By Keith R. Reynolds
“Why should I buy from you?” How many times have you heard this as you sat across the table from a customer presenting your company, products and services? Maybe you have heard it directly, maybe not; maybe you are just not listening closely enough. But answering this question succinctly and convincingly is critical to your technology company’s success.
Why? Today, technology is ubiquitous. Competition is everywhere and to succeed you must present your business, products and services in a fashion that is on par with the competitors you seek to dislodge. Managing customers’ perception of your firm and its offerings must be a critical element of your business plan.
The truth is technology companies succeed when they figure out what it is they do well, and articulate it in business terms. Thoughtful, strategic technology marketing projects leadership for your company and educates customers about how they can change for the better. As your technology matures your marketing must more clearly define your solution by presenting a vision of the future your customers can buy into -- and then lead them there.
Your marketing should represent thought leadership and be educational. You must focus on the broader customer context with meaningful content, not just explain how your technology works. Don’t just say, “This is what we have,” but rather, “This is our approach; here is the value; this is what we have done for others and can do for you.” To accomplish this you must hire smart people with different skills than your own and then get your collective brains around the customer problems you seek to address. Really dig into the value of the solutions you are trying to sell.
Lifetime tech marketer, Bob Yeager of Westport, Connecticut, compares technology marketing to a technology-marketing rocket. In his metaphor, the top of the rocket carries the payload - the core technologies that customers purchase from you. The bottom section of the spacecraft is the delivery system; the many elements of your overall offering. He notes, “After the ‘early-adopter’ stage, orders are less affected by the offering (payload) than by your overall presentation (delivery vehicle).” Technologists often make two mistakes: too much payload, the rocket’s top section, or too low a fuel grade in the delivery section. Result: sales plateau.
Effective delivery communicates content and detail for each organization level: “From the boardroom to the server room, we understand your environment.” For example, technology buyers of late have had to contend with round after round of budget and headcount reductions. Evaluators, the “techies” who take the initiative to figure out how your products and services could be used, have all but disappeared. Because there aren’t many people between you and the buyer to identify the business advantage of your technology, you have to be able to communicate to the technical buyer how it works AND to the executives what you will do for them.
Instead of technical specifications, or seemingly technical buzzwords, managers need assurance that their investment in your technology will address the strategic imperatives that drive their business -- and thus their career. See how high the stakes are in a technology purchase?
Your firm’s overall offering translates into customer perception -- and make no mistake, the perception of your company IS the reality. Customers must want to work with your firm, not, you the founder or senior executive. Educating sales people, channel partners, editors and analysts on the relevance of your technology and the results they can expect is critical to building a web of credibility with your prospective customers. This level of integration is hard… it means creating strategy and tactics that get to the heart of your customer’s problems.
The best way to achieve marketing success is to develop a strategic marketing plan as a means to develop buy-in among employees and focus everyone’s efforts (Marketing, Sales, Manufacturing Service, and Support) on a singular, common mission: meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
In defining your strategic marketing plan, consider things from your customer’s perspective:
- Who is your competition?
- What is your technology’s competitive advantage?
- How does your technology work with the technology they’ve already got? What’s the ROI model?
- Organizationally, how many people are needed to support what you sell?
- Who are the consultants, and the distribution partners customers will be working with during implementation?
And a big one: “What the heck do your customers say about your technology?”
This list of questions offers a good starting point in developing your strategic marketing plan. It also provides a view into the inevitable question: “Why should I buy from you?” that your sales people get asked every day.
Marketing success comes down to how effective and consistent your company is at understanding and portraying the value you bring to customers. When you educate and lead your customers with authentic, customer-centric solutions and results-oriented marketing -- fasten your seat belts -- your company can take off like a rocket.
Keith R. Reynolds is president of Maxim Communications, a Stamford CT-based technology marketing firm. He is the Director of CTC’s Edwards & Angell FastTrack Program and Venture Investors of New York (VIANY). He is co-instructing “Practical Tools for Strategic Marketing” with Zuhair Suidan of Suidan Associates November 3-4, 2005; Rocky Hill Marriott, Rocky Hill, CT and December 15-16, 2005 Newton Marriott; Newton, MA. Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.