In the blink of an eye, BI vendors change their position

In less than a year, eight vendors in the Business Intelligence (BI) market have changed their position, and only Qlik and Panorama took steps in the right direction. Everyone else including SAP, IBM, MicroStrategy, Microsoft and SAS back peddled in their effort to claim a position in the BI market.

Change usually works against effective positioning – that mental space in your target audiences’ mind that you can own with an idea that has compelling meaning to the recipient. That’s because repetition of your positioning statement sends a strong signal to the decision-making portion of the brain, prompting it to note, “I should remember that.”*

Therefore, you have a much better chance of claiming a position by consistently repeating the same benefit-oriented concept over and over for an extended period of time; at least 18 months, and assuming it is unique (only you are making the claim) and important (it solves the target audience’s biggest problem), it can last for years. For example, Salesforce.com has stuck with the same position around the notion of success since 2006.

In the BI space, five vendors have stuck with the same position since I started evaluating positioning in this highly competitive market in 2014. On the surface, all of these vendors should be on their way to owning a unique position due to consistency and repetition but that’s not the case for all of them. I’ll explain why later in this blog.

Lack of differentiation is a problem

As you can see from my latest assessment conducted this month, lack of differentiation is a problem in the BI market. Two vendors – Tibco and Oracle – take “me too” positioning to the next extreme by claiming both “better decisions” and “insight.” These claims are too obvious and so overused it makes you wonder whether these companies pay any attention to the competition when positioning their products. The same can be said for four other vendors either claiming some form of “better decisions,” or some form of “insight:”

bi-vendors-change

Why six vendors who changed their position did it wrong

Here’s a quick summary of why the following six vendors didn’t help their marketing effort by changing their position:

In the last year, SAP has changed its position at least twice. I noted the first change when I started my evaluation in mid-December. SAP had changed from making four competing claims to one compelling claim: “helps you succeed.” But two weeks later, SAP changed again and now makes these claims: “real-time insight,” “empower your people to make faster, more informed decisions;” “improve performance;” and finally “help you be more effective.”

A multiple-claim positioning statement insures that you have no position. Which claim is your position? None because they compete against each other and confuse the brain, which responds best to simple, easy to understand language.

IBM didn’t need to change its position because it was already making a compelling, unique claim – capitalize on opportunities and minimize risks. But at least IBM went from one strong, unique position

to one that is unique, but not quite so compelling. Clearly, IBM changed to reflect a market moving toward guided self-service discovery.

MicroStrategy went from a “me too” position (faster, better decisions) to no position because it makes multiple claims as demonstrated by this home page copy about MicroStrategy 10:

“It empowers organizations to make sense of large data volumes, get answers to their toughest business questions, build beautiful data visualizations, and ensure a single version of the truth–at any scale, on any device.”

Microsoft changed from one “me too” position (unlock new insights) to another (Empower employees to make informed decisions).

Information Builders had no position last year due to multiple claims, and made progress this year by narrowing its focus to “smarter, more confident decisions.” But it’s not a position anyone can own due to its overuse both in the BI market as well as many other enterprise B2B software markets.

SAS went from one “me too” position (more informed decisions) to another (powerful insights).

Sometimes changing your position is good

The third change was a charm for Qlik which has finally found a compelling, unique position – “See the whole story to answer your most important questions.” In my previous two assessments of the BI market, Qlik went from one “me too” position (better decisions) to another (insight). While change is not your friend when it comes to positioning, change is essential when you are making a “me too” claim.

Until just recently Panorama described what its product does rather than state a benefit. Now its position is “making sense of data automatically,” which is a decided improvement over no position.

Now let’s look at the five companies who have maintained a consistent position in each of my three assessments. Three of them – Oracle, Tibco and Alteryx – should change their position due to lack of differentiation. Even though they have stuck with either “insight” or “better decisions” or even worse – both, they need a little creativity and inspiration to set themselves apart from the competition and claim a unique space in the BI market.

Only Tableau and Pentaho have stuck with the same, unique position

I’ve saved the best performers for last. Tableau and Pentaho have maintained the same, unique position for the last three years. Both use simple, easy to remember positioning concepts that address real customer problems. Pentaho helps you “easily translate data into value” which addresses several problems in the world of BI. Value comes in the form of information users need to do their job effectively, as well as the value useful information delivers to the overall enterprise effort.

Tableau has arguably the best position in the market because it is simple and easy to grasp: “see and understand your data.” It doesn’t promise too much, but gives the users what they need to do their job better – an understanding of their data.

You have to wonder how much effective positioning has contributed to Tableau’s rapid rise to the top of the BI market. Tableau is a relatively new entry, yet in Gartner’s latest magic quadrant, it is the clear leader in ability to execute and gets a strong ranking for its vision. Ironically, those BI vendors Gartner thinks have a slightly better vision – SAP, SAS, IBM, Oracle and MicroStrategy – either changed their position in the last year or stuck with their “me too” position or have no position. I wouldn’t call that visionary.

* See page 106 of “Neuromarketing – Understanding the ‘Buy Buttons’ in Your Customer’s Brain”