I recently completed a positioning project that highlighted some of the more dangerous black holes a vendor can fall into in trying to explain their technology.

This client wanted to 1) describe their new, complex “secret sauce” technology while 2) explaining how these new capabilities would work with older, more well-known technologies to 3) create an entirely new kind of product which was 4) ideal for the narrow customer set they need to sell to now while 5) paving the way to sell to a wider customer set later and 6) avoid being lumped into a misleading product category dominated by a competitor.

As it that wasn’t a full enough plate, the client was under the gun for time, was still grappling with fundamental questions such as who were their target current and future customers and which terminology they needed to avoid because they were already used by their competitors.

Suffice it to say that at the end of the engagement, we still weren’t close to bulletproof collateral. My lessons learned include:

1)     Finish the foundation — your marketing work — before trying to wordsmith your marketing message. If you can’t agree on your target customer, the product segment in which you compete or your key competitive advantage, there’s no way a writer can put it into words.

2)     Almost every effective white paper, product pitch or advertisement starts with a description of the problem the product or service solves for the customer. Leading off with the subtleties of your cool technology, why you’re different than a competitor or how you’re pioneering a new market just confuses everyone.

3)     Don’t let a competitor force you into using new, confusing descriptions for your product or service. If they’re misusing a term that describes what you do, or you’re afraid that using their jargon will drag you into an inappropriate market segment, explain why you’re “not just search,” “not just systems management,” or not just “whatever.” Stick to your guns — and to plain, understandable English — in describing what you do.

That, at least is how it looks from the writer’s end. Any marketing folks out there who’d care to respond?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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