Gen X and Gen Y Relevance

Would you market the iPhone on speeds and feeds?  How about the latest gaming graphics rig?  With gas prices creeping up by the minute, MPG specs will turn heads as much as horsepower did years ago.  Today more than ever, successful products must take into account generational relevance in addition to increased innovation.

A short while ago I was asked to comment on how to position a late-entrant commercial chat product from a young rock-star startup against well known enterprise-class incumbents.  From a design standpoint the new chat product was brimming with usability, integration and functionality enhancements.  It could easily compete with the top-3 products on features alone, and arguably leave most in the dust.  Integration features abound, the chat product could easily be a drop-in replacement for chat modules within MS Communicator, Chatter and Sametime.  Self-contained and highly scalable, tested extensively under monstrous loads, it was enterprise-class hands down.  The product’s marketing was replete with features and innovation.  Smart design and clever copy abound.  Feature roadmap three years out with every imaginable integration with social marketing, iPhone, Android, Skype and all the major instant messenger platforms.  Pricing was aggressive and aimed on market penetration.  So why were they having ad-hoc success in major IT shops?

Looking at their sales pitch, one major point stuck out:  they were selling to themselves.  They had great success with friendly, like minded organizations, largely Gen Y startup or mid-sized business units in larger firms.  Their enterprise IT prospects however, later in their careers, managing greater organizational risk/scope, motivated by business goals perpendicular to chat product capabilities, were also staunch Gen X decision makers.  The multiple chat vendors in the market, and the very likely possibility for features to be made on demand by enterprise software incumbents, created further hesitation on the part of their enterprise IT accounts’ decision makers.  Their market strategy had gaps in addressing both Gen Y and Gen X attributes.

I summarized those attributes for them, edited below, which provided a useful reference from which to target marketing materials and sales activities.  For “Payments”, the chart suggests that marketing and sales should keep in mind Gen Y as the Early Adopters, are valuing Pay As You Go over the Gen X’s preferred ROI/TCO approach.  Opinions are swayed by the Trusted Advisers for Gen X, and role-model Heroes grab the attention of Gen Y.  And so on down the Attributes list.

There was some editing done to online marketing and additional marketing campaigns, including scheduling some editorial reviews with the traditional IT press, appeared on the launch plan.  Their effort is under way.

As food for thought to their sales approach, I recommended the classic but still exceedingly relevant “Power Base Selling: Secrets of an Ivy League Street Fighter” by Jim Holden.  The whole point being that they should look deeply at who they are selling to in IT.

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