How do you take a complicated product and make it easy for prospect to understand and see the value? How do you step away from the intricacies, code and features of your technology to talk about what you do in bigger, more important terms that will engage your prospects and get them excited? And, why should you even need to even take a step back in the first place?
This is a common challenge that we at Zenzi frequently see (and help clients to address), especially in the B2B and technology spaces where information about a company and its products can get complicated, and the tendency for those closest is to delve deeper into the features and intricacies of why they think the company is a leader, instead of stepping back to take a bigger look. In some cases it may be easier to look at B2C offerings—like food, cleaning appliances or coffee—to explain the value that they create—a more vibrant lifestyle, greater productivity, a healthier family… But when the product or service is complicated, and the audience is frequently technical in nature, the propensity is often to believe that the company does not need to distill its value to a more universal level that most anyone could understand.
Even if your audience is ‘technical in nature’, the problem with ‘keeping things technical’ when it comes to positioning is twofold.
- First: people/humans buy products, not “companies”, and for these individuals, a series of emotions, feelings and needs go into making a purchasing decision. Starting with simple, relatable key messages gives prospects a chance to better understand how they can benefit, and offers an opportunity for them to connect with your company. It distills your message down to the most basic form of how you can help them.
- Second: multiple prospects will often have a say in the decision to go with your product or service, from the potential user to his or her superiors and, even possibly, employees, and the person that signs the check. And not all of these will have the same level of understanding. Add to that the fact that your ‘buyers’ are not your only audience—there are also potential investors, future employees, partners, the community and more that can influence your company’s success, all with varying levels of knowledge about how you might help.
So what should technical companies do when it comes to positioning their brands? Start with the big picture and work from there when communicating with prospects. Your company’s positioning should focus on larger benefits the brand brings to the market and life.
“Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Whole New Way of Thinking?” is the title of a recent article in Harvard Business Review that hits this message home. Author Mark Boncheck explains, “…data, information, and value propositions are not enough to sell innovative products. We all know the saying, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ But when it comes to innovation, the truth is often ‘I’ll see it when I believe it.’ To sell your idea to executives, buyers, and users, you have to change not only what they think, but how they think. Without the right mental model, they won’t see the problem, understand the benefits, or make the change.”
As a technology company, how can you make prospects ‘see it when they believe it to more effectively influence their thinking about how you can help them?
It all comes down to taking a look at the more human side of your technology, how prospects are doing business now and your solutions can impact and help improve their lives. And this starts with a firm understanding of your audiences and how you address their needs along with basic, consistent, messaging about how your company makes a difference. Take a step back to look at the big picture on why your company is better/unique, including:
• Assessing the culture of your company, unique management philosophies and principles on which it was founded, practices that are unique to your brand, when it comes to service, product offering, etc.
• Assessing your offerings against the competition to determine key proof points on how your company stands out/is different from what they are saying, etc.
• Auditing, and/or surveying, your prospects, customers, and even those that did not go with your company, on their challenges and why your company is unique.
• Projecting into the future with management on the future of your industry and where your company wants to lead
• Boiling it all down in the simplest terms to how you make things better/improve your customers’ lives.
Leaders in their space understand the value of distilling the benefits of their company down to the simplest of messages that address prospects’ needs.
Take for instance Salesforce.com, which has grown from an upstart to a market leader in a technical field—enterprise software. For years it has been focused on the mantra: “No Software,” to hit home the value of its software-as-a-service platform. Check out their home page and they continue to distill it down, as you are greeted with 5 key words to describe the company, “Sell more. Grow faster. Close anywhere.” Who cannot relate to that?
Another technical giant—Microsoft—and its SharePoint platform, might otherwise, easily, be a very technical subject. Wikipedia defines it as “… a web application framework and platform developed by Microsoft…[that] integrates intranet, content management and document management, but recent versions have broader capabilities SharePoint comprises a multipurpose set of Web technologies backed by a common technical infrastructure. By default, SharePoint has a Microsoft Office-like interface, and it is closely integrated with the Office suite.”
But MS keeps it simple and relatable, initially with “The New Way to Work Together,” as its tag line on its web site. Visitors can learn about important ways to use the software through key terms they can relate to: Share, organize, discover, build and manage.
We also give a hats off to Zenzi client, Parascript, for taking a very technical topic, Optical Character Recognition (or reading handwritten and cursive information on paper), and making its value easy to understand with its ability to read: “Any Document. Any Data. Any Source.”
How is your company different? How do you help prospects in the simplest of terms? How can you make them believers? And distill your company’s key messages down to the true value that your company provides?
It all starts with understanding your customers and their challenges and developing your key messages on how you are different and can help them. These can then further be supported though testimonials, case studies, infographics [so people can really visualize the most complex concepts stripped down to WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)] and story telling to help to drive the value home.