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Competing Lessons Product Marketing

Positioning against Goliath (and multiple Davids, too)

When you’re in a highly competitive industry, your business needs to stand out.

But too often, companies rely on competing on issues that are relatively basic, common, and just not that important in the grand scheme of things — price and features included!

At Kayako (recently acquired), we successfully competed against some of the biggest names in software — Zendesk, Intercom, Salesforce — as well as probably hundreds of smaller businesses with similar software propositions.

On reflection, here are a few things I think contributed to our ability to stand out and win customers in a crowded marketplace.

We focused on just two customer personas

By understanding how these two different personas thought about customer service and the way they operated their teams, we were able to easily connect, be extremely relevant, and be very detailed in how we were solving their problems.

This meant that we could effectively prioritise product features that would make a difference. We could market them with the language they would’ve used themselves. We could demo using examples that match their existing setup, and hit the nail on the head every time by describing the exact pains we were solving for them.

We had a grand vision, but we met customers where they were

“People are generally resistant to teaching and training because it requires effort…. As a result, products that require people to learn new things routinely fail.”

People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.

When we relaunched Kayako in July 2016, we tried a little too hard to push our vision for the future of customer service.

In all honesty, it fell flat; it was too disconnected from where customers were in their maturity, appetite for risk, and vision.

Over time we refined the pitch to meet customers where they were today. Reading this article, on how people really want evolution, not revolution, helped us pare down even more.

Here’s an example of how we communicated some of this vision in a product feature page:

And indeed, part of that grand vision has even been co-opted by competitors.

We educated, and that became a cornerstone of our brand

With our vision of the future, and our understanding of our customers mindset, we were able to educate them and help them keep up and move forward. The Kayako blog became one of the top destinations for help desk software and customer service content across the industry (mostly thanks to Adam Rogers and his content marketing skills!).

Here’s a good example of the type of content we produced to help educate and bring the market forward:

Our helpful, considerate, and down-to-earth voice became a cornerstone of our brand, even cited in interviews with new customers as a key reason for choosing Kayako in the first place.

We focused on our unique advantages, instead of bashing competitors

In sales calls, there’s nothing worse than to hear a sales rep bash one of their competitors. We made sure that we were honest, truthful, and straightforward when talking about the relative benefits — and downsides — of our competitors, based on real customer insight and not just a feature comparison. It’s important to focus on your own unique competitive advantages and strengths, rather than your competition’s negatives.

Here’s an example of how we communicated the differences between Kayako and a competitor:

We priced just right for our customers

One of the common levers in crowded markets is to compete on price, and go lower than anyone else.

We found the opposite: carrying out justified pricing research that indicated we could charge a higher price actually led to increased sales.

At first glance, this may seem counter-intuitive. Why would a customer pay more for your solution, if they could get the same from someone else for less?

Following Price Intelligently’s pricing strategy process, we found that better segmenting our packaging by customer needs and using willingness-to-pay research resulted in setting pricing a little bit higher than our immediate competitors, and even offering a free plan.

This grew trial signups (indicating an improved value perception), as well as leading to an 84% increase in the amount of monthly recurring revenue we were adding each month.

Pricing structure, guided by customer research

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