Accelerating Value
Accelerating Value

Episode · 9 months ago

The Positionary Mission: Who Are You, Really?


Positioning is vital to any business, yet it’s too often neglected.

Many will stick to their original positioning even if it doesn’t make sense — which is like Amazon calling itself a bookstore. 

Others will position too broadly and try to please everyone — there’s a reason McDonalds is bad at selling salads.

So how do you find the right position for your business?

Today’s guest, April Dunford, Founder of Ambient Strategy, joins the show with the answers you seek.

Join us as we discuss:

  • The most common mistakes leading to an uncomfortable position
  • How to test the effectiveness of your positioning
  • How to get everyone in your organization aligned around your position

Keep connected with Accelerating Value on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.  

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Accelerating Value in your favorite podcast player. 

Today, every budget approval is an investment deal. If you're a marketer, sales or business leader, you had to promise to deliver value and impact. Writing the wave to get there is hard enough. Finding your way through the storm is even harder. If you're looking for that path forward so that you don't wipe out. You've come to the right place. Let's get into the show, everybody. This is Mark Stuce, your host for accelerating value, the weekly podcast that gets to the heart of how we create value, how we think about it, how we prove it out, how do we actually persuade people that we did what we said we were going to do? So many of you are have told us that your kind of directors, senior directors, VPS in larger companies, that can kind of mean different things to different people, and that you aspire to hire rank right, you ultimately want to be in the sea suite, and that you're kind of dealing with this change in the way that the people above you talk about value and that for you it's no longer just, you know, tactically execution and hitting those kpis and all that kind of stuff. It's actually being able to make a business case for what you're doing and then show what you returned against the investment and how long it took for you to make that return, all of which are really important to the business overall. It's kind of a universal law. So we bring all kinds of people onto the show to talk about this and everyone, course, it's coming out from their point of view and you know where you where you sit, determines where you stand on so many things. Today really, really, really cool. We've been we've been working on the on having April Dunford here for for a while and we are so excited to aver here because she's going to she's going to address positioning and why positioning is so important for the creation and the acceleration of value for everybody concerned. So, April, welcome. Tell us tell everybody a little bit about yourself. Hey. Well, thanks so much much for having me. I know this was hard to schedule, so I'm glad we finally made this happen. Yeah, so a little about me. So I spent the first twenty five years of my career as a repeat vice president of marketing at a series of startups. I think I did seven of those. Six of them got acquired, which resulted in me being a head of marketing at a bunch of big global companies. Across my career I kind of specialized in launching new things. So I did sixteen product launches a cross all of that. But about five six years ago I made the switch to consulting and what I do is really nishy. So I do positioning work. I don't do anything but positioning work and specifically I focus on B Tob Tech companies. That's the sweet spot of who I work with. Let's start with kind of the big elephant question in the room, and that is why do so many people screw up positioning? I you know, I have some theories about that. So so here's the first thing. Most of the companies that I work with their original positioning was kind kind of done by default, and it was it was based on the original idea that the founder had when they envisioned the product. So they woke up in the morning and said, you know what sucks? Email sucks, email totally sucks, and I'm going to build better email. And so they get build in this thing, they put it out, we add things, we take things away, being while the market itself is changing and all of a sudden I got chat, I got team collaboration, I got all kinds of things,...

