by Hank Barnes | March 4, 2014 | Submit a Comment
Last week, my post was about the latest update to Geoffrey Moore’s classic, Crossing the Chasm. The motivation for the post was both the release of the 3rd edition of the book and my long held concern that many apply some of its guidance incorrectly. Linking it specifically to their products, when the book is really about markets–and specifically the introduction of disruptive technologies. If you are the first mover with the disruptive product, it is about your product. But if you are a follower, you need to look at the state of the market, you may have a new product, but the market is in the mainstream–so you better appeal to those buyers.
After writing the post and promoting it on Twitter, I heard a lot of commentary around new market models. Moore himself addresses some of the dynamics of consumer oriented technologies that don’t really follow the traditional market adoption model in the appendix of the book. For these type of products, Moore discusses a four gears approach- Attract, Engage, Convert, and Enlist.
Additionally, there is some very interesting thinking Larry Downes and Paul Nunes on Big Bang Disruptions. I have not read the book yet, but you can find some interesting articles about it at Harvard Business Review and Wired. My (perhaps) overly simplistic summary of their analysis is that some technologies start with a set of trial users then rapidly grow–with adoption happening by users of all types (so forget the traditional Adoption Cycle)–and then adoption drops much more rapidly as saturation occurs.
One of the my thoughts as to what has enabled Big Bang adoptions is that we have reached a point where most technology innovations are a derivative of existing technology based approaches. In the earlier stages of technology markets, the status quo prior to a technology introduct was often not technology based, either manual approaches or some other thing that was dramatically different in the past. But now, with the majority of buyers being more tech savvy, innovations are more easily understood.
Take the iPad. While extremely innovative, it was not the first tablet PC. So some of the traditional Chasm issues and challenges were being handled by others. One could say that the iPad came to market with a true Whole Product — an ecosystem of content (apps, music, movies) via iTunes that was well understood. A company with a complete distribution model for mobile techologies. A strong brand. In the traditional Technology Adoption Model–it was past the Chasm.
But you can also take a big bang view. Part of the rapid adoption of iPads came from its appeal to a whole class of users who compared it to traditional PCs (primarily for home use). For them, the iPad was a breath of fresh air. They saw it as what they had been waiting for—an affordable, ease to use device for doing some basic tasks (check email, browse the web, view movies, etc.). One of these early buyers was my colleague John Lovelock’s mother. She just happens to be 82 years old. The iPad was the first “computer” she ever purchased. Not an early adopter by any means.
So there are elements of both the traditional technology adoption cycle and big bang in the iPad story. As you look at your new innovations, you may have a Big Bang opportunity and it may be enabled by applying some whole product concepts along with demonstrating how this is such a leap forward from traditional alternatives. Offer it at a compelling price, that removes a lot of the perceived risk from the purchase and you might just see hypergrowth. This is probably easier in consumer markets (does anyone have good examples in enterprise markets?), where some price points make technology “disposable” (or easy to trade in for credits–I am personally on my 3rd Kindle Fire and have traded-in the first two for Amazon Gift Cards).
If you are a Gartner client (and your subscription enables access), I’d highly encourage you to read John Lovelock’s recent research note, Taking Advantage of the Three Phases of Market Disruption. In it, John outlines insights, driven from our forecast work, about how disruptions impact market dynamics, positing that a disruption can be additive (new buyers like his mother that did not participate in the market before), competitive (a new alternative for traditional purchase cycles), or destructive (so compelling, people replace existing technologies faster than they had planned).
This is a great way to think about your products as your bring them to market. Is it compelling enough to attract new buyers who have stayed out of a market due to concerns like price, performance, or risk? Would a buyer replace an existing solution faster than they had planned to get the benefits of your solution? Or are you just fighting for business (new or traditional replacement cycles) in a typical competitive model?
The dynamics behind technology markets are definitely evolving. Have they changed entirely from the past? Probably not, but there are certainly new approaches and opportunities to accelerate adoption. Behind it all is the need to deeply understand your ideal buyer—what drives their behavior and what makes them the best fit, your sweet spot, for your product and company. You can expect more formal research from me and others at Gartner about these dynamics and how to manage them in the coming months and years.
