Riding the elephant – the relationship can cause challenges

Marketing, Positioning, Symbiotic relationship

As a small company when you get into a relationship with one large global OEM, you don’t have the wherewithal to invest in otherrelationships.

Also when you get into a relationship, and you can’t get into multiple relationships because of the size, you tend to get marked with that OEM. All your customers see you as a provider of services or products around that OEM.

I always love taking a position in the market. While you eliminate a lot of customers in the market, the customers who stick to you will always be the ones who are willing to do business with you because of your capabilities around that OEM.

That makes it easier to do business. It becomes easier to make money. But you need to keep a track of where the elephant is going.

I have faced situations where we had such a strong position in the market, that customers would line up for the services. However suddenly there was a new set of disruptors who entered the market and within maybe 3 years or so the OEM with whom we were aligned did not see a future and they dismantled the sales teams.

Suddenly the investments we made were worth nothing. That was the easy part. The tougher part was the fact that customers always thought of us as a specialist on that product line. So they were not willing to consider us for others in a similar line of business.

That is a very difficult situation to be in.

As we grew bigger we made it a point to look for OEM agnostic solutions as far as possible so that we could target a larger piece of the audience.

However for a small company my advice would still be to find the right elephant. Its always worth the risk. Once you grow big, then you could look at diversifying.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Personal differentiation- what’s the Value, You get to the table

differentiation, differentiation, Habits, Positioning, Sales

In any relationship and more so in sales, it’s the value that you bring to the other side which makes people want to be connected to you.

When you are doing marketing, the agenda is to create a relationship between the company’s product and the customer. But when you are in sales, it is all about the personal brand of YOU.

That brand of You gets created with the Value you bring to the table specifically. If the prospect does not find you knowledgeable on different aspects of his business and requirements, he will consider you a waste of time. So even though you may have the best product or service in the market, they will not buy from You.

As a sales person today, its table stakes to get to know about the person you’re meeting, about their business, industry challenges, regulations etc.

You also need to be able to challenge the assumptions that the customer is making and showcase the same to them. Most professional customers today like to interact with equals. When you create a differentiation with Value, you become the trusted advisor. That’s how you also improve your personal “positioning” in the market.

Gone are the days when salesmen could just wing a conversation about the weather, the photo frame in the customer’s office etc.

Its getting more and more difficult to get an appointment with a customer for a meeting these days. Get better prepared, figure out Why should the customer even talk to you. That “Why” will then help you create your Value.

Till next time then, create your own differentiation with the Value you bring to the table.

Carpe Diem!!

Crowded market or creating a new Market

differentiation, Marketing, Positioning, Product Management, segmentation

Trying to create a new market is very “sexy”. All the marketing books and case studies will talk about the heroics of creating a new market where nothing existed and how those companies took abnormal profits.

What doesn’t get spoken in these case studies is the number of companies who fell by the wayside in trying to create a new market.

I have had my share of misadventures in trying to create a new market where there was none. 

I have found that its always better to check a market where there are existing players and then find a niche in that market. If there are other players already, it means there’s money for that product or service . It means people accept that kind of a product or service.

If people already accept a certain kind of product then its easier to upgrade them to a more powerful version or more expensive version or sometimes to a simpler version. The basic concept of your product or service is known, so you only have to convince on the nuances that you offer.

Here you can be first with the nuance that you are bringing to the table and occupy that position in the minds of the customer.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Competition is a good thing

competition, Marketing, Positioning, scaling, Technology

In marketing if someone tells you they don’t have competition – then either there is no market or our person does not know where to play.

In the technology field you may have a window of opportunity of say a few months or maybe a year with your new product, but if you don’t see competition even on the horizon then you could be in the wrong market and that’s the scariest piece for a product management person in the technology field.

Most technology products or services are not born out of a specific need in the market. Most of the times companies keep tinkering and integrating various sub-modules to create a new product which the Product Management people are supposed to take to the market and convince their sales people to sell.

When you compete, a few things happen

  1. It means that there’s a definable market. You can choose a niche within that market where you may have less competition or where you define the niche. Your positioning improves because someone has already taken one slot in the market.
  2. It also means that you can aspire to pick up a larger piece of the market at a later date, so its not a FAD which will disappear as it came
  3. Competition also helps you fine tune your product or service better. Since you see the challenges the competition is facing in providing the same product or service, you can account for it already
  4. When you fight against a better competition you also hone your skills

I always get scared when I don’t see competition, even if its coming from a technology which is “n-1” from what we have, because then we know that there’s a market for the “n-1” at least. We just need to find enough people who have got disillusioned with it.

On the other hand I always admire how big companies like say P&G, Unilever or IBM etc. like to look at picking up a bigger piece of the market. They have such systematised methods to scale. I get to learn so much when they are in competition or when we join hands with one large company and compete against another large company. Its the best place to see how manager’s react , how decisions get made.

As they say, when you play a game against a better competitor you come out the winner either way – if you win, you win, but even when you lose you learn of the multiple things that you didn’t know off.

So always welcome competition.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!