A while back, I read a story on the Jones Soda Company and its founder, Peter van Stolk. It told how he built a multi-million-dollar soft drink company in an extremely competitive environment against competitors like Coke that sold billions of cans a year at the time. He knew he had to stand out and make consumers WANT his product, which he did by coming up with “cool” flavors — such as blue bubble gum — and by putting people’s names and photographs on the bottles. One soda, marketed as “Dave,” became notorious for containing 1,000 milligrams of hemp, which generated more free publicity than they could afford to buy. He also brought out a Thanksgiving pack, with flavors such as turkey and gravy, mashed potato, and green bean casserole, produced in only a small quantity to gain massive PR (which it did), not thinking it was going to be the next “big hit” of in-demand flavors. But the most important quote (lesson) in the article was a one-line statement he made:
“I started with the concept that the world doesn’t need another soda company, or another company of any kind.”
That’s such a powerful statement that I suggest you write it on a board and hang it in your office as a constant reminder to you and your staff. There are already too many computer consultants, MSPs, web developers, and people who provide IT services in general. If you want clients to give you their money over all of your competitors, you better dig in and put some serious effort into serving up a compelling set of factual (true) reasons why they should. Like van Stolk, you should start with the premise that the world doesn’t need another IT services company — and then figure out what you are going to deliver that they can’t get anywhere else. When coaching clients, one of the hardest questions I push them to answer is, “Why should a prospect buy from you versus the X number of MSPs and IT consultants right in your own backyard who do the same thing?” This is always a tough question for them to articulate the answer to —but it is the cornerstone of any and all marketing communications: strategy and planning.
Yet, as important as this is, VERY few IT services companies even consider this when they create their marketing plans. They start with the very tactical approach of deciding what to do — should we try postcards? A Facebook fan page? Telemarketing? Yet they completely overlook what is to me the single most important starting point to attracting more clients and closing more sales: do they actually HAVE a product or service that is so well engineered and delivered that it doesn’t require a ton of marketing fluff, hyperbole, paint, and window dressings to sell it?
Bottom line: service marketing STARTS with the service. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a significant thinning of the herd in the IT marketplace. Larger competitors entered the market and cloud services coming from the likes of Microsoft and Google threatened the meat-and-potatoes small business clients many managed services providers have profited from for years. Those who are merely “just another” IT services firm are struggling or have already closed their doors. Right now, it’s more critical than ever to really put some thought into this, possibly re-engineering what you do and how you do it, violating industry “norms,” venturing into new markets, and delivering new services that others can’t or won’t — not just trying to find a fast, cheap marketing fix to get people to pay attention to you.
Robin Robins is a leading marketing and sales coach for MSPs, VARs, and companies selling IT services with over 5,000 clients and more documented client success stories than any other IT marketing or IT sales consultant in the industry. To get a free one-on-one marketing consultation and customized marketing plan for your IT services business, go to www.toolkitlive.com/businesssolutions.