One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in startups is the desire to message and brand their unique differentiation instead of messaging around an evolving industry category. A good indicator to startups falling into this trap is if you ever hear “we don’t have any real competition.” You would think that this type of mistake would have been solved by now, but a company’s strong desire to deliver unique value can easily lead them into this trap.
If you are falling into this trap it is absolutely critical that you address it sooner than later. Why? Because today you are no longer finding your customers, they are finding you. Information overload has diminished the effectiveness of traditional mediums of marketing like advertising and direct marketing campaigns. Today, with the growth of importance of social media, more than ever, web content rules. If you are messaging around your unique differentiator instead of standard industry terms, you significantly diminish your chances for customers to find you.
So how do you know what the standard language of your customers is?
- First, talk to your customers and prospects. How did they justify the budget for your technology and what language did they use? What specific pain did they say they are addressing through the adoption of your solution?
- Second, closely follow your competition. How many times have you heard complaints about how a customer is copying your messaging? Don’t worry about it. Establishing a common language for your solutions is in the best interest of both you and your competition. It creates demand and budget for a given solution, allows you to self identify to prospects looking for that solution, and finally creates the impression that using those types of solutions is a best practice for their industry.
You are much better off being in a position of differentiating yourself from your competition for an established customer need than you are trying to create a demand for your own unique type of solution. If you are the only vendor in a market, then it is a good bet that your technology is not an industry best practice and the perceived risk of adopting your solution goes up. Embrace a common language for your market and move onto the more important task of being the best in that market.