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There’s a growing realization among B2B technology marketers that positioning their products and services around technology is a fool’s errand. Even compared to a year or two ago, there’s a massive rise in vendors recasting technology offerings around alleviation of business pain areas.

This is a great development. We’d like to take some credit for it since we’ve incessantly advocated this approach from Day One and used Marketable Items to realize it.


Whether we’re justified in patting our backs for this change in thinking from “inside-out” to “outside-in” is peripheral to the primary purpose of this blog post, which is to address the following challenge found by many tech vendors in executing it:

What if there are no pain areas?

Well, every company has hiccups. Even a casual glance at any company’s public announcements would prove that, regardless of it’s located or which industry it belongs to, no company is immune to pain points. The real challenge is in finding them.

While crafting Marketable Items for various tech companies, we’ve found at least three ways that work very well in uncovering pain areas.

  1. Drill down
  2. Surface the pain
  3. Drill across

Let me explain each method in detail.

Drill down

Everything might look hunky dory at the overall company level. However, scratch the surface, you might find that not all SBUs of the company are in the same boat. By drilling down to various businesses, you can find pain areas unique to that business. They probably need addressing only for that SBU but that could still present a sizable opportunity for your product or service.

Surface the pain

tyre-manufacturing-process1Company insiders might be oblivious to various issues. But, when seen from the outside, these issues may be one step away from becoming problems. Tech vendors should go beyond what the prospect aritculates and bring latent pain points to the surface. Let me illustrate this with the following real life example.

One of our customers was pitching its ERP solution to a tire manufacturer. Every time we visited the prospect for demos and presales meetings, we saw long queues of trucks parked outside the factory gate. At the time, this didn’t seem relevant to us. However, it started ringing alarm bells in our heads when we started discussing the production process. We learned that the company had multiple factories, with each being responsible for one of the many stages involved in a tire-manufacuturing process. For example, the plant we visited carried out the first stage of the process, namely “Compounding”, which “is the operation of bringing together all the ingredients required to mix a batch of rubber compound.” (Source: Wikipedia)

After compounding, the work-in-progress material would be transported to the second factory in the chain which would do “Mixing”, which “is the process of applying mechanical work to the ingredients in order to blend them into a homogeneous substance.”

So on and so forth until the fifth factory in the chain would “finish” the tire.

To us, it was obvious that there could  be delays in the handoff of WIP material from one factory to the other if their production processes weren’t perfectly in synch. This would mean that trucks would have to wait for 3-4 days to collect the material. This tallied with our sighting long queues of trucks outside the factory gate. It was obvious that the trucking company would seek compensation for idling of its trucks. A side discussion with the company’s finance department revealed that the pain area we divined was right: The company was indeed paying hefty demurrage charges to the trucker.

Long story short, the company bought the ERP and recovered its cost when its demurrage costs went down by half.

Drill across

While this approach can be a bit politically sensitive, it always works.

After seeing the demo of the aforementioned ERP vendor’s financial accounting module, a prospect’s finance department fobbed off the vendor’s business analysts with the confident assertion that their accounting systems were perfect and took great pride that they’d slashed their quarterly closing period by half. However, the vendor’s business analysts heard a very different story from the company’s sales department: Even after they collected them, many invoices would still keep showing up as outstanding in the AR statements generated by the finance department’s accounting software – and circulated to the company’s C-Suite!

The vendor’s team then knew that this was yet another company suffering from one of the typical “before ERP” problems: Poor integration between invoicing and collection systems. When they presented the business case to the company’s C-Suite, they used alleviation of this pain point as a major benefit of their ERP.


Pain areas exist in all companies – even if they might not always be obvious. Uncovering them may call for domain expertise and the knack of probing beyond what is explicitly stated by a prospect. But, to sell any business software, uncovering pain points is vital. If you need any assistance in doing this, we’re there!

Ketharaman Swaminathan On January - 16 - 2015


IT Marketing, Uncategorized


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