...and I still think about it as email, because that's what I set up to build in the first place, was email. But a new customer crossing the path of this thing might look at it and say, I don't know, man, like you're calling an email, but it doesn't even have a calendar, like it kind of looks like Chad, but you're not calling it chat and I don't know what this is. And so for the most part we mess up positioning by just not doing it deliberately, like we just kind of fall into well, you know, we're database people making a day tobase. What else could it be? And we don't actually lean back and think about, you know, what is actually the best way to position this thing. So that that's the first problem. They really an outside in perspective. That's right, right, and most people must found her start with an inside out perspective. Yeah, yeah, that's rating is what they kind of think. It's outside in, but it's really not. Well, that's the thing. And especially over time, it may have been outside in to start with, but then over time, you know, it became something else. So that's the first problem, like lack of deliberate positioning. And then here's the second thing. Let's say you do decide. They're like, you know what, maybe this positioning is bad. I'm going to go fix it. Well, now what? And, and this is a real problem, there does not exist and accepted methodology to actually do positioning. The closest thing we have is is that a lot of people will show to me is the positioning statement, which is this kind of mad libs fill in the blanks exercise where you know, you go, we are a blank that does blank unlike blank, and you're filling into blanks saying things like here's my market category and here's my competitor and this is the value we deliver. But here's the problem that exercise. Nowhere in that exercise does it does it teach you what the best answer is for the blank. So like there's a there's a blank in there that says market category. Almost every product I've ever worked on we could position it in multiple different market category. So how do I know what the best market category is for my product? In the positioning statement exercise doesn't give me any clues how to do that. So my work has been really focused on that, like how do we get to a methodology to actually figure out what are the best possible answers for those components of positioning that are essentially the blanks and the positioning statement? That's what I'm trying to figure out, and so kind of putting it a just slightly differently, given the fact that most products can go into a number of different categories, right, you're trying to find the highest value one. That's right, like your best possible market category. If you think about it like, a good way to think about positioning is like context setting for products you know, and context is important because that's how we kind of make sense of the world, particularly new things that we don't really understand it. And so if you think about market category in particular, it's kind of the context that we position our product in. Now that context matters a lot, because if I come to you and I say hey, man, I got this thing is email, you will make a whole bunch of assumptions about that product. Just as soon as I say that market category, you'll say, oh, well, up, you must compete with Gmail. Oh well, you must have a calendar. All email has a counter. Oh, I think I know what you cost, you're pretty much free, and so you'll make all those assumptions. Now if my product doesn't compete with Gmail or doesn't have a calendar or cost very much more than free, now all of a sudden you like I've got to unwind this bad set of assumptions that I've triggered in you with this, with this bad market category. So your best possible market category is the context you position your product in such that you're differentiated value. It's kind of makes sense to the target customers you're trying... go after. That's how we actually do it. So when we think about positioning, market category is just one component of it. We also have to take into account my best fat customers, who my target customers are? My differentiated value. That differentiated value flows from. You know, what are my differentiated capabilities in the last component is, well, who am I? Who am I positioning against or you know? So what are the competitive alternatives to what I do? So those are the five components. If we can figure those five components out, now we've got good positioning. Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that you know, there's a fair amount of ambiguity around this whole subject and, as I was. So when I prep for these PODCASTS, I I go out and I talk to different people and I say, Hey, what do you want me to ask and what do you want me to ask? And it's a really good way of going about it. And one of the things that the kind of dangles off the ambiguity he's is an it goes straight to the to the heart of value and the cost of that. How do I know that positioning, my positioning exercise, has been successful? MMM, how long does that usually sort of take for you, for me to know, and what is something like this actually cost? Understanding that there's probably a fairly wide range. Yeah, how do you, how would you answer those questions, because I think a lot of people are kind of going yeah, sort of, and I really know that I've got this issue. I'm kind of kind of scared to step out there because I don't know what success looks like. Right, right. So, you know, and this is it's a good question because, like, how do we even know if the positioning is good or bad to start with? Like how do we like, you know, maybe I'm just got bad marketing or maybe my salespeople stink. Like how do I know that the root cause of the problem with my business is actually positioning, and so I think that's a good place to start. Like when I used to be a VP marketing, the first thing I would do if you hired me is I would spend a couple of weeks listening and on sales calls. So this is, you know, for be to be and we have sales people. I can listen it on sales calls. We positioning operates like this. Customer gets on the call, sales rep gets on, sales rep says, Hey, let me tell you about this great thing we got. It's like this, that and the other thing, and the customer goes, HMM, pitchy to me again, and then the rep tries in a slightly different way. Well, you know, it's kind of like this. What does it doesn't this, and they'll go and then the customer will say, so you're like sales force then and you're nothing like sales force. You're you're actually not even in that market. You're nothing like that. So there's this you know, people can't quite figure out what you do, or they'll compare you two competitors that you don't compete with. Sometimes you'll get this thing where they'll say yeah, I get what you do. I just don't get why anybody would pay for that. You know, so they can get it, or they think they get it, but they don't get the value at all. They're like, you know, that sounds okay, but I can just do this in exhale for free. So why your thing? So we positioning kind of feels like that. I personally I think there's value and doing a positioning exercise. Even if you think you're positioning is good, I don't think there's a downside to actually check in in on it. And and so you know, what I recommend with companies is, you know, you might not pay for the outside consultant to do it. I think you're perfectly capable of doing it internally, particularly if you're not really sure if you're positioning is bad or not. I would encourage you to check it out internally just yourself. And so, you know, here's how you're going to do that. So you're going to first of all,...'re going to have to get a gang together, because different parts of the organization deal with customers at different stages. So, you know, product understands some stuff about customers, sales understands a different set of things about customers. Customer success understands a different set of things about customers, and then there's marketing in the middle there, and then there's founders and whoever else positioning a shift in positioning. You know, if you think about let's say I've a I've got an email product, but it actually might be better positioned is chat. The marketing team doesn't get to make that decision on their own. Right product management doesn't get to make that decision on their own. And if we actually wanted to execute on such a shift in positioning, everybody across the organization is going to have to be aligned around it. So the first thing you want to do is get everybody you you need representation from all these groups. The second thing you need is a process. We can't just get everybody together and say hey, what's your opinion? Why do you think people love us so much, because that will turn into a fight and trust me, it's a fight that marketing and product management never win. So it's either sales or the CEO wins that, even though they might actually be wrong. So we need an actual process and and ideally, like in my process, you know, we start with competitive alternatives like what do I have to beat in order to win a deal? Once I really under stand that, then I can say, well, what we got that's different than the other alternatives, and then we can map that differentiated capabilities into value and that's going to get us to differentiated value. Once we have that, we can kind of say, okay, well, who cares a lot about that value. That gets us to best fit customers. Then, once I got value of best fit customers, I can lean back and say, okay, market category, what's the best market category to position this product in such that this value kind of makes sense to these people? So that's how you do it. It shouldn't take long. Frankly, like I do these workshops with companies and we do it over the course of a week. So you know, we kind of start it and finish it and get it done in a week. If you're doing it internally, you might be able to bang this out in a couple of days. It shouldn't be a big long thing. When you've got it, you're going to have to figure out how to test it, and so, in my opinion, the best way to test it. What people want to do is they want to go build messaging out of it and then a be test messaging on web pages. I think that's a terrible idea because you're not actually testing positioning at that point. You're testing positioning plus copywriting, plus page design, plus, I don't know what your traffic looks like coming to that thing. A Better Way, in my opinion, to test it is you take that positioning and then let's craft a sales story for that positioning. Once I got a pitch that looks good, let's take it out with some qualified prospects and see how it lands like. Do People get excited, do they get confused, or the things we need to tune on this pitch. And so when I was doing this as a vice president marketing, I would pick my best sales rep, teach them of the pitch and then me and the sales rep but go and do sales calls and we just see, like, where people getting excited, where they getting confused. We tune the pitch and we'd keep going until the sales rep said, nope, this is good, this actually works, this works better than the old pitch. We call out a pass and then at that point we could go and, you know, change the messaging and get into copyrighting and figure out what we're going to say on the home page. But if it's a bit to be business, what we really care about is the sales story works. If we know that works, then we can go build messaging from that. So that's how I would test it. And then the last thing to understand is that positioning. We don't just set it and forget it, like we don't get to just carve it in stone because I'm a product. Our product doesn't remain the same. It's constantly changing and we're adding things, but are in our competitors don't sit still. So something that was differentiating two months ago might not be differentiating anymore. So you've got a set a regular schedule to check in on your positioning, back it up and say, okay, competitive alternatives. Is Anything changed here? Differentiated capabilities? Have they closed the gap? Have we added other things?...

