This month’s BrandingWire challenge addresses the need of a small IT services group in Canada. This outfit (which remains anonymous in this post, but is very real) approached us at BrandingWire with the following business challenge:
- Would you say branding coffee and shoes and beer and other “lifestyle” products comes easier than branding… say, a small high-tech services company?
- I’ve been working in marketing for this sort of company for a short while, and have found it to be quite a challenge to really get a grasp of our brand. How can providing IT services be cool, let alone sexy? This is my fundamental dilemma when considering marketing campaigns, when writing for the website, when contemplating a blog… etc. etc.I would love to volunteer our company for your next collaborative post. Would you be interested?
Well, in fact, we were interested – and we invite other companies to submit a similar request for consideration. Here is an expansion of the need in a short branding brief:
We are a small company based in Canada. We do just about everything IT: proactive work (such as network maintenance), monitoring of critical systems, emergency work (IT fixes, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), new user set-ups, procurement of hardware and software (at a discount through our top vendors), consulting work (which can be anything from upgrading all 100 of your Windows computers to Macs, or something simple like what open-source software alternatives we would recommend instead of Photoshop).
We are also offering services in a new area called Green IT. It is all about transforming the way IT is used to help cut down on energy use and waste. Solutions could include datacenters with virtualized servers, remote access of datacenters (to keep the systems in a stable environment), or sending software electronically to eliminate packaging waste. We want to get more into this area!
Small to medium sized business in our city and the surrounding areas. (Note: we do provide support to branch offices of our customers across Canada.)
We seem to attract a lot of non-profit (environment, research, health) and financial/accounting clients. I believe we aimed more for non-profits when the company was first started, both because of the President’s contacts in that sector and also because they are easier to access than other businesses, and they have formed a tight-knit community in our city. The issue with non-profits is that, because of their tight usually government-controlled budgets, we’re in a constant struggle to get paid for our extensive work.
Our clients are typically not technically-oriented. Companies are both B2B and B2C, ranging in industry from financial and accounting services to commercial real estate, health care services, non-profits, and some retail.
We’d like to aim for businesses with younger staff that understand technology and can appreciate the need for IT, as well as the critical nature of technology services in relation to their business operations. But it has proven to be hard… which leads me to…
Biggest PR/Marketing Challenge:
We charge hourly for consulting, project hours and support time; the hourly price is lower with a contract than without a contract, where we would come out and do things on a case by case basis. It’s difficult to convince SMBs that our services are worth the amount we are charging – however, to draft a legal document, they’re more than willing to a pay a top notch lawyer $500/hour. If your IT services – your computers, your printers, your network, your data – are done incorrectly, you’re out of business. Customers view IT issues as a pain (i.e. my email is down again) instead of as a critical part of their business (i.e. without IT, we can’t function as a company).
Customers just don’t always understand the value of IT services.
Our monthly support contract covers just about everything “IT”. Then on top of that, say you’ve signed up for a 10-hour contract for support – we don’t just send a bill at the end of the month: we send you a full report of every single minute of work that was done for your company and what was accomplished. We log every incident and track all time and documentation within our Helpdesk. And because we’re a small company at heart (growing now; we’ve doubled our size in the past 2 years), we do give great customer service – our clients know us and they know if something goes horribly wrong with their email at 3 in the morning, they can reach us with one phone call.
Main Marketing/PR Goal:
1. Help our current clients understand why our services are worth the price tag. This may be an inherent problem in the industry (it’s known that IT is on average never properly budgeted for), but EDS and other huge IT corporations don’t seem to have a problem. We want them to see us as a partner for their business, not just an “IT repair service”.
2. Bring in clients who understand the importance of IT services already, and get them to pick us above our competitors for our value-added work.
We’re too entrenched in the technology/service provider perspective to understand how our clients and potential clients really see IT. Hopefully BrandingWire can help us see our company from a purely marketing perspective. Our company is great – we just need to get that idea out there to our current clients and to those that have yet to hear about us.
OK, great challenge. Now, here is how the BrandingWire posse of pundits responded!
3 4 guest bloggers this month:
Mark Goren (Mark saw his invitation late but jumped in as soon as he could!)
So, what do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments!