How Brand Engineering helps innovative technology companies take on the big guys
When it comes to branding for second-stage innovative technology companies, there typically exists a David and Goliath-type situation. Your big idea is better than the dominant players in the space. You have a highly specialized, superior solution, but you have quite a tall task in taking market share from the big guys. Your brand doesn’t look as good as it really is, and the right people don’t know the right things about your company (if they know it at all).
In this story we’ll call the innovative technology company Davetech, and we’ll call the big guys Goliacorp.
Let’s meet Davetech
Davetech is quietly occupying their well-earned place in the space. They’ve grown impressively and achieved steady profitability. In many cases, they’ve reached a certain level of success in spite of their brand identity. Their brand does not accurately reflect their values, but it has not yet significantly hurt them. They’ve been quietly kicking ass for years. Those who know them love them. However, it’s likely that not enough people know them, and their future growth and stability can be impeded if they don’t change they way they communicate what they do.
Let’s meet Goliacorp
Goliacorp is the big player in the space. Sometimes there are a few big players. Sometimes there's one. Goliacorp does everything. They've diversified in order to grow—whether through expansion or acquisition. With well-established sales channels in place, it’s easy for them to offer a lot of solutions and impossible for them to excel at all of them. Trying to be all things to all people opens up many potential points of failure that smaller, more agile companies can exploit.
You're not going to beat Goliacorp with pure force. Their snack budget might be larger than your marketing budget, so you're not going to out-market them. You're going to beat them with agility and creativity. Employ the same ingenuity that built your company to find innovative ways of reaching your audience and getting them to fall in love with your brand.
There are three types of customers in this universe
In our 15+ years of helping innovative technology companies take on the big guys, we’ve learned that client audiences tend to fall into one of three tiers: long-shot customers, convertible customers and available customers.
Long-shot customers: A long road to travel
The long-shot customers’ place in the space is farthest from Davetech. The long-shots are most heavily influenced by Goliacorp’s gravitational pull. They’re extremely brand loyal. They’re super fans. They use Golaicorp for everything. They have no highly specialized needs that Goliacorp can’t satisfy. The chances of you snagging one of these customers are slim. They’re by far the largest population. You’ll see them at tradeshows; they’re reading industry publications. It’s okay to talk to them, and over time, you might move a fraction of them closer to your orbit—but it’s important to spend no more than the appropriate portion of your limited resources on long-shots. Goliacorp uses their gigantic marketing budget to keep these folks close to the mothership and well-fed. Even if your message could reach them, it’s likely not to make a meaningful connection.
Convertible customers: A crack in the armor
Convertible customers also orbit the mothership, but their loyalty to Goliacorp is not ironclad. Winning them over to your side will take some work and comes with a higher cost of sale, but it’s worth a concerted effort. Goliacorp’s products are so deeply ingrained in their day-to-day-operations, even if they hate Goliacorp, divorce would be messy and costly. They might have a need for the exact specialized solution you provide. They might have heard about your brand. They might have met you at a tradeshow or read some of your thought leadership, but they’re still far from your orbit. Articulate why you’re a viable alternative and work to break down their barriers to sale. Offer a side-by-side demo of Davetech vs. Goliacorp. Exploit what they hate about Goliacorp and turn it into what they’ll love about you.
Available customers: floating in space
The available customer is floating in space with no home base. They’re actively seeking a better solution, or they’re new to the market and viewing the industry with a fresh eye. Their perspective has not been sullied by Goliacorp’s influence. Messages can be efficiently pushed to them and can work to pull them into your orbit. Emphasize the fact that you’re an innovative alternative to the status quo. When available customers seek out the solution you provide, it’s critical that your brand identity aligns with their values. SEO, content marketing, webinars and case studies all can help make an emotional connection between available customer and your brand.
Recognize the longer sales cycle and lower close rate for long-shot and convertible customers, but resist the urge to focus solely on the available customer.
Find the right balance
There is a place on your marketing list for each customer tier. Identify which tier a potential customer occupies and plan your marketing efforts accordingly. Available customers typically get the lion’s share of marketing efforts. However, there are times when reaching deeper into space to convertible and long-shot customers makes sense. Recognize the longer sales cycle and lower close rate for long-shot and convertible customers, but resist the urge to focus solely on the available customer. Set realistic goals, track and measure your efforts, and adjust accordingly.
There are three distinct players in the sales cycle
When establishing contact with potential customers, it’s critical to not only identify which tier they occupy, but also make sure you’re having the right conversation with the right player in the sales cycle. There are typically three different types of players: influencers, validators and deciders.
Influencers: Talk tech-to-tech with specs
Validators: prove your worth
Deciders: show how your brand will benefit their brand
This model will vary a bit from one industry to the next, but we consistently find that our clients need to convey very different messages to each player in the sales cycle. Influencers are looking at tech specs and white papers. Validators want to make sure the tech specs are valid and that you’re a stable, trustworthy company. They need more high-level, bulleted tech specs. They need quick-read validation. Deciders are interested in strengthening their brand—driving innovation and profitability over the long run.
Convert tech talk into brand love
At Toolbox, we’ve built our business and developed the Brand Engineering process to translate complex technologies into strategic, customer-ready marketing that fast-tracks sales and grabs market share. Brand Engineering bridges the gap between the science of science and the art of selling it—converting tech talk into brand love, and connecting tech companies with their customers.
About Toolbox Creative:
Toolbox Creative offers a powerful engine to grow technology brands and take on the big players in the field. We help innovative technology companies look and sound as good as they truly are, increasing brand equity, boosting media buzz and making the most of marketing dollars.