And how does this all impact our value? Does our value to our value props actually need to shift and when they do, does that potentially open us up to reach in a different market or targeting different kinds of customers? and Oh hey, is that actually shift our market category? So when I was VP marketing we I had a standing meeting with this cross functional group to look at positioning every six months. Sometimes we'd have an emergency meeting of something happened, like, you know, big acquisition happens in our space, where like whoops, let's get the gang together and see whether or not anything here has to change. But otherwise a big things weren't happened about twice a year would be a good cadence to go do it. So one of the things that you said this was from a stage somewhere and it was we was covid right. So, in fairness, as was like, I remember being on stages, those really good things. Yeah, we were traveling more to so you were you and I'm going to paraphrase it. You didn't, I don't think you put it exactly in these terms, but the gist of it was that great positioning is as much about excluding audiences and that as anything else, and that we're a lot of people go wrong with positioning is that they're trying to include as many people, customers, use cases whatever in that right. Yeah, it did. I do violence to your know. That's it. That's it. You got it, you got it. It's you know, it's a funny thing like non marketers have a hard time getting their heads around this. I think marketers intuitively understand it, but non marketers are like look, bigger addressable market, easier to make my number like it just had simple and if I'm charging nine B Jillian billion people, I only have to get point one, one, one percent of that to make my number. So that would be better, right. The problem is is that's not how we buy, right, that's not how we buy. We don't we don't buy, you know, we don't buy a thing that's okay for anybody. We buy the thing that's really good for us and we're pinky about what we spend our money on. And even businesses or Pinky. They make a short list. They you know, they look at the shortlist that they say, I don't care who's the best here, I care who's the best for me. So do you meet my requirements precisely? And if you don't, you're off that list. And so it's hard to actually win business without being selective about who you're going to position for and whose needs you're going to resolve, because otherwise you end up be you know, you trying to be everything to everybody, but you end up being no nothing for nobody. This is not good. In most good, successful startups, if you look back at the early days of those startups, they were focused on a very, very narrow market and that's how they got initial traction. The easiest way to build traction for a brand new product is to find a narrow market where their needs are not being met by the market leader and just go dominate that. And it works really well because you can get really target in your messaging, really targeted in your sales pitch. It generates a lot of word of mouth because it's just this narrow set of folks you're trying to go after and once you've got that, then you can worry about okay, well, what are the adjacent markets to this and how do I widen out the market? After that, and then after that and then after that. Like, if all I got to do is make ten deals this year to make my number, then then I only need an addressable market of what like to couple hundred can probably do ten. So I don't need an addressable the market of like gundreds of thousands of businesses if all I'm trying to do is ten deals. If all I'm trying to do is ten deals. I'm trying to look around and say, what are the ten easiest deals for me the land here, like, who is the absolute best fit for my cousin, for my stuff? What are the...

