Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Art of Positioning - Part III Evolution

So, is on its way to $1b in revenue and had a very well attended DreamForce conference a few months ago in San Francisco. So, is everything perfect in “No Software” land? Well, there are plenty of pundits that you can consult… My purpose here is strictly to examine how the positioning has evolved from the early days and attempt to imagine a probable future. Astutely, Marc Benioff chose the CRM moniker for the company when they went public. An interesting step as CRM is a much broader application footprint than SFA. Then, “Software is dead” became on-demand CRM and / or software as a service SaaS. Then the Apex programming language was introduced, then the AppExchange application sharing service, then the operating system of the on-demand and service-oriented architecture worlds and a mash-up composite web applications custom platform… I’m sure you get the idea. And the home page, as of Nov. 27 2007, displays the following:

2. No software button
3. 100 new CRM features
4. Platform as a service
5. Success on demand
6. Success force (for customization and integration)
8. Appexchange

The breadth of these categories is starting to dilute the perception of what SalesForce is in the mind of prospects and customers alike. There lies a complex positioning problem. Indeed, as grows, its positioning evolves, and I’d say that at this point in time the “messaging portfolio” does not support the overarching positioning of Simplicity and Ease-of-Everything… This is natural as early objectives have been achieved (validity of on-demand apps) and new ones need to be reached (from mid-market to enterprise and need for configuration).

And while positioning purity is not an objective in and of itself, it is always preferable to have a positioning that supports the values of the brand. Software is definitely more alive than ever but (as a name) is aging. Long live!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Art of Positioning - Part II Creation

Does anyone dispute the fact that has been extremely successful? I didn’t think so. One of the reasons is Marc Benioff’s genius at positioning. Let’s have a look.

Step 1: Make it easy to understand what you do.
The name of the company very explicitly conveys empowerment for the Sales organization. A good idea since SalesForce’s offering started as a very easy to use contact management solution.
Step 2. Establish clear differentiation AND value in plain English.
This is critical because neither differentiation NOR value alone will suffice. In the SalesForce example, Marc Benioff pushed forward an easy to understand differentiation concept: No software! It was not about ASP this, On-demand that or other similar concepts. Nope, something with a bit more of an edge: Software is dead… A concept re-enforced by simplicity throughout the whole process: Easy to try – Easy to Buy – Easy to Use and did I mention Easy to Upgrade… The value derived from this SFA system was a direct consequence of this on-demand / SaaS offering (because after all, SalesForce is a software company): Low “acquisition” risk, short time-to benefit and no additional IT infrastructure required.
Step 3. Be bold, loud and repetitive.
Suffice it to say that we’ve all seen the “Software is dead” buttons and the cogent and well executed responses to richer and more established vendors like Siebel Systems and SAP.

A great positioning, well executed by a very talented team and backed up by a product that does the job. So, how will evolve and mature? What will become of “Software is dead”? We’ll explore Positioning Evolution another time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Art of Positioning - Part I Destination

If you’re worrying about the positioning of your company, take heart. Only successful companies do. Successful positioning is one that creates a deep sense of relevance and trust in the mind of the potential buyer. Positioning is a journey, not a destination. The market evolves, your company grows and your customers mature. What was yesterday's news is now quaint. What was innovation is now commodity. So, what is the first symptom of ailing positioning? The first and most obvious one is loss of sales momentum. Most companies react by re-organizing the sales force and replacing the VP of Sales. It is sometimes justified, but Marketing should be held accountable as well and be closely monitoring sales cycles, customers’ feedback and speed of product adoption. In Part II , we’ll analyze a very contemporary positioning success:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Product Management vs. Product Marketing

Most people still refer to the functions of product management and product marketing as inbound and outbound. Unfortunately, there is more than a semantic difference between the two and confusion can be deadly for the product organization. Indeed, product life cycles keep shrinking, competition takes no prisoners and engineering resources are always scarce!

Both product managers and product marketers have to know intimately representative customers if your product organization is to achieve a customer-centric design process. This will allow the product manager to have both knowledge and authority when she writes MRDs. And, the product marketer will gain a clear understanding of how the product is being used and what benefits are derived. So, while both functions have different roles and are accountable for different parts of the process they have to converge in their knowledge of the customers' needs.