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There are different types of marketing... but product marketing, in part, "figures out what to call that thing."
You see, we have a lot of really smart engineers who are doing new things and are very creative about solving problems. But, then they go give it a name that reflects what it does, which is great... until it starts doing more. And, then what? You've got a branding/messaging problem, or worse.
I was in a meeting earlier in the week, talking about product stuff and Julianna asked "well, what category is that?" A question that just sobers me right up, even in a product planning discussion.
You see, if there's no category, no one will understand what it is (and there is no magic quadrant for it!). It's something technology companies seem to face a lot, and with my experience in start-ups, we faced it all the time. There are three options:
There is this weird dynamic... if you call it something fancy/different, a lot of technical people (our buyers?) don't trust you. They think "marketing" has just come up with a different way of saying the thing you are trying to differentiate yourself from. It can actually work to reinforce competitive messaging, or at best, simply reduce the trust you are trying to build with the prospect.
Interestingly, Lori posted on a similar subject this morning, differentiating application delivery controllers from load balancers. Her situation is different, as an ADC is a "more advanced" load balancer (don't shoot me if I'm muddying the waters further!). Whereas in Actional's case, we're not something else plus X. We're just X, and when most people are trying to solve the same problem, we solve using something else (wholly ineffectively I might add!).
But, if you look at the three choices above, there really aren't three choices. Or rather, the choices are already made by company culture. Take Progress Software for example: We're not "marketing trend-setters." Meaning, we don't invest in creating new categories. And yet, we're big enough that we don't just "do our own thing" because that requires a different sort of discipline than the one we employ. Don't get me wrong, I like and respect our discipline, it's just different than what's needed for a "do your own thing" approach.
So, we're left shouting into the wind. Perhaps that gives a windbag like me good career prospects? I'm not sure.
SOA What makes us really different in our category but unable to create a new category around easily?
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