For Market Leadership, Evolve and Layer Your Messaging

What does market leadership look like?  Faster lead conversion? more visibility and fame? better metrics like leads to revenue? CEO rockstars the conference? competitors on their heels and chasing? All of this and more!  What it looks like is a snowball rolling downhill.  Market leaders often get benefits well beyond their product differentiation would suggest.  It’s a virtuous success cycle, as the snowball get bigger and gains momentum, rolling over less well positioned competitors.

Palo Alto Networks, a leader in network security solutions is a great case in point.  When they launched in 2007, their message layers looked like this, focused on product and value:


The $3B firewall market was filled with hard to implement, highly technical product, Palo Alto launched with the slogan, “It’s time to fix the Firewall”


But to really establish market leadership, they then layered unique value  on top of this with 3 items, user, application and threat awareness.

This created a new leadership position, by shifting the conversation to their unique value, value that other Firewalls simply could not deliver.

From here, Palo Alto added the context that was bubbly in the market, Next Generation threats.  By adding this context, they raised their leadership profile above the Firewall market, to the broader Network Security market.  In fact, prior to Palo Alto, Firewalls were really consider access control policy engines, not threat prevention products.

Finally, as Palo Alto expanded it’s product line, it continued to add more purpose to its messaging, the end of the breach era, and the full messaging Snowball now looks like this:

From a standing start in 2005, Palo Alto Networks should pass $1B in revenues in 2016 and has a market cap of nearly $12B.  They have all the hallmark metrics of a market leader.  What’s your market leadership message snowball look like?

Ken Rutsky is a Marketing Consultant and B2B Market Leadership “Ninja”.  Ken helps  organizations climb the ladder to market leadership. His upcoming book is entitled; Launching to Leading: How B2B Market Leaders Create Flashmobs, Marshal Parades and Ignite Movements (Morgan James 2016)

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To Lead Your Market, Dare to Elevate Your Messaging

There is no doubt in B2B markets many, if not all companies strive for market leadership, but few breakthrough and achieve it.  Why?  The reasons are many.  Poor product market fit, poor user experience, misaligned pricing to value, the list goes on.  But even those who get all that right can “self-limit” their success by not elevating their messaging mix to the heights required of a market leader.  A simple diagram shows this relationship nicely. Most companies find themselves stuck at the bottom of the left pyramid with product-centric messaging.  As they fail to articulate unique value, stuck in the low ground of feature/function/benefit, they struggle to find meaning in the customer’s mind.  To achieve meaning in the market, we must message not only our benefits, but be crystal clear on the unique benefits that the customers will get from adopting our solution.  Unique value is the entry level messaging needed for market leadership.

But to rise above meaning to impact in the market, where our messaging actually helps to shape influence and impact the market in our favor, we must elevate again and align our value to the world view, or Viewpoint, held by our customers.  In this context we describe not only our value to the customer, but how we can strategically impact our customer’s journey to success or failure.

However, in today’s “show-me” short attention span world, if we want to truly break out of the crowd, we need to allow buyers to not just hear, but to experience our value early and often in the buying cycle.  And then last, if we are successful in breaking through, we can add purpose to our messaging and truly transform not just our customers and the market, but the world.

Market leadership is a privilege that is earned not given.  To earn it, we need not only a great offering, but we need to elevate our messaging to new and meaningful heights.  It’s not always easy, but the rewards, both economic and intangible, go to those who dare to climb, not those who stay in the comfort zone of their product feature, function and benefit. Happy climbing!

Ken Rutsky is a Product Marketing and Go to Market “Ninja”.  His upcoming book, Stories that Sell, Messaging that Matters: The Viewpoint Marketing B2B Playbook to Market Leadership helps organizations elevate their positioning, messaging and programs from  me-too stories and tactics to unique, compelling and breakthrough ones. You can read a short preview of the book here.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Getting Your Messaging Mix Right by Understanding the the Market Leadership Lifecycle.

I’ve been working on a new model to think about market leadership and how to message at different phases of leadership.  I am doing a lot of work on this model, and would love your feedback.

Market leaders are created not born.  In B2B markets, they will go through 3 phases of market leadership, which I call creation, leadership and transformation.  My metaphor for these three phases are Flashmobs, Parades and Movements.  I believe these ideas capture the “crowd dynamic” of each of these overlapping yet distinct market leadership phases.  Let’s take a look at each of these phases and how they impact our messaging strategy.

