We all have bad habits, both in our personal and professional lives. Over the years, I’ve noticed 5 Messaging Habits that get in the way of B2B Brand Success. Let’s take a quick look at these 5 bad habits to break
Bad Habit 1: Overvaluing Value
Value is critical to success. However, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for great messaging. Put another way, value is a great justifier of purchase, but it is rarely a motivator. In today’s crowded marketplace of ideas, if you ONLY focus on value, at the cost of story and experience, you will NOT breakthrough and your value will be wasted. Overvaluing value is a habit you must break to lead.
Bad Habit 2: Confusing Strategy with Story
My business strategy is about ME, not my customer. My market story or narrative should center around the customer, with my brand as “best supporting actor” but not the lead. Keep your strategy tight and save it for investors, but make your customer the hero your go market story. Brands that talk too much about their business strategy instead of the transformative customer story simply don’t get noticed by overwhelmed buyers.
Bad Habit 3: Being Impatient
It takes the 3-5 repetitions for a new idea or “meme” to implant itself in a meaningful and impactful way in the human brain. Yet many expect a new message to move the needle in weeks if not days. Because of this, we tweak, throw out and revise messaging so much, we lose the impact of repetition, dramatically lowering our effectiveness. Be patient, we are fighting a war against competition that is measured in months, quarters and years, not days, weeks or campaigns. If you aren’t tired of saying it I guarantee you haven’t said it enough
Bad Habit 4: Getting Stuck in the Weeds
We LOVE our product and we love to talk about their amazing features. And even if your baby has the most beautiful eyes in the world, how many pictures of them do your customer’s really want to see. Getting stuck in feature/function land is a habit we need to break. We need functional, motivational and transformative value. But most founders and product folks get stuck in the functional weeds, giving lip-service to the layers of messaging above that.
Habit 5: Talking Too Much
Tell, tell, tell and tell some more. Whitepapers, product data sheets, feature comparisons, etc, etc, etc. Take a lesson from (Pre-covid) Costco. Show, sample and buy. Telling is boring, telling is too demanding on the audience and telling is simply lazy marketing.
Want to improve your results, start breaking the bad habits and living the good ones.
ForgeRock is a leader in the Identity and Access Management space. Having been founded in 2010, ForgeRock has broad platform capabilities and an amazing global customer base. ForgeRock’s platform provides solutions across both employee, customer and IOT identity challenges. Despite their platform and product leadership, in mid 2019 ForgeRock had limited brand recognition and even those who did know the company did not have a good understanding of what the company did. ForgeRock needed to tighten up its positioning, develop a clear narrative, and consistently project it in all their go-to-market activities. A major product release was the ideal “vehicle” for this “relaunch” of an updated brand, new market narrative and value messaging to support the goal of growing and accelerating the company’s market leadership
Ken worked with the executive, product, sales and marketing leadership teams to develop a go to market narrative and value messaging platform that focused on magnifying ForgeRock’s ability to accelerate successful Digital Transformation for its customers. The resulting story, titled “Access the Future” and its companion value messaging, both differentiated ForgeRock from its competitors and magnified the value of their platform for buyers.
“Ken hit the ground running with us. His deep experience in security and B2B businesses helped him quickly come up to speed on identity and access management and understand its importance to digital transformation. But more importantly, his framework and methodology helped us clearly articulate our brand, message and value in the context of our customers making their ‘hero’s journey!‘ ” – Atri Chatterjee – Chief Marketing Officer, ForgeRock
Chatterjee continued, ” The results of this work started coming in right after our product launch. Our new messaging project drove everything we did to market ForgeRock. This resulted in an increase in website traffic by over 50% in three quarters. In that same period, our visibility with prospects, customers and analysts also went up tremendously resulting in a steady increase in inquiries and inbound leads.”
Market Leaders do it better! When you are a follower, it feels like you are pushing a boulder uphill while your rival leader is like a snowball rolling down. So what are some of the messaging habits that Market Leaders consistently show? Here they are and why they are so dang important
Habit 1: Transformative Narrative
Their “story” is aligned with the customer’s reality yet challenges it and transforms their outcomes, making their offerings the magic in the customer’s Hero’s Journey. When brands tell a transformative aligned story they breakthrough and get attention and put the best prospects into the top of the funnel and creates more engaged and motivated customers.
Habit 2: Message Depth
Leaders layer their message from and include all 4 of the key value layers communicating aspirational, transformational, motivational and foundational value and do so for both the business and the individual user/buyer. Depth of messaging accelerates pipeline velocity from the top to the bottom
Habit 3: Experience Rules
We now live in the “show-me” era. Leaders demonstrate their value from the first click to the purchase and beyond. Whether a product led Go To Market or a traditional one, you need to demonstrate and deliver value in compelling, innovative ways. Demonstrating value early and often drives acceleration into your pipeline
Habit 4: Category Leadership
Leaders define, (re-)create and lead their categories. By connecting their solution to important customer problems, they re-frame the market and tilt the playing field to their advantage, changing evaluation context and criteria in their favor and building “unfair” market momentum.
