Recently I took a call with a customer during which we reviewed and discussed some of the company’s web content. As the primary point of differentiation, it highlighted that the platform was “next gen.” I called him on it, and he laughed and said “yeah, that’s just lazy marketing.” To his credit, most of the content we reviewed did a great job of speaking to the business pain points and how the platform addressed them. The downfall was a clear point differentiation to help compare against alternatives. As our Gartner research shows us, the inability to effectively differentiate is a challenge and can even disqualify you from consideration.
Why doesn’t the primary point of differentiation “next gen” (by itself) work? Why call that “lazy marketing?”
In short, it’s not tangible – or at least in a way that can be related to business outcome or value. Could it imply the solution is (in some unstated way) better and may have a longer life? Perhaps. However, if it isn’t the best choice to address my problem today, does that matter?
A quick test that I like to use is to imagine myself as the buyer. I’ve made the decision to move forward with the solution, and about to execute the agreement. Someone – perhaps my manager – asks “why that product?” Would I be comfortable saying “because it’s the next gen!”? And, even if yes, how would I respond when then asked “what makes it next gen, and why is that important?”
Of course, buyers presumably know something about your product and could take a stab at what makes it “next gen.” But, you run the risk of it missing the mark and/or an internal detractor on the buying team pointing out that “vendor X’s solution also provides that.”
In the end, buyers might be able to figure out on their own what makes your solution different than the others. Still, they want your help – especially when they are early in the buying cycle trying to make sense of the available options.
If you want to make claims such as “next generation,” then you also need to (succinctly) clarify what that means, and why it is significant. Of course, if you can do that, why not just say that to begin with?
“Lazy marketing” is not synonymous with using the phrase “next gen.” There are many other challenges to effective differentiation.
This past week, my colleague Hank Barnes and I updated our go-to-market research on differentiation (see Tech Go-to-Market: 10 Steps for Improved Differentiation). In the research we outline many of the pitfalls and the steps to help tech providers establish helpful and useful comparison against competitive alternatives. It is not an easy exercise, and we spend quite a bit of time with technology providers helping to hone in on what makes them unique in a memorable and compelling way. However, with a degree of focus and thought, articulating effective differentiation can be achieved.
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