Category: Future of Sales Go to Market Tags: big bang, crossing the chasm, innovation, market disruption, technology adoption cycle
by Hank Barnes | February 25, 2014 | 1 Comment
I have long been a fan of Geoffrey Moore. His ideas are thoughtful, yet simple to understand and apply. Like most people, I have long been a fan of Crossing the Chasm, which many people still tout as the high tech marketing bible. I use his original ideas on positioning of technology products, with a little extra twist of my own in acknowledgement of the growing importance of Customer Experience, to guide my interactions with Gartner clients looking to improve their positioning and messaging.
I recently purchased the latest edition of the book (link above) as Geoff talked about some updates to it in a couple of posts he did on LinkedIn (that can be found here and here). Reading it was a great refresher of some key principles for high tech marketing professionals.
While I am a big fan of the book, I get frustrated when it gets applied incorrectly. The book is focused primarily on marketing and selling disruptive products, starting by attracting innovators and early adopters and then, hopefully, Crossing the Chasm, to reach the early majority of mainstream customers.
One of the most common misuses is when companies apply the market adoption model to their product, feeling that when they are early in their lifecycle, they need to “Cross the Chasm.” This may not be appropriate. Chasm crossing refers to markets, not specific products. If you have a disruptive product, then you are creating a new market. Or you may be one of several similar products that have not achieved broad success. In those two cases, you (and others like you) should be focused on helping the market get past the chasm. Its about growing the market and your business.
But many times, we find that competitors in early markets gets fixated on each other. Once they get some early adoption, the goal is to beat that competitor. That may be okay, but it can also cause you, your competitor, and the market as a whole to get stuck in the cchasm. I personally believe that this may have happened to the business process management (BPM) market. The ROI on most successful BPM projects is eye-popping. This is simply because many processes are sub-optimal, before applying BPM techniques and technologies to improve them. One of the biggest threats to BPM is actually packaged applications, like ERP. ERP systems talk alot about automating processes. While workflow, EAI, and eventually BPM vendors fought with each other, the market for packaged applications exploded. Meanwhile, BPM technologies never seem to have hit their full potential. Yes, the market continues to grow. Yes, new opportunities are emerging as a result of the Internet of Things, mobile device proliferation, and a desire to address less structured processes. But, it still feels like it is stuck in the chasm. (Note to Readers: This commentary is based on my past experience in the BPM market. I have not been directly involved in it in several years—so some things may have changed.) I still feel like the market growth would have been greater if the vendors in the market would have spent less time competing with each other and more time growing the market versus alternative approaches (customization of packaged applications or outsourced processes).
Similarly, if your product is not disruptive, then you are likely to be pursuing a market that is in the mainstream. In that case, the focus, according to Moore, is on the creation of a whole product—-basically assembling the combination of products, services and partnerships that together are needed to deliver the complete, expected value of the final solution to the buyer. You win by having the most complete solution. And, you win by reducing risk for the buyer. Finally, you win by building the buyer’s trust in you. So, in that case, even if you are fairly new to the market, you need to adjust your tactics for the mainstream buyer. And, your competitive focus is likely to be on other providers (the market is already sizable) more than alternatives.
Regardless of where your product fits and the state of the market, Crossing the Chasm continues to be a must read for high tech marketers. The new edition has plenty of refreshed content and some new thinking as well (driven by new opportunities enabled by the Nexus of Forces (my words, not Moore’s)). Ideas in the book can help any technology company, as long as you apply them appropriately for your business.
Category: Go to Market Tags: chasm, disruptive technologies, high tech marketing., market adoption, Nexus of Forces, positioning
by Hank Barnes | February 18, 2014 | 2 Comments
Scenario planning has long been recognized as an innovate way to plan for the future. The basics of this approach is to target a future point in time and then explore, with a small group of people, what things could look like, based on their experience of how their market, business, or speciality has evolved from the past to the present. Some information on scenario planning can be found here.
My colleague, Frank Buytendijk (an incredibly innovative thinker, fantastic speaker, and funny man), recently added a new test to scenario planning for a project he calls “Datatopia.” The idea-rather than use a handful of experts to explore scenarios, he crowdsourced opinions, inviting anyone who was interested to share their perspective on what the future of data might look like. The result can be found here—a free e-book that you can download. It is a great read.
