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Setting Strategies – Where to Focus

by Hank Barnes  |  October 17, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

As tech providers define and refine their strategies, there are a wide variety of factors to consider.   These include (among others) market factors, competition, customers, and their own capabilities.    There are no black and white answers.   Pretty much every decision is impacted by a wide variety of controllable and uncontrollable items.

source: Photo by Kyler Boone on Unsplash

source: Photo by Kyler Boone on Unsplash

That being said, I worry that many providers get too fixated on what their competitors are doing.   They want to know their business model, their sales model, their marketing strategies, etc.   In most cases, when these requests come to me (and others on our team and at Gartner), it feels like the desire is to largely emulate…or even duplicate..the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, competitive understanding is useful, but competitive emulation may not be.  And if that is what you are looking for, I’d suggest you have other areas that are more important.

When I started at Gartner almost 5 years ago now, my hypothesis was that the most important thing to understand in developing GTM strategies was your customer.  What they wanted and needed.  How they bought.   What the valued and what frustrated them.    That opinion was shared by others and we’ve focused our research around understanding the enterprise buyer.

That, to me, is the most important thing to focus on in setting strategies.  And not just the nebulous idea of the enterprise buyer, but your ideal customer (Gartner clients: See my research on this).   This is one of the reasons to stress less about the competition.  In most cases, it is unlikely that your ideal customer profile will be the same as your competitors.   You may target companies with different infrastructures, different resource levels, different personalities, or other factors.  If your ideal customers are different, then your sales model and marketing approaches may be different.

Similarly, you also have to look at your own capabilities.  You might want to have a game plan that mimics that of the best in the game, but if you don’t have the personnel to execute that, then your “imitation” could be disastrous.

To get strategy right, start by focusing outside of your walls–understand your customers and their industry.  Then layer in your own capabilities. Understand the competitive landscape.  Use all of this to identify your ideal customers.  Then, and only then, look closer at the competition for ideas you can emulate–or for opportunities to differentiate from them.

Your competition should not define how you go-to-market.  Your ideal customers should.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: competition  ideal-customer-profile  positioning  strategy  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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