Yeehaw, it’s like the wild, wild, west out there! Mergers, acquisitions, hostile take-over attempts, poison pills and egos are making the tech industry look like a bunch of cattle rustlers with burs in their britches. And with all eyes on the big guns heading into the OK Corral for a showdown how
is anyone going to be able to get their message heard?
Well, gather round the campfire, pardners, and I’ll try and give you a little help.
First of all we must face the facts: consolidation is going to happen. We just don’t know who is going to own the ranch. In order to position our companies for survival we have to understand the risks we could face in each scenario and develop strategies to mitigate them. We must also understand the risks facing our customers, employees and shareholders to determine a course of action that will help them and ultimately help us. For example, a vendor neutral reseller may not worry about developing additional competencies whereas a vendor exclusive partner might invest in application integration expertise. Either way each company still needs a survival strategy.
Second, we need to take a look at our marketing plans in relation to our strategy and ask ourselves the following:
Who do we need to reach?
What do they need to know?
Where do they reside?
When do we communicate with them?
How do we communicate most effectively?
Let’s take them one at a time.
For most of us in the channel we have a variety of audiences that need to be in the loop including hardware and software vendors, integrators, customers, employees and the like. Each audience represents a different challenge. Vendor partners need intelligence from the field. Integrators need to understand how your strategy will impact their ability to work with you today and in the future. Your customers will want to know how you will continue to support them and, where required, help migrate them to new platforms. Employees will need to be reassured that you have a strategy in place and intend to keep them — regardless of how things play out with the big guys.
In addition to those things mentioned above, your stakeholders will need to know as much as you can tell them about your ability to respond to market dynamics, how solid you are as a company — both from a financial perspective and a resource/manpower perspective — and just how you intend to keep them up-to-date. It’s one thing to say you’re going to communicate with them but telling them what to expect is just as important.
For many of us our target audiences reside within the geographic area in which we live and work. This provides an excellent opportunity for one-on-one communication where key decision makers can be made available to hear what you have to say. In today’s global, Internet, never-speak-to-anyone-live world we sometimes forget that the best way to get your message across is up close and personal. Just look at the news and you’ll see that those who speak directly with the media in a candid and informative way make the headlines. You want to make headlines with every single audience on your list — regardless of where they reside.
Immediately! Don’t wait for the competition to get a head start. Get your strategy in order, your key messages ready and get out there. Now! And, tomorrow! And, the tomorrow after that. Because when the shoot-out’s over, you won’t get a second chance.
This depends on your audience and the ways in which they need to receive information. I’ve already mentioned that the one-on-one, live meeting is a great way to communicate but sometimes this just isn’t possible. Take a look at the ways in which you usually communicate — email, voice mail, messaging, letters etc. — and shake things up a bit. Perhaps now is the time to take on an aggressive direct mail campaign or begin a bi-weekly e-newsletter. Why not invest in a media relations campaign to reinforce the direct communication you have undertaken to provide third party credibility. Rent a box at a big game and invite your key stakeholders to attend and while there see the ads you’ve taken out. Or maybe — very simply — send out a smoke-signal in the form of a weekly postcard to let them know how things are proceeding. Believe me you’ll be glad you did.
Trying to be heard during times of industry uncertainty and upheaval can be a little like standing in the middle of a stampede. The thunder from the hooves can drown out the loudest of messages and the spectators are left choking on the dust. That being said, once the dust has cleared a little, it makes good sense to saddle up and ride like the Pony Express.
High-ho Silver, away!
Janice Murray is the president of Fishbowl Communications Inc., a full service marketing communications and public relations firm specializing in the development and execution of integrated communications programs.