For one of my most recent projects, I spent a lot of time looking at the IT consulting industry. There’s any number of SMEs in this sector, each offering the basic IT services that we have all come to rely on – network, internet, storage, security, backups, remote access and all the rest. If you look around this sector from a brand point of view, it has a tendency to be a fairly unlovely space, with lots of puns on the acronym IT and some websites that really only just come under the forgiving heading of ‘functional’.
It’s true that IT services don’t tend to spark the imagination in the way that smoothies or smartphones or luxury foods seem to do, so you might think that there’s no point using creative copywriting or creating interesting websites. But in a sector where there is less scope for developing an emotional attachment to a brand, it’s even more important to capture your potential customer’s interest quickly and effectively.
Looking around the companies in this sector, it struck me that they tend to fall into two categories – the ones that blind you with technology:
‘We are the leading specialists in PCs and Macs’
‘We are all certified up to our eyeballs in lengthy acronyms’
‘Trouble with your TCP/IP switch? We’re the people to talk to.’
And then there’s the ones that tell you how brilliant they are – we’re the fastest, we’re the nearest, our prices are fixed, our people are proper geeks (!), we know everything there is to know about servers, and so on and so forth.
I couldn’t find many that were talking to their customers about what they actually wanted. I find it very unlikely that potential customers wake up in the morning and think ‘What I really need is some rack space, and a server running Novell, and I want to buy it from someone who is MCSE qualified.’
No – what drives customers to look for a supplier, in any sector, is a problem. Identifying that problem – and then demonstrating, through your communications, that you have the solution – is key to engaging those customers.
Depending on the sort of client you want to target, the problems might include: ‘I run a small business, and I spend all my time working out how to make my technology work instead of focusing on my business. I wish someone would just make it all work for me’, or ‘My current supplier just talks jargon at me all day long and I’m not sure what I’m paying for. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could talk me through it clearly and simply’, or ‘My current supplier just doesn’t understand my business. They don’t know what’s important to me, I’m just a support call ticket number to them.’
Once you know what your target market’s problem is, then it’s relatively simple to make sure all your communications send the message that you know how to fix it.
And then noone has to talk about gigabytes and proxy servers. Unless they want to, of course.