Everything Old is New Again

By Rebel Brown

That's certainly true in the tech business, now isn't it? It surely is for me and my 'gang'. We've experienced 3 major eras in the technology business. Just to show our age – many of us ( me included) were in this business long before the PC saw the light of day.

I wonder if we're growing cynical in our old age. We used to be so excited about every new innovation.  These days, we just compare what's 'hot' to what we've seen before. Same song, different key.  Although there IS still really cool stuff. Cool.

Think about it:

  • We
    started with large proprietary centralized systems:
    These systems
    processed the data and delivered the results
    to local terminals, then later remote displays. We evolved from
    tubes to transistors, then circuits then chips and until we powered the ultimate mainframe.
  • We  moved to 'open' distributed systems: First there were PCs and DOS/Windows (remember those hot dual 5 1/4' floppies?), then UNIX workstations, then UNIX and client/server, then the GRID and now, well…
  • Now we are returning to large 'open' scalable systems:  These systems live at the core (of your cloud or data center or at an aggregator), process data (from transactions to digital media to streaming files) and deliver the results to remote users (browsers, PCs, cell phones and PDAs – and soon to your refrigerator. No, wait, we can do that now, too.)

Let's face it. There are only so many combinations and designs that can be applied to a computing architecture.  Only so many different ways that we can collect, store and manage data, develop applications, process them, and then deliver the results to the ultimate user. 

I'm not saying that innovation isn't important.  It is.

I am saying that innovation can come in the way you view and apply your current IP, rather from engineering something new.

Case in Point: Just take a look at High Performance Computing.

  • The Past: Traditional HPC companies built amazing  (and very expensive/proprietary) systems and software to process large scale, complex, high diverse data.  They also built sophisticated graphical interfaces for visualizing results (CAVEs)
  • The Present:Newer HPC vendors have applied supercomputing expertise and Intellectual Property to commodity systems – making them affordable for a broader audience.  Today HPC applications permeate commercial industries including product design, entertainment, healthcare, energy and more.
  • The Future: Guess what?  Many of those same HPC technologies are leading the way for tomorrow's world of interactive computing. From immersive gaming, sports and entertainment to virtual worlds to Web 3.0 – high performance computing fundamentals are powering next generation experiences. And changing the way we view and interact with our world.

Some former HPC leaders are falling by the wayside. Yet those who can take a different perspective are applying that same IP and expertise to power new and exciting markets.

So, what's the takeaway here? 

When you're in a Phoenix cycle, searching for your fuel, your
assets that will power your next rise to success … don't assume your
value is necessarily in that new whizbang IP you're developing.

Maybe
you don't have to look as far as you think.

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Three Adjectives and a Noun is NOT a Positioning Statement

By Rebel Brown

When I first started my consulting business 20 years ago, I created
a Random Positioning Generator as a joke. But you know
what?  That Generator was one of the best
examples ever of what NOT to do in marketing. Too bad we didn’t take those
gadgets seriously.

The generator contained four columns of words. The first
three columns included ’chest thumping’ adjectives that represented the most
popular buzzwords used by IT vendors. 
And the fourth column included a variety of nouns, where the adjectives could
be applied.

My gig was to randomly select a word from each of the
columns, combine them all together and create a claim that some industry vendor
was already using to promote their "stuff”.

My client’s laughed as we played the game and selected words
to create positioning statements.  That
is, until sooner or later, we selected a combination of words that were exactly
mapped to one of their claims.  Then they
would laugh as well, but they got the point.

Why is it that marketing folks tend to think that simply
streaming popular buzzwords and ‘chest thumping’ adjectives together results in
a powerful positioning statement? And by the way, we all know we do it, we kid about
it, poke fun at the other guys doing it — and then turn right around and do
the same thing.

Yes, we want to create ‘buzz’.   But that doesn’t mean we have to use
buzzwords to get there.  As a matter of
fact, buzzwords can make it harder to create buzz for you and your products.  When you sound just like everyone else – you’re
creating noise – not buzz.

So how do you come to a strong positioning statement?

Here are some simple
rules to stop the positioning noise:

  • Use words that matter
    to your customers.
    Go out and talk to your customers. Listen closely to the
    words and phrases they use to describe the benefits that your product brings to
    them. Capture those words — the simpler the better.  Forget about the complicated buzzwords and
    terminology that IT vendors make up. Those words will come and go along with
    the next cycle of computing architecture.

  • Keep It Simple:
    Yes, the KISS principle applies in marketing and sales just as it does in other
    aspects of your business. Simple statements don’t have to be fluff – they can
    be quite powerful. Simplicity brings clarity – and clear messages are the Holy
    Grail of positioning.

  • Apply Your Value: Great
    big claims can be made about darned near anything. Many companies make big
    nebulous claims assuming that their audience will recognize the inherent value
    and apply it to their own situation.  Not
    so.  That’s YOUR job. Real positioning
    power comes when you apply a clear and concise value claim to a real-world
    scenario that your audience ‘gets’.   Asking
    your audience to extract the value from generic, buzzword-ridden claims is
    risky at best.  Remember, everyone comes to
    the party with their own perception.  Unless
    you manage that perception with your own clarity and specifically applied value,
    you’re asking for trouble.

  • Let the Evidence
    Speak for You:
    I continue to be amazed at how many companies make
    gargantuan ‘chest thumping’ claims without the evidence to support them. “But
    we don’t have any numbers” goes the response. 
    Who said evidence had to be quantitative?  It’s super when it can be – but evidence is
    all around us in the form of our customers’ successes.  So go out there and let that evidence speak
    for you – clearly and concisely.  

The bottom line is that to be powerful, positioning
statements have to be clear and concise, applicable to your audience and their
specific perceptions and have to demonstrate your value in a compelling
customer situation. 

Let the competitors keep generating buzzwords – while you go
generate revenue.

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