In Tech’s Changing Landscape, Why Commoditization Demands Proactivity
Increasingly, established players are being caught off-guard by new competitors who have taken a more informed and proactive approach to the market.
Across all technology segments, commoditization of products seems to happen faster than ever. Large and renowned firms are encountering new contenders – companies that are younger, smaller, and nimbler – who can create very similar and much cheaper products. As these products become somewhat interchangeable, the market demands more sophistication – and firms need to look towards creating value beyond product (in the form of enhanced benefits or richer service support or a larger universe of applications, etc.). All too often, the traditional leader can be caught off-guard by a new competitor who has taken a more informed and proactive approach to the market. Market research is vital for success. Established firms need to be aware and perceptive – so that they can adapt and continue to differentiate within the changing market landscape.
We recently worked with a prominent technology provider who was struggling to stand out from competitors despite being a major player in a niche industry sector. Despite its market dominance and rich heritage, the company was perceived as just one of many options for potential customers, rather than the premier solution. Executives wondered why that had happened, and how they could fix it.
To better understand the changing landscape and uncover critical market insights, we dove into an in-depth research process. Looking for a diverse perspective from both internal and external stakeholders, we spoke to senior level executives, members of the sales force from around the globe, and, of course, a variety of customers and prospects. Interestingly, the list of top competitors generated from employees differed notably from the one based on responses from the market. Internally, senior level executives listed other global service providers, companies similar in size and scope to their firm. The sales force, though, mentioned smaller start-ups, in particular an emerging competitor overseas. Customers shared the sales team’s perspective and we discovered that this seemingly unthreatening, yet rapidly growing company was perceived as surprisingly strong in the marketplace. In fact, customers described this firm as being easier to work with and more collaborative than our client.
The big surprise: this company was barely on senior management’s radar. The smaller firm had been written off as purely a low-cost provider. But research showed that this perception wasn’t at all accurate. The younger firm was ranked higher than our client in almost every key attribute – not just cost, but service quality and customer experience, too.
In an industry as rapidly evolving as the technology sector, where a killer app can quickly overtake established, global players, it’s clear that large companies need to keep their ears to ground to stay ahead of the game. What was true yesterday is probably not true today. Leadership teams need to maintain a realistic understanding of market dynamics in order to continue to build for success.
With the right research – collecting insights from an array of stakeholders at various levels inside and outside of the organization, each who share different experiences – a company can stay on top of where the market is heading and position their brand accordingly. Renown alone is not enough for a brand to differentiate itself. It goes without saying that a market leader must stay in tune with the needs and preferences of their customers. Yet, if they are to continue as the dominant player in the space, they also need to know exactly what customers and partners are thinking about them and their competition, big and small.
In this post, we examine the second principle of branding technology firms (the first focused on an important distinction: simplification vs. dumbing down), adapted from our chapter on building long-term value in a system-update world in the Brand Challenge.
What’s the difference between return on investment (ROI) and return on emotion (ROE…
It’s not easy being a market leader, or even an established player, these days. Once upon a time, if you had a dominant market position you could count on holding the lead for years, if not decades. Pesky start-ups might nip at your heels, but it would be years until they had the…