Some principles of enterprise IT messaging.
0. Decision makers are motivated by two emotions above all — fear and greed. In the case of enterprise IT, that equates roughly to saying they want to buy stuff that:
- Is safe.
- Will confer benefits.
1. For a marketing message to succeed, whatever its goals are, the “confer benefits” part of the story needs to be:
2. The “safe” part needs to be believed too. Rational belief in the safety of doing business with you is good. Blind faith is even better, but usually is enjoyed only by the most established of vendors.
In some cases, that may be the greatest competitive strength they have.
3. To be believed, enterprise IT messaging generally needs to be:
A certain amount of exaggeration is expected, and easily shrugged off. It’s also possible to get away with a certain amount of vagueness, whether in a fear/safety story or when pitching something as new/innovative/exciting. But don’t overdo either.
One common way to overdo your exaggeration — make an obviously false claim of uniqueness.
4. Please note: Deficiencies in the consistency of your messages can undermine credibility and clarity alike.
5. Messaging can become distorted in many ways, both accidental and deliberate. For example:
- Your salespeople get a few hours of sales training per month. Then you send them out on sales calls. Do you really think every nuance of every message will be delivered perfectly every time?
- That’s largely accidental. But rival salespeople will distort your messages on purpose.
- So will rival marketers when talking with press, analysts, and other influencers.
- Even influencers who believe your story will abbreviate and distort it when passing it onward. Many lack the detailed domain knowledge to fully understand it and put it in context anyway.
Message transmission is lossy, or worse.
6. So how do you combat message loss? My top tactics are:
- Break your story into clear, simple parts.
- Make sure your story has ENOUGH parts.
If enough parts get through accurately, then perhaps the target will correctly reassemble the overall message.
7. As one would hope, the layered messaging model performs well by these criteria:
- Its whole point is to help you credibly assert benefits.
- It calls for you to make numerous different claims …
- … each of which can be individually simple.
- It enforces consistency among the different parts of your story.
8. To also help punch messages through the noise, I commonly emphasize that vendors should use multiple proof points.
Any one proof point can be dismissed or discounted. An impressive-sounding reference account could have gotten your product for free, or might have a CIO who’s buddies with your founder. A single impressive feature can be sort-of matched by a competitor’s kludgy alternative. But if you say that 10 Fortune 100 enterprises are using your product, that’s hard to ignore. Ditto if you can recite multiple impressive features the competition can’t match.
Yes, I believe you should use customers as proof points even when you’re not allowed to use their names. A blog is a great vehicle for doing that.
- One consistency rule that’s often forgotten — don’t declare a position today you can’t walk back from.
- Even your pricing algorithm should be a simple function — specifically minimum() — of individually simple elements.