Con­tent, con­text, and con­ver­sa­tions

As per B2B Con­tent Mar­ket­ing 2017 Bench­marks, Bud­gets, and Trends—North Amer­ica, 70% of B2B mar­keters say they will pro­duce more con­tent in 2017 than they did in 2016 and 39% of B2B mar­keters say they will in­crease spend­ing on con­tent mar­ket­ing over the n


Why do some com­pa­nies lead while oth­ers lag?

Ken Rut­sky, au­thor of Launch­ing to Lead­ing, tells us how to break through and lead.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions who bet­ter con­nect to the cus­tomer’s world and make it bet­ter are the ones who are seen as dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing.

To be­come mar­ket lead­ers, you say, or­ga­ni­za­tions should ex­ert in­flu­ence on the con­text of mar­ket con­ver­sa­tions...

Mar­kets are at their core con­ver­sa­tions be­tween buy­ers and sell­ers. The topic of the con­ver­sa­tion is the ex­change of value. As a buyer, I am ex­chang­ing my time and money to ob­tain the ben­e­fits of the sell­ers’ prod­uct or so­lu­tion. How­ever, value is a very sub­jec­tive judg­ment that the buyer makes. That judg­ment is made in the buyer’s con­text, not the seller’s. If we can first tap into that con­text in a way that is mean­ing­ful to the buyer, we can then in­flu­ence the con­text and ul­ti­mately con­nect our value to that con­text in­flu­enc­ing what the cus­tomer values in our fa­vor.

You urge com­pa­nies to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to cus­tom­ize the so­lu­tion. Why?

Sell­ers must re­al­ize that to­day’s buy­ers are highly ed­u­cated and fiercely in­de­pen­dent. The days of show­ing up and ques­tion­ing and qual­i­fy­ing a prospect be­fore pre­sent­ing your so­lu­tion are over. They want sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives to teach them some­thing, not ques­tion them.

If most com­pa­nies fol­low sim­i­lar strate­gies, how will they dif­fer­en­ti­ate their com­mu­ni­ca­tion?

Or­ga­ni­za­tions who bet­ter con­nect to the cus­tomer’s world and make it bet­ter are the ones who are seen as dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing. Your so­lu­tion still mat­ters, but it takes sec­ond, as it should to your cus­tomer’s suc­cess.

How can com­pa­nies break the quan­tity vs qual­ity trade-off?

Mar­ket­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions in­vest in au­to­ma­tion and pro­grams and can get a quan­tity of leads, but the qual­ity suf­fers. They are ef­fi­cient, but be­cause they are still mes­sag­ing for the old world of so­lu­tion sell­ing, they are not ef­fec­tive. They have built a great race car, but are putting bad gas in the en­gine. In­stead, they must take a fo­cused ap­proach on break­through mes­sag­ing, which starts with con­text and ends with unique value. Then the high test fuel will get them not only quan­tity, but qual­ity re­sults.

How has mar­ket­ing changed and what are its im­pli­ca­tions?

Firstly, we have gone from in­for­ma­tion be­ing closely held, hard to find, and me­tered out by sell­ers to be­ing read­ily avail­able to buy­ers on the in­ter­net, on so­cial me­dia and ev­ery­where. Se­condly, buy­ers are now in­de­pen­dent and lastly, we are com­pet­ing with more avail­able al­ter­na­tives than ever. In short, we now live in a buyer-driven world.

Why is con­tent com­mod­ity?

Any­one can copy your words. Talk is cheap. What you say to­day will be copied. Also, there is more con­tent gen­er­ated now than ever. We not only have fake news, we have a lot of fake mar­ket­ing!

Why is con­text the new king?

Tap­ping into the cus­tomer’s con­text, so you be­come strate­gic is how you win. Con­text first, con­tent sec­ond.

What should com­pa­nies do to build a strong and unique mes­sage?

Any great mes­sage starts and ends with the cus­tomer’s story. Cus­tomers have prob­lems and want to solve them. They have op­por­tu­ni­ties they want to cap­ture. Strong mes­sages tell the cus­tomer’s story, not their own. Their prod­uct or so­lu­tion plays a sup­port­ing role in trans­form­ing the cus­tomer’s world. But the cus­tomer is the hero. It is their story, not ours!

Given that in­for­ma­tion is now com­modi­tized and buy­ers are in­de­pen­dent, what skill sets should sales reps build to stay rel­e­vant?

Re­search says time and again that buy­ers want sell­ers to un­der­stand the buyer’s busi­ness and teach them some­thing they do not know. Great sales reps are busi­ness peo­ple, teach­ers, and most of all sto­ry­tellers. Yes­ter­day’s best reps were recital mu­si­cians, fo­cus­ing on the score that mar­ket­ing pro­vided. To­day’s are jazz im­pro­vis­ers, tai­lor­ing the notes to the cus­tomer’s world.

