For this month’s BrandingWire case study, we’re taking on a small, BtoB IT company. The company contacted us and volunteered to be the focus of our next collaborative post. Although the company wishes to remain anonymous, we do have quite a bit of information that sets up a very interesting branding study.
Based in Canada, this company positions themselves as a full service IT shop focused on small to medium sized business in their city and the surrounding areas. Some areas of focus for them include:
- Proactive network maintenance
- Monitoring of critical systems
- 24/7 emergency IT support
- New user set-up
- Procurement of hardware and software
- Consulting work
They’ve also entered a new and interesting sector of IT called Green IT which focuses on cutting energy use and waste through environmentally responsible IT practices.
Some challenges the company faces are:
- Helping customers understand value of their services (helping them justify the price tag)
- Land better customers who understand the importance of IT services.
- A desire to position themselves as a partner in customer’s business rather than just a quick repair service.
I was actually pretty excited to receive this study this month. I have experience working in marketing for an IT services company and I currently work for a data hardware manufacturer that targets IT managers in both large and small businesses. One aspect of the IT business I’ve come to realize over the years is that there seem to be three levels of IT consulting companies seen through the eyes of the IT buyer:
- “Company A” – The Large Worldwide IT Consulting Company: This firm has national or worldwide advertising and brand name, thousands of employees, charges a premium and gets that premium. The buyer has complete faith that the massive amount of money they’re spending on that company is worth it because of brand’s appeal and recognition.
- “Company B” – The Smaller – More Regional – IT Consulting Company: This group does not have national advertising and their brand is not first on the minds of buyers. They have a smaller number of employees but stretch to offer a portfolio of products similar to the large company above. Their business is driven by a small sales team and/or word of mouth. Oftentimes their proposals are under scrutiny and their prices are debated because they don’t have that large brand name behind them. They have great service but have to work three times as hard to prove it.
- “Company C” – The One or Two Person Shop: These are the folks that have a small network of customers who call them for the small projects. They have plenty of business but don’t aspire to grow beyond their home office. They also wouldn’t be relied upon for large-scale projects.
I believe that our client for this study is that middle tier. So how does that level of company compete for big business? IT buyers are complex – they are relied upon to be experts within their company. They’ll always be attracted to Company A first because If the network fails due to something they purchased from Company A, they can relax, because – after all – it’s Company A. So what can a Company B to do compete:
- Go Vertical: I’ve found in multiple cases that when you position yourself as an IT expert in a vertical such as enterprise, banking, legal, etc. you’ll gain extra credibility from the buyer. This company should select major verticals in their area and make it a point to understand the IT challenges faced by those industries.
- Customize: Create vertically focused proposal and presentation formats that when read and listened to by the buyer instill in them the confidence that they are dealing with someone that understands their pain.
- White Papers: There is nothing in the IT world that spells quality and knowledge more than well-written white papers. A white paper on the IT issues and recommended fixes for each vertical is needed. To compete with Company A, they’ll need to demonstrate they understand the buyer and his/her needs better.
- Presentation: IT Buyers are proven to start many searches on Google which lead to websites of companies they’ll consider as vendors. I’ve seen way to many Company B website that brand them instantly as low-budget because the cheap site is cluttered and information is not easily found. A well organized, clean website is a must. If you go with a vertical focus, make sure you dedicate an area to demonstrate your industry knowledge.
- Be There When They Want You: As long as we’re talking website, make sure it is optimized for local search. If an IT buyer searches on “IT Consultant”, he or she may be looking for Company A or Company B. But if that buyer searches on “Vancouver IT Consultant” they’re more than likely looking for Company B or Company C. Company B needs to be positioned to win that battle every time. A well-optimized website should be on the first page of search results for that localized search and also should be running paid search ads to further solidify themselves as the expert in that area. Don’t let the buyer keep searching until they come across Company A!
- Simplify: IT buyers have egos. They want everyone to know they know everything about the network and technology. In reality, it’s impossible to know everything with the rate technology advances these days. If they receive a proposal or collateral with jargon they don’t understand, they won’t want to put themselves in a position – in front of their peers – where they may look like a vendor knows more. Walk the line between presenting your company as knowledgeable yet don’t try to overstate your capabilities with too much industry lingo.
I think Company B has an excellent position in the localized marketplace. Understanding a region and vertical industry issues will go a long way to positioning themselves ahead of Company A. Be that brand that gets noticed because you’re in tune with local business and display that brand at every step in the IT buyers buying cycle.