Five Bad Messaging Habits Every B2B Brand Should Break

In my post of November 4th, I outlined the Five Messaging Habits of Highly Successful B2B Brands, in this post I’ll take on 5 Bad Habits to Break. If you’d like to learn more, watch my free recorded Webinar on this topic.

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.

To learn more, watch my recorded webinar on this topic.

The 5 Messaging “Habits” of Highly Effective B2B Brands

View the recording of my 5 Habits Webinar here

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?

Want to learn more, view the recording of my 5 Habits Webinar here.

“Filming” Your Blockbuster B2B Go To Market Story

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

See you in the market – Ken

Messaging, It’s a Team Sport – Part 1: Three Success Factors to Consider

One of the first questions that always comes up in EVERY messaging project I am part of is, “well who should be on the team”. This may seem obvious, but the make-up of the team may be the number one determinate of the success of the project. So before we blurt out an answer, let’s look at three of the factors that determine a messaging projects success and their implications on the selection and make up of your messaging team.

Success Factor 1 The quality of the output. Messaging projects have MANY possible outcomes, and there is no single answer to any project. The quality of the output is dependent first and foremost on the quality of the input. Other factors such as framework and process can also have an impact on output quality, but without the right inputs, the best models and processes still lead to poor outcomes.

Team Implications: It is critical that messaging teams include those with the most customer and market insight.

Success Factor 2 – Implementation. At the end of your messaging project, you’ll be left with artifacts such as stories and key messaging frameworks. BUT the success of the project depends on taking those artifacts creating deliverables that are both internal and external facing. From website content to sales enablement to corp comms to trade show booths, all the way to customer experience, messaging works when it is used consistently and ferociously across all.

Team Implications : Include key implementers across the organization. If the implementation team is not bought in to the message, the delivery will be inconsistent and lackluster.

Success Factor 3Alignment and Adoption. It’s not just implementation in materials and programs that matter, it is widespread alignment behind and adoption of the message and it’s delivery in the thousands of small ways that happen in every customer interaction from sales to support to customer success. One of the biggest failures of messaging project is lack of adoption by a major function, be it sales, product or customer success.

Team Implication : When alignment and adoption fail, messaging flounders and is not impactful. To ensure success of your messaging project, Everyone from senior management to first line managers to key influencers must get behind the message to drive organizational alignment and adoption.

In summary, three team related factors drive messaging project success or failure, Output Quality, Implementation and Alignment and Adoption. Without the right team, any of these can take to best project and turn it to failure. Given that, it may seem that the entire company should be on the project team, everyone is part of success. But there still must be a core project team. In part 2, we will look at how to structure this team to maximize quality of the output, the strength of the implementation and the assurance of successful alignment and adoption.

Customer Nirvana – What IS Beyond Customer Success?

It’s become cliche’ to talk these days about Customer Success.  As companies scale beyond the first 50-100 customers, they often shift from a simple support mindset to a customer success one.  They implement technology, appoint a VP or Director of Customer Success, and often with a broad remit stretching from pre-sales to support to renewals.  And rightfully so.  SaaS delivery and it’s accompanying subscription business model puts a high bar to vendors to satisfy and retain customers.  

But wait a minute.  Is satisfaction the bar we should be setting?  Or is there a higher one or two to be aiming at?  And if so, what are they?  Should the whole concept of Customer Success be re-framed?  

The answer to the last question is a resounding YES.  Especially in competitive, highly technical and innovative markets like Security.   Like Maslov’s Hierarchy, we can think of a value hierarchy too.  In their 2018 article in the HBR, The B2B Elements of Value Bain Consultants Almquist, Cleghorn and Sherer takes this to the nth degree, idenitfying FORTY different types of value that they say
“B2B Buyers Really Care About”.   For me, this level of complexity is way too hard to operationalize, so I simplified this from 40 to 4 and wrote about it here in my short blog entitled:

Mythos, Magic, Money and Method – Layering Your #B2B Messaging

In this blog I describe how our message must contain all four layers. Starting from the bottom:

  •  Method, or how we do things, ie WHAT features and capabilities  the customer buys.  
    • Prototypical “embodiment” – “The Datasheet”
  • Money, or the unique business value we promise is our business value, WHY the customer should buy.  
    • Prototypical “embodiment” – “The ROI or Business Case”
  • Magic, or our transformational customer journey, WHY THE CUSTOMER SHOULD CARE and make us a STRATEGIC PRIORITY
  • Mythos, or why WE (the customer and us) MATTER TOGETHER.  The mark we will leave on the world and the way we experience it together. 
    • Prototypical “embodiment” – Brand Vision And FULL Lifecycle Customer Experience

Not only is this a great way to build your breakthrough messaging, but it ends up, this is also a great lighthouse to use to go beyond customer success, to what I call Customer Nirvana.  Customer Nirvana is composed of three layers.  

Layer 1Customer Satisfaction – Delivering what is promised capability and value. Dependent on Method and Money messaging.

Layer 2 – Customer Happiness – Making your buying team’s heros because they are not just delivering the promised value, but they are delivering strategic transformational change to the business outcomes of their organization. Dependent on Magic Messaging.

Layer 3 – Customer Belonging – The customer understands and shares a mission and big destination with the your brand.  It becomes part of how they identify their value not just to the organization but to the broader society. Dependent on Brand Mythos.

Layering your method, money, magic and mythos messaging into your customer success management approach and mindset can dramatically accelerate value delivery, retention and loyalty. 

Customer satisfaction without happiness and belonging is fleeting.  We may enjoy the dance together, but our customers are always searching for the next better partner.  But when customers achieve happiness and belonging, we reach new levels of engagement and alignment.  

Marketing has a great responsibility to articulate, communicate and embed the value, the magic and the mythos that the brand promises.  Without this, customer satisfaction will end there, and we will miss the amazing opportunity to reach the pinnacle of customer nirvana.

May the Best Story Win: Competing Narratives and Market Leadership

I recently read Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor a book I highly recommend for those interested in learning more about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It offers hope and a path to a possible peace. BUT don’t worry, this post is NOT about politics, it’s about an idea in the book, that of competing narratives, which comes from political science, but has great applicability to marketing.

Halevi’s book proposes that there are two competing but valid narratives on the two sides of the conflict, and that we can only get to peace if each sides at a minimum listens and recognizes the validity of the others narratives.

OK, so what does this have to do with Marketing? Jyoti Bansal, founder of AppDynamics, said in a recent article on Entrepreneur.com

Turning your idea into a story — one that identifies the need, why it’s imminently important to solve it, why you have the winning solution and why you’re the person to bet on, is key to setting your company up for success.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/315373

In other words, the best narrative wins. Markets are competitions of ideas. Ideas must be put into communications, as Jyoti notes, story is one of the most effective forms of communications, because stories change how we think and act.

Winning market narratives have 2 key characteristics. First, they align with the customer’s strategic needs, wants and view of the world. Second, they are executed with excellence and skill. This is NOT a low bar, but when our narrative is aligned and executed well, it can win the battle of narratives in the marketplace. My narrative framework, the Viewpoint Story, helps you tell your winning “Golden Story” , because it does 2 things well. It aligns your story with your audience’s world view AND it uses the powerful and proven storytelling framework of the Hero’s Journey to build it.

Unlike in political science, where we must reconcile narrative to achieve our objective, peace; in competitive markets the leaders gets the spoils, it’s not a game of reconciliation, it’s a game to win. And a winning narrative which is aligned and well executed is key to winning the game.