by Onuora Amobi, Nnigma
I worked as an IT manager and executive in some of the largest technology and consulting companies in the US for about 15 years. I travelled extensively for work and managed very complex and expensive enterprise software projects.
Now that I am out of the technology business and run my online marketing company, I am able to look at enterprise software and technology websites with fresh eyes.
As an online marketing professional that specializes in IT web marketing, I have been very disappointed with what I have seen.
IT sales at the enterprise level are big business and if you are a company with products to sell in this space, you face a plethora of challenges.
Besides having to endure tedious, long sales cycles, you are usually faced with multiple stakeholders who evaluate your product from different perspectives.
Whether you are selling software or hardware, you often deal with the following audiences:
• Business end users who render judgment on the efficacy of your products from a day to day feature perspective;
• IT staff and management assess the value of your solution based on overall tactical support needs and productivity gains;
• IT senior management who assess the value of your solution based on the strategic direction of the business units they may support.
• C-Level Executives who typically make purchasing decisions relying on subordinate feedback and overall strategic enterprise direction.
These buyers are all relatively sophisticated, yet skeptical - each with their own unique bias.
Unfortunately, most technology companies have websites that reflect a generic message targeted uniformly to all their prospects. As a result, they almost always end up leaving a lot of money on the table by selling inefficiently.
Let's go through a brief example of a midsized software company I worked with earlier this year.
Their web site had the following sections:
• Problem description (what they think their audience is going through)
• A product introduction (here's our product)
• A detailed product description ( here's what it does)
• Detailed requirements
• Product Pricing
• Product endorsements
• Case studies
It all seemed intuitive but even though they had a great product, they couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting a lot of web site clicks or phone calls.
When I got involved, I quickly realized what their problems were.
First of all, the site copy was written too technically with impressive numbers and statistics all over the place.
It wasn’t speaking clearly to business management (who often are the ones writing the checks).
They clearly didn’t understand their audience.
Secondly, they made a dangerous assumption. They assumed their product solved one problem, software security.
The truth is, the same product may solve multiple problems for different audiences within an organization.
It is imperative that as a software company, you know what your clients’ problems are.
Let's think about a software security application.
Here are some examples of the various problems it may solve.
• To the company business user, it keeps them focused on work and not viruses
• To IT helpdesk staff, it keeps their workload lighter and keeps them focused on other priorities
• To IT helpdesk management, it keeps costs low and metrics looking good
• To IT senior management, it keeps them under budget, keeps their staff busy, keeps system downtime low and keeps the auditors off their back
• To senior executives, it keeps the CTO and CEO off their back, keeps their metrics looking good and enables them to get bonuses
• To the CEO and/or the CTO, it keeps the antivirus/spyware/malware support budget, staffing, hours and metrics low
As I said to my client, because you are never sure who is going to visit your website, you have to assume that visitors may come from each of these groups. You also have to assume that they may have substantial input regarding whether your product should be purchased or not:
To that end, your site should have sections that:
• Are simple enough for the business user to easily identify the day to day value of your solution;
• Are technical enough to convince IT staff and management that your product is reliable;
• Provide supporting ROI documentation that is easy for IT senior management to incorporate into their PowerPoint presentations. They are going to be your advocates in the organization after all;
• Provide brief 10,000 ft level strategic information that a C Level executive can quickly understand and act on.
• Abstract the business users from technical jargon (use downloadable PDF’s for technical details as appropriate)
• Only after going through sections 1 to 5, only then discuss pricing, product endorsements, case studies etc.
Your web site has to effectively support your sales process by catering to each of these groups in 3 clicks or less.
My team and I work with a lot of technology companies. My message to my clients is consistent.
• Know your audience
• Keep it simple
• Provide a perceived solution to their problems in 3 clicks or less.
About the Author: Onuora Amobi is the founder and CEO of Nnigma inc., an online marketing firm in Pasadena, California. Nnigma (pronounced enigma) is a leader in full life cycle, Business to Web) transformation services. Through our innovative solutions, we enable our customers to increase internet sales, improve brand perception and deliver online business value