“B2B does not mean ‘Be too boring.’”
Author David Meerman Scott said it in his keynote at Content2Conversion 2016 in Scottsdale. It was one of those remarks that seemed to divide the room, producing ripples of laughter in some corners, squirms of unease in others. But whether you were laughing smugly or wincing in pain, you could probably appreciate his point.
For too long, B2B marketing and sales messages have suffered from a certain insularity, a sameness of look, tone and style evidenced by tired jargon (“scalable,” “world-class,” “innovation!”), stock photography (women smiling with salad, as Meerman Scott hilariously pointed out), overuse of trendy, nostalgic fonts (“lobster” has found its way onto soda bottles), and the reliance on decades-old messaging “best practices” (how long has “voice of the customer” been around?).
For prospects and customers, the net effect of all this has been boredom, and when it comes to converting excitement into pipeline with your messaging and content, boredom has a cost. That’s why Meerman Scott’s remark had such a palpable impact on the room.
One way to guarantee you’re not boring anyone in your customer conversations? Tell prospects something they don’t know about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had.
That topic was a focal point of Tim Riesterer’s Wednesday morning keynote, where he discussed the message differentiation you can gain by identifying and introducing your prospects’ “unconsidered needs.” You can then strengthen your differentiation by linking the needs you’ve brought into the conversation to your unexpected capabilities, showing how you—and you alone—are positioned to solve their most pressing business problems. That messaging approach, unlike the traditional “voice of the customer” model, will increase your prospect’s urgency to leave the status quo and expand the need for your offerings.
And get this: The results of a study Corporate Visions conducted with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, revealed that a messaging approach based on unconsidered needs was seen as 41 percent more unexpected and unique than more traditional approaches. Check out the research brief here, which includes an example of what an unconsidered needs-based message looks and sounds like.
Typically, unconsidered needs come in three different forms. By addressing them in your messaging, content and skills, you’ll deliver the story you need to defeat your prospect’s status quo and distinguish your solutions.
- Under-valued Needs – These are rapidly approaching trends or problems whose impact has been underestimated by your prospects. Your job is to assert the gravity of these potential problems, underscoring how the risks associated with them could put your prospect’s desired business outcomes in jeopardy. You can do this by using provocative insights and research that, together, amplify the size and speed of these problems, transforming them in your prospect’s mind from mere afterthoughts into urgent priorities. You can then connect these new, more serious considerations to your previously unspecified strengths.
- Un-Met Needs – Your prospect or customer doesn’t realize they have these needs because they’ve relied on workarounds and stopgap measures to hide the source of their pain. But make no mistake: That pain is real, and it’s your job to show how their current situation is unsustainable because of it. Having done so, you can lead your prospect toward the fact that you have a more viable, long-term solution.
- Unknown Needs – These are longer-range issues that come to light when a vendor has a fix for a problem the prospect wasn’t aware he or she had. By identifying these “off-the-radar” problems and bringing them into the life cycle of the buying decision, you can expand the value of your deals.
Meerman Scott was right: B2B messaging doesn’t have to be boring. To make it clear to prospects that you aren’t boring, and that you are different and better, don’t just focus on solving problems your prospects know about, but on finding ones they don’t.
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