Habit 5: Shared Purpose
Their brand purpose is a shared aspiration with their customers. How they team together to make the business world or society at large better. Shared purpose creates customer commitment and loyalty
Commitment, Breakthrough, Momentum, Velocity and Acceleration, who doesn’t want these? What other habits do you see from market leaders?
DeepFactor was founded by two industry veterans who deeply understood some of the challenges across security, performance, and compliance that face today’s software development teams. Having built an initial product, DeepFactor needed to translate the co-founders’ vision into a compelling go to market story and message platform, and implement that platform across initial go to market assets such as website, datasheet, and sales presentation. In order to launch with velocity, DeepFactor needs a differentiated story that was targeted and consistent with their product led go to market strategy.
Ken first helped the founding team refine the target market segments and personas and refine the Go To Market strategy and then develop a compelling market narrative and value messaging platform and implement that message in a powerful launch. The resulting story, titled “Runtime Ready” describes how developers are “Runtime blind” and DeepFactor can transform their DevOps process to deliver Runtime Ready releases.
“Ken brought not just process and framework, but deep industry knowledge and insight. Ken’s work and advice has delivered key contributions to our early success.” – Kiran Kamity, CEO and Co-Founder, DeepFactor
DeepFactor’s launch has established for them a unique positioning and initial toehold in a crowded but growing market. Early results include several marquee initial customers and upcoming partnerships. By clearly positioning DeepFactor as a unique and meaningful solution, this work has created a platform for future growth and success.
FastSpring, an e-commerce platform for software companies, was having a challenging time positioning itself and its value in the marketplace. While many companies offer point solutions that software companies can piecemeal together, FastSpring’s real value is in being a Merchant of Record that combines a robust technology platform with e-commerce expertise. Because of this unique and extremely robust offering, the team often struggled to properly convey the full value of FastSpring.
Ken worked with the executive team and sales and marketing leadership to develop a story and messaging platform that highlights both the aspirational value and tangible ROI that their customers can achieve when they work partner with a full-service e-commerce partner and how they can now “Sell More, Stay Lean, and Compete Big.”
“With Ken’s methodology, process, and facilitation, we were able to develop our messaging to better articulate who we are and how we help our customers,” said FastSpring VP of Marketing, Sarah Bottorff. “As a result, we have already seen significant improvement in metrics across our entire sales and marketing pipeline.”
Since rolling out the new story and messaging platform in mid-2019, FastSpring has seen significant revenue and pipeline growth. As Bottorff points out, while that success is due to great execution across the entire company, getting alignment behind a powerful, customer-centric and inspiring message has been a key component in its achievement.
Much is made by many including myself of getting your go to market narrative and value messaging nailed. SO IMPORTANT. Without a great story and value messaging, you can NEVER reach and leverage Message-Market Fit and achieve and grow market leadership. Aligning your value with customer transformation; making your customer the hero and your product/solution the magic in their journey is critical to success. Like a blockbuster movie, your story or script has to be great.
However, while all blockbuster movies have great scripts, many of the best scripts are never great movies because of a failure of creative execution and/or lack of effective promotion and distribution. It takes not just a great writer and great script, but an excellent creative team (director, actors, camera, sound etc…) and targeted and successful distribution/promotion to make a great movie.
Likewise, to build a blockbuster Go To Market success you need not only a great story, but great creative execution across all your go to market assets (Website, collateral, explainer video, sales deck, product experience…) and targeted and high impact promotion and distribution. Well known SaaS business leader Jason Lemkin writes on his site SaaStr, “Your Marketing Site Really Should Be Even Better Than Your Product” and this is all about great creative execution, strong narrative and value messaging. And as every marketer knows, in the crowded market targeting, selecting, and executing high impact demand generation programs is also critical to success.
Sorry no short cuts to success, don’t under-invest in your script (narrative, messaging and positioning), your creative execution, or your targeted promotion and and distribution strategy. It starts with the script, then moves to the creative and “ends” with the promotion. So when thinking about your blockbuster Go to Market, remember this simple equation:
Great story+ Amazing creative+ Targeted and leveraged promotion = Blockbuster
Ken engaged with FireEye in late 2009. At the time, they had revenues in the low millions of dollars, primarily in the .EDU market. FireEye came to Ken to help them better explain their value to buyers who could not fit them into a current category in the Network Security Market.
Working with the Founder/CEO, the Director of Marketing, Product Manager, and the EVP of Sales, Ken delivered a new messaging platform around the concept of “Modern Malware Risk.” The company re-launched in April of 2010 at the RSA Security Conference with a new message of Modern Malware Exposed, a new category of Next Generation Threat Defense, and an integrated online and offline set of properties and deliverables.
FireEye leveraged and built great success in the market with this messaging and positioning for the next 4 years. FireEye’s September of 2013 IPO valued the company at more than $2B.
(For more details on this story, see Launching to Leading, pages 11-13.)
Ken engaged with Jumio in late 2016. Jumio, a provider of real-world identification technology and services, had a differentiated offering, but was challenged in communicating why this mattered to prospective customers. They too often found themselves fighting feature rather than value battles.
