This is the tenth in a series of posts on Practical Product Management Rules from Pragmatic Marketing.
Pragmatic Marketing Rule #10: Find market segments that value your distinctive competence.
I suspect that all technology marketers have, at one time or another, attempted to broaden their market to extend beyond whatever segment they find themselves in. Sometimes this makes absolute sense: there are adjacent markets which may be equally well served by your products. Or almost equally well served.
The problem occurs when you start convincing yourself that your offerings - as is - will work for everybody.
At the macro level of "distinctive competence", you're not going to sell bleeding edge technology into an industry where companies typically adopt new-fangled "stuff" with a 5 year lag. You're not going to sell a costly, hands-on services model to a company that prides itself on do-it-yourself. You're not going to sell expensive, nice-to-have bells and whistles to a company that's driven strictly by the bottom line and which operates on the thinnest of margins.
At the less grand, micro level "distinctive competence" may translate into a feature set (or singular feature) that is ideal for one market, and might seem like it should at least be somewhat useful for other markets, as well.
But unless that shiny new market really needs and wants what you have to offer, well, heading down this path will get you to the marketing equivalent of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams: more expense to attract fewer customers, longer sales cycles, more price resistance, less satisfied customers. You name it, you'll find it when you start drifting into territory that doesn't value your distinctive competence.
So before heading in this direction, you owe yourself and your product a critical examination of just how and why someone wants and needs what you've got that's different. Plain and simple, if you can't come up with an answer, those potential customers won't be able to, either.
Sure, you'll convince some of them to buy your wares by share force of will. But this is not the recipe for market success.
You, may, of course, be able to create that market success by tweaking your product, through creative pricing, by offering mo' better services. Just make sure that's what you really want to do.
Yes, focusing on your distinctive competence - or even on your simple, technical differentiation - may mean that you find yourself in a niche. Again, you need to make sure that being a niche player is what you really want to be.
If not, find yourself a distinctive competence, or means of differentiation that won't relegate you to a niche. (I know, I know. That's not going to happen overnight - nor should it.)