I love working in fractured markets. Communicating in fractured markets is my idea of “professional fun” - it appeals to my competitive spirit. These types of markets provide the best opportunities to establish strong leadership positions.
Be Bold Communicating Emerging Technologies
So, what is a fractured market?
Fractured markets, sometimes referred to as fragmented markets, are markets where there are many players, both big and small, with no clear leaders. They are markets where there are many different solutions to solve a problem and no consensus on which is the best solution.
A few examples of fractured markets today are social media tools, mobile – both applications and infrastructure, and analytics. In each of these markets, technology is evolving rapidly, there are lots of players, and the market is ready for disruption.
Winning in a fragmented market
Winning with emerging technologies in a fractured market requires companies to strategically leverage their communications. The communications program needs to be embodied into the fabric of the company to be truly successful – everyone from the CEO to the customer service representative needs to be on the same page. It requires a company to be externally focused and to watch and quickly analyze all competitive announcements. In effect, you needs to outmaneuver the competition every single day.
Here are a few tips on how to win in this type of market.
Be Bold – Bold people stand out from the pack. They are passionate, confident and do the unexpected. People who choose to be bold are inspiring because they bring about growth, progress, and movement for their companies. Communicating in fractured markets takes fortitude and good amount of pluck to be successful. It requires you to talk and commit to what you are going to do in the future – publically. This is hard for most executives. Management teams don’t like to overcommit and under deliver. However if the conversation is framed correctly, your audience will understand there the difference between your vision and what you are delivering today. Leaders make strong claims and back them with anecdotal evidence.
It isn’t about what you have today, but rather where you are going - Spend 80% of the conversation talking about tomorrow, not about today. Organizations that are talking about what is here and now tend to get lost in the noise. One of the primary reasons why a market is fractured is because no one solution has emerged with the vision required to lead the market. That is not to say that it isn’t there, it just means it hasn’t yet been articulated in a way that resonates in the market.
In competitive bids, customers may buy what you have today but will choose to make you a strategic partner because of where you are going tomorrow. This is very important point in fast moving technology markets or in markets where the business model relies on monthly recurring revenue.
Sometimes small seemingly insignificant companies come out of nowhere with a bold vision, great initial execution, and end up with high valuations. They may not have anything tangible to sell at the time and as a result competitive companies tend to dismiss them as viable competitors. But take notice. These emerging companies are telling a bold story in a way that gains attention of potential customers, analysts, and venture capitalists. As they begin to execute on their vision, these companies take off.
Redefine the status quo – If the market conversation doesn’t play to your advantage, then redefine the conversation. This is a timeless public relations technique that people have been using this since the beginning of time.
For example, in the early 1990s when remote access was an emerging technology, analyst firms used to count the number of boxes to determine market share. This did not play well with the company that I worked for. We sold higher end systems with more port density and couldn’t compete in the low end of the market.
So, we changed the conversation. We targeted three different audiences and developed our campaign using various communication techniques, content and marekting tactics.
- Analysts - First, we worked with analyst firms to change the way they calculated market share. We started almost every conversation by boldly telling them the way they were counting market share was wrong. Our solution was an enterprise solution that served 100s of remote access users versus our primary competitor whose solution served 10s of users. The way they were defining market share was biased towards the lower end of the market where the price points were low and functionality was limited. Our argument is that market share should be determined by port density and revenue, not the number of systems sold. We talked about how remote access was going to be ubiquitous and companies would allow more people to work from home as the technology became more accepted and that enterprises would need to support growing numbers of remote access users. Remote access solutions needed to be scalable and dense.
- Customers - Second, we backed this up with customer case studies that focused on the number of users they were serving using our systems. We used of many of the techniques described in our Customer PR eBook to support our claims.
- Competitors - Third, we out-marketed our competition. Marketing worked closely with sales and support to ferret out industry rumors as well as worked with our partners to keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry. We set up an internal process where we could turn announcements and industry rebuttals around in a short period of time.
In less than a year, we usurped our competition by changing the conversation and clearly emerged as market leader. The company was shortly sold after the market share reports came out for a much stronger multiple than was expected.
In fractured markets, there are winners and losers when the market consolidates. Companies that have the best technology don’t always emerge as leaders. The companies that do rise to leadership positions use communications strategically to redefine the market to take advantage of their strengths and exploit their competitor’s weaknesses.
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