From simply scanning the material, it is easy to see that the topic that was explored–data–has broad implications. The responses actually described future societies and how people and machines may interact in the future. I was struck by both the breadth of the ideas generated as well as the commonality within the ideas.
What does this mean for Go-to-Market Strategies?
At a minimum, you can explore this look at the future from the context of “How would this scenario impact me and my business?”. But you could also take it farther.
Consider adding scenario planning as a part of your strategic planning efforts. Explore the Future of Sales (one of the reports from the series was on this topic exactly (subscription required) - Tech Go-to-Market: Test Future Sales Models With Scenarios to Prepare for Changes Ahead), the Future of Marketing, or the future of your particular market and business. Consider the impact of choices you are making right now as a result of the impact of the Nexus of Forces or Digital Business. Set a few parameters to focus the discussion around areas that impact your business, but don’t constrain thinking by imposing to many assumptions.
You could even crowdsource the opinions like Frank did. Where could you go to invite people to participate? Your employees, your partners, or even your customers could have fantastic insights that would provide intriguing perspectives on your business–both today and in the future. You could go even broader with market studies and sponsor this broadly in partnership with an organization that has a community of people focused on the market. At a minimum, I would recommend you include a few people that are not part of the inner circle of management—you want perspectives that aren’t jaded by biases or coming from the same frame of reference. (This outside perspective is something that clients tell me they value the most when I work with them on their positioning and messaging.)
The opportunities are broad, the impact could be significant.
Why? And this may be the most important part of all.
As Frank describes, it has been proven that simply thinking about the future makes you better prepared to deal with it effectively.
Start planning your future today.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Hank Barnes | February 11, 2014 | 2 Comments
Woe is my inbox. It seems that a variety of list services have picked up my e-mail address and I’m now in a wide variety of lists that some marketers are purchasing for e-mail campaigns.
The results are laughable, if they were not a waste of time (albeit a small one–it doesn’t take me long to ignore and unsubscribe).
The worst part of these are the quasi-personal openings. Here is a sampler:
“Hope all is well. I was reviewing your website and thought you might be interested in Avaya Users Email List. By which you can expand your reach and widen your client base. We have a total of 100,000+ opt-in Email contacts across USA, UK & Canada.We maintain contacts with complete information.”
“Would you be interested in reaching out to Cycling Enthusiasts Email Lists with opt-in and licensed to be sold. A few other lists that would be of interest to you are Gamers, iPhone Users, iPod Users, iPad Users, Boat Owners, Pet Owners, High Networth Individuals, Wine or Chocolate Enthusiasts,Smoking Enthusiasts, Sports Enthusiasts,Boating or Fishing Enthusiasts, Timeshare Owners,Travelers,Antiques Buyers,Truck Owners,Affluent Consumers, Automobile Dealers or Owners,Plumbers, Vacationers, Gamblers ,Golfers and many more… “
“I am checking in one last time to a couple of emails I sent in the last few weeks and attempted phone calls. I’m following up to my last email to see if you are interested in a demonstration of <<Product Name>>”
All three of these are examples of fake personalization and lousy e-mail practices. In the first one, if they had really checked out the Gartner Web site, they could have found my bio and quickly determined that I am not a buyer for their lists. The second one is a spray and pray approach–I was surprised that I was not offered a Ginzu knife if I responded. The third one was a little better–I had actually received another message or two (but not any phone calls). But if the sender went to that much effort, they could have done a little more research and seen that I am not a customer target for them.
This is lazy marketing and a great way to turn off even potential customers. Rather than fake personalization, be up front about things. Say you got my name from a list that many of your customers have been on. Offer me a quick way to tell them I am not a fit, at the beginning of the message. Then go into the details.
If you are going personalize, then do the research. By simply saying “Hank, I saw that you are an analyst at Gartner, and while you may not be involved in choosing technology that Gartner uses, I would appreciate it if you could tell me if Gartner could use our product and whom I should work with.”, I would have at least considered taking a look.
While many forms of marketing are getting less expense on a “per unit” basis, wasting dollars on fake personalization far exceeds the cost per unit. It alienates not just the bad targets, but also the good ones. It implies that you know more than you do–and if and when a prospect responds, they will get frustrated when you demonstrate that you really don’t know anything about them.
