One of the dilemmas all marketers face is how to get above the noise. This is particularly true for small companies. In the world of high tech marketing, most of what I see in terms of company image seems to fall into one of three categories that, for lack of better terms, I will call “Technical,” “Corporate,” and “Edgy.”
The first is “Technical,” which is marketing that driven by the nuts and bolts of the product or service being offered. The Technical approach focuses on features/functions appealing to the technical buyer who would be making product or service comparisons. This approach will sometimes include information about the cost in order to appeal to the buyer’s sense of value regarding price for a set of capabilities. This is often the home of “low cost” provider.
The second approach is “Corporate,” which is often more focused on the company itself. There will be plenty of product information etc., but it will all go through the company’s “image filter.” The Corporate approach is often an attempt to convey an image of size, strength and credibility. The message is that the company is a reliable vendor or partner with whom customers should be comfortable doing business. Those companies that are very focused on doing business with large enterprises often favor this type of approach.
The final approach is “Edgy,” which is an attempt to do something different that will allow the company to standout and become noticed. The approach will typically be a bit unconventional, and designed to offer a stark contrast to the competition.
One might suggest an attempt to be all three: provide technical detail in the context of a reputable “wall street” worthy company with a very memorable, but professional twist. This certainly seems like a worthy goal – but is it really practical – particularly for smaller companies? Could the various approaches end up diluting each other, thus undermining the attempt to convey a clear company message?
The challenge, of course, is to get above the noise – particularly for smaller companies with smaller marketing budgets. As we all know, there is plenty of noise, so the clearer and more specific the message, the better the chance of it standing out and being heard. So let’s look at the different approaches.
The “Technical” approach certainly has value in terms of conveying information to the technical buyer – but does it get above the noise? In high tech marketing I often see this approach and I believe it’s because it is the easiest approach – simply provide the details of the product or service you offer. The problem is that many of your competitors have taken the same approach and at a quick glance (even a more detailed exploration) the viewer does not necessarily get an understanding of why you are solving a problem better than the competition from the customer’s point of view. The message of differentiation and the specific value proposition is lost within the technical details. Even if the technical differentiation is highlighted – it is unlikely to represent a sustainable differentiation that can be built upon in the future. It will likely be neutralized by changes in the market or the implementation of something similar by the competition.
The “Corporate” approach attempts to address the credibility of the company and its employees to get above the noise. It is very hard to differentiate on corporate credibility – particularly if you are a small company attempting to create a big image. Again, how does this help establish a memorable position in the market? Will this approach really convey anything unique about the company that will connect with the target market? It is hard to see how this would be the case. There are plenty of established companies, and many take the approach of focusing on the quality of the company and the products it offers – so it does not really offer any differentiation in offering a solution.
Finally, the “Edgy” approach dares to be different. This approach begins with the perspective of the company’s differentiation from a customer’s viewpoint. How are we addressing our target customer’s problems differently than the competition? Not simply how are our products or services different – but how do we solve customer’s problems differently? This message is then singularly supported in a creative manner in the company’s communications. Does this effectively get above the noise? Yes – the right single unique message can unambiguously stand above the noise. Will it appeal to everyone that might be interested in what you are offering? It’s not likely. It will most likely appeal to a subset of potential customers – the ones who most resonate with your value proposition. But. if your image appeals to that subset of customers so much more clearly – who cares? You have the right formula!
In fact, one of the problems with this approach is getting internal buy-in because the unique messaging will appeal to some tastes and not to others. Often there is a desire to modify the image and message so it is at least acceptable to as many people as possible and will have broader appeal. This approach ends up resulting in a homogenized outcome where the unique aspects that will get the message above the noise are now gone.
Articulating a unique value proposition to the customer in a manner that very clearly and concisely addresses the concerns of the target market is the most effective way to get above the noise. By definition, this means you are not attempting to deliver a broad message to capture anyone who might be interested in your offer. It requires that you not target all potential customers – rather only those to whom your value proposition is most attractive.
As with many things – with risk comes reward. “Edgy” marketing targets a smaller set of potential customers in hopes of delivering a creative message that will clearly define the company’s positioning in the market.
What are your thoughts?