Customer Confusion - Confused Customers?

In December we were visiting a prospective corporate client in New York and we were asked a strange question. "Why do all the vendors in your [Idea Management & Innovation Management] space claim to have the same clients?"

I was reminded of this today as I was going through my Google Alerts for industry news. Cisco, one of the most innovative companies in the world, announced their second I-Prize contest, soliciting ideas for the next big billion dollar business. In their release the system will be powered mostly by Cisco's own tools, with an add-on idea market place provided by a firm called Spigit.

Now, as it happens, during the re-write of our web site, we recently reviewed all the various vendor sites of folks operating in this space. Spigit is one of them, and Brightidea another. On the Brightidea web site there is a pretty good case study of a similar idea contest... for none other than... Cisco. Turns out they ran the first I-Prize, and now Cisco have switched to another vendor.

So, going back to the question posed earlier. It is true that most large corporations have used at least one of the vendors in the industry, and sometimes several (those who actually implemented anything). The reasons include:

  • large companies do not have common buying programs or policies
  • the industry is still a niche, emerging industry and no overwhelming leader has emerged
  • start-up vendors actively try to win over reference clients of the incumbants, hoping to either neutralize the impact of the reference, or to take revenue from the incumbant
  • many firms with some level of experience have often had mixed results with their vendor, so they are persuadable to change (particularly if the start-up offers a very sweet financial deal to procurement & IT)
  • the vendor products have unique aspects (such as Spigit's Prediction Market approach, or Imaginatik's Collective Intelligence methods) and different parts of a company want to either experiment or implement systems with different functional capabilities
  • many vendors play somewhat fast and loose with their definition of 'customer'. Several vendors offer free trials of their software ("click here to run an enterprise idea program") and somehow, no one quite knows how, these trial customers get on the company's client list (I'm sure with the respective firm's marketing director just hoping that no one complains that they are using a firm's logo without permission)

The challenge, of course, is to ensure that this industry practice is dropped as the industry matures and vendors find their own voice, and their own niches. In the meantime, there will continue to be some confusion for customers and prospective clients.

Imaginatik's view on this is that we keep a careful eye on our actual client list as we are a public company (IMTK.L). There is a limit as to how far one can stretch the truth. We include case studies on our web site of companies who are currently clients or have been clients on a project basis (i.e. not annual contracts) And we only include clients where we have their permission to name them, either because we have got explicit permission, or the client has presented their case study use of Imaginatik's technology in the public domain.

Right, now it's time for me to work out the next Billion Dollar Idea for Cisco! Ummm, hang on... if I had a billion dollar idea, why wouldn't I try to keep it in Imaginatik...

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