...characteristics of a company that's a really good fit for me? And let's just focus on those, because that's the fastest path to revenue. Yeah, I mean, that is actually entirely our experience. Of proof is that we are most disruptive in a relatively narrow group of companies, right who are early shelling out huge amounts of money to have analytics done the old fashioned way. And it's right. It's kind of like what they've had to accept, but it's not even remotely something they're happy about, and it's real clear the reasons why they're not happy. wristal. There's not any doubt about this at all. And so when we come in there and we go check, check, check, check, check, everybody goes that's so cool, right in and it becomes an economic transaction after that, whereas if we went into somebody who was, let's say, far less mature or less progressed on the maturity curve on this whole thing right, there would be a lot of a the angelism that one would have to do. And one of the things that I've often thought, and I wanted to ask you about it here, is that would it be accurate to say in your experience that the more evangelism you have to do, that that basically says that at a minimum, the audience portion of your positioning is still not what it needs to be. Yeah, that's one thing. Like, you know, I certainly think that we don't think enough about, you know, how how to select a best fit audience, and so, you know, in marketing we have this concept of, you know, the way a customer progresses towards a deal, and the first step on that journey is I got to be aware I got a problem. Look like I gotta be problem aware before I start looking for solutions. I got to kind of know I got a problem. And then once I know I got a problem, then the next step is, I think the problem is now important enough to actually put some effort into solving it. And then, you know, and then I'm acted. Then the next stages I'm buying like a back to the actively, you know, trying to find a shortlist, trying to put people, you know, and that's where I'm googling solutions for whatever whatever. So if you are out there selling, it's much easier to sell to people that are in an active purchase process because they're, you know, they're actively looking for solutions they already knew, like I don't have to sell you one. Why do this thing? They already know they're didn't all they're trying to figure out is, are you the right solution? I already know I got a problem. Are Annoy I need to solve it. If I back it up a little more, I might have folks that they know they got a problem, they're not sure they need to solve it yet. They're a little bit harder to sell because they haven't quite, you know, started the journey on to like it be making a shortlist in all that stuff. So they're a little bit harder. The people that don't even know they have a problem. Like kind of there I get the furthest to move the way back and say hey, like, you know like it, did you ever noticed that you can't do this? You can't do this, like Oh, yeah, I never really noticed that, but you know, it's not really a problem. Doesn't affect and I got to move those people all the way through. So that's going to be way, way harder to sell. So often what we've got is companies are trying to sell to the three y'all three of these groups the same and you don't sell them the same weight. Like the people that are a problem to where I got to market the problem, I actually got to sell you on the problem before I can tell you my solution. The people that are already looking for a solution, well, all I got to do is prove I'm the best one for them and that's it. So, if it's possible, you're trying to focus on the part of your market that's the closest to actually making some purchase decisions. Like, if we think back, the example I used to they I used to give is like they could boat smartphones, the early days of smartphones. If you're old enough to remember this, there's the early days of smartphones. The only people that had a smartphone were like business people that had to do email on the road, and these people had blackberries. And so I came home with a blackberry...

