimate how far and fast we can go within those limitations. While discussing prospective tactics, creating plans appropriate to and effective for the business requires further information from management. This includes agreement on an approximate budget, so plans may be scaled to available resources, and expectations can be managed.

Executing a PR program is unlike many other process-oriented activities. There are human-related variables out of our control. We're very often dealing with external entities like market research analysts, editors, and customers, who are most definitely unconcerned with anyone's marketing or PR campaign schedule. Charting a campaign plan with a timeline is excellent in the planning phase. But a plan is just that. It rarely gets executed precisely as conceived.

Lastly, CEO buy-in for the communications effort is always essential in PR. The CEO should understand it and like it. That person may even be required to participate.

Have a business or marketing plan
A PowerPoint file doesn't normally stand well as a business or marketing plan and strategy statement. It may work with explanation, but PPT files are meant to have a speaker. A simple, clear document is needed. To help you understand what's needed in a strategy, here's important guidance from Richard Rumelt's recent book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, one of the best business books I've read in a decade.

A business strategy is not, as is so often portrayed in the corporate world, an Objective or end point or a bunch of fluff and high-sounding language without meaning. A strategy 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 the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in the accomplishing the guiding policy.

    Creating a marketing plan is simple, but it certainly isn't easy. Creating clear, simple plans that can be widely shared across your business takes time and attention. Good strategy makes all the difference and has been underrated lately. Bad strategy, or none at all, is a superb means of wasting time and money.

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    16 comments on “Pointing the Way to Strong Tech Marketing Plans

    1. _hm
      April 5, 2014

      Probably the best way for strong tech marketing is let the product speak about itself and let the customer be your best advertising media.


    2. Ford Kanzler
      April 5, 2014

      I'd disagree with the concept that the best products always win. There are innumerable cases where that's not occurred. I would agree about connecting customers with prospects adding the additional point of not just letting the customer speak for you, but actively encouraging and enabling the customer to advocate your brand. Many companies fail or do poorly because they are far too passive in connecting with or enlisting their often huge, satisfied customer base. There is enormous potential in actively enlisting buyer or user communities. This certainly is not news. But relatively few brands are making it happen.

    3. Ariella
      April 7, 2014

      @Ford “I'd disagree with the concept that the best products always win. ” True, success is not just a function of quality. 

    4. SP
      April 8, 2014

      Having a strategy at highest organizational level is good to have and almost all companies would have it. Sometimes strategies work sometimes they fail. But without strategy there is aboslutely no real work.

    5. Daniel
      April 9, 2014

      “Answering some key questions and creating a positioning statement and key messages should precede everything else. This results in a communications strategy on which all tactics are based. Remember — strategy first, then tactics.”

      Ford you are right about this statement. Strategy is important and it has to be formulated first and later various tactics has to be adopted to implement the strategy.

    6. Ford Kanzler
      April 9, 2014

      My expereince in engaging dozens of tech brands is they do not have a clear strategy, many have multiple conflicting strategies (same as having none) or worse yet, they don't understand the importance of creating a differentiated story vs. competitors. A very large percentage prefer croaking the same overused buzzwords as their competitors. To prove this, go to 10 tech websites and read the About page and see if the company sharply defines what they do that's valuable to customers, that other brands do not do . Most claim “leadership” or “a leading supplier of…” Sorry that's not dfferentiation.

      Strategy is too often missed and if something does exist, then its not widely shared by management so the whole organization understands what's going on. Its almost as if someone at the top said, “Now we have a strategy, let's keep it a secret among just a few of us.”

      Additionally, if your company is claiming the same value as other players, you're not claiming anything important. “Quality” is too often used this way. Do you really expect customers to believe that only your products are made with quality and every other supplier's stuff is crap? Claim something different that's valuable to customers. It may not even be about the product. Some imagination may be required. It can be especially challenging to get engineers to look at other brand attributes besides their beloved products.