Ken worked with the executive team and sales and marketing leadership to develop a story and messaging around Trusted Identity as a Service, and developed both a Viewpoint story and detailed product messaging.
Chief Revenue Officer Robert Prigge said, “The process we went through with Ken was transformative. It crystallized the value and uniqueness of our offering to our customers in a way we never expected. It has changed not only the way we talk about our service, but the way we think about it and our priorities going forward.”
In Q1 of 2017 Jumio announced a momentous quarter, adding the most enterprise customers ever in a quarter and breaking daily transaction volume records.
Hello again from my home office. A few days ago we had a hailstorm here in Menlo Park. I figure we have now added hail to pestilence in the list of 2020 plagues. Hopefully we wont be seeing any frogs, boils or bloody rivers anytime soon, but I guess at this point I would not be surprised.
What doesn’t surprise me is the unrelenting amount of advertising I am still subject to. Some of it is good, it strikes the right tone, it is 1) Authentic 2) Relevant and 3) Sensitive. When it is, it gets my attention, I am open to receiving the message and it says something that is meaningful to me.
Tone, as I blogged in Part 2 of this series, is probably the most critical thing to get right in today’s environment. Without the right tone, not only will your message not get through, but you can do un-repairable damage to your brand, your reputation and your future business. Without the right tone, as shown below, we lose message appropriateness and more importantly, impact.
Let’s now deconstruct tone and see if we can find some insight and guidance into building messages that are in tune! Tone can be broken into 3 components, Authenticity, Relevance and Sensitivity. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Authenticity – When researching what makes communication authentic, three words keep coming up, CLEAR, DIRECT and HONEST. Authentic communication has no hidden agenda, does not hide behind ulterior motives or obtuse language, and does not hide it’s intended outcomes or goals
Relevance – While pretty obvious, relevance is always a key factor in any communication. This is a bit of marketing 101, but targeting and understanding of your audience so that what you are talking about matters. Also, remembering that priorities are askance right now, you may decide to hold on some aspects of your message until the world is not quite so uncertain.
Sensitivity – Remember, your audience is human. We are all being impacted by the crises. So from simple word choice to topic selection, words and context matter. It might be obvious how bad of a headline – “A Novel Approach to Making Viral Videos” would be right now, always double check your self for the sensitivity of the recipient in crafting your messages.
Hotels.com updated ad with spokes-character “Captain Obvious” is getting kudos from many, and rightfully so. Check it out if you have not seen it:
A Hotels.com spokesperson summed it up better than I can when they told AgAge:
“We didn’t feel the tone of our usual advertising was right for the current environment. For the airtime we had remaining, we opted for a message that reinforces the guidance to stay home.”
This ad hits the mark, it is authentic, relevant to all of us, and sensitive at the same time. And on top of all that it does make you smile, which today is sure a bonus!
Again, I hope this series of posts helps you even in a little way. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas and stay connected to you. I’m here, like we all are, for the foreseeable future in my new home office digs, and ready to virtually meet anytime! Ken
Hello from my home office. We’ve all had a once in a lifetime few weeks, and the future remains uncertain, kinda scary, and unprecedented. I managed to get a social distanced walk in with my friend Neil yesterday, and it was nice to have the interaction and the fresh air. When Neil and I parted, I had a bit of a think on the rest of my walk home about about how to do what we do as B2B Marketers in these times, and specifically, no surprise, my thoughts turned to messaging.
Again, as we fight for our collective well being, it may seem trivial, but keeping what we can going in our businesses is part of our well being. So with the understanding that this is NOT the same as vacieene research or testing distribution, I will share a few thoughts.
Communicating your message is a combination of 3 elements, Tone, Content and Channel. As I am obsessed with, I had to draw them as a Venn Diagram
So first let’s take a very quick look at each of these 3 components.
Content – What are your key value points, call to action and other ideas you want to communicate
Channel – Where, where and how are you communicating your message
Tone – What is the level of authenticity, relevance and sensitivity of your message
And of course, as I am always doing, I immeadiately went to labeling the intersections to find the real meaning in the Venn and here is what I come up with…
Let’s now look at the three intersections:
Reach – How well does the content connect to buyers. Does the message match the time, place and overall context of the delivery? If channel and content are mismatched, your message will not get through
Impact – Is the value communicated meaningful and relevant to the target, and if so, is it in the correct tone for the context that I am connecting in. If value or tone are off, you content will not have the impact you desire.
Appropriateness – Simply put, what is the right tone for one channel, may not be for another. Phase of buying cycle, business and societal realities, why the buyer is seeing or consuming your content, push vs. pull, all contribute to the appropriateness of the communication.
Much of this is hard enough in normal times, for the foreseeable future, choosing the right content, right channel and striking the right tone will be extremely challenging for marketers. In my next three posts, I am planning on expanding on the impact of today’s emerging societal and economic challenges on Content, Tone and Channel for B2B marketing. And first, I am going to tackle what I think is the most difficult of the three, tone.
Again, I hope this series of posts helps you even in a little way. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas and stay connected to you! I’m here for the foreseeable future in my new home office digs and ready to virtually meet anytime! Ken
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