...and my mother was looking at me like I was nuts. She's like what is that thing and I'm like, Oh, it's amazing. You can do your email while you're at the airport and she's like who needs email? Why do I need that thing? So if I was a cell phone company, should I spend ten seconds trying to sell my mother? No, she's not problem aware. She didn't never brought me at all. But then things moved along right, and then I came home with a better you know, with a better smartphone, and she said, well, what do you use that for? A Nice? Well, you know, you could do your email, all that stuff, but you can actually like yeah, APPs on here, I can serve the web and stuff, and she's like who serves the web? You know she's still not ready for this thing. Is it's like okay, like again, you'd be wasting your money at that point to try to market to my mother. She's a lagguard. So then we finally get to this, to the thing where I come home one day and she's like, Oh, you know, my friends are starting to have these things and I don't really get what they use them for. A nice and well, they probably just using it for facebook. And she's like you could get facebook on that thing. I need that thing. So then, you know, now's a good now we can mark it to her right she's problem aware, she's motivated to buy something. Now we can market to her. But it would have been crazy if I was a cell phone company to true read me and my mother like the same kind of purchaser. Were not like you'd be crazy to focus on that. So what you want to do is focus on the people that are ready right, the low hanging fruit people, the people that get your value. You don't have to sell them on the problem. They're already there and we'll worry about getting the other people later, because you know we'll get them eventually, but just not today. I gotta ask that you brought it up. Do you remember the original form factor of the blackberry was like a pager? Oh my gosh. So I went to I went to school at the University of Waterloo and so you know research in motion. It's right next door and that's a bunch of Waterloo grads and so I knew a bunch of people that worked over there. I never had the pager, thank God, but I knew lots of people that did that, you know, had the page or and whatever, and then I had the original like blackberry that came out, you know, nine million years ago, and you look at that thing now and it's like insane how tied this tiny little screen. But I will say, like I use that thing for years and years because it took a long time before, like most apple users never had a smartphone before. Like if you actually used a blackberry, it took you a long time to get over onto an iphone because you couldn't roam with it. Like it had to get to apple three, the iphone three or four before you could actually roam with the thing, and blackberry was way ahead on all that stuff. So if you're a real road warrior, you didn't do it. But then eventually it was like okay, I got to get off this thing and on. And so then I make the switch. I missed that keyboard. I used to be really fast on that little mechanical keyboard thoughts, and then I went to the touch screen keyboard is significantly slower, you know. There's just a just lag here then than a physical keyboard, and so that really bug me. Now, of course, I look at that keyboard and I'm like, Oh my God, I can't believe I used to type on that thing. That's crazy. Just actually, my best story on this was so I was right in the middle of the HP compact merger and and we would fly back and forth from Houston to San Jose A and and everybody knew, or the word got out that for a brief period of time over Phoenix you had connectivity. Everybody would sew up all these evil for the first day, you know, our and a half or whatever it was, right and you sit there and wait and all of a sudden the bars would go and you did oh my God, that's like me on the subway. Like it like in Toronto, I take the subway downtown, there's a spot where the subway comes up out of above ground and I'm like Hey, oh,...

