What Makes Us Different?|
Philip Lieberman, President & CEO
Recently a potential customer asked me to explain the difference between our solution and a competitor’s. After providing what I thought was a well thought out and compelling explanation, I was confronted with the conundrum of the customer not understanding my responses.
The fundamental question of what makes one company’s products different from another seems like a simple task… but, like a workman who gets very good at what he does, the significant differences in capabilities and craftsmanship of a product can get lost due to a client’s lack of appreciation for what goes into creating a product.
Just as a well-made shoe can last years, and a poorly made one can fall apart in days, the initial price of a low cost product can make it appealing to an uneducated customer. If a consumer does not want to hear about the materials, craftsmanship, and experience of the vendor and believes that one product is as good as another, what is the best educational methodology to help a potential customer purchase the best product for their needs?
This brought me to a grand epiphany, namely that we, as a company, have gotten extraordinarily competent over the last 10 years at creating security management and privileged identity management products. But, somewhere along the way, we expected customers to automatically understand the significance of all of the technology and capabilities we have added to our products (and continue to add at an impressive pace).
This is not to say that none of our customers understand our technology. In fact, we have reached this point of competence by being pushed by customers to expand our technology and competencies. But as Mark Nicolette from Gartner explained to me in a recent conversation: being a real leader in the privileged identity management space means that we are creating features, integrations and new concepts that end up only being used by a small and demanding subset of customers that are doing everything right. He explained that many customers are barely using the technology that they have, much less implementing best practices.
The implication of all of this is that the vast majority of the technical community gains an advantage from all our investments, but many will never understand or appreciate the subtleties necessary to achieve scalability, integrations, and security from the products they purchase. And, failing to understand the differences between products (and our failing to explain the differences effectively), means some companies end up buying a product from our competitors that is unsuitable for their purposes.
So, my question this month is: How do you differentiate your product from your competitor’s when the potential customer does not understand the products and technology they are purchasing, and may not want to spend the time to become an informed consumer?
I ask this because we always seem to hear this lament at tradeshows and conferences, “We bought your competitor’s product and it is terrible! We now know we need your product but we blew our budget and can’t admit we screwed up.”
How can we help customers make informed purchasing decisions on technology they don’t fully understand? How do we help customers with their due diligence prior to purchasing (beyond writing a generic RFI/RFP)? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @liebsoft or connect with me via LinkedIn.