It is really interesting to spend many years in this industry, pitching sets of pots and pans and trying to win over prospective customers … and then stepping back from the contest and realizing what’s going on.
Damn near everyone is using the same sales pitch.
I am talking suppliers. And I am talking operators.
When you manage to escape from the bubble that is your company, or the larger bubble that is your general technology or media proposition, you start to realize the sales and marketing pitch – those bullet points that people use to excite prospects – is pretty much the same one the next guys are using. And the next guys. And the next guys.
Everyone is the industry leader. What they do is the next generation. They’re the best in class. The audience is premium. Their medium is highly targeted.
My work now gives me the blissful perspective of looking from the outside in at the industry, functioning as a smarty-pants consultant and communications specialist. I get asked now to help companies pull together their marketing copy and strategy, and enable them to stand out from the many other companies that offer variations on essentially the same products, services or audience.
The problem is … most companies are so busy getting everything else done — to organize, launch and run a technology or media company — that the actual time spent developing a compelling set of marketing messages is minimal. It’s one of those, “Oh crap, we need a sell sheet and some stuff for the Website!” situations, that usually involves someone who shouldn’t be doing marketing pulling together a few points during spare moments.
I have done a couple of competitive analyses for technology companies lately, and what really struck me was how similar the value propositions are between technology companies. Go through 15 company sites and you will find most of them highlighting the things that everybody else is highlighting, like flexibility and scalability and support for most media formats.
Ad network operators are not as bad, but the same issues apply.
Volkswagen markets itself on statements like “The art of rocket science.” It does not plaster signs on its windows reading, “Tires on our cars are filled with air!”
So why, when I go to many Websites for vendors, do I read excited bullet points about Day-part scheduling!!!
Well, woohoo! Peddling features and benefits that just about all your prospective customers already assume you have is not the path to glory.
There are clear indications much of what gets written and trumpeted is a variation on what a competitor has on its site. Chances are, that copy was ‘inspired’ by another competitor’s copy. And so on. Companies need to spend more time thinking about how they set themselves apart from the mob, and far less worrying about how their competitors market themselves.
What is it that you guys do, or have, that makes you different? Are you particularly strong in a vertical market? Does your technology have some whiz-bang component that’s rare or unique? Is there something you are doing that others can’t touch?
There are companies I won’t name who market themselves on technology offers that aren’t even unique, but they’ve nonetheless made that gadgetry their own. They’re the guys who do (insert not terribly unique thing here) and they let people know. Compare that to what most companies go out with, which is essentially: “We’re one of countless industry leaders and we offer the same dynamic, flexible and cost-effective stuff for digital signage networks that you’ll find on the next 14 sites you browse and sell sheets you read!!!”
Try this exercise: Print off your main Web pages and sell sheets and grab some Hi-Liter pens. Underline in yellow those phrases and features you’ll admit are common across many companies, and in another colour highlight those features that are unique or more compelling than common. If there’s a lot of yellow, you need to get to work.
There are many, many reasons why a company might prosper or fail, but a really strong predictor for failure is a company that can’t put into words how it is different and why that matters. The same disciplined work that goes into product development, budgets and staffing needs to also go into how your company goes to market and sets itself apart.
If you can’t differentiate, you perish.