...yeah, grank. Yeah. The other thing like that was on that little unit. There was a key document in that murder. That because for some reason I have my I productivity unit. My laptop just totally crapped out and and I just had no other choice. I wrote it, the entire document on that blackberry. Oh my gosh, it was insane, you know, with that little froller riding tidy little start screen. It's like now and it's like peeking through a people so trying. I still good. I said it to myself just so I would have it right. Just one of those things where you just can't believe you actually did that. But so okay. So one of the other things that that people really wanted to know about positioning for value is within a team, within a company, right, people still have different definitions of value. Yeah, right, and you could almost argue that putting that little consortium together is is sort of what a BM, for example, is all about. Count base market. Right. How how do you create a diversified position? I'm coining that phrase, I'm not. You can change it if you want to, where it's focused and yet addresses the personas of different kinds of people. So so he's I get fast about this stuff a lot and there's a few things that I think for people to think about that might help simplify it. So what is the job of our positioning? Really that? The job of our positioning is to make our differentiated value for customers really, really clear so we can do a better job of craft and a story for sales and marketing to sell. That's what it is. It's not the same as our vision statement, it's not the same as our strategy. It's really rooted in here and now we expected to change over time. In fact, and so our positioning is like what's the best story for us to go in the market with, where we win right now? So you will have different stories in the company for other purposes. You know, there's there why should you join us as an employee story, and then there's, you know, customer success stories, and there's the story you tell the investors, which is really oriented towards the future and the vision. So there's lots of different stories in a company. Positioning, though, is this. This is the story we're telling out in the market right now. That's our you know, our best case for why us? For this kind of for this kind of a customer. So we need to be really aligned on that. We can't have marketing telling one story and sales telling a different one. We can't have product thinking all this is actually a little bit like this and that know like it. When it comes to the sale story. We need to be super, super aligned. This is another reason why we need to do this as a cross functional team because one, we want the input from all those teams because it makes our positioning better, but to we need everybody to be agreement in alignment when they leave this room so that we're all executing on the same positioning, pulling towards the same goal. So there's that. Then we'll get this thing like what? Wait a second. We're be to be and we sell enterprise and there's five or six different personas. So we have different person positioning for these. You know, I got the head of it and I got the line of business and I got the economic buyer and I have different positioning for each of those because they all care about something a little bit different. Now here's how I look at that. The most important person in the account for positioning, as a receiver of our positioning, is the champion in the account. If I can't position well for the champion in account,...

I don't get on the short list, I don't get a meeting, I don't even get to worry about positioning to everybody else. So my positioning is got a really hit for the champion in the account. That's the first thing. The second thing is, typically it be to be, we overestimate our ability to influence the other folks in the account. The person who really has influence over the other people in the account is the champion. So what we really need to be doing is arm in the champion to help get everybody else on board. That's their job. So when I'm thinking about positioning, I'm really, really focused on the champion in the account because that's going to get us in and that's going to get US started. Once we're in and we're mucking around, then we're worried about how do we aim the champion to sell itt how do we aim the champion to sell their boss? How do we aim the champion to sell individual end users, who do have a voice in this, but it's typically us working with them and not us, you know, Cook it up some story in the office. Now we're going to do all this stuff. So so in the work that I do with companies, were really laser focused on the champion. That's what our website should be looking like. That's what our materials for sales and marketing should be largely concentrated on. Let's get the best possible positioning for the champion and then, once we're mucking around in deals, then we're working with how do we aim the champion to sell it t how do we aim the champion to sell the economic buyer? Will worry about that once we get the luxury of getting on a short list and actually being in the in the running for the deal. Absolutely. All right. Here's another CMO question. It's actually is a comes from a kind of actually it's very similar to your background. This person is a former fortune one hundred CMO who is now doing a startup. Right. So her question is this is there because of the you. So one of the things that makes it really hard for startups is that they haven't gotten the track record yet, and so they don't they struggle with not just specific things like reverence ability, but the larger issue of confidence and trust. Hmm Right. Is there a difference, in your mind, between the way that you would do positioning or a leader in the in versus the Challenger? Oh yeah, absolutely so, you know, and I've worked at both. Right. So, when when I was at IBM, you know, we spend a lot of time talking about you know, these are big projects and you don't want these big projects to fail, man, and if you do it with us, like one of the things we can give you is everything related to this project. You got one throat to choke. You know, we're with you and we're going to you know, we we were all about safety and trust. That makes you the you know, the the the old say, all the saying and tech, yeah, you know I'm going to get hired or hiring IBM. Right, that's why you buy the market leader. It's an easy decision. Is Easy said. Coming back to this champion thing, you got no problem selling to your boss. Right, I'm buying the market leader. It's just the leader in the market. That's why I picked it. Easy, easy selling your boss, easy sell to everybody. So if you're not that, you got to be able to lean into you know, why am I not picking the leader? But think about it, why need not pick IBM? So innovation there, man, there's a thousand reasons. There's a thousand reasons like that. Every string length that a leading company has you can turn into a weakness. You can't. So they say all, look, you know, we're trusted. We've been doing this for thirty years now. You're on that. That means you're ossified. It's legacy. It's legacy. You want to you want to get your build the new thing, you want to put it on that wall. Shit, yeah, go ahead. Oh, like if they say, Oh, you know, we're, you...

