At Artemis, we strongly advocate for subject or category expertise. When evaluating options, prospects are likely to put heavy weight on how well the competing firms understand the business and the specific needs of that company and its decision-makers.
But how do you reflect this expertise during the pursuit? Do you simply parrot back to the prospect stuff that the prospect already knows?
You could. That would be the price of entry into the prospect’s consideration set. But it might do little for differentiating you. And, by using equivalent expertise in the development of your solution, you might possibly come up with something that looks a whole lot like what the other guys have come up with.
Break the Category Conventions
In our experience, the best, most innovative, most differentiating solutions can emerge when the pursuit team knows the “category conventions” and then brainstorms deliberate steps to break them.
This HBR article on innovation says it well. The first of three steps recommended for innovation is this:
“What is the existing practice/the recipe for success/the way we’ve always done it at our organization?”
Replace “our organization” with “this category” or “this prospect.” A deep study of the way things are usually done is then followed by an equally intense discussion of this:
If we didn’t follow category conventions, what would we (or the prospect) do?
Broken Rules and Great Solutions
There are plenty of examples of terrific solutions – ones we take for granted today – that broke category conventions. Consider
Convention: TV is a linear medium, one episode a week. Innovation: Drop all episodes at the same time.
Convention: Smartphones have keyboards (think Blackberry). Innovation: Type on a screen.
Convention: Coffee is a cheap commodity that accompanies breakfast. Innovation: Coffee is an event.
These are very big ideas. Most pursuits and pitches don’t require solutions of this magnitude. Yet in all categories, except those that are highly regulated, there are potential advantages during the pursuit to taking this approach. First make the prospect confident that you understand the category conventions. Then show the value of a solution that steps outside those assumed boundaries.
- Bob Wiesner