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Positioning Technology Products – Don’t Sell the Swiss Army Knife!

In my consulting and speaking work with technology companies, I am frequently asked a question – how should you position a mass market software product that has thousands of features for a specific customer segment? Consider products like Microsoft Office, Intuit’s Quicken or Adobe Photoshop. These are gargantuan products that have evolved over decades and are marketed to a very broad set of customers. These products have features galore and offer something for everybody. Positioning these mass market products seems to fly in the face of a basic tenet in product positioning – that you must define the target audience precisely and as narrowly as possible, so that the benefits you offer are relevant to the audience.

In thinking about this problem, I found a useful analogy – think of these “do-all” products like a Swiss Army knife. The classic Swiss Army knife is famous for being a “multi-tool” – it consists of a number of tools stowed inside the handle of the knife. The number of tools can be dizzyingly large – one giant Swiss Army knife has 85 tools, costs $999 and holds the Guinness Book World Record for the largest number of tools in a single instrument.