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

Some Thoughts on B2B Marketing Part 3, March 29, 2020 : Getting in Tune

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.

Message Components

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

Some Thoughts on B2B Marketing Part 2, March 22, 2020 : Tone, Channel and Content

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

Some Thoughts on B2B Marketing on March 17, 2020

I want to start this ENTIRE post with two caveats. First my motivation is to share ideas not to sell anyone anything. In this upside down time, I want to share for two reasons; first to see if I can help folks with ideas and thoughts and second because writing is how I need to think things out. Second, while I am far from an expert in epidemiology, medicine, social psychology or other relevant fields that are needed to understand what is really going on, I do have an area of knowledge and I feel it is relevant to share ideas with others who practice B2B marketing. With that said…

Thought #1 – Take Care! – of yourself, your loved ones, your team and your community. Maybe this goes without saying, but this is all of our job #1 right now.

Thought #2 – It’s not the time to be overtly promotional, but it’s also not the time to stop marketing. I believe we will get past this. We are a resilient species and society. Our customers still have needs and our products can still fulfill these. As budgets shrink and priorities change, it will quickly become a buyer’s market. So those who are engaged will get opportunities. Disengaging is not the right answer. Educational content, well thought out and relevant is still important but…

Thought #3 – Tone is EVERYTHING. Don’t ambulance chase. Don’t even come close. Resist with all your might from having messaging like…”10 Reasons why CRM Matters More in A Covid-19 World” or “Covid-19 Changes Everything about Cyber Risk Management”. These are BAD for you, bad for your brand, and really actually repulsive. How about something more like, “Adjusting and Managing Pipeline Metrics During a Sudden Downturn” or “Ideas on Increasing Cyber Awareness for Home Network Wifi Users”. The former are pandering and in bad taste and raise anxiety, the latter address impacts and if written well should deliver value that helps people have purpose and find meaning.

Thought #4 – It’s a great time to learn. Read that book you been meaning to. Take an online class. Find a great podcast or two that are relevant. Skilling up and bringing creativity and new ideas to your job will be more important that ever to both your and the companies results.

Thought 5 – Rethink Your Strategies, Programs and Spend – Obviously budgets are going to be under tremendous pressure and you will likely face cuts to both people and program dollars. This hurts, both personally and professionally. It’s hard to put a good face on this. But it’s not just this. How will you reach your audience? What’s going to change in how you message to them? How will buying behavior change? How will priorities shift? Where will spend go to? Should you change pricing and packaging to drive lower risk adoption? As sales works to get revenue in today, marketing needs to lead change. Think strategically and have a plan, proactively before it’s dictated to you.

Thought #6 – Stay connected and engaged – Tell you your sales team you are there for them. Reach out to your vendors and check in with them. Be HUMAN not electronic. Make it a point to connect with your colleagues. If you thought you could solve a problem by email or Slack, but you have the time for a facetime or skype, choose the latter. Sacrifice a bit of efficiency for connection. We are all in this together, whether next door, down the street or a continent away. As we distance socially, let’s get closer virtually!

I hope this post helps you even in a little way. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas and stay connected to you! I’m here in my new home office digs and ready to virtually meet anytime! Ken