The information technology (IT) sector is pretty broad, it includes companies that produce software, hardware and companies that provide internet or related services such as software maintenance and cyber security. Knowing what type of IT specialist you need as a business will vary depending on a number of factors, such as your company’s size, what internal resources and skills you already have in-house, your own general understanding of IT as a whole and probably more importantly, where you are wanting to take your business. Quite a lot of B2B IT services and support companies will therefore combine software and services with technology hardware and equipment offering full holistic services.
There are a lot of IT businesses doing and saying exactly the same thing which is making the IT marketplace noisy, so for business leaders and senior decision-makers searching for an IT partner it can be really difficult for them to identify what company to choose over another.
As branding specialists, we feel there is a bit of an identity crisis in the IT sector at the moment. That said, this also means that there’s a tremendous opportunity for ambitious and forward-thinking IT firms to really stand out in the marketplace and grow by developing a growth-focused brand strategy. In our opinion, the IT industry is looking outdated and has been left behind, it needs a radical transformation. IT businesses need to make a change and be a refreshing difference in the space they’re competing in. That is what’s needed for them to be more successful. Blending in is not the way to grow a brand (aka business). Blending in only adds to the marketing noise and dilutes your offer and creates a bigger challenge for your marketing and sales teams. By blending in you are simply making it even harder for customers to choose you over another. Going against the grain and presenting yourself in a refreshingly, or radically different way is what will help you to grow.
The common themes
We have found a lot of common themes when searching for IT companies online, you’ll see the following words and statements commonly repeated across the company website home pages:
- IT support that makes your business thrive
- Technology experts that provide the best possible IT strategy, sustainable technology solutions, communications and connectivity for your business, as well as top-level security, service and support
- A premier total IT security and support provider
- Comprehensive, reliable and trusted service delivered to certified standards for complete peace of mind
- Providing fast, experienced and trusted IT support, consultancy and project management for business
- Helping Businesses Succeed Through Technology Innovation. We seek to form trusted and long-lasting partnerships with our customers
- IT Solutions made simple. We provide practical new solutions which will save you money, increase productivity and reduce down time
- Sustainable IT for sustainable business
This is all to be expected as all the IT companies are offering essentially the same services, and in most cases utilising the same technology as each other. No doubt you have seen certified Microsoft Gold Partner, Apple Certified or Cisco Partner logos dotted about alongside the Cyber Essentials and ISO9001 logos, these validate the company as being credible, technically adept/capable and having proper processes in place. It’s certainly wise to work with a company that has accreditations, but then which one do you choose when they all possess the same accreditations, communicate the same messages and look the same?
Step outside the comfort zone a little
What if an IT company had a bit more confidence and personality, or wanted to talk more directly to their target audience? They may consider saying things like the following:
- Your business is our business. Quite generic, however, removes cliche keywords such as trust, solutions provider etc.
- IT makes sense to them. IT should make sense to you. We’re successful for them (similar-sized companies), so we’re probably the right fit for you as well.
- We enable better businesses. This suggests that our technology and expertise help others perform better.
- Because dreamers and believers demand IT. Talks more directly to forward-thinking businesses that want to make a difference in the world.
- Digital transformation without the headaches. Says what you do, but you don’t make it complicated.
- The first people you want to talk to about IT. The last people you want to get stuck in a lift with. Adding a bit of humour whilst communicating we know our stuff, are experts and are so passionate we could bore the pants off you talking about IT
- Together. We’ll make IT. Simply means your partner for success.
- Forget technology buzzwords. We just do IT. We have all the technical know-how, you don’t need to worry, we just get IT working for you
- IT just got better. We are refreshingly different, we are not for everyone but if you want a refreshing alternative, we may just be for you.
These are just rough made-up examples of course. Any brand messages you communicate should reflect your values, beliefs, and capabilities whilst communicating the value you offer your clients. Whether one company uses the words ‘Total’, ‘Holistic’ or ‘Complete’ in front of the words ‘Trusted IT support’ is not differentiating enough, it all sounds and means the same. Making your brand messaging more intriguing and tonally different to the rest of your competitors is really important. Not only does it help you stand out against your competition as a ‘better alternative’ to your target audience, but it can also help you to attract the right talent to your business as well.
The ‘me too’ brand
We know IT is something that should be taken seriously, we get that, but IT companies need to be more open-minded, more creative and more innovative in their brand marketing, more like the innovative technology they deploy. However, IT company branding appears to be stuck in a time warp, afraid to move forwards. The world has changed, audiences are much more tech-savvy and they are exposed to more things socially, so expect more.
As per the mood board below, the common theme we found with IT companies visually is the colour blue used with accents of reds, greens and orange. The images are often pictures of cityscapes (quite often London), clouds and blue skies, cliche technology icons deployed everywhere and images of the staff in headsets or collaborating around a whiteboard.
There’s a logical reason why this happens with IT branding. Basic colour psychology and common visual metaphors are often used because it makes sense, it’s front of mind, it’s obvious, and others are doing it so it must be right. This is what is called a ‘me too brand’.
The ‘me too brand’ is not unique to the IT industry specifically, it’s applicable to every business in any sector but our focus today is IT. Business leaders are often inspired by their peers or influenced by the perceived successes of their competitors, so they imitate them. If they see others doing well, it can seem logical to take some guidance from how others are presenting themselves both visually and verbally. The problem with doing that, is that you just create more noise and blend in. This in turn makes the job of marketing even harder. Unless you are the leader in your category where everyone else is copying you, it is best to avoid following the common path and being safe. Be bolder, braver and turn people’s heads. Present your audience with something different and then bang that marketing drum consistently and hold your nerve. Building a brand is a long-term plan, you won’t get the full results you desire overnight. Now, we’re not saying there’s anything drastically wrong with how all IT companies are presenting themselves, in fact in someways showing pictures of your team humanises the business and puts a face to a name but what we are saying is that most IT companies are approaching it the same way and doing and saying the same things, so try a different strategy, take a different path.
The challenge IT business owners and traditional IT marketers need to overcome is fear. Fear of doing something wrong is typically what stops change and the real opportunity for growth. Going against the grain can make people feel uncomfortable, so they settle for what is familiar and that results in the same old blandness. There’s a saying in the brand world, if it scares you a little then it’s a good idea and you should roll with it. You should want to take your brand and business where others don’t want to go or haven’t gone yet, that is where the growth will be found.
To deliver a successful brand you need a solid brand strategy tightly aligned to your business strategy, only then can you create an engaging brand identity and marketing comms that will achieve the results you want.
If you would like to find out how combining strategic and creative brand thinking adds real value to your business and brand, give Frost a call on 01489 892 602 or email [email protected]