Creating a technology solution for addressing a major market need in a way that is unique and more advanced than what is already available comes with one caveat – what class of technology does that solution belong to?
Why does it matter?
Elevator pitch and industry acronyms. Many of these vendors find it difficult to describe what they do in a concise, easily understandable and hard hitting message. This is where industry acronyms could help by making it easier for your target audience to quickly understand why they should be paying attention. The challenge with that is, if you use a well accepted industry acronym, you are at risk of sounding like other vendors who are using the same term, but that really do not have much in common with your solution. On the other hand, if you try to coin your own term, you have to be very careful and make sure that the term is: 1) descriptive of what you do; 2) doesn’t include overused, industry buzz words that can take people down the wrong path when trying to understand your solution; 3) get providers of somewhat similar solutions, media and analysts to accept the term.
Coverage. I have seen many deals being lost because vendors are not included in major analyst reports. The inclusion criteria is often pretty straight forward and, for the most part, allows an apples-to-apples comparison between vendors within the boundaries defined by the analyst firm. This approach for evaluating vendors and technology markets also allows analyst firms to simplify their research and business operations and ensure that research groups and sub-groups skate in their own lanes. However, as technologies are playing a more important role in the enterprise, we are witnessing the emergence of solutions that don’t squarely fit into a single technology bucket, which creates a challenge for these vendors on multiple accounts:
- Being included and evaluated in a analyst report might show the solution as incomplete or not being included at all
- Having to work with multiple analysts to get your story across, which could be: 1) time and resource consuming; 2) hard for your target audience to have a holistic view of your solution, as its individual capabilities are being covered in multiple reports
Lethal questions. If your solution is designed to address some of the gaps in the market that other tools are leaving, you are likely to get one of the following questions when making your pitch:
- “Why do we need another (fill in the blank, Monitoring, Analytics, etc.) tool?”
- “So, you are like Vendor A?”
These are logical questions to ask, to put your story in perspective and narrow things down. Having a unique solution or value proposition makes it more difficult to avoid or answer these questions.
Marketing spend. One of the challenges that unique solutions are facing is that they cannot piggyback on other vendors’ marketing investments and utilize their efforts of educating the market as a benefit. If you want to stay true to communicating your uniqueness, you have to carefully pick and choose parts of other vendor’s marketing efforts and use them to your advantage.
So what should you do?
- Clearly define problems you are solving and focus your messaging on them. When defining an ideal prospect for your solution, think beyond industry verticals and company sizes and describe your targets based on very specific problems they are facing. The more specific you get, the longer the list becomes, but this process helps in two areas: 1) finding the largest common denominator of this list helps you sharpen up your elevator pitch; 2) summarizing and logically grouping these problems allows you to come up with a hard hitting message that your target audience will quickly understand.
- Focus on outcomes, not KPIs. One way to get around questions regarding the technology class your solution belongs in is to, instead, communicate your ability to improve KPIs that your target audience is familiar with. However, if your technology’s way of addressing user challenges and goals is truly unique, your customers should be seeing operational and business outcomes that they haven’t experience before. As opposed to promising improvements in quantitative metrics, focus on the more qualitative goals that organizations are trying to achieve and be prepared to show them a step-by-step correlation between your solution’s capabilities and their desired outcomes. For example, instead of claiming that your solution can help them reduce time to troubleshoot performance incidents (as 100+ other vendors claim), use real-world examples to show them how deploying your solution will improve their processes, value created for organization and role-specific everyday tasks.
- Evangelism vs. Marketing. Many vendors that are in a similar position are turning to storytelling and evangelism as strategies around communicating the need in the market for their types of solutions. These companies find this approach more effective than some traditional content marketing strategies, as it is perceived as more credible and engaging.
- Resist adding “check-box” capabilities. Believe it or not, we often see vendors put R&D efforts into building a new capability with the sole goal to make the inclusion criteria for major industry reports. What we also see is that this type of approach almost never works for them in the long run. Making your peg a little less square still doesn’t make it round, and by doing that you are at risk of your solutions uniqueness getting lost in the law of averages.
- Define and synchronize four key pillars of your messaging. The most effective positioning strategy for these types of solutions is to create four core dimensions of your company’s positioning – 1) Use cases; 2) Job roles; 3) Pain points; 4) Client goals. More importantly, being able to present each of these dimensions in a unified, succinct and actionable format eliminates most of the issues mentioned above. However, executing on this approach is easier said than done and it takes a good amount of creativity and “out of the box” thinking to find the right vehicle for delivering this message.