If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that I analyse the marketing tactics and strategies of high-tech vendors – mainly in the infrastructure software space. It’s…
…an emotional day for me as I share the first output from my automated competitive marketing intelligence gathering system – REPAMATron. Well perhaps it’s not that emotional, but it certainly represents a significant milestone in a project that has been in development in my ‘spare time’ for a little while now. Below you’ll find my first tentative steps at automated analysis of the Enterprise Service Bus market.
REPAMA is a research methodology that allows me to categorise and compare the marketing strategies of high-tech vendors inferred from the language they use to take their products to market. REPAMATron automates this manual methodology and generates competitive marketing intelligence that allows competitive differentiation to be visualised and benchmarked.
Before I share the first research results, here is some of the background alternatively you can go straight to the research.
It’s Alpha. It’s Alpha. It’s Alpha.
Taking inspiration from Google’s legendary ‘Beta’ logo that it uses so well to reflect a bit of geek chic onto their latest features, I feel the need to do the same. The difference is that one suspects that Google’s beta code is pretty much commercial quality with a beta label stuck on it for marketing purposes, but with me it’s important to say that this really is alpha software.
The technology and logic behind REPAMATron is at a very early stage. The rules that it uses to determine whether a vendor is following a certain strategy or not will be continually refined over time and as such it will take a little while until results stabilise enough to be ‘accurate’. That said the general inferences that it arrives at are broadly accurate today.
What’s the big idea?
This is competitive differentiation Visualised and Benchmarked.
Visualised – I wanted to create technology that would visualise the competitive differentiation between different vendors’ products within a given market segment. This is especially important in markets where little apparent differentiation exists between the competing vendors. Developing REPAMA taught me that even amongst vendors that have broadly similar products; the way they describe, promote and generally take their products to market can be very different indeed. I wanted to develop a system that could identify ‘hidden’ differentiation and present it graphically so that it could be easily understood.
Benchmarked – By grouping together the a number of vendors’ results it is possible to create an average set of results – I refer to this as the market mean. It is then possible to benchmark and compare each vendor’s strategy to this market mean as well as to specific competitors in the market segment. Understanding how your own strategy differs from the market mean or from a specific competitor can be a very valuable insight.
How does it work?
If I told you that I’d have to kill you. But in general terms, ScrewTinny, the technology behind REPAMATron collects examples of marketing communication from vendors – usually marketing and product collateral from web sites, press releases, emails, etc. This text is analysed using phrase matching, natural language processing and statistical likelihood methods to determine if a specific marketing strategy is present or if a specific claim is being made. All of these inferences are then processed as if being read by a human so text found on popular web pages ranks higher as does text near the top of a document as do multiple clusters of the same inference, etc.
There are currently two main types of analysis. MED Charts and TextAnalysis charts. TextAnalysis charts are not shown below but I will post more on them in a future blog entry.
What is an MED Chart?
The MED Chart (Market Element Distribution), is used to show the relative commitment a vendor has to a specific strategy. A score of 11* is apportioned, or distributed across the various different marketing strategies in the chart. Vendors that focus their marketing communications on a small set of strategies are rewarded with a higher score. However vendors that water down their focus by aiming at many strategies will score less for each strategy.
Let’s take an example of a two vendors that are describing the value proposition (the benefits) that their respective products confer. Let’s say that vendor A makes one claim repeatedly that his product reduces the cost associated with some task or other. Vendor B also makes repeated claims that her product reduces cost, but in addition she also claims that her product will increase her customers’ revenue and will also reduce the risk of project failure.
Now both vendors make a value proposition to their audience associated with reducing cost but for vendor B her cost claims are watered down because she also makes additional claims about value propositions (or benefits).
What is MITICOR?
