Hank Barnes – Sad State of Differentiation and What to Do About It

Jun 2014

Hank Barnes – Sad State of Differentiation and What to Do About It

Posted by Zaid Rasid

Gartner analyst Hank Barnes presented today at the 2014 Asigra Partner Summit on the topic of differentiation in technologyHank Barnes markets. Hank describes the current market as one that looks monochromatic for buyers which leads to buyer tension. In particular, Hank identifies three key issues that buyers face when making technology decisions:

  • Buyers declare the state of differentiation disappointing
  • Some consistent patterns are the enemies of differentiation
  • A focused approach provides opportunities to find and communicate differentiation

Hank delved into the changing buying cycles that we see today which he says are customer-driven, continuous and dynamic. He highlights how ‘self-driven information search’ is the dominant buyer activity with over 60% of respondents in a Gartner survey indicating their preference for self-driven info search during the exploring, evaluating and engaging stages of the buying cycle.

After discussing the high costs of failing to differentiate your technology and the common patterns consistent across regions and industries, Hank discusses some of the reasons buyers are frustrated with differentiation. In particular, familiar marketing messages with product features and functionality that is too similar compared to others, stood out as some of the leading factors. It turns out that buyers consider brand image an important decision making factor when making key decisions but find vendors lack the ability to communicate brand messages effectively. In addition, an emphasis on service and support stood out to buyers as they feel that it is an important form of differentiation.

Enemies of Differentiation

So what are some of the causes of a failure to differentiate? Hank compiled a list which he called the enemy of differentiation. He lists some of the ways vendors sabotage themselves in the market:

  • Weak brand positioning
  • Unrealistic competitive understanding
  • Mimicry/bandwagon jumping
  • Early sales struggles
  • Broad targets
  • Impatience/Boredom
  • Product Comparisons

A Focused Approach

What are some of the ways that technology companies can effectively differentiate themselves in the market? Hank summarizes some key strategies that vendors can utilize to ensure they are differentiated. First, he provides a differentiation test that compares your message to your competitors.

That is, if your message is interchangeable with your competitors then you haven’t differentiated yourself enough. Next, taking a chapter from Geoffrey Moore's, Crossing the Chasm, Hank suggests putting together a detailed positioning effort to uncover differentiation opportunities. Some additional points that Hank mentions is to segment your markets aggressively, choose your competition wisely, looking beyond your product and learn to tell effective marketing stories.

It was a pleasure having Hank Barnes attend the Asigra Partner Summit. His insights into differentiation provided Asigra Partners with key strategies to use right away in order to position their cloud backup and recovery services apart from the competition.

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