Last week, I tackled the assertion I all-too-frequently hear from technology executives that everybody could benefit from their product, and so the whole world is their target customer. This week, I’d like to demolish an equally hoary shibboleth that isn’t really a corollary statement but that goes hand-in-hand with the everyone-is-our-customer myth so regularly that maybe it ought to be.
It’s the notion that you have no competition.
“Nobody does what we do,” is the proud boast of every self-respecting technology venture. And they may well be correct. That doesn’t mean they don’t have competition — probably even fierce, well-entrenched and irresolute competition.
Take, for example, the world’s very first electronic organizer. I don’t know who came up with the very first one, but imagine yours is the company that for the very first time has built an electronic device that allows people to keep track of their contacts and calendar entries and maybe even includes a free-form notes application for jotting down stuff.
You would be completely right to say nobody does what you do.
You would be completely wrong to say you had no competition.
Your competition is called pen and paper. It’s called an address book. It’s called a diary. It’s called by well-established brand names like Day-Timer that have a dominant share of the market. In short, you have all kinds of competition.
For most technology companies, especially those introducing brand new products or processes, their biggest competitor is however people are getting things done now. And, human inertia being what it is, the status quo is a remarkably stubborn opponent. Persuading human beings to change how they do things is devilishly difficult, and yet, far too many technology companies, drunk on the merits of their superior product or process, dismiss this potent competitor almost out of hand. And at their peril.
Paradoxically, this inordinate challenge faced by technology vendors to persuade people to change their behaviour is one of the things I love most about working in technology marketing. It means that to be successful, a new technology must deliver sufficient value to overcome human reluctance to change. When the value is marginal, the marketing task is thankless. But when it is compelling, there is no better place to be.
Image: Forward Momentum Coaching