5 ways to position a brand in IoT

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the largest organisations in the world to help them position their brand and deliver real market differentiation for their clients.

Here are my five recommendations for IoT companies trying to find market space.

1 – Proceed straight to go

If you’re setting up in the UK, get out of the UK as fast as possible. There is money in the UK but it’s not in tech. Save yourself three years of pointless meetings. Get yourself to the US or China quickly, sleep on someone’s sofa and meet everyone.

If you insist on staying in the UK, qualify the VCs you speak to by ensuring they are not fake. That means, they aren’t just employees acting as the veneer to a private equity company with exactly the same risk-return strategy as they would seek from bigger companies.

Instead, find yourself a decent client with no big procurement process that can cover your run costs. Not another US-based tech company whose UK/European employees want to hang around with you because you’ve got cool tech and one day they might be able to work with you. Don’t do that.

Instead – find the client. Get a CEO to buy into and fund a pilot. Focus on this and create a partnership with them that will enable you to test, market and scale.

Follow the cash not the bright lights. Remember, in the tech world, the UK is treated as an outpost. Want me to prove it? List the UK’s top five companies that have really made it. Now list their CEOs. Congrats if you did that without Googling.

2 – Start with the problem

There is money in solving problems however – and there always will be. Most tech companies come at you with the solution. It’s a bad habit inherited from when a few IT companies dominated a market and they could do what they like. Think ‘unique-buyer proposition’ not ‘unique-selling point.’ One starts with the customer agenda where the other starts with the intention of selling.

If anything has changed in the last few years, it’s that the customer has far more power than ever. People know they have much more voice and lots more channels to be heard than ever if their supplier does something bad to them. Equally, I believe most people are good and will report good things to their tribe if deserved.

Starting wit the customer’s problem, you’re already on their agenda. Don’t waste time trying to find it.

If you want to see an example of how not to do this, walk into a car dealer or an estate agent and watch them run through a number of standard questions on a list rather than really listening to you and asking good questions.

Finding solutions is easy. Finding problems and understanding them takes more time. If you understand the problem, there’s a good chance you’ll get the job because you’re the one who knows how to fix it.

3 – Listen and ask good questions

Fellow journalists get really pissed off with me when I say – journalism is the ideal training ground for good salesmanship and business. Why? Because you have to reach the point of truth, the point of value extremely fast. You have to cut to the chase. But not by talking and using your ego – instead you have to listen and ask the right questions to get you to the point of truth.

Listening, asking good questions and saying less is a far better strategy than saying too much. Everyone is talking and making noise these days, whether it be on social media, mobile phones, email etc. Trying listening.

Ernest Hemmingway once said: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” And at some other point said: “I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.”

Simple 101 stuff, but you watch people’s faces when you’re next in a board room and see who is really listening and who has a different agenda.

The smart person listens and only speaks when necessary.

4 – Do some proper strategy work

Sounds obvious – but I’ve worked with a ton of FTSE and Fortune companies in tech and financial who have no idea what their customer segmentation looks like – and what messages should follow that.

Take the time to step back, look at what you do vs what your customer is asking for (and why) – then compare that to the rest of the market.

If you complete a message framework, which should include market segmentation, growth strategy and sales plan, you will save so much time in knowing which conversations are worth having – and which are not.

When you get to the point of bidding or sale, you’ll have a massive headstart in how to beat the competition, even if they’re far bigger than you. This is because you can prove you understand the problem, the market and you have proof of capability from every which way to show you’re better positioned than anyone.

5 – Keep asking why…?

Why would someone buy from you?

You have a headache and you need to get it fixed. So you go to the local shop, unworried, and buy some painkillers for $1. That’s a commodity product anyone can buy at a cheap price.

But the pain doesn’t go away. So you go to the doctor – a little bit worried, but you don’t rush there. The GP doctor takes one minute to listen, takes your blood pressure and cuts across you as you speak. He quickly prescribes a course of medication, which is $30 and you pay it.

But even then the headache doesn’t subside. In fact, it’s getting worse. You return to the doctor who has gone through his processes only to find he has none left he can use on you. It’s time to refer you to neurosurgeon as this could be something far more serious and life threatening.

The cost is $1000 just for a consultation, but this is the top neurosurgeon in the country – and you pay it without question.

Your reason to buy has changed from being a problem of inconvenient cost/time to investing more into managing it – to now it absolutely being top of your agenda and you’ll pay all your have for this problem to go away.

In other words, there are generalists and specialists. Which would you rather be?

You buy the specialist because he’s well-known with proven expertise to fix a complex problems. The real, life-saving, business-saving value is there.

Now of course, not every business is a specialist business. A dry-cleaner isn’t performing brain surgery every day, but because they understand different customers have different agendas, priorities and want different experiences, they can build a position to show they understand this and reflect it in the experience.

So – positioning and segmenting is really important to grow sales. But you can’t do that until you’ve asked ‘why does someone buy what we do?’

Again – obvious, but I’ve seen so much bid material for transformation deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars – and none of it signposts any of the above insight of the customer. Appalling – yes. But it’s an opportunity for anyone who likes marketing and doesn’t want to be just another marketing or PR agency.


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