Every software company competes with another — if not directly, then at least for budget. With global IT spending flat to down in 2015 and 2016, software businesses are fighting for share of wallet. At this point, the critical marketing imperative is to start a conversation with a receptive buyer, and do it thousands of times per year. But how?
I met a master software marketer last week, and he shared some of his wisdom. A luminary, he has built the positioning, packaging, and pricing for several multi-billion dollar software companies.
The marketer's fundamental challenge: buyers don't perceive a substantial difference amongst vendors. A 2015 CEB study confirmed this:
Over and over we found that customers, generally speaking, see significantly less difference between us and the competition than we do ourselves. It’s not that they think most suppliers are particularly bad on brand, product, or service. It’s just that [customers] don’t think [suppliers are] particularly different.
This master marketer pointed to our language. Within in a market, competitors often use the same language to describe their products. Big data. Machine learning. Cloud. Inevitably, the pitches sound the same.
His advice: choose new words to describe your business and your value proposition. These new words raise questions in the buyer's mind: What is this new thing? How is it different? Why haven't I heard about it before?
Apple does this consistently. The Retina display premiered with iPhone 4. Apple coined Retina to distinguish screens with pixels too small for the human eye to see. The rest of the market described their displays in pixels (e.g., 960x640). The Retina term changed the competitive landscape. Which devices are Retina? Only Apple.
Why don't more software companies frame their products differently? First, there's the pull of the analysts and fitting into a market segment. Second, there's the inertia of describing a product similarly to others to bootstrap demand. We're like X but different in this regard. Third, it's not easy. It requires creativity and the willingness to make a bet.
But it's worth doing because if it works, novel framing skews the playing field in your favor and increases your sales success.
Employing new words in marketing open the door to a challenger sale, which is the most effective sales technique. Challenger sales people represent 23% of the population, but 39% of top performers.
Challenger salespeople start by listening to understand their customers problem. Then they insert a new perspective to a problem and debate the superiority with their customers.
By combining new language with a challenger sales techniques, the marketing team sets up the sales team for success. Novel language, challenger sales, innovative product is a powerful combination.