I’m continuing this series of blogs here by looking at the techniques that software vendors can use to create the “illusion” of differentiation in markets where technical standards have led to little material product difference.
So moving on from my last blog where I looked at the way an organisation can differentiate based on the way that they sell, this entry will look at techniques to move the focus away from the technology and onto some other element of the proposition where real differentiation between vendors exists.
I should perhaps first acknowledge that achieving this sort of holistic approach to taking a proposition to market is not the work of moments. It takes a committed and capable marketing machine to craft the story and then real focus to ensure that the entire organisation rallies behind the proposition as one. Getting the prospect to evaluate the competition on your terms is the objective and only through consistent and disciplined messaging can that be accomplished.
But if you can pull this off, in my experience it is one of the most successful ways to move the debate away from a particular product or technology where little difference exist towards an holistic proposition where difference can be noted.
Synergies, other product lines and product stacks
The most obvious place to start, and if you’ve monitored the SOA infrastructure software space at all you’ll be familiar with this concept, is that of combining products or even building out complex stacks of products that together deliver synergistic benefit to the prospective customer. Whilst the capabilities of one product may be very similar to those of the competition, when combining those features with additional products the total is greater than the sum of the parts and is very different from the competition.
The idea goes something like “Well whilst our XYZ product might be based on the same set of standards as ACME corp’s, when combined with our ABC product line you can achieve these additional benefits that ACME cannot deliver”
Methodology or philosophy
Another technique I’ve seen work well is that of presenting the product as being as-is or even commodity and suggesting that the real value delivered comes from a specific way in which the product is implemented. Professional services offerings often come into play here. Taking the product and the services together, it is suggested, helps deliver benefits that the product alone cannot. Again the implication is that whilst the competition might ape the features of the product, the methodology is borne out of a deeply philosophically differentiated approach.
Ensuring the competition is evaluated “properly”
Creating broader propositions as outlined above is actually not that difficult. The key is ensuring that prospects are encouraged to evaluate the competition on your terms. You want the prospect to be asking the competition if they have an implementation methodology or a complete product stack. That doesn’t sound easy and in my experience it’s not as easy as it sounds! But if you can force the market to value the elements of your proposition that are different from the competition then you’re half way to building a successful business.