...know, all of the fortune, five hundred uses us and whatever whatever, and it's like, well, how fast can you move then? Right, because all these fortune five hundred companies are all going to scream when the minute you try to change one little pixel. Right. So, is there any real innovation going in there? Speed, how fast can you go? Not Very kids. Again, everything's got to be pretty, you know, you'll say, it's so reliable, it's bug free, it's amazing. Yeah, that's why it takes you two years to ship a timy little feature. So everything that is a strength in the market leader it you can actually turn into a weakness. Now, not everybody cares about that weakness. Not Everybody's going to be like it. Like, if I'm a fortune fifty bank, I'm not necessarily willing to give up reliability for a speed, but a lot of companies below that might because that, you know, they're in super competitive markets. They got to go faster than the competition, they got to be more innovative than the competition, and a lot of those companies are willing to give up a lot of stuff in order to move fast, be more innovative, do something that's really cutting edge, get a real competitive advantage with tech. Like there's a lot of ways to sell against the market leader. That way, everything that makes them good has a dark side, and so when you're positioning against that, you just flip it right over. Like when I was at IBM, at used to drive us nuts, like little startups to come buzzing around and they'd have a thing that does nothing right, nothing, and we have all this cool innovative stuff and they'd be like well, they're the legacy shit. We're like, what are you talking about? We have a giant research department. But you know, but it's very easy to take to you know, and to take the big guys and position them that way and say look, do you want the new hotness? You want the old? That is hard stuff and that's actually exactly what we do. It prove it. It's not a hard sell, right, like it's not hard to convince people that IBM's not innovative. Right, it's not hard to convince people that I be ams overcharging you for this trust thing, right, like you know, it's not hard to it. Some like you know, they they're going to be slow, it's going to take a long time, it's going to be like the other thing is complicated, right, like very mature feature rich products tend to get very, very complex because they've got lots of features because they're trying to serve everybody in a market. So, like, I actually remember I worked at an enterprise CRM company when when sales force was just selling to the low end of the market and we were the gorilla. So We'd we were sea bowl and we were two billion revenue sales for showed up and their stuff was so beautiful, like I remember actually looking at it and going user experience like this is so gorgeous. Fast forward whatever it is, twenty years. That shit looks exactly like see. Well, it's the worst software I've ever seen. Like the experience are why? Because they're oh, sorry, that's my dog. Why? Because they've had to add all this stuff to, you know, the now selling the enterprises. They've got all these different things. So you, as a startup can come in and, like, you know, the leader is saying, Oh, we got all these features, all this stuff. A little start up comes in and says, do you really need all that stuff or would you just sooner have a streamline user experience with it doesn't drive your users crazy? Like do you need all fifty nine things on this dropdown menu or do you just diemn to and so it's pretty easy to sell against. But you know, you got to be smart about segmenting your market and say well, if that's your differentiator, who cares about that? Because not everybody's going to care about simplicity. But there's a chunk of the market that does and if you can go chase that, then it's easy to sell against some big guys. All right. So bringing it home, I have one last question. This actually comes from a CEO and I would say only in the eight hundred million revenue category something like that, and that zone getting pretty big. Yeah, it's not the uppermit right.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean, you know, hey, I'm from Um, you know, I'm all good. There's kind of a party in a part be to this. So his his premise is that if you if your product is is is not what it needs to be or your positioning is not what it needs to be, that everything else it's impossible that for everything else to succeed. That's right. So his question is this. In the last two years we've all seen unprecedented change, you know, and not just high velocity change, but high volatility change in so many different vectors of what we do that it's it's kind of impossible for the human brain to actually keep up with it all against that backdrop, or, let me rephrase it. Has that reality has has counseling customers in the context of the last two years changed the way you think about positioning, and how has it changed? It's so the short answer to that is I don't think it's change the way I think about positioning. I think it's reinforced a lot of stuff. Like I used to talk to companies about, you know, when would you need to reposition if you've got positioning and it works really good, like, what could possibly happen to destroy your positioning? And you know, and generally we're talking about your competitors catch up to you, maybe there's a merger acquisition in your space. Maybe you know, it's us to talk about these things. And then I used to talk about like kind of natural disaster stuff, like, you know, the economy falls off a cliff or the government wakes up one day and and pop some regulation on you that you didn't expect and all of a sudden that changes the buying behavior of your target market and Blah, blah, blah. Come who actually, just as a quick example for us, what also really catapulted proof forward was the actions by apple and Google. Yeah, you around them. Elimination of Third Party data, or at least the