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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Are you trying to address too big a market - or solve too many problems?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jun-2012

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I don’t know about you, but I’m always uneasy when a CEO describes his or her strategy and somewhere along the way you hear a variation on the “after all, how hard can it be to grab a small share of a big market” argument? Well, the answer is always “a lot harder than you think”.

The only thing aiming for an overlarge target market does for you is to dilute your efforts to the point where even those modest ambitions are unlikely to ever be achieved. Actually, that’s wrong - that strategy brings with it a whole raft of other undesirable baggage, including:

    • Confusing the market as to who you are and what you stand for
    • Confusing your sales people as to who your most valuable customers are
    • Confusing your marketers as to how they can most efficiently generate demand
    • Wasting an inordinate amount of time, energy and misplaced enthusiasm

You might just as well, as Sir Thomas Lipton once said of yacht racing, resign yourself to “standing under a cold shower tearing up fifty pound notes”. Except you probably won’t have anything like as much fun. Or bump into that nice Mr Ellison in the dockside champagne bar.

Choose a market you can dominate

Of course, the proper strategy is to do the opposite - to narrow down your market definition until you find one that is just big enough to satisfy your ambitions and which you have the chance to dominate. You can always expand from there into product or market adjacencies - and do so from a position of strength.

But of course, that strategy requires a certain amount of sacrifice and courage. As does choosing to focus on solving one critical problem really, really well - better than any other option open to your target customers.

Solve one critical problem really well

The natural tendency here is similarly self-defeating: to focus on so many features, so many capabilities and so many problems your product could solve that you end up diluting your focus. When you fail to choose which problem you are going to focus on solving, you bump into those same old issues again:

    • Confusing the market as to who you are and what you stand for
    • Confusing your sales people as to who your most valuable customers are
    • Confusing your marketers as to how they can most efficiently generate demand
    • Wasting an inordinate amount of time, energy and misplaced enthusiasm

Stand out from the crowd

If you’re a B2B company in its growth phase, the worst thing you can do is to spread your bets. Your chances of winning are miniscule. Instead, you’ve got to your research. Test the market. Find out what really matters to your prospects. Fail fast and learn.

Then, as a pattern starts to emerge, focus your energies on solving the critical issue you have identified for the market you have chosen better than any other option available to your prospects, including deciding to do nothing.

You’ll find that it’s far easier to expand from a position of strength than to compete from a position of weakness. So why do so many companies spread themselves too thinly rather than be brave and focus? Is it because it’s easier to say yes than to say no? Or because spreading your bets somehow reduces the chances of losing? Not in this world.

Topics: B2B Marketing, Intelligent Targeting, Complex Sales