“Our people can access a wealth of data on our FMS system.”
“No one has built out an infrastructure like ours.”
“We’ve invested over half a million dollars this year alone to build a proprietary trading platform….”
We hear things like this every time we talk to senior management at b2b services companies. Then we take a look at the marketing and see … little or no evidence of anything distinctive. File that under “Missed Opportunity.”
Sure, infrastructure is not the whole story — you have to position your services in the minds of your target customers — but it is a key piece of evidence that you can deliver the benefits you promise. Put another way: Infrastructure can help you explain what you bring to the table that competitors do not.
Clearly defining the tech platform, what makes it different, how it works in a larger ecosystem, and strategically “surfacing” it in your offering can help to build your brand. How should you think about marketing and branding your platform?
For our purposes, let’s define a platform as any technology-enabled system for the creation and/or delivery of a service. Financial services firms have trading platforms (e.g. Goldman Sachs’ GSET). Logistics/trucking companies have supply chain management systems. Architecture/engineering firms have integrated planning and design toolsets. Business intelligence/news firms may offer media platforms (e.g. the old “Bloomberg box”). And so on.
Some are sold or offered directly to customers, others work behind the scenes to support the delivery of a service, and some do both. Branding strategy will change depending on whether these platforms are proprietary (developed internally), customized off the shelf (perhaps using Open Source systems), or built with/offered through partners.
For example, a “proprietary”platfrom can, depending on the customer, mean “uh oh, we’re gonna have interoperability and future support issues” or “great! technology adapted and customized for my particular purpose.” Off the shelf begs the question: What have you done to adapt it to my needs? And offering with or through partners means you also have to consider the equity in the partner’s brand.
In the next post, we’ll start looking at how to define your platform under each of these three scenarios and some of the implications for marketing and even naming.