I’m often asked how early-stage IT vendors should prioritize their marketing communications, and specifically their investment in collateral. They don’t have nearly the budget or management bandwidth to do everything; so what should they do first?
Most commonly, my answer is a variant on:
- Of course you need basic website content. For starters, your website should at least feature:
- Answers of one paragraph or less to the top four strategic worksheet questions.
- A several-paragraph description of your product/technology.
- Management bios, contact information, and other obvious stuff.
- You also need a fairly technical company white paper. At some point in your sales cycle, there will be a technical evaluation. A white paper can answer a lot of early questions. What’s more, many of your early sales will be driven by people who think new technology is cool. Make it easy and appealing for them to learn about your cool new tech.
- Many people like videos. Whether it’s a link to a conference presentation or a white board talk or whatever, it’s good to have some kind of video. Some people, however — I’m one of them — don’t like videos, so don’t do anything essential in your videos you don’t also convey in writing.
- I further favor having a low-post-count blog. Notes on that include:
- Almost nobody has the time to do a lot of blogging.
- Even so, a blog is the most flexible and best way to communicate things that seem harder to say in other formats.
- In particular, this can be a “poor man’s” way to make up for what is surely a distressing lack of resources in pre-sales support personnel, other collateral, and so on.
- The goal isn’t to build a consistent readership. (You’re not going to invest enough effort for that.) The goal is to put up a few posts, then call influencers’ and prospects’ attention to them by email.
Beyond that, I’d say:
- Of course you want to generate leads. I don’t have strong opinions as to whether to make some of the items mentioned above require registration. But beware of the absurdly extreme position that says marketing serves solely to feed the sales pipeline.
- Supervise your PR very closely. Do much of it yourself. Indeed, strongly consider doing without a PR firm altogether.
Where, by way of contrast, do I favor being frugal?
- If you look at the PR-related links just above, I’m skeptical of investing a lot of money in PR. PR campaigns rarely provide high, positive value on your investment in them. Often, the “value” they provide is downright negative.
- Websites do not have to be lengthy or glitzy.
- Business-oriented white papers are an early-stage luxury. Non-technical businesspeople are interested in being “educated” by IBM, of which they’ve actually heard. But they aren’t as likely to read a paper from ZNewTek.
- Lead generation programs are expensive. In a direct-sales business that requires overcoming multiple sales objections, it’s easy to over-invest in leads.
Some of my reasoning behind these views includes:
1. Basically, the end goals of marketing communication are:
- Encourage customer organizations to give you money.
- Encourage engineers and other desirable employees to work for you.
- Encourage investors to give you money as well.
In various combinations, those audiences all need to be persuaded that:
- You have and will continue to have desirable product offerings …
- … and in fact customers will buy those offerings in enough quantity for your business to be healthy.
- (Highly desirable even if not totally necessary). Your product has a “cool” aspect. Engineers care about that directly, and the rest of your story is easier to sell if there’s a cool hook on which to hang it.
My suggestions touch those bases.
2. Credibility is everything. (If you can fake that, you’ve got it made!) There should be enough detail behind your stories for them to seem real. You shouldn’t oversell. Excessive marketing glitz can feel like overselling. So can overwrought PR.
3. A basic paradox of marketing communications is that they both:
- Need to be (sufficiently) concise, so as not to bore or scare your prospects before they’re ever engaged.
- Need to be (sufficiently) detailed, so as to be credible.
The answer is NOT the old sexist joke about “Short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the interesting bits.” Rather, right from the getgo, your marketing communications should have both concise and detailed parts.
4. You shouldn’t address all audiences. You don’t want to sell to a prospect who’s unlikely to buy. That goes for influencers too.