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System Evaluation Series, Part 4: The Vertical Approach

In this series, we are following the journey of a 200-person specialty equipment manufacturing company as it evaluates new business management systems. In the past several weeks, the company revisited its existing system and begun the process of identifying primary pain points. They also scheduled an on-site day-long demonstration of an industry focused solution.

The Vertical Advantage
At an industry trade show in January, Dave, the leader of the evaluation process, talked to an IT solutions company dedicated to equipment dealers. In February, the vendor delivered an online demo to a large group of users to determine if the solution was a potential fit.

What impressed the evaluation team's members the most was how the solution mirrored their process flows and operations. From familiar field names to identifying common bottlenecks, the equipment dealer solution immediately appealed to the users.  

From end to end, the vendor is focused on their market. Its Web site is fully dedicated to the business managers of equipment dealers. "They do not market to IT departments," Dave noted. "They are specifically focused on managers and functional users such as parts and service personnel."

The Technology Is Not the Point
One of the things that Dave found refreshing in the approach of the equipment dealer software vendor was that the underlying technology was not the lead. As we noted in the first installment of this series, the company we are following is a Microsoft-centric company. Still, business benefit is what is driving the system evaluation process -- not technology.

Microsoft partners may want to evaluate how much they rely on the Microsoft technology message in their marketing and sales process. Competition with SaaS vendors will continue to erode the importance of the technology message.

The Target Market
As a follow-up to the first successful demo, the equipment rental solution provider was invited for a full day on-site demonstration. The two representatives immediately connected with managers and users, showing familiar navigation, processes and workflows.

Dave said, "Feedback from everyone that viewed the system was very positive. It has 95 percent of what we need already built, including the BI cubes that relate to our business."

Lessons Learned
Microsoft clearly endorses (perhaps an understatement) the vertical approach for partners. There is no doubt that marketing a vertical solution delivers more results for dollars spent. But partners still fear losing the potential of the broader market if they focus. It's a frightening leap for partners.

The other clear lesson from this story is that marketing and sales messaging should address the business benefits rather than the technology. Those business benefits should be targeted and delivered to the people whose roles are most impacted by aging and ineffective systems. The days of IT departments leading all technology decisions are over.

Next Installment: The Decision Matrix
Even though the evaluation team and users are impressed with the equipment rental solution, the decision is far from made. The build-versus-buy option is still on the table, as well as retaining the current system.

Dave has developed a Decision Matrix to give the evaluation team a method to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the business management solutions they are considering.  We'll take a look at that process next time.

Are you finding success with vertical solutions? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on May 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM