David vs Goliath

28th May 2018


This is the story of how a small tech firm took a stand against the giants of the industry – and won.

Read on for a great example of what “marketing strategy” can mean in the Business to Business space…

In the early 2000s, Chordiant was competing in the CRM software space with the likes of Oracle, Siebel and SAP. In terms of revenue, Chordiant was hundreds of times smaller than those brands, with a budget and market presence to match. They were very much like the young hero in David and Goliath; on the face of it, they didn’t stand a chance.

But they had a few aces up their sleeve. They had the agility of a start-up. In many scenarios, their products were smarter than their competitors’. And they had a cunning plan.

They decided against competing with the CRM “Goliaths” on the normal terms. They knew they couldn’t win by outspending at industry events or competing on CRM search terms.

They decided to create a new market; a niche where they could thrive. Aly Richards was EMEA Marketing Director at the time. We spoke to her about where the idea came from:

“We knew that the CRM market was saturated, and we knew that our technology wasn’t the same as that provided by the bigger players.

“Our competitors were providing software that consolidated customer data and made it easy to access. Our software went a step further than that. It helped people make better decisions – and it automated actions if certain criteria were met.

“We didn’t want to go too far away from the ‘CRM’ label, because people would be left wondering what we were selling, but we did want to signal our difference.”

Slingshot to a new market

According to Aly, “people were just beginning to talk about customer experience management (CEM). This felt like it was the logical next step after CRM, but no-one had really started to own that space.”

Chordiant’s marketing team went on to do just that.

  • They worked with Cranfield School of Management and Henley Business School to create the first customer experience maturity model, based on research from hundreds of organisations. This helped Chordiant generate around 600 leads per month.

  • They created a customer advocacy programme to showcase early adopters, such as O2.

  • They also repositioned the brand to support the new CEM messaging – updating their website and changing the strapline on their logo from “The unifying CRM solution” to “The Customer Experience Company.”

Chordiant were the first to run an event dedicated to CEM. The Customer Experience Management Summit was co-sponsored by IBM and Accenture and attended by over 70 senior executives.

“The Summit was a great success,” explained Aly. “We used it to launch our vision for CEM and it was packed with prospects.

“The combination of the report and the event helped establish CEM as a market in its own right. It gave us a story to lead with. Rather than starting the conversation by talking about our brand values or the ROI we could offer, we started by talking more generally about a topic we knew our prospects were engaged with – customer experience.”

A success story

All this changed perceptions of Chordiant. They were no longer a small, borderline player in CRM. They were market leaders in a fast-growing sector.

Another result of the Summit’s success was a lift in Chordiant’s share price. Suddenly, they were hot property and, in 2010, Pegasystems snapped them up.

Today, Aly is the CEO of Odyssiant, a next-generation content marketing platform. Components including Odyssiant’s Next-Best-Content AI engine have helped marketers increase sales-ready leads by 10 times.

At a time when so much B2B marketing talk is about short-term tactics, technology and trends, it’s refreshing to look back at a story that shows a well-planned strategy delivering results.

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