Looking for the Winner when Markets Collide

Some of the most interesting ideas for new startups come from the intersection of markets.  If I look back at some of the V1 products I have worked on I see it over and over again.

One thing to keep in mind when developing the messaging and positioning around such products is to make sure you are targeting the right buyers.  Whenever there are markets colliding there will be one side that always “wins” over the other in the gray space in the middle. You can probably still make sales to both sides but selling to the winning side will be much, much easier.

While I was working with the Nortel Incubation program, we were specifically focused on the points where the traditional Telecom space was bumping into the world of IT.  Web.alive was a great example of a product that took traditional voice and text communications technology and applied it to
creating a more immersive, interactive collaboration environment.  When we spoke to customers it was clear that when IT-based collaboration and voice
functionality collided, collaboration was the winner.  It was the IT groups that did the technical assessments of the product and the traditional telecom folks weren’t even at the table.  Trying to position this product as “telecom” and selling it to that side of the house would have been pointless.

A conversation with the CEO of a startup I had this week gave me another example of this.  His company’s product functionality falls exactly into the communications side of the house. When they took their product to market, they made sure they had messaging and positioning that made sense for a comms buyer and when they started having meetings, the buyers loved what they had to say.  As time went on however, they noticed that sales were slow to close and many didn’t close at all. When they took a closer look, it became clear that the IT buyers had a greater say in the purchase than they thought because increasingly the product was being used as infrastructure under an IT application.  The company re-positioned what they had for the IT buyers and sales took off.

Is the product you’re working on talking to different intersecting markets?  Are you sure you are selling to the winning side?

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6 thoughts on “Looking for the Winner when Markets Collide”

  1. Interesting post. I think that often companies tend to sell to the group they are most comfortable talking to instead of taking a hard look at who the real buyers and influencers are. For many of the companies I’ve worked for, that means they are talking to the mid-level tech folks rather than up at the CIO level or even to the line of business execs.
    John

  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for the comment! I’ve worked at several companies where we have been reluctant to do a more business sell rather than a technology sell. I think it’s natural for technical entrepreneurs to sell to the group they identify the most with. Unfortunately it often means that they are missing out on an easier (or more strategic) selling opportunity.
    April

  3. Pingback: Jim Holland

  4. April,

    Some interesting observations in this post, however, I would suggest that in many cases IT is more supportive of internally ‘selling’ new ideas because of the nature of most IT professionals, that is, they actively embrace new and different ways of looking at things.

    I share this from personal experience in enterprise VoIP (pitching to IT was at least 300% more effective than the pitch to the telecom group) and IP convergence for building systems (getting IT to internally sponsor the initial foray is at least double the effectiveness of going after facilities management).

    In both areas ITs involvement was needed but those areas were “owned” by another group. The incumbent groups were resistant to a new way of doing things even when similar concepts were pitched by the manufacturer of the incumbent system.

    Even when selling through the IT side of the house it is critical to get above the mid-level functional staff early as they will bog you down with spec and demo requests. I would rather go well over their heads to the CIO of CFO and get pushed down after having at least made contact and made the executive aware of our existence.

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