Transcending tech.
How tech companies rise above their competition.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As individuals, we crave excellence. We look at people like Katie Ledecky, Yo Yo Ma, or Steve Jobs and wonder how we could achieve that level of greatness. We’ve all heard of the famous “10,000 hour” rule popularized by Malcom Gladwell, but a growing body of research suggests that there’s more to success than how long we practice.
 
“Saying that training is everything may be tempting, but it’s wrong,” concludes The New Yorker journalist Maria Konnikova after interviewing a group of scientists who study expertise. “We cannot predict with accuracy who will become elite in a given field, but we know that genes and environment matter and that we all have different natural peaks that we can reach through application and training.”
 
Obviously high-tech companies aren’t individuals. But with their customers expecting compelling experiences instead of just products, and with one disruptive technology after another hitting the market, the pressure to rise above the competition — to be leaders — has reached a fever pitch.
 
Research firm Ovum asked high-tech marketers in 2016 to rate the intensity of competition in the market on a 1-to-10 scale. Sixty percent of them responded with an 8 or higher. When asked to predict the level of competition in 2017, that percentage jumped to 70. According to the report, “In 2017, 18 percent of organizations expect competition conditions to be ‘extreme’.”
 
This is the reality of the high-tech industry today. Disruption. Changing expectations. Extreme competition. As digital technology transforms every aspect of our lives, high-tech decision-makers are looking for every advantage.  
 
And while companies are not the same as people, more and more thought leaders are realizing that the same forces that made Michael Phelps — genetics, hard work, opportunity — are shaping the best high-tech brands today.
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Why-powered tech.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You obviously need to practice,” says Konnikova, “but natural abilities matter more.” This same principle is true in tech. What you do is not as important as who you are.
 
“All the great and inspiring leaders and organizations all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way,” says author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek. “Every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it….But very few people and organizations know why they do it….And by why, I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief. Why does your organization exist?”
Simon Sinek

“Very few people and organizations know why they do it. And by why, I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief. Why does your organization exist?”

Simon Sinek
author

 

Leading tech companies succeed because they understand why they exist. They know who they are, so they act intentionally instead of reactively. And in this highly competitive market, being reactionary is a serious threat.
 
According to Ovum, competition is forcing many tech companies to react. In their report, 75 percent of respondents claimed to have lowered their prices because of competition. Sixty-seven percent said they’d rushed into new markets. Tellingly, 73 percent said that competition had forced them to reevaluate their value proposition.

How are high-tech companies responding to competition?

75%

Lower their prices

67%

Rush into new markets

73%

Reevaluate their value proposition

Source: Ovum
For the most successful tech companies, this isn’t the case. If they enter a new market, it’s because doing so maps to a larger vision. If their prices are high, it’s because they understand the value they offer.
 
This is the heart of it: What is the value you’re offering? For tech companies, value has become the watchword. Products and services are important, but only because they deliver value to your customers.
 
At the Adobe 2016 Think Tank, focused on the future of digital experiences, former TIAA-CREF head of digital marketing Jaime Punishill explored this idea of value, using Rolls-Royce as an example:
 
“The way they’re making money now is with engine cycle uptime. They aren’t a manufacturer of jet engines. They aren’t a software provider for the maintenance or monitoring of jet engines. If that plane’s in the air because their jet engine is working, that is actually their value. They might have to build something, they might need software, they might need sensors…but really at the essence, that’s their value proposition.”
 
Tech companies are massively complex organizations. They blend B2B and B2C; produce and sell a huge variety of products through a vast network of channels; and rely on an intricate ecosystem of technologies, partners, and systems. It’s easy to get lost focusing on the individual pieces and to forget about the whole.
 
By focusing on the real value they have to offer — the why — successful tech companies approach this complexity with purpose and rise above their competitors.
 
For example, while tech companies obviously understand the value of technology, many aren’t using it with the kind of intention that characterizes the top brands.
 
“I studied companies that are undergoing digital transformation,” says Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. “I would ask, ‘Hey, are you going through digital transformation?’ But then I asked ‘Do you know why?’ And only 25 percent of those companies had studied why they needed to go through digital transformation. Every time there’s a new trend, every time there’s some new technologies, some new movement — we all jump on it. But I don’t know that we leave behind the legacy standards, processes, philosophies, perspectives that sort of got us in trouble in the first place.”
Brian Solis

“Only 25 percent of those companies had studied why they needed to go through digital transformation.”

Brian Solis
principal analyst, Altimeter Group
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Innovation in. Innovation out.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding the real value your brand offers is crucial, but if you don’t take action to actually deliver that value, you’re sunk.
 
“What separates intellectually talented kids from their intellectual peers when it comes to actual creative advances?” psychology professor David Lubinski told Konnikova. “A lot of it is how much people are willing to work.”
 
When Ovum asked how tech companies were planning on dealing with the “extreme” competition, the top answer was “a greater focus on innovation” (60 percent), followed by the introduction of new products and services, “especially digital transformation offerings” (51 percent). But for the best tech companies, innovation is more than just a word. It’s a way of thinking that leads to change.

How are high-tech companies responding to competition?

60%

Focus on greater innovation

51%

Introduce new products and services

Source: Ovum
“No one who uses Uber goes back to use taxis,” says Solis. “It was disruption that makes something new, making something old obsolete. So what if you could create something new that made your old journey obsolete, or your competitor’s journey obsolete?”
 
