May 19, 2018

Trying to Use Engineering Thinking to Solve Marketing Challenges

Most founders come from either an engineering or some domain expert background.  They are exceptionally knowledgeable about a topic (experts) and come up with an idea that they believe the market will want.  Many times, that is true (or should be true) and many times, it is not.  And, when it is true that they have a good idea, one of the leading causes of failure of their business is that they use engineering (or domain expert) logic and messaging on a marketing problem.  Generating prospects and selling is not an engineering problem, it is a marketing one.

KFC uses the phrase “finger lickin’ good”.  If the engineers were in charge of messaging the message might be: “greasy dead chicken parts”.  OK, that was an exaggeration, but you get the point.  Founders are notoriously bad at market messaging (and marketing in general).  When the product does not take off like they expected it to, they look everywhere except where the problem is.  The issue is, most likely, that the market does not understand your basic message.  Market messaging needs to offer the “3 C’s”.  These three points are clear, concise and compelling.  Engineers and domain experts like to read off features and functions because they are proud of what they built.  But reading off features and functions is like trying to sell a product by using a technical spec sheet.  The vast majority of the market will not find that clear, concise or compelling.  This is particularly true if you are (incorrectly) attempting to sell “technology innovation” rather than the preferred “value innovation”.  Buyers want to know what problem you are solving for them, what are the implications of those problems, what value you are providing, and what benefits and outcomes your solution offers.  The could care less about a feature if they are not clear what value that feature provides. Yet, founders make this mistake over and over and over and over.  And over.

Let’s examine the “3 C’s”

Clear– Your message has to be perfectly clear.  It should not require a PhD or advanced knowledge to understand it.  I realize how proud you are of how smart you are.  But you are not selling your knowledge education here.  You are solving customer problems. Too many founders are in love with their own knowledge but can’t translate that knowledge to the general market.

Concise– There are several components to this.  Many entrepreneurial founders (maybe 90%) use 1,000 words to describe something that can be said in 150 words.  Your buyer tunes-out and gets bored if you use flowery prose.  Second, you need to eliminate technical jargon.  You may understand what you are talking about, but the buyer often nods their head “yes” but have stopped listening.  Finally, you need to eliminate marketing speak.  For instance: “We are a platform that inherently deals with the complexities involved in …..”  Please stop.  Get to the point.  (BTW, you know that you do this.)

Compelling– Here is the point.  I really don’t care what you do and how you do it until I know why it matters to me.  What problem does this solve?  Why is it important?  What is the impact of the problem? What are the benefits or outcomes that are derived from your solution?  And who else, like me, is using it?  Learn this critical lesson:  As a buyer, I don’t care about you.  I care about me.  

Sales and marketing is about helping a buyer solve a problem that they have.  That’s it.  Don’t make it more than it is.  And, while you want to help them identify that they have a problem and that it can be solved…by you, make your case in a clear, concise and compelling manner…or die.

So, what is your market message?  Do you even know? Try writing it down.  Most founders don’t and most won’t even after reading this because it is too hard to think through this absolutely, mission-critical requirement.  If you don’t know your message, you will most likely start to wander with your words and this leads to the tuning out of the buyer and then you lost the sale.  Know the 3-5 main messages that you want to communicate to you buyer and stay on point.

Was that clear?  Was that concise?  Was that compelling?