Making methodology the message differentiator

I was working on a messaging strategy some months back for a software platform seeking to differentiate itself in the marketplace. As in many industries, there was no clear cut win to be had in terms of functionality. Each of the competitors offered a comparable hodgepodge of capabilities.

Further complicating matters was the fact that different clients used the software for different purposes. This meant that capabilities they cared about varied widely by audience. The ease of use issue was also confusing because competitors with less functionality were easier to use, but at the expense of ability to execute at higher levels.

When I entered the picture, the brain trust at the company was locked into an unwinnable argument between detail and brevity. More detail in messaging meant they could articulate their advantages found in those details. But they would lose people in the process due to the complexity. Less detail would communicate that indeed the software wasn’t too complicated, but it would leave out what made it more desirable.

The competitors’ messaging wasn’t any better than the client’s, but this was little consolation, since those brands were more established. Yet the company was unique, the code was unique and they had a client base that belied their underdog status. When Fortune 50 companies are choosing you and you’re still the unknown, something is wrong with the message.

After extensive conversations with various subject matter experts and company leaders, and a deep analysis of competitors’ messaging, despite it’s inadequacies, a pattern began to emerge. The answer to what made them different was not in the what, but in the how. Not just how they delivered the software solution, but how the solution delivered value. This pointed clearly to a messaging strategy based methodology.

The beauty of the strategy was that it leveraged what the company and the software was already providing. They were doing it, they just weren’t talking about it because they didn’t know how. They hadn’t identified this collection of human and technology attributes as a methodology, which they could talk about in a clear, concise way.

Suddenly, there was no more debate about going shallow vs. going deep into detail. The focus on their methodology allowed them to go either way depending on the situation. Merely defining and naming the methodology – the unique way they delivered value – gave them a shorthand for differentiating themselves in the marketplace. Follow up materials including a whitepaper let them give more detail to those so inclined. So it was an elegant and actionable solution all the way around.

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