MITICOR is my acronym for defining the major categories of value proposition. Think of MITICOR as capturing the category of benefit that each vendor believes their product provides. Broadly speaking I have categorised business to business value propositions for infrastructure software into the following broad categories: Market, Income, Time, Institution, Cost, Operational, Risk. So a Market value proposition might be a claim that you will increase your customers’ market share or that they will get some form of competitive advantage whilst an Institutional value proposition might instead talk about delivering improved company image or reputation, increased shareholder value, better corporate governance, etc. You can read more about it here.
So if MITICOR captures the claimed benefits associated with a product then PIPESCOM captures the features that the vendor communicates most prominently. As I explained in this previous PIPESCOM blog entry, it’s difficult to compare vendors product marketing strategies without first trying to categorise the types of features that are promoted.
PIPESCOM allows one vendor’s marketing copy to be compared with another vendor’s by categorising the claimed features of the product into the following broad categories. Packaging, Interfaces, Process, Ease of use, Speed, Commercial, Operational, Management. So for example if a vendor describes their product as having “the ability to interface with other systems” then that would suggest they are making a claim about the product’s Interfaces. Similarly if the product is described as ‘inexpensive’ or ‘commercial-off-the-shelf software’ then that would fall into the Commercial category. You can read more about PIPESCOM here.
I’ve only automated a couple of the 20+ different studies found in the manual REPAMA methodology so I will add those that can realistically be automated. In addition having access to statistical information about the marketing copy that each vendor uses opens up many more possibilities that can’t, or at least can’t realistically be done manually.
When looking at the vendor comparison below please bear in mind that I’m not looking at the actual capabilities of the products – this isn’t a product review. Instead I’m looking at the marketing claims each vendor makes for the capabilities of their products as embodied in their outbound marketing communications.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post I chose the ESB market to help hone and develop the algorithms behind REPAMATron because it is a market I know well. I will continue to add vendors from this long list of ESB vendors over time and ultimately will cover all market segments in infrastructure software, but for the moment the vendors and products included in the analysis are:
|Progress Software||Progress ESB|
From that list, the Talend, FuseSource and WSO2 results are shown below. The esb market mean comparison that is shown on the charts is the notional average of all 6 ESB vendors from the table above.
The charts are interactive in that if you hover over or click the various datapoints you should be able to see the specific values.
MITICOR – Value Propositions (Benefits)
The following series of charts show the value propositions or benefits found in each vendor’s marketing copy. The MITICOR charts show the relative importance that each vendor attaches to that category.
**In the chart below it is clear that FuseSource stresses the cost and operational benefits of its software. No other value proposition was found that scored highly enough to be recorded in the chart. This shows a clear focus which interestingly, is quite a departure from the market mean of the 6 ESB vendors. Fuse Source’s focus on Cost is considerably higher than the market mean whilst their their claims about the operational benefits of the product is considerable below the market mean.
**Talend’s value proposition appears to centre completely around Operational benefits. Any other value proposition that might appear in its marketing copy didn’t register highly enough to score on the chart. This type of result, where a only single value proposition is recorded is quite common amongst vendors that focus on features without linking them through to benefits that their customers might derive from the feature.
**Interestingly, WSO2’s value propostion most closely follows the market mean. The implied benefits for WSO2’s products are that they will save time, reduce cost and improve operational efficiencies.
FuseSource, Talend and WSO2
**The combined value proposition chart for the three vendors shows the differentiation found in their marketing materials – differentiation between the 3 vendors in the chart as well as differentiation versus the the ESB market mean.
Well that’s the MITICOR value proposition charts, I’ll post the PIPESCOM product features analysis in a separate blog entry.
I’d welcome feedback about vendors that should be included in these studies and indeed what market segments I should look at next. In addition to rounding out the ESB study I plan to look at high performance messaging and master data management as I am working on client projects in those areas at the moment.
Please post feedback in the comment section below or contact me here.
* – Why 11? Everyone knows that the best amplifiers go up to 11.
** – This is alpha software. The results and conclusions are indicative at the moment and are in no way definitive.