November 10, 2006

Why It's Important to Cast Your Vision

Once in a while there comes a time when a white paper just doesn't fit. Sometimes you have to cast a vision for your company, product strategy, or to respond to a new competitive threat or emerging market. For these situations there is the Vision Statement. What's a Vision Statement, you say? A vision statement is a two page document (maximum) that is designed to provide one singlular purpose -- thought leadership. Why is this important is the sales and marketing process? In highly competitive markets (like the technology sector), it's important to place a stake in the ground and establish your turf. To differentiate yourself among the crowd. As we used to say in the enterprise software industry, "What's your corner?" A vision statement is the first document that you post to your online library, especially when you haven't established all the details of your strategy that would normally go into a white paper. It's similar to the soldier carrying the flag in advance of the infantry. At the time. my old employer, J.D. Edwards hadn't established their corner in the enterprise software market. All of the other major players had already established theirs. For example: SAP - took the "safe decision" corner, because they were (and still are) the big gorilla in the market. Oracle - took the "technology innovator" corner. Peoplesoft - took the "friendly and easy partner" corner. What was left? It seemed that all the imporant corners were already taken. J.D. Edwards was the fourth largest player in the market at the time, and didn't have a corner. How did we establish a corner? By using the Vision Statement. What corner did we decide on? J.D. Edwards - established the "quick response to change" corner, leveraging the "time is money" theme. Since this was a new concept, we couldn't validate our position with facts and industry perspectives, because they didn't exist. Vision statements allowed us to set our vision of what rapid change meant and why it was critically important to the marketplace. Two pages -- short and to the point. After the vision statement was released, we followed that up with a series of detailed white papers to tell the market how we were going to fulfill the vision and speak to the advantage of software that could rapidly change. As a result, SAP and Oracle had to come up with a response to our vision. The vision document can serve an important purpose as part of an overall marketing communications strategy. After all, how can you expect your customer to follow you if you don't tell them which direction to go? Have you ever seen the need for a vision statement within your organization or with your customers? Please help support this with your blog link. Thank you!

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