Think before you personalize. Authentic marketing will always trump tactics based on fake sincerity.
Category: Go to Market Tags: authentic marketing, e-mail marketing, personalization, worst practices
by Hank Barnes | February 4, 2014 | 1 Comment
A short post this week, building on ideas of storytelling and differentiation.
Imagine that you have something totally new and different for the market. You go out and talk about this wonderful innovation, but even the people who are initially interested seem to forget about you and your product. Why does that happen?
One big reason is the lack of linked themes. When you talk about something totally new, but don’t link it to something people understand, they don’t know “where to put it” in their brain. So it floats around for a while and then is forgotten.
There are a few different approaches to this “linkage”:
- Compare to a known way of doing things – This is a technique used in differentiation. It links your idea to something buyers already know, and remember, and your new idea connects to that (and hopefully take them in a new direction).
- Compare to other things that they know you for – If your business is expanding into new areas, you can link to the old by talking about how the new service relates to things they know and love you for in the old area. (e.g. If you are know for great customer service for your on-premise solutions, emphasize “that same support you know and love” for your cloud solutions.”
- Connect with other, more known, pieces of the whole solution – Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm (which was just released in its 3rd edition with updates for today’s tech environment–always worth a read), talks about the concept of a “whole product”—everything that buyers need to get value from a solution that addresses their need. This could be services, consulting, multiple products, etc. If you are part of a bigger story, link to known parts of the story.
- Compare yourself to something in different markets or environments-You can also link to themes that are a metaphor. This could be from TV, Music, Government, about anything.
While being unique and different is usually a good thing, don’t stand too apart from everything else. Provide linkages that help buyers jump from where their minds are today to the new world you are promising. I’m confident you’ll find more people remembering your product and your company.
Category: Go to Market Tags: differentiation, positioning, storytelling, whole product
by Hank Barnes | January 28, 2014 | 22 Comments
About this time last year, I wrote one of my first blog posts about an interest in hearing Advocacy Marketing stories. At the time, I believed (but without a lot of data to back it up) that it would become increasing important.
Fast forward about 12 months.
I can comfortably say that my view has been confirmed. I strongly believe that Advocacy Marketing should be at the top of the priority list in terms of marketing investment. Now, there are some things that need to be present for this to be the case:
- A collection of customers who LOVE what your products and services have enabled them to accomplish. These are fans who will share their stories, without you even asking them to do so.
- Well defined and understood positioning and messaging that your fans believe–and will echo in their communities
- Organizational willingness to accept the good with the bad as the leverage marketing they can not control
Of these, the first two are a prerequisite (if you don’t meet them–they become the top priority). The last one is more of an excuse that you need to fight to get over—you are not in control anymore, buyers are. Get over it.
The momentum behind Advocacy Marketing continues to grow:
Why is this so important? It’s more than the hype. It is because customers trust peers more than they trust you. And we have data to back this up.
In one Gartner survey, buyers stated that their number one source for understanding the differentiation of a technology provider was peers of the same size in their industry (60%). Professional communities (36%) and same size peers in their region (25%) also made the top 5. Company sources of information (sales reps at 19% and Web sites at 12%) trailed significantly. In another survey, peers and communities were cited as the second most preferential source of information at all phases of the buying cycle, trailing only self-driven information search.
These are the facts that are driving my opinion. If buyers trust and rely upon peers, and you have a base of fans that love to talk about what you, what would be a better source of value that advocacy marketing? Once you empower your fans to share their stories, in the context of your overall brand promise, you’ll have a legion of people assisting you with your sales and marketing efforts. This, in turn, will help create more fans, and the momentum will grow.
I do strongly believe that 2014 will be the year of Advocacy Marketing.
What do you think?
Category: Future of Sales Go to Market Tags: advocacy marketing
by Hank Barnes | January 21, 2014 | Comments Off
Whenever I spend time reviewing the messaging of one of our provider clients, they often ask about how to review their Web site. While lots of methodologies and approaches exist, my own preference is to use a Scenario based approach.
Why? It puts everything into the context of a visitor/buyer goal.
You can ask anyone if they like your content, your layout, your navigation, or even your “Web Information Architecture” (doesn’t that sound fancy), but it is all irrelevant if your visitor can not accomplish their goal when visiting your site.
