This blog is based on two precepts that also guide my consulting:
- In enterprise software and similar businesses, messaging is the core of strategy.
- Messages must be robust enough to withstand deliberate competitive attack.
Let’s spell that out.
Messaging is the core of strategy
The enterprise software business, in simplest terms, is about the building, marketing and selling of software. Messaging is central to all of those activities! In particular:
- Selling boils down to two main processes, one of which is delivering sales messages. (The other, of course, is managing prospect relationships.)
- Marketing is mainly about developing and delivering messages. (Most of the rest is lead generation.)
- Development’s job is to make great sales and marketing messages be true.
If we add another level of complexity, the story changes only a little.
- Hiring and retaining exceptional people is definitely a strategic concern – but it’s also a special case of marketing and sales.
- Services such as support, consulting and/or remote hosting are strategically similar to pure software. (However, they do add further issues around low-cost, reliable service delivery.)
Hardware/appliance configurations bring even less change to the discussion, except in the rare cases when one vendor gains preferred access to scarce components. So all told, messaging ties into a majority of software/service/appliance vendor strategic concerns.
The picture I’ve drawn here is very different from what you’d see in a discussion of Michael Porter competitive strategy, a 1970s paradigm that views strategy mainly from an old-industry standpoint. Not coincidentally, few 1970s MBAs accomplished much in the software business.
Messaging has many targets
Messages are consumed by many different kinds of people, for example technical personnel at buying organizations, business personnel at buying organizations, and various kinds of third-party influencer. Messaging needs to have different parts that are tailored to these different audiences.
Anybody who regards messaging as monolithic is being dangerously sloppy, or else doesn’t understand the IT industry.
Messaging is noisy
Messaging gets obstructed in multiple ways.
- Messages are passed from person to person. So as per the game of Telephone, distortion is inevitable. At best, your messages will be abbreviated and summarized, so you need to craft them in view of that eventuality.
- Competitors will identify and highlight your messaging weaknesses, especially in head-to-head sales situations.
- More generally, competitors will express their own views, which often contradict yours.
Craft your messages with care
Several of my posts offer guides to robust messaging. Most notably:
- The layered messaging model addresses the twin challenges of:
- Needing to emphasize different things to different audiences.
- To a large extent, messaging is the expression of positioning — aspects of which are under your competitors’ control.
- Our modularity approach helps make your strategic story-telling compelling, credible and clear.
- My most detailed strategy overview was in the form of a strategy worksheet. Numerous IT vendors have found that to be a valuable tool, and I strongly advise new clients to work through it.
- I recently wrote a guide to naming …
- … and another one to pricing.
- My guide to marcom writing straddles strategy and tactics, as does an earlier post on marketing communication essentials.