September 8, 2008

Enterprise IT marketing — a layered messaging model

Two things matter about marketing messages:

It’s easy to meet one or the other of those criteria. What’s tricky is satisfying both at once.

Many marketing consultants, me included, would phrase the core messaging challenge in terms such as:

What’s the most compelling claim you can make that people will actually find credible?

But what I think many marketing experts overlook is that you don’t just have to make a claim – you need a whole marketing argument.

Marketing theorists love to point out all the different ways decision-making is non-rational. But even so, a market messaging strategy winds up taking the form of one or more rational or pseudo-rational arguments. For example, “Barack Obama went to an Islamic school for a few years, therefore he hates America” isn’t very logical. But its form resembles that of a rational argument, and adherents to the argument may indeed think it makes logical sense.

In particular, enterprise IT purchasing has huge elements of rationality. It is done by (formal or informal) committee. Many participants in the decision are trained in rather rational disciplines, such as programming or accounting. And there often are fairly objective grounds for analyzing what the results of any particular purchase decision are likely to be.

So what does it meant to construct a marketing argument? To a first approximation, the template looks like this:

Yummy product

For example, in the enterprise IT market I consult to, that takes two main forms. The first is simply:

Enterprise IT product

But that by itself is rarely enough, either because your competitors have references too, or because you’re so new that you don’t. So there usually also needs to be a second kind of argument, claiming that your customer-pleasing product is better than the alternative customer-pleasing products. This usually takes a form like:

Enterprise IT product

But it’s not quite that simple either.

If you can write a feature list that supports a benefit list, your competitors can write exactly the same things. What’s more, you’ve already conceded that anybody who offers the right features will, ipso facto, convey all the great benefits. So the sales/marketing battle often comes down to convincing prospects that your feature list is credible, while your competition’s very similar feature lists are not.

How do you do that? Well, the traditional way is through one or both of two other three-layer templates:

Enterprise IT product


Enterprise IT product

References are particularly good at proving you have the features now. Proofs-of-concept are also great for validating your current product, especially in terms of performance metrics. Architecture is how you show that you’ll keep a feature lead in the future.

Putting this together, we have the two fundamental templates of layered technology marketing:

Enterprise IT product (proof-today messaging stack)


Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

In companion posts, I will:


13 Responses to “Enterprise IT marketing — a layered messaging model”

  1. The layered messaging marketing model as applied to Netezza | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on September 8th, 2008 1:51 am

    […] just put up a post claiming that enterprise IT marketing arguments commonly boil down to one of two layered messaging templates. Let’s test how that claim applies to one of the most innovative technology […]

  2. The layered messaging marketing model as applied to Attensity | Text Technologies on September 8th, 2008 1:52 am

    […] general layered messaging theory survived its first test against an IT vendor example – Netezza. Let’s try another, […]

  3. Generalizing the layered messaging model | Strategic Messaging on September 8th, 2008 1:52 am

    […] my introductory post on layered messaging, I laid out two basic templates for enterprise IT messaging. But consider, if you would, the […]

  4. Do influencers think along the lines of the layered messaging model? | Strategic Messaging on September 8th, 2008 1:55 am

    […] I originally came up with the more techie version of the layered messaging model […]

  5. Layered messaging gives you a more complete marketing argument | IP Marketing Advisor on September 30th, 2008 12:32 pm

    […] Go to: Strategic Messaging […]

  6. Positioning Choices in the Analytic DBMS Market | The Monash Report on November 12th, 2008 12:26 am

    […] overview.) But I also invoked some underlying marketing theory. Part of that has been posted on Strategic Messaging. Other exists only in very crude draft form. (Sadly, that’s what my whole company website […]

  7. Always be marketing | Strategic Messaging on November 12th, 2008 3:19 am

    […] Stay on one or more of your messages. […]

  8. Strategy should be complicated, but tactics should be simple | Strategic Messaging on December 30th, 2008 6:03 am

    […] shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse … and so on.  The layered messaging model is a prime example of […]

  9. Social media done in a silo is social media done wrong | Strategic Messaging on March 28th, 2009 11:15 pm

    […] see why, please consider two of my major themes in this blog. First, successful marketing requires telling a multi-layered story. In principle you can do that entirely through social media, specifically a blog. But if you try, […]

  10. Note to technology startups | Strategic Messaging on July 30th, 2009 1:18 pm

    […] A layered messaging model […]

  11. The fatal fallacy of modern technology marketing | Strategic Messaging on March 25th, 2011 11:20 am

    […] customers pick among multiple alternatives, each with its own appealing story. If you don’t tell your story too, you’ll fizzle and die. Categories: Uncategorized  Subscribe to our complete […]

  12. Elevator pitches and other self-introductions | Strategic Messaging on August 30th, 2015 3:04 am

    […] . (“Why you should believe us.”) This goes all the way back to my first post on the layered messaging model, in 2008. If you don’t say what’s unique about you, you sound like everybody […]

  13. Telling multiple stories | Strategic Messaging on March 19th, 2016 6:07 am

    […] layered messaging model inherently calls for several linked stories. What’s more, there are several kinds of support […]

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