I was reading an article from a 1975 issue of The Harvard Business Review about the long-term ROI benefits of increasing competitive market share. The report proved that increasing total market share dramatically drops marketing expenses, improves profitability and increases product price-points and sales.
As marketers, I believe a lot of us understand this concept, but sometimes our push to artificially boost market share leads to poor decisions. This trend is common in the b2b tech industry, as tech marketers hell-bent on gaining market traction create new technology terms to set themselves apart from stronger competitors. I’m not saying businesses shouldn’t try to distinguish themselves from competitors, but there is a difference between creating new markets because of innovation, and crafting new market terminology to hide shortcomings.
Empires have been built on identifying new opportunities and solving unique pain points within broader markets. Alan Emtage did this in 1990 by creating Archie, the first search engine. Today, we can’t imagine an unsearchable internet, but during those early days the concept of a “search engine” was completely foreign. At that time, there was a need to create a new technology category and today even our great grandparents understand what search is. As we all know, Google took this concept to the next level and ended up defining search the way Kleenex defines facial tissues.
Google may have won the search war, but as they battled for their piece of the market, they never said they were not a search engine. Instead, they made a search engine that delivered the best results, was easy to use and got you exactly where you wanted to go. In other words, they created a ridiculously good search engine and beat their competition through pure engineering. They gained market share in the search world by created a better product, not by trying to say they’re “more” than a search engine, or they’re not a search engine at all. They’ve since broadened the business and expanded into new markets, but within the realm of search engines, they are King.
Imagine if Google didn’t want to compete directly with Yahoo Search and Alta Vista and instead decided to rebrand as a WCOT (Web Site Content Optimization Tool)? How about a CCPO (Cloud Content Performance Optimizer)? What about a DRTS (Digital Research Transformation Solution)? Would that have worked for them? Would they be in the same position they are in today? It’s hard to say, but I would predict it would have been harder.
In my day job, I’m constantly getting pitched by new vendors about their latest technologies. I always know I’m in for a long meeting when I’m forced to ask exactly what they do because the description on their site doesn’t align with known technology categories or terminology. I usually see this as a red flag that points to some weakness in their technology. Why else would they not want to be compared to other similar vendors? After these encounters, I always think about their potential customers. I’ve been in marketing long enough to sort through the jargon, but what about the technology pros who need to buy something? Do they understand that their technology that’s not called a “widget” actually is a “widget” and solves the problem that they need a “widget” for?
What if I’m on Amazon looking to buy a new TV and instead of organizing it by “Televisions” they listed them under “Transformative Digital Displays.” Am I going to find what I’m looking for? Instead of searching, I’ll just head over to another electronics site and see what they have in the “Television” section. The same can be said for technology buyers. If you can’t quickly explain what your technology does and the established category it fits into, you confuse buyers, isolate core customers and risk losing all the market share advantages you are hoping to gain.
One of my old mentors would regularly review my email and site copy. If it was too slick, she would say…
“Josh, someday you’re going to market yourself right out of a sale. Make it simple and use the terms they know. You don’t always have to change the landscape to win.”
That always stuck with me, and unfortunately, I’ve seen many companies do just that. They have a great product that serves a real need in the marketplace, but they get so hung up on being “different” that their core prospects don’t even understand what they sell. Unfortunately, this usually happens not due to one person’s mistake, but corporate “group-think” that lets internal jargon go external. So how do we avoid falling into these traps? Here are a few simple steps any company can take.
-Have relevant contacts in the industry (non-customers) review your site and tell you what you do. If they can’t do it, 99% of your prospects won’t be able to understand either. Make sure you record these conversations because they can be extremely helpful later.
-Avoid the temptation of always trying to be different to reinvent your brand. Prospects are looking to buy something within a known product category. The further you push yourself away from that category, the harder it will be to find you and understand that you can solve their problem.
-Finally, let’s all try and not combine any these words together.
Digital, Ninja, Transformative/Transformation/Transform, Snackable, Disruptive/Disrupt, INSERT LETTER OF ALPHBETaaS, Integration/Integrated, Empower/Empowered, Enterprise/Enterprise-Grade, Cloud, Bleeding-Edge/Best-In-Breed/Best-In-Class, Workspace, Dashboard, Intelligence, BYO, Business, Experience, Performance.
If we can all follow these simple rules, we can make the world of b2b tech a better place and hopefully keep a few tech buyers from smashing their heads into the desk.
That being said, I probably would check out the site of a product described as a “bleeding-edge digital ninja cloud.”