Flashback to October 1995 – Cognos: Know your clients

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Cognos: Know your clients

It was a bright sunny morning several years ago, when Cognos marketing managers Robin McNeill and Rob Rose were on wing to Boston to demonstrate their latest versions of “Business Intelligence” desktop tools. Their audience would be several top opinion leaders.

Know Your Clients – Know your Technology: Mix & Match for Fun and Profit

They reflected on their chances for success and asked themselves; “What can we do to knock their socks off?” They considered the needs of client analysts and executives, and how their two products would bring something new and exciting to the table. It became clear that the critical issue was “exception reporting” (i.e. highlighting data values that lie outside specified ranges).

Impromptu® was a powerful analysis tool, designed to build interactive or standard reports for managing the business enterprise. The latest release added exception reporting as a new feature. PowerPlay® was designed to appeal to senior management. It had the ability to display trends and relationships (e.g. sales of regions by quarter, by product line). They decided that the opportunity was to give access to the best features of both products. The creative challenge was to map product features onto the client business process.

Nourished by airline muffins and strong coffee, they landed on a solution before touching down in Boston. The demonstration plan was:

  1.  Extract the exception data with Impromptu® (e.g. for items affecting profit margins).
  2. Feed these numbers into PowerPlay®
  3. Present all the factors which contribute to low margins.

Reviewers loved it! They left with a sense that the product combination solved a major data modeling problem. In essence, a unique combination of features were aligned with an unmet need in the market. This concept was used to guide the promotion plan, and to avoid product redevelopment.

Using product features this way “…delivered huge value to customers” according to Rob Rose. The results? Both products received great reviews, and people were encouraged to buy both!

Lessons on the Road to Success

This story shows the value of knowing your client, and blending your technology to suit the market. Do this well and you can beat the competition, even without a lot of expensive product development. Kick-start the process today!

Use this checklist:

Client needs: What are their needs? Why do they acquire the products? When & how do they use them? Do they need a complete solution or a tool-kit? Needs also include organizational (e.g. decision process) and emotional needs (e.g. recognition).

Related needs: What companion products do they use? What are their support needs? What overall needs might be unmet by their current products, distribution channels or partners?

Partner possibilities: What suppliers or partners do they do business with today? What partner is well respected by our target clients?

Communication possibilities: How do they get information about products? What media, opinion leaders, informal networks, trade shows, and professional associations do they pay attention to?

Pricing/Cost perceptions: What is their perception of value or of a fair price for a given product? What are their costs for infrastructure? What if we add some extra value services?

Be the best on your block at knowing your clients, and it will be easier to blend your technology for market success. Like Cognos, you can win big time against any competition.

This article by Peter Fillmore, was originally published in MARKETECH in October 1995.


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