    7. SunitaT
      April 25, 2014

      Some companies that are not multi-tiered go for visibility through false statements, which do not hurt anybody (especially the end user), this issuing of false statement marketing is a new subset of Intelligent Marketing, and more companies are working it through. The strategizing of intelligent marketing is much more difficult as it doesn't involve spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, rather ideas spun from thin air. This intelligent marketing also uses intelligent advertising that catches the mind of the viewer. This kind of challenging yet strategized marketing saves a lot of money for companies that cannot rely on heavy losses.

    8. Ford Kanzler
      April 25, 2014

      Strongly suggest that companies making stuff up (lying) will, in fact, hurt themselves through loss of market credibility. Lying is hardly “intelligent.” when the truth is out, and it will be, how does that help a company's business?

      Additionally, strategy most certainly isn't “spun out of thin air.” Its developed with clear understanding of your company's and competitors' strengths and weaknesses and forging new opportunities. Spreadsheets may possibly be used. Suggest discovering what makes effective strategy and what doesn't by reading Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.

      Having an effective strategy always is more cost-effective than guessing or running off just doing random tactics…unless you just happen to get lucky.

    9. Ford Kanzler
      April 25, 2014

      Yes and doesn't MS have a wonderful market reputation among their customers? To my point exactly!

    10. Ford Kanzler
      April 25, 2014

      While we're perhaps drifting into philosophy that's somewhat off-topic, I agree. Back on topic, one effective strategy I suggest has been working well for companies over the short or long haul, is beng transparent and up front in their communications and behavior. With the web, nearly any misconduct or double-speak gets caught, usually sooner than later. Its part of human nature that positive business reputations are earned over a long period. Conversely, they may be lost in a moment.

    11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
      April 25, 2014

      @Ford, hear, hear! The buzz word thing is a personal pet peeve of mine. I visit web sites of high tech companies every day and frequent the “About Us” page and I can't tell you how often i go away from reading that paragraph not knowing what the company does or why they are special. I consider myself informed and literate… so i don't think it's me. 🙂

    12. Ford Kanzler
      April 25, 2014

      @Hailey – It's not you. I'm currently working with two clients using the hackneyed expression, “a leading provider of…” to describe their business. I wrote about this sort of mistake at:

      I bet if you looked at a hundred tech web sites, (please don't do this) you'd find a large percentage claiming that they're “a leader” as opposed to “the leader.” Intel is the leader. So is Google. But you don't have to be huge to figure out clear differentiation. In fact often its the smaller, more sharply focused companies that can more easitly define themselves competitively. Most brands skip, miss or don't think nearly hard enough about how they can differentiate their brand verses competitors. Its frankly not rocket science but most would rather fall back on the cliche. Its another example of marketing-speak and cliched buzzwords. I even ran into “XYZ corporation is uniquely positioned to…” the other day in a document and had to kill it. Another one is “complete solution.” Seems from what I've seen, customers keep on coming up with ideas for why products or services aren't nearly complete. But marketers in the tech sector still keep claiming it, even though engineers are working on improvements and the next version!

      Jack Trout's Differentiate or Die provides great examples of why and how to differentiate nearly any brand. Creating a differentiated claim is a place where some imagination, honest business evaluation and wordsmithing can make a huge difference to a company's market perceptions. Its one of my favorite areas of work.


    13. itguyphil
      April 25, 2014

      More often than not, the marketing people use a 'tried & tested' template for that content. It seems odd to me & makes me ask WHO they tested it against.

    14. Anand
      April 26, 2014

      China-India-Pakistan areas are infamous for electronics black markets, and this is of concern for most US based companies. While a healthy percentage of people go for branded products(the products manufactured by European and US based companies), much of them often use counterfeit goods because there are a billion of them in circulation.

    15. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
      May 20, 2014

      I appreciate your efforts to get everyone in line on this matter, Ford. 🙂

    16. Ford Kanzler
      May 20, 2014

      @anadvy – While this is way off-topic, there's old expression that's likely used in many languages…”You get what you paid for.” Black market, counterfiet goods at “bargain” prices will often come back to bite the re-seller.

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