Standards-based marketing and identical twins – the nemesis of differentiation

Identical twinsAt the risk of sounding like I’m repeating myself, once again I’ve just got off the phone from a friend and ex-colleague. This is a different friend and a different conversation to my last blog entry, and this time he was looking to do me a favour rather than picking my brains for free.  Which was nice.

Anyway, after a while we got on to the subject of how sales of his organisation’s SOA, ESB and BPM offerings were going.  A mixed bag was his response.  “Where it’s good it’s very good and where it’s tough it’s very tough” was his view.

My mate is in sales looking after a geographic and industry-focused region for a large integration/SOA infrastructure software vendor.  One issue he has is how to take his products to market in a specific industry sector.  In this case energy and utilities.  His concern is differentiation.  As he put it to me “How do you compete when all of the other vendors can do what you can do?”.

It’s a good question and one that I touched on briefly in these hallowed pages earlier in the year.  It’s a phenomenon that I refer to as “standards-based marketing” – a tongue-in-cheek description of what happens to an organisation’s marketing efforts when they are taking technology to market that is driven and governed by technical standards.  Effectively as the market matures, so all vendors in the segment meet the standards which in turn means they can all do broadly the same things which makes being unique, from a marketing perspective, very difficult.

Or put another way, Goodall’s third law of competitive marketing states that:

“As the impact of software standards bodies in a market segment increases, the probability of nil vendor-to-vendor differentiation approaches one”


“I’ve got generate leads and my marketing campaigns look like they could’ve been written about my competitors.”

Actually there is no Goodall’s third (or first or second for that matter) law of competitive marketing.  But it did make me think that I should spend some time in these pages addressing this area.  So over the next several blog postings I’m going to focus on some of the differentiation tactics I’ve seen and used to create that illusion of differentiation when in reality your competitors are in fact your evil identical twin.

Danny Goodall

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