A tech startup’s marketing message is a key instrument to reach your target customer. It forms part of an important communication process that changes depending on a company’s stage in the technology adoption lifecycle (TALC).
The image below shows the fundamental communication cycle, or process. Note that critical elements include the audience, the evidence, the message, and the medium employed; while all elements are connected, they are ultimately driven by the assumed target audience.
The “audience” is your target customer (who will vary depending on your stage on the TALC). As a company moves through the TALC, the interests of their audience change and thus the company’s communication and message must adapt.
The target audiences include both skeptics (who care about technologies and technology products) and generalists (who care about markets and companies). Their interests can be displayed as value domains in the Competitive Positioning Compass pictured below. The starting point for this discussion is that all target audiences are skeptics (until proven otherwise).
Bear in mind that the fact that your target customer is attempting to solve their problem means that, consciously or not, they seek proof that their problem can indeed be solved. This proof, or “evidence,” can take many forms. A demo or a trial will appeal to technology enthusiasts, while product reviews and trade press coverage will draw visionaries, and market leadership and press coverage in the industry media will grab the attention of pragmatists.
The purpose of “the message” is to convert skeptics into supporters, and to reinforce the position of existing supporters. It is crucial that you understand what a potential customer looks for in your communication.
Your target customer has a job to do (that is, achieve or solve something) and this determines their frame of mind as you attempt to communicate with them. In simpler terms, this frame of mind can be described as WIIFM, or “What’s in it for me?”
It helps to be aware that as a consequence of the constant overload of information in our daily lives, humans have developed strong subconscious filtering abilities—this leads to the ignoring of information that does not appear relevant. Therefore, in order to catch the attention of your customer, you must fine-tune your marketing message to address their information needs.
For high-tech startups, there is the temptation to talk too much about shiny new products instead of what matters to the customer. Keep in mind that the technology adoption lifecycle can help you understand the primary motivations for each market segment; this in turn enables you to position your solution as the most attractive for the target customer.
The critical point for most high-tech startups arrives when they have to adapt their message and positioning as they move from the Early Market and cross the Chasm. At this point many technology ventures seem to forget that their communication must change from being about the sophistication of their technology and product to demonstrating how it can solve business problems that concern pragmatists.
Remember that pragmatists do not care about the latest technologies or your product attributes: they seek the most cost-effective way to address their business problem. Ignoring this fact will likely prevent you from crossing the Chasm and entering a mass market.
Providing the right evidence and message through the wrong media simply results in the right person not getting the required information. A wide range of media must be considered for each different target customer.
|Note: The complexity of the marketing communication topic makes it 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 the titles in this series includes:
Wiefels, P. (2002). The Chasm Companion. New York: Harper Business.