(Or, Buyer Messaging Makes Ultra-Specialized High Tech Accessible for Everyone… Even the Pope)

Imagine one of the most ubiquitous, seemingly mainstream and commercially prolific sectors on the globe. We’re talking huge – with an expectation to contribute $720.38 billion-with-a-“b” to the US economy by 2020. An industry that appears sexy and drop-dead cool, built on personalities, high-profile publicity and back-room deals, but in reality … is probably the geekiest, gear-headedest, jargony industry in modern times: media & entertainment. Yup. Into the weeds, feeds and speeds is normally how the conversation devolves – quickly – at broadcast industry events, in trade journals, and of course throughout equipment manufacturers’ marketing. That was the backdrop against which we were called upon by a recent client with the following brief:
“We want you to write an ebook that positions us as thought leaders in the IP Video space.”
IP Video is shorthand for that set of emerging IT capabilities that are moving the media industries toward using standard, easily accessible computer and networking gear to produce and deliver video programming, rather than staying with the expensive, specialized, proprietary, industrial broadcasting gear used for years… and decades… and practically three quarters of a century. It’s such a dramatic shift from the entrenched technology that the main standards body for broadcasting, SMPTE, has taken the past decade to investigate and iterate on protocols to address it. Finally, our client had realized an R&D breakthrough and was ready to evangelize it. Everybody’s Doing It The problem? It seemed like 1,628 of the 1,700 manufacturers in the industry were also … how shall I say this… writing an ebook to position themselves as thought leaders in the IP Video space. Our client was just the little guy in all of this, but had two big things going for it: a publishing partner for list targeting and promotion – a trade magazine catering to the technology evaluators – and a new, relevant, and quite disruptive product announcement to serve as momentum and a call to action for people after they read the book. So far so good. But with the mushrooming innovations taking place at the same time, there were competing announcements coming out nearly every week. And like our client, the field of competition had a whole lot of wicked smart engineers, PhDs, tech writers, industry fellows, analysts, and consultants publishing a whole lot of wicked smart things about standards bodies, manufacturers’ consortia, acceptance, compliance, FEC, HEVC, SMPTE 2022-6, LMNOP…. The landscape was littered with an alphabet soup of “IP Video thought leadership” ebooks. They were all zigging. So we zagged. Changing the Conversation Our ebook had a conversation with buyers that differed from the monologue the other manufacturers were having. And it wasn’t a dictated conversation; it was based on questions people were asking in real ones. Instead of “Listen to us. We’re thought leaders,” ours said, “There’s a lot of thought leadership out there. Here’s how to make sense of it.” Well, we didn’t say that literally. But we wrote the only piece of material in the market that stopped defining and describing and cautioning and prognosticating… and instead, put a guidebook in the readers’ hands that showed them: if this is the thing you want to do with IP video, then here is the path you should take. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from a decade of collective breath-holding. The results the client received from the ebook achieved 300% of the download goal. Buoyed by that response, the VP of Marketing ran a second campaign to the brand’s in-house list – and achieved another 300% over that higher download target (and still growing). By speaking to non-PhDs, non-ivory-tower inhabitants, and non-other-manufacturers; that is, by speaking to people who were curious about what this whole IP groundswell means to them, the piece reached a whole new audience – many of whom felt they finally had the information they needed to move to the next step. Expectations = Experience At Knowmads, we challenge ourselves to stick to a rigorous set of in-house standards for our messaging (we even hold an audit). One of the tenets is that our particular discipline of buyer-centric marketing is about setting expectations for the customer, and should address:
  • What will life be like for me if I purchase this solution?
  • How will owning this product contribute to our organization on a practical level?
  • What’s the buying experience going to be like?
  • What’s the ownership experience going to be like?
If the outcome in reality doesn’t match the expectation set in the marketing experience, then — even if the marketing is great and it’s the product that’s a disappointment — the message is wrong. Did this industry of world-shapers, tastemakers and master communicators want to read yet another treatise on joint task forces, assigning data to an integer, and grouping packets into rows and columns? No. They wanted to learn what it would mean in their operations, so they could explain it to their purchasing officers and end users, and get a bigger budget for it next year. Which is what our client wanted, too. The Message Makes A Difference This isn’t just a guess. This is buyers’ reality. How do we know? Because one contact who downloaded the ebook sent an excited reply email to the campaign. (Who replies to campaigns??) The email began: “I was not planning to purchase this year. After reading your guide, now I’m looking to change this.” And ended: “Thank you for this guide. I’m excited about the possibilities!” Wow. It can’t be overstated how important differentiating the message is to cutting through with content that nobody else is producing – but there’s something more. Even in high-tech industries, people who are the actual buyers might not have the knowledge or the vocabulary that comes from an advanced engineering degree. They are most likely the ones faced with a challenge or a mandate, who maybe have an idea they’d like to propose or an initiative they need to see through. They’re looking for the most appropriate solution, not the most impressive dissertation. Your buyers don’t want to be made to feel like students, they want to feel like experts. They want to know how to solve their problem. You can help them do that – seriously – just by approaching your message from a new angle and strategically changing the words you write, even if it’s about the same really smart, really deep topic everyone else is writing about.
  1. The right level of information (setting buyers’ expectations)
  2. To the right person (a curious but not warm prospect who may not even have been close to a fence, and is now ready to leap over it)
  3. At the right time (when the next generation of technology is being hyped to maximum volume, but before any competitor has even made a move to help people understand it)
…can help a campaign exceed its lead goals by multiples of percentages… And even result in a download from the pope.*
*not the actual pope. But a THE VATICAN’S media group. Everyone’s got TECHNOLOGY problemS to solve!