As we continue our series on establishing credibility for new technology companies or new products released by established technology vendors, we next cover using Persona Platforms also known as Message Platforms to establish more credibility.
Let’s start with a question. How many times have you been in the situation where you were considering a product or service and the communication you were receiving was not on target for the level and type of information you were seeking? If you are like me, the answer unfortunately is most of the time.
I’ve experienced issues with the quantity, quality and level of information. Vendors tend to either provide too much information or not enough information. In some cases the quality of the writing, graphics or oral communication is poor. However, the issue that is the most frustrating to me is when the level of information is not a match for my level of knowledge or my level of interest. For example in my personal life I am part of a family and I play different roles in buying cycles. In some cases I’m an Approver / Funder for the purchase of a new Guitar Amp and I don’t really need to know all the intimate details and specifications of the Amp. In other cases I am the Evaluator and Decision Maker for the purchase of a new Laptop for my business and in that case I do want to know everything I can possibly know about the product. The problem I experience most of the time is I ask one higher level question and I receive a large volume of cryptic information which means nothing to me and I get turned off. I really wish they would qualify my audience and interest level up front before they misfire. I’ve seen some websites do a good of this by stratifying visitors based on questions they ask up front.
So what does all of this have to do with increasing vendor credibility in the tech industry? Well as you can imagine the messaging your tech company is providing to the marketplace can either turn on or turn off would be customers.
The first two issues raised above are a “no brainer” and can easily be addressed.
A. In the age of information abundance, your company’s messaging / content needs to be as concise as possible. Everyone is speed reading emails, website pages and product information these days.
B. If your information isn’t well written and visually appealing you would be better off not offering it.
However, in regard to the third issue, Level Appropriateness or Fit or whatever you call it, the resolution may not be as apparent.
As the Founder of a Technology Company or a savvy Product Manager you may be writing your own copy or at the very least approving it. Therefore you may be writing to the level you receive well. And with tech companies that level is often, well, technical. If you are marketing something to enterprises that costs more than a few thousand dollars, the issue is you not only need to establish credibility with the technical evaluators you need to establish credibility with their Director. And the more your product costs and/or the more change it affects within a company the more levels of management get involved in the sales cycle.
Hence the core issue affecting credibility as it relates to Messaging. Many technology vendors are not communicating on point to each level in their customer’s hierarchy. Often “one size, fits all” messaging is used and it typically fails. The question, “What’s in it for me?” is not answered effectively for every level of customer involved in your selling process. General messaging fails to communicate the personal gain to your audience far enough to strike a responsive chord. Effective product messaging not only has to appeal to technical evaluators it also has to appeal to CXOs. Your messaging also has to be concise and communicate how your product is unique when compared to competitive offerings.
As shown in the above diagram, the resolution to this third issue is to create Messaging Platforms that resonate within each level of customer with whom you are engaged. I’m sure this makes complete sense to you since different levels of professionals care about different issues. The starkest example is shareholder value. Sure everyone in a company should care about increasing shareholder value. And most CXOs are very focused on doing so. However, when a middle manager is in a weekly staff meeting with his or her manager I doubt the topic of increasing shareholder value comes up every week because they have a job to get done. If it is an IT Staff member they are quite busy worrying about keeping up with their project load, pleasing internal users and staying within corporate IT standards. As you can see the point is simple, play to your audience and your audience contains a few different levels of interest. When you move away from “one size fits all” messaging and better target your messages to your audience you connect better with the individuals you need to influence. Final Approver VPs are no longer turned off by the speeds and feeds / feature speak they are not interested in hearing. And likewise technologist / Evaluators are not turned off by benefit statements about how great the macro level changes are going to be for their company and shareholders. Instead you are speaking the right level of language addressing the unique areas of acute pain each layer involved in the buying cycle is experiencing.
My company has produced award winning messaging and message platforms for clients in the past and we continue to be very active with our Messaging Service. We typically focus on the following four levels and create a unique Message Platform for each level of customer in the buying hierarchy. Here is an example in ascending order of responsibility:
1. The Evaluator. (Staff)
2. The Evaluator’s Manager aka the Recommender. (Manager or Director)
3. The Recommender’s Manager aka the Decision Maker. (Director or VP)
4. The Decision Maker’s Manager aka the Approver. (VP or CXO)
If the individuals you need to influence are a mix of business and IT customers, we would also include platforms to cover everyone. It depends on what you are selling. i.e. if you are only selling to IT then your message platforms would only cover the IT hierarchy. If you are selling to the business side with IT as an Evaluator then both business and IT platforms are needed.
When completed, Message Platforms serve as a “living” guide for all future sales and marketing content.
Anyone can do this, however, since my company has extensive experience that has led to a deep understanding of the interest levels, areas of importance and language of enterprise business and IT customer hierarchies, we excel at it. If your company needs assistance in this area we would welcome the opportunity to help.
For those companies who are just starting out and have limited budget, I suggest you take a stab at it yourself. Here’s how: Start by creating two platforms; the Evaluator and the Decision Maker. On each platform net out the areas of acute pain you believe each level cares most about and then map your features and benefits against each pain point. Add how your product is unique from the competition and you’re off to a good start. Then take each of these one page Message Platforms and use them as the guideline when producing sales & marketing content. If the content is well written, brief/concise and on point for each level you are communication with then you will have demonstrated higher credibility through your communication than many of your competitors.