Stage I – Market Creation

  • Metaphor – Create a Flashmob
  • Communication Objective – Insight
  • Key Audience – Problem Owner/Solution Implementer
  • Solution – Point product or tool
  • Customers – hundreds
  • Revenues – up to $10M
  • Messaging Mix – 80% Value (Feature-Benefit) 20% Viewpoint (Business Context)

At this point of our market leadership journey, we are building our initial flashmob of customers.  These customers care first and foremost on solving an immediate problem, and while they do live in a context, they are solution seekers first and foremost.  We win the communication battle by articulating the value of our better mousetrap.

Stage II – Market Leadership

  • Metaphor – Lead a Parade
  • Communication Objective -Alignment
  • Key Audience – Functional or key P and L owner
  • Solution – Suite
  • Customers – hundreds to a thousand
  • Revenues – $2M to $100M +
  • Messaging Mix – 60% Value (Feature-Benefit) 30% Viewpoint (Business Context) 10% Purpose (Destination)

In this phase our goal is to emerge as the leader of the new market segment.  There are many new mouse traps for buyers to choose from.  We must elevate our message to be almost half related to Viewpoint and Purpose, from pure value to the problem solver, to helping the P and L owner in their journey to success.  This is perhaps the hardest transition to make, and many companies cling to hard to value, as discussed here. But the rewards are great, as those who succeed rise above the crowd and win more, grow faster and increase customer and shareholder value.

Stage III – Market Transformation

  • Metaphor – Define a Movement
  • Communication Objective -Inspiration
  • Key Audience – Executive
  • Solution – Platform
  • Customers – Thousands +
  • Revenues – $70M+
  • Messaging Mix – 40% Value (Feature-Benefit) 20% Viewpoint (Business Context) 40% Purpose (Destination)

Those who create a flashmob and then transform themselves into a Market Parade leader, have the rare opportunity to Define A Movement.  Movement definers go beyond value and current context to changing and transforming the market not just for their solution, but for other complimentary and related ones.  They create business platforms for partnership and communications.  Their messaging is not only about value and context, but about shared purpose with their customers.

This framework is summarized with this table (Click to view):

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 2.50.22 PM

Zuora, an emerging leader in CRM solutions for subscription businesses, had skillfully executed this market leadership journey, and has started to Build a Movement of the Subscription Economy.  To see more on Zuora, check out this post.

I’d love to hear what you think about this framework, please comment here or send me an email.

Why Context Is King in Today’s B2B Tech Markets? – Part 3 Putting it together into Our Viewpoint

As we saw in part 1 of this series, B2B Technology marketers are dealing with a new reality.  Information is abundant, Alternatives are Many and in response, Buyers are now fiercely independent and highly networked.

Proving ROI means nothing except a check box, if you aren’t strategic then nobody notices and if they notice they just don’t care.  Yet, as we saw in part 2, many organizations are still clinging to Feature->Benefit marketing and solution and diagnostic based selling.   This worked well in a world of tightly controlled information, high barriers to entry and sales led selling cycles.  But in today’s reality, if you cling to those ways, you will be forever in the weeds of priority and importance.

Yet some vendors manage to rise above the rest, get noticed, grow and win way more than their fair share.   I’ve previously described how companies as widely varying as FireEye, Zuora, Virgin Atlantic and have leveraged context to win.   They do this re-inventing their messaging and positioning to be top down, viewpoint driven and challenging and by doing so, they not only educate and engage, but they influence the way their customers see the world AND how they solutions deliver meaningful, strategic value.  I call this Impact, and it is the first and most important milestone to reach in the Velocity Marketing framework.  Add a heavy dose of Experience marketing into the mix, and you reach Breakthrough Velocity. You win, plain and simple!

So, let’s take a quick look at how our two Axis come together to graphically display what is described above.

Today's Markets Require A Top Down, Viewpoint and Challenging Messaging

Today’s Markets Require A Top Down, Viewpoint and Challenging Messaging Approach

As we can see, the usual and expected approach to messaging worked just fine in the Old B2B World.  But if you try it today, buyers won’t notice or if they do notice they won’t care enough to spend time and money with you!  But when we re-imagine how we message and position ourselves, and adopt a top down, viewpoint and experiential messaging, we match our approach precisely to the new reality of the buyer.  We achieve Velocity.