Your site is not about you. Its about what your visitor wants to accomplish and how you help them get there. Now, if that visitor has no interest or value to your business, then you don’t really need to care about helping them accomplish their goals. But for prospects and customers (or other key audiences), you had better care.
One simple, affordable way to do this is using a service called UserTesting.com (Disclaimer: I do not, in my current Gartner role, evaluate Web usability testing tools or vendors. I happen to know UserTesting.com because of past experiences. An unvetted (by Gartner) list of other testing tools can be found here. Feel free to check some of them out. If you’ve used another service or approach and gotten value, I encourage you to share the info in the comments. But, please don’t promote your own service.)
Here is what I like about them:
- Their approach is based upon defining a scenario that you want to test. This could be “Please look for information on our content management product and show me what you would look for if you were in the early stages of evaluation.” or “Please try to find three Gartner research reports by Hank Barnes on messaging and try to buy them.”
- You then define who you would like to conduct the test. You can have one test (one person) or multiple. You provide the demographics for the type of people you want. Those people have NO vested interest in saying nice things (like your agency might or even internal staff who might speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil).
They are just people like your visitors–they may know alot or nothing about you.
- The test is conducted almost immediately, by folks from a testing pool that fit the profile you defined. You get a recorded video (with synced audio) within 1 hour of the tester’s experience trying to complete the scenario. You see where their mouse goes while hearing them tell you why they tried what they did. You also get the tester’s responses to a short set of followup questions that you define.
- The cost per test is very low (pricing changes sometimes but it is currently $49 per test on their site).
The testing pool is really interesting. It is crowdsourced. UserTesting recruits testers who have to “pass a test” to prove they can talk and mouse at the same time. Once that happens, they are in the pool. They get paid a portion of the fee for every test they conduct. They get ratings from the test requestors. The ratings are used to continually refine the pool. (Additional revelation: I was an early member of the testing pool. I did it for fun in the evenings when I had an incredibly boring un-fulfilling job. My ratings were pretty high and I enjoyed the experience.)
With services like this (and the others you can find above), there is no excuse not to do some usability testing for your Web site. But before you do, start thinking about scenarios. What do visitors, that matter to you, want to accomplish? What would you like to guide them to accomplish? Thinking about adding some addition gating to your content (to get more registrations), test it and see what the reaction is.
The ability to think in scenarios starts to shift your whole approach to being much more buyer/visitor-centric. You’ll be surprised at the little things on your site, that may have been there for years, that are getting in the way of success. You’ll also find that it helps you think about other things from the buyer perspective v. your own.
And usability testing closes the loop by actually letting you see and hear what buyers really want and expect. I strongly believe no new Web site (or major change) should be launched without it.
Category: Go to Market Tags: messaging, scenarios, usability testing
by Hank Barnes | January 14, 2014 | 1 Comment
After the webinar I led last week on differentiation (replay accessible here), a look at some of the questions and comments got me thinking about the topic from a different perspective.
While the ideal state is certainly to establish differentiation that is strong, valued by customers, and sustainable for a longer period time, that may be difficult (or even impossible) to achieve. Rather than agonize over this challenge, a better approach is to think situational differentiation.
The idea puts some additional context around suggestions from the Webinar, and its fairly simple to apply. As you look to differentiate, get very focused on the situation. An example is getting early interest when buyers are exploring. Here you want to focus on how you are different than the status quo. Later, it might be a competitive evaluation and specific reasons to choose you versus competitors are where your differentiation efforts should focus.
By breaking things down into specific situations that are relevant to buyers, you are confronted with less factors that can inhibit your ability to stand out.
Remember that any differentiation communication requires 3 things:
- Comparison Point – The thing or things you are different from
- Differentiating Idea – The specific comparative value point that sets you apart
- Proof – Examples from customers or other sources that enhance the credibility of the statement
As you think about situations, define the three elements for your communication and use them effectively. This added context makes it easier for buyers to understand as well. You could compare yourself to other similar technologies and find that your buyers have no knowledge of those technologies—so your efforts are wasted.
Struggling to achieve broad differentation? Get Situational.
