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Differentiate or Die: 5 Keys to Disruptive Positioning

By May 17, 2018Article

Too many B2B technology companies needlessly die on the vine. Why? They fail at differentiating their solutions. My 2017 article for asked, “Do You Have a Positioning Problem?” Unfortunately, for many tech companies, the answer is “Yes.”

The reality in tech marketing is that the best product rarely wins. No executive buyer wants another technology vendor. All companies are organized for yesterday’s buyers. This means the competition is setting the buying criteria and market agenda for new vendors. And while tech companies love to talk features; executive buyers don’t care “how it works.”

So what do all B2B tech category leaders have in common?

  • All have a strong, differentiated positioning strategy as a central foundation for their company success
  • All understand that positioning is a strategic CEO-led initiative for accelerating revenue and commanding a higher valuation
  • All recognize that breakaway differentiation requires a shift from a product-centric to a buyer-centric positioning strategy

Over the years, we’ve worked with many tech firms to establish their positioning as market leaders. The result? Firebrick Consulting’s “5 Keys to Disruptive Positioning:”

1. Define your “Mary.”

Successful positioning strategies are exquistely clear about their “Mary” – the target buyer for their solution. The more clearly you understand the motivations, needs, challenges and attitudes of your buyer, the stronger your positioning. Most tech companies do a poor job of truly understanding their “Mary.” Or they miss the mark by positioning to yesterday’s buyer. If you want to break away from the pack, you must have a point of view and value proposition that engages your next set of buyers.

2. “Own” a problem.

Every B2B tech category leader has built a positioning strategy around a big hairy problem their buyers deeply care about. They “own” this problem in the market, develop a strong viewpoint that resonates with their buyer, and articulate what they do in the context of the problem their customer is trying to solve. Successful positioning calls for a fundamental shift in the conversation from “how the product works” to “why it matters” to your buyer.

3. Take a corner of the room.

Each significant tech company has carved out their “corner of the room” with a distinct, highly differentiated positioning that separates them from the pack. They know their true genius – whether it be unique IP, an original approach, or a specialized focus – and how it positions them to solve their buyer’s problem better than anyone else. In contrast, most tech companies are stuck in “geek speak” and feature wars or end up sounding exactly like their competitors. And if buyers can’t tell the difference between competitors, they will always go with the bigger brand name.

4. Have a viewpoint.

Tell a story. Stop explaining. Start inspiring. Today’s market leaders stand for something with a provocative viewpoint and a positioning story that cuts through the noise, wakes up the market and brings their products alive. Positioning that elevates the whole conversation, captures the imagination of buyers and proactively influences the formation of the category. A good story makes the difference between average and transcendent, boring and inspiring – and the difference between “Yes” and “No.”

5. Answer 3 questions for your buyer.

True game changers are unambiguously clear about why they matter and why buyers should care:  

  1. Why your product, NOW?
  2. How are you different?
  3. How will you make your buyer’s life better? 

The answer to these three questions will enable your buyer to finally understand who you are and how you will rock their world. It’s never about “how the product works.” This comes later. 

Based on an expert evaluation of these five keys, you can begin the process of successful differentiation and create a winning position for your company.

To learn more from “Differentiate or Die: 5 Keys to Disruptive Positioning,” click here to download the report and click here to listen to its accompanying podcasts.


Bob Wright is the managing director of Firebrick Consulting.  

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