B2B marketers need to understand the technology landscape as well as they understand the competitive landscape.
It’s not all that unusual for B2B marketers to ask us why they have to go beyond what a product or service really does and learn more about the technology landscape it fits into.
“Why do you have to know that?” someone asks. And, it’s true that, on occasion, these excursions sometimes don’t uncover much of anything.
But, those occasions are rare. At the very least, we pick up some nuance of product nomenclature or even application that helps us frame our concepts differently.
And, often enough, our inquiries into the technology landscape uncover important information critical to concept differentiation. Like hidden competitors. Not-immediately apparent buyer motivations. Or even outright exclusions. At the very least, we learn about things that go beyond price and delivery, and often help us develop concepts that are differentiating and distinguishing.
A few examples:
- Hidden competition. On one occasion, we were given one or two direct, in-kind competitors. But our research uncovered that sales reps were having trouble getting traction because of a competing technology – a not-in-kind competitor that allowed customers to do the same thing with a different process.
- Regulation. Manufacturers of heavy equipment are now winding up a decade-long process of complying with Tier 4 engine standards, which required improvements in environmental impact and energy consumption. And while they relied on their suppliers (engine manufacturers) for those particular parts, they had to re-engineer their entire product lines to achieve the same performance, and usually faced higher costs. The way the engineers at the major manufacturing companies addressed these issues created significant potential for marketplace change, as some government entities moved to require that contractors use Tier 4 equipment within their borders. The process, by the way, is not complete: A so-called “Tier 5” is under consideration.
- The ripple effect. While the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, first enacted in 1975, apply only to cars and light trucks, they have a huge downstream impact, largely because of the size of the automotive ecosystem. To comply with these CAFE standards, car manufacturers are looking for ways to boost efficiency, of course. But they’re also looking for lighter-weight materials in body and interior components … new products that allow them to achieve the same level of performance or comfort, while not compromising safety. That process is having a huge impact on automotive suppliers. And, once established, will those innovations filter into other markets like construction equipment and public transportation vehicles?
Add to that the obvious – the ongoing process of innovation that creates winners and losers out there in the marketplace. As an agency, it’s important for us to understand these trends to know which horse our client is backing.
In B2B, the technology leader is almost always the market leader. And, for good reason: Technological superiority creates competitive advantage. It usually sets the stage for the next round of product advancement. And it thus has great potential to disrupt a market.
So understanding the technology landscape is always important, no matter how simple or straightforward a marketing effort may appear.