September 10, 2007 7 Comments
Our BrandingWire challenge this month is helping a small IT services company in Canada promote and distinguish themselves. The full marketing brief for this challenge is here; in short, this growing company needs to find ways to communicate the value it provides to new clients, who often simply view them as an “IT repair” shop. They provide a full suite of services, and would like to get more regularly-paying customers on monthly service contracts.
From a marketing/promotional perspective, my immediate impression is two-fold:
1. Front-and-center, the company should promote itself as a service provider that removes a problem. Specifically, “we deal with all your (IT) headaches.” Clients need a reason to NOT view this type of company as a “call them when we need something fixed” shop. Executives in client companies have plenty of headaches. Outsourcing one of them can be quite desirable. By positioning their company as a business partner who simplifies the client’s life by bringing unique expertise, they can rise above any inaccurate preconceived notion that they are just a bunch of technicians.
2. As far as pricing goes, a comparative approach is probably the most effective. What is the average daily dollar amount for having this headache removed, compared to (say) business lunches, Starbucks, lawyer fees, etc.? And, to work the highly effective fear angle – what is the cost of one hour/day/week of downtime?
Because these two approaches are not necessarily unique to the company, they need to look at other ways to truly distinguish themselves. One way that they are already pursuing is a “Green” initiative, which has a nice P.R. overlay, but doesn’t easily take root as providing immediate and tangible customer benefit. Since IT support companies usually work on a fixed monthly retainer basis, I’d look at adding a way to give credits – for instance, if support needs are below a certain threshold on a given month, the client is credited with $___ applied to next month, or the extra is “banked” for heavier months. This is tangible, customer-focused, and addresses the fear that the client will be ripped off by paying too much for a monthly service contract.
Finally, I’d make heavy use of testimonials on all marketing materials. Especially, I’d ask existing clients to focus on the themes of “headache removal,” exemplary customer service, understanding of their business, etc. Most IT companies make the mistake of using far too much geek-speak to sell their services. In the small-to-medium sized business markets, the ones writing the checks are more immersed in business issues, and cannot as easily relate to the technical issues. They want headaches removed, downtime eliminated, minimal disruptions to workflow, reliability, and integrity. That should be the focus of communications (as an aside, when I ask clients for testimonials, I usually write up “suggested wording” instead of leaving it to them to come up with something – most really appreciate that, and then, of course, the testimonial emphasizes exactly what you are after!).
Catch some other high-voltage ideas from the members of the BrandingWire posse (including several guest bloggers this month!): Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard, Matt Dickman, Chris Brown, Cam Beck