Black Friday offers an important lesson for cyber (i.e., enterprise software) solution marketers.
Bombarded by Black Friday
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been bombarded with a never-ending stream of Black Friday TV commercials. These included a litany of TV commercials for BMWs and other cars on sale for Black Friday. Maybe it’s all due to a surge in self-gifting, although experts were predicting a drop for 2014.
In a world where everything from clothes to cars was on sale on or around Black Friday, retailers were competing against just about every other retailer for the $381 that the typical shopper spent this past weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That included direct competitors offering similar goods, indirect competitors who offered different goods that solved the same problem (say, giving a nice gift) and what I’ll call Share of Budget competitors who solved different problems but competed for the same budget.
These Share of Budget competitors may be the most vexing because they just don’t look at all like you. What exactly does a BMW dealership have in common in with Macy’s after all? Not much, except for the desire to empty a shopper’s wallet that’s open for holiday spending.
The Cyber Solution Connection
Turns out, the same applies in enterprise software and solutions (aka cyber). Here’s an example: around ten years ago, we were selling our solution to a Fortune 50 company. The business users loved it. The technical evaluators loved it. The top business executives loved it. Should have been a slam dunk, right? Wrong. We never did get that order – and it was because of SOB (er, Share of Budget) competition, which only became apparent once our project hit the CIO’s desk.
We were the vendor of choice – for our project. But the CIO had to choose which of several different and largely unrelated projects to fund. He could not fund all of them. And in large part, his analysis centered around a comparison of each project’s ROIs.
The CIO Optimizes Investments
In many ways, the CIO was really acting like an investment fund manager who was deciding how to maximize the return on his investment – his budget (which is what any good CIO does). Project #1 would yield X while project #2 would yield X+1. Our solution was central to project #1 and someone else’s solution was central to project #2. And we never saw it coming because project #2 served a completely different business function and solved a very different problem from ours. Project #2 won.
Sooner or later, your company will be in this situation too. So what can you do? Here are a few rules to follow:
- Prepare for change. The sales process is a ladder, with different competitors at each rung. Just because you’ve passed the direct and indirect competitors on the climb up does not mean you’re done.
- Build a better ROI. Prepare the most compelling ROI that you can. It’s not good enough to beat your usual, direct competitors – you may need to win against solutions that are very different from yours and yet still compete for the same share of budget.
- Get ready for the CIO. Build a bullet-proof business case that resonates with everyone – from the business to the CIO.
- Look ahead. Use whatever intelligence you can gather to understand and proactively respond to the competitors and potential objections that lie around every corner.
Follow these rules and turn the diverse competition of Black Friday into a very merry Monday win for your solution. Happy shopping, er, selling!