Monday, November 19, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #7

This is the seventh in a series of posts on Practical Product Management Rules from Pragmatic Marketing.

Rule #7: Be able to articulate your distinctive competence.

So why, exactly, should someone buy your product or service as opposed to the other guy's?

It may seem obvious that you need to be able to tell a prospect what's distinctive about you, too often as marketers we get caught up in just getting the features and benefits out there.  Our product is really good, and we want everyone to know about it, so we'll just tell you what it does and what it does for you. It's particularly easy to fall into this approach when you've found yourself playing catch up with the competition. It's also particularly easy to fall into the trap of picking up on some minute feature that nobody cares about and making a big show about how and why this is a big differentiator. I've certainly done it: our product is the only one on the market that brings a smiley face up on each screen...the only one written in an obscure, arcane language...the only one that comes in a plain, brown wrapper.

Note to marketers/note to self: a differentiated aspect of your product, no matter how meritorious (or not) is NOT a distinctive competence.

No, your distinctive competence is something that you generally excel at - and that benefits your customer.

We all know that standard ones: you're the most efficient, and thus can charge less or provide more streamlined service and support; you've got the most advanced, the very best product; you're the most in tune with your customers and what they actually want, need, and value.

Everything under the sun that you can come up with as a distinctive competence may very well fall under one of these categories, but it may not sound exactly the same.

What might your distinctive competence be?  Here are a few examples:

  • You may have deep-seated knowledge of an industry that enables you to develop products that solve vertical-specific problems in ways that generic, horizontal applications just can't do.
  • Your engineering approach may enable you to react to customer enhancement requests and other emerging requirements more rapidly than others.
  • Your implementation team may be so proficient that they can easily and cost effectively customize/integrate your application.
  • Your training approach may enable your customer to easily get new employees up and running.
  • Your automation strategy may let your customers painlessly and quickly purchase and implement new modules.

Whatever it is, you need to know - and, as the man said, be able to articulate - just what your distinctive competence is.

And it should go without saying that it's reality based. Prospects and customers will suss it out pretty quickly if you're blowing smoke here.

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