May 10, 2013

Faith, hope, and clarity

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:

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: Read more

April 25, 2012

The marketing of performance

Much of the technology I consult about boils down to performance. There are many sub-categories — parallelization, scalability, low latency, interactive response, price/performance, and more. But basically it’s about computers operating faster, within realistic resource constraints.

There are three kinds of benefits performance can offer:

These benefits are easily confused. When a prospect says “I can’t do X with existing technology”, what she really means is often “I can’t afford to do X well enough to matter.” When a vendor says “We make it cheap and easy to do Y”, what prospects hear is commonly “Great! Now we’ll be able to do Y within our resources and budget.”

Given the breadth of the subject, it’s hard to generalize comprehensively about the marketing of performance claims. But my observations include:  Read more

September 18, 2011

Strategy for IT vendors: a worksheet

Much of what I do for a living* boils down to critiquing IT vendors’ strategy — for sub-10-person startups, for the largest companies in the IT industry, and for companies at all stages in-between. In the hope of making strategy analysis simpler, I’ve compiled a list of questions that every enterprise IT vendor has to answer, if it is to understand its own business. They’re posted below. If you can’t answer these questions, you don’t really have a strategy.

*E.g., consulting via the Monash Advantage and predecessor services. Every question on the list below has arisen recently in the course of my work, most of them many times over.

If you run an IT vendor, help run one, or aspire to do so, then I encourage you to give these questions a whirl. If you don’t think the answers are all knowable — either now or for the foreseeable future — it’s still advisable to make working guesses. Flexibility is a virtue — but even so, having a tentative strategy is far better than having no strategy at all. Strategy is to execution as design is to coding. The best time to fix software bugs is before you start coding; the best time to fix a bad strategy is before you’ve committed yourself to executing it. Yes, both the design and the strategy will need to be changed over time; but a smart, internally-consistent strategy is a lot better than a contradictory one, than an obviously hopeless one, or than no strategy at all.

This is a really long post, so I’ll summarize it up here. Explanations of each point follow below. Read more

June 13, 2011

Extending the layered messaging model

Some time ago, I introduced the layered messaging model for enterprise IT marketing, to address the challenge:

Two things matter about marketing messages:

  • Do people believe you?
  • Do they care?

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

My essential recommendation was:

the two fundamental templates of layered technology marketing:

Enterprise IT product (proof-today messaging stack)

  • Tangible benefits
  • Technical connection
  • Features (and perhaps metrics)*
  • Persuasive details
  • Customer traction or proof-of-concept tests

and

Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

  • Tangible benefits
  • Technical connection
  • Features (and perhaps metrics)*
  • Technical connection
  • Fundamental product architecture

The lower parts of the stack demonstrate differentiation, most directly addressing the “Why should I believe you?” question. The upper parts demonstrate value, answering “Why should I care?” But ultimately, credibility rests on the whole flow of the story, and is no stronger than the weakest of the five layers.

*In the original form I just said “features and metrics”. But truth be told, metrics — speeds/feeds/scale/whatever — are only as important as features in a minority of market segments.

Since then, consulting engagements have shown me there’s actually a third template; happily, it’s synergistic with either or both of the other two. That one goes:  Read more

September 8, 2008

Do influencers think along the lines of the layered messaging model?

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

Enterprise IT product (sustainable-lead messaging stack)

because it’s a pretty good representation of how I think. But what about other influencers? Do they view things in somewhat the same way? Read more

September 8, 2008

Generalizing the layered messaging model

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

General layered marketing template

Read more

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?

Read more

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