Are you scalable, flexible and cost efficient, too?
How does your business describe itself? If you’re in the IT industry (in Sweden or elsewhere), chances are pretty good you describe yourself using one of these all-to-common buzzwords: Scalable. Flexible. Cost efficient. Sound familiar?
To us, it does. We (UP for IT) recently completed a comprehensive review of online marketing activities among IT companies in Sweden. (Granted, we didn’t review every single IT company out there, after all, there are about 46,000.) To make it doable we narrowed our list. The criteria we used was either companies that have done something unusual or companies that have at least 100 employees. So there were still a few to pick from.
What did we find? They almost all sound the same.
In my previous blog, I commented on differentiation, or rather the lack of it in the IT industry. In this blog I will touch on a similar topic – the use of buzzwords.
These common phrases are widely used but very seldom actually convey any real meaning. For example, if you say, “We help customers develop their business.” What does that mean? You need to be more specific and spell out what the real value is that you provide to your customers’ business. Is it less time spent on administration? Is it cost reduction via higher efficiency in hardware/software solutions,or shortened lead times? The more specific you are about the benefits you provide, the easier it will be for your customer to translate your services to money or hours saved.
Boasting “25 years of experience” is also very common. Years of experience in itself is no guarantee of progress. Sometimes it can even be seen as “old school”. But if you do your homework and explain the knowledge generated from those 25 years, and how that translates into customer value, then you are getting somewhere. Perhaps also complement it with a forward-looking view, such as how you balance experience with younger resources, or your growing focus on new media or start-ups.
We see that the evolution of IT marketing typically goes something like this: you start out listing of all your products and services, then move on to discussing benefits, and finally learn to talk about the value you provide. If you define your values correctly, you can even turn it into a “word equation” and add numbers to make the case. Don't make your customers do the math. Do it for them. But we know, it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
To sum up – most buzzwords don’t give you any advantage or differentiate your business at all, because so many other companies are using same words. What should you do instead?
Four tips for differentiation
Here are four steps to move your IT marketing in the right direction:
Identify it. Think beyond your products and services and identify what you do better than anyone else (as a company). What are the real values you bring to the market or changes you can help your customers make?
Explain it. Explain what your offering means for your customers (or others). Quantify it numerically whenever you can (hours saved, productivity gained, money earned, etc.).
Prove it. Avoid using generic terms like “leading”, “professional”, “customer oriented” and the likes, unless you clearly explain what you mean by it. These words aren’t enough to stand on their own. Bring the proof.
Own it. Work with your brand – it is the one thing the competition can’t copy, Make your values your own.