Category: Go to Market Tags: context, differentiation
by Hank Barnes | January 7, 2014 | 3 Comments
Last night, we experienced the end of the college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs are now in full swing. For some football fans, this is the time when they jump on the bandwagon of their local team, proclaiming their die-hard support (support that will continue until their next losing streak). While cynics complain about fair weather fans, there is no question that more people support a “hot” team than a losing one.
The same holds true for technology trends. To an extent.
When a technology area gets hot, everyone starts talking about it. Whether it’s the world of cloud, big data, and mobile today or yesterday’s hot trends (CRM, client/server, personal computing, etc), out of the blue it seems that every vendor is “in that market.”
While associating with a hot market–that is growing quickly–is generally a good thing, it can be a bad thing. If your product or service truly does not provide value in that area, then all you are doing is confusing your customers and prospects. Take cloud, there are all kinds of things associated with the cloud–SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, cloud service brokerages, and the list goes on and on. But if you look around, most vendors just talk about being a “cloud company.” Which effectively tells the market, and your customers, nothing.
This happened with CRM, another broad market with lots of different solution categories. But many just talked about being a CRM company. As customer, you could easily choose 5 different “CRM Companies” or “Cloud Companies” and discover 5 very very different solutions.
This does no one any good.
So, when something gets hot, instead of just changing your messaging to incorporate the latest buzzword, take some time to determine how you fit with the trend. Provide buyers with clarity on the outcomes you can enable for them in the technology area. Be specific, not general.
Failing to do so will make you a member of the “confusion crowd”–the group of vendors that flock to a hot technology area but do little to differentiate within it –likely stagnating your growth and slowing down the market growth (if you get any attention at all).
This is just one of the differentiation issues that I’m exploring in a Webinar called “The Sad State of Differentiation and What to Do About It“. The Webinar is being held live, later today at 11am Eastern time, or will be available On Demand after that. Clicking on the link above will take you to the registration page, or allow you to view the recorded version.
Category: Go to Market Tags: cloud, differentiation, positioning, trends
by Hank Barnes | December 31, 2013 | 4 Comments
One of the biggest challenges for a start-up technology firm that is introducing an innovation that changes the status quo is gaining early success. Without any brand recognition, buyers are skeptical. This is frustrating.
Geoffrey Moore recently linked to a video he has used in the past to illustrate the scenario for startups as they struggle to gain acceptance and cross the chasm. Definitely take a look—it illustrates with humor a very real challenge. The dancer in the video persevered through the early times when he was being laughed at or ignored due to being “different.”
Without perseverance, here is the typical path for start-ups that don’t reach their potential:
- Startup invents an innovative technology that changes the way things are done.
- The organization, usually marketing, creates messages and materials that illustrate this unique value. They train sales reps on the value. Everyone is energized.
- Sales goes out and starts engaging with prospects. These prospects have limited experience with the innovative technology. As a result they ask questions based on things they know–looking to evaluate it v. something they understand.
- Rather than reinforce the value of the innovation, sales adjusts their messages and approach to talk about the things the product does that are like other products. The innovative change becomes a secondary part of the story.
- Sales tells marketing that a less aggressive form of messaging is working. They ask for new materials that emphasize more traditional features and benefits, since prospects are more receptive to those.
- Marketing adjusts the messages.
- Sales engages with more prospects but find that, while they are talking more, they are closing less.
- Sales goes back to marketing, saying the new messaging is not working. They work together and find that they are winning deals when prospects care about the original innovation that was emphasized.
- The org returns to the messaging that is close to what was originally used, but often finds that their innovation has been copied by others–resulting in slower growth that they were expecting.
While it is important to listen to customers, it is also important to understand where they are coming from. In step 3 above, the customers shift of the conversation was driven largely by a desire to have more control and to engage from a position of understanding. That makes sense. But, instead of just accepting that, what sellers need to do is relate their innovation to things the buyer understands and use that additional context to continue to explain the value of their innovation.
This requires perseverance. You have to continue to emphasize value and improvement in the face of questions. It is not easy and often requires other things–like customer proof points–to work, but it is the path to success.
I will be discussing this challenge and other differentiation ideas in a FREE Webinar next week (January 7 @ 11:00AM Eastern). More information and registration options can be found here. I hope you can join me.
Category: Go to Market Tags: differentiation, messaging, sales enablement, selling