Packetize your Marketing

Packetize: Verb (signal processing) To form data into packets, or bundled units, according to a specific protocol for transmission and delivery to another system.

What does that have to do with marketing?

Differentiating a company in the mind of customers and investors, the essence of branding, is the single biggest marketing challenge for today’s technology companies.  In a world increasingly driven by online sound bites and visual imagery, it is critical to “packetize” your marketing.   In this regard, data and human communication are not that different metaphorically because in both cases — to succeed — you must deliver the message AND it must be decoded.

People live and work today in flatter, faster, more wired organizations. They have multiple social networks streaming constant conversation and banner ads. These are your customers and investors and they suffer from information-glut.  Between meetings, conference calls, kids’ report cards and airplanes, they have precious little time for your business plan or detailed product pitch.  So they form perceptions with limited information, and once they do, you must live with it for a very long time.

Poor or fuzzy perceptions complicate and extend sales cycles, depress profit margins and negatively impact market share. So, just how do you differentiate your company?

Technology superiority is only part of the reason customers buy. It may even be irrelevant. Often it is the soft attributes that seal the deal in a customer or investor’s mind — service, training, ease of use, popularity, good press, etc.  That is why great companies are very often understood for one thing in peoples’ minds, regardless of the number of products and services they offer.

In branding, it is important to be honest and stick to your roots to drive customer perception. Apple and HP offer a great example of how brands are powerful determinants of market success. Two companies with a similar pedigree originating in Silicon Valley. Apple — innovative, stylish, intuitive, cool,  casual, and solutions-focused.  HP — Inventing products “made for engineers by engineers.”  Apple’s adherence to technical specifications is assumed, not marketed.  With HP, technical details are part of the pitch. In search of the “cool factor”, HP has strayed from it’s roots in recent years by attempting to broaden it’s appeal to the larger consumer market.  The results have been disastrous of late — HP will never be Apple cool.

It is also critical to listen to what your customers say about you. When I interview executives I always ask “why did you buy from that supplier?”  You would be surprised by the clarity and simplicity of their answers.  Here are a few recent ones that I can recall:

* “Integration.”
* “TCO, overall they costs less.”
* “We liked the results other customers were getting.”
* (and my favorite,) “Their system was more user friendly.”

These little marketing “message packets” are no fluke. Winning technology companies identify these customers needs and stay relentlessly on message in their marketing and sales efforts. However, most technology companies do not allocate the resources required to understand and mold customer and investor perception.

So when presenting your company take the time to identify critical customer needs. “Packetize” them to gain attention,  win trust and ultimately achieve the results you deserve.  Remember, Xerox resurrected itself with the winning phrase, “The Document Company.”

What sound bite will successfully connect with your customers?

– Keith R. Reynolds
10/7/11

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