This kind of disruption — the kind that completely redefines customer expectations — is the holy grail of high-tech innovation. But it’s understandably very difficult to achieve, and the pressure to do so can be crippling.
Brian Solis

“What if you could create something new that made your old journey obsolete, or your competitor’s journey obsolete?”

Brian Solis
principal analyst, Altimeter Group
“Many high-tech companies find themselves in a position in which they need to run as fast as they can just to stay in the same place,” the Ovum report says. “Smartphone manufacturers feel this keenly. Each year they launch new flagship models. These launches garner significant media attention and result in heightened demand as customers clamor to have the latest device with innovations in form factor, screen resolution, and camera technology. The strength of market competition creates an undertow for vendors as they are often constrained to modest price increases — even for new models — in order to stay competitive.”
 
Remember, tech leaders know why they’re innovating, and it’s not to cause disruption. Disruption is the natural result of delivering real value through innovation.
 
So while other tech companies fiddle with their products, successful tech companies are innovating the way they understand and interact with their customers.
 
This approach pays off. For the past few years, Watermark Consulting has analyzed the difference in stock performance between customer experience leaders and laggards. In its most recent study, customer experience leaders outperformed laggards by 80 points and the S&P 500 Index by 35 points.
 
At the center of this customer-focused transformation is a solid foundation of digital technology.
 
“Digital transformation is important because it forces business to think about three things,” Solis says, “How to iterate, how to innovate, and how to disrupt in a very different economy. But what if digital transformation just simply meant trying to be relevant to a different type of customer in a different type of economy, and you build a different infrastructure of leadership, culture, and execution in order to serve the customer better?”
Customer experience leaders outperformed laggards by 80 points and the S&P 500 by 35 points.

Laggards


Customer
Experience
Leaders


S&P 500
Index

Customer experience leaders outperformed laggards by 80 points and the S&P 500 by 35 points.

Source: Watermark Consulting
According to the Ovum report, 83 percent of respondents said using digital technology helped them improve their understanding of their customers’ needs. Eighty-one percent said digital helped them improve their customer experience.
 
But as Solis says, transforming toward satisfying customer needs ultimately means changing the way your company works. In Accenture’s 2017 technology vision report, 76 percent of respondents agree that “organizations are under extreme competitive pressure to extend innovation into their workforce and corporate structure.”
 
All tech companies are trying to innovate, but the leaders create real disruption in the market because they have transformed themselves, relying on digital technology and a strong vision to innovate not only their products, but their culture and their approach to their customers.

Remember, tech leaders know why they’re innovating and it’s not to cause disruption. Disruption is the natural result of delivering real value through innovation.

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Opportunity knocks. Knock back.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Opportunity must be there,” Konnikova says. “Genes are great, but they need to have the right environment in which to flourish.” Many of the most promising opportunities for tech companies are beyond their control, but as Lubinksi says, “Chance always favors the prepared mind.”
 
In other words, the best tech companies prepare themselves to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. Even better, they make their own opportunities by making an unpredictable market more predictable.
 
For many tech companies, this means moving away from traditional products toward services that operate in the cloud and generate recurring revenue. The importance of this shift cannot be overstated. This model makes it easier for companies to react to user needs; innovate quickly; and develop more consistent, value-driven relationships with customers.
 
Additionally, cloud-based services are much easier to make future-proof. They can be updated and modified in real time and can adapt easily to changing needs and trends.
 
This “as-a-service” shift is possible because of digital technology, but tech leaders use the same digital foundation to refine their internal processes so they can respond to opportunities more quickly. One prominent example is the focus on lead-to-revenue management. As the traditional sales funnel evolves into a complicated web of marketing touchpoints and self-guided customer education, the need for marketing and sales teams to work more closely together has intensified.
 
So, while according to Ovum, only 62 percent of tech companies have invested in a digital marketing platform, 78 percent said their marketing teams were working closely with sales to create a unified approach to digital.
 
When done right, this investment in digital allows you to break down organizational silos, communicate more consistently with your customers, and understand better how to deliver value. This means more than simply responding to opportunities. It means making them.

78% of tech companies said their marketing teams were working closely with sales to create a unified approach to digital.

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More than survival.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competition is fierce. Disruption is just over the next horizon. Customers — both business buyers and consumers — are calling for incredible experiences.
 
The intensity of the tech market today is due largely to the digital revolution, so to survive, tech companies need to be built on a digital foundation. But survival isn’t enough.
 
The tech brands that lead, the ones that rise above their competition, are the ones that understand what that digital foundation is for. And they use it with intention to create opportunity and to deliver the value their customers really want.

To surpass the competition, you need to know where they’re headed.

 
Get insider information on how the competition plans for advancement. Read Digital Marketing in the High-tech Industry.
 
 
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“The 2015 Customer Experience ROI Study: Demonstrating the business value of a great customer experience,” Watermark Consulting, 2015.
 
Adobe interview with Brian Solis, March 2016.
 
“Digital marketing strategies to get ahead in the high-tech industry,” Ovum, October 2016.
 
“The future of digital experiences,” Adobe Think Tank, September 28, 2016,
http://fode.adobethinktank.com/.
 
Maria Konnikova, “Practice doesn’t make perfect,” The New Yorker, September 28, 2016,
http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/practice-doesnt-make-perfect.
 
Simon Sinek, “Start with why  —  how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound,” YouTube, September 28, 2009,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA.
 
“Technology for people: The Era of the Intelligent Enterprise,” Accenture, 2017.