Some smart alek at your competitor decided to commoditise your biggest and best market.
They’ve taken one of their so-so competitive products and rolled its functions into another product line. Then they made the old version available to download for free.
You’re in a price war where they’ve made the first move. What to do?
Firstly, there’s always some form of “generic” differentiation available, especially where software is concerned.
For example, as it’s software downloads that’s killing you, then stock levels aren’t going to cut it. But maybe there’s a specialist hardware dependency that you can help solve?
Might it be time to bundle some implementation support? Downloading is one thing, but making any software work across an enterprise is a whole new ball of wax.
And just because their stuff is free doesn’t mean it doesn’t have support issues, right?
Secondly – and this is when the product marketing guys get to earn their corn - it’s time to look at “detailed” product differentiation. And by detail, it’s really down in the weeds where this battle can be won.
Back in the day when I was selling ERP systems to telcos, one of my product marketeers figured out that the best way to take the fight to our biggest competitor was to differentiate on dunning. And amazingly, while our competitor was killing us with their billing system features, if we sold on the strength of our dunning product, we still won.
Telcos agreed that while billing is clearly critical, getting the money in after the bill is sent out is the reason for the telco being in business at all.
Of course we also had to go fix our billing system pretty sharpish – and that meant acquisition and integration.
And that’s also where the product marketeers can make a difference.
So, thirdly, identifying tuck-in acquisitions to enhance the overall functionality of your solution set and recapturing significant differentiation is a key part of product marketing’s job. This has to be done early enough so that adjustment to changing market conditions can be done rapidly and without overturning the boat as you change course.
But all of this takes time, and while the reps are trying to save the day in the field with existing customers, what can you do to make sure this problem is not one that repeats itself again?
It all comes down to building deep and solid relationships with your customers. And while that may be spearheaded by the rep, it’s delivered through executive and technical engagement - and intellectual horsepower.
Let’s look at an example of technical differentiation first.
If your implementation team has entwined your product deep into the heart of the customer, untangling it may take longer than waiting for your next release. (Let’s hope they did an awesome - and referenceable – job, as this experience will be key to your survival in that client base.)
And the intellectual differentiation?
Well, the fact you’re in business at all is because someone came up with a better way to build a mousetrap and your customers agreed.
If that individual or team – product marketing or engineering – engages with your users deeply enough at the right senior levels, customers will buy into your long term vision and be prepared to wait some time for the “next release”.
And while you're at it, how about striking a joint development deal with your biggest customers? That’s a lock-in that most direct competitors would shy away from.
Neither your deep knowledge nor your product set can be commoditised if you’re the company that helps to define the market and leads from the front in customer multi-level engagement. Good example? Big pharma.
But if you don’t already define the market, maybe it’s time you did?
Want to deeply differentiate your telco solutions? Contact us here.
Methodical ramblings after twenty-five years in Sales, Marketing and SalesOps.