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Differentiation Diseases

by Hank Barnes  |  February 19, 2013  |  1 Comment

I am currently working on some research for technology vendors around differentiation and positioning.  The note should publish soon, but the process has served as a stark reminder of just how hard differentiation is today.

While the amount of competition is a big factor,  the saying “we have met the enemy, and they are us” captures another very common issue.   Capturing and communicating differentiation is hard enough as it is, but here are some of the common internal issues that make it even harder:

  • My Favorite Thing Syndrome – This is desire to add words about “just one more thing” that someone thinks is cool.  It may be, but for everything you add to your story, you dilute the value of other statements by that factor.
  • Follow the Crowd Fever –  A hot trend  takes off, and all of the sudden, your executive team wants to reposition for that market. An interesting idea, but not when 4 or 5 hundred other companies are doing the same thing–particularly if you really don’t fit.
  • Appeal to Everyone Influenza- Watered down messaging that is closely linked to “My Favorite Thing Syndrome”, this affliction leads you to include diverse points about unrelated items that appeal to an unfocused mass of target customers.   In trying to appeal to everyone, you often appeal to no one.

There are a number of ways to diagnose and treat these issues that we’ll be covering in our go-to-market research this year, but the first thing to do is to take a step back, look at your messages,  and see if you are a victim of these diseases.  If you are, you can start on your self help regime by trying to simplify and clarify your story around the key elements that matter most to your customers.


Category: go-to-market  

Tags: marketing  positioning  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Differentiation Diseases

  1. Justin says:

    Mr. Barnes a nice succint but yet insightful message. You are right in my opinion on all three points. In this age of social media and the flogging most of us get in terms of advertisement and marketing some key rules should be – quick, to the point and focused. I was talking to a CIO once who said he had a 7 second rule for his voice mail (a while back) – if you didn’t grab his attention in the first 7 seconds of the message he deleted it. That’s probably a good rule for most marketing today. Item 2 is well described in “Blue Ocean Strategy” and most comapnies would do better by pausing and thinking about some of the side markets generated by a big trend and going after them. Flank the crowd rather than jumping into it. And universal appeal…many sound bites on that one but people and comapnies keep trying.
    I will be anxiously awaiting your follow-on posts.

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