Friday, August 05, 2005

Positioning Statements

I ran across these tips by Zigzag Marketing: Using Buzz Words: You really shouldn't that made me say "Amen". I am never a big fan of buzz words, especially when my prospects and customers are mostly engineers. Yet, I always ran across product positioning statements that full of buzz words - highest performance, optimized to maximize, etc. You got the point. The last thing that these engineers need is for some marketing and sales guys come in and use "big" words that mean nothing.

In several occasions, I have sat through product presentations and after their opening positioning statements, I didn't know what they were talking about. I lost my interest after that. Other times, I would try to understand product offerings through company's website and after reading the home page, I still didn't know what they are trying to sell.

I believe in "just say what I mean" yet I encountered numerous people that love using buzz words because that makes them important. One of my old colleagues had a bad habit of using buzz words when talking with his clients. In more than one occasions, he'd give me a positioning statement that he was planning on presenting and I didn't know what he was saying after he was done. All I remember that every other words were buzz words - optimize, highest efficiency, productivity, blah, blah. I couldn't tell what his message was.

The article gave a classic statement: "Our tool set offers the most flexible and efficient way to optimize resources to maximize profits and minimize costs". What does that mean? It went on and gave an equivalent statement: "Our solution will increase your profitability by processing more transactions at the lowest possible cost."

My rule of thumb: can I back of what I say? In other words, can I back my positioning statement? By forcing myself to do that, I have found that my positioning statement becomes simpler and most often in plain English (being not a non-native English speaker does help). I am able to tell customers what my product is and how it helps my customers to solve their problems. I have a little process that I work through to create my product positioning statement:

  • Identify the situation
  • What are the target markets/applications?
  • What are the benefits and associated features
  • Who are my competitors and what are the products that I am competing against?
  • What are my product differentiators?

After complete those steps, product positioning can be as simple as putting all bullets together and massage into a sentence. That's all.

Until next time, I wish you "to maximize your productivity to minimize your company's inefficiency and optimize the return-on-investment for your stockholders"... Just kidding!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Discipline of Market Leaders

I just got done reading "The Discipline of Market Leaders" by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. The book came out in 1995 but a lot of thoughts and theories outlying in the book still hold true. I highly recommended this book if you care about the success of your company. Here is an example of a review of the book from Bizsum site.

The book focuses on 3 type of organizations:

  • Operational Excellence: lowest price with hassle free service. Wal-Mart is an example of this type of organization
  • Product Leadership: pushing the limit of product boundaries. Intel, Sony, and Nike are these kind of companies
  • Customer Intimacy: delivering exactly what customers want and more. Interestingly enough the book uses the old IBM of the 70s as one of the examples

My current company follows the Customer Intimacy model. With this model, we chose to have a smaller set of customers but we become an extension of those companies. Our account managers are treated as part of our customers' teams. Because we are a technology company, we often have to mix in Product Leadership to keep our customers ahead of their competition. Our product prices are a little bit higher than others but our customers prefer to work with us since at the end, the total cost of ownership (product pricing, services, support, leadtime, flexibility, etc.) come out to be the lowest. I have worked in other organizations where Product Leadership is the focus and I think the Customer Intimacy is the trickest, especially in the high tech industry, where ones tend to fall for the most tricked out, uber-tech products.

It helps for the organizations to recognize where they want to be and model their businesses after it. I consulted with a company in the past where they wanted to be the Customer Intimacy but they structure their business model after Operational Excellence, the low cost leader in their industry. They ended up with negative gross margin and unhappy customers. The company is still struggling the last time I checked.

In conclusion, the book is a must read. Besides it is a very easy read and most case studies in the book associated with well known companies. Go out and get one!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Treo 650

I have just switched from a Samsung i330 to a Treo 650. What a difference...

Samsung i330 was a good phone but there were too many design flaws. The first and foremost - syncing. The USB driver came with the phone never worked well for me. I had to tweak several settings on my computer to make it work and at the end, I gave up. Luckily my work place went with a remote syncing software to work with MS Exchange server. That posed a problem when I left the company. I don't have a good way to sync anymore. The antenna never really worked well. I had problems connecting inside a building while my wife's cell phone (one of the freebies comes with a service plan) was happy chugging along. I don't like the touch screen for dialing. I missed the tachtical feel of a key pad. The dialing was designed for one-hand dialing but the rest of the phone was not.

Luckily, at my new work place, we have decided to upgrade the marketing dept with the latest Treo 650 so that we can use overseas (my VP marketing has taken his Treo650 to Europe and loved it). So far, it has been a pleasure to use. The device is designed for one-hand use w/ minimal effort. I barely use the stylus anymore. I am going to forget how to use the Palm's grafiti with the built-in keyboard. If you can't part with the grafiti, this phone is not for you since there is no place to write. Though typing out a SMS is a lot faster than grafiti. Also creating a meeting while sitting at a stop light is a breeeze. I was able to setup and synch w/ the supplied USB cable w/in minutes. The antena works better than the i330. Incoming calls can have associated images. Thanks to the built-in camera.

The phone has a MP3 player and a slot for an SD card. I have not tried it out yet. I also have not tried to sync my Outlook yet. My colleagues had the built-in mail applications crashing the Treo. The Treo is shipped with DataViz Document to go but I have not had a chance to try it out yet. There are loads of other features that I have not tried them out yet.

One small gripe, Treo uses a goofy connection at the bottom of the phone for power supply. Why can't they have a simple jack like all other phones on the market? I still don't believe the reliability of this goofy connector in the long run. I have seen these types of connectors wearing out in a very short amount of time. Also they can break very easily.

Other than that, I like my Treo 650 so far.