Author Archive

Positioning: judged by customers and nudged by competition

Watching well-made ads like IBM’s “Let’s build a smarter planet” or even the latest “Incredible India” campaign, it’s easy for even those of us trained in the practice of marketing to sometimes end up confusing these with Positioning. What is worse, we think that Positioning is relevant mainly for consumer-facing businesses and not B2B firms, which the majority of technology product companies are. Positioning is not about advertising campaigns or memorable taglines. Al Ries and Jack Trout define Positioning as “the sum of all activities that position the brand in the mind of the customer relative to its competition.” It applies to a company producing ERP solutions for Fortune 500 companies as much as it does to one manufacturing motorcycles for a rural market. What is interesting about the “relative to its competition” part is that, not only do your customers judge you against the competition – the competition also makes active efforts to change the rules by which the judging happens. Think of the recent controversy that Google has stirred up by accusing Bing of stealing its search results. If the usual contest among search engines revolves around speed and accuracy, Google has just introduced another variable – originality/plagiarism. Only a very small percentage of search users may become aware of it, but the negative publicity has gone out to analysts and investors as well. Well, accusing the competition of plagiarism may not be what most of us need to do, but the lesson is – it helps to Read More[ READ MORE ]

A Different Mindset for Ecosystem Innovation

While much has been written on Innovation and how to enable it in an organization, one of the most useful concepts I’ve come across on the subject is the ‘12 vectors of Innovation’ developed based on research conducted by Mohan Sawhney and Rob Wolcott, faculty at the Kellogg School of Management. A framework to help companies identify innovation opportunities, it is built around 4 broad areas: Offering (What), Customers (Who), Process (Who) and Presence (Where). Those interested can read up more here, on the 12 vectors of Innovation (PDF) and its application. What I’d like to talk about in this post is a mindset aspect of Innovation, especially when it comes to one of those 12 vectors – ecosystem innovation. Innovation by its very nature requires the ceding of control. Before those innovations happened, businesses had never had their customer relationship data hosted elsewhere (Salesforce), been able to return shoes without question at any time after purchase (Zappos) or work with international customers despite being a micro business (Skype). Zappos’ no-questions-asked returns policy exemplifies the company’s ‘customer first’ policy, but it cannot work unless the company’s mindset allows it to confront the possibility of losing control. “What if a million customers were to return shoes on a single day?” Zappos’ Innovation in customer experience would not have happened if Tony Hsieh had baulked at that possibility. One of the reasons so few companies venture towards Ecosystem Innovation is the prospective loss of control. Mohanbir Sawhney defines Ecosystem Innovation as “Creating innovative Read More[ READ MORE ]

3 Essential Vectors for High Tech Product Firms

2011 promises to be a challenging year for the many technology product firms emerging from and growing in India. Companies want to go global, yet must contend with distinct local buying practices and customer expectations. Buyers look to technology to simplify processes, reduce costs and add value to their customers; at the same time, they look to tech product firms to anticipate their needs and offer products that are intuitive and relevant. These will continue to be some of the biggest challenges that technology product firms and product managers will face in the coming years. (Read more, in our latest thought paper, Product Management in India – 4 Key Challenges). Especially for start-up and small/mid-sized firms running on a low level of resources, these challenges can be mind-boggling. To help companies address these challenges and go global is why we have recently reconfigured our offerings along a 3-vector framework. The 3 vectors, Product Management, Customer Management and Marketing Management together form a 3600 framework that companies need on their journey to scale and reach global markets. How do we build products that truly meet customer needs? How do we acquire the skill-set to read markets and customers as accurately as possible? How do we talk to the right customers, in a language that they can relate to? In an age of information overload, is there a process we can use to distil the chaff from the wheat when it comes to learning from the market? How do we build a Read More[ READ MORE ]

2010: Product Management takes strides in India

Companies in India are no strangers to Product Management, but 2010 perhaps can be counted as the year that a sizeable number of technology companies adopted the function whole-heartedly. Our own experiences with customers – during our consulting, coaching and operational interventions, reveal greater interest in using a market-centric approach and building highly relevant products, rather than just technology-based ideas. Among our work in this space has been the thought papers we’ve continued to bring out, on different topics such as the role of Product Management, the ERP market in India and the challenges in value-based Pricing. (You can find all our thought papers here.) We’ve of course also been sharing our thoughts on the blog here, and for those of you who missed reading, here are some of the best posts of 2010: • Market validation for the bootstrapped • The hidden reasons why clients won’t buy • World-class technology products from India? • What’s the buzz over Marketing 3.0? • 5 ways for B2B companies to leverage social media A key event for Confianzys in 2010 was the launch of the Product Management Training program in association with Blackblot, and the enthusiastic response to the first such event has encouraged us to continue with more training events, including client-specific/onsite training programs. (If your company can benefit from such training, mail us at engage@confianzys.com for more details). Other events include the launch of our Facebook page and Twitter account – great ways to keep in touch with new ideas Read More[ READ MORE ]

Engagement Marketing: Marketing WITH Customers

Recently, Mashable, the well-known social media tracking website, announced plans to put up a giant Facebook wall at their New York City headquarters, made up entirely of photos of Mashable fans on Facebook. Mashable’s business is Content, and while “honoring” fans, it is cleverly getting them engaged in the process of creating more innovative content, whether online, or as in this case, as a giant billboard. Clearly, Engagement Marketing is something that we will be seeing more of. Mohanbir Sawhney, McKormick Tribune Professor of Technology at the Kellogg School of Management explains succinctly in this video below, how companies need to change their fundamental attitude towards marketing – from “exposure” to “engagement”. Engagement Marketing, i.e. getting consumers involved in the evolution of a product or brand becomes critical in the face of two somewhat contradictory trends we are seeing today. One is the globalization of knowledge and information. With technology becoming a leveling factor, more and more people around the world can access the same things, whether it is music, information, products or opinions. At the same time, we are seeing a great deal of market fragmentation, with smaller and smaller niche markets. By their very ability to serve a long tail of consumers, marketers are discovering niches that didn’t exist before (or at least couldn’t be served profitably). Globalization with fragmentation means that theoretically, one can reach a wider market than ever before, but practically the market is likely to be choosier than ever. This means that technology product marketers Read More[ READ MORE ]