Friday, December 18, 2009

Helping people understand why they need you

I recently met with a CPA to help his firm evaluate its marketing messaging. Up to this point his firm has been successful at generating revenue through reputation and word of mouth referrals. But now he is looking to grow his business and to get more aggressive with his marketing.

His firm goes beyond the traditional accounting model by offering full service IT integration and systems implementation. His model might be similar to Accenture except that his target market consists of far less sophisticated companies in the $1 to $50 million range. Those who have used his firm can attest to the value he offers. But in spite of his success with his current customers he still faced several challenges as he endeavored to grow the business.

Among them:

  • How to communicate his "added" value to an audience that was used to looking at IT and Accounting separately.
  • How do you begin to develop a marketing strategy when there is no one in your competitive space to benchmark against?
  • How can you convince this market that your services are a necessary catalyst to growth and not a cumbersome cost?

Through the course of the exercise we tried to look at past examples where new services or products faced a market with seemingly unchanging and archaic views of what was available. Apple Computers, Netscape, and Nike were all examples of companies that revolutionized things by redefining the rules and perceptions of a given space. They didn't get bogged down in apples to apples comparisons with the competition, they focused getting to the heart of how their offerings could redefine the lives of those who used them. For example, in the early 1980's a write up on the computing power of a Tandy computer wouldn't have meant anything to the average American. But once you are able to convince them of why the PC was able to enhance our lives we witnessed a something that was game changing.

We took the same approach. We didn't want these unique services to be "cubby holed" in with the existing offerings by other CPA's or IT firms. This firm did all of those things but it also did so much more. We wanted to focus on the "Why" and not the "What". That led to the creation of some messaging that really resonated and communicated value to the intended market. Once we determined why this offering was a solution for what was plaguing the market the rest fell into place.

If you are trying to reshape a rather commoditized market or if you are trying to create demand for something new your messaging has to be spot on. You need to clearly define the added or new value to your audience. If you don't they will see no reason to change what they are doing irregardless of how much your offering may help.