By Ron Weissman
Product checklists are the Silicon Valley product marketeers’s crutch. They are so overused as to provide more cliché than caché, as they try “prove” that our product has better features than the other guy’s—as if that’s all that matters to the buyers. Myopic marketeers often forget to ask whether these checkbox differences are actually important to customers. While they have their place, checkbox marketing often conveys little about the brand or the underlying quality of the vendor—factors that may be as or more important to buyers.
Anthropologists have a name for tech/spec marketing: the narcissism of small differences. “Our search engine works in Hungarian, yours does not.”
Product or Company?
Sure, you must prove your product meets spec. But you can elevate the conversation way beyond this and change the playing field from merely positioning your product as slightly better to positioning your company as doing something important. Outclass the
competition; let them brand themselves as engineering-driven while you position yourself as a company that matters to customers.
Planview is a great example of what can happen when you systematically elevate the conversation from features to company excellence. They launched a best practices initiative several years ago, Prisms. Rather than focus end-user training around narrow, product and GUI training,
Planview educates users about best practices in managing an IT department, based on the experiences of hundreds of customers. Of course, Planview’s software is critical to implementing best practices, but the focus of the training became excellence in IT. Over time, Planview’s reputation and community grew to such an extent that they are now Gartner’s Magic Quadrant leader in enterprise portfolio management, to a great degree because of the integration of their best practice philosophy into every aspect of software, training and company identity. Planview’s customers know that if they use Planview’s products, they will have a better performing IT department. And that’s all that really matters.
Based on whether your product is a technical or a lifestyle product and whether you are marketing to business buyers or consumers, there are a variety of ways to take the higher ground:
improving educational achievement, particularly in minority communities