Poor positioning is an epidemic in business-to-business (B2B) technology marketing today. Is your company suffering? Consider these symptoms:
- Time to Explain - Does it take an hour and 36 Powerpoint slides to explain what your company does?
- Sales Bottlenecks – Is your sales cycle incredibly long? Do your salespeople call on anything that moves? Is your win/loss ratio a source of desperation?
- Feature Fixation – Do your sales pitches focus on your product’s features?
- Me-too Image - Can you take your logo and place it over the logo on your competitor’s website without making any edits to the messaging?
- Unfocused Messaging - When you ask three employees about your company’s mission, do you get three different answers?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you’ve got a positioning problem. And you’re not alone.
The market dynamics for B2B technology solutions have changed dramatically in the past decade. In the past, your company would likely be competing within a small group, which often consisted of three vendors (remember the former leaders of database, CRM, and ERP spaces?) Today, it is much easier to bring an enterprise solution to market – a good thing – but when you arrive, you can find up to 100 competing vendors – a bad thing.
Competing in these “megacategories” isn’t easy. But if you think about the lengthy roster of players in Big Data, Customer Experience Management, SaaS, and Internet of Things, you’ll realize it’s essential.
How can your company thrive? Here are three ways:
1) Prioritize Positioning – If you are playing against dozens of competitors, developing a strong, differentiated positioning and a unique viewpoint should move to the top of your list of marketing priorities. Your positioning should be the no. 1 message you communicate internally and with your partners, as well.
2) Own a Buyers’ Problem– Which one of your customer’s big, hairy problems does your product solve? Or, can you help educate buyers about a challenge they may not yet know they have?
3) Stop with the Feature Wars - Instead of overwhelming buyers with a list of features, clearly, articulate your product’s value in a way that solves your buyers’ problems. Talk features later – after they’re hooked.
Look at the commonalities of category leaders like Salesforce.com, Workday, and New Relic, for example. They all have a very powerful, differentiated story that is articulated to buyers in a valuable way. Their sales presentations do not focus on how their products work because they know buyers don’t really care (as long as the solutions deliver, somehow). Leading tech marketers address the buyer’s questions: “Why should I care about your product? And why should I care right now?”
Great positioning engages – actually inspires – your buyer and brings your product to life with a fresh, differentiated story. Remember:
Positioning: “This is why my product matters.”
NOT Positioning: “This is how my product works”
The reality is that no enterprise buyer wants to add another name to his or her list of vendors. You need to give buyers a reason to take your appointment and listen to your pitch – one that leads with how your product can solve their biggest problems – and why they need it urgently.
Answering these questions in a compelling way is key to crafting the right positioning: The companies that cut through the noise and solve an important problem for their customers are the ones that transform themselves into business partners – not mere technology vendors.
By fundamentally shifting your positioning from how your product works to why your product matters now, you will differentiate your company, create value for your customers, and help eradicate the epidemic of poor positioning that plagues our industry today.
Bob Wright is the managing director of Firebrick Consulting. This article is based on a new podcast, “5 Symptoms You Have A Positioning Problem” which marks the debut of “Differentiate or Die,” a series of Firebrick Consulting podcasts about marketing strategies for business-to-business technology companies that will roll out over the coming months.