Why Different Is Better Than Better

Just The White Board

One of the most fun marketing challenges today, perhaps the greatest for a raw startup is that customers are overwhelmed with marketing messages from vendor marketing machines.

There are just too many vendors chasing too few buyers.

The raw startup cannot hope to compete with this kind of marketing machinery. And there, is where the startup has the real advantage.

The raw startup is not burdened with the worldview that it needs a massive marketing machine. Nor can it afford one.

These marketing machines are built for that part of the diffusion curve called late adopters. Can I get everyone to the right of early adopters to know my stuff, buy my stuff so I can get the company sold at a good valuation?

The raw startup lives to the left of the early adopters—they are looking for the innovator.

The innovator buyer is very different from the later buyer. The innovator is looking for the vendor, not hiding from them. The innovator, when you finally find him or her, will finish your sentences for you. They are in your head before you ever meet them.

So if you, the raw startup, invest in the traditional SPAM generating,  metrics-driven marketing machine, you may actually repel the innovator, or at least make yourself much harder to find.

Let’s review the most fundamental marketing messaging: the sign.

It is that thing with the logo on it that machine marketers drool over. It is the thing with the tag line. It is the thing that the marketing machine loves most because it is what they think the customer sees.

Perhaps the customer sees the sign, perhaps not.

Try this experiment. Go to a tech trade show and engage with prospects at your booth. For a long time. Walk them around, do a demo, whatever stuff you have prepared. Then walk them to the side and ask them what your tag line was. What did they remember about your signage—what did it say? Do it with your SWAG shirt on—in front of their eyes!!!

I ran this experiment for years and with almost 100% fidelity nobody knew the tag line or anything that was printed at the booth. Even when looking at me with my SWAG shirt!

Why? Because when you take your tag line and your messaging, print it in expensive fonts and surround it with all the other marketing machines doing the same thing, the customer gets marketing blindness—like snow blindness.

Too much marketing makes all the marketing in the room not work. The customer/prospect’s information sensors shut down.

This is where the raw startup has the advantage. Try this.

I was at one of these trade shows in the booth of a $6 billion vendor. Talk about big marketing machines! After a couple of days with nobody getting the tag line or understanding it, I went to Kinkos and bought a tripod and a paper flipchart. $59.95.

Next day, I wrote our message on the flipchart, and put it to the right of the booth:

(Provision and cost your cloud in 90 minutes: Demo every 3 hours)

I did not post the demo start time, just one every 3 hours.  Kind of forced the question didn’t it?

Over the next 2 days, over 100 people stopped one of us at the booth because they had seen the hand written sign—and they wanted to see the demo.  They gave us business cards with (HARK!), their corporate email on it!

We received 3X the number of leads, in one half the time, with messaging that just stood out. And our corporate marketing people were totally pissed off! What does that tell you?

When everyone is doing it, it stops working. Whatever “it” is.

Remember, different is always better than better.

And if you are a raw startup, you can own “different.”