What is the rel­e­vance of scal­ing in B2B sales and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns?

We live in a short-at­ten­tion-span world. We must be able to com­mu­ni­cate quickly with a sound bite or a few sen­tences. At the same time, buy­ers still need de­tails and more com­plete in­for­ma­tion to both qual­ify and jus­tify their pur­chases. If a mes­sage does not scale from a sound bite, to a video, to a blog post and to a key­note, it prob­a­bly is not a mean­ing­ful one. Mar­ket­ing and sales must scale mes­sages to match the chan­nel of de­liv­ery, the phase of the buy­ing cy­cle, and the au­di­ence. They must use their own and other voices to re­peat and re­in­force their own mes­sage, in­flu­encers, an­a­lysts, cus­tomers, part­ners.

What are the chal­lenges mar­keters face in to­day’s in­for­ma­tion-filled and con­nected world?

The big­gest chal­lenge all mar­keters face is both stand­ing out and fit­ting in. They must fit into the buy­ers’ world, but stand out above the com­peti­tors. Per­son­ally, though mar­keters face a huge chal­lenge as they must be master tech­ni­cians, amaz­ing teach­ers, and in­flu­en­tial evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers. They must be part Yoda, part Michelan­gelo, and part Martin Luther King!

How is the AIM ap­proach dif­fer­ent from the ‘fea­tures, ben­e­fit, and prod­uct ap­proach’?

AIM de­scribes my unique­ness on three di­men­sions— ap­proach, in­no­va­tion, and mind­set. Great com­pa­nies start with a mind­set, then take a new ap­proach and that drives in­no­va­tion. How­ever, a lot of time they for­get to talk about their mind­set and ap­proach, and fo­cus all on their in­no­va­tion, leav­ing the all im­por­tant ‘why’ out of the con­ver­sa­tion. Sales­ took the mind­set that en­ter­prise soft­ware was just too hard, took an ap­proach of tak­ing on the hard work and stan­dard­iz­ing it, and then in­no­vated by de­liv­er­ing the so­lu­tion on the cloud. Many

The big­gest chal­lenge all mar­keters face is both stand­ing out and fit­ting in.

of their com­peti­tors did not un­der­stand this, and just repli­cated the cloud part, with­out a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. By the time they fig­ured it out, Sales­force was the un­abashed leader of the mar­ket.

Must-dos to cre­ate a View­point story…

First, you have to deeply un­der­stand your cus­tomer’s world. Once you do that and iden­tify a prob­lem, you solve. Sec­ond, you must ar­tic­u­late the pain gain gaps left when try­ing to solve that prob­lem with the ex­pected so­lu­tions avail­able. Lastly, you de­scribe how your new ap­proach, in­no­va­tion, and mind­set solve the prob­lem bet­ter and take the cus­tomer to a new and im­proved re­al­ity.

The three phases a leader goes through on the path to suc­cess...

The ‘flash­mob’ is the first phase of the mar­ket lead­er­ship jour­ney. In this phase, our goal is to find and cap­ture a small group of pas­sion­ate cus­tomers who will form the ba­sis of our suc­cess. These are cus­tomers highly at­tuned to our unique value and will­ing to go against the flow of ac­cepted so­lu­tions. Flashmobs take us from launch­ing to par­tic­i­pat­ing in our mar­ket. The sec­ond phase of mar­ket lead­er­ship is the ‘pa­rade’. By tap­ping into our cus­tomer’s con­text, we step in front of the mar­ket pa­rade and lead it. We be­come the de facto ex­pert in the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween our cus­tomer’s prob­lem and the avail­able so­lu­tions. We are unique, rec­og­nized, and take this mo­men­tum from merely be­ing a par­tic­i­pant in the mar­ket to break­ing through and lead­ing. The last phase is the ‘move­ment,’ when we be­come big­ger than our mar­ket and change the world or the in­dus­try. Our lead­er­ship is a given as­sump­tion and our ecosys­tem and in­flu­ence grow dra­mat­i­cally.

Suc­cess at each of these stages has great re­wards and chal­lenges, but the com­mon thread is our View­point, con­tin­u­ing to con­nect our value to our cus­tomer’s world, in­flu­enc­ing their view of their prob­lems and op­por­tu­ni­ties, and trans­form­ing their re­al­ity into a more suc­cess­ful one. ■

The ‘flash­mob’ is the first phase of the mar­ket lead­er­ship jour­ney. In this phase, our goal is to cap­ture a small group of pas­sion­ate cus­tomers who will form the ba­sis of our suc­cess.

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