disperation of it. It made non Pii time series data, just the importance of that just go straight upright. Wasn't a problem where, you know, fine, not fine right, like things like this happen. COVID is a great example of one that, depending on your target market, you know, it was a head wind or a tail wind and you know, and for some companies they got part of their target markets. I had when other part of their target markets Dale Wind, but it you know. And then for some folks it was kind of just business as usual. It didn't actually change too much, but the but the important thing was to understand the change and then understand how to react to it. For example, when we are in in a situation where the economy is really good, if we think about it, if we're selling too businesses, we've only got to value propositions for businesses. If we abstract it out to the most abstract it's like we're either helping them make money or helping them save money. That's it. We've only got two things. And so and when the economy is good. Helping people make money is always more attractive than helping them save a couple of bucks. It's just when we're compelling, better than pain killers. Exactly. So it was when the economy is good. At like we you know, we don't want to be talking about all is going to save you a little bit of money. We want to be talking about this dramatically increase your revenue. And here's how we're going to do it. Now economy goes bad, what happens? All of a sudden these companies go from grow, grow, grow, to, Oh my God, cash conservation. So all of a sudden it's like we're not buying nothing, like we're shutting it all down. We're not buying another and the only way you're going to get a deal done is if you could come in and say, well, if you buy, this is going to save you a lot of money and that's going to make your money go further. And so what we saw in Covid was like overnight,... know, this makes money value proposition had to get flipped over to this saves money value proposition, and now we're actually seeing a little bit of the unwinding of that with this. That switch is flipping back the other way where some companies are back into growth mode, although we now we've got this supply chain thing, which is a whole other set of weird external factors. The key to this is we got to have our finger on the pulse of what's going on with our customers through these big changes. And how is that? How is that shifting their priorities and and their purchase behavior? And and it often happens in wedly like it's often very unpredictable and if we don't have very good open lines of communication to our customers, we could miss it and we'd be three months down the road before we're like, Whoa, hang on a second, this value proposition that's been working great for us for the last three years all of a sudden is an hitting. And so this is why I think that making sure we've gotten good lines of communications with customers, like whether we have Customer Advisory Board and we've got some kind of regular customer meetings happening on that. You know, if we have a customer advisory board, something like covid happens, we going to assemble the board and say like well, what's going on and get an answer for that and be able to adjust really quickly, which the folks that did well across covid where the folks that were able to adapt really quickly and then, you know, have their businesses go along and change in the ways they needed to change. April, this has been so awesome. You so everybody. This. This conversations have been a podcast that we've been as I said at the top of the PODCAST, we've been trying to get for a long time because there's just nobody doing positioning with the clarity that April brings to it. So I know that we're going to get a lot of feedback on this. You. So we're on all the platform was we post on Linkedin. You can you know, there's usually quite a bit of commentary below our podcasts and I know that April will weigh in on whatever questions she can. So we're going to you know, you'll probably be getting this podcast, you know, as always, a few weeks after it's happened, but man, totally timeless conversation right here. And if you want to see more from April, she's got a lot of stuff out on on video, on the web and then her book, which actually I have for like when you know it the one day that I am on a podcast with April Doneford. I don't have her book on my desk, but that's like the biggest work right and I mean, nevertheless, it's called obviously awesome, and I think that that really sums it up right. I mean, you know, I mean it's kind of like it's one of the ways that I do this is when I'm on calls and I hear people receiving what we're saying over and over again and is pretty much the same kind of response get. It engenders the same enthusiasm or in the past there's been times like this where that people just it was clear that the message he wasn't working because nobody got it right. It's that consistency, that repeatability, that is that I found is so important. But this is a this is a phenomenal book. My Book is actually looks like it's been beaten to death because I've read it, reread it, marked it up and it's been in the bottom of a briefcase several times. So highly recommend it. Go go on on Amazon, get yourself copied and read it, even if you're not a marketer, in fact, especially if you're not a marketer right. It will open your eyes...

April. Thanks so much. Well, thanks so much for having me. That's been great. The sooner you can optimize your marketing spend, the quicker you can start delivering clear, measurable value to Your Business. That's exactly where business GPS from. Proof analytics can help. Learn more at proof analytics DOT AI. You've been listening to accelerating value, where raw conversations about the journey to business impact help you weather the storm ahead. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time, you.

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