By Tony Bailetti
As part of our ongoing series examining the ecosystem necessary to bring technology to market, we asked Carleton University’s Tony Bailetti to share his thoughts on regional economic development and common pitfalls startup technology companies can avoid. This is the first of his commentaries and we welcome your feedback.
When bringing technology to market, a supplier typically produces a set of sound bites in order to feature and describe how its products and services benefit potential customers, partners and investors. A sound bite is a very short piece of information considered to be an important feature the supplier wishes current and potential stakeholders to remember. Sound bites also serve as points of emphasis in a supplier’s message to individuals and organisations in the business ecosystem in which the company operates.
The marketing collateral of 12 local technology companies distributed over the last four months was examined and it is evident that the quality of sound bites needs significant improvement. A technology company that is serious about commercializing its products and services needs to produce a set of high-quality sound bites.
To grow revenue, a company needs high-quality sound bites to effectively broadcast the value of its market offering and increase its business performance. Quality sound bites can effectively and consistently draw the attention of customers, partners and investors to that company’s profile. Moreover, the metrics used to track business performance can be linked to the sound bites.
The need for quality sound bites has increased at the same time that the size of the sound bites has decreased. Today’s potential customers, stakeholders and investors are accustomed to shorter and to-the-point information packages.
Poor-quality sound bites increase the costs of a company for at least three reasons:
First, potential customers, partners and investors won’t remember the company regardless of the time and money invested in producing the sound bites and the time spent operating in the business ecosystem.
Second, potential customers, partners and investors won’t take the company seriously in the unlikely event that they do remember the sound bites
Third, the morale and productivity of employees and their supporters may decrease due to a loss of faith in their company’s ability to grow.
What constitutes a high-quality set of sound bites?
The answer to the question above is advanced in the next paragraph. Hopefully it will trigger a thoughtful and lively debate. This is a debate we should welcome given that the opportunity to benefit from it is significant.
A high-quality set of sound bites highlights the few demonstrable points of difference for which
- Customers are willing to pay
- Partners and investors are willing to help grow revenue
- Employees are passionate about delivering
What matters most when it comes to selecting a set of sound bites is the quality of the content that highlights a company’s market offering, points of difference and the passion employees demonstrate in delivering these.
High-quality sound bites do not highlight clichés, executives’ whims, claims that can’t be proven or a long list of benefits produced by company employees talking among themselves.
Producing quality sound bites is hard work.
Points of difference that resonate with customers, partners and investors:
Quality sound bites require the company to identify the points of difference that best resonate with customers, partners and investors.
Points of difference must focus on the essential elements of a company’s offering that will deliver the greatest additional value to key stakeholders as they improve. The intent is to convince customers to purchase from your company and convince partners and investors to participate in helping your company grow.
Points of difference must be demonstrable and should be based on claims that can be supported by concrete evidence.
Points of difference are determined by engaging in conversations with customers, partners and investors. Quality sound bites do not highlight long lists of potential benefits to stakeholders or favourable differences vis-à-vis the alternatives. Most employees who are knowledgeable about their company’s technology can readily produce lists that identify the benefits that customers, partners and investors can expect to receive. A smaller number of these individuals can identify the elements that they believe makes the offering either superior or inferior to the alternatives. Neither approach is recommended.
Passion is essential in delivering points of difference
When bringing technology to market, passion for delivering on the points of difference matters much more than the language touting a company’s unique products, technologies and past achievements. To be an effective communication and business performance tool, all employees, not just the top management team, must deliver the sound bites with passion.
Passion is that intense emotion, compelling feeling or enthusiasm for doing something perceived to be important. If a company’s employees do not relate to the sound bites that describe the value the company delivers to its stakeholders, their use is pointless.
A company’s employees must be passionate about their delivery on the essential points of difference at every level of contact with customers, partners and investors.
Employees of successful technology companies are passionate about ensuring the highest level of satisfaction among the company’s stakeholders. Employees’ palpable passion for stakeholder satisfaction is a key factor to a company’s success.
Passionate employees are a company’s best assets. Without them all a company has to promote itself is the unsubstantiated and empty language contained in the marketing collateral
Produce at most three sound bites
Well-presented points of difference distinguish one company’s offering from all others so that customers and partners remember the essential info about its products and services. A company needs no more than three sound bites that highlight its offering’s points of difference. Each sound bite must also be concise and to the point and should signify something important to customers, partners and investors.
Tony Bailetti is the Director of Carleton University’s Technology Innovation Management program (www.carleton.ca/it). His research, teaching, and community contributions support innovation for the purpose of generating revenue for young technology companies and developing the regional economy. He has published in Research Policy, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Journal of Product Innovation Management, and R&D Management.