|Note that the complexity of the marketing communication topic is great and too broad to cover in one article.
This article is one in a series of six that covers the field of marketing communication. The full list of titles in this series includes:
Silicon Valley communication guru, Regis McKenna, advises that a tech startup’s communication activities should be planned and focused on achieving a single goal. The goal for a tech startup should be to achieve market leadership within the word-of-mouth community that makes up a given target market.
This market leadership goal is based on the assumption that companies rarely talk to their customers, and in turn, these customers, as they go through the buying process (see image below), seek advice from a range of other people before they speak to the related company.
The reason for this behaviour is that technology purchases feel risky (because the buyer will always know less about the technology and product than the seller) so customers attempt to alleviate this uncertainty by consulting their own trusted sources of information.
At any stage in the technology adoption lifecycle, you will find yourself surrounded by a set of third-party players that interact with you and your customers. These parties are what McKenna calls the “market infrastructure.”
Market infrastructure consists of those sources of “authority” whom technology buyers consult to negate their feeling of uncertainty when evaluating a new product. Keep in mind that each stage of the technology adoption life cycle (TALC) typically has a separate set of these third-party players surrounding your target customer.
In the Early Market, one way to achieve leadership within the market infrastructure of tech enthusiasts is to position your company as a thought leader (that is, one who brings something new into a field) in your technology category.
To manage your communication activities properly:
To influence KOLs, you have to establish credibility within the community by providing compelling and factual information that is relevant to the main concerns of the KOLs.
This means staying clear of hype and bombast while at the same time positioning yourself as a thought leader and addressing critical problems that concern KOLs. From a messaging perspective, this means that your story always must be based on your true positioning in the market.
The image above shows the different layers of word-of-mouth influencers that buyers typically turn to for information. Depending on the product or industry, the middle layers might change, but the framework stays relevant.
Looking at the image, the natural starting point is at the top of the image—your target customer.
In building your own version of this model, consider how the layers of the infrastructure relate to each other
Next, review the Path of Reference.
Once you know the key players on one layer of the model, ask yourself questions such as:
Typically, the middle layers of the model vary the most, depending on your technology and target customer.
Now consider the Path of Influence.
Record your information and insights.
The tools available to build this credibility often include writing white papers or articles in the trade press, and presenting at conferences.