Creating compelling messaging is difficult. It’s especially challenging for B2B companies, which often struggle to demonstrate—succinctly and persuasively—how they address their prospects’ goals, needs, and problems, and how they differ from the competition. What’s the best way to convey how your product or service solves a complex problem while still keeping your messages simple enough to resonate with potential customers?
Here are five challenges I’ve identified from my work for large, mid-sized and small firms in multiple industries:
1. You Have Multiple Customer Segments
Your product or service might help companies in multiple industries. Or maybe your offerings differ based on the size and scale of the company—or vary by country or region. There may be multiple functions or departments within a firm you could sell into… or maybe you’ve been tasked with entering a new market segment.
Be sure you know how your target market segments differ—by industry, geography, size, and even department or business area.
To understand your market segments, start with a traditional market analysis, determining market sizes, growth rates and trends. Then analyze what forces are impacting these markets. Are there significant regulatory or competitor threats? New entrants with alternative solutions? Or acquisitive players that are stealing market share?
These exercises will help you identify which market segments are most attractive—and understand the business environment they operate in.
2. You can’t cut through the content clutter
It’s hard to create crisp, compelling messages while explaining how your products solve a complex business problem. Marketers everywhere find themselves talking about features rather than benefits, or speaking generally about industry issues without communicating specifically how they help solve them.
Market to the people in the business, not the business.
Create backgrounds or personas for each of your target customer segments. Who are your buyers, users, and influencers? What problems do they face? What metrics are they measured on?
Craft messaging that resonates with each buyer. Your buying team might include the business owner, the finance manager, the IT person, and the end user. Each person on that list has different needs and goals, and each will respond best to messages that address his or her specific concerns. Keep your messages simple, direct and concise.
3. Your customer journey isn’t linear
In the past, marketers could expect to control the way potential buyers garnered information about their company and their products. Now, prospects can find content about your company almost anywhere at any time. How do you make sure that they’re seeing content and messaging that propels them successfully through their buying journey?
Create a content marketing strategy that supports a dynamic process where buyer learning is online and self-driven.
You might not always know where your prospects are in the buying journey. However, you still need to create content that meets their needs at different stages—that establishes thought leadership about the problem space, builds awareness of your company’s offerings, educates them about your solution, and demonstrates how and why your product or service is best.
While each element of content might serve a different purpose, messages about your value proposition and the benefits you provide should stay consistent. And with each piece, think carefully about the next step you want prospects to take—and lead them there. Whether it’s visiting your website, viewing a research report, or downloading a white paper, direct them toward something that moves them along the buying path and keeps them in dialog with your firm.
4. Your messaging doesn’t stand out
It’s not enough to capture your prospects’ attention by focusing on their needs. You must differentiate your offering so that buyers understand what makes it unique—and why your capabilities are uniquely able to address your prospects’ needs.
Understand exactly how your company, product, approach, or process is unique from others.
Gather intelligence about your competitors. What capabilities do they offer, how do they position themselves, and how are they perceived by the market? Then, incorporate the distinguishing characteristics of your own offerings into your messaging platform—whether it’s ease of use or integration, increased functionality, streamlined processes, or something else—along with the key business benefits. Just be careful not to undercut your effectiveness with features that aren’t really different… or, worse, that don’t matter to your buyers.
5. Your messaging isn’t consistent
You’ve worked hard to develop messaging that resonates with the needs of your target markets, departments, and even buyers or personas. However, not everyone in the organization knows as much as you do. Your sales team says one thing during client presentations, your marketing campaigns say another, and your CEO is touting a third concept.
Become your organization’s messaging quarterback, making sure everyone understands your target segments, potential buyers, and key messages.
Deliver organizational enablement sessions that target externally-facing teams, including sales, marketing, product managers, service personnel—and don’t forget executives.
Brief your colleagues about the business environment and dynamics of your target markets and customer segments. Share the backgrounds or personas of potential buyers along with the messaging that resonates best with each. Provide easy, remote access to messaging documents, presentations, and tools so they can incorporate the work into their sales and marketing activities.
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Beth Caplow is a strategic market development expert. She has developed new business opportunities and brought differentiated products and services to market in financial services and technology.