Technology companies are a dime a dozen these days. Brands that may once have categorized themselves simply as software, hardware or services organizations are now wedging themselves under the technology umbrella. Even companies that focus on specific markets like financial services, industrial manufacturing or healthcare are slinging the technology moniker — often because they invest in innovative digital capabilities, or they play in a complex technology-adjacent segment such as science, analytics or development.
The benefit of this approach is that “technology” is seen as the best way to solve any problem. The downside is that it’s hard to differentiate your brand compared to other technology companies.
Understanding your purpose
I’ve seen brands try this broad-based technology approach. They start by saying they’re a technology company, and then narrow the message down to try and explain “what kind of technology.” All the while getting more and more mired in features and functions.
Brands that attempt this approach are forgetting the main purpose of their message, their “why” (a shout-out to Simon Sinek here for his mastery of articulating its importance). The “why” helps brands define what they believe in and how it impacts others. It makes a brand “relatable.”
For example, a brand could state, “We believe that rural communities have the same right to high quality healthcare as urban communities. That’s why we created a way for patients to connect virtually with doctors around the country that match the care they require, all without leaving home.”
That’s a lot more compelling than saying “We’re a technology company. We make a telemedicine platform.”
Defining target audiences
Once an organization’s marketing team has figured out its “why,” the next step is to understand the stakeholders they want to reach. The majority of technology brands our agency works with are trying to connect with CIOs, CTOs and VPs of IT, among others. But that’s usually where they stop.
Smart brands go one step further to define the industry where their key stakeholders exist. While this is extremely important for technology brands that target multiple verticals, it also applies to those technology brands serving just one industry. Here’s why: individuals within different industries (even those with the exact same title) make technology buying decisions very differently.
A healthcare CIO buying an Internet of Things solution may be looking to improve the patient experience within the hospital, while a manufacturing CIO may be buying an IoT solution to track inventory across the supply chain. The tool they need is the same, but the outcome of that tool is unique.
Once you understand this, you realize that you can’t treat all CIOs the same. You must create a story for each industry segment that aligns with their desired outcomes. This is what I call “purposeful” communication. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling ERP systems, eCommerce platforms, security systems, automation, mobility solutions, IoT, cloud solutions, enterprise software or any other type of technology. The key is to lead with the challenges that apply to your customer’s specific business, then articulate why your technology brand is qualified to meet the needs of that segment.
Applying path to purchase to comms.
Maintaining this mindset is of utmost importance when it comes to marketing, public relations and sales. One way to start down this path is to create personas for your different markets. Consider your buyer’s end goal, unique attributes and challenges of their industry, motivations for finding a solution and the barriers they encounter along the path to purchase.
Most technology brands that participate in this persona exercise go into the process thinking they know their buyers pretty well. But often, we come across unknowns. For example, is the barrier truly price, or is it a concern about job security if they automate more processes? Who are the influencers to purchase: the CEO, the CMO or a line of business manager? Where does your buyer get the most trusted information?
To overcome these unknowns and get to a more accurate persona, you may need to conduct research. While secondary research exists for some buyers, nothing can compare to primary qualitative research when it comes to understanding your buyer. Make sure you talk to a research team that understands your goal and can develop an insights-driven approach that allows you to uncover these path-to-purchase behaviors. This data will go a long way in helping you define the positive behaviors you want to reinforce through marketing, public relations and sales messaging.
Storytelling and messaging
Remember, as you build your purpose statement and messages, customize them to your buyer’s industry. By using your buyer’s language and showing that you understand their world, you can more easily differentiate yourself from other technology vendors vying for their attention.
This may mean that the language you use is less like that of a traditional technology brand. And that’s okay! Once you start to elevate your brand’s story above your product and service offerings, you start to change the buyer’s perception of you. You can reposition your brand into a space where you become a trusted business solutions partner — one that’s indispensable to the market because of your deep, and industry-specific, problem-solving abilities.
In our highly competitive, fast-paced business 4.0 world, it’s no longer enough to be just another technology brand. You must be a brand that can articulate its purpose and engage with stakeholders using customized and personalized industry vernacular.
Amy Fisher is a vice president in Padilla’s Technology Practice, with expertise in B2B communication in health care, manufacturing, technology and agriculture.