As you no doubt remember by now, once a month I join some other branding experts to tackle a marketing/branding problem ala the BrandingWire collaboration.
This month's BrandingWire takes a slightly different twist. A Canadian IT company has asked for our help. So we wade into the B-to-B world.
Here's a quick peek at them:
Offerings (according to them):
They'll do just about anything from proactive maintenance to 24/7 trouble shooting to setting up new users, buying equipment or helping you with software decisions. They are also getting into Green IT – from managing energy costs to eliminating packaging waste.
They are (my words, not theirs) like an IT department who happens to office outside of your workspace.
The money part:
You can engage them in one of two ways. You can buy a maintenance contract or buy their hours ala carte. The contract gets you a discount on services rendered.
As you would guess, businesses who use IT but are too small to have their own internal department.
Conundrum (again, their words):
It's difficult to convince small businesses that our services are worth the amount we are charging – however, to draft a legal document, they're more than willing to a pay a top notch lawyer $500/hour. Customers view IT issues as a pain (i.e. my email is down again) instead of as a critical part of their business (ie. without IT, we can't function as a company).
Customers just don't always understand the value of IT services.
Ahhh, there's the rub. We don't get to decide what our customers should value. It's annoying, but true. We have to figure out what they need/want. Once we serve up that…we provide value. We can provide it but we can't define it.
But there's a flip side to this truth as well. Our clients should provide value to us as well. For it to be a long-term relationship of value, both sides need to benefit and feel good about the value they both give and receive.
But let's look at the client's side of things first.
One of the most significant keys to smart branding is knowing the heart and mind of your customers. Once you really understand where they're coming from…you can talk to them from that place.
- They're scared of IT. They know they can be crippled by a virus or something else they don't understand.
- They hate being so dependent on someone outside of their walls.
- They're embarrassed that they don't know more than they do.
- They hate the down time when they do have a problem.
- They don't understand it, so paying for it scares them. (Am I getting taken?)
- They don't want to pay for something they don't need. That's why the contract scares them. Are they just spending money they shouldn't?
- They're petrified that something catastrophic is going to happen and it's going to cost them an arm and a leg.
- They've been taught that extended warranties and maintenance contracts are fool's gold and benefit the seller much more than the buyer.
So that's where they're at in terms of IT in general. But how are they feeling about the IT company?
One of the IT company's stated goals is (in their words) "help our clients understand why our services are worth the price tag."
That's a little worrisome to me. Again, we're doing this in an artificial vacuum. My guess is that they have a mixed clientele. Some who should be clients and some who should not. And it's the who should not's that are causing them trouble.
But, if we were sitting in the room with the client, I'd ask them to describe the clients who don't object to the price structure. I'm guessing they have some. Then, we'd profile those clients based on industry, size, type of work the IT company does for them, scope of the projects, clients that can make a fair and reasonable profit from, etc.
When we were done, we'd have built a profile of the types of businesses that are a good fit. Good from the IT company's perspective in terms of retention and fair profit. Good from the client's side…trusted advisor, a value, and someone who relieves their worries.
Then, we'd go through their client list and score each client against the profile. Anyone who got a C or worse should be weeded out. They're not a good fit.
Anyone who receives a B- or better should be cultivated and nurtured.
We'd do the same thing with their prospect list. There's no reason to waste time and money talking to prospects that are not a good fit.
Once you know who to talk to and how they're thinking and feeling, deciding what to say to them comes much easier.
I will leave those details to my BrandingWire compadres. Check out their posts and welcome our three guest bloggers as well!