BST Awards 2011: The Beauty of Beauty Parades

Beauty Parades: Don't forget the touchy-feely stuff.

I don't get out of the office as often as I'd like, but today was a little different: I had two meetings with people representing buy-side focused technology companies, one of whom I have known for the best part of the decade, while the others I have known for at least five years.
For once, it was liberating chatting "off the record," shooting the breeze, as it were. I find that these off-the-record meetings are especially productive in terms of finding out what's happening in our market, especially from an end-user perspective. What I found most intriguing were my contacts' enquiries about this year's Buy-Side Technology Awards. (The cynic in me wonders about the coincidence of these meetings with respect to the timing of the BST Awards, but in their defense, I note that both had been arranged for quite some time, and that both principle contacts are US-based, which makes it unlikely that they would have scheduled a trip to the UK simply because they wanted to pick my brain.)

Back to the meetings: They weren't interested in finding out who had entered the categories catering to their specific markets ─ what they did want to know, however, is what I would concentrate on if I were in their shoes.
The advice I give all technology vendors and brokers is this: Beware of using up too many of your 500 words on that which makes you a player in the game. In other words, your submission should focus not on the 80 percent of the functionality that you have in common with your competitors, but rather the 20 percent that sets you apart from them. This may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised by how many entries ignore what ought to be common knowledge.
Put it this way: When you go into a beauty parade, it's extremely unlikely that a buy-side firm will ink a deal with your organization based purely on the functionality you share with the rest of the industry. Experienced vendors know that beauty parades are won and lost on their ability to articulate that which sets them apart from the industry. It's what separates the winners from the also-rans.

Touch-Feely Stuff
On a separate yet related theme, it's surprising to note how many technology firms still believe that technology alone is sufficient to guarantee you success across the buy side. It isn't ─ not by a long shot. Sure, it's enough to guarantee you entry to the game, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of what buy-side firms want from their technology providers, it most often boils down to the "touchy- feely" stuff. Variables like how user-friendly and intuitive your technology is, how responsive you are as a service provider to your clients' needs, and how easy you are to live with on a day-to-day basis, are all incredibly important to users. The adage, "nice guys finish last," couldn't be more inappropriate to our industry. Sure you need to be focused and competitive, but don't let those aspirations supersede your interpersonal skills. It's astonishing how many technology vendors still don't seem to get this.

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