Recently I listened in on a call between one of my clients and an outside strategic marketing consultant. The client, a software company with an awesome Application Performance Management (APM) solution, was looking for ways to expand their market awareness and penetration.
How would you go about marketing a microwave, the consultant inquired, back in the days before microwaves existed? If you were marketing the first microwave, wouldn’t you need to pitch an entirely new concept to an entirely new audience? And wouldn’t that require a different strategy altogether?
Well yes, but there’s a fundamental fallacy with this notion.
I’ve seen it repeated over and over, especially in the last couple of years. Maybe it began with Steve Jobs’ famous assertion that you can’t rely on customers to tell you what they want, when you’re selling them something they’ve never seen before.
For the record I agree with Steve. In principle, I even agree with the consultant. But the fallacy is this:
The vast majority of products are not entirely new inventions
90% of the time if not more, there is already a valid frame of reference in the audience’s mind into which your product fits. What does this mean?
It’s not about defining a new space – it’s about differentiating in an existing space
With all due respect, I’m not saying your baby isn’t exceptional. I’m not saying your baby isn’t unique. I’m certainly not saying your baby is ugly. But honestly: your baby is… well, a baby. And hate to blow the bubble, but your product isn’t a microwave. Not even remotely.
For most companies, especially smaller ones, this is actually a good thing. Unless you happen to be that highly unusual case of a genuinely novel and revolutionary product that strikes a nerve, it’s almost certain death to try to pretend you are.
In most cases, you need to fit in – yet clearly stand out
When you’re trying to “get found”, you’ll need to resonate with and appeal to reference points already out there. Which unfortunately is about the boring, unsexy, and tedious drudgery around fundamentals like value propositions, segmentation, competitive maps, differentiation, features and benefits.
Don’t fool yourself. These are incredibly hard to figure out. But all the more difficult if you’re barking up the wrong tree to begin with.