Great post from Darcy Burner at Microsoft on marketing software.
Suppose you engineer a pointy metal thing with a handle at one end and tines at the other. It's the finest stainless steel, it's beautifully engineered, it's got great balance, you're very proud of it, you use it for everything, and you're ready to ship it. Since you've built it, they will come! Right?
Okay, so how do you get people excited about it?
It's a multi-purpose tool. You can use it for all kinds of things! It can untangle hair. It can be used as a weapon of self-defense. It can pry things open. It can be used as a musical instrument if you bang it on things! You can use it to pick up food without getting your hands dirty. It will help you draw a series of roughly parallel lines by providing a guide. It's even a fashion accessory!
Are you ready to buy it yet? Yet this is the way most software marketing is done....
Instead, we need to be clear and simple in building the mental product. We cannot tell the story of every possible use of a fork. We cannot talk about all of the cool features of the fork (“See how the stainless steel gleams in the light!“) in the absence of their direct applicability to something people might do with the fork. And we can't change our minds with every communication about what story we're going to tell about how a customer should imagine using the fork.
There is a lot more I could say about basic positioning and messaging, but that's it in a nutshell. The hardest thing, quite frankly, is having to choose.
Having worked with a lot of technology companies (software and telecom), I completely agree. A software designer in Europe recently emailed me about how to market his product. A quick glance at his website revealed a laundry list of the many things you could do with the software. But I never got a quick answer to my question, "what is it and why do I care?"
If I buy your software (product, service, whatever) instead of the alternative (pick one primary alternative, not several), I'll get what benefit and why. Answer that question -- without using the words 'and' or 'or' -- and you're on your way to creating a focused positioning platform that paints a clear, unambiguous picture in customers' minds. And once they can visualize using your product in a way that's meaningful to them, you're that much closer to winning their business.