by Matt Ballantine

Selling our souls – The Lil-Lets marketing test

Jan 19, 20153 mins
IT Strategy

The language we technologists use to describe what it is we do tends, as a rule, to be fairly impregnable. It falls either into the sphere of too technical, or that strange realm of management consultantese in which nouns are reimagineered and stretched into verbs. To the non-IT person, neither vocabulary is particularly engaging. Or intelligible.

Organisations that have had the benefits of being a monopoly supplier tend to be like this. If you don’t have to compete for your business, you won’t put much effort into marketing it. When you suddenly find yourself in a competitive environment, it becomes more than just flinging a few quid at a marketing agency to change these habits.

IT has gone through that market transition over the past decade, yet our ability to market our services often lags back in time. As the opportunities for technology within a business move from cost saving and making efficiencies into making money and providing services to our real customers, we have to seriously up or game to compete.

Ask yourself: “What is it that we are here to do?” Can you answer that in a succinct way that not only is in plain English, but also that can be believed? Can you say it with passion? And how about your sales team – everyone who works in your organisation?

What can often happen at this stage is that we develop anodyne language that means little to anyone. Beware of two traps…

The first trap is the describing not doing trap. Describing the purpose of an organisation can often slip into the sort of prose that is so loved by the authors of corporate values. You’ve probably got a set yourselves… a seemingly unconnected list of adjectives and nouns like “Trust” and “Creativity”. Values are important; articulating them sometimes so. But if you want to describe what it is you do then the focus should be on verbs.

The second trap to avoid is what I refer to as the Lil-Lets test. Is your description of what you do so impersonal that it could be used to describe just about anything? Could it be used as a marketing strapline for, for example, female sanitary products? “Unleashing people’s full potential” for example.

It’s easy to dismiss this as woolly marketing bumpf that has no place in the hard, logical light of business technology. But when you need to sell (and believe me, you need to sell all of the time) you need to do it in language that engages and excites your potential customers. That depends in turn in the ability for you and your team’s to be able to articulate what you have to offer in a pitch that excites and engages. If you can’t easily tell somebody what it is that you do, how can you build trust with them, or them with you?