This month's BrandingWire challenge focuses on an IT company whose specialty is the small to medium business (review the full brief here). This is our first project that centres on a REAL company and their REAL challenges. However, the one thing I don't have is a real name -- so for ease of reference, I will call this company "Direct-IT".
Marketing professional services is a challenge, no matter which tier or segment of the market that you are addressing. But the small to medium business segment is particularly challenging ... these companies are often in the process of maturing their systems, scaling the successes that helped them grow and finding ways to acquire new (and larger) clients while keeping existing clients more than satisfied. Moreover, these businesses pay very close to cashflow and scrutinise the likely returns before committing to any expense. One of the major challenges facing Direct-IT is finding a way to move from a supplier of IT services into a more strategic role which could be considered "trusted advisor".
To achieve this outcome, Direct-IT need to embark on two parallel initiatives:
- Breakthrough measurement and reporting
- Strategic re-positioning
I suggest a revision of performance reporting as the first priority as this can be commenced immediately and will provide a platform for the repositioning and branding efforts that may take some time to kick-in.
Breakthrough measurement and reporting
In order to move from the role of "provider" to the role of "partner", Direct-IT need to provide ALL clients with a new level of measurement and reporting. Rather than focusing on the tactical achievements of the responsiveness of the Direct-IT teams, the measurement should extrapolate the impact of these interventions in terms that address the client's business challenges. In particular, these metrics should focus on the strategic imperatives of any business:
- Top line revenue growth
- Reduction in costs
- Improvements in productivity
The focus of the measurement has to be on the VALUE delivered to the client (not just the tactical tick-in-the-box SLAs). Unfortunately, this is hard to quantify, but Direct-IT have no choice other than to invest in developing some form of metric that rings true with their client base. As a first step, this metric should be run against past performance information to provide the sales executives with a ready source of information that can be used as "proof points" in their discussions with current clients. These reports should be presented as value added services -- and be provided in a format that allows their sponsors to easily push "up the chain".
In addition, and indicative of the wider shifts in work and productivity, Direct-IT need to demonstrate how the innovation and changes that they bring to their clients has a positive impact on the production of knowledge, reduction in the time and process required to make decisions and to reduce risk around the decisions that are made within the business.
With all this actionable business knowledge available, Direct-IT should use their IT know-how to create a reporting widget. This widget would provide a dashboard of the realtime impact that their work is having on their client's business (taking helpdesk RSS feeds etc and summarising it). The widget would be available to each of the clients and would track all the tactical work that Direct-IT is known for, but also have an Executive view which translates these savings into actual dollar amounts and improvements to the client's bottom line.
Direct-IT need to embark on a thorough revision of their brand and organisational positioning. This should include a deep focus on what has been successful ... after all, there is a successful business already in operation -- and it is essential that this success continues. Part of this revision should address what the company considers its "core competence". From this core competence, Direct-IT should build a communications architecture complete with key themes and messages. Particular attention should be paid to profiling client acquisition targets and the key decision makers and stakeholders within these organisations.
IF the core competence and series of messages that are developed don't correspond to a unique market offering, then Direct-IT would do better to build market share rather than attempt to enter a new market. Rather than go head-to-head with existing mid-tier service providers, Direct-IT need to determine an alternative route-to-market with solutions/services that correspond to the strategic pain points of the potential clients in that market. While this sounds like common sense, failure to make such a decision can prove fatal.
A thorough communications/marketing plan should then be developed with a focus on one-to-one messaging -- directly targeting the most influential segments. A blog, for example, is a great way of demonstrating both mastery of technology as well as communicating and delivering thought leadership pieces. Remember with all communications -- all business owners are busy. Concise messaging and high value content is essential.
While all this may not make IT "sexy", it will certainly make it more attractive to those business decision makers who know that every dollar of expense comes out of their own pockets. It may even open the door to the much desired "partner" status.
This month the BrandingWire posse is joined by some special guests. Check out all the other responses to this brief at the following sites: