By Michael Cannon
Most B2B marketing professionals know that their product has a life cycle. However, only a few adjust their messaging to reflect their product’s stage in the technology adoption life cycle. Those who do create messaging for each stage reap great rewards – consistently attaining more market share, better margins, and the bonuses and promotions that come with greater success.
The top three stumbling blocks that keep marketing professionals from adjusting their messaging to reflect their product’s place in the cycle are:
1) Unable to clearly define the categories, styles, and types of messaging required for greater market success
2) A lack of knowledge about their buyers’ primary buying questions for each stage of the adoption life cycle
3) Not having repeatable methodology and skills to create the messaging suggested by points one and two, as these concepts are not included in the current marketing curriculum
These issues create a gap between what Marketing produces and what customers and Sales need. In order for Marketing to become more relevant to the revenue-generation process, this gap must be closed.
The Impact of the Gap
An IDC Sales Enablement Strategy study found that:
“62% of buyers said that content is either not relevant or not useful. Buyers said they want shorter buying cycles, but the lack of relevant information to educate them, and all other influencers, is slowing things down.”
A Chief Marketing Officer Council Study revealed that:
“As much as 40% of a sales rep’s time is spent creating presentations,
customizing messaging and preparing for pitches.”
The implications of this gap are staggering. If the marketing profession doesn’t fill the gap – by creating great messaging and the associated content – the organization creates and wins fewer opportunities. And, the sales team is literally forced to spend one to two days a week trying to close the gap themselves. We know sales reps are revenue optimized. Meaning, they only spend time on tasks that they consider critical to getting an order. So, if they’re spending their time on recreating messages and content, it’s because they need them — e.g., the content as it stands is not useful in helping them sell.
The Value of Closing the Gap
Many good things occur when you reduce or close this gap:
- The effectiveness of the sales team increases dramatically, often more than 10%. This is because Sales has more time to spend on selling – and the quality of the messaging is better, rendering their sales conversation more influential.
- The effectiveness of the marketing team also takes a big leap forward. This is because Marketing is creating more influential content – campaigns, collateral, sales tools, and sales support training – that customers and Sales consider useful.
- From the combined effects on Sales and Marketing, it’s easy to see how closing this messaging gap can increase your market share by 5% or more, and improve your margins by 5% to 10%, too.
Sound too good to be true? Consider this report from a marketing peer:
“Great sales messaging increased our win rate by 30%, and reduced the time we spend supporting the field by around 50%, for the product family I support.”
Nigel Mott, Product Sales Manager, Agilent Technologies, Inc.
Strategies for Closing the Gap
Persuasive messaging is defined as providing clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable answers to your buyers’ primary buying questions. As your product or service moves through the life cycle, the primary questions will change – and your answers must shift to accommodate them, so that the right message is delivered at the appropriate point in the product life cycle and sales cycle.
Defining persuasive messaging in this way differentiates it from all other messaging types. For example, when you apply this definition of persuasive messaging to the early-market stage of a product’s life cycle, you find that the most important buyer question is likely to be, “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?” The answer to this question has very little to do with your company. The first goal of your messaging, at this early stage, is to create a business opportunity by articulating a compelling reason to change from the current approach to a new or better approach. The second goal is creating orders for your firm.
In the late-market stage of the product’s life cycle, when market demand is more established, the primary buying question shifts to, “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?” The answer to this question must focus on competitive differentiation. The primary goal of your messaging at this later stage is to create orders for your company.
The cellular industry provides a great example of life cycle-appropriate messaging. The introduction of cell phones with cameras generated a lot of advertising, all focused on educating consumers about what they could do with these new phones. The advertising was an excellent answer to the buyers’ primary buying question in the early stage of the camera phone’s life cycle, implicitly answering the question, “Why should I throw away my current phone (old approach) and buy a new phone with a camera (new and better approach) – why change?”
At the same time, a cellular carrier was running an aggressive campaign to grow market share, touting itself as “the most reliable network,” according to a third-party study. This advertisement was an excellent answer to the buyers’ primary buying question in the more mature stage of the cellular network’s life cycle – “Why should I put my phone on your network, rather than on the competition’s – why buy from your company?”
Before you put this article aside, think about one of your products and where it is in the life cycle. Then, look at your product brochure and ask yourself, “What is the buyers’ primary buying question?” and “Does the brochure provide a compelling answer?” If the answer is “no” or “not really,” then you have a great opportunity to increase your market share by 5% or more, to improve your margins by 5% to 10%, and to get the bonuses and promotions that go with greater market success.
Resources to Implement the Most Influential Customer Communications
Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned marketing and sales effectiveness expert, best-selling author, speaker and an authority on enabling B2B companies to engage customers with the most influential communications. For more information, visit www.silverbulletgroup.com.