I’ve been doing my annual scan of marketing, sales, and content trends to get calibrated for what’s ahead. Lots of digital and automated and formulated and packaged and disruptive and AI’d topics are out there for both marketing and sales messaging. (And yes, I’m getting a little snarky here.) When it comes to engaging the buyer, my bias is always on the actual message we are trying to land with the prospect or customer. Simply put, my focus is on the “what” before the “how” when it comes to buyer engagement. So, here is my 2022 take on what I believe needs focus, because it’s all about crafting the right conversation – whether that is a marketing or a sales conversation.
Make Marketing and Sales Messaging Matter
As a marketer or a salesperson, a mental shift really needs to happen first. The shift is from product/service to “idea.” What B2B buyers are actually looking for are great ideas. We all know they don’t wake up with the mad desire to run out and buy your solution, right? Yet too much content leads with your offerings. So, to make marketing and sales messaging really matter, shift your focus to communicating the idea that the solution represents and how it impacts their company and their role. This shift will help better engage your buyers in a much more meaningful way.
Take five steps back from your solution for a moment and answer this important question: what buyer outcome does this solution deliver? Let me be clear – outcome, not feature, not benefit. It may seem obvious, but I often see marketers and salespeople struggle to articulate that without pivoting to a feature or a benefit. Where will your buyer be after they use your offering? Try taking a few steps closer to your prospect or client’s industry or segment. This will help translation of the solution into the idea it represents get easier. Stay out of the features/benefits unless you are at the mid-to late buyer stage where product, service or solution details are needed for a final decision to be made. If you can’t have a conversation about an important idea that is relevant to your target audience, then you are probably talking AT them about your offering.
Do better than Just Pain Points
Not every buyer has a problem they are looking to solve. Yet, we continue to focus on just the “pain.” Today’s buyers are seeking advantage just as much as they are trying to avoid problems or solve issues. They have goals and aspirations as well. I’ve been in the technology sector long enough to be pretty jaded with pain points – which too often are reverse engineered from the product or solution we’ve already built. (Yup, that sounded pretty jaded!) Consider upping your game by spending just as much time on figuring out the value points that will deliver buyer advantage as you do on pain points in your marketing and sales messaging.
Sales Conversations are with Humans
Sometimes we forget that at the end of the day, we are marketing and selling not to an “organization” but to actual living, breathing people. That’s where buying decisions are made. So, the next 2022 focus area I recommend is humanizing the message. It’s always been a challenge to take marketing and sales messaging and make it usable for salespeople who have the responsibility for the actual conversation. But marketing has that responsibility too. One of the things that has shifted in the past two years is the need for more empathy and authenticity embedded into marketing and sales messaging. I exclude any reference to the words “in these challenging times” which has been overused to the point of absurdity!
Using the language that real people would use in conversation is particularly important. When I work with people on developing Value Proposition Platforms™, I often ask “would your target buyer actually say it that way?” Frequently the answer is no. So back to the drawing board. Instead, work on being conversational, consider the “voice” of your message, and keep it simple and easily repeatable. To make it more authentic – remove jargon, acronyms, company-speak, and offer supporting proof of what you are discussing. Communicate the idea in plain language, and show how it has impacted others who have experienced it.
Translate Use Cases into Stories
Another potential approach to work towards in 2022 is to take your offerings’ “use cases” and bring them closer to the company by translating some of them into stories. For clarity, a use case is an example of a specific situation in which a product or service could potentially be used. There are often multiple uses for product or service offerings, and they are extremely helpful in starting to translate the product/service into a buyer’s realm. There is a distinction between a use case and a case study. One of the best definitions I’ve seen is: “The difference between case studies and use cases is the difference between what is real and what is possible.” Case Study Writer, June 2020 Think of a use case as potential example of how an offering can be used. Whereas, case studies are actual stories of how a specific customer used it.
While a case study is a story, I’d like to suggest that we take a few steps even closer to the buyer here. They often are formatted in an easily consumable and repeatable manner and may offer a customer quote or two – but are rarely conversational. Consider taking the case study and turning it into components that can be used in a live, human conversation with the buyer and a salesperson. What if marketing “told” the story in a similar fashion rather than the templated approach? That could definitely help humanize your content and improve the authenticity of both your marketing and sales messaging.
Relevance Rules in Marketing and Sales Messaging Creation
Finally, I believe it all comes to frosting your marketing and sales messaging with a thick layer of relevance. Don’t tell your buyer everything there is to know about your offering, because it’s highly unlikely they will care about all of it. Instead, get to the point with just what each of your target personas are focused on, use the language they use, personalized to their responsibilities, goals, and drivers. Go beyond just target roles and titles – because they simply don’t give you enough to be truly relevant. Invest in behavior-based personas built with live interviews from actual clients. Investment in this type of primary research is crucial to make sure the message is truly relevant. Your mantra for 2022 should be “Focus on What Matters!”