Can you sell what you innovate?

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” Or woman, or in the case of the industry, ‘the machine’. Tough times are when innovative ideas are most needed but will people buy them? I post my thoughts now on the twin aspects of innovation and marketing.

This blog post of Jon Taigo led me thinking in this direction . He has a blog called ‘Drunken Data’ and for those who haven’t read his blog posts, he is one of the most vocal persons when it comes to giving his opinions on subjects which he holds close to his heart. He is not known to mince words and needless to say, his posts make interesting reading.

This post held my interest because it spoke about XIOTech’s Intelligent Storage Element (ISE). This is an innovative product. They have an innovative heal-in-place capabilities for the disk drives in their ISE. Errors are detected and potential problems are fixed before they can occur. Automatically moving data to a spare drive and rectifying a failed (or about to fail) drive saves on lengthy RAID 5 rebuild times. You can get more details about their product from their website http://www.xiotech.com

If you read Taigo’s blog, you will see statements made by prospects and competitors like, “questionable future of a company like XIOTech.” While it is true that innovative products are the need of the hour , it is also true that enterprises want to take the minimum of risk in these times.  I am not saying that competition happens only during these times but the competition is bound to be very stiff given that the total spending pie has shrunk. Added to it, the companies turn very conservative.  The innovative smaller companies may face more heat during these challenging times when it comes to selling their products. While the value the innovative product delivers may be excellent, (theoretically maybe), it would still be an untested product and more importantly from an untested company. Hence the reluctance to buy an innovative product.  When it comes to the question of a better product or a trusted company, the client may jump in favor of the latter. I don’t have statistical data to back this up but going by the reaction of many people I meet, I am guessing this would be true. These are the best of times for big companies to come out with some innovative products. The industry would lap up such products. My feeling is that companies sell themselves off or merge with other companies, not just because they want to make tons of dollars, but because brand and reputation building is a long and tough road.

I am ofcourse more concerned about the fate of people like me than about small and large companies. Naturally :). The tough times throw up multiple challenges. While everyone advocates some basic things: ‘find what problem the prospect has’, ‘find the pain areas’, ‘give a great value proposition’ etc, it is easier said than done. That is why you find lot more people saying this than doing it!! How would you investigate a pain point of a prospect if he/she is not even willing to meet you? What I have observed is that it much tougher getting a prospect to talk to you in these times. The general response would be, “We are still finalizing our strategy”, “We are in the process of finalizing our budget” etc. It is then you realize the value of your contacts and also the value of a brand name.

The only way out is to keep up the struggle and keep coming up with innovative ideas. At the same time we should be building a brand name for ourselves. We need to take help from all people we know, get a foot in the door and deliver. The last part is what is going to help in the long run. Your friends can help you get the foot inside the door. Then it is upto you to deliver. Your work is the one which will stay with you and help you or haunt you for a long time. There is no magic potion other than good old fashioned hard work combined with good old fashioned smart work. And yes, do find out that pain point of your prospect, one way or the other. That will go a long way in easing your pain as well.