Jul 13

Create Preference

It may sound silly to single out creating preference as a specific area of technology marketing.  All marketing is about creating preference. Everything you do is meant to drive preference of your product over others.  Yet, it helps to be aware of the mandate to create preference as you go about your marketing work.  Preference building has its own specific tasks and challenges.  Plus, it’s so basic, it often gets overlooked.

For One Thing, It’s About the Product

Another entry that unfortunately needs to be included in the “almost too basic to mention” category is the impact of the product itself on creating preference.   We marketers can get so caught up in our messaging, campaigns, and hype building that we get out of touch with the very thing we are advocating.  The recent demise of the Flip Video Camera can teach us a bit about this phenomenon.  Now, I do not know personally what went on inside Cisco that drove their decision to drop the product entirely, but I do know this: the Flip Cam got overtaken by the smart phone as a video device.  It became harder to sell the consumer on a dedicated video camera when so many smart phones contained a comparable feature.  The target customer groups for the Flip Cam and the smart phone are similar, so that buyer is probably going to go with a video-equipped phone rather than two devices, even if the Flip had better video quality.   No amount of clever marketing in the world was going to shift that preference.

I have been some version of this dilemma many times.  The brass asks, “Why can’t we get such-and-such segment interested in our product?”  The implication is that there is something wrong with my marketing skills.  The problem was really with the product.   You will only get preference if you are within striking distance of what customers actually need.  Thus, if Kwikapp is marketing a photo portal, they will not do well getting preference amongst customers seeking a social software solution, even if the Kwikapp portal has some social features.


The Product Preference Flow

Let’s refresh on the overall flow of preference that we want to drive.  Before we can close a sale, our prospect has to go through some version of the following flow of events:

  1. Awareness – The prospect is aware that your company and product exist.
  2. Consideration – The prospect considers your product as a potential solution for his or her business need.
  3. Preference – The prospect prefers your product over other competing products.
  4. Selection – The prospect selects your product over competitors and buys it.

Each stage of the preference flow involves different aspects of marketing, and to some extent, sales.

Stage Key marketing activities
Awareness Advertising, lead generation activities, public relations, social media, Website
Consideration Website, datasheets, battlecards, and other collateral, case studies
Preference Proposal support, whitepapers, analyst relations
Selection Sales support

As the process flows from awareness to preference and selection, marketing’s role diminishes.  The figure below shows how the emphasis from market to sales shifts over the course of the preference process.  The work of convincing a specific prospect to select a product over competitors is the responsibility of sales.  Of course, sales needs marketing’s help to make its case for preference and selection.