Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Times are Tough, Keep Talking and Differentiate

We recently underscored the importance of continuing to communicate during this current down market. To reiterate, there are two fundamental reasons:

• In the near-term, you want your constituencies to know you are out there, active and understand how you can benefit them; and
• In the long-term, there’s ground to capture and if you succeed, you come out the winner and leading the market.

However, as is always our way, we don’t recommend quantity instead of quality. It is critical in a market like this to stand out by being clear about who you are and why anyone should care, especially when resources are at a premium.

This means that before you talk, step back and clearly define the following:

1. Within the world as it is and is coming to be, why are you important?
2. How are you different and why is that difference important to your target audiences?
3. How do you explain and reinforce this clearly and repeatedly?

Since the current market difficulties are still pretty new, let’s find an example that worked. I heard the story the other day of the refrigerator company that advertised heavily during the Great Depression. They knew that this was an opportunity for them. Their thrust was: in a time when money is tight, you need to preserve your food for as long as possible; buy a refrigerator because it will stretch your budget.

Yes, I know that this may be simplistic. But they focused clearly on their differentiation and benefit. Imagine how that might look today in the world of transparent communications. For example, think about the elements of the Web Site (and then you can extrapolate to the broad spectrum of communications):

• Theme: Save more with a refrigerator.
o Company description: We are committed to bringing down total costs with our products that help preserve food long
o Technology:
• We have invented a number of unique technologies that create a long lasting cool storage place for perishables.
o Markets:
• Everyone keeps perishables and everyone needs to preserve their investment by saving these as long as possible.

o We serve the following markets:
• Homes
• Restaurants
• Industrial applications

o Products:
• Home version
• Restaurant version
• Industrial version

o Case Studies:
• Family
• Restaurant
• Factory

o News:
• Launch of First Refrigerator that Stays cool forever
• Family keeps food for a week
• Restaurant profits increase because of less food loss
• New Technology Extends the Life of Food

Well, you probably get it. We used the example of the web site because in today’s world, it serves as a great example of nearly all of the types of communications that you may need to use and how you can be clear and differentiate at each turn. Moreover, this example exemplifies why you need to be quite clear about what you are trying to say at all levels.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sequoia’s Right: Just Make Sure You Know All of what they Said about Communications

There is much being made these days about Sequoia Capital’s meeting with portfolio companies where they said “RIP: Good Times.” In short, they have told portfolio companies to tighten their belts, be realistic about their businesses, and hunker down for the long term. Turns out, Sequoia hasn’t been alone in these warnings. We are hearing that most investors are giving their portfolio companies similar messages.

But Sequoia also said some very interesting things about communications. According to GigaOm, Doug Leone made a number of key points:

Go on the offensive and pound on your competitors’ shortcomings.
• Be aggressive with your messaging and be out there. In a downturn, aggressive PR and communications strategy is key.

This is certainly a version of the old adage: “He who wins in a down market wins.” Therefore, our advice is:

• Take the advice of your investors – most of whom are going to tell you to lengthen your runway as much as possible; and
• Seize the moment by capturing undefended ground during this downturn.

So how does a company use communications to do this?

• Be clear, articulate, and consistent about your differentiation;
• Be clear, articulate, and consistent about your benefits – near term and long term;
• Speak often to your key markets and influencers;
• Be specific and real. Help your customers and their influencers understand how you are better and the benefits you bring;
• Use the transparency of communications today to make sure this communications gets to all of your audiences.
• Don’t stop talking!

We know that you may be wondering how you can both extend your runway and increase your communications.

We intend to create a series of blog posts to address the issues enumerated above. But, if you want to discuss these, call us.

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