Now, this shows our Viewpoint framework in action, applied to you the B2B Marketer as the target!  I have argued that your world has changed, that your old approach will no longer work, and then proposed that if you follow my re-invented approach, you will achieve breakthrough velocity, a brave new world we all want to occupy.  So, what’s your first step to Velocity?  Building your Viewpoint.  It just so happens, I’d love to help you out.  And you can start right here with my series of blogs called, “AIM STEEP to Build Breakthrough Viewpoint”. 

Delivering Breakthrough Marketing: Viewpoint, Value and Velocity

Most CEOs I talk to have a jaded, if not skeptical view of marketing.  While they recognize the importance of marketing to their long term success, they have a hard time understanding and measuring how well marketing is doing.  And while more mature organizations have a good handle on very well tuned marketing metrics and measurement, the question is still always out there.  With the advance in marketing automation, new channels of communication, and the avalanche of marketing data now available, marketing has evolved, in many CEOs view, from a black art, to a black science.

Hidden behind the dashboards and metrics lies a more fundamental problem.  In today’s hyper competitive, global, instantaneous market, where buyers and consumers have nearly unlimited access to information and each other, the fight for attention and share has become a treadmill of constantly faster speed.  With the proliferation of social media, and competivite solutions in even the most specialized market segment, we need a new Breakthrough marketing formula to feed the machine.

Simply put, we need a new model for getting noticed and getting bought.  To achieve the highest breakthrough possible, we need to get great at Viewpoint, Value and Velocity. We need to move to Converged Viewpoint, Unique Value and High Velocity.

Viewpoint, Value and Velocity Converge to deliver breakthrough

Let’s look briefly at each of these elements, what they are, and why they are needed.

Viewpoint is a framing of the market in the context of your uniqueness.  The uniqueness of your team, your capabilities, and your vision.  Some call viewpoint thought leadership, some vision with a capital V, and some brand. 

Why is Viewpoint critical? Without a doubt, we live in a world of data and information overload. But often overlooked is the aspect of information over-availability.  As anyone who use Google knows, the challenge is not in finding an answer or result, but it is in finding the right or most helpful one.   What does this mean for marketers?  Let’s take a look at one small experiment.  In November of 2011, KJR Associates examined a sampling of companies from the Andreeson Horowitz venture portfolio; Here’s a screen grab of that set:

We then examined the websites of each company and determined its “market category”:
Finally, we did a Google search using the a quoted market category name and looked at the quantity of search results returned.  This is displayed here:

Market Categories
Google Search Result for Specific Results

So, as is clear from above, and totally consistent with our intuition, it’s a CROWDED marketplace for products and ideas.  Even in very niches market segments, we have hundreds of thousands of results returned.  The ONLY way to be noticed in this market is to provide something different, a UNIQUE and RELEVANT viewpoint. 

In order to define Viewpoint providers must tap into the macro trends that impact their customers, as well as the discontinuity they offer to meet these trends.  In my related post on Viewpoint, I walk through an example of this process.

So while Viewpoint is critical to getting noticed, Value is critical to getting into the buyers shortlist.  Simply put, Value is defined as the intersection between your unique capabilities express as business benefits,  your customer needs, and the missing capabilities of your key competitors.   This is shown with a simple sketch:


This unique Value is then articulated in forms such as competitive positioning statements, messaging, market segmentations and product feature benefit charts.    Then when combined with Viewpoint, I can tilt the market in my favor.  This process is further discussed here.

With ViewPoint articulated and Value defined, the last piece of the puzzle is to deliver high velocity programs, those that deliver high quality leads across the buying lifecycle.  Marketing Velocity = DE**2, or simply put:  

Velocity = Delivery X Engagement X Experience

High velocity marketing is strong on message, meaning it effectively and creatively communicates Value within a powerful market Viewpoint.  High velocity marketing uses appropriate Delivery channels and investments that meet buyers whereever and whenever they are in the buying lifecycle. More and more so, this is about delivering compelling experiences, as I have blogged about extensively.  Lastly, high velocity marketing is fueled by high levels of interactivity and engagement.  Gone are the days of depending solely on complex whitepapers to explain solutions.   Vehicles like live demos, interactive assessments, and engaging video case studies are now a must. Velocity is further explored in this post.

In today’s high velocity market, we need a new HIGH BREAKTHROUGH marketing formula to feed the machine. High Breakthrough Marketing is a product of Viewpoint, Value and Velocity, or VcubedSo, in order to deliver with velocity, organizations need to define a unique Viewpoint, articulate customer driven Value, and execute high Velocity programs.   Without these 3 Vs, investments in marketing automation, content marketing and nurturing programs will deliver at best, mediocre results.